stefanie_bean: (anton smiling)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 12: The Reaper and the Reaped
Pairing: Anton/Original Female Character
Characters: Anton the Giant, Leroy, Dwarves, Astrid, Original Male & Female Characters, Ruby Lucas, Regina Mills
Rating: T
Length: 3261 words
Status: Complete
Notes: Set in Season 2, in Storybrooke

Summary: Anton the Giant is growing a new crop of magic beans, but what he really needs is a happy ending.

(Chapter Index)


Chapter 12: The Reaper and the Reaped

The cloaking spell wavered as Anton stepped through it. Regina Mills stood at the edge of the bean field, mud lapping at the edges of her elegant shoes. Anton hadn't spoken to her since his first day in Storybrooke, when Regina had given him a potion to temporarily regain his full size, so that he could unleash his anger on the town. But now she stood in the middle of the field, pulling one pod-spray after another off the plants, with an angry, frustrated expression crossing her face.

Each bunch of pods which she picked stayed green and fresh in her hands for a moment. But even in the dim light, Anton could tell that they soon curled up, turning dark grey and withered.

Regina must not have heard him come up behind her, or she was simply ignoring him. He let her pluck three or four more, and each time she cast the withered remains down onto the ground, it was like a spear through his heart. She muttered something under her breath which sounded like a spell, then waved her hand around the plants. Little puffs of purple smoke flew off her fingertips, swirled for a few seconds around the plants, fell to the ground, and then disappeared into the well-hoed dirt.

Then, all at once, she whirled around to face Anton, and said in a tight, cutting voice, “Well, Giant, who would have figured you for a sorcerer?”

“You want beans,” he said.

“Indeed I do. And I'm going to get them.”

Anton didn't answer. He just walked over to one of the stands of plants, and gently stroked the foliage. The plants were silent now, either because he'd finally arrived, or because they had collapsed with exhaustion from crying out for so long. As he walked from stand to stand to touch them, comfort soaked down to their roots and then to the runners which spread out sideways like a great underground net, which carried the quiet message from the few to all.

Regina folded her arms, a skeptical expression on her face. “So I guess that talking to houseplants isn't just nonsense after all.”

“So, why do you want beans?” he said in a quiet voice.

“That should be obvious. To take my son and go home. And I would think you would want the same.”

“To go home? What home?”

“Oh, that's right,” Regina said. “Human beings destroyed your home, didn't they? Well, people have a saying here. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Looks like someone's about to fool you twice.”

“I don't have a home. Even if I go back to the Enchanted Land, I'm one of you now. That's what your mother did to me.”

At the mention of Cora's name, Regina's composure wavered. Then her face hardened even more and she gestured towards the crop. “I strongly suspect they're not immune to fire.”

The plants started up again, not shrieking in fear this time, but rather producing a soft sad murmur. Goodbye, goodbye, they seemed to say. They sang not to Anton so much as to each other, holding each other through their roots, sending waves of reassurance. It won't hurt much, it won't take long, goodbye, goodbye, we're going to the Source, back to the Source we go. And then, directed to Anton, as if every plant in the field had a special message for him, they sang, It's all right. We are ready.

At once Anton knew. If Regina couldn't take any of the pods, she would simply destroy the field. Even in the moonlight, the deep green leaves kept most of their color, as if a light within them faintly shone. He knew why he was here, and what he had to do.

“You can't take a plant without my help,” he said.

“That's obvious,” she snapped. “Apparently my mother didn't humanize you quite enough. There's still enough Giant in you to give me what I want, even if I can't grasp it myself.”

He shrugged, waiting.

“All right,” Regina said. “Let's trade. But I'll tell you right now, I can't un-shrink you. That privilege was reserved for my mother.”

Anton paused, genuinely surprised. “Why would I want that? My people are gone. I have new people now.”

“The dwarves?” she said, scoffing.

He shook his head, not bothering to explain.

“Oh, that's right. Your girlfriend with the wide-set center of gravity.”

It sounded like an insult, but Anton wasn't sure why. Never mind. “Two things. First, you leave. I don't care who you take with you. I know you can't take Brigid, or Alex. And you can't take me, because like you said, Cora's gone. Her magic brought me here, not yours. But you can't have Carl.”

“What, the kitchen boy with the big mouth? I've got no use for him. You'd be amazed what I've learned in this world about how to run things efficiently. I could manage a castle now on half the staff.”

“Just leave the rest of us alone.”

“What kind of bargain is that? That's exactly what I want.”

“That's not all. I want 'identity.'”

“What are you talking about? Obviously your brain shrank even more than the rest of you.”

Anton struggled with the unfamiliar words. What had Fr. Jarlais called it? Finally he said, “I mean, identity papers. So that when I leave town, I don't go to prison. I want all the papers, whatever they are. You got them for everyone else, when you cooked up the Curse. So you can cook some up for me.”

“That's it?” Regina looked as if she didn't believe him.

“That's it. And in return, I give you a plant, and set it up for you so that it'll stay alive, so that you'll get a crop. It won't be a big one, though. Maybe one, two beans at the most. But if you screw it up, it's on your head. Because these are the last.”

