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Edge of Seventeen

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Emma Swan was really hoping for a quiet moment, an entire quiet night, really.
But no – she just had to wake up to alarms. Otherwise known as Leroy screaming, no less.
“Ughh…” Emma groaned, rolling over and pulling the covers over her head and tighter around her. She accidentally bumped her elbow into Killian’s chest in the process, causing him to grunt and half-wake up himself – she supposed years of rum made him a heavy sleeper.
“Shouldn’t you get that?” he muttered.
“Are you getting up?”
“…maybe…no…unless you are.”
“Then neither am I.”
But Killian just had to not listen to her – or himself – and sit up.
“Is that fire?” He still sounded groggy, which Emma begrudgingly thought was adorable.
“What is?”
“Something in the forest…how did I end up sleeping next to you, Swan?”
That snapped her awake.
“What?!” She shot out of bed. Indeed, something on the edge of the town, near the forest, was burning. Though the view wasn’t that clear, she hazarded a guess that it was near Zelena’s farm house.
“Emma! Hook! Wake up!” She heard her father holler from the downstairs of the loft. “Duty calls!” Neal started fretting at that point and she could hear her mother alternating between shushing Neal and scolding her father.
Emma scrambled out of bed and made a dash for her closet, digging for a pair of pants and a sweatshirt to throw on over her night shirt – which may or may not have just been the t-shirt from the day before. Upon procuring the desired clothing items she spun around, only to find that Killian, although he was still wearing pants, thank God, was still shirtless.
“Oh my God, cover yourself. Put a shirt on! We're in freakin' Maine!”
“Yeah, well, do know where that is?”
“Oh, come on…” Scanning her wardrobe quickly, she yanked out a black sweatshirt that she knew was oversized on her and threw it at him.
“Seriously?”
“It’s your color scheme - Just move!”
They ran out the door after her father with Hook still struggling with one arm.

<break>
Ruby had to admit it was easier to follow the smell of smoke than of blood, even it was still a bit unnerving. It didn’t help that she knew she was headed for the place where the Wicked Witch of the West formerly dwelled.
Still, it felt good to stretch out her wolf legs. And she was glad her grandmother was with her.
“We getting any closer, Ruby?” Leroy grumbled above her. “Granny? I’ve got to get back to a card game with Doc.”
If you stop griping, we might get their faster, Ruby thought. Granny growled at the irritable dwarf.
“Hey, I’m the one holding your cloaks, you two.”
She could see David’s truck coming into view as the group approached the farm-house. Regina was nowhere in sight, which wasn’t helpful seeing as she was probably the most knowledgeable person with magic that they knew, but she supposed that wasn’t that big of a surprise after the Marian incident. The truck was barely in park before Emma jumped out of the vehicle and jogged towards the scene, with Hook – wearing a modern sweatshirt of all things - and David following shortly after. Ruby could hear a firetruck’s sirens in the distance. She nudged Leroy in the side, gesturing to her cloak with her head. Her cloak fell over her body, and less than a minute later she was able to stand on her two human feet.
“Ruby, what can you smell?” Emma said tersely as they approached.
“No bodies, I think, but the smoke smells not quite like a random wildfire or a kitchen accident. I just can’t put my nose on it…”
“No bodies is good. Thanks, Ruby – trust me, it helps.” The sheriff gave Ruby a small smile and a reassuring hand squeeze. Ruby felt minutely better – at least Emma understood how nervous this investigative stuff made her feel after the missing-Kathryn’s-heart situation. It just brought back too many memories…
“Now, do any of you know when this started? Or how long did it take for you to realize there was a bonfire going on, Leroy?” The blonde woman couldn’t help the dry sarcasm dripping from her voice on the last sentence.
“How am I supposed to know? You paying me for this? If I hadn’t alerted everyone, the whole forest could have been destroyed by the time you noticed it on your own!”
“Oh, for the love of…just…yes, fine, thank you Leroy.”
“Domestic looks awkward on you, pirate.”
“And you look like a lumberjack.”
“Hook!”
“I think it looks good,” Ruby cut in, batting her eyelashes at the pirate and hip-checking him.
“Alright guys, that’s enough of that. Let’s see if I can detect anything more,” and then Emma moved ahead of them, hands glowing with light magic.

<break>
Emma could only go so much farther, seeing as the fire department still had to get there to put out the fire, but she agreed with Ruby that something was peculiar about it. It didn’t look like Zelena set it – although she wouldn’t have put it past the wicked witch to set the house to self-destruct once her plans started going pear-shaped – but there was something magic in the fire.
Upon closer inspection, the fire seemed to be coming from the shed – the same one she’d helped to save her new baby brother one, and the same one that once held the time travel portal. As the firefighters started moving in, Emma noticed that no matter how much they worked, there was still a faint glow coming from that shed. Creeping closer, she reached for the shed door, but had to yank it back right away because it was hot. Taking one look at her hands, which no longer glowed and she wasn’t entirely sure why, she made a quick grab for the door.
She was shoved to the ground with a yell of, “Swan, look out!” before the doors burst open and a line of actual purple fire roared above her.
“Is that a…?”
Another shot of fire erupted as Emma could distinctly hear a creature roaring.
“DRAGON!” Leroy yelled. “Run for your lives!”
“Hook, get off me!” Emma shoved the pirate off her before jumping to her feet and taking a few shaky breaths in an attempt to channel her energy.
“You can do it, love” Hook said from somewhere behind her on the ground. Vote of confidence never hurt anyone, I suppose… She closed her eyes and struggled to concentrate on the pushing magic toward the scene in front of her. If she could just make it clear enough to see…
“Bloody. Hell.”
Emma cracked an eye open to see a creature that she could only describe as a winged lizard about the size of Henry, except for the fact it was crouching down and cowering in a corner of the shed. The animal had shiny purple and green scales, substantial legs, and huge wings that were half-bent around itself, almost covering the creature like a blanket but held up almost like a shield, just enough to still let its fire through without potentially burning itself. Its teeth were extremely sharp, from what she could see, and there was an impressive ridged crest of upright spikes on its back side.
Most of all, though, Emma could see the dragon’s eyes: wide, green, almost human, and terrified.
Great, we’re dealing with a terrified wild magical creature child.
Before she could process this further, the dragon shot across the shed and out the doors, wings outstretched, and flew into the woods – away from all humans, and away from anyone who could keep track of its whereabouts.
Where the hell was Regina when you needed her?

Chapter Text

“You mean to tell me you found an actual dragon and you didn’t wake me up for it? Mom, that would have been so cool to see!”

            “Henry, it was dangerous, I was just trying to keep you safe.”

            “I survived Neverland and I’m nearly thirteen! I could have handled it!”

            “Um, pretty sure that’s different, lad…”

            “Hook, I thought you were on my side on this!”

            “Lad, I’m going to have agree with your mum on this one – that creature was out of control.”

            The Charming family, plus one pirate, was now back at the loft, and Henry was still more than a little peeved they didn’t think to bring him, again, after all they’d been through. Like, he could understand why his mom hid things from him before he got his memories back – they’d had to hide things from Belle when that happened to her too – but come on. Dragons. Actual, honest-to-goodness dragons with fire-breathing and wings. Only in Storybrooke could a kid hope for that in the Land Without Magic.

            “Look, kid, why don’t you go find Belle and ask her to help you research this stuff, hmm? You guys are usually our best bet for this sort of thing – especially now that Regina is, um, you know…at the moment.” His mom looked super uncomfortable and guilty at that last thought.

            “Um, actually…I was hoping to go check on my mom – my other mom, I mean – first. I think I’ve found a way to help her.”

            “Oh? What’s your plan?” Emma looked a bit hesitant, understandably. From what Henry could understand, she’d brought back someone who was going to be killed by the past’s Evil Queen - on purpose - who turned out to be Robin’s late wife – by accident. He knew exactly why his mom had done it – he figured he’d probably do the same, in her shoes – but it still pained him to see the fall out.

            “I googled how to get over a break-up. It didn’t say what to do when your love’s late wife comes back from the dead via the past, but it did recommend chocolates, wine, and bubble baths.” He pulled a basket out from under the kitchen counter, filled with all the mentioned items except the alcohol. “I’ve got her covered, for the most part. Don’t worry – this is all from my allowance money. No wine.”

            “Good call. Best of luck to you.” His biological mom gave a relaxed smile for the first time since the family hug. At that point, his maternal grandmother came in from one of the spare bedrooms, carrying a happy and gurgling baby Neal in her arms.

            “Look who’s here!” she cooed to the baby. “Let’s go say hi to your big sister and nephew!” Gliding over to her daughter, her face went into doting parent mode. “Emma, are you okay? I heard you came up against a dragon while you out there investigating the fire.”

            “I’m fine, mom, really. Thanks.” Snow pulled her daughter into a snug side hug and a kiss on her forehead.

            “So how are we going to proceed here?” Henry can hear his grandfather slam both hands on the counter as all the adults gathered around the counter. Not wanting to get babied again, Henry headed out the door with his basket.

            Upon approaching the mayoral mansion, he shifted his weight and his basket to one hand hammered on the front door.

            “Mom?”

            No answer.

            “Mom, it’s me!”

            Still nothing. Henry pressed his ear to door and could just make out the sound of sobbing.

            “Mom, you know I’m not giving up on you, right? I’m never going to give up on you! And you can’t hide in there forever. You are so much stronger than that. You’ve come so far – you will make it through this.” Henry had to stop for breath because he was holding back tears that he didn’t expect. “I know – because I’m your son. And you’re my mom. And I love you. So please…please don’t go back to being evil.”

            Putting the basket down at just outside the door, Henry walked back down the steps.

            Just as he reached level ground again, Henry thought he spotted a shadow around the corner of the street, for just an instance, before it disappeared.

            Looking around to see if anyone else was around, Henry made a dash towards the shadow.

            He could see a large, moving, faint shadow moving down main street. Glancing up, he realized it was partly because it was only the beginning of the morning, but if it was the dragon, there was no way it could be that much smaller than the shadow, right?

            He was now in the shadow. Peeking around Granny’s into her back patio, he could just make out, cowering in the farthest back, darkest corner, a purple and green spiky tail…

            “Henry!”

            He felt his biological mom’s strong arms around him and heard her magic sparkling as smoke surrounded them and whisked them about four blocks away.

            “Mom - oh come on…!”

            “You’ve got to tell someone before you run off like that!”

            “I was able to navigate myself around New York just fine – why should this be any different?”

            “Maybe because half those memories are fake?”

            “Neverland? Boston? The Netherworld? Multiple curses?”

            His mom sighed heavily, closing her eyes for a moment. “Just…be more careful, okay? Especially with that dragon loose. We still don’t know where it came from and it seems scared and wild.”

            “Maybe it just needs to see that we’re friendly.”

            “It’s a wild animal, Henry.”

            “Isn’t the only dragon from the book Maleficent? Maybe this dragon is human too?”

            “Well, there’s not sign of that right now, plus where would it have been hiding? You’d think we’d notice a dragon person.”

            “Maybe you need to go back to the scene of the fire.”

            “And maybe we should get back to the loft, kid. Come on,” his mom admonished, and she magic-ed them away again.

           

            “Sydney! Where is that pathetic genie when you need him?” Regina’s face was still stained with tears and she had cleared away most of her makeup in the name of attempting to look calm and poised.

            “…sigh. Right here, your majesty.”

            “I need a favor.”

            “Your wish is always my command, of course. What is it that you need?”

            “A spell.”

            “Not exactly my area of expertise, your majesty. Much more yours.”

            “Or an accident. Or just dirt.”

            “This is about the thief’s returned wife, I take it?”

            “I won’t have another Charming ruining my happy ending…so yes.”

            “What kind of accident would you like? Let’s see…”

            “And this is why a spell would be better…”

            “You shouldn’t have to worry about her for a while anyway, your majesty, what with the dragon lurking around town.”

            “Dragon?”

            “Yes, the dragon that started the fire at your late half-sister’s former dwelling early this morning. Causing quite a stir, last I heard.”

            “Living?”

            “Yes.”

            “What on earth is a living dragon doing in Storybrooke? I thought the only dragon was Maleficent – and she’s a zombie, last time I checked.”

            “I don’t know where the dragon came from, your majesty. Shall I look into that, too?”

            “No, it’s fine. It’s just…I may need to make a trip to the town library later…”

           

 

           

 

           

           

 

           

Chapter Text

“Emma, are you avoiding me?”

            Killian was walking with her toward Zelena’s former dwelling, which more closely ressembled a charred husk of a structure than an actual place for living. Emma hadn’t spoken to him since they’d gotten back to the loft after the dragon escaped and the fire was put out. It was now late afternoon – they had plans to meet the Charmings for dinner at a new restaurant in town – something called Cajun - in an hour – and still nothing.

            “Avoiding you? What are you talking about?”

            “I’m just wondering…”

            “Let’s just investigate this first, okay? I’m a just little on edge with a fire-breathing wild baby creature on the loose.”

            “Is this about me or Henry?” She didn’t really have to choose – he just knew a lot had happened that morning.

            “Killian, please just…stop, for a bit, okay?”

            The pirate, for better or worse, knew that her using his real name could get to him to do almost anything for her, so he dropped the subject.

            The two of them carefully pried open the shed doors, which somehow had remained intact, and stepped into the former home of the dragon. They started on opposite ends of the shed with intention of covering everything and meeting together in the middle.

            However, it did not take Emma long to find a clue.

            Picking up what appeared to be a large egg shell off the floor, she brushed the curve of it off in her hand to reveal that it was gold with writing in another language and alphabet on it. That didn’t really matter right then, though, because she – and he - could tell exactly what the object came from.

            “Hook, you did not…”

            “What? – oh, come on…”

            “I told you not to touch that urn!”

            “I’m sorry – I didn’t know!”

            “You are such an idiot – I told you not to touch anything!”

            “I was trying to find a way out – it’s not my fault we got locked in the Dark One’s basement!”

            “You saying this is my fault?”

            “No! I’m saying I didn’t know that was going to happen, and you can’t say that you did, either!” Killian took a few deep breaths as the two stared at each other, wide-eyed. He took the gold shell from Emma, peered at it, and then whacked the side of it once against his hook.

            “Wait-”

            “Shush…” A second, inner shell popped out of the gold one. Emma caught it as it fell.

            It was scaled purple on the rounded side and kind of shiny on the other, black side, not charred, upon closer inspection.

            “Do you think that thing…hatched out of the urn?”

            “That beast was far larger than that urn – even if you squished it by magic somehow…”

            “Have you ever even seen a baby dragon?”

            “My point is, I don’t think it was hatched. I think it was trapped. Think about it – the Crocodile in the past said he kept things down there that he didn’t want to mess with. What use would he have with a potential newborn dragon? Or why would he ever be afraid of it? The man snatches hearts out of unicorns.”

            “Good point…let’s bring this back with us. Maybe I can take a look later…or convince Regina to take a look…” At that moment, Swan’s talking phone started dinging and she took it out to check it.

            “Dad says they’re all headed for the restaurant. Mom says to be careful because the weather station just forecasted a storm headed our way. Let’s go.” Glancing at the sky, Killian could see storm clouds gathering and blowing in from the ocean as they headed back to where they’d parked the yellow bug.

<break>

            “Storm’s blowing in from the northeast and should pass before 12am. I’m Goldie Locksley with the weather, hoping you all have a safe evening and that everything works out just right!”

            “And I’m Dale Appleseed, signing off and wishing you good night, Storybrooke!”

            “Locksley. You think she’s related to Robin in some way?” Mary Margaret mused, drowning out the TV propped overhead over the bar of Tiana’s Palace. She held her breast-feeding second-born in her arms as she did so.

            “Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. I might need a couple more drinks though…” David said wryly. The shepherd-turned-prince turned to look out the windows behind him to scan for his daughter’s car, just as it was pulling into a parking spot across the street.

            “Is there nowhere else you can do that, lady?” a fellow patron griped behind them, putting a rough brown hand on Mary Margaret’s shoulder.

            “Mochuelo, leave her be! She is just feeding her baby!” Another patron, seemingly the man’s wife, scolded. “You let me do the same with Winnie!”

            “I didn’t have to be in the same room with you when you did that with Winnie. I didn’t even have to share a bed. She’s out in the open with that thing.”

            “That thing is your prince, and he’s just hungry. Kindly turn your eyes away if it bothers you,” Mary Margaret countered with a glare. David put a protective arm around his wife as Mary Margaret mouthed a ‘thank you’ to the woman. At that moment their daughter came in with Hook.

            “Hey mom, dad, little bro. These people bugging you?”

            “No, sweetie, everything’s fine. Come sit down – I know you’ve been working all day. We’re just waiting for Henry. He said he was going to try to bring Regina.”

            “You…you invited Regina?” Her daughter was clearly still apprehensive.

            “It’ll be fine, honey, you’ll see.” Mary Margaret figured all Emma needed to do was face her fears and talk to Regina and all would be fine.

            A few minutes later, after they’d ordered their drinks, Henry walked in the front doors of the restaurant, no Regina in sight, and scanned the crowd for them. His family waved him over. Emma looked visibly relieved and sank her chair.

            Henry took a seat between Emma and David. “Doesn’t look like Mom’s home, so I left a text and headed over here. I did end up getting a lot of research done with Belle today, though, so that’s good.”

            “At least Regina got out of the house. That should be good for her,” Mary Margaret commented before being cut off by the silent “abort mission” signals coming from her husband. “What I just think…” she countered quietly, talking more to herself than anyone else.

            “Mary Margaret…”

            “They just need to talk!”

            “Snow, please, honey…”

            “So, what did you find out with Belle, kid?” Emma cut in, a bit too loudly.

            “Mostly about how dragons live. Their size at different ages, what they eat, how a person could become a dragon – not exactly, mind you, because apparently that’s top secret information that only people like Maleficent know, but just a lot of general stuff. It’s cool. If you find more evidence, we can start making some connections.”

            “Well, Hook and I might have found just the thing to help with that,” Emma replied proudly. Hook and Henry shared an almost conspiratorial smirk as David grumbled something about being “your favorite grandpa” and Mary Margaret herself nearly choked on her lemonade.

            At that moment their food came, carried by a young woman wearing a business-casual outfit in shades of green that nicely accentuated her warm brown skin tone. She wore a white lily on the hair tie that held back her thick curly black hair.

            “How y’all doing tonight? I’m Tiana – it’s such an honor to meet you, your highnesses! You as well, sheriff.” She bowed gracefully, perfectly balancing the tray of food as she did so.

            “You mean you’re the Princess Tiana? From The Princess and the Frog?” Henry asked.

            “Oh, well, I mean, I guess so…?” Tiana suddenly looked very shy.

            “Don’t mince words, my Evangeline.” Another almost-Italian-sounding voice came from behind Tiana and two male brown arms hugged her around her middle. “Tiana is my princess, and the best chef in my realm and hers.” He peeked out from behind his wife, revealing a handsome, borderline-flirtatious face before turning it slightly to give her a smooch on the cheek.

            “Naveen, stop it before I drop this food.”

            “On it.” The couple tag-teamed to pass out the food.

            “You mentioned two realms. Where are you two from?” Mary Margaret asked kindly.

            “Oh, I’m from the Jazz Age realm. Naveen’s from the Enchanted Forest. Got banished to my realm by his parents in order to teach him some responsibility…”

            “And the rest, as they say, is history, am I right, my friends?” Naveen declared with a flourish and another kiss on Tiana’s cheek.

            “Well, I hope you enjoy your stay in this realm as long as you’re here,” David offered.

            “We appreciate that, your majesty. Thank you, y’all!”

            They were nearing the end of their meal when a loud crash resounded outside.

            Everyone at the table jumped. People in the restaurant screamed. Glasses fell over and something or two fell to the floor and crashed. Emma scrambled to her feet and managed to climb onto her chair to stand and try to calm everyone down – her red jacket probably helped with the visibility in the warm but low-lit establishment. Hook searched for a weapon in Emma’s bag, finally finding her gun, while holding his own prosthetic up in defense and seemingly moving to place himself in front of the people seated closest to him. David grabbed a steak knife and held it up like a sword before he realized what he was doing and put it down. Neal started wailing, which meant that Henry was not only ducking beside Mary Margaret but wincing and covering his ears.

            “Everyone calm down!” Emma yelled. A clap of thunder punctuated her words and even she looked slightly spooked by it. “The police department will investigate! If anyone is hurt, please report to my father and we will assist you shortly, up to and including calling paramedics.”   With a slight nod to David and Henry, she grabbed Hook by his hook and headed for the door. In a split second decision, Mary Margaret clasped her baby to her and followed them out.

            It didn’t take long to see where the damage was.

            “Did someone just rob my car…by blasting it with magic?”

            “Seems that way.”

            “Is it just me, or do the burn marks seem to be making a pattern?”

            Her daughter and the pirate looked at her in surprise, not expecting her presence.

            “Years as a bandit, honey. What have we got?”

            “Is that a skull and crossbones?”

            The pirate’s incredulous observation made the image all the more clearer. Mary Margaret shuddered at what that could mean, and it wasn’t just because of the rain that was beginning to come down.

            “Did they actually take anything?” She asked. Emma was already on it, it seems, as she carefully pried her dented and slightly charred car door open.

            Seconds passed… “Shit.”

            “What is it, love?”

            “Whoever it was, they stole the egg shell.”

            “What egg shell? What aren’t you two telling me?” Mary Margaret demanded.

            Her daughter and the pirate only looked at each other and sighed with an air of frustration.

            “It’s a kind of long story, mom. Goes back about 30 years?”

Chapter Text

Late fall, 2012

            “Buongiorno, citizens of Maldonia! What a joy it is that we are all here, having survived the curses of the Evil Queen and of our enemies who wish to further her cause!”

            King Alfonso stood proudly at the head of throne room, gazing out at the sea of men, women, and children who had been invited into the room and outer court yard to celebrate the harvest festival. How thankful he was to be safe with his family, he thought, as he glanced to his right to find his wife, his first born son with his true love, and his almost-preteen second born bouncing excitedly next to them.

            Turning back to the crowd, he continued. “May the deities bless this harvest season, and bless the great announcement I have to make!” He gestured for Naveen and Tiana to come forward, which his son did rather flusteredly and Tiana did rather nervously. “For my son has chosen a bride to share the rest of his days with. May many blessings come upon their happy union, to be held in the spring. All hail to Prince Naveen and Princess Consort Tiana!”

            “All hail Naveen and Tiana!” the crowd echoed.

            It was really a wonderful turn of events. His son, once an irresponsible rapscallion that he’d temporarily disinherited and banished to teach him a lesson, had turned into a fine upstanding citizen and an honest man, all because he had fallen in love with a woman who changed him for the better. They’d gone through so much for each other, the king had no doubts in his mind that the two young people were true love.

            He was embarrassed to admit, though, that between the festival’s excitement and this happy pondering, he did not notice the dark presence entering the room.

            No, “dark presence” was not just a poor descriptor for the evil being, for he literally walked in as a shadow, creeping across the floor and casting his darkness upon his surroundings before slowly condensing into solid, human…like form. A tall, dark-skinned gentlemen, dressed mostly in black with green and purple accents and a skull-and-bones motif throughout, especially on his unfortunately dapper top hat, stood only a few steps from the king. He slowly smirked, revealing a few rotting teeth.

            “Why so serious, your highness? Put your mind at ease – it’s only me,” he chuckled, his voice a deep baratone. Alfonso heard his future daughter-in-law retrieve a sword from a guard.

            “You have no place here in this kingdom, Shadow Man.” She thundered. Alfonso couldn’t have said it better himself.

            “Does a shadow not exist regardless of being welcome?” Dr. Facilier drawled. “Regardless, here I am now.”

            “What do you want?” Naveen yelled. Alfonso never relinquished his gaze on Facilier, but heard the clinking of a beads – a charmed necklace his son wore with a potion in it to ward off demons.  “You are supposed to be dead, you monster! We defeated you, twice! You no longer can hurt what we have created together.”

            “That trinket clearly did you no good, did it?” Facilier chortled. He reached out a hand, and while it was normal length, his shadow’s hand reached farther to yank on Naveen’s necklace and attempt to choke him. Alfonso hazarded a glance at him, his heart pounding at the sight of his son in danger and Tiana desperately trying to pry off a technically non-corporal being from her future husband. He noticed shadows also starting to swirl around his wife and other son, pulling them apart and making the eight-and-a-half-year-old (“I’m almost nine now, daddy!”) cry for his parents.

            “Release them! Let them go at once!” the king demanded, trying to keep his own desperation at bay. “Whatever it is you want, let us hear it, and talk it out like civilized humans.”

            “Civilized? Now that’s a term you don’t hear a lot. It’s even less often carried out.”

            “Back down, demon, and tell us your demands.”

            “Oh, your highnesses…your royal, royal highnesses,” the awful man mocked. With a flick of his wrist, he relinquished his hold on the royal family. “I only wish to give you a gift – to wish you congratulations on this happy, happy day.”

            “And what gift could you give that we could possibly want?”

            “Why, this day, of course, and every day afterward until your son’s wedding day. Your happy ending – before I take it all away.”

            April 8, 2013 (present day)

Rumplestiltskin, otherwise known as Mr. Gold, was in a strange state of calm happiness.

It hadn’t been easy to cope since Baelfire had died. His son, who’d kept most of his murderous Dark One urges at bay when he was around, was a light in his life that he’d sorely missed and gotten far too little time with. Zelena’s control over him hadn’t made things much better, which was why it had felt so good to destroy her.

Although he couldn’t say he felt bad about almost drowning the pirate to death.

He could say he felt bad about not getting to start his honeymoon with Belle immediately, although they had done some…preliminary celebrating.

A jingle from the front door interrupted his train of thought. Turning impatiently from a shelf of trinkets that still hadn’t been reclaimed – he knew there were many more this time around, but he also knew these had been there since the first time he’d woken up in the Land Without Magic – he was surprised to find the queen-turned-mayor before him.

“Gold, I need a favor.”

“Good morning to you too, Your Highness.”

The mayor raised an unamused eyebrow.

“How may I help you, Regina?” The Dark One asked, biting back an annoyed sigh.

“I need a potion that will resurrect Maleficent.”

“A tall deed, not to mention a rather contradictory one, given your past deeds. Didn’t you basically guarantee that Miss Swan would kill her in order to break the curse on your son?”

“That was collateral damage and you know it. Now, there’s a dragon in town and I need a dragon to help. How do I resurrect Maleficent?”

“Who says I’ll want to help?”

“There’s a wild dragon who could torch this whole town and the surrounding forest with one freaked-out blast and that’s not incentive enough for you?”

“Let me rephrase - who says I would want to help this dragon or Maleficent? Perhaps I know better than you do about it. I was, after all, the one who locked the creature in an urn in my castle.”

“Fine – why did you do it?”

“Think of them like puzzle pieces. A means to an end.”

“So the dragon was imprisoned as part of your grand plan somehow. But what about Maleficent?”

“Isn’t it obvious? You said it yourself – you need a dragon to know a dragon.”

Regina narrowed her eyes at him in concentration until a small bit of realization came into her eyes.

“That dragon is related to Maleficent somehow.” Mr. Gold nodded almost imperceptibly. Regina left shortly after that, her leather pumps clicking smartly.

Turning back to his task, the impish man muttered to himself. “I literally don’t care how or if you do it, dearie. I just know a mother never forgets.”

He really needed that honeymoon.

            “So an urn Hook touched in Rumplestiltskin’s castle’s basement 30 years ago somehow got sucked into the return portal with you?” David said incredulously as he closed his truck’s door with a bang. “And now it’s cracked open and turned out to be a dragon egg?”

            “Of some sort, yes.” Emma confirmed. “Hook and I figure it’s probably not a newborn. More of a trap resembling an egg.” David shook his head in bewilderment.

            “I still can’t believe he was Prince Charles.”

            Emma smirked at that. “Yeah, from the book it seemed you two got along pretty swimmingly.”

            “That sneaky little…”

            “Says Prince James, if I recall correctly.”

            “Oh, fine!” They walked into the sheriff’s station together.

            Standing right in front of them, and in front of their desks, was a teenage boy bouncing nervously on his heels. He had ebony skin and a mass of cornrows in his hair, each braid twisted off with red and yellow beads. He wore a red short-sleeved t-shirt above a pair of khakis and leather loafers, and the poor guy nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw Emma and David.

            “Oh-oh my!-I’m so sorry, I was just…oh bother.” His voice had a slight British lilt to it. He looked down at his shoes and twisted his hands in front of him, as if trying to curl in on himself while still standing.

            “Hey, it’s okay, kid, we just didn’t expect you. What’s up?” Emma said, not unkindly.

            “Oh, um, well…my name is Wilfred…Wilfred Bruin, though everyone calls me Winnie…you might have met my parents yesterday at Tiana’s Palace… really sorry about that, by the way. The curse really messed with my father’s head and he’s still getting used to having two lives in his head. We didn’t come through with the first Evil Queen’s curse – we’re new in town – and I’m so sorry, I’m babbling, oh bother…”

            “Hey, it’s okay…”

            “Oh yeah, I remember your father…” David winced slightly. “No hard feelings to your family, Winnie. But you didn’t have to come all the way out here to tell me that – really, it’s okay – so why are you here?”

            “Well, you see…” At that moment the police office phone rang, and Emma picked it up.

            “Storybrooke police station, please state your emergency…another one, again?…45 Hundred Acre Wood Road? We’ll be right over.” Putting the phone down, she turned to Winnie. “We’ve gotta run, can you wait a few hours?”

            “Um, was that for a robbery? Third floor, door looks like it was picked with traces of honey residue? On Hundred Acre Wood – that’s in my neighborhood?”

            “…yeah…how do you know that?”

            “That’s kind half of what I wanted to talk to you about.”

            “Can you explain in the truck?”

            “…sure, I guess?”

            Once in the truck though, Winnie only said that maybe it would be better for them to just see the crime scene and then let him explain.

            It didn’t take long to get to Hundred Acre Wood Rd., nor was it hard to find, as Emma could hear the sounds of loud yelling coming from their destination, a three-story building on a street with rowhouses on both sides. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Winnie slink lower into his seat in the vehicle and squeeze his eyes shut.

