The worst week of Emma Swan’s life began like any other - on Monday morning, late to work and looking for her keys.
“Where the fuck are they?”
The worst thing she could imagine at this point was August firing her for being late again.
(It wasn’t the worst. Not by a long shot. Unimaginable pain was a stone’s throw away because she lived in Storybrooke, Maine where the last time someone disappeared was 1923 and the last murder was in 1961.
But that was about to change.)
“Did you check the couch?” David asked calmly, not looking up from the frying pan where he was fluffing scrambled eggs to perfection.
“I did!” She frantically shoved plastic cups off the table.
She ripped the end cushion from the old couch and tossed it alongside the plastic cups. She let out a sigh of relief as she found her keys lying amongst the dust bunnies, paper clips, broken crayons and stray quarters.
“Found them! I’ll see you tonight.”
She frowned as she noticed the unoccupied spot at the end of the table where her twelve-year old son usually sat.
“He’s probably still sleeping.”
“You have to make sure he’s up on school days! August is going to have my ass! I know you aren’t his father, but you promised you would help out!” She stomped towards Henry’s room. “Come on, kid! It’s time to get up!”
Except there was no Henry; just unmade sheets and a minefield of pens littering the floor. She blinked, still expecting see her twelve-year-old lying in bed with sleep-crusted eyes and an ink splotch on his cheek because once again he had fallen asleep while writing.
But he wasn’t there.
She went back into the kitchen, teeth chewing into her bottom lip as she approached her brother.
“Henry came home last night, right?” she asked.
The panic wasn’t evident in her voice. Not yet. David looked at her in perplexed confusion.
“He’s not in his room?”
“Did he come home or not?” Her control was beginning to unravel.
His confusion turned to guilt and her anxiety skyrocketed. She wanted - needed - a cigarette, although no amount of nicotine could stave off the sheer terror she was feeling.
“I don’t know.”
“How do you not know?”
“Emma, it’s not a big deal,” he replied, placing his hands in front of her in a placating manner. “Look, he was at the Locksleys’ all day. Probably playing that game of his with Daniel and the twins. I’m sure he stayed over there.”
But a phone call to Regina Locksley ruled that out. She was informed he left last night around eight o’clock. Though Regina never raised the question, she could hear it loud and clear. What kind of mother didn’t know where her son was?
It led her do to the one thing she swore she would never do. She went down to the police station to file a report and talk to the Police Chief. To say there was history between her and Police Chief Killian Jones would be the understatement of the century.
(He was the first man to ever say he loved her.
She still remembered it clear as day. They were sharing a smoke between fifth and sixth period under the bleachers; giggling like naughty children. He looked her straight in the eye.
“I love you, Swan.”
He leaned forward and give her a nicotine-tinged kiss that made her heart sing despite the fact his lips and tongue tasted like ash; none of that mattered because Killian Jones loved her.
The moment was ruined by Mr. Arthur who screamed at them and chased them across the athletic field with a shaking fist.
Five weeks later, he would break her heart because Milah Shelley was four months pregnant with his kid and he was going to do the “honorable thing” and marry her.
She still treasured the memory though. She always thought about it whenever she passed the football field in her car, even when she was married to Neal and Killian was far away, living in New York with his wife and daughter.)
When he moved back to Storybrooke alone, she promised to herself that she would stay away from him for Henry’s sake. The last thing she needed was to rekindle anything with him and have her ex try to claim custody of Henry. But Henry was missing. And she could give a rat’s ass about her unresolved feelings and her spiteful ex-husband. Fuck, she would swear her allegiance to the Commies if it meant getting her boy back.
William Smee, the deputy, tried to take her statement when she arrived at the police station, but she was having none of it. There was only one person Emma trusted to pursue Henry’s case - Killian. Smee wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but he was smart enough to know not to mess with her. He let her wait in the office, stating his boss would be arriving shortly. She knew it was a lie before Smee did.
Sixty minutes and ten smokes later, Killian Jones swaggered through the door. She instantly recalled their high school days when he wore scandalously tight jeans and a leather jacket that screamed danger. If she weren’t so pissed off, she would have taken a moment to appreciate it.
His demeanor changed when he saw her. His relaxed expression became stricken. She thought he was going to choke on his cigarette.
“Killian…” She channeled her anger, focusing on that rather than the unresolved issues between them. “I’ve been waiting here for over an hour!”
At her words, the gobsmacked look on his face disappeared. There was a flash of guilt, which was quickly replaced by a look of resignation. He took off his hat and placed it on his desk.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. So, your boy is missing?”
“Yes! And I’m going out of my mind!”
“Look, boy his age? He’s probably playing hooky, yeah?”
There had been many times when Emma Swan wanted to smack the shit out of Killian Jones, but never more than she did then. He didn’t know Henry and he was trying to make light of something she knew in her bones was very, very wrong.
“No! He wouldn’t do that!”
“Well, you never know. Liam thought I was on the debate team when really I was just…”
He didn’t finish his sentence, as if he realized who he was talking to. She knew how it ended regardless. His brother thought he was on the debate team while he was out screwing Milah Shelley in the back of his truck.
“Look, he’s not like you,” she said, folding her arms in front of her chest. “He’s not like me. He’s not like…most. He has a couple of friends, you know, but kids…well, they’re assholes…They call him names…They laugh at him, his clothes…”
“His clothes? Why the hell are they making fun of his clothes?”
“I don’t know! Does it matter?”
She let out a deep breath, trying to keep from crying, but she could feel tears swimming in the backs of her eyes.
“Look, he’s a sensitive kid…Neal…” She lowered her voice. “Neal used to say he was queer…for, you know, being more interested in writing than football…”
It took everything in her not to fly into a rage at the question. Her nostrils flared and she balled her fists.
“He’s missing is what he is!”
“When was the last time you heard from Neal?”
She scoffed, took out another cigarette and lit it as she sat back down.
“Last I heard, he was in Boston. That was about a year ago but he has nothing to do with this!”
“Why don’t you give me his number...”
“He has nothing to do this! Trust me!”
“Emma,” he started and she was startled by the actual use of her name. He never called her that. “99 out of 100 times, kid goes missing, the kid is with a parent or relative.”
“Well, what about the other time?”
“You said, 99 out of 100…” she repeated. “What about the other time? The one?”
“The one! Killian! The one!”
“This is Storybrooke, okay? You wanna know the worst thing that’s happened here in the three years I’ve been back? It was when an owl attacked Granny Lucas because it thought her hair was a nest…”
“Fine! I’ll call Neal! He’ll talk to me before he talks to—” “A cop?” he interrupted her, raising his eyebrows at her.
“No,” she said. “To you…He’ll talk to me before he’s willing to talk to you.”
She didn’t say why and she didn’t have to. Both she and Killian knew exactly why Neal would never want to talk to him and it had nothing to do with his profession.
Though, her ex wasn’t so willing to talk to her either. When she called to ask him about Henry, the phone was answered by a woman named Tamara who hung up on her. She tore the phone off the wall when the line disconnected and David spent twenty minutes trying to calm her down.
She couldn’t help it though. Henry was missing and everything felt out of her control.
It didn’t help when Killian and his fellow officers arrived at her house in the afternoon with Henry’s bike. It had been found in the woods. They searched her home not long after and she did her best not to be offended by it.
Killian’s face was grim when he turned to Smee, ordering him to call Tink to form search parties. She knew he no longer saw this as a runaway kid or a laughing matter. As they were leaving, he stopped and placed his hand on her shoulder. There was a determined set to his jaw and she could not help but think his eyes were more piercing than she remembered.
“I’m gonna do everything I can to find him, Swan.”
His answer was a firm nod before he walked back to his squad car. She watched, fingers fiddling with her old swan pendant as she wondered whether trusting him again was worth the heartache.
Emma and David didn’t join the search parties that night. Instead they pored over Henry’s pictures, trying to figure out which ones to put on the missing posters.
The heavy silence of their home was disturbed when the phone rang; the shrill sound caused them both to jump. Her heart leapt in her chest. She was torn between hope and fear: hope that it was Killian telling her Henry was safe and fear that he was calling to tell her he found a body.
All she could hear was static.
“Hello?” She nudged the speaker closer to her ear.
Only static still.
“Neal?” she asked tentatively. “Killian?”
The static fell away and she could hear the distinct sound of someone breathing.
“Who is this?”
The breathing in her ear got louder and more familiar.
