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Współczesne legendy warszawskie – 1

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– Punkt trzeci zebrania – zazgrzytał Otoczak. – Skalnik.
– Co ze Skalnikiem?
Otoczak wzruszył ramionami, wzbijając niedużą chmurkę pyłu.
– A co ma być? Znowu asfalt żre, głupek.
Dookoła stołu rozległy się chrzęszczące chichoty.
– Musimy coś z nim zrobić – dodał. – Jeżeli pozwolimy mu się znowu stoczyć, to nie dość, że spowoduje kolejne osunięcie na Trasie W-Z, to jeszcze może się okazać, że ktoś go zobaczy. I co wtedy, dalej będziecie się śmiali? Ujawnienie jednego z nas oznacza niemal bez wątpienia ujawnienie wszystkich.
Mika poskrobał się błyszczącym pazurem po nosie.
– A jakbyśmy go tak… – zakaszlał, wypluł coś na kształt gniazda ptasiego i znowu zakaszlał. – Nie można go, dajmy na to, przekwalifikować?
Otoczak spojrzał na kolegę z politowaniem.
– Na co chcesz, dajmy na to, przekwalifikować Skalnika?
Mika beknął i wypluł jeszcze kilka gałązek.
– Cholerne latające szczury, tfu. A nie wiem na co. Na gargulca. Duży nie jest. Przeniesiemy go na praską stronę i postawimy na jakiejś kamienicy. Nikt nie zauważy, tam co chwila jakieś remonty są.
– Ale remonty na Pradze oznaczają zwykle demolowanie ozdób, a nie dodawanie nowych – zauważył Żyła. – A już na pewno nie takich rozmiaru Skalnika.
– Poza tym jak go tam zostawimy, to za rok go ktoś oklei styropianem – dodał mały Granit. – A wtedy to już będzie całkiem wstyd. No i nie będzie mógł przyjść na żadne zebranie, bo zostawi dziurę w ociepleniu.
– Słusznie młody mówi – Żyła poklepał Granita po ramieniu, aż żwir się posypał. – W Krakowie tego próbowali i potem była afera, bo pół fasady poszło, jak się jeden nieostrożnie ruszył.
Mika syknął na wspomnienie o Krakowie. Za dużo gołębi.
– Czyli musimy poszukać innego rozwiązania – Otoczak postukal palcem w blat. – Czy mamy jakąś wolną miejscówkę na mieście, gdzie można by go było tymczasowo osiedlić?
– Łazienki?
– Wszystko zajęte, tam młodzież ćwiczy.
– Kamionek?
– Za blisko fabryki. Jeszcze pomyli czekoladę z asfaltem i dopiero będzie siara na pół miasta.
Zapadła cisza, z rzadka przerywana czyimś skrobaniem.
Granit skrzywił się, aż mu mech odpadł z jednego policzka.
– Jest jeszcze jeden mostek, ale to będzie kawał roboty, żeby go tam przeprowadzić. Środek miasta i w ogóle.
Otoczak ożywił sie nieco.
– No? Gdzie? Jeżeli tylko rozmiar większy niż kilka desek nad rowem…
– Mostek przy Wyścigach.
Cisza była jeszcze cięższa niż poprzednio.
– No kurde no! Jedyny wolny mostek w mieście!
– Ale…
– …nad Smródką?
Otoczak przetarł twarz obiema dłońmi.
– Nie bardzo możemy wybrzydzać. Granit poddał jedyną sugestię jak na razie. Nie ma zbyt wielu innych opcji, a to jest dobre, stabilne miejsce. I uczęszczane. I nad wodą, a Skalnik jest konserwatysta. Przecież jakby był chociaż odrobinę bardziej elastyczny, to już byśmy mu oddali jakąś kładkę nad Jagiellońską, albo co. Ale on jest taki, że, no, musi mieć wodę.
– To w Smródce to nie woda – zauważył uprzejmie Mika.
– Weźcie mu powiedzcie, żeby się zamknął, albo mu walnę – warknął Granit. – Chcesz, żeby Skalnik to usłyszał i oprotestował? Chcesz żeby dalej żarł asfalt z Trasy? To gadaj tak dalej, palancie jeden. A potem chodź i marudź, że się facet ludziom na oczy pcha. Ja wiem, tak. Honor trolli wielkich wiślanych mostów. Ale mostów na Wiśle nie ma tyle, żeby dla wszystkich wystarczyło i Skalnik albo się przeniesie nad cholerną Smródkę, straszyć tramwajarzy, albo go wyprawimy w dół Wisły żeby szukał jakiejś kładki w szuwarach. Ja wiem, on jest dobrym, starym, warszawskim trollem z tradycjami. Ale jego most już nie istnieje od dobrych trzydziestu lat i Skalnik musi się z tym pogodzić.
Otoczak westchnął, wydychając trochę piasku.
– Czyli wniosek z punktu trzeciego. Skalnik, troll spod Mostu Syreny, zostaje oficjalnie przeniesiony na pętlę Wyścigi. Ochotnicy do przeprowadzenia akcji nocnej w przyszłą środę zgłoszą się do mnie po zebraniu. Trzeba będzie opracować trasę przejścia, proszę tylko o sensowne propozycje. Nie, nie pojedziemy tramwajem.
Granit zrobił obrażoną minę, czując na sobie ciężki wzrok Otoczaka.
– Punkt czwarty. Ktoś wyżarł dziury w ostrogach po praskiej stronie. Który idiota…

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Written by Srebrna

2017/11/23 at 01:54

Posted in Originals

Tough Ladies Society

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The bar was full and noisy.
Ellie Bishop sipped her drink and deftly moved out of the way of a group of chatty young women in black jumpsuits.
The bar was full of women.
Ellie wasn’t exactly clear on how she got there and it was worrying her a bit. She was a special agent and she was supposed to know better than to find herself in a strange place, with no familiar face in sight and drinking something she wasn’t sure she ordered.
Fortunately the “no familiar face” was resolved in a matter of minutes as the ball of black lace and ADHD that was Abby approached her and started chatting in excitement about some friends she met.
OK, so I came here with Abby. That’s a relief. At least I hope so.
Abby’s friends invariably turned out to be a bit weird, but usually they were safe. Girl had good instincts.
“And you have to meet Kate” Abby gushed finally. “I kind of didn’t expect to find her here, but she is, and you will love her!”
Ellie blinked.
“Kate?”
Abby smiled wider than usually.
“Caitlin Todd. She worked with us like ten years ago.”
Ellie blinked again.
“Caitlin? The one that was…”
“Shot” unfamiliar voice supplied from behind her. “Yeah, that would be me.”
A smiling face, very fit body and… a band-aid in the middle of her forehead. Scull-and-bones bandaid, obviously from Abby’s supplies.
“I needed to cover the hole” Kate noticed Ellie’s gaze. “Ducky did a good job sewing it up and covering the mark before the funeral, but here it stayed as it was at the moment of my death, unfortunately. I don’t want to scare anyone by leaking something by accident. Caitlin Todd, Secret Service, NCIS, whatever you pick.”
“Ellie Bishop” she put away her drink and shook proffered hand. “NSA, NCIS.”
“Gibbs still in the business of stealing agents from other places?”
Ellie snorted.
“We even have an MI-6 guy now.”
“Wow” Kate sipped her own drink. “Any other gals from NCIS around here?”
“Aaa…” Abby hummed to herself. “I am pretty sure I saw the other Abigail, although she’s Coast Guard, actually. And Kensi.”
“Kensi?” Ellie asked, waving the barman for a refill.
“The one from Los Angeles branch” Abby explained absently, as her eyes scanned for something in the crowd. Her hand went up to cover her mouth.
“Abby? What is it?”
Ellie strained to see over the heads of taller women when suddenly the crowds parted enough for her to see two figures hugging. Finally they disengaged, revealing one of them to be, in fact, someone known to her – Special Agent Borin – but the other…
“ZIVA!”
A woman on the opposite side of the room winced, but Ziva fluidly turned towards Abby and accepted the enthusiastic Goth with a hug of her own.
Ellie moved a step towards them, greeting Agent Borin and surveying the two brunettes in the middle. Suddenly there was a lot of movement, and a flash of red hair joined the two, then another redhead run past Ellie and hugged Kate with ferocity.
“Rachel” Ellie could only hear before others separated them. She and Borin silently toasted each other and watched Abby try to hug the last breath out of Ziva with pleasure.

Kate twirled her glass between her fingers as she watched the throngs of complete strangers. She wasn’t exactly sure what happened to get her here, but she vaguely remembered an invitation delivered to the precinct for her and the captain. The boys wanted to know what was going on, but as she herself wasn’t all that sure, she hid the envelope in the one place they’d never dare to touch – her purse – and ignored it until she got home.
Now she wasn’t all that sure she made the right choice to accept it. She felt more and more alone, despite the amount of women around her.
“Weird, huh?” a raspy voice asked from behind her.
She turned, smiling already.
“Detective Rizzoli” she greeted the taller woman.
“Ah-ah. Agent Rizzoli” the other corrected her. “As of last week, I’m officially working for FBI.”
“Been there, done that” Beckett quipped. “Now, is there anyone familiar here, or is it just a random party… just for girls?”
Rizzoli shrugged.
“I’ve seen a few I know – from the force – most look about as bewildered as you just were. I think I even identified a few Brits, just by the accent. Not sure what the theme is supposed to be, but the very fact that there is a limited number of people here who would be looking down my blouse and drooling or trying to squeeze my ass is a relief.”
Beckett nodded and looked around them.
“Play a game?” she whispered.
“What kind?”
“Spot-a-cop.”
Jane snorted.
“Easy. Me first. The brunette with a clip on the top of her head… is it for her fringe, or what?”
“Probably. Tall Latina in the corner.”
“She is wearing an uniform” Jane said in mild reproach. “That’s cheating.”
“Never said civilian clothes only.”
“Mhm. So, the pretty Afroamerican by the other bar.”
“Nice. Blonde in red leather jacket.”
“You sure?”
“Looks like it. Also, she forgot to take off her sheriff badge.”
“Mh-hm. The other blonde, just next to her. Either police or military.”
“Military, definitely. Look at her posture. Like a ramrod up her…”
“So the two tall ones at the table. One if definitely British, I can hear her accent from here. The other is American. Both look like they could pound a guy twice their side into ground. Maybe not police, but I’d bet they both have service weapons.”
The couple in question obviously barely had eyes for anyone else, as the taller woman looked adoringly at her companion.
“Add the wavy-haired, short one alone there by the pillar” a new voice said from behind them and Kate all but jumped, almost spilling her drink.
“Alexis!”
“Hi, Kate” redhead kissed her cheek. “Sorry to sneak up on you, but you didn’t react when I weaved.”
“How do you know that last one is a cop?”
Alexis rolled her eyes.
“She told me. She used to be a WPC, from Manchester. Very old-school, but she was just promoted to detective and she’s very excited about it. Her boyfriend is a detective, too, so she is worried about consequences of dating someone in the office. Kind of spills almost everything when prompted.”
Kate nodded and hugged her stepdaughter just a bit.
“Does your father know you’re here?”
Alexis sighed deeply.
“I’m, like, twenty, Mum. Also, I’m drinking soda.”
“OK. Just keep away from…”
“There are no guys here, Kate. I think I’ll be quite safe.”
As Alexis made her way towards a group of younger girls, chatting quietly by the far wall, Rizzoli nodded in appreciation.
“Your daughter?”
“Rick’s. I got her as a package deal, and I’m trying to be the best possible stepmother for her” Kate shrugged. “Her own mother is a bit of an idiot, so Alexis attaches herself to stronger role models in her life. She loves Laine and had already assisted at the coroner’s office for some time. And she had a short period of following me like a worshipper in the religion of Kate. Managed to get her to loosen up a bit, but it took time. She’s trying to balance Rick’s stupid ideas by being a grownup of the family.”
Jane raised her glass and clinked it carefully against Kate’s.
“To girls with great role models.”
“Yeah.”

She heard both her name and surname called a few times, but every time it actually was someone else who was wanted. Small table hidden by a bit of a wall made a good hiding spot and so she alternated drinking her beer with gnawing on a fingernail.
“You really shouldn’t do it” a low, furry voice came from the other side of the short wall.
Abbie’s head shot up to see a slightly amused woman looking down at her.
“Joss” the woman weaved slightly. “You prefer sitting alone, or would you rather join us?”
The company was a bit strange. Abby was working very hard on understanding the group dynamic between Joss – who was obviously a police officer, which was a relief – Zoe, Shaw and Root. They seemed very… integrated, and that included Root and Shaw holding hands, in a rather desperate manner, for the whole time. When they left for a moment to get new drinks from the bar, Abbie managed to shoot Joss a questioning glance.
“Root died” the older woman explained quietly. “And Shaw had issues. I’m happy they can meet sometimes, like this.”
Abbie blinked and considered that for a moment.
“I died, too” she whispered. “I didn’t notice it until now, but…” she trailed off. “Oh, my. I died.”
“Well, so did I” Joss shrugged. “One crooked cop left and he managed to do so much damage.”
Zoe patted her hand.
“The boys were devastated” she said quietly. “But Harold managed to secure a scholarship for your son and get him out of the city.”
Joss inhaled, closing her eyes.
“It’s good this is only ladies’ evening” she said, shakily. “I don’t think I could have managed otherwise. Say ‘hi’ to John for me, ok?”
Zoe nodded slowly.
“I… I will.”
As Root and Shaw made their way back to the table, they were trailed by a hunched figure in a hoodie.
“I think we’ve found something you’ll like, agent Mills” Root giggled slightly. “And she looks exactly like you.”

“Would you stop doing that?”
“What?” she smirked and her eyes flashed gold again.
“That. Every time you do that, I start looking for a Dalek.”
“Come on. You’re just jealous.”
“Sure. I’m the only at least superficially normal one.”
“Oi! Who are you calling crazy!”
“Shh.”
“And why are your eyes flashing? Are you making fun of me?”
Groan.

Moira hugged herself in slight discomfort. Her clothes visibly contrasted with much clingier and skimpier fashion of obviously younger women around her. She leaned on one of the pillars and tried to locate any familiar face, but the only one she could actually hope for was Raven – and that meant she could search for hours. She really hoped she wouldn’t see Jean or Ororo, because that would have been a bad end to that evening. Hauling home two protesting under-21s would be hard anyway, and Jean and Ororo in particular…
“FBI?” someone asked from her left.
“CIA” she smiled. “You?”
“FBI” the redhead handed her a glass. “Looking for someone?”
“Ah, a sister of a friend. But it may not be exactly her type of place.”
“She wouldn’t be interested in this kind of company?” a British-accented suggestion came from the right. “Myself, I’m quite happy to see that many law enforcement females in one place. At home, I just have one girl on the team. I was hoping for one, maybe two more, but our department didn’t really get the memo about equality hiring.”
The FBI agent snorted.
“My department had exact fifty-fifty. Me and my partner, the wacko.”
Moira shrugged.
“I actually got demoted to steno pool after a short stint as the only woman in the whole division. Because they didn’t like my results.”
“Didn’t do so good?”
“Too good” she shrugged. “But I got amnesia so they could kick me down the ladder without even giving a good reason.”
“Ouch” the other two emitted in unison.
“I almost got demoted for being crazy, but, well, amnesia is also good. I’m Alex, by the way.”
“Moira” she shook the offered hand.
“Dana. The normal one, supposedly.”

