stefanie_bean: (anton smiling)
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Chapter 2: The Changer and the Changed
Pairing: Anton/Original Female Character
Characters: Anton the Giant, Leroy/Grumpy, Astrid/Nova, Original Male & Female Characters, Regina Mills
Rating: T
Length: 2463 words
Notes: Set in Season 2, in Storybrooke, Complete
The Chapter 2 title is from an album by Cris Williamson

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


Chapter 2: The Changer and the Changed

The morning after Brigid had lain with Anton in the newly-tilled bean field, her moon-time came. She stared at her reflection in the restaurant bathroom mirror, at the very sink where she and Anton had stood hip to hip, taking note of the silvering brown hair, the tired lines around her eyes. Even if you serve the Green Lady in the fields, you still fade.

After splashing some cold water on her face, Brigid went into the kitchen to brew some tea.

False unicorn root and red raspberry leaf, black cohosh and blue, nettle for iron and a tiny pinch of penny-royal for thorough emptying. But who knows? Perhaps Anton had left something inside her besides pleasure and his own sea-wild wetness. Brigid had never caught in the sowing ritual, even when younger. But she left out the penny-royal, just to be safe.

Sunday brunch was popular at Storybrooke's only exclusively vegetarian restaurant, The Bread Basket. Colorful swirling letters on the chalkboard outside read, “Brunch: $13.95, All You Can Eat, 10 AM—2 PM.” When Brigid peeked her head out the swinging kitchen doors for a second, no customer tried to catch her eye, which was just fine with her. She'd check on them in a minute, after she got the tea water on to boil.

Alex carried a fresh tray of Eggs Benedict to the buffet table, smiling. When Brigid didn't smile back, she said, “You OK, Mom?”

“Just a bit under the weather.”

“Too late a night last night, huh?” Alex's look said, Ha, caught you out.

“My aunt with the red dress showed up right as we opened.”

“Sorry, Mom, that sucks. You need to sit down?”

It was a strange reversal, to be babied by her daughter. “I've got some tea on.”

“I'll close up,” Alex volunteered.

“That would be great, sweetheart.” Brigid looked around the crowded restaurant, adding dimes to dollars. Sunday brunch was when they made most of their money. And even that was touch-and-go. But there was a line at the buffet, and a couple of customers were waiting for a table. Good, just the right size crowd. Too busy, people would turn away. Too empty, people would think you weren't any good.

Not that there were a lot of new customers. Truckers who accidentally took the exit which led to Storybrooke never got that far. Hungry as they were, they decided to wait till Bucksport or even Bangor for that chicken-fried steak with white gravy.

The farther they got from the highway, the more their skin crawled. They suddenly had an overpowering urge to urinate, even though they'd emptied out at the truck stop ten miles back. Or their rigs, haunted by old repairs, started to make odd clunking noises. It wasn't until the truckers turned around and headed back to I-95 that they realized how badly they'd been sweating, how clenched their guts had been.

And summer people, well, what summer people? Same with tourists. Every other picturesque little Maine coastal town had them. Crawled with them from June to October, in fact. But not Storybrooke.

Or take the pleasure boaters who sailed up and down the coves and inlets of Penobscot Bay on summer days soft as a sea nymph's breast. For some reason, boaters didn't come into Storybrooke's cove. The prevailing winds turned ugly, or waves swept them out to sea where no waves had been before. Or those on board suddenly remembered that the lobster was a lot better in Belfast or Stockton, so they changed their tack and sailed in the opposite direction.

In a sense, then, you could say that pretty much everyone here was a regular. Except the new one, conspicuous by his absence.

He's probably down at Granny's, with Leroy and the rest. Brigid restocked the buffet table with rolls filled with cheese from her own goats, trying to ignore the disappointment. The whole town was talking about how the six dwarves had become seven again, with the addition of Tiny to their ranks.

“We'll see about that,” Brigid said to herself.

The dwarves didn't often come to The Bread Basket. For one thing, they liked meat. Lots of meat. Thick steaks smothered in onions and mushrooms. Obscenely long sausages stuffed to bursting. Fried chicken dripping with grease. Brigid had no objection to meat herself. When a hen stopped laying, into the stew pot she went. If a nanny refused to "catch" no matter how often she was bred, into the freezer with her.

But the restaurant was another matter. Find a need, fill a need, as they say. Even a town as insular as Storybrooke had its clean-eating enthusiasts, its vegetarians, even a few vegans. So no meat appeared on the Bread Basket's menu, although Brigid served eggs and cheese from her small homestead. Sidney Glass had praised her cream sauces back in the days when he still ran a newspaper, and wasn't under forensic watch at Storybrooke Hospital.

