The Once Upon a Time Virtual Series
Virtual Season 3
(aka “The Storm”)
Executive Producer: Silverbluemoon
Story By: RebelByrdie and Silverbluemoon
Written By: RebelByrdie
Illustrated By: Dalliance-Amongst-The-Stars
Edited By: Silverbluemoon
This series is Rated M for language, violence, drug references, and adult situations.
It is not intended for all audiences. Please use discretion.
Publication Date: 07/25/2014
Regina Mills was curled in a tight ball, hands cradled close to her chest, her dark hair spread across the thin pillow, strands cascading across her unusually pale face. She was still and quiet; the only signs of distress were her frown and furrowed brow.
Emma Swan, on the other hand (Regina’s opposite in every way), thrashed in her bunk. Her hands squeezed into tight fists and she twisted from side to side, her boot-clad feet occasionally kicking an invisible enemy away from her.
The loft apartment was exactly the same as it had been the first time she’d lived with Mary Margaret. Emma pushed her glasses up to the bridge of her nose and tugged at the plaid mini dress, all too aware of her ripped tights and worn-down Docs. David, dressed like the Fairytale Prince he really was, opened his arms wide and pulled her into one of his Papa-Bear hugs, his hand holding strong and fast to the back of her head. It was a gesture she was quickly becoming comfortable with.
“My Emma. My Little Girl.”
“Our Little Princess.” A new voice, Mary Margaret’s voice, only it wasn’t Mary Margaret. It wasn’t even Snow, not a version that Emma knew at least. Her hair was long and curled and fell in heavy ringlets over a white feathered dress. “Look at her Charming, she’s perfect.”
Emma pulled out of her father’s arms to find herself in a long lavender dress, tight enough around her waist to crush her lungs and steal her breath. She wore glittering amethysts around her neck and wrist and a delicate platinum tiara, made of the finest diamonds the dwarves could mine. “Princess Emma,” the Disney-fied version of Mary Margaret cooed, “You’re going to be perfect and live happily ever after, you’ll see.” Only Emma didn’t see; she couldn’t see.
“This isn’t me,” she said clearly, to no avail, as her parents’ expressions remained the same. She tried to reach out to David and Mary Margaret (Snow White and Prince Charming?), whatever and whoever they were… But then they were fading away, becoming blurred and shapeless smears of colors, as if she was looking at them without her contacts in.
“Mom!” The voice reached her in earnest and she reacted instinctively. She moved with purpose, now frantically searching for her son. Henry. She knew, deep down in her bones, that she had heard him.The colors whirled around her, like she was stuck on a spinning carnival ride that just wouldn’t quit. She felt dizzy, nauseated, and yet it wouldn’t end. It would never end, she knew. The blue of the sky, the green of the grass, the yellow of her car and she just wanted it to stop. She just needed a moment, just one minute to stop and think and breathe.
Henry ran towards her, arms held out wide. “Mom! Mom!” Suddenly she was back to that first night. Dressed in her skinny jeans, white tank top and red leather jacket. A bounty hunter who lived day to day, catching crooks who skipped out on their bond agreements for quick cash (usually spent on medium quality scotch, very good music and season tickets to the Bruins). What the hell did she know about being a parent?
“Mom!” Henry ran to her, looking no worse for the wear. She found herself confused and skeptical, her mind reaching for something she couldn’t quite articulate. But here he was and he seemed fine, so as he wrapped his arms around her in a big hug, she let it ride. Whatever her mind had been trying to tell her could wait. “I knew you would save me.”
Emma couldn’t help but smile. “Well of course, Kid, I am your m-“
“The Savior!” Henry interrupted.
She was growing to hate that title.
Suddenly her arms were around nothing but thin air. “Henry!” she shouted, alarmed like only a mother could be, only barely hearing herself over the roaring din of people calling out for her.
“The Savior! The Savior! The Savior!”
Voices swirled around her. It was like being in an underground metal club mosh pit, everyone screaming and thrashing with an untamable energy. It scared her. This was getting out of control, becoming dangerous. And where was her son? Then a hand grabbed onto her jacket. Emma tried to pull away, tried to find Henry, to find space, to get away, to run, but she was surrounded. Hands, of all shapes and sizes were reaching for her, grabbing onto her, ripping her apart.
“You’re our only hope!”
They tugged and pulled. They groped and ripped. One hand was wrapped around her hair. One hand was wrapped around her knee. One hand, tipped with sharp dark red fingernails, sank into the soft skin between the bones of her wrist and wrapped around the boot lace, Graham’s boot-lace, that she habitually wore.
“Save me! Save me! Save me!” they moaned in discord.
“Only you can save us!”
“Only you!” shouted another.
“Only you can do it now, Emma. It’s all up to you.” That last voice there came through to her so clearly, so isolated, there was something. . . What was it? She strained to hear it again, certain she was onto something important. But then it was gone. In fact, all the voices and hands were gone now, all but for one unmistakable set, wrapped around her own.
The portal was green and pulled at her, trying to tug her into it, back through to the Enchanted Forest or whatever backwards Fairytale dimension it wanted to throw her into. Neal, Baelfire, whatever, was holding onto her for dear life. His eyes– those intensely serious dark brown eyes that no longer held the gleam of youth and mischief that they once had–connected with hers. His hands started to slip through hers.
“It’s all up to you, Em.”
She tried to hold him tighter, “I can’t do this alone! Any of it! I’m not the Savior, I’m just-“
He slipped out of her grasp and fell into the swirling portal.
She stared at the swirling green whirlpool as it grew bigger and bigger, swallowing everything whole. Then there was darkness, a new world floating into view around her. “I’m no one’s savior.” She said, her head dropping to her chest. She looked down at her hands. “I’m just-“
Her head snapped up. She knew that voice. Regina stood before her, deep in the mines once more. The diamond glowed as it floated midair in front of Regina. The other woman, Henry’s other mother, was in the gray dress she’d been wearing the first time they’d met. Her lips were painted the same dark, slick red and they were trembling.It was, however, her hands that captured Emma’s attention. They were shaking. They were burning. The damage climbed from her fingertips to her wrists, magic rushing through her, over her olive skin, turning it into a charred and blistered mess.