“Look at her.”
Martha strained to see in the direction pointed.
“Which one?”
“The stressed one by the bar. Do you see her clothes? She’s like what, World War Two?”
“Looks like it. Did they have women soldiers?”
Shrug.
“Jack would know. Also, he would drool.”
“What are you two blathering about?!”
“Argh.”

Laine was making a schematic of her latest autopsy on the table covered with paper napkins, drawing in red wine, as Maura and Camille leaned in to see better the details.
“And there was a cut, all the way through the lung, up to the trachea. We spent hours trying to work out what kind of blade would do this kind of damage.”
Camille looked at her expectantly.
“A sleigh runner. Someone unscrewed a metal runner from kids sleigh and rammed it up the guy’s stomach.”
“That is something which would never have happened in New Orleans” a remark from behind them made them look around at Loreta’s smiling face. “We can get all sorts of things, but not a sleigh runner.”
“Well, we in New York don’t get Mardi Gras murders” Laine remarked wryly. “I’ll take sleigh runners every day if I don’t have to deal with the freaky stuff that you get in N.O.”

Ziva combed back her hair, looking at Kate in fascination.
Ellie couldn’t get her eyes off Ziva and Kate.
Rachel couldn’t be separated from Kate, there seemed to be no place even for a prybar.
Abby couldn’t decide if she wanted to hug Kate or Ziva more.
Abigail and Jenny knocked back a bourbon each and were sitting there quietly, looking in contentment at the younger women.
“I wish I had a chance to watch them work all together” Jenny remarked quietly. “They would have knocked the boys flat on their collective ass.”
Abigail chuckled.
“They did anyway. Both Ziva and Ellie, at least as far as I’ve worked with them. Ellie can run circles around them with all her smarts, maybe slightly less with McGee, but still.”
Jenny nodded slowly, but stiffened suddenly at the sight of a tall blonde in the middle of the doorway.
“Macy?”
Abby’s head shot up.

“Now, mother, how are you doing?”
“Reasonably well, considering. Do you have any idea how I possibly got out of the time lock in Manhattan?”
Shrug.
“Probably they same way I am out of the Library.”

“Cassie, don’t be nervous. Just lot of people. I know you aren’t very happy in the crowd, but…”
“Eve, it’s not that. It’s something wrong about the room itself” Cassandra’s eyes unfocused. “It’s like… someone had warped the space here, to make a normal room not only be big enough for however many people, but…” she weaved, arranging her visualisation. “Ah. There is a time continuum problem, too.”
“Do we have to do something about it?” Eve sipped her drink, still observing her surroundings suspiciously.
“God, that sounds so like me” someone joined them without Eve noticing, which made her flinch uncontrollably.
“Excuse me?”
The newcomer raised her glass to them.
“I’ll drink to time continuum problems” she laughed. “Susan, Susan Ivanova. General. Earth Force. ”
“Eve Baird. Major. NATO.”
Susan smirked.
“Guessed so. Cheers.”
They drained their glasses, looking on as Cassandra tried to reorganise the hallucination of the room’s schematics.
“That’s a nice place” Susan remarked casually. “Come here often?”
Eve shrugged.
“Mostly I’m stuck with the team of crazy scientists – and a thief – so I don’t really have time for socialising. But it’s nice, really. Probably good for Cassie, too. She doesn’t socialise at all.”
“She OK?” Susan nodded towards Cassie, who was obviously fascinated with whatever she saw in the air in front of her.
“Quite. Just doing magic.”

“Dear me” she whispered, watching the crowd around her. “I might have seen the Loch Ness Monster, but this is something new.”

Annie held onto her beer carefully and tried to make her way across the floor to the redhead she spoke to before – at least to find a slightly-familiar face, when her ears caught a bit of conversation she just had to follow.
“…and that neanderthal says ‘I’m bigger in every department’. You know, three minutes after meeting and he’s already spewing innuendo. And it’s been like this for next three years. Bloody Gene Hunt.”
“Wow” another woman breathed. “That’s some crappy boss. At least Mulder never ever said stuff like this. Others may have, of course, but never Mulder. And our actual boss would never… FBI had very strict rules. They might have treated me like an idiot and, of course, paid me less than Mulder ever got, but at least no sexual advances.”
“Gene Hunt was one big, smoking, suspect-hitting narcissistic sexual advance.”
“Excuse me” Annie managed finally. “Are you talking about DCI Gene Hunt?”
The woman looked at her in surprise.
“Is there a chance for more than one Gene Hunt in police force? I hope not, because that would probably break some natural laws.”
Annie smiled finally.
“DC Anne Tyler, nice to meet ya.”
The other’s eyes widened.
“Annie? Annie Carthwright?”
“Yees?”
“Wow” she breathed and suddenly pulled her into a hug. “And you married him? Sam?”
Annie frowned.
“Do I know you?”
“No, no, sit down” she patted the place next to her. “I’m Alex. Alex Drake, DI. 1981.”
Annie nodded.
“So you came after we…”
“Went to the pub, yeah.”
“Never met you there.”
Alex shrugged.
“I suppose I’m still stuck somewhere near the door.”
One of the others made a small sound.
“Ah. Sorry. This is Dana Scully, from FBI. And Moira MacTaggert, CIA.”
“Nice to meet you both” Annie nodded, but her focus came back to Alex.
“Why would you be near the door? We’re in the back, everyone is in the back, actually.”
Alex cringed a bit.
“I’m still counting on him finally coming through.”
Annie’s eyes went even wider than Alex’s.
“You mean the Guv? Why would you be waiting for the Guv? He’ll never come…”
“Well, than Nelson will keep serving me margaritas on the doorstep.”

Ororo watched Hermione wave her wand in fascination. The girl had skills. Maybe with someone like this their school would have been in less trouble from outsiders.
“And all your facilities are hidden from surveillance?”
Hermione nodded, still swirling the wand.
“Cloaking spell” she explained shortly. “You have to know the thing is there and to know how to get through the cloak. Even planes fly over our school and they just can’t see it. There are whole sections of London blocked from external influence.”
Jean made a face and fixed her hair.
Ginny straightened a bit and shook her tresses back in a gesture vaguely resembling Miss Piggy.
Jean snorted silently.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
“You two, knock it off” Hermione warned. “You’re disturbing my spell.”
Ororo glanced at them.
“What were they doing?”
Hermione gave the spell the last twirl.
“Probably trying to play the reddest redhead. Also, you’re both kind of second place. That one” she pointed out a slender, short-haired woman in a group next to them “wins every redhead contest, for me.”
“That’s a dye job” Ginny protested.
“It is a very good dye job” Hermione shrugged and tapped her wand against the glass three times. “Now, this is ready. A sip each and we can party until the dawn and not regret it tomorrow. No-hangover potion, coming up.”
Ororo looked at the sparkling fluid with suspicion.
“Oh, come on” Ginny seized the glass and took the first sip. “Let’s have some fun!”

Maggie watched her sister in worry, hoping for the frown lines to finally relax. Mere never seemed to relax anymore, and that worried Maggie more and more. Suddenly she saw her sister’s face crumble and eyes tear up. She scanned the crowd for anyone even vaguely familiar – bloody Derek, or what? – but couldn’t understand what might have shook Meredith so. That is until the crowd parted strategically and a thin, tall, weavy-haired brunette pushed herself towards them.
“Alexandra Caroline Grey, what the hell are you doing here?” Meredith’s voice quavered slightly and broke on the last word.
Maggie’s eyes widened as she watched her sister hug, well, her sister.
We’re one messed up family.
“GREY!”
Meredith visibly winced, but turned slowly around to stare at the tall redhead.
“Ah. Addison.”
Suddenly Mere found herself swept in a hug.
“You should have called me” Addison complained softly. “I’d have been there for you.”
Scratch that… It’s more than just one family.

“Not that I’m complaining, Regina, but do you have any idea what this may all be about?”
The brunette shrugged, downing another drink.
“Not my curse, this time.”
“Well, unless it included another memory charm.”
“And a wish to be surrounded by all this… femininity.”
“You’d rather be here, now, for an evening, or at home, trying to work out all the mess we’re stuck in?”
“Also, your mother apparently isn’t here to talk at us.”
Emma’s eyes widened and she quickly turned to the bar for another drink.

“A bloody ballgown” she snickered. “What I’d give for a normal dress!”
“I could magic you one. But blue is really not your colour.”
“What I’d give for a normal pair of slippers. Everyone thinks that glass ones are my signature and that joke stopped being funny years ago.”
“What I’d give for a walk in the woods when I’m not being accosted by some wild animals trying to be my best friends.”
“What I’d give for a haircut!”
“What I’d give for… Actually, I think I’m fine. Finally, I don’t have to clean and mend everything anymore” the brunette at the end of the table remarked and knocked away a shot. “You have no idea how much mess seven little guys can make.”
“Ouch. Tough. At least customers in my restaurant finally learnt there’s a limit to what they can do in establishment co-owned by kingdom of Molvania. Apparently royal guards, even retired, do make for effective calming force.”
“Try travelling with a military camp. These guys aren’t just messy. They take messy to a new level.”
“At least if someone makes mess on the deck of a boat, it’s washed away” the next girl shrugged. “And either they learn to put their stuff away or they lose a lot.”

“Doctor.”
“Colonel.”
“How’s the base?”
“Still keeping above water. How’s SGC?”
“Still not invaded.”
“How’s…”
“He’s fine. We’re fine. And…?”
“Fine, too” Elizabeth nodded, smiling. “At least you don’t have to worry about chain of command anymore” she added.
“You two never had to.”
“Well, technically. Imagine what Rodney would have done, had he ever found out.”
“Really, bringing up McKay, at such a lovely event.”
“He remains the bane of our existence, and also probably John’s best friend.”
Samantha sipped her beer.
“You should find John some better friends.”

A group of four by the large window stared at everything in awe.
The mechanic summed it up in one fascinated word.
“Shiny.”

“I suppose many of you are wondering what is going on here” a voice came out of tall speakers and suddenly whole room was hushed. A tiny woman at the top of a dais was now highlighted by a strong lamp. “As the secretary of state Madeleine Albright once said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’. With this in mind, I organised this meeting – and this meeting place. With a lot of help from our friends from across the pond” she gestured and Bad Wolf cheerily waved to everyone “and certain other places” there was a moment for Susan Ivanova to give a short bow, just as she was joined by a regal-looking Minbari “we’ve managed to set up this corner of the universe that meets all of our homes at the same time. And you can stop trying to work it out, miss Cillian, it can only make your migraine worse if you try.”
“Hetty!” Abby grinned happily at her.
“Yes, Miss Sciuto, that is most definitely me. Now, as I was saying. This is a gathering place for all of us. For each of us female companionship is scarce, and some are rather lonesome in their daily life between men only, or, even worse, under someone’s direct and unwelcome control. We will try to make the invitation reach more and more persons interested, but for today, this is how fat the word had gotten. You can visit here any time you wish. You can come and just… be together, without being judged or having to prove yourselves. Everyone is welcome here, from a scullery maid to a… Ah. Welcome, your Highness.”
Two newcomers joined the crowd and Hetty was addressing the taller of the two, all swathed in white and with a probably a very uncomfortable hairdo resembling a set of headphones.
“I’m glad you could come. It is true, after all, that you live so far, far away.”

“What are you going to call this place, my dear Hetty?”
The tiny woman swallowed her tea and considered the point very carefully.
“I was thinking of something along the lines of ‘Tough Ladies Society'” she said slowly. “But it doesn’t really sound that well.”
Jessica grimaced and shuffled the cards.
“I’d go for “Tough Bitches Society”, but that’s me. Now, who’s in for a round of bridge?”
Hetty leaned back.
“I’ll just watch, but that may be interesting. However I’m sure Mrs Steward would gladly join you.”
“Kate, you interested?”
Tall blonde in an impeccable business suit turned briefly towards them.
“Sure, how could I not be. Just give me a minute” she turned to her bespectacled companion and pointed out someone in the crowd. “Go and bother her for a bit. She was all over space and time, after all. She may have better answers than UNIT can provide.”
“So, that would be Kate and me against the two of you” Jessica started dealing the cards. “Hope you’re up to the challenge.”
The other two glanced at each other and smirked.
“Now, Miss Rosenberg” Hetty patted one of them on the shoulder. “No powers. You know what I mean.”

“Tough Bitches Society” Olivia smirked at Olivia. “That sounds about right.”
Olivia punched her lightly on the shoulder.
“And you’d get a senior citizen discount, with all this gray hair.”
Olivia spluttered for a moment.
“You, you… You young person.”
Olivia rolled her eyes.
“You two are not actually arguing, are you?” Astrid asked, stressing the last words. “Because, you know” she nodded towards Astrid.
“You are referring to my lack of ability in social situations, but don’t worry. I am doing much better recently, thank you.”
“Still. You two better not argue, or I will tell Lee and Peter.”
Olivias groaned.

“Mm. Do you think Claudia is somewhere…” Myka trailed off, leaning on the bar and watching the women in the room.
Helena handed her a glass and raised her own in toast.
“I hope so” her tone was genuinely concerned. “That girl doesn’t get out enough. Here, at least, she has a chance to find someone her own age and get some girl bonding time without Pete interfering.”
“He does take the big brother thing a bit too far” Myka agreed. “A propos, I was wondering…” she smiled at her companion. “What could we do, making use of a Pete-free evening.”
Helena smiled in an altogether wicked way.

Written by Srebrna

2017/11/22 at 09:34

Posted in Uncategorized

Night Terrors

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He curled up under the table in the castle library. The cloth was long enough to hide him from casual glances and he shivered on the stone floor, rocking himself to and fro.

The nightmares came back every night. Every night he tried something else to chase them away – he only avoided strong spirits, as he felt his self-control was weak enough already. Nothing helped. Eating. Not eating. Not touching tea. Drinking milk (cold and hot). Wearing himself out by running around the castle for entire evening, until he dropped. Cold room. Warm room. Soft bed. Sleeping on the floor. Even sleeping on the balcony, despite the rain. Every night, ever since the curse was lifted, the same dream woke him, to the sound of his own screams and sobs.

First he was sitting in a tall-backed chair, almost like a throne, and a number of people were gathered, awaiting something in excitement. He felt his own anticipation, his hands – proper human hands – trembling and his stomach full of butterflies.

The fine coat he was wearing was of rich blue velvet, perfectly chosen to match his eyes. Snug breeches and tight-fitting shirt were all according to the latest fashions, joined by an elaborate arrangement of a cravat that Lumiere spent almost half an hour on.

He fidgeted a bit, biting his lip – with his proper human teeth – and breathing slowly to calm himself and attempted to track specific courtiers in the room to distract himself from the object of his wait. He managed to locate Lumiere flirting in the corner with a maidservant and Cogsworth watching them with pursed lips, but Mrs Potts was probably in the kitchen, overseeing the preparations to…

Finally, she entered, and the room hushed. She walked slowly up the central aisle of the room, left free by all the people milling around. All golden and brown and amber, she looked even more exquisite than the evening when they first danced. Suddenly everyone was looking at her, and he was looking at her, but she was looking down demurely, not meeting his eyes until the last moment, when she stood in front of the small dais.

