*7/2/18: Fixing a minor oops that was brought to my attention.
Shhheeee'ssss Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! :P
Sorry it's taken so long to update this- I've actually had it mostly done for a really long time, but...ya know, life. It's been a rough 2 years for my family. Not only did we lose my grandma in June 2016, but we lost my uncle in November 2016 and more recently my grandpa in March 2018. I'm really hoping for a happy end to 2018 and a much happier 2019 as I am now down to one living grandparent. :(
On a happier note, my dragon muses have started stirring once again! Hopefully this means I'll be able to update this and my other stories far more frequently! Cross your fingers!
Now to the necessities...
I DON'T OWN ANYTHING! If you recognize it, it's not mine. I don't own Once or Chronicles of Narnia.
Also, I still haven't seen season 6 or 7 of Once so don't expect anything to reflect what's in those seasons.
Thanks to everyone who left reviews! You're the best! :D
Chapter 11: Because I Knew You
Susan fell to the ground with a great thud as Narnia's magic released its hold on her. Winded, it took her a moment before she could pull herself up and brush off her uniform skirt. She took in her surroundings with a keen and careful eye that missed nothing. She might be Queen Susan the Gentle, but she'd also been a formidable warrior in her own right during the Golden Age; her skills in archery far outstripped all others.
She was in a strange wood on the edge of a clearing; off on the far side of the clearing she could make out a small cottage with smoke curling out of the chimney. She knew from experience that once the sun set, the safest place to be in a strange wood was with someone who knew its secrets. So, holding her head high like the queen she was, Susan made her way across the clearing.
Tori couldn't help but listen in on her sister's conversation with Mary-Margaret, Ashley, and the new sheriff as she gathered dirty dishes from the table of unlikely friends Mr. Winter (the toy maker), Mr. Harrington (the baker and owner of Easter Sweets bakery), Dr. Fitzgerald (the town dentist), and Mr. Sanderson (the special ed. teacher). The four were bickering over Mr. Winter's adopted son Jim, as usual, but still spared a smile and an extra tip for their young waitress.
"Hey, Tor," called Ruby, "wanna join us for a girls' night out tonight?"
"Sure, Ruby," said Tori, catching little Alexandra's pacifier before it hit the ground.
"Thanks, Tori," said Ashley gratefully. "I can't tell you how many of these things I've lost already. I really need this night out. Are you sure you can't come, Emma?"
"Someone's gotta keep Storybrooke safe," said Emma with a wry smile.
Ruby sighed. "Alright, I'll take that excuse, but I expect you to join us next time."
"I can't make any promises," said Emma, "but I'll try my best."
"You don't know how much I need this night out tonight," moaned Ashley, banging her head down on the table. "Sean's been working so much lately so I've been alone with Lexie all day every day. I desperately need some adult time. Do you know any good babysitters who'll work for cheap?"
"Have you asked Lenore Gold?" suggested Mary-Margaret. "I know she's only thirteen, but she's really responsible and she's great with kids."
"Mr. Gold actually lets his daughter out of the house at night?" said Emma incredulously.
"You'd be surprised," said Ruby. "He's actually shockingly lax on the rules when it comes to his precious Lenore. Normally I'd suggest Tori, but she's coming with us. Otherwise, I know Astrid Newport could use the money; she still hasn't found a job since she left the convent."
"That's actually perfect," said Ashely, raising her head from the table. "Can you ask Astrid for me, please?"
"Sure thing; I'll talk to her on my break."
The cottage door was opened by a stern, old woman dressed in a plain homespun dress and a red apron. "Can I help you?" she asked, her voice sharp and to the point.
"Yes," said Susan, her voice strong despite her circumstances. "I'm afraid I'm rather lost, ma'am. I'm seeking shelter for the night and I was hoping I might impose upon your good graces."
The old woman narrowed her eyes behind her half-moon glasses and was about to shut the door when a tall, beautiful brunette girl popped up behind her. "Granny, we have to help her," the girl insisted, dark eyes pleading. "You're the one who taught me to help those in need."
The old woman gave a sigh of frustration. "Oh alight," she said. "Come on in, Miss…?"
"Susan. My name's Susan," the pale brunette replied, stepping inside the cottage.
