Chapter 1: Welcome to Storybrooke
The Storybrooke library wasn’t what many outsiders to the town would call a conventional library. It was an old Victorian style house with books filling every shelf and volumes piled high from floor to ceiling. It was a tinderbox of knowledge kept by the town’s librarian, Julie Hightower, a pale young woman with dark brown hair and a clever and closed disposition. The library was the one thing she had in Storybrooke, aside from her Dalmatian, Perdita, which truly meant the world to her. Julie’s only family, the mayor, Regina Mills, and her son, Henry, who both kept well enough away from the library.
“I’ll leave you to maintain this cove of dusty memories,” Regina said the day she handed the keys over to Julie, “There are many secrets buried in this building. None of which I want to see let out.”
Julie had few friends in Storybrooke, only the ones that came to the library to enjoy the musty smell of the grime worn pages of the tales she had to offer.
“Good afternoon, Julie,” a soft voice said as the thud of a purse hit the counter, “How’s your day been?”
“Oh, hey, Mary Margaret,” she began with a sigh, “It’s been the usual. Just another slow day. People don’t seem to care much for reading anymore.”
“Maybe they’ve lost their imagination,” Mary Margaret assured pulling one of the used books from her purse, “Say, I have this boy in my class. He doesn’t have many friends, if any an-.”
“Are you talking about, Henry,” Julie asked shelving the newly returned tome on the bookcase behind her.
“How did you know,” she buzzed with curiosity, eyebrows knit together.
“Regina’s my aunt, Mary Margaret,” Julie started, “She doesn’t let Henry come here. I think he’d feel a lot better if she would, but no one can sway her from thinking he’s mad.”
“I just want to help him, Julie.”
“I understand. Here,” she said pulling a large book out from under the counter. Julie blew off the heavy dust blanketed cover to reveal the words Once Upon a Time. “Give him this. It’ll help.”
“You think so,” Mary Margaret queried gathering the book up in her arms as Julie walked around the counter.
“I’m more than certain,” she said with a smile, plucking her coat off the hook next to the door and hit the light switch, “It helped me.”
Julie slipped on her coat and opened the door into Storybrooke, motioning her ‘friend’ out. The usual Maine chill loomed in the air and the roads were slick with a recent rain shower.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come to the clinic with me,” Mary Margaret entreated walking with Julie, “Just this one time.”
“You know I’d love to, but I need to pick up Perdita,” Julie conveyed stopping in front of the inn, “Can we raincheck?”
“Okay, but I’m going to hold you to it this time,” Mary Margaret said ambling away to the hospital.
Julie never went out to eat lunch, never went out for drinks, and NEVER went to help at the hospital. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, she just couldn’t. She didn’t know how to interact with people. Julie opened the iron gate leading to the bed and breakfast and marched up the stairs to the door.
“Hello? Is anyone home,” Julie inquired peaking into the foyer before coming in. Perdita’s barks welcomed Julie as she opened the door and knelt down to embrace the spotted tail-wagger before putting her leash on, “I guess there was no one here, but you, huh?” Perdita yipped once more in agreement, as Julie pulled a few dollars from her pocket and set it on the counter with a thank you note, then left the inn. On the walk home, Julie glimpsed a man walking on the other side of the street with his dog. He was average height, covered in tweed, and wielding an umbrella along with his canine companion. The stranger smiled and put up a small wave at Julie and she returned the favor, longing to make it to her apartment to avoid any spontaneous conversation. When she reached the door, Julie glanced back down the street to notice the man stayed on his path and made no attempt to come over. She opened the entrance and led Perdita in, then fell back on the door closing it with a sigh of relief. ‘I didn’t know other people owned dogs here,’ she thought beginning to jaunt up the stairs to her apartment. Perdita began to growl suddenly as they closed in on the door.
“Perdita, stop it,” Julie scolded as she slid the key into the door to find it already unlocked. Turning the knob, she creaked the door open, finding Mr. Gold sitting at the kitchen table.
“Julie, good evening,” he said sipping from a glass of wine, “Your hair’s looking lovely.”
Julie bent over unlatching the leash from her dog’s collar saying, “Perdita, go lay down.”
She hung up the leash and the coat next to the door before turning back to Mr. Gold.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Gold,” she requested, putting the cork back in the bottle of wine he left on the counter.
“It’s not what you can do for me. It’s what you’ve already done,” he said finishing the glass pushing himself from the table, “This town is going to see some change, for the better. And you’ll play a bigger part than you realize. Good night, Miss Hightower.” As Mr. Gold left the modest apartment, Julie yelled down the hall, “What do you mean? I don’t want a part in anything! I just want to be left alone!”
“It’s too late for that, Julie,” Mr. Gold called back, “It’s time to face your demons.”
Chapter 2: In the Tallest Tower
The morning sun was just beginning to peak into the windows of the highest tower the Queen’s men could build and where a flaxen-haired maiden became prisoner. Locked away from the world, Rapunzel was given this tower, by the evil Queen, to protect her niece from the afflictions she had yet created.
“Rapunzel… wake up my sleeping beauty,” the evil Queen sang as she sat on the edge of Rapunzel’s bed, gently caressing her face. The young woman startled awake at the regal woman dressed so wantonly at her side.
“Your Majesty, I’m sorry I would have been up but-,” she began before the Queen cut her off.
“You were up late reading books again, I know,” Regina said giving the bed a slight bounce before getting off, “How can you even sleep in this bed, child? The beds in the dungeons aren’t even this bad.”
As Rapunzel sat up she gave the bed a small push with her hand saying, “It’s soft enough for me. I don’t need the softest, or shiniest, or most beautiful things to be happy, Your Majesty.”
Hearing those words come from Rapunzel’s mouth made the evil Queen cringe as she thought about how plainly, and happily, her niece chose to live.
“Let’s get you dressed,” she expressed trying to get the idea out of her mind, outstretching her hand, “You may choose to live simply with your books and austere disposition, but I will not allow you to look like a pauper.”
“As you wish,” Rapunzel obliged taking Regina’s hand.
“Stand here,” the sovereign ordered, placing the young woman in front a grand mirror, before stepping over to the ivory armoire, “Light blue today?”
“If I must,” Rapunzel sighed meekly, watching the reflection of brushes, imbued with magic, taking charge of her ashen locks.
Regina pulled a silky, light turquoise frock from the wardrobe and held out, examining how it might compliment her niece’s features. She set it on a chair before pulling out a chemise much to Rapunzel’s dismay.
“Do I have to wear all that,” she pleaded, “No one is going to see me. I don’t understand why I can’t just wear my nightdress.”
“Because you are a princess...”
“BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE A PRINCESS,” Rapunzel argued, “I feel like a prisoner! I’m trapped in this tower away from everyone and everything!”
She had longed to see what was outside her keep, longed to know what waited for her beyond the forest. If she was a princess, why did she have to be locked away like a murderer never to see the light of day? Rapunzel watched as the evil Queen’s face contorted into a sneer of disgust at her small act of rebellion. Regina regained her composure and plastered on a reassuring, but fake smile as she strode over to the naïve princess.
“What have I told you about this temper, Rapunzel,” she began, pulling loose the knot holding the nightdress on her shoulders, “Do I need to take your books away again?”
“Please don’t. I’m sorry, Your Majesty,” she quickly spoke as the gown slipped off. Rapunzel pulled the chemise on over her small curves and the Queen fastened the strings as tight as she could, showing little concerned that Rapunzel nearly suffocated at the jolt of air that had been strangled from her by the camisole. Regina stepped back in front of her, taking the woman’s shoulder’s in her hands, “I only want the best for you. I’m protecting you from the darkness that surrounds my throne and my castle. Darkness that would tear the innocence from your heart.”
She removed a hand from Rapunzel’s shoulders and placed it on her breastbone, feeling the quickening heartbeat, “This is pure, and I am resolved to keep it that way.”
Rapunzel watched as the Queen backed away to grab the opalescent heap of fabric for her to put on next.
“Last thing, then I’m gone,” the monarch promised before helping her into the crinkling fabric. After tying the remaining strings in the back she looked up at Rapunzel, their eyes meeting in the mirror, and said, “That’s not so bad is it, sweetheart?”