(It reminded her of the time she took Henry to see Poltergeist last autumn and he crawled up her arm in fear, panting loudly and heart hammering against her arm. Henry didn’t sleep that night or any night that week, instead crawling into her bed and burrowing into her side. Emma had felt like the worst mother in the universe.)
The color drained out from her face as she realized it was her son on the phone, sounding terrified.
“Henry?” she whispered. “Henry is that you? Where are you? Talk to me! Henry?!”
As soon as she spoke, his breathing disappeared and was replaced was something else she couldn’t identify. Whatever it was sounded guttural, inhuman.
“Who is this?” she demanded. “Who are you? What have you done with my son!? Where is he?!”
A loud high-pitched shriek erupted from the speaker followed by an electric shock racing up her arm. She let out a yelp of pain and dropped the phone, cradling her injured hand.
David leapt to action, picking up the phone and fruitlessly demanding answers. He looked at his sister helplessly, folding her in his arms and swaying in place as she began to crumble and sob.
They didn’t sleep. Instead, they called the station and waited for Killian to arrive. It took him six hours to knock on their front door. A fact she wasn’t afraid to throw in his face.
“I came as soon as I could.” He looked more haggard than usual. The bags under his eyes were more pronounced. His beard was unruly and his dark hair was more messy than usual. His clothes were wrinkled and she was pretty positive there were grass stains on his uniform pants.
“Let’s try something new here, Swan. It’s called trust.”
(She couldn’t help but remember the last time he said that to her. It had been fourteen years ago when they broke into the high school pool for a midnight swim.
“Try something new, darling. It’s called trust.” He then pulled her in.
She laughed and dunked him underwater in revenge, which led to an all-out water fight that dissolved into heavy making out in the shallow end.)
“Six hours,” she repeated firmly because she wasn’t a lovesick teenager anymore.
“I’ve been searching for him all night, Swan. We went all the way to Rockport.”
She couldn’t help the whimper that escaped her mouth and she placed a hand in front of her mouth to stop any more noises. All she wanted to do was collapse, but she needed to stay strong, stay tough, for Henry.
Killian gave her an apologetic look. She briefly thought he would was going to reach out and touch her but instead he played with his hat.
“Tink says you got a phone call?”
“Yeah…” she gestured half-heartedly for him to follow her down the hall to the phone.
He kept a respectable distance between the two of them as he followed, which she appreciated. David walked out of the kitchen, resting against the wall and watching them wordlessly.
“Storm barbecued this pretty good,” Killian muttered as he examined the phone.
She gave him a look of disbelief. “The storm? Seriously?”
“You’re saying that’s not weird?” she gestured to the scorched plastic with her injured hand.
He caught it, taking it between his own and frowning. She tried her best to pull it back, but he kept his grip firm.
“How did this happen?”
“The phone, when that got burned up so did my hand. It’s pretty fucking weird.”
“Didn’t say it wasn’t, love.”
He rubbed his thumb over the bandages. David scowled at their hands.
“Can we trace who made the call? Contact someone about that,” her brother asked in annoyance.
“It doesn’t work like that,” Killian replied, letting go of her hand. “Now, are you sure it was Henry? Because Tink said you just heard some breathing…”
She glared at him. “It was him. And he was scared. There was something else…something else was there…”
“I hate to say it, but it was probably a prank call. Probably somebody trying to scare you.”
“Who would do that?” David asked. The corners of her brother’s lips twitched in anger, furious at the possibility that someone would be so cruel.
“Well, this thing’s been on TV. It brings out all the crazies, you know. False leads, prank calls….”
“No,” she interjected. “This was not a prank call. This was him.”
“Emma…” He reached forward but she brushed his hand away and glared.
“Come on, how about we try something new? Something called trust,” she spat. “What, you think that I’m making this up?!”
“I’m not saying that. All I’m saying is this is an emotional time for you…”
Anger coursed through her veins like molten lava and she felt some satisfaction when he took a step back as she stared him down.
“And you think I don’t know my own son’s breathing?” she hissed. “Wouldn’t you know Alice’s if you heard it?”
It was a cheap shot and she knew it, but she was too raw and angry to care. She had hurled a lot of unkind words at Killian Jones in her day but he always took it, rolled with the punches and threw a few of his own.
He didn’t let it roll off this time. He looked as if she slapped him and there was a certain heartbreak in his eyes that was unfamiliar. He turned away from her, rubbing his hand over his face as if trying to rearrange a mask of stoicism, but it was far too late for that. She had already seen the cracks he’d been hiding for the past four years.
(She found out about Alice from Killian’s brother when she went to go pick up her husband from the Rabbit Hole. Ruby called, telling her he needed to go to bed and sleep it off.
She had been surprised to find Liam Jones at the bar, a line of empty shots lined up in front of him. As long as she had known him, Liam hadn’t been one for drinking.
Neal was passed out five seats away from him and she had been struggling to move him. Without saying a word, Liam got up and helped her drag her passed-out husband into the backseat of her ancient yellow Volkswagen Bug.
Liam nodded, not looking at her. She soon realized he was crying.
“Hey…” she placed a hand on his bicep. “What’s wrong?”
“You haven’t heard?”
She shook her head.
“My niece’s treatment failed. She wasn’t ten yet. Shit like that isn’t right,” Liam said, giving her a rough smile as tears dribbled down his cheeks. “You should give Killian a call. He could use your support right now, Emma.”
“I’ll send him a condolence card.”)
He still wasn’t facing her when he spoke again. There was a waver in his voice she didn’t miss. “You hear from Neal yet?”
He placed his hat back on his head and turned towards the door without looking at her. “It’s been long enough. I’m having him checked out.”
She let out a noise of frustration. “Oh, come on! You’re wasting your time!”
He didn’t respond, just continued out. Emma and David jumped when he slammed the door behind him. She moved to go after him, but her brother placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Let him. Maybe he’s right and that’s why Neal is avoiding you. Maybe we should focus on something we know we can fix? Like the phone? We should get a new phone in case Henry calls again.”
David didn’t believe it was Henry who called last night, but she knew he was doing what he thought would keep her from losing her mind.
“Yeah…” she agreed.
It was embarrassingly easy for her to get not only a new phone from August, but also two-weeks advance pay and a new carton of cigarettes. He put up a token protest about having to pay both Sidney and Gus for covering for her but he shrunk under the ferocity of her ire. He wrote down her details before pushing a pack of smokes and her new phone at her without so much as a word.
After she got home, she plugged in the phone and dragged the love seat out of the living room and into the kitchen. She wanted to be right there if Henry called again. Her brother gave her a pitying look as he left for work, but she didn’t pay him any mind.
In her exhaustion, she drifted into a hazy plane between wakefulness and sleep, which is why she jolted in surprise when the phone rang in her ear. It took her a few attempts to regain her coordination but she managed to pick up the phone after the third ring.
It was the muffled breathing of the night before; the same terrified sounds of her son. She let out a choked sob.
She received no verbal response. The breathing continued.
“Henry, it’s me. Talk to me! I’m here, kid, tell me where you are! I can hear you, please...”
The line crackled as it had the night before. She strained to hear what was being emitted at the other end of the line.
Every single light in the house flickered and in any other scenario that would have grabbed her attention, but none of it registered as she heard someone speak on the other end of the line. It was a voice that confirmed everything she believed since she picked up the phone last night.
It was Henry. His voice sounded distorted over the phone, but she would have known it anywhere. He sounded small and scared, like when he was five and had been afraid of the dark again. It felt like a thousand knives to her chest.
“Yes! It’s me, kid! Where are you? Just tell me and I’ll find you! I’ll find you, baby!”
The lights flickered again and this time she noticed. Her eyes scanned in the room in horrified fascination as the lights dimmed and brightened in rapid succession. As she focused on the strange phenomenon happening in her house, she was zapped with current of electricity that lurched out of her new phone. She yelped, dropping the charred and smoking receiver.
“No!” she desperately picked it up and listened to - nothing.
The line was dead.
“No! No! No!” she shouted, throwing it against the floor. A sense of panic washed over her. Henry was alive, but she had no idea where he was or how to help him. He needed her!
As she crouched on the floor, looking at the remnants of her broken telephone, she saw something in the corner of her eye. The lights were still flickering, but this time it was only the hallway lamp. She stood up, approaching it cautiously. Her fingers trembled as she tapped at the light bulb.
As soon as she touched it, the bulb went out and the lamp outside Henry’s room down the hall started to blink rapidly. She approached it just like the other one, trepidation crawling down her spine.
Emma stared down at it, biting her lip. She couldn’t help but wonder if this strange flickering had anything to do with what was happening with Henry. As she was reaching to touch it, there was a clicking noise and the stereo set in Henry’s room began blaring.
