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Once Upon a Time: Pixar style

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In an upscale restaurant in Boston, Jack, a blue eyed, light brown-haired man arrived and looked around until he came to a table where a woman was sitting. She stood up and extended her hand.
"Jack."
"Emily? You look relieved." They both sat down.
"Well, it is the Internet. Pictures can be..."
"Fake. Out-dated. Stolen from a catalogue. So..."
"So... tell me something about yourself, Jack."
"Oh... Uh, well, today's my birthday."
"And you're spending it with me? What about your friends?"
"Kind of a loner."
"And... you don't like your family?"
"No family to like."
"Aw. Come on, everyone has family."
"Technically, yeah, but not everyone knows who they are. Ready to run yet?"
"Oh, not a chance. You, Jack, are, by far, the most handsome friendless orphan that I have ever met."
"Okay! Your turn. No, wait, let me guess. Um... you're beautiful, charming..."
"Go on."
"The kind of woman who... and now, stop me if I get this wrong, embezzled from your employer, got arrested, and skipped town before they were able to throw yourself in jail. And the worst part of all this is your husband. Your husband loves you so much that he bailed you out, and how do you repay that loyalty? You're on a date."
"Who are you?"
"The guy who put up the rest of the money."
"The bails bondsman." Emily flipped over the table, spilling everything, and ran out of the restaurant. Jack vanished from where he was. Emily ran across the street, while dodging traffic, to her car. She got into her car and stared it, but it didn't move. She opened the door to discover that her car had been booted. Jack reappeared in front of her. "You don't have to do this, okay? I can pay you, I've got money."
"No, you don't. And if you did you should give it to your husband and take care of your family."
"What do you know about family, huh?"
Jack slammed her head against the steering wheel. "Nothing."


Later, Jack entered his apartment, carrying a bag. Kicking off his shoes, he placed the bag on the counter. Inside was a box was a cupcake. He took the cupcake out, put a single candle on top, and lit it with his laser vision. He leaned against the counter and stared at it. "Here's to another banner year..." he sighed as he closed his eyes, making a wish, and blew out the candle.

 

Just then, the doorbell rang. Jack opened the door to find a young dark-haired girl standing in the hallway.
"Can I help you?"
"Are you Jack Swan?" the girl asked.
"Yeah. Who are you?"
"My name's Hilary. I'm your daughter."
With a look of shock on his face, Jack's eyes widened. Hilary slipped under his arm and walked into the apartment. "Whoa, hey, kid! Kid! I don't have a daughter!" He turned around and followed her back inside. "Where are your parents?"
"Ten years ago, a baby was given up for adoption. That was me."
"Give me a minute." Jack went into the bathroom and stood against the door. trying to think. This kid can't be mine. I never-- Oh, boy. He felt himself freeze as he suddenly remembered that once he was in a romantic relationship.

"Hey, do you have any juice?" Hilary's voice came from the other side of the door, interrupting his thoughts. "Never mind, found some." Later, Jack came out the bathroom to see Hilary drinking juice straight from the bottle. "You know, we should get going." "Going where?"
"I want you to come home with me."
"Okay, kid, I'm calling the cops." He crossed the room, over to the phone.
"And I'll tell them you kidnapped me."
"And they'll believe you because I'm your birth father." He put down the phone.
"Yep."
"You're not gonna do that."
"Try me."
"You're pretty good, but here's the thing. There's not a lot I'm great at in life, but I can tell when anyone's lying, and you, kid, are."
"Wait. Please don't call the cops. Please come home with me."
"Where's home?"
"Pixfare, Maine."
"Pixfare? Seriously?" She nodded. "Alright, then. Let's get you back to Pixfare."

Soon, Jack was driving Hilary home along a New England Highway.
"I'm hungry. Can we stop somewhere?"
"This isn't a road trip. We're not stopping for snacks."
"Why not?" Hilary whined.
"Quit complaining, kid. Remember, I could've put your butt on a bus; I still could."
"You know, I have a name? It's Hilary."

 

Jack then noticed Hilary was reading a book. "What's that?"
"I'm not sure you're ready."
"Ready for some stories?"
"They're not stories. They're true. Every story in this book actually happened."
"Of course, they did."
"Use your superpower. See if I'm lying."
Jack looked at her for a moment. "Just because you believe something doesn't make it true."
"That's exactly what makes it true. You should know more than anyone."
"Why's that?"
"Because you're in this book."
"Oh, kid. You've got problems."
"Yup. And you're going to fix them."

They soon passed by a sign that read 'Welcome to Pixfare' and began to pass the first houses and buildings. There were few cars parked anywhere nearby, and it was late enough that all the shops were closed. The place looked deserted.
"Alright, we're here. So, what's the address?"
"I'm not telling."
Jack slammed on the brakes, stopping the car and angrily stepped out. The moment he set foot on the street, a spark came the overhead telephone cables. "Look, I'm not in the mood for this, ok. It's been a long night, and it's almost-" He looked up at the clocktower. "1:13?"
"That clock hasn't moved my whole life. Time's frozen here."
"What?"
"Syndrome did it with his superpowers." Hilary explained. "He sent everyone from the Pixar world here, and now they're trapped."
"That's crazy. People stuck in a town that's frozen in time."
"It's true!"
"So why can't they just leave?"
"They can't. If they try, bad things happen."
Nearby, Felix Cutter, a bespectacled man was walking his dog when he spotted Hilary and approached her. "Hilary! What are you doing here? Is everything all right?"
"I'm fine, Felix."
"Who's this?"
"Just someone trying to give him a ride home." replied Jack.
"He's my dad, Felix."
"Oh. I see."
"You know where she lives?" asked Jack.
"Yeah, sure. Just, uh, right up on Mifflin street." Felix pointed down the street. "The Mayor's house is the biggest one on the block."
"You're the mayor's kid?"
"Uh. Maybe?"
"Hey, where were you today, Hilary? Because you missed your session."
"Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you. I went on a field trip."
"Hilary, what have I told you about lying?" She crouched to get face-to-face with her. "Giving in to one's dark side never accomplishes anything."
"O-kay!" Jack gave a strange look. "Well, I really should be getting her home."
"Yeah. Sure. Well, listen, have a good day, and you be good, Hilary." He walked away from them.
"So that's your shrink."
"I'm not crazy."
"Didn't say that. Just—he doesn't seem cursed to me. Maybe he's just trying to help you."
"He's the one who needs help. Because he doesn't know."
"That he's a Pixar character."
"None of them do. They don't remember who they are."
"Figures. All right. I'll play along. So, who's he supposed to be?"
"Flik."
"Right, the bugs thing. Thought I saw little antennae on your head."
"I'm not an ant!"
"'Course you're not. 'Because that would be ridiculous."

They soon got back into the car and drove off. Jack and Hilary walked up the garden path that led to the Mayor's house. He looked back to see that she had stopped in her tracks. "Please don't take me back there." Hilary pleaded.
"I have to. I'm sure your parents are worried sick about you."
"I don't have parents. I just have a dad, and he's-evil."
"Evil. That's a bit extreme, isn't it?"
"Trust me, he is. He doesn't love me; he only pretends to."
"Oh, come on, kid. I think you're exaggerating."
The door beside them opened and Derek Brodie, a freckled, redheaded man with blue eyes, and Andrea Galore, a blonde-haired woman with green eyes stepped out. "Hilary!" Derek ran out and hugged her. "Are you okay? Where have you been? What happened?"
"I found my real dad!" Hilary ran into the house.
"You're Hilary 's birth father?" he looked at Jack, who half smiled.
"I'll just go check her. Make sure she's okay." Andrea went back into the house.
"How about a glass of mimosa?" Derek offered.
"Got anything stronger?"
Inside the house, Jack stood in the foyer. Derek soon entered holding two glasses. "How did she find me?" asked Jack.
"No idea. When I adopted her, she was only three weeks old. Records were sealed, I was told the birth parents didn't want to have any contact. Do I need to be worried about the mother?"
"No. I lost touch with her years ago."
"Do I need to be worried about you, Jack?"
"Absolutely not."
"Mr. Mayor, you can relax." Andrea said, coming down the stairs. "Hilary's fine, she's just tired."
"Thank you, Sheriff." Derek and Jack went into the living room. "I'm sorry she dragged you out of your life. I really don't know what's gotten into her."
"She's having a rough time. It happens." Jack shrugged.
"You have to understand. Ever since I became mayor, balancing things has been tricky. I assume you have a job?"
"Uh, I keep busy. Yeah."
"Imagine having another one on top of it. That's being a single dad. So, I push forward. Am I strict? Maybe. But I do it for her own good. I want Hilary to excel in life. I don't think that makes me evil, do you?"
"I'm sure she's just saying that because of that book."
"What book?"
"Oh, you know, her book. How she thinks everyone's a Pixar character. Like her shrink is Flik the ant."
"I'm sorry, I really don't know what you're talking about."
Jack shook his head. "You know what, it's none of my business. She's your kid. And I really should be heading back."
"Of course." Derek let Jack out.
As Jack walked down the walkway to his car, he turned around looked up to see Hilary watching him from the second story window. She closed the curtain and turned off the light.
Soon, Jack was driving out of the town when he noticed Hilary's book on the seat next to him. "Sneaky kid." Looking up, Jack saw a bear standing in the road. He screamed and the car spun out of control, crashing into the 'Welcome to Pixfare' sign. Jack's head hit the steering wheel and he fell unconscious.

The next morning, Jack slowly woke up, lying on a cot. He looked around and realized that he was in a jail cell. Another prisoner, with a mustache, thick black eyebrows, and a bowler hat was in the cell next to him. "What are you lookin' at?" he asked in a Brooklyn-accent.
"Hey, Bart! Manners! We have a guest!" snapped Ed, an elderly white-haired man wearing thick black square frame glasses. "So, you're Hilary's father. How nice for her to have you back in her life."
"Actually, I was just dropping her off."
"Tch. Don't blame ya." Bart scoffed. "They're all brats; who needs 'em."
"Well, I'd give anything for one. My wife and I, we tried for years, but it wasn't meant to be."
"Oh, cry me a river."
Sheriff Andrea soon entered and unlocked Bart's cell. "Bart! If I'm going to let you out, you need to behave. Smile and stay out of trouble."
Bart smiled sarcastically and left the room.
"Seriously?" Jack looked at her,
"Derek's drinks are a little stronger than we thought."
"I wasn't drunk. There was a bear, standing in the middle of the road."
"A bear. Right."
"Andrea? Hilary run away again, we have to-" Derek called as he entered the room. "What is he doing here?" he turned to Jack. "Do you know where she is?"
"Dude, I haven't seen her since I dropped her at your house, and-" he gestured the prison bars. "–pretty good alibi."
"Yeah, well, she wasn't in her room this morning."
"Did you try her friends?"
"She doesn't really have any. Kind of a loner."
"Every kid has friends. Did you check her computer? If she was close to someone she'd be emailing them."
"And you know this how?"
"Finding people's what I do. Here's an idea; how 'bout you guys let me out, and I'll help you find her."


The three of them were soon gathered in Hilary's room. Derek watched as Jack searched through Hilary's computer.

"Smart kid. Cleared her inbox. I'm smart too. a little hard disk recovery utility I like to use. Ah, there's a receipt for a website, findyourfamily.org. It's expensive. She has a credit card?"
"She's ten."
"Well, she used one. Let's pull up a transaction record. Who's 'Laura Reed Richards'?"
"Hilary's teacher."


At Pixfare Elementary School, Laura Reed Richards, a woman with short auburn hair, and brown eyes, stood in front of a class of younger kids. "When you pull a rubber band. the molecules uncoil and align themselves closer together as they straighten out." She demonstrated, holding a rubber band in her hand. "When you release the rubber band, the molecules that have been straightened recoil back into their original position. The molecules returning to their original position causes the rubber band to fly through the air." Soon, the bell rang and the class rose from their seats. "We'll pick this up after recess. No running!" The kids filed out of the classroom, while Derek shoved his way through them with Jack trailing behind. "Mr. Brodie, what are you doing here?"

"Where's my daughter?"

"Hilary? I thought she was home sick with you."
"You think I'd be here if she was? Did you give her your credit card so she can find him?" He gestured toward Jack, who stood by the door.
"I'm sorry, who are you?"
"The man who gave her up for adoption."
"You don't know anything about this do you?" asked Jack.
"No, unfortunately not." Laura looked through her wallet and noticed that her credit card was missing. "Clever girl… I should never have given her that book."
"What is this book I keep hearing about?" Derek shouted.
"Just some stories I gave her. As you well know, Hilary is a special girl. So smart, so creative, and as you might be aware, lonely. She needed it."
"What she needs is a dose of reality. This is a waste of time. Have a nice trip back to Boston." Derek turned and walked out in a huff, knocking over a stack of books.
Jack helped Laura pick them up. "Sorry to bother you."
"No, it's… It's okay. I hear this is partially my fault." "How's the book supposed to help?"
"What do you think stories are for? They're a way for us to deal with our world. A world that doesn't always make sense. See, Hilary hasn't had the easiest life." They left the classroom, walking down the hallway.
"Yeah, he's kind of a tough."
"No, it's more than him. She's like any adopted child. She wrestles with that most basic question they all face – why would anyone give me away?" She then looked horrified, realizing what she just said. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean in any way to judge you."
"It's okay."
"Look, I gave her the book because I wanted Hilary to have the most important thing anyone can have. Hope. Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing."
"You know where she is, don't you?"
"You might want to check her clubhouse."
Hilary is sitting alone on her clubhouse, a wooden house-shaped slide at a playground along the shore. Jack walked up behind her, carrying her book. "You left this in my car." He gave her the book and sat beside her. They looked across to the clock tower. "Still hasn't moved, huh?"
"I was hoping that when I brought you back, things would change here. That the final battle would begin."
"I'm not fighting any battles, kid."
"Yes, you are. Because it's your destiny. You're going to save the town."
"Will you cut it with the book already!"
"You don't have to be hostile. I know you like me, I can tell. You're just pushing me away because I make you feel guilty. It's okay. I know why you gave me away. You wanted to give me my best chance."
"How do you know that?"
"Because it's the same reason Elastigirl gave you away."
"Listen to me, kid. I'm not in any book. I'm a real person. And I'm no savior. You were right about one thing, though. I wanted you to have your best chance. But it's not with me. Come on, let's go."
"Please don't take me back there! Just stay with me for one week, that's all I ask! One week, and you'll see I'm not crazy."
"I have to get you back to your dad."
"You don't know what it's like with him. My life stinks!"
"Oh, you want to talk about stinks? Try being left abandoned on the side of a freeway. My parents didn't even bother to drop me off at a hospital." Jack began to break down. "I ended up in the foster system and I had a family until I was three, but then they had their own so then they sent me back." He stopped for a moment to collect himself. "Look, your dad is trying his best. I know it's hard and I know sometimes you think he doesn't love you, but at least he wants you."
"Your parents didn't leave you on the side of a freeway. That's just where you came through."
"What?"
"The door. When you went through the door, you appeared in the street. Your parents were trying to save you from the curse."
"Sure, they were. Come on." He took her hand and they walked /
Derek opened the front door of his house to find Jack escorting Hilary home. She looked at him and ran inside.
"She seems to like you."
"You know it seems kind of crazy." Jack said with a smile. "Yesterday was my birthday. And when I blew out the candle on this cupcake I bought myself, I actually made a wish that I didn't have to be alone on my birthday. And then Hilary showed up..."
"I hope there's no misunderstanding here." Derek interrupted.
"What"
"Don't think that this is invitation back into her life. You made a decision ten years ago. And while you've been who knows that, I've changed every diaper, soothed every fever, endured every tantrum. You may be biological, but she's my daughter."
"I wasn't-"
"No. You don't get to speak. You don't get to do anything. You gave up that right when you tossed her away. Do you know what a closed adoption is? It's what you asked for. You have no legal right to Hilary, and you're going to be held to that. So, I suggest you get in your car, and you leave this town. Because if you don't, I will destroy you if it is the last thing I do. Goodbye, Jack." He began to head back to the house.
"Do you love her?"
"What?"
"Hilary. Do you love her?"
"Of course, I love her." Derek turned around and went back into the house. He snuck into Hilary's room, where she laid on her bed with her back to the door and took her book without her noticing.


Hilary looked out her bedroom window at the Clock Tower, which still read 1:13.


Jack walked into the Bed and Breakfast, where Ellen, a brown-haired woman was in the midst of a heated argument with Michelle, a young girl with long curly red hair. Both spoke with a brogue. "You're out all night, and now you're going out again."

"I should have moved to Boston."

"I'm sorry that my heart attack prevented you from sleeping your way along the Eastern Seaboard!"
Jack cleared his throat, getting Ellen's attention. "Excuse me? I'd like a room."
"Yes, of course!" Ellen went over to the counter and took out a book. "And what's your name, sir?"
"Swan. Jack Swan."
Two women had entered the inn and stood behind him, unnoticed. Ms. Cordwain, a tan skinned, black-haired middle-aged woman. The other was Ms. Wood, an elderly woman with short, gray hair.
"Jack. What a nice name." Ms. Wood said, making him turn around to face her.
"Thanks."
"It's all here." Ellen handed the elderly woman a roll of dollar bills.
"Thank you." Ms. Wood took it and then smiled again at Jack. "Nice to meet you, Jack. Enjoy your stay." Both women turned and walked out the door.
"Who are they?" asked Jack.
"That was Ms. Cordwain," Ellen said. "She runs the shoe store."
"And Ms. Wood. She owns this place." added Michelle.
"The inn?"
"No, the town. Here's your key." Ellen took a key from the wall and handed it to Jack. "How long will you be staying with us?"
"Just a week," Jack said. That was what he needed, to make sure Hilary was okay.
"Great. Welcome to Pixfare."


From Hilary's bedroom, she smiled as she saw the clock turn to 1:14.

Chapter Text

The next day, while eating breakfast, Laura Reed noticed that the clock was working again. Jack woke up and looked out the window in his room at the inn. Felix was out walking his dog, as Ms. Wood passed by. Michelle was putting out the sign for the Diner, when Ellen arrived carrying groceries.

Derek sat in his living room, flipping through Hilary's book. He paused on a page depicting the Incredibles fighting the Omnidroid. When he turned the page, he found that the last several pages had been ripped from the book. In a huff, he shut the book and stormed into Hilary's room as she was getting ready for school.
"Where are the missing pages?" He demanded.
She shrugged. "Why do you care?
Derek turned her around to face him. "I care because you think I’m some supervillain. And that hurts me, Hilary. I’m your father." He touched her cheek.
"No, you’re not." She turned away from him.
"Well, then who is? That man you brought here? I don’t like what he and this book are doing to you. Good thing neither are a problem anymore." Hilary looked down at the floor, as if disagreeing. "What?"
In the distance, the clock tower chimed, causing Derek to turn his head toward the sound, shocked. Hilary ran out of the room while he was distracted.
———–
Out in the town square, Derek stood on the sidewalk, looking up at the clock. Felix was out walking Dug, when he came up beside Derek and also looked at the clock.
"Hey, how about that? Guess those rusty ol’ innards finally straightened themselves out, huh?"
Derek turned to face him, about to remark, but then noticed Jack’s car parked on the side of the road.
"Yes, how about that, indeed."
———–
There was a knock at the door and Jack opens it to Derek, standing in the hallway, smiling.
"Good morning. I just wanted to offer you a gift.” He held up a high-tech watch. "I'm sort of an expert with technology. I've always had a knack for making things."
"Thanks." Jack watched him carefully as he accepted the watch.
“I’m sure you’ll use it on your drive home.”
"Actually, I've decided to stay for a while."
"I don't think that's such a good idea. Hilary has enough issues, she doesn't need you confusing her."
"All due respect, Mr. Mayor, the fact that you've now threatened me twice in the last twelve hours makes me wanna stay more."
"Since when is technology a threat?"
"I can read between the lines. Sorry, I just wanna make sure Hilary's okay."
"She's fine. Her problems are being taken care of."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means I have her in therapy. It's all under control. Take my advice, Jack. Only one of us knows what's best for Hilary."
"Yeah, I think you're right about that."
"It's time for you to go."
"Or what?"
Derek took a step toward Jack, until they were inches from each other. "Don't underestimate me. You have no idea what I'm capable of."

Derek sat in his lab, working on a new project, when a woman walked up behind him, holding a newspaper with Jack on the front page.
"The Droid strikes again!"
"You’re late."
"Sorry. I wanted to bring you the latest edition. I assure you it’s one of my better hatchet jobs."
Derek turned around to look at the paper, taking it out of her hands.
"That’s not what I asked for. What’d you find out about him?"
"Well, to be honest, there wasn’t much. He spent a lot of time in foster homes." Derek scoffed and turned back to his project. The woman kept explaining over his shoulder. "Uh, he got into some trouble when he was a kid, but the details are locked up pretty tight. Since then, he’s clean. Bounced around all over. The only thing I really learned was that he doesn’t like to sit still."
"Well, that seems to have changed."
"Did you know that, um, Hilary was born while he was in Phoenix? Huh, how’d she wind up here in Maine?"
"So, let me get this straight... you found nothing of value. Which means you have no value, Olga. Do you know what I do with things that hold no value to me? I throw them away."
"I-I’ll keep looking." She stuttered nervously and then left, while Derek looked at the newspaper again.
———–
Jack was seated at the counter of the Diner, reading the newspaper.
"Here you go." Michelle placed a mug of hot chocolate, with cinnamon, in front of him.
"Thank you, but I did not order that."
"Yeah, I know. You have an admirer." Michelle smiled.
Jack turned around to see Sheriff Andrea seated in a booth. He put down the paper and walked over to her. She looked up at her, surprised. "So, you decided to stay."
"Very observant for a cop."
"That's good news for our tourist business, bad for our local signage." Jack gave her a look. "It's--it's a joke... because you ran over our sign."
"Look, the cocoa was a nice gesture, and I'm impressed that you guessed that I like cinnamon in my chocolate, 'cause most people don't, but I'm not here to flirt. So, thank you, but no thank you." He set the mug on the table.
Andrea shook her heard. "I didn't send it."
"I did." Hilary chimed in, seated at another booth. "I like cinnamon, too." She stood up and came over to them.
"Don't you have school?" asked Jack
"Duh, I'm ten. Walk me."
———–
Outside, Jack and Hilary walked down the sidewalk, crossed the street, before reaching the other sidewalk.
"So, what’s the deal with you and your dad?"
"It’s not about us, it’s about his curse. We have to break it. Luckily, I have a plan. Step one – identification. I call it Operation Cobra."
"Cobra? How is that connected to Pixar stories?"
"It's not. It’s a code name to throw Syndrome off the trail."
"So, everyone here is a Pixar character. They just don’t know it."
"That’s the curse. Time’s been frozen, until you got here." Hilary noticed the watch on Jack's wrist. "Hey! Where’d you get that?"
"Your dad gave it to me."
Hilary yanked the watch off and threw it on the ground, stomping on it.
"What are you doing?"
"Haven't you seen the Incredibles movie? Syndrome makes weapons."
"O-okay. Uh, all right. What about their pasts?"
"They don’t know. It’s a haze to them. Ask anyone anything. And you’ll see."
"So, for decades, people have been walking around in a haze, not aging, with screwed up memories, stuck in a cursed town that kept them oblivious."
"You got it." Hilary smiled. "That’s why we need you. You’re the only one who can stop the curse."
"Because I’m the son of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl-'"
"Yes. And right now, we have the advantage. My dad doesn’t know that." Hilary unzipped her backpack and took out pages from her Disney/Pixar Storybook Collection book and handed them to Jack. "I took out the end. The part with you in it." The pages showed an illustration of Mr. Incredible placing baby Jack-Jack in the door. "See? Your mom is Elastigirl."
"Oh, kid." Jack shook his head, speechless.
"I know the hero never believes at first. If they did, it wouldn’t be a very good story. If you need proof, take them. Read them. But whatever you do, don’t let him see these pages. They’re dangerous. If he finds out who you are, then it would be bad."

They soon reached the outside of the school.
"I got to go, but I’ll find you later and we can get started. I knew you’d believe me!" Hilary began running to join the other kids.
"I never said I did."
"Why else would you be here?"
Jack watched her go, with a slight smile. Hilary ran to the front steps of the school, past Laura Reed, who turned to see Jack and approached him.
"It’s good to see her smiling again."
"I didn’t do anything."
"You stayed. So, does the Mayor know you’re still here?"
"Oh, he knows. What's with him? He’s not a great people person. How did he get elected?"
"He’s been mayor for as long as I can remember. No one’s ever been brave enough to run against him. He inspires quite a bit of... well, fear. I think I only made that worse by giving Hilary that book. Now she thinks he's Syndrome."
"Who does he think you are?"
Laura Reed shook her head, smiling. "Nothing. It’s silly."
"Try me."
"Elastigirl." Jack's eyes widened, and he started at her in absolute shock. If she's Elastigirl, then that means she's my mother. No, it can't be. Th-this whole thing is crazy. "Who does he think you are?" Her voice snapped him out of his thoughts.
"I’m not in the book. Can I ask you a favor? Derek mentioned the girl’s in therapy. Do you know where I could find the doctor?"
———–
Felix was reading in his office, when there was a knock on the door.
“Hello.” Greeted Jack as he entered.
“Jack Swan.” He stood up, picking up a copy of the newspaper. “I was just, uh, reading about you. Let me guess, you're here for help with a little post-traumatic stress?" He chuckled, setting the paper down. "That diagnosis was free, by the way."
"No, I'm actually here about Hilary."
“I'm sorry, I-I I really shouldn't...”
“I know, I'm sorry. Just tell me something. This Pixar obsession, what's causing it? I mean, she thinks everyone is a character in her book. That's... crazy.”
“I-I hope you don't talk that way in front of her. The word "crazy" is um... quite damaging. These stories-- they're her language.” Felix explained. “She has no idea how to express complex emotions so she's translating as best she can, this is how she communicates. She's using this book to help deal with her problems.”
“But she got the book a month ago. Has she been seeing you longer than that?”
"Um... Yes, she has."
"So, it's Derek, isn't it?"
"Uh, her father is a... very complicated man, and uh, over the years, he's tried to try and bring Hilary closer, but it's backfired." He walked over to a filing cabinet, opened it and took out a file. "Why don't you take a look at the file? Um... see what I mean."
"Why are you doing this?" Jack wondered.
"Well, she talks about you a lot. You're very important to her."
"Thank you.”
"Just uh... see that I get it back, okay?" He opened the door and Jack started to leave. "Just for the sake of the girl, be careful how you handle her belief system. To destroy her imagination would be... would be devastating." Jack left and Felix closed the door. He sat down at a desk and picked up the phone, making a call. "You were right. He was just here."
“Did he take the file?” Derek's voice asked on the other end of the line.
“Yes. H-how did you know he was gonna come here?”
“Because I'm the one who gave him the idea.” He replied with a sinister smile on his face.

In his room, Jack sat on his bed, reading through Hilary's file when he heard a knock on the door. He opened it to find Sheriff Andrea standing in the hallway.
"Hey there. If you're concerned about the 'Do Not Disturb' signs, don't worry; I've left them alone."
"Actually, I'm here about Dr. Felix Cutter. He mentioned you got into a bit of a dispute with him earlier?"
"What? No." Jack looked at her, shocked.
"I'm surprised, too, given your shy, delicate nature. He says you demanded to see Hilary's files and when he refused, you came back and stole them."
Jack shook his head. "He gave them to me."
"He's telling a different story. May I check your room? Or must I get a search warrant?"
Jack opened the door completely, walked over to his bed and gestured to the files spread on it. "This what you're lookin' for?"
Andrea picked up a file and glanced at it. "Well, you're very accommodating. But, I'm afraid you're under arrest. Again." She took out a pair of handcuffs and began to cuff his wrists.
"You realize I'm being set up, don't you?"
"And who, may I ask, is setting you up?"

Outside of Pixfare Elementary, Laura Reed was giving her class a lesson when Derek approached them. He cleared his throat and Laura Reed stood and approached him. "May I speak with my daughter?"
"We're in the middle of a lesson. Is it important?"
"Do you think I'd be here if it wasn't!?" He walked away from her. She watched curiously as he talked to Hilary, alone
"Hilary, hon, I have some bad news. The man who you brought here... he's been arrested. He broke into Dr. Cutter's office and stole his files. He's a con man. He's trying to learn about us in order to take advantage of us. That's why he's sticking around. I'm sorry."
"No, you're not." She said in disbelief.
"I know you think otherwise, but all I'm doing is trying to protect you. This is gonna be good for us, you'll see. Things will be better." The school bell rang in the background.
"I gotta get back to class." She walked away, rejoining the rest of the kids.

At the Sheriff Department, Andrea took mugshots of Jack.
"You realize the shrink is lying, right?"
"To the right, please. Why would he lie?"
"The Mayor put him up to this. He's gotta have something on him. He's terrified of him, like everyone else in this town."
"To the left." Jack rolled his eyes and turned around. "Derek may be a bit intimidating, but I don't think he'd go as far as a frame job."
"How far would he go? What does he have his hands in?"
"Well, he's the Mayor. He has his hands in everything."
"Including the police force?"
"Hey." Hilary came running in, with Laura Reed following behind her.
"Hilary, what are you doing here?" Andrea asked.
"Her father told her what happened." Laura Reed answered.
"Of course, he did!" Jack said, glancing at Andrea. He then turned to the girl. "Hilary, I don't know what he said--"
"You're a genius!" She interrupted.
"What?"
"I know what you were up to." Jack looked at her, confused. "You were gathering intel. For Operation Cobra".
"I'm sorry, I'm a bit lost." Andrea shook her head.
"It's need to know, Sheriff, and all you need to know is that Miss Richards is gonna bail him out."
"You are? Why?" Jack asked.
"I, uh, trust you."
"Well. If you could uncuff me..." Jack extended his cuffed wrists toward Andrea. "I have something to do."

Derek sat working at his desk in the Mayor's Office, when he heard crashing sounds coming from another room. He rushed into his lab to find Jack destroying his tech with a baseball bat. "What do you think you're doing!?"
"Inventing." he replied, dropping the bat.
"You're out of you mind!" Derek snarled.
"No, you are if you think a shoddy frame job's gonna scare me off. You're gonna have to do better than that. If you come after me one more time, I'm coming back for the rest of this stuff. Because, Mister, you have no idea what I'm capable of. Your move." Jack started walking away.

Jack returned to the inn, and was about to open the door to his room.
"Jack?" A woman's voice called from behind him. He turned around to see Ellen. "Oh my, this is terribly awkward. I need to ask you to leave." Jack looked at her with a confused look on his face. "I'm afraid we have a 'No felons' rule. It turns out it's a city ordinance."
"Let me guess: The Mayor's office just called to remind you."
Ellen nodded. "You can gather your things, but I need to have your room key back."
Jack handed her the key.

In his lab, Derek kneeled on the floor next to the table, putting the broken pieces of tech in a box. Sheriff Andrea approached him from behind.
"He destroyed private property. I want him arrested."
"Again?"
"What are you waiting for?" Derek turned to face her.
"I don't think arresting him is the right plan." Derek stood up, with a look of disbelief. "And I'm not talking about your tech. We both know he didn't steal those files."
"Oh, do we?"
"I mean, he looked pretty shocked when I leveled the charges against him."
"That's because he doesn't like being caught." He kneeled down on the floor again.
"Or because he was set up. And if he was, that means Dr. Cutter was lying. If he's lying that means that someone asked him to." Derek stood up again. "Are we really confident that the man's conscience won't eventually get the best of him?"
"I think your schoolgirl crush is clouding your judgment. Remember, I made you Sheriff. And I can take it away just as easily." He said threateningly.
"You want me to arrest him again? I will."
"Good." He kneeled down again to pick up the mess.
"But you two are gonna keep comin' at each other. You'll do whatever it takes to make him leave. And you may succeed."
"I will succeed!" Derek shouted angrily, standing up. "She's my daughter! It's what's best for her."
"I know that's what you think. But if this gets worse, it seems to me the only one who'll get hurt is Hilary."

Outside Ellen's Bed and Breakfast, Jack was walking along the sidewalk when he noticed that his car had a boot on it. His phone then rang. He picked it up and answered it. "Yeah?"
"Jack, I'd be happy to continue demonstrating my power." Derek said on the other side. "But I'm guessing your choice to stay is only growing?"
"You have no idea."
"Well then. I think it's time we made peace. Why don't you drive over to my office." Jack put his jacket in the car and slammed the door. "Or walk—whatever suits you."
Jack hung up and rolled his eyes. I do not believe that guy.

Derek and Jack were seated in Derek's office, talking. Jack sat on the couch across from Derek, seated in a chair
"I'd like to apologize, Jack."
"What?"
"I just have to accept the fact that you want to be here..."
"Yes, I do."
"And that you're here to take my daughter from me."
"Okay, first of all: I don't want to take her from anyone."
"Well then, what are you doing here?"
"I know I'm not a father— I think that's pretty clear—but she's my flesh and blood, and I can't help it—she got in my head and I want to make sure she's okay. The more you try to push me out, the more I want to be here, especially after seeing how troubled she is."
"You think she's troubled?"
"Well, she's in therapy, and I only got through a couple pages of her shrink's notes before you had me arrested. But putting all that aside—she thinks everyone in this town is a Pixar character."
"And you don't?"
"How can I? The poor kid can't even tell the difference between fantasy and reality and it's only getting worse. It's crazy."
"You think I'm crazy?" Jack turned to see Hillary standing in the doorway.
"Hilary..." She ran out of the office, hurt. Jack stood up to follow her, then addressed Derek. "How much did she hear?
"Just enough."
"You knew she would be here."
"Did I know that my daughter comes to my office every Thursday at exactly 5 P.M. so I can take her for dinner before her therapy session? Of course, I did. I'm her father." Derek sat back in his chair with a smug grin on his face. "Your move."
"You have no soul." Jack said in disgust. "How did you get like this?"
Derek didn't answer as Jack exited the office.

Laura Reed sat in her apartment, working on needlecraft, when there was a knock at the door. She opened the door to find Jack standing in the hallway.
"Hey. Just wanted to say thank you and, um," He handed her an envelope. "Pay you back the bail money."
Laura Reed took the envelope, but just stared at Jack, not saying a word. After an awkward pause, Jack sighed, looking exasperated. "You look like you need to talk."

Later, Jack sat at the table, sipping a cup of hot cocoa. "Cinnamon?"
Laura Reed brought a plate of cookies to the table. "Oh, I'm sorry. I should have asked. It's a little quirk of mine. Do you mind?"
"Not at all." She offered him a cookie, but he refused. "When you bailed me out, you said that you trusted me. Why?"
"It's weird, but—ever since you came here, I've had the strangest feeling, like we've met before. I mean, I know it's crazy."
"I'm starting to reevaluate my definition of crazy."
"For what it's worth, I think you're innocent."
"Of breaking and entering, or just in general?"
"Whichever makes you feel better."
"Doesn't really matter what anyone thinks I did. I'm leaving. Thank you for everything, but I think it's for the best. If I stay, Hilary's only gonna keep getting hurt."
"What happens if you go?" Jack didn't say anything. "I think the very fact that you want to leave is why you have to stay. You care about her. Who will protect Hilary if you won't?"

In Felix Cutter's office, Hilary sat on the couch during a therapy session.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?" Felix asked. Hilary didn't answer, only fiddled with a telescope. "You know, that telescope is kind of my good luck charm." Hilary still remained silent. "Is that why you think I'm Flik?"
"I don't think you're anyone." She set the telescope down on the table.
Jack, holding the storybook pages, opened the office door.
"Jack." Felix stood up and came over to him. "Look, I can explain. The Mayor forced me--"
"I know. Don't worry about it. I get it." Jack interrupted, and then turned to Hilary. "Hilary, I'm sorry."
"I don't want to talk to you."
"Jack, if he knew you were here--"
"So what?" He sat in the chair across from Hilary. "Hilary, the reason I stayed here is you. I wanted to get to know you."
"You think I'm crazy!"
"No, I think the Curse is crazy, and it is. But that doesn't mean that it isn't true. It's a lot to ask anyone to believe in, but there are a lot of crazy things in this world. So, what do I know? Maybe it is true."
"But you told my dad--"
"--what he needed to hear. What I do know... is that if the Curse is real, the only way to break it is by tricking Syndrome..." Hilary turned to look at him. "into thinking that we're nonbelievers. 'Cause, that way, she's not on to us. Is that what Operation Cobra was all about? Throwing him off the trail?"
"Brilliant!" Hilary smiled and leaned closer to him.
"I read the pages, and you're right—they're dangerous. There's only one way to make sure that he never sees them." Jack stood up and takes and put the pages in the fireplace, burning them. "Now we have the advantage."
Hilary got up from the couch and hugged Jack. "I knew you were here to help me!"
"That's right, kid. I am." He broke the embrace and looked at her. "And nothing, not even a curse, is gonna stop that." They hug again.
Jack and Hilary left Dr. Cutter's office building together and walked down the street, smiling at each other.

Derek was tending to the broken tech in his lab, when Ms. Wood entered.
“What a mess.”
“Not for long. What can I do for you, Ms. Wood?”
“I was just in the neighborhood, thought I'd stop by. You're in a good mood.”
“Well, it's been a good day.” Derek chuckled. “The town’s now free of an unwanted pest.”
“Jack Swan? Really?”
“Yes. I bet he's halfway to Boston by now.”
“Oh, I wouldn't bet on that. I just saw him strolling down the street with your girl. Thick as thieves, they looked.”
“What?”
“Perhaps you should have come to me. If Jack is a problem you can't fix, I can help, for a price, of course.”
“I'm not making deals with you anymore.” Derek scoffed, turning his back to her, returning to the broken pile.
“Which deal would that be?”
Derek turned and looked at her. “You know what deal.”
“Oh, right, yeah. The girl I obtained for you. Hilary. Did I ever tell you what a lovely name that was?”
Derek turned back to face her. “Did you want him to come to town? You wanted all this to happen, didn't you? You didn't find Hilary by an accident, did you?”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Where did you get her?” Ms. Wood remained silent, with a slight smirk. “Do you know something?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I think you do. Who is that man, her father, that... Jack Swan?”
“I would say you think you know exactly who he is.” Derek stared at her, stunned. "I really must be going." She turned around to leave, but he blocked her path.
“Tell me what you know about him.”
“I'm not gonna answer you, dear, so I suggest you excuse me." He said nothing and didn't move. "Please." She walked away, while Derek turned and watched her go, stunned.

Chapter Text

Dr. Whale and Laura Reed were on a date at Ellen's Diner.
"So, um, where were we?"
"You’ll meet my class tomorrow." He nodded in understanding, and then as she continued to speak, his gaze drifted to behind her. Michelle was clearing tables, scantily clad in a white shirt showing her midriff with a green mini-skirt and high heels. "They’re coming to the hospital as part of the Volunteer Outreach Program."
"Oh, yeah. That’s a great program." Dr. Whale quickly shifted his eyes back in time to respond. He tried to remain focused as she talked, but kept quickly glancing back at Michelle. "I mean, not that I don’t want kids. I do." He soon lost interest in the conversation, and his gaze was fixed on what was behind Laura Reed. "I want kids, marriage, true love. I want it all. But that of course is…" She noticed he wasn't paying attention to her. Slowly, she turned her head to see him ogling Michelle, who has finished cleaning the table and carried a tray as she passed them. "…wildly inappropriate for me to discuss on a first date. Michelle?"
Michelle stopped and turned back while holding the tray in the air with one hand. "Yes?"
"Check, please." She looked down, sadly.

Soon after, Laura Reed was walking down the street after her disaster of a date. She stopped and stared ahead. She approached a car and found Jack inside, reading the newspaper with a flashlight.
"Hey. You okay?"
Jack turned off flashlight and looked at her. "Out of all the tight spots I’ve been in, staying in my car doesn't even rank in the top ten."
"You’re sleeping here?"
"Till I find a place."
"You decided to stay for Hilary." she smiled.
"Yeah, I guess." Jack stepped out of his car and shut the door. "This town doesn't have any vacancies. Is that normal?"
"Must be the curse."
"Why are you out so late?"
"Well, I’m a teacher, not a nun. I had a date."
"Looks like it went well."
"As well as they ever do. I guess if love was easy, we’d all have it. You know, if you’d like, I do have a spare room."
"Thanks, but I’m not really the roommate type. It’s just not my thing. I do better on my own."
"Well, goodnight. Good luck with Hilary."
"Yeah." Jack gazed at Laura Reed as she walked away.

The next day at the town hospital, the kids from Laura Reed’s class were around, hanging decorations. She noticed Hilary was walking around as if looking for something.
Hilary found a door marked ‘Exit’ and focused on it. She saw through it and into the downstairs psychiatric ward. There was a corridor with several doors on each side. She saw into one room and the resident inside, a muscular, blond haired man with blue eyes.
Laura Reed came over to her. "There you are, Hilary. We could really use your help with the decorations."
“There’s someone down there.”
“That’s a restricted area. You shouldn't be near there.” She warned her. “Some of the people in there could be dangerous.”
“But--”
“No buts.” She began to lead her away. "Come on. " Hillary glanced back at the door as they walked back.

"I found your father--Mr. Incredible." Hilary showed Jack her storybook open to the Incredibles story. They sat on the top platform of her clubhouse near the shore. Jack looked at her, speechless. "He’s locked up in the hospital’s psych ward. Don’t you see? The curse is keeping them apart. Now they’re stuck without each other. We have to tell Ms. Richards we found her husband."
"Okay, kid. Telling someone their... soul mate is locked up is probably not helpful. Not having a happy ending is painful enough, but giving someone unrealistic hope is far worse."
"But what if I’m right? We know who they are. Now they have to know."
"And how do you plan to make that happen?”
"By reminding him. We have to get them together. Then, maybe, he’ll remember who he is."
Jack leaned in closer as if to say something, but thought for a moment. "Okay. But we’ll do it my way. Let me ask her."

