The Once Upon a Time Virtual Series
Virtual Season 3
Executive Producer: Silverbluemoon
Story By: RebelByrdie and Silverbluemoon
Written By: Korderoo
Illustrated By: Napfreak
Edited By: Silverbluemoon
Advisors and Consultants
Continuity and Consistency: QueenOfAllSwans
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.
Publication Date: 09/18/2015
ore madness than man now, Rumpelstiltskin floundered about the island. In moments of clarity, he was filled with rage. Rage for Neverland and the boy who was one with it. Rage for every enemy who had torn his family apart. Rage for his own cowardice.
He chased after shadows that whispered in Belle’s throaty tongue, but any comfort she offered was brief and illusory. Catching a brief glimpse of blue behind a copse of trees ahead, he transported himself in hope that he might finally reach her. But instead, she’d looked over her shoulder with a malicious grin, fingered Lacey’s necklace around her slender throat, and disappeared once more.
As he sank to his knees, Rumpelstiltskin looked more like the deserter who betrayed his comrades in arms than The Dark One. His skin was pale and clammy. His lips were cracked from thirst. His eyes shone with madness from within sunken hollows.
The island—the boy—had pushed him to the brink of defeat.
“It wasn’t this bad before,” he lamented, choking out the words though there was no one to hear them. “It wasn’t this bad. Befo—“
His voice faded, and he jerked around wildly, eyes darting to the trees around him like frightened prey.
Seeing nothing, he sank fully onto the ground, his hands holding his head. He shut his eyes tight, trembled, the vision overcoming him.
Some time in the distant past. . .
The light of the bonfire cast shadows of the boys who danced around it onto the trees surrounding them. Their clothes showed the wear of a life spent in the jungle—tatty, ill-fitting, and filthy.
Standing still in the middle were two boys whose clothing showed them to be new arrivals. A gangly boy in a white dressing gown with round glasses and a freshly cut lip held the hand of a smaller boy in footie pajamas clutching a stuffed bear in his pudgy fist.
The Lost Boys laughed and crowed as they held aloft their weapons, never missing a chance to poke the new boys as they passed in their wild dance.
“Little Mama’s Boys! Beggin’ to go home, am I right?” A slender boy with a faded baseball jersey and a Brooklyn accent jabbed the older boy with his spear.
“They do not deserve to be called Lost Boys!” shouted his younger Latino companion. Eager to prove his worth, he poked the older boy’s shoulder with his spear, drawing blood.
“Take the tiny one to The Fields! Pan needs no babies.” A slender Chinese boy sneered and knocked the teddy bear from the younger boy’s hand.
The boy in the jersey circled back around and leaned in close to the young boy, just as the child scooped up the toy he’d dropped. “He may enjoy The Fields, but he’ll never survive to be a Lost Boy.”
The small boy burst into tears. His brother leaned down, careful to keep his eyes on the boys who had stopped circling, their spears menacingly pointed at his brother. “It’s all right, Michael. It’s going to be alright.”
An older boy, much bigger than either of the pajama-clad brothers, stepped forward and glared down his nose at the oldest, John, before speaking in a thick Jamaican accent.
“You will shut him up or I will shut him up for you.”
When the small boy’s cries only increased, the bulky teen drew a sword from his belt and put the tip to Michael’s throat. The other boys quieted, riveted on how the scene would play out. The large boy leaned down and brushed back his braided hair before growling, “You make one more sound and I will cut you.”
His razor-sharp sword traced a path down the front of Michael’s pajamas, leaving a red line across the boy’s quivering chest as he bit his lip and held his sobs.
“One. More. Sound.” He held eye contact with Michael for a long moment.
“Please! We just want our sister,” John spoke up, intending to deflect attention from his brother.
The older boy rose slowly to his full height, moving directly in front of John and staring down at him once more.
“Pan has your sister, and he left you to us until you’re useful.”
Before John could finish his sentence, the back of the older boy’s hand had struck his face hard, snapping his head to the side and sending his glasses flying across the circle. One of the younger boys whooped with glee and fetched John’s glasses, only to return them on the tip of a spear, one lens hopelessly cracked.
