stefanie_bean: (anton smiling)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 8: Coffee and Cigarettes
Pairing: Anton/Original Female Character
Characters: Anton the Giant, Leroy/Grumpy, Dwarves, Original Male & Female Characters, Regina Mills
Rating: T
Length: 3027 words
Notes: Set in Season 2, in Storybrooke, Complete

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


Chapter 8: Coffee and Cigarettes

A few days later, Brigid walked up the narrow stone path which led to the rectory of St. Isidore the Farmer Catholic church. It was Thursday, and the Bread Basket was closed until noon. Of all the things to do on her morning off, visiting a priest. She followed a trail of broken asphalt shingles to the rear yard of the rectory itself. On the roof, a broken section of gutter hung by a slender piece of wire. Father Jacques Jarlais, hawk-nosed, lean, and a bit past middle-age, stood on a rickety wooden stepladder.

“Need a hand?” Brigid called out. “I'm terrible with heights, but I can hold the base of the ladder for you.”

The priest's accent was faintly tinged with Montreal French. “Much obliged. So nice to see you, Brigid my dear.”

“Some wind-storm last night, huh?”

“There have been a lot of those lately.” Fr. Jarlais's tone implied that some devilry was afoot in Storybrooke, as usual.

“Looks like you could use an extra set of hands around here,” Brigid remarked, as he pounded brackets into the soft wood.

“Well, you know, it's hard to get good help.”

“It's not easy being the only town in Maine with practically full employment.”

Fr. Jarlais laughed, then climbed down from the ladder and stood before Brigid, running a calloused hand through his greying sandy hair. “Coffee?”

“Always.”

They sat chatting in the rectory kitchen while Madeleine, the priest's housekeeper, wiped down the stove. Between Madeleine's stocky body and the oversized metal table, the kitchen was crowded. “Pastoral business?” Madeleine asked Fr. Jarlais, smile-wrinkles covering her plump face.

Fr. Jarlais gave a slight nod of the kind long-married couples use to speak volumes to one another. After Madeleine left the kitchen, he turned to Brigid, eyebrows raised.

“It's about Anton,” she said.

“Ah.”

“Don't give me that look. You have your way of blessing the fields, I have mine.”

The priest leaned back in his chair and took a red packet of Du Mauriers from the breast pocket of his denim shirt. “We're colleagues, Brigid, and I keep imploring you to call me Jacques, even though you treat me with callous disregard. Mind if I smoke?” He took one of the unfiltered cigarettes, then held the pack out to Brigid.

She breathed in the strong, pungent tobacco before lighting up. “I picked up this filthy habit back in the 'twenties, in my flapper days.”

“I never would have guessed. You don't exactly seem the flapper type.”

“You have to promise not to tell Alex.”

“We'll cover it under the seal of confession.”

“So that still applies to me, does it?”

“Even unto the last moment of the final hour.”

Brigid rolled her eyes, laughed, and he did too. “I was at the restaurant early yesterday morning doing some food prep, and Leroy came by, even though it was closed. He wanted a haircut and a beard trim, if you can believe that.”

“Maybe he wanted to see Sister Astrid.”

“Probably, but she had already left for school. Not that most people send their kids anymore, not since the breaking of the Curse. The whole high school's down to about three kids besides Alex.”

Jacques's tone was dry. “Education wasn't much of a priority back in the Enchanted Forest. Now that the Curse has broken, perhaps people don't see the point.”

“I warned him that I wasn't safe around a pair of clippers till I got some coffee in me.”

“Do much more of that hair-cutting without a license, they'll run you out of town. At a restaurant, especially.”

“I'm not stupid, Jacques. I don't do it in the kitchen or anywhere near the food. Anyway, while I made coffee, we got to talking.”

Jacques took a long drag on his Du Maurier. “Men reveal to their barbers what they won't tell their confessors.”

“Nothing confession-worthy here. But I'm worried about Anton.”

“Of course you are.”

“It's this honorary dwarf thing.”