She raised her eyes and he saw the wide pupils of her eyes, colour almost entirely gone, and saw her hands gripping each other so tightly that her gloves strained. He rose to meet her and as he walked down the mere three steps that were between the chair and the floor, she seemed more and more alarmed. When finally he lifted a hand to help her to her seat she flinched away from him.

His arm dropped to his side and he looked in astonishment at the tiny woman who held his heart in her hands – and apparently was so frightened of him that she saw even such a simple movement as dangerous. He stepped forward, holding both palms up and open, hoping to reason with her, to understand what happened and why she was so afraid of him in such a public space, in front of all the audience – including some of their beloved friends – but she stepped back, then again, looking too terrified to even breathe properly.

And suddenly she was tripping over the hem of her dress, which got obviously caught with the heel of her dancing slipper, and she was falling, progress down slightly impeded by the dress itself, but no less assured for it. He was there in an eyeblink, catching her right before she could hit the floor with her silk-clad back, and he was holding her slight frame, feeling every tiny bone and shuddering breath.

She swallowed convulsively and shivered, people around them crowding ever closer to see what the commotion was about. He rose, holding her close to his body, but the moment he turned towards the throne-like chairs, she started screaming and begging him to let her go. It was becoming harder to keep his hold on her, so he shifted her a bit higher, for a better grip, and she turned her face away from him, covering her head with both hands.

Finally, he saw faint, yellow-blue marks on the skin just under her elbows.

His heart was beating faster and his breath was coming more as a growl than as an actual inhale. His arms tightened around her and she cried out in pain.

For a moment, everything stood still.

For a moment, he stopped even breathing.

For a moment, the whole chamber was hushed.

Then his own pain started, as he listened to the pitiful sounds she made, he felt his arms and legs changing shape, forcing him to drop her in surprise. He felt hairs suddenly covering his whole body, poking through roughened skin and forming long fur.

She curled up on the floor in front of him, as he stood there, covered with fur, fine clothing gone – ripped at the seams by the arising Beast. He growled and she shook in terror. He tried picking her up and maybe – just maybe – getting her to her room, but she crawled away and in a flash he understood where the bruises were coming from.

And suddenly he was terrified, too. Because obviously the curse was still with them and giving in to his lower instincts made him do something to Belle – something he couldn’t remember, but she was visibly traumatised by – and that let the Beast through the gate.

He growled and turned around. The courtiers shrunk away from him. He turned back to her and he saw her, huddled on the dais. He turned back to the court. Back to her. Back to the court. To her. To the court…

That was the moment he usually woke, drenched with sweat, screaming at the top of his lungs, shaking like a leaf.

This night was no different, and he expected no difference as to what would follow.

He would spend the night in the library, pretending he was choosing a book he wanted to read in bed.

Then he would spend some time sitting in a soft chair next to his fireplace.

Then he would fall asleep with dawn, and then Lumiere would be coming in to light the candles and prepare his shaving set – he delighted in being able to shave his Master again.

And then he would be cranky and in pain for the whole day, despite the very best attempts of Lumiere, Mrs Potts, Cogsworth, whole army of servants and, finally, Belle, to cheer him up.

The only moments he felt somewhat safe (although definitely not relaxed) were in the evening, in the library, when Belle allowed him to sit close to her and read to her as she worked on some diagram of a mechanical construction, or – unexpectedly for what he thought he understood about her view of herself as a person – did some tiny embroidery.

They would eat a small evening meal, over which he sometimes tried to flirt with her and she side-stepped most of his attempts. He had already tried sitting across from her and by her side. Talking and not talking. Gossiping and discussing the tenants. Planning for next holiday – which was Christmas, making it twice as many plans as any other day. Nothing worked, as she shied away from any contact and refused to even look at him sometimes.

The only time they could share some common space was in the library, and he found it very hard to break the calm they achieved there with any unwanted conversation or, even worse, attempt at expanding their relationship.

He rested his forehead on his knees and shivered.

They would never be able to be as easy with each other as they used to. They would never be back to that easy camaraderie which he had treasured so.

She would never allow him to hold her again.

That was what the dream was all about, after all. Him trying to force her into contact. He shivered with revulsion.

He forced himself on her in that nightmare world. At least he never had to actually dream that part, but what he could understand from the parts that he witnessed, it was bad enough.

He swallowed, his throat raw from screaming earlier that night, and with crying now.

The door to the library opened slowly and he heard a pair of feet making its way through the great room. If it was Lumiere, there will be a reasonable pair of light home shoes, barely more than slippers. If it was Cogsworth, there will be a pair of tough, well-made boots he insisted on wearing even indoors, positively revelling in the fact that he finally could stomp on things.

If it was Mrs Potts, he expected light slippers, especially in the middle of the night.

The feet were bare.

And the nightgown and the robe were thin, see-through affairs, so he could trace the shape of her ankles, even up to half-thigh, where the table obscured his view. His breath caught in his throat at the view.

“Adam” she whispered and the feet came closer to where he was curled on the floor.

They were so tiny. Her shoes must have been half the size of his. He started wondering how she managed to grow so tall and never lose balance on these tiny feet.

They looked perfect to him, with tiny toes and pearly toenails. Small blue veins run just under her milky skin and there was nothing he desired more now than to be able to sit with her in front of a fireplace and touch every plane of these feet. And ankles, should she allow him.

She stood just in front of him, her tiny toes turned slightly inwards and curled, to minimise contact with the cold floor.

“Adam?” her voice shook slightly. “Adam, please…”

He couldn’t get his voice to work.

He saw her raise one leg and rub the sole of her feet against the calf of the other.

And then, before he could move away, she was dragging the heavy chair he pulled in place behind him and she was there, just next to him, all tumbling curls and anxiety.

“Oh” she made a small sound and reached to him, but stopping before she could touch him.

“Belle” he whispered hoarsely.

“Adam.”

She crawled a bit deeper under the table, going around him to see his face.

“Nightmares?”

He could only nod.

“Bad?”

He shrugged.

“The same every time” he whispered. Not that I’ll ever tell her the details.

She touched his hand with the tip of her finger and he shivered at the feeling of contact.

“You must be cold.”

“Not really” he tried to say, but a huge shiver shook him and he had to admit he was no longer so resistant to cold as he used to be when he was furry. He uncurled from his place on the floor and sat across from her, legs crossed and head bowed under the table.

She suddenly blushed and turned her gaze away from him.

He glanced down and understanding dawned on him with an Ah or rather an Argh.

He was not actually wearing what proper gentlemen of his age and station would be wearing to bed, but rather the loose shirt and breeches he almost died in – and was turned human in.

Which meant that an indecent amount of bare male chest was now on display just a few inches from her face. And an indecent amount of bare male calf.

She was clad as properly as a modestly-cut long nightgown and a robe could cover her, but he was most definitely underdressed.

And she was shying away from him right now, trying to put some distance between their bodies.

“Belle” he caught her hand and raised it to his lips. She gasped at the touch and blushed even more. “I’m so sorry I worried you” he said quietly. “I didn’t want to disturb anyone in the west wing – and I feel calmer here. It reminds me…” he trailed off.

She finally looked at him when he fell silent.

“Of?”

He kissed her long, thin fingers again.

“Of us. Of you. The books. The globe. All the things that I wanted to show you. Do you know we have a telescope here? Not a very good one, I’m afraid, but on a clear night, we could watch the stars and I could show you how to find planets.”

She blinked.

“Also, the table is heavy and the chairs are sturdy enough to withstand some kicking” he admitted. “I think I should move a few of them to my chambers, just to make sure I have something I can hit without causing too much damage.”

He kissed her fingers again, this time on the inside, and paying attention to each finger separately. He saw her inhale deeply, the rose colour of her cheeks now reaching the edge of her decolletage.

“Adam” she sighed. “I…”

“I’m sorry” he said again. “I’m probably making everyone in the castle miserable, but I can’t stop it. I can’t sleep, and when I do fall asleep, I dream and I wake up” he blurted out. “It’s hard to actually properly live when I sleep two, maybe three hours a day. I can barely think sometimes. I can’t understand what I’m reading, not to mention writing something.”

He inhaled deeply and she blushed, turning away again.

“Belle?” he enquired. “Why are you here?”

She shrugged.

“I couldn’t sleep either” she finally said. “I keep having the same dream, over and over again” she hugged herself. “I wake up crying and I can’t fall asleep for hours. And thought I heard something from…” she blushed “from your room, so I went to check, but you weren’t there. So I thought you may be hurt and I felt that tug inside me that brought me here. I’m not sure how it works, but I almost always know where you are…”

He licked his suddenly dry lips.

“Maybe it’s the curse” he pressed a kiss to her palm. “I always know where you are.”

A shiver went through her slim frame and that pushed him to make a decision.

“We need to get up from that floor before you catch your death” he moved a chair away and crawled out though that opening. “Come on, Belle. This is stone, it can’t be good for you.”

She slowly straightened, but did not follow him. She went to the other side of the table, by the chair she moved before.

They stood, facing each other across the table. He looked at her, bathed in moonlight from the left, white glow and shadows playing on her curves and limbs, at the same time hiding some of the most exciting details and hinting at her shape in a way that distracted him immensely.

“Belle” he had to cough, as the words failed him. “I… There is something we need to talk about.”

She nodded slowly. They pushed the chairs back into place without speaking and walked up towards the fireplace. There was no fire there at that time of the night, but it was still warmer than the rest of the library, and there was a rug in front of it which separated them from the icy cold granite of the floor. He saw her features relax when she stepped on the thick wool and stood there for a few breaths, just wiggling her toes in the softness.

He checked the fireplace, but the fire had been properly put out in the evening, so there was no chance for even one glowing coal to help him warm the place up. On the side of the large settee he spotted two blankets rolled up, so he fetched these and shook out one of them, bringing it around her shoulders. He took the second one and wrapped it over himself.

Slowly, she sank to the wool-covered floor, wrapping her blanket closer around her. He sat in front of her, cross-legged, and sighed. Still the blanket wasn’t covering her feet, but he heroically stopped himself from picking them up and warming them with his hands.

“What are your nightmares about?” he asked instead.

She blinked and turned her head to look at the empty fireplace.

“About you” she finally whispered.

He swallowed nervously. He really, really hoped she wasn’t having the same dream – only from her perspective.

“What… what happens in it?”

She shrugged and made a vague gesture.

“You die. Everyone dies. The rose is gone, and we’re all alone in the castle. And I’m trying to make you wake up, but there is nothing, and I beg you to come back, and…”

“I did come back” he felt the need to somehow dispel the obvious distress she was experiencing. “And I’m here.”

“I know. But in the dream you never do… I sit there and cry and then there’s only darkness, and I can’t breathe. And then I wake up, and my head is pounding.”

He wanted to reach out for her so badly. She looked rather forlorn, with her hair about her shoulders, her blanket barely reaching her knees and her worried, tired face.

“Why is this happening to us?” she asked in dull voice. “I thought with the curse broken we could live our life like normal people. Everyone is happy. Mrs Potts and Monsieur Jean are back together. Even Cogsworth stopped complaining. Lumiere and Plumette behave like lovesick teenagers. Why don’t we get our happy ending?” she hid her face in the robe covering her knees.

“Because the curse wasn’t properly broken” he whispered. “Because all it really did was to take away the illusion that was on them. I’m still the same, inside, apparently…” he swallowed with effort.

“Well, I hope you are” she mumbled. “It’s tough enough to get accustomed to the fact that you changed outside. I’d go mad if you became someone else in the process.”

He sat with his mouth hanging open.

“What?” was the only word he managed to utter.

“That” she said testily. “I keep expecting you to be… bigger. Taller. Do you know how hard it is? I never remember where to look if I want to see your eyes. I keep aiming…” she weaved her hand. “Like a head over your own. And I can’t recognise you in the crowd just by your shape. And…”

“You’re complaining about me looking more like a human?” he finally asked incredulously. “Really?”

She exploded from her blanket and suddenly she was nose to nose with him.

Really” she hissed. “We’ve had weeks together, when I could learn you, the old you, and I knew where I ended and where you began. I knew where your hand will be when I reach for it. I knew where to look for your damned smirk, or that you have to duck your head when you walk through smaller door. Or the way you sit, or the way you walk. I learnt it all, day by day. And now, suddenly, I can’t. The voice is there, and I knowyou’re you, but my body remembers the old you and I’m so confused I sometimes can’t think straight. I’m not saying the furry you was better. But I knew him better. And I can’t learn this you, because we almost never see each other, except in the evenings, and I’m so tired most of the time, I’m barely conscious then anyway. It takes all my strength to not fall asleep with my face in my soup, and I do it only because otherwise I would never have a chance to see you at all!”

Tears were rolling down her face and dripping on his shirt and he noticed how her face looked different seen with human eyes, then it looked when he saw it as the Beast. He noticed her smell – he retained this, and his sharpened hearing – and she smelled of soap and fresh laundry and salt. He became aware of the way she was breathing, which led to noticing that despite the modest cut of the nightgown, she did have a bit of decolletage anyway. And finally he noticed that in order to be face to face with him, she didn’t prop herself on the floor, but rather put her elegant, long-fingered hands on his thighs. Firm, muscled thighs, clad only in one layer of very worn dark blue linen. It was almost as if she was touching his naked skin.

He breathed in, which was an error, because he immediately became hyperaware of her, starting from the nuances of her smell, which, apart from soap, carried tones of flowers – lavender, he filed it away – a hint of leather and some additional, unclassified aroma that he could only label as “Belle”.

All of which didn’t make it any easier to answer her. But he tried to put together a sentence, with effort fighting down the need to crush her to his body and kiss her senseless.

“I am very busy undoing all the damage” he whispered. “The curse was lifted and the land is alive again, but it doesn’t mean everything was fixed at once. Bridges fell. Buildings are crumbling. The amount of weeds alone is outstanding. And the roads are in disrepair. And winter is coming and we have to feed all these people…” he trailed off. “And I’m barely awake most of the time” he added finally. “And I’m afraid that if we were together more, it would end badly for both of us.”

She leaned forward and looked him in the eyes.

I think she has no idea where her hands actually are.

“So you’ve been busy” she uttered. “But why can’t I come with you? Help you?”

He frowned.

“It’s not a very good idea” he explained. “I’m still dealing with… myself. The old one is coming up from time to time and I’d much rather you weren’t there for the…”

She smirked and moved back a little.

“The tantrums? The arguments? The furniture abuse?”

He leaned forward close enough to touch her nose.

“The uncontrollable beast” he said slowly, with just a tiniest hint of growl. He noticed her breath caught a bit at that. “Sometimes he just comes back, if not in corporeal form. I get these flashes of heat and I just can’t stop myself from hitting something. Or tearing a pillow apart. At least usually I manage to drop a book I’m reading, because that would be rather harder to explain to my favourite librarian. But he comes back, the worst, snarling, growling one. The one from half a year ago. The one that run you out of the castle.”

She frowned.

“But you went after me then.”

He nodded and shrugged.

“But it wasn’t as selfless as you may assume. He was – I was – basically a beast, looking to retain what was his. Only later I understood that I wanted you as a person, not as a possession. I needed your company, but only if given freely. And this is the me, now. Or, at least, mostly. The old one still… He’s still there, inside. And sometimes he overwhelms me and…” he swallowed “and that is what my nightmares are about.”

He carefully lifted her hands off his thighs and pulled her towards him.

“You’re dreaming about changing back?” she asked in a small voice, looking up at his face.