“Well I just hate to break up this love-fest, but—“
The boys spun around at the sound of the amused, eerily high-pitched voice. Rumpelstiltskin leaned against a tree just at the border of the clearing. His scaly gold skin sparkled in the firelight as he smirked at them. With a giddy little hop, he strode among the dumbfounded boys, chucking John on the chin and ruffling Michael’s hair with little concern for the spears pointed at him.
“I’m looking for a boy.” He looked around and giggled maniacally before giving a wave of his hand. “A very particular boy. My son.”
The boy in the baseball jersey recovered fastest, “Ain’t no sons in Neverland. Only Lost Boys.”
Rumpelstiltskin’s head snapped around faster than a snake could strike, his eyes narrowing dangerously. With a mere gesture of his hand, five or six of the spears that had been resting harmlessly at the outside of the circle rose up and stilled for one brief moment in the air before piercing the boy at once from all directions, spraying the boys around him with his blood. His eyes remained wide even as his body slumped to the ground, dead.
Rumpelstiltskin was momentarily motionless. His face maintained a grin, although fierce pain burned through his body. When the pain receded, he spoke, “Now, let’s try this again, shall we? My son. His name is Baelfire.”
A voice from above floated down, “There is no Baelfire in this camp.”
The boys bowed their heads and put a fist to their chests with respect as Rumpelstiltskin turned his face up to view a teenage boy in green floating down from the night sky. “And you do not belong on my island.”
As soon as the boy landed, hands on his hips, Rumpelstiltskin approached, his eyebrows high. This boy was unaffected by his magic—a new and unsettling experience . Still, the boy’s mind could be read.
Rumpelstiltskin drew himself up and said, “Either you give me my boy or I will rip your precious tree limb from limb,” Pan’s face remained impassive but his nostrils flared slightly, revealing his tell. Rumpelstiltskin pressed on with giddy confidence, “And then I shall turn this entire island into one very large bonfire. I’m sure you and your Boy Scout troop will enjoy that.”
He finished on another unsettling giggle.
Pan scowled at him for a long moment before lifting an eyebrow and curling up one corner of his lips; he looked behind Rumpelstiltskin.
When Rumpelstiltskin looked around, he saw that all sizes of human shadows, apparently controlled by this child, had moved directly behind him. He quickly turned back to Pan, but his vision was obscured by only more shadows. He was surrounded.
Pan’s voice carried through the shadows, playful even in his threat, “You will leave this island, and if you ever return I will make sure you suffer.”
Rumpelstiltskin scoffed, “With your shadows and lies? Don’t make me laugh, boy.”
Pan’s hand reached through the shadows and grabbed Rumpelstiltskin by the throat before he could even draw breath. His face was twisted with rage.
“Pan never lies!”
“So my son is not among your Lost Boys?”
Holding Rumpelstiltskin’s throat still, Pan twisted him around to get a better view of the boys standing stock still in front of the flames, then pushed him toward them roughly.
“Do you see him? These are all my Lost Boys—even my newest recruits.”
John and Michael stared wide-eyed at Rumpelstiltskin and Pan. Rumpelstiltskin considered them for a moment before turning his gaze back to Pan. Calmly, he said, “Peter Pan never lies and The Dark One never breaks a deal. So, let’s make one.”
The shadows that had lingered around him were dispersed with another wave of Pan’s arms.
“I’ll stay away from your little island of horrors as long as my Baelfire—my blood—is safe from you.”
A broad grin spread across Pan’s face as he extended his hand. “Deal.”
Rumpelstiltskin choked and gasped as he thrashed on the ground. Belle knelt beside him to brush the sweat-soaked hair from his brow.
“Henry. My blood. He broke the deal,” he muttered in surprise.
His eyes wide, Rumpel shot up into a sitting position.
“Baelfire. Henry. My Bae. My blood. My Bae’s boy,” he rattled off, delirious.
Grasping his hand, Belle hushed him, “Shh. It’s ok, Rumpel. It’s going to be ok.” He slumped down against her, seeking her comfort, still muttering to himself.