Later at her apartment, Laura Reed made two cups of cocoa with cinnamon. "Let me get this straight. You want me to free a patient who's in the psych ward?" She gave one cup to Jack, looking at him, unsure.
"Yup. Hilary thinks him seeing you will help him remember who he was."
"And, who does she think he was?"
"Mr. Incredible."
Laura Reed looked shocked for a minute. "And if I’m Elastigirl, she thinks... me and him."
"She has a very active imagination, which is the point. I can’t talk her out of her beliefs, so we need to show her. Play along, do what she says and then maybe, just maybe--"
"She’ll see that stories are just that. She’ll see reality."
"Something like that."
Laura Reed took a sip of her cocoa and then nodded. "Well... sadly, this plan is rather genius. We get her to the truth without hurting her."
"I told her that we'll all meet tomorrow for breakfast at Ellen’s. And you'll give a full report."
"Well, I suppose I’ll get ready for my date."

That night, at the town hospital, Hilary led Laura Reed to a door labeled 'Exit'. Using her super strength, Hilary forced the door open. They walked down a hallway and stopped at the unmarked door. Hilary unlocked the door and looked in at the man inside. "Come with us." She extended her hand to him.
"Who are you?" He and Laura Reed looked into each other's eyes and they felt a zing.
“Let’s go. Before someone catches us.” Hilary interrupted.
“Why are you doing this?” the man asked.
“No time to explain. Now go. Go.”
The man took one more look at Laura Reed, and then took off down the hallway.
“That was weird...” she thought to herself, slightly dazed.

The next day, Jack was sitting in a booth at the diner, when Hilary and Laura Reed arrived.
“How did it go?” Jack asked.
“We looked at each other, and there was this feeling. Almost like… a zing.” Laura Reed explained.
“See. I knew it.” Hilary smiled. “He’s remembering! We have to go back. You have to see him again.”
“Wait, wait, what?”
“If I got through to him, if we made a connection...”
“You don’t believe...”
“That he’s Mr. Incredible? Of course not. Somehow, some way, I touched him.”

The three had just arrived at the hospital, when they noticed that Derek was by the open ‘Exit’ door. He saw them and approached them.
"What are you doing here?" Derek asked, looking at Jack. "And you–" He angrily grabbed Hilary's arm, pulling her away. "I thought you were at the arcade. Now you’re lying to me?"
“What’s going on?” Jack wondered.
“One of the psych patients is missing.” said Andrea.
“Why the mayor is here?”
“I’m here because I’m his emergency contact.” replied Derek
“You know him?”
“I brought him here years ago. He was experiencing a deep depression, and some pretty self-destructive behavior. I saved his life.”
“Will he be okay?” Laura Reed asked, concerned.
“Okay? The man’s been in solitary confinement for years on constant supervision.” Dr. Whale explained. “He needs to get back here right away or, quite honestly, "okay" might be a pipe dream."
"Well, then, let’s quit yapping and start looking." Jack suggested and then turned around to leave.
"That’s what we’re doing?" Derek replied. Jack turned back to face him, rolling his eyes. "Just stay out of this. And since I clearly can’t keep you away from my daughter... I guess I’m just going to have to keep my daughter away from you." Derek took Hilary's hand and began walking away. He turned to face Andrea. "Sheriff, find him. You heard Dr. Whale. Time is precious." He then left with Hilary.
"Doctor, how long between your rounds since you last saw him?" Andrea asked.
"Twelve hours or so."
"Then that’s what we need to account for."

Soon, everyone headed to the security room, where four hospital security guards were watching the screens.
"You guys were on the floor last night, and you saw nothing." Andrea asked the guards.
"Not a thing." Audrey, a woman with a pixie cut hairstyle and blue eyes, shook her head.
"Did anyone walk by?" Jack asked.
"I didn't see anything." Mindy, a chubby bespectacled woman with shoulder-length dark hair and blue eyes, replied sadly.
"Miss Richards, was there anything unusual you saw during your trip with your class?" Andrea asked Laura Reed.
"I don’t think so." She shook her head.
Jack looked harder at the security monitors. "We’re looking at the wrong tape." He came closer and pointed to the screen. "This is the ward where Hilary’s class put up decorations. If this was really the tape from last night, we’d see the banners the kids hung."
"Tch, you were too busy hiding again." Lewis, a short redheaded man, said angrily to Freddy, a lanky man with a long nose, and curled hair.
"You selling me out?" He cried nervously.
"I ain't getting fired for this."
"At least we don’t drink on the job." Nadia, a slender woman, with pink makeup, shoulder-length dark hair, long dark eyelashes, and green eyes, snapped at Lewis.
"Guys, enough." Andrea broke up their fight. "Where’s the real tape?"
The guards soon switched to the right tape, which showed saw the man walk out the door.
“He walked out alone. He’s okay.” Laura Reed sighed, relieved.
“Four hours ago.” Jack noticed. “Where does this door lead?”
"The woods." Freddy answered, scared.

Andrea led Jack and Laura Reed as they trekked through the woods, searching for the missing patient. She knelt down and touched a spot on the ground.
"What is it?" Jack asked.
"The trail runs out here."
"You sure? Because I thought tracking was one of your skills."
"Just give me a second. This is my world. I got it." Andrea went ahead of them.
"Right. Sorry."
"What does she mean, ‘her world’?" Laura Reed asked Jack, curiously. "Isn't finding people your thing, too?"
"Sure. Just... people I find usually run places like Vegas. Not a lot hit the woods."
"That’s an interesting job – finding people. How’d you fall into it?"
"Looking for people is just what I've done... as long as I can remember."
"What made you start? Your parents? Hilary told me that your-- that you were from a similar situation to her own. Did you ever find them?"
"Depends who you ask."
They heard a branch snap behind them, and turned around to see Hilary running down a hill towards them. "Hilary!" they both cried.
"Did you find him yet?"
"No, not yet. You shouldn’t be here." Jack scolded.
"I can help. I know where he’s going."
"And where’s that?" Laura Reed asked
"He’s looking for you." She said, looking at Laura Reed.

The group walked through the darkened woods, carrying flashlights.
"You’re the one he locked eyes with." Hilary explained to Laura Reed. "You’re the last one he saw. He wants to find you."
"Hilary, it’s not about me. I just… I think he’s lost and confused. He’s been locked up a long time."
"But he loves you. You need to stop chasing him and let him find you."
"Kid, you need to go home." Jack suggested. "Where’s your dad? He’s going to kill me and then you and then me again."
"He dropped me at the house. Then went right out."
"Well, we need to get you back immediately."
"No!"
"Guys!" Andrea shouted. Jack, Laura Reed, and Hilary ran over to her. She showed them the man’s bloody hospital bracelet.
"Is that…" Laura Reed asked, scared.
"Blood." Jack

"Oh, gosh. Where is he? Can you see him?" Laura Reed asked as they came up to a stream.
"The trail ends at the water line." Andrea pointed out.
Using her flashlight, Laura Reed spotted the man lying in the water. "Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!" She cried and ran over to him.
"I need an ambulance at the old Toll Bridge, as soon as possible." Andrea called on her radio.
Hilary watched as Andrea, Jack, and Laura Reed dragged him to the shore.
"No, no, no, no, no!" Laura Reed cried frantically. "No, no, no! I found you!"
Jack: It’s going to be okay.
Andrea: Help’s coming.
“Is he okay?” Hilary wondered.
Jack turned Hilary away so she wasn't looking at the scene. "Hilary, don’t look. Okay? Don’t look."
"Come back to us. Come back to me." Laura Reed started to do CPR.
When she put her mouth on his, he started breathing again and coughed up water. "You saved me."
"She did it." Hilary smiled.
Yeah, kid. She did.” Jack nodded in agreement.
The man opened his eyes and looked up at Laura Reed. “Thank you.”
“Who are you?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.”

Later, the man was brought into the hospital for recovery.
"Watch your back. Coming through!" A nurse shouted.
Dr. Whale stepped in to take over. "Thanks, guys. We got it from here."
The four watched through the outside glass door as he was being treated by doctors.
Evelyn, a white-haired, blue-eyed woman, burst into the room where John Doe was being treated and rushed to his side. "Clark! Clark, is that you?"
Dr. Whale stopped her. "Excuse me, ma’am?"
"Oh, my god…"
"Ma’am, you can’t be in here. Please, you can’t be here right now."
"Clark…"
"You can’t be here, Ma’am." Dr. Whale pulled her away. "Can you wait over here for a second, okay?"
"Who is that?" Laura Reed wondered.
Derek stood behind them. "His wife." He replied with a smug look on his face. Jack and Laura Reed stared at him, shocked.

"His name is Clark Grimm, and that’s his wife, Evelyn." Derek explained. "And the joy on her face, well, it’s put me in quite the forgiving mood." He turned to face Hilary. "We’ll talk about your disobedience later."
Evelyn exited the ICU room. "Thank you. Thank you for finding my Clark."
"Um, I-I don’t understand." Laura Reed stuttered, "You didn't…you didn't know that he was here?"
"A few years ago, Clark and I weren't getting along. It was my fault, I know that now. I was difficult and unsupportive. I told him if he didn't like things, he could leave. And he did. And I didn’t stop him. It was the worst mistake I ever made."
"You didn't go look for him?" Jack asked.
"I assumed he’d left town all this time. And now I know why I never heard from him. Now I get to do what I've wanted to do forever – say I’m sorry. Now we get a second chance."
"That’s... wonderful." Laura Reed smiled, trying to hide her feelings.
Dr. Whale stepped out of the room, joining the group. "Well, it’s something of a miracle."
"He’s okay?" Evelyn asked, concerned.
"Physically, he’s on the mend. Um, his memory is another issue. It may take time, if at all."
"What brought him back?" Laura Reed asked, curious.
"That’s the thing. There’s no explanation. Something just clicked in him."
"He just got out and decided to go for a stroll?" Jack asked in disbelief.
"He escaped and he was delirious and his first instinct was to go find something, I guess."
"Someone." Hilary corrected him.
"Can I see him?" asked Evelyn
"Yeah, of course." Dr. Whale opened the door and let Evelyn go back into the room.
"Hilary, let’s go." Derek ordered.
Hilary got up from her chair and began to follow him. "Wait, my backpack." She went back to grab her backpack and whispered to Laura Reed "Don’t believe them. You’re the one he was looking for."
"Hilary…"
"He was going to the woods. It’s like in the story. You belong together."
"Hilary." Derek repeated. He and Hilary started to leave.
Jack thought about Evelyn’s story for a moment, and something didn't make sense. "Mr. Mayor?" He ran to catch up to Derek and Hilary, who were at the entrance of the hospital.
"Wait by the car." Derek instructed. Hilary went ahead, leaving the two alone. "Jack, I let you off the hook back there. Don’t press it."
"I’m sorry, but Mrs. Grimm-- Kinda feels like her story is totally fake." Derek looked at him, not understanding. "All this time, there’s a man locked up in the psych ward and nobody puts it in the news, nobody goes looking. Something’s not right here."
"Well, what else would make sense to you? Why would Mrs. Grimm lie? Do you think I put a spell on her?"
"I think it’s weird you've been his emergency contact all these years and you only found her now."
"Well, this town is bigger than you know. It’s possible to get lost here. It’s possible for bad things to happen."
"And just when it’s convenient you manage to solve the mystery?"
"Thanks to you. That tape you found-- that was genius. So, we went back and looked at past tapes. Turns out he’s been calling out for an 'Evelyn'. After that, it wasn't hard to put the pieces together. And here I thought you and Laura Reed would be happy. True love won out. So, enjoy this moment. If it weren’t for you two, they would have lived their lives completely alone. That’s why I’m willing to forgive your rudeness. Because... all this has reminded me of something very important... How grateful I am to have Hilary. Because not having someone... Well... that’s the worst curse imaginable."

Laura Reed watched as Clark and Evelyn hugged in his room. Although, Clark turned his gaze towards Laura Reed, and couldn't keep his eyes off her. She sadly looked down to her hand and distractedly fiddled with her ring.

Later that night, Laura Reed sat on the staircase in her apartment, still heartbroken and in tears.
How could this happen? She kept asking herself. There was something between us. I thought we zinged, but I guess it was only me. Her thoughts were soon interrupted by a knock on the door.
She composed herself and answered the door. "Jack."
"Sorry to bother you so late. Is that... spare room still available?"
Laura Reed nodded, smiling and let Jack inside.

Chapter Text

The bell of the clock tower rang as Jack and Hilary walked down the street.
"Are you sure we can be seen out in the open?" Hilary asked.
"Enough sneaking around." Jack scoffed. "If your dad has a problem with me walking you to a school bus, I'm more than happy to have that chat."
"You're brave. You'll need that for Operation Cobra. Speaking of, do you think we need code names?"
"Isn't 'Cobra' our code name?"
"That's the mission. I mean us. I need something to call you."
"Oh, um... well, I don't-- you can just call me 'Jack' for now."
"Okay, well I'll see you later, Jack." she boarded the school bus, which soon drove away.
As Jack turned to walk down the street, Sheriff Andrea pulled in front of him in a police car, blaring the siren.
"What's with the siren?"
"It's so hard to get your attention." She stepped out of the car.
"Alright, well, you got it. Are you arresting me again?"
"I'm thanking you for your help finding that patient. We all owe you a debt of gratitude."
"Well, what do I get? A commendation? Key to the city?" He joked
"How about a job? I could use a deputy."
"Thank you, but I have a job."
"As a bail bondsperson? There's not much of that going on here."
"I don't see a lot of sheriffing going on around here either."
"Well, here's your chance to see it up close. There's dental. Why don't you think about it and stay awhile." She give him one of her information cards.

In Ellen's Diner, Jack was reading the newspaper when Michelle brought him a cup of hot cocoa. She set the cup on the table and walked away.
Just then, Derek entered the diner and sat across from Jack. “How was your walk with Hilary? That's right I know everything. But it’s ok, I don't mind.”
“You don't?”
“No. Because I'm not worried about you anymore. You see, I did a little digging into who you are, and what I found out was quite reassuring. It all comes down to the number seven.”
“Seven?”
“It's the number of addresses you've had in the last decade. Your longest stint anywhere was two years. Really, what did you enjoy so much about Tallahassee?"
“For your information, I did find a place here in town.”
“I know, with Ms. Richards. How long is your lease? Oh, wait. You don't have one. You see my point? In order for something to grow, it needs roots, and you don't have any. People don't change, they only fool themselves into believing they can."
“You don't know me.”
“No, I think I do. All I ask as you carry on your transient life, you think about Hilary and what's best for her. Perhaps consider a clean break. It's going to happen anyway. Enjoy your cocoa.” Derek stood up and left.
As Jack stood up, the cup of cocoa spilled on his lap. “Ugh, really?”
“Och!” Michelle rushed over with towel.
“Do you have a laundry room I can use?”
“Mm-hmm”
Jack angrily walked in the back to the laundry room, put his shirt in the washer, and took one off of the clothesline.
“Darn it!” shouted Ray, a redheaded man with blue eyes, as he pulled a shirt from the dryer.
“You okay?”
Ray held up the shirt with faded stains on it. “It didn’t get those oil stains off.”
“You try bleach?”
“I’ve been a racer for so many years, and then one day… I crashed. But I think I came close to fixing the car.”
“That's great.”
“It's just that, now everyone’s telling me it’s time to retire. Maybe they're right.”
Jack started the washer and turned around to face Ray. “Don’t listen to them. Look, people like to tell you what to do. But in the end, it's up to you.”
“It's not exactly that easy.”
“It never is. People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You want people to look at you differently? Make them. You want to keep doing what you love, then go and do it."

That night, Ms. Wood walked up to her shop door and changed the sign from open to closed, shut the lights off, and left, locking the door behind her.
After she was gone, Ray approached the front door of the shop, bashed in the bottom left window pane of the door with a brick, and entered the store. He came up to a painting on the wall, which he revealed was covering a safe.
“Ray, what are you doing?” Ms. Wood asked, appearing behind him.
“I decide when I'm done.” He sprayed her in the face with pepper spray.
She screamed and fell to the ground. Ray removed a key from her and used it to open the safe.

The next morning, in her loft, Laura Reed brought two plates of food to the table.
Jack was unpacking his recently arrived belongings. "I'm so glad my stuff is here. Oh, thanks." he accepted the plate she offered to him.
"So, that's all your stuff? Is the rest in storage?
"No, this is all of it. I'm... not sentimental."
"Well, it must make things easier when you have to move."
There was a knock on the door, and Laura opened it to see Ms. Wood.
“Ms. Richards, is Jack here?” Jack walked up to them. “Hi, I'm Ms. Wood. We met briefly when you first arrived.”
"Yeah, I remember." He nodded.
"Good. I have a proposition for you, Jack. I need your help. I'm looking for someone."
"Really?"
"You know what? I'm going to jump in the bath." Laura Reed walked away, leaving them alone.
Ms. Wood came into the apartment. "I have a photo." She handed Jack a picture. "His name is Ray Saetta. He's a former race car driver, and he's taken something quite valuable of mine."
"So why don't you just call the police?"
"Because uh... he's a confused young man. I don't want to ruin his life, but I just want my property returned."
"And what is it?"
"Well, one advantage of you not being the police is discretion. Let's just say it's a precious object and leave it at that."
"When did you last see him?"
"Last night. That’s how I got this." She showed him the gash on her forehead. "It's so unlike him. He was quite wound up, rambling on and on about deciding when he’s done. I have no idea what got into him. Jack, please, just help me find him. My only other choice is the police, and I don't think anyone wants to see that car impounded, now do they."
"No, of course not."
"So, you’ll help me then?"
"I’ll help him."
"Good."
The door opened and Hilary entered the apartment. "Hey, Jack, I was thinking we..." She stopped in her tracks when she saw Ms. Wood.
"Hey, Hilary, how are you?"
"Okay."
"Good. Give my regards to your father, and um, good luck, Jack." She left the apartment.
"Do you know who that is?" Hilary asked Jack.
"Yeah, of course I do."
"Who? Cause I'm still trying to figure it out."
"Oh, I meant in reality."
"Is that all you brought?"
"Hilary, what are you doing here?"
"My dad's gone till 5:00. I thought we could hang out."
"Aw, kid I wish I could, but there's something I gotta do."

Soon, Jack and Hilary were walking down the street.
"Please, let me help." Hilary pleaded
"No. It could be dangerous."
"The racer man is dangerous?"
"He attacked Ms. Wood."
"Cool."
"This isn't a game. He's desperate."
"Well, then let's find him."
"Oh no. There's no 'let's'. You can’t come with me."
'Then I'll look for him myself."
"Then I'll find you and I'll bring you back."
"Then you wouldn't be helping that man."
"I'm just trying to be responsible here."
"And I'm just trying to spend time with you." Hilary climbed into Jack's car.
"Oh, that's really not fair." He also got in the car.
"So, the racer-- what's his story?"

Outside Ellen's Bed and Breakfast, Jack and Hilary were questioning Michelle about Ray's disappearance. A tow truck sat on the street, slowly putting down Michelle's car.
“So, this girlfriend of his-- you don't think she was involved in his disappearance?” asked Jack.
“Uh, that would mean that she was involved with him at all, which she isn't.” Michelle explained. “She left him right after his big crash. Hasn't spoken to him since. Like I said, she's a--” the tow truck suddenly dropped her car. “Hey, hey, hey! Matt, be careful. You almost shattered my bear thing. It's good luck.”
"Sorry, Michelle," he apologized in a thick rural Southern accent. “But, look, it's okay.”
"Michelle, does he have any family or friends?" Jack asked.
"Oh, um, he does, but after the crash, he was too embarrassed to talk to them. They even served as his pit crew."
"Wait a minute," Hilary interrupted. "Pit crew, a crash, and he's a racer?"
"Hilary, not now."
"Look, I don't know what you've heard, but it's wrong. Everyone thinks he should give up racing, but he wants to get back into it. Can you understand that?"
"I think so."
"Look, maybe you should just stay out of it." Michelle suggested. "He's been through enough already."
"I can help him."
"Then try his ex."
"Where can I find her?"
"She lives with her dad."

A car pulled into the garage of a house, as Jack knocked on the front door. A woman with blue streaked hair and blue eyes answered. "Can I help you?"
"Sarah Hudson?"
"Yeah."
"I'm Jack. I'm looking for Ray Saetta. He's in trouble. I just thought maybe he came to see you."
Paul Hudson got out of his car and approached the front door. "My daughter doesn't have anything to do with that boy anymore, so whatever trouble he's in, there's nothing we can do to help you."
"You're the reason she broke up with him."
"Absolutely. I'm not gonna let my girl throw away her entire life over a mistake."
"So you just told her to leave him?"
"Well, what are they going to do, drive around in a wrecked car?"
"Some people only have a car."
"Well, they're to be pitied. I'm not letting that happen to my daughter." He walked past them, into the house.
"Daddy, maybe we should help him look."
"It's a waste, Sarah."
"Sarah, if you want to come, come." Jack whispered to her. "Stop letting other people make decisions for you. If Ray runs away with his car, he's gonna be in some serious trouble."
"He's running away with the car?"
"Yes."
"Sarah, inside. Now." Sarah went back in the house. Paul began speaking to Jack. "Look, believe me... if I knew where he was, I would tell you. I went to a lot of trouble to get him that deal."
"Deal? What are you talking about?"
"You don't know? Ray agreed to give up the car, and he's being paid very well to do so."
"He sold the car?"
"Oh, you make it sound so crass. I found someone who's going to give that car to a professional racer."
"And who are you to judge whether Ray is capable of being that?"
"Look at him. He's a rookie. How could he possibly know how to be a real racer?"
"Maybe he's going after what he wants to do."
"Everybody says that. Now, look, I found someone who's going to pay him extremely well. Someone who's going to see to it that everybody's happy."
"Ms. Wood."
"Well, isn't that why you were hired, to bring her the car?"

Jack and Hilary were driving down the road in his car.
"You can't make her double-cross Wood." Hilary pleaded. "No one's ever broken a deal with her."
"Happy to be the first. If Ray wants to be a racer, he should do it. Anyone who wants to live their dream should be allowed to."
He pulled the car up to Ellen's Diner, and the two entered.
"Why didn't you tell me he sold the car?" Jack asked Michelle at the counter.
"Because I didn't think it was important."
"Really, considering that's why he's running away?"
"Look, Ray's a nice guy. I don't like the idea of people judging him."
"Michelle, where is he? You didn't send me to Sarah to find him, you sent me there to give him a head start."
"Look, I'm only trying to help him."
"Yeah, so am I. Ray's in more trouble than you know. Where is he? Don't make his deal with Wood without me."
"I can't talk in front of her." She pointed to Hilary. "She's the mayor's kid."
"Hey, I'm on your side."
"Hilary, I need to find this man," Jack whispered to her. "And in order to do that, I need you to go home, okay? So please listen to me, seriously. She's not gonna tell me anything if you're around."
"Okay." Hilary nodded and left the diner.
"Thank you."
"He left town." Michelle explained. "Said he was gonna try Boston. Thought he could disappear there."
"How long ago did he leave?"
"About a half an hour."

Jack was driving his car to Boston to look for Ray. Suddenly, Hilary sat up in the back seat. "What did she tell you?"
"Hilary!" Jack shouted, surprised. "I'm going to Boston. You can't come with me."
"You can't go to Boston. He can't leave. Bad things happen to anyone that does."
"I don't have time to argue with you over the curse. I've got to get you home."
"We have to stop him before he gets hurt. We're wasting time. If you drop me off, you'll never catch up to him."
"Hilary..."
"Then Ms. Wood will call the police, and she'll have him sent to jail."
Jack closed his eyes and sighed. "Buckle up. Ray, what did you get yourself into?"

"I told you. That's the car." Hilary pointed to Ray's car broken down just before the Pixfare border. They pulled up beside it.
"Ray?" Jack ran over to the car, but found it was empty.
"Jack? Is that you?" Ray came from behind the bushes, holding a cell phone. "Am I glad to see you. I couldn't get a signal."

"Don't worry. The tow truck is on its way." Jack assured Ray.
"No, no, no, no. Take me to Boston. I can't go back there. She's gonna take my car. I don't want to retire. "
"I won't let that happen, but are you sure this is what you want to do?"
"Yes. I want to keep racing."

Later, Jack and Hilary sat in the auto repair shop's waiting room.
"You know Jack, you're different."
"How?"
"You're the only one who can do it."
"Break the curse? Yes, I know. You keep telling me that."
"No, leave. You're the only one who can leave Pixfare."
"You left and came and found me in Boston."
"But I came back. I'm ten. I had no choice, but if anyone else tried to go, bad things would happen."
"Anyone except... me?"
"You're the savior. You can do whatever you want. You can go."
The mechanic soon approached them. "Jack, the car has been repaired, and it's working just fine."
"What great news." Ms. Wood said as she entered. "Excellent work, Jack. Thank you for bringing me my merchandise."
"A car was your merchandise? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Well, because at the time you didn't need to know."
"Really? Or you thought I wouldn't take the job?"
"Not at all, I thought it would be more effective if you found out yourself. After seeing Ray's hard life, I thought it would make sense. I mean if anyone could understand the reasons behind giving something up, I assumed it would be you."
"You're not getting that car."
"Actually, we have an agreement. And my agreements are always honored. If not, I'm going to have to involve the police, and that car is going to end up in the pound, and that would be a pity."
"That's not gonna happen."
"I like your confidence. Charming, but all I have to do is press charges. He did, after all, break into my shop."
"Let me guess, to steal a contract."
"Who knows what he was after."
"You know, I'm willing to bet that contract doesn't stand up. Are you? Not to mention what might come out about you in the process. Somehow, I suspect there’s more to you than a simple woodworker. You really want to start that fight?"
"I like you, Jack. You're not afraid of me, and that's either cocky or arrogant. Either way, I'd rather have you on my side."
"So, he can keep the car?"
"Not just yet. There's still the matter of my agreement with Ray."
"Tear it up."
"That's not what I do. You see, contracts, deals, well they're the very foundation of all civilized existence, so I put it to you now. If you want Ray to keep his career, are you willing to make a deal with me?
"What do you want?"
"Oh, I don't know just yet. You'll owe me a favor."
"Deal."

Soon, Jack and Hilary came into the garage where Ray was admiring his newly repaired car.
"Hey. Car looks great." Jack looked impressed.
Ray turned around to face them. "Thanks for bringing me here."
"Ms. Wood was outside. I took care of it. You can keep being a racer."
"I can? But what did you do?"
"Made a deal with her."
"Thank you." Ray smiled, shaking Jack's hand.
He smiled back, and then noticed the time. "Oh, hey kid, it's almost 5:00. You gotta get home." They rushed out of the garage.

Jack and Hilary were driving in his car.
"'Speed'. My codename. I was thinking in honor of Lightning McQueen-- 'Speed.'" Jack saw Hilary shake her head. "You got a better one in mind?"
"Yep. But I'm not sure you're ready yet."
They soon arrived at Derek's house, and Hilary got out of the car.
"Hilary!" She stopped and turned back. "About what you said at the garage, about me being able to leave..."
"Yeah?"
"See you tomorrow."
They smiled at each other, and Hilary super sped into the house and upstairs just as Derek was pulling in. She accidentally dropped a toy car on the stairs.
"Hilary?" Derek called as he walked in the front door. She reached her room and pretended to be casually reading, as Derek entered the room. "Hilary? What did I tell you? Do not... leave your toys lying around on the stairs. Someone could get hurt." He set the toy car on the shelf and left the room. Hilary sighed in relief.

At the garage, Sarah walked up to Ray and saw the newly restored car. "Wow. It looks just like new."
"Sarah."
"I'm sorry. I never should have left you."
"You're back?"
"Yeah. What do you say we take a drive?"
The two got into the car and kissed.
"You know what would look good on this thing? Stickers." Sarah suggested.

Jack leaned against the side of his car. He took out the card Andrea gave him, and called her.
"Hello?"
"Andrea, it's Jack. I was thinking... maybe some roots wouldn't be so bad. That deputy job still open?"
"Absolutely."
"Then I'm in. Derek gonna be okay with this?"
"I don't care, it's my department. I'll see you Monday morning."
"I'll see ya." He hung up the phone, and glanced at Hilary through her window.

Chapter Text

Felix sat in his office writing during a session with Hilary.
"You used to be an ant."
"I used to... Oh, right. Because I'm... because you think I'm Flik. Why--Why do you-- Why do you think that Hilary?"
"It's just because of who you are."
"And who am I?"
"You're an inventor. You want to make a difference."
"So, all of the ants in Pixfare--"
"There aren't any bugs here. Listen." Hilary went to the window and listened. All they heard was an owl hooting, but no insects.
"Maybe it isn't late enough."
"There's never been bugs here. You've just never noticed." She sat back down on the couch.
"So, you think that's proof that there's a curse?"
"Yes, but I know it's not enough. I'm looking for more."
"So, Hilary, look, I asked you this once before and you said you'd think about it. Why do you think it is so important that this is real?"
"It... It just is."
"Alright, well... Keep thinking about that answer, Hilary, because I think there's something buried there."

At the Pixfare Sheriff Department, Jack and Andrea discussed his uniform and his new position as deputy sheriff.
"So, you think you can get people to do what you want in that red coat?"
"I'm getting you to do what I want right now."
"Well, at least wear the badge." She held it out to him, but he was hesitant. "Go on. Take it. If you really want to be a part of this community, you have to make it official."
The minute Jack clipped the badge to his belt, a loud tremor shook the office. Car alarms were heard going off outside and all of the telephones began to ring.

Outside, a crowd was gathered around to see what appeared to be a mine collapse. Derek got out of his car and approached the crowd as a police car arrived.
"Everyone, step back, please."
"Is that a crater?" Michelle wondered.
"No. There were tunnels, uh, old mines. Something collapsed." Ed replied.
"Be careful, step back." Derek instructed. Andrea and Jack approached the site. "Sheriff, set up a police perimeter. Ed, why don't you help with the fire department? Jack, this is now official town business. You're free to go."
"Well, actually, I work for the town now."
Derek gave Andrea a look.
"He's my new deputy." She explained.
"They say the mayor's always last to know."
"It's in my budget."
"Indeed." He gave Andrea another look, then addressed Jack. "Deputy, why don't you make yourself useful and help with crowd control?" Derek turned to speak to crowd. "People of Pixfare, don't be alarmed. We've always known this area was honeycombed with old mining tunnels, but fear not. I'm going to undertake a project to make this area safe, to rehabilitate it to city use. We will bulldoze it, collapse it, pave it." As he spoke, Hilary and Dr. Cutter arrived.
Hilary stepped out from the crowd. "Pave it? What if there's something down there?"
"Hilary, what are you doing here?" Derek whispered.
"What's down there?"
"Nothing. Now step back. In fact, everyone please, please step back. Thank you." Derek picked up a piece of metal with a worried look and Hilary noticed.
"What was that?" Hilary asked Jack.
"Hilary, enough. Listen, this is a safety issue. Wait in the car." He turned to Andrea and Jack. "Deputy Swan, Sheriff, cordon off the area."
Hilary looked around, then got out of Derek's car and motioned to Felix. "Hey, Felix. Over here." Both Jack and Felix approached her beside the police car. "This requires all of Operation Cobra... both of you."
"I didn't realize I was in Operation Cobra."
"Of course, you are. You know everything. We can't let him do this. What if there's something down there?"
"They're just some old tunnels." Jack shrugged.
"That just happen to collapse right after you get here? You're changing things. You're weakening the Curse."
"That's not what's happening."
"Yes, it is. Did you do anything different today? 'Cause something made this happen." Jack touched his badge.
"Hilary, I told you to wait in the car." She turned to see Derek behind her. "Deputy, do your job." Jack and Felix started walking away. "Dr. Cutter, a word please?" He approached Derek. "Okay, we're done with this."
"Uh, excuse me?"
"My daughter. We need a new treatment plan. Everything I do she thinks is part of some horrible plot. I can't cover up a safety hazard without her thinking I'm hiding something. How am I hiding something terrible in an old mine? How is any of this logical to her?"
"She's 's got an amazing imagination."
"Yes, that you let run rampant."
"Well, I think it would be wrong to rip away the world she's constructed. I'd rather use it to try and get--"
"Sometimes I think you've forgotten. You work for me. You're an employee, and I can fire you. This is my town. You will lose your office, lose your house. I can cut you down to size until you're a tiny, shrunken little creature, and you won't have a roof over your head."
"What would you have me do?"
"You take that delusion out of my daughter's head, and you crush it."

Felix sat in his office, thinking, when Danielle, a young girl wearing pigtails, and entered with an elderly woman.
"Hey, Felix."
"Danielle, what are you two doing here?" She motioned to her mouth. "Oh, lunch. I'm sorry. I forgot. I've got another patient. Another time?"
"Oh, ok." Hilary then came up beside her. "Hi Hilary." She greeted her and then left.
"Are you recruiting the Queen and Dot for Operation Cobra?" Hilary asked.
"You think Danielle and Patty are Dot and the Queen?"
"Sure. They're Flik's friends, and they're yours."
"Hilary, look. We--we really need to talk about this, okay?"
"I know you're not convinced, but I know where I can get proof." She opened up her backpack, and Felix looked at the contents inside.
"What is this? A flashlight? And candy bars? Oh, wait. Hilary, you don't want to go down there."
"Jack's here, and stuff's happening. I have to look at it."
"Hilary." He grabbed her shoulders and sat her on the couch. "Hilary, stop. Stop. There is no proof. Look all of this, all of this is a delusion. Do you know what a delusion is?"
"I-I think so."
"It's something that's not real and-- and not healthy, and-- and I thought you'd outgrow this, but Hilary, you know... know it's turned into a psychosis. Do you know what a psychosis is? That's-- that's when you can no longer tell what's real, and if that continues, then-- then I have to lock you away. Hilary, look, this has to stop for your own good. You gotta wake up. This nonsense must end." Hilary stared at him angrily, and then stood up and stormed out of the office. Felix bowed his head, feeling guilty about what he said.

At Pixfare General Hospital, Laura Reed was playing hangman with Clark, which currently read _AU_A _EE_.
"I don't know. 'R'"? She guessed.
"Mh-hmm. Two of them." He wrote a letter "r" on the fourth and
space. "Get it yet?"
She laughed, covering her face with her hands in embarrassment. "Yes, and I'm such an idiot. I almost hanged on my own name."
"Don't worry, I would never have let you hang. I would've added toes and a hat, maybe a horse."
"Is this a game you played a lot before?"
"I don't know."
"It'll come back. They're sending you home in a week. They have to think you're progressing, don't they?"
"Physically."
"Well, you're making new memories just fine."
"Maybe I'll like these better."
She smiled, touched. "Okay, play again?"
Evelyn soon entered, carrying a box of photos. "Can I guess, too?"
"Mrs. Grimm. I thought..." She stuttered nervously. "Oh, it's noon already. I didn't realize. I should go."
"Good day, Miss Richards." Evelyn sat beside Clark. "Honey, I brought more pictures. Maybe they'll jog something." Clark watched Laura Reed leave as Evelyn began showing him pictures.

"I am the worst person in the world." Laura Reed told Jack as they made s'mores in the kitchen.
"Really? In the whole world?"
"If Evelyn was horrible, it would be easier, but she's so... nice."
"And what exactly would be easier?"
"Nothing."
"Nothing's a good idea. You're smart. You know not to get involved with someone who's married. It's not worth the heartache. Trust me." They heard a knock at the door. Jack went to answer it. "I'll get it." Upon opening it, he saw Hilary, crying. "Kid, what happened? Come in."

Felix sat in his office with his dog Dug, when he heard pounding at the door.
"Felix! Felix!" Jack shouted angrily on the other side of the door. He entered the office. "What did you do? You told me not to take the fantasy away. You told me it would devastate her."
"When a course of therapy stops working, you adjust it."
"Is it him? Did he threaten you? What could be strong enough to drown out your own conscience?"
"I don't need to defend my professional decisions to you, okay?"
Jack's cell phone began to ring, and he answers it. "Hello, Mr. Mayor. Nice work.
"You with him?" Derek asked through the phone.
"Yes, I'm with Dr. Cutter, and guess what? You left your fingerprints all over him when you--"
"Is Hilary with you?"
"I dropped her off at your office an hour ago."
"Well, she's not here."
Jack was now shocked. "I don't know where she is."
"I do." Felix spoke up.

Hilary stood in front of the mines where the tunnel collapse occurred earlier. She took a deep breath and entered.

"Hilary! Hilary!" Jack called as he and Felix searched the front of the mines.
"Hilary!" Dug came running to the entrance into the mines, sniffing. "What you got there, Dug?"
"I don't think she's here."
"I think she is." Felix picked up a candy bar. "Candy bar. She had these with her."

Inside the mines, Hilary, with a flashlight in hand, explored the area when she found a mysterious piece of metal among the stones. She picked it up and examined it when all of a sudden, she heard the gravel rustling. She looked up to see an avalanche of rocks, and ran.

Jack, Felix, and Dug felt the shaking effects of the avalanche.
"Hilary!" Felix headed for the entrance. "Hilary! It's not safe!" He climbed into the collapsing mine, just before more rocks fell and blocked the entrance.
"Felix?! Hilary!" Jack shouted.

Felix lit a match and proceeded through the mine to look for Hilary, calling her name.
"Felix! You're here to help me!" She suddenly came out with the flashlight shining on him.
"No, listen. We gotta get out of here, okay."
"So, you're still against me."
"Hilary, there's no time for that. Come on, Hilary, come on!"
She started backing away from him. "You don't believe me? You'll see. You'll see." She turned and ran away.
"Hilary! Hilary, come back!" Felix turned to look towards the exit, then turned back and chased after her. "Hilary!" He saw a light in front and found Hilary shining the flashlight at a gap on the ground. "Hilary. You gotta slow down."
"There's something shiny down there."
"Hilary, this is seriously dangerous. We gotta get out of here."
"It could be something."
"Will you look at me?! Look at me! I'm scared for you, Hilary!"
"Because you think that I'm crazy?"
"No! No. Because we're trapped underground in an abandoned mine, and there's no way out." She looked at him, slightly scared.

Outside at the entrance of the mine, Dug was barking. Derek, Jack, Andrea, Patty, and Michelle gathered around as workers tried to open the entrance.
"Felix is smart. He'll keep her safe until we get to them." Patty assured them.
"Watch out!" Michelle shouted as the ground suddenly shook.
Derek ran towards Jack and the workers. "Stop! Stop! You're making it worse."
"I'm trying to save her. You know why she wouldn't have gone in the first place, don't you? Because you made her feel like she had something to prove!"
"And why does she think she has anything to prove? Who's encouraging her?"
"Do not put this on me."
"Oh, please! Lecture me until the oxygen has run out!" Derek turned and walked away.

Hilary and Felix headed in the direction of the barking sound.
"Hilary, do you hear that?"
"It's Dug!"
"Follow the noise."

"We have to stop this." Jack decided to call a truce. "Arguing won't accomplish anything."
"No, it won't." Derek turned around, knowing he was right.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Help me."
Jack nodded in agreement, as Dug continued barking.

"It's loudest over here." Felix removed a large sheet of metal labeled 'Danger'.
"What's this?" Hilary asked.
"Looks like... an old elevator."

"We need to find some way to... punch through the ground. We need something big."
"Like what?" Jack shrugged.
"Explosives." Patty suggested. Derek and Jack both considered the idea.

Felix walked towards the elevator. "It’s to get the mine workers in or out. Goes all the way to the top. That's why we can hear Dug."
"Can we make it work?"
"Let's give it a shot." He and Hilary climbed into the elevator.

Everyone stood back and hid as the explosives were ready.
"Okay, we're all clear." Jack announced.

Felix and Hilary tried to turn the wheel of the elevator, and it started to move a bit.

"Blow it." Derek ordered, as everyone ducked for cover.
One of the workers pressed the button, setting an explosion.
Felix held Hilary tight, as the elevator shook and dropped a bit.

Jack ran into the smoke caused by the explosion, and then came back out after a few minutes.
"Did it work?" asked Derek.
"It didn't open."
"Then what did it do?"

Laura Reed was leaving the hospital, saying goodbye to the other staff, when Clark approached her.
"Hey, where're you going?"
"Home. I'm done for the day. Shouldn't you be resting?"
"Actually, Dr. Whale wants me to get some exercise. I'm supposed to walk thirty minutes a day with an escort. But they're kinda short on personnel because of that thing that happened in the mine."
"Oh."
"So... maybe there's a volunteer willing to help?" They smiled at each other.

Later, Clark and Laura Reed were walking near a lake.
"I try to remember this place. It's like... it's like I woke up on some strange land."
"Is there anything coming back?" Laura Reed asked, and then paused for a while. "What about when you're with her?"
"Yeah, I lied." He confessed.
"You did?"
"She's just so loving, you know? I didn't want to disappoint her... but none of it feels right, you know? None of it make sense. None of it... feels real."
"That sounds so lonely."
"Actually, one thing does feel real. You."
Laura Reed looked shocked for a moment, remembering Hilary's theory. Maybe it was true that they really did belong together.
She shook off the thought, deciding to play along. "What?"
"I know it's crazy, but I swear, you're the only thing in this whole place that feels... that feels right."
Laura Reed smiled and they started getting closer to each other, before Clark pulled away.
"Evelyn."
She lowered her head. "Right."
Clark walked past Laura Reed. "Evelyn, uh, wh--" She also turned to see Evelyn arrive. "You're here."
"I know it's outside of visiting hours, but, uh... I needed to see you." Evelyn handed him a basket. "I made some cranberry muffins. They used to be your favorite."
Laura Reed looked between the two of them, and could tell the silence was getting awkward with her there. "Well, I should leave you two." She began walking away.
Clark chased after her. "Wait, Laura Reed. See you tomorrow?"
She turned back then smiled and continued walking away.

Outside at the mine entrance, Derek ran to the workers. "What was that? You said you could do this."
Jack tried to calm him down. "Mr. Mayor."
"They could have killed my daughter."
"I know. But this isn't helping."
"If we knew exactly where they were, we could drill down to them." Patty suggested. Dug's barking caught Jack's attention and he ran towards the fire truck he was in. "Maybe... maybe make something to bring them back up."
"But drill where?" Andrea wondered.
"What do you think we..." Derek started.
Jack opened the fire truck's door and let Dug out. "Come on buddy. It's Felix's dog." They all watched as Dug sniffed the ground. "He's found something. Look, this is where they must be. What is it?"
Jack held Dug by his collar as Patty and Andrea removed a metal covering and found a hole blocked by grate bars.
"What is that?" asked Jack.
"It's an air shaft." Andrea replied.