“I guess not,” she said with small smile, returned by the evil Queen.
“Have a nice day, Rapunzel,” Regina said giving her a small hug, then walked over to the mirror, “One day, you’ll be out of this tower, and you see how cruel my kingdom is.”
Every time the evil Queen disappeared into the mirror and out of the tower, Rapunzel always tried to escape the same way, hoping that maybe there would be a little magic left behind, and there never was.
The day had passed into night and Rapunzel was well into another book. Curled up on her bed, she was caught up in a heraldic tale of knights battling dragons and saving young damsels. She wondered aloud, “Why can’t something like this happen to me?” She placed the open book on her chest staring up at the canopy of her bed. Rapunzel turned over, finding a bright green grasshopper seated on the pillow next to her. With a scream, she fell off the bed, and onto the floor, only picking herself up enough to look over the edge of the mattress.
“I’m sorry, miss,” the little umbrella carrying cricket conveyed, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I just wondered what could be in a tower, so far out in the country.”
“You… you can talk?”
“Ah, you’ve never met a talking cricket before,” he said, “My name’s Jiminy and I was wondering if I might know your name?”
The humble cricket’s introduction was met by a loud thud against the wooden floor of the tower as Rapunzel fainted.
“Oh dear,” he said peering over the brink of the bed down at the sleeping young woman.
The grating noise of her alarm welcomed Julie back to her brick walled apartment and to another day in Storybrooke.
‘A talking cricket,’ she thought sitting up in bed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, ‘How queer…’
Chapter 3: Laying the Groundwork
A sprinkling of raindrops pitter pattered against window panes of Julie’s apartment as she sat reading in the living room. The rain was letting up and the petrichor from the streets was beginning to entwine and dance around the atmosphere with the faint aroma of coffee. Perdita was fast asleep, curled up in an arm chair across from the sofa. It had been a few days since Julie’s dream about being in the tower with the talking cricket, and today, her mind was wrapped around the tales of a young girl, trapped in a mad world of militarized playing cards and intransient, wild color, when a knock at the door tore her from the fairytale and back into Storybrooke.
‘Who could that be,” she mused, meandering her way over to the portal. With a twist of the doorknob, her visitor barely waited for the door to open before crashing into the small apartment and into Julie.
“Thank you! Thank you so much,” her cousin’s excited voice filled the room, “Mary Margaret gave me the book. Thank you, Julie!”
“I’m glad you like it,” she affirmed, giving the young boy a big hug, “You’re more than welcome, Henry.”
“Have you read it,” he asked, releasing Julie’s waist and jumping over to a bar stool, pulling his backpack off.
“Of course, I have,” Julie expressed, going to the kitchen, “That’s how I knew it would be perfect for you.”
She smiled at Henry, watching him as he pulled the volume out of his bookbag and set it on the countertop in a clatter.
“So, I think I have it figured out,” he began, “Everyone in Stroybrooke is a character in this book.”
Julie snorted as she was pouring Henry a glass of milk, saying, “You think everyone’s from that fairytale? What about me? I’m not from here; I came from Seattle.”
Very blankly, he looked at Julie as she turned to give him the cup before inquiring, “Well… why did you come here?”
“You and Aunt Regina were here and you’re the only family I have. It seemed right,” she maintained, furrowing her brow in confusion.
“But you didn’t have to come here for us,” he retaliated, “You could have just called to keep in touch.”
He was right, this ten year old boy was right, and Julie couldn’t believe it.
“Why did I come here, Henry,” she said entertaining his theories, leaning into the counter, “If I’m a character in that book… who am I?”
“I don’t know, Julie,” Henry answered, “Can we go to the library? Maybe we can figure it out together?”
His voice turned pleading and anxious, his face was alight with curiosity, and he wiggled in his chair like an eager child standing before Santa Claus.
With a sigh, Julie responded, “You know your mom doesn’t want you to go to the library.”
“Please? I won’t tell, I promise,” Henry said with bright, imaginative eyes and a sly smile.
“Fine, we can go,” she gave in, “But not a word. Not to anyone who is friends with your mother.”
“I promise,” Henry replied, tossing the book in his bag and strapping his backpack on. He slid off the barstool and ran over grabbing Julie’s hand to pull her to the door.
“Hold on a second, kid, “she remarked, pulling her coat from the hanger by the entrance. Julie’s arms slid into anorak and she patted the pocket, being welcomed by the familiar jingle of keys.
“Now we can go, Henry,” Julie said opening the door for the young tyke as he scurried out, “Watch the house, Perdita.” The Dalmatian barked an okay as the door closed and locked.
The two walked out of the apartment building, hand in hand, towards the library; such a perfect pair, one would think Julie was Henry’s big sister. His accusations were swimming around in her head, ‘What if we are characters in this book? No, it’s just his imagination. There’s no way…”
She fell back into reality when the words, “This is my cousin, Julie,” weaved out of the little boy’s mouth.
“It’s nice to meet you, Julie,” introduced the soothingly, gruff voice with an extended hand, “My name’s Archie. Archie Hopper.”
“And you as well,” she mumbled, straying out of her comfort zone to politely shake the stranger’s hand.
“Now, don’t forget, Henry. You have an appointment tomorrow,” Archie said kneeling in front of him, “Your mom scheduled it this morning and I didn’t know if she told you.”
“All right, Archie,” Henry acknowledged as he once again tried pulling Julie to the library, “I’ll see you tomorrow!”
“It was nice meeting you, Mr. Hopper,” she recited, being tugged away by her cousin’s eagerness until she was jerked back from the other side; one of the belt loops on her coat snagged Archie’s umbrella handle. Henry’s hand released from hers and he stopped, turning around to see what was holding them up.
“I am so sorry, Julie. Let me get that,” Archie conveyed, gathering his umbrella from her coat.
“It’s okay,” she uttered, with a faint smile, “Accidents happen.”
“All right, c’mon,” Henry demanded as they all parted ways and he regained her hand.
For the briefest of seconds, Julie looked back towards Archie and, to her surprise, she found him doing the same. She turned back towards the library, when suddenly, her heart filled with dread, as she looked down at Henry, who was peering up at her with a wide smile, “You saw that, didn’t you?”
“Did he say something about an appointment? Why does Aunt Regina want you to see him,” she queried as they walked up the staircase to the library.
“He’s my therapist.”
“You’re ten,” Julie remarked pushing the key into the lock, as the familiar clicking of high end shoes sounded behind them.
“Henry, why aren’t you at home? What are you doing here,” Regina’s voice was demanding and crass, far more than the usual and Julie took a deep gulp, “I told you. You aren’t allowed at the library.”
“It’s just a library, mom. Julie was going to help me with some homework,” Henry quickly spouted out, “It’s some… literature homework.”
“That’s right, the school didn’t have a book he needed so I brought him here,” Julie continued, trying to add truth to Henry’s story, “Perhaps if the school was better funded, I wouldn’t have had to bring him to the library.”
Henry and Julie looked at each other and back to Regina.
“Come on, Henry. I’ll buy you the book you need,” she said pulling Henry’s hand from Julie’s.
She was helpless, powerless against Regina, and it was a waste of time to argue with her. Julie watched as her evil aunt drug Henry to her car.
“It would be better if you gave the school money, Aunt Regina.”
“Don’t cross me again, Julie,” she commanded before getting into the sleek black Mercedes and driving off.
Julie sat on the steps of her library, downtrodden by their failure. She laid her face in her hands trying not to cry, “We were so close.”
“She caught you this time, but are you just going to give up,” a voice called out from in front of her. Julie looked up to see Mr. Gold, leaning against his cane, watching her pitiful form admit defeat.
“I’ll handle Regina. You and Henry need what’s in that library,” he said, “Now dry your eyes, Miss Hightower. It’s time for you to start being the change you want to see in this town.”
