Probably a Bad Idea
Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon A Time or the characters therein. This story is written for entertainment and not for profit. I just feel like Lily and August have a lot in common and could use a friend.
Note: This story is un-beta'd, so if you spot any mistakes, please let me know and I will go back and fix them. I tried to edit out any type-o's or grammar mistakes, but somehow there's always one or two that slip by.
His Papa had barely let August out of his sight in the last week. It had been...well, an adjustment, to say the least. He couldn't remember being a child in Storybrooke, and suddenly his Papa was father to a grown man with whom he had very little in common. On the bright side, he didn't have to live through puberty again. Blue had been pretty adamant that casting the spell to turn him back into the seven-year-old he had been before the Queens of Darkness had gotten hold of him was a bad idea. His system simply couldn't take it, which meant that he and Gepetto were stuck with the existing dichotomy. Pinocchio had been a bright, if mischievous, little boy. August W. Booth was a not-so-good man who was determined to be better, if only he could develop a conscience of his own and the willpower to resist temptation.
What was that quote? "I can resist anything, except temptation." Mae West, he was pretty sure.
But he was going to try, damn it. He had to. He refused to go through the excruciating process of returning to wood, again. Eight-fifteen in the morning, and the pain that had shot through his leg as flesh turned to stiff oak was enough to wake him from a dead sleep and stole his breath as blood flow was blocked as if it had never coursed through now nonexistent veins and nerve endings became useless plant fiber. Over the next few weeks and months, it had been a horror of pain and terror as his joints stiffened, his lungs struggled to provide oxygen to organs that no longer existed, and his mind clouded as he one again transformed into the little wooden boy-now not so little, but just as foolish as he had ever been.
No, never again.
And the only way to ensure it was to follow down the straight and narrow, whatever it took.
Then, on top of everything, somehow he had to fit his Papa back into his life. A child needed a father to show him how to be a good man, but as an adult, August didn't need a role-model so much as a support system. Gepetto wanted to keep coddling and guiding his boy. August just wanted someone to take him as is, and maybe offer a suggestion if there was need of it. He couldn't step back into the shoes he wore a week ago—literally; they were way too small. And he wanted his own space, his own place, after being on his own for so long. Living with his father was...weird. He felt for Emma in that regard. He wished he knew how she did it.
Speaking of Emma… That was one regret he had about re-aging. As a child, Emma Swan had been just another adult. The sheriff. From all accounts, Pinocchio had been more interested in junior league soccer and getting a good grade on his next spelling test than in impressing some lady who was friends with his Papa. As August, he knew that he had missed his chance with Emma, and it stung a little. There had been a few days there near the end of the first curse, before he'd completely lost himself, when he had hoped...well. Too late now. She was happy with the pirate. He had screwed up her last chance at happiness with a guy, but that had been for the good of their realm, her family, and his own. If he tried to sabotage her relationship now, it would be for selfish reasons, and that was a no-no. So he wished her all the happiness in the world, and hoped that this Killian guy really deserved her, that he was persistent and patient enough to get through Emma's stubbornness, because good gods, that girl was bull-headed. But hey, good luck to Captain Hook. And good-bye silly, childish crush.
Awkward, the whole situation was just awkward. Which was why he was hiding in corner at Granny's, chatting with Ruby and her boyfriend, Doctor Frankenstein. (He had had to take a few deep breaths and bit his lips together when he found out to keep from laughing. He was so, so very tempted to start "Young Frankenstein" quotes. Werewolf? There wolf. There castle. Why are you talking like that?) Needless to say, there were no national brands in Storybrooke, but the craft beer Mrs. Lucas served was surprisingly good. Victor was intelligent and had a dry sense of humor, and he was clearly smitten with Ruby. Red herself was a lot more relaxed these days, more fully covered, and less obsessed with lemurs and annoying her grandmother. He hoped that these two would become friends since it seemed like Emma, Snow White, and Prince Charming were more interested in their bizarre little family unit.
Of course, then Belle ran in, wide-eyed and frightened, and everything went to hell, as it was wont to do in Storybrooke. The Charmings, the Apprentice, and the pirate rushed off, leaving Granny and Ruby to calm to other party-goers. That was when August finally got his first good look at Maleficent's daughter. Lily, Emma had said.
She wasn't what he'd pictured. The Dragon herself was fair - pale skin, blonde hair, grey eyes. The young woman sitting at the bar and watching the post-celebration, pre-catastrophe hubbub had olive skin and dark hair. He wasn't close enough to tell eye color, but they looked dark. She also kind of looked like she should be in an all-female biker gang. There was something gritty and aggressive about her.