            “Winnie, just stay low in the car, okay? It’ll be fine,” Emma ordered, still puzzled by this child. Winnie nodded quickly.

            No sooner was Emma out of the car then the arguing people came out of the house. An older, grandmotherly-looking woman with piercing dark eyes pointed her finger at the sheriff. “Have you arrested him?”

            “Who?”

            “The man – the thug – who robbed me! Have you arrested him? Is that why he’s in the car?”

            “What? No, he just came to the station…”

            “To turn himself in? Good. I know his father put him up to it.”

            “My son did nothing to you, you witch!” Emma recognized the voice of the man who had bugged her mom at the restaurant. “We said our peace years ago – why do you insist upon slandering my family?”

            “That’s rich coming from you, wizard – I know you still harbor against my daughter.”

            “I don’t care about the past – just stop hurting my son!”

            Emma could see this was getting nowhere.

            She could also see she needed to pretend this was a normal situation.

            “I’m sorry, ma’am, you called about a robbery? What’s your name?”

            “Hortensia Locksley, sheriff – that boy in your car-”

            “I don’t care about that part right now. What was stolen?”

            “My jewelry – heirlooms from my grandmother, passed down for generations – it’s missing, I know it was him!”

            “May we search your residence for evidence? I can get a warrant.”

            “Why do you need to search? Am I a common criminal to you? Do you realize who you are talking to?”

            “Ma’am, I’m going to need to ask you to calm down…”

            “Calm down? Are you arresting him or not? They kept saying these past weeks that this town is cursed – with such a corrupt government protecting common criminals like that punk, it’s no wonder…”

            Emma sighed. “Well, if you won’t let us search, I guess you could still make a formal report with your side of the story. Would you be willing to do that?”

            “Do you have those materials on you? You don’t look very prepared for this. As long as my arthritis doesn't strike in the next few minutes-”

            “I’ve got them in the truck,” David cut in, mercifully.

            As soon as Emma got back into the car, she felt a shaky hand clasp her shoulder.

            “That’s what I was trying to tell you about! Our families have been feuding for ages, and they accuse me of these robberies-”

            “Wait, there’s been more than one?”

            “It was probably covered up by the commotion over that wicked witch woman I keep hearing about, but yes. I didn’t do it, Sheriff Swan – you have to believe me! – but I need to figure out who did. Will you please help me?”

            Emma glanced back into the wide, desperate eyes of the boy and without a second thought, said, “Of course.”

Chapter Text

Henry was watching the clock.

It felt weird being at school. Like, he knew it was something normal kids did – heck, it was just two weeks ago he was going to school in New York with fake memories. They were on the Civil War in his history class there, if he remembered correctly – though “correctly” seemed a rather subjective term now. Here, he wore a uniform and took a bus just like he did in New York – but here everyone was a fairytale character or the child of one or of a villager who helped Snow White in the Enchanted Forest in some way, and somehow they were still mandated to learn powers and factorials and take standardized tests. It was just…weird.

            Which is why he was watching the clock as it finally struck 2pm.

            At that moment, a rustling of papers and a few grunts and some awkward humming could be heard right outside the door. He squirmed in his seat, just waiting for his teacher to notice.

            He lasted maybe 30 seconds.

            “Excuse me, Ms. Badroulbadour? I think Ms. Blanchard’s here.” He bit back a grin as he used his grandma’s cursed alias.

            Ms. Badroulbadour, a young woman who Henry could guess was from the Agrabanean region and was only recently cursed with teaching abilities, looked up from the spelling tests she was grading and hastily readjusted her teal headband. He really needed to re-read his storybook again for updates to try to figure out who everyone was now. “She is? Must be time for art then – sorry kids, I’ll get used to this. I’m a fast learner! Everyone put your math books away!” The class cheered as their teacher nearly vaulted over her desk to get to the door and let in a panting Grandma Snow with her arms full of art supplies.

            “Hello, everyone!” His grandmother sing-songed. “It’s good to see you all. Today we will be drawing some birds. Grace, will you be a dear and help me pass these supplies out?”

            As the supplies were being passed out, the former bandit queen glided over to her grandson, giving him a firm squeeze of a hug. “Hey, how’s it going?”

“Alright. School is weird. Also, Ms. Badroulbadour is really smart – like rocket-science smart – but I don’t think she’s ever taught before in her life.”

“Maybe it just takes getting used to. Oh my, now where did he go…” She stood up and glided over to the classroom door without warning, muttering to herself and looking out into the hallway. “I’m sorry Ms. Badroulbadour, did you see a young boy walk in after me? I promised the school secretary I’d let him tag along with me today. He’s new here.”

“I didn’t see anyone, sorry. I’ll keep a look out though.” Grandma Snow walked into the hallway a few steps.

“Oh, there he is!” she exclaimed. “Anish, wasn’t it? Come with me, it’s okay…” Seconds later a short boy wearing khakis and a vest like it was Picture Day walked in. He didn’t look directly at anyone in the class but did gaze around the classroom in curiosity while hiding behind Henry’s grandmother. Henry guessed that the kid was about ten years old.

“Everyone this is Anish. He comes from the land of Maldonia. Everyone say hi!”

“Hi!” the class chorused.

“I’m sure you’ll make him feel welcome. Hey, there’s a seat next to Henry – why don’t you go sit next to him? Now let’s see who wants to join us today.” Grandma Snow let out a flute-y whistle. Several tweets answered her in the distance. “Now all we have to do is wait a few minutes…”

“Hi,” Henry whispered to the new boy. Anish stared wide-eyed at him.

“Hello,” he answered uncertainly. He had a slight accent that Henry couldn’t place. “Is she always that cheerful? My tutors were never this excited about school.”

“Oh, yeah, my grandmother loves her job. She used to do it full time, during the first curse. This is her first time back.”

“That’s your grandmother?! You’re joshing me, she’s so young!”

“Nope, not joshing…kidding you, at all. Curses’ll do that to you.”

“Goodness, this place is strange. At least Tia still has her restaurant.”

“Tia?”

“My brother’s true love. She’s nice, like a big sister.”

“Your brother is Prince Naveen? So you’re a prince?”

“Yup, I guess. My parents say that I’m getting the crown, but they always seem to pay more attention to Naveen and Tia. Boring grown-up stuff, I guess. Sometimes I don’t like that my brother is a grown-up.”

“Yeah, grown-ups can be weird. But there are a lot of cool ones in this town I can introduce you to. I know a pirate with a hook for a hand, for instance. And another one that can turn into a wolf!”

“Wow!”

“And my mom actually recently got a new baby brother. Imagine having a sibling almost 30 years younger than you. I think it would be weird. It’s already weird enough that a little baby is my uncle.”

“Huh…” Anish descended into thoughtful pondering, a small smile on his face. A sudden thought occurred to Henry.

“Hey, Grandma?”

            “Yeah, Henry?” Grandma Snow turned to him as two bluebirds flew through the open window of the middle school and landed on her outstretched hand.

            “Who’s taking care of Neal right now?”

            “Um, well, since I figured I was only staying here for about an hour…I left him with Hook.”

            “You left him with Killian?”

            “Um, yeah, is that a problem?”

            “You do realize the guy can’t open or close a baby bottle? And doesn’t know how to work a stove?”

            “I set it all up for him. He should be fine,” she said confidently, although uneasiness grew on her face.

            “If you say so…” Henry nodded encouragingly, a small lump of uneasiness sitting in his stomach, as Grandma Snow began her lesson.

            Grandma Snow had opted to stay at school and clean up a bit, promising to meet Henry back at the loft, so Henry had taken the bus home like he had for the first real five years of his schooling. As he got off with the other students, he scanned the crowd. He didn’t find either of his mom – he exactly half surprised about that – but he did find…

“Oy, Henry!” A familiar accent rang out above the crowd. “You have a good day at the educational institution, lad?”

Killian “Hook” Jones, stood in the middle of the crowd, searching the sea of students before locking eyes with the truest believer. He was using his hook arm to lock a fretting baby Neal to his chest, which Henry was amused to find was clad in his mom’s hoodie again under his usual pirate’s jacket and over his usual pants and boots. The baby did not seem to like that Killian was calling out right above him and was slowly getting louder to make himself known.

“Oh, for the love of rum…Henry, take this bloody baby away before he breaks the sound barrier…again.” The baby squawked and the pirate shushed him while simultaneously wincing.

Henry merely snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. “That bad, huh?”

“I’m missing chest hair.” Henry started cracking up. “I’m serious! I think he hates me!”

“Babies can’t hate you, silly.   Although I’m not sure why Snow left you with babysitting.”

“It’s not the babysitting I mind. I’m just better with ships… and certain twelve-year-olds.” Henry and Killian shared a smirk at that.

“Still…”

“I’m sure she was just desperate. Now help – he’ll probably like you better…” The pirate’s voice trailed off as he seemed to spot something lurking in the shadows at the end of the street. “Henry, take the baby.”

“I already got that part.”

            “No, seriously, take the baby. Take Neal and get behind me-”

            No sooner had he spoken than an arc of fire roared over their heads. Henry scrambled to take Neal – as if he knew how to hold a baby any more than Hook did after meeting the squirt in the hospital, even after technically spending the night in the same house with the wailing child – and watched as the pirate took a knife out of his boot and took a defensive stance in front of them. Henry couldn’t take his eyes off of the majestic giant shiny purple and green bat-winged creature flying overhead and making a sound that was oddly akin to an amplified baby human’s screech – or maybe that dragon’s scream combined with Neal actively screaming, he couldn’t tell. The creature flew in loops and circles overhead, terrifying the crowd below

            And Henry swore, cross his heart and hope to…well, you know…that he locked eyes with the creature before it suddenly took a nose-dive and swooped so closely over his head that Hook had to duck and both of them could have touched it.

            “Emma’s not going to like this…” Killian muttered, and Henry had to agree with him as they ran away from the scene.

****************

            Rumpelstiltskin was cleaning up the shop for the day when he heard the jingling of the shop’s bell and slow, steady footsteps walking through it.

            “Shop’s closed for the day,” he said without turning around.

            No answer except for what kind of sounded like a much lower version of sticks hitting wood planks like a xylophone.

            “Why do I even try…” the Dark One muttered to himself. He decided to ignore it.

            The air temperature almost instantly dropped by about fifteen degrees. Rumpel instantly grabbed his dagger and spun around, but all he saw were the shadows of the shop. He scanned the shop anyway.

            A sudden rattling sound straight below him caught his attention.

            Looking down, he found a small pendant on a long chain, roughly resembling the Tiki masks of some cultures of this realm. To Rumpel, though, it more closely resembled a skull at first glance.

            And he knew exactly what it meant.

            And he did not want to deal with this and had zero interest in playing whatever game was being played. Darn fool could hitchhike it to another realm… Rumpel put down his dagger and the broom and promptly climbed the stairs to the residential part of his shop. He found Belle sitting on their couch and reading – Around the World in 80 Days, if he remembered correctly, since he couldn’t currently see the title. He could hear a tea kettle on the stove, not yet whistling, and could smell some sort of casserole-type dish in the oven. Belle looked up only seconds after that.

            “Rumpel!” She closed her book with a page fold and a snap before hopping off the couch. “You usually don’t come up until later. Dinner’ll be ready in a bit, but to what do I owe this surprise?”

            Rumpel grinned a bit in spite of himself. He felt like he had butterflies in his stomach, like he was young again – he guessed this was what being a newlywed generally felt like, given his two experiences so far.

            “I was thinking,” he started, nearly bouncing on his feet. “That maybe we could begin our honeymoon earlier than planned. Perhaps tomorrow?”

            “I thought you said you wanted to finish out the week?”

            “Well, I’ve changed my mind. Life’s too short to wait, and we deserve a vacation. I’m not sure I can get us around the world in eighty days,” he said, gesturing to his wife’s current reading material. “But how does starting with Scotland sound?”

            “Oh, Rumpel, that sounds wonderful!” Belle crowed, hugging him tightly. He couldn’t help but hug her back just as tightly.

            After all, he was a man who liked to get what he wanted…and he did love Belle.

Chapter Text

Ch. 6

        Flashback: Kingdom of Maldonia, Late fall, 2012

           “Three times this fiend has entered our kingdom, endangering the lives of its citizens. You invited that irresponsible son of yours back into this palace, and you only invited trouble!”

           “Scuzi, signori e signore, but it’s not my fault the Shadow Man likes to prey upon us. He has no respect for anyone but himself.”

        “Says the prodigal son himself – you raised this boy?”

        “You dare speak to my parents that way, and you will have to go through me!”

           “Naveen, calm down!”

        “I will not calm down!”

           “First it was whatever nonsense Prince Naveen and this serving girl -”

        “- Your princess -”

        “Naveen, it’s fine.”

        “- got into, and then in failing to defeat him completely the first time, they allowed him to infiltrate the royal court of Maldonia for 28 years – 28 years, do you understand the scandalous implications of that?!”

        “He is a wizard and my son and his fiancé are mere humans – and you would do well not to insult a prince and princess of the crown!”

        “Your majesty, no offense, but I would take your word more if your husband would give us a complete explanation – which he isn’t.”

           “There is no explanation! There is only a problem to be solved, and it happens to come in the form of the Shadow Man! Y’all are sovereigns and advisors of a kingdom – act like it! How am I the only one without a royal education here and I’m getting this?”

        The royal advisors and royal family – minus Anish, who had been sent to his chambers with servants for safety - had gathered in the great meeting hall to discuss the disastrous events of the harvest festival commencement, and Tiana could safely say that more would have gotten done if the advisors had been turned into frogs.

        Not that she really wished such a fate upon anyone…but it was very tempting.

           “Everyone, calm down! Naveen, sit down, please, it’s okay. Tiana, I thank you. Now, I know we’ve faced the Shadow Man before and it’s unfortunate that he appears to have not only returned, but become stronger. Fortunately, I have been informed that there still may be hope.”

           “Hope? I can understand optimism, your majesty – Alfonso, sir, sorry – but how can you tell that this source is trustworthy? I have encountered the Shadow Man more times than you, and he will stop at nothing to trick us.”

           “Because we have no reason not to trust him, yet. Our source of hope goes more commonly throughout most of the forest and beyond as the Great Owl.”

Back to the present:

“Alright, let ‘er rip, kid.”

        “How can you be sure that this setting is secure?” Winnie looked nervously at the police station through the open door of the interrogation room.

“Magic,” was Emma’s first instinct.

“Really? This realm seems to like to play cruel tricks on us all - like making steadfast rivals next-door neighbors.”

“I’m not talking about the Enchanted forest’s magic, kid - although there is some of that too. I have a superpower - I can tell when people are lying.”

Winnie looked taken aback a moment. “Well, that does sound reasonable. Mixing magic with logic - my father would approve of that.”

“Can you explain how your father is a wizard, by the way?” David mused. “I don’t remember any fairy tales relating to this.”

        “Can I have some tea first? Just Earl Grey with some honey, if you have it. Otherwise, it’s fine – sorry, I get thirsty when I’m nervous.”

“You should have no reason to be nervous if you’re telling the truth,” Emma said cooly.

        “It’s fine. I’ll see if we still have some, because I like it too. You really like honey, huh?” David couldn’t help smirking as he went over to the small break room kitchen in the office.

        “Born with a sweet tooth, I guess.” Emma couldn’t help eyeing this peculiar kid in wonder.

        “He is called the Great Owl usually. He prefers Mochuelo though, and likes to keep a low profile,” Winnie said. “He was born with the ability to talk to animals. You might not believe this, but back home, he was the most fun to be around, always taking my friends and I on adventures. He learned from his teacher how to change into an owl at will – hence the nickname – so that’s cool too.”

        “Who was his teacher?” Emma enquired.

        “He’d never say, other than to tell us that his teacher was corrupted by magic and to always use our powers – talents, you understand – for good.”

        “Sounds like Gold with Regina,” David mused.

        “Who are they?” Winnie piped up.

        “Gold is our resident pawnbroker. Back in the enchanted forest, and now also here, though, he is Rumpelstiltskin the Dark One – a dark wizard controlled by a dagger. Regina was the Evil Queen, but a couple years ago she turned over a new leaf. Gold taught Regina most of the magic she knows.” Emma smiled a little at the thought of her friend as David spoke.

        “So why does Mrs. Locksley hate him?” she asked.

           “Hortensia Locksley was the owner of a great manor in my home, Maldonia, many years ago. She was always jealous that my father’s powers granted us prosperity in our little cabin while she was in debt, and she begged my father at one point to grant her family the same blessings. He’d always been taught to earn his keep, though, and considered her just a selfish unwise woman. Her daughter took to stealing to survive – you actually might know her, though by association. She’s Goldie Locksley, on the news.”

“Figures.”

        “Dad, shush.”

        “Goldie’s not so bad. It’s our parents that won’t quit. Every generation before us has had some kind of feud going on. It’s really a shame.”

        “I take it the missing year did nothing to release the tension?” David cut in.

        “That’s the funny thing – I know you lot all got your memories back from the Wicked Witch, but we didn’t. I think something happened in Maldonia, separate from the Wicked Witch’s curse.”

        “So we still didn’t fix everything…” Emma muttered. David came out with the tea, handing the mug to her to hand to Winnie.

        “But we’ll get to the bottom of it,” David said firmly, kissing his daughter on the forehead. “Probably should get a hold of Naveen and Tiana from that restaurant to see if they have any ideas. Tiana’s Palace is in the same neighborhood as the Bruin and Locksley residences, and if I remember the movie correctly, Naveen’s from there.”

        Emma slid the mug over to Winnie, but when he tried to take it into his hands, he immediately jerked his hands back.

        “Blimey, that’s hot!” he exclaimed, nervously laughing a bit. “Guess I got a bit too excited." Emma joined him in laughing while looking down at her hands in slight confusion.

           "So, Winnie, how can you prove that you aren't the one causing the robberies? Technically, we only have your family's word for it.” Her years of experience in law enforcement were enough to let Emma get down to business.

            "Well...I'm not sure how..."

            Emma gave him her signature "try me again" look.

           "Well, how can I? I can’t remember!”

“Can’t remember? Can anyone vouch for your location at all at the times of the crimes?”         “My mother says I keep disappearing at night…”

        “Disappearing? Like you went out to party? Were you drinking?”

        “What, no! I don’t drink – besides, my mum would kill me if I did, and you don’t want to see her when she’s angry. Besides, I haven’t really met anyone in this town – they decided not to open the school for my grade level until the August. No, I mean that I just have no memory of what happened between suppertime and midnight on each night of the robberies – and that’s when the robberies took place. I always wake up back in my bed with my fingers all sticky. My mum doesn’t quite believe me – she says I must have just forget to wash my hands and I sleep walk somewhere, because I used to do that when I was a tike. But something happens – I’m just not sure. I’ve never broken into a place before, so how can I know how to do that? Also I can’t move very fast.” The boy pointed to his belly, emphasizing the bulge formed probably from a love of indulging in food – particularly sweet food. “But I’ve got nothing else to go off of. Mrs. Locksley says there are also scratch marks all over her dresser just this past time. If I don’t even know how to break in, how can I make it as elaborate as that? I’ve been framed, can’t you see?”

        “Mrs. Locksley’s report did mention the honey and the scratch marks,” Emma commented, reading the file in front of her. “She also says that the robberies happen while she’s out at her bingo group after dinner – so your time estimate is right. But you make a fair point – although to say you’re being framed seems a bit far-fetched.”

        “What other possibility can there be? The feud is vicious. You don’t know, but it is.”

        “But who would be so desperate as to make you lose your memory?”

        “Hortensia Locksley may be poor, but she makes friends through pity easily. I can almost guarantee you she was behind this.” Winnie’s eyes narrowed ferociously and Emma had to sit back a moment. “And if it isn’t…they are quite cruel to take advantage of my family.”

        “Look, we can’t take you off the suspect list, but as long as it’s alright with your parents…maybe we could let you help a bit.”

          “Yay!” Winnie crowed to the sky. He took another test sip of his tea, this time drinking a bit. “You’re quite alright. I wish I got along with my parents that well.” He looked a bit sad.

        “I thought you said you were close to your dad?” David commented in confusion. Emma was puzzled, to say the least.

        “He’s only been grumpy lately and he’s become quite distant. It doesn’t help that I haven’t been able to relocate my friends yet in this town. Perhaps they are still in Maldonia. I mean, who knows with these curses, right?”

        “Right, of course,” Emma nodded, if only to seal off the topic for now. At that moment the police station’s phone rang, and David picked it up.

           “Storybrooke Police Station – oh, hey, Hook.” Emma’s ears perked up at the name of the pirate captain. David’s face screwed up in concentration before blanching in surprise

        “You ran into what? Both of you, stay there - with Neal?! We’ll be right over.” He hung up the phone.

        “Dad?”

        “Sheriff Nolan?”

        “Dragon attack again. Down by the middle school.” Emma’s eyebrows shot up in alarm. “Don’t worry, Henry’s safe with Hook – as is Neal, who is with them for some odd reason - but we should get down there.”

        “Of course.” Emma made a move for the door.

        “Any way I can help?” Winnie asked, causing her to stop again. She turned to look at him

        “Winnie, I’m not sure…you’re still a suspect...”

        “All the more reason he should be allowed to prove himself.” Charming interrupted firmly. “He’s coming with.” Emma gave her father a questioning look, but he only looked more determined as they headed out the door.

 

Chapter Text

David had barely stopped the car before Emma jumped out and ran to her son, her brother, and her…best friend, who were sitting at a bench outside of the school. Neal was asleep in Hook’s arms. David ordered Winnie to stay in the car while he calmly parked it and got out to follow his daughter.

            “You could have been killed!”

            Her eyes were wild as she approached them, half from worry and half from rage at…she wasn’t quite sure, but it was probably somewhere between oh my god, they were in danger and goddamn it, why did you have to be there?! She hugged her son in a quick squeeze of a hug.

            “Did we not say Emma wasn’t going to like this?” Hook turned to Henry for confirmation. The truest believer nodded solemnly.

            “Mom, we’re fine. It’s actually the dragon I’m more worried about.”

            “Why were you even there, Hook? Where’s Mom – where’s Mary Margaret?”

            “She’s at school – she came to class to teach art today. It was cool – she managed to summon a finch-”

            “Henry, not now.”

            “She said it was an emergency, love – something about Granny having a doctor’s appointment and not able to sit for the lad. Not that I don’t respect the little lad’s determination, but he’s a handful – or, well, you know.” Charming took the baby from him and the ex-pirate looked like he’d lost ten pounds of stress in ten seconds.

            “Hook’s scared of a baby,” Henry said, smirking.

            “Was that really all you got from the conversation?”

            “Doesn’t matter. I’m hungry, and probably so is Neal. Let’s get home before his crying summons the dragon. Besides, I still need to look for Dusk.”

            “Dusk?” Emma screwed up her face in confusion.

            “My gecko.”

            “What gecko?”

            “Oh…oh, right, I never ended up telling you. I bought a gecko a few days after we came back to Storybrooke – there was a sale at the pet store down the block from Granny’s.”

            “With who’s money?”

            “What pet store?” David cut in. “Only place to buy pets that I know is the animal shelter. Which would have been significantly healthier for the pets, by the way.”

            “The pet store…just down the street. Actually, now that I think of it, I don’t think it was here during the first curse. Must be a new addition. Anyway, you weren’t paying attention and there was a sale.”

            “I had a few doubloons on me.”

            “So you were in on this too? Also, do you just do that to see that look on their face when you hand them actual gold for currency?”

            “To be fair…you weren’t paying much attention to either of us? A lot was happening. You left me with him, so I think he was just trying to keep me out of trouble.” Hook silently shrugged it off casually as Henry spoke. “No big deal, mom.” Emma still couldn’t help feeling a little uneasy but she nodded anyway.

            “Henry told me these “pet shop” things are normal in your realm,” was all the pirate said. “I figured it beat stray cats on a ship.”

            “Right. So now you have a gecko on the loose. For the record, what does it look like – in case I run into it?” Emma slung an arm around Henry’s shoulders and started to head back to the car.

            “She. Her name is Dusk. And she’s dark purple on top with a belly that’s light purple with dark purple specks.”

            “Purple? Don’t geckos normally come in green?”

            “Well, the pet store guy said it was a new breed, and I looked it up and he was right. He seemed a little too eager to sell it, but I didn’t mind because she’s cute.” Henry looked like he was seriously bumming about the loss of his pet. “The pictures of the breed on the internet didn’t have her purple belly, or the ridge on her back. Also geckos’ eyes apparently usually brown or black with a slit in the middle, like most reptiles, but hers were green, and kind of looked almost human. She was really pretty.”

            Emma stopped in her tracks. “What did you just say?”

            “Um, geckos’ eyes are…”

            “No, the other part.”

            “Her eyes were green?”

            “Almost human?”

            “Yeah…mom, what are you thinking?” Emma turned and grasped her son by the arms.

            “…Henry, the dragon’s eyes were green and looked like a human’s, too.”

            “You don’t think…”

            “When was the last time you saw your gecko?”

            “Right before the memory curse broke…mom, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

            Emma nodded absently. “Henry, I think I know where your gecko is. Do you remember where you found that pet shop?”

            “I do, but it’s across town a bit,” Hook cut in, making a bee-line for the truck and hopping in the passenger side. “If Henry’s pet is the dragon, though, why did we find the urn cracked open?”

            “I don’t know, but hopefully we’re about to get some answers,” Emma said quickly as she followed him in.

            “And what am I going to do?” Winnie protested. “What on earth is going on?”

            “We’re going to drop you off at home,” David said firmly as he pushed Henry into the car and jumped in on the driver’s side. “No, we haven’t forgotten our promise – Hook, move your legs out of the way - There’s just something we have to do.”

            The store was deserted when they got there.

            The main sign out front – Friends On the Furry Side – was well-worn as if trying too hard to blend in with the surrounding street signs from circa 1983. It retained a hideous combination of bright purple and green in its coloring, but from just peeking through the windows Emma could see that the inside was fairly well managed – if a bit creepy with the lights turned off, even in the daytime. She could see cages with things moving in them filling the room. There was a loud squawk followed by the faint sound of baying and some scurrying sounds.

            “David, magic or manual?”

            “I don’t know – you don’t want to spook the animals…or wake Neal”

            “Regular lock picking it is.” Emma pulled her lock picks out of her pocket and began fiddling with the door.

            “Need a hand, love? Or, well, you know…”

            “I’m fine, Hook. Years of experience,” she cut him off, her voice both terse and nervous. It took a minute, but she finally did hear the thing click and the door tentatively creak open, as if it was scared of the building too.

            “Stupid head! Stupid head!”

            The group whipped their heads over to the side to find a parakeet sitting proudly on a perch in the corner of the shop, as if it had been waiting for them the whole time.

            Waiting to pepper them with insults, that is.

            “Shut up, stupid head! Bird brain!”

            “Good God, is there a way to shut that thing off?” David commented. Neal stirred in his arms.

            “Hey, Hook, why don’t you try?”

            “Why me?”

            “You’re a pirate, that’s a parrot. You were made for this!”

            “What…Henry…wait, this isn’t one of those things you saw on the picture box, is it? Again? Lad, we went over this!”

            “The terms are ‘TV” and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ but yes.”

            “No. Not now. Not ever.”

            “Oh, come on…”

            “Not now, not ever, bird brain! Awk!”

            “Gosh, with a recorder that accurate, who needs playback?” Emma joked. Going over to the bird’s perch, she spotted a small name tag on a clip attached to it. “Son of a gun.”

            “What?”

            “This thing’s name is actually Playback.”

            “Can we please move on?” Hook begged.

            “I’m not giving up...” Henry wagged his finger in Hook’s face as he let the sentence hang. David knelt to be eye to eye with the ground level cages, which Emma saw were all filled with dogs and cats. Winnie was about to join him before he got distracted by a finch in a cage in the corner, who was chirping away merrily, seemingly at the sight of him.

            “Do either of you remember the name of the shop’s owner?” Emma asked tersely.

            “Um, I think he said his name was Mr. Simpleton or something?” Henry said. “He spent most of his time in the back room and only really came out to badger us about buying something and to ring us up for five minutes.”

            “Not creepy, just kind of…peculiar? Overeager merchant – kept my wits about me, I’m sure he saw the hook, though.” Emma couldn’t help but chortle a bit at that. She moved behind the cash register and started rummaging through the drawers.

            “Could one of you stop playing with the animals for a minute and go survey what’s actually in that back room?”

            “I already checked, mom – door’s locked,” Henry said without looking up from the actual teacup pig he was holding in his arms. The small animal grunted contentedly.

            “Not anymore, it isn’t.” Emma glanced up to find Hook casually trying to screw the metal part of his prosthetic back in its socket while the door stood open just a crack. She could see the lock was skewed a bit out of place in its socket in the door as well. He looked up and smoldered smugly.

            “David, Hook, come with me. Henry, Winnie, stay with the animals. Also, one of you take Neal from David.” Emma grabbed a set of keys and an ID reading “Dr. Delano Facilier, DVM” that she found in the cashier desk’s drawers before joining the men in walking through the door.

            The room appeared to be a fortune teller’s reading room straight out of Hollywood’s idea of New Orleans. There was a round table covered in a table cloth, an honest-to-god crystal ball, and tarot cards strewn across the table. The walls were covered in curtains and everything had a dark red, purple, and green theme, and there were symbols painted on the walls in pain-stakingly-detailed repetitive patterns.

            “So this guy runs a business on the side. Seems kind of fishy, considering he has a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Wouldn’t you be able to make enough money off of that skill, if this ID were legitimate?” David took the card from her to examine it.

            “Plenty of people dabble in the supernatural back in the Enchanted Forest, mate. Maybe he could simply have both abilities? Peasants can’t always just have one job to get by.”

            Before Emma could respond to them, Henry called out from the front of the store. “Hey, guys, I think I found the cage where my gecko came from! Also, I think Neal’s starting to get hungry.” David headed for the door instantly and his companions could only follow him.