“So? Anton needs a home. The dwarves welcomed him like a brother.”

Brigid tapped her cigarette, impatient. “He's not a dwarf.”

“He's not a man, either, or at least hasn't been for the vast majority of his days. Brigid, what's this really about?”

“A few nights ago, Anton and I spent the evening together and talked. Well, mostly talked.”

“You don't have to explain yourself to me.”

“Then I drove him back to Dwarf Hollow, which was apparently up in arms because Anton was out and about after dark. Leroy took it upon himself to give Anton 'the talk.' I think Granny must have phoned the dwarves right after we left the restaurant.”

Jacques shrugged, unconcerned. “That's life in a small town.”

“You're telling me. So Leroy laid it on him, all that 'dwarves can't love' nonsense, and that if Anton was going to be a dwarf, he had to put that aside. Leroy no doubt thought he was doing me a favor by delivering the message in person. Oh, listen to me. I'm only speaking in a civilized way because I'm in the competition's kitchen.”

“I'm not your competitor, Brigid. Maybe if you stopped thinking of me that way, we could put our heads together. Perhaps what Leroy says is true, in a sense. English is such a bad word for talking about love. There's agape, the love of man for God. Caritas is self-sacrificing and generous. Philos loves all like a brother. You can't deny the dwarves have that for one another, and they've extended it to Anton. Then there's eros, and Happy seems to have that part down pat.” Jacques chuckled.

Brigid protested, “Excuse me, Jacques, but I don't see it that way. You take love and cut it into tiny little pieces with all these words, then scatter the pieces around like fragments of broken glass. What if someone had all those together? Selfless generosity and affection, family loyalty and desire?”

“We'd call it 'true love,' then.”

“I think that's what Leroy wanted to have with Astrid. But he still denies it. He told Anton that even though what he had with Astrid felt like love, it wasn't.”

Jacques sat there, sipping coffee in between drags on his cigarette, waiting.

“I just don't want Anton to get the wrong idea. Anyway, according to Leroy, Anton left the dwarves' house yesterday morning displeased. And no, he didn't come by to see me or tell me. I heard it from Leroy.”

“If he didn't come by to tell you himself, then why are you worried about his being upset?”

Brigid jammed her cigarette into the ashtray. “My God, Jacques. Do I have to spell it out for you?”

“Sounds like you have to spell it out to yourself.”

“Can I have some more coffee?”

Jacques waved his hand towards the coffee maker.

“Some for you?”

“You don't have to wait on me in my own kitchen, Brigid.” A foxy glint came into Jacque's eye. “By the way, Anton told me a good deal of this, before Mass this morning.”

“So you just let me sit here, rattling on like a screen door flapping in the wind. What happened?”

“He was walking by on his way to the fields and heard me chanting the Mass, so he came on in. He said he liked the singing.” Jacques smiled, proud of his light, fine tenor. “You know what they say, 'He who sings prays twice.' Oh, stop frowning like that. He didn't ask for instruction, if that's what you're worried about.”

Brigid tried to keep the coldness out of her voice. “He has the right to choose his own life, just as Leroy does. Even if Leroy doesn't think so.”

“We always have a choice.”

“Spare me the nostrums. Jacques, doesn't it strike you as odd that both the dwarves and Astrid's order push the same line?”

“Why is that surprising, Brigid? After all, they were supposed to be nuns.” His tone said, Make of that what you will.

“Jacques, exactly what do you know about Astrid's order?”

“It doesn't sound like it's Astrid's order anymore. After all, she's living over the restaurant now, isn't she?”

“And so much for the better. But Mother Superior and what's left of the sisters, who are they, really?”

“Besides fairies, you mean?” Jacques leaned over, as if worried that the walls had ears. “All I can say is this. I wrote the bishop in Portland, and he doesn't recognize them.”

“All you can say, or all you will say?”

Jacques didn't answer.

“Look, Jacques, there's no Catholic like a lapsed Catholic. I know how orders work. They answer to Rome, and the local ordinary gives them permission, or doesn't. He can throw them out any time. So who do the sisters answer to in Rome?”