“Should I stay or should I go…” The vocals of Henry’s favorite band crooned loudly. She sucked in a breath, unable to believe what she was hearing. She pushed open the door.
No one was in the room, but all the lights were going on and off in rapid succession. She placed a hand to her chest, trying to still the rhythm of her heart. It felt like it was going to beat out of her chest.
The lights kept blinking; on and off they went again and again and again. The Clash continued to blast against her eardrums. She didn’t know what to do or what to think, but she did know this wasn’t normal. But whatever it was, she knew down in her bones it had something to do with her missing son.
That night she took every single lamp in the house and placed it in Henry’s room, watching in astonishment as they began to blink as soon as they entered the room. And of course, that was how David found her the next morning; still dressed in yesterday’s clothes and huddling over the series of table lamps on the floor of Henry’s room. He was looking at her like she belonged in a mental institution, but she refused to let it bother her.
“What’s going on?”
She yanked him down on the floor with her, looking at the lights intently and waiting for them to flicker as they had the night before.
“The lights! I’m talking to Henry! He’s trying to speak to me!”
He give her a dubious look.
“Through the lights…?”
She nodded her head up and down, not paying attention to his reactions.
“Kid, your Uncle David is here...come on, let him know you’re here…”
One of the lamps flickered weakly. Her eyes lit with excitement and she pointed at it. “See! There! Did you see that!?”
“Yes! And it’s electricity! It’s the same weirdness that shorted out the phone!” he said, grabbing her shoulders. “Listen, you need to stop all of this! It isn’t helping! Henry isn’t talking to you through the lights! He’s missing and people are looking for him! He’s lost! Stop with this!”
She glared at him, pushing him away.
“He is! I know he is! I know it sounds crazy—” “That’s because it is crazy!” he cut her off. “Look, I’m afraid what people will do if you go around saying this nonsense about the phone and the lights, we don’t need this right now. We need to focus on looking for Henry…”
“I know! And that’s what I’m doing!”
He looked at her with tired eyes. David was a year older than Emma but he seemed to have aged overnight, his handsome face lined with exhaustion. He looked like hell and she knew she didn’t look much better.
“Look, promise me that you’ll get some sleep and you won’t let this...whatever this is...get out of hand, okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” she replied, staring at the flickering light bulb with a sense of determination. She knew it was a lie. She knew he didn’t believe her, but something was going on here and she wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing.
She waited for David to leave for the store before she made her move; pulling down every single box of Christmas lights they owned. She ignored the aching in her heart as she pulled down Henry’s school photos and replaced them with lights. She reminded herself their removal was temporary, only until Henry came home.
(She couldn’t remember the last time she hung up Christmas decorations, but there was a time when their entire house was covered in colored lights; back when she was still married and Neal was still making an effort. Her husband would spends hours on the roof trying to make it right while Henry would run back and forth between the kitchen and the ladder to bring him hot chocolate.
They stopped decorating not long after she found out about the college student from Portland. He was on his way out the door and she was too lost in her own head to think about it. She didn’t have the strength to, not even for Henry.)
It took her the entire morning to put them up, but she didn’t stop until every working strand was hung. Lights streamed from wall to wall, hanging from the ceiling fan. As she sat down wearily, she glanced out the window and worried her lower lip. She had no idea when David would be back, but she knew what his reaction would be.
As she was leaning back in her seat, a flash of color dashed across her peripheral. She turned her head, following it as lights began to flicker and glow. She soon realized they were flashing in a pattern, leading to one of the many hidden storage cubbies around the house.
(Henry loved those cubbies and would often hide in them when he was a child. It used to drive them crazy whenever he would crawl into them, always afraid he would get locked in and suffocate in there.)
She rose from her seat and opened it. Her shoulders sagged when the cubby was revealed to hold nothing but old games from her own childhood and crumbling photo albums. She knew there was little chance of Henry being in the cubby but she had held onto a small cruel hope he would be there and this nightmare would be over.
She watched the blinking lights leading to the cubby and glanced at the single broken strand she hadn’t hung up before deciding to take a leap of faith. She grabbed the broken strand of lights, bunched them up in her hands and crawled into the cubby. It was cramped and there would be a crick in her neck later but she was certain that was what Henry wanted.
“Henry...are you there…?”
She almost wept with joy as the lights in her hands lit up. She hugged them closer to her chest, tears of relief swimming in the corners of her eyes. Henry was okay! He was talking to her!
“Okay, good, good,” she murmured. “Are you...? Um, blink once for yes, twice for no…Can you do that for me, kid?”
The lights blinked once and she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. She rested her head against the bundle, wetting her cracked lips. She had so many questions. Where are you? What happened to you? Is there a way for you to come home? All good questions but there was one more important than all of them combined.
“Are you safe?”
Every ounce of joy she felt upon discovering Henry was capable of communicating through the lights disappeared as the bundle in her arms blinked an unmistakable two times. Every part of her wanted to die. Her son wasn’t safe and she wasn’t there to protect him. What kind of mother was she? A useless one. She needed to find him and she needed to do it now.
“I need to know where to find you, kid. Where are you?”
As she asked the question, she knew that there was no way Henry could tell her. That one required actual words.
And then, she saw it.
The old ouija board Killian had once brought over to scare her. He’d left it at her house and though she hated the thing with every fiber of her being, she couldn’t throw it in the trash.
(“Want to communicate with the dearly departed, Swan?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows at her.
“Yeah right. That thing is phoney as hell,” she replied with a snort. She threw in a dramatic eye roll for good measure but he grinned at her.
“I assure you, it’s real. And spirits have a lot to say!”)
She glanced away from the board and back at the lights in her hands. She crawled out of the cubby and headed towards the shed near the back of the property where she knew they had leftover paint.
The paint was old and had a putrid smell but she pulled her sweater over her nose as she began to paint the alphabet on her living room wall; making sure there was a light hanging above each letter. The foul odor didn’t get any better once she was done. Everything inside her wanted to gag but she forced down. She had to do this for Henry.
“Okay, kid…” she murmured, clapping her hands together. “You gotta talk to me...tell me where you are…please…”
She let out a sharp breath as the a light bulb glowed to life above the letter R. It soon went out and the light resting right on top of a different letter.
“R...I...G...H...T…” she started saying the letters as they lit up. “H...E...R...E…”
She stared at the wall in confusion. If she understood correctly, Henry told her he was right here. It didn’t make any sense.
“Right here? Kid, I don’t know what that means. I need you to tell me what to do. How do I get to you? How do I find you? What should I do?”
The lights flickered again. She mouthed the letters again.
As soon as the word left her mouth, every single light bulb in her entire house began flickering. She took a step back, scanning her surroundings in confusion. She didn’t understand what was happening.
There was an unnatural ripping noise. Emma turned around, staring in horror as the wallpaper seemed to give way and a strange pair of pale arms came from her wall; spidery fingers curling around a strand of lights. The arms were followed by an inhuman head with no face that opened up like a venus flytrap. It shrieked, making every hair on her body stand on edge.
Without thinking, she let out a scream and ran out of the house. She scrambled into her car and locked the door. Every part of her wanted to drive away, but she left her keys in the house and there was no way in hell she was going back inside…not with that thing there.
Killian found her two hours later - pale, terrified and staring at her house like it would swallow her whole. He pulled her from her car, helping her up the steps of her house. She refused to enter until he pulled out his gun. When they opened the front door, they discovered all the lights were off and the creature was nowhere to be found.
She was barely coherent as she relayed the impossible series of events. He nodded along, face grim as he watched her. When she finished, he took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair; something she learned long ago he did when he was stressed.
“There was a body...a boy…found in the quarry…,” he said after a pause, blue eyes watching her face warily. “Our working theory is Henry crashed his bike and wandered over there…and fell in…accidentally…ground must have given way…”
She stared at him, not understanding what he was saying. Did he not comprehend what she told him about the lights and the creature crawling out of the wall? He was speaking, but she ignored him, crossing her arms.
“Swan…” He seemed to catch on to the fact she was no longer listening. “Do you understand what I’m saying…?”
“No. Whoever you found…It’s not Henry.”
He gave her a look caught between exasperation and weariness.
“No, you don’t understand!” she snapped. “I told you! I talked to him! Two hours ago! He was here…he was talking to me!”
“Talking?” His eyebrows rose in disbelief, matching his tone.