            “Sheriffs Swan and Nolan, if it would be possible,” Winnie began eagerly as David took the fussing baby from Henry’s arms. “I would like to look after these animals while we are doing this investigation…if that would be alright?” He had a finch and a dove on his shoulder and was gently stroking a bunny in his arms. “It could also assist in your investigation as I could keep looking for clues.”

            “You think you can handle all this?” Emma smirked a bit, but she could tell the teen was clearly at home with the animals. “I wouldn’t be able to pay you for this part – unless you sell a pet, I guess, that is.”

            “I’m sure I can!”

            “Well, then it’s settled. You’ll be the new proprietor – temporarily, at the very least. I’m actually glad you asked – I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with all these animals.”

            "I can supervise him," David piped up.

            “Come on, you guys. Winnie, if you see anything the shop needs right now that you can do, do it, otherwise come with us so we can drop you off at your house.”

            As the group filed out into the street, a sudden familiar roaring filled the sky.

            “Everyone get down!” Emma yelled as a fire ball burst above them. The illusive majestic beast reared up over their heads, its gaze – or Emma guessed her gaze – fixed on the establishment they had just exited.

            Henry instantly ran forward out into the open.

            “Dusk!

            “Henry!” Emma screamed in panic. Hook ran forward and hugged the boy from behind trying to drag him back to safety. She could hear Neal’s wailing from David’s perch in the truck.

            “Stop, she was my pet!” Henry yelled. “I can talk to her!”

            “Now is not the time for talking – get back here this instant!” Emma grabbed both Henry and Hook’s shoulders and pulled them back to the group before throwing herself in front of them and throwing her hands up, hoping something would come to her.

            “Dusk, it’s okay! It’s me, Henry, your friend! I’m not going to hurt you! We want to help!” The dragon shrieked in panic and set off another fire ball, this time so close to them Emma could feel the heat fully radiating on her.

            “Henry, I don’t think it’s helping!”

            “Just wait, I’ve got this!” Henry darted out so that he was next to his mom but not in front of her. Hook made a grab for him in response.

            The dragon responded by rearing up again and blasting a fireball right towards her son and the pirate who was trying to help him.

            “Ahhhhh!”

            A blast of white light filled the space between Emma’s hands and the dragon. Emma’s eyes were squeezed shut but she stood firm.

            Cracking an eye open, she saw the dragon flying away and Hook and Henry standing up, looking fairly unscathed.

            “Mom, what was…”

            “Home. We’re going home. Now.”

            David had suggested a hospital visit for them all just for good luck, but Emma had refused, internally shuddering at what happened the last time she was in a hospital. Instead, after dropping Winnie off at his house, they’d all headed home, where Mary Margaret had fretted over them like a mother hen and Hook had retreated into a corner with a chair soon afterward, staying out of the family gathering.

            He asked her if she was alright.

            If there was something he could do.

            If there was something he’d done wrong.

            Things she didn’t want to think about.

            Because he hadn’t done anything wrong…except, seemingly, loving her.

            “Swan? I’m just going to head home – to Granny’s. Just wanted to let you know?”

            “I’ll walk you home.”

            “You really don’t have to…”

            “No, hold on, really.”

            It was only once they were walking down Main Street that he finally spoke again.

            “Love…if this is about the dragon, I’m sorry if I made you worry.”

            “Hook…Killian…stop, please…”

            “I know something is bothering you, Emma…please talk to me?”

            Emma took a deep breath before cautiously turning to look at him.

            “It’s just…I’ve lost a lot of people, you know?”

            She took another shaky breath.

            “It’s like everytime I get close to someone, they get ripped away from me…and usually I could have done something about it.”

            He didn’t say anything but kept looking attentively at her.

            “Graham…Neal…even Walsh. I can’t lose Henry or you too.”

            There was a beat, and then a small smile appeared on his face.

            “Well, you don’t have to worry about me, love. ‘Cause I’m a survivor. And at the very least, I will always protect Henry.”

            And then they kissed.

            It was a beautiful kiss, standing in the middle of Main Street stopping traffic and not caring and just feeling good and right and ever so slightly rebellious.

            And it lasted for a total of maybe a minute before crashing sounds behind Granny’s interrupted them.

            “What the bloody hell-”

            “Let’s check it out.”

            They split up to make their way around the back. Emma could just make out a figure running down the alley. She raced after the fugitive, letting out a blast of magic at the last minute as they reached the end of the street and the field that separated them from the forest.

            The fugitive promptly fell over, tied up with ribbons of Emma’s light magic. Emma ran up to the fallen figure and peered down as Killian ran up beside her and pulled the person’s hoodie back with his hook.

            This revealed a young light-skinned man with a shaved head and eyes with bags underneath and deep sadness and yet a fierce determination shining through.

            “You could at least warn a bloke when you’re about to do that,” he said indignantly.

            “Who the heck are you and why are you running?” Emma was not amused. Hook bent down and moved to haul the guy to his feet. As he did, a few pieces of jewelry fell out of the pocket of his hoodie.

            “You gonna explain how you got those?”

            “Who wants to know? You haven’t even introduced yourself, lass.”

            “Emma Swan, Sheriff of Storybrooke. And you haven’t answered my question.”

            “Will Scarlet…and you’re not getting anything out of me.”

Chapter Text

Dr. Gale wasn’t sure what to think.

            She’d been only eleven when the tornado took her to Oz and she’d thought her life was crazy then. She’d only spent a handful of days there but all she could ever think was that she missed home – her Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, the cows, the chickens, their farmhouse, their simple but love-filled life. Ever since the death of her parents when she was very young, her aunt and uncle and her life on the farm were all she had, and she never wanted to lose that. After her encounter with the green-skinned witch, she frankly would have been okay with never returning to Oz again. Toto seemed to agree.

            She’d gone to medical school and become a country doctor as soon as she left high school, getting her license in only twelve years. She’d worked her way through much of school, even though her uncle, who had died when she was fourteen, left her much money towards her education. She’d hoped to care for her aunt now both financially and medically, as Auntie Em was getting on in age and ailing and Toto was getting old. She also saw the extreme need for her skills in her community, where the closest neighbor was several miles away and the closest hospital was whole towns away.

            But that darn tornado just had to come back, didn’t it?

            She’d been in the middle of her daily house calls when the sirens started. The sky had gone eerily still and the wind had picked up and she knew she should stay inside but it was like the wind called to her, telling her to be alert. If anyone could have heard her thought processes at that moment, they would have recommended her for psychiatric help, but she needed to be there when that tornado rolled through.

            She’d been sucked up into it and she could only scream and pray for mercy as went through it.

            She landed in the middle of a road made of yellow bricks and had to tuck and roll to lessen the impact of her body hitting the ground. Her rolling was stopped when she ran into a post at the edge of a field – which happened to hold a human enchanted to be a living scarecrow. There were no witches to greet her this time around, much less evil ones, but she knew exactly where she was – the last place she wanted to be. Who wants to go back to the place they accidentally murdered a woman? But the scarecrow, as if reading her thoughts, told her that if she was wanting something, she was too late – for the only one could help people was the Wizard, and he’d been transformed into a flying monkey and sent to another land.

            Which made no sense scientifically but considering she’d melted a woman into a puddle before and now had transported to a completely different realm twice, she figured science might be out the window at this point.

            “Are you a good witch?” the scarecrow, who said his name was Hugo, had asked her. Funny, the good witch Glinda had offered her a seat at the “sisterhood of witches” as she called it – as the Witch of the West representing innocence – but she’d turned it down. Dorothy had looked down at her white doctor’s coat and blue scrubs and wondered how anyone would mix her up with the ballgown-clad witches.

            Yet, he told her she looked like one still. He said it might be because he hadn’t the intellect to call her anything different. Or as he literally put it, “didn’t have a brain.”

            She insisted on just being the team medic.

            She’d then met a heartless yet still living cursed man made of tin named Stanum and a talking lion of all things named Val – who insisted he also used to be a man – and she thought she’d seen it all. But then flying monkeys of all things had attacked and they’d gone on the run, searching for any magical source that could help them break into Zelena’s vault to retrieve Stanum’s heart or to at least find potions that could de-curse her new friends.

            That’s how she’d met Ozma.

            As unfortunate as it was that all the good witches had been banished from Oz, Dorothy was glad she’d met the dethroned cross-dressing princess. She seemed to understand the deep loss she was feeling, having lost her own family, and had this beautifully deep compassion for all her technically former subjects. She was knowledgeable in navigation through this strange land and happy to help them.

            It didn’t hurt that she was really pretty, too.

            Zelena – for that was what the wicked witch called herself – didn’t show up much at first. It was her minions that they had to worry most about. It seemed that whenever someone got bitten by one of the creatures, they soon actually became one of the creatures. So, what started out as only a small band of the creatures soon rapidly grew. When Ozma joined their little crew, though, that put her back on their trail again it seems. She did dethrone Ozma’s family after all.

            It was hard to rally the remaining Ozite citizens into rebellion, but they’d mananged. Unfortunately, when they’d made up that plan, they didn’t account for the fact there seemed to be a strange time freeze curse over the land, so that war lasted nearly 25 years. No real victories, no real failures, but a lot of battles.

            She should know. She was the doctor.

            Ozma and she dated for a bit during it but, by the end of the war, it became apparent that they were better off as just dearest friends.

            By the end of the war, it also became apparent to Dorothy that this land was not her home.

            It took 26 years – the duration of her time in Oz - but she finally relocated those silver slippers that got her home before and she used them again to go back to Kansas.

            She found out her dog and aunt had died in her absence – shortly after her “disappearance,” actually – and the farmhouse had been bought by someone else.

            She quickly found a job as a doctor in Kansas again, thankfully. She’d actually had to forge documents for herself, which would have scandalized her auntie and uncle. But how else was she supposed to explain a 26-year absence from what she could only now describe as “this version of Earth”?

            She lasted only a year before she decided she needed to get away from rural Kansas too.

            She spent the next year in Kansas City, Missouri, in order to try city life, but even that was too close. She started searching for jobs in other parts of the country – Seattle, Phoenix, Tallahassee, to name a few.

            Then she got a job offer from Storybrooke, Maine that she didn’t even remember applying for.

            That really should have been her first warning.

            She’d watched as people got turned into flying monkeys and mother-loving Snow White gave birth to her second-born child that Zelena promptly kidnapped. Dr. Whale – her boss – and one of the nurses, Iris, who’d befriended her (and said that her “fairytale counterpart” was Rapunzel) had tried to explain something about memory curses and time freezes and magic to her, but it all made her head spin. Wars against flying monkeys in Oz barely prepared her for the full explanation of this. Especially when it seemed multiple generations of families were now contemporaries to each other and this was considered normal.

            And believe it or not, she was still in a small town in Maine, in the United States, not in a fantasy land. If she hadn’t known better, she’d think they were just April-Fool’s-pranking her.

            She was just thankful when the wicked witch was stopped a few days after arrival.

            The funny thing was, she was actually starting to get used to this town. Mind you, she was still wary, and she figured she’d try this out for a year to test it out, just like Kansas City, but something about Storybrooke, ME was growing on her. Besides that, it seemed the hospital sorely needed another doctor – Dr. Whale was the only one, covered multiple specialties (apparently literally by means of a reformed Evil Queen’s magic) and he doubled as a surgeon. With apparently how often villains attacked in the town…

            Yeah they really needed another doctor.

            Now after the defeat of the Wicked Witch, Dorothy’s daily routines at the hospital were fairly normal. She checked her watch. A new group of volunteers from the elementary school were supposed to show up any minute…she thought she could hear them now. She couldn’t help smiling a bit, thinking of how new and innocent they were to the world…maybe that’s what made her a good choice for the Witch of the West?

            “Um, hey, do you know where Dr. Whale is? The kids are raring to go and I’m helping Ms. Blanchard  today.” a woman’s voice broke through Dr. Gale’s thoughts.

            “Huh? Oh, yeah, he’ll be with you in a minute…” her voice trailed off as she looked up at the speaker. She was a tall and beautiful brunette woman with a streak of red in her hair and fierce eyes. The woman giggled a little and smiled flirtatiously as Dorothy stared.

            “Well, hi there! You must be new. Name’s Ruby Lucas. What’s yours?”

           

Chapter Text

“I’m telling you mom, Dr. Facilier is the name of the villain in Tiana and Naveen’s Disney movie. That can’t be a coincidence!”
“Henry, I know everything in this town is supposed to be based on a story, but I think it’s too early to be making assumptions like that…”
“He literally has a fortune telling room in the back of his shop – how much more obvious can you get?”
“Henry, can we talk about the case after school? You don’t want to be late for the bus.”
“Oh, fine…”
“Are you sure you’re okay with me doing this?”
“Duh, of course I am. Go get ‘em! See ya! Love you!”
“Have a good day! Love you!” Henry ran up to the bus stop as the bus turned onto Main Street. Emma entered the gate to Granny’s Inn and Diner. The bell rang as she entered the establishment’s front doorway.
Killian, who’d been shooting darts on the side – with not all that bad of an aim, given the darts already present in the middlemost circles - looked up when he heard the bell and smiled. “Hello, Emma,” he said, just as he was getting ready to lose another mini-arrow.
“Wanna go out with me?”
The dart missed its mark and fell to the ground. Killian turned to her in surprise.
“What?”
Emma couldn’t help but giggle a little at catching the 300-year-old pirate off-guard. “A date. Friday, at the new Italian restaurant. You and me. Do you want to go out with me?”
“Isn’t it typically the man’s duty to ask? Mind you, I apologize for not asking first.”
“Well, welcome to the 21st century, captain. It can go both ways. Do you accept?”
Killian looked at the ground for a moment before looking back up at her with this shy giddy smile that made her heart soar. “I’d love to. I’ll pick you up at your parents’ place beforehand?”
“Sure.”
“Where are you headed right now?”
“Off to interview Tiana and Naveen to see if they know anything, checking on Winnie, then interrogating our thief, then back to the station for boring paperwork. You bringing lunch?”
“Of course. Onion rings?”
“Good, you remember.”
*************************************

“Achidanza, Sheriff Swan, I don’t know how this could happen.”
Naveen – Sheriff Swan was thankful no new people had double names so far, or so she said, which didn’t make her speech less confusing in the slightest – was leaning on the counter of his wife’s restaurant…at least, he assumed Tia was now his wife since he woke up in this strange town with a gold ring on his finger that matched hers. He didn’t mind the married part – just the not-remembering-the-wedding part.
“We don’t remember Winnie or his parents from before you folks came back to the Enchanted Forest. Without memories of the missing year, we’re sorry, but we wish we could help you more,” Tiana bit her lip in worry and scrunched up her brow in thought. Naveen knew that look…he only hoped the sheriff – Tiana told him that’s what the head law enforcement officer of most small towns was called – didn’t see.
“Well if remember or find out anything let me know, okay?”
“Of course.”
As soon as the law enforcement officer left, Tia grabbed his arm. “Animals and disappearing people. You really don’t think he could be…”
“I don’t know, my Evangeline. I really hope it isn’t, but all I really have is hope.” At that moment the phone on the wall rang. Glancing worriedly at Naveen, Tiana picked up the phone.
“Hello, operator?...oh, cheese and crackers, they don’t have that in this realm, do they…”
“Hello, Miss Tiana,” Naveen could hear through the phone as his wife froze in fear.
He knew that voice. Even if logically it wasn’t possible it had to be him.
“What do you want?” Tiana finally managed to get out. Naveen snaked his arm around his princess protectively.
“Only to make sure you two don’t reveal anything too…important.”
“Important? We don’t remember anything, you snake. What, you going to tell me you were behind this? You scum…”
“Now, now, such language is unbecoming of a future queen, don’t you think? I was only checking in.”
Tiana hissed in an angry breath through her teeth. “…I’m only going to repeat this one more time. What. Do. You. Want?”
“For you to know that this is all your fault, of course. Your actions brought on everything that is about to happen to your kingdom and this poor simple little town. Oh, and that little lady sheriff that just visited? Don’t tell her anything. Or you know what’s coming for you.”
There was only a click as the call ended but for Naveen it might as well have been echoing off the walls.
After a few moments Tiana whispered, “Baby, what are we gonna do?”
“…I’m sure it’s not as bad as it sounds.”
“Naveen, baby, he should not be here – he shouldn’t even be alive. What are we going to do?”
All Naveen could say now was, “I don’t know.”
*****************************************

“Where did you get this?”
Emma swore she’d been asking this question over and over again for the last few hours, but Mr. Will Scarlet still wouldn’t give her a straight answer. He barely looked at her and his eyes remained sullen and hollow throughout his silence.
“Robin says you were once part of his band. Did you think stealing would get you back in his good graces?”
Still nothing.
“An innocent teenage boy almost took the fall for you. Did you know that? You think that’s right?”
…Why was she even trying?
She heard the door to the police station open, so with a final withering glare at Will, she left the interrogation room.
Killian and Henry stood in the doorway, her boyfriend carrying coffee and her son carrying his schoolbag, while deep in conversation.
“Why does this Batman call himself a bat if he’s actually a human?”
“Because he’s a superhero vigilante! He’s super cool – I have to show you the comics sometime. There was a really funny TV show in the 60s too, plus some animated shows and also some movies. His sidekick Robin is part of the Teen Titans, so there’s a lot of mythos on him too…plus multiple people who’ve taken up the role but that’s a longer story
“A Robin who is also not an animal, fully human, and not Locksley? And there are multiple versions of this person? Didn’t you mention this character is also supposed to be a child?”
“sigh… You have to see the comics.”
“Hey guys, what’s up? Besides bats and robins and our local dragon, I mean.”
“Hey, mom! Did you know Prince Naveen’s little brother is now in my class? He’s really nice.”
“…That’s great, kid,” Emma said with awkward cheerfulness. Sentences she never thought would be part of normal everyday conversation, exhibit A…
“Also I think my new math teacher is Princess Jasmine.”
“Never going to get used this, am I…” Emma rested her chin on the top of Henry’s head and looked up at Killian. “Please don’t tell me my mother put you on babysitting duty again.”
“No, Granny was available. Something about Ruby off meeting a friend and her needing to not be alone.”
“Thank goodness.”
“I’m Captain Hook, love. I could’ve handled it.”
“Didn’t you say you were missing chest hair?”
“No worse than scratching my nose with, ah, the wrong hand.”
“Riiight…so Henry, how is…Ms. Jasmine?”
“We call her Ms. Badroulbadour and she’s okay. She’s really smart and nice to us, but you can kind of tell teaching clearly wasn’t her profession in the Enchanted Forest.”
“Isn’t she from the desert? Do we call everything the Enchanted Forest in that world?”
“I’ll have to ask. The storybook only dealt with stories that took place in the forest – or at sea – so I don’t really know – wait, doesn’t her movie refer to the region as the Seven Deserts?
“It’s been a while, kid.”
“Movie night?”
“Maybe sometime soon.”
“You should come too, Hook…We can watch Peter Pan, too.” Henry’s eyes got mischievous.
“Why would I want to watch the demon boy?”
“He’s got a movie about him.”
“So?”
“You’re in it, too.”
“…I have a feeling I’m not going to like this.”
“Okay, Henry, that’s enough. Go park yourself in the back office with your homework.”
“I wanna show Hook what I’m talking about on my laptop.”
“I’ll come in a minute, lad, I want to talk with your mother.”
“Okay…just don’t make me watch.”
“Dang, that kid’s smart…” Emma turned her attention to Killian as he kissed her. She suddenly felt the sharp part of his hook biting into her hip.
“Uh, Killian…watch your left side…”
“Oh gods, sorry.” The biting quickly fell away. “You okay?”
“It’s fine, no need to stall longer…”
They were cut off a minute later by a “ain’t it nearly suppertime? Don’t leave me ‘anging, Madame Sheriff.”
“Dang it,” Emma muttered.
“I’ll go check on Henry.”
Emma stood there debating whether to give the thief the satisfaction of a response, she decided instead to listen to the sounds of her son and boyfriend chatting.
“That’s what the princess Jasmine is supposed to look like in the talking box? Does she even have internal organs?” Henry giggled at the reaction.
“Have you ever been to the Seven Deserts?”
“Well, a pirate doesn’t need a ship to be a pirate. Occasionally, I’ve strayed from the sea. Different set of living issues, though.”
“Like what?”
“Well, lots of sand and wind, for one thing. Different clothing required. What…what that woman is wearing is not adequate. You need layers just to be able to breathe. Also to retain moisture otherwise you’ll just keel over as a dehydrated corpse or…or something.”
“Good to know. What else?”
“Bandits. Lots of them.”
“Really?”
“Well, it depends which desert you’re in, but Agrabah’s got quite a population of them. Princess Jasmine’s father doesn’t do a very good job handling the poverty issues there, last I heard. Been over thirty years though, so maybe it’s improved.”
“What did you do when you ran into bandits?”
“Well, you fight to the death, of course. They’re desperate to live and so are you. But they’ve got these curved blades unlike my straighter one, see? So you have to use different strategies.”
“Like how?”
“Well…lad, that’s a ruler, not a sword.”
“Yeah, here’s another one. En garde – teach me how to duel an Agraban bandit.”
“Well…okay. First of all, you’re holding it all wrong. I know the prince has taught you some things.”
“Right, sorry.”
“And they’re gonna come at you from the side like this…”
“If it’s curved wouldn’t it bypass my blocking anyway?”
“Not if you block it correctly…”
“Like this?”
“well, I think you’re getting the hang of it, anyway…”
She heard the clattering as their “swords” clashed against each other. Henry laughed after an extra big “clack.”
“Guys, I’m not buying new rulers - if you break those, you know where the tape is…”
No sooner had she said that than she heard a clanking sound and a yelp followed by…
Silence.
“Guys?” Emma asked as panic slowly rose in her chest.
“It’s okay, mom. Just a scratch.” Henry ended the sentence with a deep hiss of breath.
Emma came running.
Henry was sitting in the desk chair looking sheepish with a gash on his chin while Killian was backed up against the wall staring in horror.
“It’s fine mom, it was my fault.”
“Oh my god – Killian, do you ever think to be more careful?!” her eyes darted between her child and Killian. His face stayed the same.
“I’m…sorry, love.”
“Just…get the first aid kit and then stand back, okay?”
He barely nodded and ran out of the room. The kit landed in her lap less than two minutes later.
By the time she got done patching henry up, she looked around and found that Killian was gone.
***********************************************
He broke the magic on the lock with his hook to get in. He thought his other hand would have been shaking too hard to pick a normal lock anyway.
The door gave away with a small creak as he entered. His boots made dull thuds on the floorboards, though the sound was less hollow than the thuds they made on a ship. The shop was dark like the night outside, but he knew where to go anyway.
Rumpelstiltskin had been keeping it on his front counter for as long as he could remember…which mind you, was just a few weeks in total, but still.
He was barely cognizant of the fact that the crocodile and the missus were not home. He vaguely remembered that they were off on their honeymoon – and while he was beginning to befriend the Lady Belle, he couldn’t say he was torn up about missing the wedding.
Carefully lifting up the glass jar between his hook and right hand, he gazed into it to see its contents. He shivered a little while internally cursing the sadistic imp. Two hundred years apart from it and he thought he was used to it.
That’s when the very faint sound of sirens started up, sounding like they were approaching from far away but approaching nonetheless.
Tucking the jar under his arm, he carefully snuck back out the front door and took off into the shadows.
If running made him a coward, so be it.

Chapter Text

Ch.10
There was a furious longing burning inside of Regina.
She’d promised Robin she’d let him have his space with his wife. His wife, whom she had killed in one life and now was back in this one all because the next generation of Charming Snows just had to feel the need to play hero. She promised to let him be, for the sake of his child and for him.
But it still really hurt.
She watched him through her magic mirror – through rear view mirrors and security cameras, mostly, she was sad to say. Really didn’t flatter his good looks.
It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, so long as he’s happy…
“Mama, mama come meet my new friends,” Roland was telling Marian now. A small Romani-looking child with ears too large for his age dominating his head came running up to them. “This is Horton, mama. He’s my best friend. He used to be in a circus!”
“Wow, how fascinating! It’s a pleasure to meet you, Horton.” The child ducked his head in embarrassment in response, but he was smiling.
“Could Horton come with us to the ice cream parlor, mama?”
“Um, I don’t know…”
“Regina lets me!”
The former evil monarch herself couldn’t help the smug smirk on her face as the look on Marian’s face grew uneasy.
“Horton, isn’t your father coming to pick you up?” Robin asked. Regina smiled for real at that.
“He was supposed to come fifteen minutes ago.” The large-eared child said quietly, almost too quiet for the mirror to pick up. “Could I please come with you?”
“…Of course, let’s go to this…ice cream parlor.” Marian’s smile looked only half forced, Regina had to admit. The group moved out of the view of the rear view mirrors of the cars at the school. The next time Regina spotted them, they were in the security camera’s line of vision at the town’s relatively new ice cream shop and catering business, Crystalized Confections, run by the illustrious royal sisters from Arendelle.
“Welcome! What’ll it be today?” The shop’s main proprietor, Elsa, asked, just as her sister opened the back door and entered the selling area of the establishment while still tying her apron on.
“Hi, guys!” she chirped, evidently still in teacher mode from dealing with the preschoolers and kindergarteners.
“Miss Anna!” the boys immediately shrieked. “You work here?!”
“Well, yeah, ‘cause I gotta support my sister. Plus, who doesn’t love ice cream, am I right?”
“Anna…they’re customers now, remember?”
“Oh, right, sorry.”
“Two cones of rocky road for us,” Robin said. “A fudge swirl for Roland, and…what would you like, Horton?”
“Peanut butter chocolate chip, please.”
“I don’t believe we’ve met, Mrs…?”
“Marian. I’m Robin’s wife. Nice to meet you, Miss Elsa, Miss Anna.” Regina scowled at that.
“This is my mama. She came back from the Enchanted Forest with the Sheriff.”
“How nice! Nice to meet you, Marian.”
Regina couldn’t watch anymore after that.
*************************
The Bear King Pub lay in another whole new neighborhood that had cropped up in Storybrooke after Snow had re-enacted the dark curse – this one being named DunBroch Burrows. As soon as Regina opened up the door of the establishment, she had to duck as a tankard of ale went flying and sloshed out an arc of liquid over her head.
“Aye, is that the best ye can do, lads?” A loud voice chortled. Regina glanced over with a disapproving eyebrow to see a large red-haired man with a bushy beard and a peg leg grinning wildly at the men around him.
“Or are ye wee suffering jack-o-nips, too afraid to muss up yer pretty hair?” An old white-haired man who didn’t seem bothered by his short plump stature’s possible disadvantage in a fight, got in the face of a lanky man with wild dark hair.
Luckily the red-haired man spotted Regina at that moment. “Oy, lads, we’ve got customers. Keep it on the down-low or take it outside. Make some room for the queen of Cordelia at the table, will ye?” And he shoved some of the “lads” off the bench at one of the long tables with a mighty sweep of one of his massive arms and then looked up rather primly at Regina.
The whole thing was rather funny, to be honest.
“Um, that’s alright, I’m just here for a drink,” Regina said, rather successfully hiding her amusement. She slid onto a stool at the bar, careful to avoid sitting or stepping in any spilled liquid.
“Oy, Fergus, what have I said about roughhousin’ during business hours!?” A woman’s voice barked from somewhere behind the bar, though Regina couldn’t see her. There was the sound of sharp footsteps before the door to what seemed to be the kitchen area flew open onto the scene and a tall woman of queenly stature burst out.
“Out, all of you! I will not have this establishment be turnt into a wrestling arena!” The woman had a long simple brown braid down her back with a single streak of gray down the side, and under her apron she wore a dark green dress. As soon she spoke, the roughhousing men scrambled to gather themselves and leave, all but for the red-haired man, who stayed and turned to the woman contritely.
“Sorry we got a bit out of hand there, Ellie.”
“A bit indeed.” Turning to Regina, the woman said, “My apologies for my husband and the…other clans, Queen Regina. I’m Elinor, Queen of DunBroch and owner of…well, this place. What would you like this evening?”
“Some rum, if you got it. And you can just call me Regina.”
“Coming right up.” As Elinor moved away, the door to the pub opened again and a tall teenage girl with a massive amount of red curls raining down from her head burst into the room, dragging three small boys with the same hue and texture of hair behind her.
“Hi, Dad! Hi, Mum! Mum, have ye seen ma bow? I’m trying to distract the boys.” The girl said.
“Merida, can’t you see I’m dealing with customers?”
“Hubert was trying to turn the gutters into a projectile weapon just now!” Regina didn’t know which child Merida was referring to since the three red-haired boys looked remarkably identical.
Elinor sighed. “I’ll be there in a minute, dear.”
“I’ll handle it, Ellie. Merida, boys!”
Turning to Regina and handing her the glass of rum, Elinor raised a weary eyebrow and said, “Do you have children, Regina?”
“Yeah – Henry, my son. Well, adopted son, but I raised him.”
“Then you understand my pain.”
“I can get the gist.” Regina was starting to get uncomfortable with this line of discussion.
“So, where’s your son tonight?”
“Probably with Emma, if not his grandparents.”
“The Sheriff?”
“Yeah, that’s…that’s his birth mother.”
“Which makes his grandparents…”
“Snow White and Prince Charming.”
“Hmm. Big family, he must have.” Elinor slid into the seat opposite Regina.
“Yeah…” Regina took a swig of rum. It burned. She never understood why the pirate coveted this particular drink.
“So… a quiet night for you then? Must be nice.”
“Mmm…yeah, I guess.”
“You’re missing him?”
“…Among other people…”
“Like the Locksley fellow?”
Now it was Regina’s turn to raise an eyebrow.
“Oh, the whole town’s seen you together. It’s quite lovely,” Elinor continued, suddenly smirking mischievously. Regina suddenly understood how Elinor and Merida could be related.
“Well, he’s not with… we’re not together anymore.” Regina confessed. She blamed the rum, since why else would she be telling a cursed foreign monarch about her love life?
“Oy, men,” Elinor scowled. “We love them individually but as a group they’re rather stupid. What happened?”
“He didn’t really do anything…but his wife came back – long story – and so he decided to do the honorable thing…and go back to her.”
“Oy.” Elinor winced. The two women remained silent for a few moments. Regina took another swig of rum.
“So…how does your son feel about this? Henry, right?”
“Don’t know. I haven’t seen him since last Saturday. I told him I needed some time alone.”
“Don’t you think maybe he wants to talk to you? He is your son.”
“I can’t burden him with this. It’s my own problem that I have to deal with. He doesn’t need this.”
“But maybe he needs you?”
“Why do you care?”
“Because I once pushed my children away to deal with my problems too. It’s hard letting them see you vulnerable.” Regina followed Elinor’s gaze as it landed on her red-haired daughter, who she could see was now teaching her younger brothers, with assistance from her father, how to spar, using fallen branches. The queen of DunBroch seemed to get lost in her thoughts as she watched her family. Regina looked away to look down at her glass, and gulped down the rest of her rum in one go.
Glancing back at Regina as she sensed the woman getting up, Elinor commented, “Maybe just…think about it. Or you could always come talk to me, anytime.”
“Noted. Thank you,” Regina replied.
She really needed to get home and… think.
******************************
No sooner had Regina closed the door to her house, though, that the doorbell rang. She hesitated for a moment, then started to ascend the stairs.
Whoever was on the other side of the door started pounding.
“Regina!”
Okay…that didn’t sound good…
Regina opened the door to find a clearly distraught pirate carrying a jar containing a severed hand under one arm and struggling to hold himself up on the doorframe with the other. The pleading look in his eyes and the sound of sirens in the distance, coming roughly from the direction of Gold’s shop told her the rest of the story.
Regina sighed.
“Oh, just…get in here while I find a remedy for warding off a hangover… Then you can tell me everything.”

