In some ways, he wished he’d never woken up from the first curse.
It was easier to live with the scars on his arms when he believed himself to be Nicholas Zimmer, to have sustained the scars in the house fire that had killed his mother, which he and his sister Ava had survived. The house fire in his cursed memory had been caused by faulty wiring, not by his own actions. If he’d just done what Queen Regina had told him, and not been tempted by the cupcake, he’d never have woken the Blind Witch, would never have sustained the burns to his arms caused by her oven.
Once they were reunited with their father, Michael had told him he’d been brave, pushing her in the oven the way he had. But Hansel at first couldn’t see past his own actions in taking the cupcake in the first place, and then as time went on, he began to think about Queen Regina, about how she had been the one to send them to the gingerbread house in the first place, and then made it clear she had no intention of ever reuniting them with their father.
In the weeks following the breaking of the curse, Michael had been so guilty about the fact that he’d considered not taking them in that he’d gone too far in the other direction, splashing out on an excessive amount of presents for them, always wanting to spend time with them even when Hansel and Gretel had wanted their own space. Hansel tried not to be angry with Michael; he knew that his father, too, had been tricked by the Evil Queen, had been unable to return to them. Yet there was a part of him that still struggled with the time when his father had tried to insist that they weren’t his, when Sheriff Emma was about to take them to separate care homes.
And he didn’t even feel he could talk to Gretel about it, or to anyone else. Although their friend Grace had also experienced the separation and then reunification with her father Jefferson, Grace could never possibly relate to their experience with the Blind Witch or the Evil Queen. Gretel had chosen her own way of handling things; to Hansel’s horror, she had confided in him that she wanted to train as a witch.
“If we’d had powers,” she had tried explaining to him, “I would have felt stronger in that situation, better able to take on the Blind Witch. I don’t ever want to find myself feeling that helpless again. There’s a witch, Gothel, and she can train me.”
“Witchcraft is evil, Gretel,” Hansel had tried to argue. “It was witchcraft that got us there in the first place. Training to be one of them…it’s just going to make you as bad as them.”
“Not all witches are bad, Hansel,” Gretel had replied. “I can prove that to you. All I need to do is train, and then I can show you.”
Hansel had walked out of the room, unable to look at the person who had once been closest to him but now seemed so far away that he didn’t even know her any more.
“You don’t have to do this,” Gretel had said as Hansel prepared to walk out of the door.
“Yes, I do,” Hansel had replied.
Seeing that there was nothing he could do to persuade his son, Michael pulled him into a hug. “Good luck, Hansel. You know you are always welcome back here.”
“Hansel’s dead,” he snapped as he turned his back on the family home. “From now on, I’m Jack.”
Jack blinked in surprise at seeing his old neighbour standing in front of him.
“Your father knew you weren’t going to come home, so he sent me out after you. It’s your sister, Gretel.”
“Gretel? What’s happened to her?”
“Hansel…” Jack didn’t correct him. “Gretel’s dead. She went to train with the witch Gothel, and it’s believed she was killed by another of her recruits.”
In that moment Jack vowed to track down this Gothel, and the witch who had killed her, and the Evil Queen for good measure. He’d thought that escaping from his past, taking a new name and turning his back on Hansel, was what he had to do. Now he saw that there was another path he had to take.
When Henry Mills first saw Jack, he didn’t recognise him.
That had been what Jack wanted; if Henry had recognised him as his old schoolfriend Hansel, he would have had to come up with a whole new plan of action. Being anonymous suited him just fine. Yet a part of him found himself wondering, had those years of friendship in Storybrooke, before Michael had taken the decision to return to the Enchanted Forest where they wouldn’t have to keep seeing Regina every day, meant nothing to Henry at all?
Hansel had tried to remain friends with Henry at first, even after knowing what his adoptive mother had done. But it had become too hard for him to have to see Regina as part of the package of being Henry’s friend. He’d gone to Henry’s eleventh birthday party, secure in the knowledge that Emma, Mary Margaret and David were hosting it and not Regina. But then he had found out that Regina had been invited by Henry after all, and had become so upset at the sight of her that Michael had had to come and take him away early. Henry had apologised when he had next seen Hansel, saying that Regina had only been invited at the last minute and he’d forgotten to call ahead and warn him. But the other children who’d seen it happen had teased him mercilessly about it, and it had reached the point where only Gretel, Grace and Henry were willing to be seen with him at all. Hansel had tried not to blame Henry for what had happened, but after hearing him defend Regina so many times, he couldn’t bear it any more and chose to distance himself from his one time best friend, and when Michael had made the decision to take the family back to the Enchanted Forest and get them away from Storybrooke, Hansel had been relieved.
The day he’d arrived at the Resistance Camp, saying he was looking for Henry, Jack had nearly backed out a few times, not knowing quite how he was going to react to seeing the Evil Queen again. But when she had greeted him, excited to meet Henry’s new friend, showing no sign that she recognised him as Hansel, Jack held his reactions in better than he thought he was going to. He didn’t know why she was surprised that she didn’t know him. Look at that Greg Mendel guy back in Storybrooke, after all. Regina had basically ripped his life apart and then hadn’t even recognised him when he showed up in town years later. But he’d shaken her hand, talked about how he’d heard so much about her from Henry and it was great to finally meet her, and Regina seemed to have bought it.
In time it got easier being around her, knowing that it was a means to an end, a way of making sure he brought down witchcraft. He could do nothing about the Blind Witch, for she was long since dead, but he knew that his work with the Resistance could lead him to Drizella, his sister’s killer, and Gothel, who had manipulated her into that fatal deed. The curse cast by Drizella had initially hampered his plans, but he was awake now, and no one else knew.
A part of him felt bad for Hook, who he’d always kind of liked, and who he knew had also suffered at the hands of Gothel, as he listened to Hook talking about how stumped he was on the case. Yet he smiled to himself as he said the answer could be just under his nose, knowing that the heart shaped boxes of chocolates were all in his car. His first two murders had been successful, with the possibility of his guilt occurring to no one. (Even the fact that Nicholas had been his curse name in two separate curses appeared to have occurred to no one.). He’d work his way through the rest; through Drizella to Gothel. And Regina, the one who had started the whole thing…he’d leave her for last, watching her panic as she began to fear for her life. He and Gretel would be avenged.