"I'm... really... really... really sorry." Hilary slipped her backpack off and sat on the floor with Felix.
"It's alright."
"I just wanted to find proof."
"No, it's really alright, Hilary. I mean, I'm sorry, too. Look, I-I don't think you're crazy. I-I just-- I just think that you've got a very strong father who's got a clear idea of a path that he wants you to be on, and when you step off that, he... he gets scared, and, you know, that's natural, but it's also natural for you to be able to be free to think the things that you want to think. So... anyway, I-I didn't mean those things I just said, and I-I never should have said them."
"Then... why did you?"
"I guess I'm still not a very good person. I'm not the man I want to be."
The elevator suddenly began to shake.

Using the pulley from Matt's tow truck, the workers removed the metal grate. Jack, Derek and Andrea looked down to the deep shaft.
"So? What's next?" Derek asked.

"I think you can be him. I think you can be a good person. I mean, you're Flik.
"Hilary, Flik was a, uh, he was an ant, okay, and he helped his colony, and--and I hardly think that's me."
"But before you said he was a guy who took a long time to figure out the right thing to do."
Felix paused for a moment, and nodded. "He kinda sounds like me."
"Now it's harder for you, because of the curse, to care for the voice inside of you, to be who you wanna be."
The elevator began shaking again.

"We need to lower someone straight down, or the line would collapse with the sides of the shaft." Patty instructed to Derek and Jack.
Andrea came over with a harness. Derek offered to go down into the shaft.
"Oh, no way. I'm going." Jack argued.
"She's my daughter."
"She's mine too. You've been sitting behind your desk for ten years. I can do this."
Derek sighed, knowing there was no point in arguing. He took a step toward Jack. "Just bring her to me."

Felix noticed a few stones drop to the elevator. "Hey, can I ask you again?"
"Ask what?"
"Why do you think it's so important that your-- your Pixar theory is true?"
Hilary shrugged. "I don't know."
"Give it a shot."
Hilary handed Felix a chocolate bar from her backpack. "'Cause... this can't be all there is."
"I understand." He nodded with a smile.
"I thought if I've found proof... But I didn't find anything."
"Well, that's not true. I was lost when you found me, right?" He handed her a piece of chocolate.
"You mean, you remember?"
"No, I-I don't remember. But I-I do remember the kind of person I want to be. I just gotta listen harder."
More gravel suddenly started falling from the top. They both looked up to see a light and a shadow.
"What's that?" Hilary wondered.
"I think it's a rescue."
They stood up to see Jack being lowered from the top of the shaft. "Are you guys okay?"
"Yeah, we're-- we're okay."
"Hang on, Hilary. Okay, that's good. Stop." Jack said into the walkie-talkie on his shoulder. He removed the roof of the elevator. Felix lifted Hilary up and she grabbed Jack's hand as he pulled her out.
More gravel began to fall as the elevator started to rattle, with Felix still inside.
The elevator soon fell to the ground with a crash.
"Felix!" Jack and Hilary shouted, scared. They were relieved however to see Felix was holding onto a carabiner on Jack's harness.

The crowd all clapped and cheered as the workers pulled Jack, Hilary and Felix out of the shaft. Derek hugged Hilary and pulled her away, while Andrea stopped Jack from following and took off the harness. Patty and Felix hugged each other, laughing with joy.
Jack came over to Hilary, smiling. "Are you okay?"
Derek shoved Jack away. "Deputy, you can clear the crowd away." Jack watched unwillingly as Derek sent Hilary away.
Derek came up to Felix, who was talking with Patty. "Thank you, Dr. Cutter."
"I, uh, I have something to say." Patty left them alone. Felix stepped off to the side with Derek following. "I'm gonna continue to treat Hilary, and I'm gonna do it my own way."
Derek looked at him, surprised. "My relief at her safety hasn't changed a thing, Dr. Cutter. You will do as I say, or you..."
"Or what? You'll ruin my life? You'll do your worse? Because I will always do my best. "
"Don't test me."
"Oh, I don't need to, because you're gonna leave me alone, and let me do my work in peace."
"Really? Why is that?"
"Because someday, Mr. Mayor, you may find yourself in a custody battle. And you know how a court determines who's a fit parent? They consult an expert, particularly one who has treated the child. So, I suggest that you think about that and you'll allow me to do my work and let me do it my inventive way." Felix walked away, leaving Derek with an angry look on his face.

Soon, it had gotten dark outside. Jack watched curiously Felix and Patty as they chatted happily. "Is that Felix's mother?" He asked Hilary. They both sat on the edge of where the mine had collapsed.
"No. They're just old friends."
Jack took hold of Hilary's hand. "You really scared me."
"I'm sorry."
Patty and Felix walked over to them, ready to go. Jack smiled at them and then turned to Hilary. "Well, come on. Your dad wants to take you home."
"Hey! Look!" Hilary looked down and saw a line of ants crawling on the ground.
Felix also looked down. "Ants."
"They’re back." Hilary smiled and turned to Jack. "Things are changing."

At the hospital, Laura Reed put her letter of resignation into the mailbox at the counter.

Outside the mine, the worker and the crowd chatted and drank to celebrate. Standing off to the side, Derek took out the piece of metal he picked up earlier that day, and threw it down to an air shaft. The piece of metal kept falling until it hit the ground near the remains of a broken robot.

Chapter Text

Clark looked stunned when he and Evelyn stood outside their house, which had a 'Welcome Home' banner hanging in the front door.
"You know, you had the same look on your face before we bought it, too. You couldn't see past the ugly windmill on the lawn. And said you'd never buy an old lady house." Evelyn explained with a smile. "Do you remember what made you change your mind?"
He looked down at the empty lawn. "I see the windmill's gone."
"Come on. Everyone's waiting."
"Who's everyone?"
They entered the house where a large crowd of people were cheering. Evelyn introduced him to a few of the guests, who welcomed him back.
Dr. Whale came up to greet him. "Hi, Clark."
"Hi."
"Look, I know this is a lot, but it's good for you. The smallest things can trigger your memories. Just try and have fun."
"Thank you, Dr. Whale. I'll do my best."

Hilary sat talking with Jack by the stairs. "You know why he doesn't remember? The curse isn't working on him yet."
"Hilary... Clark has amnesia."
"Which is preventing the curse from replacing his Pixar story with fake memories."
"Right, because everyone here has fake stories that prevent them from remembering who they really are."
"Right, and now's our chance to help him. We just have to get him to remember that he's—"
"He's Mr. Incredible."
"We just have to jog his memory by getting him and Ms. Richards together."
"Didn't we just try that?"
"And it woke him up."
Clark soon came over to them. "Hey. You're the ones who saved me, right?"
"Yeah, I-I guess." Jack shrugged.
"And, uh, you're also the only ones I know here."
"You can hide with us."
"Fantastic. Jack, you live with Laura Reed, right? You know if she's coming tonight?"
"No, she couldn't make it."
"Oh." Clark looked slightly disappointed.

Derek was in the kitchen with Evelyn, who was setting out food with a sad look. "You should go out there. There's plenty of food. Go. Be with you husband."
"I lost him once, now I have him back. But it's like I still don't have him back. You have no idea how that feels."
"Actually, I do. I lost someone once too."
"Really?" She looked at him, surprised.
"Yes. But the love I lost, there's no bringing her back. You have a chance here. Go to him."
"You're right." She put the plate down and began walking out of the kitchen. "And, Derek, thank you. Thank you for being such a good friend. It's been so lonely. I'm not used to having one."
"Neither am I."
"Well, like it or not, you have one now." She left the kitchen and walked up to Jack in the living room. "Have you seen Clark?"
"Um... he..." He looked at Dr. Whale, who shook his head.

Clark spotted Laura Reed tossing a rubber band ball in her yard.
"Did you not get the invite?"
"Clark." The ball slipped out of her hands and rolled towards him.
"Here." He picked up the ball and handed it to her. "So, I heard you resigned from the hospital. Was it me? Because of what I told you, about how I felt, about you. Come on. Don't tell me it's one-sided."
"You're married. It should be no-sided."
"What is should be doesn't matter. Whoever married Evelyn-- it's not me. I didn't choose her. I'm choosing you. Now I know you feel it. I can tell."
Laura Reed sighed with a pained expression. "I know you think that we have this connection, but maybe... it's because I happened to be the person who saved your life? So... why don't we leave it at that?" She turned and walked away.

In her apartment, Laura Reed was roughly scrubbing a plate while washing the dishes.
"You might want to ease up or that Brillo Pad's going to press charges." Jack teased as he watched her.
"The dishes were just piling up."
"This have anything to do with Clark stopping by? I saw him sulking away as I pulled up."
"We just... um... he just..."
"Yeah, I know what you both 'just'." Jack sat at the counter. "And you did the right thing."
"He made a pretty compelling case..."
"But he's still married. I know. I was just at the party."
"What do I do?"
"You need to stop cleaning and have a drink." Jack got up, took out a bottle of whiskey, and poured two glasses. They both sat at the table. "Here's the thing. I don't know a lot about relationships, other than having many that failed. But generally speaking, if you think something you want to do is wrong... it is. So... you got to stay strong, and he has to figure out his life. Cheers." They both clinked their glasses and drink.

Clark sat in the living room, looking through a box of old pictures.
"You look different." Evelyn came in and sat beside him. "Your hair. It's longer. You used to always have a buzz cut. You used to complain that long hair was itchy. And hard to take care of.
"I guess it grew while I was in there."
"So I was going to go to bed. Do you... want to join me?"
"Do you mean 'go to bed' go to bed, or... go to bed?"
"Whatever you want."
"Why don't we just... sit and talk some more." Evelyn kissed Clark on the lips, but he pulled back. "This... isn't right."

In the Diner, Laura Reed sipped a cup of cocoa while reading a newspaper. Dr. Whale walked up behind her. "So I heard that you resigned from the hospital. I hope it wasn't because of me."
"Why would it be because of you?"
"Well, our date. I never called you after. Yeah, I know, I know. It's not classy, and I'm sorry, but if you could find a way to get over it, you know where to find me. Have a good day."
He turned and left out the door, just as Derek entered to diner.
"Ms. Richards, may I have a word?" He sat down across from Laura Reed.
"Of course." She put down the newspaper.
"I wanted to talk to you about my friend Evelyn, but more specifically, I wanted to talk to you about her husband Clark. You don't belong together. He's not yours. He's taken. Find somebody else."
"I haven't done anything."
"Really? So he just up and left his wife on a whim?"
"He did what?"
"You don't know." Laura Reed shook her head. "Well, I guess you soon will, so listen carefully. Because it's in your best interest. Stay away. He's in a fragile state. He doesn't know who he is or what he's doing, and you're this close to wrecking multiple lives. So before you do something that can't be undone, let him remember who he was." He stood up and left.

In her classroom at the school, Laura Reed was opening mail with a small knife.
"Careful. Looks sharp." Clark stood in the doorway, watching her.
"You can't be here."
"I-I needed to see you."
"Tell me you didn't leave your wife because of me. I don't want to destroy your marriage."
"You're not. It's me. I don't want to hurt her either, but the most hurtful thing to Evelyn would be me pretending. She needs someone to feel about her... the way I feel about you."
Laura Reed closed her eyes, and sighed. "I'm really trying hard to stay away from you." She started putting books on the students' desks. "To do the right thing."
"Why is that the right thing?"
"Because you already have a life.
"With someone I didn't choose." The school bell rang and students began to enter the classroom. "The man who chose that life, whoever married Evelyn is gone. The man here wants someone else."
"You really have to leave me alone." She started pushing him towards the door.
"Is that really what you want?"
"Go."
"Meet me tonight. At least think about it. I'll be at the bridge where you found me at eight o'clock. Think about until then and then decide. If you don't show, I'll know, and I'll never bother you again." She thought about it for a moment. "But if you choose this, if you choose us... you know where I'll be." He turned and left out the door. She looked at him in disbelief.

Jack was looking through files at the Sheriff station, when Andrea entered and held out a box of donuts. "Sometimes the cliches are true."
"Okay. What do you want?"
"Remember when I said no night shifts? I need you to work tonight. Just this once."
"Why?" Jack made a 'do i have to?' face.
"I volunteer at an animal shelter, and the supervisor is sick, and someone needs to feed the dogs."
"Very lucky you brought a bear claw." He took a bear claw from the box and took a bite.
Soon, Laura Reed came rushing in. "Jack, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"I'll just go patrol my office." Andrea walked away, leaving them alone.
Laura Reed waited until she was out of earshot. "He left his wife. Clark-- he left her. He left Evelyn."
Jack looked shocked. "Okay. Slow down."
"He did it for me. He wants me to be with him. He wants me to meet him tonight."
"That's, uh..."
"I mean, I'm trying so hard to be strong, but he just keeps coming. I mean, how do I stop it? You know, how do I let him down? What would you do?"
"I'd go."
"What?"
"Well, he left her. It's one thing to say that he wants you, but it's another to actually make a choice, and now he has. That's all you can ask for."
"Given his new friendship with Evelyn, I don't think Derek would be happy."
"All the more reason to do it."
She chuckled, considering the idea. "Good lord. Is this really happening?"
"You tell me."

That night, Clark returned to his room at the inn, briefly checked his reflection in the mirror, and looked out the window at the clock tower which read 7:45. He fiddled with the ring on his finger.

Clark walked along the sidewalk, looking at a map, apparently lost.
"Mr. Grimm?" A voice came up behind him. Clark turned around, started to come face to face with Derek. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. I was just heading home from work, and I saw you. Are you lost?"
"Yeah. Yeah, kind of." He nodded, with a chuckle. "I'm looking for the toll bridge."
"Ah, where you were found."
"Yeah."
"Trying to jog your memory?"
"No, I'm meeting someone."
"So, you made your choice."
"Yes."
"Well, I don't suppose I can convince you to change your mind?"
"I can't change what I feel."
"No, of course not. Walk down the street to Ms. Wood's pawnshop." Derek instructed, pointing down the street. "You'll find a fork in the road. Go left. It will take you to a hiking trail that leads directly to the bridge."
"Thank you, uh, for understanding." Clark started to walk away.
"Good luck, Clark." Derek turned around to face him. "I hope you find what you're looking for."

Laura Reed waited for Clark at the toll bridge, often checking her watch.

Clark walked past Ms. Wood's shop, but then stopped and looked around. Realizing that he must've taken a wrong turn, he entered the shop to ask for directions. "Hello? Hello?" He searched around, but found that nobody was there. He then spotted a blue and black suit on a mannequin, and went over to look at it.
"Incredible." A voice suddenly said.
Clark turned to see Ms. Wood standing behind the counter. "I'm sorry?"
"The suit. Isn't it incredible? Simplicity in design, excellent stitch work. I could get it down if you like."
"No, no, no. I mean, it's-- it's very nice, but actually I'm looking for the toll bridge. The mayor said there was a fork in the road by your shop, but..."
"It seems he's led you astray."
"Yeah, you'd think the mayor would know his own town."
"One would think. Out of the door, turn right, two blocks, you'll find the trail. Can't miss it."
"Thank you." He started to leave, but stopped when he spotted the windmill that used to be on the front lawn of his house.
"See something you like?"
"Where did you get that?"
"That old thing? That's been gathering dust for... forever."
Clark came closer to the windmill and spun its vanes. "I think... this belonged to me."
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Yes. I remember."

As Laura Reed waited for Clark, she twisting the ring around her finger. She turned at the sound of running footsteps approaching.
Clark ran up to her, panting. "You came."
She chuckled. "You sound surprised. In fact, you almost sound a bit disappointed."
"I remember.
"Evelyn?"
He nodded and came closer to her. "Everything."
"And you love her?"
"I don't know. But I know I did. I remember how I felt, and... I think I have to honor that."
She closed her eyes, trying to understand what was happening. "And everything that you said to me--"
"Is true. I do have feelings for you. Intense feelings. Feelings I don't quite understand."
"You're going back to her."
"It's the right thing to do."
"The right thing to do was not to lead me on." Her voice was starting to break, and her eyes glistened.
"I know."
"So, you've made your choice."
"I'm sorry." He reached out a hand to her, but she refused.
"That's okay. I guess it just wasn't meant to be." She turned and walked away, feeling the tears held back about to fall.

Jack was driving through the streets on his night shift, when he saw someone jump out one of the windows of Derek's house. Suspicious that it might be a burglar, he pulled over and got out of the car, hiding behind the hedges. As the figure came closer, Jack tackled them to the ground. He was shocked to discover that it was Andrea.
"This is volunteering?"
"Plans... changed. Derek needed me to--"
"Sleep with him?"
"No."
They both stood up. "Then, why were you sneaking out the window?"
"Because... he didn't want Hilary to know."
"You did this with Hilary in the house?"
"She's sleeping. She doesn't know."
Jack looked at her, horrified. "Oh my god. I wish I was Hilary right now. This is disgusting."
"I really do work at an animal shelter."
"You can finish my shift. I'm done working nights." He tossed her the keys to the police car and walked away.

Clark rang the doorbell to his house, and soon Evelyn answered the door.
"You were right. I did hate that windmill out front."
"You remember. How much do you remember?"
"Enough. I know we weren't at a good place when I left. I know you thought I was leaving you, but I wasn't. I wanted to work things out, I just needed some time. Then I had my accident and got much more time than I expected. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too." Her voice started to break.
"I know we have work to do. Let's see what happens."
"I'd like that." She nodded and smiled, sniffing.

Laura Reed sat alone at the counter in the Diner, as a tear slid down her cheek. Dr. Whale entered and sat next to her.
"Rough day?"
"Don't feel like talking."
"Come on. Sometimes it's easier to talk to someone when you don't care what they think."
She looked at him and slightly shook her head. "You ever walk into a situation where you know exactly what's going to happen? And then you go into it anyway... And then when what you're afraid of happens... you kick yourself, because you should have known better. But that's just who you are, so you keep punishing yourself."
"No."
"How do you do that?"
"By never doing what's expected. It keeps life interesting." He noticed the empty glass beside her. "Can I buy you a drink?"
She gave him a look, not believing that what he asked her. Although, right now that didn't sound so bad. "You can buy me two."

Chapter Text

"Jack, what can I get you?" Michelle asked as he entered the Diner.

"Nothing." He passed by Andrea, who turned to look at him. She threw a dart in his direction, and it landed in the wall, right beside him. "What the? You could have hit me.”

"I never miss." She came over to him. "You've been avoiding me... since last night when you saw me."

"'Leaving the mayor'? And, yes, that's a euphemism. I'm not avoiding you, Andrea. I just have no interest in having this conversation. It's your life, and I really don't care." Jack walked out the door.

She followed him out to the sidewalk, running in front of him. "If you don't care, then why are you so upset?"

"I'm not upset!"

"If that were true, you'd be at the bar with me having a drink and not running away."

"It's none of my business, really." Jack walked away from her.

"Can we please talk about this? I need you to understand."

"Why?"

"I don't know. Uh, maybe so I can understand."

"You need analysis, go talk to Felix."

"I wanna talk to you."

"Well, your bad judgment is your problem, not mine."

"You don't know what it's like with him. I don't feel anything. Can you understand that?"

"A bad relationship? Yeah. I understand a bad relationship. I just don't wanna talk about yours."

"Look, I know you and Derek have your own issues, and I should've told you about that before you took the job."

"Yeah, why the secrecy? We're all adults. You can do whatever you want."

"'Cause I-I didn't want you to look at me the way you are now."

"Why do you care how I look at you?"

"Because..."

"What?" Jack was now getting frustrated.

Andrea stared at him for a second and then kissed him on the lips. She suddenly saw blurred images of a jungle. As the vision became clear, a large black robot with a red light appeared. They both pulled away from each other.

"What was that?" Jack asked in shock.

Andrea looked like she was in a daze. "Did you see that?"

"How much have you been drinking? That was way over the line."

"I'm sorry. I just...?"

"What? You what?" Jack shouted, wide eyed.

"I need to feel something."

"Listen to me, Andrea. You're drunk and full of regret. I get it. But whatever it is you're looking to feel, I can tell you one thing. You’re not getting it with me." He turned and walked away, down the street.


Later, Andrea knocked on the door in front of Derek's house. A light turned on and Derek answered the door.

"Andrea."

"Is Hilary asleep?"

"Yes. Why?"

Andrea entered and began kissing him passionately.


Andrea bolted upright in bed, sweating and breathing heavily.

"What is it?" Derek, who was laying next her, also woke up.

"I had a most intense dream. I was... in a jungle, and I killed a deer. There was a robot."

"A robot?"

"The funny thing is... I think I've seen the robot before.

Derek kissed her, hoping to calm her down. "Come back to sleep, Andrea. It was only a dream."

"It didn't feel like a dream. It felt like a memory." She got up and gathered her clothes.

"Andrea?"

"I need some air. I need to think."

"Andrea, please. Come back to bed."

"I left my car at Ellen's anyway. I need to go and get it, clear my head." She sat on the edge of the bed and put on her boots.

"Andrea, listen. It's late. You're tired. You're probably still drunk. Don't leave."

"Since when do you want me to stay anyway?"

"You're not well."

"I'm fine." She finished getting dressed and left. Andrea soon approached her police car, but dropped her car keys. As she went to pick them up, a large robot approaches her. She backed away, scared. The robot looked at her and then walked away.


The next morning, Jack came downstairs and found a bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table. "Really?" He angrily grabbed them.

"Oh! Hey, wait. What are you doing?" Laura Reed came in to see him throw the flowers into the garbage bin.

"If Andrea thinks flowers will work on me..."

"No, those... were mine."

"Oh. From Clark?"

"No. Uh... Dr. Whale."

"Why would Dr. Whale..." Laura Reed gave Jack a look. "Are you serious?"

"I know. It's a disaster."

"No. That's great. You're getting over Clark."

"First of all, there's nothing to get over, and second of all, it's just a one-night-stand."

"Not according to those flowers."

"Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have called him."

"Oh my God. You called him? That's definitely not a one-night stand."

"Not according to those flowers." Jack took out a pitcher of juice from the fridge.

"Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have called him."

"Oh, my God. You called him?" He set the pitcher down on the table. "That's definitely not a one-night stand."

"Well, okay, I'm still learning. I... I never had one before. I felt guilty."

"Why? There's nothing wrong with what you did. Trust me. One nighters is as far as I ever go."

"Yeah, but that's because you're..."

"Because... I'm what?"

"Never mind."

"No. Tell me. What do I do?"

"You're just protecting yourself... With that wall you put up."

"Just because I don't get emotional over women."

"You don't get emotional over women? Uh, the floral abuse tells a different story."

"What story is that?"

"The one that's obvious to everyone except, apparently, you. That you have feelings for Andrea."

"Come on." Jack rolled his eyes.

"There's that wall."

"That's not a wall."

Laura Reed picked the flowers out of the garbage bin and put them into a vase. "Really?"

"There's nothing wrong with being cautious."

"Oh, true. True. But, Jack, that wall of yours-- it may keep out pain, but it also may keep out love." She took the vase and left.


Andrea ran through the woods, following the robot that she saw the other night. She turned to the sound of rustling and branches snapping. Ms. Wood stepped out from the bushes, wearing an apron, boots and holding a shovel.

"Good morning, Sheriff. Sorry if I startled you."

"Right. Sorry, I-I thought you were a robot. What are you doing out here so early?"

"A sport of gardening. Yourself?"

"I was looking for a..."

"A robot. Yeah, I think I'm beginning to catch on. You know, to the best of my knowledge, Sheriff, there are no robots in Pixfare-- not the literal kind, anyway. Why are you looking?"

"You'll think I'm crazy."

"Try me."

"I saw one in my dreams, and then I saw one for real, just a few hours ago. Did you, uh, did you see anything unusual out there?"

Ms. Wood looked closely at her shovel. "I'm afraid not. I do wish I could be more helpful." She walked past Andrea. "You know, Sheriff... they say that dreams--" She paused and turned around to face her. "dreams are memories... memories of another life."

"W-what do you believe?"

"I never rule out anything. Good luck, Sheriff. I do hope you'll find what you're looking for."

Andrea started to leave, but stopped to look around, and began walking.

Later, Andrea ran through the woods, hearing mechanical noises in the distance. Eventually, she found the robot in a clearing. "What do you want?" The robot approached her. When Andrea touched the it, she had another flashback. She saw Mr. Incredible in a containment unit and flashes of electricity. When she snapped back to the present, the robot was gone. She looked around confused and then headed back to town.


Soon after searching all over town, Andrea entered the Diner and found Clark sitting at a table.

"Clark? Can I talk to you?"

"Andrea. What's the matter? Are you okay?" He asked with a concerned look.

She sat across from him. "I think we, uh... I think we know each other."

"Of course, we do."

"No, no, no, not-- not from here. Not from Pixfare."

"From where, then?" He asked, confused.

"Another life. Clark, how long have we known each other?"

"Um... I don't know. A while."

"Do you remember when we met?"

He opened his mouth to answer, but thought for a moment. "Um... no."

"Me neither. I can't remember when I met you or anyone. Isn't that strange?"

"I don't know. I mean, I suppose. But... but, you know, that's just life. Things get hazy."

"Have I ever hurt you?"

"Oh, Andrea, no. Of course not. What's going on?"

"Do you believe in other lives?"

"Like heaven?"

"I mean, like past lives?"

He smiled, now understanding what she meant. "You've been talking to Hilary."

"Hilary?"

"I heard she has this book of stories. She's been going on about how she thinks we're all characters from them-- From another land, and we've forgotten who we really are. Which, of course, makes no sense."

"Right. No, of course."

"Andrea." He touched her forehead. "You're burning up. Go home and get some rest. I think you'll feel much better after you've had some sleep."

"Right. You're absolutely right." She nodded. "I'm sorry to bother you. And thank you."

"Of course."

Andrea stood up and left the Diner.


At the sheriff office, Jack was trying to shoot darts when Derek walked in.

"Our tax dollars hard at work, I see."

"Andrea isn't here. I assumed she took a sick day - with you."

"Oh, so you know about us. Good. That's why I'm here. Because I also know about your relationship with her."

"I don't have a relationship with her."

"Oh? So, nothing's ever happened between the two of you? You forget, Jack. I have eyes everywhere."

"Nothing that meant anything."

"Well, of course not, because you're incapable of feeling anything for anyone. There's a reason you're alone, isn't there?"

"All due respect, the way I live my life is my business."

"It is until it invades on my life. Stay away from Andrea. You may think you're doing nothing, but you're putting thoughts in her head-- thoughts that aren't in her best interest. You're leading her on a path to self-destruction. Stay away." Derek turned and walked away.


Andrea rang the doorbell at Derek's House. Hilary answered the door.

"Hey, Sheriff. My dad's not here."

"Actually, uh, I'm here to see you, Hilary. I was hoping you could help me."

"Help you with what?"

"It's about your book. Am I in it?"

Andrea and Hilary were sitting on the bed in Hilary’s room, flipping through the book.

"Well, when did your flashes begin?"

"Right after I kissed Jack."

"You kissed my dad?" Hilary looked disgusted. "What did you see?"

"A big robot. I saw these electric pulses, and I was with Clark."

"Were you about to hurt him?"

"Yes. How'd you know that?"

"Because Clark is Mr. Incredible, which makes you... Mirage."

"So, you really think that I... could be another person?"

"Makes total sense. You were Syndrome’s assistant. That's why you keep seeing robots. You helped him kill off superheroes as part of his plan."

"I’m remembering this because I kissed your father? How is that possible?"

"Well, you two do have a special connection. He owes you his life."

"How?"

"Mr. Incredible's his father, and you spared him."

"Well, what happened after I freed Mr. Incredible?"

"You helped him and his family get back to Metroville to stop the robot." Hilary explained. "And then you quit working for Syndrome."

"Thank you, Hilary." She stood up and ran out of the room.

 

Jack waited in his car when he saw Andrea come out of Derek's house. "Hey. I hear that you're having a rough day."

"Who says?"

"Pretty much everyone. I think maybe you need to go home and get some rest."

"I'm fine."

"No, Andrea, you're not fine. You just went to see a 10-year-old for help."

"She's the only one making any sense."

"What's going on? What's...really going on?"

“I know what I have to do.”


At the sheriff's station, Andrea packed her things into a box. She took her badge off and put it on the desk.

“You're quitting?” Jack looked shocked. “But I thought you liked being Sheriff.”

“I did. But I just can't work for Derek anymore.”

“You're doing what?” Derek, who was standing by the door, yelled to them. “Did you put him up to this?” He pointed accusingly at Jack.

“Don’t blame him. It was my idea.” Andrea stood in between them.

"You don’t look well, sweetheart. Let’s take you home." Derek grabbed Andrea's arm, dragging her with him.

She broke free from his grasp. "No, I-I don’t want to go home. Not with you."

Derek looked back and forth between them. "Oh? But you’ll go with him?"

"Hey, this is between you two. Leave me out of it." Jack said firmly.

"He’s right. It’s between us, and things have to change."

"And I wonder, why that is all of a sudden."

"It has nothing to do with him. You know, I’ve realized that I don’t feel anything, Derek, and I know now it’s not me. It’s you."

"So, you’re leaving me for him?"

"I’m leaving you for me."

"Andrea, you’re not thinking straight.”

"Actually, for the first time, I am. I’d rather have nothing than settle for less. Nothing is better than what we have. I need to feel something, Derek, and the only way to do that is to give myself a chance."

"Andrea."

"I’m sorry. It’s over."

Derek stepped back, hurt. Andrea and Jack looked at each other.

"I don’t know what I ever did to you, Jack, to deserve this.” Derek angrily snarled at him. “To have you keep coming after everything I care about."

"I told you, it’s not him." She assured him.

"None of this happened until he got here."

"I’m sorry, but have you ever stopped to think that maybe the problem isn’t with me, but with you?"

"Excuse me?"

"Hilary came and found me.” Jack said. “Andrea kissed me. Both were miserable. Maybe, Mr. Mayor, you need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why that is. Why is everyone running away from you?"

Derek punched Jack in the face, making him fall into Andrea and they fell to the ground.

"Derek!" She shouted.

Jack stood up and punched Derek back in the face. Jack grabbed Derek and pushed him against the wall.

Andrea also stood up and tried to split them up. "Stop! Stop, Stop!" She finally pulled Jack away. Derek gently touched his bloody jaw.

"Not worth it." Jack glanced at Derek before walking away.

"Andrea." Derek approached her, but she began to leave, following Jack.


Andrea had gotten an ice pack from the first aid kit and handed it to Jack.

"I'm sorry." She gently pressed the ice pack to his head. "I don’t know what came over me, how I lost my mind."

"It’s okay. You were tired and feverish... And heartbroken."

Andrea prepared iodine to apply it to Jack's wound. She stopped to look at him. "I don’t know why I let myself get caught up with him."

"Because it was easy and safe. Not feeling anything is an attractive option when what you feel stinks." She walked over to him. Gently, she dabbed the cut on his face, making him wince. "Felt that."

 

Soon, Andrea finished treating Jack's wound. "All better."

"Yeah."

She turned to put away the contents of the first aid kit, and then saw that Jack was staring at her. "What?"

Jack slowly walked over to her and after a few minutes, they kissed. Andrea suddenly had flashbacks of the events of her life in as Mirage in the order they’d occurred. She broke away from him with a gasp.

"Andrea? You okay?" He asked.

"I remember."

"Andrea?"

"I remember."

"You remember what?"

Andrea slowly approached Jack, starting to tear up. She cupped his face with her hands. "Thank you." Jack gave her a smile and they kissed again.

Chapter Text

At the Sheriff Department, Jack was about to attach the sheriff's badge to his jacket, when Derek entered the office.

"Oh. I'm sorry. That's not for you."

"It's been two weeks. Promotion is automatic."

"Unless the mayor appoints someone else within the time period, which I'm doing today."

"So who's it gonna be?"

"After due judgment, Olga Sonork."

"Olga from the newspaper? How does that even make sense?"

"Well, she's covered the Sheriff's office for as long as anyone can remember."

"And she'll do whatever you want her to. You just can't stand the fact that things have been getting better around here, can you?"

"Better? Are you referring to Andrea leaving as better"?

"No."

"She made this town safe, and forgive me for saying it, but you haven't earned the right to wear her badge."

"Andrea picked me... to be deputy."

"She was wrong."

"No, she knew what she was doing. She freed this office from your leash. You're not getting it back."

"Actually, I just did. Jack, you're fired." Derek took the Sheriff's badge and left the office.


Loud music played in the kitchen, with a bottle of scotchon the table. Jack tried to repair the broken toaster with a knife. Laura Reed entered, looked at Jack curiously, and turned the music off.

"Toaster broken?"

"It wasn't when I started with it. Pretty sure it is now. I just needed to hit something."

"What's going on?"

"Derek fired me so he can put one of his own puppets in as Sheriff. That's my job."

"Never heard you so passionate about it before. What happened?"

"I don't know. I just... I know I want it back."

"There must be a reason."

"Maybe..." There was a knock on the door. "I just want to beat him." Jack opened the door to see Ms. Wood.

"Good evening, Jack. Sorry for the intrusion. There's something I'd like to discuss with you."

"I'll let you two talk." Laura Reed left them alone.

"Come on in."

"Thank you. I- I heard about what happened. Such an injustice."

"Yeah, well, what's done is done."

"Spoken like a true fighter."

"I don't know what chance I have. He's the mayor, and I'm... well... me."

"Jack, two people with a common goal can accomplish many things. Two people with a common enemy... can accomplish even more. How would you like a benefactor?"

"A benefactor?"

"Do you mind?" They sat down at the kitchen table. "You know, it really is quite shocking how few people study the town charter."

"The town charter?"

"Well, it's quite comprehensive. And the mayor's authority? Well, maybe he's not quite as powerful as he seems." She smiled slightly.


Derek, Olga, several news reporters and a photographer were gathered at the town hall.

"Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own homes." Derek announced, smiling. "That's why Olga Sonork is my choice for post of Sheriff. This woman has put the needs of Pixfare above her own for as long as any of us can remember, as chief editor of the Pixfare 'Daily Droid'. Please welcome your new Sheriff." He was about to attach the Sheriff's badge on Olga's shirt when Jack barged in.

"Hang on a second."

"Oh, Jack, this is not appropriate."

"The only thing not appropriate is this ceremony. He doesn't have the power to appoint her."

"The town charter clearly states 'the Mayor shall appoint-'"

"A candidate. You can appoint a candidate. It calls for an election."

"The term 'candidate' is applied loosely."

"No, it's not. It requires a vote. And guess what, Mr. Mayor- I'm running."

"Fine. So is Olga."

"I am?" Derek turned around and gave Olga a look. "I am."

"With my full support. I guess we'll learn a little something about the will of the people."

"I guess we will."


Later, Derek stormed into Ms. Woods shop.

"Derek." She smiled. He flipped the sign on the door to the 'Closed' side. Ms. Wood stood up. "Shall I remove some things? Make a bit of space for your rage?"

He walked towards her. "You found that loophole in the town charter."

"Legal documents- contracts if you like- always been a fascination of mine."

"Yes, you love to trifle with technicalities."

"I like small weapons, you see- The needle, the pen," She looked at Derek for a moment. "the fine point of a deal." She turned away again. "Subtlety – not your style, I know."

"You're a witch."

She chuckled. "I think your grief's getting the better of you, Derek. Shame what happened to Andrea."

"Don't you talk about her. You know nothing."

"What is there to know? She left."

"Are you really going up against me?"

"Not directly. We are, after all, both invested in the common good. We're just picking different sides."

"Well, I think you picked a really slow horse this time. It's not like you to back a loser."

"He hasn't lost yet."

"He will."

"Never underestimate someone who's acting for their child."

"She's not his child. Not legally."

"Oh. Now who's trifling with technicalities?"


"This is what I've been trying to tell you." Hilary tried to convince Jack. They were seated in a booth at the Diner. "Good can't beat evil because good doesn't do this kind of thing. My dad plays dirty. That's why you can't beat him, ever."

"I have a new ally. Ms. Wood said she's going to help."

"Ms. Wood? She's even worse than he is. You already owe her one favor. You don't want to owe her any more. Don't do this."


Jack entered the mayor's office, holding the newspaper in his hand. "I don't know how you got it, but that's abuse of power and illegal. Plus, this hurts Hilary."

"She would've learned eventually. We all lose our heroes at some point." Derek and Jack exited the office and walked through the building.

"She doesn't need to lose anything more. She's depressed, Mr. Mayor. She doesn't have any… any hope. Don't you see that?"

"He's fine." Derek switched off the lights.

"She's not fine. I mean, think about it- Watching her adoptive father throw an illegal smear campaign against her birth father? You don't think that would be upsetting?"

"All I did was expose her to the truth. And as for the legality, I did nothing wrong. But you and Olga will have a chance to get into all that at the debate."

"Debate?" Jack looked surprised.

"Yes, Jack, there's a debate." They walked down a staircase leading to the building's front door. "You two can talk about jail time and juvie records and maybe even your new association with Ms. Wood. She's a snake, Jack. You need to be careful who you get into bed with."

"I'm not getting into bed with anyone. I'm just fighting fire with-"

Derek opened the door when an explosion was set off, setting the next room on fire. Both were thrown back from the blast. Derek's ankle was crushed by a piece of debris and immobilized. Jack tossed the debris away, freeing him. "Alright. Come on. Let's go. We got to get out of here."

"I can't move! You have to get me out. Help me!" Jack was about to leave, but Derek grabbed his hand and stopped him. "You're going to leave me, aren't you?" Jack didn't answer, broke free from his grasp and left into the next room. Derek couldn't get up on his own. With an fire extinguisher, Jack was able to get the fire under control and cleared the way to the exit. Holding onto him, Jack supported Derek and they made it out of the building. Outside, a reporter took a picture of them.

"Oh! Oh! Ow! My ankle! Set me down gently!"

"Seriously? You're complaining about how I saved your life?"

Fire engines soon approached the scene. "The firemen are here. It's not like we were really in danger."

Jack started walking away. "Fine. Next time I'll just… I'll just… Ah, you know what?" He turned to face Derek. "Next time, I'll just- No, you know that? Next time, I'll do the same thing and the time after that, because that is what decent human beings do. That's what good people do."

"Hey, did Jack really rescue my dad?" Hilary asked a firefighter.

On a stretcher, wearing an oxygen mask, Derek overheard Hilary and threw off the mask in anger. "Enough! I'm fine."

Olga ran up to Derek with a camera and took a picture. "Nice shot of the victim?"

"Olga, what are you doing? Are you trying to hand this election to him?"

"But it's news."

"He's the competition, woman!"

Jack and various people from town were talking in a group.

"Did you really rescue Derek?" Laura Reed asked.

"He did." Hilary cried, coming over. "The fireman said it. They saw it."

"You are a hero." Michelle smiled.

"We should see if they have a picture of the rescue." Laura Reed suggested.

"We could make campaign posters." added Ellen.

"Oh, people would love that!" Felix said with excitement. "That's a great idea. Wait. So I'll get the photo and then you…" The group walked away, leaving Jack and Hilary alone.

"This is how good wins." He knelt down beside her, smiling. "You do something good and people see it and then they want to help you."

"Maybe you're right."

"You see, Hilary? We don't have to fight dirty." Jack noticed a piece of fabric similar to the one Ms. Wood was preparing earlier in the day while they had their conversation.


Ms. Wood was in her shop, using a rag to clean her hands which were blackened with soot. Jack entered the shop.

"Loads of visitors today." He slammed the door behind him. "Do hope you're not going to break my little bell."

"You set the fire."

"I've been right here, Jack." She scoffed.

Jack approached her, holding the fabric in his hands. "Take a whiff. It smells like your sheep oil stuff. Turns out it's flammable."

"Well, are you sure? There's some construction working on at City Hall at the moment. There's loads of flammable solvents used in construction."

"Why did you do it?"

She stopped cleaning her hands and walked around her desk. "If I did it, if I did it, that would be because you can't win without something big, something like, uh, oh, I don't know, being the hero in a fire?"

"How could you even know I'd be there at the right time?"

"Maybe Derek's not the only one with eyes and ears in this town or maybe... I'm just intuitive. Where I involved."

"I could've run and left him there."

"Not the type."

"I can't go along with this."

She gave him half of a smile. "You just did. This is just the price of election, Jack."

"A price I'm not willing to pay." He threw the fabric down at her desk. "Find another sucker."

"Okay, go ahead. Expose me. But if you do, just think about what you'll be exposing and what you'll be walking away from." Jack glared at her for a moment, then started to leave, heading for the door. "Oh, yes, and uh, who you might be disappointing."

Jack turned around, glared at her and slammed the shop's door.


Above the entrance of the town hall hung a banner that read 'Debate Today - Sheriff's election.' Laura Reed stapled 'Swan for Sheriff' promotion posters on the bulletin board. Going onto the other side of the board, she ran into Clark.

"Clark, hi."

"Laura Reed. Hi."

"I was just, uh..."

"Yeah, me, too."

"How are things?"

"Okay. Oh, I got a job. Yeah. I'm working at the animal shelter."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

She noticed the posters he put up read 'Olga Sonork Sheriff'. "So... Olga?"

"Yeah, well, my wife is friends with Derek, so..."

"Oh, right. How is Evelyn?"

"Good. She's meeting me here later."

"That's wonderful." She stapled the posters with more forcefully to the wall. "Well, I'm all out of posters. I'm going to go get some more." She quickly walked away.


Inside the Town Hall, Olga was getting ready for the debate.

Felix practiced his opening speech. "Citizens of Pixfare, uh- we welcome you to- Uh- Welcome citizens of Pixfare. Oh. Uh, we welcome you- citizens of Pixfare, welcome, uh..."

Jack sat at the podium. Drawing back the curtains, he noticed Hilary sitting in the audience who smiled at him. Laura Reed approached him, handing Jack some cards. As he took them, she also handed him a bottle of water.

"I'm not going to win."

"What are you talking about? Everyone's talking about what you did in the fire."

"No, Hilary's right. I can't beat Derek at this. Not the way he fights. Watch and see." He took a sip of water.

"Is this really about beating Derek."

Jack drew back the curtains again to get another look at Hilary. "It's just-"

"Hilary."

"I wanna show her that good can actually win."

"That's why you want to win it for her, but why do you want to win the election for yourself?"