She reached out to pull the woman away from the trigger or at least help her, but she was frozen in place.
Regina’s hands started to turn black and flake away, like embers and ash escaping a fire. A tear, shining like the diamond she fought to contain, slid down Regina’s cheek. “Why won’t you save me?” The burning flesh of her hands was flaking away and the damage was crawling up her arms, eating her alive.
“Regina!” Emma yelled, trying desperately to stand, to reach her, to do anything at all, but she could not. She had to look on helplessly as Regina suffered.
And at that, Emma sat straight up, thrusting the twisted scratchy wool blanket off of her legs, still trying to get away from something, everything. Her jaw was set, teeth ground together so hard she thought she heard a molar pop. She could still feel the unshed scream burning in her lungs. She pushed her sweaty hair out of her face and opened her jaw slowly, letting the strain wash over her without so much as a peep. As a rule, she never screamed, mumbled or moaned while sleeping. Screaming out during night terrors, no matter how legit they were, didn’t work in your favor in the system. It could get you booted out of good homes, sent to see shrinks, sent to lock-down facilities, or worse, force-fed so many meds that you could pass for an extra in a zombie movie. Emma had seen it happen one-too-many times so she’d learned to keep her mouth shut, no matter how bad her dreams were.
She scooted to the edge of the tiny bunk bed and pushed off. It took a minute to get her footing because the ship was tossing pretty hard. It was like Hook had decided to drive/sail/whatever over the ocean’s equivalent of rumble-strips or something. She looked over at the other bunk where Regina lay, still and quiet. She wasn’t sure if the other woman was sleeping or not, but hoped so; she didn’t wish nightmares like hers on anyone, let alone the woman who– she grabbed hold of the nearest wooden support, jarred suddenly to one side. It was jumbled in her head now, but the fear, the cold tingles in her spine, still prickled under her skin, almost like the fingers from the dream. The floor leveled momentarily and she let go and stretched, feeling her shoulders and vertebrae pop.
“Ow,” she groaned, rubbing her sore neck. The ship heaved again and she struggled to pick herself up off the floor, distinctly remembering how it had felt to be tossed on her ass like a ragdoll in the mines. She used another wooden support to pull herself back up and had only started to catalog her bumps and bruises when suddenly the floor, the whole room really, tilted to the left. It was sudden and violent and completely surreal. She fell to the left like gravity owned her and only just avoided knocking her brains out on a spare oar. She briefly thanked her lucky stars, turning her head just in time to see Regina grab onto the edge of her bunk. If she hadn’t been awake before, she definitely was now. Regina didn’t even get a chance to say anything snarky before the hatch door flew open and Snow’s face appeared. Her dark hair was plastered flat to her head and she looked paler than usual, her eyes wide.
“We need your help up here. ”
Emma pulled herself back to her feet and headed up the stairs to the hatch, Regina trailing close behind. She was not prepared for the vision of pure raw energy that met their gaze. The reason for the ship being flung about was evident immediately, seeing as how they’d found themselves in the middle of a bad “Perfect Storm” remake. The sky was full of pitch black clouds that were periodically gutted from within by blinding white bolts of lightning. The ocean, once calm, was now all thundering, white-peaked waves, hitting the ship one after the other, completely disregarding the lives aboard the ancient vessel. The grayish, sickly green water, torn from the bottom of the sea itself, sprayed up over the side rails and made the deck slick like a kid’s slip-n-slide.
“Get the ropes!” David yelled out to them, already fighting to get the sails pulled in, his hair and clothes soaked, sticking to his skin. There was a red welt on his right cheek and he was favoring his left leg. Snow was quickly back at his side, pulling and tying off lines. Gold stood stock still in the middle of the storm, presumably doing something magical. Emma jumped to action, rushed to help, pulling loose lines and tugging at ropes. She tied sloppy knots that would make a cub scout cry, but as long as they held, she figured it was good enough. She tossed her wet hair out of her face and grabbed for a loose crate that was sliding across the deck. The rain needled them from all directions in an endless sharp, stinging spray, and the lightning strikes came closer and closer to the ship– almost as if they were being targeted. The wind pushed at her mercilessly, and she desperately fought all thought of the swimming lessons she’d never taken.
Emma didn’t hear the thunder, didn’t see it coming. It was fast and powerful. A blinding flash blocked out everything, the deck shuddered dramatically, and then the smell of smoke was everywhere. Lightning had struck the Jolly Roger.
“Is everyone okay?” Even though she was shouting, Snow’s voice was barely audible over the storm. Emma opened her mouth to reply, but lost her words immediately. She had glanced up from the endless miles of rope, and the swirling mass of wind and sea that greeted her, barreling towards them, shocked her to her core. Fear, the sort of lizard-brained fear held over from the cave-man days, had struck her silent and still. Her mind, suddenly so thoroughly overcome with the knowledge that she would die here, shut out everything, so that for a moment there was nothing else but her and the gloriously formed column of water and imminent destruction bearing down on them. Emma Swan felt very, very small. She hated feeling small. It reminded her of days when she had been at the mercy of big pot-bellied foster fathers with ham-sized fists and older kids with nothing better to do than bully others. It was the sort of small she had never wanted to feel again. She swallowed back terror and bile and hoped she wasn’t shaking as visibly as she felt.
“It’s a water spout!” Hook cried out, and somehow she forced her head away from the tower of destruction to look at the ship’s captain. “Brace yourselves!” Emma watched him turn the wheel with a natural grace and precision that didn’t seem possible for a one-handed man. “Not today, you cretin!” He shouted at the sky, jerking the big wooden wheel around. “This is not the day Killian Jones joins your ranks!”
