stefanie_bean: (anton smiling)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 9: Barn Dance
Pairing: Anton/Original Female Character
Characters: Anton the Giant, Leroy/Grumpy, Astrid/Nova, Original Male & Female Characters, Regina Mills
Rating: T
Length: 3857 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 9: Barn Dance

Saturday evening settled across Storybrooke's pine-ridged hills, bringing with it the balmy air of spring. When Brigid pulled up to the dwarves' driveway, there was Leroy, breaking up a pine stump with an ax.

As Brigid got out, the corners of Leroy's mouth twitched upwards for a brief second: his version of a warm, winning smile. “You're here for Tiny, I guess."

Earlier that day, Amanda had phoned Brigid, her voice saturated with such conspiratorial energy that Brigid could almost see Amanda's grin over the telephone. “I basically invited the whole town. Amber and Amaltheia put up posters. And I 'specially made it a point to phone those dwarves.”

Now, clad in mud-splattered wellies and dungarees, Leroy didn't look like he was going anywhere. Nonetheless, Brigid thought it might be worthwhile to ask. “So, will we see you at the Greys this evening?”

“Some of us got a lot of work to do around the place.” Even so, his eyebrows flicked upwards like the corners of his mouth. “Maybe.”

“Better get there by eight, or there might not be much food left.” Two macaroni-and-cheese casseroles in buffet-size trays rested in the back of the pick-up truck. Alongside were four loaves of wheat bread, three of rye, two pounds of fresh butter, and one of Brigid's signature full-sheet lemon cakes. Still, Brigid had agonized over whether it would be enough.

Leroy stuck his head up to the passenger window and sniffed. “That your mac-and-cheese?”

“The very same. Hey, Leroy, maybe if you get a few of your brothers down here, this stump would go faster, and you could get out the door sooner.”

“What, you're gonna tell a dwarf how to organize a work crew?”

“Wouldn't dream of it. You mind if I toddle on up to get Anton?”

Leroy grunted and gestured to the house with his ax, then resumed chopping. Brigid got out of the truck, grimacing at the mud sticking to her leather flats. Fortunately, she didn't need to navigate the steep, slick driveway, because Anton was already carefully picking his way down.

As soon as Anton got into the truck, he fixed her with a mischievous look, boyish and endearing. “I have a surprise.”

Brigid put the truck in gear and turned around carefully, trying not to splash Leroy. “Do you, now?”

“I got a job at the rectory.”

It took a great effort to suppress her grin. “Well, imagine that.”

"It'll be great. Fr. Jacques wants me to give him some pointers about his garden." Then, looking sideways at her, he said, "It's going to be a little bit harder to make things grow well. He doesn't follow the old ways, you know."

"No, of course not. He's a priest of the Man Jesus."

"I'm moving in tomorrow, and I think I'm going to like living over there. This nice woman Madeleine keeps house for him, and she makes the best breakfasts: boiled oats, scrambled eggs, and 'cause yesterday was my first day on the job, she fried some donuts. A lot of donuts.” He grinned, appreciative. “And she didn't care about seconds or thirds, either. She complained that Fr. Jacques never eats enough, and it was good to have a man with a hearty appetite to cook for again.”

“Better watch her. She'll try to fatten you up."

Anton patted his ample belly. “Well, I always was kind of small.”

Brigid laughed. “I like your new duds, by the way.”

Anton beamed at that. “Fr. Jacques took me down to the Feed and General. Madeleine needed more oats, too, so I brought her a couple bags, one for the rectory and one for the soup kitchen."

Brigid had heard about how Anton had hoisted a hundred-pound bag of rolled oats on each shoulder, then carried them to the St. Isidore rectory as easily as if they were day-packs for a summer hike.

“Fr. Jacques said that Mr. Johnson's old overalls were too shabby for something special like tonight, so I bought these trousers and a nice shirt besides. He said that if I was going to a barn dance, I had to wear long sleeves.”

Anton's red windowpane-checked cotton shirt was crisply pressed. His black twill trousers were held up by a pair of maroon- and blue-embroidered suspenders. He really does look fine, Brigid thought. “That's right about the shirt. Because sometimes you can work up a sweat, and the ladies don't want to hang onto a wet forearm.”