"That is why. I wanna show her that a hero can win. And if I'm not... If I'm not a hero and I'm not a savior, then what part do I have in her life? Okay, there it is."

"There it is." Jack drew back the curtains a third time. He noticed Ms. Wood entering the Town Hall.

Felix welcomed the audience. Jack and Olga were seated on either side of him.

"So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to the candidates– Olga Sonork" he briefly looked at Olga. "and Jack Swan." He briefly looked at Jack. "Uh, Ms. Sonork, your opening statement."

Olga walked to the podium. "I just wanna say that if elected, I wanna serve as a sentiment of the best qualities of Pixfare- Honesty," From his seat, Derek silently mouthed her words. "Neighborliness... and strength. Thank you." The audience applauded. Derek cheered her proudly.

"And Jack Swan." Felix announced.

Jack walked up to the podium. "You guys all know I have... what they call a, uh, troubled past, but you've been able to overlook it because of the, um... hero thing. But here's the thing... The fire was a setup." The audience began to murmur amongst themselves. "Ms. Wood agreed to support me in this race, but I didn't know that that meant she was going to set a fire. I don't have definitive evidence, but I'm sure. And the worst part of all this was... The worst part of all this is I let you all think it was real... and I can't win that way. I'm sorry." Ms. Wood stood up and left the Town Hall. Jack stepped away from the podium.


At the Diner, Jack finished his drink.

"Another?" Michelle asked from behind the counter.

"Oh, yeah." Hilary soon entered the Diner. "Hey Hilary." She handed him a walkie talkie from her backpack. "What's this for?"

"You stood up to Ms. Wood." She sat beside Jack. "It's pretty amazing."

"Well, she did something illegal."

"That's what heroes do- expose stuff like that." Michelle brought Jack another drink and placed a glass of milk in front of Hilary. "I shouldn't have given up on Operation Cobra." Hilary leaned closer, whispering to Jack.

Derek and Olga entered the Diner.

"I thought I might find you here... with a drink. And my daughter."

"Here to card me, officer?" Jack asked Olga.

"Well, not at all. In fact, I think I'll join you."

"Here? I don't know. I think they're setting up a back room for the victory party."

"Well, you'll have to tell me what that's like."

Looking angry for a moment, Derek took the Sheriff's badge out of his pocket, and then smiled. "Congratulations..." He placed the badge in front of Jack on the counter. "Sheriff Swan."

"Wait. What?" Hilary asked, confused. Jack also looked shocked.

"It was a very close vote." Derek explained. "But people really seem to like the idea of a sheriff brave enough to stand up to Ms. Wood."

Slowly, people began to enter the Diner.

"Are you joking?"

"He doesn't joke." Olga shook her head.

"You didn't pick a great friend in Ms. Wood, Jack... but she does make a superlative enemy. Enjoy that." Derek gave Jack a smile.


Jack entered the Sheriff's office and placed his things on the desk. Looking up, he noticed Andrea's jacket hanging on the coat rack.

"The Sheriff's jacket." Ms. Wood said, standing by the door. "I thought you might want it after all."

Jack jumped back, startled. "You do know I'm armed, right?"

She smiled and entered the room. "It's all part of the act, my dear. Political theater in an actual theater. I knew no one was going to vote for you unless we gave you some kind of extraordinary quality. And I'm afraid saving Derek from the fire just wasn't gonna do now. We had to give you a higher form of bravery. They had to see you defy me, and they did."

"No way. There's no way you planned that."

"Everyone's afraid of Derek, but they're more afraid of me. By standing up to me, you won them over. It was the only way."

"You knew I'd agree."

"Oh, yeah." She nodded. "I know how to recognize a desperate soul."

"Why did you do this?"

"We made a deal sometime back. We established that you owed me a favor. I know that can be a bad feeling- owing someone. Now that you're sheriff, I'm sure we'll find some way for you to pay back what you owe me." She left the Sheriff's office. "Congratulations."

Chapter Text

At Sunset Toy Store, Hilary was looking at dolls when Alex Harpo, a young redhead boy with freckles, brown eyes, and an amputated right arm approached her.

"Hi. I'm Alex. I think I've seen you around school. You're in Miss Richards' class, right?"

Hilary smiled and nodded.

A trio of kids walked up to Alex. "Almost ready, Alex?" One of them asked.

"These are my friends, Erica, Sheldon, and Jordan."

"Hi." They said at the same time.

"Come on. Let's go." Sheldon urged Alex as the trio started to leave.

"You wanna come hang out?" Alex asked Hilary.

"Sure." Hilary picked up her backpack and followed the group.

They were about to open the door to leave when two of store's employees held the doors closed. Jim Pride, a man with brown hair and brown eyes, and Larry Aldrin, a brawny man with blue eyes and a cleft in his chin. "Hold it right there!"

"Where do you think you're going?" Jim pointed at Hilary. "Open up your bag."

"What?"

"Don't think I didn't see you rob us." The group exchanged a glance. "Open your bag."

"But I didn't take anything."

Larry angrily grabbed Hilary's backpack and searched through it, finding some action figures in it. "And a liar, too."

Hilary turned to Alex and the others. "That's why you were talking to me. So your friends could put that stuff in there."

"Hilary, I'm shocked." Jim turned to Alex. "And you kids- just who do you think you are?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Mayor, but your daughter was shoplifting." Larry explained to Derek, who he had called shortly after catching the kids.

Derek turned to Hilary. "Were you?" She shook her head.

"Well, look for yourself." Jim pointed to the counter, on which were Hilary's backpack and some toys taken from it.

Derek took a look at the toys. "My daughter knows better than to steal." He took Hilary's backpack and zipped it, looking at Alex accusingly. "It was obviously him. We're going."

Derek and Hilary were about to leave the store when Jack entered.

"Hilary. What happened?"

"Jack, must I remind you that genetics mean nothing? You're not her father and it's all taken care of."

"I'm here because I'm the sheriff."

"Oh, that's right. Go on, do your job. Take care of that miscreant."

Jack walked past Derek as he and Hilary left. "Did you call his parents?"

"Uh, the number he gave us was... disconnected." Jim explained and then walked away to return to work.

"Did you give them a fake number?" Jack asked Alex, who shook his head. "Then why is it disconnected?"

"'Cause my parents couldn't pay the bill."

Jack picked up a deck of cards Alex planned to steal. "You're just trying to help out, huh?"

Alex nodded. "Please, please don't arrest me. It'll just make things worse for my parents."


Later, Jack pulled up in front of a house with Alex in the backseat. "This it?"

Alex nodded. They both unfastened their seat belts. Jack opened his car door and prepared to get out of the car.

"Please, no." Alex pleaded. "If my parents see you, they'll be so embarrassed."

Jack closed the door and leaned closer to him, knowing that he was lying. "Tell me the truth, money problems aside, is everything okay at home?"

"Yeah, we're great. Can I go?"

"Alright."

Alex climbed out of the car. Jack started the engine and watched him go up the front steps. Alex stopped at the door, seeing that Jack was now out of sight.

"He's gone." Alex looked relieved. He went down the steps, around the side of the house, to the backyard climbing over a fence and reached the house's storeroom, which he had been living in. Alex put the toys he got onto a shelf.

Suddenly, he heard floorboards creaking and a door closing. He followed the noise and came into the house through a trapdoor. Suddenly, Jack appeared behind him.

"Why did you lie to me?" he turn to face Jack, startled. "Where are your parents?"

"I don't have any."


Soon, Jack took Alex to the apartment. Alex ate at the table, while Jack and Laura Reed stood off to the side, quietly talking.

"Do you know him? Does he go to your school?"

"I've seen him, but... I had no idea. None of us did."

"Alexander Harpo." Jack read from a profile. "Said his mother was a woman named Elizabeth Harpo. She died a few years ago." Laura Reed shook her head. "No one seems to know her or remember her."

"And the father?"

"There isn't one- at least not one that they know."

"What does, uh, what does social services say?" Jack paused, saying nothing. "You didn't report him."

"I report him, I can't help him. He goes into the system." Jack whispered.

"The system that's supposed to help."

"Yeah, says the woman who wasn't in it for sixteen years. Do you know what happens? They get thrown into homes where they're a meal ticket. Nothing more. These families get paid for these kids, and as soon as they're too much work, they get tossed out and all starts over again."

"But they're not all like that."

"All the ones I was in."

"What, we're just gonna adopt him?"

"I want to look for his father. He doesn't know him. He may not know he exists."

"And you think if he knows, he'll want him?"

"I don't know. But what I do know is that it's hard enough finding foster families to take a kid that isn't theirs. It's his best shot."


In the hall of records, an older, gray haired man was working behind his desk when Jack approached him.

"Excuse me, Mr.-" He glanced at the nameplate "-Sherman? I'm sheriff Swan. I'm hoping to look at the birth certificate of Alexander Harpo."

"Well, just, uh," he took out some papers.

"Fill out this form... in triplicate." he stamped all three papers.

Jack took the forms cautiously and filled them out. "Okay."

After searching from a drawer, he turned to face Jack. "I'm sorry, mate. That document has been recently removed."

"By who?"


In Derek's office in the town hall, Jack asked him about the birth certificate.

"Don't worry, Jack. You can relax. I've contacted social services. Turns out this kid is on his own. He needs help."

"Which is exactly what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to find his father."

"Well... he doesn't exist." He handed back the file to Jack.

"He has to."

"Well, of course, biologically, he exists, but there's no record of him, which means we have no choice. This boy needs a home, so he'll be put in the foster system."

"Pixfare has a foster system?"

"No, but I have contacted the state. They put us in touch in a home in Boston."

"They're sending him away?"

"I don't like it either, but we've got no choice. You need to have him in Boston tonight."

"Me?"

"Well, you wanted to be sheriff. This is what sheriffs do. Yes, you're taking him."

"No."

"This child need a home. I'm just trying to find the best one."


Hilary entered the Sheriff Department while Jack searched for information about Alex's father. "Any luck?"

"No."

"I know who he is." She took out her Pixar Storybook and opened it to the Finding Nemo story. "Young boy with a little arm, lost, no parents. Nemo."

"Anything in there about the dad?"

"Just that he searched the ocean to find him."

"Not in this case. Whoever this guy is, he could be in Loas by now."

"No, he's here."

"Just how do you know that?" Jack scoffed.

"'Cause no one leaves Pixfare. No one comes here. No one goes. It's just the way it is."

"I came here."

"Because you're special. You're the first stranger here, ever."

Jack took out a file from a cabinet and sat at his desk. "Right. I forgot. Well, if he's around here anywhere, I'm gonna find him."

Hilary sat on the edge of the desk. "Can you tell me about her?"

"Who her?"

"My mother. I told you about your parents. Now you're even living with your mom."

"Laura Reed isn't- she's... never mind."

"Please?"

Jack turned to Hilary. "I was pretty young. I'd just gotten out of the foster system, and the only job I could get was at this 24-hour diner just off the interstate. And, um... your mom was training to be a cop. She always got the worse shifts, so she'd come in and order coffee and pie and sit at the counter and always complained that we didn't sell pumpkin pie, but she always come back the next day anyway."

"Did you get married?"

Jack chuckled. "Oh, no. Nothing like that. We just- we hung out a few times outside of work. And... life happened. Hers got better and mine got worse, and... I got into some trouble."

"When you went to jail."

"Yeah." Jack sighed. "And... I tried to contact her. And I found out... that she died saving a family from a burglar. So you think I'm the savior, Hilary? She was. Your mother was a real hero."

"Do you have anything of hers? Something you can remember her by? Something I can see?"

Jack thought for a moment, trying to remember. "I...I don't." He suddenly realized something, and got an idea. "Hilary... I'm sorry. I gotta go. I may know how to find this guy."

Hilary got off the desk as Jack stood up and left.


Alex was eating from a plate of cookies when Jack came downstairs, holding a box.

"I want to show you something." He took out a black eye mask from the box.

"What's that?" Alex asked.

"It's a mask. It's something I've held onto my whole life. It's the only thing that I have from... from my parents. I've spent a lot of time with a lot of kids in your situation, and all of them... all of us... we held on to stuff. I want to find your father, but I need your help. Is there anything of his you've held onto?"

Alex got an idea. "I might have something." He took out a scuba mask from his bag, and gave it to Jack.

"A diving mask?"

"My mom kept it. She said it was my dad's. We used to always go snorkeling."

"Thank you."

"Did you find them?"

"Who?"

"Your parents."

"Not yet. But I'm gonna find yours."


Jack entered Ms. Wood's store as she chiseled a wooden piece.

"Jack. How lovely to see you." She put down the tools. "I'm flattered to take time off your busy schedule for me. What can I do for you, sheriff?"

Jack put the mask on the table in front of her. "I'm looking for information on this old driver's mask. Any idea where it could've come from?"

She took the mask in her hands, examining it. "Well, well. Look at the detail. You know, this is tempered glass, this faceplate? Despite the rather unfortunate shape it's in, this is actually quite an unusual piece." She put the mask down to the table again. "The person who owned this obviously had great taste."

"And where would someone like that buy it?"

"Right here, of course."

"You know it?"

"Indeed. Piece like this is difficult to forget."

"Do you happen to remember who bought it?

"Well, I'm good with names, Jack, but," She walked to another side of the shop. "Maybe not that good. However, as luck would have it, I do keep quite extensive records..." She opened a drawer and searched in it. "And... yes." She took out a white card. "Here we are." she held up the card, but said nothing.

Jack understood what it was that she wanted. "What's your price?"

"Forgiveness."

"How about tolerance?"

"Well, that's a start. The mask was purchased by a Mr. Martin Brooks."

"Anything else?"

"Just a name, but I generally find that's all one needs." Jack nodded then turned and walked towards the door. "Good luck with your investigation."

Jack looked back at her, and then continued to walk away.


After learning that Martin was a tour guide at the Pixfare Aquarium, Jack decided to pay him a visit. He showed Martin the file about Alex, but after reading it, Martin gave it back, shaking his head. "Not possible."

"Actually it is."

"I'm sorry. Look, Elizabeth- she wasn't my, um... It was just once." He turned back and faced the fish tank.

"Sometimes that's all it takes."

"I met her when I was snorkeling... And, we um… No. It's not possible. I don't have a son."

"Yes, you do." Martin turned his head and look at Jack. "You have a son who's been homeless ever since his mother passed away. Your son has been living in an abandoned house." Martin continued watching the tank. "Your son is about to be shipped off to Boston, unless you stepped up and take responsibility for him."

"Look, I have enough with my job here. I don't have time for a kid." Martin walked back to his tour group that was watching the fish tank. "Why are you so sure he's mine?"

"Besides the timing?" Jack took out the diver's mask. "Have you ever seen this?"

Martin walked towards Jack as he handed him the mask. "I lost this."

"Let me guess- twelve years and nine months ago?" Martin looked up. "I know it's a lot. Believe me, I know. A month ago, a kid showed up on my doorstep. His mother gave up for adoption, asking for help with… something, I ended up moving here, for her."

"I heard about that. It's the mayor's daughter. But... staying in town is... a lot different from taking him in."

"I don't have my kid because I don't have a choice. You do. That kid didn't ask to be brought to this world. You brought him into this world. You and his mother. And he needs you. If you choose not to take him, you're going to have to answer for that every day of your life. And sooner or later when he finds you- because believe me he'll find you... you're going to have to answer to him."

Martin paused for a moment. "I'm really sorry. I am," He put the mask back into Jack's hand. "I don't know anything about being a dad. If it's a good home you're looking for, it's not with me." He turned around and returned to his tour group. Jack looked down in disappointment, feeling like he failed to do his job.


Laura Reed, Hilary, and Alex were baking in the kitchen, when the phone rang. Laura Reed stepped away to answer the phone. "Hello."

"Hey, it's me." Jack's voice came from the other side. "I need you to come outside right away."

"It's everything okay?"

"Don't say anything to Alex, but no, it's not."

Laura Reed turned to take a look at the kids, who were both smiling.


"He doesn't want him." Jack told Laura Reed as they stood out on the sidewalk.

"And you don't want to tell them."

"I can't, because all I'll be telling him is that false hope I gave him is exactly that."

"The truth can be painful, Jack, but it can also be cathartic."

"I agree on the painful part."

"Well, hey, look, you told Hilary the truth- that her mother is dead- and she's handling it great."

"I didn't tell her the truth."

She looked at him, confused. "What?"

"Hilary's mother was no hero, and trust me, she doesn't need to know the real story. Maybe we can hide Alex, just until we can find a family for him- someone to take care of him."

"Yes, hiding a twelve-year-old is a good plan?"

"You have a better idea?"

"Or maybe there isn't an idea. Maybe you just have to-"

"Sheriff, shouldn't you be on the interstate?" Derek suddenly came from behind them.

"What are you doing here?" Jack asked.

"Seeing to it that you do your job."

"You know that you don't need to check up on me. I know what I have to do."

"Really? Because that kid is supposed to be in Boston tonight."


Later that night, Alex sadly stared at the window of the police car. Jack opened the door for Alex to get into the car while Derek and Hilary watched them a few feet away.

"Come on. It's gonna be…" Jack took out the diver's mask and gave it back to Alex. "Here. I'm sorry, but we gotta go."

Alex got into the car in silence. Jack shut the door with anger, still hating that he had to do this.

"Let's go, Hilary." Derek turned to Hilary, with his arm around her. She shook his hand off her shoulder and ran to the car's driver seat.

"No. You can't take him." Hilary pleaded to Jack through the open window. "He can't leave Pixfare, Jack. He can't. Something bad will happen."

"Something bad has already happened." Jack started the engine and drove off. Derek watched with a mischievous smile on his face.

On their way to town border, the engine suddenly began sputtering, making the car shake, and then eventually stopped.

"You gotta be kidding me." Jack groaned.

"What happened? What's wrong?"

"Engine stalled." Jack took out his cell phone and began dialing.

"Who're you calling?"

"Help."


Jack waited outside the car for help to arrive, while Alex stayed in the backseat. Alex was playing with the mask, bored, when he noticed a reflection in the faceplate. He turned and looked through the back window and saw headlights approaching. Jack came closer as the car stopped, was surprised to see Martin step out.

"That's him?" He asked Jack.

"That's him."

"And your car? It's fine?"

"I just wanted you to see him. Just once. I didn't think I could do it either. I gave up Hilary 'cause I wanted to give her her best chance. When I saw that she didn't have it, I couldn't leave. I was just as scared, more probably. But once I saw her, got to know her... I couldn't go back."

Martin walked up to the car, where Alex was watching them from the back window. "You're taking him? To Boston?"

"I don't have to." Jack shook his head.

Martin looked back to Alex. "No. You don't." He walked towards the backseat and Alex looked at him, rolling down the window. Martin leaned in closer and he Alex stared at each other. Watching, Jack smiled with joy, but was overcome with emotion.


Laura Reed was folding clothes on her bed when Jack entered the room. "Hey. What happened?"

"His dad? He showed up. Changed his mind." He laid down on the bed.

"Changed his mind? Just like that?"

"He might have had a little nudge."

"He found his father. That's great." She smiled.

Jack propped up on his elbows. "I wonder what that would be like."

"Maybe you'll find out. You can't give up."

"I don't know. I kinda think giving up might be the best plan. I think I need to let go."

"No, you don't."

"Really... if they wanted to know me, they wouldn't make it so hard to look."

"Maybe. But maybe there's other reasons. Maybe there's an explanation."

Jack laid down on his back again. "If there is, it's something crazy- something even crazier than Hilary's theory."

"Yeah, what's her theory?"

"Well... that my parents put me in a magical door and sent me to this world to save them."

"Oh!" She chuckled. "And who does she think they are?"

"Well... for one... you." He sat up.

"Me?" She looked at him in disbelief.

"Well, Elastigirl."

"As in the Incredibles?"

"Yeah."

"I have kids and superpowers. I'd think I remember that."

"Yeah, you'd think."

"You do kind of have my hair color." The two smiled at each other.

"I think I need to go get some air." Jack got off the bed and walked out of the room. Laura Reed also followed with the folded clothes. "I'm gonna go think." He took a manila envelope from the box that contained his eye mask.

"If you're gonna be back late, I can wait to eat with you."

"No, don't do that."

"I'll leave you leftovers."

Jack got the keys when Laura Reed caught sight of his eye mask.

"What a nice mask."

He turned back to face her. "Thanks, goodnight." Jack left and closed the door.

Laura Reed picked up the mask and tried it on. She paused for a moment, but then put it away.


Jack sat in his car, reading news cuts about him as a baby. Hilary suddenly appeared outside the car, holding a white box.

"What's that?" She asked.

"Just an old file. What's up?"

"Pumpkin pie. I...I thought you'd like some." Jack smiled, touched. "It was pumpkin, right?"

"Right." He stepped out of the car and Hilary walked towards him. "Hilary... about your mother..."

"Yeah?"

Jack was about to tell her the truth, but couldn't when he saw her smile. "I'm glad that I told you."

"Me, too."

Hilary wrapped her arms around Jack, who had a guilty look on his face. He knew that he'd have to tell her the truth eventually. Jack grabbed the box on Hilary's hand. "Give me that." He opened the box and started to eat.

"What you did with Alex- you really are changing things."

Suddenly, they heard the sound of an engine. They both turned to see a stranger arrive on a motorbike. It was a woman. She pulled off her helmet and approached them.

"Hi. Is this Pixfare?"

"Yeah." Jack answered.

"Any place to get a room around here?"

"Uh, you're staying?" Hilary asked.

"That's the plan." The woman replied. "Just looking for a bed."

"Ellen's Bed and Breakfast is just up the road," Jack pointed down the street. "Another two blocks."

"Thank you." The stranger walked back to her bike.

"Hey, I didn't catch your name!" Jack called to her.

"That's 'cause I didn't give it." The woman got onto the bike and drove off.

Jack looked at Hilary, a little freaked out. "I thought you said strangers don't come to Pixfare."

"They don't." She replied, returning the look.

Chapter Text

Thunder began to rumble as storm clouds rolled in. The Stranger worked on her motorcycle as Hilary walked up to her.

"What are you doing here?"

"Fixing my bike."

"No, I mean in Pixfare."

"Just visiting."

Hilary noticed at a large case on the back of the motorcycle. "What's that?"

"A box."

"What's in it?"

"Just something I need to do what I came here for."

Derek exited his house and paused upon noticing Hilary talking to the Stranger, who climbed on her motorcycle.

"I thought you were just visiting."

"Doesn't mean I don't have something to do." The Stranger started her motorcycle.

"Hilary?" Derek called out to her, and started down the path to the sidewalk.

"You better get to school. Looks like a storm's coming."

Derek came up behind Hilary, watching the Stranger drive away. "Hilary. Who was that?" Hilary shrugged.


Jack walked over to the kitchen counter and sat down, with a breakfast plate. The TV was on, showing the weather forecast. Laura Reed rushed in, with a toothbrush in her mouth, and hurriedly put her shoes on. She spit the toothpaste into the kitchen sink. "I can't believe I overslept." She rushed around, getting ready to leave.

"It's only 7:10. You've got plenty of time to get to school."

"No, I have to be there at 7:15. Science fair. I'm helping the kids with their project before school."

"I'm sure if you're five minutes late, they'll live."

"We're making a volcano." She put on her hat and scarf and walked out the door.

"Okay."


Laura Reed rushed into the Diner and sat down at a table. She removed her hat and using a spoon as a mirror, adjusted her hair. She gazed at the clock for a moment, and then heard Clark enter. She quickly picked up her book, The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne, and pretended to read. Clark walked up to the counter.

Michelle put two cups of coffee down on the counter. "One cream and sugar. One black."

Clark handed Michelle some money. "Thank you." He glanced at Laura Reed and took his coffees, heading toward the door. He paused at her table. "Good morning."

"Morning." She put down her book and smiled at him.

"Uh, I should go. I'm gonna be late for work."

"Oh, the animal shelter, right? How's that going?"

"Well, the apes haven't taken over."

"Yet."

"Not on my watch." They both laughed. He then left. She turned to see him walking up to his car and giving a coffee to Evelyn, kissing her cheek.

"This is making a volcano?" Jack soon entered and sat across from Laura Reed.

"I was-" She tried to explain.

"I get it."

"He comes here every morning at 7:15 A.M. to get coffee."

"For him and his wife."

"I know, I know, I know. I just like to... come here to see him."

"So, you're a stalker?"

"No, not really." Jack gave her a look. "Maybe a little bit. And it's not like I'm following him. I just know that he spends his mornings with Evelyn, gets his coffee, then drives to the animal shelter to start work at 7:30, and then he's home around 5:00."

"Oh, is that all?"

"Thursdays they pick up Chinese for dinner." Jack gave her a sympathetic look. "I can't get him out of my head."

"I know. Maybe the first step is not showing up here tomorrow."

"Love's the worst. I wish there was a magic cure." Jack nodded in agreement.


Laura Reed was shopping for supplies at the Pharmacy for the upcoming storm. The weather forecast showed on the TV. She entered another aisle when she bumped into Evelyn. Both women dropped their baskets with a shout. "Ohh! I'm so sorry."

"It's fine. Don't worry about it." They both bent down to pick up the spilled items. "I wasn't looking."

"Clearly." Derek commented, looking over his shoulder at them.

Evelyn picked up a candy bar. "Oh. Is this yours?"

"Yes, thank you." Laura Reed took it and put it in her basket. "Oh, this must..." She picked up an item and then realized it was a pregnancy test. "Good luck." She handed it to Evelyn.

"Thank you." They both stood up. Evelyn walked away, with Derek and Laura Reed looking after her.

"I trust you'll be discreet." She looked at him confused. "Their lives are their business, not yours." She nodded as Derek walked away.


Laura Reed was walking along a road in the woods, when she heard cooing. She walked down the embankment toward the sound, discovering a dove caught in a net.

"Oh! Hey. How did you manage to get yourself..." She carefully picked up the dove. "Come on. It's gonna be okay."


At the Pet Shelter, the doctor gave Laura Reed a consultation on the dove she rescued. Clark stood nearby, watching.

"Well, the good news is no broken bones. She was just a little dehydrated, but I got her some fluids, and she should be just fine."

"And the bad news?"

"Well, this is a North Atlantic dove. It's a migratory species, very unique among American doves. Now, they tend to form strong monogamous bonds, meaning-"

"If I don't get her back to her flock, she'll be alone forever."

"Well, it's... It's a long shot, but the alternative..." The doctor put the dove into a cage. "She'll heal, but she won't be happy here."

"I'll take my chances. Thank you, doctor."

"You're welcome. Good luck." The doctor left them alone. Laura Reed picked up the cage.

"Laura Reed, there's a storm coming. You really shouldn't be out there."

"Well, the storm's coming tomorrow, and if I wait, she could be lost forever, completely alone. No one deserves that."

"Then let me drive you."

"I don't need your help, Clark. I'll be fine." She turned away and left.


Jack loaded supplies into the trunk of his police cruiser, while listening to a storm warning on the radio, which suddenly stopped. He looked toward the front of the car to see that Derek had turned the radio off. "If you're looking to blame me for the storm, I think you're taking things a bit far now."

"I need you to look into something, Sheriff. Someone's in town—someone new."

"Yeah, I know. I gave her directions to Ellen's the other night."

"You talked to her? Well, what'd she say?"

"She asked for directions. What's the big deal? Who is she?"

"I don't know. I asked around, but no one seems to know anything. There's something about her—something familiar."

"She must be one of the untold millions you cursed."

"What?"

"Oh, you know, the Curse. Hilary's whole thing."

"Sheriff, I need you to find out who she is, what she wants, and what she's doing here."

"You know, as hard as you tried to find one in my case, there's no law against visiting Pixfare."

"This isn't about the law, Jack. You're gonna do this because I asked you to and because you'll see it's the right thing to do."

Jack closed the trunk of the car. "And why's that?"

"Because she was in front of my house, taking a particular interest in the one thing we both care about—Hilary."

"I'll look into her." Jack walked toward the front of the car and thunder began to rumble.


Laura Reed drove along the road in the woods as thunder crashed. The dove was in its cage in the passenger seat. She soon arrived at a roadblock and stopped the car.

"Well, the flock can't be much farther. We just have to beat the storm." She took off her seatbelt. "They're waiting for you." She grabbed the birdcage and exited the car, pulling up the hood of her jacket.

She ran along the road, carrying the dove in its cage. Doves could be heard cooing in the distance. "Do you hear that? Your flock." She stopped at the top of a crest, looking down in a ravine. She set down the birdcage and distracted by a loud thunderclap, slipped and tumbled down the slope. At the very edge she grabbed onto a root and was left dangling. She shouted and cried in despair. Attempting to pull herself up, she struggled to climb over. Suddenly, a hand grabbed her arm and she looked up. "Clark!"

"Grab my hand." She took his hand. "Hold tight. Come on!" He pulled her up onto solid ground and she fell against him. "You really think I'd let you come out here alone?" She pulled away from him a bit. "You okay?"

"I'm fine, thanks." She headed back up the slope toward the road.

Clark followed behind her. "Where are you going?"

"I came to find the flock!"

"And I came here to get you before you got hurt!" They reached the road just as thunder claps and heavy rain began to fall. "We have to go!"

Laura Reed ran over to the birdcage and picked it up. "No!"

"Doing this on foot is not the best plan."

"The gate was closed."

"I know, I saw." She tried to cover the birdcage with her jacket. "It's too late. We have to go."

"No, but the bird-"

"Laura Reed, it's not safe! We need to get out of here." More thunder crashed. "Come on." Together, they headed back up the road until they came upon a cabin.

"There!" Clark pointed. "Come on!" They approached the cabin.

"Hello?! Hello?! Is anyone in there!?" Laura Reed called, looking into a window.

Clark looked into another window. "It's empty!" He tried the door handle, but it was locked. He kicked the door open and they entered the cabin.

A short time later, Clark stoked a fire he had started in the fireplace.

"Okay." He turned to Laura Reed. "Let's get you dry." He stood up and moved about the cabin.

"Whose cabin is this? Are you sure it's okay for us to be in here?"

Clark unfolded a blanket. "Well, you're roommates with the Sheriff, so I doubt he'll arrest us for breaking and entering." He put the blanket around her. "Here." She shook him off. "Hey, I'm just... I'm just trying to help." She nodded, still looking upset. "What's going on with you today?"

Laura Reed scoffed. "What's going on? What's going on is I still have feelings for you."

"What?"

"Why do you think I go to Ellen's every morning at 7:15? It's to see you." She shook her head. "I don't know why because it just makes me miserable, because every time I see you, it just reminds me that you chose Evelyn instead of me. And that's why I didn't want you to come to the woods with me. Cause being around you is too... it's too painful." Clark started to laugh. "You think this is funny?"

"No. No, it's just... the reason I go to Ellen's every morning at 7:15... is to see you."

Laura Reed looked up at him, surprised. They looked at each other for a few moments before Clark leaned in for a kiss. She stepped back.

"How can you do this?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Clark, I know."

"You know what?"

"About Evelyn."

"What about Evelyn?"

"That she thinks she's pregnant."

"What?"


Jack took shelter from the storm in the Diner. He looked over and saw the Stranger sitting in a booth, drinking coffee. He took off his hat and walked towards her.

"We need to talk."

"Why?"

"Because," He noticed a large wooden case on the floor next to her. "you're suspicious."

"Sitting here? Out in the open? Drinking coffee?" Jack narrowed his eyes. "I wonder what kind of disaster I would have caused had I ordered a doughnut."

"You were talking to Hilary."

"You mean the little kid who came up to me asking me questions? Is that unusual for her, being curious and precocious?"

"What were you doing outside her house?"

"My bike broke down. It happens."

"Your mysterious box. What's in it?"

"It's awfully frustrating, not knowing, isn't it?"

"Just tell me."

"Why? Is it illegal to carry around a box in these parts?"

"No, of course it's not."

"You really want to know what's inside it, don't you?"

"No. Well, maybe." He sat down in the booth opposite the Stranger.

"I'm gonna make you wait. You're gonna have to wait a long time and watch me carry it around, hauling it to strange and mysterious places. And with each passing moment, the mystery will become more tantalizing. Your imagination will inflame, but so will your frustration, never knowing, only guessing what could possibly be inside that box. Or..." She leaned in. "You could let me buy you a drink sometime, and I'll tell you right now."

"You want to buy me a drink?"

"Yes."

He stared intently at her. "Ok, a drink it is." The Stranger picked up her box and set it on the table in front of Jack. She paused for effect, then opened it to reveal a typewriter. "Really?"

"I'm a writer."

"That's why you're here."

"I find this place provides... inspiration. Don't you?" Lightning flashed outside as she closed the box.

"Wait. Have you been here before?"

"I didn't say that." She left a tip on the table and stood up with her box in hand.

"What about that drink?" Jack turned around, watching her leave.

"I said 'sometime'."


"You didn't know."

"No." Clark shook his head.

"And you two aren't trying."

"Not as far as I know. Laura Reed, you have to believe me. I-"

"Shhh. The rain's stopped. I need to get her out." She ran over to the birdcage and grabbed it.

"No. Laura Reed..." She charged out the door and he followed. They walked down the road a short distance. "Laura Reed, please, can we at least talk-"

"Shhh! Listen." They watched as other doves flew overhead. "The flock- It didn't leave."

"They must have been waiting for the storm to clear."

Laura Reed opened the birdcage and took the dove out. "Ok. Ok, girl. Time to join your friends. You can do it." She threw the dove into the air and watched as it took flight with the rest. She laughed and Clark smiled. He took her hand and she pulled it away. "No, Clark. It's too painful."

"It doesn't have to be. We don't know Evelyn's pregnant."

"It doesn't matter. You chose her."

"I know. I still have feelings for you."

"You can't have both."

"But I do have both. I know. I know it doesn't make sense. I mean, it's like I have these two conflicting lives: memories of feeling for her... and real feelings for you."

"Who's to say which is real?"

"I can't get you out of my head."

"I know. Me too. But... we're going to have to. We're just going to have to forget each other." She walked back down the road, leaving Clark standing there, dumbfounded.


Clark was in his room getting dressed for work when Evelyn walked in and sat at the foot of the bed.

"Anything you want to tell me?"

"What do you mean?"

"Something's up isn't it? What?"

"I feel like... ever since you've come home, you're here but you're not... here. I know you say you're trying, and I know you've been through a lot, but-"

"No, no, Evelyn-"

"No, Clark, please, just let me finish." He gestured for her to continue. "I know it's been hard on you, but its also... been hard on me." He walked over to her. "I want a family with you someday. I want children." He nodded. "I'll be honest. I thought I was pregnant. And when the test came back negative, at first I was upset, but then I was relieved. We're not ready, If I was pregnant now, it would be a disaster."

"Yeah."

"But I want to fix this. I want to fix us."

"Me too."

"Do you?" He nodded. "Well, then let's go see Dr. Cutter. Let's get some help. Will you do that? Will you give us our best shot?"

"Yeah. Look," He sat down next to her. "You and I... I know we're su- I know we should be in love. And I want to make that work."

Evelyn smiled. "It's 7:10. We should get going if you want your coffee before work." She stood up.

"No." he stood up and took her hands. "Why don't we go downstairs and have some breakfast instead? Hmm?"

"Ok."

"Alright." He kissed her on the cheek.


Jack sat across from a despondent Laura Reed to eat breakfast. He followed her eyes to the clock on the wall which read 7:15. Jack took her hand and their eyes met.


The clock in the Diner read 7:45, as Michelle handed Laura Reed her coffee. The bell jingled as the door opened and Clark walked in. He saw Laura Reed and then immediately walked straight out again. She followed after him, while Michelle gave a sidelong glance.

Laura Reed followed Clark down the street. "What are you doing?"

He turned around. "It's 7:45."

"I know."

"Well, I'm trying not to see you."

Well, I am trying not to see you."

"Well, how do we stop seeing each other?"

"Apparently, we can't."

"This is a problem."

"Yes."

"She's not pregnant."

They stared at each other and kissed, unaware that nearby, Derek was watching them from his car.

Chapter Text

From the side mirror of the police car, Jack saw Hilary riding her bike. He stepped out of the car. "Hey, kid." She rode right past him. "Nice to see you, too."

"The storm!" She hopped off her bike and ran over to the severely damaged clubhouse. 
"It's okay. We can fix it. I'll talk to Ed."
"Do you think it's still here?" She began digging in the ground at the base of the structure.
"What are you looking for?"
"My book."
"Why'd you bury it here?"
"So my dad doesn't find it."
"Hiding it under your mattress wasn't good enough?"
"That's the first place Syndrome would look." She unearthed a box.
"How about leaving it with me?"
"That's the second place." She opened the box, revealing the storybook inside. "It's still here. Good."
"So your dad doesn't know about the clubhouse?"
"No. This is our secret." She closed the box and began reburying it.
"Hilary? Hilary!" Derek called, approaching them from his parked car. "I've been looking everywhere for you. You know you have a session with Felix this morning." He turned to Jack. "Should have known he was with you. Hilary, car. Now." She headed for the car. "You let her play here?"
"The storm hit it pretty hard, but we can fix it."
"Well, can you fix a cracked cranium? 'Cause that's what you'll have on your hands if one of these boards collapses under her weight. You're not thinking about Hilary or her safety, just ways around me. Jack, don't let your feelings cloud your judgement. People can get hurt."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're the sheriff now. It's time to be responsible."


Later, Jack and Laura Reed were seated at a table in the Diner.
"Don't let my feelings cloud my judgment? That's all Derek ever does."
"He's just upset because you and Hilary have a special place and he... he doesn't."
"How'd he find out about the clubhouse in the first place?"
"He knows everything about this town. He's the Mayor." Her phone started vibrating. She picked it up and looked at it, seeing a text from Clark.
"Everything okay?"
"Yeah, I just need to go." Laura Reed quickly got up and readied to leave. "Look, if it makes you feel any better, I think you're right. I see the effect he has on Hilary."
"I wish everyone else did, too." 
Laura Reed exited the diner, touching Jack's arm briefly as she passed. 
Olga, clearly very drunk and with a drink in her hand, sat across from Jack.
"I can help you."
"Oh, Olga. You want a side of bacon with that whiskey?"
"You want to show this town who the Mayor really is? I can help."
"It's gonna be kinda hard to do from inside his pocket."
"The Mayor and I are done."
"Sure you are." Jack chuckled. 
"He got me fired from the paper. He made a fool of me in the election. So I started working on an expose' on the Mayor's Office, and I found something he didn't want found."
"Olga, you're drunk. Go home. Sleep it off. Be grateful that you don't have to answer to him anymore." He grabbed his keys, ready to leave. 
She offered him her card. "Call me. Pixfare deserves to know the truth about him." Jack took the card, then stood up and left.


Hilary watched as a crew demolished her clubhouse. Derek stood next to his car nearby. "Hey. What happened?" Jack approached the site. "I came as soon as I could."
"The clubhouse-- he's tearing the whole thing down!" She ran to the spot where the storybook was buried, and saw that it was gone. "My book! I-It's gone!"
Jack went over to Derek. "Congratulations, Mr. Mayor. You destroyed the thing she loves."
"A dangerous thing that can only hurt Hilary and others. You see me as a villain, Jack. But that's just your perception, and you're wrong. Learn your place in this town, or soon enough, you won't be in it." Derek walked away.
Jack took out Olga's card and dialed his cell phone. "This is Jack. I'm in."


Laura Reed approached the Toll Bridge, where Clark stood waiting.
"I got your text. What's going on?"
"Follow me." He took her arm and led her off.
"Clark, you're scaring me. What's wrong?"
"What's wrong is you're late," he brought her to a picnic setup in a clearing. "and the wine is getting warm."
Laura Reed smiled and kissed him. "We have to stop doing this."
"We just started doing it."
"We have to figure out what we're doing."
"We will. Tomorrow."
"Okay. tomorrow." They kissed again.


Jack pulled up his squad car into a tunnel below, stopped, and exited the vehicle. Olga approached him, on foot.
"Alright, I'm listening. So, what do you know about him?"
"$50,000."
"I'm sorry?"
"Fifty grand out of the budget is missing, and Derek is responsible."
"That's it? That's what you have on him?"
"The money is just the tip of the iceberg. We figure out what he's doing, and it all falls apart, it all crumbles, and we'll finally learn his secrets. You see what he is. I see it. All we need is a way to look inside his head. I'm telling you, this is it."
"All right, what's your plan?"
"Tap his phone. GPS his car. Hack into his email. Dip into your bail bondsperson bag of tricks."
"No. I'm Sheriff now. I have to be responsible. I wanna do this by the book."
"He's gonna know that you're on to him sooner than later. Are you prepared for his wrath?"
"Oh yeah."
"Good. Because I wasn't."
"If you thought he was so terrifying... how did you allow yourself to end up in her pocket?"
"I used to think he was a different person."


In the apartment, Jack and Olga looked through boxes of documents.
"When did that transfer go through? Does three weeks ago sound right?" Jack asked. 
"Yeah. Why?"
"Because those records are missing."
Laura Reed soon entered. "Jack, there's something I'd like to talk to you--" She noticed Olga was also there. "Hi, Olga."
"Hey. We're just doing some work." Jack explained. "I think we may have found something on Derek."
"Interesting work. Oh, I approve."
"You wanna go by the book? Let's get a warrant." Olga suggested. 
"What judge are we gonna find that he doesn't own. We're screwed."
"Or... there's my way."
"I wanna do this right, Olga."
"And what's right is exposing him. Sometimes doing a bad thing for a good reason is okay, right?"
"Yeah. I mean, maybe you're doing something wrong, but if it's what's meant to be, if it's what's right, does that really make you a bad person?" Laura Reed chimed in. 
"Exactly."
"Wow. You two are doing a whole lot of rationalizing." Jack sat down at the table. 
"But look what he's done to you, to me, to your daughter, and it's not gonna stop, so whatever you do, you gotta do something."
"Okay. Let's start by talking to him."


"And just what are you and the... disgraced ex-reporter accusing me of?" Derek asked Jack and Olga, who stood in front of his desk. 
"Fifty-thousand dollars was transferred out of the city account by you." Jack replied. 
"Well, as Mayor, I'm involved in many transactions. Check the public records if you have questions."
"That's the thing. They're missing from three weeks ago. You have any idea what happened to them?"
"Well, if they're missing, I probably checked them out, as my job often requires me to do. And if they were checked out three weeks ago, well, that means they burned... in a fire. In a fire that, if I recall, got you elected Sheriff. I have nothing to hide."
Jack stepped forward and leaned over Derek's desk. "Okay. There's nothing for us to do, let's go, Olga."
"Jack."
"No, he's right. We have nothing." They left out the door. 