Chapter 4: One Small Rebellion
It was a new day in the land of fairytale and enchantment; another day for Rapunzel to be trapped high up in her tower, nose stuck deep into another book. It was what the evil Queen expected of her niece; Rapunzel remained submissive and naïve in the presence of her aunt. After the evil Queen had left for the night, the young princess gathered herself from the bed and pulled open the doors of the large, gaudy armoire. To her amazement, all of the frilly dresses and sparkling gems were gone, replaced only with a cloak, tunic, and a pair of pants tucked underneath a pair of well-crafted riding boots corralled together by a leather belt of the same color. She slid the pants on and pulled the tunic over her head. The boots followed, clicking into place, perfectly conforming to the shape of her feet. Rapunzel stood in front of the mirror, looking at how snuggly the clothes fit her form. Clothes she had never seen before in the wardrobe.
“Tonight, I will leave the keep of this tower,” she recited to herself, “And I will follow my own path away from her.”
The princess collected the cloak around her shoulders and fastened the clasp.
“I pray no one else be held in this tower as I have been,” Rapunzel said, picking up a stool. She threw it, with all her might, into the mirror, watching the evil Queen’s portal into the keep shatter into pieces.
“Hello again,” a voice came from the window; she spun around, shocked to see the same little, green cricket from a few days before.
“It’s you,” she said, walking towards the window and kneeling down in front of it to be eye-level with her guest, “You’re real.”
“Of course. I’m guessing you haven’t met many talking crickets,” he voiced, “My name is Jiminy.”
“Rapunzel,” she replied, “My name is Rapunzel.”
“It’s an honor to meet you,” Jiminy said, “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you all alone, trapped in this tower? And why did you just break that mirror? It’s bad luck to break a mirror, you know.”
“I have been placed here because my aunt, the queen, had this tower built for me,” she began, “But I’m leaving tonight. I broke that mirror because it’s how she gets in. Now no one will suffer as I did.”
“And do you think what you’re doing is right,” he asked, leaning against a tiny parasol.
“Yes. I think it’s more than right. I’ve been kept in this tower for twenty three years. No prisoner should be kept away that long,” she affirmed standing up, pulling her rope-like hair to her.
“Did she do it to protect you,” Jiminy expressed, taking to flight, causing Rapunzel to stop for a moment.
“It’s what she says,” the young woman maintained, “To protect me from the darkness that inhabits her kingdom. I see no darkness from my tower and I have read of none.”
“But, do you think she’s right for wanting to keep you safe?”
“There are other ways she could have kept me safe, Jiminy,” she declared, throwing her hair over a plant hanger outside, “The queen could have let me stay in the castle; could have assigned guards to protect me.”
“You may be right, but at the time, perhaps she thought this was what you needed,” he asserted, “As a form of conscience, I’m here to guide your decision.”
Rapunzel took the golden cord in her hands saying, “Jiminy, I have made my decision. And there’s no turning back now.”
She leapt from the window, closing her eyes, listening to the air whistle by her ears, until she crashed into the soft grass.
“Julie. Wake up, Julie,” a male voice articulated, shaking her shoulder. Julie slowly woke up, lifting her head from a book she had been reading as ‘research’ to help Henry. She closed the book, rubbing the remnants of sleep from her eyes.
“Sheriff Graham, what brings you to the library,” she uttered in tired syllables, “Don’t see you around too often.”
“It’s half past two in the morning and I saw the light was still on,” he chimed in, “Thought I would come and check. You should go home and get some rest. Come on, I’ll take you.”
As much as Julie wanted to insist that she’d rather stay at the library, she couldn’t find the words to keep her there. She knew he would be unyielding in his advice to take her home, so Julie placed the book in the drawer of her work table.
“Maybe, you’re right,” she said, stumbling around the counter, “Let me just get my coat.”
“Here, I’ve got it,” he remarked, holding it up. Graham held open one of the sleeves for Julie to slip her arm into and did the same with the other side, then lifted an arm over his shoulders and grabbed her waist, to support her.
“You really don’t have to help me,” she whispered, opening the door for them.
“I would feel better if I did,” he answered, as she stopped to pull the door to, “I know you’re not as awake and alert as you think you are.”
He stood behind her, holding Julie in place as she searched through the keys for the right one to lock the door. Holding the correct key in her hand, she tried desperately to lock the entrance. It was a series of aiming and hitting just above the keyhole, or just to the side. Graham took Julie’s hand, guiding the key into the tumblers and turning it with a familiar click.
“I thought you didn’t need my help,” he mentioned, picking her up.
“I would have gotten it, Sheriff,” she spoke laying her head on his shoulder, “Eventually.”
“The ‘eventually’ is what I was worried about,” he argued, cradling Julie in his arms as he ambled down the steps to his squad car.
“Do you still live in at the apartment across town,” Graham asked, setting her down, feet first, at his car.
“Yeah, do you really think I’d move,” she giggled, leaning against the car as he opened the door and helped her in.
He smiled and knelt down to buckle Julie into the seat, saying, “Well, you never know with your type. Quiet, solitary, doesn’t get into trouble.”
She smirked and leaned her head back on the seat, then looked over out of the window. Falling back into a daze of sleep, Julie neglected to notice Graham get into the car and start it.
The ride was quiet to her apartment. Storybrooke always had an uneasy peace about it. Most of the crime was on the backstage of the town and many of the citizens didn’t know what happened behind the closed doors of the Mayor’s office or the Sheriff’s Department. When they pulled up in front of the crimson bricked building, Graham announced, “There you go, Julie.”
He looked over at his passenger, tucked into her coat, fast asleep, Julie didn’t startle to wake up. He sighed, grabbing the keys from her lap and put them in his pocket before getting out of the car. Graham opened Julie’s door and unbuckled the harness holding her in place. She leaned out of the seat making it easy for him to get her out and up to the glass door. He looked at the keys, finding an old skeleton key with a gold ‘32’ emblazoned on the head of it.
“I forgot you had the tallest room in this place,” Graham muttered to himself as they began the ascent up the stairs. The apartment building she lived in had three floors, four technically, including the second floor of the top level housing. Finding the door to match, he placed the key in the lock and opened it, dragging Julie inside. Graham set the keys on the counter and picked her up to advance up the stairs to her bedroom. The sheriff placed Julie on the bed, planting a small kiss on her forehead, then removed her shoes and pulled a blanket over her.
“I will always protect you, Julie. Like the sister I never had,” he revealed, “Sweet dreams, princess.”
He strode back down the stairs and walked over to the keys, he placed on the bar. Regina’s request for a copy of Julie’s keys rang in his head.
“I’ll protect you, even, from her.”
Chapter 5: The Unlikely Pair
The soft grass squished under Rapunzel feet; it was nothing like the hard, wood floors of the tower, which now loomed far above. She found a path leading from the tower into the woods and started forward. The pines and other timber loomed high above her and the earth under her feet was still moist with dew. Walking further into the forest, Rapunzel found a road, wide enough for two carriages to pass each other in safety.
‘This isn’t anywhere near as scary, or ‘dark’, as the queen said it would be,’ Rapunzel thought, hiking down the thoroughfare. As she kept moving forward, there was a rustling in the leaves around her, quieting only when she slowed down. Unsure of what it could be, Rapunzel stopped, turning around to find nothing following her and nothing around her. Shrugging off her gathering fear, she turned back around into the massive lumbering body of a great grey wolf, baring it’s teeth in a ferocious snarl.
“Oh my… ummmm… stay there... I mean no harm to you, wolf,” she conveyed, holding her hands up to keep the beast at bay. Rapunzel’s heart began to pound in her chest, unwilling to settle down, and her hands shook out in front of her. The wolf eased toward the princess, sniffing the palms of her hands and her cloak. She closed her eyes, hoping to find the wolf gone when she opened them again, but there the wolf remained, sitting in front of her.
Rapunzel attempted to move by the wolf, but was met by unsettling growls resonating from deep within the wild dog’s throat.
"You are a real piece of work," she judged, sitting down in front of him, "What have I done to you?"
The snarling began again and this time it was met by a different voice saying, "He distrusts because you smell of fear."
Rapunzel spun around, finding a tall man standing over her. The growling of the wolf soothed as the man approached it, holding his hand out for the beast to smell. As the man knelt in front of Rapunzel, her eyebrows knit close together as she tried to think of something to say, only managing to muster, “Who are you?”