“I did call someone in the Vatican just last month. Nobody's ever heard of them.”

“Damn it, I knew it. So why do you put up with them?”

“You see any purple around here? I'm not a bishop. They teach at the school, what's left of it. They volunteer at the hospital, walk abandoned dogs at the animal shelter. They run that annual arts and crafts fair which everybody loves.”

“Regular saints, I know. But I can tell by your face you're not totally happy either.”

“I knew something was unusual from the beginning,” Jacques said. “I drove up to the convent, offered to do weekly confessions for them on Friday or Saturday. Or monthly, if they preferred. But Mother Superior fixed me with this beady blue eye and said that they had no need for a confessor. They handled it Irish-style, themselves.”

“Irish-style? I'm Irish. Never heard of that.”

“Far before your time, Brigid. Individual confession was started by the Irish. Holy man or woman, priest or layman, it didn't matter, because in a sense it was like an early form of counseling. And instead of gruesome public penances, it focused on interior amendments, personal prayer.”

“Five Hail Marys, and see you next week.”

“Such bitterness, Brigid. Are you sure the Green Lady has as strong a hold on you as you think?”

“Sorry, Jacques. Mostly it seems like such a sham.”

“And mostly it is. It wasn't just confession, either. They never asked me for the Blessed Sacrament in their chapel. If someone else says Mass for them, I don't know about it. Or maybe they say Mass for themselves. Some nuns do, you know.”

“So Astrid was in some kind of cult. One that preached the same 'no love' thing as the dwarves.”

“What, you're more of a rigorist than the Pope, now?” Jacques' voice was serious but his eyes twinkled. “I suspect under that pagan exterior you're still a daughter of the Church. Oh, relax, Brigid, no insult intended. Seriously, though, just because the sisters comprise some variety of non-Catholic order doesn't mean they're a cult.”

“Their leader told Astrid that she couldn't be with Leroy.”

“That's not exactly how it happened, Brigid. Leroy lied to Astrid at the last Miner's Day, rather publicly, and nobody likes being lied to. Look, we're on the same side here. But there are men and women who don't experience ordinary human love of the kind Sister Astrid expected. Some lapse into bitter loneliness. Others are 'eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.' I don't know which Leroy is. He has to find that out for himself.”

“He has to find that out free of lies and misinformation,” Brigid said, indignant. “Because I don't think it's fair to Leroy, or Anton for that matter. I think Leroy's pushing his own problems onto him.”

“Anyway, Brigid, there's one point you're completely overlooking. Astrid, who was Nova in the Enchanted Land, just woke up in the persona of a nun. She didn't choose to be one.”

“Neither did many in the old country. Convents were where you stuck extra daughters, or wayward ones.”

Jacques fixed her with a critical eye. “Sometimes an excessively long lifespan can breed cynicism, rather than perspective. The modern understanding is that vows have to be freely chosen to be binding.”

“Maybe you need to tell this to Astrid and her friends, not me. And I think Leroy's biggest obstacle is between his ears, not in his nature. However, when you think of it, both stories grow from the lips of the same teller.”

Neither spoke the Blue Fairy's name, although it hung between them in the silence as their stubby cigarettes burned to ash, and the coffee in their cups grew cold.

Jacques was suddenly all business. “All right, I think I understand. You don't want Leroy to fix the idea in Anton's head that dwarves can't love, because that might mean Anton, as an honorary dwarf, would come to believe that he couldn't love you.”

Brigid felt the blood rush to her face. “Busted.”

“Well, the heart wants what it wants. Do you care about this because it would diminish Anton to think he couldn't love, or because you might not be the one whom Anton may come to love?”

“OK, I see this corner you're trying to paint me in.”

“It's not a trap, Brigid,” Jacques said gently. “It's an important distinction.”

