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Chapter 10: Twelve Steps
Pairing: Anton/Original Female Character
Characters: Anton the Giant, Leroy/Grumpy, Astrid/Nova, Original Male & Female Characters, Regina Mills
Rating: T
Length: 3793 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 10: Twelve Steps

Underneath the harsh fluorescent lights of the small meeting room in the Storybrooke Methodist Church, twelve people sat in a circle on metal folding chairs. Since the barn dance their numbers had more than doubled. The group which had started with Dr. Victor Whale, Ruby Lucas, Fr. Jacques Jarlais, and two Enchanted-Land women now boasted a record crowd. Soon it would be time to break out more chairs, if things continued like this.

Talk of the nuns' departure had spread through town like wildfire and still smouldered. Lines of loyalty were beginning to form.

Fr. Jarlais stood at the podium. “We have many new people tonight, so we're going to go over how we work. Is that all right?”

Murmurs and nods of agreement rose up, so Jarlais went on. “As you know, Alcoholics Anonymous is a twelve-step program, based first and foremost on honesty. You admit you're an alcoholic, that you have no control over your drinking, and everything flows from that. Some of us have admitted to being alcoholics, too,” and here he paused for a few seconds. Everyone knew who they were, and they had another meeting to go to right after this one.

“Although we've modeled our group along the lines of AA, for us it's a bit different. We're here because we've chosen to be honest about who we were in the Enchanted Forest, about what we did, about what was done to us. And like AA, we have twelve steps to follow. You can read them on the brochure on your seat, but the first one is the most important, the step of honesty. And each of us here is ready to help the other take that first crucial step.”

The door creaked open, and all eyes turned towards the newcomer, a hugely fat man in rust-colored overalls with long wavy brown hair tied back behind his ears. He swallowed hard as he looked around at the ring of faces, nervous as any other first-timer.

“Hi,” he said, trying to swallow his nervousness. “I'm Anton.”

“Hi, Anton,” everyone said back.

Fr. Jacques had warned him that this was the hardest part, approaching the cliff-edge to which everyone in this room had come. For some it was drink, trying to blot out the memories of who they'd been, what they'd done. Others resorted to obsessive, repetitive behavior, or the threat of suicide. But everyone who teetered on this edge had to admit it, because the first step was honesty.

Everybody's done it, and so can I, Anton told himself. Trying to keep his voice from quavering, he said, “I killed my entire family. Not like, actually lowered the ax. But I got them killed. And I have to live with that forever.”

Soft murmurs went around the room, encouragement, support, kind words. They fell silent as Anton told the story of how Jack and the rest of the giant-killers had invaded Anton's castle and stabbed his brothers with swords dipped in poison which could kill giants with a single scratch. How Anton was alone for all those years afterward. How he had roamed the countryside of the giant-lands, finding no one alive, and then retreated to his castle in despair.

When he was done, soft voices circled around the group, thanking him. When they quieted down, Anton said, “It's, um, a little different for me. I was never cursed, so I always had my memories. But I still couldn't live with what I did.”

“It's OK, Anton,” Ruby said. “That's why we're here. And we're glad you are, too.” Then she said to the circle, “I'm Ruby, and I'm a werewolf. I killed and ate my boyfriend.”

“Hi, Ruby,” everyone said.

Ruby just smiled, so Jarlais continued. “We focus on acceptance. When our memories came back, we had to live with who we were, what we had done. We can't change the past.” He looked around the room. “Anyone else?”

Dr. Whale spoke up. “I'm Victor, and on top of everything else, I'm an alcoholic, too. Like you, Anton, I'm not from the Enchanted Land. I tried to raise the dead, twice. Both times, the results were monstrous. I turned my brother into a thing of horror, and he still is, if he hasn't yet died.”

Ruby leaned over and took Victor's shaking hand in hers, while murmurs of acknowledgment went around the room.

Jarlais spoke, looking in particular at the new people. “I'm Gervais. I was one of King George's tax collectors, and I took the liberty to set rates far above what the king demanded. I had many men's wives, hundreds over the years. If I wanted a woman, I just demanded more than her husband could pay, and had him locked up. It always worked. They always submitted.”