"I'm the huntsman of these woods," he began, “This is one of my dearest friends.”
"The huntsman," Rapunzel repeated as she watched him kneel next to the dog, still unsure of this stranger.
“Who are you? Not a peasant by the looks of your clothes.”
“My name is Rapunzel,” she introduced, “I was a princess trapped in the tower. Now, I am a free woman making her own destiny.”
"How poetic. Come closer and give me your hand,” the hunter articulated with his hand out towards her.
”Why,” the princess queried, still leaned away from the wild pair in front of her.
“Just do it.”
Rapunzel gulped and slowly crawled forward. As she moved her hand into his, the stranger’s rough, calloused digits contrasted hers as they touched and he closed her hand around the wolf’s head.
“You must not be afraid. Unless you go out of your way to hurt him, he will not go out of his way to hurt you,” the huntsman said, watching her softly pet the beast.
“Can you teach me,” the young woman beckoned, “Can you teach me to hunt and track?”
“I can. As long as you promise to not make yourself a burden on me,” the huntsman agreed, with a slight, merciful smile. Rapunzel’s eyes beamed as she quickly pledged to aid him in the forests, in return for his skills. He pulled his quiver of arrows off and placed over her, fastening the buckle tight against her chest, for a better fit, and handed the princess his bow.
“Come on,” he said, starting off into the woods, “You won’t find much on roads like this.”
Rapunzel ripped herself from the avenue and followed him into the trees.
“You need to be quieter, if you plan on hunting and killing something.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, trailing next to him.
They meandered through the heavy thickets and foliage of the forest floor, until he stopped her and pointed out a deer a few yards away.
“Ready your bow,” he said, pulling an arrow from the quiver placing it in her hand. The huntsman stood behind Rapunzel, holding her hand on the bow and on the knock of the arrow, pulling the string back with her, “Take a breath. Release.”
As the word ‘release’ skirted out of his mouth, the projectile released, launching through the air, and pierced the deer’s side.
“Very good,” the huntsman said, pulling his hands from hers, “You’ll be a hunter soon enough, but now is where you learn the most important lesson.”
They walked over to the freshly killed buck and the hunter knelt down pulling the arrow from the deer and handed it back to Rapunzel, saying, “You don’t kill for sport. You don’t kill just to kill. When you kill an animal, one as fair as this, it’s to keep yourself alive.”
“It gave its life, so I can continue mine,” Rapunzel confirmed, holstering the bow with the quiver.
The huntsman smiled and nodded, “Precisely.”
He gathered the buck by the legs and lifted it over his shoulders, “How about we go home, Rapunzel?”
A week had passed and Rapunzel was beginning to hunt on her own and come back with an assortment of animals. The huntsman had no family outside of the wolves and the new member of his household became a welcome addition. He vowed to protect her, as an older brother would take care of a younger sister, and continued to show the princess how to survive in the wild, even, down to which plants were poisonous and which were not. One day, the clomping of horse hooves arose outside the cabin.
“They’re black riders,” Rapunzel said looking out into the woods, then looked back at the huntsman.
“They’ve come for me,” he said pulling on a thick fur cloak and his hunting knife. He walked over to his companion, taking Rapunzel’s hands as she tried to keep tears from gathering in her eyes, and promised, “I pledge my heart to, you, Rapunzel. You, who have shown me the value of one of the most precious things of all, love, not only for another, but for myself. Remember… remember what I’ve taught you.” The huntsman enclosed a leather pouch in her hands and a wolf tooth strung along a braided hide cord.
“Thank you… thanks for what you have taught me as well,” she grieved, pulling him into a hug.
The huntsman smiled, and tenderly kissed Rapunzel’s forehead before saying, “Whether I come back or not, I desire you to leave this cabin. I don’t want the queen to catch you here. Should I fail or succeed, I will find you.”
Chapter 6: A Rough Start
Storybrooke’s City Hall was one of the more decadent buildings in the town’s center. After receiving an urgent call from the sheriff, Julie stumbled into the mayor’s office, drawing the attention of Regina, Graham, and Archie.
“What is it,” she queried, out of breath and eyebrows furrowed, “What’s happened?”
“Where is he, Julia,” Regina interrogated as she stood from her desk, looking sternly into Julie eyes, “Where is my son?!”
“I don’t know where Henry is,” she explained, “I haven’t seen him since we were going to the library. Tell me what happened!”
“Henry’s gone,” Graham conveyed, touching Julie’s shoulder, “We can’t find him anywhere and according to the mayor he said he was going to your apartment before his session with Dr. Hopper.”
Julie’s knees went weak as she tried to keep herself from crumbling to the floor, and confessed “I swear I haven’t seen him. You know I would tell you if I had, Aunt Regina.”
Regina sighed heavily with a shrug saying, “Then, we’ll split up; Graham and I will be together and Dr. Hopper and Julie will be together.”
She grabbed her coat from the pegs next to the door and ordered, ‘What are you three still standing there for?!”
“Dr. Hopper and I both have dogs; wouldn’t it be better to split them up,” Julie explicated, walking out of the door to the main hall.
“She’s right, why don’t I go with her and you go with Archie,” Graham suggested, watching the mayor’s face contort in disgust, “Or… I could take Perdita, if you don’t mind, Jules.”
“Graham, as long as we find Henry, I don’t care who is with whom,” she argued, “Take her and go to the opposite side of town. I just don’t understand why Regina would be so particular about the pairs.”
They walked out to the parking lot, met by joyous barks coming from Julie’s jeep. She opened the door, letting the happy dog jump out, and clipped the leash onto her collar.
“I’ll tell you about that later,” he said, taking the leash from Julie’s hand as Regina and Archie came up to the car, “So, you and Dr. Hopper’ll take the south side of town. Regina and I will take the north.”
“So, Regina’s your aunt,” Archie questioned, as they walked along the main street towards the toll bridge with Pongo, “And Henry is your cousin?”
“Yeah,” Julie quickly said, with Henry’s disappearance fresh on her mind, “They’re my only family, Dr. Hopper, aside from Graham. He’s like a brother. Ever since I came to Storybrooke he’s watched out for me and I’m very grateful for that.”
“Do you have any friends here,” he continued, as Pongo darted back and forth along the sidewalk catching small patches of Henry’s scent, or bits of things smelling a bit more enticing than a ten year old.
“Oh… ummm… Just Mary Margaret, really, and I guess you could consider Henry my friend; he’s much more of a little brother though. We’re pretty close. We have a lot of the same problems and being older, I try to help where I can. He’s just a little more outgoing than I am.”
The hours were passing and the sun was beginning to dim over the town, still they walked further down the street and out to the bridge, stopping and asking if anyone had seen Henry, but the town’s responses were unanimous. On the way back, Archie and Julie’s final stop was Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop; she turned to Archie and requested, “Can you wait out here? I’m just going to go and ask if he knows anything.”
“Yeah, sure,” he said, with a bit of curiosity working its way across his face.
The bell jingled as Julie walked into the pawn shop; more like an antique warehouse of treasures past, but if anyone had an answer, it would be Mr. Gold.
“Good evening, Miss Hightower, is there something I can do for you,” the little man said, coming from his back room.
“Mr. Gold, Henry’s gone. Regina doesn’t know where he is; neither does Graham or Dr. Hopper. We’ve been looking all night and I just wondered if maybe he stopped here.”
Gold leaned on his front counter, with a smug half-smile working its way across his face, “Miss Hightower, do you remember when I told you that you were going to be the catalyst for change in this town? “
“Yes, but wh-…”
“Allow me to finish, Henry will come back. I can promise you that. Tell me Julia, do you feel like there’s something here that draws in people from out of the town,” he said, polishing a bit of silverware lying on the counter.
“Why does that matter,” Julie answered, eyebrows furrowing together in frustration.
Mr. Gold took a step back from the counter and replied only, “It matters because the next person to come into this town will be a most valuable asset, and she may not have ever come here, if you hadn’t given Henry that book. Good night, Miss Hightower.”