"And Fr. Jacques's teaching me how to play cards.”

Brigid looked as askance at him as she could, while still watching the road. "For money? Watch out, he'll skin you alive." When he shot her an alarmed look, she said, "Just a figure of speech."

He draped his arm over her shoulder, and there it rested all the way to Grey Hill Farm.


* * * * * * * *


When Brigid and Anton arrived at the old farmstead, they were met by a splendid sight. Hundreds of paper bags, each with its own tea candle, lined the yard. As well as lighting up the path around the house to the big old barn, the luminarias marked an odd curved path which cut right through the yard itself, only ending at the brushy scrub-oak clearing which led into the dark woods.

Brigid pulled on Anton's sleeve. “Look, the Line. They've marked the Line.”

“Did you tell them, um, about me? You know, what I did last Sunday?”

“No. That's your story to tell, if you want. But I will warn you, people here are very anxious about losing their memories, about having to blend in outside.” Brigid cut the engine, but neither of them got out of the truck. “At first it made me angry, and I didn't understand it. Then I came to see that while this world is mine, it's not theirs. They breathed a different air as children, made wishes on strange stars in a different sky. It's not my place to criticize anyone for wanting to go back, or for not seeing this world as home.”

Anton leaned over to her, and oh, that's what she wanted, that's what she'd been waiting for, and would have asked for had Leroy not been hacking away at that stump. Anton gave her a soft kiss, and desire was there, yes it was, but what moved her heart was more than desire: the possession in that kiss. Not the kind where you feel like a thing, grabbed and yanked around, to be bent to someone else's will. Brigid when younger and more foolish had accepted kisses like that, but no more. This kiss said, If you want me, here I am.

They met across the long front seat for one final sweet, slow kiss that went on a long time. After awhile she opened her eyes and brushed his shirt-front as if she wanted to bare his heart. Then she laid her head on his chest, where his heart pounded like a giant clock.

“Oh, Brigid,” he sighed, nuzzling her brow and cheeks.

His skin was salty-sweet, with just a tinge of cologne, exactly the right amount. That had to be another one of Jacques' touches, and amusement ran over her as well as desire.

Her slight laughter broke the rain of kisses. “Hmm?”

“I guess we should go in," Brigid said. "Let's see if we can find a few pairs of hands to help with all this food.”

As they clambered out of the truck, a buzz of conversation greeted them. Around the slight hilltop rise the barn came into view, its big doors open wide and blazing with light. Alex ran up to Brigid and hugged her as if they'd been parted for weeks rather than just since that morning, and a troop of teenagers emptied the truck bed in nothing flat.

In Brigid's time as a young, flirty colleen, tables were still called “groaning boards.” Even though the ones lined up on the grass outside the Grey Hill Farm barn were of the metal folding kind, had they voices they would have groaned. With uncanny accuracy, the Grey sisters had guessed right for provisioning the good hundred guests who massed around, including a few dozen from Storybrooke.

Most amazing of all, the Maine-worlders and those from Storybrooke mingled and chatted as if they weren't of two worlds at all. It must be the breaking of the Curse, Brigid thought. Things are changing.

It used to be that if a Storybrooke person passed by you in the Greys' forest, you saw only shadows. But not now. Still, the Storybrooke folk stayed close to the barn, avoiding the front side of the big gabled house with its treacherous Line.

Archie Hopper found Brigid and gave her a restrained hug, no bodies touching for him, thank you. His Dalmatian Pongo sat at his feet, staring over at the food tables, where a huge warming tray sent up spicy, sage-soaked chicken smells. Beyond the food, Astrid stood with Hester and Tara, all wearing nunnish blue and broad, energetic smiles.

Brigid narrowed her eyes, staring at the three women, hard. Something was weird, wrong even. Then it hit her. Near their feet, each of the women had a single suitcase, as plain and dark as their garb.

What the hell?

Most of the Maine-world guests hailed from Bucksport or Belfast, but a few had come from as far away as Ellsworth. One of the Ellsworth women wouldn't leave Doc Thatcher alone. The Storybrooke veterinarian finally gave in to her blandishments and questions about the town; she'd never heard of it and she'd lived here for five years. Why, she was virtually an old-timer herself. Storybrooke? Where was that?