Even magical Maine towns had their snake-pits, didn't they?

Another thing kept the dwarves away. There, at a sunny window table, sat Astrid and two other nuns, Hester and Tara. Or was it former nuns? They still wore nunnish blue, still glided about in that almost magical way which looked more like ice skating than walking. They still sat with feet flat on the floor, elbows neatly at their sides. But now their heads bent in towards one another as they spoke, as if afraid their soft-voiced conversation would be overheard.

The very day of the Change, on that day when the fairy-tale folk recovered their memories of the Enchanted Land, the nuns had shown up at Brigid's door. Astrid spoke for them all as she begged Brigid for a place to stay. They were never going back to the convent. That was over.

Brigid had fully expected Mother Superior to come striding into the restaurant, demanding that her daughters return to the fold. Brigid had told them without hesitation that of course they could stay. She led the nuns to the small, shabby upstairs apartment and gave Astrid the key.

So the deal was done. But that wasn't the end of it.

That very same night the nuns had moved in, just as Brigid was headed out the back door to go home, Astrid had come downstairs to the kitchen. In between sobs she told Brigid how she had once been a fairy called Nova. Every one of the nuns had been fairies, it seemed. And Mother Superior ruled them with a fist of iron.

Of all the Change stories Brigid had heard over the weeks, Astrid's was the strangest, of fairies with wings who could appear small when they wanted to. In Brigid's own experience, those beings called themselves the fae, not fairies, and they weren't small. Nor did they have wings. But they could be equally dangerous.

The worst part of the story was yet to come. After Brigid had poured Astrid a glass of red wine to calm her down, Astrid told her tale. In the Enchanted Land, she and Leroy (called Dreamy back then) had been in love. They rendezvoused on a hilltop glowing with fireflies and starlight, planning to elope. But then Dreamy had literally just walked away and left her flat, babbling some nonsense about how “dwarves couldn't love.”

Astrid had no idea what had become of Dreamy after that. Cold and numb, she returned to her fairy tasks, trying to forget him. Mostly she had, until in Storybrooke, Leroy had charmed her once again. Once more had he let her down with broken promises. Then she had awoken to who she really was.

“The dwarves still tell themselves that prattle,” Astrid had said to Brigid. “And Mother Superior cheers them on, because they work for her. They're useful.”

She then went on, telling Brigid how fairy dust was obtained by the willing labor of the dwarves, who believed they were destined to do nothing but work for whoever set them at their task.

That's when Brigid's face grew red and her jaw set. At that point, Brigid resolved to greet Mother Superior with a baseball bat if she stepped a toe in Brigid's restaurant.

Mother Superior never showed, however, and the rebel nuns lived their quiet lives above the restaurant, helping Brigid out on a regular basis. They didn't work the brunch, though. Sunday was their day off, for old habits were hard to break.

Astrid's story appalled Brigid and made her slightly sick. She liked Leroy, with his blunt expressions and hard-fisted ways. He reminded her of the older men from her childhood home in County Clare, back in Ireland. It sounded, though, like the dwarves had been so effectively bred for servitude that they didn't even question it.

Now, the dwarves considered Anton one of them, and perhaps he thought likewise. After the ritual of sowing was done, Brigid had dropped Anton off at the dwarves' brick ranch house on the outskirts of town.

Maybe Anton hadn't shown his face this morning because of the dwarves. Who were avoiding the fairies. Who were sitting prominently in the plate-glass window in her restaurant, conspicuously avoiding Granny's as well.

And if dwarves weren't supposed to love, weren't supposed to form attachments, well, then, you could probably add avoiding Brigid herself to that list.

She was supposed to put Anton out of her mind, anyway. That's how it had always worked before, with the blessing of the fields. But like the low hum of a sound-track right beneath the level of hearing, Brigid kept coming back to love. Or not-love, as the case may be, although she figured that more love had gotten made in that field last night than in half the marriage beds across the state of Maine.

Love, though. What was love, actually? Rules knit the worlds together, rules which Brigid, despite her years of service to the mysteries, only barely understood. All the worlds, all the places of power: the mountains, the islands, the wells deep in the forest, even small towns like this one, all bent to laws knit into their very frames. Life demanded life, even so small an offering as Brigid and Anton had made, lying together for the reaping.