"That was your plan? I thought you were gonna do something."
"I did. I planted a bug. You win, Olga. Let's do whatever it takes."


At the Sheriff's Office, Olga was listening in on Derek using a radio as Jack walked in.
"Miss Ginger, I really don't have time for more complaints about working conditions. The air temperature is not one of my areas." Derek said over the radio."
"Scintillating. Find anything good yet?"
"Yeah, better than good. He made this call a little over an hour ago." She played a tape recording.
"I'll meet you tonight at Access Road 23 with the rest of your payment. Yes, it will all be in cash. A-And I don't need to remind that no one can know about this. Yes, I know it has to be tonight." Olga stopped the tape.
"Who's on the other end?" Jack asked. 
"You bugged the office, not the phone."
"Well, we're just gonna have to find out."
"Yeah."
"A payoff in the woods. That's promising."
"A payoff using stolen city funds."
"Let's go find out who's she's meeting."
Around dusk, Jack and Olga followed Derek in the squad car down a road in the woods as he turned onto Access Road 23. As he approached the turn, Jack applied the brake, but nothing happened.
"Jack?"
"It won't stop." The squad car crashed into the road sign, sending it flying.
"Oh."
"You okay?" Asked Jack. 
"Yeah. You?"
"Yeah." The two exited the vehicle and inspected the damage. "We're gonna miss that handoff."
"Jack."
"What?"
"You know that bug you planted? I think Derek found it. Someone's been tampering with the brakes. He's on to us." 
Later, the two walking throw the woods.
"Wait!" Olga caught up to Jack. 
"The man tried to have me killed. I'm finding him."
"Let's be cautious. We need to think clearly."
"Who needs caution? I'm gonna find out what he's doing and why he's out here."
"He was meeting me." Ms. Wood came up an embankment, carrying a briefcase. 
"What are you doing out here with him?" Jack wondered. 
"Just a little business transaction."
"What's in the briefcase?" Olga asked. 
"Everything comes at a price. Land is no different."
"That's why you're meeting him out here? Derek bought your land?"
"The very ground you're standing on."
"What does he want it for?"
"You know, in business, I find it's best not to ask too many questions. Hurts the bottom line. The question is, Jack, why are you standing out here, in the middle of the night, with Olga?
"You don't know what Derek did to me. You don't know what he did to his daughter. We can't just sit idly by."
"Of course you can. Be careful." She started to walk away. "Emotional entanglements can lead us down very dangerous paths."


Jack parked his car outside the Town Hall. He and Olga walked towards the entrance.
"What are we doing here?"
"We know he bought land from Wood. We don’t know why. I’m willing to bet it’s for personal reasons, but we have to know for sure. We need documents that officially link him to that land."
"So, you wanna break into his office? It’s locked, and he’s got a state of the art security system and alarm."
"If we don’t show this town who Derek really is, who will?"
"Do you think you can crack his code?"
"Yep." Jack picked up a brick stone and smashed the window.
"Jack!"
"Who does the alarm system alert? The police. I’m the police. Two minutes for him to get a call from the alarm company. One minute to get his coat and keys. Three minutes to drive here. We got maybe six minutes." Entering the office, he approached Derek's computer and successfully hacked into its system. "I just uncovered every file that references the tract of land he bought from Wood." The files were printed. "Nice." Jack opened a drawer and discovered a key ring with several keys. "What do these open?"
"I don’t know. What are you doing?"
"Looking for Hilary’s book."
"We didn’t come here for Hilary. We came here for files and—"
"No, you didn’t come here for Hilary. Me? That’s the only reason I’m here."
The lights came on and Derek rushed in. He switched off the alarm. "What are you doing?"
"Some kids broke in. I heard the alarm, so I’m checking it out cause... I’m Sheriff." Jack lied. 
"Well, that was an awfully quick response time."
"You told me to do my job. I’m doing it."
"And you brought her?"
"Oh, well, she saw it while she was on a walk, so she’s a witness."
"Hm. And what did you see, Olga?"
"Some kids with a..."
"Rock." Jack added. 
"A rock."
Derek looked around. "Did they take anything?" 
"I don’t know. I’d have to do a thorough sweep to, uh, find out." Jack replied. 
"It appears to me it was all just a prank."
"You’re sure you don’t want me to take the place apart?"
"Sheriff, your services are not wanted nor needed."
"Okay. Well, you know where to find me."
At the Diner, Hilary was busily writing down the characters from in her book. The Stranger watched her.
"What you working on?"
"No time to talk. I got to write it all down before I forget."
"Yeah, I hate it when great ideas slip away from me."
"They’re not my ideas. They’re stories from a book that I lost."
The Stranger sat down beside Hilary. "Must be a great book. What’s it about?" She tried to get a look at the paper.
"Stuff."
"Sounds exciting."
Hilary looked at her. "You seem awfully interested in me and my book."
"Oh. I’m just being neighborly."
"What are you doing in Pixfare?"
"I’m a writer."
"You can write anywhere. What are you really doing here?"
The Stranger leaned closer and whispered. "Stuff." She stood up to leave. "Good luck with the stories."
In the Daily Droid's office, Jack and Olga looked through some files.
"Blue prints. Bank statements."
Jack took a closer look at a construction plan. "What is he building out there? A mansion?"
"Well, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter, because these escrow statements have his name all over it. You were right – personal use. He’s done. We got him." Jack leaned back in his chair. "What’s wrong? Didn’t you hear me?"
"We stooped to his level. That’s exactly what I promised Hilary I wouldn’t do."
"Jack, we got him!"
"It’s fruit of the poisonous tree. Illegally obtained evidence. It’ll get thrown out in court in a heartbeat."
"No, we don’t need him to go to jail."
"Then what are we doing here?"
"What you wanted-- Get everyone to see who he is. What he did to Hilary he does to everyone. He destroys what people love. Let me show you something." Olga placed a box on the table between them. She opened the box revealing photographs. Jack started looking through them. The first photograph showed Jack and Hilary sitting together at her playground clubhouse. "He made me follow you. He made me tell him everything. He knew about your secret place weeks ago. He just waited to destroy it until it would hurt you and Hilary the most." She sighed. "It’s all my fault. If you don’t do this, I have to."
"Okay."
In the Town Hall, Derek sat in front of six members of the town’s council. Behind them, an audience was assembled. Derek banged a gavel to start the meeting.
"This session of the Storybrooke City Council will come to order. We will begin by reading the minutes from our last meeting."
Olga stood up. "Excuse me, um, Mr. Mayor. I have something I’d like to bring to the council’s attention."
"This is not an open forum, Olga. And no one on this council’s interested in hearing the boozy complaints of a disgraced reporter. Now sit down."
Jack also stood up. "She’s not the only one who has something to say."
Derek was getting irritated. "Jack, this meeting is to discuss issues facing Pixfare."
"Like the Mayor stealing thousands of dollars from the city to build himself a second home?"
Gasps came from the audience and they began murmuring. Derek banged the gavel to silence them.
"Jack, you will sit down immediately, or so help me—"
"What? You’ll punish me? You’ll bully me like everyone else in this town? No. Not today." He turned around to face the audience to show them a paper with a construction plan. "In my hand, I am holding documents proving that this man, your mayor, stole funds from the city to build himself a lavish home in the woods. And this disgraced reporter – you want to know why she was really fired? Because she stood up to him. Because she questioned him. We all know what happens to people who question the Mayor. You claim that you act in the best interest of all of us, but that isn’t the truth, is it? The truth is, you are a thug that doesn’t care about anyone or anything but yourself. That is who you really are. And it is time for the people of Pixfare to know that."
"You’re right, Jack. I am building a house." Derek stood up. "A play house." The projection screen behind him showed an image of a playground. "The accusations are true. I did take city funds. I wanted to build a playground so my daughter Hilary-- and all the children of Pixfare-- could have a special place to play... safely. As for the sketch in your hands, it was inspired by a drawing I found in one of my daughter's books. So, there you have it, Jack. You’ve exposed me for who I really am. I hope you're satisfied."
After the council meeting was over, Jack and Olga walked together. In the distance, Derek talked to a small group of people. Ms. Wood joined Olga and Jack. 
"Look at him. Super of the city. You know, what you did in there was commendable, Jack. But if you really want to bring him down you’re going to need a strong ally."
"Like yourself? Thanks. I’m still not interested."
"Oh, one can hope." She smiled and left as Derek approached Jack.
"Jack, a word? Alone." Olga walked away. "I don’t know what you were hoping to accomplish in there, but now I hope you’ll go back to your job, which is upholding the law, not breaking it. You don’t think I know you broke into my office?"
"Don’t pretend you’re so innocent. I know, you messed with the brakes on my car. "
"Your brakes?" Derek scoffed. "Are you delusional? Why would I kill you when you just saw I had nothing to hide?"
"Nothing I can prove."
"Well, until you have something more substantial than disdain to throw my way, you’re going to stay away from me and more importantly, from Hilary."
"But that’s--"
"Not open to discussion. You’ve lost the high ground, Sheriff. If I wanted to, there’s not a judge in the world that would deny me a restraining order after what you’ve done. You don’t get to see my daughter unless I say so, and right now? I don’t say so." Derek walked away.
While at the new playground with the other kids, Hilary noticed Jack in the distance who’s sitting in his car. She waved and then took out her Walkie Talkie in order to talk to him.
"Why are you so far away? Come out here."
"Sorry, kid. I can’t today."
"You’re undercover, aren’t you? For Operation Cobra?"
"No, Hilary, I’m not undercover. Your dad – he doesn’t want us seeing each other for a while."
"You don’t have to listen to him."
"Actually, this time, I do. I screwed up, Hilary. I got mad at your dad about you and the book and everything and… Well, we’re just going to have to be apart for a little while."
"I don’t want to be apart."
"Neither do I, but right now we have to. Don’t worry. I’ll find a way back in. And hey, if it’s out there, Hilary, I will find your book."
"Good luck. It’s probably gone, and it’s probably never coming back."
Jack started the car and drove away.
In her room at the inn, the Stranger used tongs to break a lock on a box. Opening the box, she took out Hilary’s book and closely examined it.
Olga was having a drink when Jack entered the diner and joined her.
"Looks like we had the same idea."
"Well, if you can’t beat her, drink." A drink was placed in front of Jack. Olga took a sip of hers and sighed. "How did we not see this?"
"We did. We saw it all, right from the start. Just didn’t want to look. Blinded by our anger, by everything."
"This time. But there are a lot more skeletons in Derek's closet. And the good news? You’ve got yourself an ally."
"We won’t get fooled again." They clinked their glasses.
Later, Olga was in the Mayor's Office with a daydreaming look on her face. Derek approached her from behind.
"Have a seat, Olga." They both sat down on the couch. "Well?" 
Olga pulled a tape recorder out of her pocket and played the tape back.
"You’ve got yourself an ally."
"We won’t get fooled again."
She turned off the recorder.
"He bought it." Derek chuckled, pleased. 
"All of it." 
"Masterful job, Olga. Top to bottom. And cutting the breaks of his car? Inspired."
"I’m glad you approve." She replied with a smug expression. 
"Now he trusts you. Now we can have some fun."
"Everything he does, everywhere he goes-- you’ll know about it."
"I don’t know what I’d do without you, Olga." 

Chapter Text

In the music classroom at Pixfare Elementary school, Ben Cruise, a muscular, tan skinned man with brown eyes and a thin moustache, was setting up the instruments and sheet music for the day.

The door opened and Ms. Cordwain entered the room. "Mr. Cruise. Just the one I was looking for."

"Class hasn't started yet."

"Actually, it's about the big recital you planned. I'm afraid your little performers will have to go barefoot."

"What? No. The kids need dancing shoes. You always make them."

"I have a business to run. Since you never paid for the last few times, I'm not making shoes for you anymore." She began to walk away with a smug look on her face.

"This is no way to run a partnership, Cordwain!" Ben shouted. "People aren't gonna put up with this!"

She walked down the hallway and came across Derek, who had been watching them.

"That was quite a show back there, Ms. Cordwain."

"Well, Mr. Cruise is just having a bad day." She shrugged. "Happens to the best of us."

"I've been meaning to talk to you about something."

"Yeah, and the moment you have something I want to discuss, we'll have that little chat."

"No, we're gonna do this now. It'll only take a moment."

"Is there something eating you? Something you need to get out in the open? 'Cause it's gonna have to wait. Please." She walked away, leaving behind a confused-looking Derek.


In the diner, Clark and Laura Reed were seated at separate tables. At his own booth, Clark was reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Laura Reed noticed the book's title. "Oh, you got the book."

"Yeah. Yeah, I just started it. It's great. I can't wait to see how it ends."

Michelle came over and refilled Laura Reed's cup with coffee. "Uh, I can push the tables together if you guys..."

"Oh, no, we're not together." They both replied at the same time.

Jack arrived and sat at Laura Reed's table across from her. "Hey, Clark."

"Hey."

"Laura Reed. So... how's your day going?"

"Hilary's fine."

"That's not what I asked you." She gave him a knowing look. "You sure?"

"Really. She's her normal self. Derek won't keep you separated forever. When people are supposed to be together, they find a way." She looked over at Clark, who glanced at her.

"So, she's her normal self? She's fine. She's happy?" Jack asked with his mouth full.

"Yes." Jack made a face at Laura Reed's response. "No. She misses you. A lot. Trust me. I'm with her, like, six hours a day." The diner bell jingled as Sarah walked in. "Sarah! So good to see you." Laura Reed smiled, turning toward her.

"Good to see you too." Sarah grabbed a chair to sit down at their table.

"How's it going?" Jack asked.

"It's, uh... I mean watching the races is fun, but, uh, it's been lonely since Ray went back to training."

"Well, that is his passion." Laura Reed commented.

"On Valentine's Day? Yeah. He couldn't get out of it."

"I'm sorry, that stinks."

Michelle came over and brought Sarah a cup of coffee. "It doesn't have to. Come out with me. Let's have a pals' night. We can all go. Laura Reed, Jack, too, if you promise to leave the badge at home."

"I'm not really in the party mood, but you guys go and have fun." He exchanged a glance with Laura Reed. Michelle walked away and Jack's phone rang.

"What's that?"

"It's the station. Something's up." Jack got up and left.


Ms. Cordwain walked up the front steps of her house to see the door was ajar. She drew a gun as she entered, walking slowly through the house. She turned around, ready to shoot, only to find Jack, also with a gun drawn. "Sheriff Swan."

"Your neighbors saw your front door open. They called it in."

"It seems I've been robbed."

"Funny how that keeps happening to you."

"Yeah, well... I'm a tough woman to love." They both lowered their weapons. Jack began dialing his cell phone. "Sheriff Swan, you can go now. I know exactly what was taken and who did it. I've got it from here."

"No, you don't. This was a robbery. Public menace. And if you don't tell me what you know, I'll have to arrest you for obstruction of justice. I have a feeling you don't wanna be behind bars."

"Of course not." Jack gave her a look as if to say 'Well, go ahead. Spill it.' "Alright, his name's Ben Cruise. He's the school's music teacher. I used to make dancing shoes for his class."

"Okay. I'll go get him, check him out." Jack began to leave.

"I'm sure you will, assuming I don't find him..." She chuckled. "Let's just say bad things tend to happen to bad people."

"Is that a threat?"

"Observation." Jack turned to leave again. "Good luck." He looked at her for a moment, and then left out the door.


Later at the Sheriff Department, Jack pulled back the sheet revealing Ms. Cordwain's stolen items spread all over his desk. "You're right. Your man Ben ripped you off. It was all still at his place." He sat in his chair, smiling. "You're welcome."

"And the man himself?"

"Closing in on him."

"So, job well half-done, then."

"In less than a day, I got everything back." He noticed the troubled look on her face. "Is something wrong?"

"There's something missing." She turned to leave.

"I'll get it when I find him."

"Not if I find him first."


For their girls' night, Sarah, Laura Reed, and Michelle went to a local club, the Axiom. They were seated at a table, drinking. Michelle checked out some guys across the bar. "Ooh, Sarah, check out those guys."

"Honey, I'm still with Ray."

"You're not married, and he's not here."

"He's racing."

"He's always racing. Have fun moping." Michelle took her drink and walked over to the guys.

"She's right. He's always training." She sighed in disappointment. "I thought love would be different."

"Me, too." Laura Reed sipped her drink.


"Let me explain. Okay?" Ben pleaded, gagged and tied up. Ms. Cordwain had taken him to an abandoned cabin in the woods. "Let me explain."

"Oh." She pulled up a chair and sat down. "Well, that is... fascinating. Truly fascinating." She pressed the toe of her boot into Ben's throat. "I'm gonna let you breathe in a second, and you're gonna tell me where it is, and who told you to take it. Do you understand?"

"Yeah." He agreed in a strained voice.

"Good. Let's begin." She removed the boot.

"I needed those shoes."

"Ah, ah, ah. Now, you see, that's not a good first sentence." She smacked Ben across the face with her boot.

"Oh! Cordwain! Listen."

"Tell me where it is!" She hit him again.

"Oh! Stop."

"Tell me where it is!" She smacked him again.

"Oh, Stop! It wasn't my fault. "

"'My fault'? What are you talking about, 'my fault'? You convinced him to go. You had his trust and you threw him away!" She struck him again. "He's gone. He's gone forever. He's not coming back. And it's your fault!" She emphasized her words with strikes and Ben shouted when he's struck. "You were his best friend! You took him away from me! It's yours! It's your fault! It's your fault!"

Suddenly, Jack intruded on the scene by grabbing Ms. Cordwain's wrist. "Stop."


"Girls' night's really working out for you." Laura Reed returned to her seat, noticing Sarah wasn't having a good time.

"Thought it would make me feel better. But the truth is... I need a 'be with my guy night'. But he's never around. And I'm at home all day. I mean, what's the point of being together if we're not together?"

Laura Reed thought for a moment, realizing that she was in the same situation. "I get it. Loving someone you can't be with... it's a terrible, terrible burden."

Sarah looked at Laura Reed, feeling sorry for her, but then shook her head. "Look, this was a bad idea. I should- I should go home."

"Sarah." A voice spoke to her.

"Ray?"

He came up to her, holding a bouquet of roses. "Hey."

"I thought that you were training tonight."

"I am. I'm on a break, and I had to see you..." He handed her the roses. "And ask you something." He got down on one knee and pulled out a ring. "Will you marry me?" Sarah looked shocked. Michelle and Laura Reed watched from the table. "I only have a twenty-minute break, so, um, anytime now."

"Yes!" Sarah shouted, nodding. He put the ring on her finger, and they hugged as the other people in the bar applauded.

"My car's outside if you want to take a ride before I head back. It's not much of a date."

"It's the best date." They kissed.

"Then your carriage awaits." Sarah looked back at the table before they left. Laura Reed, looking sad, also prepared to leave.


Outside, Ray and Sarah got into their car as Laura Reed watched them longingly from a distance.

Clark walked up to her. "How's girls' night?"

"Clark? What are you doing here?"

"I knew you'd be here, and I, uh, I wanted to give you your Valentine's Day card." He handed her the card.

"Check up on me?"

"Maybe a little. I didn't want you to find somebody else."

"Like you?" She opened the card and read the writing. "Evelyn, I woof you."

"No. I'm so sorry. I meant..." He took the card back and then pulled out another one. "I meant... I meant this one."

"I-I-I always thought that if two people were supposed to be together, they'd find a way, but Clark, if this is our way, I think we should find another one."

"Laura Reed-"

"I think you should go home to Evelyn."

"I know. You're right. But it doesn't mean I'm gonna give up. We'll find that way."

"I hope so."

"Happy Valentine's Day."

"Happy Valentine's Day." She chuckled sadly, and they walked away from each other.


Outside the cabin, Ben was being loaded into an ambulance. Off to the side, by the police car, Jack was talking to Ms. Cordwain.

"So, I hear you managed not break anything he needs. You're lucky."

"You got a funny definition of lucky."

"You have a funny definition of justice." Jack crossed his arms. "What did he really do?"

"He stole."

"That reaction was about more than taking a few trinkets. You said something about how he took 'him' from you? What happened to 'him'? Who was he? If someone needs help, maybe I can help."

Ms. Cordwain shook her head. "I'm sorry, Sheriff. I think you heard that wrong."

"You really don't wanna cooperate."

"Look, we're done here." She began to walk away, but he grabbed her arm.

"Actually... No, we're not. You're under arrest." He turned her around and cuffed her wrists.


The next day, Jack sat at his desk at the sheriff's office, eating a sandwich. "Pastrami. You want half?" He offered Ms. Cordwain in her cell. "Nice fatty pastrami. Delicious way to clear the books."

She turned to look at him, but said nothing.

Jack soon heard footsteps approaching. Derek arrived with Hilary. Surprised, Jack set down her sandwich.

"Sheriff Swan? I'm letting you have thirty minutes with Hilary. Take her out. Buy her ice cream."

Jack looked at him, suspiciously. "You want me to leave you alone with a prisoner?"

"Twenty-nine and a half minutes." Derek replied while his eyes were set on Ms. Cordwain.

"Hi, Jack."

"Hey." He grabbed his coat off the rack. "Come on. Let's go." The two headed out.

"Well... You really wanted that little chat, didn't you?"

Derek approached cell with a smirk. "Apparently, this is the only way I could do it."

"Please, sit." He sat on the edge of the couch near the cell. "Do you have what I want?"

"Yes." He answered with a sinister smile.

"So... you did put him up to it, then."

"I just suggested that... strong men take what they need."

"Oh, yeah, and you told him just what to take, didn't you?"

"We used to know each other so well, Ms. Cordwain. Has it really come down to this?"

"It seems it has, yeah. But you know what I want. What is it you want?"

"I just want you to answer one question. What's your name?"

"It's Ms. Cordwain." She looked at him like it was obvious.

Derek gave her a stern look. "Your real name."

"My entire life, that's been my name."

"But what about in another life?"

She paused for a few minutes, not really understanding. "What are you asking me?"

"I know a thing or two about secret identities. If you want me to return what's yours, tell me your name."

She paused again, and then chuckled. "Imelda Rivera." She stood up and gripped the cell bars. "Now give me what I want."

"So hostile. Over this?" Derek reached into his pocket and pulled out the photo of Imelda, Coco, and the faceless musician. Ms. Cordwain reached for the photo through the bars while he shifted it from side to side, teasingly. "Such a nice family picture."

Her hand latched onto the photo, to which he stopped moving it. He loosened his grip as she snatched it back. "Thank you... Syndrome. Now that we're being honest with each other, let's remember how things used to be, shall we? And don't let these bars fool you. I'm the toughest woman around here. I'm going to be out of here in no time, and nothing between us will change."

"We'll see about that." 

She sat down on the cot to examine the photo in relief. Her thumb touched the image of baby Coco and she sighed sadly.


Derek entered the hospital lobby, and gave a marigold to the nurse at the front desk.

"Pretty."

"Well, I know how hard you work. Has anyone been to see him?"

The nurse shook her head. "No, sir. Not today. Not ever."

Derek walked into the ICU and over to the only patient's bedside. A tan-skinned, black haired man with a goatee laid unconscious. Derek gave a sinister smile, and then left.

Chapter Text

Clark and Evelyn sat in their dining room, eating dinner.
"Clark, there's something we need to discuss."
"Okay."
"I applied to law school."
"That's amazing." He smiled. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"I don't know. Maybe because I didn't think I could actually do it, but I did." She handed Clark a letter and he opened it. "I got this today. I got in."
"It--it's in... Boston."
"I know things have been hard between us, but maybe a fresh start is what we need. Maybe we've been fighting too hard to recapture old memories when we should've been making new ones instead."

Laura Reed closed the door on her car and turned to Clark, who stood beside her. "What did you tell her?"
They began walking. "That I needed to take a walk, clear my head, think about it."
"I'm guessing you didn't tell her that the walk was with me."
"No. No, of course not."
"Why is that our default?" She asked bitterly. They exchanged glances. "Lying."
"Because, I don't--"
"We're not being honest. I know it's hard, but... we have to tell her the truth about everything, about us." Clark stopped walking; Laura Reed turned around to look at him.
"I don't know if I can."
"You have to. If we can't be honest with other people, how can we be honest with each other?"
"Is it really the best plan?"
"What's your plan?" Clark shrugged. They continued walking. "Moving to Boston?"
"No."
"The only way no one gets hurt here if we don't want to be together. Is that what you want?"
"No."
"Well, then we have to stop hiding and do something. It's better she hears it from you than from someone else." Clark nodded. "You have to make a choice."
He sighed. "I choose... you."
She nodded, smiling. "Then it's time to tell Evelyn."

The next day, Jack arrived at the Diner at same time that Kelly was leaving.
"I've been meaning to bump into you. Matter of fact, I was hoping we might grab that drink you promised."
"Is that you asking me out?"
"Well, if putting a label on it makes you feel more comfortable, sure. Let's call it a date."
"I thought you came here to write, find inspiration."
"Well, I'm optimistic about our date."
"See, I have a policy. I won't go out with women who won't tell me their names. I find it weeds out the ones who keep secrets, like they're already married or they... store body parts in their freezer. It was nice talkin' to you." Jack walked past her to enter the diner.
"It's Kelly." He stopped. They faced each other. "Kelly Monal. So there goes your reason for not meeting me here, after work." She turned and walked away.

Laura Reed sipped from a cup as Jack entered the diner. "Who was that?"
Jack slowly sat down across from her. "I don't know yet."
"'Yet'? So you're going to find out?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "It's nothing."
"'Nothing' with you means something, because if it were nothing, we wouldn't be talking about it."
"I was sorry. I thought you called me here to talk about you."
"Yeah, but talking about you is easier right now."
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Laura Reed leaned forward and whispered. "Remember when you told me to stay away from Clark and I agreed?
"Yes." He whispered back.
"I didn't."
"I know."
She looked at him with an incredulous face. "You do? How?"
"Because I'm sheriff, and you're a lovesick schoolteacher. Covering your tracks isn't exactly your strong suit."
"Well, I've been discreet--" She said aloud, but then lowered her voice. "--discreet."
"Two teacups in the sink, new perfume, late nights, plunging necklines-- It wasn't hard to connect the dots."
She looked down at her neckline. "Plunging?"
"When I met you, you were a top-button kind of girl."
"Why didn't you say anything?
"I'm not your mother."
"No. According to Hilary, I'm yours." She took another sip from her cup.
"I just figured that you would let me know when it was time. I'm assuming it's time."
"He's telling Evelyn."
"Everything?"
"Everything."

Evelyn was at home searching on the computer, when she heard the door open.
"Clark? Clark, come take a look, I found a whole bunch of great apartment options." He entered the room. "I have no idea which neighborhood to look at, but-- have you ever been to Boston?"
"No. No, I've never been."
"Maybe we should ask the Sheriff, Jack. He's from there. He could probably help--"
"Evelyn. I can't go to Boston with you."
"Can't... or won't?"
Clark kneeled beside her. "I am sorry. I'm so, so sorry." He shook his head. "I don't know what to say."
"Try the truth. Clark, is there something going on that I don't know about?"
"No. No, something happened. I don't know what it is, but there's something that's preventing me... from connecting, and it's not fair to you to let that screw up your life. You're right. You need a fresh start. It's just not with me."
Evelyn sighed and her head in her hands, feeling tears in her eyes.

In Kelly's workshop, she dipped storybook pages in a clear fluid and hung them up to dry. With a needle, she stitched the new pages into Hilary's Pixar book.

In the Mayor's Office, Derek sat beside Hilary, who held a small box with a bow on top.
"Oh, go on. Open it." He urged her, eagerly.
"What's the occasion?"
"The occasion is I love you. Go on." Hilary opened it to find a handheld game. "Now I know you miss your book, but with this, you can do the heroics. You can save the city... you can be the hero." She poked at the game, not really interested in it. Derek sighed. "Hilary, you have to believe me. When I tore down the playground, I did it for your safety. Please don't be upset with me. I really didn't mean to destroy your book."
She put the game back in the box. "It's... not just the book."
"Okay, then what is it?"
"It's Jack. I want to see him." There was a knock on the door. It opened to reveal Evelyn.
"Derek, you got a min-- I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it. Hilary, why don't you get home and start your homework? I'll be there in a bit, and we can have dinner." Hilary nodded and left the office. Evelyn broke down crying. "Evelyn, what is it?"
"It's Clark. He's leaving me."
"That little homewrecker."
"Excuse me?"
"She just couldn't stay away, could she?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Laura Reed, of course."
"What's she got to do with this? What's she got to do with any of this—Derek, do you know something?"
"They've been having an affair."
Evelyn broke down crying again. "How do you know this? How? Did you see something?"
"I... saw pictures. Olga was always looking for scandal, it sells papers, she showed me. I buried them of course."
"Show me." She sniffled.
"Evelyn--"
"Show me." She demanded. Derek walked over to his desk and pulled out a manila envelope. Evelyn opened it to see pictures of Clark and Laura Reed. She started to cry again. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I thought you two were working it out. I wanted you to work it out. Believe me, I want you two together."
"Why? Why do you care about any of this?"
"Because I'm your friend."
"No, you're not. A friend wouldn't do this. A friend wouldn't lie. Everyone is lying to me." She stormed out of the office in tears.

Clark was looking at a box of old photos of himself and Evelyn. He put them down and dialed his cell phone.

Laura Reed walked through the school when her cell phone rang and she answered it.
"Hey. Did, uh, did you do it?"
"Yeah. It's bad."
"I'm sorry."
"No, it was, um... it was really bad."
"But you told the truth, so now we can pick up the pieces. We can start over from a real place."
"Hey. I wanna see you. Can I come by when you get done at school?"
"Of course. I'll see you then. And, Clark, you did the right thing." They both hung up.

Further down the hallway, Walter the janitor was collecting trash from the classrooms, humming 'Put on your Sunday clothes'.
In one of the classrooms, Walter saw a small plant sitting on the windowsill. He walked over to it, entranced.
Later, he checked a fire extinguisher in the hallway, but accidentally blasted foam in his face.
Evelyn angrily entered the hallway, pushing past Walter.
"Oh! Hey. Watch where you're going." He turned back to face in her direction.

Laura Reed looked up and saw Evelyn approaching her, shaking her head. "Evelyn. I'm... I'm sorry."
Evelyn smacked Laura Reed across the face. All the commotion in the hallway stopped as everyone gasped and stared at them. "Screw you, you're sorry."
Laura Reed looked around at their audience. "I understand you're upset. You have every right to be."
"Thank you for that insight."
"Can we-- can we please talk somewhere private?"
"Private? Why do you get any consideration at all? You have shown none for me-- either of you. All you did was lie!"
"We should have talked to you sooner, but we've been completely honest. We didn't lie."
"You didn't lie? You snuck around, you have him break up my marriage with a pack of lies, with something about not being able to connect? He didn't have any trouble connecting with you."
"Clark didn't tell you about us?"
"No. Of course not. That would have been the honorable thing to do."
"But he said he would tell you."
"Well, then he lied to you, too. Good luck making it work. You two deserve each other." She turned and walked away.

Kelly rode up to Ellen's Diner on her motorcycle. Jack walked out to meet her.
"You gonna come in? I thought you wanted that drink."
"I do, but I didn't say here. Hop on."
"You want me to get on the back of that bike?
"That's what "hop on" means."
"How about if we go somewhere, I drive?"
"How about you stop having to control everything and take a leap of faith? You owe me a drink. Hop on. I know a good watering hole."
Jack looked at her begrudgingly, put on a helmet, and got on the bike. Ellen smiled as they rode off together.

They soon pulled up to a well by the edge of the woods.
Jack dismounted and took the helmet off. "A watering hole, literally?"
Kelly did the same. "Well, say what you want about me. I always tell the truth."
"I always thought a drink was, like, wine or whiskey."
"What, do you want me to get you drunk?
"No."
"Next time."
"You are optimistic."
She grabbed two cups from the motorcycle. "They say there's something special about this well. There's even a legend. They say that the water from the well" Kelly pulled the rope, drawing a bucket. "is fed by and underground lake, and that lake had magical properties."
"Magic? You sound like Hilary."
"Smart kid. So this legend-- it says that if you drink water from the well, something lost will be returned to you."
"You know an awful lot about this town for being a stranger."
"And you know very little for being the sheriff."
"How do you know all of this? You've been here before?"
"I know all of this for one very simple reason. I read the plaque."
Jack chuckled and walked over to an engraved plaque on the side of the well. "You actually believe that?"
"I'm a writer. I have to have an open mind."
"Yeah, but magic?"
"Water is a very powerful thing. Cultures as old as time have worshiped it. It flows though all lands, connecting the entire world. If anything had mystical properties, if anything had magic, well, I'd say it'd be water." She filled a cup with water.
"That's asking a lot to believe on faith."
"If you need evidence for everything, Jack, you're going to find yourself stuck in one place for a long time."
"Maybe. Or maybe I'll just find the truth before anyone else.
"Well, Mr. Skeptic," She handed him a cup of the water. "there's one thing I can tell you for sure that requires no leap of faith, and I know you'll agree with me." She took a sip
"What's that?"
"It's good water." They clinked their cups together and drank.

Laura Reed was walking down the sidewalk. She saw two women who, when they noticed her, started whispering and darted into a shop. Looking worried, Laura Reed continued on her way, only to bump into Ellen.
"Oh, gosh. I'm sorry. I didn't--"
"Excuse me! I must not have been looking."
"Oh. You."
"Excuse me?"
"You should be ashamed of yourself." Ellen continued walking, leaving Laura Reed on the verge of tears.

Clark was washing the word "tramp", written in large red spray paint, off of Laura Reed's car.
"Who did this?" She asked as she approached him.
"I don't know. I'm sorry. I don't know how any of this happened."
"You don't know? Really?"
"Laura Reed, I can't control what other people do."
"No, but you can control what you do, and you lied. And now everyone is calling me a tramp."
"Who told her?"
"That is exactly the wrong question. The real question is why didn't you do what we discussed? Why didn't you tell her?"
"I thought we could spare her feelings."
"Right. You thought. Not we. You. And we discussed this."
"I didn't want anyone to get hurt."
"Now everyone is hurt. We had an understanding. We had an agreement. But you not only lied to her-- you lied to me."
"Laura Reed, please. Listen to me. If we want to see if-- if this-- if what we have is love... we have to do what you said. We have to pick up the pieces, and we gotta move on."
"Clark, this isn't love. What we have is something else entirely. What we have is destructive, and is has to stop."
"Come on--" He tried to reach out to her, but she turned away. "What are you saying?"
"That we shouldn't be together."

Jack brushed the leaves off of his car, when he noticed a red metal box in the gutter. Realizing it’s the same box that Hilary’s book was hidden in, he opened it to find the book inside, fully intact. Kelly watched Jack from around the corner.
———–
Derek was watering the plants in his office when Evelyn entered.
"It’s beautiful. I had no idea you were so good with plants."
"Well... better than with people, it would seem. What are you doing here? I thought after what happened yesterday, I’d be the last person you’d want to see."
"So did I. And then I thought about it, and I realized I owed you an apology."
"Evelyn, you don’t--"
"I know you’d never do anything to hurt me. I was just so angry and confused, and I snapped. I’m sorry. I’ve just been fighting so hard to hold on to Clark, I’ve never stopped to ask myself why."
"He’s your husband. You love each other. You always have."
"No. We haven’t."
She showed him a picture of Laura Reed and Clark. "See the way he looks at her? He’s never looked at me like that, not even before his accident."
"Evelyn, relationships take work. You can’t give up so easily."
"Have you ever been in love?"
"Yes. Once."
"Then you’re lucky. Because what I’m coming to understand is… is that I haven’t. What they have is real. It’s true. My marriage to Clark-- It just was like an illusion. I don’t know how it happened, but it was never real. I know that now. The way Clark looks at Laura Reed... that’s what I want for me... And I’m going to go out there and I’m going to find it."
"What are you talking about?"
"I’m sticking to my plan. I’m moving to Boston... alone. If I stay here, I’ll never be happy."
"And what about Clark?"
"I wrote him a letter – him and Laura Reed. I told them they should be together."
"Uh, I’m sorry. You did what?"
"I can’t see him, not now. It’s just too painful."
Evelyn hugged Derek, causing him to awkwardly hug her back. "I’m going to miss you, Derek. You’ve been a good friend to me."
"You’re really going?"
"You know, it’s funny. I’ve always had this irrational fear of leaving Pixfare, like something’s just holding me back. Is that crazy?"
"No. Change is always frightening. But you know what, Evelyn? This just may be what you need. Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for."

Derek opened the front door to the Grimm house using his skull keys. Inside, he found Evelyn’s letter to Clark on the counter. He picked it up and left.
———–
Hilary was playing her video game on a bench outside the school. Jack walked up to her with a bag and sat down next to her.
"Wow! I love that game. Space Paranoids, right?"
"Yeah, my dad got it for me."
"I used to play that all the time when I was a kid. Relax. It’s all in the wrists."
"My dad's picking me up in, like, five minutes."
"Alright, I’ll be quick then. I just have something I’d like to give you."
He took the book out of his bag and gave it to her.
"You found it! Where’d you get it?"
"I found it in a gutter. It must have fallen off the dump truck on the way to the junkyard and got tossed around in the rain and somehow made its way back to me."
"Wow. That’s crazy."
"What other explanation could there be?
"I don’t know."
"Well, whatever happened, it came back to me."
"Maybe it means our luck is changing. Operation Cobra is back on. It’s a sign. Things are going to be better."
"I hope you’re right, kid. I got to go." Jack stood up and left.

Laura Reed was sadly laying on her bed when Jack entered.
"You feel like talking about it yet?
"Nope."
"You want to be alone?"
"Nope."
Feeling sorry for her, Jack laid down next to Laura Reed on the bed.
———–
Derek took Evelyn's letter out of a drawer in his office desk, next to a can of red spray paint. He grabbed a lighter from the table and headed to the fireplace.

Sitting in her car, Evelyn took a deep breath before driving off.

Using the lighter, Derek set the letter on fire.

Evelyn drove along the road that led out of Pixfare. She saw the sign in the distance.

Derek watched the letter burn in his hand, and then threw it into the fireplace.

Walter was also driving along the road that led out of town, when he saw Evelyn's crashed car at the base of the Pixfare sign. When he got out to investigate, he found the car empty and the airbag deployed.

Chapter Text

Inside Ellen's Diner, Robert Michaels, a man dressed in green and bangs over one eye, was having breakfast when John Sullivent, a big and muscular man dressed in blue, with blue eyes and thick eyebrows walked in. He walked past Robert and knocked over his glass.
"Hey. Do you mind?"
"Not at all."
Robert picked up the knocked over glass. "Just stay out of my way." He moved to another seat.

Laura Reed entered the Diner and cleared her throat. "Excuse me. Can I have everyone's attention, please? I'm sorry to interrupt your morning, but I just wanted to remind everyone that Halloween will be here soon." Everyone turned their attention to her. "As always, the Pixfare theater troupe is hoping that everyone will get involved and will help with their haunted house. All we need are a few energetic volunteers. So who wants to join me?" Everyone went back to eating and talking amongst themselves.
Laura Reed walked out the door, disappointed. Jack followed after her.

Outside the Diner, Laura Reed was walking and Jack caught up to her.
"Hey. Mind if I join you? So what's this haunted house, and why are you beating yourself up over it?"
"It's an annual Halloween tradition. The community theater does a haunted house. They use it as a fundraiser. It's an amazing event. Everyone loves it."
"It doesn't seem like everyone loves it."
"It's not the haunted house. It's me. Last week, I had 10 volunteers. This week, they all dropped out."
"You think this is about what happened with Clark?"
"Oh, I know it is. A few of them told me as much. I've never...been a homewrecker before."
"It's gonna roll over. You made a mistake with Clark. It happens. You don't have to do charity to win people's hearts back."
"I have to do something. And this is the best I can do. Love ruined my life."
Jack's phone suddenly rang and he answered it. "Sheriff Swan. Yeah. I'll be right down." He hung up. "Well, apparently, duty calls." They stopped walking and he looked at her, putting a comforting hand on her arm. "Hang in there. And if there's anything I can do to help, I will."
"I know. Thank you." She smiled as Jack left.

The theater troupe was outside setting up for the haunted house.
Amelia Madge, a woman with bangs over one eye and wearing a green pantsuit, was busy on the phone. She suddenly bumped into Robert, who was walking by, and the pile of papers in her hand dropped to the ground.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't see you there. I..." She apologized frantically.
He took one look at her and smiled. "No problem at all."
She bent down to pick up the papers. "I was in such a rush to hand these designs in that I didn't realize where I was going."
"Can I see them?" He asked. She handed him the designs for monster costumes. "Wow." He flipped to the page with a werewolf. "Ooh, this is amazing. But..." He borrowed her pen and started drawing on the design. "I suggest you show more claws and fangs, see? And then give the mouth more of a growl. Makes for a more effective scare."
"Oh. Then I guess that makes you my hero."
"I'm nobody's hero, Miss."
"Oh. You can just call me Amelia."
"I'm Robert." He handed her the papers back.
Amelia gasped. "I love it! How did you know to do that? Are you a designer?"
He scoffed. "I work in an office."
"That's...wonderful."
"No, it's not. I deal with paperwork all day. What I really wanted to do... was act. I've even tried out for the theater troupe, but they kept saying I wasn't good enough."
"You know, someone once told me 'You can do anything as long as you can dream it.'"
"You really think so?"
"Sure! Look how easily you fixed this design. I bet you could do anything. Oh, I should, uh, get back to the theater. Nice to meet you, Robert." 
He smiled as she left. She looked back at him multiple times, almost bumping into people.

