Before Hook there is Captain Jones and before him, there is Killian.
Killian doesn’t know his father’s face, much less his name, and his mother dies when he is too young to understand why no-one will help her through her illness.
Whore is a word he does not yet understand.
He scurries around marketplaces and alleys for a while and then hires onto a ship to do the dirtiest work and take the hardest kicks.
He’s ten when he sets sail for the first time, eleven when he watches his first murder. He’s still eleven the first time he commits it and after that….
There are many years between that day and Milah.
We wanted you to have your best chance.
The first thing Emma Swan learns in life is not her name, or her address.
It’s that she’s unwanted.
Left by the freeway in nothing but a blanket, from which she gets both her names. She spends most of her teenage years convinced that Emma was probably someone else and the blanket stolen. And Swan? Swans are white and so was the blanket.
Emma Swan gets her name from the blanket she is found in, left on the side of the road like trash.
Until she turns twenty-eight, it’s all she has.
Bae always knows, in some ways, that his Mama didn’t die.
People die all the time, but there are bodies, burials, mournings. He was only seven when it happened, but he always remembers that one day, Mama was simply gone.
Hordor only confirms it.
Mama ran away from him. From Papa.
And then he runs away from Papa and keeps running until he meets a girl that gets her name from a blanket and looks at him like he’s the sun.
“Magic,” the guy in the leather get-up says and Bae gets so, so scared.
He runs again, from the memory of Mama leaving, of Papa choosing magic over him, runs from Emma and her sweet smiles and the baby in her belly that he doesn’t even know about.
Milah is beautiful, Milah is full of sorrow, Milah is stuck in a loveless marriage with a man who will not even fight for her.
Milah leaves him for Jones, for Killian, for the man who is not yet Hook.
She leaves him and she leaves her boy. Bae, she calls in the night, Bae, my Bae, my baby.
Killian holds her until the shivers pass and then asks about the child and listens to her tales. In her stories, Bae never ages, never changes.
Milah, he understands, thinks of her son as frozen in time. Frozen, perhaps, the same way she is frozen in her grief.
Killian knows better.
Children without parents still age and grow and change, they become people of their own, pirates and murderers and thieves, with that one, eternal question in their hearts and nothing much else beside that.
Milah dreams of her little boy in castles and enchanted woods.
Killian dreams of that boy grown up to be his father’s image, with his mother’s absence like a halo around him.
I know why you did it. You wanted to give me my best chance.
Emma is an orphan and she makes her son one, too, less than twenty-four hours after he is born, screaming and reaching.
She signs the papers, gives away the rights and kisses him on his smooth, bare head just once.
A vicious cycle, she’s heard social workers tell. Abandoned children becoming teenage parents, abandoning their children, until all the world is filled with orphans.
He’ll have a chance, the nice woman who takes him away says, his best possible chance.
But he won’t know she loves him, she doesn’t say, won’t remember her crying into his soft belly. She wonders if he’ll get his name from a blanket, too, or if someone will love him, sooth his ravaged, open wounds.
She wonders if he’ll hate her.
Mary Margret touches her belly sometimes, like she’s reaching for something, grasping.
It’s ridiculous. She’s never had children and probably never will.
It’s just that, sometimes… sometimes she wants to bury her face in a pillow and sob until she can’t breathe anymore.
Henry grows up knowing that his Mommy’s name is Regina and that his other Mommy has no name at all, didn’t give him his.
She gave you to me so I could take care of you, Mommy says, and he answers, But why?
Milah dies and Hook – always Hook now – wonders if her son will ever know that his father killed his mother, wonders where ageless, timeless Bae is gone.
He entrusts his lover to the sea she loved – loved more than her son, but he never said that out loud - and takes himself to Neverland, away from all the memory, into a land peopled by Lost Boys and orphans, every single one with that look in their eyes, that question.
There is a lie in Henry’s books. Not all Lost Boys belong to Peter Pan.
Some of them get lost in transit, or simply stumble off the path. Some of them find their ways onto the Jolly Roger, where they look at him with empty eyes and he gives them the dirtiest jobs and the hardest kicks and loves them anyway with what is left of his rotten, black heart.
He is relieved, in his own way, that Pan is childish enough to only ever bring boys to this forsaken dreamland. If there were girls there would, inevitably, be bastard babies at some point and what do the unloved know of love?
Snow White presses a hand to her rounded belly and sends a prayer to the fairies for her child, her sweet Emma to forgive her. For the sake of all of us. For the sake of the world.
For the sake of a world you will never be a part of.
Peter Pan collects unwanted children and Hook corrupts them. Emma finds them and Bae – Neal, Neal, his name is Neal – teaches them to steal and cheat. Henry dreams of a princess for a mother and Snow White dreams of a daughter with her eyes and her father’s smile, dreams of a child she will never hold because the world comes first.
Milah abandons her son to find happiness and Rumpelstiltskin leaves his son to find his happiness alone.
Snow White abandons her daughter, who abandons her son in turn, is abandoned by Bae, who was abandoned by his mother and father both.
The web weaves, the threads spin and twist and loop into themselves, twenty-eight years or three hundred, and nothing changes.
Hook knows the look in Emma’s eyes the first time he sees her and he hears the way she says her boy’s name, promise instead of memory.
He climbs a beanstalk, throws a fight and lets her go, just so he won’t have another mother and her helpless son on his conscience.
In Storybrooke, Regina lets Henry go, the way her own mother couldn’t, breaks one cycle only to subscribe to another and leaves her son in shambles, asking, But why?
That doesn’t change the fact that, for my entire life, I was alone.
She looks for Bae and finds Neal, catches him and loses him and breaks all over again.
She runs away from the sight of her son – newly found – with his father – newly minted – and finds herself in the woods in the middle of the night, alone, abandoned, incidentally only three miles from where she was found inside the blanket that gave her her name.
She’ll tell Mary Margret the story, one day. If only the woman would ask.
Rough day, love? A voice behind her asks and she turns to glare at… who is he today? Hook, or Killian, or something in between?
He smirks, drops down next to her, offers, Cora is on the move again.
Cora. Cora doing to Regina as Regina now does to Henry, and over and back up the line, from Emma to Snow, right back to Regina.
Sometimes. Sometimes it feels like all anyone ever does is turn in circles, around and around, sins of mothers and fathers passed on to children’s children and on again.
And here I thought I was the only one who noticed, Killian – yes, probably, Killian – says and she didn’t realize she was talking out loud.
A look in the eyes, he said and averted his gaze over the sprawling forest below.
He looks at her now, eyes blue and open and she thinks that, maybe, before he was Hook he was a Lost Boy, too.
She closes her eyes, curls tighter into herself and waits for another family to be ripped apart.
I don’t know how, she whispers and she doesn’t even know what she doesn’t know, but he hooks his metal appendage around her wrist and holds on.
He stays with her until dawn.