Emma glanced back out at the sea, just in time to see the water-spout, a tornado borne of sky and ocean, slap the ship’s hull. Hard. For a moment there was stunned silence, then the world turned upside down. The ship reared back on a huge wave, its sails pulverized by the raging wind, and they all heard a sharp crack! It was louder than cannon fire, and as chunks of wood and splinters peppered their world, Emma watched in absolute horror as the water spout hungrily gorged itself on their forward mast. The ship lurched to the side, pulled by the force of the spout.
One canvas sail, large and limp from being torn to shreds, had been struck by lightning, and as the wood cracked one last time, the tall pole split in two – both pieces falling to the deck. Right on top of– “Regina!” Emma screamed, but found she was frozen on the spot. She wanted to jump, to run, to get Regina away from danger, but she couldn’t. It was like she was weighted down with chains. Everything had slowed down, incomprehensibly, like a cheesy movie effect, and just like her nightmare, she couldn’t save Regina.
Then the falling ton of wood stopped mid-air and the pieces shimmered violet—Regina’s color of magic. For a moment, Emma stood mesmerized by the sorceress, watching her wet, dark hair whip around her violently, her soaked clothing blown tight against her skin, hands raised high above her head. She looked like she belonged on the cover of a comic-book, not quite real.
“The ropes!” Regina shouted.
Emma blinked at her. “Ms. Swan, the ropes!”
Emma’s eyes shot up and saw that several ropes and lines tethered the mast to the rest of the ship.
“Swan!” Hook yelled while tossing her something. Her hands automatically rose to catch it.
She caught it, miraculously, and her jaw dropped. “Did you just throw a sword at my head?” Hook only shrugged. She narrowed her eyes at him; they would definitely be discussing this later. If there was a “later”.
“The ropes, Ms. Swan!” Regina’s voice shook and the nearly one-hundred feet of wood she was floating in mid-air started to tremble.
“Shit.” Emma slipped on the deck as she rushed to the ropes. She cut through the first one with one chop of the sword. Really, a sword! She then skid across the tilting deck, cutting the straining ropes as she went. When she had cut the final one, it snapped back at her fast enough that it cracked loudly in the air.
“Now Regina!” she commanded.
All it took was a twitch of her raised hands, and Regina tossed the smoldering, smoking, broken pieces of the mast over the side. It was quickly swallowed by the savage sea.
“Hold on to something!” Hook bellowed, “There’s nothing to do now but ride it out.”
Emma pushed the sword through her belt (because wasn’t that what pirates did with their damn swords?), and resolved herself to a long, wet night. The waterspout had moved on or disappeared, or something, but the storm raged on. The ship jerked, jarred and lurched up and down, seemingly without end. She watched David hold Snow as she leaned over to throw up over the side (gross), and could sense, more than hear, Regina’s snide appreciation at the sight. Not that she had much to gloat about; Emma thought Madam Mayor looked like she was about to hurl herself, or maybe she was just tired from more magic, it was hard to tell. Emma blew out a breath and grunted as another strong wave knocked into the ship. She hadn’t signed up for this. She just wanted to get Henry and go home.
They finally stopped walking after what seemed like hours and hours. It was dark now and that was about all Henry could tell about the time. Why hadn’t he thought to wear his watch? It seemed so silly to think about, but his mom had bought him a brand new watch for Christmas. It was one of the self-winding ones where he could see the gears ticking away inside of it. She wanted him to learn to manage his time and take care of nice things, and thought a good watch would satisfy both requirements. Only, he had left it behind in his old room, back in the mansion. In Storybrooke. His home, the one he would do anything to get back to. It felt like it was past his bedtime. He should be in his pajamas tucked into bed with his flashlight and the latest issue of The Incredible Hulk tucked under his pillow. He thought that he’d had his Mom fooled for the longest time–
“Where are we supposed to meet them?”
The man who was dragging him along by the wrist, Greg, looked over at his dad’s so-called-fiancé, Tamara. They stood on either side of him, making sure he didn’t run away. Like he was stupid enough to run into the jungle alone. Neverland was real, which should have been unbelievably cool, but he didn’t like it– like at all. They had fallen through a portal. Just like his Mom and Grandma, just like his Dad. He hadn’t liked that either. It had made his stomach flip like some whacked out carnival ride, and it felt like he was going to hurl. In fact, he had thrown up in the sand and neither adult had even cared.
“I don’t know.” Tamara sighed and looked around them. Jungle behind them and ocean stretched out in front of them. It wasn’t like the ocean at home, either. The storm that raged on it made him want to hide under his covers–also at his real home–safe from the thunder and lightning. “This map keeps moving around. I’ve never seen anything like it. I would have to ask around the satellite offices but I don’t think anyone’s seen anything like this.”
Henry had always thought he would get to see The Enchanted Forest with his family. Only this was not the Enchanted Forest. It was dark and scary, and nothing seemed magical or wonderful. The whole place felt wrong. Even the air buzzed like mosquitos or bees looking for the next thing to bite or sting. He didn’t like it. He wanted to go home.
He wanted his mom, with her soft dark hair and eyes that always sparkled when he hugged her. She would make him lasagna, drink cocoa, and watch The Fantastic Four on the big TV with him. She would curl her arms around him and rest her chin on his head and hold him close. She would tell him that no one was going to hurt him.
He also wanted his mom, with her messy blonde hair and crooked smile she always flashed when they were about to get in trouble for something or other. She would buy him a milkshake and they would play Star Wars Angry Birds on her phone and she would sling her arm around his shoulders and call him “Kid.” She wouldn’t let anyone hurt him, either.
They were coming for him. They had to be coming to save him.
“You’ll be sorry.” He glared at Greg, the man who had hurt his mom. Tortured, Grandma had called it. This evil man had tried to kill her, but he had failed because she was the strongest woman alive and because his family had saved her.
