The Writer They Call Tay (awanderingbard) wrote,
The Writer They Call Tay

Once Upon a Time: Browned Butter

Title: Browned Butter
Characters: Emma Swan, Killian Jones, Snow White, Henry Mills, Prince Charming, Regina Mills
Pairing: Emma/Hook
Rating: G
Warnings/Triggers: none
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, I just like to take them out to play.
Word Count: 1,956
Summary: It's Storybrooke's first Thanksgiving, and Emma is finding trying to be a domestic goddess more difficult than she anticipated.
Author's notes: Written for consci_fan_mo.

“Okay. I can do this. I’m The Savior. I will not be beaten by this.”

Emma took a deep breath and raised her hand, all her concentration lasered in on the object in front of her. She turned her hand over.

The butter fell from the paper into the hot pan on the stove and started to sizzle. Her eyes went over to her phone on the counter, where the instructions on how to brown butter were loaded and had been loaded long enough for her phone to lose four percent of its battery life as she tried to figure this all out.

It was a good thing she’d started early because, at this rate, all she was going to be bringing to the Thanksgiving potluck was a frying pan of burnt butter and a package of mini-marshmallows, half-eaten from stress.

“I’m going over to the hall to help set-up the tables,” Snow said. She held out her hands in alarm as Emma jumped a foot in the air and whirled around, butter knife raised. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you! I thought you’d hear me coming.”

“I’m just, uh, concentrating,” Emma explained. She scraped at the pan, where the butter was starting to brown. “What did you say?”

“I’m going to the Town Hall to help get everything ready,” Snow repeated. She came around the counter, putting a hand on Emma’s shoulder and peering into the pan. “How much butter have you used?”

Emma pointed to the crumpled silver wrappers on the counter. “Three pounds.”

“How much did the recipe call for?” Snow wondered.

“Four sticks?” Emma said.

Snow gave her the princess-y face of motherly sympathy. “You know, sweetie, you don’t have to go this far. You could just pop down the grocery store and buy some rolls. No one’s going to care.”

“I’ll care!” Emma objected. “Henry’s really looking forward to this. We’re going to do a proper, normal Thanksgiving with the whole town. I’m not going to shove some Pillsbury crescent rolls in the oven and call it a day. I want to show him I’m trying.”

Snow’s arm came up around her shoulders. “He’ll know you’re trying no matter what. Just don’t make yourself crazy over it.” She sniffed the air. “Or burn down the house.”

The butter had gone past brown to burnt. Again. Emma took the pan off the rimmer and dumped the contents into the sink. Again.

“I’ll do my best.”

“All right, love, I have your Land O’Lakes,” Killian announced, as he came into the apartment. He was holding the box in his hand, looking at it. He pointed at the logo. “Why is Tiger Lily on here?”

“She’s not Tiger Lily, she’s the Land O’Lakes Indian,” Emma said.

“She looks like Tiger Lily,” Killian insisted.

“Well, unless she’s from Minnesota and churns butter, this is not her,” Emma said. “And that’s racist. You can’t say all Native Americans look alike. Or Native...Neverlandians.....Just give me the box.”

Killian shrugged and shoved it her way. She opened the box to pull out another four sticks. Snow liked to buy Miss Muffet’s butter at the store to support local endeavors, but Emma thought maybe some preservatives might help her cause.

“I bought more of those little white pillow things, too,” Killian said, now reaching into the bag on his hook to produce a package of Stay-Puft. “You seemed to be making your way through them, and I really don’t know what you plan to do with them and the orange potatoes, but I wasn’t running out to the store again, so I thought I’d be sure. I think Henry said you can make ‘s’mores’ with them, which sound very yummy. Perhaps a backup plan if this fails--not that I don’t have faith in you. Just best to have another course charted in case you run into bad weather.”

Emma smiled at his stream of consciousness. “This must be so weird for you.”

“You mean the part where you annually get together with all your family members to stuff yourself full of strange foods in honor of a man who may or may not have actually discovered this land, and, from what I hear, went about behaving abominably--and I say this as a reformed pirate--in the process?” Killian said. “No, that part I get. It’s the football that confuses me.”

Truthfully, this whole ‘family holiday’ thing was as foreign to her as it was to him. She hadn’t had a lot of Thanksgivings growing up, and the ones she did have weren’t always warm and cozy experiences. “Football is the American pastime,” she said. “It brings families together.”

“I thought baseball was the American sport of choice,” Killian said. He went over to examine the sweet potatoes that she had, at least, successfully baked. “I understand baseball. You hit the ball with the bat and run in a circle, very straightforward. Football is hours and hours of very large men pouncing on each other to move feet at a time down a field in one-minute intervals. The orange potatoes make more sense than that.”

Emma slapped his hand away from investigating them. “Yams are a tradition,” she said. “Do pirates not have traditions?”

“None that involve nice family dinners,” Killian replied.

Emma dumped another four sticks of butter into the pan and prayed that this time would be the charm. She might have to resort to magic soon. There had to be a spell to brown butter, right?

