The Once Upon a Time Virtual Series
Virtual Season 3
Executive Producer: Silverbluemoon
Story By: RebelByrdie and Silverbluemoon
Written By: RebelByrdie and SwanQueenGranger
Illustrated By: Dalliance-Amongst-the-Stars and Silverbluemoon
Direct-to-Media Illustrator: Love-Will-Have-Its-Sacrifices
Edited By: Silverbluemoon
Advisors and Consultants
Research and Development Assistant: Archaeomedic
This series is Rated M for language, violence, drug references, and adult situations.
It is not intended for all audiences. Please use discretion.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the American Thanksgiving Holidays and losing two workdays, this episode has only been partially edited. You will find mistakes. They will be corrected over the course of the week. Thank you for understanding.
Publication Date: 11/28/2014
nother day in Never-Hell, Killian pushed his way through seemingly endless vegetation. Another interminable day of playing games with the one creature in all the realms more wicked than the Crocodile. He paused to take a long drink of the flask marked with an “M”, not his own. This one was. . . special, and if it ever came to harm, he vied to rip out the destroyer’s heart with his very non-magical hook. Just behind him, Emma Swan held the map, Jack’s Map, and mumbled to herself as she tried to read it and discern the best path to Pan’s Camp. Behind her, Snow White and her Prince Charming were ambling along, Snow never out of touching distance of her husband. Every once in a while, Hook would hear them whisper love and devotion to each other. There wasn’t enough rum in the world to properly deal with them. He would have lashed out at them, but the memories of his Milah and how desperately in love with her he had been made him hold his tongue. Behind the lovebirds, Her Majesty brought up the rear. She hadn’t spoken all morning. The forced cheerfulness brought on by yesterday’s discovery of the map and Swan’s magical triumph had faded away. He could feel Regina’s dark eyes sending daggers into his back. It was a none-too-subtle reminder that he had unfinished and highly unpleasant business with the Queen.
A crash of leaves made him look over his shoulder just in time to see David fall against a tree and then to the ground.
“There’s a clearing,” Hook mumbled quietly to Swan, “just ahead.”
The blonde, who struggled to be the leader she had proclaimed herself to be, nodded. “Let’s take a break.” The Happy Couple said nothing and Regina, obviously aggravated at the pause in their journey, pushed ahead and entered the clearing first.
It was a pretty enough place, he supposed. A large tree had fallen some time ago, allowing the sunlight to reach the jungle floor. Small saplings and underbrush grew around the downed tree, everything seemingly light and full of life; it was beautiful. It was, he reflected bitterly, another of Neverland’s tricks.
He watched, not overly inclined to assist, as Snow and Swan helped David sit upon the old decaying trunk, pain and discomfort written plainly on Charming’s strained, flushed and peeling face. Snow pushed her husband’s shirt up to reveal the wound and the festering contagion around it. The gray patches, like a child with the pox or a decrepit leaper, had spread down his ribs and, over his abdominals, down past his belt. Hook shuddered at that implication. He took another drink; were it him, he would have rather have died a quick and bloody death. Anything was better than being slowly encrusted—the patches, surrounded by calcification of the skin, were rough and pitted, resembling barnacles stretched across the underbelly of a ship too long without dry-dock.
“Does it hurt?” Snow pressed close to the man, one hand running through his sweat-soaked hair, the other indicating the area of his wound.
“No. I don’t feel pain, not really. It’s stiff, d—” He paused for a moment, “it feels like it’s already stone. I also feel heavy inside, link I’m encumbered but—”
“We’ll fix this.” Snow shushed him, obviously unable to handle any more talk of his affliction or impending death. “We always win. Good always wins.” She rested her forehead in the crook of his neck. Killian felt like an intruder in the all-too-domestic scene. David said nothing as his wife laid against him, but the pain, that he refused to admit, burned in his blue eyes.
Killian scoffed at himself as he moved to offer Charming the flask. He was going soft. David took the flask with a nod and took a very healthy swig. Rum, it was good for everything that ailed you, for a moment or two at least. When the haze cleared, Prince Charming would still be turning into a rock, but for a little bit, he would be okay. Rum was bad form, but in it was the closest thing to magic most people would ever be able to achieve.
er Da—David, she corrected—was dying. He was turning into an over-grown lawn gnome and there was nothing they could do about it. Her father, whom she had pictured a thousand times in her mind over the years, was dying right in front of her and it was utter bullshit. She had magic. Not David Copperfield TV illusions or sidewalk Three Card Monte sleight-of-hand, but real fairy tale magic. She wished she knew how to make it better, the right thing to say, to comfort—but she didn’t. Emma had no idea how to be the supportive princess/daughter/savior her parents so obviously expected—and regularly relied on—her to be.
So she turned to Regina who had settled to the ground, her back against a tree. “Isn’t there a spell that can fix him? I have magic. You have magic. This whole place is magic.” She watched the other woman’s face as she turned, noting the “Miss Swan is an idiot” eyeroll and twitch of her lipstick-less lips.