Chapter Text

Flashback: 1795, Enchancia, Enchanted Forest

Eleven-year-old Killian Jones sat on the edge of the dock, his chin resting in his hand as watched the goings-on of the busy harbor. Ever since he and his brother had landed here two years ago and his brother had entered the navy, he had picked up a routine of waiting at the docks on the days when Liam was most likely to come into harbor. Most of the local fishermen and merchants enjoyed it when this happened, for it meant that there was less chance of the young boy getting into fights in the streets since, they suspected (but could never prove), he was unsupervised when Midshipman Jones wasn’t there.

            Killian fidgeted and swung his legs to try to get more comfortable and ward off boredom. He’d made sure to tug the edges of his pants down to cover up the bruises on his legs, and he’d made sure to wear a jacket that day – even though it was late spring and the weather felt more like summer at the moment. His eyes scanned the horizon as he rubbed the dirt off his hands onto his pants.

            When the ship finally did come, Killian leaped up from the ground and ran to the unloading dock. Whenever his brother came into port, he often brought small presents for Killian. Sure, most of the gifts were painfully practical, but sometimes Liam brought small sweets or a good book.

            When he got there, he saw Liam laughing. Not at him, Killian realized, but at the woman next to him. Killian vaguely recognized the woman as a barmaid who worked at a local tavern. Maybe she had told him a joke? She always seemed nice enough. He ran up to his brother with a huge smile on his face.

            His brother didn’t notice him right away. Didn’t notice for a full fifteen minutes even. When he finally did, Liam said:

            “Oh, Killian! Have you met my new friend, Zarina? She’s my, well…”

            “We’re courting,” Zarina finished for him in a fit of giggles.

            And that’s when Killian was sure his world would never be the same again.

*************************

            Liam closed the door behind them as the two brothers re-entered the room he had rented for them. Killian just slid against the door to the ground.

            “You start getting ready for bed, okay?” His older brother said as he rummaged their shared armoire.

            Killian just hugged his knees and pouted.

            Why would his brother just ignore him like that?

            Was he going to leave him alone like their father had?

            Sure, Zarina was nice and all, but couldn’t his brother have warned him?

            It’d been just them for so long…Killian was having trouble processing it.

            “Hey, what’s that face for?”

            Killian looked up as Liam interrupted his thoughts, squinting down at him from where he was standing.

            “Are you going to leave me?” was all Killian said.

            “Oh…you…” Liam walked over and squatted in front of his brother. “Is that what you’re worried about?”

            Killian nodded vigorously.

            “Oh, brother,” Liam sighed, reaching out to ruffle Killian’s hair. “No one could ever replace you in my heart. You hear me? I will never leave you for as long as I live.”

Chapter Text

Back to present day:

Mary Margaret Blanchard-Nolan was this close to squealing with glee at a pitch loud enough to break glass, and only the presence of baby Neal was keeping her at bay.

Her husband, on the other hand, still wasn’t sure whether to be amused or terrified by the situation, to be honest. He was just glad Ruby had agreed to take care of Henry so he didn’t risk seeing anyone, ah…doing adult things.

After all, this was his daughter’s first date.

“Honey, are you sure you don’t need any help in there?” Mary Margaret called for the umpteenth time.

“Mom, I’ve been on dates before, I’m fine!” Came her daughter’s voice from her bedroom in the upper part of the loft.

“Honey, just let her be, please?” David begged. “She’s probably nervous enough already.”

“You mean you’re nervous enough already.” Mary Margaret handed him the baby to punctuate her point.

“Well, when you consider the circumstances…”

“David!”

“Mary Margaret, I’m just looking out for her…”

“Looking out for who?”

The two parental units looked up to see Emma descending the stairs. She wore a light pink sleeveless dress that hit just below her knee and had her hair in a crown braid. As she walked toward her parents, she gave them an awkward smile.

Really, though, she couldn’t help the excitement in her chest either.

“How do I look, guys?” She asked hesitantly, in a normal tone

“You look BEAUTIFUL!” David managed to dart about five steps away from his wife while struggling to retain hold on a now-equally squealy baby as his wife finally let loose. “Neal, do you see this? Your sister’s going on a very big date!”

“Eh, thanks, Mom…and Neal…” Emma said, covering her ears with her hands. David managed to quiet Neal down. Mary Margaret rushed over to hug and examine her daughter.

“Oh, my goodness, I’m so proud…”

“Mom, it’s just a date and I’m twenty-nine. Almost thirty, even.”

“Can’t a mother relish in the moment of her daughter’s first date with a boyfriend?”

“Mom!...okay, look, how do I look? I want honest opinions.” Anxiousness settled in Emma’s stomach for a moment.

“You look…wow. You must get it from your mother’s side…”

“You really do look great, honey, just relax,” her mom’s smile turned from hyper-excited to sober sincerity as she spoke, and Emma couldn’t help but smile back. Some of the anxiousness left her stomach as she did.

To Emma’s great relief, the conversation was cut off by the sound of the knocking on the door. She turned toward it to answer.

“Wait! One picture!” her mother yelped. As Emma turned back around she was blinded by the flash of a camera which Mary Margaret had seemingly pulled out of nowhere. “Here we go…!”

“God, I really need to get my own place,” Emma said, wincing, returning to her mission of answering the door.

“Your mother’s just excited, give her a break…”

David trailed off as the door opened.

Killian Jones stood there with a slowly fading eager smile as he and Emma caught sight of each other in awe. He wore a leather jacket over a black button down shirt over black slacks held in place with a leather belt that matched his black shoes.

The entire outfit was modern.

Even David had to admit he was impressed.

“You look…stunning, Swan,” Killian said softly, almost shyly even. He had one arm, his left one, still behind his back, David noticed.

“Thanks. You look…you, too.”

“I know,” he smirked. “Since I’m trying to settle into this world, I thought it was time to dress the part.”

“Wow, you really…”

He then pulled his left arm out from behind his back and revealed that he was holding a red rose.

With his left hand.

“…Emma…” Was all Mary Margaret could manage. David stared in shock.

“Is…is that…?” Emma asked.

“Mine? Yeah.”

“How…?” David was still stuck at “shocked.”

“I, uh, Regina helped me to reattach it.”

“Regina?” Now it was Mary Margaret’s turn to be shocked. “You’ve seen her? How is she?”

“Herself. Coming around, probably. I think she’ll be okay.” There was this strange hope in Hook’s eyes that Mary Margaret couldn’t help but smile at.

 

“So, what am I supposed to call you now…Captain Hand?” Emma snorted.

“Killian will do, please.”

“Well, Killian, we should get out of here before David decides to give you his whole protective dad speech…”

“Don’t have to go through the trouble, mate – I assure you, your daughter couldn’t be in better hands,” Killian directed at David, all in serious sincerity.

“That’s exactly what worries me – especially now that you have two of them…”

“I can take care of myself!” Emma protested. Hook…or Killian…couldn’t stop grinning.

“You sure you don’t want me to drive?” David offered.

“Okay, bye,” Emma said with a smile and a tone of finality as Killian let her pass him and they departed.

Closing the door behind them, David turned to his wife and second-born with a sheepish smile. “I wasn’t too hard on him, was I?”

***************************

“Okay, everyone’s in position? First one to spot them kiss gets a free round of drinks.”

“My money’s on them doing the Lady and the Tramp scene – they are at the right restaurant for it, after all.”

“Seriously, Doc? How corny can you get? The pirate barely understands what a TV is.”

“Personally, I hope it ends in a fight.”

“Sleepy! That’s not very nice!”

“Hey, I’m just trying to stay awake here, Red.”

“Then why are you drinking?”

“Not sure…”

“Are all dates in this town viewed like this?” Dorothy asked Ruby, one eyebrow raised in confusion.

“Oh, no, basically just these two and Regina and Robin, but since that relationship’s on hold we’re taking what we can get – and Emma and Hook have been moving extremely slowly in their romance for ages, so…you see what we have to deal with.”

“How slowly?”

“Well, Hook was flirting with her even while he was supposed to be working for the Queen of Hearts – rumor has it there was something involving a beanstalk but honestly, Emma’s just stubborn no matter what. They had their first kiss while under the influence of Neverland’s cocktail of teenage hormones and spent most of their time fighting after being reunited last month. They only just made up last week…and then there was the situation with Robin’s wife, which made things awkward…”

“Yeah, don’t think I’ve ever heard ‘my late wife came back from the dead’ as grounds for a break-up before. ‘Course, I’m from Kansas…where there typically isn’t really any magic… so how would I know?”

“No, no, you’re right…”

 “Oh for lord sakes…” At that moment Granny came up behind the dwarves and grabbed the backs of two of their heads. “What have I said about gambling in the diner!?”

“Granny, can’t you see this is a primetime event here?” Grumpy retorted.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever, keep it away from Henry.” She stomped away…but not before throwing a few bucks at the “Emma initiates the kiss” bid bucket. Happy stuck his tongue out at Sneezy when he noticed it.

Ruby took that opportunity to look around for the young believer himself, who she was supposed to be babysitting for the night in order to give his grandparents some time off. She finally found him sitting in a corner by himself on the opposite end of the diner, hunched over what looked like homework.

“Be right back, Kansas - duty calls.” She slid off her stool at the window as Dorothy nodded.

“Oy, when did Killian get his hand back?” She heard Tink yell as Ruby walked away.

“Oh my lord, they’re so cute!”

“The pirate cleans up nice – who knew?”

A small commotion started as Ruby sat down on the opposite side of Henry’s booth.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey.”

“What do ya got tonight, buddy?”

“Just normal homework.” His voice was barely above a mutter. He continued to stare at his math book.

“Ambitious for a Friday night, are we?”

“I guess. Just wanna get it done. Ms. Badroulbadour assigns a lot.”

“Right…Still bumming about your lizard?”

“It’s fine. I’m fine, Dusk will be fine. Could you please let me work? I’ve got a lot to do.”

“Mmm-hmm….so what homework do you have that requires this?” Ruby deftly dug under his math papers to reveal the Once Upon a Time storybook buried underneath.

“No reason. I just like having it.”

“Right right, cool…” Ruby slid the book over to herself and opened it up to a random page…and just happened to land on the picture of a young Regina lurking outside Robin Hood’s tavern.

“Ah, here’s a good one…man, your mom seems to have barely aged…”

“Heh…yeah.”

“She’s been through a lot…she’s a pretty strong woman.” Ruby closed the book and looked up as Henry looked away from the math book and from her. “You do realize it’s okay to let her fix things on her own, right?”

Henry didn’t answer her.

“Henry…you’re eleven years old. You are a kid, you deserve to be able to be one.”

“Ruby…she’s my mom. Even with all the things she’s done, she’s still my mom.”

“I know that.”

“I have to do something to help her!” Henry finally looked up in desperation at Ruby.

“Henry…that’s not your job.”

“To fight for happy endings? To help people? That kind of is my job, Ruby.”

“No, it isn’t! Henry…what were you planning on doing anyway?”

“I was trying to figure that out…” Henry sighed in lament.

Ruby sighed. She had to agree that events of the last few years had put a lot on the shoulders of the Savior’s son.

 “Is that the only thing you’re worried about?”

Henry looked away again.

“Come on! You can tell me. Werewolves are great secret keepers.” Henry laughed a little at that. “I know it can be rough to be worried when everyone else is happy.”

Henry’s lips pressed into a thin line.

“Spill, dude. Is this about Emma and Hook? Do you not like them being together?”

“What? No! They’re great, she’s happy, it’s fine, it’s-”

“Woah, slow down, dude. It’s okay.”

“It’s just…well, I like Hook. He’s my friend. But maybe that’s just it – he’s my friend. I can’t picture him as my mom’s…true love or anything, no matter how happy he makes her…”

“Because he’s good for her…but he’s not your dad,” Ruby finished.

“Yeah…exactly.” Henry sucked in a deep breath.

“Maybe, just…don’t beat yourself up so much, ‘kay? Even heroes need to do a little self-care. We need you whole so you can help us. And your mom – both of your moms – will work it out in the end. It will all work out in the end.”

“I…I’ll try to remember that. Thanks, Ruby.”

“No problem. Would a sundae on the house help? Then maybe I can help you make that math homework disappear.”

A smile lit up Henry’s face for the first time that night. “Yes, please.”

“Coming right up!”

**************************************

“Did you know that today is National Grilled Cheese day?”

“No…is it really?”

“Yeah…so perfect for me and us, I guess.”

“…Should I not have picked an outdoor table?”

“No, no, it’s fine! You’re doing fine, just relax.”

Emma and Killian sat awkwardly at the table at Tony’s Ristorante, awkwardly waiting for their food to arrive. Every once in a while they would look up and grin shyly at each other.

“Do you, um, have anything like dates in the Enchanted forest? I would imagine not…I mean, you do that “courting” thing and arranged marriages I thought?”

“Courting is kind of like this. Sort of?”

“Did you ever court anyone before…before Milah?”

“Eh, I think I fancied a few lasses…maybe a few lads…but I don’t think I ever really courted anyone? ‘Course, there was this one gorgeous bar wench I vaguely remember, back in the late 70s, early 80s?… never have I ever met anyone like her since.”

Emma had to laugh at that. She reached across the table and awkwardly grabbed her right hand with his newly restored left hand, which he kept looking at warily like it might bite.

“Did you ever date anyone before Baelfire…I mean, Neal?”

“Eh, not really…I think I liked some boys in middle school…”

“Middle school?”

“What we call the school years for 12 to 14 year olds, typically.”

“Oh, okay.”

“…but I never really pursued a relationship beyond a crush.”

The food came soon after that.

“To trying new things,” Emma toasted.

Killian opted to use his right hand for the toast – he was trying to sit on his left hand at this point. “To trying new things.”

Just as they were toasting someone walking down the street bumped into Emma’s arm and spilled wine on her dress. Emma yelped in surprise.

“Oy!” Killian yelled, scaring himself a little with the volume and force of his words.

“Terribly sorry!” said the offending figure. He sounded British.

Coming into the light of the restaurant patio, Killian could now see it was a lanky blonde-haired, blue-eyed man who looked to be in his mid-twenties. He wore a dark blue button-down shirt with a white t-shirt underneath over khakis and the haircut of a hockey player, in Emma’s humble opinion.

“You bloody better be sorry!” Killian scoffed. He stood up and got right in the face of the blonde man – who looked about ready to soil himself at the sight of the angry ex-pirate.

“Killian, Killian, it’s okay, really. Same for you, Collin.”  Emma soothed. “Look – I learned this from Regina…well, a few weeks ago.” Squinting her eyes shut and with a wave of her hand, the stain on Emma’s dress disappeared. “See? It’s all okay.”

Killian sat down abruptly. “Err…apologies, mate…”

“Likewise,” The blonde man – Collin – replied shakily.

“Killian, this is Private Investigator Collin Tennant. He came over with Snow and Zelena’s curse and he offered his services to my Dad and me.” Collin bowed theatrically at the sound of his name.

“Private Investigator? There aren’t many of those in the Enchanted Forest…are there?” Killian was genuinely curious now.

“Eh…you would not be wrong there. I figured “private investigator” was the closest equivalent, is all. You’re Killian Jones, otherwise known as Captain Hook of the Jolly Roger, formerly known as the Jewel of the Realm, yes?”

“…And how do you know that?”

Collin tapped a finger to his own temple. “Psychic.”

“Really?”

“Well, okay, no, you’re just kind of getting gossiped a lot about lately. But I can be very perceptive.”

“Like a seer, then?”

“…sure, let’s go with that.”

“Collin, you mentioned you had a missing person’s case before? How’s that going?” Emma cut in, not unkindly.

Collin’s face fell at the sound of the query, though. “Not… not as well as expected. But I’m still working on it. My…friends, they were working on a case themselves when they disappeared. They’re good at what they do, though. I’m sure they’ll turn up.”

“Call me if you need any help.”

“I shall keep that in mind, my lady.” Collin bowed again and glanced furtively at Killian for a moment before bowing to him too. “Pleasure meeting you, Sir Killian.”

As soon as he left Killian leaned over to Emma. “Where and when did he come from?”

“The Enchanted Forest, I assume? Maybe Whale’s realm? I don’t know. He came in back before we knew it was Zelena causing the disappearances. Showed me a P.I. license and said it came with the curse. Let’s just focus on us now, ‘kay babe?”

Killian managed a lopsided smile. “Okay.”

Emma leaned across the table and kissed him on the lips, only barely missing the plate of pasta in front of her.

**********************************

“So…who won?”

The entirety of Granny’s diner settled into confused, stunned silence.

“There was a thing…and then there was almost a fight…and then there was a…and then Emma did kiss him so I guess that wins…” Sleepy wondered aloud, now uncharacteristically wide awake.

“We get it, Sleeps, it was complicated,” Grumpy grumbled.

“Someone really should have bet on them being interrupted…”

“Definitely would have won the pot with that.”

“Maybe we should just buy another round?”

“Best idea you’ve had all night, Doc.”

“Hey, Henry, you okay?” Ruby asked, glancing over at the eleven-year-old, who’d taken off his headphones and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“As long as she’s happy…I’m happy,” He sighed.

 

Chapter Text

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

“Enjoying the view, Mrs. Gold?”

Rumple couldn’t help but smile a little as they stepped out of the airport van onto the streets of Edinburgh just outside their bed-and-breakfast. Belle couldn’t stop beaming and looking around at the sights and sounds around her.

Rumple, on the other hand, was more than a little disheveled.

All of the knowledge of the Dark Ones could not come close to explaining his hatred of airplanes.

The anxiety.

The confinement.

The lack of control.

The turbulence.

Why did humans in this world invent these death traps again?!

“It’s fantastic, Mr. Gold,” she breathed, looking over to grace her husband with a smile meant for him. “I can’t wait to see it all.”

“Well tomorrow we will.” Mr. Gold held the door open for his wife as they entered the bed-and-breakfast. “After I actually sleep for the first time in nearly 200 years, apparently,” he muttered.

“Oh, you’ll be yourself again in no time. Besides, it’s recommended by professionals that the cure for jetlag is actually not giving in to sleep,” Belle said, chuckling slightly.

“Oh, screw the professionals,” Rumple grumbled as he went up to the front desk, where a plump woman not unlike Widow Lucas, though younger with only a few streaks of white going through her brown hair that was tied up neatly in a bun, greeted them with a smile.

“How can I help ye today?” she said. “I’m Mrs. McConnelly. Err, rough flight?” She eyed Rumple’s very messy hair and clothes.

“Ay, that it was. Reservation for Mr. and Mrs. Gold,” Rumple said as Belle giggled.

“Ah, the newlyweds! Congratulations!” Rummaging in the drawer in front of her, she pulled out a key with a big round gold-plated keychain with a thistle on it. “I hope you enjoy your stay. Will there be anything you’re needing right away?”

Before Rumple or Belle could answer, the door opened behind them.

“Ay, Mrs. McConnelly, ‘ow ye doing this evening?” a male Scottish voice said behind them. “I see ye’ve got more customers. ‘ow very fortunate for ye.” Coming up next to Belle, Rumple could now see he was a shaggy-haired man in his forties, wearing a cap and a leather jacket that did nothing to make him look more presentable.

“An’ who do we have here? William Sykes is the name, but you can call me Bill, lass.” He stood way too close to Belle as he spoke. “How long will you be staying?”

“Uh…” Belle hesitated.

Oh gods, it doesn’t end, Rumple thought.

“Not too long,” Rumple said, giving the newcomer a subtle hard look.

“Well, if you need any recommendations…”

“Oy!” Mrs. McConnelly interjected. “Sykes! If ye want to stay one of my customers ye’d best be off to your room?”

“We appreciate the offer, but my wife and I can get around just fine, thanks,” Rumple said evenly.

“Just being friendly,” Sykes said, scowling as he headed through a side door. “So long!”

Again, it doesn’t end…

“Sorry about that. Your room is just down the hall, second door on the left. Hope you enjoy your stay!”

As they walked down the hallway together, Belle turned to Rumple. “Well, that was unexpected.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” Rumple murmured. Even if his powers and the dagger didn’t work outside of Storybrooke in this realm, what kind of all-powerful Dark One was he if he couldn’t protect the person he loved most.

“Oh, it’s fine. Besides, it’s all part of the adventure! And I’ve been wanting adventure my whole life.” Leaning on her husband’s shoulder lovingly, she looked up at him and said, “Thank you, Rumple.”

No matter how Rumple was feeling or looked, his heart melted at her smile. “Anything for you, Belle.” By then they had reached their room, so he slid the key in and held the door open for her.

No sooner had the door been closed behind them than Belle dragged Rumple over to the single king-sized bed in the room and got a mischievous grin on her face.

“You ready for wedding night part two, Mr. Gold?”

Chapter Text

Flashback: 1961, Enchanted Forest

Eleven-year-old Robin of Locksley was trying his best to be quiet.

His father, Lord Locksley, had never quite approved of his affinity for the forest. Always wanted him to remain close to home so he could “learn responsibility” and “take care of the family’s lands” – meaning, be with the uppity “civilized” people and stay away from the “commoners.” There had also been the issue lately, though, of reported sightings of violent beasts – probably wolves - in the forest, so Lord Locksley, being a boring adult, had told to Robin to especially avoid the forest for safety’s sake.

Word from the wise: forbidding something only makes the forbidden thing more enticing.

So, here was Robin, pretending to be sleeping but really listening intently for the sounds of his father going to sleep. As soon as everything was quiet, he quickly got up, slipped on his green cloak, grabbed a lantern and crept into the night.

He’d figured out the common marks of the wolves – paw prints and scratches and what not – so he carefully searched the ground and trees on his path for these marks. It was one-part scary and one-part thrilling, being out alone at night in the forest. The wind seemed to blow just for him and everything smelled a little different and the sounds were comforting to him.

At first he tried to keep his family’s manor in view, but as he followed the prints deeper into the woods he quickly lost sight of the lights of his home. The footprints, he decided, were a bit larger than a regular wolf’s, though other than that he wasn’t sure what to infer.

Unfortunately, the pitch black of the night soon also took his view of the footprints.

Cautiously feeling his way along with each step, Robin swore that suddenly all the sounds around him were amplified. There was rustling in the trees and something scratching and tapping at the ground and was it just wind or was something howling?

An intense growl to his right made Robin jump a little and cling to the nearest tree trunk. He could just make out movement behind the trees…

Glowing eyes peered out of the darkness at him.

Robin took off running like his life depended on it, aiming for the direction he just come in – except he couldn’t be sure he was really running in that direction. Everything was dark and scary, and it sounded like the wolves were gaining on him!  Maybe if he could just reach the edge of something…

Unfortunately, the “edge” he found was a cliff.

Just before Robin reached the edge though, he heard the hooting of an owl above him. Before he could blink, there was a swoosh of light in the air.

At the sight of the light, several of the wolves howled and all of them ran off.

“Whoo, whoo…hoot.” The owl intoned. Robin still couldn’t see his rescuer.

“Who…who are you?” He asked hesitantly.

“Whoo…” Slowly, a human shape seemed to form in the shadows and come forward, carrying a light with it. As the figure emerged, Robin could see it was an old man with large round glasses, a long beard, a long brown cloak, and a walking stick with a round ball on top, which seemed to be the primary source of the glowing. The man looked around, a bit confused, before his eyes found Robin and he squinted suspiciously at him.

“There were wolves and now there aren’t. You have anything to do with that, young prince?”

“I-I’m not a prince. And no…no I didn’t.”

“Nonsense. You’re a prince of the forest. You certainly have an appreciation for the land and its creatures.” The man asserted, nodding approvingly. “My name’s Mochuelo, though most people call me the Great Owl.”

Chapter Text

Collin had to admit he liked the Sheriff’s Station’s setup.

He’d volunteered to take the night shift and look after the captured fugitive Scarlet while Sheriff Swan and Captain Jones went on their date and Sheriff Nolan helped his wife looked after his son. Having been stuck in the Enchanted Forest with the Queen of Hearts during the first curse, he really had no idea what to expect once he and everyone else got sent to the “Land Without Magic,” as everyone so poetically called it.

He’d argue the only difference between the two dimensions – realms? – was that this world had electricity and indoor plumbing. So really, “magic” was relative.

Given his previous career, this wasn’t a bad deal at all. Though he really hadn’t planned on running into the Sheriff's date night on the way here.

“Oy, mate, you going to just doodle all night?

Well, except for being stuck with a certain Will Scarlet all night.

Collin looked down at the drawing he’d been absent mindedly making on the back of an envelope – interlocking 3-D hive cells in the shape of a T – and then up to glare at Will. “Do you ever try not to be the center of attention?”

“What’s the T stand for?”

“None of your business.”

“Well, you’re stuck with me all night. Whatever happens here could stay here.”

Collin had to smirk a bit at that. “Maybe later, mate.”

“I might hold you to that.”

Collin got up and walked closer to Will’s cell, casually leaning against the wall as he did. “What do you want, Scarlet?”

“I don’t know, Tennant? If that’s really your name.” Will drawled. “I guess I want to know: who are you?” he leaned lazily on the jail bars.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Collin said flatly as he squinted.

“No need to get defensive, mate, was only curious,” Will shrugged casually. “Not many detectives in the enchanted forest.”

“Maybe you just haven’t been around it that much. Didn’t you spend the last year in Wonderland, mostly? Before Robin summoned you, I mean.”

“So what if I was? Didn’t you replace me? Why can’t you just be happy about that?”

“I didn’t replace you, you weirdo with a foot fetish - I literally did one mission with the Merry Men!”

“At least I’m not afraid of feet.”

“N-n-no, I’m not. They’re – they’re just disgusting!” Collin inched away from the captured bandit’s cell.

“Oh, really?” Will leaned back on the bench and kicked off his shoes, raising his feet in the air and wagging in the in the direction of the detective’s face. “Get a load of this. Come at me, detective!”

At that exact moment, David opened the station door and walked into the office whistling. He stopped in his tracks upon seeing both men and just looked back and forth at them, puzzled.

“Are you drunk again, Scarlet?”

Will saluted. “No, officer, cold stone sober. Just testing our dear detective’s bravery. It might interest you to know Tennant here’s afraid of tootsies.”

“I…I don’t wanna know…” David turned to Collin. “You do realize you have access to the back office and can just ignore him, right?”

“I was trying to be productive…” Collin half-murmured.  “I didn’t ask for this…”

“None of us did,” David said wryly. “’Specially with all the different robberies going on. First the Hundred Acre robberies, then Gold’s shop, and now the Leonidases.”

“The Leonidases? I didn’t hear about that one.”

“Happened while Emma was handling Hortensia Locksley, apparently. The Leonidases are the Lion King family… also apparently.”

“…Dang,” Was all the detective said.

“Indeed.”

“You going to keep chatting all night? Don’t you have a tike at home, Sheriff?” Will just had to cut in.

“Shut up, Scarlet. You’re getting released tomorrow long as you stop being an asshole.”

“Lucky me.” The captured thief did jazz hands and a sarcastic smirk.

“Seriously, use the back office, Collin. You can even borrow my earbuds.”

“Appreciated.”

“Oh, sure, he’s the trustworthy one? Won’t even say where he comes from. I bet you’re not even from our worlds.”

“Says the cowardly thief who became the White King, if I remember correctly,” Collin said coolly. He headed into the back office. “Are you done?”

“That supposed to wound me, Tennant?”

“I just came in to grab a bag I forgot. Thank you again for offering to take the night shift,” David said. “I apologize again.”

“You deserve a night off, don’t worry about it.”

“Amen to that. See ya, good luck.” With a final wave, David grabbed a bag from behind the front desk and headed out the door. Collin straightened himself out a bit, grabbed the envelope he was doodling on, and headed for the back office, plopping himself in the desk chair.

“Get over yourself, mate. We’re all alone.”

Collin just closed the door to cut off the thief’s speech, sat down in the desk chair, and continued brooding.  

Chapter Text

“Bloody hell…” Killian ran his right hand through his hair. His left hand seemed to be content with holding on to his glass of rum for the moment so he left it be.

To him, last night’s date had gone abysmally.

Sure, Emma said she had loved it and expressed hope that they’d find more times to properly date more often – thank Poseidon – but he really really wished it had gone better.

It was like there was a little voice in the back of his head that kept reminding him of how things used to be.

Of every romance he’d ever had in the past.

Of the vast amount of relationships that failed, ending usually in tragedy.

Killian groaned a bit as he took another swig of rum.

“It can’t be that bad of a day,” Granny commented wryly, eying the glass. “From what I saw, you and Emma had a good time last night.”