“Actually” he chewed on it for a moment. “Actually, I thing I’m dreaming an allegory. My dreams are about a man who is so bad inside, the Beast gets out through the gate of the sins he commits. And, as usual in such cases, the ones closest to him are the ones to bear the brunt of his behaviour.”

“But, you’d never…” she bit her lip.

“I already did, remember” he gestured around them. “Everyone paid, because she felt they were equally responsible and equally close to me. But if something happened now, she wouldn’t make anyone else pay for my mistakes, as I’m a grownup now. However, whoever stays close to me, would be the first victim, due to the simple proximity.”

“Adam” she straightened up, looking at him directly. “He is you. It’s you that you grew out of. It’s like… like terrible kind of normal human teen years. Normal youngsters are rather nasty, and they grow up. You had a very bad case of being not very well brought up, not being very well taken care of, and, well, extreme case of skin issues. And you were an awful bully, yes. But you were eleven when this started. It’s been ten years since, and you are now an actual full adult now. You’re supposed to be the same person, just… better.”

He steeled himself against her scent, against the feeling of her body on his, against the sweet melody of her voice, but nothing could help him when she caught his face with her hands commandingly and then threaded her long fingers in his hair.

“The fact that he is sometimes coming back is as normal as me being afraid of spiders in my milk – I’ve been like this since I was eight. Sometimes I can drink my milk without thinking about them, but sometimes days pass before I can have my next cup. It’s the eight year old Belle who once fished a fat, black spider from her cup of milk and made the most terrible noise I’ve ever made in my life. The same thing happens to you. The nasty brat you used to be back-then just… bubbles up.”

“Belle” he whispered, eyes half closed, as he surrendered himself to the caress of her hands. “Belle, you’re talking about you at eight… I’m talking about the bloody annoying me at twenty and a half. Half a year ago I was covered in fur and quite insensitive to anything except my own imagined tribulations. Half a year ago I was a snarling, ugly, angry creature whose only aim in life was to make everyone miserable.”

“You were hurt, desperate and lonely creature nobody cared to help” she countered, still massaging gently his temples and again letting her fingers dive into his luscious mane. “And now you are still remembering that time, and sometimes you may be quite allowed to feel that you’ve been punished unduly” he was sitting there with his eyes closed, half in trance from her caresses, so the fact that he suddenly felt her body press into him and her breath warm his lips was a surprise which made him almost jump.

“Belle!” he moaned, trying at the same to pull her closer and push away, hot really knowing what to do except to keep her off his lap where she almost, just a second ago, managed to place herself.

“Adam!” she cried in surprise and almost toppled over backwards.

He managed to catch her properly at the very last second, pulling her back close – but not that close.

“Do you know what you were doing?” he whisper-growled into her ear and was rewarded by a shudder and quickened breathing which, he was quite sure, was not from fear.

Interesting.

“I was just trying to… comfort you a little” she explained, looking at him with wide open eyes. “What happened?”

He squirmed a bit to sit in a better position.

He happened. I was quite happy to let you continue until Christmas comes, but he wanted way more” he brought her hand up to his lips. “He wanted much, much more. And yes, I know you’ve done this before. Yes, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was also back then when I actually wasfurry, and so mostly touch wasn’t so… direct.”

“You mean you didn’t feel it when I did it, then?” she frowned.

“I did” he sighed. “I did. It just didn’t register that strongly. My skin was much thicker, the fur added a layer of… insulation. And my hands were, well. Paws. Not that sensitive. Now? Now you’re touching bare skin. As in, naked. And that makes him react so much stronger. Even when you touch me through my clothes, it is still much, much harder to resist than it used to be” he inhaled deeply and kissed her wrist. “You don’t even know what kind of wanting you’re awaking in him.”

She looked at him with lips slightly parted, tracking his movements with fascination.

“So, what would he have wanted?” she finally asked quietly.

Woman” he moaned. “I’m almost sure I shouldn’t tell you this, and very certain I should not allow him up for what he wanted.”

“But, Adam…” she watched him as he slightly bit down on the pad of her index finger and laved it with the tip of his tongue, making goosebumps raise on her skin and a slight shiver to run down her spine. “What are you…”

“I’m letting him have a small dose of what he wants. And giving you a taste of what may happen if I give in to him” he explained with a very serious face. “He wants you. All of you. All the time. Guess why I’m trying to take long walks with the farmers, in this freezing mud. He stays quiet then. If you were there, by my side, all that time, I wouldn’t have strength to fight him. I must master him, before I can come to you as a full and controlled person. I can’t allow some furry growly idiot to direct the way I live. I must conquer him!” he flexed his hand a few times and then hit the floor with his fist. “Sometimes I must hurt myself a bit, just to bring him down.”

She caught his abused hand and brought it to her lips. Then, looking him straight in the eyes, she kissed each bruised knuckle, before turning it to the side and rubbing her cheek against the palm.

“Don’t” she said simply. “Please don’t. It hurts me to see you thus.”

“If I don’t, he sometimes wins” he growled. “You don’t know how many times a night I cross the corridors between our chambers. I manage to rein him in most of the times, but often I have to resort to pain to manage him.”

“Adam” she leaned closer “don’t.”

“So what am I supposed to do?” he growled through clenched teeth. “Go to you every time and let him go wild? Take a cold shower? Jump into a snowbank? I can either hurt myself, just a bit, to manage him or I could hurt you in such a way I could never forgive myself for it.”

She traced his cheek with her fingertips.

“And how do you expect us to continue? Do you want to keep hurting yourself more and more, when you become less sensitive to the pain? Or risk damaging something? I don’t want you to just randomly hurt yourself for my sake. I don’t want you to hurt yourself for any reason.”

“But what can I do?” he mumbled into her hand, grazing her palm with his lips. “I don’t see any better way of managing his appearances. Upsurges. Whatever they are.”

She licked her lips slowly, thinking.

“And what if…” she started and thought more. “When does it happen?”

He shrugged.

“Any time I see you. And any time I think of you. Mostly, all the time.”

She nodded.

“Uhm. And… what do you think would happen if we should be together for a whole day? All the time? Between people, outside, in cold, and in mud?”

He shrugged.

“I’m sure I would at some point die of embarrassment, due to my idiotic reactions to your presence. Or, from tripping over my own legs.”

She nibbled on her lower lip.

“And would it be much worse than normally?”

He made an uncertain face.

“Probably not. Considering where I go, everyone is pretty much dirty up to their shoulders. But then so would you, if you came with me.”

“Probably, yes” she smiled. “But it would have one definite new advantage.”

“Which would be?”

“I’d have a chance to learn you again” she reached again to cup his cheek. “I’d have to. We’d ride horses, I’m guessing, and walk a lot. And even falling into a ditch may be an important experience, if one looks at it properly.”

He allowed his imagination to flow freely for a moment, envisioning them both on horseback, him handing her up and down the horse, hands firmly around her waist, in what would be very proper, very correct way.

“This may have its risks” he said, his throat clenched. “I’m not sure I can manage him for that long, and it wouldn’t do for the general populace to see their prince kidnap a young lady and run with her into the woods – or wherever the furry idiot decides to run.”

“Well” she smiled slightly. “Or we could try to manage him in the evenings.”

He sat rock still, shocked by her suggestion of something so terrifyingly tempting.

“Belle” he growled. “You’re playing with fire.”

“Why shouldn’t we?” she challenged him with resolution. “It can’t be that dreadful. It feels quite…”

Suddenly she found herself lying on her back, with her prince propped on his arms over her, his face inches from hers, laboured breath making his chest strain against his shirt.

“Because I’m trying to be so damningly proper that nobody ever questions your reputation. What do you think would happen if we spent time on appeasing him? When would we cross the line? Where would we even draw the line? Belle, I’m trying to ensure that you can still walk into the village with your head held high… people are already talking about us, but at least the servants of the castle can attest to the fact that nothing improper had ever happened between us. If we go any further, your reputation will be ruined and I don’t want you to become an outcast in our own stupid little village, however stupid and little it is. It won’t matter to me, or to anyone important to us, but it may still affect you daily.”

She lay there, motionless, looking into his eyes – his wide, terrified eyes, and listened to his stumbling explanation, until he stopped and rested his forehead against hers.

“I don’t want you to be unhappy because you tried to make me happier” he finally added. “I don’t want you to compromise your integrity for my sake. My hand can take some more abuse, and in the meanwhile we’d be able to work out some proper solution for this…”

She reached for his hair, tumbling freely from his undone ponytail, and grabbed a fistful, then combed through it.

“What solution would that be?” she asked bitterly. “We can’t be together, because people will talk, and I refuse to be separated from you, ever again. I want you” she tugged the hair slightly. “I want you, with all your sins and your merits, with the castle, the mud, the broken roads and the tall towers, with the furry one still showing his claws from time to time and with the non-furry you subduing him… or no. I want you. I’m not giving you up. How do you think we can resolve this?”

He smirked.

“You could marry me, I suppose.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/10/25 at 18:54

Splinters 30 – I wanna be where the people are

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“Isn’t it nice?”

A tall man with a dog was standing in front of the diner’s door, so Elsa had to ask him to move, as she carried a basket with takeout lunch for Elena and Henry. It was him who spoke – a little dreamily, looking up at the clocktower.

“What is?” she asked out of courtesy, getting a better grip on the handle.

“The clock. Apparently Marco finally managed to fix it. It’s working, first time in years, you see.”

“Well” she shrugged. “He’d better set it to the correct hour, when he’s at it. It’s half past one, and the clock still showing quarter to nine.”

He smiled and patted the dog.

“At least it’s progress. A week ago… or maybe it was two weeks… he said nothing could be done as the great spring was stuck in such a way that he was scared to move it.”

She walked to the street, shaking her head.

“It’s progress, but I wouldn’t set my watch by that thing.”

He pushed up his glasses and hurried down the path after her.

“I’m guessing you must be E…” he suddenly stuttered.

“Elsa. Elsa Swan” she said helpfully. “No worries, I guess we are kind of a novelty in the town. And you’d be?”

“Ah! Archie. Archie Hopper. I’m the local psychologist. Well, psychiatrist, really, but I advise at school and at the hospital in my less medical hat. I actually wanted to talk to you – one of you – about Henry. You are his…?”

“Aunt. So whatever you need to discuss, should probably be with Emma, his mother.”

He grimaced.

“Well, of course. However, if you could give me a few minutes of your time… You’re not signing Henry into the school, I understood – could you tell me why? I’m wondering if I should be prepared for something specific once he starts attending.”

Elsa put the basket on a small stump next to the fence.

“Henry is being homeschooled, because we don’t know how long we’ll be staying and we don’t want to make him adjust to class life for a month just to take him out of it again. If he continues to improve – his health had been poor – we’ll enrol him in the fall. Is there anything else you’d like to ask?”

He shook himself just a bit, looking at her in surprise.

“That’s… I see. No, no, thank you, that is probably all I needed. Yes.”

“I’m quite sure Henry will not require your help once he is in school. He is a very stable and very bright boy, and he’s being brought up with all the care he may need.”

“I understand that the three of you love the child very much, but you can’t be that sure about your own methods… after all, if I understood correctly, you’ve not been raised in an actual family.”

Elsa picked up her basket and straightened up, her spine stiff.

“Where we were brought up and who took care of us has no influence on the methods we’re using with Henry. I assure you, we know what we’re doing. I understand you’re professionally trained in the area of psychology, but do not assume you’re not the only one with education on the subject.”


“What do you mean, study?”

“I mean, take a course. Come on. I know it sounds weird, but I want to prepare for this properly.”

“And you think there is a course on how to be a proper parent? Specially for people, well, like us? Missocialised outcasts raised in the system?”

“It actually exists and it’s for everyone. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t know how to be a parent – they came from a situation where they had no chance to learn anything about kids, or even about running a household.”

“We at least had good home education lessons – they were rather useful and reasonable, even if not with actual real parents.”

“There is even a separate course line for people from public care who had not been correctly prepared before being kicked out of the group homes. Including renting a place, signing contracts, getting insured, dealing with health system, making sure you know what are your rights at the hospital or at a clinic…” Emma sighed and moved to a better position. “I’m going for the parenting one. Five hours a week and it leaves me a free Thursday afternoon for the birthing classes. I’m not saying you have to come, but it may be easier for us if we all join. Funny thing is, if you take the advanced course, it actually gives us a paper that allows you to work as a kindergarten assistant. Not as an actual teacher, but hey, it’s still a skill we could use at some point.”

Elena nodded and swallowed her sandwich.

“I’ll do it, why not. I want to be properly prepared for when the kid comes. We have our house set up, we know how to manage the finances and we know how to live day to day, but I’d rather have someone give us a good set of notes regarding the visit to the hospital so that we don’t end up in debt due to the fact that you’re having a baby.”

“Or end up having problems being admitted as your family, if someone decides to make fuss about lack of a man.”

Emma snorted.

“As if they never had sisters accompanying each other. But yes, it’s better to be prepared.”


Doctor Hopper was making his way back home, glancing towards Elsa from time to time uneasily. She, on the other hand, calmly walked down the few buildings and joined Henry and Elena on the porch of the inn, where Elena was trying to work and Henry was trying to interrupt her.

“Small town” Elsa snorted, setting the basket on the kitchen table. “Everyone is poking their noses into everyone else’s business.”

“Who accosted you?” Elena reached for the container with homemade lasagna, still hot from Granny’s oven.

“Doctor Hopper, or something like his. Local shrink. Tried to suggest Henry will need counselling due to living with incompetent victims of social system upbringing. Really, people.”

Henry sat next to Elena, bringing his plate.

“Who said that?” he asked, frowning.

“A doctor from the town, darling.”

“And what does coun-cell-ing mean?”

Sisters exchanged glances.

“That he thinks you will need help when you go to school in the fall.”

Henry’s frown deepened.

“Why would I need help? I was doing OK in my previous school…” he seemed a bit worried, but soothed the feeling with a healthy bite of the lasagna.

“He thinks that because we lived in an orphanage, we don’t know how to raise a kid and so we probably broke you” Elena hugged him. “Don’t worry. He doesn’t know us yet, so he’s probably a bit suspicious.”

“That’s silly” Henry chewed for a moment in silence. “Why would it make any difference where you came from?”

“It makes no difference, Henry” Elsa patted his shoulder. “Some people just can’t understand it, that’s all.”


Regina came with Emma to the playground, actually. Early spring afternoon was sunny and warm enough for both Roland and Henry to get out of their light jackets and run around the area, shrieking with happiness. Henry thoughtfully let himself be caught a few times, following Emma’s delicate suggestion before they met.

“How old is Henry?” Regina asked absently, tracking the movements of the smaller boy.

“He’ll be six in the fall” Emma watched Henry more discreetly, trying to let him, for the time being, play without over parental oversight. “I hope we can stay here that long. He could go to school and start with everyone.”

“Why shouldn’t you? Storybrooke is a nice town. I hope” Regina grinned. “If there is anything here that could displease you, I’d very much like to hear about it.”

Emma shook her head, smiling.

“It’s mostly about Henry, actually. He became so sick in Boston we had to take him out of school in early spring. The pollution in our area was very bad and the doctor suggested we take him as far from the big city as we could manage. So, when one of our friends suggested Maine as a place with some woodland, we decided to give it a try. Our jobs give us a lot of flexibility, and my sisters are rather devoted to Henry, so we decided to, well. Just find the place that felt right.”

“And then there was a storm, and you found Roland.”