“My family is coming for me,” he stated assuredly. He thought of his mom and how her voice got lower when she was mad. It was dark and scary, the voice of The Evil Queen. Maybe if he sounded like an Evil Prince, they would think twice about hurting him. “They’ll save me,” he growled. But somehow it didn’t sound quite as big and bad as he had hoped. He sounded like the child he was.
Greg’s big calloused hands tightened on his wrist, and Henry couldn’t help but wince and try to pull away. It hurt so much, he wondered if his bones were broken.
“Those people won’t stand a chance here,” Greg ground out, a little lilt to his lips. He’s enjoying this, Henry thought. He felt sick to his stomach again. He furrowed his brows and tried to think of Emma when she was standing up to other people. When she walked straight and tall, ready to fight for what was right. “You have no idea what they’re capable of.”
For a moment, he thought he had this man who had tried to kill his mother. After all, when your family was literally fairy tale royalty, it was hard to argu–
Pain exploded across his cheek, eye and mouth. He was on the ground before he even realized what had happened. Henry tasted iron on his tongue and gingerly held his aching face. Greg had hit him. He had never ever been hit before. His mom hadn’t even spanked him when he was little. His battered jaw fell open. He didn’t even know what to say.
Greg took a step closer, fist raised to hit him again. “You think I don’t know what your Mommy is capable of, Kid? She destroyed my life. She took everything from me. Everything.” He moved again, his fist falling fast and hard. Henry raised his arms over his face to protect himself but the hit never came.
Tamara had grabbed Greg’s wrist mid-swing. “Jesus, Owen, stop it. He’s just a kid.”
The man (Henry had thought his name was Greg?) lowered his arm, shook his head and chuckled a little bit. It wasn’t a happy sort of laugh, though. “They’re all kids here, Tamara.”
A boom of thunder cut off whatever else he was going to say. Henry inched back away from the edge of the cliff and watched as a water spout, something he had only read about on the Internet for a science fair project, whipped through the clouds and waves. Lightning crashed into the water and Henry held a gasp inside. He didn’t want to look afraid in front of his kidnappers.
“They’re all kids on an island with no adults. Left to the elements. To the sea, to the jungle, to the trees and storms. No mothers. No fathers. No love. No hope. No family. Lost Boys.”
Lost Boys? Henry perked up. But they were the good guys! There was hope for him yet, because he knew exactly who lead the Lost Boys and though his story wasn’t in The Book, every kid knew who ran Neverland.
He remembered how he had watched the Disney cartoon with his mom when he’d been a little boy. Maybe six? It had been a long time ago. The last time he had seen his mom, either of them actually, they had been trying to stop the trigger with their magic. He didn’t know if they had succeeded or if they were okay. They had to be though, they just had to be okay. Anything was just no acceptable because they had to come for him. to rescue him. They knew he was missing, right? They had to know. The wind started to blow harder and rain began to fall.
Tamara, still trying to be nice to him, put her hand on his shoulder, “Come on, Kid, let’s find some cover.”
Henry rocked back on his feet and jerked away from her. He locked eyes on the jungle, dark and creepy. “Don’t call me that.” He turned his back to his captors, the ocean and the storm. He could hear them talking about some drawing and trading something–or someone– for something else, but he didn’t listen long. He didn’t want to listen. He wanted his moms to come get him. He wanted to go home. He was going home, because they were coming for him. Right?
The funnel cloud – the ferocious wind and water beast that had battered them bloody – eventually dissipated on its own. Rumpelstiltskin brooded. He may have been wearing the soaked and ruined silk and linen clothes of Mr. Gold, but did not feel like the wheeling dealing man who owned most of Storybrooke. The black silk tie felt too tight, like a collar. He tugged at it. His back was flush against the broken stump that had been the ship’s forward mast. They weren’t even in Neverland and they were already licking their wounds. The Charmings were fawning over each other, bandaging cuts and kissing bruises. He rolled his eyes at the display. The Savior was talking to the Pirate, he didn’t particularly care what about, but from their body language, the blonde was angry and the pirate was probably hitting on her. Disgusting mongrel. Regina, his own apprentice, stood looking at the island that now loomed larger on the horizon. She was stiff and straight, her posture rigid and face determined. Her knuckles were white, either from emotion or the pressure she was exerting to keep herself upright. He wasn’t sure which, and he did not really care. Some rescue party. He scoffed at that thought. He was leading a band of bickering children into a warzone. This hadn’t been a part of his grand scheme.
He called his dagger to his hands. The magic was inherent, second nature after so many years, and he barely had to waggle his fingers. The dagger was a simple thing, really. Its curved blade, decorated with his own name in letters as dark as his magic, held familiar weight. It was his power, his immortality, and his most versatile and familiar weapon. It was also his downfall, his poison and greatest sorrow. He had lost Bae because he had stopped being a father to become the Dark One. He had just lost him again because the series of events he had put into play so many years before had spiraled out of his control.
It was an endless cycle of loss, he knew. Milah and Bae, Belle and Bae, Bae and Belle again, and now Henry. They just kept slipping away from him. The vicious cycle of magic and meddling that he perpetuated seemed to take so much more than it gave. He looked again at the Charmings, now standing with their long-lost-daughter. He had toyed with their lives, all three of them, long before they had ever been born.
He had moved them, and so many others, around like pieces on a Chaturanga board. To what ends? For Baelfire? For the boy he had lost over and over again? Wasn’t it ironic that his sweet boy had found love with the little girl Rumpel had decided would become “The Savior”?
Even stranger, he thought, shifting his gaze to Regina, that the child they made would eventually become The Evil Queen’s son as well. Then again, perhaps it was not so strange. After all, he had arranged the events for that to play out: Savior against Evil Queen. His Black Queen, all powerful on the board, but under his ultimate and complete control, whether she knew it or not. He had taken care to intricately exploit the most formative events of Regina’s life; yet another life manipulated before birth. A life that he had happily sacrificed to the same cloying and ravenous darkness that had so totally consumed him. If he had to do it all again, he mused, twisting the point of the dagger into the pad of his thumb, he would do it all over again. He would look down at the sleeping infant Regina and whisper his first spell over her just the same. He did not regret his part in the creation of The Evil Queen. Why should he? She had performed beyond his expectations, cast his Dark Curse, and had, inadvertently of course, helped bring Bae back to him.