As the sun began to rise, Belle faded into the mist once more and Rumpelstiltskin remained, sweaty and fevered on the forest floor, his voice breaking as he cried his son’s name over and over.
harming decided that the theme of today was ‘awkward silence’. He and Neal had shared uncomfortable silence for hours before the rest of their party returned in an awkward silence all their own.
He had been relieved to see his wife and daughter and even to see that they had managed to rescue Regina. He could not help but wonder about what had happened to her in The Fields, especially when he saw her long braided hair and unusual clothing, but he held his silence as Emma and Tink practically carried her up the ladder and laid her in a hammock. Regina seemed worryingly docile and let them lead her as they would.
Now, hours later, she seemed to have recovered some of her – “spirit”.
“Hold still you over-grown juvenile delinquent, unless you want me to fuse your shoulder together permanently,” she growled as she worked to magically heal Neal. Based on the faces he was making, Charming assumed that her methods, while perhaps effective, did little to soothe the pain. He wondered whether that was borne of necessity or spite. Perhaps a bit of both. He had never seen her act in a gentle, soothing manner with anyone other than Henry.
She huffed dramatically as she shook her head, “I’m not a trained healer, and even magical healing is very complicated.”
Neal clenched his eyes shut and hissed as Regina moved her hands over his wounded shoulder, purple magic flowing from her fingers. She had already healed the rest of the party’s wounds.
The rest of the party save David himself, that is.
With almost a full day having passed since the others had left, the poison had progressed to the point that David was mostly calcium stone now, a rough-hewn statue with a heartbeat.
The pain had eased enough for Neal to exhale a shaky breath and then study Regina’s face as she continued to work, sweat beading on her forehead from the fatigue of healing the group. Neal pressed his lips together in a grim line before speaking.
“I’m sorry, you know,” Regina hummed inquiringly without taking her eyes off her work. “That you went there. It isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.”
Regina met his eyes briefly before moving her hands down to his knee and replying stiffly.
“It isn’t something I care to talk about.”
“I understand that,” Neal spoke with calm sincerity. His tone brought Regina’s eyes up to meet his own.
“I’m sure you do.”
Neal held her eye contact as he continued, “I was here for a long time. It leaves a mark, a scar. The kind of scar I would never wish on anyone. Not you. Not Emma. Especially not Henry.”
Regina’s jaw clenched as she returned her gaze to his knee and resumed her work. After a moment, she spoke quietly but with agitation, “If you cared so much about them, maybe you shouldn’t have abandoned them. Left a seventeen year old to suffer for your petty crimes. A pregnant seventeen year old — because a puppet told you to.”
Her fingers twisted suddenly drawing a yelp from Neal as the purple magic flared brightly around his knee. David tried hard to disapprove.
Neal’s voice rose in both pain and anger as he rebutted, “If I could turn back time, don’t you think I would? Wouldn’t you? Don’t you want to go back and change at least a few things?”
Regina shook her head, “Wanting something doesn’t mean you get it. There are a few laws of magic that cannot be broken. You can’t force love. You can’t bring back the dead. And you can’t turn back time.”
David watched as Regina stoically worked and his mind conjured the image of her reanimated love in the stables. Despite her seeming lack of emotion as she repeated the rules of magic, he remembered the agonized pleas she had spoken that day.
Neal nodded fervently, “I know that so I – we – have to work on changing the future. For Henry.”
Regina’s hands stilled as her face crumpled into the same haunted expression David had seen that day in the stable.
“Henry is the only good thing I’ve ever done.” She whispered the words, but they filled the treehouse as if she had shouted them.
Neal reached out and grasped one of her hands. Regina’s gaze rose to meet his, eyes full of unshed tears. Neal squeezed her hand and nodded, “Me too.”
David watched as Emma rose from rubbing her recently healed feet to crouch beside them, adding her hand to theirs like a team huddle, “Me three.” They both looked at her, pleased with the newest addition, “So what do you say we go get him back and take him home.” Emma offered them both a big, old fashioned contagious Swan smile.
