Title: Keys in Cinnamon
Feedback address: email@example.com
Date in Calendar: 22 December 2014
Fandom: Once Upon a Time
Pairing: Regina/Sarah, possible Regina/Emma
Word Count: 2585
Summary: A different take on how the saga of Storybrooke and her denizens could have gone.
Spoilers: The pilot! As well as quite a few elements of Season 4. Weird, I know!
Archive: ShatterStorm Productions & AO3 only.
Feedback: Constructive criticism is always welcome.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DW14
Disclaimer: "Once Upon a Time," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, Kitsis/Horowitz, and ABC Studios. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with "Once Upon a Time," ABC, or any representatives of the actors.
Author's Disclaimer: Once Upon a Time ain't mine, obviously, but boy has it given me impulse to write a whole hell of a lot of fic!
Author's Notes: My partner in crime made a comment about Regina and Ingrid would be sexy together. Agreeing with her, my brain got to thinking and I came up with this story for her. Happy Yule, Ariestess!
Story setting notes: This takes place in an alternate world for Storybrooke, Maine. Firstly, I borrowed the Frozen characters and the Snow Queen from season 4 and magic may or may not exist, depending on what track Ariestess takes should she decide to continue on with the story.
Used the following prompt: Start or end a piece with the following sentence: "The scent of cinnamon was overwhelming."
The scent of cinnamon was overwhelming. It choked her like nerve gas and heightened her impotent fretting.
A parent's worst nightmare, their child missing. No sign of him anywhere and his backpack was missing, making Regina suspect that his recent streak of bizarre behavior had culminated in running away. It was unfathomable to Regina. Did Henry truly hate her so much? What could have driven him to such loathing? Where had her sweet little boy gone?
When Mother had shown up all those years ago with the baby in tow, Regina had been speechless, horrified even. The latter from having the noisy creature thrust into her carefully structured life. After so many endless years of intensive schooling, Regina had only just begun to start the life that should have been hers. Not reluctant mother to a child unwanted.
That hadn't lasted long, the boy taking over her life until she would forever be changed for the better.
And the smell of his beloved cinnamon choked her.
"So he just showed up at your door?"
Sighing heavily, Emma sipped at her hot chocolate, liberally spiked with cinnamon. Frankly, she was dearly wishing it was cinnamon schnapps, but fought down the urge. The kid liked the same thing-- a fact that baffled Emma-- expertly making a trio of perfect cups of the stuff. Even Anna was impressed and it had taken her years to warm up to the odd flavor combo. Years of stealing Emma's mugs had worn her down.
Even as Emma opened her mouth to speak, the door to the office burst open and Elsa stumbled in, still heavily garbed against the rainy cold snap raging outside. "Is he still here?"
It had always been a joke that best friends and business partners Emma and Elsa looked more like sisters than the latter and Anna, a fact they had often exploited for various exploits. Though, at a longer glance, it was obvious in the shape of faces and eyes who shared generics.
"Yeah, that's him, if you can believe it. Did you get it?"
Distracted completely by the boy on the other side of the one-way glass playing his Gameboy in the office normally used to meet clients, Elsa nodded and dug out a fatly packed manila envelope from her bag and handed it over. "Only ended up being five grand."
Finally tearing her gaze away from the child she'd given up on the day of his birth, Emma blinked at her partner. "You knocked half off? Damn, what did you do, blow him?"
Anna giggled and took the thick envelope as her older sister gave Emma a sour look. "Hilarious, Swan. Didn't know comedian was included on your roster of skills." Then her expression clouded into real worry. "Though I might need to lay low for a bit."
"Dammit, El, what did you do, blow his secretary?"
Grumbling and rubbing the bridge of her nose, Emma's mind raced. If Elsa had obtained the badly needed documents from the mark through his staff, the power player was going to be pissed enough to cause trouble. Great. Well, there was nothing for it.
At least it had only cost her half what had been budgeted. That was a gift, as who knows when or even if they'd get paid for this latest cock up.
"Okay, chickies, give Kris a ring and let's pack it up. We've overstayed our welcome and junior in there needs to get home to his mom, no matter what he says. Anna, get that packet to its destination ASAP and we'll get started here."
Both sisters looked alarmed and relieved-- they really had been in Boston for far too long-- Elsa wracked with guilt. Emma knocked that off her with a smack to the back of the head and made shooing motions at Anna.
"Step on it, Red. We're out of here in four, so time's a wastin'."