“Magic, Miss Swan—”
Emma wanted to grab the other woman and shake her; they were in Freaking Neverland looking for their son, and still Regina insisted on calling her that!
“—is not a cure-all and it isn’t all instantaneous. Even if we had the ingredients for a healing potion, which we don’t, and I had my potion brewing tools, which I don’t, there would still be a one-in-a-million chance we could create the correct anti-toxin on the first try.”
Of course. Of freaking course there was a catch to the magic thing. It was all nice and emotional until you really needed it and suddenly there were strings. “So it’s not an exact science, huh?” Her sarcasm was thick.
Regina met her tone. “There are different kinds of magics, Miss Swan, and different ways of using them. However, it just so happens that brewing a potion to save him is an exact science. It’s closer to chemistry than sorcery.” Her more-regal-than-thou voice insinuated Emma was a total moron, and the Savior seethed.
“So you don’t know how, or you don’t want to try? Which is it, Your Majesty?” Emma clenched her fists at her sides. Regina was tap-dancing on her very last nerve.
The brunette shot to her feet, graceful even when enraged. There was a spark in her dark eyes and a tinge of red to her olive-toned skin. “Do not presume to lecture me about magic, dear. You are a novice. You can’t even conjure the simplest fireball.”
She waved her left hand and sticks, stones, and moss began glowing a warm violet color. They rose from the ground, danced and swirled in the air, finally settling on the ground together in a perfectly formed fire pit. She cupped her right hand and a flickering orange and red fireball appeared. She hadn’t furrowed her brow, broken a sweat, or even needed to concentrate. It had all been instantaneous, effortless. She let the fireball slide off of her fingertips and land on the kindling. “A child with a half a day’s worth of training could do that. Some magically inclined toddlers can do it without training when throwing tantrums. If you know so much about magic, why can’t you?”
She had moved into Emma’s personal space by the time the last syllable left her lips, and they were practically nose-to-nose. Despite herself, Emma felt like—for the first time in forever and a day— things were almost normal. It was like those first few weeks after she’d moved to Storybrooke, all over again. The dynamic between them had been full of anger and challenges, everything always about Henry, Regina making her step up—even if she didn’t think she could.
Emma’s fists were so tight , she felt her nails dig into her palm. She had more than enough anger to start a little fire. She took a few steps back and opened her fists, willing her magic to make fire in her hands. Nothing happened, not even a spark.
“You’ll get it next time, sweetheart,” Snow called softly and Emma wanted to scream at her to shut up, but restrained herself. She felt humiliation rush through her. Stupid, toss-away failure Emma Swan who couldn’t even make a little fire ball. She let her hands drop to her sides.
“Whatever,” she grumbled, heading to her father’s side and sitting on the dirt with a huff. “Well excuse me for not being some magical fucking fairy princess! They didn’t exactly include spells and hexes in the Boston Public School curriculum and I never got my Hogwarts letter, go figure.” She crossed her arms, “At least I’m trying to help. I don’t hear any other ideas floating around.”
“Now—” Everybody turned to look at Hook, “—that is an idea.”
Emma furrowed her brow, “What is?”
The pirate captain flicked his thumb nail across the edge of his hook. “There is a fairy that lives on this island. She has something of a peace-treaty with Pan’s Lot or she did before—”
He sounded less sure about the last part, he hesitated. She didn’t need a superpower to know he was being shady. He wasn’t outright lying, maybe, but he was definitely leaving something out. Knowing Hook, he had screwed the fairy in one way or another.
“She knows the island well, better than anyone outside of Pan himself. She has a tree house just—”
Oh hell no, Emma scrubbed her hands through her hair. There was no way he was talking about who she thought he was. She looked at him like he had ten heads and a tail. “You can’t be serious.”
He quirked a coal black brow in very real confusion, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
She couldn’t believe this was her life. Somedays she still expected to wake up back in Boston, hungover, from some kind of acid flashback dream. “You’re Captain Hook and we’re on Neverland hunting down Peter Pan and there’s a fairy you think might help us.”
His lips quickly slid into a scowl and he held out his hand. David handed him the never-empty flask back, and he took a deep drink. “When I say us, I of course mean you lot. She and I parted on a bit of a sour note when last I left.”
“Of course.” Emma stood back up, “Why am I not surprised at that. I mean—” Her voice edged on hysterical, and she wondered what going crazy felt like. “—you are Captain Freaking Hook so why would Tinker Bell like you?”
Hook’s mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. Like a fish. What had they called him the cartoon? A codfish. Hook looked like a codfish with too much guyliner. “How did you know her name?” he asked, incredulous.
Disney’s cute green spokes-girl? Seriously? What child didn’t know who Tinker Bell was? She could explain it to him, but she didn’t have enough time. So she skipped it. “Never mind. So you think this Tinker Bell can help us heal David or save Henry?”