Blinking rapidly, David lamented his inability to move. His family needed him in this moment, and he was powerless to join them or contribute in any way. He had never felt less of a hero and prince than he did right then.
Snow stood staring out the roughly cut hole in the wall that served as a window. She twisted the ring he had chased her to reclaim long ago around and around her finger, as she always did when she was worried.
Without warning, a man clad all in black appeared at Snow’s side, pressing himself tightly against her from behind. David’s heart raced and he desperately willed his lips to move, to sound the alarm, but stopped suddenly, in utter shock, as the man turned and he saw his own face. Shaking his head, David looked again, suddenly recognizing the imperfections that differentiated him from his twin brother—the prince he had once pretended to be. It was Prince James to the rescue, whole and healthy. A true hero to round out their party while David sat helplessly turning to stone.
He blinked rapidly and James was gone. David cast his eyes around desperately trying to understand whether he had seen the man at all. It was impossible, surely. His brother was long dead.
Snow’s voice brought him back to their current predicament.
“Why can’t you heal him, Regina?” Snow asked. David looked at her, confused as to who she meant until he saw her turn weepy eyes toward him, “Surely there must be something.” He heard the desperation in her voice. His Snow would cling to whatever hope could be offered until she was told that there was nothing left. Even then, he knew, she would try anything to save him. He longed to draw her into his arms and comfort her.
Regina sighed. “I am basically shoving my magic into your flesh to force it to heal. It’s rudimentary at best. I trained in dark magic, with the Dark One and Maleficent; I don’t know how to heal. To do light magic.”
Snow turned without pause, “What about you, Tinkerbell? You were a fairy.”
“And I’ve been de-fairied,” she shrugged apologetically. “I ‘ve no fairy dust, no wand, no way of helping.”
For the first time since returning, Hook spoke up, “What about a potion of sorts?”
He had a determined frown that looked as though he was drawing together various strands of knowledge, “I may have an idea but I don’t know how to make it work. I’m a brigand, not an alchemist.”
Emma frowned, “Alchemy? Like the show Henry likes?”
“Not exactly,” Regina replied, “Potions are delicate, like chemistry. At the very least, I would need a solution of various items, such as a mermaid scale (since the disease is mermaid-borne), a sample of the original poison and—“ she shook her head regretfully, “some sort of strong magical catalyst to dissolve the items into—I just don’t have it.”
Hook smirked, his cocky pirate swagger returning, “And what if I told you that there is a powerful magic here on the island—the waters that men have coveted for years. The ultimate answer to death.”
“The Fountain of Youth?” Regina scoffed, “The rum has finally rotted your brain. It’s a myth.”
Neal joined in excitedly, “No. No, it’s really not. I’ve been there.”
Emma laughed mirthlessly, “You’ve been to the Fountain of Youth?! Are you freaking serious?”
Neal grinned at her, “How do you think I’ve stayed so boyishly handsome all these years? It’s here in Neverland. Pan’s dirty little secret.” He turned to Regina, “If you had that do you think—“
She interrupted him, contemplating as she nodded, “Maybe. It’s a start. I don’t have my usual supplies, but—“
“There’s hope,” Snow smiled tearfully at them.
“But only if I can get my hands on the water and—“ Regina tried to stand as she spoke, but became lightheaded and faltered as she rose. Emma, forever vigilant on watching Regina, stepped in behind to catch and hold her up.
“Nope,” Emma stated firmly, clutching from Regina’s arms in her hands. “No more adventures for you right now, Your Majesty. You just used up all your mojo patching us up.”
“I can do it,” said Neal.
They all turned to look at him. He pushed himself to his feet using the wall to assist him and gingerly tested his weight on his knee. Satisfied, he stepped forward.
“We have to get Henry out of here, and to do that we really need everyone. So I can go get the water. I know the way. I’ve done it way too many times to count.”
Hook pressed himself forward as well, “As have I.”
David looked between them rapidly as they sized one another up. Seemingly satisfied to bury the hatchet for the moment, Neal turned back to Emma.
“It’s a hike, but I think we can get there and back pretty fast.”