Anton listened to one story after another, while people asked for each other's forgiveness. Two women sat next to each other, a small young woman and an older stockier one.

The older one spoke first. “My name's Mara, and I ran a brothel. I bought girls when their parents couldn't pay their debts.”

“I'm Alicia,” said the young one. “Maybelle, in the Enchanted Land. Mara bought me when I was thirteen. I was there for six years until the Curse freed me.”

Mara lowered her head and her voice was low. “Maybelle, I'm sorry.” Maybelle didn't say anything, but grasped the older woman's hand back, in a hard squeeze.

“We've all been given a second chance,” Jarlais said. “Whatever we did, we aren't bound by that. We don't have to do it again.”

A young man slipped into the meeting, late. It was Alex's boyfriend, Carl. Almost her husband, for all practical purposes, as Alex had taken him fully for her own. Anton took his breakfasts at the rectory with Fr. Jacques and Madeleine, but suppers were reserved for Brigid, Alex, and Carl at the restaurant. Since the nuns had left, Brigid had strictly cut down the restaurant's hours to dinner hours only. Even then, more and more often the Bread Basket's sign hung in the “Closed” position.

Carl stood before the group, and his voice didn't shake at all. “I'm Carl, and this is my first time here. For some reason, my name was the same in both lands. At the age of seven, my parents were killed and our village burned. King George's men made me a slave in the King's kitchen. We were given only spoiled food and dry crusts, and were glad to get that. One day, another boy ate a dish of blancmange. I ratted on him, because they blamed me, and were going to beat me for it. They whipped him to death.”

Anton sat listening, thunderstruck. Carl had never mentioned this, and Anton couldn't keep silent any longer. He knew you weren't suppose to interrupt someone when they told their story, but he couldn't help himself. “Why do you call it 'the Curse?' Sounds like it set you free. Like it was a blessing.”

Several people looked at each other, but no one said anything. Then a small, soft chime rang out, and Jarlais said, “Coffee, everybody. Or bottled water. And Ruby here brought cookies, which are going to go fast.”

A few people chuckled, and they got up, stretching their legs. Anton was especially stiff. There were a lot of fantastic things in this world: hot showers, refrigerators that made your drinks icy cold, books and hair dryers and work boots. These metal chairs, he could do without them, thanks.

Ruby pulled Anton aside to a small group with Victor, Fr. Jarlais, Carl, and Mara, the former brothel owner. “Now the real meeting starts.”

“I think it's time to talk in group about leaving,” Mara said to Jarlais.

“It's a divisive issue,” Jarlais answered. “The group's focus is to deal with who we were, making amends if we can, and resolving not to do it again. Whether to cross the Line or not isn't our purpose.”

“Some might start to feel judged if they do or if they don't,” Ruby explained to Anton.

“People have already mentioned wanting to leave,” Victor said.

Ruby gave him a long, critical appraisal. “Do you, Victor?”

“Not so long ago I was ready to check out permanently. And not just to the outside world. Don't you remember?”

She lowered her eyes. “I do.”

Victor gave her a warm, sideways hug. “Whatever we do, we'll decide together.”

Mara wasn't done yet, though. To Jarlais she said, “What good does it do to stir up the pot, to churn up all these emotions if we don't talk about what to do about them? It's not enough for me to promise that I won't pimp out any more girls. A lot of us talk about this, Gervais, even outside of meetings. We want to move on with our lives. And out there, we don't have to be tormented by it, or reminded of it.”

A cluster had formed, listening. Carl the former kitchen slave spoke up and stated the unstated. “I want to go. I only haven't yet, because of Alex. But I've been learning about Outside. Parts of it are terrible, worse than where we came from. Others aren't, though. Besides, out there in the United States, where most of us would live if we left, it's a lot harder to get away with the stuff that was done to us back in the Enchanted Forest. There are laws, even if sometimes they're not fair. Because let's face it, people take slaves and steal and start wars because they can.” He looked around the group, challenging them to prove him wrong.

“It's the fallen nature of man,” Jarlais remarked.

“It's not enough to say we won't do those things,” Carl insisted. “We have to live somewhere that makes it really hard to do them.”

“Carl's right,” Mara said. “You may have the resolve of a saint, Gervais, but most people don't. Some of us just want to live our lives, what's left of them.”

