Fic: Lion Cub
Title: Lion Cub
Rating: PG-13 for swearing
Pairing: Married!Mad Swan, with Henry and Grace
Summary: In which Grace is bullied, Henry is a hero and Emma and Jefferson spy on their babies from the bushes.
I suppose you could take Skeptics and True Believers as background, but you don’t need to have read it to follow this. Post-curse break, everyone remembers who they were.
Marchie prompted: “Coffee or tea?” and “A cry for help”
Anon prompted: Emma, Jefferson, Henry and Grace have breakfast together
Emma refuses to drink tea with her husband.
Bad memories, she supposes, not to mention a lifetime addicted to coffee. Henry understands, doesn’t question – although he takes his willingly from his stepfather with milk and two sugars - but Grace frowns everyday when her stepmother turns down the same.
Jefferson just smirks. Of course he understands why, why when they first lived together she tiptoed around the kitchen like everything was poisonous, why she disinfected every coffee mug and teacup he had before she drank from them.
She knows he’ll never slip anything into her food or drink, ever again.
She loves him, he loves her, and they’re a family now.
It doesn’t mean she’s willing to drink his damn tea. The same logic that keeps her away from almost anything containing apples: it’s just good sense, given her family’s history.
So she sips her coffee, and hands the jam to Grace to put on her toast, and tries to ignore the fact that Henry is smirking too.
Jefferson has managed in three months what Regina couldn’t in ten years: he’s corrupted Henry, been an outright bad influence and lead the boy into bad habits. Like smirking: if they weren’t both so utterly adorable, Emma would be angry.
But she’s entirely in love with her husband’s cheeky smile, and she’ll never adore anything more than she does her son and new stepdaughter, so she’s not too upset.
Henry needed a little corrupting, anyway. He naturally takes a little too much after his grandparents, and while Emma is incredibly glad to have a mother and father at last, and wouldn’t change a thing about them, she has to admit that they’re not the most fun people to be around. Henry can be a little earnest, a little serious in his intention to do good.
If Jefferson is teaching him how to have fun, how to laugh and joke and relax a little, then she’s alright with that.
“Can I stay home today, papa?” Grace turns pleading eyes to her father, and he suddenly looks entirely helpless. The man cannot resist his daughter’s puppy eyes.
It’s like when Henry cries, and Emma just cannot handle it.
Thankfully, while she loves Grace already, Emma can withstand the big dark eyes Jefferson cannot, and looks at her hard, “Why?”
“I’m sick.” She coughs, but Emma is unimpressed.
“Nice try: superpower, remember? What’s the real reason?”
“I… um…” she looks down at her clasped hands in her lap, chewing her lip, uncomfortable and miserable, “Nothing. Never mind.”
Henry takes one last look at his stepsister, and gets that look on his face, the look that says that he’s made a decision, and chosen what to do next, “It’s Tommy Ryerson.” He pipes up, putting a hand on Grace’s arm in solidarity, “He’s a bully and he doesn’t like Grace at all.”
Grace nods, and lets out a little sad noise that makes Emma’s heart crumple, it’s such a desperate little cry for help.
“Why can’t you keep her away from him then, Henry?” Emma masks her anger well: she can’t very well arrest a ten-year-old boy for bullying her stepdaughter, however much she might wish she could.
“He’s in the grade above us,” he explains, “I said she could come play with me and Mari and Ben, but he just followed us. Even when we told him to get lost, and made a human shield. He just waited.”
Emma’s so proud of her son she could burst.
Jefferson, however, looks murderous. For the sake of keeping their family’s year-long streak of no incarcerations, she puts her hand over his, squeezes and hopes it feels comforting.
He’s one hundred percent sane, these days. It doesn’t mean he always looks or acts like it. The Mad Hatter still comes out, sometimes, in little bursts, and that’s not something Emma wants to be responsible for freeing.
“Well, I’ll have a word with your grandma,” she smiles at the pair of them, her children, “Just try to stay out of his way.” She checks her watch, “Shoot, it’s almost nine! Everyone all packed up?”
The pair of them nod, and she smiles at them, hurries them out of the door and drives them to school as fast as possible. Mary Margaret (Snow… her mother, Emma has to remember this, her mother) is more likely to mark them late and give them detention because they’re her grandchildren and she hates favouritism, and Emma doesn’t want to get her kids in trouble.
She goes straight to work, and tries once again to organise her case files.
Even with her mother and Ruby and Belle French all pitching in to help, the files are still a mess. They need sorting into ‘magic’ and ‘non magic’ disturbances, then public and domestic, and then god knows what else.
She believes in magic now.
It doesn’t mean that she has any idea at all of what to do with that knowledge.