“Well Love—” Hook grinned at her in a way he seemed to think was suave and charming. It might have worked on her once upon a time, back when she thought bad boys were hot. Now it was sleazy, cheap and it sort of pissed her off.
His proposition, probably half idea and half come-on, was cut short by Regina, “No.”
Then, because everything was apparently decided by democratic debates and voting, Snow spoke up, “No? Fairies live to help those in need. They’ve been our allies for years.”
Regina scoffed at that, “Yours, not mine. Fairies only help when it is to their advantage, and we have nothing to offer. Magic always comes with a price or have you forgotten that? Even if this Tinker Bell is still here, she won’t help us.”
It was the way she tensed her shoulders, how her voice dropped half an octave. It was how her dark eyes looked down and away. Emma didn’t need a superpower to know that there was more to Regina’s protest than a casual dislike of fairies.
“Something you want to share with the class, Regina?”
Emma watched as Regina’s face tensed, then blanked, erasing her emotions quickly. She brushed invisible dirt off her her clothes and turned away. “If you think our salvation comes in the form of a fairy, then you are far more idiotic than I ever imagined.” She didn’t say another word before turning on her boot heel and leaving the group. Another dramatic exit from Her Mayorness, and Emma didn’t even hesitate before following this time.
She pushed through the jungle, hot on Regina’s trail. The Queen never went very far, Emma knew, just far enough to have privacy, to be away from the others she despised.
Regina felt her on her heel. “I am not taking a nature walk, and I did not ask you to come along, Miss Swan.”
Emma sighed, wondering why she kept doing this—why she kept chasing this infuriating woman!
“Fairies aren’t your thing, I get that, but isn’t this a little much?” she asked, already done with Her Highness’s theatrics.
Regina kept walking. “This topic is not up for discussion.”
Emma kept pace with her, pushing past ferns as they swatted at her.”I mean, I know you don’t like them. You made them all nuns for chrissake.” Regina didn’t respond or stop. “But this isn’t about all fairies, is it?” She knew pushing Regina further at this point was probably stupid but couldn’t help herself, “Do you actually know Tinker Bell?”
Regina halted abruptly, bringing Emma up short at the quick change. She watched as Regina sighed heavily, defeat slightly sagging her shoulders as she turned. “I did know her. Once upon a time. It was—” Regina remembered everything.
Shadows danced across the far wall and dark eyes darted from their reflection to watch their dance. The ivory brush slid easily through her hair as Regina forced herself to focus on her reflection. Two more brushes and her gaze flickered again, much like the shadows tossed behind her.
A deep sigh forced itself from her lips but she was unafraid of the sound. It wasn’t as if anyone would be there to hear her anyway – would ask her what was troubling her. She felt the wetness starting to slowly fill her eyes and closed them tight, blotting out the pale image of herself in the mirror.
She would not cry again.
Three deep breaths seemed to ease the pressure pushing behind her lids and she opened her eyes to one traitorous tear sliding down her cheek. She should wipe it away, hide any notion of weakness like she had always been taught. . . but somehow it felt good. Real and solid in a world where even the whispers weren’t meant for her ears. She was the Queen. A title many would kill for—her mother had, in fact—and one that had been bestowed upon her with all the weight of the world.
‘And they lived Happily Ever After.’ She could not escape the irony that was her miserable life.
The silence of the room seemed deafening and for a brief moment, she wondered if she had forgotten what it was like to be really seen and heard.
‘Today is my birthday,’ She thought, her chest tightening. It had always been an occasion for her at home: her father would take her riding, surprise her with clothing and things unfitting of a lady. Her mother, well. . .
She shook that thought away before it was fully formed; there was nothing worthwhile for her heading down that path. How she wished her father was here now, though. To smile at her and tell her ‘Happy Birthday’, to make her laugh as he had when she was a child. Only he was, per Leopold’s command, away on trade negotiations in her Uncle’s Kingdom.
But she was a child no longer.
Now she was a queen. And tonight she had been waited upon by servants who never looked her in the eyes, sitting at a dinner with people vying for the King’s attention. Only Snow seemed to want to speak to her and somehow, she could not bring herself to pretend to enjoy the company of the child who had trapped her there.
So she had sat at the King’s side at dinner and kept her head down, picking at her food politely while conversation and laughter floated all around her. Her hopes had lifted once when the King had touched her hand and stated that it was her birthday. Hope had shown in her eyes for a moment, tempered by fear.
“What should a Queen so beautiful have for her birthday?”
The question had been rhetorical, of course. And before she could even speak to answer, Snow had giggled from her side.
“A huge castle!”
“But she already has one of those,” the King grinned.
And suddenly, the question which hadn’t been posed to her at all, had become a game between daughter and father. She had turned her attention back to her plate and listened as the two of them carried on in laughter about all the things she could not possibly need. She had eventually retreated to her room.