“Yes!” She gave him a frustrated look. She marched over to where she dropped the bundle of lights and picked them up. “One blink for yes! Two for no! And I made this…like the ouija board…so he could talk to me. He was hiding from that thing…”
“The thing inside the wall?” he clarified. His eyebrows continued to inch up his forehead as his skepticism mounted.
“It’s after him! He’s in danger! We have to find him!”
“What exactly was this thing? Some kind of animal?” he asked, still frowning at her. She could tell he was trying to humor her.
“No, it was…” She tried to find the appropriate words. “It was almost human but it wasn’t…It was... it didn’t have a face…”
“Emma…” Killian placed his hands on her shoulders, smoothing them down her arms and stopping them above her elbows.
“It didn’t have a face…” she repeated, feeling more helpless than angry.
Something akin to understanding flashed in his eyes and he pulled her into a tight hug, arms curling around her body like tight iron bands. It took everything in her not to cry as her head rested in the familiar crook of his shoulder. They swayed in place before he pulled away reluctantly. He guided her towards the couch where she sat down. He settled next to her, knee bumping against hers. He took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Listen to me…After Alice…And after Milah went too…I saw them too…And I heard them…Alice more than Milah…I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t and I figured out it was all in my head, and I had to pack all that away. Otherwise, I was gonna fall down a hole that I couldn’t get out of.”
“No, you’re…You’re talking about grief. This is different.”
“I’m just saying you—“ “No I know what you’re saying, Killian. I swear to you, I know what I saw. And I’m not crazy.”
“I’m not saying you’re crazy.”
“No, you are,” she said, shaking her head as a bitter smile stretched across her lips. “And I understand why, but God, I…I need you to believe me. Please. David thinks I’m crazy, but I need you…I need you to…please…”
She gave him a pleading look, tears brimming again. God, she was so sick of crying.
He looked back at her helplessly. He unlaced their fingers and leaned forward to place his hand on her cheek. He chewed his lip before he spoke, “Listen…I think you should go to the morgue tomorrow and see him for yourself. It’ll give you the answers you need. But tonight, I want you to try to get some sleep…if you can, Swan.”
When she didn’t reply, Killian sighed and placed a quick kiss on her forehead. He placed his hat back on his head and headed out.
She didn’t respect his request. Instead, she went out into the shed, grabbed an old axe. She waited in case the monster returned, hoping the lights would blink once more and Henry would tell her he was okay.
The monster didn’t come and the lights didn’t flicker. The next thing she knew was David nudging her shoulder and telling her it was time to go to the morgue.
They tried to convince her the thing on the metal slab was Henry. She had to give them credit, it did look like Henry enough they had David convinced. They didn’t convince her however, not by a long shot. Emma Swan knew her son better than anyone.
(Henry had a jagged scar on his left arm. It was unique and only she knew about it because it was her fault. She had accidentally cut him with a carving knife when he scared her on Thanksgiving. She never forgot nor had she forgiven herself.)
“He has a scar on his right arm. Can you show that to me, please?”
There was a long pause. The coroner didn’t move and neither did she. She wondered briefly if time stilled. She cleared her throat and raised her eyebrows expectantly. The coroner didn’t say anything in response, he picked up the right arm of the body and held it up for a brief millisecond before letting it drop. She barely got a glance.
It was enough to know there wasn’t a scar.
It wasn’t Henry.
David didn’t believe her though. He didn’t want to listen and they ended up fighting about it in the middle of the street. He was determined to hold a funeral for the fake body, declaring his intentions in front of the entire town. She didn’t care; she would let him do whatever he wanted as long as he stayed out of her way.
She returned back home more determined than when she left. That thing, regardless of what everyone said, wasn’t Henry and he needed her there when he made contact again. She sat back down on her couch, fingers curled around the axe. She had been prepared for attack, which was why she nearly took her ex-husband’s head off when he touched her shoulder after she fell into a daze.
“Jesus Christ Em! Are you insane!?” Neal shouted, backing away from her with an expression akin to fear. The more vindictive part she kept under wraps cackled a bit at his reaction. It was a look she wished she saw more of when they were married.
“Neal?” She squinted at him, fingers curling tighter around her weapon. “What are you doing here?”
“David called me last night about Henry,” he replied, shoving his hands in his pockets and scowling at her. “I can see he wasn’t exaggerating. What the hell is going on?”
Emma didn’t know what happened but something inside her broke at the question. It was as if the dam between her brain and her mouth erupted and everything that had happened came spewing out of her. She told him everything; the phone calls, the lights and the faceless monster. As she spoke, she watched as his eyebrows crept up his forehead with each word and she knew he was going to react like everyone else.
“I don’t know what to do…” she concluded, pushing her long blonde hair behind her ears and sniffling. Tears were leaking from the corners of her eyes and snot dripping from her nose like a faucet.
“I know, I know,” he replied in the same cooing voice one used on a small child.
He sat down next to her, placing an arm around her shoulder and pulling her close to him. Emma stiffened under the contact.
(The last time he touched her, it was to grab her arm when she tried to walk away from a heated argument. His fingers curled into her flesh, hard enough to bruise. Long after he moved out, the mark lingered.)
He was the last person Emma wanted touching her but she also wanted someone on her side; someone to try and understand.
“This whole time...I could...I could feel him...he was so close…I knew he was alive...I heard his voice. He talked to me...Now it’s like...Don’t look at me like that.” Her voice grew hard when she noticed his incredulous expression. She pushed him away.
“Like how everybody is looking at me. Like I’m out of my damn mind,” she hissed. She inched as far away from him as the couch would allow.
“Hey,” he scooted towards her, not picking up the hint she wanted personal space. “You’re not gonna like this but I think you need to consider the possibility that all of this...It’s in your head.”
“No, this isn’t like that.”
“I mean when stuff like this happens...your mind makes up stuff for you to cope, you know?” He was using that condescending tone again. “Jesus, our son’s funeral is tomorrow and you’re saying his body is fake and he’s talking to you through the lights. How do you explain that?”
“I…” She bit her tongue. She couldn’t say what she wanted to say without starting a nuclear level fight between them she wasn’t sure she had the strength to do. She couldn’t help but remember a time when he insinuated Henry wasn’t his.
(“You can keep the house! You can keep the kid, Lord knows, he probably isn’t mine,” he shouted, throwing his set of house keys at her. They missed her by a mile, smacking against the doorframe.
Emma didn’t pay them any mind though, she was still reeling from his accusation. It hit her like a physical blow.
“What do you mean he isn’t yours? Of course he is! Whose kid would he be?! He looks like you!” she shouted, face red with fury.
“Could be your boyfriend’s.”
“Jesus Christ! This again! Are you kidding me? Killian Jones can’t impregnate me from fucking New York!”)
When she didn’t respond right away, he decided to speak again.
“It doesn’t make sense. At least go talk to a shrink or...something. I don’t”- “Well, they can’t help.”
“Em, you just told me Henry is gone. What else is there to do?” he asked, losing patience.
“I...I don’t know…”
“Look, I’m staying here for a few days and...helping prepare things...you...you do what you need to do.”
And with that, he moved back into her house; something she vowed would never happen again. It barely registered. She spent the majority of her days waiting on the couch in hopes of the Christmas lights flickering or the monster returning. Neither happened and Emma began to question her sanity. Neal and David gave her wide berth. They talked to each other in hushed whispers as she stared down the spot on the wall where the creature had emerged. She knew they both thought she was crazy and were probably planning on sending her a psychiatric hospital but she didn’t care.
The morning of Henry’s supposed funeral came quicker than she expected and though she didn’t want to participate in the sham, David hauled her off the couch and threatened to carry her there if she didn’t cooperate. So, she took her first shower in days and combed her hair. She drew the line with her outfit; donning her red leather jacket in silent protest.
She spent the majority of the funeral in a daze, wondering what happened to Henry and why he hadn’t contacted her a few days. She didn’t note much about the actual ceremony, but she did notice Killian Jones was suspiciously absent. She knew better than to make this observation known to her ex-husband. The last thing she needed was another hour-long rant.
(There was no one her ex-husband hated more than Killian. Neal had been the star running back and had won three state championships. He hated to come in second place to anyone, even when there wasn’t a real competition to be had. Throughout their entire relationship, he compared himself to a man who wasn’t there.
Emma vividly recalled a night when she had been staring up at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep.
“You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?” His voice was cold; flat.
“Liar. You think he still loves you. Well, guess what Emma? He is never coming back for you. He never loved you. I did.”
She flinched and he turned his back to her, placing as much distance between them as he could. She didn’t miss his past tense wording. It didn’t nearly hurt as much as she thought it would.)
