stefanie_bean: (anton smiling)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 14: The Leaver and the Left
Pairing: Anton/Original Female Character
Characters: Anton the Giant, Leroy/Grumpy, Astrid/Nova, Original Male & Female Characters, Regina Mills
Rating: T
Length: 3386 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 14: The Leavers and the Left

Anton stood with arms folded while Leroy paced back and forth on the path in front of the rectory garden, his grumbling voice grating on Anton's ears. “So this is how it ends. All our work, for nothing. Regina's got the beans. And there won't be any more, since you're blowing this popsicle stand.”

The other dwarves stood silent, listening. On the other side of the garden, Fr. Jacques and Brigid stood deep in conversation, occasionally glancing over to listen in.

“But if Cora hadn't kidnapped me, you wouldn't have had any beans to start with. You'd be right where you are,” Anton said after a few beats.

Leroy huffed a bit, clearly nonplussed at the thought. “What about all that work we put into the field?”

“No one made you do that. You wanted to. And have you seen the potatoes recently?”

“They're a foot high already,” Happy put in. “Nobody around here grows potatoes like that. Not back in the Enchanted Forest, either.”

“Oh, great, we can eat the best french fries in Maine, instead of going home,” Leroy.

Sympathy washed over Anton. Leroy had no one holding him here, nothing. From Leroy's point of view, Astrid had walked out of his life. His brothers and the Charmings were all Leroy had, and all of them were bound together by threads in which Anton was no longer entangled.

Anton sighed, then said, “Look, why don't you go talk to Regina? Try to get her to use the beans for everybody.”

“Oh, sure,” Leroy scoffed. “Just waltz in and ask the Evil Queen to be, um, not evil.”

Anton shivered a little, recalling from his shared memory with the bean sprig the icy tone in Regina's voice. “The plant I gave Regina had three portal beans. And there's what, about one hundred, hundred and fifty people left in Storybrooke? You can divide everybody up, put them on three boats. Someone on each boat opens a portal, and you all go back home. Not just Regina and Henry, or just the Charmings. Everybody.” But even as he said it, deep in his bones he knew there wasn't time, and even if there was, things most likely weren't going to happen that way.

“You know why that's not gonna work, Mr. Idealist? Because when the Charmings get their kingdom back, that's gonna be the end of Regina's powers, and she knows it. The prince has got plans for her.”

“Oh, vengeance,” Anton said. “Very smart.” He remembered Fr. Jacques saying, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and the whole world is left blind and toothless.

“It's not your land, Anton,” Leroy answered back. “It's not your family.”

Brigid had tried to explain to Anton the intricate web of inheritance which linked Regina to the Charmings, although he still didn't get most of it. But one part he did remember. “She's Mary Margaret's step-mother. That has to count for something, right?”

Leroy was obviously worn down by the circular nature of the conversation. “It's never gonna happen. You're never gonna see Regina back in the circle.”

They were just going to have to disagree, but something pushed Anton to try again. “Never say never.”

Throwing up his hands, Leroy looked around at the other dwarves. “Come on, boys, let's go. Nothing more to be gained here.”

Instead of turning to leave, Happy reached for Anton's hand. “Good luck, brother. We've still got your ax, if you want it.”

Anton drew him into a hug. “Thanks. Thanks for everything.”

The dwarves filed down the twisting, yew-lined path which led from the rectory garden to the street. Just before they turned out of sight, Anton delivered the final salvo. “Hey, Leroy, just one more thing.”

Leroy turned around, an irritated look on his face. The other dwarves stopped too, like clock-work.

“Brigid talked to Astrid the other day. She's in Los Angeles, teaching at a parish school. She says, 'Hi.'”

It was heartbreaking to watch Leroy's hard expression melt into softness. He stood riveted to the path, as if spell-bound.

“Fr. Jacques has her cell number,” Anton added.

All at once the spell was broken. Leroy pulled himself together, gave a curt nod, and headed down the path. Soon the dwarves vanished around the corner of thick foliage.

Anton blinked back tears as Brigid and Fr. Jacques joined him. To distract himself, Anton looked over the rows of little new peas which peeked out through the black garden soil, the light green seedlings already sending their tendrils out, looking for support. In a thick voice he said to Fr. Jacques, “You're going to have to build a trellis in the next few days.”

Jacques gave him a warm look, full of sympathy. “Come on, let's get your things.”

* * * * * * * *

The rest of the day passed in a haze of errands and packing. Carl's pickup truck was fine for driving around Storybrooke, but it was obvious that it wouldn't make it cross-country. He did have a camper shell attached to the back of his truck, though, which fit Brigid's F-150 exactly. They fastened it to hers, then packed as much as they could into Brigid's old Crown Victoria station wagon.