She’s only a few hours into today’s section of the cabinets when she gets a call from the school. Mary Margaret – she will call her that, if only in her head, because in Emma’s world that’s still the name that makes sense for the most important woman in her life – is reporting an incident in class. Whether the call is to her daughter because she must tell someone, or to the mother of two of the involved class members, or to the Storybrooke Sheriff, Emma does not know.
But one of the kids in the class next door has found his favourite stuffed animal – a tiger with a rather angry expression, apparently – decapitated in his locker, with the knave of clubs stuffed down the hole where his head should have been.
The boy is hysterical, and blaming Grace, and while Mary Margaret doesn’t believe a word of it, the boy is screaming blue murder and his parents will be in next if she doesn’t do something about it.
She also has a decent idea of who is responsible: the playing card is something of a giveaway. Mary Margaret doesn’t approve of her new son-in-law.
It could have been worse, Emma thinks, as she packs her files away and heads out the door, Snow could have woken up to discover that Belle French was her daughter. Not that Belle would have been a bad daughter, not at all: in fact, Emma is proud to count the girl among her friends. She’s sweet and kind, and far brighter than Emma herself, able to talk books with Henry on a level Emma envies. It’s not Belle herself that Mary Margaret would have struggled with: it was her choice of boyfriend.
Bringing Jefferson home to Snow and James (Mary Margaret and David, although that night they had been warrior prince and princess and had looked it) had been bad enough. Her father had threatened to run him through with his sword, and Jefferson had muttered something about long swords and compensating for something, and Emma had nearly died of embarrassment.
That memory is nothing, though, compared to the horror story Belle told about the night she brought Mr Gold home for dinner. Moe feared and loathed the pawnbroker already, for obvious reasons, but after everyone woke up things had become so much worse.
Now he knows that not only is his girl in love with the man who had nearly beaten him to death – although, by the sounds of it, as vengeance on the man he had thought was Belle’s murderer, which seems slightly less awful, just slightly, in retrospect – no, far worse than that. His daughter is living with Rumpelstiltskin, and they are lovers, and Emma had almost heard the florist’s head explode from their home, three miles away,
Emma is thankful that her husband is not as bad as that. The Mad Hatter he might be, but at least he’s not known for baby-stealing or cursing whole worlds.
Emma muses on this as she returns to the school, and hopes that Henry didn’t do anything foolish to Tommy Ryerson. Even though, had he done so, she would be forced to punish him with ice cream for dinner. Her boy is brave and good of heart, and doesn’t back down from a fight: she loves him so much she could die.
She gets out of her bug, ensures she has her badge just in case, and takes a step toward the school gates.
“Psst, Emma!” Her stomach sinks: she knows that voice too well.
She can see his grin from the bushes, the dark of his suit and necktie blending with the shadows, but his smile wide and childish.
Oh good Lord.
Her husband is hiding in the bushes, crouched low, beckoning like a child to his accomplice, and he’s almost Hatter he looks so insane. But the malice, the burning anger that typifies – his exceedingly rare, now, thank God – episodes isn’t there, and so she feels safe to roll her eyes and sigh.
It’s going to be one of those days.
“What’re you doing, Jefferson?” she hisses, bending down to see him properly. It’s times like these when she wants to go home and drug herself, wake up three days later and allow her husband to be someone else’s problem for a while.
But she can’t deny how adorable he is, crouched in the bushes, all bright eyes and plans.
“Helping.” He replies, with that grin that tears her between murdering him slowly and jumping him right then and there.
“The baby jabberwocky who’s messing with my little girl,” a dark look – sane, paternal anger, no hint of Hatter left thank God – crosses his face, and she wants to hug him so badly.
“So it was you.” she sighs, holds out a hand, and he takes it. She tries to haul him to his feet, so they can talk face-to-face like adults, but he has a better idea. He tugs, hard, and she sprawls off-balance, landing on top of him in the shrubbery.
“Well, hello.” He grins, and she smirks.
“Hi. Thanks for that: it’s not like these jeans were clean on this morning or anything.”
“Oh, hush,” she can feel his smile against her cheek as he burrows his lips there, and she does love him, more than is reasonable or healthy. “It’s more fun down here.”
His lips move across from her cheek, and then they’re on hers, and they’re kissing lightly, playfully, as he nibbles her lower lip and she trips her tongue over the roof of his mouth.
His hands stray a little further south than she expects, and cup her ass. And no, no, they’re not doing this here: she glares down at him, surrounded by the long blonde curtain of her hair, and he smirks unrepentantly, pulling her further down to him.
“Well, this is cozy,” he murmurs, and she’s almost tempted.