"I'm Red," said the older brunette girl, clad in a beautiful red cape. "This is my grandmother, the Widow Lucas."
"Red will take you into the village tomorrow," said Granny roughly. "I'm sure someone there can help you find your way home."
"Thank you so much, ma'am," said Susan, dipping into a graceful bob of a curtsey. "I truly do appreciate your kindness and hospitality."
The old woman narrowed her eyes at Susan. "I'll be keeping an eye on you, girly," she said. "You can share a room with Red tonight." Without waiting for a response, Granny turned and walked into the small kitchen, leaving the two girls alone.
Tori watched with wary eyes as Ruby knocked back her fifth shot of straight rum and called for another. One of the waitresses—a tall, curvy brunette named Marian—came over with her drink and a coke for Tori. "Thanks," said the underage girl.
"No probs, sweetie," said the young woman. "Let me know if you need me to call a cab for you tonight, ya? I know your sister can get pretty rowdy sometimes."
"Thanks, but I think I'll be okay," said Tori, watching as Ashley downed her third shot of tequila. "Mary-Margaret doesn't drink much."
"Alright; just holler if you need me."
Tori felt uncomfortably out of place as the night went on. She smiled and chatted with the other two waitresses (Carmen and Gypsy, both exotic, caramel-skinned beauties), but for the most part she simply nursed her coke and kept a close eye on her unpredictable older sister. The first sign of trouble came not long after Ashley left with Sean to celebrate their sudden engagement. She'd noticed for the past half hour or so that a couple of young women (not much older than Ruby) had been staring their direction from a table in the far corner.
"Mary-Margaret, do you recognize those two women?" she asked the older woman quietly, discreetly pointing the pair out.
Mary-Margaret glanced over at the pair. "The blonde is Misha Priestly, which means the raven has to be Natalia Faire. They're both trouble, Tori; I'd advise you to stay as far away from them as you can."
"Why?" asked Tori curiously.
"They're both rich heiresses and party girls who enjoy getting into and causing as much trouble and chaos as they possibly can. Natalia's twin sister Nadia is their total opposite; she's such a sweet girl. Unfortunately the two get mixed up a lot; the only visible difference between the two is their eyes."
"Why do they keep staring at us?" she asked. "I've never met them before."
Mary-Margaret sighed. "Ruby's told me she's had a few less than pleasant encounters with them in the past. She's probably why they're so fixated tonight."
Tori stole another glance toward the other table and found herself locking eyes with a pair of poisonous green orbs. "They're making me very uncomfortable," she said. "Can we get out of here please?"
Mary-Margaret took one look at Tori's worried face and caved. "Of course, honey," she said. "Let me quick tell your sister what's going on and then I'll take you home, alright?"
"Thanks, Mary-Margaret, I really appreciate it."
Susan had gotten lucky; when she and Red had gone to the village for the first time, the elderly seamstress just happened to be looking for an apprentice and she agreed to take on Susan. Months passed and Granny had warmed up to the young girl and insisted (in her own, gruff way) that she stay on with them for as long as she liked. The three women had fallen into a sort of routine; Granny, always the last to bed, slept in in the mornings while Red went out to the coop to gather eggs for breakfast and Susan stuck the bread (kneaded the night before and left out to rise) into the wood stove. Once Red came inside with their daily eggs, the two girls would cook breakfast together before Susan headed off into the village for work.
Tori was twitchy the next day at school; she still couldn't get over the strange feeling she'd had last night at the bar. "Who stuck a bee in your bonnet, Lucas?" asked her classmate Jim Winter, a troublemaker with white, spiked-up hair and a superiority complex a mile wide.
"That's none of your business, Winter," she snapped at him. It was times like this, when she was tense and on edge, that the little bit of her personality she liked to call her "inner Ruby" popped out.
"Hey, I was just trying to be personable, Lucas, no need to bite my head off," Jim snapped back, shoving his pale hands into the pouch of his worn, blue hoodie. "See if I try to be nice again," he grumbled and began to walk off.
Tori sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Wait, Winter, I didn't mean to snap at you," she said. "I'm just on edge right now, that's all."
"You wanna talk about it?" Jim asked, rocking back and forth on his untied, navy converse.