He turned his attention to Hook and couldn’t help but sneer. If he were the sort of man to have regrets, he might just have them for the others aboard the ship, but not the Pirate. Never the Pirate. He could still feel the poison rushing towards his heart. Hook had dedicated his life to destroying him. Rumpel chuckled darkly to himself, Over what, though? What was their game? Constant one-upmanship with no victor, only one painful loss after another.
Milah had never loved him – or so she had delivered in some of her last, spiteful words to him. Had he, Rumpelstiltskin, ever loved her? This was something he’d never really questioned before. Maybe he had loved her, or at least the idea of her, once upon a time. Compared to what he felt for Belle, though, it had been nothing. Milah had been the mother of his precious son– and then what? Nothing but dust in his fingers. When Belle had fallen in his arms, injured and wiped clean of every single memory that made her who she was, he had wished himself dead instead. What did that mean? Was he the coward that Milah had named him? Did he still have the “good” in him that Belle swore she saw? Was he Mr. Gold, the man who had spent twenty-eight years running the dark side of a sea-side hamlet, or was he The Dark One, the all powerful sorcerer that mothers warned their children about?
Perhaps he was still Milah’s coward. They were now racing to save his grandson, the boy who shared Bae’s blood, Milah’s blood, his own blood. Yet he had picked a fight with a pirate and used the filthy muck-raking words, so out of character on his own lips, yet mimicking his own father from centuries ago. He had said them to push Hook, to make him attack. But to what end? To satisfy his bloodlust? To put the Pirate in his place? To forget his pain, his lost son – perhaps to ignore his broken heart? What sort of “good man” did that? Had he really sunk so far that his father’s low and dirty ways had become his own?
He looked around again and realized that this crew, this gathering of people, were his real legacy. Not Baelfire or even Henry, but this collection of toppled chess pieces, broken playthings. Some father (and grandfather) he was. Perhaps Bae would have been better off if he had been more like his own father. Perhaps he should have left Bae to be an orphan rather than the son of the Dark One. His father, Milah, Bae– it seemed his family thrived upon abandoning their children. Rumplestiltskin, son of a drunken gambling letch, was not the man Belle thought him to be.
These people on this boat would not survive Neverland. And more importantly, neither would he. Not if he was traveling with the goody-good Charmings. As he had told Regina, this was not a place for Mister Gold. Only The Dark One would survive. He ran his fingers over the dagger. He would have to embrace the darkness once more. To beat Pan (again), he would have to become The Beast (again). The Beast that had frightened Belle, The Beast who had locked Belle away. The same Beast who was soothed only by precious, beautiful, sweet Belle. Ah, the irony.
He had thought The Beast truly gone from him. The Beast that scared Bae. The Beast that turned men to snails, stomped on them and laughed. The Beast that relished the sensation of his enemy’s bubbling boiling blood splashing between his fingers. The Beast who lit fires for joy and terrorized thieves for entertainment. The dark and brooding Beast who had locked away a maiden in a dungeon so he couldn’t hear her heart-wrenching sobs.
This, childish, fight-picking, deal-making watered-down Dark One he had become was not who he needed to be. Peasant curse words and little spells were not going to make it in Neverland. No, it was time for Mr. Gold to disappear and for the true Dark One to rise once more. He looked around him again and shook his head. He was The Dark One and he worked and existed alone.
“I think–” a bright and overly-cheerful voice interrupted his rumination. “–that the worst is over.” Rumpel shook his head at the woman’s naivety. Snow White had no idea what she and her precious Prince Charming had stumbled into.
“The worst part?” The Pirate laughed and pulled out a flask. He took a long draught and shook his head. “This, Lass, was the easy part.”
Emma Swan, as out of her element as one person could be, threw her hands up. “What do you mean easy?!”
Hook looked out at the island they were inching towards. “Pan is Neverland and Neverland is Pan. Every tree, every stream, even the air is his to control. This was a friendly ‘Hello’.” He took another drink, “or a ‘Welcome Back’, if you will.”
Rumpelstiltskin smirked. ‘Welcome Back’, indeed. He could already feel the foreign and cloying magic of Neverland fighting against his powers. He and Hook were the only ones who understood what Neverland really was. Which was, perhaps, why he wanted to take the flask and have a drink himself.
uby Lucas stood in front of the full-length mirror that took up a corner of her room. A closet’s worth of clothes were spread across her unmade bed and she scowled at herself. She wasn’t sure what to wear. Obviously she couldn’t go out in only the demi-cup bra and blue jeans she had on, so she had to make a decision. She was half-dressed, and most of her shirts were spread out haphazardly across her bed. It was the morning after the Great Storybrooke Meltdown, as Granny sarcastically called it, and her first day as Sheriff. She had never felt so unprepared for anything– in either of her lifetimes.
David, Emma and Graham had made it look so easy. The badge and the gun felt ridiculously heavy in her hands. They seemed awkward and clunky and she just knew it would be worse when they were hooked on her belt. Even the thigh holster, which looked totally badass when chicks wore them on TV, seemed silly. She silently damned Regina and her “come hither” wardrobe, and briefly wondered which shirt, if any she owned, made her look like she was fit to be Sheriff and not some slutty Halloween party girl.