She never thought to question Neal’s returned presence in their lives until she was sorting through his things. Upon perusing his duffel, she found a lawyer’s advertisement, promising big cash for wrongful death lawsuits. She stared at the flimsy piece of paper, hands trembling as rage roared to life in her stomach.
“What is this?”
His eyes flickered between the advertisement and her face. A tense smile crept up on his face.
“Retribution. For us. For Henry.”
His words rang hollow in her ears as she continued to stare him down. Her hand balled into a tight fist, crushing the paper between her fingers.
“You’re here for the money,” she whispered. “You never cared about him. You never did!”
“Jesus, don’t say that.”
“I can’t believe I let you back in this house!” She tossed the crumbled paper, not tearing her eyes away from him.
“Don’t blow your top. I’m here to help, Ems. I promise.”
“We could use that money for good!”
“Oh, for what? Paying off your debts? The barely legal co-eds?”
“No! We could use it to buy a new house! To start over! Be a family again!”
“Start over? What the fuck are you talking about!”
“You and me, Ems,” he crooned. “With the money, we can be together again. Like we were supposed to. New house, new everything...we can always have more kids…”
The rage she had felt upon finding the lawyer’s advertisement was nothing compared to the maelstrom that was coalescing in her stomach at that proclamation. It was an anger unlike anything she had ever felt before; so strong it bordered on serenity. An eerie calm took hold of her as everything seemed clear for the first time in days. She knew what she had to do.
“You heard,” she replied in a soft tone. “Get out of here.”
“You need me, Ems.”
“No, I don’t.” She picked up her one of her discarded heels and chucked at him with the veracity of a professional baseball pitcher, causing her ex-husband to duck for cover as it sailed past his head. It barely missed and despite the fact it didn’t hit her intended target, there was a sense of satisfaction when it smacked against the wall and he flinched. “And I never did.”
The nervousness in his voice was more pleasing than it should have been. She picked up her remaining shoe and held it up threateningly.
“I thought I told you to go,” she said. “Don’t make me ask you again.”
He didn’t respond. He eyed the heel in her hand before bolting towards the door, not even bothering to retrieve his duffel bag. For the first time since she discovered that Henry was possibly alive, she smiled; watching in satisfaction as he ran to his car.
However, all joy and accomplishment she felt melted away as soon as Killian Jones’s obnoxious black truck rattled its way up her drive. She groaned, rubbing her temples. He couldn’t have had worse timing.
The truck came to a stop and the police chief got out. He didn’t glance at Neal’s sports car as he advanced towards the house like he was heading to the front lines of a warzone; eyes blazing and jaw set with determination. It made the hairs on her arms stand on end.
Where Killian seemed to have decided he was above acknowledging Neal’s presence, Emma’s ex-husband did not extend the same courtesy. He got out of the driver’s seat, glaring at his perceived rival with red-faced hatred.
“You’ve got some nerve, Jones!”
He didn’t respond; not even a glance in his direction. He just continued his march towards the house.
“Jones! I’m talking to you!”
Once more, he received no response. His face went from red to a putrid purple.
“You couldn’t wait for my son to be in the ground for a week before coming to fuck my wife!”
Killian didn’t even look in his direction, but she did, anger once more shooting down her spine like a lightning rod. She glared at him, finger stabbing through the air.
“Leave!” she bellowed.
Neal gave her a look of disdain but went back into his car, muttering what she could only imagine to be unfavorable things about her under his breath.
When Killian reached the front porch of her house, she had expected him to stop but he didn’t. Instead, he came right into her personal space, pulling her into an awkward embrace that she wasn’t sure how to handle. Not knowing how else to respond, she just let him hold her.
“You were right,” he mumbled into her hair.
“You were right,” he repeated. “You were right about everything. I went to the morgue last night, Swan…”
“You did what?”
“I went to the morgue. Henry’s body, it was a fake. The lab…the lab, I don’t know, the CIA, the NSA, Department of Energy…they’re involved. And you were right this whole time.”
A shuddering breath escaped her. Though she was elated that someone finally believed her, there was a chilling feeling that took hold of her as he scrambled to say the right words. She pushed away from him, hands reaching up to cup his cheeks so that they were looking each other in the eyes.
“Tell me everything.”
And he did. It all came pouring out of him. The lab lying to him when he came looking around the property during his search for Henry. His research into Storybrooke Labs. It’s leading scientist Robert Gold and how a man named Jefferson Hatt claimed that Gold killed his wife and took his daughter. How Killian had broken into the morgue and discovered that the body had been nothing but a dummy and how he had later broken into the lab for answers. She listened in stunned silence. It sounded like something only found in a bad science fiction novel.
“This…this…I…” She run her fingers through her hair. “You gotta walk me through this again.”
“Which part? Upstairs or downstairs?”
“Upstairs,” she responded. It seemed like the safer; the saner part of his story.
“There was a laboratory…It was where they must do experiments or something. And then there was,” he took a moment to gather himself, exhaling. “There was a kid’s room.”
“How do you know it was a kid’s room?”
“Well, it was more like a prison, but the size of the bed…there were stuffed animals and there was a bunch of writing…”
“Bunch of writing?”
“Yeah, like childish nonsense,” he confirmed.
“What was the handwriting like? I mean, was it good? Like it looked super nice, better than most adults nice?”
“No,” he shook his head. “It was more like six-year old scrawl. Barely readable. It was just the word ‘eleven’ over and over again.”
“It wasn’t Henry then. Henry’s handwriting is better than mine. That’s all he does, you know? Just writes…”
“Look, Swan, a few nights ago Graham Hunter died. Apparent suicide. When I questioned Old Man Leroy about it, he said he saw some kid with a shaved head with Graham that day. When I pressed him, he said it could’ve be Henry, but now that I’m thinking on it...the thing with Jefferson Hatt who claims to have lost his daughter Grace...he sued Gold, the labs and the government...and it amounted to nothing, but what if...this whole time I’ve been looking for Henry, I’ve been chasing Grace?”
“I don’t know. All of this...this is...it’s a lot.” Emma swallowed. “It seems crazy, but if it’s happened before...we need to talk to this Jefferson. Now.”
“I agree. But tomorrow might be best. If we’re going to do this...we need to be rested, Swan, and no offense but you look like hell.”
She glared at him in response, rubbing the upsides of her eyes. “Fine. But we’re going first thing in the morning. You can take the couch.”
And with that, Emma headed towards her room. Too much had happened and her mind was swirling with the enormous amount of information that Killian had dropped on her. As tired as her body felt, her mind was awake and refused to rest. She spent the night staring at the ceiling, thinking of Jefferson Hatt and his daughter and if Henry would just vanish from the face of the earth like Grace had.
After a restless night, she left her room a little after five. She wasn’t surprised to find him sitting on the couch, staring at the door and looking as tired as she felt. He didn’t look away when he heard her footsteps.
“Ready to go?”
“As ready as I'll ever be.”
They crawled into his truck without speaking to each other. The silence between them was tense, but it was more because of the situation than the company. Killian stopped when they reached a public phone booth on the side of the road. He climbed out, pulling a cigarette from the pack wedged in the niche between the stereo and the middle console. He addressed her for the first time since they started their trip.
“I’m going to make a few phone calls and I’ll be right back…just hang on, Swan.”
(The last time she had heard him say those words it was when he had been at the phone by the locker rooms all day with a stricken face and his hands destroying his hair. The next time they spoke, he was telling her that Milah was pregnant.)
As she waited for him go about his business, she rolled down the window and lit a cigarette in hopes that the nicotine would calm her nerves.
It was only five minutes before he returned with a small triumphant smile.
“I got us an address on Hatt. Send a thank you card to the guys at the station for that one.”
Half an hour later they were pulling up to a large dilapidated house at the end of a long winding road. She shot him a questioning look as she surveyed the residence, but Killian merely shrugged and got out of the car.
The door was answered by a harassed-looking woman who regarded them with immediate suspicion. She barely opened the door more than a few inches, chain lock still in place.
“Can I help you?”
“We’re looking for Jefferson Hatt. Does he live here?” Killian asked, giving her a polite smile.
“The Storybrooke chief of police,” he responded, lifting his badge up for her to inspect. She glanced at it then raised both eyebrows at them.
“And you want to talk to my brother?”
“Well, if your brother’s Jefferson Hatt, then, yeah, we do.”
“Okay, well, you can come in but if you want Jeff to tell you anything you’re about five years too late,” she responded with a sardonic smile, unlocking the chain and letting them in.