And lost. Very, very lost. He knew that look.
August did a quick scan of the diner just to confirm that Maleficent herself was not in attendance before he picked up his glass of beer and casually wandered over to the new girl in town.
"It's Lily, right?"
She looked up at him in surprise, one eyebrow raised. "And how is it your business?"
"New people in town are everyone's business," he said, shrugging. "Small town, magical force-field. We don't get many tourists seeking the spectacular view of our sparkling harbor and the natural wonder of the forest around here."
"Maybe you should write the brochure," she suggested. "You seem to have a knack for bullshit."
"I'll take that as a compliment to my artistic flair. But unfortunately, the only visitors likely to make it to Storybrooke are the ones coming via rabbit hole, travelling mirror, or magic bean, and they're generally up to no good." He smiled and held out his right hand. "August Booth."
She hesitated before accepting, but her handshake was dry and firm. It was a good shake. Maybe a little tight, but that just confirmed his impression of the tough biker-chick vibe he'd gotten. No limp-wristed, sissy handshakes here.
"August, huh?" she asked, tilting her head to the side and sizing him up. She seemed unimpressed. "So, who are you really? I mean, this is fairy tale land, right? I've done my research; lots of Grimm's and Andersen and anything else I thought might be helpful once that wizard guy told me about who my mother really was and what happened when I was a baby. 'August Booth' doesn't sound much like a fairy tale name to me."
He winced. "True enough. As a kid, I went by Pinocchio."
Maybe it was a little mean of him to have waited until she took a sip of her own beer before springing that on her, but the surprise on her face was slightly less embarrassing when she was trying not to spray her drink everywhere.
"Seriously?" she choked out.
He shrugged. What could you do? Not everyone could be a prince.
"Wow... No offense meant, just... Sorry, dude."
"No worries. I nearly did a spit-take when I found out that Storybrooke's only certified surgeon is actually Dr. Frankenstein," he nodded toward where Victor stood at the edge of the bar. Lily leaned around him and watched the good doctor give Ruby a quick peck good night, his suit coat draped of his arm and keys in hand.
"Yep. No bolts though."
"The bolts were in the monster," she pointed out. "Frankenstein was the doctor."
August raised his brows and his glass in salute. "You actually know your literature."
Lily shrugged. "I know my monster movies."
"Slightly disappointing, but I'll take it," he said. She didn't seem honored at his concession. He would clearly have to work harder.
Then she squinted at him. "Why did you decide to come over here instead of leave with your friends? I mean, there's clearly some kind of emergency. Shouldn't you be..." She gestured to the rapidly dwindling crowd. "I don't know, heading for cover?"
"One thing you'll need to learn about this town, if you decide to hang around, is that there's always some kind of emergency," he explained. "If it's not curses, it's wicked witches. If not witches, then snow queens. At this point, we use the term 'emergency' kind of loosely. If a chernabog isn't currently attacking the town, I'm going to relax, because whatever is out there, I can't control any more than anyone else can."
"Very Zen of you," Lily said, nodding. August thought he even detected a smile hiding at the corners of her mouth.
"Well, I spent some time in Thailand," he said, shrugging. "I tried to pick up some better habits."
"Better habits than what?" she asked.
Now August hesitated. Explaining his...difficulties…was, well, complicated. And she was gorgeous, so he really didn't want to make a bad impression. "Well..."
"Don't lie about it, whatever it is," she cautioned.
His brows flew and his mouth did a fish imitation. "Wh—"
"Come on," she said. "I might not have Emma's thing where she can usually tell when someone is lying, but you are easy to read. Plus, I know your story well enough to know that you've got that nasty tendency to fib and then—whoomp!" She touched her index finger to her nose, then extended it quickly out. "So if you don't want to answer, just say so. Don't lie to me. I've had enough shit like that in my life."
"Right...no, you're absolutely right. I was going to lie," he acknowledged. "Since you know my story, you've probably already got a good idea of what kinds of habits I'm trying to break. The lying, for one. Selfishness. Generally poor impulse-control."
"Ah." She nodded. "Then you should probably run now. Since I've got a double-dose of darkness, thanks to the hypocritically virtuous Snow White and her charming husband, my own history with lying, selfishness, and impulse-control is not exactly great." One shoulder rose and fell in a jerky shrug in an attempt at a casual, c'est la vie, what can you do, motion.
"I am aware of that, in fact" he admitted. At her raised brow, he explained, "Emma mentioned what happened between you two, when you were kids."
"Oh." Lily looked down into her near-empty glass.
