My fanfiction and other random ramblings

Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

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 , , , , , , ,

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