Emma nodded.

“And it seemed a good idea to check where the fate has brought us. So, we’re here, and we’ll see what happens. Kind of a demo version of actual living here.”

Regina watched Roland attentively for a moment, as he braved the short kiddie climbing wall, and relaxed only when he was back on the ground.

“I hope you can stay” she said, not looking at Emma. “It is nice here, but a bit boring, so you’ll be a breath of fresh air for the people here. Henry will certainly be a welcome addition to our school, and if he has any kind of big city stories, he’ll be an instant micro-celebrity. Nobody here travels much, so kids mostly see big world in TV.”

Emma made an understanding face and a non-committal grunt.

Henry managed to sneak behind Roland and tickle him, making the younger boy howl with laughter and kick up a huge amount of sand. Regina started to get up, but suddenly glanced at Emma and sat back down.

“I suppose I may be a bit too cautious” she said suddenly. “But that’s because I care. I care about him. I just can’t… I try to make sure he has everything he needs – including some structure – but also… sometimes I may be too careful, but I think it doesn’t make me a toxic mother. I hope so, at least. I try to stop myself from hovering. But sometimes I still think he feels smothered by all the attention.”

Emma blinked.

“It makes you a nervous mother, that’s for sure. Have you tried letting him out of your sight from time to time? You know, controlled situation, and you go and have an hour to yourself?”

Regina snorted.

“Sure. And it works out so well. Two days ago? I though he was napping after a whole day of running around the house. So I went downstairs, put on my headphones and listened to some music. He must have sneaked out then. It’s not only that I’m watching him for what every kid does – I suppose you’ve had your dose of this with Henry – but also stop him from going into the woods. He’s obsessed with finding his father, and unless I manage to convince him to stop, he will get hurt one day.”

“But you can’t just tell the kid that his father is dead, can you?”

Regina nodded slowly.

“I considered it, actually” she said slowly. “But I can’t. He worships his father. His father is the best. He lives in the forest, he knows how to build a house, how to make a bow, how to fletch arrows, how to shoot the bow, how to make a campfire, how to…”

“Basically, he’s a superman of the forest, so he can’t be dead because that would be against the laws of nature themselves” Emma pursed her lips. “Also, if you convince him that his father is dead, and then the father is found, it will completely mess the kid up.”

“I haven’t even thought that far ahead” Regina admitted. “I’m worried every day that someone will come and take him and place him in some ugly orphanage and he will have nobody to make sure he doesn’t drown in some pond in the forest. Mostly, I want us all to survive until the fall semester, he will be going to school then. And I will maybe manage to get some work done without having to fetch Graham and a babysitter to make sure Roland doesn’t go exploring the moment I close the door.”

“At least now he looks like he’s having fun” Emma pointed to both boys looking closely at something – quite certainly disgusting – they dug up from the sand.

Regina nodded slowly.

“Maybe because Henry doesn’t have a father, either” she said with a sigh. “He mostly gets this need for searching when he sees other children with their fathers, I think.”

“Well, glad to be of service, madam Mayor. Maybe when he is around us a bit more, he’ll get used to the idea of non-standard families.”

“You four are definitely not standard, by any definition” Regina smiled cautiously. “May I ask…”

Emma rolled her eyes.

“I was an idiot, he was a conman, he split before I ever knew I was pregnant. And he tried to frame me for theft.”

“Ouch.”

“I got over it, don’t worry. In hindsight, I could have done without the court case during the first vacation after getting our master’s degrees, but I’m certain I wouldn’t change the fact that I was pregnant during it. It was a bother and I managed to throw up way more than I ate, but I got Henry and I don’t have to share him with that lowlife.”

“Just with your sisters.”

“Well, they are his parents, too” Emma shrugged. “And way better ones than he would ever be. Myths of male role model are just myths. Better no father than a lousy one.”


The afternoon paper ran an article, very general in the way it was worded, about the dangers of strangers coming into closed societies and what kind of imbalances such can cause. It also alluded to said strangers’ murky past, unknown upbringing, possible involvement in high-profile court cases and child endangerment. Emma additionally found a weird echo of what she told Regina, as there was a small paragraph regarding children reared in partial families.

She snorted, drank the rest of her coffee and hopped off the stool.

“Ah, Miss Swan” the headmistress smiled from her booth “Or may I call you Emma? I’m just about finished and I thought we could walk together. I could show you the town – as much as there is of it – and I can give you some materials for Henry to work on for the rest of the school year, so that he isn’t behind when he joins in September.”

“Sure. And yes, you can call me Emma” she smiled as the dark haired woman drank the rest of her coffee and gathered the abundance of paper she had spread on the table. “Writing assignments?”

Mary Margaret stuffed them into her bag.

“Actually, yes, but rather my own. I’m trying to…” she blushed “to write a novel. Not that I’m any good at writing interesting action scenes, but I hope I can get the social part of the text interesting enough. Now, let’s go left and I’ll tell you where everything is…”


As Emma noted where a laundromat was, where the car mechanic resided and which bakery saved better pastries (which was not the one with the best bread, and still not the same that sold better apple pies), she allowed herself to be led through the park, into more residential area.

“This one is all empty” her guide said. “They are supposed to tear it down, it has some structural problems, so it’s dangerous even to go there. This one is a lot of tiny flats, mostly single people live here – ones with not much need to store stuff. And this is the one that was remade from some weird factory and nobody knew exactly how to divide them correctly, to allow everyone access to facilities and windows, so some flats are really complicated. Mine is just up here, on second and third floor. I’d invite you in, but I made a complete mess of my kitchen today – I was trying to mix some pancake batter and my mixer went crazy. I’m kind of avoiding going back there, because it would force me to face my kitchen” she made a disgusted face. “Let’s go see the park here, what do you say? I’ll show you the area. I’d really love to have someone friendly live here…” she trailed off and stared into the sky over the trees. “Almost nobody moved in for the last year or so, and there’s just one flat taken in the building, except for mine, so I feel a bit lonely, sometimes. I’m sorry” she smiled weakly. “I don’t want you to feel pressured, but I kind of jumped at the occasion to get someone to rent that huge flat next to mine, so I can hear that there actual living people around me.”

Emma could only smile weakly at her earnestness.

“I have to check what my sisters decide. But I have to admit, it does sound nice. If that Mr Gold…” she blinked. “That was him, yesterday, I just connected it.”

Mary Margaret frowned.

“Where? You met Gold already? That was quick.”

“He was… I suppose he was collecting rent. Yesterday, at the B&B. He seemed a little weird, I must say.”

Mary Margaret just shrugged.

“We all have our little quirks. Maybe he has more than others, but nobody is free of their own, personal weirdness. I can’t abide being alone – that’s why I mostly work in the diner, just to see people around me. Ruby detests colours other than black and red. Archie talks to his dog and just to himself, out in the open – and he is the shrink of the town. Nobody here is exactly normal.”

Emma coughed.

“Well, maybe you three. But you’re triplets, which makes you automatically ‘non-standard’, according to general public. You don’t even need to show you’re different, you just are.”

“Regina?”

Mary Margaret stiffened.

“Madam Mayor is in a category of her own” she said carefully. “She is a single working mom in a power position. You can guess what the streets were saying when she adopted that little boy. She didn’t get any less strict, for all their gossipping and muttering, and I’ve never seen her go any easier on herself. I may not be a fan of hers, but I have to admit she takes good care of Roland…” she straightened her shoulders. “There are some parents I won’t mention who could benefit from following her example. I see enough neglect at school to make my heart hurt.”

Emma raised her hand hesitantly, but decided not to pat Mary Margaret’s shoulder after all. She had no idea how the woman would react to sudden physical contact.

“Well, let’s walk a minute more and you’ll see the greener part of our tiny corner. Here is the playground – much cleaner than the one in the city centre – and there is a bit of a park, including one big lane for biking and skating – and here’s the fountain, and the benches. The angel on the fountain is supposed to be by some very fameous sculptor, who came to Storybrooke looong ago and decided to make our town a but weirder by sending one of his works for us to adorn our “sweet little town”. I think it’s a bit gloomy for a fountain just next to the playground, but…” she shrugged. “Kids ask sometimes why she’s crying.”


Henry was fast asleep as the three grownups gathered quietly in the corner of the room.

“The townies are suspicious of us” Elsa provided in a whisper, her copy of the newspaper flat on the table in front of them.

“And rightly so, we’re probably the first new thing they’ve seen since this place was created. From what Regina said, we’re the news of this decade” Emma shrugged. “I think it’s like an immune system. They’ve never seen anything like us, so they are reacting with slight aggression. May even be the effect of the curse itself.”

Elsa bit her lip.

“I’m a bit worried about something else, actually” she said slowly. “Have you noticed the difference between Henry and the local kids?”

Emma frowned, glancing towards her son.

“What do you mean? I only saw him playing with Roland, and there’s a two years difference between them, so obviously…”

“He is…” Elsa pursed her lips. “He seems older than kids his age. And if you think about it, it was always like this, even in Boston. But there were other bright kids there at the school, and here the population is smaller, so he stands out more. He’s almost six, but he talks like a kid three years older. When I was at the park with him, in the evening, I saw other six-year-olds. They are way less outspoken and have much more limited vocabulary.”

They sat in silence for a moment.

“Do you think it may be the same thing that let him see August’s leg?”

“You mean he has some special magic that lets him see stuff in a different way from others?”

Emma pondered it quietly.

“I think… I know when someone is lying – I hear the thing they say and I have a feeling whether they are lying or not. Sometimes I can feel the general falsehood about someone – even before they say something specific. What Henry does is seeing true things. We never saw the wooden leg, but I know August isn’t lying about it, due to my magic. It’s just probably hidden by some illusion, like Storybrooke itself. And Henry is the only person who sees the actual thing. He may actually be seeing stuff we never guessed is there and he treats it like something natural, because we’ve never told him otherwise.”

“And how does this change the fact that he behaves like a little grownup?”

“He is very grown up in his understanding of the world” Elena sighed. “I think he’s less childlike, due to being treated like a partner by all of us and if at the same time his brain is wired to see the reality in more real way, it makes him talk like a kid half again his age.”

“So, in fact, we might have messed him up a bit?” Emma rubbed her face with both hands.

“But in a good way, Emmy. He’s more responsible and communicates with us way better than kids at six do ‘normally’. He comes to us with every question and they are good, sensible questions. When he comments on something, it may be naive, but it’s not stupid. Like today, he said that what the shrink said was ‘silly’ – well, I thought the shrink was an idiot to tell me that we’re unfit to be parents, but I’d never say this in Henry’s presence. He made a correct assessment of the situation and summed it up in a way that made sense for him – fortunately we didn’t teach him any stronger vocabulary.”

Emma snorted.

“I hope the good doctor tries this again with Henry present. He’ll be in for a surprise from his supposed patient.”

“I’d rather he didn’t, actually. No need to make Henry look like a shrink client in front of his future schoolmates” Elena sipped her tea. “He’ll have enough challenges, if we actually stay here. Especially if we do break the curse.”

Elsa started giggling uncontrollably.

“Do you know what Henry is? I just suddenly understood…!”

They both looked at her suspiciously.

“Well, if Emma is the heir to the throne, or however it is called, then Henry, as her son, is second in line!”

“Wow” Emma grinned. “Imagine Neal’s face if he ever learnt about this.”

Elsa shivered.

“I hope he never does. Sorry to say, Emmy, but he was a useless loser, and he tried to frame you for the watch job – so if he ever knew that you’re an actual princess, he’d never leave you and never stop trying to empty your pockets.”

Emma shrugged.

“We’re not yet sure I actually am a princess, so let’s keep any kind of conjectures to ourselves until we have confirmation. But I’d much rather never see Neal again, if I may have a choice. Explaining to Henry that Neal is untrustworthy will be a tough task. He may accept it in principle, but Neal has this thing that makes people trust him, even in completely stupid circumstances, so Henry may be unable to resist him, if we ever meet him again.”

Elena caught her hand.

“I hope that before you ever have to, we’ll be able to surround Henry with enough other members of family to compensate for Neal’s so-called charm.”

“And his overall uselessness.”

Emma rolled her eyes.


A graying man in a dapper suit moved carefully around his shop, sorting the trinkets on his counter. His uneven gait made him look slightly unbalanced, but he managed quite well, at least until the moment he leaned his cane against one of the cabinets and managed to accidentally push it to the ground a moment later. By reflex he made two longer steps to catch it and only when he was holding it, he stumbled in surprise.

He sat heavily on the floor, hugging the cane and looking at his lame leg in astonishment.

“Well, that’s new” he finally said into the silence of his shop.

Some hanging glass decoration clinked quietly in response.

Written by Srebrna

2017/10/22 at 22:43

Posted in Splinters

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Splinters 29: Since the morning that we came

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The next morning they all looked rather bleary – except for Henry, obviously. Henry was as lively as possible, making all three of them wince from time to time, as they sat waiting for their coffees to cool down to drinkable temperature.

“Lovely little gentleman you have here” an elderly man in a worker’s overalls said approvingly from the next booth, raising his cup of tea in greeting. “What is his name?”

Henry knelt on the seat and held his hand out.

“I’m Henry Swan. These are my mother and my aunts. And you are?”

The man put the cup carefully away and grasped the offered hand.

“My name is Marco, Henry. Very nice to meet you. Are you staying in Storybrooke, or just passing through?”

A thickset, bearded man from next booth made a rude noise.

“Who cares. One more brat in the town, one less, no difference. All they do is make noise and bother people.”

“Leroy, manners. The ladies here are new in the town, you’re giving Storybrooke bad image.”

“I’d rather have them out of here, and taking the noisemaker with them. Man can’t drink his coffee in peace.”

Marco smiled sadly.

“I’d give anything to have one just like him. All my life, I… Well, he was not meant to be.”

Emma and Elena exchanged quick glances and Elena pulled her notebook to check the descriptions surreptitiously. She nodded minutely.

Marco looked at his cup again.

“Well, young Henry. Be good to your mother and I hope I’ll see you around the town.”

Leroy only snorted, covering his face with the newspaper.

Granny slapped him with a rolled-up one, passing by.

“Get some manners or get out. And take your shoes off my cushions.”

He got up grumbling, slurped the last of his coffee rather obnoxiously loudly and walked out, passing the booth where Henry and his family sat.

“I’m getting out, no worries. And you, sisters, will be better off if you get out of this town, and take the snotnose here with you.”

Henry blinked and looked at the man as he exited the diner.

“He’s really grumpy, isn’t he?” he asked in a surprised, but clear voice, easily heard in all of the booths around them – and probably outside, too. A wave of snickers and giggles made Emma’s face burn red and she pulled him down to sit properly on the bench.

Ruby sauntered up to their table, bearing plates of food and a mug of chocolate for Henry.

“You all look like you’ve had too much fun yesterday” she said, unloading the breakfast. “Which is all kinds of unfair, considering you were all down and snoring next to no time after checking in. If you feel like you’ve partied the day before, the least the life could do is offer some entertainment to go along the pain.”

Emma smiled weakly and nodded.

“I feel as if someone had set up a hammering workshop in my brain. We will eat, take some painkillers and re-evaluate that novel idea of a hangover without a drinking, thank you” she rubbed her forehead. “It must be all the driving we did yesterday and then the storm which was on exactly as Elena found Roland. If this doesn’t go away, is there a doctor in the town who could give us something stronger?”