The flames flickered along the walls behind her and she clutched the wood of the table before her; the warmth of the candles and fire suddenly oppressive in their bid for acknowledgement. A cold chill inched its way up her spine, and she spun to slowly take in her room.
There were no frames to adorn her walls, only candles and her mirror. She knew the ornate piece was supposed to reinforce the notion of her true place in this palace, but yet somehow the reflection gave her comfort – the image reminding her that she was still there when no one else seemed to see her at all.
Her face had once been so full of light and happiness. But that was long ago. Before her mother had taken her dream away from her in a crashing blow. Before Snow had wrecked her happiness with an inability to understand what a promise meant. Before she was a Queen who survived in chambers shadowed by someone else.
Before she was an imperceptible ghost intruding in the sanctuary of another’s memory.
Four quick, determined steps brought her to the wooden door of her chamber. She pressed her ear hard to it, trying to discern any perceivable sound on the other side. When none were forthcoming, she creaked the heavy door open, stepped outside and snicked it closed behind her.
She made her way through the halls; it was not a difficult task, per se, as she had long ago perfected the art of moving undetected through her prison. It was merely the danger of being caught where she was not supposed to be that would have usually given her pause. But tonight, she was determined not to care.
Tonight, she was determined to be free.
The flagstones sent shivers through her bare feet and the tall ornate doors were before her in no time. She knew the way to the King’s Chamber, of course, as she had been led there many times. But it was the set of lovingly carved doors to the right of Leopold’s suite that she is interested in. She paused in the shadow of their splendor and took a deep breath. It seemed wrong somehow to be contemplating this and the mere idea of that infuriated her.
With a quick push, the unlocked doors popped open and she slid through them quietly. She held the door handle in both hands to shut it undisturbed. This room was off limits and to be caught here would certainly bring her recognition, the sort that no one desired.
This was the actual Queen’s chambers.
Where she rightfully should be sleeping, but which laid in shrine to the late Queen Eva.
A calm stillness rested in this room, inviting in its own way. Moonlight poured in through the balcony doors and Regina leaned against the back of the wooden frame behind her. A soft gasp fights past her lips before she can stop it as she takes in the warm and inviting room. The chambers are surely as pristine as the last day the late Queen had lived in them.
They were certainly more welcoming than her own.
Regina had always known that Eva had been adored throughout the kingdom. It was something she was reminded of constantly. It was only now, as she stared at the physical shrine to her predecessor that she finally understood.
Her steps were quiet on the cold floor; her way guided by the moonlight pouring through the large balcony doors. Fresh flowers sat in a crystal vase beside what she knew to be one of Snow’s horrible paintings. Beside the painting and the vase was an ornate crown on a velvet cushion. Above the bed, a large portrait of the woman, smiling and happy with a tiny baby Snow in her arms, hung on the wall. Regina had never sat for a portrait.
With a calm sort of understanding, she stepped forward, probing fingers grazing the side of the table, the vanity, the mantle of the empty fireplace before finally ghosting over the petals of the white lilies, gliding over the sloppy paint strokes of Snow’s handiwork, and finally coming to rest on the cold metal of the royal headpiece.
The room held a sort of haunted feeling to it, but its warmth overrode any fear. This room had been filled with love. Love for a beloved wife, mother, and queen.
Things that Regina would never, could never, be.
A determined breath echoed in the room as she turned towards the balcony doors. The ornate glass doors slid easily closed behind her. The sight beyond was glorious, overlooking the kingdom from high above. A far cry from the courtyard view she had from her own.
She leaned against the railing, a deep breath slowly drawing the night air into her lungs. It looked like a painting, the stars twinkling above the surrounding villages and farmland amidst a purple black sky. She closed her eyes and willed herself to become one with the scene, no longer alone, part of everything. As she opened them again, she realized that standing on this balcony, alone in the moonlight, she finally felt free.
Free like she had been when riding with Daniel beside her. Free like she had been when he had smiled at her.
Her fingers clutched the small ring on a chain around her neck, almost without thought.
A small breeze pulled at her white nightgown as she moved to where the balcony attached to the wall. A waist high stone barrier held her back, and one hand came to rest upon it. Hair, so dutifully brushed before, whipped softly in the breeze and Regina smiled.
Tonight, she would be free.
She had more foothold here, and she scrambled onto the stone ledge; it was easier than she had anticipated. She very slowly made her way across the narrow barrier back towards the center, wanting to see the entire kingdom again. She stood still once she had the perfect vantage point. The wind had picked up, almost as if giving its blessing. Her eyes fluttered shut at the feel of her dress blowing against her legs and her hair dancing in the breeze. Daniel’s ring hung loosely between her unrestrained breasts.
She felt alive, ironically, and with a chuckle, spread her arms wide, glancing once more towards the sky. Daniel was surely there watching, waiting for her to join him again. Tears fell unimpeded from her eyes, a mismatched smile gracing her unpainted lips.