She led them into a small living room where a man who wasn’t much older than them was sitting in a rocking chair. He was disheveled and dressed in a filthy looking bathrobe.
“Jeff, you have some visitors.”
The man didn’t respond. He didn’t even look at them. Emma stepped forward, clutching one of Henry’s missing posters in her hands. She gave him a shaky smile.
“Hello. My name’s Emma Swan. This is Killian Jones. We drove over from Storybrooke…you see, my son’s been missing for a week now and we were wondering if we could talk to you about your daughter Grace? If there was anything you could tell us about when she was taken? Your relationship with Dr. Gold?…”
Once more he said nothing. Jefferson’s eyes had not once left the television set.
“What’s wrong with him?” Killian asked with a furrowed brow.
“I told you, you’re wasting your time…Come on….I’ll make you coffee,” the sister replied with an sigh before ushering them into an overly cluttered kitchen. The woman busied herself with a kettle, serving them both coffee in chipped mugs. She stared at her own before she spoke.
“He was a part of some study in college…”
“With a company called C.L. Ultra?” Killian clarified, recalling his research into the Hatts.
“Yeah. That one. That’s where he met Priscilla. They were both a part of it. They got paid hundred bucks to take drugs, psychedelics. Seemed like a dream to them. Drugs and money. They would then get naked and were put in isolation tanks.”
“Yeah…big bathtubs filled with salt water, so you can float around in there. Lose sense everything. They said it would expand the boundaries of the mind…Hippie nonsense. The thing is, they didn’t know Priscilla was pregnant when it happened…”
“Grace…” Emma murmured. “You have any pictures of her?”
The woman looked startled by the question before letting out a humorless laugh.
“I don’t think you understand. Priscilla miscarried. That’s what killed her. Her and the baby.”
She rose from the table, beckoning them both to follow her with an impatient movement of her hand. She led them down a narrow hallway before opening the last door on the right, leading them into a nursery. The paints were a happy shade of yellow and there were quotes Emma recognized as coming from Alice in Wonderland on the walls along with murals of the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter with his tea party.
“He keeps all of this up. Been doing it for thirteen years now…” the woman explained, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Jeff likes to pretend that Grace is real. Says she’s special. Born with abilities and off fighting the commies.”
“What do you mean by abilities?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You know, that Stephen King crap. Telekinesis…telepathy…mind bullshit…It’s all nonsense. Just a coping mechanism.”
“You don’t think there’s a chance he was telling the truth?” Emma questioned.
She snorted, rolling her eyes. “No birth certificate. Nothing from the hospital. Everyone confirmed she miscarried and died from blood loss.”
“That could have been covered up,” Killian argued.
The woman gave them both a mocking smile. “You and Jeff would’ve gotten along great…”
At this point, both felt they had overstayed their welcome and thanked her for her time before heading back to the car. Killian sighed as he heaved into the driver’s seat.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“The world has gone crazy…”
“Hey…” Killian reached over and grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze.
“We’re going to find him, Swan.”
“Yeah, like Jefferson found his daughter?”
“Killian, I...” Emma was cut off when the police radio went live and Smee’s voice came through.
“Hey, Chief? You there?”
“Yeah, go ahead,” he replied. She detected some impatience in his voice.
“You seen Emma Swan around? We have David in holdup and he needs her to bail him out.”
Her eyes bulged at the news and Killian gave her hand another hand squeeze.
“What the hell happened?”
“Fight broke out between him and Victor Whale.”
“We’ll be right there…”
They made it to the station in record time and it took everything inside Emma not to hit her brother when she saw him.
“Jesus Christ, David! What the hell happened?”
Her brother looked at her with wild eyes.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Oh yeah? Try me!”
He licked his split lip, eyes darting back and forth between them. “Is there any place where we can talk in private?”
Wordlessly, Killian released him from his cell and led them back into his office. If Killian’s story from yesterday rocked her world, it was nothing compared to David’s. He told them about working with the science teacher Ms. Blanchard and encountering the monster from the wall out in the woods. He finished the tale by talking about how Victor Whale had taken an issue with David hanging around his girlfriend with his fists and how he had ended up getting arrested by Smee.
She opened her mouth to berate him for not keeping her in the loop when a commotion started from outside. Killian made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat before rising from his chair.
Neither sibling obeyed, following him out of the office to see what the commotion was.
“I want an apology!” A shrill woman’s voice cried out.
“An apology for what?” Smee responded.
“Where is the chief? I want to speak with him!”
“What the hell is going on here?” Killian asked, voice dripping with annoyance.
Next to Smee stood a stern-looking woman and a boy Emma recognized as one of Henry’s classmates. The boy’s arm was in a sling and he was cupping the limb gingerly against his chest. He looked embarrassed to be there.
“Chief, this man is humiliating my son!”
“Not at all!” Smee replied, placing his hands up.
“Yes, he was! There was some kind of fight and some psychotic child broke his arm!”
“A little girl, Chief,” Smee clarified, giving him a significant raise of his eyebrows.
The woman rounded towards the deputy in outrage. She looked ready to spit nails.
“That tone! That disrespectful tone!”
“I don’t have time for this,” Killian responded, rubbing his temples. “Smee, could you please take a statement?”
“So what’d this girl look like?” Smee asked the boy. It was obvious from his tone he didn’t want to deal with this anymore than his boss did.
“She had no hair and she was bleeding from her nose. Like a freak,” boy replied, sneering the last few words.
Both Killian and Emma stiffend at the description. David looked between the two of them, feeling lost.
“What’d you say?”
“I said she’s a freak!” the boy shouted, looking like he was five seconds away from stamping his foot like the spoiled child Emma assumed he was. She wouldn’t be surprised if this kid was one of the little assholes who enjoyed picking on Henry.
“No, her hair.”
“Her head’s shaved. She doesn’t even look like a girl…” The boy’s expression changed, coming more fearful. “She can do things…like make you fly. And piss yourself.”
“Was she alone?” Killian questioned.
“She always hangs out with those losers.”
“The weird twins and Mayor Locksley’s kid.”
Killian and Emma shared a significant look. She knew what he was thinking. They needed to find the kids. If they found them, they would find Grace and perhaps even Henry. They turned and headed back to the chief’s office.
“We need to find the kids.”
“I know how we can find them,” David spoke for the first time in what seemed like forever. “The walkie talkies that I got them for Henry’s birthday. They use them all the time…”
“You think that will work?” Emma asked.
“I don’t think, I know.”
Killian informed his coworkers that he was taking a lunch break. By the looks on his deputies’ faces, they knew as well as they did that he had no intention of returning to the station. They climbed into the truck and headed towards the Swan residence. Upon arrival, David jumped out and ran into the house. After rustling through Henry’s things, he found the walkie talkie and they attempted to contact the kids.
“Daniel, it’s David...we need to talk to you.”
Killian made a noise of impatience and pulled the device from his hand. David glared at him, but Killian paid him no mind.
“Listen, kids, it’s the Chief. We know about the girl. Are you there? Do you copy?”
Daniel Locksley’s voice wavered over the line.
“You need to tell us where you are…”
“We can’t. We’re hiding from the bad men.”
The three adults shared a collective look. They didn’t need a clarification on who they meant by the ‘bad men.’ There could be only one organization that they could be hiding from and that was Storybrooke Labs. They were probably looking to get Grace back.
“We can protect you. You just need to tell us where you are.”
There was a long pause on the other end and for a second, Emma thought they weren’t going to answer. Then Daniel’s voice came again.
“The junkyard. We’re in the old bus.”
“Don’t move,” Killian ordered as he got up. “I’m on my way.”
She moved to follow him, but he placed a hand on her arm.
“Stay here, Swan.”
“I’m not gonna sit on my ass while you play hero, Killian! No fucking way!”
“Henry might contact you again…”
Emma faltered, her fire leaving her. He had a point there.
“You need to stay here with David and wait in case Henry tries to talk to you again. I won’t be long. Only twenty minutes. I promise. And then I will be right back.”
“Fine! But if you’re here in twenty, I’m coming looking for you!”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, love.”
He gave her a soft smile; the same one that used to make her weak in the knees when she was young and naive. And for a moment, she felt seventeen years old again and all she wanted was for him to kiss her.
She was half disappointed that he didn’t.
Eighteen minutes and fifty-two seconds later his truck returned up her driveway. Killian’s jaw was bruised but she was more focused on the small unfamiliar child climbing out of the backseat along with her son’s friends.