Jarlais rubbed his chin, thinking. “In the Church we call it 'structures of sin.' It's what happens when societies make it impossible to do the right thing. People don't and can't do it alone. Everyone has to help.”

“And not do stuff like take children as slaves.”

Jarlais fixed Carl with a long, intent stare. “It happens out there, too, Carl. You can't fix all of it.”

“There's another thing,” Victor said, looking around at the small cluster. “What's to stop Regina, the Blue Fairy or anyone else from just whipping up another spell and forcing us all to go back? Or locking us here in Storybrooke for good?”

The group fell silent. Everyone had thought of that at one time or another.

When Carl spoke up, he sounded angry. “Well, I won't go back, as bad as things may be Outside. And if they do force me back to the Enchanted Forest, I'll become an outlaw. They'll have to hang me to make me stop.” He looked around at everyone in the group, his square jaw set in indignation. “Why should anyone think they have the right to do this, just because they're a king or queen or sorcerer? Who do they think they are? We're not chess pieces. They can't just move us from place to place at their whim.”

Anton said, “That's how I got here. Cora kidnapped me.”

“We were all kidnapped,” Carl said. “In one way or another.”

“Ding, dong, the witch is dead,” said Mara, voice full of bitterness. “And good riddance, too.”

Fr. Jarlais was just about to reproach her when Anton said, “I didn't want Cora to die. I was afraid that if she did, I'd, you know, go back to being a giant.”

Ruby gave a long sigh. “Anton, there are some spells that once they're cast, it's for good. With those, you never go back.”

Victor gave her a sympathetic nod, and took her hand.

The small chimes rang once more. It was time to vacate the room, so that the other group could come in. Victor would stay for that one, and Ruby as well. Even though she didn't have a problem with drink, Victor liked having her there with him, and she was glad to do it.

“Come by the rectory tomorrow before work,” Jarlais said to Carl as the two of them started to clean up. “We'll talk.”

“Will we see you again?” Victor said to Anton. “We meet here every Tuesday and Thursday at seven.”


* * * * *


Anton and Fr. Jarlais walked back to the St. Isidore rectory, both sunk deep in thought until Anton broke the silence. “What really does happen if you go, um, Outside? I mean, I saw Astrid and her sisters leave. Astrid called Brigid last week, but she didn't tell her what it was like or anything.”

“You know Mr. Clark, right? One of your brothers?”

Anton was glad his blush didn't show in the dark. Half the street lamps in Storybrooke were still out, and they had to pick their way carefully through the dim streets. They passed under the clock tower, all the shards of glass finally swept up. Still, the tower's single broken eye stared out over the town like that of some vanquished Cyclops.

Finally Anton said, “You know, they're good guys. We work together in the fields. But, um, about that 'brother' thing—”

Jarlais nodded. “I thought that might be a little much. You might want to pay attention to this, though. This morning I cornered Mr. Gold, in between whatever he's so busy doing these days. Everyone's afraid of him, even more so now that they know who and what he is. I suppose he could have ripped out my tongue or turned me into a houseplant or something, but he didn't. In fact, he almost seemed wary of me.” Jarlais laughed and gave his silver pectoral cross a little flip. “Perhaps he's superstitious. Anyway, I had a few questions for him. First, I wanted to know what happens when a person crosses the Line. Specifically, why didn't Mr. Clark, and presumably the sisters as well, not go mad?”

“And?” Anton was listening hard now.

“If you're from the Enchanted Forest, you lose all direct memories of that. But Mr. Gold's answer was simple. Clark doesn't remember the Enchanted Land. But he remembers being a 'normal' person in an enchanted town.”

“That's what the sisters thought would happen.”

“Well, it's probably accurate. Mr. Clark remembers everything that transpired since the Dark Curse was broken. So all those things like the Wraith blowing through town, your stampede down Dock Street—”

“I'm really embarrassed about that,” Anton said. “It helps, volunteering on the work crew to clean things up.”

“That's good, Anton. We always want to try and make amends. The point, though, is that Mr. Clark remembers magic and magical events, because he remembers all of that which happened to him since the breaking of the Curse. And because of his close relationship with his brothers, he trusted and believed them when they told him what had happened to him, and who he was before.”