This was who she was. A woman wild with joy of life. She was a woman who longed to feel the air on her face and the wind rushing past her. She was not a lady of silence. And so, she would not fall gracefully. Gravity would not take her gently. A last act of defiance ripped from her lips as she jumped screaming from the balcony.
It was primal and guttural sound. Full of emotion and life.
The wind raced against her and she plummeted towards the ground, eyes teaming with tears before she closed them for good.
One last smile graced her lips as she eased into a slow halt. Confused brown eyes peeked open slowly. A bright twinkling green light hovered all around her, holding her in mid-air a few feet from death. The magic was warm and comforting and smelled like freshly plowed earth and wildflowers. So unlike her mother’s, she felt safe in its presence.
A small figure flitted into her vision from beneath. A small figure of green and blonde strange beauty.
“Hey,” the green light spoke to her, sounding like tiny bells.
The word was spoken so casually that it rocked Regina back. Anger flared inside of her at the notion of a casual interruption in her moment of chosen freedom.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Who are you!?” she growled at it.
The blonde’s head pursed backwards for a moment, disbelief gracing her features.
“Well, that’s a fine hello for the fairy who just saved your life,” she spoke once more, the tinkling bells becoming much less evident.
The voice was soft but held an edge of seriousness as she flitted into Regina’s field of vision. An accented lilt gave added a pleasant quality, but Regina found herself wanting to swat at her anyway. Suddenly, she desperately wanted to go back to her chambers and hide away.
“Who says I wanted to be saved?”
The words were out of her mouth before Regina could stop them. They hung in the air between them as noticeable as herself. She could see the emotions playing on the fairy’s face and for a moment, prayed she wouldn’t push the subject as fairies were want to do. Somehow, they always believed they had a right to everyone else’s business.
Without another word, Regina was floated safely to the ground. She landed with a soft thud and as she brushed her dress off, a soft accent filled her ears.
“My name is Tinker Bell.”
The voice was clear of tinkling bells now and was louder than she would have thought. When she glanced up, a full-size woman stood before her. She was petite framed, blonde curls spilling down her back and eyes radiating happiness. Her smile was genuine and Regina found herself returning it.
“Regina,” she responded. “My name’s Regina.”
Tinkerbell glanced above them to the tower Regina had just fallen from. With one delicate hand, she shielded her eyes, then glanced back at the brunette.
“So, care for a moonlight stroll?”
Regina stopped mid motion and drew herself to her full height.
“I mean, if I’m not interrupting something, of course. I would love the company.”
Regina smiled softly and nodded, unsure as to why she was immediately drawn to this woman’s nature. Perhaps it was the idea of being seen, or the fact that she had not been prepared to be alive at this point, but something pulled her forwards.
“So, Regina.” Tinker Bell stepped forward and extended her hand. “Where would you like to go?”
The question froze Regina on the spot. No one, since Daniel, had ever asked her that question. Her life had been a series of dictated decisions and laid out days. She had never been given free choice in anything, let alone a destination.
Her voice trembled as she started to speak. She nervously cleared her throat, she took a deep breath and steeled herself. “Anywhere but here.”
Regina blinked out of her memory, realizing tears were beginning to pool in her eyes. She cleared her throat quickly, in the same nervous way she had in her memory, and turned away.
“—complicated.” Her words were still distant, reminiscent of things long past.
he light was weak; he could not discern if it was dawn or dusk. Did it matter? Rumpelstiltskin didn’t know. His mind was becoming increasingly foggy, full of indistinct thoughts and vivid visions that made no sense. The magic on Neverland vibrated through him, it rose from the pale gray stone of the mountains he’d traversed and into his boots. It rattled his bones and crackled in the enamel of his teeth. It itched in a way that could not be scratched, ached in a way that couldn’t be soothed, it crawled across his skin like a thousand spiders, leaving him chilled and wary. Neverland’s wild magic, a shining cesspool of power, pushed at his own, draining him, taunting him, pulling him deeper and deeper into madness.
He sat, and though he was not sweating, felt overheated. He grimaced at the pain that shot through his leg. His wound, centuries old, still plagued him, pained him, and reminded of his cursed cowardice. Even now, he wasn’t sure if the pain was physical or psychological. He sat there on the moss-covered boulder that clung to the side of some unnamed mountain and looked out over the dense, dark jungle of Neverland. Henry, Bae’s flesh and blood, his own grandson, was out there somewhere, and he had to find him before his magic was completely over-run by Neverland. Because, he scoffed at himself, he has such an excellent track record of finding the people he cares for. The memory assaulted him.
The wheel spun before him. It was hypnotic, rhythmic, steady and familiar, like the beating of a heart or a half forgotten lullaby. He pulled the gold mechanically; it took skill and magic of course, but little thought or concentration.
It was a habit, ingrained in the fiber of his muscle, engraved in his very bone—he spun to forget Forget that his son, his sweet and precious Baelfire, had been gone for five long years.
Five years of fruitless searching.
Five years of savagery with no results.
