storybrooke: peter + annie WHO: Peter Rusk (Peeta Mellark) + Annie Rusk (Annie Cresta) WHEN: Backdated by a few days WHERE: The Upper Crust, Peter's family bakery (that's where the family owns the bakery, not a bakery that bakes families) WHAT: Tensions are high with the Rusk family when Peter feels overburdened and being a parent brings up some complicated trauma feelings. WARNINGS: Slight warning for allusion to abuse, but nothing major.
Peter Rusk ran the Upper Crust.
He didn't own it, his family did, but for all intents and purposes the bakery was his. He spent sixty to eighty hours a week there, he never took a sick day. He was up at three in the morning every morning, taking care of most of the preparation himself and then handling the morning rush at the register.
There were other things he wanted in life, but those things didn't pay the bills. He had a wife, a child, another baby on the way, and supporting them meant working. What it didn't mean was taking out thousands in student loan debt and trying to pay for art school. He didn't have time to be a student, and he definitely didn't have the money. He took evening classes, but by the time evenings rolled around he was often exhausted and worn down, falling asleep during lessons.
Then he was up again at three to make the bread again.
Peter was on his fourth cup of coffee that morning. The initial breakfast rush was over and Peter was finally having his own breakfast of toast and jam, but he was spending more time trying to make sure Meadow ate her little cut-up squares of toast and melon. It meant his own toast was getting neglected, and Meadow wasn't in the mood to actually eat.
It looked like Annie was doing hardly anything, and truthfully, that was also how it felt. Emotionally, at least: as she watched Peter slave over everything at the bakery, take care of Meadow, try to do everything, it made her feel horrifically guilty.
Like a burden. Not just a burden because she was so easily exhausted, so unable to do the heavy lifting, literally or metaphorically. But things had soured for them lately, and she’d begun to feel as though he didn’t believe she could be trusted to handle anything, whether she was physically capable or not. Add to that the fact that she was big and clumsy and achy, she was barely sleeping because of the baby squirming around in her belly, and it all added up to a long, extended bad mood. She was such a quiet, gentle soul that she’d been trying desperately not to take it out on him or on anyone, and for a long time that had been working.
But it could only last so long. She hadn’t slept well in at least a week. She woke up still exhausted, hungry, and simultaneously nauseated by the smell of something burning. She made her way into the kitchen, and her mood worsened when she saw that she’d missed breakfast with her family.
“What is that smell?” she asked, her tone coming out far more annoyed and irritable than she might have intended. “Did you burn the bread?”
Peter glanced up from Meadow's toast, frowning. "Shit. Shit," he muttered, bolting from his seat to get to the ovens. Wasted bread was wasted money. Don't bake more than you need, don't burn it, don't make mistakes. He grabbed a pair of mitts and shoved them onto his hands before opening up the ovens and fanning away the smoke.
"God damn it---" He was pulling out trays of blackened bread after that, dumping them onto the cooling racks.
Annie watched him, with pursed lips. She would have sympathized - she did sympathize - but she wasn’t in the mood to express it.
“Just leave it,” she said, exasperated. “Meadow’s got her breakfast. It doesn’t matter.” It did matter, of course. It was their main source of income at the moment, since Annie wasn’t working. But they had to relax, or they were both going to go insane.
Why did she have to use that tone with him? It was an accident, accidents happened. The timer didn't go off. Did he forget to set it? Was he so overtired that he just didn't set the timer? Either way, she didn't have to be passive aggressive.
"Yes, it matters," Peter muttered. "None of this is salvageable and I'm not going to have enough for the rest of the day. But it's fine. I'll just … it's probably a slow day."
“Why don’t we just close the shop for the day?” Annie suggested. On any other day, she would have said it gently, nicely, even sweetly. On this particular day, there was an edge to her voice, an undercurrent that hinted at her unhappiness. It almost made her sound bitter. “Go and do something fun. Wouldn’t you like that, Meadow?”
She moved over to her daughter, and ran her fingers gently through her soft hair. “I think we could all use a break.”
Peter turned to stare at her. "We can't just close the shop for the day," he said. "We have to be open when we say we're open."
He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. Having Annie take Meadow would have seemed like the logical solution, but he rarely liked Annie to be alone with her. He didn't seem to trust her, and there was no good reason for it, not when Annie was nothing but gentle with their daughter. It meant he hovered, he held on too tight, and he definitely didn't suggest that Annie just go take Meadow to the park.
"Can you finish giving her breakfast, at least? I have to … damn it, I'll just deal with this."
“Okay,” Annie said, “Meadow and I will go, then. Get out of your hair. Go down to the park.” She smiled down at their daughter, and then looked back up at Peter. “What do you think, love?”