“Yes, but how does it help Grace?” she scrambles off him: she doesn’t think it a good idea for them to remain all tangled up together for long. She’s not ready to be a mother again just yet.
“Simple!” They’re crouched opposite each other under a leafy canopy, and he’s grinning, “We’re going to mentally torture the little bastard until he gets the message.”
And that’s how Emma Swan, Sheriff of Storybrooke, the Saviour and daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, finds herself lying face down in the bushes outside her son and daughter’s school, spying on an eleven-year-old boy and trying not to get caught.
She feels ridiculous. Worse, she feels illegal, and creepy with it.
This must be how Jefferson feels all the time, she thinks, as she spots the kid coming their way.
His parents were a petty lord and lady of an ambitious little city-state, in the old world. At least, that’s what Snow said when Emma asked on the phone. The boy is a spoilt little princeling.
Grace appears through the bushes, talking with some other girl from her class.
Emma hopes to God that Jefferson isn’t going to see his daughter be bullied in public. She’s not sure what he would do, but she’s certain it would not be pretty.
But Grace walks past, and Tommy seems too busy kicking a rock in a circle to notice.
Emma sighs in relief.
Then, just when she’s ready to haul her husband’s ass out of there and drag him home - her deputy could handle the calls for today, and Jefferson needs occupying - Tommy raises his head and yells “Hey, Crazy!”
Jefferson tenses. And no wonder: he was the Mad Hatter for years and for good reason.
Grace stops: she knows he’s talking to her. But she doesn’t turn, even though the playground is quieter than it was, some of the kids turning from their games to watch.
Ugly, twisted little beasts: none of them step forward to help. Emma makes note of who they all are, even as she feels herself in Grace’s shoes, twenty years ago. Orphan-child didn’t sound any nicer than Crazy. Neither did Abandoned-by-the-Highway, or Unwanted, or Ditchweed.
Children are fucked up little creatures.
“Hey, you deaf too, Crazy?” Grace still doesn’t turn.
“No. Now leave me alone.”
Good girl. Jefferson looks about ready to murder someone, and Emma throws her arm around him, holds him as tight as she can.
“You’re a psycho, you know that?” the kid walks up on her, and Grace turns to face him finally. “Ripping heads of animals. Psycho.”
“I didn’t do that, Tommy.” Grace replies, “But I kind of wish I had.”
Jefferson is trembling, but Emma doesn’t let go. Grace can handle herself: Grace could be a dragon slayer, if you gave her a sword. She’s bright and she’s strong. But that kid’s parents are still getting a phone call from the Sheriff’s office, either way.
Tommy pushes her, and she stumbles. The playground is silent, and everyone ‘ooh’s.
Emma wants to scream at the whole stinking lot of them. Gawping, useless animals, staring when clearly something must be done. No wonder this town needed a saviour, if this is how they react to evil.
“Back off Ryerson!” Henry - her gleaming, golden, shining boy - has stepped in the way. His tiny fists are balled at his sides, and Tommy seems massive in comparison but Henry doesn’t care. Emma would know that angry set of the jaw, that determination anywhere: she’d worn it all her life.
“Aw, Crazy has a little knight.” Tommy jeers, and Emma mentally murders every one of the boys who laugh with him.
Henry doesn’t even flinch. “You’re damn right she does.”
More ‘ooh’s, because cussing is apparently worse than physical violence.
Emma hates children.
She loves hers to death, both the tender duckling with her head held high and the strong little lion cub defending her. But the others (all the others, every last smirking one of them) could go to Hell for all she cares.
Henry takes one punch to the arm, and Emma wants to rush in and save him.
But he gives a roar that’s more lion than cub - her son is growing up, and she loves him more than life - and hurls himself onto his enemy, punching and swinging with all his might, “No one hurts my sister, alright?” he yells, and his voice carries to his proud mother, crouched under the bushes.
She sees Mary Margaret haul the pair of them apart, and Grace watch, shaking, as they’re dragged inside.
Jefferson looks at Emma, and the pair of them are stunned.
“Our boy’s a fierce one, isn’t he?” Jefferson murmurs, and it’s all astonished pride.
“Yes,” Emma’s close to sobbing, because where was that brave and beautiful child all those years ago, when she was like Grace and needed defending? Why has it taken her twenty-eight years to be so brave, so selfless? To find the man who would do the same for her, should she ever need it, her lover and husband and chosen twin all rolled into one? “So’s our girl.”
Because Grace is helping another girl to her feet, who had been knocked over in the fight, and is giving her a gummy bear to help make up for it.
“Yes,” Jefferson looks like he might cry, too, and the pair of them are a little bit pathetic, curled in the bushes watching over their cubs and holding back tears, “She is.”
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