Julie came out of the shop more confused than ever at Mr. Gold’s cryptic messages, met by Archie’s excitement at Henry’s possible location.
“He doesn’t know where Henry is,” Julie confirmed as Graham and Regina walked up, “He doesn’t know. No one knows on this side of town.”
“That’s the same for the other side,” Graham said giving Perdita’s leash back to Julie, “He’s disappeared.”
Regina’s face was contorted into an ugly disarray of emotions ranging anywhere from anger to sorrow finally managing to acknowledge the loss, “Let’s call it a night. It’s getting too dark to search outside of the town. Maybe he’ll come back later. He’s only a boy. Henry’s bound to come back.”
Pongo and Perdita lead the way back into Storybrooke, stopping to sniff bits of pavement of thickets of grass or growth.
“Why don’t you two come up to my office,” Archie mentioned, stopping at the door, “I wouldn’t mind giving you someone to talk to, if you need it.”
“I really don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Julie tried dodging his question, as Perdita nudged her forward into him and the doorway, “But I guess I can make an exception.”
Archie let Pongo off his tether and followed the Dalmatian as he bounded up the stairs, “It’s just up here,” he pointed.
Julie looked down to Perdita who had a complacent look drug across her muzzle, “You and I are having a talk later.” Her Dalmatian snorted before pulling her up the stairs to Archie’s office. Julie removed Perdita’s leash and watched her prance over to Pongo, dancing around the sleepy dog’s frame, and finally laying down next to him.
“You can sit there on the couch if you’d like,” Archie informed, making himself comfortable in the chair across.
“All right,” Julie said with a slight smile.
“So, you aren’t from here?”
“ I lived in Seattle, but something pulled me here. I guess it was Henry and Regina, but sometimes I wonder why I’m here. I run the library, read nearly every book in there. I haven’t ever been much for extroversion.”
“I wanted to ask you something,” he began to explain; “I would never resolve to think of any of my patients as crazy." Julie furrowed her eyebrows together, cutting him off, "I wouldn't consider myself your patient." "Right and I was just talking in general, with anyone. It’s a bit out of character for me, but… but from a professional standpoint where diagnoses are required, I have a decision to make. Has Henry told you about his theory? The one he made from that fairytale book he carries around?”
“Well, yeah,” Julie confided, “Dr. Hopper, I gave him that book because I thought it would help him. I really feel like it would be better if he went to the library, but Regina doesn’t allow it. In a way... I believe him. Most people in this town, like the Sheriff, don’t know their past. Or someone, like me, is pulled here from across the country. I don’t think that Henry is entirely wrong for his theories, I think he’s a ten year old trying to make since of the world around him, with the few friends he has.”
”But this notion, that we’re all characters from a fairytale is a little berserk, don’t you think?”
Julie’s head slightly cocked to one side and her face spelled confusion, listening to one of Henry’s confidants accuse him of being erratic, and then fostered the young boy’s ideas, “Why can’t he be left to his own theories, Dr. Hopper? Is this why Regina sends him to you?”
“The mayor sends your cousin to me because she wants him to be normal…”
“Normal? And a child with an imagination and budding creativity isn’t? Dr. Hopper, I’m not going to let you push my aunt’s agenda for Henry onto me,” Julie averted, standing from the couch, whistling for Perdita, “Good night, doctor.”
“Miss Hightower, wait,” Archie contested, grabbing her hand, “Let me explain.”
She looked into his eyes, pleading for mercy, before snatching her hand back saying, “Good night.”
Julie walked down the stairs with Perdita close by; tears were welling up in the tiny crevices of her eyes as she tethered the leash back onto the Dalmatian’s collar.
“And you thought that was a good idea,” she imparted to Perdita. When Julie walked out of Dr. Hopper’s building, her ears were greeted by the hum of a little yellow Volkswagen Beetle.
“Change comes in all shapes and sizes, Julia,” Mr. Gold’s voice rang in her mind as she walked home, “The pusillanimous will become heroic and the sovereign will become compliant.”
Chapter 7: The Hat Maker and His Princess
Days had passed and the huntsman hadn't fulfilled his promise to Rapunzel. She walked endlessly through the forests stopping only to hunt or make camp for the night. One afternoon, the aroma of burning hickory filled the air and the princess came across a cabin with a young girl playing outside of it. A beautiful little thing with flaxen braids whipping around as she twirled in the yard. Rapunzel hid behind a tree, watching the girl dance around an elegant looking top hat, singing the lyrics of a fable in a soft, angelic voice. Then the little girl was seized by a rather eccentric looking man and she laughed, filling the surrounding timbers with an innocent kindness.
‘Precious little princess,’ she thought peaking further around the tree, watching the scraggly haired man spin the young girl around. When he set her down, the stranger looked up into the woods catching a glimpse of their spy, as she quickly moved back around the trunk.
"Wait here, sweetheart," Rapunzel heard the resplendent male voice command before the crackling of twigs and rustling of leaves started toward the oak she hid behind. Poking her head back around the enormous tree, she looked back at the cabin finding only the little girl outside, with her hands clasped behind her back.
“Excuse me, miss,” beckoned that same male voice, as Rapunzel felt a hand grab her arm, “Are you lost?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snoop,” she confessed, “I was only passing by when I smelled your fire through the woods. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone else out here.”
“Your clothes feel soaked,” he replied, retracting his hand from her silky tunic, “How about you come and enjoy some tea?”
“That would be nice. Rapunzel,” she offered, holding a hand out, “My name is Rapunzel.”
“Mine’s Jefferson,” he said with a slight bow, kissing the top of her hand, “Pleased to meet you.”
“And you as well,” she maintained with a smile, blushing a little at this formal greeting.
The pair walked in tandem as Jefferson shouted for Grace to come over, “I have someone for you to meet.”
He scooped her up in his arms and the little girl looked at their new visitor, “Hello. My name is Grace. What’s your name?”
“What a beautiful name for such a sweet girl. My name’s Rapunzel,” she responded, shaking her hand. Rapunzel joined the two in the cabin, taking everything in and noticing it was more of a home than the huntsman’s old cottage was. Jefferson’s dwelling had all the trappings and warmth of a family’s residence, whereas the huntsman lived in seclusion and darkness. She pulled off the quiver and bow, hanging them neatly on a peg next to the door and started meandering around, looking at all of the curiosities that lay on the walls and on desktops.
“So where are you from, Rapunzel,” her host’s voice queried as he searched through some drawers for some dry clothes for her to wear.
“A little area, just east of here,” she answered, examining an intricately designed hat sitting atop the mantle.
“Those are the huntsman’s woods. Vicious fellow,” Jefferson acknowledged, pulling a frock from the dresser and handed it to Rapunzel, “I’ve heard he’s friends with the wolves.”
“He was a good man,” she mumbled, taking the garment, “I owe a lot to him.”
Rapunzel went into the next room and shut the door, throwing the dress onto the bed. She untied the strings holding the rain heavy cloak over her shoulders and it slid to the floor like dead weight. Her mass of hair was braided back in a messy assortment of twists and turns, keeping out of the way as Rapunzel pulled off the rest of her clothes. After she pulled the dress on, the huntress picked up the heaping pile of damp clothes and brought them into the main room.
“Take a seat. I’ll take care of these,” Jefferson insisted, pulling them from her arms and placing them around the fireplace.
“Are you a princess,” Grace’s innocent voice declared as Rapunzel sat across from her, “I think you are.”
“Well, I’m not quite sure. What qualities do princesses have?”
The little girl sat up in her chair, her face glowing as she started listing off features, “Kindness, beauty, grace, wisdom, caring, but I guess caring is sort of like kindness, isn’t it daddy?”
“Not all the time, dear,” Jefferson affirmed bringing the kettle to the table and taking a seat, “Do you remember the story I told you about the Queen of Hearts. She cared for many things, but, never once, did anyone consider her kind.”
“Oh yeah,” she muttered, finishing a bread roll, “So, are you?!”
“If I’m a princess, then you must be a princess too,” Rapunzel responded, with a smile, watching the little girl turn red and giggle, “And I’m very envious that you get to have such a wonderful father.”