At town line, the sheriff's car was parked in front of a car crash. Jack took pictures of the interior of the crashed car. He searched the compartment in the dashboard. 
Olga drove into the scene and approached Jack. "You mind if I take a look, too?"
"What for?"
"Well, just because I got fired from 'The Droid' doesn’t mean I can’t do a little freelance reporting." She took a picture of the car. Jack closed the right back door. "So what do we got here?"
They walked around the car, taking pictures of it, while talking. 
"Trash man found this thing on the side of the road, abandoned, engine running, nobody around. Registered to Evelyn Grimm. She's MIA."
"Evelyn Grimm, whose husband very publicly left her?" Jack opened the left back seat of the car. "I mean, the story writes itself. If I get a scoop like that, 'the Daily Droid' would have no choice but to take me back."
"Calm down, Missy. You don't work for Derek anymore. Evelyn got accepted to a law school at Boston. Maybe after Clark dumped her, she decided to leave town. Car broke down. She hitched the rest of the way. That's what I would do if I was running away from my problems." Jack opened the trunk of the car and found a suitcase inside.
"And, uh, would you leave your clothes in the car?"
"Time to pull Evelyn’s phone records and find out who she spoke to last."
"Yeah, you know, if you go through the Sheriff’s Department, it’ll take you days to get those. I’ve got a contact over at the phone company, who used to help me out when I was at the newspaper. I can get those in a couple hours."
"Great. Call me the minute you get your hands on those phone records."
They saw Clark’s truck pulled up along the side of the road.
"There he is."
"Time to break the news."
"You really think he doesn’t know?"
"I’m about to find out." Jack walked over to Clark.

Robert entered the lobby of the theater and came over to the front desk. Abigail, the theater director, an older snobbish woman was filling out forms.
"Where can I sign up?" He asked. She just ignored him. "What? I want to be a part of the haunted house."
"Mr. Michaels, we've discussed this before. You lack the skills. You don't belong in a haunted house."
He glanced at Amelia on the other side of the room. "It looks like you can use all the help you can get. Please... just give me a chance."
"Very well. We need help manning the ticket booth."
"You ordered how many tanks of helium?!" James, a husky, bald man shouted at Amelia.
"I-I meant to order twelve." She said nervously.
"You ordered twelve dozen. Return them."
"There are no refunds."
"We needed that money. You knew that. You know how she feels about us. You fix this, Amelia. You fix it now." He angrily walked away.

Robert overheard the conversation and walked over to Amelia. "Hey. What’s the problem?"
"The problem is I’m an idiot. We get a stipend each year for expenses, and it’s all carefully budgeted except for the part where I spent it all on helium. And now we can’t pay our rent."
"So, you’ll make it up when you get your next stipend."
"Which isn’t till next month. The rent is due next week. And the only income we have are the haunted house tickets."
"Well, so how many do you need to sell?"
"Like, a thousand."
"How many did you sell last year?"
"Forty-two."
"Ask your landlord to cut you a break."
"Ms. Wood doesn’t offer much leeway."
"Ms. Wood is your landlady?"
"If we miss a payment, we’re out. And then they’ll reassign us, and we’ll have to leave Pixfare."
"No, you won’t. You know why you only sold forty-two last year? Because you didn’t have me. This year we’re going to sell all of them."
"Wow!" Amelia smiled. "Robert, I guess you really are my hero." He smiled back, touched.
———–
"She’s just gone?" Clark asked, looking at the empty car.
"You really don’t know anything, do you?" Jack gave him a look.
"I-I don’t-- I don’t understand. Wh-what happened?"
"I don’t know. I’m trying to find out. What can you tell me? When was the last time you spoke to Evelyn?"
"Yesterday afternoon."
"Okay, look, I know there has been lies and deceit, and I’m really not judging you, but is that the truth?"
"Yes. I haven’t spoken to her since we… I ended things. And I came home yesterday, and all her things were gone. I assumed she was going to Boston. That’s what she told me. Am I a suspect or something?"
"No. I know when people are telling the truth, Clark, and you are. She hasn’t even been gone twenty-four hours. She’s not even technically missing. But, if she is, trust me, I will find her."
———–
Derek sat in his office, when a fax came through. It was two pages of Evelyn's phone records. Derek grabbed his phone and dialed a number.
"Hello, Olga? Those phone records you wanted – I have them. And I think you’ll find them quite helpful."

At the Halloween festival, Robert and Laura Reed were trying to sell tickets at their booth.
"Buy your tickets here! Experience the haunted house! Face your biggest fears!" She shook her head, hopelessly. "This isn’t working."
"You’re right. We should pack it up."
"Now you’re quitting?"
"If the customers won’t come to us, we got to go to them, door to door."
"If they hate us here, what makes you think they’ll like us in their homes?"
"Exactly. They’ll pay us just to leave." He gave her a mischievous smile.

At another booth, Olga was playing ring toss.
Jack walked up to her. "What are you doing?"
"What’s happening?"
"I just got off the phone with Evelyn’s school in Boston. Registration was this morning, and she never showed up."
"Something did happen."
"It looks that way."
"Why didn’t you say anything? You’re looking for a suspect, someone with a motive. Richards over there has got one a mile high." She pointed to Laura Reed.
"She had nothing to do with anything. Trust me."
"But she’s the one-"
"Trust me. I know her. Just get me those phone records." He walked away.

Amelia got down on the ground to pick up the plums that she dropped, when Robert entered the theater. Laura Reed watched from the other side of the room.
"Amelia?"
"Hi." She smiled and stood up.
"I have to talk to you. See, I have some bad news."
"Oh, no. What is it?"
"The bad news is that… That… You guys are going to be real busy with that haunted house, cause me and Laura Reed just sold all the tickets. You’re not losing the theater. You’re not going anywhere."
Amelia hugged Robert, laughing with joy.

Afterwards, Laura Reed pulled him aside.
"How could you tell Amelia that we sold all those tickets? That's five thousand dollars, Robert. Five thousand dollars that we don’t have."
"Don’t worry about it, alright? I got a plan.
"What plan? A plan like going door to door and having everyone in town laugh in our faces?"
"Just give me till the end of the day. I’ll figure something out."
"And why is this so important to you?"
"The troupe…" He glanced over at Amelia. "They’re going to have to leave."
Laura Reed gasped, realizing what was happening. "Oh, my God. You like her! She's a secretary, Robert. Could you possibly pick anyone any less available?"
"Says the girl who went after a married guy?" He argued. "At the end of the day, you’re no better than I am. You got your reasons for being here. I got mine. And when I say I’m going to get that five thousand dollars, I’m going to get that five thousand dollars."
———–
At the station, Jack was looking at pictures from the crash site on a bulletin board. Olga soon entered.
"You find something?"
She handed Jack a folder. "Evelyn's phone records. Every call she made the day she crashed her car, including an eight minute call between her and Clark within an hour of the accident."
"That’s not possible. He said he didn’t speak to her that day."
"Then, he’s lying."
"No. I know when someone is lying, and Clark--"
"It’s right here on paper, Jack. Phone records don’t lie. People do. And our friend Clark does it better than most. Don’t beat yourself up over this. You’re not the only person Clark fooled."
———–
Laura Reed was having a drink at the Diner. Robert came in and sat next to her.
"I’ll have what she’s having."
"Well? Did you get it?"
"What do you think?"
"I think you’re right. I was dreaming if I thought the town harlot could accomplish anything."
"Yeah. Just dreaming."
"Robert, you understand that a relationship between you and Amelia can never happen."
"Yeah, yeah. My whole life people made it their business to tell me what I can’t do. She was the first person that said I could do anything, who believed in me. I didn’t want to disappoint her."
"But there are consequences to following through when the world tells you not to. I mean, look at me. I'm a pariah in this town."
"What about your good memories?"
"What do you mean?"
"Didn’t you have moments with him that you love? Do you regret them?"
"No, of course not."
"Isn’t that what life’s about? Holding on to your good memories. All I wanted was a moment with Amelia-- One moment to give me hope that any dream’s possible. You’ve had all that, Laura Reed, so stop feeling sorry for yourself and enjoy it. Because I haven’t."
"Well, if I had the dream, I’m sorry to say, it wasn’t worth it."
"And sitting here drinking won’t end this pain."
"What will?"
He thought for a moment, and then got an idea. "I can only think of one thing."
———–
At the Halloween festival, Robert approached the actors, who were dressed as monsters.
"John, I have an idea of how to get people into the haunted house. If we scare them, I mean really scare them, they'll see just you guys can do."
"Are you sure about this?"
"Yes. Just follow my lead."

A small group entered the haunted house's maze, which had dim, green bulbs on the walls.
The lamps were covered with cobwebs and rubber bats. Robert and the actors were hiding behind a curtain. "Everyone clear on the plan?" He whispered. They nodded. "Ok. Let's do this." An eerie fog rolled into the main hallway. Robert silently counted to 3 and pressed a button, setting off spooky sounds. The group turned around, startled by each sound. Several of the costumed actors jumped out during certain sections of the house as the visitors walked through. They screamed, which could be heard from outside. The group made it out of the house, panting and laughing.

Everyone mobbed Laura Reed to buy tickets. She soon noticed that the entire roll was empty. Robert soon approached the booth.
"Robert... we sold out. The haunted house is a big hit." The two of them hugged, laughing. They saw Amelia standing with Abigail and James. "Well, go on. Give her the news. Have your moment."
Robert brought the box of money over to them.
"Excuse me." Amelia stepped away for a moment.
"Five thousand bucks. Piece of cake."
"You sold them all?"
"I had a little help."
"You made it happen."
"You have no idea."
"I don’t know what to say." She stammered and took the box.
"You’re welcome."
"Mr. Michaels," They turned to see Abigail approach them. "Perhaps I misjudged you."
"That was quite a stunt you pulled." James added. "I look forward to having you join us."
Robert stared in shock as they left. "I can't believe it... I'm finally part of the theater troupe!"
———–
Jack looked over Evelyn's phone records at the station. The name ‘C. Grimm’ was highlighted. Derek soon entered.
"If this is about the blackout, I’ve got the guys from the power company down there working on it."
"That’s not why I’m here. It’s been twenty-four hours since my friend Evelyn went missing. Have you found anything?"
"I found something. I just don’t know what it means."
"Well, what is it?"
"At this point in the investigation, it’s best I don’t divulge that information."
"If you’re covering for someone, if you’re not doing your job, Sheriff Swan, I’ll find someone who will." Derek turned and left.
———–
Laura Reed made a ‘sold out’ sign and put it at the front of the ticket booth. She walked to her car, which still has the word ‘tramp’ spray painted on it. She stared at it for a moment, and then decided to go back to the festival.
Clark watched Laura Reed walk past as Jack arrived and approached him. "Jack."
"Clark, we need to talk."
"Did you get a hold of Evelyn?"
"No, I’m afraid not."
"Then, what is it?"
"I need you to come to the sheriff’s station with me and tell me everything."
"I’m sorry. I thought I already did."
"So did I."
Everyone watched as Jack led Clark to the squad car and sat him in the backseat. Laura Reed watched worriedly.

Chapter Text

Clark sat in Jack’s office at the station. Jack came over and handed him a mug of tea.
"Thank you. I hope Evelyn’s somewhere warm, not out in the cold."
"Clark... I think you need to start worrying about yourself a little bit more here. Your wife is missing. You're in love with another woman. There’s this… unexplained phone call."
"I know, I know. I just… I can’t explain why it says that. I didn’t do anything to my wife."
"I’m pretty good at spotting a liar. And honestly, liars have better material. Now go home."
"I can go?"
Jack opened the door to his office. "We don’t even know if there was a crime yet. So get some sleep."
"Thank you." Clark stood up to leave.
"And, Clark, maybe… get a lawyer."
———–
At the Diner, Michelle was flirting with a customer sitting at one of the tables.
Ellen called for Michelle, but she ignored her. "Michelle? Michelle!"

"Just give me a sec!"
"Michelle! Stop flirting and get over here!" Ellen again called Michelle over, knocking on the counter.
"I can’t believe you did that. That was humiliating." Michelle approached the counter, angrily.
"I want you to start working Saturday nights."
"Come on – we have an agreement about Saturday night."
"I want to start training you to do the books and the reorders. Business is booming lately, and with more money comes more paperwork."
"Yeah. None of that sounds good."
"It’s got to be done."
"Is this a punishment for talking to that guy?"
"If I wanted to punish you, I’d have better reasons. For one thing, you were late. For another thing, Liza, you dress like a drag queen during Fleet Week."
"And you dress like Norman Bates when he dresses like Norman Bates’ mother."
"Michelle, you’re a grown woman. You can’t keep acting like some kid."
"You just want me to act like you until I turn into you. Well, I'm not a fossil yet, Mum. I should be out there having adventures!"
Ellen angrily closed her book and walked around the counter. "Well, as long as you work here, you are going to listen to me."
"I didn’t ask to work here."
"Well, then what’s keeping ya?"
"Nothing! I quit!" Ellen looked shocked as Michelle stormed out of the diner.

Laura Reed ran to catch up with Jack on the sidewalk. The two of them walked together.
"Is he okay? Clark?"
"Oh, yeah. He’s a little shaken up, but he’s headed home. He’s fine."
"Any word from Evelyn?"
"Nothing new."
"Did you check with Boston again?"
"She’s not there."
"So, we have no idea what happened to her?"
"All we know, is that she found out about you two, gave you a well-deserved slap, and then disappeared."
"Well-deserved? Do you really believe that?"
"No. I’m just preparing you for what everyone else is going to think." They both exchanged looks. "You two are going to look bad until we figure the truth out."
"You mean Clark? That people are going to think in order to… Be free with me…"
"Some are." Laura Reed looked slightly horrified. "And he’s not doing himself any favors. So, if there’s anything you could think of to pin down his whereabouts that night--"
"He wasn’t with me. We really are through."
The two of them came across Michelle, who was waiting at a bus stop, and talking to Dr. Whale.
"Sorry. No, don’t need a ride."
"It’s awfully cold out here."
"I’m fine. Really."
"I can carry your bag. Where are you headed?"
"Dr. Whale?" Laura Reed greeted him.
"Laura Reed. Jack. Hello there."
"Hey."
"I was just having a talk with Michelle here. But, I should, um…"
"Yeah. Yeah, you should." Jack nodded.
"Yeah…" Dr. Whale turned and left.
"Was he bothering you?" Laura Reed asked.
"The day I can’t handle a lech is the day I leave town, which this is, I guess."
"You’re leaving?" Jack wondered.
"I had a fight with my mother. Quit my job."
"You quit? Where you going?" Laura Reed looked concerned.
"I don’t know. Away."
"Yeah, well, buses out of town don’t really happen. And you might want a destination first." Jack
Michelle looked worried, for she hadn't thought of that.
Laura Reed glanced at Jack and back at Michelle, getting an idea. "Hey, if you need a place to figure things out, you could always come home with us."
Jack looked at Laura Reed with a 'what are you doing?' look. She stared back at him, trying to convince him. "Y-y-yeah. Just for a little while."
"Come on." Laura Reed led Michelle to their building, Jack following behind.

Laura Reed drove her car along the road out of Pixfare, and pulled over just before she reached the sign. She got out of the car and went into the woods. A short ways into the woods, she heard a rustling and footsteps approaching.
She sighed relieved as Clark appeared through the brush. "I-it’s you. You okay? You’re looking for Evelyn, too?"
"I’m looking."
"He knows you didn’t do anything. Jack, I mean. He can tell when people are lying, so… he knows. And I’ll stand with you. I’ll tell everyone this isn’t possible. She’s going to turn up somewhere. That’s why we’re out here, right?"
"I’m looking." Clark repeated.
Laura Reed noticed that he wasn’t quite all there. "Clark?" He began to wander back into the woods. "Clark. Clark!" She yelled to him, but he didn’t hear her.

At the Sheriff's station, Hilary searched the internet looking for jobs for Michelle, who sat next to her, while the phone on the desk continuously rang.
"How about doing archery in a Renaissance fair?"
"I’m not so sure that’s a real job." The phone rang again. "Why do the phones keep doing that?"
"Oh, the non-emergency calls go to a machine when Jack’s busy."
The phone rang, again, but Michelle answered it.
"Sheriff’s station. How can I help you? Mmhmm. I’ll get her to return. Thank you, too." She answered the next call. "Sheriff’s station. Hey, Miss Ginger. Uh, no, that’s not a prowler. That’s Felix’s dog, Dug. Throw him a vanilla wafer. He’ll quiet down. Did you still want to talk to Jack? Great. Glad I could help." She hung up.
Jack, who has overheard Michelle on the phone, walked in. "How’s it going, you two?"
"Great, except I can’t do anything."
"I’m sure that’s not true. I just saw you on the phone. That was good."
"That? That’s nothing."
"No. No, it isn’t. I actually have some money in the budget if you want to help out around here."
"Yes! Thank you." Michelle cried, excited. "Yes. Um, I could answer phones and help out. Um, is there anything else that you need done? Organize files, cleaning up? Please. I want to be useful."
"I’m swamped with the Evelyn Grimm thing. If you maybe want to grab us lunch, I would never say no to a grilled cheese."
"Done. You want anything?" She asked Hilary.
"Um, two chocolate chip cookies, an apple pie, and a hot dog."
"She ate at school." Jack
As Michelle was about to leave, Laura Reed entered the station.
"Hey. Lunch, Laura Reed? I’m getting for everyone."
"Uh, no. I’m not hungry." She turned to Jack, who smiled to see her.
"Clark’s in the woods. There’s something wrong with him. He looked right through me. It’s like… It’s like he was a different person."

Michelle's smile disappeared as she approached the Diner. She looked sad for a moment, but put on a brave face and entered, walking up to Ellen at the counter.
"I need a couple of grilled cheeses. I’m working over at the sheriff’s station now."
"Ah." Ellen wrote down her order.
"Sort of like a… like a Deputy, you know? I guess sometimes, your fate finds you."
"Seems kinda like you’re doing the same thing you always done."
"Plus so much more. I help solve crimes."
"I’m sure you do. I hope you’re finding what you’re looking for."
"I am."

Jack was getting ready to leave the station, while Hilary was hiding her book in a desk drawer.
"Okay, kid. Don’t mean to kick you out, but I got to go see if Clark's in some kind of trouble out there."
"It’s okay. I’m supposed to meet my dad." She locked the drawer. "There."
"Nice."
"You know, you can let Michelle do more. She’s Merida."
"With the bow and arrow?" He looked skeptical. "Yeah, she seems like a tough girl."
"She is. She just doesn’t remember how cool she is or what she’s capable of. But it’s true."
Michelle soon returned with the food as Hilary left.
"Hey, Michelle."
"Hey, Hilary. Got your grilled cheese."
"Thank you." Jack noticed the look on her face. "You all right?"
"I guess. I mean, this is something I know how to do, so yay." She took a sip of her drink.
"Okay, let’s pack these back up, and we can eat it in the car. I need to do a little wilderness search, and I need your help."
"I’m pretty sure I’m just going to screw it up. I mean, I’ll screw it up with flair, but…"
"No, you won’t. Come on. You can do this."
———–
Jack and Michelle were searching through the woods.
"This place is massive. How are we supposed to find one guy?" Michelle wondered.
"Shh. Hey, shh. We might be able to hear him. I’m following the path because there are boot prints, so just stay close."
"I shouldn’t even be here. I’m just going to screw everything up. Oh, wait."
Michelle stopped walking and Jack bumped into her.
"Michelle."
"I hear him."
"Really?"
"Yeah, really. I hear him or…something. I… I know where he is. Don’t you?" Michelle took off running through the woods.
"No. What are you doing?"
"He’s over here!"
Jack followed behind her. "Michelle! Michelle?" He found her standing over a bleeding and unconscious Clark. He knelt next to him, and tried to shake him awake.
"Clark? Oh, god. Come on. Clark, come on. Wake up. Clark, wake up!
Clark's eyes slowly opened. "Jack? What? Michelle?"
"Do you remember where you are?"
"No, I… What the?" He sat up. "I was-- I was in your office. Did you bring me here?"
"You don’t remember anything since you were in my office? Last night?" Jack and Michelle looked at each other, shocked.
"No. I don’t."
———–
Jack and Clark were at the hospital, where Clark was being treated by Dr. Whale.
"Well, he’s bruised, scratched up, a little dehydrated... What’d you expect."
"He’s got a cut on his head."
"It’s superficial. I can refer him to Dr. Cutter for a mental health eval, but, it’s my opinion, that whatever caused this blackout is the same phenomenon we observed when he came out of the psych ward-- Moving around, acting out, not remembering it later."
"We will figure it out." Jack assured Clark.
"It’s so strange. I can’t even believe it happened."
"How functional could he be during one of these episodes? I mean, he talked to someone."
"Well, people in similar states-- even under sleep medication-- do all sorts of things-- Cooking, talking, driving a car." Dr. Whale explained.
"You want to know if I could’ve made that call. Or more. You… You want to know if I could’ve… What, kidnapped her? Killed her?"
Dr. Whale tried to calm him down. "Now, take it easy there."
"No one’s saying you did anything bad, Clark." Jack assured him.
"No, but it would explain why it didn’t seem like I was lying. I wouldn’t know."
Derek quickly stormed into the room. "Stop talking, Clark." He turned to Jack. "What are you doing here? Why doesn’t this man have a lawyer present? Have you even read him his rights?"
"No, because he’s not under arrest. We’re just talking."
"Right. Just talking."
"What are you doing here?"
"Mayor Brodie is still Mr. Grimm’s emergency contact." Dr. Whale replied.
"You have to be kidding me." Jack
"I thought that changed to Evelyn?" Clark
"Well, Evelyn's currently unavailable. Some people haven’t found her yet." Derek looked accusingly at Jack. "Stop trying to place blame and just find her."
"There’s a whole lot of Maine to search, Derek."
"Well, you covered this room. I suggest you branch out."
———–
Michelle answered a phone call at the station. "Sheriff’s station, thank you for calling. How may I direct your--"
"Hey, stop. It’s me." Jack's voice came from the other side. "Here’s the thing – the last time Clark went for a dream walk, he went to the Toll Bridge. You know the one? It’s a crazy hunch, but I want you to take my bug and go and see if he was there."
"No, I could get somebody else to."
"Michelle, you were great out there. I still don’t know how you found him. You can do this."
"I don’t know."
"It’s going to be dark out soon. Clark's going to be let out. If there is something there, we’ve got to get there first. We don’t have time to argue. Can you do this?"
———–
Later, Michelle drove Jack's bug to the Toll Bridge.
"I mean, what am I even looking for?" She got out, of the car while still on the phone with Jack.
"Anything out of the ordinary. Something that doesn’t belong there."
Michelle headed toward the bank of the river flowing under the bridge.
"And…if I find something?"
"Just follow your instincts."
Michelle found a board near the water. She flipped it over, revealing a patch of sand underneath it. Michelle put Jack on speaker and placed the phone on a nearby rock. She grabbed a stick and began to dig, until she hit something hard. Michelle brushed the sand away with her hands. The object turned out to be a shoe box. "You…can’t give me a clue what I’m looking for?"
"Anything of Evelyn's."
She pulled the shoe box out of the ground.
"Michelle? What’s going on? Did you find something?" Michelle opened the box, but abruptly dropped it, screaming. "Michelle? Michelle?"

At the station, Jack and Michelle stared at the opened shoe box sitting on the desk.
"Is… Is that what I think it is?"
"Yeah."
"I can’t look." Michelle turned around, still freaked out.
Jack shut the lid of the box. "You okay?"
"I don’t know what I am.
"It’s going to be all right. We can figure out what happened now. Michelle, you did good."
"This is doing good?" She felt tears in her eyes.
"Yeah. It’s amazing. First, you found Clark, and now, this. I know you say you don’t know what you are, but whatever it is, I got to say, I’m impressed."
"Don’t be. I’m… I’m scared out of my mind."
"But you did it anyway."

Ellen stood at the counter when Michelle entered the diner. "You look good."
"Thanks."
"Want something for the Sheriff?"
"No."
"What are you doing here, Michelle? You here to tell me more about your fine new job?"
"I want to come back."
"Why? You were pretty mad."
"I wasn’t mad."
"Looked like mad from here."
"Mm-hmm, yeah. Here’s the thing – um… You were talking about having me do all this stuff, and I…wasn’t sure. I-I said that you wanted me to turn into you, but… What I meant was... I don’t know how to be you. You’re a tough act to follow."
"Oh."
"And then you wanted me to take on all this extra responsibility, and I… guess I just got... scared."
"Don’t be. You shouldn’t be." Ellen laid out a small stack of menus.
"Well, I am. But, it’s okay. I can do it anyway. I sort of found someone in myself that was more than I expected."
"What about adventure?"
"Did that. Found out I could do that and also that I don’t want to. I don’t want a job where a good day means ruining someone’s life. I want to do something that makes me happy. Somewhere I love."
"Look... just so you know, I wanted you to do the books and everything so you could take over when I retire. Own the whole place."
"Own it?" Michelle looked surprised.
"Sure. I mean, who else would I give it to but someone who loves me back?"
Michelle smiled and they hugged.
"Proud of you."
"What was that?" Michelle teased as Ellen returned to the counter.
"You heard me."

Clark and Laura Reed were in the lobby of the animal shelter.
"Clark, it’s going to be okay." She assured him.
"Really? How do you know that? Because I honestly can’t say anything about my actions anymore."
"Well, there has to be an explanation."
"You’re right. But the problem is, I don’t think it’s a good one."
Laura Reed opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, Jack entered with a bad news look.
"What is it? Did you find her?" asked Clark.
"We found a box."
"Wait. Wait. What does that mean?"
"We think it… We think that she…"
"What?"
"There was a human heart inside it."
"Oh, my god." Laura Reed looked horrified.
Clark began to break down. "No. No."
"We’re going to send it out for some tests, but there aren’t any other missing people." Jack continued.
"Maybe you should go." Laura suggested to Jack before kneeling beside Clark.
"There’s more. There were fingerprints inside the lid of the box. I ran them through the records of everyone in town, and there was a match."
"Arrest me." Clark stood up and walked towards Jack.
"No. Clark."
"Arrest me, Jack. Do it."
"Clark, the fingerprints were yours."

Chapter Text

At the Sheriff station, Jack was taking mugshots of Clark. "Please turn to the right."
"Jack, this is a mistake. I didn't kill Evelyn."
"Of course you didn't. But while I'm your friend, I'm also the sheriff, and I have to go where the evidence leads."
"Which points to me? Jack, there's something not right here."
"I know, but your fingerprints were on that box, and hers aren't... so now we have to deal with... this."
"Evidence that says I cut out Evelyn's heart and buried it in the woods? This is insane."
"If I don't book you, with all this evidence, it's gonna look like favoritism. And then Derek will have cause and he'll fire me, and then you know what he'll do? He'll bring in someone who will railroad you. So please, just try to be patient and trust me. We can't even move forward till we verify the heart belonged to Evelyn, and I'm still waiting for the DNA test results. But in the meantime, you need to bear with me. I have to ask you a few questions."
Clark nodded in agreement. "This is crazy. I would never hurt anyone."

Jack guided Clark to the interrogation room, where Derek was seated at the table.
He turned to face them. "Hello Mr. Grimm."
"What's he doing here?"
"He asked to be here as a third party to make sure that I stay impartial. It can only help you." Jack sat beside Derek and Clark sat across from them.
"I have nothing to hide. Ask me anything. "
Jack turned on the tape recorder. "The heart was found buried near the old Toll Bridge. It had been cut out by what appears to be a hunting knife. Have you ever been to that bridge before?"
"Yes. Many times. It's where Laura Reed and I liked to meet."
Jack stood up. "Ms. Richards."
"Yes."
"And you met there for what purpose?" Jack opened a cabinet. Wearing examination gloves, he took out the shoe box in a plastic bag."
"We were having an affair. I'm not proud of what happened. And I'm sorry, but that doesn't change the fact that I did not kill Evelyn."
Jack placed the shoe box in front of Clark. "Ever seen this before?"
"Yes, that's one of my shoe boxes."
"That's where we found the heart in."
"Don't you see what's happening here? Someone stole that box and put the heart in it. I didn't have anything to do with it. I'm innocent!" Clark started getting frantic.
"Mr. Grimm, it’s okay." Derek tried to calm him down. "I know what you’re going through. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love, to be publicly humiliated. It put me in a very dark place, changed me. I can only imagine what losing Laura Reed did to you.
"But I haven’t changed. I’m still the same person I’ve always been, a good person. I did not do this."
Jack turned to Derek. "Can I talk to you in the hallway, please?" They both exited the room. "I told you to leave the questioning to me."
"How do you know he didn’t do it? If that box was stolen from him as he claims, don’t you think there’d be signs of a break in? Well, you’re the sheriff. Tell me, has there been a break in? He’s a man who’s had his heart broken, and that that... can make you do unspeakable things."

Looking for signs of a break in Emma examines the door closely. She then turns to investigate the apartment’s windows. Henry Mills enters.
"Hilary. What are you doing here? Why aren’t you in school?"
"We have to help Clark."
"I am helping him. That's why I'm searching the house. But you got to go home."
"Not going to happen."
"Just stay out of the way."
"So, what are we looking for."
"I'm trying to see, if, maybe, someone broke in." He entered the bedroom. "Looking for busted door jambs," He examined the window. "broken glass, muddy footprints. That kind of thing."
"So, you think someone's setting him up?"
"It's the only thing that makes sense. The only problem is, nobody's got a motive."
"My dad does."
"Derek?"
"He hates supers. Especially Mr. Incredible." She shrugged. "Hey, you wanted a motive."
"Well, I don't think 'He hates Mr. Incredible'  will hold up in a court, Hilary." Jack took a closer look at a picture standing on his desk. Tired, Jack laid down on the bed. Suddenly, they heard a rattling noise. Searching for the source of the noise, Jack removed the cover of an air vent in the wall.
"Did you find something?" Hilary wondered.
Jack reached inside the vent and pulled out an object wrapped in a cloth. He unwrapped it to find a small hunting knife. They both looked at each other in shock.

At the Diner, Michelle served Hilary a cocoa with cinnamon. 
Kelly entered and sat beside an upset Hilary. "I don't think that hot chocolate is gonna drink itself. You're upset about Clark, aren’t you?"
"He didn't do it. Why can't anyone see that?"
"Because most people just see what's right in front of them. And I don't think you gonna find the answers you want at the bottom of that mug."
"Then where?" Hilary took a sip of her cocoa.
"That book in your bag? You know, I'm a writer. So I'm partial to finding my answers in the literary form."
"It's just a book."
"Is it?"
"Yeah."
"I think, we both know that's not the case." 
"What do you know about it?" Hilary asked curiously.
"I know it's a book of stories."
"Aren’t all books?"
"Stories... that really happened."
Hilary leaned closer. "You think my book is real?"
"As real as I am."
"How do you know?"
"Let's just say that, uh... I'm a believer, and I wanna help others see the light. That, my friend, is why I'm here."
"But I already believe."
"Oh, I'm not here for you, girl. I'm here for Jack."
"So, you wanna get him to believe? Why don't you just tell him."
"Well, there are some people - like you and me - we can go on faith, but others, like Jack, they need proof."
"Last time I tried to find proof, I got trapped in a sinkhole."
"There are less dangerous places to look." Kelly indicated Hilary’s book to her. Then, she got up and prepared to leave, patting Hilary on the shoulder. Hilary took the book out of her backpack and started to read.

Derek was in his office when he heard a knock on the door. He turned to see Laura Reed standing in the doorway.
"Hey. Can I talk to you?"
"Of course."
"These accusations against Clark - they've been gnawing away at me. He didn't do this." She took a seat across from him.
"I understand what you're going through. It's painful when someone we care about betrays us."
"He's a good person. I know him."
"Maybe you don't. Maybe you just want to. Everyone has a dark side, Laura Reed."
"Yeah, sure, but having a dark side and doing something so evil - that's a different thing. That's not what he is."
"Maybe. I always believe that evil isn't born. It's made."
"All due respect, Derek, I don't think you know much about evil." She stood up.
"Well, if he didn't do it, then who did?"
"I don't know. That's what I’ve been trying to figure out. But those blackouts he's been having they've made everything so hazy."
He stood up. "Please tell me, you're not accusing yourself."
"You know, maybe if I could clear up my missing time, I could prove Clark's innocence."
"You're very sweet, Laura Reed. But you're also wrong. Evil doesn't always look evil. Sometimes it's starring right at us, and we don't even realize it."

"The heating vent?" Clark looked shocked, standing in the cell of the Sheriff's station. "Jack, I don't even know where the heating vent in my bedroom is."
"Well, someone did, and they put a hunting knife in there. I checked for signs of a break in, but there weren't any."
"You don't believe me."
"Of course I do. But what I think doesn't matter. Evidence is piling up by the hour."
"Okay, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying you should think about hiring a lawyer."
"An excellent idea."
Jack turned around to see Ms. Wood entering the room. "Ms. Wood. What are you doing here?"
"Offering my legal services."
"You're a lawyer?
"Ever wondered why I'm so adept at contracts? I’ve been following the details of your case, Mr. Grimm, and I think you'd be well advised to bring me on as your counsel."
"And why is that?" asked Clark.
"Well, because the sheriff had Ms. Cordwain arrested for nearly beating a man to death, and I managed to persuade the judge to drop the charges."
"Asserting your influence isn't what's needed here. We need to find the truth." Jack argued.
"Exerting influence may be exactly what's needed here."
"What's needed here is me to do my job."
"Well, no one's stopping you. I'm only here to help."
"Enough." Clark interjected. "Please go."
"You heard her." Jack glanced at Ms. Wood.
"No, I was talking to you." Jack turned to face Clark. "Jack, she's right. I need help. And you need to do your job, or else I'm screwed. So just please, do your job the best you can, and you'll prove me innocent. Until you do, I need some practical help."
"Trust me. This is in Mr. Grimm's best interests." Ms. Wood added.
"Good luck, Clark. I hope your best interests are what she's looking out for." Jack left the room. Ms. Wood looked at Clark, smiling.
"I can't pay you."
"I didn't ask for money."
"Then why are you doing this?"
"Let's just say... I'm invested in your future."

Jack went up the driveway to the Grimm house, where Hilary awaited him on the stoop.
"I have proof." She showed Jack a ring of several skeleton keys. "This is how my dad got in the house. This is how he framed Clark."
"Did you steal these from his office?" Jack took the keys from her.
"Yeah. The book said they could open any door."
Jack examined the keys. "There's no way they'll even fit in the lock."
"We have to try." She walked up to the front door. Taking one key, Hilary unsuccessfully tried to open the door. She tried out a second key. Again she was unable to open the door.
"See? What did I tell you? Come on, Hilary. I know you wanna think the answer to everything is in Operation Cobra--"
"It is." She interrupted.
"But sometimes the real world needs to come first." He took out his personal key to open the door.
"Just try one more. Please."
Jack sighed. "Okay, one more, but then we’re done."
"You do it." Carefully, Hilary picked a key. The key’s bow was decorated with an I-shaped symbol. "This one."
"Okay." Jack successfully unlocked the door.
"Do you believe now?"

Clark laid down on the cot in his cell. Soon, Laura Reed entered the Sheriff's station.
"Clark."
He smiled and stood up. "Laura Reed."
"Jack said we could have a few minutes alone. I wanted to tell you, that Dr. Cutter helped me figure out my nightmares."
"And?"
"Um, I only, um... got pieces of the memory, but... We were in the woods," He nodded. "and I kept saying 'don't do it'."
"Don't do what?"
"'Don't kill her.' That's what I kept saying."
"Evelyn? You think you remember wanting to kill Evelyn."
"Can you explain why I have that memory?"
He looked at her, shocked "Laura Reed... are you asking me, if I had something to do with Evelyn's murder?"
"The Sheriff found a heart in our spot. It was in your shoe box. The weapon was found in your house. I have these... these dreams. So, yes, I'm asking."
"When everyone called you a tramp, I stood by you. I never once doubted you. And now that everything is pointing to me... you actually think I'm capable of that kind of evil? Get out." He turned away, hurt.
Laura Reed nodded and left the station, with tears in her eyes.

The next morning, Clark was making his bed when he heard something metal fall to the ground. He kneeled down, reached under the bed, and picked up a skeleton key decorated with a skull-shaped ornament. After a moment’s consideration, Clark decided to try out if the key fit the cell’s door. He successfully opened the cell. Hearing the sound of approaching footsteps, Clark quickly locked the door again and hid the key behind his back.
Jack entered, holding a coffee and a small paper bag from the Diner. "Hey. Breakfast." 
"Thanks."
"I know Ms. Wood doesn't want us to talk, but I thought you should hear this from me. The test results came back on the heart, and the DNA was a match for Evelyn. She's dead. I'm sorry... for a lot of things. But now that we have proof of the death, we have enough evidence to move forward with a case against you. It's going to happen. You know I do believe you, right?" Clark nodded. "All this evidence tells me one thing for certain-- that you're being framed. And I think Derek's behind it."
"Then why am I still in here? Why don't you confront him?"
"Because belief isn't proof."
"But you just said--"
"If I don't do this right, things will end up worse for you. Every time I’ve gone up against Derek, he's seen it coming, and I’ve lost."
"So what makes this time any different?"
"Because he doesn't know I suspect anything."
"Why would he do this to me?"
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out, and I promise, I won't stop until I expose what he's up to."
"And how are you going to do that? This is his town."
"I'm working on it. I have faith in you. And now, I need you to have faith in me." Jack started getting emotional. "Can you do that?"
"Of course." 
Jack exited. Once again, Clark looked thoughtfully at the key in his hand.

Ms. Wood carefully took a wooden carving from one of the shelves.
"Ms. Wood." Jack entered the back room of the shop.
"Just taking inventory. What can I do for you, Jack? Any developments in the case I should be aware of?"
"Yes. Derek set him up."
"And this surprises you? Show me your evidence, and we'll get this over with immediately."
"Yeah. That's the thing. There isn't any-- Anything that's court-worthy. But I know it now."
"Look who's suddenly become a man of faith. Why are you here, Jack? To spin conspiracy theories?"
"I need help."
"From me?"
"Every time I’ve gone up against Derek, I’ve lost, except for once, when I became Sheriff, when you helped."
"As I recall, you don't exactly approve of my methods."
"I approve of your results. And this time, I have something more important than a job. I need to save my friend."
"And you're willing to go as far as it takes?" She picked up a magnifying glass.
"Farther."
"Now, we’re talking." She nodded, smiled. "Fear not, Jack. Derek may be powerful, but something tells me, you're more powerful than you know." She examined the carving closely with the magnifying glass.

The Sheriff Department was left with an empty cell, the door left open.

Chapter Text

In the middle of the night, Clark ran through the woods. He briefly stopped at a tree to catch his breath, and then continued running.

Hilary was seated in a chair outside the Sheriff's station, reading from her book. Jack and Ms. Wood soon came down the hallway.
"Hilary? What are you doing here?"
"I came to congratulate you."
"For what?"
"Your genius plan."
"And what plan's that, Hilary? Hilary looked down awkwardly. "Right." Taking the hint, Ms. Wood walked away, leaving them alone.
"Sorry. I thought Ms. Wood was in on it now that she's Clark's lawyer."
"In on what?"
"The escape plan."
"The what?"
"Sheriff, could you join me, please?" Ms. Wood called. Jack and Hilary joined her in front of the open, empty cell. "He's gone."
"Hilary, what did you do?"
"Nothing. He was gone when I got here."
"His arraignment's tomorrow. If he's not there--"
"He's a fugitive. Doesn't matter if he's convicted for Evelyn or not, he's screwed. I have to go find him before someone notices he's missing."
"Oh, you mean Derek."
"Thee arraignment's at 8:00 A.M. I'm sure he'll be here bright and early to celebrate his victory."
"Well, you have until 8:00 A.M. then."
"What about me, how can I help?" Hilary asked.
"Go home."
"Jack. If he leaves Pixfare--"
"Not now, Hilary. Come on." He ushered her toward the door.
"Jack, I know that time is of the essence," Ms. Wood chimed in. "but if Mr. Grimm doesn't return, his future's in jeopardy, and if you're caught helping him, so is yours."
"I don't care. I'd rather lose my job than my friend." Jack walked out the door.

Jack got into his car and was driving down the foggy road into the woods. Distracted, he narrowly avoided hitting a wandering man.
He stopped and got out of the car, running to him and helping him up. "I'm so sorry! Are you okay? I didn't see you there."
"Uh, I-I think so."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm fine. I'm not used to sharing the road with cars so late. You're the Sheriff, aren't you?"
"Yeah."
"What brings you out here in the middle of the night?"
"Oh, nothing to worry about. I'm just looking for a lost dog."
"Well, I hope you find it."
"Thank you." The man started to walk away, visibly limping. "Oh, you are hurt!"
"No, I just twisted my ankle, I think. I live just a mile down the road. I can make it."
"No, let me drive you. I insist."
The man shrugged. "Thank you. I'm Randy."
"Jack." They shook hands and got into his car.

The car pulled up outside Randy's house. He and Jack got out of her car.
"Wow. This is your house? It looks more like a hotel. You must have a huge family."
"No. It's just me."
"Here. Wait." Jack turned off the car and the two headed inside.

In the living room, Jack stood by the fireplace as Randy entered, carrying a plate of sushi. He set it on the coffee table.
"Here we go. Thought you might be hungry from your search."
"That's nice of you, but I think I should get back to it."
"I know. That's why I brought this." Randy picked up a map and unrolled it. "I'm a bit of an amateur cartographer. Mapping the area is a hobby. Maybe this will help you track down your dog."
Jack looked over the map. "Wow."
"What's his name?"
Jack hesitated for a moment. "Spot."
"Cute."
"Well, Route 6 runs the boundary of the forest, so..." Jack took a bite of one of the sushi rolls. "So if I just follow that, I should... be able to..."
"Something wrong?"
"I'm just, uh, feeling a little..." Jack began to feel faint.
"Oh. Let me help you." 
"Dizzy."
"Let's just lie you down here." Randy laid him on the couch. "There you go. Let me get you some air." He started walking away.
Jack noticed the way his legs moved. "Your limp..."
"Oh. That." Randy walked back over to Jack. "I guess you caught me."
"Who are you?" Jack's head dropped onto the pillow. Randy looked at him, smiling.

Later, Jack began to wake up and found himself tied up on the couch. Noticing the utensils on the table, he used a knife to cut the tape around his wrists and free himself. He checked the windows, finding them sealed, and noticed a telescope. He looked through it, finding it was pointed at the Sheriff's Station. He used the telescope to look at the holding cell, which was still empty. He heard a strange scraping sound. Quietly opening a door, he saw Randy in the room, sharpening a chisel.