Carl parked his own truck in the front yard, slipped the signed title into the glove box and said, “Whoever wants it can have it.”

“They can always use another truck up at Grey Hill Farm,” Brigid remarked.

By the time night fell, everyone collapsed into bed, exhausted.

* * * * * * * *

The next morning, Anton was the first to wake, haunted by a barely-remembered dream. The plant in Regina's study was singing, faint and faraway. Seed pods were being stripped off of her one by one, but she wasn't afraid. She gave a great sigh, and then her voice faded into nothingness. As Anton drifted between dream and waking, he knew that by the end of the day she would be nothing but a brittle, brown husk.

He stared at the ceiling as a few faint slivers of dawn slipped through the closed curtains. Once these beans were used, never again would this world or the enchanted one ever see any more of them. But he could grow other things: flowers, vegetables. And maybe in this new world to which he was going, that would be enough.

Brigid's carved wooden clock-face read 6:23 AM. She lay curled on her side, deeply asleep, so he watched her for a few more moments. What a marvel it was to wake up by her side, and even more marvelous that every morning could start like this. Not in this bed, though. Not here. And while he had never slept in a tent or “gone camping,” as Brigid put it, she assured him that it would be fun.

But first things first. They were to start out as early as they could, yet Anton didn't want to wake her. He picked his way carefully out of bed, and even though it creaked and sagged, Brigid still slept on.

Draped in his flannel bath-robe, Anton padded heavily into the kitchen. He set the coffee on to brew (light roast, extra-strong the way Brigid liked it) and listened to the percolator gargle while he stood at the cracked tile counter, lost in thought. He had just poured himself a fragrant mug-ful when a light tapping sounded at the back porch door.

There stood Amanda and Amaltheia, wrapped in identical black wool coats and small, mysterious smiles, and Amaltheia carried a bulging paper sack. Out back in the goat pen, two of the “grandsons” whose names Anton never could get quite straight were just about to start the milking.

The two Grey sisters crowded into Brigid's kitchen, shutting the door quickly against the early-morning chill.

“Where's Amber?” Anton asked.

Amaltheia's face fell. “Home. Best to wait for— Oh, there you are, sleepy-head.”

“What's this, a party?” Wrapped in a chenille robe, Brigid stood in the kitchen doorway, her hair wild around her sleepy face. Alex and Carl crowded behind her, trying to squeeze through the narrow passageway until the three of them popped into the kitchen.

Alex said, “We heard knocking. What's going on?”

Amanda handed Brigid the paper package. “It's a going-away party.”

“Oh, look at this,” Brigid said, picking off a pecan from a cluster of cinnamon rolls, still warm from the oven. “Come on into the dining room. We can all squeeze around the table.”

Carl poured coffee for everyone as they settled themselves. “You were going to tell us where Amber was,” Anton said.

“Home,” Amaltheia answered. “The poor thing is exhausted. We finally got her to sleep, and then we left. Two of the girls are with her.”

Amanda said, “It was the cards, Brigid. It was 'the hour of the wolf,' and Amber woke up from a nightmare, making the most awful shouting. She hasn't done that in years. We calmed her down but all she wanted was to lay out a spread. So she did, a huge complicated one. Then she cried, and said that for the first time, this gift was too much to bear.”

“My God, Amanda, what did she see?” Brigid said.

“Destruction. It all centered around the Queen of Swords, the Magician, and the Tower, which all seem pretty obvious. The Queen of Swords, Regina. The Magician, Gold—”

“And the Tower is Storybrooke,” Brigid added.

Amanda said, “Falling down, falling apart. Can't you feel the magic weakening, slipping?”

“At least you've already started packing,” Amaltheia said.

Brigid couldn't shake the image of the falling Tower. “Amanda, that card spread, though. It's so ominous.”

“Not necessarily. Remember, Brigid, the cards don't tell the future. They show you possible futures. We always have a choice. I'm pretty sure that all of us up at Grey Hill are safe. And while we hate to see you go, it's clear that something's going to happen, maybe even this very day. Whatever sorcery is coming down the pike, it's going to hit the Enchanted Land people hard.”

Alex crept closer to Carl and nestled up against him. “Mom, we've got to get going. Now.”

“Soon enough, Alex,” Brigid said.

Amaltheia added, “We also came to make provisions for your livestock.”

“Right,” Brigid said, her face falling.