“Aye. That we did. I’ll have another one, if you please, Granny.” Granny slid another glass over to him with a suspicious look.

“Only because you pay for rent here.” At that moment, the front door of the diner jingled open.

“Oy, Granny, ye got any rum left?” Killian groaned at the sound of the ex-Merry-Man’s voice.

“Maybe I do,” Granny said coyly. Killian didn’t look as Will thumped onto the stool next to him

“’hoy, Captain.”

“Scarlet.” The ex-pirate really wasn’t in the mood for conversation.

“Bit early for a drink, isn’t it? Thought you’d still be with the missus.”

Kilian sighed, still not looking. “I see you’ve finally been loosed of the brig, Scarlet. Dave let you out?”

“Aye. Granny, that rum, please?”

“Money up front, Scarlet. Your tab’s backed up for a few weeks now.”

“Oy, you’re no fun, are you?” Grumbling, the young man dug in his pockets and threw some money on the table.

“Hmm. I’ll put it towards the total. Rum coming right up.” Granny started working behind the counter.

“Ye know, mate, if you’re gonna brood all day, you should go hang out with Detective Tennant. He broods all day too. Bit of a downer, really.”

“Here you go,” Granny said as she slid a glass over to Will.

“So, how’s the two-handed life treating you? I see you’ve got a new wardrobe”

“What do you want, Will?” Killian was struggling to keep in his exasperation.

“Nothing. I just find it ironic that you’re not celebrating.”

“Back off, mate. Some people just like to drink alone?”

“No need to be hostile…”

“Drink your rum and shut up for once in your life, Scarlet,” Granny snapped, sliding the drink over to him. “I need everyone out before ten tonight so I can watch an episode I put on DVR.” Will immediately took a sip and Killian praised Poseidon for the silence.

“If Sheriff Swan’s happy, shouldn’t that be all that matters?”

Killian gritted his teeth and refused to answer.

“After all, you did it out of love. That should count for something.” Will actually let a decent moment of silence pass after that, long enough for Killian to relax his jaw and breathe a bit.

“…You’re not wrong.” The captain took another sip of his own rum. Will slung an arm around his shoulders and clapped his free hand to the older (by default) man’s chest.

“Trust me, mate, you’re doing fine,” Will said, as Killian glanced awkwardly at the hand on his shoulder.

“…Thanks?” Killian scooted a bit to loosen Will’s overly friendly grip. The ex-Merry-Man let go.

Too late though, Kilian realized, as he was not an idiot. He was a pirate who’d spent a good deal of his formative years on the streets, and a man who knew when he’d been pick-pocketed.

He whipped his head around just as Will was heading for the door. Lightning fast, Killian grabbed the thief’s wrist in a vice grip.

“What…” Will barely had enough time to react as he was slammed up against the back wall, Killian’s hands yanking at his jacket collar.

“Where is it?!” Killian growled. “The Neverland compass, where is it?”

“Uhh…” Will stammered as Killian pried the object out of the offender’s jacket pocket. “You can’t blame me for trying. Thing opens portals.”

“Do you think this is some kind of joke? Do you have any idea, in the slightest, how important that compass is to me?” Killian hissed, murder in his eyes.

Will was stunned silent.

“Do you know what happens to people who mess with things that are important to me, Scarlet? Do you know what we pirates used to do to people like you?”

“I heard you pirates had changed,” Will whispered.

“That may be so…but we’ve still never taken treachery lightly, you hear me, mate? Back in the day, you would have been keelhauled till your bones rattled before you could say ‘mutiny,’ and you wouldn’t have liked that very much, now, would you?”

“Hook?”

The sound of Henry’s voice shook Killian a bit. The two men stared at each other for a few more moments before Killian roughly let go and held the Neverland compass over his head.

“Don’t do it again, got it?”

Turning around in a rush, he was greeted only with the jingle of Granny’s door slamming and jingling as the truest believer exited.

As he rushed towards the door, he could hear Will quipping, “Bribing the son to get with the mum?”

“Bloody hell, give it up,” Killian muttered as he opened Granny’s door. Spotting Henry as he was just approaching the front gate, back to him, he called, “Aye, lad!”

Henry stopped and glanced behind him, not saying anything.

“Sorry you saw that, lad. Scarlet stole from me and I…I got carried away.” Killian looked down at his hands and shuddered.

“It’s fine,” Henry said flatly.

“No…no it really isn’t,” Killian heaved a deep breath and sighed. “Could I buy you a milkshake?”

*****************************

 No sooner had Killian run back into Granny’s than Henry’s phone rang. Slumping into one of the chairs on the diner patio, he flipped it open – yes, Regina and Emma had stuck him with a flip phone – and glanced at the caller ID. Sighing with relief, he pressed the call button.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Henry, dude!” The earnest voice on the other end greeted him. “Are you still stuck in Maine? I miss you.”

“Missing you too, Avery. Yeah…yeah, I’m still in Maine.” Henry glanced around awkwardly. Despite living here for most of his life, characteristics of living in Storybrooke never quite seemed to match up with his thoughts of “Maine.”

“Are you going to be coming back this summer? Mrs. Devons says you transferred. I thought we were going to go to Coney Island together.”

“Um, well…” How was he supposed to explain this?  “My mom got in touch with some long lost family up here and…she decided that we’re going to stay here. I’d have to ask if we’re going to head back down here anytime this summer.”

“What about your life here, though? Isn’t it kind of weird and abrupt, just deciding that after spending a few weeks up there? That stuff’s straight out of a Hallmark movie.”

Because that life was fake, Henry thought but didn’t say. Not last year, but every year before that. Just because he had to keep reminding himself of that fact, didn’t mean he didn’t comprehend it in general. “Kind of, I guess. A lot of stuff has happened in the last month…guess it changed her.”

“Still a Hallmark movie. How’s the good ship CaptainSwan going? Wasn’t your mom’s client totally flirting with her when we last spoke?”

“Captain…Swan? That’s what you’re going with for a ship name?”

“Yeah. ‘Cause it rolls off the tongue, and your mom’s a Swan and he’s a Naval captain. They together yet?”

“Oh, not you too,” Henry groaned.

“What do you mean, me too? Henry, you know me. I’ve already written one-shots!”

“I’m sorry, you wrote one-shots about my mom and her…her client?!

“Yes!”

“Dear lord…you didn’t post it anywhere, did you?”

“’Course not, I’m not weird like that.”

“…that’s debatable, but thank you.”

“Henry, I need details! Who else is shipping them? I must join with these people! I have found my brethren!” Avery sang grandly in a mock-operatic voice. “Have they kissed? Has he asked her out on a date?”

“She…asked him out on a date,” Henry said reluctantly. As irritating as the “CaptainSwan” hype was, he couldn’t help but humor his best friend from New York. “It went fine, last I checked.”

“Just fine?” Avery’s voice rang with skepticism.

“They…they seemed to enjoy it.”

“Hmm. I shall take what I can get.”

“Have you written anything lately not related to my mom’s love life?”

“Um…I wrote a piece about Nightingale and the Red Hood falling in love?”

“Ew!” Henry’s face twisted as his stomach churned a bit. “They’re siblings!”

“It’s not like that in this story!”

“If you say so…”

“I also started watching a new show? It’s called Torchwood. It’s based off of Doctor Who…honestly, what could be so interesting about Maine? What could be so interesting about a place where your only friends being a purple lizard and a New Yorker you can’t come visit?”

“Avery, I…I think I hear my mom calling.”

How the hell was Henry supposed to ever explain this? His family tree was complicated enough as it is without having to explain it to the outside world. How were you supposed to explain that your life was full of fairy tale characters, witches, and now dragon attacks on top of that?

You didn’t, that’s how – or at least, that’s how Henry was dealing with it for now.

Luckily, Avery’s dad called them away from the phone to help start dinner soon after that, and the call was reluctantly ended. Henry flipped the phone closed with a sigh.

“Friend in New York?”

Henry nearly jumped out of his skin a little at the sound of Killian’s return. Glancing behind him, he saw a significantly more contrite man in leather holding a large chocolate milkshake in a glass in his right hand and nervously keeping his other hand in his pocket.

“Yeah,” Henry said, nodding.

“Do you miss him? This friend and your other friends back in New York?” Killian asked kindly, putting the milkshake down on the table near Henry. The captain moved to the side of the table facing Henry but scratched his neck before sitting down.

“Them…I miss them. Avery is non-binary. Neither male nor female.”

“Ah…had a few mates back in the day who forewent having a gender. Makes sense,” the ex-pirate supplied, nodding a bit. Henry had to smile a bit at that.

“My friend…they sometimes have problems at school because teachers won’t call them by the right pronouns, insisting Avery must be a girl. Since Avery is different, they often get picked on and pegged as a troublemaker. Back in New York, I stuck up for them…and then I found out they liked reading and writing stories too, and that’s sort of how we hit it off. They’re basically my best friend.”

“Sounds like they’re lucky to have you for a friend as well,” the older man said kindly.

The two sat in awkward silence for a bit longer. Killian kept grabbing the wrist of his left hand so much to steady himself that it worried Henry.

“Hey Killian…do you like having your hand back?”

Killian didn’t answer him but winced a bit and scratched behind his ear again.

So, Henry tried again. “Do you…do you not like having it back?”

“It’s fine. Of course I like having it back.” Henry Swan Mills knew he was lying.

“Why did you ask for it back?”

Killian took a deep breath and scratched again. “Because…I believe your mother deserves someone whole.”

Oh…oh.

“I thought if I asked for it back, then maybe I could be a man she deserves. I know what they say about me.”

“That’s stupid.”

Killian looked at Henry in surprise.

“She loves you for you.” Henry couldn’t believe was giving sappy love advice to a 300-year-old adult. “I may think it’s weird that my mom is dating my friend but…she likes you for you, Killian. Did you think she was lying?”

“No…”

“Then you know that! Besides…you look really uncomfortable with your left hand.”

“It is kind of uncomfortable,” the older man admitted, cracking a smile.

“Do you think you’ll keep it?”

Killian hesitated at the question.

“I mean, you’re not happy,” Henry added.

“I’m…not sure.”

“Maybe think about it?” Henry took another sip of his milkshake. “In the meantime, why didn’t you get yourself a milkshake?”

“Would’ve but Granny was glaring at me.”

“Yeah, right. You should try one sometime, though.”

“Noted…so, this friend of yours, Avery…what sort of stories do they like?”

“Mostly superhero comics and fanfiction, lately.”

“Surperheroes…like your Batman and Robin?”

“Yeah, exactly!”

“And…what’s fanfiction?”

“Stuff written by fans about the stuff they like but can’t own.”

“Umm, okay…how’s that milkshake?”

Chapter Text

Flashback: 1961, Sherwood Forest, Enchanted Forest

“Dear nephew, how lovely to see you again. I do trust you’re looking after your father’s estate? It looks a bit worse for wear since I was last here.”

Lady Hortensia of Locksley was not a woman who liked to be ignored. As the younger sister of the late Lord Locksley, though she held no real political power in the family land holdings, she was acknowledged by most – reluctantly – as the family matriarch and, by mainly only herself, as the real powerhouse in the family. Robin had heard his parents complaining on more than one occasion that the main thing Lady Locksley was good at was being a drain on the family treasury, despite her living on her manor in Maldonia most of the time. Though she claimed it was all to support the toddler she currently held on her hip after the death of her husband, the amount of jewels and fancy clothing she wore on a daily basis told another story.

Robin sighed as the toddler – who shared his great aunt’s features except for a thick mane of curly blonde hair – reached for the strands of necklaces on her mother’s neck for the umpteenth time. Hortensia finally glanced down at her child this time, though.

“Oh Gwri, sweetie, you want my necklace? Now isn’t the time to play dress up, okay?” the woman baby-talked to the child, who stared up at her innocently. “Okay? Good girl.”

Robin fidgeted as he watched the interaction, holding back in a yawn. He’d been able to slip back into the house just in time for the guards to switch shifts after meeting the Great Owl, and though he hated to admit it he was exhausted. He had to admit he’d completely forgotten about his great aunt’s visit.

“We’ve been doing well, Aunt Hortensia,” Lord Locksley – Robin’s father – said evenly.

Robin’s mother leaned down next to her son and whispered in his ear. “Say hello to your aunt and cousin, sweetheart. Be polite.”

“Hello, Aunt Horn…Horty,” Robin fumbled over the name. His mother coughed next to him. “…ma’am.”

Robin could remember the first time his mother had to explained to him what “horny” was – in very frustratingly generalized terms, of course – when he was six, but the forbidden nickname had never really left his mind.

“Children…lovely, all of them,” Hortensia grumbled. Robin’s mother audibly sighed.

“Could we please take this somewhere else away from…distractions?” the subtly irate noblewoman said, nodding her head pointedly at the eleven-year-old. Gwri took the opportunity to grab on to one of her mother’s elaborate earrings and her mother lazily slapped her hands away, wincing as she did.

Robin sighed as the attention was drawn away from him. He zoned out as the adults walked out of the great hall and talked.

It wasn’t until supper that he was in the same room with his aunt again.

“The Bruins have been causing trouble in the borderlands again,” she grumbled, clutching a goblet of wine.

“You sure you’re not just mad that Lady Bruin didn’t invite you to the harvest ball again?” Robin’s mother commented wryly. Both she and Robin were familiar with the family feud between the Locksleys and the Bruins, but as she was not a Locksley by birth, Robin’s mother was decidedly less attached to it.

“Never underestimate a Bruin, Clarissa.” Hortensia said tartly. “I wasn’t referring to that second-rate cupboard-loving trollop anyway. I was referring to one of her lack-witted criminal in-laws. The one they call “the Great Owl.”

Robin struggled to keep a straight face. His new friend was a Bruin?

“A half-witted trickster dealing in illusions and parlor tricks, I’ve heard.” Lord Locksley grumbled. “Nothing more to it. Why do you concern yourself with him, Hortensia?”

“Any member of that family is a member of ours. He’s scouting I tell you,” The older woman insisted. “Just last month he was seen in our lands, and now I’ve heard talk of ruffians at the border. What’s to say he’s not involved?”

“I really think you both are overthinking this,” Lady Clarissa said. “If he really is just a harmless wizard, why worry about him?”

“Because,” Hortensia said. “I’ve heard that your Robin’s been wandering in places he shouldn’t. Particularly in the borderlands.”

The lord and lady of Locksley Hall were taken a back.

“Robin knows to stay away from those areas. You must be mistaken,” Lord Locksley insisted.

“You would do well to make sure he stays away for good now – for the reputation of yourselves and Locksley Hall. You wouldn’t want it to get out that your son might be consorting with ruffians and thieves, now, would you?”

“Robin?” Lady Clarissa said quietly, noticing her son’s discomfort. “Are you alright?”

“I-I’m fine,” he said quietly. “I don’t want to consort with thieves.”

“I believe you, sweetheart,” she said, squeezing his shoulder. Looking up at her husband and his aunt, she reprimanded them. “You’re scaring a child, a child I should think both of you would have a little more faith in, seeing as he’s your own flesh and blood. Shame on both of you.”

“All the same, he should be more cautious,” Lord Locksley boomed. “Robin, you will not go into the forest anymore. Is that understood?”

“Yes, father,” Robin replied, his heart sinking.

 

Back to the present:

“Hey everyone, sorry we’re late!”

Emma rushed through the door of Tiana’s Palace, her father in tow. She could see her family already sitting at the same large table they had picked just a few days before. Her mother looked up for the deep conversation she seemed to be having with Mrs. Bruin at the sound of her daughter and husband’s entrance. Mr. Bruin was eating a steaming bowl of gumbo while gazing decidedly grumpily at the conversation

“Emma, David! So glad you could make it! We just ordered drinks.” She stood up to kiss her husband as he came over to sit on the other side of the baby seat holding baby Neal. Hook stood up to pull out Emma’s chair for her – which she thought was very romantic and corny of him, considering half the table was covered in research books about dragons, demons, and shape-shifting creatures. She glanced over at Henry, who was sitting on the other side of her pouring over one of the books himself. There was a notebook with a checklist and pencil next to him.

“Any leads on our Dr. Facilier, kid?”

“Well, I’ve written down all the facts I can think of from watching the Disney movie first,” Henry tapped the notebook paper. “Unfortunately, Dr. Facilier isn’t actually given a first name or an origin story though, so there’s not much to go off of. I’m trying to take as much as I know and use it to help me come up with things to look up.”

“Good thinking. Anything come up?”

“Not much. The Shadow Man, according to this book, is one of the current oldest humans in the Enchanted Forest realm, but the author won’t specify how long that is or whether he’s counting Dark Ones in that equation…or Killian, for that matter.”

“Did anyone actually know you were older than you looked?” Emma questioned Killian.

“Probably not many, at least, love,” the ex-pirate shrugged.

“The Shadow Man was known to dabble in multiple kinds of dark magic,” Henry continued. “And may or may not have sold his soul for it. This author doesn’t even know what Facilier’s home realm is. That’s all the book has, really. So, different than the movie. In the movie, he just wants to ‘rule’ New Orleans for…some reason that is never actually stated in the movie. Also he likes to manipulate greedy people…also for no real, stated reason, since he is also greedy. Oh, and he has ‘friends on the other side’, of course. So, I guess that matches up.”

“Well, dark magic’s a start. Guess we could ask Gold, now that he’s still alive? He might have something that can help.” Emma mused.

“Well, we’re going to have to ask him after he gets back from his honeymoon,” Charming said. “How long do most people have honeymoons in this realm?”

“Usually not more than a week or two – unless you’re rich. Which Rumple is, by default, I guess,” Emma commented. “Six weeks, tops.” Glancing over at her boyfriend, she noticed something…new.

“Hey…you went back to the…?” She murmured, gesturing to his newly re-instated hook.

“Uh, yeah,” was all he said. He looked visibly uncomfortable and Emma decided to drop the subject.

At that moment, the door to the restaurant opened again and Robin of Locksley stepped through the door, Marian and a rambunctious Roland in toe. Turning to see the group, Robin smiled in happy surprise. Marian’s was far more tentative.

“Emma! Everyone, what a surprise…” His voice trailed off as he stared in shock at the Bruins’ table.

“Mochuelo?!”

Mochuelo instantly looked happier. “Robin? Is that you?”

“How are you?” Robin laughed as he went to hug the older man. The embraced warmly.

“Wait, you two know each other?” Snow asked.

“Oh, me and Robin go way back,” Mochuelo, for the first time in the Charming family’s experience of knowing him, smiled broadly and chuckled like Santa Claus. “Young Robin was quite the rebellious one. He would come to the forest to learn about it from me.”

“You knew my dad when you were a kid?” Winnie asked, gazing curiously at Robin.

“Formative years weren’t my most flattering, but your father made them better,” Robin commented. “’Course if that feud hadn’t been going on, everything would have been better. But it’s good to be able to see you now!”

Emma stared incredulously at the group as they joined tables and Marian and Roland were warmly welcomed into the fold.

Locksley. She probably should have seen that one coming.

“Mister Mochuelo, nice to meet you!”  Roland bowed stiffly at the waist before jumping into a defensive stance. His squeaky five-year-old voice took the seriousness out of his gesture.

“Well, well, that’s a proper fighting stance if I ever saw it,” Mochuelo said. “Please to meet you, young man.” Roland giggled in response.

“Sister Vidia taught me and Horton how to fight today!” he chirped proudly.

“Sister Vidia? A nun taught you karate? How did that happen?” Emma said, amused.

“She was taking care of Horton since his daddy’s gone, and she said we needed to be able to fight.”

“Pretty cool, kid,” Emma said. Turning to Robin, she said, “Horton?”

“Roland’s young friend. His father, Mr. Tawni, has been MIA for four days, so the sisters are taking care of him.”

“Was this ever reported?” Emma inquired, alarm rising within her.

“I think one of the fairies did, though I couldn’t tell you which one.”

“Fair enough.” Emma tried to sound confident, but she sensed something bigger was at hand than a missing father. Not that Robin was lying – she could tell he wasn’t – but the worry remained.

“Only the past four days? Can’t have been just a case of the curse separating the father from his child, then, I suppose,” Mochuelo mused. He frowned as he spoke, though seemingly more in concern than in grumpiness this time.

“Have you been separated from someone?” Robin inquired.

“Well, I’m sure it’s nothing…but I haven’t been able to locate my brother yet.”

“You haven’t seen him at all since we got here?

“No,” Mochuelo said regretfully. “Neither has anyone in the court of Nchiyababa, where we’re from.”

“Nchiyababa? The Pridelands? Who’s your brother?” Snow asked.

“Rafiki. Chief Advisor to King Simba and Queen Nala.”

Of course he is, Emma thought. All the fairytale family relations always made her head spin.

“The King’s family are called the Leonidases here. Simba’s also been looking for his daughter and son. He told me he made a report last week.”

“I know about that one,” Emma said, nodding.

“Kind of unsettling that so many people would be going missing at once, isn’t it?” Robin mused.

“Very,” Charming agreed. “Though that mystery has even less clues than our Facilier issue. Rest assured, though, we will get to the bottom of both cases.”

“Appreciated.” Mochuelo sounded truly sincere.

As the meal continued, Emma’s mind stayed wandering among the sparse facts of the two cases. It was bizarre, having one case be very “Storybrooke” – dealing with a sorcerer who dealt with demons – and one case be very much like any case she’d dealt with in Boston – missing people. It felt like she was being pulled into two directions again, like she had back before the time travel trip, except for the part where her choice lay firmly within the limits of Storybrooke: how was she going to solve both cases?

Chapter Text

“I’m so glad I was able to get off work today. Not that I’m not grateful for the work, but Whale can get so…grating, on my nerves – you know what I mean?”

Ruby smiled as Dorothy slumped against her, leaning on the werewolf girl as they strolled down Main Street. “I do. Whale’s my friend, but I won’t deny he has his issues.” She took a large lick of her Cherry Garcia ice cream which she held in a cone. The doctor wore a crisp dress shirt and slacks even though it was her day off. She also, however, wore sneakers.

Ruby, on the other hand, wore a flannel over a tank top and cargo pants.

“As crazy as this town is, I think it’s growing on me.”

“Oh yeah?

“Yeah. Makes being far from home just a little bit easier.” Dorothy looked wistful.

“You mean Kansas?” Ruby hadn’t ever really known of Kansas as anything more than a giant far-off cornfield before meeting Dorothy. She watched as Dorothy pulled her long dark wavy hair out of its neatly tied ponytail with one hand and shook it out. It cascaded down her back gracefully as she did so.

“Well, Kansas…in the 70s and 80s, I suppose.” Dorothy laughed a bit. “Look at me, only 30 years old and stuck on nostalgia.”

“I don’t think that’s so hard to believe. You got pulled from another world against your will, essentially – multiple times. You’re going to miss it,” Ruby said kindly. “I can relate.”

Dorothy raised an eyebrow in skepticism. “Yeah, but you’re used to it by now. I’ve seen you – you seem to handle suddenly getting yanked from one ‘realm’ to another with ease,” she said, gesturing with her pistachio scoop cone. “You’ve got this down to a science.”

“Is that your professional opinion, Dr. Gale?” The werewolf girl teased, smirking.

“I suppose it is,” the Kansas native smirked back.

“You could tell me about it,” Ruby suggested. “I wasn’t there. It’s about as mythical as any fairytale must be to you.”

“Hmm…” Dorothy looked away for a moment before turning back to her companion. “Sure, why not. I’m warning you though, it’s probably pretty boring to you.”

“I doubt that.”

“Well…let’s see.” The doctor scrunched up her forehead in thought in a way that Ruby thought was cute. “1970s Kansas. My uncle Henry, may he rest in peace, died at the beginning of that decade…huh, not the best way to start out, actually…”

“I’m so sorry,” Ruby said. She tried to shake off the eeriness that accompanied the overuse of naming children “Henry” in…well, multiple realms now.

“No, it’s fine. I was a teenager and he and Auntie Em had been my guardians since I was very young. Never really knew my parents. I…I still miss him, but I’ve had some time to process.”

Ruby nodded in response, determined to stay quiet and listen.

“We lived on a farm in the country. Though we lived out in the open, we did know many of our neighbors. They were okay, though they didn’t much care for my dog, Toto.”

Ruby snorted. “So the movie got that right, huh?”

“Oh, yeah, you mentioned that was a thing…guess so? Was Toto a terrier?”

“Yup!”

“Well then…we got most of our view of the outside world from the radio. Didn’t have a tv. We’d go into town maybe once every other month to check out a movie? And we mostly wore work clothes, but believe me – I begged for a pair of bellbottoms.” Ruby giggled at that.

“What about the 80s?”

“Eh, shoulder pads were a little easier to work around on the farm. By that point, though, I’d become a doctor. Country doctor specifically. I’ve always wanted to go into medicine.”

“Really? And your aunt and uncle supported you?”

“Yeah…well, my uncle left us a good amount in his will, including money for my education. But by the time I was going through school, that money was running out. I’d been caring for my uncle and the neighbors for minor issues, and I’d been practicing with my dolls since I was little. The choice was obvious.”

“Nice,” Ruby smiled. “Like you were born ready.”

It must be nice, she thought, having a vocation that lets you help people instead of a curse that mainly lets you kill. But she remained quiet about this - for the sake of the date, because Dorothy was gorgeous.

“I wouldn’t say that…” Dorothy said practically, ducking her head. “I was just lucky it worked out.” Ruby thought her shy smile was adorable.

“Minus the fashion, couldn’t you get all that back when you returned from Oz?”

Dorothy didn’t answer.

Her smile went away.

“…Not really. My auntie Em…I found out she died shortly after I ‘disappeared.’  As did my dog.”

“Oh, Dorothy…” Ruby whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

“The records…they told me she died with little pain but…I can’t help thinking that I caused it…” Dorothy’s voice cracked a little as she spoke. Ruby wrapped her free arm around her, careful not to splash the other woman with Cherry Garcia.

“It’s fine,” Dorothy said roughly, brushing her off. “I’m fine. It’s just…I miss them. I knew that Toto was getting on in years too but…I just miss them.”

“I’m…I’m still sorry. That’s a horrible thing to go through.”

“’Least you still have your granny. That’s lucky,” Dorothy said. Her brightness faded as Ruby frowned.

“…You lost people too, didn’t you.”

“Well, it wasn’t by tornado or old age…but yeah. My mom. And my first boyfriend.”

Dorothy stopped in her tracks and Ruby had to back up a few steps to keep up. “I…I didn’t know…”

“Hey, it’s okay,” Ruby soothed. “We’ve both lost people, like you said. Doesn’t make them any less important – or the present any less important.”

Ruby stayed quiet until a slow smile appeared on her new friend’s face.

“Hey, know what?” Ruby said, linking her hand with Dorothy’s. “I’ve got an idea to kick this first date up a notch.”

*****************

Winnie Bruin figured the pet shop was the only place in Storybrooke where he wasn’t on edge.

Between the nervous looks the monarchs from Maldonia were giving him at dinner the night before and the death glares coming from Auntie Hortensia, it was enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies.

He watched as two brunette women in what looked like their late 20s, early 30s walk in to the shop, front door bell jingling, and immediately make a beeline over to row of cages with dogs in them. They quickly zeroed on a young terrier, sitting on the floor and talking as they did. They looked like a cute couple.

He smiled sadly as he watched them. One of the birds he let fly free around the shop, a small yellow finch, flitted onto this shoulder and chirped, taking some of his sadness away.

The young fourteen-year-old balanced his chin on the palms of his hands as he watched the scene in front of him, zoning out as he did until he heard the front door ring again.

“…Winnie? Is it really you?”

A tall blonde girl wearing a pink and white sundress and ballet flats glided across the floor in quick graceful motions as she made her way toward Winnie.

“Odette! You’re in this place too?” Upon reaching him, the taller girl enveloped the stout smaller boy in a hug. She spoke with a Russian lilt to her voice.

“Oh, I thought you’d been left in Maldonia until I saw your king and queen here. That witch hasn’t hurt your family at all, has she?”

“No, no, we were not harmed. How is your family?”

“Oh, you know…still worried about that prophecy,” Odette said, clasping her hands nervously. “But, as you can see – I’m alive, am I not?”

“I’m glad. Have...have you been able to find any of our friends?” Winnie frowned in worry as he spoke.

“No…no I haven’t. Really, you haven’t seen any of them?” Odette’s brow furrowed. “Winnie, I…I don’t think that’s good. They should have come over with us.”

“I truly wish they had. But if they are, where can they be?”

“I’m sure we must simply keep looking. The town’s bigger than it looks.”

“Right…Listen, no one’s caught you yet, have they?” Winnie pulled Odette over behind the counter and whispered his question.

“No, no…why do you ask?” Odette’s face scrunched up in concern. “What’s wrong, little brother?”

Winnie smiled a bit in spite of himself at her pet name for all younger boys she cared for. “It’s just…Hortensia’s here. Living next door to me.”

“Oh, Hortensia,” Odette sneered, exaggerating the name. “I swear I’m going to fight that woman one day if your family lets me. What’s she going on about now?”

“She…she thinks I’ve been breaking into her house and stealing. In bear form.”

Odette closed her long eyelashes in annoyance. “I swear to Artemis, I’m going to kill her.”

“But the thing is, I can’t remember what goes on during the times of the crimes, and Hortensia isn’t the only one getting robbed.”

“That’s…really not good.” Odette and Winnie sat in awkward silence for several moments.

Winnie nearly jumped out of his skin the next time the door jingled.

“At ease, Winnie, it’s just me.”

Winnie sighed in relief as he saw the figure of Detective Tennant coming through the door, wearing a large trench coat over a blue polo and khakis. He stopped next to where the two women were sitting to reach out and pet two hound dogs in the cage next to the terrier. The dogs, who could have been identical twins but for the lighter coloring of one of them, seemed apprehensive about the idea of the terrier leaving their side.

“Look, if you need anything, you call me, jah? Let’s exchange numbers.” As Odette fished in her bag for her phone a few swan feathers flew out. She looked up with a sheepish grin before handing Winnie her phone with the Contacts screen open. Winnie grabbed his phone out from under the counter and did the same.