“And the rest of us should just what—wait?” Snow wrung her hands at the thought that there was nothing she could do to save her prince.
“Sometimes it’s all there is to do, love,” Hook replied gently.
nce, when Henry was five, he had decided to make his mother mud pies from her garden after a fresh spring rain. He had proudly packed together the clumps of earth and called her outside to present them to her.
She had shaken her head ruefully and taken photos of his dirt—smeared cheeks as he proudly held up one of his masterpieces. Then she had hosed him off outside before he could even come in to get his bath. It was probably the dirtiest he had ever been.
Henry’s skin crawled with bugs—real or imagined he could not tell. He scratched his head with dirty fingernails.
He was no dirtier than the other boys, but Henry was not accustomed to this at all.
Mud pies notwithstanding, Henry’s mom had insisted that he bathe every single day—despite his protests most days that he was truly not dirty.
When he was little, his bath times were the settings of grand adventures. His fleet of toy boats would sail through the perilous, bubble-filled seas. His action figures would stage grand rescues of their comrades whose ships had capsized, leaving them stranded.
But his favorite bath game was to see how many times in the course of one bath he could splash his mom. No matter how drenched she got, his mom never got mad at him about it. Not even the time that he sneaked his Super Soaker in under the bubbles and soaked her whole shirt. She had stared at him dumbfounded for a full minute and he was sure she was drawing herself up to yell.
Instead, she burst out laughing. Flooded with relief, he caught the giggles as well and they laughed together until their tummies ached.
He and Emma had laughed together too when he sneak attacked her with the same Super Soaker outside the sheriff station one day after school. She had chased him and threatened to throw him off the pier. After stopping to purchase and fill a package of water balloons, they had an intense water fight, picked up ice cream cones, and dripped cheerily on a park bench talking about their day.
That night when he got home, his mom had fed him hot soup and made him take a bath “because that idiot had gotten him chilled.”
Despite her apparent irritation, she checked on him three times that night and each time he pretended to be asleep, but he felt her carefully tuck the covers around him.
Henry swatted at a bug that squashed against his jeans and grimaced at how gross it was to have Neverbug guts all over him, wiping his hand on the log he sat on.
“Henry,” Pan’s voice caused him to look up.
Pan walked toward him and with a serious expression dropped the tattered remnants of a red leather jacket on the ground at his feet.
Henry reached out to touch it as he croaked, “No.”
Pan shook his head with feigned regret, “There are no adults in Neverland. Not for very long.”
Henry stared in disbelief as he picked up the jacket and held it out in front of him.
“It’s a lie,” Henry was too upset to be embarrassed that his voice cracked badly on the last word, “A trick. It can’t be real.” His eyes never lifted from the jacket so he did not see Pan’s face harden.
Pan growled, “Pan does not lie,” his eyes alight with malice but the danger was lost on Henry, whose head was spinning with grief.
Henry brought the jacket to his face. The smell of smoke and blood were thick upon it. Emma. If Emma was—if she was—that meant. . . She had come for him and she had—she had—
Barnaby put a hand on Henry’s shoulder from behind, “Chin up, mate. You’ve got us.”
Amir approached on the left, “You are with us—blood brothers—Lost Boys.”
Seamus stood to the right, “Better than family. We never lie. We never leave. We never say no. We are free!”
Cody stepped up beside him, “Free to be! Free to be! We are Lost Boys!” he roared.
Nate and Aaron in unison said, “We need to cheer him up.”
Jalen piped up, “A hunt! A hunt for our new boy!”
The others joined him in chanting, “Hunt! Hunt!”
Pan watched the boys pull Henry up from the log and away into the woods, dropping the jacket as he went.
The moment the boys disappeared into the tree line, his face broke into a devilish smirk.
ook led the way through the jungle. Despite the lack of a discernable path, both men strode forward with full confidence in their heading. The hike thus far had been quiet as they listened for the potential threats they knew could be waiting to ambush them from every side.
Breaking the silence, Neal said, “So, I couldn’t help by notice that Tink’s place is, like, made up of your old boat.”
“Ship,” Hook corrected, “And aye, The Jewel.”