Ruby smiled widely.

“We have even a whole hospital. And doctor Whale is dealing with so many different cases in this town, he should be able to find something even for a killer headache.”

Elsa squinted and sighed, sipping her icy mocha.

“I hope so, because we need to pull ourselves together a bit” she said tiredly. “If we’re going to be staying, we’ll need a better living solution than B&B – however lovely it is, Granny, of course” she smiled at the older woman. “But we can’t stay in one room for more than a few days.”

“Don’t worry, Elsie. I’m sure there are enough places around the town to fit all four of you” Ruby quickly adopted calling the sisters by their pet names. “There is some property you can rent – or buy, if you’d be staying longer – and if you need more than a flat, there are even some houses on the edge of the forest, just outside the town. Owners moved out and there were no buyers, so they still are on the market, who knows why.”

The sisters exchanged glances, but Henry chose this moment to try to chase up his tomato sandwich with a big swallow of cocoa and started hiccoughing, making disgusting noises and giggling like a loon in between hiccups, so Emma escorted him out of the diner and let him breathe in peace.


The meeting with the school headmistress was a surprising event. The gregarious, smiling woman was not the type of personality Emma usually linked with that position and it took her a while to accept that all her senses were confirming the lady was for real.

“I see” Miss Blanchard tapped the school report from Boston and peeked at the doctor’s opinion. “So, for the time being Henry would be homeschooled, and you’d want to enrol him at the beginning of the next term?”

“That would be the best, yes. We’re not sure he gets better in Storybrooke, so I’d rather not make him start the school here if we have to move in two months. However if by the end of this term he seems to be improving, we’d like him to start lessons with other children in fall.”

“And you just moved here, like this? Dug up all rots in Boston, left friends behind?”

“Well, we do have Henry’s best interest as our priority, so yes. With no hesitation.”

“I hope you and your husband can find something to do around here, but the town is rather small, so it may be a challenge.”

Emma sighed.

“I don’t have a husband. And I’m quite sure I can work something out, as long as Henry’s happy here.”

The woman behind the desk gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.

“So sorry! You said ‘we’ and I assumed…”

“Me and my sisters. We raise Henry together” Emma allowed herself to smile, economically.

“Sisters! How lucky! I always wanted to have a sister!” the headmistress had the most infectious smile, once she let it be seen and was not covering it with her hand. “How many do you have?”

Her eyes were shining with innocent excitement, so Emma finally smiled fully.

“Two. I mean, we’re triplets, so three altogether.”

“Triplets, wow…” she trailed off. “I remember someday dreaming about having a twin, just to make sure I have someone I’d be sure I will love…”

“Well, you’re welcome to one of mine” Emma smirked. “It gets cramped in a small apartment and we’ve been stuck at Granny’s for a day and we’re already getting on each other’s nerves. Do you want a sister, maybe? I can sell you one. Only slightly used.”

The headmistress snorted and started giggling uncontrollably.

“No, thank you, I’d rather have a new one, if I can get any. But I appreciate the offer! Now, as to the apartment, you need to contact Mr Gold, who manages most of the real estate here in the town. You tell him the requirements and he’ll whip up the offer for you. There’s even one place in my building – it’s an old factory construction, so the measurements of the flats are rather untraditional. You can get something quite normal, or a weird two-levels combination like mine. I don’t have a lot of space in the hall, but I do have an additional floor over the kitchen and there’s an actual full room there” she shrugged “Never used it for anything but storage, but it is cosy. Anyway, the flat I mentioned also belongs to Mr Gold, so you can just ask him about it – I’m quite sure you’ll love it. There is a bit of a park just nearby, a tiny playground, and a stream just a few steps from the building” she handed Emma the papers she filled in while talking. “Also, in case you needed help, I could assist you with homeschooling Henry. I have my own class of ten year olds, so I can probably find some stuff for a five year old to do.”


“It does seem a bit creepy. Like she wanted us to live nearby to have control of us or…”

“Well, I only got an honest, truthful vibe from her, all the time. It is possible that she is, in fact, a happy and helpful person.”

“Mary Margaret Blanchard” Elsa read the business card. “I’ll google her and see what we can dig up about her. Just in case.”

“Let’s see if she’s not listed as an axe murderer on some Wikipedia page. She’s just too sweet to be alive.”


“She doesn’t exist” Elsa sighed, pushing herself away from the keyboard. “No digital footprint at all. No Facebook account, no google account, no twitter – one that I could identify at least – no Instagram. Actually, Storybrooke is more or less an invisible town, too.”

“Probably, being a magical creature from another world, under a spell, she – like everyone else in town – is forced to avoid detection. Remember what August said, and what we’ve tested by ourselves – it’s hard to get here if you don’t know it’s here, right? So if someone posted anything about the town on the ‘net, people might start getting here by accident…”

“Protective part of the curse.”

“Well, we have to work out who she is without the internet. I just hope she is someone from the court, not a crazy witch from neighbouring kingdom.”

“One thing for sure, she is lonely. It looks as if she tried to make the connection to us by any means necessary. Seems desperate for company.”

“Well, from what August said, all ‘our’ side was supposed to be perfectly miserable, and our mother should be worst off” Emma sighed and sipped her tea. “So it can’t be her – and the description doesn’t match. Black hair yes, long hair no.”

“You do understand the general idea of cutting one’s hair, I hope?” Elena looked at her pointedly. “The fact that she has short hair may only mean she trimmed it.”

“But she’s not miserable enough.”

“That would depend on someone’s definition of ‘miserable’, really” Elsa pointed out. “Everyone has a different set of reasons to be miserable.”

“She has a good job, around a lot of kids – so if she’s the family lady August said, she’s ok – she has a nice flat in an area she does recommend to others. Doesn’t seem that bad.”

“But from what you’re saying, she’s lonely…” Elena mused.

“She seems really really lonely. Like she’s missing human contact even though she’s the headmistress. She couldn’t stop talking when I was there, and it was what, about 20 minutes.”

“Well, who would get friendly with their child’s school head?” Elsa provided. “Remember the guy from the primary school whose parents were some family of the headmaster? He had no life. It’s the same thing here, probably.”

Emma nodded slowly.

“Her position isolates her from the people around her, so she is around people, but…”

“Yep.”

“OK, so, plan. We befriend her?”

“I suppose we should. Better be friendly with our own mother. And if she’s not” Elena shrugged “at least we get a friend out of it, whoever she is. And if she’s an evil axe murdering witch, then at least we’ll get on her good side before she gets her memories back.”

“Basically, we want to get on everyone’s good side before we confirm who is who and/or they regain their memories.”

“That means we have to be on our best behaviour” Elsa warned. “No hitting people with your bo staff.”

“And no going full lawyer on them without reason. Someone may die of fright if you do this unexpectedly, and how would you explain to our mother the fact that her favourite maid is missing? Or why the kingdom has one smith less now?”


Emma couldn’t sleep, despite being tired to the bone. She waited quietly until Henry was snoring, arms around his bear, and slipped out of her room, down to the lobby of B&B.

Granny was sitting in a deep, slightly shabby armchair, knitting something grey and fluffy, peeking at a tiny TV set over her needles.

“Do you need anything?” she asked, not pausing her knitting. “Is there anything missing in the room?”

Emma shrugged and smiled.

“Not really, no. Thank you. Just can’t sleep, so I thought I’d stretch my legs and maybe make some tea, if I could?”

“Sure, sure. There’s a kettle behind the counter and a tin with tea bags next to it. Mugs are on the bottom shelf. If you could make enough for two, that would be nice, too.”

“And now you’re using guests to make tea for you?” Ruby appeared from some room inside the ground floor. “Really?”

“Well, with you out all the time, how else is an old woman going to get her tea, missy?”

Ruby shrugged and wrapped her hair with a lacy red scarf.

“The same way you’d be getting it if I was in Boston, like I planned.”

“Well, I’m so sorry my health issues stopped you from…”

Emma coughed suggestively and the two women fell silent, looking at her with embarrassment.

“Which one would it be, Granny? Earl Grey, or…?”

“There should be some plain black there, if you could. Thank you, Emma.”

“Emma” a male voice said. “What a lovely name.”

They all turned, Granny stuck in her deep chair, looking at the man in surprise.

“Ruby” Granny said with a slight nod towards the counter.

The younger woman darted behind the check-in desk and grabbed a roll of banknotes stashed there.

“It’s all here” she said breathlessly, handing it to the man.

He smiled, thin lips stretching into a slight grin.

“Of course it is, dearie. How could it be otherwise. I see your grandmother is trusting you with more… important tasks nowadays. How could an old woman live without someone to help her…” he mused, pocketing the money.

Ruby withdrew her hand as if burnt.

“You enjoy your stay… Emma” he gave her a symbolic nod.

“We sure will” she managed to answer, slightly stuttering, as the man’s whole figure radiated some kind of menace that made her ‘spidey sense’ go on full red alert. He wasn’t lying, as such, but his whole person felt somehow false.

“We?” he turned back towards her from the door he had just opened.

“Well, my sisters and me. We’ll be staying here for a while.”

He… blinked. Suddenly the feeling of slimy menace retreated, replaced with honest surprise.

“Your sisters?”

“Yes, my sisters” she smiled, drinking in his unease. “Elena and Elsa. They are upstairs, I just couldn’t sleep, so…”

He shuddered slightly, as if shaking off something on his shoulder.

“Really. Two sisters. How nice for you…” he seemed somewhat lost in the conversation.

“Oh yes” she smiled widely. “There’s nothing better than family.”

His face went rigid and he turned without a word, shutting the door behind him with a thud.

Ruby and Granny jumped slightly at the sound. Emma finally switched the kettle on and the hissing made them look in her direction.

“Who was that?” she asked, dropping the bags into prepared mugs.

“Mr Gold” Ruby provided, walking to the nearest window and peeking though it towards the street. “He owns this place.”

“This one? The inn?”

Granny grimaced.

“More like the town.”

She made a few more angry stitches on her needles and dropped them in a large workbasket sitting next to her chair.

“So… how is that tea coming on? I probably need something to pick me up now.”

“And then you will be complaining you’re to keyed up to sleep” Ruby snorted and fixed her shawl again.

“It’s better than being too drunk to walk straight” the older woman commented under her nose, as her granddaughter opened the door.

“I heard that!”

“You were supposed to!”

Silence fell as Emma handed Granny her mug and they both waited for the tea to steep a bit.

“She’s been like this since her parents went missing” Granny finally blurted out. “I’m worried for her, but I can’t really stop her from going out. At least it means she’s in the town, and not on some crazy road trip out to Canada or somewhere. If she parties in town, either she gets back by herself, or that cute sheriff brings her back. If I press too much, she may just as well try to go to Boston or somewhere else, like she said, and I’d probably never see her again.”

Emma pursed her lips.

I wonder if it’s even possible for them to leave the town. Roland did, but he never got anywhere close to other people, so he didn’t actually leave, so it may not count…

“We’ve seen a lot of kids reacting to losing their parents in a destructive way. I suppose it’s no different for grownups.”

Granny sighed.

“She was fifteen when it happened. It’s been eating at her ever since.”

“At least she has you” Emma said and sipped her tea.

“Yes, that she does. I suppose you three didn’t have that much, right?”

Emma nodded and smiled thinly.

They sat in silence for a moment.

“What are you watching?”

Granny smiled with some embarrassment and turned the sound up a bit.

“A crime show. Midsomer Murders. It’s nice to listen to that accent, you know. And it isn’t fast, like all the CSIs, with the car chases and computer hacking. Easier to follow for an old woman.”

Emma moved a chair to see the screen better.

“Would you mind me watching it for a bit with you?”

Granny stared at her over the rim of her glasses.

“Not at all, dear. Not at all.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/08/16 at 23:12

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 28: Peace the evening brings

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All three kept to mundane remarks until they were safely lodged in the largest suite of rooms the B&B sported and Henry was again asleep, teeth brushed and shower, for once, skipped.

“So…” Elsa’s voice rose in a slightly questioning tone.

“That would be our step-grandmother” Elena provided flatly.

Emma sat heavily, mug of tea in front of her.

“What about the kid?” she asked, fingers worrying the table runner edge.

“Unknown” Elsa shrugged. “But August couldn’t have known everyone in the whole kingdom. He doesn’t even have to be from the court, if what she’s saying is correct.”

“Sure” Emma agreed. “But it complicates things.”

“Why? It’s not like we were planning to kill her… By the way, I think she’s worried about something” Elena leaned back on the couch. “Did you see how panicked she was? And she was actually rather, may I say, friendly. For an Evil Queen.”

Emma sipped her tea.

“I think it’s because of Henry” she suggested finally. “It was, well, a connection. Some common base. She has a kid, we have a kid. She’s a single mother, we’re a female family with a kid and no guy. She’s having problems with Roland, with him running away and looking for his father, and I’m sure she guesses we have problems with Henry, too.”

The all nodded slowly, each picking up her mug.

“So, what do we do tomorrow?” Elena took out her notepad and pencil.

“We must identify our family. We have August’s descriptions and we know they will be in some miserable situation.”

Elsa pursed her lips and shook her head.

“Actually, the next step should be to find ourselves something to do in the town, establish ourselves” she said slowly. “Not that I don’t want to look for your parents, but if we spend a day or two making a real effort and, well, giving everyone a proper, innocent reason for us being here, we can then work out things faster. If we have to make up a new reason each day for why we aren’t leaving, it will take much more time in total.”

Elena sipped her cocoa.

“However much I’d like to do something now, Elsa does have a valid point. If we show we’re here to stay, they will not question our search… We can cover this by, well, anything. Job hunt. Flat search. We could be looking for a tutor for Henry.”

“Poor little Henry, ordered by the doctor to leave the big city…” Elsa mused. “We may work from that, start by visiting the hospital to check with them what would be the best section of the city to rent a flat, the school to register him as home-schooled but with option to join classes after the next term starts, all the shops to buy stuff before our things get shipped here…”

“And I can take Henry to visit Roland tomorrow” Emma rose to put her cup on the shelf. “I’ll ask Regina if he can go with us to the playground. I saw one in the park. If she decides he can’t go with us alone, even better. If she is the Evil Queen – and everything matches, even the scar on her lip – I need to find out what she knows, if I can. Or at least I can get some bonding time in over the kids before she knows what we are about. We should get on her good side, if she has any – and looking at Roland, I think she does, actually.”

“I’ll ask Ruby if she knows about any vacancies we could fill. Or maybe I could volunteer at school for after-class activities? We’ll make a schedule of who is at home, who is “working” and who is socialising. I have to be online mostly during the working hours, but the two of you work when you want, so we can split it any way we need. This way there will always be one of us at home for Henry and the other two can be out there, looking for clues or being sociable or whatever.”

“I’ll go and visit the sheriff” Elsa offered. “As the local law enforcement, he may be a good point to start, and I may be able to get him to talk if I play the lawyer card well.”

Emma nodded and pulled out her own notepad.

“I made a list of who we’re looking for first. Of course we need to locate Geppetto, just to let August know he’s OK. We need to find our parents. We already have the Queen. Who else?”

“The dwarves. Snow White was helped by seven dwarves.”

“And there should be some court members, August said there were at least twenty people.”

Emma flipped the right page open.