“C’mon, Gracie, it’s time for you to go to bed.”
“But daddy…” Grace pleaded, “Please can I stay up?”
Jefferson sighed, “Come on, sweetie, you know we’re going to town tomorrow. You need to get some sleep tonight.”
“Okay,” she jumped off of the chair and ran around to Rapunzel’s arm, tugging at the sleeve of her dress, “Will you come with us, please, Rapunzel, please?”
“We’ll see, little one,” Rapunzel conveyed, with a smile.
When Jefferson came back from tucking Grace in, he sat down at the table with Rapunzel, pouring her another cup of tea.
“Grace is very beautiful,” Rapunzel took the cup back, dropping a sugar cube into the amber liquid.
Jefferson smiled, nodding, “Thank you. She’s my life. Did you know your parents?”
“I didn’t, no. The queen placed me in a tower, I don’t even know if they’re still alive, but if you don’t mind me asking,” she started, taking a sip of tea, “Where’s her mother?”
The smile that was etched across Jefferson’s face slowly faded into melancholy.
“She left us, when Grace was pretty young.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Jefferson,” Rapunzel reverted, knitting her brow, angry with herself for asking.
“Don’t worry about it. I have Grace,” he chuckled, “If I didn’t, I might have gone completely mad. Plus, everyone loses someone close to them at some point…. He was your friend, wasn’t he… the huntsman?”
“Yes, he was, he taught me a lot about living out here and he protected me. He was like my brother, and then the Queen’s men took him,” Rapunzel grabbed a hold of the wolf tooth necklace that he had given her, then looked back up at the fine assortment of hats trying to think of another topic and fell upon, “Did you make all those yourself?”
Jefferson glanced over and his smile returned, “Yeah, they were each portals to a place called Wonderland. It’s not the place it once was though. Just as the evil Queen has taken rule over these parts, the Queen of Hearts has effectively taken over in Wonderland.”
“The Queen of Hearts… who you told Grace about,” she asked, head tilted to one side, “She’s real?”
“Of course, she’s real,” he mentioned, taking another swallow of tea, “As real as either of us.”
“Well have you ever tried going back?”
“I haven’t been able to get the right amount of magic together to go back,” Jefferson looked at his pocket watch, taking note of the late hour, “I really should head off to bed and you should get some sleep too.”
“I will, thank you for giving me shelter tonight, Jefferson,” Rapunzel reciprocated, “I can’t think of many who would.”
“Why’s that? Are you an actual princess?”
“That’s what I’ve been told, but I can honestly say I’ve never lived the life a princess should.”
Jefferson half smirked and bowed, toward Rapunzel, at the doorway to his and Grace’s room, “Good night, your highness.”
Rapunzel bowed her head, smiling, and then settled into the bed on the opposite side of the room. She gave everything another look over before falling asleep to the ticking of a cuckoo clock on the wall.
The clatter of thunder echoed through the apartment and Perdita’s barks wrestled Julie from her dream. The heavy rain beat against the windows as the lightening continued across the clouds.
“Go back to sleep, Perdita,” Julie groggily whispered, petting the dog on the head, “It’s only a storm.”
Chapter 8: The Cavernous Crisis
(Sorry this took so long to upload! AO3 hasn't been working for me for a little while.)
The diner was buzzing with news when Julie met Mary Margaret there for breakfast. The clock on the tower, which had been stationary for as long as anyone could remember had finally begun to move. Several hours later, the arms read a quarter till twelve and the sun began to loom above the town. Time was speeding past at an extraordinary rate, but it always seemed that way whenever Julie was stationed at the library. Mind deep into another book, the door jingling open barely broke her gaze. The offending smell of a rich perfume began to fill the main corridor of the otherwise dustily, odorous bookcases, as it worked its way to Julie's nose ripping her attention from the pages of the fairy tale she had once again been researching.
"Good afternoon, Aunt Regina," Julie placed the book face down on the table, "What can I do for you?"
“Henry asked me if he could stay at your apartment tonight,” Regina started, “I’ll let him, but if I catch you bringing him here again, you will never be allowed to see him. Are we understood?”
“Yes ma’am, I promise.”
“And do not indulge his fantasy about this town or I will make sure you start paying for his sessions with Dr. Hopper as well as attending some yourself,” she pulled open the door, “You’ll need to close early tonight to pick him up from therapy, by the way.”
The door slammed back into place as Regina left, the pervasive smell of her perfume still lingering in the air. Julie wandered from around the counter and through the halls and rooms littered with books.
‘If I can’t bring him to the library,’ she thought, ‘I’ll bring the library to him.’ In a few short hours, the library’s front counter was filled with countless volumes and each was filled with a unique story all of their own. While pulling the leather-bound pages off the shelves, Regina’s words rang in her mind; a callous voice making her the vanguard of the old town’s secrets, a threatening voice promising to take Henry away, and a trite voice accusing Julie of being the reason for this madness. Julie marched up the stairs to the attic to pull down a couple of boxes for her spoils. They were piled high against the wall as she started knocking them down the stairs, revealing a cracked mirror. It was massive in size, with a crater in the center of its reflective surface, and ornate trimming around the outside of the frame, draped with a dust matted cloth. Julie took hold of the canvas and pulled it off of the remainder of the mirror, unveiling the treasure underneath. She ran her fingers along the scrollwork, peering into her splintered reflection.
“Now, where did you come from,” she asked the mirror, as if it could answer her back, “Henry would get a kick out of this.”
Julie flung the tarp back over the mirror, completely covering it, and picked up the last box to take it down stairs. Night had fallen over the town as she began to fill the crates with the books gathered from every corner of the library, tucking them each neatly into the boxes. After each case was filled, Julie retrieved her coat from the peg by the door and opened the hatch to the outside. She hoisted each box up into her arms and carried them out to the forest green jeep in the drive, before returning back to the front door to lock it. As Julie began up the stairs, a violent explosion shook the airwaves and the house, and the steps seemed to fall out from beneath her feet causing her to crash against the front porch. In short time, cars were zooming down the street towards the old mines and the ringer of her cell phone went berserk.
“Hey, this is Julie,” she answered, locking the door of the library firm against any other knowledge that may choose to escape.
“It’s Henry,” he was excited and out of breath, “We’re going to the old mines across town. Mom called Archie and said you were picking me up and he wanted me to call you.”
“All right, kiddo, take a breath. I’m on my way there.”
The old mines had been abandoned for a while and it was only a matter of time before something happened. The traffic at the caverns was absolute chaos as Graham and a blonde haired stranger were trying to direct people safely away. She pulled up next to Regina’s Mercedes where Henry was tucked safely inside.
“JULIE,” she heard his small voice yell from the sleek black car, “You made it. Archie, come over here!”
“Hey there, Henry,” Julie beckoned while wrapping an arm around his shoulders and glanced up to see the tweed-covered doctor walking over, “Do you know what is going on?”
“No, but I think my mom is hiding something.”
“Henry, what could she possibly be hiding,” she investigated, as they were joined by two others.
“I don’t know, but this is going to take all of us,” he expressed, “There’s something down there and it has to do with the curse!”
“Henry, it’s just a mine collapse,” the stranger tried to explain.
“Emma, you have to listen to me. You believe me, right, Julie,” he asserted, staring up into her hazel eyes.
“Henry, I… I,” she tried to get out, glimpsing at all of them, “How about we talk about it later?”
“Henry, what are you doing out of the car,” Regina was filled with urgency, as she walked over to them, “I told you too...”
“I’m taking him home now, Aunt Regina,” Julie put a hand on Henry’s shoulder and lead him to the jeep. She opened the door for him and he jumped up into the passenger seat.
“There’s something for you in the back seat, but don’t look just yet.”
Julie winked as she pushed the door shut and began walking around the front of the small SUV. She caught the tail end of Archie and Regina’s conversation before reaching the opposite door handle.
“Hey, Julie,” she heard behind her along with the crunching of pebbles and dirt.
“What, Dr. Hopper?”
“Do you… do you believe Henry,” he stopped in front her car, “His theory?”