August loved words, all kinds of words, and he could think of several to describe Lily's expression at that moment. Desolation was maybe too strong, but heartache certainly fit. Chagrin was there along with disappointment, but whether it was with Emma or herself was unclear. Annoyance flitted by, and finally acceptance, though not a happy acceptance. And what he felt in return was…recognition. Pity, but not the condescending, self-righteous, sanctimonious kind of pity. It was the best kind of pity, born of having been down that dark road and now being on the other side; being able to look back and think, 'you poor bastard.' It was sympathy and parity.
"Actually, that's why I came over here," he admitted. Again, with the skeptical brow. She should have been named Rose for the number of thorns she had. "It's true. I know how difficult it can be in this town with the heroes on one side, the villains on the other, the number of people caught in in the cross-fire, and you being somewhere between heroic and villainous, having abilities or characteristics that plant you in the 'magical' category, but not sure how to use them or if you'd be any help if you did. It's…bizarre. And confusing. And lonely at times."
There was the retraction of those thorns he'd been waiting for. Not by much, but she listened.
"And then there's the family situation," August continued. Now both her brows rose in surprise. He tilted his head toward where Gepetto stood talking with Doc and Jiminy. "It's not easy coming back into your parent's life as an adult. You've already gone through your formative years and become a whole, complete person without their help, but when you meet…they want their child back."
He sighed and looked away as soon as it seemed like his father would try to catch his eye and found Lily watching him. He nodded to her. "I'm guessing it's the same for you and your mother."
It was Lily's turn to look away. He gave her his best 'mysterious writer' smile. "I know, I'm unnervingly perceptive. It's part of my charm."
"Maybe humility is another trait you should work on," she observed.
He chuckled, shrugging. "Probably. I'll add it to the list."
They both finished their drinks when Granny announced last call. When he drained his mug and placed it on the Formica counter, he gave Lily a considering once-over, purely for show. His mind had been made up before he had even come to talk to her, but she deserved a chance to brace herself. Which she did automatically, those thorns poking back out.
"I was wondering if you knew there are other places besides Granny's to get a drink," he said. "The town actually does have a bar with stronger drinks, a pool table, loud music, and incredibly bad food. I can show you, if you want?"
She smirked at him. "So, like a date?"
"No, not a date," he quickly corrected. "More like a support group. I would like to talk to someone who has their own problems with lying, stealing, and impulse-control who isn't likely to judge me," or stab him with a hook in a misplaced fit of jealousy, he mentally added. "And I think you could probably use a friend who isn't a central part of the Charming's circle. What do you say? You and me, Ruby and Victor, Tink and Jefferson—Tinkerbell and the Mad Hatter, if you were wondering—and Will Scarlett can all grab a drink at the Rabbit Hole sometime."
Lily's walls stayed up, and he could see that she was about to refuse, so before she could say a word, he made a second offer. "I also know for a fact that Storybrooke has a bowling alley, and teams are forming. Somebody's got to knock the dwarves down a peg. I hear they're the team to beat."
"Are you serious?" she asked, frowning.
"Yes," he assured her. "I've observed from others that friends are usually the people that can make or break our recovery from bad habits. We can help each other not make stupid choices, and the more people we have looking out for us, the better."
She waivered, but insisted, "I'm only staying for a week."
August nodded. "So maybe you don't join the bowling team, but what about the drink, as friends? Just while you're here, I mean."
Slowly, while the last of the crowd, including Gepetto, filtered out of the door and the waitresses gathered up the dirty plates and cups from the vacated tables, while Ruby counted out the cash in the till, and Granny barked orders in the kitchen, August watched while Lily mulled over his offer. He watched her think of all the reasons not to accept. He watched the refusal form in her mouth and braced himself to counter it.
The bells on the front door jingled, drawing their attention to Gepetto peaking his head back into the diner.
"Sorry, August," his Papa corrected. "Are you coming home, my boy?"
He sighed, but smiled back. "Yes, Papa. I'm coming. Let me just grab my jacket."
August gave Lily a last smile that was part embarrassment, part commiseration, as he grabbed his black leather jacket from the coat stand by the door. He was nearly out the door when he heard her call.
He turned back, half smiling. "Yep?"
Lily took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay. Just let me know when."
He felt his smile pull into a grin and he nodded back, almost a bow. "I'll be in touch."
He left the diner, closing the door behind him softly, before she had a chance to change her mind. The smile stayed with him all the way home. He had to admit, considering their mutual problems and issues, this was probably a bad idea, but the decision was made now. No going back.
Thank you so much for reading! Please post a review, even a short one, to let me know if you enjoyed it and what you think of August and Lily (Wooden Flower? Dark Wood?) as a potential ship or even just a friendship.