Anton knew that wherever they were going, Bonnie and Bluebell couldn't come along with them. He wasn't attached to the goats, himself. In fact, he was a little scared of them, especially when they nipped at his overalls or tried to butt him from behind. But he knew Brigid and Alex loved them, and were going to miss them terribly.

“Let's get this over with,” Brigid said as she pulled on her coat over her robe.

Outside, the two young men were loading insulated metal milk cans onto the back of their pick-up truck. Anton noticed an empty livestock enclosure mounted in the back.

Brigid knelt in the cold straw of the pen and ran her fingers through Bonnie's long silky hair, then through Bluebell's shorter, coarser pelt. “Come on, girls. The guys here'll take good care of you. Not like me, who can't get up in the morning to milk you half the time.”

“Oh, Mom,” said Alex. “Don't cry.”

“I'm not. My eyes are just leaking, that's all.” She guided the two goats up the ramp and into the cage, giving each a final pat as they entered.

“We're gonna head on back now,” one of the grandsons said to Amanda.

As the truck bounced down the driveway and disappeared from sight, the life seemed to go out of the house. Now, to Anton, it seemed exactly what it was, just a rented building full of furniture that wasn't theirs. In fact, Brigid was handing the keys to Amanda.

“Shouldn't you be giving them to Mr. Gold?” Amaltheia said. “He's the landlord, after all.”

“Given what Amber saw in the cards, my guess is that he won't be a landlord for very much longer,” Amanda answered.

“What about the restaurant?” said Amaltheia.

“I already gave the keys to Jacques Jarvais,” said Brigid. “As long as what's in the storeroom holds out, he'll run it as a food pantry. After that, well—”

“After that, it's not your problem,” Amanda said in a firm tone. “We'll clean up here, stay to see you off, then empty your fridge. And we'll send the truck back down for the chickens.”

“Thanks, you two. For everything.”

As they all headed back inside, Alex said, “By the way, Mom, where are we going?”

Brigid thought for a few breaths. “I don't know. Since we have two land boats rather than seaworthy ones, we'll forget about east. And to the north there's Canada. So, west. I think we'll head west.”

* * * * * * * *

The little caravan of station wagon and pick-up truck made its way westward across a Maine landscape dusted with the light green of early spring. Avoiding the interstate would slow their cross-country trip to a crawl, but no one cared. They rolled at a steady forty miles per hour through petite towns, past fields bordered with stone fences older than Brigid herself, and small, cozy farms.

About an hour outside Lewiston, the traffic dropped off. The sky grew heavily overcast, leaving the beeches and maples almost black against the gray sky. There was a smell of approaching snow in the air, the kind of surprise storm which could ambush you at any time in a New England spring.

The road made a long, twisting curve around a hillside, then all at once opened up into fields interrupted every so often by thick clusters of trees. The caravan crossed one creek, then another, until the fields were replaced by long stretches of forest draped with dusky shadows.

Once more the road curved, this time to the south. Up ahead, Brigid saw a car with its hood propped open, pulled over on the narrow stony shoulder. A bundled-up figure sat next to it, on what looked like a lawn chair. It was hard to tell if the lone person was a man or woman, but from their mop of bone-white hair it was certain that they were old.

“We're stopping,” Brigid said. “They might not have a phone.” She eased the station wagon carefully onto the shoulder, which ended in a somewhat menacing rocky drop-off. Behind her, Carl and Alex pulled up as well.

Anton started to unbuckle his seat belt. “Who? Who doesn't have a phone?”

Moved by some sudden instinct, Brigid grabbed her travel bag and laid a hand gently on Anton's. “No. Just stay here, OK?”

As Brigid walked past the truck, Alex rolled down the passenger window. “Mom?”

“No need to get out of the truck, hon. Just checking something out.”

The old woman glanced up as Brigid approached. She was smoking a wooden pipe that looked hand-carved, and the thin stream of smoke which hung in the air gave off a smell like burning leaves in the fall, with a faint undertone of cinnamon. The old woman showed Brigid a gap-toothed smile.

“Did your car break down?” Brigid asked.

Instead of answering, the old woman took the pipe from her lips and blew out a long stream of smoke. The bluish-gray cloud didn't blow away in the wind, but instead just wreathed around the old woman's white head. “Not my car,” she said in a raspy voice.

“Are you all right? Do you need a ride someplace?” The old woman looked pretty comfortable right where she was, though, perched in one of those cheap white plastic lawn chairs that stick to your rear end when you try to get up.

“Doin' just fine here.” She was wrapped in one of those old down coats that the old-timers wore, with a long, crudely-knit scarf wrapped several times around her neck.