Brigid looked around the tidy, spotless kitchen, the embroidered dish towels hanging on the rack, the cheerful painted stencils which bordered the window and door. Madeleine was renowned for her skills with the needle and brush. “Says the man whose own little love nest is well-feathered.”

If the blow hurt, Jacques didn't show it.

“OK, I'll play along,” Brigid said, a bit deflated now. “I know you want me to say that yes, I'm completely disinterested and thinking only of what's best for Anton. Caritas, right? That wouldn't be true. Would I feel equally happy if Anton didn't listen to Leroy, but then took up with someone else instead? I'm not going to lie to you, I'd hate it. I'm not disinterested. And yes, it's about me.”

“Good,” he said. “Now we can get someplace.”

“You need some help around here. Oh, not on the inside, it's obvious Madeleine has that covered. But the fences, the roof, and your windows aren't going to last another winter. Nor would a vegetable garden hurt.”

Jacques laughed. “Madeleine isn't much interested in gardening. And I kill plants just by looking at them.”

“There you go. The carriage house out back—”

“Sits vacant since Mr. Johnson passed, God rest his soul. Sexton and caretaker all in one, just about impossible to replace.”

“Anton could do it.”

Instead of answering, Jacques shook out another cigarette and offered it to Brigid.

“I shouldn't. Two in one day. My daughter would kill me if she knew.”

Jacques lit up and took in a deep draw, then exhaled with a sigh. “Ah, coffee and cigarettes do make life worth living.”

“You're such a bad influence on me, Jacques. I only smoke when I come to visit you. So, would you mind speaking to Anton?”

“I'm two steps ahead of you, Brigid. Anton and I talked this morning, right after Mass. No sooner had I bid good-bye to the five or six old ladies who show up daily, Anton was down on his knees in the back garden, running his fingers through the dirt like it was a beautiful woman's hair, telling me exactly what I needed to grow an exceptionally fine crop of potatoes. Of course I offered him the job. He's to start tomorrow. At least try to act surprised when he tells you.”

“Jacques, I don't know what to say.”

“It was nothing, Brigid. It was obvious that Anton was looking for a face-saving way 'out,' one which would give everyone some room to maneuver.” He fixed her with a stern glance. “Not every problem needs to be hit with a bigger hammer. Often a little finesse does just fine.”

Brigid chose to ignore Jacques's veiled rebuke. “Do you still have some of Jake Johnson's things, you know, like overalls, boots, shirts? I think Jake and Anton were about the same size. I love Anton's robes, but—”

“They're sadly in need of repair, I agree. And I don't know what kind of metal that is on the embellishments, but it's probably best to safeguard it.”

Brigid stood to go. This meeting had gone better than she ever could have imagined. “Jacques, you're wonderful. I'd kiss you if Madeleine weren't right outside the door listening to us.”

He sighed, but with an undercurrent of laughter. “It's a terrible habit. After all these years I despair of breaking her of it. Fortunately, she has priestly rectitude when it comes to keeping a confidence.”

Brigid stubbed out what was left of her cigarette even though it had already gone cold, and was about to rinse her coffee cup when Jacques added, “Also, I've extended Anton an invitation to come to group.”

“I thought you weren't supposed to talk about group.”

“It's not exactly a secret, seeing as meeting times are posted on the bulletin boards both here and at First Methodist. Or that Victor Whale and I started it after the Curse broke, when we all found out who we were, who we had been. Some of us are still trying to come to grips with it.”

“Anton wasn't cursed, though.”

“But he is still not of this world.”

“I hope that changes,” Brigid said, as she headed for the door. “Come by the restaurant sometime, Jacques. On the house. I'd say you've earned it.”

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-05 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inlaterdays.livejournal.com
I am loving this story. This was a fascinating chapter with all its insights into the dwarves and fairies/nuns.

And I love that Brigid was once a flapper.

And I love Fr. Jarlais. Your OCs are wonderful.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-19 11:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
I can't believe I forgot to say thanks for this comment.

And yup, Brigid's been around the block more than once.

Am working on the "Barn Dance" chapter now. I seem to write in bursts.

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