She knew full well that he had been trying to avoid that possibility, and that the way she framed it made him look like the bad guy if he disagreed. She really wasn’t happy with herself for doing it, but couldn’t seem to stop herself. She had too much bottled up and couldn’t keep it that way any longer. It was in her eyes, a little bit of a challenge; she knew she was pushing him out of his comfort zone. It was like an emotional game of chicken, or maybe mercy, and one of them was going to break first.
She was doing it just to get at him. She was deliberately putting him in a position where if he expressed dissatisfaction with her suggestion, it made him look bad.
She was doing it on purpose, too. He just knew she was doing it on purpose.
"Fine," he said, tossing up his hands and turning back to the trays of burnt bread. It wasn't fine. He didn't want to admit that letting Meadow out of his sight made him uncomfortable. It wasn't like he never left Annie alone with Meadow, or alone with other people, but Peter felt like he always needed to watch Annie's behavior. He tensed up whenever she got frustrated. He got defensive whenever she seemed stressed out.
And now, he seemed intensely bothered at the suggestion of going to the park.
"You sound like my mother," he muttered, without looking over.
Annie flinched, as if she’d been hit. She knew what that meant, and worse, she was afraid it was true. She didn’t want to be anything like his mother, but she had just manipulated him, hadn’t she? She hadn’t hit him, but she had intentionally hurt him, all the same.
“I-” She began, before she could help herself. Then she remembered Meadow, and left her daughter’s side to move over close to Peter, so she could speak to him in a low voice, one that she hoped the little one couldn’t hear. “I’m not your mother. And you have to stop treating me like I’m going to turn into her.”
Peter knew he'd crossed over a line. Annie was a good woman. She was probably the best woman he knew. She was gentle, she was smart, and he loved her. Things weren't necessarily bad between them, even if the stress was getting to them and even if Peter felt like he was trapped sometimes. None of that was Annie's fault. She was almost unbearably kind. She was the farthest thing from his mother that he could imagine.
"I know that," he said, immediately softening. "I know. I'm sorry. It just…" He gestured to the bread, like that explained everything. He didn't have it in him to say that he felt like she was needling him on purpose.
Annie followed his gaze to the burnt bread, and let out a breath, almost a sigh. She couldn’t help softening, too, when he did; especially when he apologized.
“I know,” she said, because she did. She knew the bread, the bakery, and his dedication to doing the job so intently and perfectly - that had all been drilled into his head as a kid. She knew why he worried about the way she treated Meadow, too, but just because she understood it didn’t mean she could tolerate it any more. “I meant it, you know. I think you need a break. You’re putting so much pressure on yourself, Peter.”
This time, she said it much more gently, genuinely. She should have apologized outright, but the words just didn’t come out. Not everything was going to be perfect that easily.
Peter leaned over, lightly kissing her forehead. Of course he put pressure on himself. He was supporting a family when he was really too young to do so, and he was also upholding the family business and continuing his parents' legacy while looking after his little brother. He felt responsible for everything at a time when most people his age were having the time of their lives being wildly irresponsible. He was old beyond his years, and it hadn't really been his choice.
"That's just how it is," he said. "But I'll tell you what. I'll… yeah. I need a little time off. I can see if I can take the weekend just to sleep." He had to actually sleep instead of living on coffee.
“Why don’t you and Meadow go to the park,” Annie suggested. “Ed and I can handle the shop for a while.”
She just couldn’t stand the idea of him slaving over this all day, while she went off and did whatever she wanted. It was the way things had been working, and even though things were slanted in her favor, it felt wrong, and had only added to all the tension between them. She still wanted him to trust her with Meadow, and with the second child that was on the way, but trying to push him to do that right now wasn’t going to work.
Gently, she nudged him in the ribs. “We can handle it, you know.”
Peter looked warily toward the oven, but then sighed and gave in. He kissed Annie's cheek and reached down to take her hand.
"I'm sorry," he insisted, and he meant it.
He knew they couldn't work everything out in a day, but he never wanted to compare her to his mother. It was a kneejerk reaction, a bad one, and he felt horrible for it. Annie had been one of his guiding lights throughout his life, a real friend to him, and he never wanted to make her feel like he took her for granted.
“So am I,” Annie said finally, quietly. Whether or not she was actually treating him the way his mother had, she hadn’t done the wrong thing. She shouldn’t have forced him into a situation she knew he didn’t like - even if she ended up taking it back. The problem was, she didn’t know how to be confrontational without being aggressive, and being more passive about it obviously didn’t make things right, either. She just had no idea how to solve any of this, except to swallow it down and try to push through it, do what little she could to make them less miserable.
His hand touched hers, so she curled her fingers around it and lifted it to her mouth to kiss his knuckles. “Go on. I’ll see you later.”