“So, like, he'd remember being from the Enchanted Land, even though he wouldn't exactly remember the details.”

“Exactly,” Jarlais answered, smiling. “But I had a second question for Mr. Gold, too, equally important, even if it took him awhile to finally cough up an answer. Everyone here from the Enchanted Forest, everyone who was cursed, doesn't just have Cursed memories of a life Outside, one that they didn't really live. Everyone who was Cursed also has what people on the Outside call 'identity.'”

“Identity?”

“Papers. Certificates. Birth records, passports. For instance, there's really a record of my ordination in Montreal. Damnedest thing is, I remember lying face down in front of the Cardinal on the floor of Notre-Dame Basilica, even though it didn't really happen. And I have a Canadian passport, as well as naturalization papers that allow me to live in the United States.

“Dr. Whale's really licensed to practice medicine with the Maine Board of Healing Arts, if you can believe that. And Mr. Clark is registered with the state pharmaceutical board, and even remembers having to take the licensing examination, twice. See, those of us who were enchanted, we have a legal identity, because these personae were incorporated into the Curse itself. Whoever leaves is going to have to have the same.”

Anton just shook his head, confused. The rules he'd grown up with were simple and straightforward. No peeing in the bean field. No chasing after giantesses; they were to come to you. No killing animals for food, because their terror would infect you. But this world, what a mess. Finally he said, “I wasn't cursed. So I guess I don't have any, what do you call it, identity. Out there, I mean.”

“Probably not,” Jarlais agreed.

“What happens to you out there if you don't have 'identity?'”

“You get put into prison. And if you babble to the authorities about originally being a giant from a magical land, you may take a detour in the lunatic asylum as well.”

“So,” Anton said, knowing the answer already, “How, then, are things that much different here, compared to where you came from?”

Fr. Jarlais didn't say anything at first. Then, he spoke full of deliberation, as if he had asked himself the same question many times over. “No matter what side of the Line you find yourself on, Anton, you have to make your stand. As far as 'identity' goes, I think we can get you some, if you want. Mr. Gold can probably whip some up.”

“Mr. Gold isn't going to give me anything. I have nothing he needs.”

“Not Gold directly. Regina. She owes you.”

“For what?”

“Her mother's dead. And from her haunted expression as she's been stalking about town, I'd say she's torn to pieces about it. Cora brought you here, Anton, and Regina feels dreadfully guilty about Cora. And you have something that Regina very badly wants.”

“I still don't see it.”

“Anton, why hasn't Regina just come and taken the beans? You know she wants them, because they lead to other worlds.”

“That's easy. Anybody but me, anybody but a giant, I mean, if they pull one up, take it, even if they pick just one, it'll die.” Then he paused, reflecting. “I guess that was one little part of giant-ness that Cora left me with. So that I could still grow the beans.”

“That makes sense. And my guess is that Regina suspects it too. She can break the beans, destroy the whole field if she wants, but she can't make them.”

“That's right.” Anton stopped at the last crosswalk before the rectory, but didn't cross the street. He wanted to finish this conversation out under the open sky. “So can Regina do this? Make 'identity' for me?”

“I think so. For something in return.”

“What's to stop her from just grabbing the beans and giving me nothing?”

“Force of habit,” Jarlais answered. “Sorcerers make deals; it's how it works. And habits are unbelievably powerful. I think, Anton, that all Regina wants to do is take her son and leave. Make it easy for her. Give her that opportunity.”

Anton nodded, his voice hesitant. “I don't know what Brigid wants to do. Maybe she, you know, might want to take me as hers for good. But Carl wants to leave, and if Carl does, then Alex might. And Brigid isn't going to leave Alex.”

“Talk to her, Anton.”

“I can't. She has to ask for me. That's the proper way.”

“Perhaps you can meet her half-way.”

A whole world of possibility spread out before Anton. Maybe in this new land not everything had to be done by the old rules. Maybe there were indeed ways to meet people, meet situations in the middle. “OK. Once I get your 'identity,' then I'll talk to Brigid. Then we can decide.”

“That's right. You'll have options.” Then Jarlais scratched his head, as if something had occurred to him. “One thing, Anton. It's not enough to get identity papers. You also have to make sure that the information that's on the documents has also been entered into the proper computers somewhere.”