When Hook did not continue, Neal asked, “So what’s the story behind that? I mean, I thought you were pretty attached to it.”
“It’s a long story.”
“It’s a long hike.”
Hook sighed. This was a story he did not care to think about, let alone share with others. Somehow, though, whether as a part of his determination to be a better person, for the memory of the woman he loved who was also Neal’s mother, or due to his own guilt at the part he played in Neal’s difficult journey, he felt obliged to answer.
He took a long pull from his flask to muster his courage before he began.
29 Years Ago
Hook and Tinkerbell stood side by side on a Neverland beach, surrounded by Lost Boys. The moon had reached its apex and torches encircled the area with flickering orange light.
Tink hissed from the side of her mouth, “This is a part of your plan?”
“Of course, Love.”
“Hook!” cried Rufio – the teenage leader of the Lost Boys; Pan’s lieutenant. The other boys stopped to watch what the older boy would do.
Hook’s lips curled into a hungry grin. He gave a polite nod to his companion, “If you’ll excuse me, Miss Bell.”
He stepped forward, drawing his cutlass as he approached the boy, taunting him with the Lost Boys chant, “Rufio, Rufio, Rufio” until the spiky—haired teen leapt forward, his own sword extended.
Hook allowed the boy to take the offensive position, parrying each thrust with ease. His counteroffensive threw the boy off balance and they continue to dance, sand flying beneath their feet as they shuffled and lunged.
The longer their duel continued, the more fatigued and desperate to gain ground Rufio became. He launched himself forward, his sword flying rapidly and forcing Hook to drop back to a defensive position. Hook stumbled in the sandy terrain and fell to one knee.
Rufio smirked broadly as he went in for the kill. As he raised his sword high and prepared to bring it down, striking the killing blow, Hook pulled the dagger from his boot and slashed wildly at Rufio’s torso, cutting him deeply across the belly.
Rufio’s jaw dropped open as the sword fell from his hand and he pressed both hands to his mid—section, desperately trying to hold himself together even as he fell to his knees, and then collapsed, dead.
As one, the Lost Boys cried out and rushed forward to avenge their fallen leader.
Hook stood and shouted, “Now would be good, Miss Bell!” as he raised his cutlass to fight.
Tinkerbell threw down a large handful of pixie dust which blossomed into a roiling green cloud of smoke and fire. The blast caused by the smoke cloud echoed all over the island like the grand finale of a fireworks display.
Taking advantage of the diversion, Hook and Tinkerbell ran for the Jewel of the Realm. They scurried about the deck drawing in the anchor and preparing to sail. Hook unfurled the magical feathered sail that will allow them to fly home and took the wheel.
“Straight on till morning, Love!”
But before the ship could depart, Pan’s voice cried out, “Now, Lost Boys!”
The ship began to ascend toward the clouds as a flurry of flame—tipped arrows hit the hull, the deck, and the magical sail setting fires on deck. The reverberating boom of cannon—fire joined the cacophony – the Lost Boys were firing cannons stolen from the Jewel over the years. Cannonballs rocked the ship as they blasted through her hull.
Tink dove to avoid a cannonball that splintered the deck, leaving a gaping hole as the ship lurched beneath her feet. Holding on by her fingers, she rolled as the deck slid and fell off the side. She flailed in the air as she managed to grab a rope from the fallen rigging and desperately held on.
She struggled to put hand over hand, trying to climb back on deck as the ship continued to ascend. A quick glance below her was enough to let her know that while she would likely survive a fall, it would not be without significant pain.
The cannonballs continued to buffet the ship, which violently shuddered and slowed until it was barely moving at all.
Finally taking notice of her screams, Hook leaned over the wheel to see her dangling below.
“Pull me up, Killian!”
He made his way carefully over to the hole and smirked while running the rope through his hook as though preparing to pull her up before shrugging, “Sorry, Love. Dead weight.”
He smiled and waved before cutting the rope and watching as Tinkerbell screamed and plunged into the ocean below.
“Wow. No wonder she hates your guts.” Neal sounded disgusted.
Hook turned around with his eyebrow cocked, “I said I deserved the slap, didn’t I?”
