Special thanks to vikingprincess, who encouraged me to flesh out the backstory between Coulson & August until it was exactly what I had envisioned all along.
Title: A Real Boy Out Of A Wooden Head
Author: The Artful Dodger / dodger_sister
Fandom: Avengers/Once Upon A Time
Category: Angst, Crossover, Drama, Gen
Characters/Pairing: Coulson & August with Ruby, Granny & Leroy
Warnings: Implied history of homelessness and possible child-abuse.
Spoilers: Once Upon A Time S2.E18 “Selfless, Brave and True” and general S2 storylines.
Summary: Coulson isn’t in Storybrooke for the magic, the fairytales or even the portals to other dimensions. He has other business to attend to at the moment.
Word Count: 1,441 words.
Date Written: 06/01/2013
Disclaimer: Once Upon A Time, The Avengers and the characters herein - not mine, not mine, not mine. Story - mine. Money - notta.
Feedback: Bring it. dodger_sister / TheArtofDodger@comcast.net
Beta’d: By the superb vikingprincess, who completely helped me get this fic where it needed to be.
Author's Notes: I knew I wanted to write a story for ceitfianna’s birthday. This, however, was not the first idea I came up with. Not even the first Avengers idea. Or the first Once Upon a Time idea. It did seem to be the idea that stuck though. It was also not to suppose to have such a big back-story between August and Coulson. That just happened while I was writing it, which I kind of love. I would not be opposed to writing the actual back-story in a prequel-fic, if a long-term August voice in my head didn’t kind of freak me out. I had numerous ideas for the titles and I couldn’t decide so I rolled an 8-sided dice - (appropriate since this was written for a gamer) - and came up with ‘A Real Boy Out Of A Wooden Head’, which in the fairytale of Pinocchio is what is written on the medal Jiminy receives at the end.
Dedication: For lj user="ceitfianna">: Happy Birthday! I hope you get everything you deserve during this year of your life, and I hope you have a lovely birthday, and I hope you enjoy this fic!
The diner was mostly empty, which probably wasn’t unusual for two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. There was a blond woman in one of the corner booths, nose stuck in a book, and a man in a vest sipping tea at a table along the wall.
Coulson couldn’t help it if he was a little curious about which fairy tale characters of his childhood these two people happened to be.
He was seated at the bar, elbows resting on the counter and the elderly woman who owned the joint was giving him a rather intimidating glare, which was saying something given the things Coulson had stared down in his life.
“Another cup?” he asked and almost flinched when the woman reached under the counter. He had no doubt that she had a shotgun under there. Instead she came up with a pot of coffee and poured Coulson another cup, eyes fixed on his the whole time.
“You should try the pecan pie,” someone said from the stool next to him.
Coulson turned to see a much younger woman, early twenties perhaps, dressed in a tank top and a short red plaid skirt, her black-painted fingernails tapping away on the counter.
“You recommend it?” he asked her. “The pecan pie?”
“Absolutely,” she said. “I’ll give you a piece on the house,” and she leaned in closer and winked at him. “If you tell me your story.”
Coulson snorted. “Wow. I’ve never heard that one before.”
The girl shrugged and slid off her stool. “We don’t get a lot of strangers around here.”
“I bet you don’t,” he said with a laugh. “You’re a little off the map.”
“We like it well enough,” the old woman told him, voice heavy with disapproval.
“Yeah, home is where the heart is,” the girl said sarcastically and rolled her eyes. “Welcome to Storybrooke,” and she made a grand sweeping gesture with her hands, before sauntering off. Coulson watched her until she was out of sight.
The beans were coming in nicely and that was both encouraging and a little worrisome. If they were coming in that fast, Storybrooke had to have a bean-tender, which probably meant a giant, which was just...alarming.
“It’s a dangerous business,” Coulson said to the man standing next to him, the one that he could undoubtedly tell was giving him a steady side-eye.
“What’s that?” the man asked and Coulson looked over and down, finding his companion was much shorter than Coulson himself.
“Portals to other dimensions. I’ve done that. It did not work out well for me.”
The man looked startled but he quickly schooled his expression and instead raised a single questioning eyebrow at Coulson. “Mister, what in the hell are you talking about? You feeling okay?”
Coulson just gripped the device in the pocket of his suit coat, the one that let him see through the cloaking spell over the bean field. “I can see them,” he told the man. “The magic beans.”