“That doesn't matter. One is all I need.” Then Regina paused, as if something had occurred to her. From her purse she pulled out one of those small clear plastic bags everyone here used to store things in. She handed it to Anton and said, “I also want a stem with some leaves, to show Henry that we can really go home. So you make it so that it doesn't just shrivel up on me.”

“No problem,” Anton answered. Then he added in a conversational tone, “You try to double-cross me, it won't work.” Her eyelids flickered, and he knew he had guessed right. “These plants only stay alive as long as I do. So you try to trick me, spell me, or mess with me in any way, and they're just ordinary beans. They won't even take you across the street, much less back to the Enchanted Land.” He didn't know exactly if that were true. But Regina didn't know that, either. “So you go your way, we go ours. Brigid and me. And anybody else who wants to go over the Line.”

“Fine,” Regina said. “We have a deal.”

“But you're gonna let me do it. Not you.”

“Do what?” she snapped, but the tiny hint of a smile dropped from her mouth.

“You know. What you planned to do all along. I heard the crop all the way from town. If the crop is going to die, I'm the one who's going to do it. Not you.” He felt like adding, You don't have the right, but she was antagonized enough. He had known it was going to happen from the first moment he saw her car parked by the side of the field. “You were just going to burn them. I know how to make it not hurt.”

“Fine. Fair enough,” said Regina.”

“Just so you know. You can try to grow more crop from the beans you get, but it won't work.”

“What, you mean there's more to it than turning a trick in the field?”

He ignored that shot across the bow. “Ever wonder why the fairies didn't just make the dwarves grow beans for them? Because they can't. That's why everybody had to steal beans from us. Because only giants can grow beans. No more giants, no more beans.”

“There's still some giant in you,” Regina mused, as if something had just occurred to her. “What's to stop me from harvesting some beans, then just taking you back to the Enchanted Forest and making you grow beans for me? That was obviously my mother's plan for Storybrooke. I could do the same.”

“Cause I told you. You spell me, you double-cross me in any way, and all the magic goes.” Please, by all that is holy, let that be true, he said to himself.

A soft whisper came from the ground. Not from the plants, but somewhere else, he didn't know where.

It is true, the voice said.

Oh, thank you, Anton said to himself before turning once more to Regina. “Your mom thought she knew everything about giants. But she didn't. So you have a choice. You can take a plant and go home. Or you can spell me, burn the fields. Go that route, though, you get nothing.”

“Very well,” she said, looking as if she'd gotten caught but didn't much care. “No tricks, then.”

“One more thing,” Anton said.

“What?” Regina said, not even disguising her impatience anymore. “I thought we were done. Are you actually trying to pull something over on me?” She waved her hand, and a small purple storm appeared like a mist around it.

“You don't just give me papers. These papers have to work with the computers, too.” As he said it, he felt thick and stupid, expecting her to laugh in his face, or worse yet, scotch the whole bargain.

To Anton's surprise, she said indignantly, as if her competence had been insulted, “What do you take me for?”

“What do you take me for? I want to hear you say it.”

So with a scoff Regina said, “Very well. Every one of the pieces of identity which I give you will fully function exactly as intended, in both the United States and all its domains of influence, as well as internationally, except in those countries with which the United States has no diplomatic relations. There. You satisfied?”

Most of what she said made no sense, but he caught the sincere conviction in her voice, so he said with finality, “Deal.”

There was only one thing left to do. So up and down Anton walked along the rows for one final time, and as he walked, he brushed the plants with his broad palms as he went. Take me, take me, each one said in her high-pitched, silent language. Sorry, little ones, he said back as he passed. Over by the edge of the field, Regina paced around, waiting, but he ignored her. Then one plant stood out warm under his touch, a fine lady draped all in green foliage. She wasn't the biggest, by far, but that was better. The remainder of her short life would be lived in a pot. He thrust his face into her greenery and breathed deeply, swooning for a moment under her rich moist odor, the penetrating smell of a plant who carried beans capable of opening portals. He untied the cord which bound her to the trellis, took her in his big hands, said with real regret, “This will only hurt for a second,” and then pulled.

She didn't even cry out. Clumps of black dirt clung to her roots, and the pink root hairs which had once connected her to her sisters thrashed about like long, thin tentacles. He carried her back to Regina and said, “Give me your coat. We've got to wrap her up.”

“You're not serious,” she said. “That thing's filthy.”

“What, you're going to welch on the bargain already? You said you'd do everything I said, to get a crop. So give me your coat.”

She handed it to him at arm's length, as if it were already contaminated. “It's just an old thing, anyway.”

Anton wrapped the bean plant in the fine cloth with its silk lining, then broke off a leafy stem. “Here's the piece you wanted.”

She put it in the baggie, and shoved it into her purse. “I suppose that mess has to go in my car.”

“That's right. And not in the trunk. I'm going to hold her on the way back to town.”

Regina opened her mouth to protest, but Anton had already turned away. He didn't want her to see the tears which started to well up. “I guess you want to watch.”

“Damn right I do.”