As Odette exited the shop with her phone in hand, Collin stood up from where he was sitting next to the dogs and smiled kindly at he came over. “Sheriff Swan and Sheriff Nolan suggested I check in on you, see how you’re doing. Looks like you’re running the shop like a pro.”

“Oh, well…thank you very much, that’s very kind of you,” Winnie stammered.

“Friend of yours?” Collin tilted his head back in the direction Odette had left in.

“Oh yes. She…well, she and I were friends in Maldonia. She would visit from her home country, Chaikovsky, where she’s princess, and she’s like a big sister to me and my friends back home.”

“How nice. Well, I really was just checking in. I’ll be heading back to my office now.” Collin clasped Winnie on the shoulder before turning and heading out the door. As he approached the exit, though, he saw a tall woman approaching the shop. He held the door open for her.

She wore a neat black hat upon her head, wore a long red coat, and wore a small red bow at the collar of her white blouse, which was above a sensible black skirt and shoes. Looking Detective Tennant in the eye and nodding curtly, she glided through the door, an umbrella held neatly in her hand. The young shopkeeper couldn’t help but notice that the handle of her umbrella looked like a bird.

“Why thank you, dear. Very gentlemanly of you,” she said. “Say…have I seen you before? What’s your name, young man?” she addressed to the detective.

“Tennant…Detective Collin Tennant, ma’am.” Winnie noticed the detective scrutinizing the newcomer. “From…the Southern Isles.”

“Ah, yes, Southern Isles. Lovely place, good summers there. Mary Poppins, if you please.” She held out her hand for a firm handshake.

“Mary Poppins…I still can’t tell if anyone’s kidding me about their names or not.” The detective laughed awkwardly as he spoke.

“Yes, well, perhaps new names protect us…in more ways than one.” Mary Poppins raised a calculating eyebrow. “Until we know their stories, who knows? Certainly you know that to be true, Detective.”

“Yes, well…a very good evening to you, Mary Poppins.”

“Likewise, Detective Tennant.” Winnie sensed a strange emphasis on the detective’s last name.

The man seemed to exit in a rush after that.

Strolling up the counter where Winnie stood, Mary Poppins fixed the teenager with a piercing gaze and said, “Young Master Bruin, I saw those hound dogs from outside. I was wondering if it would be possible for me to buy them?”

Chapter Text

Rapunzel was starting to hate Mondays

Despite being in Storybrooke for several weeks now, Rapunzel “Iris” Solaris wasn’t really getting the hang of nursing shifts. She’d been living with her parents, Ariana and Frederick, in a small Cape Cod-style house where her bedroom was right next to theirs. Her mother and father went out of their way to make breakfast – waffles or French toast or pancakes or omelettes or eggs – at the crack of dawn every morning, with way-too-chipper attitudes pre-coffee. They’d also bug her incessantly when she came home late from work or came straight home and slept.

It was driving her crazy.

She felt out of place usually among the fairy nurses, so she typically confided in Dr. Gale, who was more than willing to listen and dish on her own loneliness in this world. Ever since the good doctor had gotten smitten by the diner owner’s granddaughter, though, Dorothy had had this starry eyed look whenever they were on break and Rapunzel tried to talk to her.

She could understand that after being separated from them for so long, they were desperate to spend time with her and catch up, but the concept of breathing space really seemed to have slipped their minds. When she heard this town used to be used as a torture device she fully believed it – but doubted that it had ever stopped being that.

It was times like this that she really missed having a brother.

As for her work life away from her parents, she had Whale to cause stress for that.

“Nurse Merryweather, might I say you are looking good today,” the former mad scientist mused, appraising the plump, black-haired nurse in approval. He slapped her ass as she passed. She gave his wrist a short chop with her hand in response.

“You watch it, Victor,” Merryweather snapped, glaring. “Or next time you touch me I’ll make you see stars.”

“Ooo I look forward…” his voice trailed off as he locked eyes with a very irritated Mother Superior.

Rapunzel sighed and turned away from the object of her irritation. She watched as a mother with long dark hair rushed through the emergency room doors carrying a screaming red-headed child clutching his arm. Two other almost identical red-headed boys and a teenage girl followed on her heels. Nurses rushed the mother and injured child into an examination room, leaving the little boy’s siblings in the hallway. The teenager in the group heaved an exhausted sigh as she saw them go, her skin looking a little pale probably from worry.

“Come on, you two, let’s sit you down – before either of you gets another clever idea to get mum worried.” The girl, who had a full mane of wild red curly hair extending down her backside, dragged her brothers over to a set of uncomfortable plastic chairs. The girl herself collapsed into a chair next to them, closing her eyes.

“Rough day?” Rapunzel couldn’t help but quip. The red-haired girl cracked an eye open to look at her.

“Ya. Me brothers tried to become a human trampoline and one ended up breaking an arm falling out of a tree. I’m greaaaat.” She rolled her eyes.

Rapunzel winced in sympathy. “They’re taking good care of him, don’t worry.”

“Oh, it’s fine. This isn’t the craziest idea they’ve had, believe me. I’m Merida, by the way.” The girl leaned forward in her seat to address the nurse.

“Rapunzel. How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

“Oh, me too.”

“Oh, really?” Merida sat back in her chair again, crossing her arms. “Do you have to deal with living in a wee dwelling in close quarters with everyone you’ve ever known in your life too?” She blew a curly out of her eyes to punctuate her statement.

Rapunzel pursed her lips and nodded slightly. “Yup. Pretty much.”

“It’s awful.”

“Stifling.”

“It’s driving me batty.”

“They’re cheerful before coffee.”

“Oh my god, yes. And my mum is driving me nuts!”

“Same!”

The two young women burst into embarrassed giggles. “Sounds like you need a friend,” Rapunzel mused. “I volunteer.”

“The nurse and the archer. What a pair we’d make,” Merida snorted.

“Archery? Could…could you teach me?” Rapunzel bit her lip in shyness as she spoke. “I haven’t tried in years.”

“Years?”

“Ever since before my brother died.”

“Oh…” Merida’s face fell in sympathy. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“It was a little while back now. After losing him…I think I kind of lost myself.” Rapunzel leaned on the receptionist’s counter and furrowed her forehead in thought. “Got cursed that way, actually.”

“Terrible fate to be cursed,” Merida winced. “Just be glad you didn’t get turned into a bear?”

Rapunzel looked at her like she’d grown an extra head.

“…Never mind.”

The two women were interrupted as sirens wailed outside. Moments later the emergency room doors burst open to reveal the nurses Flora and Fauna helping the paramedics to push a heavily breathing and very pregnant Aurora on a gurney.

“Her water broke,” Fauna said tersely to Rapunzel and other nurses nearby. “Prepare the delivery room.”

“See you, Merida,” Rapunzel called as she raced off to help.

Once Aurora was made as comfortable as one can be when their cervix is dilated a few centimeters larger than normal, it was up to Rapunzel and the other nurses to keep her and the baby monitored and make sure said baby came out, but otherwise they were free to handle other responsibilities. When the princess-turned-nurse heard there was an animal bite case coming in, she decided to take it.

Upon walking into the waiting area, she found a tall, dark-skinned man wearing a three piece suit and holding a towel to his arm, which was seeping blood. He looked up at her and smiled winningly even though Rapunzel guessed he must be in a great deal of pain.

“Ah, you must be the nurse,” he said, his voice smooth like jazz music. There was a lilt to it that was almost hypnotizing. “Got into a bit of a tussle with my dog and she got a little too excited.”

“Well, looks like you got a good start in keeping it from getting worse. Let’s get you looked at, shall we? Follow me.” Rapunzel led the man over to an examining room. “My name’s Rapunzel.”

“Delano. Pleasure.”

Along with another nurse, Rapunzel started taking vitals and cleaning the wound. The wound looked like it had been made by sharp teeth, sure enough, but Rapunzel thought there was something peculiar about it. As she peered closer at it she could feel Delano’s gaze burning into her.

“Must have been a pretty vicious bite,” she offered, smiling nervously. “What kind of breed was it?”

“What does it matter?” There was a growling undertone in his voice now that scared her. “Don’t meddle in matters that don’t concern you, little woman.”

“…just wondering how big it was, that’s all.”

“Doesn’t matter. She’s domesticated. Now don’t you have a job to do?”

“Uh, okay…I’m going to go order an x-ray for you…”

As Rapunzel turned away she could have sworn there was half of a skull-shaped tattoo obscured by the animal bite on the man’s arm. She tried to calm herself by telling herself he was probably just a pirate…

On her way back from ordering the x-ray, she heard someone yell, “He’s crowning!” and she quickened her steps.

She got to Aurora’s room just in time to see Doctor Whale lifting up a very goopy baby.

“Welcome, Phillip Jr. Good job, mom!”

Aurora cried in relief as she still gripped her husband’s hand and Phillip Jr. gave a long loud cry.

By the time Rapunzel got back to Delano’s room, though, the man was gone. No one in the vicinity said they had seen him leave.

******************************

Dr. Delano Facilier watched in the shadows from a distance as the young prince was born. He wasn’t really paying attention to the beauty of childbirth, though. He was much more concerned with the amulet hanging from a chain around his neck.

With a few quick, quiet words, the wound on his arm healed up like it had never been there before. “Pesky dragon child,” he muttered. “Thinking she could fight back.”

As the heir to the throne of Enchancia came into the world and let loose his first cry, he whispered a few more words and a trail of thin, almost invisible magic traveled forth from his amulet. Stopping in the air above the crying newborn before momentarily landing on the child’s throat, it glowed a bit before circling back to Facilier as Phillip Jr. continued to cry as normal newborns are apt to do.

As the magic came back to Facilier, he grinned wickedly as it entered his amulet.

“Yes, this’ll do quite nicely…”

With a slight chuckle, he departed from the hospital.

Chapter Text

“Regina, you can’t just hide from the world forever. Open up!”

Snow’s voice traveled to the inside of the former Evil Queen’s large mansion and reached Regina’s ears, much as said queen tried to block it out.

“Come on, the town needs you!”

Regina groaned and curled up on her couch, pressing a pillow over her ears with her hands. Snow was using her disapproving teacher voice, which just made the older woman want to gag.

“Look, I know you’re upset. I know you’re hurting. It’s hard to have your heart broken. I know.”

No. No, you really don’t, Regina thought. You got your happy ending.

“You’re scared and you’re sad and you feel like your heart will never mend itself. But it will.”

Shut up, shut up, shut up…!

“You just have to have hope.”

And I just have to wring your neck.

“…Regina, I know Henry’s been trying to see you.”

…well, shit.

Regina knew Henry had been trying almost every day to get her to let him in. He’d come by around 4pm every day since the dragon attack, asking for her to talk to him. Telling her that he loved her no matter what. Just today, he’d come home from school and done homework outside the house on the front stoop. It was so sweet that it broke Regina’s heart…but she still couldn’t burden him.

“How could you avoid your own son?”

I don’t know, how could your daughter have screwed up like this badly? I thought we were friends, Regina thought. The scene of Marian entering the diner and all of Regina’s hopes shattering was replaying over and over again, almost bringing her to tears again.

“Come on, Regina, we need you and you need us. You’ve got us. We’re your family.”

Then why do I feel so alone?

“You come down to the diner when you wanna talk, ‘kay?”

Regina moved into her dining room – now eerily empty without her son – where she had books she’d borrowed from the library…or stolen, depending on your perspective. Didn’t matter, Bookworm would understand. She sat down and squinted at the descriptions of dragon growth and archaic ways of trapping them.

It had maybe been an hour when Regina was interrupted again.

“Regina, open up before I get a warrant to enter.”

Regina groaned at the sound of Emma’s voice. The last thing she wanted to hear, even more than a hope speech, was the person who created this mess.

“You can’t just run from your problems. You’ve told me that enough times. Don’t be a hypocrite.”

You caused this problem!

“Put on your big girl pants and do your job.”

Regina struggled to block out both Emma’s voice and the growing anger in her chest.

“Look, you can hate me all you want, but don’t take it out on the rest of us. You’re pissed. I get that. Doesn’t give you an excuse to not do your job.”

Regina covered her ears and growled. Why don’t you go and do my job, little Miss Charming Savior?

“There are dragons attacking and people going missing, Regina. The town. Needs. Its mayor back. So get to it.”

Well, actually that’s going to be a bit of a problem

Regina hadn’t been able to find the key to the mayor’s office when she first got to Storybrooke. Or the keys to her “town-issued” car…which she’d found misplaced in front of the Charming loft, oddly enough. She’d had to get one of the dwarves to make up a new set for her in the chaos of Zelena. Now, one could easily chalk it up to the curse misplacing things but Regina knew better.

She didn’t have the original key. Which meant she wasn’t the mayor anymore.

She had a growing suspicion of who the new mayor could be though…

*******************************************

Collin entered his home and pressed his back to the door with a groan. Taking a deep breath, he looked again at the note that “Mary Poppins” had shoved into his hand as they crossed the pet shop threshold:

“If you’re going to be undercover, at least try harder. It might help you. M.P.”

He didn’t understand why she of all people would be concerned about him. It’s not like they’d ever met before. Mary Poppins wasn’t even really a “fairytale character,” in his mind. It also wasn’t  like he could really research her real intentions or history in this world – all he’d come up with is the movie and P.L. Travers, he was sure. He was sorely tempted to try, though…

Wait a second, I’m British! I can’t investigate Mary Poppins – it’d be unpatriotic! Why did I have to be stuck in this world again?

Okay, well…he knew part of the answer to that.

Going into his bedroom, he locked the door behind him and walked over to his desk, where he had his computer system set up. He cleared his throat and pressed a button on one of the monitors.

“Geronimo D’Artagnan,” he clearly pronounced. The monitors lit up at the sound of his voice. Sliding into the swivel chair facing the computers he started typing up notes he’d collected during the day.

Which wasn’t much.

No signs of energy.

No familiar faces.

No leads.

He’d been sorely tempted to buy the parrot he’d spotted in the corner, but since the bird was asleep there was no way of telling it was the one he thought it was…

As he finished, he got up and pulled out a trifold set-up he’d attached to the wall. Each fold contained a short row of photographs with tons of notes and maps added around them, stapled and paper-clipped and Scotch-taped there in various ways. Words like “Bayport,” “New York City,” “River Heights,” and “London” stuck out while maps of New Jersey, Illinois, Maine, and the British Isles were nearby them. He’d thrown in a more specific map of Cardiff, Wales for help or just for good luck, he wasn’t sure. He hadn’t been able to get a hold of a map of the Enchanted Forest, but he figured that looking at one would only make him feel more depressed.

Like he felt right now.

He reached up on the board to caress the topmost photograph in the righthand column, which showed a young man in his late teens, early twenties, with spiky, dark hair and a shy smile. He wore the same shirt in the photo that Collin had on now.

“I promise I will find you, Frank,” he whispered to the picture.

Chapter Text

It was an breezy, abnormally calm Tuesday evening in Storybrooke.

Not that there was anything special about Tuesdays, of course, but anyone working a 9-to-5 job in Storybrooke could tell you nary a week went by without some incident of the magical sort.

Most of Granny’s regulars at the diner seemed to have decided to eat on the patio this evening, given that it was that time of April when the weather was perfect and the sun was notably starting to set later, which meant that Ruby was busy running in and out of the establishment carrying food and orders for hours on end. Don’t get her wrong, she was used to it, but she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t waiting for a certain familiar face to show up and cheer her up.

She saw the Charming clan plus Hook enter and sit down at one of the larger tables near the fence and Ashley, Sean, and baby Alexandra – who was really more of a toddling one-and-a-half-year-old now – at another table. Hansel and Gretel and their dad were there too, as were a lot of villagers she sort of recognized. She spotted Mulan off in the corner sitting by herself, nursing some rum with a plate of untouched food in front of her, so she set her clipboard down on her table and sat down across from her.

“Hey. How are you hangin’ in there?”

Mulan looked up and half-smiled rather regally. “I’m doing fine, Ruby, thanks for asking.”

As she spoke, the gate creaked open and Aurora, Phillip, and their newborn came through, causing a chorus of cheers and cooing among the restaurant patrons. Mulan’s lips tightened into a pained line as she watched.

Her eyes widened, though, as Aurora’s little family came over to her. Phillip was carrying the baby and Aurora immediately came around the table and firmly hugged the taller woman, all the while Mulan had a bewildered and pleasantly surprised look on her face.

“Mulan! We were hoping to find you,” Aurora said. Ruby smiled and backed away from the scene to give the group some space, watching from a distance as she continued her work.

“Me? What for?” Mulan let out a nervous chuckle. “Congratulations on the new baby, by the way.”

“Well, that’s part of what we wanted to talk to you about.” Aurora shared a glance and a smile with Phillip as she spoke. “Since we had the, err, situation with Zelena and the monkeys…we never got the chance to ask you if you would be willing to be Phillip Jr.’s godmother before he was born.”

Mulan looked between the new parents in awe. “You want me to be his godmother?”

“Of course we do. A child needs all sorts of people to love and raise them. As far as we’re concerned, you’re family. Little Phillip here needs you. We need you. So…do you accept?”

Mulan glowed with happiness. “I would be honored.”

There was more applause, cooing, and cheering as the three adults and baby pressed into a group hug and Mulan was soon holding the baby, gazing at it in reverence. Ruby retreated to the kitchen with a spring in her step.

“Seems Mulan’s happy again,” Granny commented, smiling.

“It’s such a relief. I was worried about her, ya know?”

Granny hugged her granddaughter. “I know. Now let’s get back to work, you hear?”

But no sooner had she done so did the front door of the diner jingle open and a familiar brunette in hospital scrubs stepped through the door.

“Looks like a busy night,” Dorothy said.

Ruby smirked. “Nothing we can’t handle.”

“Glad to see the baby’s doing well since I last saw him. Sleeping Beauty’s kid, huh?”

“Yup. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it eventually, Kansas.”

“If you say so.” Dorothy wearily slid into one of the empty diner benches.

“Anything I can get you?”

“Well…” Dorothy’s lips curled into a sly smile as she cocked her head. “A walk in the moonlight would be nice. Just on your break, of course.”

“Oh, well…” Ruby glanced back at the kitchen.

“Oh for heaven sakes, just go, you two lovebirds!” Granny yelled.

Ruby grinned and ducked out from behind the counter.

But no sooner had she walked outside than the attack happened.

**************************************

Ruby had mere seconds to take in the scene. The purple and green dragon erratically sprayed fire down on the people in Granny’s diner before slamming a line of flames into a set of electrical lines, sending the wires and poles crackling down onto Main Street. Lights shut off one by one up and down the street as the terrified creature continued to rain down its terror. The werewolf girl saw, out of the corner of her eye, Dorothy staring up at the sky in a mixture of abject confusion and shock while everyone else was ducking…right as the dragon was swooping toward her. With lightning speed, she dove and pushed Dorothy out of the dragon’s path. The two women lay on the ground, barely breathing, as they heard Emma stand up and yell at the beast and, presumably, scare it away with magic seeing as the dragon’s cries faded away a few moments later.

“You saved me,” Dorothy panted.

“Of course I did,” Ruby said, inwardly shaking off the flutter in her chest. “Have you seriously never seen a baby dragon before?”

****************************

Regina had her library books spread out on one end of the dining room table and her dinner on the other end. She’d begrudgingly made some pasta primavera for herself and poured a glass of wine, cleared a space for herself to eat and listened to the advice of Mary Margaret in her head always telling her to take care of herself. She tried to focus on the food in front of her – it’s not like she wasn’t an excellent cook – but her mind kept drifting back to her predicament and the town’s predicament. Must be Tuesday, she mused.

She was ashamed to admit she didn’t notice anything was wrong until the dining room lights went out.

“What the hell?”

Regina stood up and looked around, annoyed and casting fireballs into her hands to light up the room. Nothing seemed inherently wrong with the room though she could tell the lights seemed simply burnt out or the electricity was out, not exploded.

“Son of a gun…those idiots can’t keep the town together for one week?”

Just as the words left her mouth, the room seemed to get much darker…and colder. Regina intensified her magic.

“Who’s there?” She demanded at…whatever was causing this. “You’re pissing me off.” The darkness, of course, did not answer her. She huffed and moved into the hallway, as she could sense no presence where she was.

She barely had time to process the shapes of things around her in the hallway before she felt herself grabbed from behind and cold, sharp metal stab itself deep into her torso, far too close to her rib cage. She stood paralyzed in agony for what felt like an eternity before the metal was quite painfully slid out of her body and she crumpled to the floor. Her fire went out as she hit the ground.

WHO THE HELL…? Her thoughts though she could barely speak. And why did she still feel so cold? She tried to reform the fire, to defend herself, to put up some kind of fight…but her attempts proved far more feeble than she wanted.

A low chuckle that sounded more like some sort of warped rattle snake echoed above her but she still couldn’t see anything. It slowly faded away after several mortifying moments.

Great, I’m gonna die with literal darkness laughing at me...she couldn’t help but think.

It seemed like an eternity of laying on the floor of her front hallway, energy draining out of her, pain radiating from her body until it threatened to engulf her and leave nothing left…before the doorbell rang, she heard the sounds of Mary Margaret and Emma talking, and then the door being kicked in courtesy of one frantic Sheriff and Savior of Storybrooke.

Chapter Text

“We really need to get a recipe for black pudding and Cornish pasties for Granny before we leave Scotland. The ones we had last night were amazing!” Belle commented as she and Rumple walked down the lane to their lodging accommodations.

Rumple smiled and held her closer. “Anything for you, dear. Though, I’d more like to see her face if you gave her a recipe for haggis.”

“Rumple!”

“It’d probably not be that much different from meatloaf.”

“Granny’s meatloaf is wonderful and so is haggis!”

“Fair enough. We’ll get the recipes before we leave.”

“Good,” Belle snuggled into Rumple’s side more. “Maybe tonight we can go check out that steakhouse in Leith, Mr. Gold?”

“That sounds like an excellent plan, Mrs. Gold.” By this point they had reached Mrs. McConnelly’s B&B.

“Aye, loves, how are you this fine Sunday?” Mrs. McConnelly chirped as they entered. “There’s leftover coffee and tea from brunch if you’re thirsty.”

“We’re well. We were just out strolling in the park after your lovely brunch. I think I might take you up on that tea in a bit, but we’re going to rest in our rooms first,” Belle said kindly. “How are you doing?”

“Oh, just fine, thank ye for asking. ‘s been a quiet day today. You two go relax now!” Mrs. McConnelly gave a little wave before disappearing into her kitchen.

“I can’t wait till we get to Glasgow on Tuesday. Besides the Douglas and the Culzean, the city is supposed to have some excellent art museums that we have to check out.”

“I think you’ll like Glasgow for more than that,” Rumple said with a smile. “I got us a room in a place called Sherbrooke. Lodgings only fit for my queen.” He pecked her on the cheek for emphasis.

“Oh, Rumple! That’s amazing! I can’t wait…oh, I should start packing to prepare for tomorrow night. Make sure I don’t forget anything here…” Belle’s steps quickened as she approached the room they’d shared for the last two weeks.

She stopped, though, as she reached the door.

“Rumple?”

“Belle?”

“The door…it’s ajar. We didn’t leave the door open this morning…did we?”

Seconds ticked past before Rumple flung the door open…

“Oh my gods!”

Their room had been completely ransacked.

Belle rushed forward to their bed, which was strewn with clothes and topped with two removed drawers from their side table. She carefully lifted two sweaters out of the pile, now with several grimy handprints on them. “Who on earth could have done this?!”

Rumple made a beeline for his own suitcase – now dumped upside down and tossed haphazardly near the bathroom door of the suite – and made quick work of unzipping pockets on the bag until he reached a hidden compartment. It was only then that he froze in fear.

“It’s gone…Belle, it’s gone.”

“What’s gone?”

“The dagger. Whoever broke in here, he’s got the dagger now.”

Chapter Text

Henry and Mary Margaret waited for what felt like forever in the waiting room of the hospital.

After finding Regina, stabbed through the upper abdomen by an entity she could not describe and lying on the floor of the inner front entry to her house, they’d called 911 which rushed her to the hospital about as fast as could be expected when there’s an electrical fire on one street and the literal Mayor bleeding out on another. It’d been a struggle just to get her to stay awake long enough for the paramedics to arrive.

Now, she was in surgery. Mary Margaret kept alternating between anxiously hugging Henry, bothering any nurses and doctors in the vicinity for updates, and calling everyone and (probably literally) their cousin to give updates and ask for favors. She’d already tried calling Mr. Gold three times, despite the fact there was the whole “long distance charges” issue for her cell phone and a time difference of six hours, but every single call went straight to voicemail, causing her to grumble about how she hoped he was having fun during a crisis with a ferociousness that made Henry want to inch away from her. She also called her husband, who was busy taking care of Neal and taking witnesses’ accounts down to Granny’s with Hook; Detective Tennant (for that was the name Henry had heard from Emma), who was investigating the damage from the dragon fire, and Emma herself, who’d been checking Regina’s house for clues to her attacker. Even Ruby had been called in to sniff around, even though investigative work still made her feel uneasy. Her new “friend,” though – Dorothy Gale herself, believe it or not – was with her, so that helped things. Henry suspected they were becoming closer than just friends these days. He wondered what Avery would have to say about that “ship,” as they would put it.

Henry hadn’t seen Emma in what felt like hours…

“Hey, mom, Henry, did I miss anything? How is she?”

Emma finally came running in the front doors of the hospital, somewhat breathless and flustered as Mary Margaret and Henry stood up to hug her.

“She’s still in surgery. I’ve been bugging the doctors,” her mother answered. “How is the investigation going?”

“Found a skull and crossbones in the dining room and this on the floor,” Emma breathed, still hugging Henry and reaching into her pocket. She pulled out a small figurine that looked like a Tiki figure. “He’s desperate for something and I still can’t figure out what he wants.”

“Well, we’re safe for now. Regina’s getting help and no one was hurt at Granny’s…did you run here?” Mary Margaret asked incredulously.

“Well, yeah…my car’s still in the shop and I couldn’t make my magic work so I ran and…and…my hands are shaking. I’m shaking. I don’t know what to do…” Henry hugged her tighter as he felt his mom start to panic.

“You’re going to be fine, just breathe,” his grandmother said firmly. “Why don’t we sit down?”

“Can I see the tiki figure? I want to draw it so I can look it up later,” Henry said.

“Kid, it’s probably cursed or something, I appreciate the offer but that’s probably not the best idea.”

“Fine…” Henry grumbled. It being cursed didn’t bother you from holding it, he sassed internally.

“How’s dad and Neal and Hook? My phone’s running out of juice,” Emma continued.

“They’re fine. Your father and Neal headed home after interviewing everyone. Killian went to go check on something at the docks.”

“Good…that’s good. Anything else I should know?”

“Well, I called Gold but he’s not answering…”

“It’s what, 3am in Scotland right now? I wouldn’t expect it.”

“He doesn’t sleep, though!”

“Still, he’s on his honeymoon…”

“And I’m Regina’s emergency contact so that covers that…oh, and I called Robin.”

Emma stared at her mother like she’d lost her mind. “You called Robin? After the whole Marian thing?”

“He loves her and she loves him! He deserves to know!”

“And you didn’t think it might not go over well with his literal wife that you’re requesting he come help the woman who killed her?”

“That’s not my fault!”

“…Do you really want me to correct you on that…”

“Well it’s not my fault his wife is back!”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“Guys!”

“Henry, stay out of this – look Emma, it wasn’t your fault, really, you were just trying to do the right thing. And you did!”

“By ruining Regina’s happy ending? Great pep talk skills, mom.”

“You haven’t ruined it! Things are just…complicated now, that’s all…”

Emma only groaned in response.

“Look, he said he was coming. It’s all going to work out. You and Regina will see that!”

“God, I hope so…” As Emma spoke she put her head in her hands and sat still for several moments. She looked up again as the hospital doors opened again and Robin, Marian, and Roland – in Marian’s arms - came rushing through.

“We couldn’t get a hold of Granny to take Roland. What happened?” Robin asked. Marian put down Roland, who hid behind her skirts as she stood beside Roland, her facial expression unidentifiable.

“The dragon attacked again and it seems our “shadow man” attacked Regina during the chaos,” Snow said. “We’re waiting for her to come out of surgery. No one else was hurt.”

“So she’ll be alright?” Robin sighed with relief. Mary Margaret rubbed his arm comfortingly and smiled at him.

“Could someone please clarify something for me?” Marian spoke up. All those gathered there turned to her. “Regina – the evil queen, who apparently isn’t evil anymore. Why was she attacked? And why do we trust her?”

“We…aren’t sure why she was attacked, though we think it might be connected to a lead in the dragon case…” Emma pointedly looked at her mother on the last part. Just because the sheriff’s office was typically a family affair didn’t mean they could go bringing in any new person who joined, especially if their non-involvement was most likely keeping them safe. “As for trusting her…it’s taken a while, but yeah, we do.”

“Regina learned to love through raising Henry,” Mary Margaret added, giving a Henry a side squeeze that made him grin sheepishly. “As she learned to love and make friends, she joined the side of good. And we are all glad for it.”

“Hmm,” Marian said thoughtfully. “I…guess that makes sense…um, Henry? Could you perhaps…take Roland for a bit? He seems fond of you and we…”

“Not a problem,” Henry said, relieved. Waiting was only making him worry more, and this situation was only getting more tense by the minute. “We’ll go hang out in the cafeteria. Text me when I can see Mom…Mom?” He realized the awkwardness of the sentence as he said it and Marian seemed to get only more confused.

“Yeah, definitely. See you, Henry,” Emma said quickly, covering for him. He sighed gratefully.

While walking away holding hands with Roland, he could hear Emma say, “Trust me, the family tree makes even less sense than that.”

******************************

Regina woke up to the sound of beeping. Her whole body felt groggy as she wearily opened her eyes and recognizing the hospital room around her.

Funny, she’d created the hospital and visited many times, but had never “ended up” there. Just a year ago the majority of the town – and maybe even now the majority of the town – would have cackled and called this divine retribution. But, well, she really hadn’t asked for…

“Oww! Oh my holy goddess, that effing HURTS…” She yelped as she felt the pain biting her middle.