Five years of darkness.
Five years of death.
Five years of not knowing.
Five years of blood.
Five years of magic and madness.
Five years of being the monster that children feared at night.
Five years since his son’s fingers slipped through his own.
The wheel clacked and turned as he pulled straw through the spindle and turned it to gold. The fire’s dim red light, little more than coals and embers, made the gold glow between his fingers. It was the brightest gleam in the otherwise dark room. The curtains had been shut, nailed across the windows, shortly after Bae left. The candles had long since melted into hard wax pools on tables and dribbling trails along candelabra arms. The room’s rich decorations: gold, silver, mahogany, plush carpets from a land of sand, sun and silk, marble statues and paintings so exquisitely created it looked as though the subjects were alive and breathing in their pedestals and frames, had all become dusty, dim and unappreciated. Five years of disuse and disinterest had turned the lovely room into a tomb.
He reached down to retrieve more straw and let out a growl when his fingers found nothing but air. The basket was empty. A large pile of gold thread lay at his feet. He twisted the end of the gold thread and pushed the pile to the side with the tip of his boot. It joined the countless other piles gathering dust and was almost instantly forgotten. The empty basket, however, annoyed him; he grabbed it’s handle and threw it into the fireplace. The fire flared up, hungrily licking at its new fodder. He let loose a scream of rage that echoed through the empty castle halls, unheard and unheeded.
His hand fell to his cane, always nearby, and he rose from the plain wooden stool. He limped along the room, the tip of his cane and boots tapping on the marble floor. He grit his teeth and felt the pressure in his jaws, his gums popped with pain. He quickly disappeared in a swirl of scarlet smoke.
He reappeared with the same burst of vicious vermillion vapor within a vast room, both large and wide. It was filled, floor to ceiling in some places, with objects and seemed to glow with an other-worldly glint. The vault was full of the world’s most magical things: ghastly things, wonderful things, things that could alter the course of kingdoms, things that could leave the world a smoking crater. He had studied every artifact, learned of every antiquity, every spell, every curse, hex and jinx. He had searched for Magic Beans, he had scoured the seas for mermaids and squid ink. He had searched for pegai and their magical feathers. Nothing. He had found nothing.
He swung his cane in a wide arc and knocked a pair of heavy iron shoes off of their pedestal. They flew into a large mirror and shattered it. The shoes clanked to the floor in a sharp shower of glass. The destruction made him laugh-it took his mind off of the pulsating,festering wound of his son’s absence scalded his soul like boiling oil.
There was nothing here, nothing useful. He grabbed, blindly, at another artifact. A flute made of bone. It splint, snapped and splintered so easily. It didn’t even make him smile. His dagger appeared in his hand, had he even summoned consciously? He thought little of it and turned, fast and furiously, to a shirt with a missing left arm. He shredded it, screaming his anger, letting the dagger tear through linen as easily as it would flesh. It still wasn’t enough.
A fireball crackled to life in his hand and he threw it hard. it caught the skin of a donkey, affixed to the stone wall, alight and the room was filled with the stench of scorched hair.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing!
He turned to the books and scrolls, stacked on shelves and tables. He tore through them, ripping out pages and cracking spines. Useless. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, a blue glow. Errant magic or reflection of flames, and he lunged at it. He threw a particularly large tome of Elven spells and smiled when it hit a large porcelain vase. The vase shattered into several pieces and then something clinked on the floor. Not a parolin clink. Not a leather bound book clink, but a metal clink.
He turned and he blinked to clear his eyes, just in case true madness had already set it. It was a frayed old scroll, no he corrected himself as he magically summoned it to him. It was a patchwork of old scrolls and parchments, frayed and held together with thread and magic. He looked at it closely and could discern Northern Runes, Elvish symbols and even the language of the merfolk and giants. There were alchemy symbols and rough drawings and as he looked through it he began to understand. He began to see.
This was not nothing.
He pored over the document, and when he wanted to unroll the scroll further he swept his arm across one of the room’s tables, sending artifacts across the floor, breaking some and bending others, he didn’t care. He looked over his new treasure and he began to smile, then he began to giggle and for the first time in five long years he felt happiness in his cold and empty chest. He finally had a way to get back his son.
He exited the vault with a puff of smoke, and all that he left behind was the destruction he’d wrought and the scent of his magic: rust, old oak and fresh blood.
He reappeared in the main room once more, spinning forgotten. With a flick of his wrist new candles appeared and flickered to life. With light in the room, he looked around for the first time in months.
He was the master of all things dark and dangerous and in his hands he held the seeds of the darkest curse in all of magical history. It would take him, decades and perhaps longer to decipher and cast the curse, this would be a delicate operation, he had no time to clean.
Perhaps he should hire a maid.
So many years and deals later and he still did not have his son. He had made his monster, crafted a malicious, vengeful puppet on strings, and she had cast his curse. Everything should have gone according to plan, only he was still alone. Alone in a dark castle. Alone in a cell. Alone in an Antique Shop. Alone in Neverland. Always alone.