She pushed her hands through her still damp hair and sighed. She was stalling and she knew it. She grabbed a fitted red-button down (because c’mon, the bright color was her signature). She knew she looked good in it, and frankly she could use the confidence boost. Suddenly she understood why Regina always wore the too-fancy-for-you-peasants pants suits: because the clothes worked sort of like armor from the old land. Ruby added her black leather jacket (because who was she to break the Sheriff Office’s tradition?), and a pair of plain black boots. She quietly thanked Maine’s atrocious winters for her necessary assortment of “boring weather boots” that lacked the ridiculous heels that made up most of her other footwear. She secured her badge, then the gun, and stared at her reflection. She flashed her reflection a fake smile, wide and weirdly plastic, and then a Regina-esque scowl.
“Ugh. I’m screwed.” She was a waitress and a werewolf, definitely not Sheriff material. “Well,” she spoke to her mirror image, biting her lip. “Here goes. . . everything?”
She locked up her room and headed down the back stairs into the Diner. She had hoped to find it still and empty. Of course it wasn’t. In fact, it seemed like every stool was full. There was Granny, Ashley and Little Alexandra, of course, but that wasn’t all. Kathryn Nolan, all the dwarves, Archie, The Blue Fairy and a handful of her habit-clad fairies were also waiting on her. And of course, leaned up against one of the booths, was Belle.
Belle was dressed in a taupe skirt that hit just above her knees with a belt and a frilly black top buttoned almost to the neck, topped with a cardigan. She was also wearing tights and plain, taupe 1″ heels, the polar opposite of anything Lacey would wear. Her hair was carefully brushed back and the moment she smiled, Ruby instantly felt all her concerns melt away. As she approached, Belle put her hand forward and smiled, greeting Ruby, “Acting Sheriff Lucas.” Ruby couldn’t conceal her smile or her pride at hearing those words tumble so perfectly from Belle’s lips. “Acting Mayor French,” she responded gaily, and they both chuckled a bit while shaking hands. Leave it to Belle to make everything better; Ruby just wanted to hug her. Maybe later, she thought, right as they were caught unawares by Doc snapping a picture “for prosperity”.
After a small applause and round of congratulations, though, it was Belle who pulled Ruby into a hug, “I am so glad it’s you. I don’t think I could do this alone.”
Ruby beamed, but knew that Belle was going to handle Mayor-ness without missing a step. She smiled back anyway, “Me too.”
They separated and Ruby stepped away, really taking her first look around at the gathered townspeople, the people whose safety was now her primary concern.
“We have our first order of business,” Belle began, already speaking like a natural politician. “Rumpel left a protection spell with me, to make sure that nothing could happen to Storybrooke while he and the others were gone.”
Yeah because they should trust a man who was called The Dark One to protect them. Ruby kept that particular opinion to herself, however. She and the others looked on as Belle conferred with The Blue Fairy for a moment about where the spell should be cast for the best coverage. Ruby had started running through locations in her head, quickly deciding the mines that ran underneath most of the town would probably be best.
“If it’s supposed to protect the whole town,” Grumpy harrumphed in his usual surly manner, “then the best place to use your little magic trick would be in the mines.” Ruby wasn’t surprised when Mother Superior, who looked very different full size minus the sparkly tutu, agreed. She patted herself on the back. Chalk one up for the Werewolf.
She was not claustrophobic, Belle French reassured herself, she just preferred vaulted ceilings and wide halls. It had more to do with growing up in a castle than the fact the she had spent twenty-eight years in a small padded cell. She swallowed down her anxiety (not fear), and kept walking forward. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so cramped if their group wasn’t quite so large. All of the dwarves had insisted on coming along with The Blue Fairy and Ruby. It made the narrow mine shafts, held up by timbers, sliced in two by mine cart tracks, and decorated by exposed wires and bare bulb lamps, feel even smaller than they already were. The only nice (if you could call it that), part about the mine was the glowing veins of fairy-dust diamonds that cut through the rock along the walls and ceiling. She could smell the magic in the stale and oddly warm subterranean air, a scent she would always associate with Rumpel. She didn’t allow herself to think about the last time she’d been here.
Ruby, close but not close enough to smother her, offered her a small smile and Belle felt some of the tension running jagged laps up and down her spine, disappear. “Just ready to get this finished.”
“Well Sister, start your spell-casting, cause this is it.” Leroy looked around them, “Biggest vein of magic we got. It runs all the way through town one way or another. This is the spot ya want.”
Both she and Ruby turned to The Blue Fairy. As the most powerful force of good magic in their world, she was the obvious choice to cast the spell.
The auburn haired fairy only shook her head. “The Dark One gave you the spell, Belle. This is your task,” she smiled warmly. “Madam Mayor.”
Belle blinked, she couldn’t be serious. She had only seen magic (mostly dark magic), used. She had never performed any.
“You do.” Ruby smiled at her and squeezed her hand gently, “You’ve got this, Belle.”
Though she had her doubts, Ruby’s confidence made her feel a little bit better. “Right. Well then, here goes–” She popped the cork on the small bottle Rumpel had pressed into her hand. “–everything.”
She dribbled the potion on the shiny line of what she supposed was fairy dust in the rock and nothing happened. There wasn’t a fizzle, a pop or even an odd smell. There was simply nothing. She had failed. Her brows furrowed and her shoulders slumped, she had known she couldn’t do it. Magic, quests and adventures simply weren’t for her. She found she was causing more problems than she solved. She was about to apologize to everyone when a small sparkle caught her eye. The sparkle, small but persistent, started to grow in size and strength. It was not the red of Rumpel’s magic or even the all-to-familiar and menacing violet of Queen Regina’s. It was gold, a radiant and beautiful gold. The glow built until it was too bright to look at, and even after she had closed her eyes, the beautiful bright beams danced beneath her eyelids. It filled the shaft, and maybe even the entire mine, in a brilliant bath of protective power that hummed in her bones. Then it rushed out, filling all the nooks and crannies of the mines, seeping through the rock, covering the town above it from the ground to the sky. It followed the lines of Storybrooke’s natural magic like a fire follows a line of petrol. Magic pulsed blindingly in the cave like a broken beachside bar’s strobelight, and the ground started to tremble. When full saturation occurred, there was a shock wave, an explosion, a magical burst, like untamed lightning crackling through the air and everyone lost their footing. The ground shook wildly, vibrating, the power of the spell reverberating and expanding with the help of the fairy dust. “It’s too much!” Yelled one of the dwarves.