“Easy there,” a familiar voice said. “Just calm down, you’re alright.” She forced her eyes to focus more, searching for the source of the voice…

“Robin?” she whispered. “What…what are you doing here? I thought you…” she trailed off as she groaned again.

“I told Marian about you and me. She’s still coming around to all of it, but…she agreed it was important for me to come when Mary Margaret called.”

“Mary Margaret…damn you, woman…” Regina muttered as Robin chuckled. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“I’m a man of honor, Regina, and I stick to my vows…but that doesn’t mean I cannot also honor my loyalty to your safety.”

“Robin…” she breathed. “Thank you for being here.”

“Always.”

Chapter Text

“Maybe Marco should be helping with the power?”

Happy’s suggestion rang for the umpteenth time in Mary Margaret’s ears, making her grit her teeth. The only thing helping her keep her cool at this moment was the knowledge that her second-born was sleeping in a stroller next to her and the power plant’s mainframe. It was now around midnight, and though everyone was exhausted and she was worried about, well, everyone, the power still wasn’t on…and upon searching the Mayor’s office’s supply of town bylaws, it turned out that fixing it was now HER job.

Mary Margaret was the Mayor now. Keys to the office and all.

“Gepetto? Ya think? I mean, I’m not sure handcrafted Tuscan woodcarvings are really going to save the day!” Grumpy snapped back.

“Dr. Whale!” Granny suggested. Mary Margaret furrowed her brow examining the power box and tried to tune the surrounding group out.

“He’s a doctor – not an electrician!” Grumpy retorted.

“We don’t need help!” Mary Margaret snapped, turning to look at him.

“You think? I mean, I’m grumpy now – imagine me in the morning without a coffee maker!”

“Or a computer. Or stoplights. TV, DVD, CD, DVR, DVD…” Happy droned.

“STOP SAYING LETTERS!”

Everyone fell silent as Mary Margaret turned around and screamed at them.

“Look, I am not magic! I have had eight hours of sleep in the last week, I am breastfeeding, and I am exhausted – AND not to mention one of my dearest friends is in the hospital! I don’t need this….I may have cast a little curse, but I did NOT ask to maintain a metropolitan electrical grid!” May Margaret yelled. “OH! And get this! I’m starting to get why Regina was evil – it wasn’t her! IT WAS YOU! YOU have survived your entire lives without lightbulbs. BUY A FLASHLIGHT!”

There was a moment of stunned silence, before all three individuals surrounding her shook their heads in disappointment.

“Great, just great…” Mary Margaret muttered. With a heavy sigh, she pulled out the pile of folded up blueprints and guidelines for the powerplant. They’d tried to get a hold of the King Caleb of the Southern Isles, who’d been granted a position as power plant manager as his curse job, but he’d answered her well-meaning cell phone call with a retort about why she was waking him up when he was off the clock and hung up on her, though not before letting her know exactly what he thought of her casting another curse.

Seems she was everyone’s enemy today.

After pouring over the instructions for about an hour, she could barely make heads or tails of it – it was in multiple languages that didn’t utilize the Latin Alphabet, let alone English, as if to emphasize how badly she didn’t know what she was doing - she found a page with images of buttons and circuit paths that looked reasonably identifiable.

“Still can’t read Japanese,” she said out loud. “But I can do this.” She pressed a button that said “T-02,” just like the instructions and pressed the nearby lever.

Nothing.

“It should start!” She grumbled, pulling on the lever a few more times before sending it back to the “off” position. Neal let out a wail. She slapped the pile of papers on top of the power box.

“I know, sweetie. I know you’re hungry,” she sighed, turning to pick up her crying son and cradle him. “I’ll feed you in just a second.”

She stopped in her tracks.

“Hungry…it’s hungry, too….fuel.”

She looked around, trying to follow the pipes as Neal fussed. She started walking to continue following them.

“Fuel!” she yelled, spotting a pipe labeled “fuel supply line.” She followed it to another power box. Of course, she thought. We were looking in the wrong place.

She turned a wheel, which promptly let fuel run up an adjacent pipe.

“That’s right, baby – it’s feeding time.”

She gasped as the machine lit up, beeped responsively, and the lights of the power plant followed soon after. Neal wiggled, sensing something important was going on.

“Oh, yes!” Mary Margaret crowed as the power came back on. “Baby high-five!” She gently high-fived the now happy-but-still-hungry baby in her arms. “Who wants some milk from Mama Mayor?”

Chapter Text

Rumple and Belle had sat for hours giving their statements to the Scottish police. In all, the thief had stolen Belle’s cell phone, jewelry, a watch Rumple had packed with him, all their spare cash, and the dagger.

They did not tell the police about the dagger.

They were given a phone number – which they wouldn’t be able to use now with Belle’s phone gone – and told they could call for updates. Mrs. McConnelly, struggling through furious anger at the injustice of a theft occurring in her establishment and “to such nice people, too!” had offered to do anything she could to assist them and even gave them their last couple nights free. Other guests at the bed and breakfast had been interviewed as well.

William Sykes had been conspicuously absent for these proceedings.

Mrs. McConnelly said she found a few hundred dollar bills slapped on her check-in desk during a time when the security camera there had mysteriously glitched out. So, no one knew who’d left them.

Rumple had his suspicions, though. And he definitely did not blame Mrs. McConnelly, no matter how much she apologized.

Anyway, thankfully their passports had been left alone, so they when they got off the train – a fairly more agreeable mode of transportation for Rumple’s stomach – in Glasgow, they could check into Sherbrooke Castle. It was a beautiful place, almost just like their home in the Enchanted Forest, and he was pleased to see that it pleased Belle.

The next day, Belle got a burner phone from a convenience store that she said she would use in emergencies and Rumple urged her to go on a tour they’d booked in advance while, as he said, “sorted out some business with the missing belongings.”

Which, to be fair, wasn’t technically a lie. For, you see, while Rumple wasn’t expecting to have to use it – Dark Ones saw many futures, and it was only up to them to manipulate things into being if they wanted one future to come true. And he definitely hadn’t expected to have his dagger stolen in the Land Without Magic from a presumably non-former-resident-of-their-realm.

He’d heard long ago, back in the mid to late 1800s, of the possibility of places where the barriers between the realms were thinnest – a rift, if you will. He’d still been caught up in his grief over losing Baelfire and his anger was still fresh from the pirate’s treachery at the time, so he’d stored the information about the rifts away for later.

That knowledge was coming in handy now. It was lucky that Scotland – the whole of the British Isles, really – were known for their magic, for their myths of otherworldly creatures. Now they just happened to have another use too.

After leaving Belle with her tour group, he hailed a taxi – something he was moderately adept at now after more than two weeks in the “United Kingdom,” and told the driver to leave him off where the River Clyde flowed into the Firth of Clyde, which confused the driver since this was almost entirely shipyard grounds. Not that the driver’s opinion really mattered, of course. He got paid and that was that.

Rumple did have to find a place among the shipyards that was inconspicuous enough to do what he needed, but after about a half hour he found one – a small-enough grassy spot between shipping cars, far from interference. Though it did take more concentration than usual as he was in the supposed Land Without Magic, but in under fifteen minutes he managed to make a small portal, just big enough to reach through time and realms with one hand and grab what he needed: a deep blue sorcerer’s hat twinkling with stars that seemed to be pulled straight from the nightly heavens. The only hope for getting enough power to never have to lose power again.

The Sorcerer’s Hat.

********************************

Meanwhile, in another realm (April 24th, 2013)…

“I drop in to Glasgow for one drink…”

The door of a van got slammed shut as a tall individual got out, wrapping his long coat tighter around himself as he did. It was cold for April on Earth, in his opinion. Scanning the area of the River Clyde shipyards and glancing at the horizon, he held up an electronic device that glowed and buzzed a bit when he pressed a button. He moved to a point between clusters of storage yards and pressed a few more buttons on his device. He furrowed his brows in confusion.

“There’s…nothing here?”

At that moment, his cell phone vibrated. Putting his device away and pulling out the phone, he scrolled through the caller IDs. Seven missed calls, several texted updates, and…

His phone vibrated. insistently again. Seeing the ID, he picked it up.

“Serena? What’ve you got?”

“Do you ever answer your phone?” A thick Scottish accent snapped back. “April’s been worried sick!”

“Nice to know you care, too.”

“Don’t start…”

“I’m sorry, it was on silent!”

“Well, we need you back here now – the rift’s going mad and everyone’s out. Did Seocan’s tip in Glasgow pan out?”

“…No, seemingly. I’ll be there in an hour.”

Chapter Text

 “Mama Odie!” Tiana called, gingerly stepping through the Maldonian swamp. She was dressed in dungarees, borrowed from her mother who’d sent them along when she’d moved to the Enchanted Forest realm. She still visited her mother when she stopped in to check on her restaurant, which her mother and her friend Louie ran in her absence. She, to be clear, had never imagined that she’d be married to a prince, even a dis-inherited one, and was thankful that she would get to visit New Orleans again in the fall. She was heartbroken she’d have to forgo visiting during Mardi Gras, but it would have to do.

“Mama Odie, my lady, where are you?” Naveen called. He struggled next to her, raising his knees so dramatically that Tiana could barely contain her laughter. He wore about three layers of clothing and looked like he was about to become one with the swamp with all the sweating he was doing.

“You do realize you didn’t have to wear all that, sugar?” she chided.

“Contrary to previous experience, I do not do well in swamps, my Tiana,” he groaned. “At least, not as a human.”

“Well, hopefully we won’t have to look much further. I’m not looking forward to having to beg for funding for a voyage to the Morovingian Frontlands.” The frontlands were the only other known location of swampland in the Enchanted Forest region. Maldonia, being across the sea from most of the forest, was already pushing the boundaries of Mama Odie’s usual stomping grounds.

“Do not worry, my love. We will find her.” No sooner had Naveen spoken than they heard rustling and a low, jolly chuckle coming from the thick foliage framing the swamp.

“You’re growing soft, child.”

A plump wearing a long white muumuu with a  snake looped lazily around her neck appeared before them, nudging the swamp plants out of her way with her walking stick.

“How are you doing, my children?”

“Mama Odie!” Tiana grinned, running to hug the older woman, who made a soft oof sound but quickly recovered and hugged her back.

“I’ve missed you too, child…but perhaps we should head back to my home. His Royal Highness over here looks like he could use a break.”

“I’m fine!” Naveen said stoically but looking relieved.

“I’ve heard good news on the wind – you two are getting engaged in the human world. Didn’t you two tell them you’ve already tied the knot?”

“Try telling that to a bunch of hoity-toity lords and advisors. They barely understand the existence of Tiana’s realm. My father advised us to go through the motions anyway,” Naveen said.

“Ah, yes…well, I suppose some traditions simply must be followed.”

As they settled into rickety chairs in Mama Odie’s shack, the ancient blind woman’s creased in worry. “As glad as I am to see you, I sense you did not just come to give me glad tidings.”

“Facilier is back,” Tiana said bluntly. Naveen shuddered slightly at the name.

“I figured as much. Can’t keep him down for long, I suppose…”

“What do you mean, we can’t keep him down for long!” Naveen yelped. “He is threatening Maldonia! He threatened my parents and little brother! We have to stop him once and for all.”

“I agree with you, child, but be patient,” Mama Odie hit Naveen with the head of her stick and he squeaked. “There’s a friend I know – a man named Mochuelo. He may be able to help.”

“The king spoke of him. We’re gathering supplies for a voyage to Sherwood Forest currently.”

“Hmmph…back in my heyday when we needed to get somewhere we just did it…” Mama Odie grumbled. Juju the snake purred a bit in discomfort at hearing his mother. She shhh’d him gently.

“Tell you what – I was making this potion earlier that I think you two could use.” She pulled out a bottle full of purple liquid and handed it to Tiana, nearly knocking over all the tables behind her in the process. Juju scrambled to jump off of Mama Odie and steady things.  

“Whoops! Here you go. I should show you how to make it sometime, child,” she said, giving Tiana a meaningful look. Tiana sighed in response.

“Mama Odie, you know I don’t want that.”

“Life is long and you are gifted, child. You’d make a wise and powerful potion maker, if not witch.”

“I still don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ve got my restaurant…and now this kingdom and…”

Naveen stood back as he watched the exchange. He knew Mama Odie wanted Tiana to follow in her footsteps. It always made him a little squeamish, for he loved Tiana with all his heart, and while he was grateful for Mama Odie – similar to the way one is grateful for a favorite relative – he still found it very weird. Also, their discussions often made him feel awkward.

“I understand,” Mama Odie said gently. “You have time, child. And potential. My door is always open.”

Tiana managed a sheepish grin. “I understand, Mama Odie.”

“Now, all you two have to do is pour this over a mirror and think of what part of the realm you want to go to. Poof! You’ve got a portal. It will wear off after a few times, but it should do the trick for now. You come back to me if you need anything else, you hear?”

“Thank you, Mama Odie,” Naveen said sincerely, stepping forward at last. “And if we can do anything for you…”

“No worries, child! I’m happy to help!” she crowed, swinging her arms wide open dramatically and knocking over an urn in the process which Juju just barely managed to catch with his tail.

As if to punctuate the point, the world outside lit up with a bolt of lightning followed by a drumbeat of rolling thunder. The shack was plunged into darkness, lit only by a ball of glowing light that Mama Odie created between her hands.

“I didn’t notice a storm brewing before,” Naveen commented nervously.

“That’s because that ain’t an ordinary storm,” Mama Odie said tersely. “That’s dark magic. I can feel it.”

“The Shadow Man!” Tiana said. “What does he want with us now?!”

“Doesn’t matter now. He’s going to have to go through me,” Mama Odie said. “Take the potion and use it on my mirror, now. There should still be enough to get you to Sherwood Forest and then back home again.”

“But what about you?” Tiana insisted.

“Don’t worry about me. I’ve dealt with worse than this. Go, now, before he comes!”

Tiana shakily uncorked the bottle and let a few drops fall on the mirror. The mirror started glowing within a few seconds. Looking back at Mama Odie for a moment, she grabbed Naveen’s hand and they jumped through as the mirror’s image changed to the Maldonian castle.

As the portal closed, Mama Odie turned her back to the mirror and split the sphere of light in her hands into two fireballs. “Delano? If you wanna have a fight, boy, you come to me.”

“Precisely my thoughts as well,” a low voice answered, the words echoing like rattling skeleton bones. “The Voodoo Queen of the Bayous. Siding against me. Really?” Dr. Facilier stepped out of the shadows, sneering down at the mud as it clung to his pants. “After all we’ve been through.”

“Been through? I’ve seen what you’ve become, Delano. This is not the boy I taught. This is the path you’ve chosen.”

“Ah, but you taught me so well – including not settling for anything less than what I deserved. And I deserve my revenge. No petty prince and his precious princess are getting in the way of that. And neither are you.”

He raised his tiki necklace high in his hands and mumbled a few words. Sickly green magic swirls and grey, lightning filled clouds wrapped around the older woman, who stared Dr. Facilier down the whole time.

“You will not get away with this, Delano. The stars and spirits have foreseen that,” she said as the magic enveloped her.

“Oh, but don’t you see? Everything is wrapping up so nicely.” He muttered a few words and the magic intensified. As it dissipated, he smiled cruelly down at what had become of his long-ago teacher: she’d been transformed into a long snake, of similar species to Juju.

“Perhaps you and your little pet can keep each other company while I carry out my plan, hmm?” With another wave of magic, he transported both snakes into a small metal chest.

“When you get what you wanted, you lose what you had,” he chuckled, strolling away with his prize into the swamp.

Chapter Text

“Step roit in, ladies an’ gents! Art to furnish your homes to your ‘eart’s content!”

A tall, kind looking man with tan skin, a goatee, and dark hair leaned on the doorframe of his shop – in which he typically advertised both his artwork and his housework skills as a jack-of-all-trades – and watched the market scene around him. It was Wednesday, and per a tradition he knew took place both in this world’s France and Portugal and in the Enchanted Forest, it was market day. Townspeople from all over Storybrooke were here to get fresh produce, bread, fish, and hopefully some trinkets to entertain themselves.

For Bert, the tradition of market day never got old. He loved it.

He could see Robin of Locksley’s little boy, Roland, running around to all the free-standing booths that had been set up, dragging his mother along and dodging other pedestrians. “Look, Mama!” he’d say at each one. “Can we have it?” And the poor woman would be left scrambling for an polite excuse. He saw the lone Merry Woman, Mulan, wandering alone through the aisles of stalls. She’d usually stay wandering for about an hour before settling into discussion with her parents – an old married couple that could often be found bartering for better priced vegetables for use at their restaurant. Bert also spotted a Storybrooke newcomer – the one they called “Detective Tennant” – wandering around the stalls, looking more lost and lonely than anything else.

He knew the stories of most of the townspeople. In the absence of playing a part of the Charming family’s story, he knew they weren’t included in anyone’s “storybook” besides their own, so someone had to.

Roland came running up to Bert at this point in his ponderings. The small child, now bearing two lollipops and giggling, held one up to Bert. “Hello, Mr. Art Man!” he giggled. “I like your art. Would you like a lollipop?”

“Why, thank you, young man! Did you buy this all by yourself?” Bert said grandly, bending down to Roland’s level and taking the candy. “And will you be eating the other one yourself?”

“No, this one’s for my Gina,” the child said. Discomfort crossed his mother’s face.

“Ah, the mayor…who’s in the hospital. He wanted to get her a gift,” she said nervously.

“’Tis no shame in giving,” Bert nodded sagely. “Though perhaps you ought to thank your mum for helping you acquire these gifts, hmm? Mothers love you more than anyone.” He gave a slight tip of his cap to Mrs. Locksley, who smiled graciously. Roland nodded solemnly and started searching his pockets and counting what little change he’d gained in his wanderings. His mother burst out chuckling.

“Come on, Roland. Why don’t we make some cookies at home? I’d love it if you’d bake with me,” she emphasized. Roland nodded eagerly and waved to Bert as he and his mother walked away, hand in hand. Bert waved back cheerfully.

As the family moved away, Bert felt a twinge of sadness, for family lost long ago and kept in his heart.

He suddenly felt the air get colder. Glancing around, he spotted the cause of it: a tall, well-dressed man with dark skin, strolling up to the produce stalls. Bert watched as the man charmed the fruit seller and tossed apples and oranges around in his hands, testing them. Peculiar, for sure, that a such a dark presence would be emanating from a mere ordinary customer. The tall man chuckled, making a sound that reminded Bert of marimba beats, and gathered his fruit into his basket, tossing a few coins to the lady behind the booth as he did.

But something just rubbed Bert wrong about him. 

He decided to investigate, strolling forward and casually pretending to sweep with his broom until he brushed up against the tall man. “Aye, pardon me, sir. ‘idn’t see you there.”

“Hmmph,” the tall man grumbled. “No worries.”

“Lovely weather we’re having, aye? Can’t ask for anything better in the middle of the week. I see you’ve got some choice seasonal fruits here – lovely stuff. Ms. Ayzelea here make some of the best apples in Storybrooke during this time of year!” He tipped his cap to the fruit seller for emphasis and she gave him a small smile, clearly nervous. As the stranger moved, Bert saw a glitter of green with a price tag sticking out of his pocket.

“I trust that she does,” the tall man rumbled. “That’s very important to me.” Bert saw that the man’s teeth were slightly off-kilter in his mouth, with uneven gaps and an overbite.

“Ah yes. Will you be making a pie with that? Love me some mince pies.”

“Something like that,” the man grunted. “If you’ll excuse me…”

“Oh of course,” Bert chirped, stepping out of the way. “’ave a lovely day, sir!”

He made a mental note to tell his wife about it later and keep an eye out for the man.

***********************

At about 7:45 pm on April 25, 2013, Delano Facilier watched the sun go down over Storybrooke from his place in the shadows of the French Quarter.

He surveyed his supplies:

The first cry of a baby, kept handily in a corked bottle.

A magic-filled green necklace, procured from the pathetically moping queen’s crypt.

A knife, covered in just the right amount of blood taken from said pathetic queen.

An emerald necklace, bought from a jeweler down the road from the farmer’s market.

Some yew, some foxglove, some agate…a vial of a substance that was, ahem, acquired from the consummation of the Maldonian pests’ marriage – taking their memory of it had given him no end of mirth.

He just needed a few more things…

Strolling down the darkening street, he waited until people were within their restaurants before magically shutting off their lit-up outdoor signs, thus giving him an advantage of extra darkness. All the tiny clueless people were no match for him. He turned onto an alley just off of Main Street, slipping into the darkness behind the Sheriff’s station. Slipping through the back, he walked in to the building, making the lights flicker out as he entered.

“Who’s there?” A male, British voice called out. Facilier heard the clicking of a gun being brought out and cocked. The Shadow Man rolled his eyes. With a wave of his hand, a few moments later he heard a loud clatter-thunk as a sleeping body hit the floor. Gliding forward with ease, he stepped into the alcove containing the jail cells and walked to the very last one, which clearly hadn’t been used for several weeks due to the large amount of dust – mostly ceramic dust, Facilier knew – piled on the ground. A spider had made their home in one of the cell’s corners.

With a wave of his hand, all of the dust disappeared into his necklace, which glowed an eerie green.

“Soon,” he whispered with satisfaction, as if the necklace or its contents were sentient. “Soon you will rise again.”

He strolled out of the jail cell area and strode towards the front door, brushing his foot against the sleeping blond detective he’d knocked out. Glancing down, he was surprised to recognize the man.

“You’re a hard man to find, D’Artagnan,” Facilier said, actually bewildered. There was something oddly…repelling about the detective. “You’re lucky I don’t have time for puny sidekicks right now.” And he strolled out the front door. A bird tweeted outside as if to signal his exit, and with a wave of annoyed magic he quickly struck it down and added the small dead body to his collection of items.

He went to the middle of a field, near the farms and just outside the main town, and made a large fire, just under the full moon. He arranged some of the items around the fire, including the bird carcass.

With a blast of magic and some more muttered words, the fire began to do its work. Magically consuming the items, it swirled up and around until it formed the shape of a person. The person soon solidified into a red haired woman dressed in shades of green. She wore both necklaces around her neck. She looked around in confusion and disgust as the magic dissipated.

“Where the hell am I?” she asked, thick Scottish accent coming through strongly. “Wasn’t I just locked up by my brat sister?”

“Where you are, Zelena,” Facilier said. “Is the land of the living. Welcome back. I trust it would amenable for you to join me? We have work to do.”

“And why the hell should I help you? Besides giving me back life – that I must thank you for. Death is…depressing.” She shuddered.

“One, I gave you life. Two, I’m on a quest to bring this town to the ground. Care to join?”

“Well then I do believe you have yourself a deal.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you’re alright, Collin?

Mary Margaret glanced up from bottle-feeding Neal to look with concern at the detective, who was nursing a bruise at the back of his head from falling.

“I’ll be fine, Mrs. Nolan, but thank you.” He grinned brightly before wincing.

“Please, call me Mary Margaret.”

“Of course,” Collin’s brain did a quick check of all of the character-curse-name pair-ups he’d learned so far. “It was very kind of you and your family to let me join you for morning breakfast.”

“Oh, it’s the least we could do…though I still wish we could find out what the heck Facilier wants,” David mused.

“I’ve got some basic detection spells up…I’ll have to ask Regina to help me get something stronger when she’s up to it…” Emma said.

“Are you going to see her today?” Henry asked. “I could see if I could find more things…”
“Maybe. Focus on your schoolwork, kid,” Emma said pointedly. “And eat your pancakes. You shouldn’t have to worry about this.”

“But-”

“No buts, you’ve got school today.”

“You can look forward to the May day celebration,” Mary Margaret chipped in. “It’s on Wednesday, so they’re giving the kids a free day off.”

“Again?” Killian asked. “I know they weren’t in school for most of Zelena’s attacks.”

“It’ll be fine. The kids aren’t going to make up everything in one day anyway. They’ve spent the last year in the Enchanted Forest,” Mary Margaret pointed out. Collin looked at her like she was losing her marbles.

“Well, better to have school now than never,” Emma said, standing up. “Come on, Henry, gotta catch your bus. Mom, you should come too.”

“Right, of course. David, take the baby, will you? You’ll tell me if you need anything?” David kissed her on the forehead in response before taking Neal from her arms.

“Fine. You guys will tell me if you find anything, or if you hear from Regina, right?” Henry insisted, looking pointedly at his gathered family members plus Collin and Killian.

“Of course,” David smiled. “Have a good day at school.”

As half the family left, Ruby slid into the booth next to Collin. “Hey – Detective Tennant, right? Name’s Ruby. My gran gave you the ice.”

“Oh, well, thank you again to her,” Collin said nervously. “And pleasure to meet you, Ruby. You can call me Collin.”

“All good. I’m just on break, and my girlfriend’s working today, so I figured I’d chill with you guys.” At the word “girlfriend,” Collin felt himself relax. He hadn’t been sure before if Dorothy and Ruby were serious, but knowing know, he felt content that he wasn’t…alone, for lack of a better term.

“So it’s serious?” David asked. “You and Dorothy?”

“I…guess so?” Ruby smiled, looking giddy.

“It’s good you have each other,” Collin said kindly, though his heart panged in longing for his own lost love. “Keep her close, yeah?” Ruby seemed to notice.

“You missing someone?” she asked softly.

“Yeah,” he half-smiled. “I am.” Boy, what an understatement that was…

“So, what did you do before coming to Storybrooke, Collin?”

Shoot, how the heck was he going to start explaining that?

“Oh, um, well…I’m kind of D’Artagnan?” He tried to be casual.

You could have heard a pin drop. Oh, real bloody brilliant, Collin, now you sound like a pompous prick, the detective scoffed to himself.

David straightened up, impressed, though. “D’Artagnan? From the Three Musketeers?”

“Aye,” Collin said, taking a sip of tea. “And me makes three.” God, he prayed this wouldn’t get too awkward…

“I’ve heard of you and your friends’ exploits,” David continued, bouncing Neal now. “Aramis, Porthos, and Athos, isn’t it? You assisted our kingdom, Winterfell, and its allies in ridding our land of wyverns.”

“Ha, well…” Collin scratched the back of his neck nervously and considered telling them what those wyverns REALLY were. He ultimately decided against the idea, though. “It was no trouble, Your Highn- I mean Sheriff Nolan…I mean David.”

“Nonsense. I heard they’d been plaguing the forest for decades, along with the cockatrices, giants, trolls, goblins, and countless other creatures. We owe you a debt.”

“I’ve also heard from my old pack how you’ve fought in their favor from time to time during the first curse. You guys get around,” Ruby piped in. Killian just looked impressed at the whole conversation.

Collin laughed a little, though his heart was heavy. He decided he it was safe to say the next words: “I knew them better as Frank, Joe, and Nancy. My friends, I mean. Frank is…was, I guess…my boyfriend.”

“Awww,” Ruby cooed. Killian smirked.

“Where are they now? I haven’t heard of them being in Storybrooke during the first curse, nor have I heard of them in the past year,” David said.

Collin smiled sadly. “I wish I knew. I’ve been looking for them – that’s the case I’ve been working on. I haven’t been able to find them since…”

The table fell silent again for a long, guilty moment – even Neal calmed down. The baby stared at Collin with such seriousness that Collin was afraid he (Neal) would start crying.

“I suppose we haven’t done a very good job making sure everyone got reunited after either of these curses…” David mused.

“It’s okay…you guys clearly have had a lot of stuff going on,” Collin said shakily. “I lost them before the first curse, anyway.”

“Before the first curse? How?” Ruby blurted out, looking so suspiciously at Collin that he flinched.

“Um…” he faltered. Shit. “It’s…it’s a long story.”

“We’ve all got ‘em,” Killian piped up. Collin heard both Ruby and David kick him under the table and saw them glare. Killian just raised an eyebrow.

Deep breath…

“Regina-ripped-my-heart-out.”

Chapter Text

A glass broke. Honestly, with all this drama, Collin wondered when that would happen.

“That’s what you were keeping in?” Killian blurted out. “Bloody hell, mate.”

“Wait, what does that have to do with the Musketeers?” Ruby asked.

“Ruby!”

“What, David? I’m honestly confused.”

“Regina caught us once…way back,” Collin said, mentally calculating how much to say now. “She wanted to kill all of us, but…I distracted her so they could get away. She then figured I was useless, so she just…sort of kept it? My heart, I mean. In her vault. She gave it back to me after the first curse, big apology and everything. But I haven’t seen them since. Someone else must have gotten them. But the last place I saw them was Regina’s castle, and she didn’t know. So I’ve been looking.”

“That’s….that’s a lot…” David said.

“I didn’t want to tell you because, well…don’t you think this is all a bit melodramatic?”

There was a beat before Ruby snorted, and within minutes they were all laughing. And Collin could tell he was off the hook.

For you see, he wasn’t lying when he said he hadn’t seen his friends since the heart rip, or that he’d used himself as a distraction, but there was…a bit more to the story. Not that telling more details would get him any closer to answers.

Luckily for him, his phone rang. Flipping it open – because yeah, it was a flip phone – he answered it. “Hello? Emma?...the le Beouf residence? Why…? Yeah, yeah, I’ll head over right away. You do whatever you got to do.” He closed the phone with a confused look on his face.

“Le Beouf? I’ve met Lottie, Mr. le Beouf’s daughter, briefly – she owns a boutique down in the new French Quarter section. What’s wrong?” Ruby asked.

“Um, I’m not sure I should say…”

“Ruby’s family and she’s investigated plenty with us. It’s fine,” David assured.

“Oh, well…” Collin glanced around. The only other person currently present in the diner was a terribly conspicuous man with his hat pulled low and all his attention on his newspaper. “She’s…missing. Or at least, her father’s reporting her missing.”

“That’s terrible!” Ruby gasped. “I’ll be sure to sniff around, let you know if I find anything.”

“Appreciated.” As Collin spoke, David’s phone pinged a text message, so the prince glanced at it.

“Dwarves need a hand with something. Um, Killian…?”