Anna snagged the heavy, wet coat from her sister's hands and was out the door like a shot. Young Henry was willing enough to help them, smiling winningly at Elsa when introduced. Elsa was enthralled by his fantastical delusions about fairy tale characters trapped in the small town he'd grown up in while Emma tried not to roll her eyes. Figures her biological offspring had turned out to be a nut. That would have made Neal laugh if she'd had a clue where the loser was.
With all of their gear set up like a traveling concert, it was just a matter of locking covers in place and tossing loose things into crates that had been hiding in a corner in the shape of a table. The haphazard living space tucked into the back rooms took a bit more effort, their clothing and few personal items crated up, the food and makeshift kitchen ignored save a few items. There was little that couldn't be left behind without repercussions; they lived that way on purpose.
"You guys have done this before," Henry finally commented and the blonde women exchanged a look. The bug-out routine was old hat to them but would confuse an outsider.
"Not really safe work we do, Kid. Grab that plant over there, willya?"
Kristoff arrived in a huff, swallowing whatever he was going to say when he spotted the boy next to the boss.
"I'll explain later."
"Yeah, okay. August's still in Florida, but I told him we were bugging out."
"Good, thanks, C."
A kick at locked casters and the gear was mobile, herded by the adults, Henry following in their wake. A dolly and a cart in the van got the rest of it. The van roared to life as a panting Anna arrived and threw herself in beside Kristoff.
"You guys are an odd group," Henry piped up where he was crammed against the wall of the van by Kristoff's burly frame and was busy petting the damn dog. Sven was some sort of burley mutt that was big enough to be half reindeer. Kristoff was never happy with Emma's jokes about putting antlers on him during the holidays
"Foster system," Emma said brusquely from the driver's seat, paying more attention to traffic than the boy. So Elsa twisted around in the passenger seat to smile wearily at him, patting Sven while she was at it.
"We're all orphans and met in foster care. Became like family because we're all each other had. Anna and I were separated for ten years and Emma and her foster brother August tracked her down for me. Kristoff came with her."
Henry was clearly a bit lost, but nodded anyway. "I know who your family is… was, Emma."
Hands that had done so many things both good and bad tightened on the wheel until it creaked. "So you said."
It was hard to read her neutral tone and every other living thing in the van except for Henry was tense in response to their pack leader's stress.
"My grandmother was a little… crazy," Henry said quietly and none of them liked the subdued tone in the boy who had been so vivacious and curious up until that moment. "A few weeks ago, I found a hidden room in the basement and there was all sorts of papers and books in there. That's how I found you. Grandmother knew your parents, Mary-Margaret and David Blanchard, and somehow knew what had happened to you. She arranged for me to get adopted out of some sort of obligation I've never understood. I think it's because no one ever knew what happened to the Blanchards and their friend, Marco Grove."
Then van weaved alarmingly in traffic, Emma's breath harsh. Twenty-eight years she'd wondered who she was and what had happened to her. All she's ever had was a blanket with her name stitched into it and a little boy who became a brother too traumatized to remember anything before stumbling out of the forest in upstate New York, both of them splashed in blood not theirs. Someone had known who they were, some woman who made young Henry blanch in what might be terror, someone who had gone to a lot of effort for him. What a mess…
Truth be told, Emma was both chomping at the bit to get the whole story, and dreading it with every fiber of her being.
It was full dark now and the streets of Boston were choked with traffic. Wrestling down her jumbled emotions, Emma breathed deeply and spoke in a remarkably normal tone. "Okay, Kid, where to?"
The silence was profound, Henry's expression conflicted and mulish. Oh how badly Elsa wanted to tease Emma about that familiar expression on that unfamiliar face. Trapped at a traffic light, Emma twisted to give Henry a long, sober look.
"Look, no matter what, you're going home. Even if I have to do the footwork the hard way. We're good at what we do and some of that is find people. No matter what's waiting for you at home, you have to go back. We'll take you there and help out if we can, deal?"
For another long moment, Henry hesitated before nodding. "Deal. South-eastern Maine, out near the shore. It's called Storybrooke."
"Storybrooke. Seriously? God, no wonder you think everything is some warped Disney movie."
The rattle of key in lock woke Regina from a fitful sleep, the crash of the front door waking her fully.
A wave of relief almost as powerful as Henry's return would have caused rocked Regina as she struggled to stand.
They were an odd couple by anyone's stretch of the imagination, but it worked somehow for them. Meeting in the sprawling foyer of the old Mills Estate house, the women embraced tightly and then, and only then, did Regina let her tears loose.