The bottom line was, the rules which shaped the world cared not for your small joys. Not so small joys, though, she had to admit. Delight pulsed through her even now, at the memory of Anton's broad, heavy body over hers. The powers behind the worlds could break person, fae, or even gods under their vast eight-spoked wheel. And they often did.

But in the meantime, sometimes (like last night) it could be very sweet.

It was almost two in the afternoon, and a few customers lingered over their coffee. Enough moping, Brigid told herself. There was Alex to think of, for one thing. And sometime down the road her sputtering pink thread would dry up entirely. Then it would be time to put on a new cloak altogether, the gray mantle of the crone who shakes the feather-beds so that the snows fly.

As Brigid poured herself a cup of coffee, two of Alex's friends came in. Alex showed them to a table, then joined her mother behind the counter. “I told Jen and Amy they could have brunch if they helped me clean up.” She looked at her mother, face lit up by the prospect of a challenge.

Brigid just smiled. “Sure.”

“And Carl might come by too.”

“No problem, honey. I've got some flour and rice bags that need to be hauled up from the cellar, and he's just the guy.”

Alex wasn't through yet. “Jen, Amy, and me, we stopped by at Granny's earlier. The dwarves were there, and a couple of them started to arm-wrestle. They got into a friendly argument over who won.”

“I can imagine,” Brigid said, rolling her eyes.

“Then Anton broke it up. You should have seen it, Mom.” Alex looked at Brigid out of the corner of her eye, alert to the slightest twitch or quiver.

“So, when you were over at Granny's, was Ruby working the counter?”

“Um, yeah. Why?”

“No reason. Just curious.” Brigid grabbed the coffee pot, to freshen the last cups of other customers listening in on the conversation.

Of course Ruby would be at the helm when shenanigans like that got started. Everybody looked at Ruby, even women. Brigid had more than once, she had to admit. Dwarves might not fall in love, but more than once Brigid had caught them looking too. So no surprise that Anton would as well.

It didn't do any good to get personal, or to think about love. She wasn't bound to Anton, because the work of the fields was done. The crop was sown, and if her track record held, it would flourish.

Love, though, that was deep magic. Brigid had sense enough to know that one flowed where it willed.

Alex cleared counters while her friends bussed tables. Through the window, Brigid caught sight of the three Grey sisters across the street, heading straight for the restaurant.

"Sweetie, you must have homework. Why don't you and the girls head on up to the house? Help yourselves to the gooey butter cake in the fridge. I'll send Carl along if he shows up."

"Mom, you've been here since six this morning."

"It's OK. I close at two, remember? Anyway, all that's left here is some kreplach casserole and cauliflower curry. Look, if it makes you feel any better, I'll turn the sign to 'Closed.'" Besides, you got to chat with your friends. Now I need some wise counsel from mine.

Alex gave Brigid a hug. "You work too hard, Mom."

"When you love what you do," Brigid said, "it doesn't feel like work."

(continued)

(A/N: The chapter title is from an album of the same name by Cris Williamson.)


(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-10 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inlaterdays.livejournal.com
I'm so glad to see this continuing. But noooo, Anton, don't avoid Brigid! I like her! So curious to see whether Blue is behind his non-appearance.

And I was so glad to see the mention of the Grumpy/Nova story! I loved that episode and I was really rooting for them. (Still am, though it seems unlikely.)

I suppose the course of true love never runs smoothly. I'm really looking forward to seeing where you are taking this.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-12 11:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
I really liked the Grumpy/Nova ship too, but it looks like the canon sunk it. The actress was darling, but she was only in the one episode ("Dreamy.")

Ha, poor Brigid. She gets better, though. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-02 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] earthspirits.livejournal.com
I'm really enjoying your story. It's wonderful to see these characters come to life, and I love your character, Brigid, and the addition of the Goddess into the story. Well done!

And nice to see Leroy and Astrid / Nova's situation addressed too - I would love for them to finally become a couple on the actual series.

Now on to the next chapter!
Edited Date: 2014-05-02 04:22 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-02 05:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Yes, I had hopes for Astrid and Leroy in the canon, too. Of course, the series isn't over, and there's always hope.

OUAT is hard to write for if you like to use minor characters as I do: they disappear literally for months at a time (so you think they're gone for good, like Spencer), but then you get a brief glimpse or a shout-out in dialogue, and then suddenly you're in AU territory.

I notice you write Captain Swan: that's way easier in that department! Neither Hook nor Emma are going anywhere. :D

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