His words came with a quick and violent agreement from the mineshaft as rocks started to crumble and fall.
Someone– she knew without a single doubt that it was Ruby– grabbed Belle and pulled her down. She was covered by a strong and slender body and held in place, safe and sound, until the shaking and rumbling ceased. She should be scared, but knew that Ruby would never let her be hurt, not if she could help it.
She coughed, the air heavy with dust, and after a moment, Ruby was checking her for injuries and only after deciding she was okay did the new Sheriff move so Belle could sit up. The shaft was a mess, but they weren’t trapped. Grumpy was helping The Blue Fairy back to her feet and everyone seemed to be safe and accounted for. Thank goodness for small miracles, she supposed.
Grumpy chuckled and took out his ever present flask. He took a swig and coughed to clear his throat, “Some spell, Sister.”
Belle opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by a low and pain filled moan that echoed through the shaft. It resembled the wail of a spirit long since lost to the world. Only the thing of it was, none of them here them had moaned.
“What was that?” Sneezy asked, nose red and swollen, while pushing his glasses to his nose.
“It came from that way.” Sleepy replied, scratching his head and shrugging, “Did someone follow us?”
“Not from that direction.” Doc frowned.
Grumpy was already a step ahead of his brothers, pick ax in hand, ready to swing. “Let’s go see.”
They followed the narrow twists and turns of the mine tunnels until they ran out of lights. The Blue Fairy raised her wand and small glowing balls of light replaced electricity. The mines opened up into a natural cave system, rougher and cooler than the mines.
Near the gaping mouth of a deeper and darker cave, there was a large pile of recently collapsed rock and cave formation. That was where the moaning was coming from. More accurately, Belle realized, it was coming from under the pile. The only other evidence of life was one slender, scratched and pale hand reaching out of the dust, broken fingernails clawing in the grit.
“Holy shit!” Ruby exclaimed, running towards the pile and beginning to move boulders. The dwarves quickly came to help her and Belle felt utterly helpless. She did the only thing she knew to do, and wrapped her hands around the victim’s, sighing in relief when it closed around hers and squeezed. Slowly but surely, they uncovered who lay beneath. The person was a thin, disheveled woman with wild hair that might have been blonde, minus the dust. She was robed in a ragged dress whose color had long since faded to a dingy gray. She gasped a single, shuddering breath, opened her eyes for a moment and then passed out, unconscious and obviously injured.
Ruby stared at the woman and then met Belle’s gaze, “Who is she?”
Belle didn’t know. Nobody else answered either. She shook her head, “We can figure it out later. Right now we have to get her to the hospital.”
After the destruction and chaos of yesterday, Victor Whale was ready for a long night of sleep in his own bed. The crash-cot he kept in his office had felt like a slab of concrete for the scant two hours he’d had chance to spend on it. He slurped the sludge that the Nurses and Orderlies tried to pass off as coffee and signed off on yet another patient chart. He mused to himself that the old jokes about doctor’s handwriting held true not because of poor penmanship, but because they were always so exhausted that little things like “legible signatures” didn’t really matter.
He almost cried, legitimately and honestly burst into tears, when the double doors of the emergency burst open once again.
Ruby, the new sheriff (or so he’d heard), came in followed by two ragged EMTs and yet another patient on a rolling gurney. He ached with every step, but he moved toward them.
“What have we got?”
Hernandez, one of the sharpest tongued women in Storybrooke didn’t even glare at him. She, like the rest of them, was too tired for it.
“Jane Doe.” She spoke as she pushed the patient along the corridor towards the exam rooms, a familiar route for them now. “Found in the mines. Non-responsive. Blunt force trauma, crush injuries, lacerations and contusions.”
He absorbed the information and leaned over the woman as they moved. He lifted her eyelids one after the other and shined his penlight into her unfocused eyes. For a moment, he could swear she had slitted pupils, like a snake or cat, but he blinked and they were the normal round pupils that everyone had. He blamed his lack of sleep, or maybe a little of the Irish he’d added to his coffee. “Pupils are equal and reactive, but sluggish. Let’s get her to Exam 3.”
They wheeled her into the proper exam room with the practiced ease that came from too many hours of triage and emergency treatment over the last day and a half. The exam room was utilitarian and painted the same beige and off-white as the rest of the hospital. One of the nuns (damned if he could remember which one), was restocking the supplies. She had changed out of her blood-spattered habit and into green scrubs several hours before.
“You.” He nodded towards the nun while helping transfer the woman from the gurney to the exam table with a smooth lift. “Get the heart monitor on her.” The brunette blinked at him. “The monitor that goes beep,” he snarked, rolling his eyes. He didn’t have the time or energy for this. “Get the clip on her finger and the sensor patches on her chest.”
The slender woman, a looker, moved quickly to follow his orders. One of the nurses shoved a sterile paper gown over his wrinkled and sweat stained scrubs and plastered gloves on his hands as soon as he’d washed and dried them. He leaned over the woman and started to unlock the neck-stabilizing c-collar. She needed to get to x-ray STAT but he needed to make sure she could breathe properly.
“We need to get two lines going in her. Saline drip for now but draw some blood to get a type and cross in case we need a transfusion. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that because they were very low on blood.
He was about to order a panel of tests on her blood when the splat of a full IV bag hitting the tile broke his concentration. He turned to the nun to tear her a new one for wasting a perfectly good ringer bag, but stopped when he saw her wide eyes and open mouth.
He couldn’t take any more surprises today.
She uttered only one word, “Maleficent.”