“Oh?” Anton said, groaning inwardly. There were more obstacles to getting where you wanted to go in this world than there were boulders and tree trunks in an uncleared field.

Jarlais was trying to word it as best he could, that was obvious. “You know, computers aren't just those small table-top devices we have in our houses. There are huge computers, thousands of them across the land, the world even, and they all communicate with one another. You know how the king of the realm had ministers, treasurers, tax-collectors, those who count the gold in the treasury?”

“Giants didn't have kings,” Anton objected. “Each family of brothers ruled over his own castle. If they got into fights, the giantesses made them work it out.”

Jarlais gave Anton a long look of sympathy. “My friend, you might have had the great good fortune to grow up in the closest thing in this whole sad creation to a utopia.”

“Except for the part where I was the only one left.”

“Yes, there was that. But let me go on. In that world, each one of those jobs was done by the King's men. Here, they're done by computers, and the people who run them. So when you get a driver's license, say, the information has to be also recorded on the computer that keeps track of all the drivers' licenses in the state.

“If you're thinking about doing what I suspect you are, and you try to negotiate with Gold or Regina, watch out. They're slippery, and they'll always try to drive the bargain which benefits them, not you. Just remember what I said. You can't just get the papers. They have to be backed up by all the information in the computers which generate those papers.”

“Right,” Anton said, feeling more out of his depth than ever.

Fr. Jarlais sighed as they walked up the rocky path to St. Isidore's. “Brigid can explain it. No, wait, get Alex to. She'll probably do a better job.”

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-07 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inlaterdays.livejournal.com
I won't deny that I'm glad to get another chapter of this, even though you said it was difficult for you to work on right now. I'm really enjoying it.

Excellent chapter. I like the way you've adapted the 12-step program to the needs of the townspeople, because some of them must have experienced some serious trauma once their memories came back and that was never dealt with on the show. I bet Dr. Hopper is pretty busy, too.

Also love the touches of Ruby/Whale.

And the concept of 'identity' is great and helps to fill a lot of plotholes (including going a long way to explain how things like Regina adopting Henry were possible).

I love Anton being hesitant to approach Brigid because he was raised that giantesses have to initiate things. I hope he does find a way to meet her half-way.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-07 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
You leave the best reviews. Ever.

Sowing for me is all about two things: loving Anton to itty-bitty pieces, and repairing plot holes the size of the one Anton stomped into the Storybrooke street.

Don't get me wrong: I love OUAT as a story. But I can't forget about the inevitably grim aspects of a medieval-esque world full of sorcery. I especially can't forget the seers kept in cages, the endless wars, the xenocide committed against the giants, etc.

I know for a lot of people, OUAT is about the happy, happy fun-times and ships and squeeing. That's all good. Maybe, through Anton's eyes, I pick up on more of the suffering because in my view, he would. (He may be played by Jorge Garcia, but he's not good old fun-time Hurley. Different character altogether. Not that Hugo Reyes was fun-time Hurley by "The End," either. But that's another story for another day.)

Thanks for appreciating the story frame of the Storybrooke 12-step. I'm finding that both Jarlais and Anton are serving as moral "pivots" to the story (kind of like the focal points of an ellipse.) Even though they've lived in moral and cultural traditions that are almost polar opposites of one another, they're both pretty much pointing to the same place.

(Brigid on the other hand is more like a force of nature, so far.)

The parameters of the whole "Curse thing," and whether the Storybrookers had a genuine "life" in our world have always bugged me from Season 1 (not to diminish enjoyment; I just like to puzzle these things out.) I just reconciled it by telling myself that Blue's / Gold's / Regina's Curse had more swiss-cheese holes in it than they realized, like any big piece of software that didn't get a lot of thorough checking in the beta phase, and got released a bit too soon.

As soon as it was canonical that Regina left SB to adopt Henry, I knew that I could go with this "theory."

Again, thanks so much for reading and commenting.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-08 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inlaterdays.livejournal.com
Ah, thank you for liking my reviews! It's my pleasure to leave them. I love your writing.

Good point about the differences between Anton and Hurley. Anton has seen a lot of suffering. Not that Hurley hasn't, as you mention.

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