“But you’re not alone, Rumpel.”
She sat on one of the boulders, her blue frock neatly arranged around her. He went to her, happily, eagerly. She was the only thing that made sense anymore. He had failed in so many big and small ways, but he would always have Belle.
Her kiss was like stepping under a waterfall-cool, refreshing, all encompassing. With her he felt at ease, relaxed, the pressures of Neverland’s magic seemed less oppressive. The pain of his losses seemed less potent. Here, in her arms, he could believe in Happy Endings.
mma watched as Regina began to pace in front of her with short quick strides. Her eyes held a sort of hollowed frustration and as she wrapped her arms tightly around her waist. Just watching her made Emma’s nerves fray.
“So, what’d you do to her? Another poisoned apple pastry?” Regina spinned slightly towards her, eyes wide. “It’s amazing, we are in freaking Neverland and we still run into yet another person that you’ve managed to piss off.”
Regina’s arms dropped quickly, hands balling tightly at her sides. Emma could practically feel the magic popping around her.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about, Miss Swan. Shocking as that is.”
Emma spinned as the frustration builds inside of her, smacked a fern from her sight as she did so. “I know that you’ve already turned a potential ally into an enemy.” Another spin brought her back towards the shorter woman, “She could have helped us find Henry! She could have been our friend!”
The laugh that escapes Regina’s lips is devoid of humor; sad. A mirthless sound as she shook her head. “She won’t help us, and even if she offered, I wouldn’t accept it.”
The words came tumbling out of her mouth before she could stop them. “Why? Because she knows something big and bad about you? No offense, Regina, but that’s not exactly a secret.”
Regina’s brown eyes bored into her. Emma could see the vein on her forehead throbbing as she forced a deep breath. Her hands were so tightly closed into fists that her knuckles were white. Not for the first time on this nightmare, Emma felt as though she was finally seeing the Evil Queen.
When she spoke, her words were clipped and obviously took concerted effort. “I do not have to explain myself to you.”
“The hell you don’t!”
Emma felt her own anger rising beneath her skin, her own magic bubbling. “This is about Henry.”
Regina spun suddenly on her booted heel, her dark eyes warily scanned the foliage around them. “I would rather deal with the imp than explain my personal life to you and the Idiot Squad.”
The words brought Emma up short. For a moment, the anger drained from her and she stared in confusion towards the dark locks.
“Personal life?” She took two steps forward, two steps closer to the other woman. “Who was she to you? What happened?” Did she hurt you, she added silently.
Regina didn’t turn, merely cocked her head slightly to peer at the blonde over her right shoulder. Another pause and Emma watched her tongue dart across her lips. “It’s complicated.”
A bolt of emotion shot through Emma at the dismissive response and she grabs the brunette’s arm, spinning her to face her finally. Green eyes stare deep into brown. “That’s not an answer!”
Regina’s eyes scanned the savior’s quickly and for a moment, Emma wondered how they had ended up so close together. When Regina finally spoke, her voice was low and angry once more. “It is the only answer you will receive, Miss Swan.”
Without another word or moment for Emma to respond, Regina turned on her heels. She pushes through the brush and disappeared into the trees before Emma could even move. She stared after the brunette, watched the trees slapping back behind her. Emma watched, frozen in place as the jungle swallowed Regina from her sight.
The moment her leather jerkin disappeared, regret flooded Emma’s system. “Shit!” She stomped, and kicked leaves away from her in an angry arc. With a deep sigh, she turned and stared at the brush Regina just disappeared through. “Way to go, Swan. Way to go.”
Questions raced through her mind as she stared at the eerily still forest around her. Why did it have to be this way? Why had she pushed so hard? Why was there that look of pain and sadness in Regina’s eyes when she said Tinker Bell’s name? Why wouldn’t Regina say what had happened? And why did Emma have a very bad feeling in the pit of her stomach when Regina walked away?
It was like watching a horror movie and knowing that something terrible was about to happen, but she didn’t know what or when. Frankly, even if she did, after this, Regina wouldn’t listen to her anyway.
egina shoved her way through foliage and brush and stepped quickly into another clearing. Her breath was coming in short, quick gasps and she knew she was on the verge of tears. She had to get away, determined not to allow her emotions to overwhelm her, to not let Emma see her tears.
Logically, she knew she should stop distancing herself from the others, but she can’t go back yet. Not when she can’t shake these thoughts suddenly hellbent on bombarding her. With a final deep breath, she stopped and leaned against a large tree to her right. One hand came up to rest on her forehead, pushing dark locks back and massaging her aching head.
The memories began flashing before her eyes fully closed.
“I’ve actually always loved horses. I find them to be creatures of extreme intelligence and heart.”
The words come softly from beside her as Regina stepped towards a fallen tree, a smile graced her face as she glanced at the look of happiness on the blonde’s features.