“What do you want me to say, doctor? Do you want me to say ‘yes’, so you can lecture me like you will him? I don’t know, but I won’t endeavor to stifle his imagination for Regina’s sake.”
“Do you want me to believe him?”
“I want you to decide what is right. Whether it’s believing him, or not, your conscience is what you need to listen to, not me,” she opened the driver side hatch and lightened the grade of her voice for Henry, “Have a good evening, Dr. Hopper.”
The bumpiness of the unpaved dirt leveled out as the jeep’s tires met the highway back into Storybrooke. The trees rushed by as she considered Regina’s threats to make Julie pay for Henry’s sessions, and to not be a catalyst for his ‘insanity’.
‘To hell with it,’ Julie thought as she looked over at Henry, rustling through the pages of the Once Upon a Time book, then announced, “Okay, you can look in the back now,” and smiled at Henry as she pulled up to a stoplight across from her apartment. He spun around in the seat and stared into the hardened, leather covers of the texts, “What are all those?”
“If Aunt Regina won’t let me take you to the library, I figured I could bring it to you, Henry,” she conveyed, pulling into a parking space at the building, “How does that sound?”
“Julie, do you believe me?”
“I’m not going to say so just yet, but I will help you do some research.”
Henry slipped the book back into his backpack and hopped out landing heavily on both feet. She pulled the lighter of the two crates out of the back seat and handed it to the young boy, “Is that okay? Can you carry that?”
“Yeah, let’s go,” Henry yelled as she pulled the second box out of the jeep and nudged the door back into place. Both of them trudged up the staircase to Julie’s apartment on the top floor. As the door opened, they were greeted by Perdita’s wriggling frame as she panted and whimpered at the sight of a visitor. Julie set the box on the bar counter, as Henry fell into the couch cushions with his case. After pouring her Dalmatian a fresh bowl of water and a fair amount of food, she brought her cargo over to the coffee table and started pulling some of the books from their shelter, stacking them up on the countertop, "Henry, who was that lady with the blond hair and leather jacket? I haven’t seen her around here before."
"That's Emma; she is Snow White and Prince Charming’s kid. When she was a baby, the whole kingdom fought against the queen to keep her safe," the eager ten-year-old tried to explain, flopping the book onto the table, “She took pages out at the end, to protect the secret from my mom, but they’re all about her.”
"Emma? So, she’s a character too?"
"Technically. She’s here to save everyone from the curse. That’s why the clock tower works now."
"Well, Emma, seems like she really cares about you," Julie piled the boxes at the end of the couch and got up to walk to the kitchen.
"She’s my real mom. I brought her here from Boston."
Julie stumbled into the island before turning back to Henry, “That’s where you went the other day; all the way to Boston, by yourself? Henry, that’s not safe.”
He got off the couch and scampered into the kitchen, “Julie, if you could find your parents, wouldn’t you try?”
“Maybe now, but not if I was ten,” Julie pulled down a couple glasses from the cabinets and poured them each a glass of milk. It wasn’t any surprise that he’d want to find his mother, but there was a prevailing pain of guilt looming over her. Mr. Gold had, in a roundabout way, told her that giving the book to Henry would change the town. She worked her way back over to the living room with a plate of cookies and set it on the center of the table, then seated herself in the armchair at the end of the couch, "If your theory is true and if everyone is a character, who are they?"
"Well, there are some I don't know," he dipped a cookie into the glass, “They aren’t as obvious as others.”
"Then, what are the ones you think you know," Julie said after taking a sip of milk, “Maybe I can help you with the rest.”
"Obviously, the mayor is the Evil Queen and Miss Blanchard is Snow White."
"Why do you think that?"
"Miss Blanchard is nice and caring, like Snow, and my mom hates her," Henry started to explain, thumbing through some of the volumes that Julie had brought home. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees, and then with a disapproving shake of her head argued, "I don’t think she hates Mary Margaret, Henry. That’s a pretty strong assumption to say-"
"She does," he alleged, completely sure of his idea.
"All right then, who else?"
"Marco is a handy-man like Gepetto. He can fix anything and Gepetto could make anything. And Archie is his best friend, so he must be Jiminy Cricket."
"You think Dr. Hopper is Jiminy," she queried, nearly choking on a bite of cookie, “How?”
Henry’s eyebrows knit close together as he looked up at her with confusion, “It makes sense, Julie. He is the therapist for Storybrooke, sort of like a conscience for the whole town, just like Jiminy gave advice to Pinocchio."
"Oh,” she acknowledged, trying to consider Archie’s character from Henry’s point of view, before saying, “All right. Now, who do you think I am?"
“That's a little tougher,” he said sitting back into the couch, “It’s not as obvious as everyone else, but, if I had to guess, I’d say Rapunzel."
Julie laughed, “What gave it away, kiddo? My long blond hair or the tower I live in?"
"Rapunzel’s hair was magical, if it was cut it turned dark brown, like your hair. Plus, being trapped in a tower she was really shy, but really smart because she read tons of books. You're really shy, Julie, and you live in one of the tallest buildings in Storybrooke, on the top floor. Not to mention the library across town, by the way, why are there two libraries?"
“Maybe they didn’t feel like moving the books from one to the other,” Julie speculated, pulling open one of the books from the library, “You’d have to ask the Evil Queen.”
Henry giggled and finished off his glass of milk," I was thinking… for Operation Cobra we should have code names."
"Code names? You really think your mom is that interested in dismantling our whole organization of four people?"
"Yeah. All of us working together, against her, are a threat,” he illustrated, and then continued, “What about you? What name do you want?"
"I guess if I have to... how about… Rook," Julie appealed, setting the book in her lap, “That’s what you mean, right?”
"What's a rook," Henry tilted his head to the side, once again furrowing his eyebrows together.
"Really? A rook is the tower piece in chess. If you think I'm Rapunzel, it’s only natural that it be something alluding to a tower."
A wide smile crawled across his face, “I like that, but what if she’ll know I’m talking to you?”
"Aunt Regina only plays chess with pawns. I would be surprised to know she’s even heard of the other pieces.”
The next morning started when Perdita’s cold, wet nose nudged Julie’s hand, as it hung off of the couch. Henry was asleep in her bed with a book resting next to him on the nightstand. Several of the books they had brought in were open and scattered all around the living room. The chime on her phone buzzed against the coffee table, jerking the librarian out of from the couch cushions. The bright screen read, ‘Henry has an appointment at Dr. Hopper’s office. 12:00. DO NOT be late. R.’
Julie groaned as she set the phone back on the table and placed her hand on top of Perdita’s head.
“Good morning, Dita,” Julie whispered, as she rubbed the Dalmatian behind the ears. She gathered herself off the couch and into the laundry room to find a clean shirt for the day. Slipping into a new shirt, Julie strolled up to the bedroom, to wake Henry up. Setting a hand on his shoulder, Julie gave him a little shake, “Wake up, Henry. I have to take you to see Dr. Hopper.”
Henry sat up a little, rubbing a little bit of sleep from his eyes, “I went last night.”
“I know, but your mom just sent me a text message though,” she told him, “We have to get going. It’s a quarter past eleven.”
When Julie left the room, Henry pushed away the covers and got out of the bed; he fell to the cold wood floor, on his hands and knees, and pulled the bed skirt up and took a careful look around the underneath. Next to a pair of heavily worn sneakers was a bright yellow flashlight –in case the power was ever knocked out- which he seized and put into his backpack.
“All right, I’m ready,” he bounded down the stairs as Julie grabbed her coat from next to the door.
They pulled up in front of Archie’s office, Henry unbuckling himself, giving her a hug, “Thanks for getting all of those books.”
“It’s not a problem, Henry, now go on. You don’t want to be late.”
“Bye, J,” he called, sprinting into the main door of the building.
Julie was busy shelving some books when her phone started buzzing in her pocket and Archie’s number came across the ID.
“Hello,” she greeted holding the phone to her ear with her shoulder, half paying attention at the person on the other end. His voice was cracking as it came over the line. “Julie, it’s Dr. Hopper. Ha… Have you seen, Henry,”
“Not since I dropped him off at your office.”