“It's kind of unincorporated,” Doc Thatcher said, literally saved by the dinner bell.

Anton and Brigid ate sprawled on a red-checked oilcloth which served as a picnic blanket. Carl and Alex joined them for a bit, while Sean and Ashley brought Baby Alexandra over, to show how well she could roll over now, onto her back and back to her stomach again. Alex cooed over the baby, tickled her, wanted to know if she could feed her. Ashley laughed and told her that no, Baby Alexa took it straight up from Mom, no additives. Then Kathryn Nolan, no wait, not any longer, it was Kathryn Jacobs now, wandered by with her husband Jim, and the checked picnic cloth barely fit them all.

Then the dwarves showed up.

Down at the bottom of the hill, where the driveway stretched out beneath the trees for a long way, Brigid watched the tail-lights of David Nolan's truck beat a path away from Grey Hill Farm. So he wasn't going to stay, was he? Just dropping the dwarves off and then high-tailing it out of here.

Mr. Clark joined Amaltheia and Brigid. He didn't live with the dwarves, having crossed over the Line shortly after the Change. He had lost his Enchanted Forest memories and still insisted that he was nothing more than Storybrooke's pharmacist. When Amaltheia offered Mr. Clarke a choice between lemonade or soft cider, he had the temerity to ask for beer.

“Oh, we'll bring out the special punch later,” Amaltheia told him. “Strictly herbs and botanicals. You'll love it.”

After Amaltheia breezed away, Mr. Clark said to Brigid with a disgruntled expression, “Drugs? Did she just offer me drugs?”

“Nothing the FDA's put on a schedule. Yet.”

Flustered and peevish, he changed tack. “I've been meaning to phone you anyway, Mrs. O'Dea.”

Brigid looked around for Anton, who with a few other guests was taking the flashlight tour of the wide-spreading gardens. She shouldn't tease the pharmacist, she knew, but it was just too easy. “Why, Mr. Clark, I didn't know you cared.”

He couldn't contain the blush which colored his cheeks, and it made his severe expression look even sillier. “Mrs. O'Dea, really. It's about your daughter, Alex. She came into the shop a few days ago, and I just thought you should know.”

“Oh, Lord, let me guess. She either bought a pregnancy test, or condoms, right?”

Barely sputtering out the words, Mr. Clark said, “The latter. And I thought you would be more concerned.”

Enough of this foolishness. “I'd be more concerned if she hadn't bought them. But you know, Carl's a good young man. Steady worker at the cannery, reliable, always willing to help around the homestead. So if they did decide to get together and make a baby, it wouldn't be the end of the world.” Brigid had the pleasure of watching him stalk off, still huffing with righteous indignation.

The fiddlers started to tune. A wide graying man almost as big as Anton wedged himself out of a rusty robin's-egg blue VW Bug, and it was a wonder that he fit in there to start with.

“That's the caller,” Amanda said, back from guiding the garden tour. “We usually go with Jesse Bloom, but he's playing in Bangor tonight, so we got Old Jedediah Strong instead. He's pretty good, too, even if he does go kind of fast.” And with that, Amanda gave Brigid a glance of such pointed wickedness that for an instant, Brigid herself was shocked. Well, wasn't that a bit of karmic payback for teasing Mr. Clark as she had.

As they walked to the barn, where everyone intending to dance had already arranged themselves into two long facing lines, Amanda turned to Brigid and casually said, “The young folks all brought their sleeping bags. They're going to bed down in the barn for the night, for kind of a party after the party. You and Anton are welcome to stay.”

“Amanda, it's been a long time since I slept in a barn.”

“Very funny, girl. I already made up the bed for you two in the second-floor guest room, and we've got enough night-shirts and gowns to provision an army. It'll be nice for you and me to sit in our robes in the morning, and jaw over some java. But don't get up too early on my account.” Again Amanda sent Brigid that wicked glance.


* * * * * * * *


Anton picked up contra-dancing right away, paying less attention to the caller's almost-nonsense syllables and more to what everyone else in the line across from him was doing.