"With you?" snorted Tori. "No offence, Winter, but we barely know each other."
Jim shrugged. "Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger than a loved one."
Tori raised a delicate eyebrow at him. "Are you talking from personal experience, Winter, or are you just blowing out hot air?"
Jim shrugged again and stared at the ground. "Look, I know I'm the town screw-up and all around troublemaker, but I'm a person too. I have layers!"
Tori's lips twitched in an almost smile. "Like an onion?" she asked slyly.
Jim threw his head back and barked out a laugh. "Sure, Lucas, like an onion. Or a parfait. Everybody likes parfait." His smile disappeared and he looked her in the eye, his pale blue eyes glinting like chips of ice. "Seriously though, think about it Lucas, alright? I'm not putting a time limit on my offer and you know where to find me."
"Thanks, Winter," she said. "I'll think about it." The strange thing was that she really did mean it.
As autumn started to turn to winter, Granny surprised the girls with a small celebration to "officially" welcome Susan to their small family. A few days later, Susan was putting the bread into the stove as usual when she heard a strange noise coming from the chicken coop, where Red was out gathering eggs. Glancing over at Granny, sleeping slumped over in her favorite chair and clutching her crossbow tightly, Susan pulled on the royal blue cape the old woman had gifted her with as a welcome to the family gift and headed outside to check on her adopted sister.
Susan moved swiftly and silently toward the chicken coop. Reflexes took over at the entrance and she had the dagger she kept in her belt at the neck of the strange woman before any of them could as much as blink. "Who are you and what are you doing on our land?" the usually gentle young woman asked harshly.
The strange woman, pale throat bobbing under Susan's knife, opened her mouth to speak, but Red beat her to it. "Susan, this is Mary-Margaret," she said hastily. "She just needs a place to stay, like you did."
Susan huffed and lowered her knife. "Fine," she said, sticking the knife back into her belt and pointing threateningly at the older brunette, "but you get to tell Granny."
Tori had a half day of school and was early for her shift at the diner, as usual. As she tied on her apron, she noticed something odd. "Where's Ruby?" she asked Tara.
The African-American girl shrugged. "She's been missing all day," she said. "Granny's in a rare mood because of it. Maybe you could talk to her?"
Tori frowned. "I don't know what good I'll be," she said, "but I can certainly try."
She slipped into the kitchen and found Granny barking orders at the cook, Tony. "You call this diced?" she snapped at the heavyset man, who was stoically stirring a large pot on the stove. "I've seen cleaner cuts from a kindergartener!"
"Granny, can I talk with you?" Tori interrupted softly.
Granny turned her rich, brown eyes on her granddaughter and her face softened. "Sure thing, Tori," she said. "What can I help you with?"
"Are you alright?" Tori asked gently. "Tara said Ruby's missing today; I know how that worries you so."
"Ruby's a big girl; she can take care of herself," said Granny gruffly, busying herself with the log book.
Tori wasn't fooled in the least. "Granny…do you want me to go out and look for her?"
Granny scoffed. "Don't be silly; you're only seventeen. You shouldn't be running around town willy-nilly after your sister. She'll show up eventually; she always does."
It took some getting used to, fitting three young women of a similar age into one room, especially since only one of them was used to sharing a room at all. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), the three young women discovered just how much they had in common and quickly became the best of friends, Susan even trusting the others enough to tell them of her adventures in Narnia. It was for this reason that Red and Susan (along with Granny) chose to join Mary-Margaret, who was really Princess Snow White, on her crusade to take back her kingdom from the Evil Queen. Susan felt at home with Red and Snow in a way that she hadn't felt since the Golden Age of Narnia and Snow's resistance kept her too busy to worry about what might have become of her siblings during their time apart.
Granny might not have been worried, but Tori was. Lying to Granny about a paper she needed to write, she headed down Main Street to the last place she knew for sure she'd seen her sister. She nervously stepped into the Rabbit Hole, a place she'd never gone alone. The pub was far different during the day than it was at night, though it's gloomy, dark atmosphere still remained. Tori wandered up to the bar where a single bartender was busy wiping down glasses.