“You need to turn down the heat, love,” Killian said, reaching past her to the knob on the stove and turning it down to medium-low.

“The instructions say medium heat,” Emma objected, turning the knob back.

“Aye, but you’ve had it going for a while, the pan will be too hot now,” Killian said, turning the knob once more. “Your pan was cold when you started.”

Emma reached for the knob but stopped when that actually made sense. “How do you know that?”

Killian shrugged with a wry grin. “Don’t let the hook fool you, love, I’m a dab hand in the galley,” he said, cheerfully. “And I’ve cooked over a fire more than once. This electric business is great, but the principle is the same. Pan’s too hot, you burn your rations.”

Emma made a low groan that rose in a loud ‘rargh’ and made Killian fold her into his arms in concern. She struggled for a few moments, not wanting to be coddled over something as simple as failed butter browning, but then gave up and went limp, stuffing her forehead into the crook of his neck, which always smelled vaguely salty, even though there was no sea around. Did he wash in salt or something?

“You don’t need to fancy it up, just bring the orange potatoes like they are,” Killian said. “Or mash them. Fry them. Lots to do with potatoes that don’t involve all this.”

“What, are you Jamie Oliver now?” Emma grumbled into his chest. She pulled back and pushed her hair behind her ears in irritation. “I know I can make something simpler, you’re the fifth person to tell me that.”

“Then why don’t you?” Killian asked. He tapped the side of her head, playfully. “Let me in, love. What’s the real problem?”

Emma sighed. “It’s not a problem. It’s just, the only real Thanksgiving I ever had, the only nice one, was with a foster family I lived with for a while. My foster mom made these. It was a temporary place, and we all knew that but she was really nice, and I liked it there. She gave me this recipe when I left because she knew I liked them so much. It’s the only recipe I have. I don’t cook. I have nothing to hand down to Henry. I just want him to have something that’s...a tradition and not some TV dinner. I know it’s stupid.”

Killian stroked her hair, his blue eyes soft beneath the kohl that rimmed them. “It’s not stupid, it’s sentimental.” His eyes crinkled. “Not a side of you I see a lot, Swan. I like it.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “Don’t give me your pirate charm.”

“I can’t help it, love, it just oozes out,” he said. He kissed the top of her head, then stepped back. “We’ve still got 45 minutes to figure this out. You keep browning Tiger Lily’s butter and tell me what we’re doing with the little pillows.”

Emma really had to fight not to tell him to get lost. She wanted to do this on her own. She wanted to be a successful mom who made delicious food that everyone would comment on and she could pretend it was nothing.

But she also wanted to actually arrive with edible food, and she was running out of time. And wasn’t she supposed to be allowing people to help her? Especially cute pirates who loved her?

“We don’t need the marshmallows yet,” she said. “You can cut the yams in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl if you want.”

“No problem,” Killian said. “Done in a wink.”

“Don’t use your hook.”

“Ah, well, it might take me a bit longer, then.”

Somehow, through some miracle, Emma and Killian arrived at the town hall with a tray of beautifully twice-baked sweet potatoes with cream cheese, brown sugar, and browned butter (perhaps a little on the dark side of brown), topped with marshmallows broiled to a perfect crisp on the outside. Emma had cut them into bite-sized pieces so there would be enough to go around. The whole town had turned out; even Pongo was there with a festive pilgrim’s collar around his neck.

“Mom!” Henry called, from a table near the wall. “Over here!”

Emma dropped the tray off at the buffet table while Killian dropped off his contribution of rum from the Jolly Roger’s stores. Due to the size of the town, everyone had been asked to bring enough to feed themselves and at least ten other people, with Granny supplying extra food to fill in the gaps. Killian had brought enough rum to get the whole of Maine a little tipsy.

Emma joined Henry, Regina, and her parents at the table, smiling at Neal, who was bouncing on her father’s knee.

“First Thanksgiving, little guy,” she said, giving his tummy a tickle.

“Actually, Emma, you’re the only one here who has had a Thanksgiving before,” David pointed out. “It’s all our first real ones. Not ones from implanted memories.”

The sensation of being the most normal one at anything was a novelty for Emma. “Whoa. I guess it’s better that my memories aren’t implanted. Even if they aren’t the best…” she felt Killian’s hand squeeze her hip as he slid onto the bench next to her and decided not to be a downer. “I’m glad we get to do this together. I’m thankful to have all of you here.”

Agreement went around the table, smiling faces that made Emma’s stomach warm up.

And even though, in the end, it wasn’t about the orange potatoes with the little white pillows on them, she still couldn’t help but feel triumphant when no less than five people from outside her family complimented her on them. People who didn’t have to compliment her.

“You should make these all the time, Mom,” Henry announced, around a mouthful.

Killian eyed a marshmallow with vague suspicion. “I don’t think Tiger Lily could make enough butter for that, lad, with all the milk in Neverland.”
Tags: fandom: once upon a time, length: ficlet, rating: g

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