He's a natural, Brigid said to herself. She always messed up, because in a line dance, the people opposite you did, well, the opposite. Anton, though, seemed to have a mirror in his head, because he never got turned around or scooted left when he should have scotched right.

The two of them laughed, gasped, held onto each other and drank Grey Hill's cold, clear spring water from the same tin cup. Then Old Jed called out, “Make four squares with corners four, don't let that filly out the door.” Brigid thought about sitting it out, but Anton was on fire now, and so they formed a square of four with Carl and Alex, Doc Thatcher and the Ellsworth woman (the two of them hitting it off nicely, it seemed), and the Nolans, oops, the Jacobs.

After they had danced around their group of eight a few times, Old Jed called for one of those merge things, where everyone shifted over once to form a new square, then once again, and again, until every couple had squared up with every other one. Finally the fiddlers put down their bows, the old piano stopped its rattling tinkle, and Old Jed said, “Don't know 'bout you folks, but calling's thirsty work, and I hear we're about due for some ree-fur-reshments.” Everyone clapped and cheered the musicians on, hollering so loudly that the two-hundred-fifty year old oaken barn rafters shook in their notches.

With the help of some of the grand-kids, Amanda and Amaltheia brought out big metal bowls of punch. “I've had this before,” Brigid said to Anton, as he speculated over the pale green, watery stuff, with little herbal bits floating in it. “I'd say a cup to start with. Or for you, maybe two. Just pace yourself, see how you feel.”

“Is it a kind of green ale?”

“Better. You don't get loopy or leaden, and there's no hangover. Everything just gets a little sharper, brighter.”

Guests who were veterans of Grey Hill parties sampled the punch sparingly. Amaltheia and the grand-kids, though, made it a point to sidle up to the Storybrooke visitors and tell them what was what. If they didn't want any punch, there was plenty of lemonade left. Further, the teats of Mother Earth herself would have to run dry before Grey Hill Farms ran out of good spring water.

“Ale was kind of fun,” Anton said. “But I don't really need any.”

Brigid agreed. “Me either. I'm having fun enough.”

The second dance set was a bit shorter, because the musicians had loaded their plates and drunk deeply of Amanda's punch besides. A few musicians stayed in place, though, playing one lazy waltz after another.

Brigid clung to Anton as they moved slowly across the straw-strewn floor. Then they stopped all pretense of dancing, and instead just leaned on each other, rocking back and forth to the slow, plaintive tunes.

Anton lifted Brigid's face gently by the chin. “I've never had so much fun, Brigid. In my life.”

She rested her face on his chest. “It's just a country dance." Then she came up for air and said, “By the way, Amanda invited us to crash here tonight.”

“Crash?”

“Oh, sorry. Stay here, as guests. She wants to monopolize me in the morning for gossip. Alex, Carl, and the rest of the kids are staying out in the barn.”

He said the same thing that was on her mind. “A bed, all to ourselves.”

“I know, right?”

She was just about to pillow her head on Anton's chest again, when something caught her eye. Over in the corner of the barn, Astrid and Leroy stood deep in conversation. Astrid seemed all right with it, relaxed even, but Leroy paced a bit, rubbing his hand over his bald head. Then Astrid picked up her dark blue suitcase, gave him a small peck on the cheek, and left the barn.

Amanda came over to the lead fiddler. “Keep playing.”

Brigid stopped dancing and said to Anton, “Something's afoot. Let's go see.”

* * * * * * * *


The crowd streamed out of the barn and headed around to the front yard, where the luminarias which marked out the Line still burned. Pulling Anton along, Brigid broke into a trot, trying to catch up with Archie Hopper. The tall psychiatrist loped on ahead, towards a small group massed on the edge of the lawn, too close to the Line for Brigid's comfort.

“Archie, wait,” Brigid called out.

“It's OK, Brigid,” Archie said, as if he sensed her perplexity. “This has been planned for some time now.”

“What's been planned?”

The three nuns stood by the Line, each with a suitcase in hand. Leroy, Happy, and the rest of the dwarves stood a few paces back, talking among themselves. Then Astrid broke from her small group to face Leroy once more. She took his hand, and a look of pain crossed his face.