“She could have died.”
Hook dismissed this with a wave of his hook, “The Lost Boys fished her out.”
“That’s even worse!”
“Well, she wouldn’t have been much better off with me. The ship was falling to pieces. I made it out of Neverland, but only just.”
The night air was cold and harsh and though he fought with all his might, Hook could not keep the Jewel’s heading straight. She was going down. The Pegasus sail that was his only way of escaping Neverland had burned almost entirely.
He wrapped himself around the wheel as what was left of the Jewel fell from the sky and landed roughly in the sea. In the moment before he plunged into the freezing water, he registered that he had managed to steer her to a different realm.
He had no opportunity to celebrate, however, as his ship sank around him, sucking him down into the frigid depths. He tried with waning energy to swim to the surface, but his heavy leathers added significant weight and with water temperatures this low, he knew that it was only a matter of time before he would die of hypothermia.
Adding to his misery, the brackish sea water had already coated his mouth, throat, and sinuses.
As his lungs burned and his tired arms ceased swimming he realized that today would see the end of the Jones line. If he could have talked, he would have used his last words to curse the sea bitch one last time.
Darkness crept in obscuring his vision as tiny red lights popped in front of his eyes and even as he lamented escaping Neverland just to die here, he was at least pleased to continue the grand pirate tradition of going down with his ship.
When he felt arms wrap around him from behind, he knew it was the end.
“Oh, come on! Bullshit!”
Hook placed a hand over his heart and feigned deep offense, “Really, I’m telling the tale of my near death and you scoff?”
“You’re saying you were dying in the icy ocean, but you’re still here.”
“I never said I didn’t have help. An angel of the sea, Lad. For whatever reason, an angel of the sea took me from the icy deep and brought me to providence.
29 Years Ago
Most of what Hook experienced was sensation rather than tangible thought. He felt cold with occasional moments of warmth before things went black again.
When he eventually awoke more substantially, he felt the sun beating down on him as he lay in the sand. He smelled fresh sea air. His first thought was, “Hell is not as bad as I expected”.
He cracked one eye open and saw nothing but blue sky above him. He opened the other and groaned. He had somehow survived Neverland, his ill—fated inter—realm flight, and the sinking of his ship. He just had no idea how.
When he tried to sit up, a pair of hands gently pressed him back down. He tried to focus as a silhouette swam into view above him. The hands on his chest were soft, a gentle touch.
Fiery red filled his eye line.
Not Milah. The pain of remembering her loss was far more overwhelming than the pain currently wracking his body.
He groaned and the mysterious person gently touched his face. He blinked and stared – cataloguing the face of his rescuer. A gentle, sweet face with large blue eyes wearing a necklace of bits and bobs smiled back at him. Hook glanced down and saw the tail. A merperson, but unlike any he’d seen before.
He croaked, his throat still raw from the sea, “Angel? An angel of the sea.” He was breathless, awed. “You saved me. Why?”
His ginger savior gave an impish smile and shrugged, reaching down to touch his face once more.
He closed his eyes and leaned into the touch.
“How can I thank you?”
The merperson smiled at him brightly before leaning down and kissing him. Immediately, the chill of the frozen water left his bones as he felt warmed from within as though the lips against his had spread sunshine through his entire body. His eyes closed as he returned the kiss. For the length of several heartbeats, he felt more alive than he had since he lost Milah. When the lips left his, he opened his eyes again to find that his savior had gone. He didn’t even know their name. He flopped back onto the sand.
“You’re kidding me. A redhead mermaid rescued you?”
Hook gave him a dirty grin, “I’m very rescue—able.”
Neal rolled his eyes, “For fuck’s sake.”
egina rested against the wall looking exhausted from her magic use.
Although Tinkerbell had only known her for a short time many years before, it was clear to her that Regina’s magical powers had grown significantly. It seemed that she had even taken an apprentice – Emma Swan.
