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Archive for October 2017

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.


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


He could only nod.


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.


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.


“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.”


“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.”


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 , , , , , , ,