Now Brigid and Anton were close enough to hear.

“Sister Astrid, don't do this,” Leroy said.

“We've been over this, Leroy.”

“You'll forget me.”

“I won't forget you. I'll remember your story of how you were a dwarf in the Enchanted Forest. And not to embarrass you, but what I won't remember is that night when you left me standing on that hilltop, and told me that you couldn't love me.”

“Astrid, I'm so sorry,” Leroy whispered.

“I was mad for a long time, Leroy. But I guess the Curse softened the blow, because when it broke and when I woke up to myself, I wasn't mad anymore. I'll remember that you were a guy I really liked, but that a lot of stuff happened, and it didn't work out for us.”

“But you're a fair—”

She put up her hand, cutting him off in mid-syllable. “No, I'm not a fairy. I choose not to be a fairy any longer.”

“So what are you, just a nun then? Because I'm a dwarf, and I'll always be a dwarf.”

“I don't know if I'm a nun or not. Because I didn't get to choose that for myself, either. But if I do decide to stay a nun, it'll be because I want to.”

“I didn't get to choose to be a dwarf.”

“That's different. Being a nun, like love, involves making a promise. And you can't have someone else choose that for you.”

Leroy had nothing to say to that.

Astrid then turned to the small group assembled around her. She held herself straight, a thin blue candle ready to burst into clear flame. “Friends old and new, we take our leave. But it's not the end for us. Instead, it's a new life. Dr. Hopper, thanks for helping us make this decision, and for finding us someplace to go.

“And Brigid,” here Astrid reached out her hand, “Thank you, too, for being there when we really needed a place to land. Oh, don't look so sad. We have our phones. We're just going to Los Angeles, not the other side of the world.”

Brigid took Astrid's hand, and blinked back tears. “I'm sad because you didn't tell me.”

“We couldn't risk it, not with Mother Superior.”

Brigid kissed her, and Tara and Hester besides. A sea of bodies, loving hands, and hugs encased the sisters, until everyone had bid their farewells. Finally, Astrid turned to Leroy and held his hand one final time. “You don't have to stay here. You can decide for yourself what to do.”

“I know what I have to do,” he replied, his own voice thick with emotion. “My duty is to Charming and Snow.”

That seemed to settle it, as far as Astrid was concerned. “You can always think of me as your friend.” She withdrew her hand to slide on a pair of blue silk gloves against the chilly night. “If you change your mind, come find me.”

As if rehearsed, the three women picked up their suitcases, and without looking back, stepped over the Line. They looked about for a few seconds, blinking. From her coat pocket Hester took a flashlight, whose tiny white beam swayed all the way down to where the cars were parked. The women got into an old nineties-era Toyota Corolla, then drove away in the direction of Bucksport, away from Storybrooke.

Leroy turned away, overcome, while the rest of the guests drifted back towards the barn. The sad, sweet cries of the fiddles finally came to a stop.

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-10 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inlaterdays.livejournal.com
How did I miss commenting on this? I remember reading it when you posted it and I was just now checking your journal in case I'd missed a chapter of this fic, and saw I hadn't left a comment.

So here is one!

Lovely chapter. I could really picture the barn dance, right down to the caller and the fiddlers.

I love how gentle Anton is with Brigid, even though both of them are very strong in their ways: This kiss said, If you want me, here I am.

I keep meaning to ask you: are Carl and Alex named in honor of Karl and Alex from LOST?

And oh, I wish that Leroy had gone with Astrid! But he has to do as his nature and his conscience dictate. I can't help wishing he'd change his mind, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-11 12:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Ha, yes, Carl and Alexis are based on Karl and Alexandra in LOST. I figure if OUAT can incorporate Apollo Bars and Ajira Airlines, I can give Carl and Alex a bit gentler treatment than they got in LOST.

I wish Leroy didn't have that attitude either. I don't see how Astrid can stay in SB and yet stay free of Blue's influence, though. So they're kind of at a cross-roads. Their ultimate future, I guess, depends on how OUAT ends, unless I veer off into AU territory.

I'm due for another chapter of Sowing, but I have to rewatch a few eps of late S2 first. Sorry it's taking so long.


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