"Oh, darling, I'm so sorry your message took so long to get to me. I got back as quickly as I could. What on earth is that boy thinking?"
Sarah Fischer was as blue-collar and laidback as Regina was old money and uptight. They'd met when Regina had been at her all time low, returned to the small town where she'd spent her girlhood summers in, burned out from practicing the law in the big city and saddled with an infant she did not want. Sarah, of the sixteen hour days and ratty cotton clothes, who always smelled of cream and vanilla and other sweet things and had a smile that could calm the devil himself, had utterly charmed mother and son both. Very quickly, Regina had found the ice cream shop to be her favorite place in town, delighting to find that beneath the cream and sunshine, Sarah was spicy and full of attitude with a foul mouth, a sharp mind and a sly humor. She'd become like a second parent to Henry and, with time, more than a friend to Regina. They weren't a couple in a sunshine-and-puppies way, both of them fiercely independent and soul-scarred, but what they had worked for them.
Besides, Cora would have had a conniption fit had she ever caught them at it.
Sarah was adept at sidestepping the older woman, even deflecting that cold, manipulative wrath away from Regina and Henry on the thankfully rare visits. She helped the boy both with homework and how to not be an outsider, coaxed him into playing with the other kids and not remaining solely focused on his books. She even used her culinary expertise to teach Henry that sweets were a treat-- or even a means to make a living-- and not something to be taken for granted. In turn, he provided company, entertainment and a quickly expert palate for her experiments.
Regina rarely begrudged the other grownup in Henry's life, his not-entirely-accurately-named Auntie Sarah, happy for the cheerful, loving help.
Though both of them were baffled by the change in Henry lately. The sullen, angry creature that had replaced him was a shock to both of them. Particularly as it was obvious that he wanted to talk, but remained stubbornly tight-lipped. Despite the unrelated genetics, he was every inch his mother's son.
Stroking Regina and soothing her as best she could, Sarah wracked her brain for something helpful to say. It was always a gamble with Regina, her barriers thick and bristly thanks to her nut job of a mother, but experience stacked the deck in Sarah's favor. For now, she held her tongue and focused on her weeping lover, shaking with stress and hurt.
Graham's knock on the door forced Regina to regain control, for she would never be seen in a vulnerable state. Cora had taken advantage of that too many times, too young for that. The scruffy sheriff was as differential as always, enquiring if they had heard anything from Henry. Regina trembled and blanched, but retained her calm with effort.
Then the murmur of voices caught their attention, Sarah having gone upstairs for a moment, and without even looking at Graham, Regina raced for the door.
Emma was exhausted.
Exhausted by the drive, exhausted by the traffic that bled away to the endless, dense darkness of Maine, exhausted by the kid's rambling on about his insane dark fantasies about his hometown. Fairytale characters, god. What horrible thing had she done in a past life to deserve this? Invade Poland? At least Anna had finally fallen asleep and that had forced Henry to wind down into a sullen quiet. Storybrooke was echoingly quiet in the darkness then way only small towns after 10pm could be, but it seemed quaint and the scent of the Atlantic carried on the breeze from close by.
And it just kept getting weirder. The broken tower clock, stuck at 8:15, Henry claiming that time was frozen, Emma wanting to knock his cute little block off. At least the nice guy with the dog showed up.
Then they'd come to the big, white house on Mifflin Street, arguing on the front walk, Emma feeling bad that Henry was so convinced in his crazy delusions that he honestly believed his mother didn't love him. But the worried woman that threw open the door and raced out crying his name and fell on him to squeeze him proved anything but. Dark haired, rich voiced, dressed impeccably, that's all Emma got in the dimness of the front yard.
"Are you okay? Where have you been?" She asked, voice rough with clear worry, Henry not returning the embrace. "What happened?"
"I found my real mom," the boy snarled and raced into the house, leaving the two women and their attendant companions stunned.
For a moment, Emma could only ache for this stranger whose life she had been unceremoniously and painfully dragged into by the son she'd given up only moments after his birth. No stranger to hurt and conflict, she found herself uncharacteristically wishing she was anywhere else, completely out of her depth, expression wracked with her conflict. Slowly, the stranger straightened and looked at her, stunned and wounded.
"You're Henry's birth mother?"
She was beautiful, Emma noted that right away, dark and elegant, but it that wasn't what made her falter even more, frozen in shock. It was the zing of connection she had never felt before, not her entire twenty-eight years.
Even as she half smiled and half winced, something inane falling out of her mouth, Emma knew right down to her bones, that she would never be the same.
TO BE CONTINUED?