Emma could see why everyone had though she was a boy. Grace Hatt was a tiny, frail-looking creature with naught but peach fuzz on her head. Emma thought she would be a pretty girl, even without hair, if her cheeks didn’t look so hollow. It’s obvious to her that this was a child was malnourished and all she wanted to do was take her into her home and feed her.
As tiny Daniel Locksley climbed out of the truck, he gave Emma a grave look that was much older than his years.
“We know where Henry is...”
Of all the things she had expected him to say, this far from the top of the list. Her jaw dropped as she ushered the four children into her home.
“The Upside Down,” Nick Zimmer responded, sounding terrified.
Emma didn’t know why she was surprised by these answers anymore. Nothing since the night Henry disappeared had made any sense. She wondered if this was her life now; one that belonged between the pages of a supermarket paperback.
“The Upside Down? What is the Upside Down?”
“Where the creature who took Henry is from. The monster. We call it the Demogorgon,” Ava explained.
“I don’t understand...Upside Down?...Demogorgon?”
“It’s, umm...” Daniel paused, struggling with his words. The three adults waited for him to continue. “Well…ummm….So, we’re right here and so is Henry...but on the other side. Which is why we can’t see him. Like the other side of coin. We on the heads, he and the Demogorgon on the tails….the Upside Down is the tails…Ms. Blanchard said the only way to get there is through a rip of time and space.”
“A gate,” Ava clarified, settling on Emma’s couch.
“That we tracked to Storybrooke Labs with our compasses because the gate has a strong electromagnetic field and can change the direction of the needle.”
“Is the gate underground?” Killian spoke up, his shoulders tight with tension.
“Yes.” Grace spoke up for the first time, causing Emma jump. Her voice was soft and timid sounding. It made her want to wrap her arms around her and protect her from the world.
“Near a large water tank?” Killian questioned again, his eyes flickering from the children to meet Emma’s gaze.
“How do you know that?” Ava asked, looking at him with concern.
Daniel’s eyes widened as he realized the implication behind the line of questioning. “He’s seen it.”
“Is there any way that you could reach Henry? Reach him in the...Upside Down?” Emma asked.
“Yeah…” Grace replied, eyes focused on the coffee table where David’s walkie talkie lay. She picked it and cradled in her lap. She closed her eyes and Emma had no idea what she was doing but she let out gasp when the lights flickered and a loud bout of static sounded from the walkie talkie.
As soon as it started however, it stopped. Grace opened her eyes and her lip trembled. Blood trickled from her nose. She looked on the verge of tears.
“What? What’s wrong? What happened?” Emma asked in alarm.
“I can’t find him…”
“Whenever she uses her powers, she gets weak. Like a bad battery,” Nick explained, shifting uncomfortably.
“How do we make it better?”
“We don’t. We just have to wait.”
“How long is that going to take?” David asked, looking at Grace with a mixture of awe and fear. Emma knew how he felt. Grace, though such a small thing, seemed otherworldly.
“I don’t know,” Nick responded, looking disappointed in himself.
“The bath…” Grace spoke, wiping her nose. “I can find them…in the bath…”
Killian and Emma shared another look, as they both realized what Grace meant by a bath; their brains were in sync with one another.
(They had always clicked like two pieces of the same puzzle. Even back before they were involved. She had first felt it in gym class back in the seventh grade.
Even then, Killian Jones had been cocky. He had given her a smirk as they stood together, the last ones standing in the dodgeball game.
“I don’t mean to upset you, Swan, but we make quite the team.”
“Stuff it, Jones.”)
“The deprivation tanks!” Emma exclaimed.
“But how do we make one?” Killian asked, frowning.
“Ms. Blanchard would know,” Ava piped up. “She knows everything.”
They called Ms. Blanchard, who was gracious enough to accept their call and answer their questions about sensory deprivation tanks at ten o’clock at night. Emma caught a flush on David’s cheeks as he watched Ava ask their scientist teacher questions. It wasn’t until this moment that she realized her brother had a crush on the teacher.
“Okay,” Ava said as she put down the phone. “We need the kiddie pool that we used last summer and….a lot of salt.”
“How much is a lot?” Emma asked.
“Where the hell are we going to get that much salt?”
“I know just the place…” Killian said, a slow grin etching upon his face.
Killian loaded them all in the truck and took them to the Storybrooke Junior-Senior School. He ordered them to start setting up the kiddie pool while he and David would carry in salt bags from the field house near the football field. Emma found a hose in the girl’s locker room and hooked it up to one of the sinks. She watched in fascination as the children tested the buoyancy of the water with eggs. When the eggs finally floated on the surface of the water, Grace entered into the kiddie pool.
As she laid in the water, the electricity surged and the lights flickered. The radio they had brought with them crackled to life, causing all of the hairs on her arm to stand on end. Emma reached for Killian’s hand. His fingers intertwined with hers and he gave them a comforting squeeze.
“I hope this works….” she whispered.
Grace whimpered and Emma wanted to reach out and comfort her. As she reached out to touch her, the radio whined loudly. Then a voice that Emma knew better than any other sounded from the device.
“Should I stay or should I go....If I go, there will be trouble...”
“Henry!” Emma gasped. Killian squeezed her hand again. “You found him! Where is he?”
“A castle…by the woods…” Grace responded.
Emma knew exactly what she was talking about.
(Where most kids flocked to the playground by the town hall, Henry had fallen in love with the abandoned wooden structure just down the road from their house. It was his special spot.
Not long after Neal had left, Emma had made decided to turn the old castle into an awesome hang out for her son, placing old pillows and sheets inside of it to make it more homey.
He had never looked so elated as he did when she finished the project.)
“Henry...” Grace called.
“Tell him I’m coming! Tell him Mom is coming!”
Grace repeated her words. Killian squeezed her hand a third time but Emma barely felt it; all of her attention was focused on the girl in the kiddie pool.
The radio crackled louder. Henry spoke again.
An inhuman roar sounded followed. Grace let out another cry, shaking so violently, water splashed over the edges of the pool.
“Tell him to stay where he is! I’m coming!” Emma stated, voice wavering with her own fear.
Grace didn’t get to relay her message however. The static over the radio grew loud before it went silent and the lights flickered back on.
Grace was curled into a ball in the pool, whimpering and shaking. Emma let go of Killian’s hand and reached for her. She pulled the girl into her arms, not caring that she was getting her clothes wet.
“It’s okay...you did great, honey. I’m so proud,” Emma murmured soothingly.
Killian stood, brushing his hands against his jeans. He looked down at them with look of determination.
“This castle she mentioned...where is it?”
“Down the street from us. The old playground from when we were kids.”
He nodded and turned on his heel to head out of the gym. Emma’s eyes widened and she let go of Grace to follow him. David moved to join her but she stopped him with a look.
He looked ready to argue but she cut him off.
“Stay here. Someone needs to protect the kids. Who knows whose out there looking for them!”
Her brother let out a frustrated noise but obeyed her wishes.
Killian didn’t realize she was following him until he made it out into the parking lot. He was not pleased.
“Hey, get back inside!”
Emma Swan had never taken kindly to people ordering her around. She wasn’t going to tolerate it from Killian, especially when it came to Henry. She raised her head and stared him down, jaw set in determination.
“Are you kidding me?” she hissed, getting right into his personal space. “He’s my son, Kil! I’m going! End of story!”
He stared back at her with a hardened expression but she refused to budge. A muscle in his cheek twitched.
“Fine. Get in.”
Killian’s driving to Storybrooke Labs was more than a little reckless. His speeding and sharp turns made her teeth rattle. The military police were waiting for them when they arrived, as if they were expecting them. They were shoved into cuffs and separated.
She was thrown into an interrogation room and handcuffed to the table. She struggled, hoping to get free to no avail. When they left, she let out a frustrated scream. It felt good; almost therapeutic. It had been burning in the back of her throat ever since Henry went missing.
After what seemed like half an hour passed, the door to the room opened and a man in a white lab coat came in and sat down in the chair across from her. He regarded her with an impassive look and a pair of cold eyes that looked more reptilian than human. She almost didn’t recognize him, but once she did, she couldn't contain her disgust. The man in front of her was none other than Dr. Robert Gold.
“Your son,” he said softly as steepled his fingers on the metal table. “We know you’ve been in contact with him…When and how did you do it?”
Emma stared at him in disbelief.
“Six,” he said, as if he hadn’t heard her. “Six people have been taken this week. This thing that took your son...we don’t understand it, but it’s behavior is predictable. Like all animals, it eats. It will take more people. I want to save them. We can’t without your help though.”
