A/N Firstly, let me say that if you were hoping for another SVM story from me, my sincere apologies for disappointing you. This is me trying something completely different, and I hope some of you will enjoy it anyway.
Secondly, this is set in a late-nineteenth century time-period, but there are limitations to the amount of research I'm going to do, so there will be a ton of anachronisms, no doubt. I hope they don't detract too much from your enjoyment.
Thirdly, a huge thank-you to the lovely Chocolatecrackle for being my pre-reader and cheerleader for this story. Her support, and willingness to read about characters she knows nothing about, has been very much appreciated!
Disclaimer: I make no claim to these characters.
Emma Swan never expected a fairytale.
Certainly not from the circumstances she found herself in. Lack of options and her son Henry to support have seen her agree to move to Kansas as the mail-order bride of Liam Jones. But Liam's untimely demise has left her in the care of his brother Killian and nothing is turning out like she thought it would.
Killian Jones was nobody's idea of hero.
But he'd try to do what Liam would have wanted. Even if that meant keeping Emma as his own, knowing he was a poor second choice.
Storybrooke, Kansas, wasn't exactly what it seemed on the outside. Respectable is a relative term when you're living out on the prairie, and people will do what they have to do to survive.
Thrown together and facing an uncertain future, Emma and Killian must decide if they will find their own kind of happy ending in a strange kind of place.
Emma sat at the kitchen table and turned the envelope over in her hands. "Are you going to open it?" her son asked, excitedly. Since he'd brought her the post twenty minutes earlier Henry had been itching for her to get on and rip the letter open, but Emma had stalled him, saying she needed to sweep and then lay the fire in the sitting room first, and had sent him outside to fetch more kindling.
It wasn't that she was nervous, but her stomach couldn't seem to settle. She knew this letter would contain the offer she'd clearly been working towards since she had first replied to Liam Jones' advertisement for a wife. At least, she hoped that's what it contained. There was every chance he had merely written to inform her that he was halting their correspondence and would not be contacting her further.
It wouldn't be the first time Emma Swan had been rejected, but she wanted to spare her son the pain of such a letter. Henry had been the driving force behind this plan, anxious for the adventure their journey west would bring. Of course Emma hadn't told him the whole truth; while her marriage to a stranger in Kansas would bring adventure, it was also just about their only hope left.
She'd been supporting Henry on her own since his birth, ten years ago now. It had been a hard road and, for almost all of those years, she'd had to leave Henry in the care of Aunt Regina, who was, in reality, an aunt to neither of them, so that she could live and work as a housekeeper. But now Aunt Regina had died and her boarding house was passing on to the son of a distant cousin, and Henry and Emma needed to find another place to live.
Emma's options were limited, and she had Henry to consider. There were many ways she could sell herself and becoming someone's mail-order bride seemed the most palatable.
At least it had, until this moment when it all became a little too real. She tore open the envelope and read the lines of neat, black handwriting. It was something she'd grown to like about Liam Jones, his handwriting spoke of a man who knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to take a risk. It made her feel a little more comfortable with the thought of being his bride.
"Well, what's it say Mama?" Henry asked.
She scanned the letter, and took out the train tickets which had been enclosed in the folded paper. "It says that we're going to Kansas, Henry."
"Really?" Henry's eyes were wide with excitement.
"Really, truly. Storybrooke, Kansas, here we come!" Emma hoped that she was doing a good job of mimicking Henry's joy at the journey ahead of them. There was no need, after all, to let him think that this was anything other than the adventure he wanted it to be. She'd spent a lot of years protecting Henry from the reality of just how precarious their position was, and she wasn't going to let anything slip now. Not when they were so close to their escape.
It wasn't the first time Emma had packed up her belongings to leave town, and it didn't take her long to complete the task. She added in a few things that had belonged to Regina, as well. Henry had wondered out loud whether Regina would have wanted them to have her best tablecloth, but Emma assured him that Aunt Regina had left it to them in her will.
She hadn't, of course. Aunt Regina had merely been the proprietor of the boarding house where Emma had worked as a maid, right up until the day she gave birth to Henry on the kitchen floor. She'd been quite proud of her ability to hide her pregnancy, but significantly worried about how her employer would react to the sudden arrival of a baby.
Regina had, fortunately, been rather swayed by the helpless newborn and had allowed Emma to stay as she recovered, and had then offered to mind Henry while Emma looked elsewhere for employment, her job as a maid having been filled by a local girl while Emma recuperated in bed.
Regina had arranged a position as housekeeper with a Dr Hopper, and agreed that she would keep Henry for Emma until she could send for him.
But that had never happened, and it was only Regina's failing health which had brought Emma back. She had been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, for all of that time to save enough money to start her own business and allow her to finally have a life with her son. But Henry had, to all intents and purposes, been brought up by Regina rather than Emma and it wasn't something she could change now.
So if she wanted to take a few linens, she was going to take a few linens, move to Kansas and, finally, have her son all to herself.
Bags packed they set off on the long journey. Henry was excited by the prospect of the train, even after they'd changed trains more than once. Emma's enthusiasm had long since waned. She was constantly wary, watching all the people around them and evaluating whether any of them meant her harm. It was, she thought, a nasty habit, but a hard one to break all the same.