There was something eerily familiar about her. Now the old woman stared back frankly at Brigid, daring her to make the connection. When it came, the only shock Brigid felt was surprise at how she hadn't seen it before.

Anton got out of the station wagon, walked up to the truck, and started to talk to Alex, who still had her head stuck out the window.

“So that's the girl you got,” the old woman remarked. “She looks mighty fine. Is that her young man behind the wheel there?”

“It is.”

“Found you a man of your own, too. Strong and hearty, by the look of him.”

Brigid blushed. “I know, right? How long did that take?”

“Just the right span of time.”

Perhaps it was too bold to ask, but Brigid had to. “Can you tell me this? How did you cross the ocean, get all the way here from Ireland?”

The fae woman, for indeed it was her, made an indignant noise. “Can't a body climb on-board a ship like everyone else?”

“Of course you can,” Brigid answered, placating. “Are you sure you don't need anything?”

“Well, I am a mite hungry. I smell something good in your bag there.”

Without hesitation, Brigid pulled out a paper bag stuffed with a few last-minute things scavenged from the breakfast table: a goat-cheese sandwich on wheat, three plums, and one of the cinnamon rolls. “Here,” she said, offering it to the old woman. Because it was cold, Brigid also handed over her pint thermos filled with coffee.

The old woman balanced the food on her lap, then gave Brigid something in return. When Brigid didn't move at first, she said, “Take it, girl.”

It was a thin gold coin with a finely-incised image of a single leaf on one side, and completely smooth on the other.

“But this is too much, it was just some leftovers—”

The old woman took a long swig of coffee. “The first coin I gave you was for spending. This one's for keeping, and it'll bring you luck. You won't be rich, but you'll always have oats in the pot, chickens in the yard, and neither bailiff nor landlord will ever darken your door. That man of yours'll serve mighty handy with the spade, and never fail with the plowing, either. If you take my meaning.” Here she gave Brigid a grin both wicked and merry.

“Thank you,” Brigid said. “For my life. For Alex. For everything.”

The old fae woman made a snorting noise and waved her bony hand. “Get along with you now, if you want to make camp before snow falls. And let me eat my sandwich.”

“What's going on, Mom?” Alex said as Brigid walked back.

“Nothing. It's fine. I just gave her a lunch.”

“Gave who a lunch?” Anton said, still standing by the truck. “Because all I see is an old, broken-down car.”

Alex said, “Speaking of lunch, Mom, I'm starving.”

Brigid wanted to turn around very badly and look back, just to see if the old woman was really there, but a strong feeling washed over her that she shouldn't. All she said was, “There's a state park about five miles or so up ahead, if I remember right. We'll stop there.”

Alex pulled her head back into the truck. “Awesome.”

“What just happened back there?” Anton asked, squeezing back into the station wagon.

She showed him the coin. “The last figment of my old life.”

“I didn't see anything. Was she a sorceress?”

“One of the fair folk. She said I was to keep this for luck.” She slid the shiny golden thing between her thick wool sock and the side of her winter sneaker, pushing it down as far as it would go.

“Well, then,” Anton said. “That's a good sign, right?”

Brigid nodded, then kissed him slowly and very thoroughly. When done, she glanced in the rear view mirror, where Alex leaned over Carl to give the truck's horn a couple of short, impatient toots. Of course the old woman was nowhere to be seen. With a little sigh of happiness, Brigid pulled out onto the state road, leaving Storybrooke behind them forever as they traveled onward, into the west.

(Maybe the end: I'm thinking about an epilogue...)

* * * * * * * *

Comments (didn't port from LJ):

inlaterdays on September 4th, 2014 01:55 pm (local)

What a lovely end to an absolutely lovely story. I really liked the fae woman showing up, and I'm so glad that the four of them were able to leave town with no interference from Regina or anyone else.

I'm going to miss your characters! And the Brigid/Anton romance is so good it should be canon.

Thank you for writing this.

* * * * * * * *

stefanie_bean on September 4th, 2014 02:25 pm (local)

Thank *you* for sticking with this story all the way through, and especially for believing in it. If you hadn't been so encouraging from the start, I honestly don't think I would have expanded it from a one-shot to a full short novel.

I've never written a main character x OC pairing before, and I'll admit, it made me somewhat nervous. But there really wasn't anybody in canon with which to pair him, that I could see at least.

This story also represents another first for me: there are a whole host of OCs, and I rely largely on secondary canon characters; some like Sister Astrid which are so secondary as to be almost OC themselves.

Again, thanks, most constant reader, I do appreciate it.


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