“I was going to go head by the docks, but if you’re both going out I could go man the sheriff’s station? Still a crime scene, after all.”

“Thank you.” The prince put a firm hand on Killian’s shoulder. “Really. Well, Tennant, let’s go fight crime.”

The words beat in his ears, reminding him of his own safety net of lies, as he reached for his car keys. Ruby squinted at the chain’s attachments.

“Fluorite? Is that a scrying charm?” She lifted up a bright blue crystal acting as a keychain, though she was careful not to touch the silver chain attachment.

“Is it? I wouldn’t know. I’ve had that since…” Collin suddenly realized he was drawing a great big blank on where the charm came from. “I actually can’t remember. I guess I’ve had it for a while.”

“Well, it’s cool. Also, fluorite’s good for help with finding things – and people, too. Hope it brings you luck, yeah?”

“Yeah…thanks, Ruby.”

“Anytime.”

******************************************************

As the rest of Storybrooke’s police department parted ways, the man with the hat stood up, gathered his newspaper while looking at the ground, and swiftly walked out the door. Though his target was different than theirs, he headed in the direction of the sheriff’s station. He made sure to keep his hat pulled low to hide his face, given that its features were bound to…startle some people. He had done a pretty good job of keeping a low profile so far, given that the two wolf-people that ran the diner hadn't called him out.

Which is why it surprised him when he was suddenly yanked into the shadows by…seemingly the shadows themselves.

He found himself face to face with a tall, dark-skinned man in a dapper purple suit.

“Going someplace?” The tall man chortled.

“If you really need someone, I’m not your man,” the man with the hat growled with a vaguely British accent. “I’ve kind of got someplace to be."

“Not now, you don’t. Not for a while. You’re going to help me.”

“And why’s that?”

“Name’s Facilier. I need you to do me a favor.”

“Why should I trust you?”

“Now, now, I’m not the one hiding my face with a hat, little man. Let’s see those true colors.”

The shadows still held the hatted man in place, so he found he had no other choice but to comply. Slowly, he removed his hat – revealing scaly green patterns arcing across his face and a rather peculiar nose.

“Ah, see now? We’re both fish out of water here, having to hide to get what we want. Though, well, you’re a bit more evolved than your average fish. It’s only fair we help each other.”

“What do you want?” The now-exposed alien asked.

“I want you to kill the one they call D’Artagnan.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, Regina. How ya doing?”

Emma leaned on the frame of the door to Regina’s hospital room as the former Evil Queen scooted herself into a sitting position. It was Friday now, and Collin, Killian, and her dad were still working on the le Beouf disappearance case. Regina was dressed in a loose grey t-shirt and had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, looking remarkably poised for someone who’d been recently stabbed in the gut.

“You look…good.”

“Figured I’d use some magic to help Whale along…and me, of course. Though, it still feels like something’s wrong…my magic’s not as strong.” Regina frowned in thought.

“You also just got stabbed. That’ll bring anyone down a peg.”

“Did I ask for your input?” Regina snapped, then took a deep breath. “Sorry. I’m just…frustrated. And I want to slug that shadow man with a fireball.” She balled up her non-IV hand in emphasis.

“You and me both,” Emma agreed. “Maybe the stab wound is part of what’s wrong?”

“You literally just said that.”

“No, hear me out. Facilier stabbed you, or his shadow minions did, or whatever. That means most likely, there was magic involved.”

“Great. Just great. A Voodoo-practicing goth lord is messing with my magic? The hell does he want with it?”

“No idea…but I do know Henry is worried about you. Frankly, we all are, but you know…”

“I miss him,” Regina smiled sadly. “How’s he doing?”

“He’s doing alright. He really wants to help, though, and I think that’s bothering him.”

“With dragons and a dark sorcerer wandering around? I don’t want him getting tangled with this.”

“Me neither.” Emma looked around the hospital room for a moment before continuing. “So…when do you get out?”

“Sigh…Whale wants to keep me until next Wednesday. I know how much the May Day fest means to Henry…we used to go every year. So, I hope I get out in time.”

“That’ll be good. He’ll love that…and um, Regina?”

“Hmm?”

“Can I ask a favor?”

“What? Anything.” Regina shifted in her seat and looked at her quizzically.

“Do you think you could…teach me magic?”

Regina stared at her like she’d grown an extra head. “You already know magic. You have it, you’ve used it.”

“I mean magic like you can do. I want to get better. It’s been…unreliable lately.”

“How so?” The queen looked concerned.

“Heating up things I touch…faulty protection spells…heck, maybe that’s why we can’t find leads.”

“You need training.” Regina was suddenly all business. “As soon as I get out, we’ll meet at my house. We’ll start next Thursday.”

“But…”

“Do you want to get better or not? Faulty magic helps no one, least of all you.”

“…Yes.”

“Good. Thursday it will be. Please tell Henry to come by soon.”

Chapter Text

(Approximately a year ago - Hundred Acre Wood, Maldonia)

“Come on, Piglet! Follow me!”

Winnie raced along through the woods, wearing a red tunic over yellow pants while a much smaller boy wearing shades of faded red – pink, really – raced behind him, stumbling to catch up. A tall boy about Winnie’s age – dark-skin, bushy orange hair, orangish-brown clothes – practiced making running leaps and howled as he accomplished an extra big jump. Going in for a bigger jump, he formed a ball of golden magic in his hands.

“Tigger! Be careful!” Mochuelo yelled.

“I’ve got it!” The bouncing boy passed the ball of energy to Winnie, who raced forward a few yards, huffing a bit from the exertion, before turning around to face his friends and catch the ball.

“Catch, Piglet! You can do it!” He passed the ball to Piglet, but the ball turned out to be too big for Piglet to handle, and the small boy was sent tumbling right into Winnie. The two friends rolled together until they came to a stop, laughing.

“Are you okay? Your ears are showing,” Winnie said, pointing out the now-floppy nature of his young friend’s ears.

“So are yours!” Piglet pointed up at Winnie’s furry bear ears which had popped up. The two friends giggled and hugged.

“Alright, you two. I’m glad you’re okay, but Tigger – not so big with the energy pass, yeah? Piglet’s your teammate. The last thing you want to do is hurt him,” Mochuelo chided.

“Of course, Mr. Owl. I’ll try my best to do better,” Tigger sighed, tucking one ankle behind the other. Mochuelo strolled over and tostled the tall boy’s hair. “You just be the best Tigger you can be, and you will be great.” Turning to Piglet and Winnie, he added, “And you two! Work on keeping your transformations under control.”

“Yes, Papa.”

“Yes, Mr. Owl.”

It was at this point that Tiana and Naveen stepped into the clearing that held the Bruins’ homestead: a sizable cabin built upon three different trees. It teetered slightly in the wind despite this.

“Are we interrupting something? We don’t mean to,” Tiana said. Naveen kept looking behind him and at the sky, as if waiting for something to jump out and bite him.

“Might I ask who you are?” Mochuelo questioned, squinting at them. “Some sort of intruder, or have your perhaps come for tea?”

“Um, no…”

“Perhaps on your way to Mr. Rabbit’s farm, then? I hear the peppers are lovely this time of year.”

“No, no, we’re here to see you, sir. You’re Lord Mochuelo Bruin, aren’t you?” Tiana insisted.

“Why…why yes I am, young lady. And you are?”

“Um…” Before Tiana could answer, Naveen jumped in.

“My good sir, I am Prince Naveen of Maldonia and that is my fiancé, Tiana, you are speaking to. Please, have some respect.”

“Naveen…” Tiana could see the group of children now hiding behind some trees. The child in pink was shaking from all the yelling while the other two tried to comfort him.

“Sorry, Tiana. Sir, we come seeking your aid in the matter of the Shadow Man. My father, the King, said you could be of service to us.”

“Ah, the Shadow Man…well, why didn’t you just come out and say so?”

Naveen looked ready to bang his head into the nearest tree.

“Well, nevermind…yes, I knew the Shadow Man. Terrible man, mischievous being, always playing with the dark side of magic.”

“How could you have heard of him? He dwelt in Tiana’s home realm, a land locked in time, before he followed us here,” Naveen questioned.

“He was born here long ago, long before coming to your land, Lady Tiana. In fact, he created your land himself.”

“He did what?!” Tiana and Naveen were equally shocked.

“Indeed. Oh, I’m sure I have the history of its creation written down somewhere…” The old sorcerer mused, rubbing his chin.

“Facilier could NOT have created my world,” Tiana insisted. “My world has its problems but it is far from evil and it is beautiful and I COME FROM THERE. My mama and daddy and my best friend come from there! We are not evil!”

“Oh, but he wasn’t the only creator of course. His teacher desired for him to create something big – as beautiful as you are describing. What made him become selfish was…oh, what was I thinking again?”

Naveen groaned.

“Are you in pain, young prince? Or perhaps hungry? We have plenty of toast and honey and jam, as well as tea.”

“No, I…”

“We’d love some,” Tiana interrupted, elbowing Naveen. Hissing in her fiancé’s ear, she said, “Don’t be rude.”

No sooner had she spoken, though, than the day became very blustery and storm clouds began to gather.

“Children, inside the cabin!” Mochuelo hollered. The group of youngsters quickly followed the Maldonian couple and the father figure inside.

“Who was his teacher?” Naveen asked as they settled down with cups in front of them, the storm howling outside.

“Oh, I’m sure I have it written down somewhere. But nevermind. It does no good to fret when there’s tea to be had. I’ll look for it later and get back to you.”

Naveen and Tiana shared a look. If this man was who they were supposed to trust, then help was in short supply indeed.

 

Chapter Text

Collin walked in on Winnie playing with a tabby cat and a teacup pig on the floor of the pet shop while a yellow bird sat on his shoulder. It was Friday afternoon, and he and David had been working all day checking on Charlotte le Beouf’s last known locations. It was exhausting and disheartening to say the least, for multiple reasons. One, it reminded him of his own personal case. Two, it made him miss having the technological capability to track people. The Sheriff’s Station, minus its magic-minded employees, was basically running on 1980s tech. He wasn’t even born yet in the 80s.

“Slow day?” he asked. He wasn’t sure why, but he was beginning to have sort of brotherly feelings for this kid. Maybe even parental.

“Sort of,” The boy answered cheerfully. “Come and join me, detective.” Collin obliged and joined him on the floor, cross-legged.

“No one’s come in today, certainly, but look around. Do you notice something different?”

Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary, though Collin rememebered that a few pets had been bought already, including the nice hound dogs.

“That parrot’s not yammering anymore? Playback, wasn’t it?”

“FART HEAD!”

“…I stand corrected.”

“You woke him up,” Winnie chided. “But look harder.”

Collin glanced over at where the hound dogs’ crates used to be…only to find himself face-to-face with a very excitable yorkie.

“There’s a new dog…” His brain raced. “There’s a new dog! There’s more pets! How?” He turned back to Winnie for answers.

“So you see it, too,” Winnie nodded. “I don’t know how, but there are definitely new pets in the last week. That yorkie is one. There are kittens I didn’t take into account before, and a sizable pitbull, too. I have no explanation for this.”

“Well, wherever they came from, it seems they’re in good hands with you, yeah?”

“I guess…oh, bother” Winnie’s mood noticeably went south.

“I’ll let Sheriff Swan know about the pets. But…is something else bothering you, Winnie?”

“It’s just…that’s what Christopher Robin would say to me.”

“Christopher Robin…?” Collin’s brain reel once again at the reminder he was surrounded by children’s story characters.

“He’s my best friend. And…maybe more than that. I’m not sure,” Winnie said. “I haven’t been able to find him. He…he would always say to me ‘you are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.’ And…I was never very good at academics, though my mother was patient with me, and my magic…”

“Wait, you have magic?” Collin asked. He’d heard about Lady Hortensia Locksley’s accusations but had decided for himself not to take too much stock in the ramblings of a woman who felt she had to ruin the life of a child to make herself feel superior. “…sorry, I interrupted.”

“Oh, it’s alright…I probably forgot to say. I have some magic. Not very powerful, but I’ve always wanted to use it to protect animals, you know? People in my part of the world…transformation magic is our specialty. I…don’t have much control over mine, though magic as a whole seems weaker here so that’s helped.”

“What do you transform into?” Collin was sure to make his voice quiet, so as not to be too intrusive.

“A bear. Just a small one, mind you.” Ohhh… “Christopher Robin…he’d always tell me that no matter my abilities, my heart would make me the best protector I could be. I’ve always hoped so, but…”

“You’ve doubted it?”

“Well…how can I if I can’t even keep track of these few? My home forest is much bigger than this shop.”

Collin stayed quiet for a moment before squeezing Winnie’s shoulder. “I think…you should listen to those who care about you. Christopher Robin’s right – you have a good heart, Winnie. And I’ve seen how Miss Odette treats you, too, and I think she would agree. This…this is just something you might need a little help on. And you’ve asked for help now. You’re doing the right thing. So stop worrying, yeah?”

“I…I’ll try.”

“You do that.”

 

Flashback:

The storm had still not yet quite passed by the time Winnie made his way to the tree at the edge of the Sanders estate, marking where the Bruin land stopped and the Sanders land began.

“Christopher Robin!” He called. “I need to talk to you!” He called over and over. He waited for maybe fifteen minutes before he stopped calling, due to a hoarse voice, and began to lose hope.

“Silly ole bear. You thought I’d forgotten you, didn’t you?”

Christopher Robin stepped into the fading light of the day, revealing himself to Winnie. With a joyous, goofy smile, Winnie wrapped the taller boy up in a big hug, which was easily reciprocated.

“I was worried I wouldn’t get to see you this season,” Winnie admitted.

“I was merely at school,” Christopher Robin said. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Silly.” Christopher Robin hugged Winnie tighter.

“Christopher Robin…”

“What?”

“My family had visitors today…a prince and princess of Maldonia who say a shadow man is coming.”

“Shadow man…what’s that? What does he want to do?”

“I…I’m not sure. But I heard he once transformed people into animals against their will, stole their families, and that he’s taken over entire realms in the past. There’s no telling if he couldn’t do that again…Christopher Robin, I’m scared.” Winnie was shaking now, as badly as Piglet had been before.

“Hey, no need for that. Be still,” Christopher Robin said soothingly, gripping Winnie’s hands. “Everything’s going to be alright, I’m sure.”

“I can tell my Papa is worried…he was being his silly self earlier, but as soon the royals left he disappeared into his library and he’s been searching through his books ever since.”

“If your father’s concerned, why are you out here? Maybe you are safer with your family.”

“How can I be safe without my friends? My team?” Winnie said simply. “Not to mention, I would be very sad if you weren’t safe too.”

“Oh, Winnie,” Christopher Robin wrapped him closer to him in another hug. “All I care about is you. We, your friends, will be fine. We will make sure of that.”

“How cute. Are you done?”

The two boys turned around to find a sinister man in purple robes and a skull-bedecked hat behind them.

“You know what happens to little birds that eavesdrop?”

Instantly, both boys tried to stand in front of each other. “Don’t touch him! He didn’t do anything!” Winnie yelled, his voice shaky but strong.

“Nevertheless, he’s now as much a pain in my side as you are, and I can’t have that,” the man sneered.

“You’re…you’re the Shadow Man everyone’s talking about,” Winnie stammered.

“Whatever you want, take your business elsewhere,” Christopher Robin ordered.

“And you’re the little bird who’s annoyingly in my way right now. Now, why don’t you fly away and don’t tell anyone what you’ve seen?”

With a swirl of his hand and a few words to the demons, the Shadow Man tossed Winnie aside and made smoke and lightning engulf Christopher Robin. Moments later, the chaos dissipated and all that was left in its place was a small canary, which quickly flew away.

“What…what have you done to him?!” Winnie yelled.

“Never mind him, little boy. Follow his advice and worry about yourself.”

The Shadow man blasted magic at Winnie just as the young boy threw up his hands in defense. They each blasted a line of magic at each other.

Winnie landed on his back, lightning continuously zapping him and twisting around him. He screamed in panic as he tried to use his powers and misfired into the ground, singeing it.

“That should teach you to take a warning,” the Shadow Man snapped. “Don’t get in my way anymore, little boy – and tell your daddy to do the same.”

The Shadow Man disappeared in a puff of smoke as Winnie screamed from his parents.

 

Chapter Text

Emma was working in her office when her dad stumbled through the police station’s front door carrying Neal in a baby carrier in one hand and a large baby-gear-style duffle bag in the other.

“No baby sitter available today?” She quipped, somewhat amused.

“Granny’s busy. Ruby’s busy. Mulan and Ashley are busy. Still can’t get a hold of Belle, wherever in Scotland she is. Your mother’s put me on baby duty.” David sounded exhausted.

“Well, hand him over. And come look at these casefiles.” Emma took the carrying seat and set it next to her desk. The baby boy stared up at his sister and Emma grinned sheepishly.

“How many cases to have now? Ten? That’s almost as many reported cases as when Zelena was turning people into flying monkeys,” David commented.

“Yeah. Not comforting…speaking of Zelena, Dad, you looked like you’ve just been through a tornado.”

“The prince next to you kept us up all night.”

“Ah.”

“Do you…do we have…”

“I’ll get the coffee going.”

Thank you.”

Emma went over to make a pot, bringing Neal in his seat with her. “It’s so weird having a baby as family…I never even held Henry…” she mused as she went about her task.

“You didn’t have a choice…though I wish you did, just as I wish your mother and I had gotten to raise you,” David said.

“But I did, didn’t I?” Emma said. “I was only in jail for eleven months. Maybe I could have kept him…”

Moments later the coffee was ready and she filled up a cup for him, but as soon as David touched it, he drew his hand back with a hiss.

“Ha ha…did you boil that?”

Emma’s face turned red as she pulled the cup back and put it down and her dad chuckled.

“I…I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie, it’ll cool down.”

“Umm…right…” She tried to laugh about it, but she saw that her hands were still glowing and so she worried.

********************************

Collin was sitting at a table at the Solaris Bakery and Art Supply Shop, minding his own business and drinking tea, when none other than Mary Poppins sat down across from him.

“Mind if I join you? Afternoon tea is hardly formal without company.”

Collin stared at her like she had two heads. “The ‘ell you want now?”

“Rude.” Mary Poppins gracefully sat down, careful to smooth out her clothing as she did. “You know, it’s good you finally told those royals about your case. I was wondering when you’d ever speak up.”

Collin raised an eyebrow and blinked several times. “Wanna explain how you know that?”

“Don’t you know? I never explain anything.”

“Of course you don’t,” Collin sighed. “Well, what do you want, Mary Poppins?”

“To offer some advice. You’re a detective working solo on a case no one here could possibly grasp – at least not yet.”

“And what do you know of my case?”

“That you’re searching for Frank and Joe Hardy, and their friend and yours Nancy Drew, and that you’ve deemed it necessary to take on an alias based on a pop culture reference.”

Collin swallowed hard. “So?”

“Carrying knowledge is nothing to fear, dear, and neither is carrying more past experiences than a human being your age should ever have to handle,” she said. “Surely you’ve learned that in your travels?”

This was getting just too weird. “I’m sorry, do we know each other?”

“Well, have you seen me before?”

“Don’t play with me,” Collin snapped.

“It’s a simple question, Collin. Have you seen me before? Other than a Disney film, of course – dratted Walt never could get it quite right.”

“Walt could never…” Collin scrunched up his face. “Aww, come on, not another one…”

“They can’t capture us all in a storybook.” Mary Poppins took a dainty sip of her tea. “Never fear that, certainly. Even good ol’ Pamela couldn’t manage that.”

“Mary Poppins, as much as I sympathize with your plight, you’re still not explaining to me how we’ve met.”

“Empathize is more like it, on my end at least,” Mary Poppins mused. “Those poor children and the Stratemeyers…and you got caught up in it, too.”

Collin was getting really frustrated at this point. “You’re lucky I think it’s an unpatriotic sacrilege to fight you, ma’am, because you are pissing me off right now.”

“Come now, Collin, you’re a smart young man. Do you really not recognize me?”

No,” he emphasized. “No, I really don’t. I don’t remember you. I can’t tell you anything, even if I wanted to. Now will you please lay off?!” He was nearly shouting right now, though he stopped himself as he felt tears emerging.

“Something is missing,” he whispered. “Maybe the same something that’s missing from the French Quarter, or maybe it’s just me, but something is missing, and no matter how I lay out the facts of the case, I am missing my friends, my family, my boyfriend, and there’s far much more important things going on in this town to bother anyone with it, and I get that, but I am stuck here nonetheless. Do you get that, Mary Poppins?”

The older woman sat still with her tea, silent but looking sympathetically at him. “I’m only here to help,” she said finally. “I miss my own son, you know. A thief himself, just like that Will Scarlet fellow.”

“No, I didn’t know that,” Collin said softly.

“I miss him every day, much as you miss your loved ones. And while I can’t help you anymore than you can help yourself, I wish I could.”

“Fat lot of good we’re doing for each other then,” Collin snapped, irritable once again. At that moment, his phone mercifully rang and he answered it.

“Hello?”

“Tennant!” Grumpy yelled. “There’s a fire down at that kid’s pet shop.”

“On my way!” Collin’s heart was in his throat as he turned to Mary Poppins. “If you would excuse me?” She simply nodded as he ran, dialing the number for the Sheriff’s station as he went. As he was out of view, she got up, slipped the entire tea set into her purse, and marched toward the sheriff's station, where she was sure a certain baby prince needed watching.

************************************

Emma, Collin, Killian, and David arrived on the scene as dogs and cats were running out in droves. Without another thought, they ran in.

The fire wasn’t so much a smoke-and-burning-wood fire as a magical-electrical fire. Cages were glowing, some of them floating, and everything was sparking as if ready to explode like firecrackers. Winnie sat on the floor in the middle of it, fur forming on his neck and hands and small ears peeking out between his fingers, which now were looking rather claw-like.

“I’m sorry!” He screamed. “I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry! Please make it stop!”

“Winnie, it’s okay, let me just…” Emma threw her hands up to let forth some light magic, but it only succeeded in making cages come crashing down on them. She dove to protect Winnie’s head, sending both her and him crashing to the ground.

“Emma!” Her father and Killian cried out.

“Sheriff Swan!” Winnie yelled in fright. Pushing herself up, Emma realized she’d left a large burn mark on Winnie’s arm.

“Oh…oh no. No no no no no no no…”

“Emma, it’ll be alright! Just concentrate on stopping the fire!” Her father yelled.

“I…I’m sorry, I can’t!” She backed away from Winnie while still using her body to shield him from the sparks.

“Sheriff Swan...?” Winnie sounded more concerned than frightened now – not that that was helping his furry situation any.

“Hook, get the fire extinguisher!” Emma heard her father yell. Movement beyond the fire indicated that her love interest was doing just that.

“We need to get out of here!” Winnie said urgently, tears streaming down his face. “Please, you have to help me!”

“Winnie? Emma?”

Collin’s voice cut through the air.

“Detective Tennant, you should stay back! I don’t want to hurt you,” Winnie whimpered.

“You won’t. It’s going to be okay,” the detective said soothingly. “Just…concentrate, like Sheriff Nolan said. Concentrate on what you can see, hear, and feel.”

“I…I don’t know…”

“It doesn’t matter what you don’t know, Winnie.” Collin’s voice sounded a bit strained as he spoke. “You’re going to focus on what’s real around you, okay? Just…trust me.”

“Collin, do you know what you’re doing?” Emma heard her dad ask.

“I…I have an idea, is all.”

“…Okay?”

“Winnie, tell what you can see.”

“I see…cages…no animals. The animals are out…” The child started hyperventilating again, and Emma wasn’t having a much better time holding herself together.

“The animals aren’t here…don’t worry about them.” Collin sounded more unsure of himself but he kept his voice steady. “What else can you see?”

“The ground…Sheriff Swan…did I hurt them? The animals, I mean? I didn’t mean to.”

“Forget the animals for a moment, Winnie!...try to focus on the floor.”

Emma felt herself becoming more panicked, so she slid across the floor, farther away from Winnie.

“O-okay,” the child stammered. “I see…tiles.”

“What color are they?”

“White…”

“How many of them can you see?”

“One, two. Three… about twelve? Maybe fourteen?” the magic started to dissipate. Emma was almost towards the back door.

“You’re doing great, Winnie!”

By this point though, Killian also had the fire extinguisher, and with a squirt of potassium bicarbonate put out the rest of the magic. Only then did Emma feel like she could breathe.

“We…we should call your parents, Winnie,” Collin gasped out, looking thoroughly relieved.

“My dad will get mad at me!” Winnie yelped.

“We’ll explain it to him.”

“Emma, are you okay? You could have hurt someone,” David said, walking over and reaching to touch her shoulder.

“Yeah…yeah of course,” Emma lied. She just hoped Regina would be able to help with this…

Chapter Text

The town of Storybrooke had, almost needless to say, expanded since its original conception under Regina’s curse. There was the French Quarter to the east, a major expansion of property dedicated to manors and farms to the north, and, for better or worse, an expansion of the lower class district as well. There were many more businesses, three expanded schools that were still bursting at the seams, and even representation of a few more religions than they had before. Without Regina’s mother, the late Queen of Hearts, to block off sections of the Enchanted Forest and beyond from the curse, Snow’s curse seemed to have brought, for better or worse, an entire planet’s worth of people to their little corner of Maine.

One thing it had also brought though were the fairgrounds.

Inhabited and run by a group of traveling nomadic folk that once roamed the forest in the fairy tale realm, they’d made a nice business and home for themselves in a nook between the woods and ocean, a safe distance from the town line.

And, as the nomadic group was well accustomed to the various holidays based on the planting season, they were more than ready for the feast of Beltane.

Restaurant owners and ambitious stay-at-home cooks had gone all out for the celebration, making a ring of filled casserole dishes on procured cafeteria tables around where they were setting up the central bonfire. The celebration started around noon, with first younger children and their families coming in order to get them to bed on time and then older children and their families and everyone else. There was a Ferris wheel, a fun house, and a few more basic carnival attractions open. Someone set up a maypole for people to dance around, and people kicked off their shoes and stowed them in backpacks and on picnic blankets so they’d be out of the way. Close to sundown, the bonfire – a tall pile of old tires, dead tree branches, and other forms of flammable reused goods – was lit by the festival organizers. People switched from dancing around the maypole to dancing around the bonfire. Though the festival usually called for making offerings to the fairies, it was decidedly a little awkward to do that when the fairies were actually present and the majority of them were in austere religious garb. The fairy sisters did join in on the festivities, though, which lightened the mood in no time.

Due to everyone getting to the festival by the time the bonfire was lit, that was when the Charming family got there too…fortunately with Regina, who was now trying her best to avoid Robin as she saw him with his wife and child again. Henry was doing his best to distract her, which she appreciated, while Collin had tagged along with Ruby.

It was only just as Mary Margaret, the new acting mayor, called everyone together that there was a noticeable change in the air. As she talked about new life in the town and hoped-for prosperity, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse, and purplish-grey and green clouds rolled toward the fairgrounds. At first those that noticed merely pulled their hoods and umbrellas up, but as the clouds intensified and sunk lower, kind of like fog, panic spread throughout the crowd.

“Everyone stick together!” Emma yelled over the din.

And that’s when the animals attacked.

Out of the fog, tigers, bears, and wolves charged into the crowd, scattering the people as they attacked. Swans swooped down from overhead, threatening to bite someone with their beaks, while a multitude of other birds of various sizes stabbed and pecked and swooped at the people.

It got so chaotic that frankly it was getting hard to see. Regina, Emma, and the fairies raised their hands to ward off the creatures with magic while Charming and Hook raised their gun and hook respectively in defense. Collin didn’t have a weapon, so he just stood in front of a group of children, hoping to shield them from whatever came.

The smoke dissipated somewhat, only to reveal Dr. Facillier casually striding towards the magic users while chuckling lowly.

“Facilier,” Emma muttered.

“Pleasure to finally make your acquaintance, ladies,” he said. “Sooo glad you’ve heard of me.”

Tiana and Naveen ran forward to stand in front of Emma and Regina. “You promised you’d leave them alone! You promised you’d leave all of them alone!” Tiana yelled. Emma raised an eyebrow at them.

“Oh, about that…I lied.” With a lazy twirl of his hand, Tiana and Naveen were transformed into frogs.

Emma gaped at him. “What the hell?”

“Oh, you can ask it about when the sun goes down tomorrow – though, I hear the days have been getting shorter.”

“What the hell do you want?” Regina asked. “Playing transformation tag with random humans seems hardly your MO, Shadow Man.”

“Oh, but it’s all for the greater plan, my dear queenie,” he chuckled.

“And what is that greater plan?” Charming cut in.

“All I want is my power back,” Facilier said. “After these two got me trapped alive in Tartarus” – he gestured to the frogs – “I’ve merely been biding my time for a comeback. So I’ve made a little deal with my friends down there – my freedom, for this little town. Well, your whole home realm really but for now the town will do.”

“We will never give in to you!” Mary Margaret said.

“Oh, I beg to differ. I think you could be easily persuaded. Besides, I’m not alone. My dear?” He glanced casually over his shoulder. “I believe it’s time for your entrance.”

“How kind of you, Delano,” a familiar voice drawled. “Hello, dear sister. Miss me?”

Regina gaped as Zelena stepped out of the smoke.

“How the hell are you alive?!”

“Magic and a little generosity, sis. Something you claimed to want for me but never followed through with.”

Regina glared as Emma stepped forward in front of her. “Whatever evil you’re trying to do, we will stop you.” She felt like her mother’s optimism was possessing her in the moment.

“It would seem you don’t take warnings well, Miss Swan,” Dr. Facilier said, glaring. “Perhaps a little change of mind would do you good.”

He blasted his magic at her as she raised her hands to defend herself, but no magic came out of her hands, to her dismay.

Instead, she was engulfed in smoke until she felt her mind going foggy and everything went blurry in front of her. She couldn’t tell if she was now disoriented or hyper aware of everything around her, but she knew she had to get away from everything, now. So, she raised her arms again – barely registering that they had now become wings – and flew upward, out of the smoke, until she hit the clear evening sky and could speed away to…somewhere where she could hopefully clear her head.