Grumpy, already more than ready to be out of the hospital he had spent twenty-eight years mopping, crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about the woman they’d found, but there was jack-all he could do to help her. Waiting around didn’t do anyone any good. Not when there was work to do. The whole town was a disaster zone and he was stuck waiting.
He was surprised, though, when the doors opened so soon after taking the woman in. Only it wasn’t Doctor Whale or one of the nurses that came running out. His heart fluttered, and momentarily forgot how to breathe or even that he needed to. Nova had emerged, wearing scrubs that were at least two sizes too big for her sweet, slender frame. Her hair, usually tied up and back in her dowdy Sister Astrid do, was loose with curled tendrils falling across her face. He knew others might think it weird, but at that exact moment, with her hair a mess and her cheeks flushed, she had never looked more beautiful to him.
“Blue!” she called, out of breath, her voice chock full of shock, wonderment.
Only, of course, she also looked right through the dwarf.
“It’s her. It’s really her,” she stated energetically.
Red, frowned, “Who her?”
Nova looked at each of them in turn then back to the Blue Fairy. “You didn’t recognize her?” She sounded baffled, “How can you not recognize her?”
Red, aggravated now, “Her who, Nova?”
Nova clapped her hand over her mouth and then pulled it down her face, “Maleficent.”
Red immediately scoffed, “Not possible. Ems killed that dragon lady.”
Nova didn’t relent, though, “It is her, though. I would recognize her anywhere. It is Maleficent.”
Belle looked around, confused. “But who is this Maleficent?”
Grumpy sighed and shook his head, “Bad news.”
Red touched the butt of her pistol and then her badge, “But how did she come back to life? Dead people don’t just hop up and walk around caves.”
The Blue Fairy considered that, “Without the Evil Queen here, I can’t be sure, but it most likely had something to do with the magic of the trigger combined with the protection spell. This is not good. At all.” She sighed emphatically. “I will need to confer with the other sisters about this–” she scowled, “–development.”
She turned on her heel to leave and Nova followed her, taking a chunk of Leroy’s heart with her. He went to heave a sigh but the caught her looking back over her shoulder at him. Her face held a smile, small but genuine, just for him. He beamed.
When Doctor Whale announced that the woman, Maleficent, was in stable condition and resting, Belle wanted to see her. After all, it had not been very long since she had found herself alone and confused in a hospital room. She followed Dr. Whale to the woman’s room and tapped on the door.
Maleficent, “Feared sorceress of the Forbidden Fortress” according to Ruby, seemed small and weak surrounded by tubes and wires in the hospital bed. She was as pale as freshly cracked river ice and her hair was tangled, limp and dingy with dust and grime. She looked extremely tired, her eyes closed but surrounded by dark purple shadows of fatigue. She smelled of sickeningly sweet rot, industrial alcohol and oddly enough, brimstone. There was a large bandage on her forehead and another, smaller one, on her cheek. She looked about as dangerous as a sleeping puppy.
“I know you’re resting, but I thought I might sit with you for a moment to keep you company.” She smiled, “My name is Belle. Belle French. I am the Mayor of this town.” The words sounded odd to her ears, “Though I am more of a librarian by trade. They tell me you’re Maleficent, but that is quite a mouthful. I think I shall call you Mal until you wake up and tell me differently. Welcome to Storybrooke, Mal.” She sat in the exceedingly uncomfortable chair beside the bed and dug in her purse for the cellular phone that Rumpel had given her. She would text Ruby to let her know she was going to stay at the hospital for a bit.
While she was tapping somewhat inexpertly on her Blackberry, she did not notice the blonde woman’s eyes open. Had she looked up, Belle would have been immediately alarmed by the calculating blue eyes that locked on her. She was too caught up in her text to Ruby to notice, though.
A few hours, a quick trip to Granny’s for dinner and a quick meeting with Ruby later, she returned to Mal’s room. She knew bringing the woman Granny’s food wasn’t strictly legal according to hospital rules, but she also knew that a cheeseburger was far better for the spirit then the pseudo-food the hospital served its patients. Only when she arrived back at Room 815, she found it empty.
She hunted down Dr. Whale, finally locating him leaned back so far in a computer chair that she was surprised it hadn’t fallen over. Upon hearing her question, he groggily opened one red-rimmed eye.
“Mother Superior and her Fairy Brigade moved her down to the Asylum. Said it was safer. Frankly beds are a commodity right now and good riddance to the crazy dragon lady that doesn’t even remember her own name.” He leaned forward with a groan, “Swear to God, this little town is the Amnesia Capital of the World. They should put that on the damn sign.”
Belle felt her lungs contract and a shiver ran through her. The Asylum. Even the word made her uneasy. “But she doesn’t belong there.”
Whale grunted, “Then you do something about it, Mayor. I’m clocking out for the damn night.” He walked away without looking back, and Belle stood in the dim, empty hospital corridor with only the cold memory of the padded cell she had called home for twenty-eight long years to keep her company.
Her sensible shoes clicked on the tile as she walked. The Blue Fairy walked with purpose and as she rounded the corner, nodded at the single nurse who manned the desk. She walked unerringly to the cell that had housed Belle French until the very recent past, and flipped the viewing slot open. It was dim inside, as if the padded walls absorbed all the ambient light. There was, though, a slender shadow curled in the corner. She was clean now, bandaged and redressed in a simple hospital gown of cheap, serviceable, clean gray cotton. Her hair, still damp from her delousing shower, was tangled and curling in wild, unkempt spirals. She was hunched over, her arms wrapped around her knees, the picture of a docile and defeated woman.
Blue knew better, though, and Maleficent only proved her suspicions correct when she turned her head. They made eye contact for only a moment, but that was all it had taken for Blue to see the truth. Everything was perfectly distinct in those bitterly clear blue eyes peering back at her; the sorceress who had tormented so many from their old land was fully aware of who and what she was. Blue frowned, letting the flap close with a sharp snap, once again leaving the dragon to darkness.
. . . To Be Continued in Episode 3
Total Word Count: 10121 words