“Yes. There was the Blue Fairy, but I doubt we can identify her by her size now. There was someone called “Red”, apparently standard human sized, so we have a chance – she wore a red cape, but I somehow doubt she’d be running around in one here and now. And there was Red’s grandmother. No idea why she is so important that she got included into the Council, but we have her on the list. There were some other nobles whom August could not describe in enough details, which is just peachy, because we frigging need them.”

“Useless” Elena looked up from her laptop. “The ones that August did describe are either useless, because they probably look like standard humans now, or too generic and too many people will match the description. But, actually, what you said makes me think we can find one of them immediately. And she may be very important, and useful. Red, the one you mentioned.”

Emma sat closer to her.

“Red? Why Red?”

“She was Snow’s best friend. She was brought into the castle and whatnot, despite the fact that she lived in the forest all her life – so she was, basically, a peasant. And she always wore red. Not only the cape, actually, all red. And she was dark-haired. Now, who did we meet in the last hours who matches this description?”

Elsa’s eyebrows went up.

“You’re saying Ruby is your mother’s BFF? Do you think the relationship might have survived despite the curse, so we can make use of it and track down the others?”

Emma shrugged.

“She’s a waitress and a barmaid. Everyone talks to the waitresses, so it may be a challenge to work out who is our mother in the crowd – even if their relationship survived.”

“And as you said, Red had a grandmother, a formidable lady who shoot the crossbow quite neatly” Elena continued reading from her database.

“Granny, even if without a crossbow. I could totally see her using one on some rowdier clients, mind you” Elsa fell silent and then frowned “So we have a red-dressed young woman and her grandmother. What do you think is the ending to this story?”

“I’m wondering why August didn’t see that link – at least he never mentioned it.”

Emma shrugged.

“Maybe it’s one of these way off from ‘reality’ – so our version doesn’t really match the events from Enchanted Forest.”

“Also, there is no big Disney movie for that one. And once he was in the orphanage, he might have been too old for nursery stories, so he just simply missed it completely.”

“I wonder if she has a basket.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/08/15 at 23:10

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 27: Little town

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They finally managed to get Roland to give them the address – or rather the directions – to Regina’s house.

From his disjointed story, they worked out the situation – adoptive mother, his long-kept longing for a father who apparently disappeared in the woods, his attempts at finding the place where he used to live. All very familiar, well-known from the stories of other children in the group home.

As Elena spoke to Roland, wiping his wet hair and tucking the blanket around him, Emma slowly drove forward, looking carefully for any sign of civilisation. When they suddenly came upon a sign saying “Welcome to Storybrooke” she was not even that surprised.

That magic thing about pushing them in the right direction was starting to be annoying.


The town was slightly anticlimactic. Just a standard somewhere-in-USA town – reasonably sized streets, unexceptional shops, some bigger buildings, a clock tower, a crossroads, a phone booth… very generic, very normal.

Even at the rather late hour they could see people walking, some cars on the streets, some shop windows illuminated. Smell of fried onions wafted in through the partially open window on Emma’s side.

Emma sent a grateful thought to whoever may be listening for this being a XX century town, probably well-equipped with all modern facilities, like running water. She really hated field solutions to hygiene problems.


“Here we are” Emma parked the car in front of a huge stone mansion. “Come on, girls. Let’s hand Roland back to his… Well. To Regina. Preferably before they start a kid hunt in the forest in darkness.”

Elena managed to scoop slightly damp kid out of the backseat, where he tried to resist, for just a moment. Still, he seemed more resigned to his fate and to protest mostly for the sake of appearances.

Elsa pressed the buzzer button and they waited in the slight drizzle.

“Who is…!?” tall, handsome brunette woman opened the door abruptly, her voice dying as she took in the whole group. “ROLAND!”

“Um. Afternoon” Elsa smiled her best lawyer-y smile. “It seems we found something of yours.”

“WHAT? Where… How… Why do you have Roland?”

The boy curled up in Elena’s arms even more tightly.

“Regina?” a male voice asked from inside the house.

“Graham! Yes, there are some women who have Roland…” she trailed off. “Who are you?” her gaze focused on Elena, who was still holding the small boy.

Tall, curly-haired man with a wide smile strode into the hall behind her. His uniform and badge were rather obvious hints towards his role in the town.

“Ah, sheriff!” Elena’s smile brightened. “Hello. Sorry, yes, we found Roland. In the woods, something like two miles outside the town.”

Regina gasped and reached for the boy.

“Let me” the sheriff offered and picked him from Elena’s arms. “Regina, I’ll take care of the lad, you please talk to the ladies. I wonder how he managed to get so far… Come on, little guy, you gave us all a fright.”

The brunette’s eyes tracked him until he apparently reached the stairs, his steps echoing in the hallway.

“Mom?”

Henry stood on the steps behind them, holding something up.

“Roland left his hat and his bag in the car” he explained, pushing between his aunts. “Hello. I’m Henry Swan. I think these are Roland’s?”

Regina took the offered objects almost automatically, looking at Henry in astonishment.

“Thank you, Henry Swan. And…” she raised her eyes at the grownups on her doorstep. “I’m so sorry. Didn’t introduce myself. Regina Mills. Would you all please come in? I have just made tea, maybe you’d like some?”


They sat on the grand leather-covered sofa, all three in their casual travelling attire, Emma holding sleepy Henry in her lap, opposite of Regina, who even at her own home was dressed rather smartly.

Their host was arranging the tea set on the tray in front of her, and glancing at them from time to time. Finally she poured and handed them their cups.

“So… You just arrived in the area? I’ve never seen you around here. And it is a rather small town, so I know everyone. Probably.”

“Yes” Emma lifted Henry to a more comfortable position against her shoulder. “We were driving through the forest when Elena spotted Roland between the bushes. Considering the fact that we didn’t see any lights or homesteads around, we decided it would be best to take him with us and hand him to the authorities, if we couldn’t find his family.”

Regina nodded slowly.

“Thank you” her gaze stopped on Henry’s slumbering form. “Roland is… Is a bit troubled. His family does not… Well.”

“I understand he thinks his father lives in the woods” Elena smiled, leaning forward. “I’d assume this is some trauma from before adoption. He seems very determined.”

“Actually, we have no idea what happened to his family” Regina sighed. “He was found wandering the woods one day by a teacher from local primary school. She brought him to the sheriff and we tried to identify whose he might be. We assumed he just got lost, but from what he said, we worked out…”

She stuttered a bit and Elena smiled compassionately.

“He said something about smoke” she provided. “I’m guessing some kind of forest fire? Maybe he was hiking with his family and they set their campfire up without securing it properly?”

Regina nodded, then shook her head.

“We didn’t have a forest fire anywhere near where he was found. I’m afraid he must have been walking for miles before he was found, and so we have no hope of ever identifying where he came from. We sent his description to social services in the nearest city, but all they could give us was the offer of one of their social workers picking him up” she hugged herself unconsciously. “I couldn’t… just give him to be lost in the system. At least if we kept him here, we had a chance of controlling what happened to him, and in case his parents were ever found, to check what was it that had happened. If we sent him to the main offices, he would have become just one more number on a long list… And they’d probably hand him over back to whoever was irresponsible enough to have lost him.”

Elsa leaned towards their host and patted her hand.

“You did well” she said gently. “He’s better off with you, whatever he thinks, than in a group home.”

Regina blinked.

“We were in the system” Elsa weaved towards the other two. “Unadoptable, as triplets. It’s way better for him to stay with you. He seems like a very delicate boy, he wouldn’t have done well in an average group home. And some of the foster families are proper nightmares.”

Regina’s trembling half-smile surprised all of them.

“Thank you” she finally uttered. “I’m… I was never sure I did the right thing, I know nothing about raising children. But it seemed safer, and with me being the mayor of the town, I could move the papers to declare myself the foster family for Roland. I really hope someday his father is found, but it’s been already a year…” she bit her lip.

Elsa’s smile faltered as she watched Regina carefully and she touched Emma’s hand, tapping her watch.

“Alright, we’ll let you get back to him, then” Emma smiled over Henry’s head. “We should be getting on our way. Is there a hotel somewhere in town? I don’t want to even try to drive anymore and Henry deserves a proper bed for the night.”

Regina rose with them, and walked them to the door.

“If you turn to the left on the next lights, three houses down is the B&B. Granny should still be up so you have a chance for a room if you hurry.”


They walked down the paved path silently, Emma holding Henry’s prone form and the other two thinking very intently.

As they opened the car door, Elsa finally inhaled deeply.

“I never actually believed August was right.”

“You saw it?”

“Yep. A scar on her lip. Just like he said.”

Elena helped buckle Henry in.

“Let’s get some sleep and start this early tomorrow. We have to call August in the morning, to tell him we’re here.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/07/23 at 23:08

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 26: Almost there

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Second day of the journey was, to say the least, unexciting. They were cruising to and fro on the same 50 miles – plus side roads, which almost never led to anything specific – and were growing really, really bored. And angry.


Elena finally pulled out her crocheting and the small stash of colourful squares of cotton was slowly growing in her yarn bag.

“Seriously, you have to do it right now?” Emma rolled her eyes, as her sister bit off another end of thread.

“I want to stab something. It’s either this, or I start biting the upholstery. This whole thing is driving me crazy, so I need something to do. I feel largely useless, as we just drive up and down this road. Also, my fingers tingle and I have to either hook some more squares or start testing my magic. Which one do you prefer?” she made a short nod towards mostly oblivious Henry.

Emma sighed. “OK, but after the next stop, you’re driving.”


The thick book in Emma’s handbag turned out to be not actually a programming textbook. Actually, it was something completely different.

“Mitnick’s book? Why would you read this? I thought you weren’t so much into the hacking stuff?”

Emma shrugged.

“It’s more psychology than technology, at least as far as I got in it. And it’s fascinating to see how his brain works.”

“Geez. I though you were so proper and responsible…”

“Come on. It’s not like I’ll start hacking stuff just because I read this book. I’d probably have to be a much better programmer to make use of actual technology… And much more of a people person to be able to use this psychology stuff effectively.”


Elsa was singing. First, it was just a hum, then some whistling – the Queen of the Night aria seemed particularly annoying in a small space of the car, in Elena’s opinion.

Then she switched to a Disney medley, which made Henry laugh like a loon at all the faces she pulled, including the haughty Ursula and wide-eyed innocence of Snow White.

Emma was trying to focus on the road – quite empty, but still it was not a task that one could ignore – and losing badly, listening to Elsa making all the needed voices in “Gaston” and then “Something There”.


“We need to stop and eat” Emma growled. “I know it’s too early for lunch, but we were up at half past six, so it’s kind of time for it.”

Also, we’ll start killing each other if we are stuck in the car one more hour. It never seemed that annoying in the flat. Maybe the car just has bad acoustics…

Very soon, Henry’s cheeks were painted with tomato sauce and he had a slice of sausage clinging to the front of his t-shirt. The grownups were in slightly better condition, with Emma’s blouse being lightly seasoned with a spatter of mayo and Elsa managing to spill half a glass of water down her trousers.

Elena carefully cut up and ate her piece of pizza, managing to stay moderately clean and dry, so, in what Emma later deemed a rather obvious outcome, a faucet in the toilet broke off and sprayed her with icy water from head to toe.

“I think someone is telling us to move” Elena said, dripping angrily. “And I will find her and kick her so hard she’ll be sticking her tampons into her ears.”

“Why would someone stick a tampon in their ear?” Henry’s bright voice asked from just behind her. “And what’s a tampon?”


At seven, Elsa sat down on the grass by the road and refused to move. Even despite all the evil looks Emma could throw her way.

“My legs have gone numb, my backside is sore and I have to sit for a moment on something that doesn’t have an engine, OK? Also, I need air. Air, not air conditioning.”

Emma finally shrugged and undid Henry’s seatbelt snaps and handed him out of the car.

“Just don’t go farther than where Elsa’s sitting. And don’t touch any animals that you find. And if…”

He went running before she finished the sentence.

Elena was stretching on her yoga mat on the grass.

“We do need our blood circulation, Emma. We can’t just drive around all day and then fall on a bed, we need to walk and move our legs.”

“Yeah, I know. I just… I can’t sit still. It’s here, somewhere. I know it. At least, the computer simulation says it’s here, so we don’t have much choice.”

“What if we apply different conditions? Smaller radius around known cities, this kind of thing?”

“August said twenty miles.”

“He said that was what the magicians he found told him. Maybe they meant twenty kilometres? Or some other miles?”

“Don’t start. If we don’t find the place here, there is another spot, north of here, which was also a probability. It’s way smaller and in the middle of open land, so… I just hoped it will be the forest. But I can’t start doubt the accuracy of what August told us, because once I do, then maybe it’s not twenty, maybe it’s ten. Or not in Maine at all. Or maybe not in the US. I have to keep believing what he said is correct and work from there. Otherwise I’ll simply go crazy from having too many options. This whole thing is getting on my nerves a bit, and having too many options makes me even more nervous.”

She breathed deeply and leaned on the car.

“The problem is, if we find it, we find it, but if we don’t find it, we can’t be sure it’s not there. It may still be there and we’d have just missed it. I feel like we just need one more drive, and just maybe one more, and…”

Elsa chucked her sandal at Elena.

“Stop messing with her head. She has the Great Destiny to fulfil and you’re trying to make her doubt we’re even driving in the right direction. We need to focus.”

“I’m just getting so bored by this” Elena mock-whined. “I mean, driving the same stretch of the road whole day and looking at the bushes? I’m starting to recognise some of them. I could probably name them by now. The Bush That Henry Peed Under, and The Bush We Stopped By To Eat The Sandwiches and The Bush-”

“MOM!”

Emma’s head jerked up, looking for her son, who was standing straight, pointing towards the sky.

“MOM! Look at that huge black cloud! What is it?!”

“Crap” Elsa jumped up and started collecting her things, running over to Elena to grab her sandal.

“Henry, get back to the car, now!” Emma picked him up one-handed and pushed into the seat. “It’s a storm. A big, nasty, ugly storm. We have to get under a roof, now.”

Elena was already sitting in the backseat and she helped to strap Henry in as soon as she closed the doors. Emma ran around the car to the driver’s seat and got caught by the first drops of heavy rain.

“Ssssh… sugar” Elsa said with feeling, looking at the suddenly-wet road in front of them and the quickly darkening forest around them.

Emma started the car and slowly headed back towards the motel they used the night before. With Henry pressed into the window, watching the light-and-sound spectacle outside with fascination, Elsa mumbling curses about something-or-other missing in her handbag and Elena sitting awkwardly with her yoga mat pressing into the side of her head, she hoped they’d make it to the motel before all places were taken and they’d have choice of driving another ten miles and sleeping sitting up.


“Stop the car!”

Emma pushed the brake pedal so hard she was almost standing on it.

“What the hell?” she managed to utter before Elena darted out of the car and into the undergrowth. She only had time to thank her good reflexes, assuming her sister got a sudden bout of motion sickness when Elena was back, holding a small child in her arms.

“I saw him between the bushes” Elena’s voice was a bit breathy. “There is nobody here but him, we haven’t seen a sign of a human being for the last twenty minutes, and there is noone in like ten miles from here, except for us.”

“What do you mean?” Emma squinted at Elena’s red face.

“I…” she stuttered. “I feel it. There is nobody here. I tried, you know, fetching something that looks like a human, and the only ones I felt were you. And him” she hesitated. “And now my head hurts. I think I might have overdone this magic thing.”

Elsa blinked a few times, looking at a tiny, dark-haired boy in Elena’s arms.