Jack closed the door quietly and teleported into another room.
"Jack." A muffled voice spoke. He turned to see Clark gagged and tied to a chair. "Help me."
"What's going on?" Jack whispered, taking the gag from his mouth and untying the ropes.
"Jack, thank goodness."
"What are you doing here?"
"I was in the woods, trying to get away. This man appeared out of nowhere and grabbed me. Why are you here?"
"I've been trying to find you. You escaped, remember? How did you get out?"
"There was a key... in my cell, under my pillow. Someone put it there."
"Who?"
"I don't know, I'd like to know just as much as you." 
Jack opened the door, checking if the coast was clear. They slowly exited the room into the hallway. Suddenly, they heard the sound of a gun cocking.
"I see you found 'Spot.'" Randy appeared in front of them.
"I've already called for backup, they'll be here any second."
"You haven't called anybody... for the same reason you didn't tell me about him. You don't want anybody to know you're here, which means nobody does. So now tie him back up."

Back in the room, Clark was back in the chair, and Jack replaced the gag around his mouth. Randy stood in the doorway.
"Jack."
"It's gonna be okay." He stood up and faced Randy. "Your telescope. You've been watching me. Why?"
"I need you to do something" Randy took Jack by the arm and led him out of the room, closing the door.

Randy shoved Jack into another room.
"I don't know what you think you're doing, but if you hurt my friend, I swear I'll make you regret it." Jack threatened.
"Hurt him? I'm saving his life." Randy closed in on Jack, making him back away.
"How?"
"Don't play stupid. We both know what happens when people try to leave Pixfare."
"What are you talking about?"
"The curse."
Jack looked at him for a moment. "What curse?"
"The one keeping us all trapped. All except you."
"Have you been reading Hilary's book?"
"Hilary?"
"The Mayor's adopted kid."
"Oh, right. Your Hilary. And her book of stories, the ones that you choose to ignore. Maybe if you knew what I know, you wouldn't."
"Why have you been spying on me?"
Randy moved about the room, pointing his gun at Jack's head from behind briefly, then lowered it. "Because for the last 28 years, I've been invisible in this town. No one's ever noticed me. Until one night, you, in your little yellow Bug, roll into town, and the clock ticks and things start to change. You see... I know what you refuse to acknowledge, Jack. You're special. You brought something precious to Pixfare-- magic."
"You're crazy."
"Because I speak the truth?"
"Because you're talking about magic."
"I'm talking about what I've seen. Perhaps you're the one that's crazy."
"Really?"
"What's crazier than seeing and not believing? Because that's exactly what you've been doing since you got to our little hamlet." He stood in front of Jack, inches from his face. "Open your eyes. Look around. Wake up. Isn't it about time?"
"What do you want?"
"I want you to get it to work." He shoved him down into a chair.
"You want me to get what to work?" 
Randy looked at a wooden door leaning against the wall. "You're the only one that can do this. You're gonna get it to work."

Randy dropped some wood on the table in front of Jack, and pointed at the door against the wall. "Make one like that."
"You want me to make a door? You don't have enough?"
"Well, none of them work, do they? Or else you wouldn't be here." He sat down. "Now make a door and get it to work."
"I don't--"
"You have magic, you can do it."
Jack briefly looked around. "The doors, the sushi, invisible... your squinty eyes... You think you're Randall."
"I am."
"Okay. You've clearly glommed onto my kid Hilary's thing. They're just stories. Randall is in 'Monsters Inc.', a book. A book I actually read."
"Stories... stories? What's a story? When you were in high school, did you learn about the Civil War?"
"Yeah, of course."
"How? Did you read about it, perchance, in a book? How is that any less than any other book?"
"History books are based on history."
"And storybooks are based on what, imagination? Where does that come from? It has to come from somewhere." Randy scoffed. "You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants some magical solution to their problem, and everyone refuses to believe in magic." He gestured with his gun. "Now get it to work."
"Here's the thing, Randy. This is it. This is the real world."
"A real world." He leaned toward Jack. "How arrogant are you to think yours is the only one? There are infinite more. You have to open your mind. They touch one another, pressing up in a long line of lands, each just as real as the last. All have their own rules. Some have magic, some don't. And some need magic... Like this one." He handing him a hammer and chisel. "And that's where you come in. You and your friend aren't leaving here until you make a door. Until you get it to work."
"And then what?"
"Then I go home."

Soon, Jack has finished carving the door. He slammed the tools down on the table.
"I can't make it work. What you're asking me is impossible."
"No! It has to be. If it's not, I'm never going home. I'll be cursed to be invisible forever."
"What is so cursed about your life? Look at this place, it's beautiful. It doesn't seem cursed to me."
"It's cursed because, like everyone else here, what I want has been ripped from me. Take a look." Jack looked through the telescope, and saw a little girl with her family. "That's the kid that came into the monster world."
"You think she's Boo?"
"I don't think. I know. I remember. That's my curse."
"To remember."
"What good is this house, these things, if I'm invisible to everyone?"
"Why do you want her so much?"
"Once I'm back with the kid, I will revolutionize the scaring industry. And when I do, even the great James P. Sullivan is gonna be working for me."
"I know what it's like to be separated from a kid that you want."
"Yeah, you do, don't you?"
"It can make you feel like you're losing your mind."
"I'm not losing my mind. I'm not crazy. This is real."
"Maybe. Maybe it is."
"You believe?"
"If what you say is true, that man in the other room is my father. And I want to believe that more than anything in the world. So maybe you're right. Maybe I need to open myself up more. Maybe if I want magic, I have to start believing."
"So you're gonna help me? You can get it to work?"
"I can try." As Randy turned and picked up the door from the table, Jack turned into monster form and punched him, knocking him out. He turned back to normal, took the gun from him, and ran down the hall to the room where Clark was. He opened the door and began to free him. "Hey, it's all right. I'm gonna get you out of here. You're gonna be okay. He can't hurt you anymore--"
"Jack, look out!"  Randy ran into the room and tackled Jack, knocking him into Clark, still in the chair, and all three landed on the floor. Jack tried to get to the gun, and Randy moved to stop him as Clark freed himself. Randy stood up, took the gun, cocking it and pointing it at Jack. He put the door against the wall and smiled. "Look at the savior now! You stupid, pathetic waste! Now your time is up! And don't worry! I'll take good care of the kid!" Clark picked up a baseball bat and struck Randy with it, and then kicked him out the window. He turned to Jack. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." The two looked out the window, down to the ground. Among the shards of glass was the broken door, but no sign of Randy.

Outside the house, Jack and Clark examined the wood pieces on the ground.
"There's no sign of him anywhere."
"Who was he?"
"A very lonely man. By the way, where'd you learn kickboxing?"
Clark shook his head, stunned. "I have no idea where that came from." They approached Jack's car, covered, in the driveway.  "Oh. Jack, look."  Jack uncovered the car and opened the door, discovering the keys on the driver's seat. He showed them to Clark and both men sighed in relief. "So, Sheriff, I guess you'll be taking me back now."
"Here. Go." He tossed Clark the keys.
"You want me to run?"
"No, but it's your choice. Just know something—Running isn't easy, I've done my share of it. And once you go, there's no stopping."
"Jack, everyone thinks I killed Evelyn."
"Clark, you have to believe me. You have to trust me. I know it seems impossible, but I can get you out of this."
"Why is it so important to you what happens to me?"
"Because I realized, all my life, I've been alone. Walls up. Nobody's ever been there for me, except for you and Laura Reed. And I'm not sure why, but you guys feel like family."
"Family?"
"Friends. Whatever. You know what I mean. Wouldn't you rather face this together than alone?" Clark handed him back the keys. The two exchanged a look as the clock begin to chime. "The arraignment. Derek."

Outside the Sheriff's Department, the parking space marked 'Sheriff' was still empty. Derek arrived and got out of his car. He smirked as he headed inside. As Derek walked into the main room, he stopped, shocked to see Clark, in his cell, reading the newspaper.
"Mr. Mayor."
"Good morning."
"Excuse me, but my client is not having any visitors." Ms. Wood chimed in.
"Of course not."
"I'll see you out." She and Derek exited into the hall.
"What is he doing here?"
"He came back."
"You said this was going to work. That he'd take the key, that he'd go."
"And he did. But it seems that Jack is rather more resourceful than we thought. Fear not, Syndrome. Mr. Grimm is still guilty of murder. You may yet get what you want."
"Oh, I better. The only reason I made a deal with you, Wood, is because I wanted results."
"And results you shall have. See you at the arraignment."

Outside the elementary school, Hilary sat on a bench and Jack joined her.
"Hilary. Well... I found Clark."
"How is he?"
"He's okay. Other than being on trial for murder, he's fine." A group of girls walked past them.
"Hi, Hilary." One of the girls greeted her.
"Who is that?"
"Her name's Mary. She goes to school with me."
"Hilary, do you have your storybook with you? Can I see it?"
"Yeah, why?" She opened her backpack.
"I'm just curious about something."  Hilary took out the book and handed it to him. Jack opened it, and looked at a few pages.
"What? What is it?"
"Nothing."
"Jack? Jack?" The school bell rang. "I gotta go."
"Right. Can I hold on to this?"
"Absolutely." Hilary smiled. Jack flipped through the pages of the book, finding everything Randy was talking about in there. "What is it?"
Jack stared at a picture of Randall chasing Mike and Sully through the door vault. "Nothing."

Chapter Text

-One week ago-
Derek was in his office, standing and looking out a window, angrily reminiscing over an old action figure. "Remembrance of things past?" Ms. Wood soon entered.
"What do you want?" Derek sat down at his desk.
"I'd like to help with your problem. You see, I've noticed that no matter how hard you seem to try to stop them, Laura Reed and her incredible friend just keep finding ways to be together."
"What are you suggesting?"
"If you want to inflict pain..." She sat across from him. "then you must inflict pain. If something tragic... were to happen to Clark's wife, and if he should take the blame--"
"He'd be ruined."
"And you'd have your victory, at last."
"A trial could be very messy."
"A trial? Now who said anything about a trial? No, once Mr. Grimm has been incarcerated, you can plant one of your lovely skeleton keys in his cell. And once he tries to leave Pixfare, well... we all know what happens to people who attempt to leave town."
Derek leaned forward. "Give me one good reason why I should trust you."
Ms. Wood stood up. "Because I always honor my agreements. Do we have a deal?"

Present day
Jack walked out of the Diner, when Laura Reed greeted him.
"Jack, hey."
"Sorry, Laura Reed, I don't have time."
"No, I-I understand. It's Clark. How's he doing?"
"How do you think he's doing?" The two walked towards Jack's car.
"Well, I think the last time we spoke, he didn't quite get what I meant."
"Oh, you mean that you basically told him you thought he might be guilty?"
She sighed. "Look, it's this situation. It's been confusing and horrible for everyone. But, Jack, I don't think he's guilty. I need him to know that. Can I see him?"
"He doesn't want visitors."
"You mean me. He doesn't want to see me."
"Honestly, Laura Reed, I'm sure your heart's in the right place, but the last thing he needs right now is words of encouragement from you." He got into the car.
"What does he need?"
"A miracle." Jack closed the door and drove off.

Clark was asleep on the cot in his cell. Suddenly, he gasped and sat up to see Derek sitting in a chair in front of the cell.
"They say only the guilty sleep in prison."
"What are you doing here? Where's Jack?"
"He hasn't arrived yet. I just wanted to stop by to offer you a chance—a chance to spare yourself and this town the messiness of a trial, the chance to confess."
Clark got up and walked over to bars. "But I didn't kill Evelyn. Why won't anyone believe me?"
"The murder weapon was found in your house. Your fingerprint was on the box containing Evelyn's heart. Shall I go on?" Derek stood up. "Why not, for once, make it easier on everyone? Because confession or not, you're leaving Pixfare."
"And you like that. Why? Why do you take such pleasure in this? What did I ever do to you to make you hate me so much?"

Clark sat in the cell; Jack stood on the outside with Ms. Wood.
"A pretrial interview with the prosecution? Explain to me how that is a good idea."
"The D.A. merely wishes to ask Mr. Grimm a few questions."
"He's done answering questions. And why are we kissing up to the D.A.? Why aren't we going after Derek? He's the one setting up Clark."
"And what proof do we have of that, Sheriff? Just because you found the mayor's skeleton key in the cell doesn't mean we can prove he put it there."
"So what's your plan?"
"I believe our best chance of winning this case is to employ our most valuable asset.
"What's that?" Clark asked.
"Well, that's you, dear. A sweet, kind animal volunteer. Doesn't exactly fit the prototype of a killer, now does it?"
"That's how you're going to get him acquitted? By using his personality?"
"Perception is everything, Jack-- not just in the courtroom, but in life. As such, I'm sure you can imagine how the jury would perceive Mr. Grimm if he agreed to cooperate with the District Attorney. These things engender trust. It shows the jury he's at least trying--"
"Jack?" Olga entered holding a vase full of flowers. "Oh, I'm sorry to interrupt, I just, uh, came by to drop these off. I thought they might brighten the place up."
Jack went into his office to meet her while Clark and Ms. Wood shared a look. "What did you find?"
"Nothing. I-I'm sorry, Jack. I tried. I really did. I looked into his phone records. I talked to the people at the toll bridge. But look, what can I say? Derek knows how to cover his tracks."
"What about the murder weapon? Did you find anything tying him to that?"
"From what I can tell, he never bought or owned a hunting knife."
"That's all you were able to uncover?"
"Don't worry. I'm gonna keep digging, and I won't stop until I do find something."
Jack watched suspiciously as Olga left. He then went back to Clark, who finished a whispered conversation with Ms. Wood.
"I'm gonna do it. I'm going to talk to the D.A."
"Are you sure?"
"Ms. Wood's right. I know I have nothing to hide, but no one else does. I need to let people see me for who I am."
"Excellent decision, Mr. Grimm." The three turned to see the D.A standing in the doorway, followed by Derek. "My name is Walker. I'm the District Attorney. Shall we begin?"
"Yeah." Clark nodded.

Jack and Derek watched from behind a pane of glass as Clark, with Ms. Wood seated beside him, was being interrogated by Richard Walker.

"After she learned about your affair, Mrs. Grimm, the deceased, came to her school to confront her, is that correct?
"She was hurt, and she felt betrayed."
"She struck you—In the face, was it?"
Mary Margaret: Yes, but--
D.A. Spencer: That must've made you angry.
Mr. Gold: You-you don't have to answer that.
Mary Margaret: No, it's okay. I was not angry. I was sorry for all the pain I had caused her.
D.A. Spencer: (Snorts) Miss Blanchard, this is not a courtroom. I'm not here to judge you. You can be honest with me.
Mr. Gold: Should we end this?

"I am being honest with you."
"Your wife humiliated the woman you loved in a public forum. Surely you must have felt some anger towards Evelyn."
"Yes, I was angry--"
"And did you ever think about acting upon that anger?"
"Of course not."
"I have a hard time believing that."
Clark looked back and forth from Walker to Ms. Wood. "Wh-why?"
"Because you wanted Evelyn gone."
"I never said that."
Ms. Wood stood up. "Alright. My client is answering no more questions for the day."
"Your client agreed to this interview because he claimed she had nothing to hide."
"I don't have anything to hide."
"Then what is your answer. You wanted Evelyn gone, didn't you."
"No." Clark answered, emphatically.
"Even after she tried to keep you and Laura Reed apart? After she slapped her in public? After she made her a pariah in her own town?"
"Yes, of course I wanted her gone." Clark gave in and replied sarcastically. "She was the only thing keeping us apart, so yeah, I wanted her gone. Is that what you wanna hear?" He looked at Walker, who seemed pleased, then at Ms. Wood, who seemed disappointed. Clark himself began to look horrified. Derek smiled.

Outside by the harbor, Jack sat on a bench, flipping through Hilary's storybook, specifically the Incredibles story.
Kelly came over to him. "Whatcha doin'?"
Jack closed the book and put it away. "Grasping at straws."
"Still tryin' to find a way to prove your friend's been framed?" She handed Jack a newspaper showing Clark in a front page headline.
"Every time I go down a path I think leads somewhere it ends up being a dead end. Used to think I had these great instincts... Superpower. I don't know."
Kelly sat down next to him. "Sounds like you've got a case of writer's block, only without the whole writing part."
"Maybe."
"You know, when I get struck by a block, I usually reread what I've done rather than plow ahead blindly. Sometimes I find there'll be a little nugget of inspiration left behind."
"You mean start over?"
"I mean, when I start writing, I usually have one idea, and then in the middle, I may get another idea, and things are different."
Jack thought for a minute. "So your perspective changes."
"Exactly. When you started this investigation, what was it about?"
"A missing person."
"Then it became a murder and then a cover-up. If you knew that then, maybe you would have approached things differently." Jack got an idea and stood up. "Where are you going?"
"Scene of the crime." Jack walked away, with Kelly following.
"I'll drive."
"No, I'm fine."
"No, you're not. You haven't slept in days. And let's be honest. It was my idea."

On Kelly's motorcycle, they drove across the Toll Bridge and stopped at the end.
"Michelle found the box to the heart right over here." They proceeded to the edge of the river. "Just by the shore." Kelly suddenly groaned, her arm stiffened. "What?"
"Nothing."
"It doesn't seem like nothing." He noticed the way she walked. "Here. Let me look."
"No, it's okay. Just a cramp." They arrived at the river, where yellow crime scene tape marked off an area. "Sorry. I know this must be hard on you."
"Yeah, that's an understatement." Jack kneeled beside the hole where the box was buried.
"I don't know you that well, but... seems to me that aside from Hilary, Clark's the closest thing to family you've got. It's okay to admit it."
"Kelly, look." He removed a piece of metal from the hole.
"What is it?"
"It's a shard. From a shovel. Must've broken off when it hit a rock. If we can find this shovel that it broke off of, we can prove that Clark didn't bury the heart. We can prove he's innocent."
"And I'm gonna guess you know exactly whose shovel it is."
They took turns looking at the shard, smiling.

That night, Derek entered Hilary’s room to check on her, and then left. Hilary opened her eyes, grabbed the handheld radio, got out of bed, and peeked out the door.
"The eagle's in the nest, and the package is secure."
"Hilary. I left the codebook at home." Jack stood outside the house with Kelly.
"He's getting in the shower and the keys are under the mat."
Jack reached under the doormat and took the key, unlocking the door. He turned to Kelly. "Don't touch a thing." They entered Derek's garage, and looked around using flashlights. Jack soon found a shovel with a broken tip. "Hey." He took out the shard and matched it to the broken edge of the shovel. "We got him." Both shared a look and smiled.

The next day, Jack knocked on the front door of Derek's house.
"Can I help you, Sheriff Swan?
"Yes. I need you to unlock the garage for me."
"And why would I do that?"
Jack pulled out a piece of paper. "Because I have a search warrant that says that you have to."
Derek took the warrant and looked at it. He scoffed. "On what grounds?"
Jack held up the shovel shard in a plastic bag. "I found this near where the heart was buried, figured whoever buried it might've left something behind. Then I got an anonymous call from someone who said they saw you, digging, near the toll bridge the day the heart was found."
"An 'anonymous call'?"
"Yeah. Well, I can't control the fact they didn't leave a name. Guess they didn't want to risk pissing you off."
"Hmm."
"Now open the garage or I'll find a way to do it myself."
Derek smiled and led Jack to the garage. Inside, Jack headed straight to where he found the shovel, only to find it was gone. "Where is it?"
"Where is what, Sheriff?"
"You knew I was coming."
"How would I know that?"
"Clark is a good person. He doesn't deserve this."
"Mr. Grimm is a liar and a murderer. No matter what accusations you throw my way, that won't change. He's going to pay for what he's done. That man has destroyed the last life he's ever going to destroy."

Jack knocked on a door at the inn and Kelly answered it.
"Hey.
"How could you do this? How could you do this to me? To Clark?"
"Woah. Slow down. Do what?"
"The shovel was gone when I got there. Derek knew I was coming for it."
"You—you think that I told him?"
"You were the only other person who knew about it."
"I would hope that you would have enough faith to know that I would never betray you."
"Why should I? How do I know you're not lying about this? About everything?"
"I'm not a liar."
"That is exactly what a liar would say." Jack turned and left.

Clark sat in his cell with his head in his hands, when Derek entered.
"Having a bad day?"
"What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see you while I can."
"What does that mean?"
"Just that the trial starts tomorrow, and it won't be a long one. And you'll be sent out of Pixfare for good, and I will never have to see you again. Oh, I want to enjoy this while I still can." Derek had a sinister smile on his face.
"Enjoy what?"
"Justice."
"Justice? Watching an innocent suffer?"
"You've always seen yourself that way, haven't you. Innocent."
Clark angrily gripped the cell bars. "I'm innocent! I don't know what this is about! I don't know what I ever did to you, but whatever it was, Derek... I'm sorry. I really am."
"Apology not accepted."
"Please. Don't do this to me. I don't deserve this. I didn't kill Evelyn."
"Oh, I know. But you do deserve this."

Derek stood by a window, holding one of his old action figures. "I got you now, Mr. Incredible. I got you now."

At the Sheriff's Department, two generic law enforcement officers handcuffed Clark and led him away as Jack and Ms. Wood watched.
Jack tried talking to Clark, but he didn't answer. He walked towards Ms. Wood. "You told me you could fix this. That's why I came to you. So that you could make sure Derek didn't win."
"Well, he hasn't, yet."
"Well, he's going to, and now my friend is going to pay for me trusting you."
"Look, Sheriff, I know this is emotional, but it's also not over. You must have faith. There's still time."
"Time for what."
"For me to work a little magic." She walked out.
Frustrated, Jack threw Olga's flowerpot against a filing cabinet. He was about to leave when he noticed among the debris there was a bug.

"Hey." Jack greeted Kelly as she left the Diner. "I'm sorry."
"For what?
"For doubting you? I made a mistake." He held up the bug in a plastic bag.
"What's that?"
"Evidence. Evidence that proves I've been trusting all the wrong people? I should've listened to you. This bug? It's from Olga."
"The newspaper lady?"
"I should've seen it.
"Well, don't beat yourself up about it, Jack. Sometimes it's hard to see what's right in front of us. But I knew you would."
"I'm trying." They suddenly heard a scream from behind the Diner and hurried to investigate, only to run into Michelle. "Michelle! What's going on?"
"She's--she--she's in the alley."
"Who, Michelle? What happened?" Jack asked.
"Hey, you all right? Huh?" Kelly tried to calm down the frantic Michelle.
Jack went out to the alley and found a body laying face down. He turned the body over to see it was still alive. "Evelyn?"

Chapter Text

Kelly was asleep in her room at the inn, when she was awakened by a pain in her arm. She fumbled to get out of bed and crashed into the dresser. Eventually, she made her way to the desk, picked up the phone, and dialed a number into it.
"Hey. You there?" There was a pause as she listened. "Good. This is taking too long. We need to accelerate the plan."

Soon, Kelly was hiding behind a bunch of crates.
"It's almost nine." She turned to face Hilary. "You all set? You know what to do?"
"Operation Cobra is always ready. I just..."
"You just what?"
"I don't understand what this has to do with getting Jack to believe."
Kelly peeked out around the crates before turning back to Hilary. "Sometimes other priorities assert themselves. Can you handle a little improvisation?"
"Yeah. Can you?"
"We're a go." Kelly smiled. She patted Hillary on the back as she ran across the street, into the shoe store.

The front door bell rang as Hilary entered the shop. Ms. Cordwain emerged from the back room, confused by Hilary's appearance.
"Hey, Ms. Cordwain."
"Buenos dias, Hilary. What can I do for you?"
"I wanna get a new pair of sneakers."
"Oh, I see."
"Since... mine are kinda falling apart."
"Good thinking."

Kelly snuck in through the back door to the back room. She closed the door silently and began looking around the room. Suddenly, Ms. Cordwain walked into the room. "May I help you?"
Kelly looked at her, surprised. "Yeah. I'm looking for some boots. I'm a bit of a hiker."
"Yes. Well, I have boots in the shop. This is my office."
"I thought this was the entrance."
"It's not. The shops are in there." She pointed through the door to the showroom.
Kelly left, and Ms. Cordwain looked around suspiciously.

At the hospital. Evelyn was awake and being assessed by Dr. Whale. He noticed Jack standing outside.
"Jack. Come on in. Look who's awake."
Jack entered the room. "Evelyn, hi. Listen, I don't wanna take a lot of your time. But do you remember what happened?"
"I don't know much. Uh, I was in a car accident, and I remember the airbag going off." She slightly shook her head. "And the next thing I knew, I was in the dark, in some basement. I didn't see anyone, but there was food and water. And then I guess I was drugged?"
Dr. Whale nodded. "Yeah. We're still trying to flush that out of your system."
"And then I woke up in a field at the edge of town, and I started walking. That was it."
"You saw no one? You didn't hear a voice? Smell perfume?" Jack asked. Evelyn slightly shook her head. "Cologne? Anything?"
"Nothing. No. I'm sorry. I wish I could help. Especially since... While I was gone, you thought I was dead?"
"Your DNA matched the heart we found."
"They're grilling everybody down at the hospital lab to see who doctored the DNA results." Dr. Whale added.
"Why would anyone do this?"
"I think somebody was trying to frame Clark."
"But why? I mean, who would do something like that?" Dr. Whale and Jack exchanged a questioning look.

"You broke our deal." Derek angrily stormed into Ms. Wood's shop.
"I've never broken a deal in my life, dear."
"Evelyn was supposed to die, and Clark was to get the blame."
"Yeah, murder seems so much worse here, though, doesn't it? You didn't say 'kill her'. We agreed that something tragic should happen to her. Now, abduction is tragic."
"The intent was perfectly clear."
"Oh, let's not talk about intent. Intent is meaningless."
"Intent is everything."
"Please." Ms. Wood walked away from the counter.
"This is going to raise all kinds of questions about where she was and how the test's results were fake."
"Oh, yes. And, um... and who put the key in his cell."
Derek gasped. "It's all gonna lead to me, isn't it? You witch! This doesn't make any sense. You and I -- we've been in this, together, from the start."
"Oh, have we?" She chuckled.
"You created the curse for me-- The curse that brought us here and build all this."
"Yeah, it's about time you said 'thank you'."
"Why did you do it?"
"Well, you're a smart man, Syndrome. Figure it out."

Clark approached Evelyn's hospital bed. He went to kiss her, but she woke up.
"I'm sorry."
"What are you doing?"
"I was trying to kiss you on your forehead. It was meant to be sweet."
"Well, thank you. It's... it's good to see you."
"Evelyn, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I lied to you. I'm sorry I cheated on you. I'm just so sorry for all of this."
"Clark, it's okay. You know, what we had... it wasn't it for you. Maybe for both of us. I can't blame you for just being the first one to see it."
"You are, uh... kind of amazing." They both smiled.
"Yeah, I am. Now go on. Get out of here so I can get some rest."
"I'm going to give you that kiss on the forehead now."
"Knock yourself out."
Clark kissed Evelyn on the forehead and left the room.

Ellen entered the Grimm house where Clark's welcome home party was being held. "Hi!"
Felix came over to her. "Hey. How are you? Would you like some?" He handed Ellen a drink and took the tray of food that she brought.
"All of these people-- just to welcome me home?" Clark said to Jack in wonder.
"You've got a lot of friends."
"Didn't feel like that yesterday." He brought a platter of drinks over to some guests.
Hilary spotted Ms. Cordwain, who was off by herself, then turned to Kelly.
"How bad was it?"
"Getting caught in her office? Not bad. I played it off."
"What were you looking for? Did you find it?"
"Nope. But I have a feeling it's going to find me."
"Hilary, we should get you home before your dad finds out. That won't be pretty." Jack led her to the door and opened it to see Laura Reed standing outside.
"Hey. Hilary. Leaving already?"
"Yeah. Gotta get home and do homework."
Jack looked to Clark, who shook his head. Laura Reed started to enter the house, but Jack blocked her way.
"He's kinda tired. I think if you just give it some time."
"I just wanted to--"
"Hey Hilary, why don't you head home with Laura Reed?"
"Okay."
"Sorry." He looked at her, sympathetically.
"Okay." She left the party with Hilary. Jack closed the door.
"Hard to let her go, isn't it? Your daughter." Ms. Cordwain came over to Jack.
"Yeah." He nodded. "Pretty much the hardest thing."
"Tell me. What do you know about her?" She gestured towards Kelly.
"Goes by 'Kelly'. She's a writer. Typewriter wrapped in an enigma wrapped in bright colors. Why?"
"She was poking around my workshop today. Kelly Monal -- clearly a false name."
"Writers go by pseudonyms. What does it matter?"
"You trust her?"
"Yeah." He walked to over to Kelly and talked to her. Ms. Cordwain watched them.

Ms. Cordwain picked the lock to Kelly's room at the inn. Inside, she found Kelly's typewriter on the desk, along with stacks of papers and a dog shaped paperweight. She moved a sheet of paper aside, revealing a drawing of Hector's guitar.

Jack entered the diner and sat down across from Olga, who was enjoying a coffee.
"Hey, Olga."
"Jack, hey. So things certainly did work out, didn’t they, for your friend?"
"You told me you could help me with Clark and I wanted to believe you. But eventually, there are things that even a blind sheriff," He placed the crushed bug on the table between them. "can't ignore."
"Is that a bug?"
"Oh, please, Olga, drop it. You fooled me, you spied on me, and you reported it all back to that sick, crazy man. I can’t even imagine what he has on you, but it must be something huge."
"He’s a good mayor."
"He tried to get Clark convicted of a murder that didn’t even happen. You’re in a lot of trouble. There’s a DNA trail in the basement of some house out there, and I’m gonna find it, and he’s going to go away."
"Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet against him. He’s an amazing man."
"Do you--" He stared at Olga for a moment and then realized. "Are you in love with him?" She said nothing. "Fine. Whatever. Here’s the thing-- Before you know it, I’ll have that evidence, and you need to think long and hard. You can either help me and help yourself, or you can go down with him, too." Jack got up and exited the diner.

Kelly got onto her motorcycle and drove off down the street, unaware that Mrs. Cordwain was watching her from inside her car. She decided to follow Kelly in the direction she drove off.

Outside the convent, Kelly talked to Sister Julia. Ms. Cordwain waited for her as she went back inside.
“Good afternoon, Sister Julia.”
“And good day to you, Ms. Cordwain.”
“Tell me-- that woman who just left here... who did she say she was? What did she want?”
“I don’t have to tell you that.”
“And I don’t have to sell you any shoes. What did she want?”
“Advice and council. She came to town looking for her family after a long separation, and she recently found them.”
“Ah. And have they reunited?”
“No. She hasn’t spoken to them yet.”
“And why not?”
"Mm, it was a difficult parting. There are many issues to be resolved between them."
"I see."

Later that night, Laura Reed was walking down the sidewalk when Clark passed by.
"Clark." He just ignored her and kept walking. "Please wait. Look, I’ll leave if you want. I... I just think we need to talk."
"So talk."
"I need to apologize."
"Yes, you do. Keep going."
"I didn’t believe you. I didn’t stand with you."
He finally turned around to face her. "You know, I’ll never forget that moment... The moment sort of blows you backwards, and the one person you thought would always be there to catch you... she isn’t there."
"Look at what was going on. It was your shoe box, your fingerprints, knife in your house."
"It was a setup."
"And a really good one. I’m human. I fell for it. I’m sorry, but... we have to move forward."
Clark shook his head. "But we can’t. It’s like something in this world doesn’t want us together."
"Like what? Dark forces?"
"Maybe. I don’t know, but it’s like something just keeps pouring poison between us. And what I don’t want is to have all of those good memories... replaced by moments like that-- When I looked at you and I saw you didn’t believe me." His voice trailed off.
"No. I know. I’m so sorry."
"I know."
"But I love you." She whispered, feeling tears in her eyes.
"And that... is what makes it all so sad."

Outside Cutter Psychiatry Office, Ms. Cordwain hesitantly knocked on the door, but turned to leave.
Felix opened the door and noticed her. "Ms. Cordwain? I didn't order any new shoes."
"That's not why I'm here."
"Oh. Would... would you like to talk?"
She slightly shook her head. "I don’t know."
"Well, um... if you like to get something of your chest, please come in."
After a brief pause, they entered his office.

“A daughter?" Felix asked, curiously. "Wow. I-I didn’t know you had a daughter. How... how old is she?"
“Let’s start with something easier."
“Okay. Um, what do you mean to say that you may have found her?"
“Let’s just say there’s someone acting the way I would expect her to act."
“So you-- so you recognize her."
“Maybe.” She slightly shook her head. “Or maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see. I don’t know.”
“Okay, well, I mean, wouldn’t she recognize you?”
“We weren't on the best terms. I’m not sure she’s ready for a tear soaked reunion."
“So she sought you out and she’s hanging back? Maybe she’s watching to see if she’s welcome, looking for a sign that all is forgiven."
“No. No. She’s-- she's not the one that needs to be-- I think she might still be mad at me.”
“Anger between a parent and a child is the most natural thing in the world.”
“I drove her away. I’ve spent my entire life since trying to fix it, and now she’s finally here, and I just don’t know what to do.”
"Be honest. Just tell her what you told me. And ask her for forgiveness. And when you’re face-to-face, you’ll know what to do."

Later, Kelly was walking by a cabin in the woods. Ms Cordwain appeared and approached her.
“I know who you are. And I know what you’re looking for.”
“Well, then... I guess I can stop hiding... Mama.”
“You were right, Coco. You were always right. I let my anger and pain get the best of me. I never should have tried to make you forget your father. I know it’s little consolation, but I just want you to know that ever since you ran away, in every waking moment... I’ve been looking for you. And now that I’ve finally found you… I know I can’t make up for the past, for the lost time. All I can do is to ask you to do what you’ve always done-- that’s to be the bigger person…" Her voice began to break. "And forgive me." Tears streamed down her cheeks. "Lo siento, mija. I’m so sorry, Coco.” Finally, Kelly turned around and hugged Ms. Cordwain. “Oh, mija. Mijita preciosa. Can you truly forgive me?
“I forgive you, Mama.”
After a moment, they pulled back.
"You were looking for his guitar."
"I thought if you still had it, it would mean that things had changed."
"Well, let’s go and find it and see."

"I hid it here shortly after Jack came to town. Things were changing. Didn’t want to take the chance of Derek finding it."
"Of course."
Ms. Cordwain took out a large case that she had kept hidden in her workshop, and opened it to reveal a white guitar with a the headstock shaped like a skull. She handed the guitar to Kelly. "I want you to take it. Use it, the way I know he would've wanted you to. I found you, and now we can have music again."
Kelly took the guitar in her hands and carefully examined it. "It’s beautiful." She strummed the guitar and pointed the skull at Ms. Cordwain. "With the power of music, I command you, Rivera. "
She looked at Kelly in disbelief. "You’re trying to control me?"
"I command you, Rivera!"
Ms. Cordwain now understood what was going on. This woman wasn't who she thought she was. She had been tricked. “You’re not my daughter. You’re not Coco.”
“Mama, why would you say that?” Kelly asked, nervously trying to keep up the charade. “I’m just trying to use it to help us.”
“Enough! It’s over, Monal, or whoever you are.” Ms. Cordwain shouted, angrily. “My daughter would never try to use music against me, and she would know, that this guitar can't harness any magic in this world, because there is no magic in this world." She grabbed Kelly's wrist and wrestled the guitar from her hands.
"So, why hide it?"
"It still smacks rather nicely. It’s about time you start answering some questions. Why the theatrics? Why didn’t you just come to me?"
"I needed you to work for it. I needed you to want it so bad, you would ignore what your eyes were seeing. Do I even look like her at all?"
"How did you know about this guitar?"
"I hear things."
She circled around Kelly. "No one here knows about this guitar."
"No one here remembers."
"And yet you do. You’re from there, aren’t you? From my world?"
"The fact that you’re asking the question means you know the answer."
"Now, that’s that settled-" Ms. Cordwain lunged at Kelly, pinning her against the tree behind her. She held her boot to her throat. "How about my other question? Who told you about me and the guitar?"
"A little ant."
"Why did you want it? If you know who I am, then you know who I am. The chances of you surviving this little encounter are pretty slim. So, why take the risk?"
"Because I’ll die anyway."
"What?"
"I’m sick. I’m sick and I need magic. I was going to get the savior to believe. But that man, I don’t think I’m going to make it long enough to see that happen."
"He trusts you. It might be enough. Try again." Ms. Cordwain stood back.
"You’re gonna let me live?"
"You’re gonna die either way. This way at least I might get something out of it."

Jack entered the Sheriff’s office, where Derek was waiting for him.
"Congratulations, Sheriff Swan. There’s about to be a big break in your case. You just got yourself a confession. But I want you to listen to the whole explanation so you understand why this happened."
"Oh, I’ll hang on every word you say." Jack said sarcastically.
"Olga, you can come in now." Olga entered the room. "Tell him what you told me."
She quickly glanced at Derek. "It was me. I confess. I abducted Evelyn and I held her in the basement of an abandoned summer home by the lake." Jack looked at her as if he didn't believe a word she said. "I bribed a lab tech to get me the heart from the hospital, and I used that same person to doctor the lab results."
"And the other thing?" Derek reminded her.
"I borrowed some skeleton keys from Derek and... planted the knife in Clark's house."
"My keys. Can’t help to feel personally violated by that part."
Jack gave her a look of disbelief. "I'm supposed to believe you did this for why now?"
"I was going to find her after the conviction, be a hero, then get the inside track on the biggest story to ever hit this town. I’d get my job back. Plus a novel and a movie, and I don’t know. It sounds crazy now."
Jack stepped closer to her. "I don’t know about crazy, but false, yes, false as can be."
"I have maps to where the house is. You’ll find chains in the basement, lots of fingerprints, I’m sure – hers and mine. But I didn’t hurt her."
"The woman has obviously suffered some kind of mental break." Derek chimed in. "She clearly hasn’t been herself for a while."
"Yeah. It’s like her words aren’t hers at all." Jack agreed, still glaring at Olga.
"Wow. You're so sold on your own rush to judgment that you can’t even see the truth anymore."
Jack angrily turned to face Derek. "A word in the hallway, please." Before Derek followed Jack, he locked eyes with Olga and slightly shook his head. He met up with Jack in the hallway. "Well, that’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard."
"I’m pretty sure that’s not true."
"That poor woman. I know you’re behind all this. I understand that you own the game and you’ve set the board so that no one else can win, but I'm about to start playing an entirely different game." He took a step towards Derek. "I don’t care about what happens to you. I don’t care about what happens to me. All I care about is what happens to my kid. And you're going to leave her alone."
"Am I?"
"Uh-uh. I’m talking. You’re a sociopath, Mister. You tried to take away someone that I love, and now… I’m going to take away someone you love. I am taking back my daughter."

Chapter Text

A deadbolt on the front door of Clark's house slid open. Kelly entered with a small tool in her hand, and then closed and bolted the door. Jack and Clark were on the inside waiting for her.
"No one's gettin' through that."
"Wow." Jack looked impressed. "When are you installing the torture chamber?"
"You like it?" Kelly stepped back and admired her handiwork. "I'll call it medieval-chic."
"I don't care what it looks like as long as it keeps Derek and his skeleton keys out." Clark
"This is pretty handy for a writer. Where'd you learn to do all this?" Jack wondered.
"I know how to keep safe from someone who's after you."
"Oh! I gotta get to work." Clark hurried to get ready.
"Uh, are you sure you're ready to go back?" Jack asked.
Clark chuckled. "After a stint behind bars, how tough can a room full of animals be? Besides, aren't you the one we need to be worried about?"
"Me. Why?"
"Well... you did threaten to take Hilary away from Derek." Kelly chimed in.
"Oh, that wasn't a threat. I'm hiring Ms. Wood to help build a case against him." Kelly and Clark shared a look. "He tried to have you framed for murder."
"But you do know what happens if you win?"
"Yeah."
"And you're ready? To be her dad?"
"Yeah." 
Clark smiled.
"Code red. Code red." Hilary's voice came on the walkie-talkie.
"Hey, Hilary. What's going on?" Jack answered.
"Meet me at Ellen's. It's an Operation Cobra emergency."
"I'm on my way."

Jack walked down the sidewalk; Kelly ran to catch up to him.
"Jack, wait up."
"You heard the kid. Operation Cobra calls."
"I didn't think you believed any of that."
"Oh, I don't, but sometimes it's the only way to get through to Hilary."
"You know, a custody battle against Derek isn't going to accomplish anything." Jack chuckled in disbelief. "You need to look at the big picture. That's the only way you're gonna understand what you're up against. That's the only way you'll know how to beat Derek."
"Okay, new girl, how's that?"
"Come with me, and I'll show you."
They stopped walking. "And where exactly would we be going on this magical mystery tour?"
"If I told you, you would never come." Jack kept on walking. "Oh, come on. Take a leap of faith. You come with me, and I promise you, you'll find exactly what you're looking for."
"My kid needs me. I don't have time for faith." Jack continued on, leaving Kelly behind. He entered the Diner, where Hilary was looking through her book. "Hey. What's the emergency?"
"Shh!" She spoke in a hushed whisper. "This is sensitive."
Jack sat down beside her. "If it's sensitive, why are we at Ellen's, out in the open?"
"I'm hungry. Who else knows that we hide the book at the Sheriff's station?"
"No one. Why?"
"Someone changed it. There's a new story in it."
"Why would someone add a new story?"
"To tell us something we need to know about the curse."
"And what would that be?"
"I don't know." She shrugged. "Story isn't finished."
"Why would someone go to so much trouble to add a new story and then not bother finishing it?"
"That's what's weird. The story's Up. Everyone knows how that ends."
"Well, maybe that's why it was left out."
"Or maybe there's more to it."
"Hilary, you're gonna be late for school. Let's go."

In her room at the inn, Kelly bounced a tennis ball against the wall. Then, she dialed a number on the rotary phone that sat on the desk.
"Ms. Wood? We need to meet. It's about Jack. There's a... problem. Mm-hmm." She hung up, put on jacket, and prepared to leave, but was struck by a terrible pain. She rolled up her sleeve to see her arm covered in feathers.