His words were kind but they rang hollow in her ears. Looking into the emotionless eyes of the man in front of her, she knew that nothing he said was sincere.
“Stop.” Her dug into her palms. “I know who you are. I know what you’ve done. You took my boy away from me! You left him in that place to die!”
As she hurled her accusations at him, not once did he blink or look unsettled. Briefly, she wondered if he was just as inhuman as the monster that had crawled out of her wall.
“You faked his death,” she continued. “We had a funeral. We buried him. And now you’re asking for my help? Go to hell.”
Once more, Dr. Gold did not seem fazed by her words. He looked down into his pocket where something was buzzing.
“Very well,” he said airly. “We’ll be in touch.”
As he got up to leave, she slammed her fists against the table. Hot angry tears poured down her cheeks. Never in her life had she despised a human being as she did in that moment.
An hour passed before the door opened again. To her surprised, it was Killian who walked in. He was escorted by an armed guard who came over and released her. As soon as she was free, she wrapped her arms around him as tightly as she could. He returned her embrace with the same fervor, pulling her off the floor and burying his face in her hair.
“What’s going on?” she murmured into his shoulder.
“We came to an agreement.”
“Look, everything that’s happened here and everything that’s gonna happen, we don’t talk about it.”
She pulled away from him, staring at him in disbelief.
“You want Henry back? This place had nothing to do with it. That’s the deal. Now, let’s move.”
They were escorted down into the basement where a couple of scientists haphazardly tossed thick putrid-yellow hazmat suits at them. Emma caught hers with confusion.
“What is this?”
“Protection,” one of the scientists said. “The atmosphere on the other side is toxic.”
Everything inside her wanted to scream at his words. Henry had been exposed to all of those toxins. How long would it take before he died from it? What if she found him only to lose him again?
After they had put on their protective gear, they were led into another room; the one that held the gate that everyone had been talking about. There no words in the English language that could describe the gate to the Upside Down - terrifying was close, but didn’t do it justice. It didn’t look like a gate to another dimension so much as a gash or a wound; oozing out a sense of unnaturalness. Just looking at it made her stomach drop. Killian placed a reassuring hand on her should, as if sensing her fear.
She squeezed her eyes shut as Killian led her into the portal. As they walked through it, there was a loud squelching noise as if they were walking in swamp mud. When she opened her eyes, they were on the other side and all she felt was cold.
The Upside Down could only be described as the nightmare version of their reality. The air was thick with an ash-like substance and all was darkness. She had to squint to see three feet in front of her. Everywhere she looked there seemed to be gnarled-looking roots covering everything. On top of the bitter chill, there was a thick smell of decay that made her feel nauseous.
Everything inside her was screaming to leave. She trembled in her oversized hazmat suit. Killian’s hand traced down from her shoulder and he twined their fingers once more, as if to remind him that he was right there beside her.
“Yes, you can. We’re going to find him…You just have to believe it, Swan.”
“So am I.” He paused. “What’s the song that Henry was singing on the radio?”
“It’s by the Clash.”
“Can you sing it for me?” he asked. She knew what he was trying to do. He was trying to make her focus on something aside from the horror around them.
“I don’t know all the words...”
“Just sing what you do know. I won’t know the difference...”
“Should I stay or should I go...” she started, voice wavering a bit. “If I go there will be trouble...if I stay it will be double...So come on and let me know...”
They trekked through the unknown, hands entwined as she continued to sing the song quietly. The castle was less than a mile away from Storybrooke Labs but when they arrived, Henry was not there. She let out a choked sob.
“He probably moved because of the creature, Swan. He could be hiding elsewhere.”
Emma wasn’t sure he believed his words anymore than she did.
“Perhaps he’s hiding in your house, Swan. David said he was good at hiding. I would bet anything he would be hiding there...”
“Yeah...” she replied in a small voice. “Maybe...”
As they headed towards her house, a heavy feeling began to form in her gut. Already she was preparing for the worst.
Upon entering the premises, they split up. She began searching all of Henry’s favorite hiding spots in the house while Killian did a sweep of the rooms.
“Swan!” Killian’s voice was borderline hysterical. Her heart thundered in her chest as she rose from her knees and followed his voice; half-afraid of what she would find.
Attached to her kitchen wall was Henry, held up in place by the grotesque roots that littered the Upside Down - one was down his throat. He looked paler than death. She leapt into action. Killian worked at the roots holding him in place while she yanked the gnarled tendril out of his mouth. He collapsed into her arms.
“He’s not breathing!” Tears began to trickle down her cheeks. They were too late.
Killian grabbed her, forcing her to look at him.
“Emma, listen to me. I need you to tilt his head back and lift his chin,” Killian said, tone somehow soft and stern at the same time. She nodded, doing what he said with shaking hands and never taking her eyes off of Henry. “Now when I tell you, you’re gonna pinch his nostrils and break into his mouth twice.”
As Killian started performing chest compressions, she watched Henry’s face; looking for a sign, any sign really, that he was going to live. Nothing gave her hope. His skin felt like ice and his lips were tinted an almost purplish-blue.
She did as he asked, trying with every fiber of her being to breath life back into her son.
“Come on, Henry,” Killian muttered under his breath as he continued. “Come on now, don’t quit on me.”
“Henry, it’s me. It’s your mom and I love you so much,” she whispered as she cradled his face. “More than anything in the world.”
“Come on, kid...please, please wake up!” Killian’s voice sounded almost as desperate as hers. “Come on now!”
“Please come back to me.” Tears were dribbling down her cheeks. “Breathe, Henry!”
Henry made a sharp gasp and began to cough. She had never been more happy to hear such a sound in her entire life. She held him to her chest, afraid he would disappear again if she let go.
“That’s it, baby,” she murmured, soothing his hair. “That’s it...just breathe.”
She caught movement out of the corner of her eye and she watched in alarm as Killian began removing his safety gear.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“He needs this more than I do. Considering he’s survived a week here, I think I could stand to breathe this stuff in for twenty, thirty minutes or so.”
Henry was completely dwarfed in the hazmat suit, but they were able to get the breathing apparatus to work for him and that was all that mattered. Killian lifted him up and cradled him as if he were infant instead of a twelve-year-old boy.
As they trekked back to the portal, she half-waited for the other shoe to drop. It seemed like their journey into the Upside Down had been too easy despite the stressful moment where they had to resuscitate her son. She was surprised to find that there was no one to greet them from Storybrooke Labs, not even Dr. Gold, when they arrived back into the real world. However, neither adult gave it much thought. Henry was their number one priority and they called an ambulance to pick them up.
At the hospital, Henry was pulled away for a medical evaluation. Though they found him physically weak, there was no doubt that he would return to full health. As the hours passed, David, Henry’s friends and their parents and other well-wishers began to trickle in to see him. The twins and Daniel were enthusiastic about filling Henry in on everything he missed. She noted Grace’s absence but she didn’t want to think about it. She just wanted to enjoy her son’s return without reflecting on the sacrifices that were made for him to come back - for now.
However, there was another major absence. As soon as people had arrived, Killian had all but disappeared. While Henry and David seemed to be distracted by antics of his friends, Emma slipped out of the room to search for him.
She found him sitting on the floor in some abandoned hallway, his face in his hands. He looked exhausted and she knew that she didn’t look much better.
“What are you doing out here?”
“I think I should be asking you that, Swan,” he said, looking up at her while rubbing the bags under his eyes with his thumb.
“Looking for you, obviously.”
“You should be with your family.”
She sat down next to him, taking one of his hands in her own and fiddling with fingers; an old forgotten habit from their high school days.
“That includes you, you know…” she said, nudging his shoulder. “Without you...Henry wouldn’t be here.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that, Swan. You’ve always been relentless. You would have figured it out somehow…”
“But still...I wanted to thank you, Killian. For helping me, for helping Henry.”
He shrugged, giving her a small smile.
“It was the right thing to do.”
“Still. Why did you do it? You risked your life, your job...”
“And I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
“Don’t you know, Swan?” He brought her hand up to his lips for a brief chaste kiss on her knuckles. “I love you. And I always have, even when we were apart. Not a day went by where I didn’t think of you. Facing off with the government? Done. Dealing with faceless beasts? No problem. Going into the Upside Down? No question. If you need it, it’s yours. Even if it’s my absence.”
“You still love me? After all this time?”
“I do. And I would do anything. For you. And for your boy.”
“And in return?” she asked.
“Nothing but your happiness…”
It was that answer which made Emma Swan kiss Killian Jones first time in fourteen years. It wouldn’t be the last.