She tried to tune back into the conversation Henry had begun. "Perhaps we'll see real Indians. Like in my book!" He held up his treasured collection of cowboy stories.
"Perhaps," Emma replied, as they settled into their seats. She rather hoped not, however. The less excitement on their journey, the better, as far as she was concerned.
"Do you think he's killed any Indians?" Henry asked.
"Mr Jones." Henry looked over at her expectantly.
"I don't think so, Henry."
Henry looked thoughtful for a moment. "Perhaps his brother?"
"Oh." Emma didn't really feel qualified to comment on Liam Jones' brother. All that had been mentioned about him in the letters she'd received was that he lived on the farm as well and was younger than Liam Jones was.
"I think," she said, slowly, realising that Henry was still waiting for a reply. "That they're both more likely farmers, than cowboys."
"I suppose so, Mama." Henry sounded a little sad at that and Emma realised that she may have made a mistake in buying Henry that book. It had no doubt made the Western states sound a lot more romantic than she suspected they were going to be. But she'd wanted share something with him, and it had seemed like a good idea at the time.
Emma sighed, and turned to look out the window at the platform filled with other passengers. In her head she counted out the money contained in the small purse she carried and considered how much she'd allow for meals at each remaining stop along the way. She didn't want to eat into her funds any faster than she had need to; there was no telling when she'd require something for emergencies.
Gazing at the people walking past the train Emma tried very hard to stop the familiar, gnawing worry in the pit of her stomach as she contemplated her future, and failed.
She was going to be someone's wife. She was going to be Mrs Liam Jones. She was going to have nothing to worry about and all the bad things that had happened in her life wouldn't matter anymore.
She repeated that a few times, took a deep breath, and then smiled over at Henry who, she realised, had been watching her as she calmed herself. It was disconcerting how old he looked sometimes, when he looked at her like he was the parent and she was the child. It broke her heart to realise that, although she'd done her best to shelter him from the harsh realities of the world, she still hadn't been able to give him the childhood he'd deserved.
Emma tried to think of something to say, to lighten the mood. But nothing sprang to mind. And then they were interrupted by a woman's voice, "Excuse me, but may I ask you a very delicate question?"
Emma turned to see a strikingly attractive woman addressing her. The woman was petite, with glossy dark hair and cornflower blue eyes and the most beautiful porcelain skin. Her ringlets gave her the appearance of one of the china dolls Emma had only ever seen in stores, but never owned.
"Of course," Emma replied, and the woman rewarded her with a wide smile.
"I've been reliably informed by the porter that you are travelling to Kansas…to Storybrooke, Kansas?" the woman asked.
"Yes, that's right."
"Good!" the woman said, sitting down next to Henry. "I'm going there too, only my chaperone has been taken ill. I noticed that you were in the company of such a handsome and capable gentlemen, and I hoped that he would take pity on a poor damsel in distress and escort me the rest of the way as well."
Henry stared open-mouthed at the woman as he realised she was speaking about him. "I'm Mary Margaret Blanchard," she said, offering her hand first to Henry, who shook it, while still sporting a dazed look, and then to Emma.
"I'm Emma Swan, and this is my son Henry."
"Well, I'm charmed to meet you both!" Miss Blanchard trilled.
Emma surveyed the carriage's new occupant. Her dress was a fine pale green silk, far too clean for her to have travelled far. Emma thought that under her bright smile and faultless manners Mary Margaret was probably as nervous as Emma was herself. She really hoped that Henry didn't bring up the Indians again.
"What takes you to Storybrooke?" Emma inquired, as the train started up again.
"I'm to be the new schoolmistress," Miss Blanchard said proudly. "Apparently the last one left and I just thought…why not?" She shrugged a little. Emma thought there was a story there, but decided not to press Miss Blanchard for it. She had enough problems of her own without dealing with other people's.
"And you and Henry? You have family there?" Miss Blanchard asked, as the train's speed increased and the vista changed to the flat, dry landscape that would mark the rest of their journey.
"I'm to be married," Emma said simply, hoping that would suffice. But Henry chose that moment to find his voice again. "Mama answered an advertisement," he said, proudly. "She's going to meet the man who's been writing to her, and they'll be married. And I'll learn to shoot a gun and fish and then one day, I'll get a baby brother, or sister. It's going to be a great adventure!" He hugged his book tightly to his chest while Emma worried about the brother or sister part of the story. The desire for a sibling wasn't a notion he'd brought up previously and it wasn't something that Emma particularly wanted to dwell on.
Miss Blanchard's smile remained frozen to her face for just a few seconds longer than was natural, and then she composed herself. "Well," she said. "That is going to be quite the adventure. I hope you'll still have time to come to school."
Henry nodded solemnly. "Yes, ma'am."
"And as for you, Mrs Swan." Miss Blanchard turned to face Emma, her blue eyes shining. "I hope you find the man of your dreams waiting for you."
"I…yes." Emma was lost for words. She didn't dare contemplate anything as foolish as finding romantic love in Storybrooke. A place to call home, a safe place, for Henry and for herself, that was what she desired above all else.
The rest was just a fairy tale.
"Anyone hungry?" Miss Blanchard asked, delving into her bag. "I have sandwiches!"
Thanks for reading!