“What is your name, dear?” she asked kindly.

The kid looked at her with teary eyes.

“Roland” he finally whispered, his lower lip trembling.

“Alright, Roland. Is there someone, some grown-up, with you, in the forest?”

Elena’s gentle question seemed to send the boy into full-blown sobbing.

“Did you get lost? Did you run from someone?”

He kept shaking his head, making his soggy hat fall off.

“M’dad” he finally uttered. “M’dad is in the fores’. I was lookin’ for’im.”

Elena breathed slowly and shook her head slightly at her sisters.

“Roland, can you look at me, please?” she raised his head slightly to face her. “Did you go into the forest with your dad, or did you go looking for him?”

He blinked.

“I goed there ‘lone” he sniffed. “Regina says m’dad is not in the fores’ but I know he is.”

“And who is Regina?”

“She says she’s like me mum. Only I know me mum was someone else. And she died.”

Elsa’s eyebrows reached her hairline.

“Well, Roland, can you tell us where you live? We should probably take you there and you should get changed out of these wet clothes.”

His head drooped a bit and he leaned away from Elena.

“OK” Emma finally started the car again and turned heating a bit up. “We’ll drive to the next town and we’ll see if anyone can help us find his parents or whoever is responsible for him. The sooner the better, unless we want someone to think we’ve kidnapped him.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/07/14 at 23:07

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 25: Life is a highway

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The main luggage had been packed and repacked, removing unnecessary garments and appliances, adding a few survival items and replacing chosen gear with smaller, more compact versions.

They emptied the apartment of all personal items and left information with the building manager that they would be coming back in four months. They signed an agreement for the apartment to be leased for a short term to someone else, with the proviso that that person would clear the place in sixteen weeks.

Emma’s aim was to be done with the whole curse-breaking before it interfered with Henry’s schooling, or to know in a definite way that they were unable to deal with the problem and to remove themselves from the area. There weren’t that many other options.

Even the curse-breaking thing seemed more like a wish than a plan.


“Everyone is leaving. All the parents are taking their kids out for early vacation” the building manager said, filing the documents. “Some are coming back in fall, but I’ve heard rumours that there are a lot of families just moving out, not planning to return. My granddaughter is in seventh grade and her class lost five kids this last month. Their younger siblings got sick and parents just packed up the whole house and moved – anywhere, but outside Boston. It’s as if this part of town became toxic to the small ones”

“Well, that’s why we’re taking Henry away for the summer” Elsa smiled and signed another page of the contract. “He got rather ill during that heatwave and doctor suggested he needs a change of climate.”

“But you’ll be coming back?”

She shrugged.

“It depends on Henry. And what kind of a place we manage to find out there.”

“So you don’t know where you’re going?”

Elena handed him her part of the papers.

“In general, we know. A friend suggested a tiny town where his father lives – it’s supposedly in the middle of nowhere, so we can hope it’s more likely to be a clean area.”

The managed nodded.

“We’re sending the grandkids away next week. Big, small – they will all go to my sister’s place, in the country. Parents are signing them out of the school early, even the ones with poorer grades. My daughter will be taking the van and driving the whole bunch there next weekend. I think it’s better to be healthy than to have best grades. They can always study with their aunt, but they won’t get any better from staying here.”

“Absolutely” Emma smiled at him tiredly. “That’s what we decided for Henry. He’s not going to school anyway, so what difference does it make?”


The car was packed so high, Elena heartily blessed the proximity alarm they had installed on the back bumper. Otherwise she had no idea how she would have managed to get out of their tight parking space – she couldn’t see anything through the back of the car.

There were all the planned bags and boxes in the trunk and on the seats, plus some definitely unplanned items. Henry somehow managed to smuggle his soccer ball into the car, which they only found two hours after leaving Boston. Emma crammed two more programming textbooks into her “hand luggage” and was holding them uncomfortably in front of her, trying to behave as if they weren’t poking her in the stomach. Elsa was sitting in the back with Henry, so Elena couldn’t really see what was going on there, but she was quite sure there was some contraband stashed in her backpack, too.

That was because her own bag, placed between Elsa and Henry, had a few silicon moulds discreetly stuffed into internal pockets.


They stopped in front of a motorway diner for a technical break and Henry’s second breakfast. He chewed his apple and looked around.

“Where are we going? Tammy and Tessa said their parents were taking them somewhere to the seaside to get better. Are we going to the seaside, too?”

Emma sat next to him on a bench.

“We are actually going to… There is a little town, far away from everything, that we want to find. August told us there is a chance our family might live there, you see. So we kind of used the fact that the doctor told us to get you out of the city and we’re going for a longer trip. We need to find it, because apparently someone forgot to put it on any map, so it may be a bit of driving… There may be some forest and there may be seaside, we’re not sure yet.”

“Ah” he sat in silence for a moment, working on the apple. “What’s the name of that town?”

“August says it’s called Storybrooke.”

“Sounds funny.”


“We’ll have to find a place for the night. We’ve driven that stretch of the road like five times today already and I’m feeling like someone is making fun of me. Henry is asleep and it’s not healthy for him to sleep sitting up for too long” Emma gripped the steering wheel more tightly.

Elsa tapped her phone a few times and looked around.

“The road on the navigation looks a bit different, but I think we should be about a mile from a motel I see marked here. We could spend the night, eat hot breakfast and continue tomorrow. And the kid needs to sleep on something flat, definitely. Or his spine will grow all crooked.”

Emma rolled her eyes and sped up a bit, looking for a sign to the motel.


Beds were. There was not much more that could have been said about them, but they were. Emma transferred sleeping Henry from the car to the room – luckily, on ground floor – and stripped his clothes off as much as she had to, before rolling him under a blanket. She tucked his travelling teddy bear into the crook of his arm and added another blanket on top, just in case there was a draft.

Elsa lugged her and Emma’s backpacks into the room and looked around.

“Cosy. I hope there are no bugs.”

“That would be a bit more than cosy” Elena commented, hauling her own bag and Henry’s. “Nah, looks tolerably clean. Emma, you go take a shower and we’ll get something to eat ready. You’ll need to be up first anyway – Henry’s been asleep for more than three hours, so I’m betting he’ll be up with the sunrise, and he will start asking questions the moment he opens his eyes.”

They managed to put together a decent imitation of a dinner, including some hot tea thanks to the electric kettle and some ice tea thanks to the trunk fridge, so finally, an hour or so after booking in, they were stretched on their beds and staring idly at the ceiling.

“I’m not sure what to do tomorrow” Emma sighed finally. “We go to the same piece of the road and what, try believing in fairies, very strongly? Or maybe we should clap?”

“We go there and we drive slowly, looking for clues” Elena yawned. “Maybe there is some mark where the normal world ends and the magical one starts. I’m wondering how it’s done. Is it a wormhole that goes through the whole city, so we drive in at one end and pop out on the other side? Or is it somehow shielded and we actually drive straight through the town, not seeing it? Can we run over someone? Have an accident with an unseen car?”

Elsa groaned.

“Now I’ll be thinking about imaginary dogs dying under our wheels all the time I’m driving. Thanks, Lena. That’s helpful.”

“Hey, I’m just thinking aloud.”

“It sounds more like notthinking. Really, we don’t need any additional stress now. We need to find a town that doesn’t exist on a map, in an area that looks like no town had ever been there, without a guide or any real knowledge or even without being reasonably sure it is there. Are you sure it is here? I’m not, not really. So please, let’s not add more levels of discomfort to the whole thing, because it won’t make the whole thing any quicker.”

There was a short, uncomfortable silence.

“Eh. Sorry.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

Emma snored.

Written by Srebrna

2017/07/08 at 23:04

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 24: Bare necessities

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“We go?”

Emma sighed and finally smiled thinly.

“We go. If we don’t, we’ll drive ourselves crazy. You know, Narnia-style. What would have happened had we gone and checked. So we go, we check, we try to help. If it doesn’t work out, we still have our apartment or money to rent something else somewhere else. If we don’t find the town in reasonable time, we locate nearest civilisation and make base there. If we…”

“I see your point” Elsa leaned forward and prodded the notepad with one finger. “What is that?”

“That, my dear, are our plans. All we have to pack to storage, all we have to pack to take, all we have to do to secure the flat. Also, all we have to buy to make that road trip reasonably comfortable. Neck pillows, portable fridge, stuff for Henry to do, because he just managed to go through that last math puzzle book today, out of sheer boredom. Stuff we have to verify we have, like all types of power cables and a portable modem – I’m sure we had one, but I can’t find it. Also, stuff we’re not supposed to even try to pack, to avoid taking space.”

“I’ve written down everything that August told us” Elena dropped her bullet-journal-calendar-notebook on the table. “I’m now putting it in a cross-referenced library on my laptop, but we have a hardcopy, just in case. All the history, whatever he remembered of the internal and foreign politics, local heroes, everything. And the descriptions of our persons of interest.”

Emma patted Elsa’s hand.

“By the way, I forgot to tell you, but… that was well done, Elsie.”

Elsa blinked.

“What do you mean?”

“We got… so caught up with August describing our parents that neither of us ever thought to ask him about his father. And you did. I could say, you saved the honour of the royal family, covering the debt we have to our loyal servant” Emma snorted finally. “Really, you made the guy happy. And we gain one more good description of our parents’ ally. One of the few we can trust to apply in this world, by what August says.”

Elsa shrugged uncomfortably.

“It seemed like a reasonable thing to do. This way we can check for Gepetto first thing and let August at least know if his father is there, and how he’s doing.”

“And you’ve gained yourself an ardent admirer” Elena poked her in the ribs. “All he did for the rest of the evening was stare at you in wonder.”

“Gee, Lena. Thank you. Yes, the only guy that thinks I’m an interesting woman is a wooden puppet. Superb. It’s not like I was counting on this, come on. I just wanted to make sure he knew it will be taken care of. He was rather nervous, after all.”

“The ice queen has feelings for the wooden puppet” Elena giggled and poked her again. “You care for him!”

“It’s obvious that you’re a month younger than me” Elsa said in a tired voice. “I feel soooo much older.”


“What do we take?”

Emma checked her list and added a few objects to the pile.

“Clothes for a week. We can hope for a laundromat or maybe a hotel with a laundry room after that. More for Henry, who know how many changes he will go through in one day. Also, his stuff takes much less space than ours, so we can afford the volume” she turned a page. “Four full sleeping sets. A tent. Camping cooking gear. Just in case. I don’t want to sleep in the rough, but we may need to. First aid kits, one small and one large. Two termoinsulated picnic baskets for food.”

“Where do you want to put all of this? Even our car may be too small, if you include Henry’s gear, electronics, tools, some books…”

Emma turned a page.

“We’ll buy a roof container. It should be good for the camping gear and other stuff we won’t want to unpack every night. Actually, I’ve already ordered one online. With setup service, so no worries about fitting various screws as needed, they’ll send someone to mount it for us. I don’t want repetition of the bike rack tragedy.”

Elena shuddered, recalling the day they almost lost their bikes in the middle of nowhere due to mis-aligned screws in the bike attachment.

“And the fridge goes into the trunk” Elsa added happily. “It’s connected to the lighter socket there, so it can stay powered during the drive.”

“I see you already have all the gear you need” Elena smirked. “Have you packed it full of water, or not yet?”

Elsa poked her in the shoulder with a finger.

“You’d better focus on taking your yoga mat and the staff, and let me worry about ice water. We may need you to bash some unsuspecting fiend’s head with it.”

“I’m strapping it to the side railing on the roof. Enough velcro and it should stay in place. Otherwise we’ll be riding with it sticking all the way through the car, between our heads.”

Emma flipped a few more pages.

“You two, stop bickering, and pack, each a minimum set of clothes for a week, full change. Consider poor conditions – it may rain, or there may be a problem with laundry. Seven or eight of everything. Then add a bit of warmer wear – a sweater, tights, maybe snow overalls. Who knows what that town looks like. Maybe it’s all Wild West, so they walk on earthen streets covered with cow manure.”

“Or maybe even medieval, so there will be a lot of crap, literally, lying on the streets” Elsa added with a shudder.

“Anyway, consider weird things that may happen. My gear is here” Emma pointed to a large shoulder bag, sitting by the door. “I’m adding a second bag like this with the warmer clothes, rainproof jacket… Also, add several pairs of shoes. Same reason…”

“Yep” both her sisters said instantly and turned to their rooms.

“I’ll pack my rubber shoes” Elsa made a face. “Juuust in case.”


Henry used the school-free days to sleep late, walk around the house in his pyjamas and fluffy socks until someone noticed and got him to change, lie around on the sofas, coughing from time to time and try to understand what was going on around him.

“Mum?” he sidled up to Emma on the couch. “Are we leaving because of me? Because I got sick?”

She hugged him tightly to her side.

“No, not really. At least not only. But Elena and Elsa had their jobs changed due to all these weird accidents, and I’ve already been working remotely, and with you sick we have no more reason to stay in Boston. You’d only get worse. Actually, it’s half of your class, too. Their parents are moving outside of the city or to smaller towns. So it’s not like you’d get your old classmates if you went back to your old school next fall.”

He sighed.

“That’s sad. If they move far enough, I may never actually meet them again.”

Emma picked him up and pulled into her lap.

“If you want to keep in touch with someone specific, I can ask your teacher to give me their parents’ number, so you can call them.”

He shrugged.

“Not really. Phone is not much fun. I could go to the playground with Tommy or Sasha, but I suppose they are moving, too…”

She hugged him closer.

“I will take these phone numbers anyway and when we’re next in Boston, we can call them. Meanwhile, I hope we can find some nice kids in Maine. I’m sure there will be someone you can play with.”

He only leaned on her arm and closed his eyes.

“It will be nice to stop coughing.”


Elena was standing in the middle of their tiny kitchen-cum-dining room and considering the big box of cooking and baking implements she was trying to close.

“Don’t pack half of the kitchen. We need to take only the basics. Kettle, a pan or two, a pot. The picnic basket with all the lunch plates in. It all must somehow fit into the trunk. The only things I’ll allow inside the car are backpacks and Henry’s stuff” Emma sounded rather tired

“Do you expect that we’ll have a chance to cook on the way? I was kind of resigned and though we’ll go for, well. Diners.”

Emma gave Elsa a reproachful glare.

“Maybe we’ll have to do this during the drive, but in that Storybrooke place, or wherever we find ourselves, I expect us to rent an apartment, and to have a proper household. For Henry’s sake, even if we don’t really need it. But I don’t think we need three muffin tins and your collection of silicon cake molds, Elena. So please, take them out of your backpack and add to the box going to the storage.”

“You’re assuming it is a modern kind of town that rents apartments and not huts” Elena made a face. “If it is some kind of medieval implant in Maine, it may make sense to bring everything with us, including kitchen tools.”

Emma rubbed her face.

“Yes, I’m assuming – maybe wrongly – that whoever transplanted themselves and these people to Maine in XX century, did it in fact in order to make use of said XX century luxuries. Maybe it’s a wrong assumption, but if I even try to consider the Renaissance option, I’m getting shivers down my back. Just thinking about the toilet solutions gives me nightmares.”

“You’re more afraid of a lousy toilet situation than of a curse, evil queen and black magic?”

“I can imagine bad toilet situation. The other ones, no. So I’m afraid of what I know is scary.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/06/25 at 22:57

Posted in Splinters