Tori cleared her throat and the dark haired woman behind the bar looked up and smiled at her. "Hi Tori," she said. "What are you doing here so early in the day? Is Ruby with you?"
"That's actually why I'm here, Carmen," said Tori. "Ruby didn't show up for her shift today. This is the last place I saw her and I was wondering if you'd seen her."
"Nope, she hasn't been around this morning," said Carmen. "In fact, the only customers I've had so far have been the Faire twins. They're still here, if you want to talk to them." She motioned over to a table hidden back in the far corner of the room where two identical dark heads were bent together in conversation.
Tori blanched. She'd never had reason to interact with the Faire twins, but she knew from Ruby that one was as nasty and mean as the other was kind and gentle. She hoped that because they were sitting together, they would balance each other out and she'd get out of this encounter unscathed. "H-h-hello?" she stuttered hesitantly as she approached the twins, both intimidating in their otherworldly beauty.
Tori blanched as a pair of cold, green eyes glared at her. "Natalia," chided a warm, melodic voice, "leave the poor girl be. How can we help you, dear?"
Tori turned to face a much warmer pair of blue eyes and felt herself relaxing. "I was told that you might have seen my sister—Ruby Lucas? She didn't show up for her shift this morning and this is the last place I know she was."
Natalia sniffed. "Have you checked with that dock worker boyfriend of hers?" she said with a sneer, her voice as cold as her sister's was warm.
Tori opened her mouth and then quickly clicked it shut. She blushed. "I—actually I didn't think of that," she said.
Natalia scoffed, but her twin sister smiled warmly at Tori and said, "That's okay, sweetie. You were scared; people don't always think logically when they're scared."
"Th-thank you, Miss Nadia. I appreciate the help. I'm going to go check with Ben now. It was…nice meeting you."
"You too, sweetie," said Nadia with a bright smile as her twin sulked across from her. "Good luck finding your sister."
Every so often, Susan would fall into a deep depression, remembering with melancholy her long lost husband and daughter. The worst of it had been just before the curse hit, when Mary-Margaret was heavy with child. She'd never said a word about it to her two closest friends, until about a week before the young royal gave birth.
Susan was sulking in a dark corner of the library when she heard the soft tread of footsteps approaching. She stilled her breathing to almost nothing, hoping the silence would keep company away. No such luck; with a graceful swish of skirts, Red sat down beside her and gently nudged her shoulder. "What's up Su? You've been acting odd lately—even Snow and her prince have noticed."
"There's something I've never told you, Red," said Susan, staring morosely out the window, "something about the first time I grew up."
Red gently put her arm around the younger woman's shoulder. "Do you want to talk about it? I'm willing to lend an ear."
Susan sighed and gently pulled away from Red. "The first time my siblings and I were in Narnia, I met somebody special. At first I hated him, but eventually we fell in love. My older brother preformed the marriage and two years later I gave birth to a prefect little girl. When we fell back into our world, I unintentionally left my husband and daughter behind. I never saw them again."
"Oh Susan…" Red reached out to hug her, but Susan pushed her away.
"Not right now, Red, please. I don't want to be touched; I just need some time alone. This will pass eventually; it always does."
"Still…" Red stood and smiled sadly at her friend, "please don't hesitate to come to me when you are ready to talk. I love you Su, so does Snow. We're sisters and sisters take care of each other."
Tori wanted to kick herself; she couldn't believe that she hadn't thought of checking with Ben first. She'd only ever been to Ben's apartment once before, but she easily remembered her way through one of Storybrooke's poorest neighborhoods. Ben lived in a small, third floor apartment about a mile from Herman's Cannery. Last time she'd been there, he'd shared the place with his fellow dockworker, Chad Noah Collins. She'd heard through the grapevine at the Academy that Chad had finally moved in with his girlfriend Molly Peterson and her siblings, so she wasn't really sure what to expect.
Tori reached Ben's building far sooner than she'd expected and she nervously reached forward to press his number on the call box. An unfamiliar female voice answered. "Hello?"
"Uh—does Ben Kingsley still live here?" asked Tori uncertainly.
"Of course! Come on up!" Tori head the quiet click of the lock and she opened up the door to the building.