Clark strolled by the school, where he watched children playing. He smiled, enjoying the happy atmosphere.
"Mr. Grimm." He turned to see Derek approach him. "I see you're back."
"Yes. Isn't it great? Everything worked out."
"Hilary forgot her lunch. Have you seen her?"
"I think she's with her father."
"Mr. Grimm, is there a problem?"
"Not anymore. But someone did go to a lot of trouble to make it look like I did something horrible. But they failed."
"Yes. Olga Sonork, who's safely incarcerated."
"If it was Olga."
"Well, ask your friend. She confessed."
"Of course she did."
"Are you insinuating something?"
"Yes, I am. But I forgive you. Even if you can't admit what you did, I forgive you anyway. Your life must be filled with such incredible loneliness if your only joy comes from destroying everyone else's happiness. It's so sad, Mayor Brodie, because despite what you think, it won't make you happy. It's only going to leave a giant hole in your heart." He pointed behind Derek, and turned to leave. "There's Hilary now."
"What are you doing here?"
Derek stopped staring after Clark, and cleared his throat. "You forgot your lunch." He held it out for her.
"Thanks." She took the lunchbox from him.
Derek brought her aside and they sat down on a bench. "Hilary, it's time for a change. I think it's time to transfer you to a new class with a new teacher."
"Why do you want me out of Miss Richards' class? Is it because you framed her man?"
"Hilary! Do you really think I'm capable of doing something so horrible?"
"Of course. You're Syndrome."
"Enough. Those stories are not real. Miss Richards should never have given you that book. She should be grateful I'm not trying to get her fired."
Hilary stood up. "Go ahead and try. It won't work. No matter what you do, you'll never defeat Mr. Incredible. Or Elastigirl. The curse will end. Good will win. And I'm not transferring classes." She walked away.

Kelly entered Ms. Wood's shop, where she leaned on the counter while Ed fiddled with a balloon bouquet.
"Ah, Ms. Monal. I'll be with you in a moment. On second thought, tell me—as one admirer of decorations to another— what do you think of this lovely arrangement?" Ed turned around; he and Kelly stared at each other. "I'll take the silence as a yes, then."
"You know, I'm very busy right now, and uh, I'm just a one-man store. But, uh... I do have some strings that would match with these."
"I wouldn't ask for anything more."
Ed left with the bouquet, and greeted Kelly on his way out. "Good day."
"H-how are you..." Kelly stuttered. Ed passed her and exited the shop.
"First time seeing old Fredricksen since you arrived at Pixfare?"
"I'm s-sorry?"
"You know, what surprises me is why a woman who claims to be at death's door can't even bring herself to say hello to her friend—what are you afraid of?"
"That's, uh... that's my business."
"Oh. Fair enough. Let's talk about ours. You claim to be the only person who can make Jack believe, that you could get him to do exactly what he was brought here to do, and yet, for a woman who's running out of time," She glanced down at Kelly's arm. "you don't seem to be in much of a hurry."
"It's not me slowing us down. It's him. All he can think about right now is getting custody of his kid."
"Looks like Sheriff Swan needs a course correction."
"He's coming to you for legal advice."
"And you want me to steer him toward you."
"I can get him there, to believing. Trust me."
Ms. Wood burst out laughing, then stopped and put up a hand. "I'm sorry. It's just knowing who you are and your nature, trust is a big ask. Fear not. A gentle nudge I shall provide." She exited through the curtains to the back of the shop.

Later, Jack and Ms. Wood have a conversation in her shop.
"I have to save her. I have to get Hilary away from Derek."
"I must admit, your intentions are admirable. However, I won't be taking your case."
"What? You know what Derek did."
"Yes, but we can't prove it. And given the mayor's sway in this town, any proceedings against him would be long and drawn-out, and futile. The only certainty is Hilary would suffer." She gave him a grim look. "You can't do that to your girl."
"So we leave her in the same house with that sociopath?"
"I'm sorry, Sheriff. My mind's made up."
"Well, then change it. The only person I've seen go head-to-head with Derek and win is you."
"That's because I know how to pick my battles."
"Then pick this one."
"I'm sorry. I'm afraid I'm simply not the woman to help you beat Mayor Brodie."
"No. You're not." He turned and left, to which Ms. Wood smirked in satisfaction.

Jack knocked on a guest room door at the inn.
"Jack." Kelly answered, sticking her head out.
"Hey." He pushed his way into the room.
"Take it easy. Is everything okay?"
"No. I'm just about out of options."
"Just about?
"You told me to beat Derek, I had to see the big picture. Show it to me."

Laura Reed exited the school, when she noticed Derek trying to fix his car and bump his head on the open hood. "Car trouble?" She walked over to him.
Derek scoffed. "It won't start. A car full of groceries, and... well, it hasn't exactly been a banner day."
"Let's see." She opened the front door and checked the dashboard. "Your battery's dead."
"What?"
"I don't have any jumper cables, but I can give you a ride home in my car."
"Oh, no, no. Thank you, but I couldn't impose."
"I insist, unless you wanna have a car full of melted Rocky Road."
"Sure."

They walked through Derek's yard and up to his house, while Laura Reed helped carry the groceries.
"Thank you for being my hero."
"You're welcome."
"Hey, why don't you stay for dinner? I bought more than enough for me and Hilary, and..." He shrugged. "Well, I'm making lasagna."
"Oh, I--I shouldn't. It's getting late, and I've got to get up early tomorrow for work."
"Of course." He nodded. Derek unlocked the door and they entered the house. "Oh, you can just set the bags over there." He noticed a note on the table, labeled 'Dad.' He picked it up to read the inside.
"What is it?" Laura Reed asked, curious.
"Hilary." He set the note on the table. "She's having dinner with Felix after her session instead of coming home."
"I'm sorry."
"Lately it seems like she'll do anything to avoid spending time with me. But I-I shouldn't be burdening you with my problems. You've already helped me more than enough for one day. Thank you." He turned away; feigning sadness while still holding the note.
Laura Reed began to leave, but then turned back. "You know what? I do love lasagna." Derek smiled.

Kelly took Jack on a motorcycle ride down the road just outside the town. They soon stopped at a stop sign.
"Kelly, are you gonna tell me where we're going and how it's gonna help me beat Derek?"
"We're going on a trip, Jack. So I can tell you somebody's story."
"Whose story?"
"Mine." They drove off past the 'Leaving Pixfare' sign.

"How did you like it?" Derek asked as they finished dinner.
"Best lasagna I ever had. You really got a superpower for cooking. Here. Let me get the dishes."
"Oh, no, Laura Reed--"
"No, no, no, no. It's the least I can do." She stood up and picked up their plates.
"You saved me from having to call the tow truck today and now you're doing my dishes. Doesn't seem right."
Laura Reed brought the dishes to the kitchen and begin washing them. "Please. The last couple weeks haven't exactly been easy for me, and you've been there the whole time."
"Well, I can't help it. I feel responsible for you. Ever since I... met you. It's amazing, isn't it? If I hadn't adopted Hilary, I wouldn't have come to the school."
"Yeah, it's... almost..." She looked at Derek. "...almost like the universe wanted us to meet." Derek stared at her, and moved in for a kiss. Visibly startled, Laura Reed moved back. "Uh... I-I'm sorry. I-I hope you didn't get the wrong idea."
"No, I'm sorry, I just got caught up in the moment."
"You don't have to apologize. I just-- we... This is great like it is." They moved to the foyer, where Laura Reed put on her coat. "Thanks again for dinner." Derek smiled and nodded. As she left the house, he downed a glass of wine. Once the door closed behind her, he threw it in frustration against a mirror, which shattered.

In the outskirts of Pixfare, Kelly stopped the motorcycle on the side of a road near a diner. She and Jack dismounted.
"What is this?"
"Last I checked, it was a diner."
"No more screwing around. I'm not a character in one of your books. What are we doing here?"
"I think you know." She took out an old newspaper clipping, which read: 'Young Woman Finds Baby on Side of Road'. "You've been here before. This is the diner you were brought to when you were found as a baby."
"So you found an article about me. So what? I thought this trip was supposed to be about you."
"It is. This is my story, and it's your story."
"And how is that?"
"That young woman who found you... that was me."
Jack backed away slowly.

Soon, Kelly led Jack on a short hike in the woods.
"Why are we in the woods?"
"All the answers you've been searching for are right where I found you."
"See? You're not that woman. I wasn't found in the woods. I was found on the side of a highway."
"Why do you think that? Because you read it in the newspaper? Did it ever occur that maybe that woman lied about where she found you?"
"No. But it occurs to me that you've been lying about everything, and I'm done listening." He started to leave.
"When I found you, you were wrapped in a blanket, and a black mask was stashed in it." Jack turned back. "That wasn't in the article, was it? How would I know that unless I was there?"
"Okay. Let's say you were that woman. Why lie about where you found me?"
"I lied to protect you."
"From what?"
Kelly jerked her thumb behind her. "That."
"A tree?"
"You've read Hilary's book, right?" Jack scoffed in disbelief. "You know about the curse, don't you? Your role in it? It's true, Jack. We both came into this world..." She turned to examine the tree. "through this tree."
"You're asking me to believe that you're a Pixar character?"
"Kevin."
Jack then realized something. "You're the one who added the story to Hilary's book."
"I needed you to know the truth."
"The truth is you're out of your mind, and you're not even a very good liar. Why not write the end of that story?"
"Because this is the ending, and we're writing it right now."
"And how does this story end?"
"With you believing."
"Not gonna happen." He turned around to leave again.
Kelly looked scared for a moment. "Jack? Jack, wait." She chased after him, but she soon stopped, groaning and clutching her arm.
Jack stopped and turned to face her. "What... is wrong... with your arm?"
"I failed."
"What are you talking about?"
"It doesn't matter. You don't believe."
"If you think that by making me feel sorry for you that something's going to change, you're wrong."
"I'm not screwing around here. Whatever you believe or don't, this is real, Jack. I'm sick."
"That's an understatement."
"You ever been to South America? It's beautiful. Amazing place. Full of pleasures. The perfect place to lose oneself. That's where I was when you decided to stay in Pixfare."
"How do you know when I decided to stay in Pixfare?"
"Because at 1:13 in the morning, I woke up with a shooting pain in my arm. That's 1:13 at night in Pixfare. Sound familiar? That's when time there started to move forward again. I was supposed to be there for you, and I wasn't. Because I was halfway around the world, I got a painful reminder of just how far I'd strayed." She sat on a tree stump. "If that tree won't make you believe, maybe this will." She rolled up her sleeve to show him her feathered arm.
"How does that prove anything?" To Jack, her arm looked perfectly normal.
"Look."
"Kelly, I'm looking."
"You don't see it, do you?"
"See what?"
"Your denial is more powerful than I thought. It's preventing you from seeing the truth."
"Okay, one of us is losing it here, and it's not me."
"You don't want to believe. After everything you've seen, why can't you just do it?"
"Why is it so important to you that I do?"
"Because I, the town-- everyone needs you."
"I don't want them to need me."
"Well, that's too bad, because we all do."
"You're saying that I'm responsible for everyone's happiness? That's crazy! I didn't ask for that! I don't want it."
"Right now. A little while ago, you didn't want Hilary either, but then she came to you and now you're fighting for her."
"For her! Because that's all I can handle right now. And I'm not even doing a good job at that! Now you're telling me I have to save everyone? That's beyond ridiculous. I don't want any of it."
"Well, that's too bad, Jack, because that doesn't change the truth. You're our only hope."
"Then you're all screwed." He walked away from her.

After she got back to town, Kelly stopped by the balloon store. She watched as Ed tried to arrange the balloon bouquet that she and Ms. Wood discussed earlier.
"Darn. I'm all out of weights." He grumbled. "How am I going to make this stay down?"
"Here. Try these." She tied the balloon strings around tennis balls, making them sink to the floor.
Ed looked up at Kelly with a smile. She smiled as well. " "Wow. I Thank you. "
"I got the idea from a gift a friend gave me."
"They must be very proud."
"I don't know about that. I don't think I became the friend he wanted me to be."
"Well, have you tried to make it up to him?"
"I made him a promise... a long time ago. By the time I got around making good on it, I think it was too late."
"But you kept your promise. You realized your mistake, and you tried to fix it. That's important. If I had any friends, that would be enough for me."
Kelly looked at him, thoughtfully. He turned back to the counter. She looked around and noticed a scrapbook sitting on a shelf. "You look like you might be shorthanded."
"Hmm. I get by."
"How would you feel about... taking on an assistant?"
"I can't pay you."
"That's okay. I just like balloons."
Ed smiled and extended his hand to her. "Come." 

Hilary was asleep in bed, next to her walkie-talkie. With a burst of static, Jack's voice came through.
"Code red. Code red. Hilary?"
"Jack, what's wrong?"
"I need to talk to you."
"About Operation Cobra?"
"No. About us. Meet me downstairs." 
Hilary got out of bed, grabbed her jacket, and snuck out of her room.

She sat in the passenger seat of Jack's car, while he sat in the driver's.
"If my dad sees me out here talking to you, he'll get really mad."
Jack thought for a moment, and then faced her. "Hilary, I need to ask you something very important. Do you want to get away from Derek? Do you want to come and live with me?"
"More than anything."
"Okay. Then buckle up. You ready?"
"Okay. Why? Where are we going?"
"We're leaving Pixfare." They drove off in the car.

Chapter Text

Hilary and Derek were silently eating dinner when the doorbell rang.
"I don't remember us expecting any company." Derek went to answer the door, and saw it was Jack. "Sheriff Swan. What are you doing here?"
"Hilary invited me."
"Do you really think I'd allow you into my house for dinner after all the threats you made to my family?"
"I didn't come for dinner."
"Then what did you come for?"
"You." Derek looked behind him, but Hilary wasn't there. "We all did." Felix, Laura Reed, Michelle, Clark, Ellen, and Bart all stood at the door.
Derek backed away and turned around. Hilary stood at the top of the stairs, holding a rope coil. "Hilary."

The next thing Derek knew, he was imprisoned in his island base's containment unit. His arms and legs were restrained by suspension beams. "No. No. Let me go. I command it!"
A vigilante mob watched, comprised of the crowd at the door plus the counterparts of the other toys.
"After everything you've done to us?!" Michelle shouted.
"Who's the weaker species now?!" Felix hollered.
"You ain't a super anymore, Mister!" Bart pressed a button on the control panel that sent a jolt of electricity through Derek's body.
"More! He needs to feel our pain!" Ellen shouted.
"You took our love and ripped it apart!" Laura Reed cried.
"And now you're gonna pay!" added Clark.
Bart turned up the intensity and pressed the button again. Derek screamed as stronger jolt of electricity through him. "I just... wanted to win... for once."
Jack grabbed Derek's throat. "You took away our happiness, and it's our turn to take away yours." He approached Michelle, who pulled out a sword and gave it to him.
"Hilary. Hilary, please don't let them do this to me." Derek pleaded.
"You did this to yourself." 
Jack swung the sword at Derek.

Derek jolted awake, gasping. He got out of bed and went to check on Hilary. Satisfied, he headed back to bed, not realizing it was really propped-up pillows and a flashlight.

Jack was still driving with Hilary out of town.
She looked in the backseat. "Is that all your stuff?"
"All I need."
"Wait. You wanna go now? We're leaving now?"
Uh-huh. I'm getting you out of here, away from all this, away from him."
"No. No. stop the car. You can't leave Pixfare. You have to break the curse."
"No, I don't. I have to help you."
"But you're a hero. You can't run. You have to help everybody."
"Hilary, I know it's hard for you to see it, but I'm just doing what's best for you. That's what you wanted when you brought me to Pixfare."
"But the curse-- You're the only chance to bring back the happy endings."
"Hilary." She spotted a 'Leaving Pixfare' sign. Suddenly, she grabbed the wheel and the car spun out of control. It stopped on the side of the road. "Hilary! Hilary. What were you doing?! You could've gotten us killed!"
"Please! Please don't make me go! We can't go!" She pleaded. "Everything's here-- me, your parents, your family. Please, Jack. They need you. Your family needs you."

The next morning, Derek went into his lab, but he couldn't get any of his tech to work.

Ms. Wood was behind the counter in her shop, when Derek entered.
"Syndrome. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"My tech doesn't work. Why?"
"Perhaps it's the batteries."
"You think this is funny? Well, I'll tell you what I think. I think it's a sign of the curse weakening because of Jack. But do you care? No. You're content to just sit back and do... whatever it is you're doing while all my hard work burns."
"That's not all, is it. Come on. You might as well get everything off your chest."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Derek scoffed.
"Hilary. Jack wants her."
"He'll have that girl over my dead body."
"The curse was meant to take away Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl's happiness. Perhaps you giving up Hilary is just the price to keep the curse unbroken."
"I think I'd rather just get rid of him."
"Well, well. You're going to have to be quite creative. We both know the repercussions of killing Jack."
"The curse will be broken." They said at the same time.
"That's because you designed it that way. Undo it."
"You know... even if I wanted to, I couldn't. Magic, well, is in short supply right here and dwindling by the minute."
Derek let out a small gasp. "You want the curse broken. Why?"
"That's not something I care to discuss."
"Don't bother. You can keep your reasons. I want to strike a new deal. One where I can get rid of Jack without shattering the curse."
"Unfortunately for you, a negotiation requires two interested parties, and I'm already planning a trip."
"I'll give you anything."
"Oh. You no longer have anything I want, dearie. But I will give you a piece of advice, free of charge-- I'd plan a trip of your own, because once people waken up and remember who you are and what you did to them?" She chuckled. "They're going to be looking for blood."

A bell rang and several kids chased each other through the schoolyard, dashing inside. Derek stepped up to a row of bikes and placed a "Monster" placard on one with a license plate labeled "Mary."

In the kitchen, Laura Reed poured a glass of juice when Jack entered.
"Oh. Thought you'd left."
"Laura Reed--"
"But I couldn't tell for sure because you didn't bother to say goodbye. You remember when Clark left? When he ran? What you said to him? You said, we have to stick together. That we're like... family."
"Yeah. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left."
"You're right. You shouldn't have. So why, after everything, did you just go?"
"I don't wanna be Sheriff. I don't want people relying on me. I don't want this, any of it."
"What about Hilary?"
"I took her with me."
"You abducted her." She looked at him, shocked and crossed her arms.
"Maybe."
"So you don't want people to rely on you, but you took your daughter? Now that sounds like a stable home for her. What is wrong with you?"
"I want what's best for her."
"And running is what's best for her? Or is that what's best for you? You're reverting, Jack, into the person you were before you got here, and I thought you'd changed."
"You thought wrong."
"Well, regardless, you have to do what's right for Hilary now."
"What's that?"
"Oh, I don't know. You're her father. That's your job. So you figure it out."

Derek stared out a window of his house when Randy entered, holding the monster card. He turned around. "Randy. So you got my message."
"How could I miss it? You know I watch her."
Derek crossed the room to pour some drinks. "It must be painful, that kid being oh, so near?"
"What do you want?"
"Your help."
"And what makes you think I won't kill you after everything you've done?"
"Because you don't have it in you. If you did, you would have done it 28 years ago, when I brought you here. Because you know if I'm dead, you'll never get the kid." He offered Randy a drink. "And I have a way for us to both get what we want." Randy placed the card inside the cup instead of taking it. Derek crossed the room, set down the cup, and took out a door, then set it against the wall with a triumphant look at Randy.
"That's one of our doors."
"I want you to use it again."
"I can't make it work. No one can. Not here, not without power."
"Well, then you're in luck, because I happen to have some. Not a lot... but hopefully, enough... for one last journey.
"Where?"
"Back to our world, where there's a solution to a very delicate problem I have-- how to get rid of the one person who could break my curse."
"Jack." Randy smiled. "And why shouldn't I let him do just that? End this monstrosity and go home."
Derek scoffed. "To your old scaring job? Living under Sullivan's shadow? Why? You can just stay here in the mansion I gave you." He sighed and walked past him. "My problem, Randy, is the same as yours. We both want a kid for ourselves, and we both can get them, if we work together."
"Why should I trust you now?"
"You shouldn't. But it's the only offer you've got. After we're through, I'll wake up the kid so she remembers who you are."
"No. Remembering is the worst curse-- two lives in your head. I want to forget. I want you to write us a new story, a fresh start, here.
"Well, then, that's exactly what you'll have." Derek crossed room again. "Oh. After we take care of Jack."

Hilary supersped through a hallway of the inn to door number two. She pounded on the door.
"Hang on." Kelly's voice came from behind the door. She opened the door and Hilary stepped into the room. 
"Kelly, please, I need your help. Jack wants to leave."
"What? Slow down."
"You were gonna make him believe. You have to."
"I know, Hilary. I'm sorry. I... I failed."
"Failed?"
"I tried to show him. First it was my arms, and now... Now take a look... At the unvarnished truth." She rolled up her jacket sleeve to reveal a wing.
"It's feathers."
"Yes." 
"Uh... all this... I was right. The curse-- it's real!"
"You're a smart kid."
"And you're Kevin."
"What gave it away?" She rolled her sleeve back down.
"But why are you turning back into a bird?"
"I'm changing because... I hadn't exactly been good. And... well... if the curse doesn't break, this doesn't stop."
"So we show Jack that you're turning back into the bird you were, and then he has to believe, and when he does, he could break the curse."
"I tried that. He doesn't want to see, so he doesn't. There's nothing more that I can do. I-I'm getting tired. It's hard to ride and it's hard to walk. Soon it's gonna be hard to breathe."
"So we have to do something fast."
"But there's nothing to do. And with what little time I have left, I want to spend it with my old friends."
"Carl and Russell."
"Told you you're a smart kid." She showed Hilary out the door.
"So, everyone's giving up."
"I'm afraid that I don't have a choice. I'm sorry, kid, but I'm out of Operation Cobra. Now, it's up to you." Hilary stepped out and Kelly shut the door.

At the Diner, Jack sat across from Felix.
"Jack, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you don't have any case for custody."
"Even after everything he's done?"
"Which you can't prove. Let me ask you a question. With this war raging on, who really is getting hurt here?"
"I know. Hilary! But isn't it a good thing she's spending time with me? I'm her father."
"Yes, you are, and so is Derek. And look, the court is gonna come in and look at her and see how she's been since you've come into her life."
"And she's been happier, right?"
"Maybe. I mean, objectively? She's skipped school, she's stolen a credit card, she's run off, she--she's endangered herself, repeatedly. And so in the eyes of the law, it's not so--"
"What about in your eyes? What do you think?"
"I mean, a while ago, I told you to engage her in her fantasy life, and perhaps I was wrong, because she's only retreated further into it."
"You think she's better off with him?"
"I've never said that."
"Do you think that he would ever hurt her?"
"No. Never. I mean, everyone else, but not her. Look, right or wrong, his actions have all been defensive. I'm not judging, but..." Felix sighed. "In many ways, your arrival has woke a sleeping bear."
"Tell me honestly. Has she been better off since I got here?"
"Oh. It's not a matter of better off. It's--it's a matter of this war has to end. If you two are going to be in her life, you have to figure out the best way to do that."

Derek led Randy, who carried the door, down into his lab. "Watch your step".
"What is this place?"
"Where I've kept the last bit of power." Derek took a large canister from the shelf.
Randy leaned the door against the wall. "You have a scream can! Why didn't you say so?" Derek uncorked the can, and the sound of screams leaked out. The lights surged, and monitors crackled. He corked the can. They used Derek's tech to hook up the canister to the door. The light on top of the door came on. They both smiled. "Yes. It worked. Now what is it we're after?"
"A cake." Derek stepped through the door and into the Witch's cottage. He wandered around, looking. He then turned his head and saw a cake sitting on the table. He walked over to it, with a sinister grin, and picked it up.

Randy impatiently waited on the other side of the door. When Derek came back out, he noticed the cake in his hands. "Finally. Is that it?"
"Yes it is." Derek smiled smugly.
"And the kid?"
"First things first. The deal's not done, not until I solve the next problem-- How to get the savior to taste my treat."

Jack walked up the front steps of Derek's house and rang the doorbell. Derek answered the door.
"We need to talk."
"Yes, I'm sure we do. I was just about to call you, too. Come right in." Jack crossed the threshold and into the house. "Do what you're so skilled at and make yourself at home. I believe you came to see me."
"Right. Look, this isn't easy. I think that this... whatever is between us needs to end."
"Finally, something we can agree on."
"I want to make a deal with you about Hilary."
"I'm not making any deals with you."
"I'm leaving town."
"What?"
"This... what we're doing is a problem, and I'm gonna go, but I have conditions. I still get to see Hilary. I get to visit and spend time, whatever."
"And you get to see her. You're still in her life."
"Look, in any deal, both parties are a little unhappy. But let's be honest. We both know the world where I'm not in her life no longer exists, and there's no one who can do anything about that."
"You're right. Would you mind following me for a moment?" They moved into the kitchen. "So what are you proposing?"
"I don't know. Just figure it out as we go."
"But she's my daughter."
"Yeah." Jack then began to leave.
"Oh, Jack? Maybe a little something for the road?"
"Thanks."
"If we're going to be in each other's lives, it's time we start being cordial." Derek put the cake in container. "My famous cakes. Old recipe. But delicious." He presented it to Jack.
"Thank you."
"I do hope you like blueberries."
Jack turned and left.

Ms. Wood stood at the counter in her shop, writing in a ledger.
Derek soon entered. "I hope you bought travel insurance, because no one's going anywhere."
"Oh, really? And why's that?"
"Because I found the solution to my Jack problem."
"Oh, yes?"
"An old, reliable solution."
"A sleeping curse. Might I ask how you managed to obtain one here in Pixfare?"
"By sacrificing the last bit of power I had left."
"So you made power from power. Well, I'm sure I don't have to remind you that, uh, magic has a price."
Derek leaned forward over the counter. "Then you can pay it. Because now... the curse is gonna be stronger than ever, and you'll be right here, where you belong." Ms. Wood left the counter behind and stood by another counter. "Don't you understand? I won. So whatever plan you had... whatever reason you wanted the curse broken? too bad. Because it's never going to happen." He turned and walked out.

Jack came down the stairs of the apartment and heard a knock at the door. He opened it to see Hilary.
"Hey, Jack. Everything okay? You sounded strange over the walkie."
"Oh, um... no, I'm okay. Just, um... Yesterday when I tried to take you away, you were right. I can't take you out of Pixfare. But I can't stay either."
"What?"
"I have to go."
"Go? You mean leave Pixfare?"
"Yes. I talked to Derek, and we made a deal, I'm still gonna be able to see you, just not... every day."
"No! No, you can't trust him."
"I have to. It's my only choice. It's best for you, Hilary. Every time I fight him, someone else gets hurt."
"No, no, no! You're just scared. This happens to all heroes. It's just the low moment before you fight back."
Jack got down to his knees. "Hilary! This isn't a story. This is reality. And things have to change. You can't skip school. You can't run away, and... you can't believe in curses."
"You really don't believe?"
"I... This is how it has to be right now. I made a deal, and I used my superpower. He's telling the truth. He's going to take really good care of you."
"Yes, but he wants you dead."
"Come on, Hilary!"
"You're the only one that can stop him."
Jack stood up. "Stop him from what? All he's ever done is fight for you. It just... got out of hand. I'm sorry." They hugged.
Hilary noticed the cake on the counter. "Where did you get that?"
"Derek gave it to me. So?"
"I've seen that cake before. You can't eat that. It's poison."
"What?"
"Don't you see? The deal-- It was all a trick, to get you to eat that, to get rid of the savior."
"Hilary, come on. Why would he do that when I just told him I was gonna go?"
"Because as long as you're alive, you're a threat to the curse."
"Hilary, you've got to stop thinking like this."
"But it's the truth! And you leaving isn't gonna change that." They both reached for the cake.
"I'll prove it to you."
"No!" She snatched the cake away and stepped back.
"Hilary... what are you doing?"
"I'm sorry it had to come to this. You may not believe in the curse... or in me. But I believe in you." She took a bite of the cake.
"See? You wanna have some ice cream with that? Then we can go back to talking about..." Hilary suddenly collapsed to the floor. "Hilary? Hilary? Hilary?!"

Chapter Text

At the hospital, Hilary was being rushed into the ICU on a stretcher.
Jack tried to shake her awake. "Hilary, can you hear me? Come on, Hilary. Wake up, please." He begged, almost shouting. "Come on, Hilary. Come on. You can do it."
A nurse tried to pull Jack away. "Sir, let me take you to--"
"No! I'm not going anywhere! Hilary."
Dr. Whale examined Hilary's eyes with a flashlight. "There's no pupil response. What happened? Did she fall, hit her head?"
Jack showed Dr. Whale the cake in a plastic bag. "She ate this. I think it's poisoned."
He shined the flashlight in her mouth. "Her airway's clear. Did she vomit? Any convulsions or disorientation?"
"She took a bite of this, and then she just collapsed, so run the test for arsenic or bleach or Drano or whatever could have done this to her!"
"The girl is showing no symptoms that would suggest neurotoxins, so whatever's going on" He grabbed the cake from Jack. "This is not the culprit!"
"Well, what else could it be?"
"I don't know. That's what I'm trying to find out."
"She's gonna be okay, though, right?"
"Right now we just need to stabilize her, 'cause she's slipping away. Is there anything else that you can remember, any little detail?"
"I already told you everything. Do something!" He dumped out Hilary's backpack onto a bed.
"Look, I understand you're frustrated, Jack. I do, but I need something to treat, and right now there is no explanation. It's like..."
Jack caught sight of the storybook. "Like magic." He picked up the book. The title on the cover glowed, and his mind flashed back to Mr. Incredible taking baby Jack-Jack and placing him through the door.
"Every story in this book actually happened." He heard Hilary's voice saying. "You should know more than anyone, because you're in this book."
Derek soon arrived at the hospital, out of breath. "Where's my daughter?"
"You did this." Jack grabbed Derek by the arm and forced him into a supply closet. "You did this!" The two then began to fight.
"What are you doing!? Stop it! My daughter--"
"Is sick because of you!" Jack pinned Derek against a locker. "That cake you gave me—she ate it!"
"What? It was meant for you!"
"It's true, isn't it?"
"What are you talking about?"
"It's true, isn't it!? All of it."
"Yes."
"I was leaving town. Why couldn't you just leave things alone?"
"Because as long as you're alive, Hilary will never be mine!"
"She'll never be anyone's unless you fix this. You wake her up!"
"I can't!"
"Don't you have powers?"
Derek shook his head. "That was the last of my weapons. It was supposed to put you to sleep!"
"What's it gonna do to her?"
"I don't know. Magic here are unpredictable."
"So... so she could..."
"Yes."
"So what do we do?"
"We need help. There's one person in town who knows about this... knows about magic."
"Ms. Wood..."
"Actually, she goes by the Witch."

Outside the Diner, Laura Reed was walking to her car when Clark approached her.
"Hey."
"Clark."
"I was wrong... about you, about me, about... everything. I didn't believe in you, and I wish I had a good reason why... But it's like I keep making these wrong decisions, and I don't understand why they keep happening. You know, ever since I was released, my life hasn't made any sense, except for you, and what I'm feeling... it's love, Laura Reed."
"Clark, why are you here?"
"Because Evelyn put a down payment on an apartment in Boston. She's not gonna use it, but I am. Unless you give me a reason to stay."
"Clark. I can't." She sadly got into her car. He walked away, hurt.

Jack and Derek entered Ms. Wood's shop.
"Do my eyes deceive me, or is that the look of a believer?"
"We need your help." Jack demanded.
"Indeed, you do. It seems quite the tragic ailment has befallen our young friend." She looked at Derek. "I told you magic has a price."
"Hilary shouldn't have to pay it."
"No, you should, but alas, we are where we are."
"Can you help us?" Jack asked.
"Of course. True love, Jack — the only power strong enough to transcend realms and break any curse. Luckily for you, I happen to have bottled some."
"You did?"
"Oh, yes. From strands of your parents' hair, I made the most powerful potion in all the realm, so powerful that when I created the Dark Curse, I placed a single drop on the parchment. Just a little safety valve."
It all suddenly made sense in Jack's mind. "That's why I'm the savior. That's why I can break the curse."
"Now you're getting it."
"I don't care about breaking the curse. All I care about is saving Hilary."
"Which is why it's your lucky day. I didn't use all the potion. I saved some for a rainy day."
"Well, it's storming. Where is it?"
"Where it is isn't the problem. Getting it is what should worry you."
"Enough riddles. What do we do?" Derek interjected.
"You do nothing. It has to be Jack."
"She's my daughter. It should be me."
"All due respect, but it's his daughter, and it has to be him. He's a superhero. He must be the one to find it."
"I can do it."
"Don't trust her." Derek shook his head.
"What choice do we have?"
"That's right, dearie, What choice do you have?" Ms. Wood agreed.
"Where is this magic?" Jack asked again.
"Tell me, Syndrome, is our friend still in the basement?"
"Oh, you wicked witch. You hid it with him?"
"Oh, no, not with him. In him. I knew you couldn't resist bringing him over."
"Who's 'him"? Jack wondered.
"Someone you should be prepared for. Where you're going, you're gonna need this." She opened a case, revealing a sword.
"What is that?"
"Merida's sword."

At the hospital, Jack stood over Hilary's bedside, holding the book. He lightly stroked her hair.
"Hilary... you were right about the curse. I should have believed you. I'm sorry." He placed her book on the bedside table. "For when you wake up." He crossed the room and exited as Derek entered. "Say what you gotta say. You got ten minutes."
"You know where to meet?"
"Yeah. Don't be late."
Derek crossed to Hilary's bedside and sadly looked at her. "I'm sorry."
"Pity, isn't it?" A voice came from across the room. "There's nothing harder than not knowing whether you'll ever see a child you want again."
"Randy, now's not a good time."
"For you. Well, for me, it's the perfect time. I'm here to collect. Where is the kid?"
"Jack was supposed to eat that cake, and he didn't. As far as I'm concerned, that makes our deal null and void."
"I did what you asked, and you're gonna screw me over again?"
"Look at it however you want, Randy. The fact is, I'm done with you."
"But I'm not done with you."
"What are you going to do? Kill me? I know you want to, but I also know you can't."
"Do you?"
Derek scoffed. "Yes. You don't have it in you. Now if you excuse me... I have to save my daughter." He turned and left the room.

Outside a room at the inn, Jack frantically knocked on the door. "Kelly? Please open up. I know you're in there. Open the door."
"I can't." She answered from the other side.
Jack phased through the door. He was shocked to find Kelly laying on the bed, her body covered in feathers. "No. What's happening to you?"
"You can see it now. You believe."
"Yeah. I do, but... h-how do I stop this?"
"Break the curse."
"I'll try. I promise, but I gotta save Hilary first, and I need your help."
"No, you don't."
"Yeah, I do. This is all too much. I-I just... talked to Syndrome and the Witch about a quest to find magic. I can't do it, Kelly. I can't. No normal person can."
"Luckily for us, you're not normal. You can save Hilary. You can save all of... Squawk!" Her words were cut off as her transformation into a bird was completed.
"Kelly?"

Outside the boarded up Clocktower, Jack paced briefly as Derek arrived and unlocked the door.
"What is this place?" Jack asked.
"You want a tour, or should we just get to it?"
"Lead the way." Derek pressed a button on the wall revealing an elevator. "Whoa."
He pushed down a lever that opened the door. "Get in."
"After you."
"It's a two-man job. The elevator's hand-operated. I have to stay up here and lower you down."
"And I'm just supposed to trust you?"
"I don't think you have much choice in the matter, Jack."
"This battle I'm supposed to fight—who is it? What's down there?"
"An old friend."
"Then why don't you go talk to them?"
"Because his punishment here was different than everyone else's. I trapped him... in a different form. He doesn't wanna hear from me. You have to trust me on that."
"Okay, I'll go down there. But let's be clear about something... 'Syndrome'. The only reason you're not dead is because I need your help to save Hilary. If she dies... so do you."
"Well, then let's get on with it. Now this is what you're going to have to do."

The elevator arrived at the bottom of the shaft. Jack exited into a mining tunnel. He briefly looked at the broken Omnidroid. Suddenly, a glowing yellow eye and one red eye appeared behind him, and Mor'du roared as Jack faced him.
He looked at the sword. "The heck with this." He dropped it and shot at the bear with his laser vision, which swiped its claws at him as he hid behind a rock formation.

At the hospital. Laura Reed sat at Hilary's bedside, reading to her from the book. She put it down and touched her hand.
"Hilary... when I gave you this book, it was because I knew... I know life doesn't always have a happy end." Her voice began to break. "But I thought..." The machines started beeping rapidly. "What is it? Dr. Whale!?" Dr. Whale and a nurse rushed in. "Dr. Whale, what is that?! What—What's wrong?"
He put his hand on the side of Hilary's neck. "Nurse, get her out of here now!"
"What is it, please? What is it?"
A nurse escorted Laura Reed out, and another performed CPR on Hilary.
"Her heart rate's falling. Come on, Hilary."
"Nurse to ICU, STAT." A voice announced on the PA system. "Nurse to ICU, STAT. Defibrillator team to ICU, defibrillator team to ICU."

Dressed in scrubs, Randy grabbed a jacket and snuck behind one of the curtains in the ICU, over to the comatose patient's bedside. He selected the song 'La Llorona' on his music player and pressed play.
The man slowly began to wake up. "Where am I?"
"Come with me." Randy extended his hand to him.
The man took his hand and stood up. "Who are you? What's going on?"
"My name is Randy, and I need your help to do something that I can't. There's a woman. Her name is Ms. Cordwain. Find her. All you have to do is tell her where you've been and that Derek kept you in a coma."
"Wait a minute, what?" The man looked at him, confused.
"It's very important. Ms. Cordwain's gonna protect you, but you have to tell her Derek kept you in a coma. She's gonna know what to do. You understand?"
The man nodded in agreement. "Yes, I-I have to find Ms. Cordwain."

In the tunnels, Jack kept shooting his laser vision at Mor'du. Realizing it wasn't working, Jack grabbed the sword and threw it into the bear, destroying him, leaving behind the egg that contained the True Love Potion. Jack walked over to it and picked it up.

Clark took one more look at the Clocktower before he got into his truck and began to drive away.

Jack was riding the elevator back up, when it suddenly stopped. "Derek! What was that?! Derek!"
"Jack? You've got it?"
"Ms. Wood. What are you doing here?"
"I've come to check on you. I'm glad I did. Derek abandoned you and sabotaged the elevator."
"What? I'm coming up."
"No. There's no time for this. You can't possibly scale the wall and carry that."
"Yeah? Well, I can teleport up."
"Just toss it up. Your girl's gonna be fine. I promise. We're running out of time. Toss it up."
"Okay. You hold on to it, I'll be right up." He tossed up the egg and Wood walked away. "Ms. Wood? Wood!" Jack teleported out of the shaft to find Derek, tied up. "Derek."
"She tricked you! How could you give her that?"
"Where is she?" Jack untied him.
"Gone. Wood." Derek snarled. "She manipulated all of this."
"Come on. She can't be that far." Both their cell phones started ringing and they checked them. "It's the hospital."

Jack and Derek rushed upstairs to the ICU as Dr. Whale and Sister Julia exited.
"We did everything we could."
"I'm sorry. You're too late."
Jack entered the ICU as a nurse turned off the machine and removed a breathing mask from Hilary's face. Both Jack and Derek looked at the girl, heartbroken.

In the backroom of the shoe store, Ms. Cordwain was stocking the shelves when the bell rang, indicating someone entering.
“Um, excuse me? Are you Ms. Cordwain?” A man's voice asked.
“Yes, I am, but the shop's closed--” She turned around and froze in shock. Standing before her was her walkaway husband.
“I was, uh, I was told to--to find and tell you that Derek had me in a coma. Does--does that mean anything to you?”
She stared at him, completely speechless and made her way towards him. Last time she saw him, they were in the Land of the Dead. A disheveled skeleton on the brink of Final Death. Now here he was, looking just as he did in life. She reached out and touched his shoulder. “You're here. You're alive. He did this to you?”

“I was told you'd protect me.”
She tightly wrapped her arms around him, sobbing slightly. “Oh, si. Si, I'll protect you.”
“Um, I'm sorry." He pulled away, looking at her, confused. "Do--do I know you?”

In the hospital ICU, Jack, Derek, Dr. Whale and Sister Julia were gathered around Hilary's bed.
"No. No." Derek broke down.
Jack knelt down beside Hilary, tears running down his face. "I love you, Hilary." He kissed her forehead and a blast radiated throughout the room.

Hilary gasped and woke up. "I love you, too. You saved me." They smiled at each other.
"You did it." Derek said in disbelief.

The blast radiated throughout the town. Laura Reed, Michelle and Ellen, Felix, and Clark were each affected by the blast, looking slightly confused. Clark, nearing the 'Leaving Pixfare' sign, stopped his truck and looked back.

"Hilary... what's going on?" Jack wondered, looking around.
"No." Derek realized, horrified.
"The curse. I think you broke it."
"That was true love's kiss." Sister Julia added.
"No. No!" Derek snarled.
"If I were you, Syndrome, I'd find a place to hide."
Derek kneeled by Hilary's bedside. "Hilary... no matter what you think, no matter what anyone tells you, I do love you." He rushed out of the room.

Clark was walking along the sidewalk when he spotted Laura Reed across the street. “Helen!” he called out to her.
She looked up at the sound of his voice. “Bob.” The two run over to each other and kissed.

The man was watching Ms. Cordwain work on a pair of shoes, when he turned to conference with himself. "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait..." he turned to face her. “Imelda! You're alive?” He looked at his hands, shocked to see that he also had skin. "So am I. We're back in the Land of the Living?!" He stood up and belted out a grito.
"Could you keep it down? I'm trying--"
He picked her up and swung her around, laughing. “Lo recuerdo todo. I'm the love your life."
"Yes, yes, you are." She rolled her eyes and smiled. "And you haven't changed a bit."

Ms. Wood dropped the True Love Potion into the well in the middle of the woods. Purple smoke rose out and spread outward.

"Hilary, what's going on here? If the curse is broken, why didn't they go back?"
"I... I don't know."
A nurse dropped something on the floor and stared out the window.
Jack approached her. "You okay?" He and Hilary looked out the window at the approaching smoke. "What is that?"
"Something bad."

Derek looked out the window at the smoke engulfing the town and smiled.

Clark and Laura Reed held onto each other as the smoke engulfed them. As it covered the clocktower, the clock struck 1:13.