“I think humans forget how to truly embrace happiness where it comes.”
“Well, Tinker Bell, maybe sometimes us humans just forget what it looks like.”
Tink slowed as they reached a small clearing, and paused to glance at the brunette. They had walked throughout the night, laughing and talking easily about everything – little things and nothing of great importance.
She was surprised to find that the fairy hadn’t asked her why she had jumped and honestly, she hadn’t asked why she had saved her. It was just so normal, something that Regina wasn’t used to and hadn’t experienced since her long conversations with Daniel.
Light broke their wordless stare as the morning sun slid over the top of the trees. A small smile graced the fairy’s lips as she leaned over, slid her arm quickly around Regina’s and tugged her towards a small inn across the clearing.
“Call me Tink, almost everyone does.”
A warmth spread through Regina at the shortened moniker. It was something a friend would use.
She walked slowly beside the blonde towards the unmarked door and uncertainty flared inside of her. Tink slowed to a halt as she felt Regina slow. Her eyes were full of understanding and twinkled with the soft smile on her face as she laid her hand softly on Regina’s arm. “They know me here. Come on, let’s sit and eat a civilized meal.”
Regina blinked in incomprehension, “You want to eat with me?”
The laughter that fell from her lips sounded like a tinkling bell and suddenly Regina understood her name. “Of course!”
Tink slid her arm around Regina’s waist and leaned softly against her, pulling her as he did. Regina could feel the warmth radiating from her, the compassion and mirth and something else in her eyes. Something warm.
And though Regina knew it was silly, she felt a tug in her belly. Her own smile broke across her face without thought. “Okay.” She wrapped her own arm around the other woman’s waist and they walked together. With a fleeting thought, Regina realized she was the happiest she had been in too long to remember.
Her eyes eased open slowly as she stared at the dirt beneath her boots. It had been a different forest and a different time, a different place. She had been a different woman – girl really.
She hadn’t even been the Evil Queen yet. She had been the ‘Queen of Nothing’ first and then Tinker Bell had twinkled into her life and everything had changed.
A deep sigh rattled against her chest, a tug of longing in her gut as she tucked her hand quickly into her jacket pocket, digging the small keychain she always kept from within. A braided lanyard held a picture of her Little Prince. She stared at his happy face and felt the tears threatening to fall again.
He would have loved Tinker Bell. The fairy had been so young, so cheerful, so full of life and laughter. She had lov—
A twig snapping stopped her thoughts immediately.
She was not alone.
And although she knew there were a hundred different people and things that could be stalking her at this very moment, somehow in her darkened heart, she knew.
“I know you’re there, Tink.”
No sound met her ears for a moment and anyone else would have wondered if she was just hearing things. But she knew better. Ever since the pirate mentioned she was here, much to her shock, she had known. How long had the woman known they were in Neverland? How long had she been watching and what exactly was she planning to do now?
The rustling of the bush behind her made Regina turn slowly. She had expected to see her, but found a small pang tear at her as Tinker Bell melded out of the bush wordlessly. A green cloak fell over her left shoulder, the color of the jungle around them. It hid a dark and dingy dress and leggings. Her blonde hair, once free in bouncy curls, was matted and pulled into a messy bun.
Regina checked her disbelief and slid the mask into place.
Regina’s eyes raked over the other woman slowly. “What happened to you? Where are-” Regina’s eyes widened as the realization suddenly hit her, “Where are your wings?”
A huffed laugh of disbelief pushed past the fairy’s lips and she took a menacing step forward. “What happened to me?” She took another step closer, her eyes darkening. “You happened to me.”
She was different now: The way she walked, the way her lip curled in disgust. Her scent was even different; earthier and somehow less joyful. It was her eyes though, that hurt Regina the most. Once full of love and light, now the fairy’s eyes were cold and hollow, full of bitter loathing. Regina knew that look well.
The woman was inches away when she quickly lifted her hand. Regina automatically flinched away, readying herself for the strike to her face. There was no slap, however, merely a puff of Tink’s breath.
Regina blinked in confusion as a light yellow powder floated in the air. Realization hit her seconds before the sensation and Regina wavered, vision going dark.
She felt her legs give way and she fell, but this time Tinker Bell did not catch her. Blackness surrounded her and Regina was unconscious before she hit the ground.
ink stood and stared down at the woman at her feet. From the corner of her eye, something glinted from beneath the body of the woman she once knew. Bending slowly, her eyes focused on Regina’s unconscious form, her fingers wrapped around the hard object. She tugged softly and stared at the small boy framed in her hand.
With a questioning gaze to the brunette, she tucked the picture into her belt pouch, tugging it closed. She bent forward quickly once more and grasped Regina by the feet. Once upon a time, she had carried her gently, but that had been a different time, a different place. She had something to gain herself now.
With a fortifying breath, she dragged Regina’s body slowly through the trees to the West, into the setting sun.
. . . To Be Continued in Episode 8
Total Word Count: 8457 words