There was no way around it. She no more trusted him than he trusted her. So with a lead-heavy heart he set the coat-wrapped plant on the ground, then walked for the last time into the field of green-o. Into that field had gone the last bean sprig from Anton's castle home. Over that field he had lain with Brigid under a moon soft and pale as her skin, and that had been sweet, so sweet. He had worked that ground with the dwarves, and though they hadn't seen eye to eye on a lot of things, in many ways it had been like working with his brothers.

There in the rows of green ladies all, Anton stood and said his silent farewells. He thrust his hands into the ground, and though it was covered with turf hard-trodden from many feet, the ground parted easily as water.

“Good-bye,” he said.

From where his hands rested in the ground buried to the wrists, a wave of blackness radiated. It scorched the grass in a widening circle of dark, as the gray waves of death crawled up each plant. Leaves curled and fell to the ground. The stems smoked a little, but the trellises which held up the plants remained untouched.

Hands mired in the earth, Anton felt every plant breathe her last. Back to the Source, back to the waters, they sang, and he cried without restraint. Not because the plants were sad, or frightened, because they weren't. Their sweet green souls soaked into the ground like rain-water, where they merged together and spread out in an invisible flood.

He cried because the last final link between himself and everything which had come before had just literally gone up in smoke.

Then, as the last of the plants withered and died, he caught a glimpse of their final destination. Green it was, greener even than them, fair and beautiful, thick with so many kinds of foliage which Anton had never seen. Great leaves like fans swung in the breezes. Trees clustered together to form arches so thick that they almost blotted out the light, casting everything beneath them into dusky shadow. The ground couldn't even be seen, so many thick-leaved plants covered it. And what extraordinary leaves they were, wide as a man's body, pierced through with holes like lace. Thick ropy vines hung from the trees, and everywhere there were flowers, brighter than poppies or the wild columbine which bloomed in the spring, colored such bright red that they hurt your eyes.

Into this wild fantasy of leaf and blossom the green souls of the bean plants flew, sucked up into their living leafy bodies like water.

Anton bent over the ground now, sobs all exhausted from that radiant view. Then, as if a curtain were pulled down all at once, that blazing tropical scene disappeared from view, and the song of the Source faded into silence. The earth released his hands, leaving them covered with black dirt.

He picked up the poor wounded plant, the last of her kind all wrapped in her shroud of black wool and silk, and looked Regina full in the face, feeling no shame for his tear-wet face. Strangely enough, Regina might have heard some of the crop's swan song, too, for her face had softened. She looked away, embarrassed, before turning and heading towards the car.

Wrapped in Regina's coat, the plant still lived, even though her root hairs only stirred faintly now, making little slithering noises against the silk lining of Regina's coat. All the way back to town, Anton cradled the plant in his arms as he would a wounded child, without looking back to the field where the blackened, devastated plants still smoked.

* * * * * * * *

In Regina's grand office, Anton let Regina embed the plant in her dirt prison. If she was to thrive, she would have to get used to the touch of Regina's hands, the outflow of Regina's breath.

“It's healthy,” he said, waiting with arms folded, looking with longing at the abomination under glass. He heard her faintly singing, the kind of chant a child would croon to comfort herself, hoping that the adults who'd unfairly thrust her there would soon relent, to let her out. But for her there would be no rescue.

“Would you excuse me for a moment?” Regina said with a cold smile, unfailingly polite. Anton nodded, but didn't turn around him. He heard mutterings, felt cold wind at the back of his neck, smelled something like burning toast. As he waited, it gave him a small vengeful pleasure to see that he'd tracked great gobs of dark field-mud onto Regina's pristine carpet.

Finally Regina said, “Here they are.” She opened a yellow envelope and spread the contents across the pristine white surface of her desk. “You're Anthony Orco from Kansas City, Kansas. It says so right here on your driver's license. Height six foot two, weight four hundred. Sorry if that's insulting, but I had to estimate something. At least I got the eye color right. Birth certificate, born in 1975 in St. Joseph, Missouri. Can you do arithmetic? That makes you thirty-seven years old.”

“Of course I can do arithmetic,” he said, flustered and angry as he stared at the unfamiliar cards and pieces of paper. “My mothers taught me.”

“Very well, then. That should at least be consistent with your level of education. Then we have a Social Security card, which you absolutely do not want to lose, as even I can't spell you up another one. Then, here's your GED from the Kansas City school district. Sorry, that was the best I could do on short notice.”

Whatever those things were, these places, they would have to do. “Thanks, Regina,” he said.

Her eyes no longer held the same softness he had noticed in the field, having instead hardened. With a sick feeling in his gut Anton recognized the expression for what it was. Regina intended to do murder, to someone or something, and he didn't want to stick around to find out who. She smiled like a glossy predator who hasn't yet decided whether it wants to play some more, or just begin the feast. Almost as if she'd read his mind, she said in a tight, tense voice, “If you and your girlfriend are planning on leaving town, you'd better do it soon.”

“No problem,” he said as he gathered up his “identity” and stowed the thick envelope in the front inner pocket of his robes.

“Now get out of here,” said Regina, dismissing him as she would a servant. “I have some work to do, starting with cleaning up this rug.”

(continued)


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