In no time at all, she was up three flights of stairs and standing in front of Apartment 3H. She knocked and the door was opened by a tall, thin wisp of a woman. "Hi. Can I help you?"
"Uh, yeah. You just buzzed me up, I think. I'm looking for Ben?"
"Of course; come on in. Ben's in the shower; he'll just be a minute. I'm Astrid by the way—Ben's sister."
"Oh! I'm Tori, Ben's girlfriend's sister."
"Ruby's sister! It's so good to meet you—Ruby talks about you all the time."
"You know Ruby?" asked Tori.
"Of course; she's over here all the time," said Astrid. "I actually just moved in with Ben—I recently went through a change in careers and Ben has been kind enough to let me stay here while I figure things out."
Tori blushed. "I-I didn't mean to imply…"
Astrid laughed. "I take no offense; it must seem odd, a strange woman you've never met answering the door of your sister's boyfriend's home."
Just then Tori heard a door click open down the narrow hall of the apartment. "Astrid? Who's here?"
"Hello Ben," Tori called out, recognizing the voice.
Ben stepped into view, clad only in a towel. His blonde hair was dark and still damp, clinging to his forehead. "What brings you here, Tori?" he asked, confused. "I don't think I've seen you around here more than once ever."
"I'm looking for Ruby—have you seen her today?"
"Uh, she didn't call you?" said Ben, ruffling his hair nervously.
"Hence me being here," said Tori, arching a perfectly coifed dark eyebrow at him.
"Uh, well, she's back in the bedroom, but the thing is…"
"Ben? Are you coming back to bed?" Tori's older sister slid up behind her boyfriend, clad only in a sheet, dark hair cascading down her shoulders.
"Hello Ruby," said Tori, narrowing her eyes at her sister. "Do you know how worried Granny and I have been?"
Ruby waved her hand dismissively. "Yeah, right. You don't have to lie for Granny, Tor. I know how she really feels about me."
"Ruby, you know she lov—what's that on your hand?"
"Oh this?" said Ruby nonchalantly, resting her left hand on Ben's naked chest to display a tastefully sized diamond ring adorning her ring finger. "Ben and I got married last night."
Tori blinked. "Could you repeat that please? I'm not sure I heard you right."
"Oh you heard me, Tori. Last night, after I left the bar, I met up with Ben and we decided to get hitched. Astrid got Friar Michaelson to officiate and she witnessed. It's a done deal now, Tor; you're looking at Mrs. Benjamin Kingsley."
"You do realize Granny's going to kill you, right?"
"Only if she finds out," said Ruby.
"You really expect me to keep this a secret from our grandmother? She's not as unobservant as you think she is."
Ruby sighed heavily. "Look, Tor, just give me some time. Please."
Tori pursed her full lips and considered her sister's offer. "Fine," she finally said. "I'll give you three days, that's it. If you haven't told Granny by then, I will."
Ruby smiled brightly. "Thanks Tor, you won't regret this."
Tori smiled wryly. "Oh I probably will, but you're my sister and I love you so I'm giving you a chance. Three days, Ruby. Don't let me down."
Anyone catch the Shrek reference? ;)
Sergei Winter, toymaker and foster father of Jim: Nikolas St. North aka Santa Claus (Rise of the Guardians)
Cody Harrington, baker and owner of Easter Sweets bakery: E. Aster Bunnymund aka Easter Bunny (Rise of the Guardians)
Dr. Amy Fitzgerald, dentist: Queen Toothiana aka Tooth Fairy (Rise of the Guardians)
Manfred "Many" Sanderson, special ed. teacher: Sanderson Mansnoozie aka Sandman (Rise of the Guardians)
James "Jim" Winter, student and adopted son of Sergei Winter (17): Jack Frost (Rise of the Guardians)
Marian Shadow-Stronghold, waitress at the Rabbit Hole: Megara (Hercules)
Misha Priestly, heiress and party girl: Nimuë (King Arthur Legend)
Friar Dorian Michaelson, Catholic Friar: Friar Tuck (Robin Hood)
...yes, Friar Tuck. They never really show him in the show so I'm taking liberties here that he got caught up in the curse.
Reviews, follows, & faves are the lifeblood of my dragon muses! Please no flames! They already spew enough fire...