“You’ve been on the road too long, man. Or you ate something really messed up ‘cause magic beans are a fairy tale.”
Coulson looked out at the field. “All stories are based in some truth, no matter how small.”
Then he turned and walked away without looking back at the man. Coulson had other business to attend to here and whether or not these people had a portal to another dimension was not his problem.
Not today, at any rate.
The trailer was pretty run down and it was definitely far enough back in the woods not to get any notice, but the isolation out here was deafening and it didn’t sit well with Coulson. He didn’t like the idea of his friend holing up here, hiding from the world.
He’d thought August was past all of that.
Coulson approached the trailer cautiously, unsure what to expect, but the door flew open before he could even knock and then he was staring up into familiar eyes marred by unfamiliar features, wood where there had been skin, a life-sized toy where there had been a man before.
“You live in the middle of fucking nowhere,” Coulson said by way of greeting.
“It’s nice to see you too, Phil,” August said, his affection coming through despite his obvious efforts to hide it.
August went back inside, leaving the door open behind him, and Coulson took it for the invitation it was and followed him in.
“So, this is new,” Coulson said and gestured at his friend.
“Wood, Phil. I’m made of wood. You can say it - it’s not a cuss word.”
“Good to see you still have your biting wit and sarcasm,” Coulson said and sank down on the couch.
August settled next to him, wooden hands curling in his lap.
“I’d offer you something to eat but I don’t have any food. I’m a puppet now,” and then August faltered and looked over at Coulson. “I suppose I always was your puppet though, wasn’t I?”
Coulson started to say that that remark was unfair, because August had always been more than his asset, but he also knew the other man would never fully believe it.
“You can always come home,” he said instead and August rolled his eyes.
“I’m sure S.H.I.E.L.D. wants a man made of wood walking around their hallways.”
“We have this one agent that grows like five times his original size, turns green and smashes entire city blocks. I think we can handle a life-sized talking man of wood.”
“You know I can’t,” August told him, suddenly quiet and raw. “You know this is where I belong now.”
Coulson wanted so badly to reach out and cup his hand across the back of August’s neck, an old familiar gesture from when August was just a kid and Coulson not so worn down as he was now, but there was no skin there, nothing to register the touch, so he kept his hands at his side and said, “But all you’re doing here is hiding. This isn’t living, this isn’t home, this is a dump.”
August shrugged, the gesture as awkward and wooden as he was. “It’s not the worst place you’ve ever found me in.”
Coulson shook his head. “That was different. You were fifteen. And you’d been living on the streets for how long? That wasn’t your choice. This...this is your choice. Hiding here. You have to do better.”
“Says who?” August asked and even in this state, his eyes blazed like they always did when he was angry at the world that had let him down.
“Says the man that gave you your second chance.”
They were silent for a long while and Coulson waited, let August run it through his mind.
“You weren’t always such a great role model,” August said at last. “You took me to Vegas for my eighteenth birthday, remember?”
“True,” Coulson said with the slightest hint of a smile. “But you told me that trip was awesome. You told me you loved me for that trip.”
“Yeah. I did. But I still have to stay here now.”
“Okay,” and Coulson reached out, gripping the back of August’s neck like he’d wanted to earlier, like he’d done a thousand times before, letting his fingers curl there, the wood hard and foreign under his fingertips. “But you know where I am, if you need...”
“Anything,” August finished for him, but he didn’t push into the touch, nothing there for him to feel.
Coulson stood and moved to the door of the trailer, glancing back at his friend who looked so similar to the man Coulson had known all these years and yet somehow August had changed more than the wooden features he now bore.
August looked up at him.
“The girl at the diner? Is she Little Red Riding Hood?”
“Your powers of observation are as stellar as ever,” August told him. “Watch yourself though.”
“I wasn’t...wait, what I am watching out for? Granny’s shotgun?”
August smiled, the corner of his wooden mouth barely able to turn upwards.
“She’s a werewolf.”
“Huh. Really?” Coulson asked with interest.
“Get out of my trailer,” August said and pointed him out the door.
Coulson stepped out into the sunlight, then turned to look at his friend one last time.
“There is always a home for you, if you want it.”
“I know,” August told him. “But weren’t you the one that taught me it’s we lucky few who find a good place to start again.”
August clicked the trailer door shut then and Coulson decided he had his answer.
It was time to get back to work.