Archie’s voice, from a distance, came over the earpiece, “Then he has to be down at the mine.”
“What,” the only word Julie could muster in a flat, annoyed tone.
“Emma took him to the mayor’s office, but he left. He went to the mine. He’s looking for something.”
“That sounds like him. I’m on my way.”
Julie hurried out to the little green SUV sitting in the library’s drive way and started up the engine. ‘What could have gotten into him,’ she thought racing down the back roads to the dusty old mines. The same yellow VW from a few nights ago sat out of the way, its occupants missing. The tires of her jeep skidded over the gravel as she came to a sudden stop.
“HENRY,” she yelled slamming the door, running over to the hole in the ground, “HENRY! EMMA! DOCTOR HOPPER!”
The blond stranger from the night before worked up the side of the crater and slipped on the loose rocks, before Julie grabbed her arm to steady her.
“Gotcha. I got here as fast as I could,” she pulled Emma onto solid ground, “Where’s Henry and Dr. Hopper?”
“Henry and Archie are in the mines. They’re trapped. The front caved in when Archie went to find him.”
Julie shook her head and looked at the caved in entrance, before remembering the winch on her jeep, “Do you think we could pull some of the rubble off? Anything is worth a shot if it means getting them out.”
“Yeah, let’s try it,” Emma agreed dropping to the edge of the hole. Julie pulled her vehicle up to the side and set the shifter into park. Jumping out, she ran around to the front to help Deputy Swan pull the cable out to the mine’s entrance.
“Here, wrap it around this,” she looped the cable around one of the fallen beams, “We need to clear these before we can get to the cave in.”
Her adrenaline carried her back to the winch, as she activated it putting a grave amount of tension on the cable.
“Stop, stop, stop,” Emma called to her, “We’re going to snap the cable if we keep trying to pull that beam out. Then, we’ll be in a lot worse trouble.”
Julie put some slack back into the cable so they could unwrap it from the obstacle and wind it back up onto the winch, “What do you want to do?”
“I’ll call Graham, maybe we can get some people down here to help.”
Within a ten minute span, Graham, Regina, and half the town had showed up to help clear the mine.
“Can we use the-,” Graham began to ask Julie before she stopped him confirming, “We already tried. My winch can’t budge it.”
“How are we supposed to get Henry out then,” Regina’s voice was tinged in aggravation, “And don’t think I’m letting him stay over at your apartment again, because he wouldn’t have done this otherwise.”
“Hey, Julie doesn’t have anything to do with this,” Emma argued, putting her arm across Julie’s chest to push her back, almost as a way to protect her from Regina’s venomous remark, “And it’s not my fault, or Archie’s. It’s yours.”
Graham and Julie exchanged glances as Regina took the blow from her words, “Me. What could I have possibly done?”
“You stifle his imagination,” Julie yelled, pushing against Emma’s arm, “And you turned one of his closest ‘friends’ against him. Why wouldn’t think he needs to find something down there?”
“ Dr. Hopper isn’t his friend. He’s his therapist, Julia,” Regina snapped, moving her face inches away from Julie’s, “And if he has any sense of professionalism, he’ll make that distinction.”
Emma cut back in, nudging the librarian a little bit further away from the mayor, “Look we need to work together and this isn’t helping them get out any faster.”
Julie turned to walk back to the jeep, shaking her head, hearing footsteps running up behind her, “You don’t think it’s a good idea, do you,” Graham questioned, as she leaned against the front bumper watching the construction crews start to prepare the explosives.
“No… I don’t. I think it’s damn stupid. If they do manage to blast it open, who’s to say there won’t be another cave-in further down the mine. An explosion of that size is only going to weaken the structural integrity of those caverns and who knows what that could lead to if more people try to go in and find them,” Julie broke down, tears building up in the corners of her eyes as she looked away, annoyance covering her face like a mask. Graham grabbed her shoulder, pulling her into a hug, rubbing her back in an effort to calm her down, “I think we both know who the first person will be into that mine, no matter what the dangers.”
She laughed into his vest, as Emma walked over, “They’re about to blow it. Are you going to be okay, Julie? You seem a little rattled.”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. We need to get them out of there. If anything were to happen, I would feel more than responsible, more than guilty for putting Henry’s life… and Dr. Hopper’s… in danger.”
“Don’t let Regina get to you; none of this is your fault.”
Voices recited, “GET CLEAR!” and “FIND COVER!” just before the blast, just before it shook the earth and trees around the site.
Julie pulled away from Graham and ran to the edge of the crater as Emma went into the smoke and dust. Onlookers gathered around in hopes of being able to rescue the two stranded deep within the tunnels. As the smoke began to clear, Deputy Swan reemerged, shaking her head. The way wasn’t clear and the structural stability of the mine was sure to falter more by the sound of the blast. Regina was livid, unable to keep herself together, while she berated the demolitions crews for their poor explosives work.
“There has to be another way,” Julie recited, looking into the hole, then peered over at the Dalmatian sitting in the fire truck, “Pongo! He’d be able to find Dr. Hopper and I’d almost be willing to bet Henry’s with him.”
Emma considered it for a moment before running over to the fire engine and pulling the door open to release Archie’s canine companion. As Pongo sniffed around, he moved more furiously until he caught his owner’s scent, and began pawing at some growth on the ground. A piece of rotting board covered a ventilation shaft leading directly into the mine.
“I think I might have something we could use in the back of my jeep,” Julie piped up as the removed the grate over the hole.
“Well, go get it,” Regina said curtly, while they all gazed into the hole. Julie ran over to the back of her jeep with Graham and opened the back hatch and sifted through all of the random oddities stashed away in her trunk. Finally, she found a climbing harness and rope, handing them to Graham before he ran back over to the tow truck.
‘This is it,’ she recited in her head, leaning against the back bumper with her arms outstretched as she took a deep breath to calm herself and decrease the amount of adrenaline coursing through her body. Julie ran back over as Emma’s voice came over the radio, “She made it and they’re okay?”
“Yeah, now we’ll need to pull them up,” Marco acknowledge as Julie picked up part of the rope to help him. The crane began to lift, with heavy tension building in the rope and the cable. Emma’s blonde hair began to poke out of the hole, followed closely by Henry. Julie’s heart paced rapidly as her and the older man tugged on the rope, pulling Archie from the hole as well when Marco wrapped his arms around Archie to support his weight, while she continued on the rope, tumbling into the dirt behind her as he was lifted out. Emma and Graham helped Julie up and she went to tackle her cousin. She glanced over at Regina just as she addressed Archie, expressing her sincerest form of gratitude. A smile twisted around Julie's lips as she gave Henry a hug, covering herself in the soot and dirt from the mine.
“Henry, I was so worried about you,” she confided, holding him in a close hug, “I just happy you and Dr. Hopper are safe.”
“Julie, I have something big to show you, but it’ll have to wait, I found it when I was down there,” he divulged, as Emma came over.
“Why’d you have a climbing harness and rope?”
“I used to live in Seattle,” Julie informed her, taking back the bundle of rope and harness, “I did a lot of mountain climbing when I was there.”
“Henry didn’t come find you too, did he,” she asked, kneeling in front of him.
“No, I came on my own,” Julie giggled, catching part of Archie and Regina’s conversation.
“He needs to be allowed at the library,” Archie’s voice roughly demanded.
“He is allowed, he never goes,” Regina retorted, “Do you want me to force him?”
“That’s not the library I’m talking about. He needs to go the one across town, the one that Julie is in charge of.”
They both looked at Julie as she stared at them and gave a faint smile meeting Archie’s eyes, before slinging the harness over her shoulder and carrying the rope in her hand. Dr. Hopper took a quiet inventory of her items, smiling when their eyes caught each other, and gave her a nod.
“I think I’m going to head out of here. I need to check on Perdita,” she excused herself from the crowd, “Glad to know you’re okay, Henry, and Dr. Hopper too.”
“Thanks for your help,” Emma said appreciatively, patting her on the arm, “You’re one of the heroes today.”
Julie laughed it off, saying only, “It’s a title I never wanted.”