“Focus, Miss Swan. You have to remember that emotions are the beginning, intent is the middle, and follow through is the end. Feel your emotions. Your hope, your love, and let it flow through you. From your heart, through your chest and shoulders, down your arms and out your fingers. Know your intent, what you want to do. You want to change that apple into a stone. Will it to harden, visualize it turning gray then push that will, that vision, out of your hands and to the apple.”
Emma stared intensely with her hand outstretched. Everyone watched silently as the apple rocked for a moment before stilling.
Snow was quick to attempt to comfort Emma in the face of her failed magic lesson. “It’s okay, honey. You don’t have to rely on magic,” she soothed, “There are—“
Emma wheeled around, “Yes! Yes, I do! David is turning into a statue. Henry is with some Tim Burton meets Rob Zombie nightmare forest gang, and we—“ she gestured around the treehouse, including the entire group present, “Are stuck in a tree house waiting on my ex and a one handed pirate to bring us magic water. I think this is definitely the time to rely on freaking magic.”
During her speech, the apple had begun to violently quake and shudder until it exploded. Bits of apple flew all over the tree house and its occupants.
“Yikes!” Tinkerbell said in unison with Snow’s exclamation of “Emma!”
Emma stomped her foot, “Damn it!”
Preempting any further attempts to derail her training, Regina stood and strode across the tree house.
“You see. Emotions, intent and follow through. You tapped your emotions, but when you lost your temper you lost sight of your intent. Your follow through—“ Regina picked a piece of apple out of her hair with a grimace, “While a little over—enthusiastic, is something you can learn to control with time.”
Appreciating the humor far more than Snow’s coddling, Emma gave Regina a crooked grin, “Well, if we need apple sauce anytime soon, we know who to go to.”
Regina gave a wry smile, “You’ll be invaluable when cider—making season starts. Henry likes to ‘moosh’, his word not mine, them in the press after I cut them up. Your theatrics would help the ‘mooshing’ along.”
Emma felt a warm burst of emotion in her chest at the mental image of spending family time with Regina and Henry making cider. She beamed as she affirmed, “I would be the best moosh—er ever!”
Emma picked a piece of apple off of Regina’s shoulder and popped it in her mouth, much to Regina’s disgust.
“Tell me you don’t make the kid wear an apron.”
Rather than answer, Regina pursed her lips but they still curved up slightly at the sides.
“You do! My kid in an apron!” A look of horror crossed Emma’s face and she asserted, “You’re not making me wear one!”
Regina smirked at her, “Not even if I have ‘Savior’ embroidered on it? We can get you any color you like. ‘Tacky jacket’ red or ‘death trap on wheels’ yellow.”
“Hey!” Emma exclaimed, but she still smiled brightly, enjoying the banter.
Regina gave her a soft smile full of wistful promise.
She quickly schooled her features into a less revealing expression, but Tinkerbell had recognized that smile. It was the same smile that the young queen used to give her. She felt a twist in her gut despite the many years of distance and turned back to the arrows she was fletching. Perhaps it would hurt less if she did not see the obvious flirtation between them.
Regina led them back into the lesson, “Now, Miss Swan, again. Though this time, let’s try something else.” Pulling a dagger from her boot she stepped forward and set it on the table before Emma. “Make a copy of my dagger.”
“When did you get a dagger?” Snow interjected.
“What are you going to do with it, anyway?” David scoffed, though his words sounded muddled.
Regina chuckled darkly then turned and tossed the dagger across the room. Snow shrieked as it impaled the pear she’d been about to bite and stuck it to the wall.
Regina smirked. “So a copy of the dagger, Miss Swan.”
Snow scowled at Regina, who gestured for her to pull the dagger out of the wall and hand it over. Snow rolled her eyes, but complied with the unspoken instruction.
“Yes, because obviously you need to be more deadly.”
Tinkerbell began to say something but remained silent when her gaze caught David staring into space. He was mostly paralyzed now by the poison but had been present and conscious to this point. Now his eyes were glassy as he stared at nothing and his lips moved repeatedly. It looked like he was trying to say “James”. She fetched a dipper of water and took it over to him giving her an excuse to get close.
She glanced around before she poured the water into his mouth while whispering, “It’s not real.”
He looked her in the eye, startled that she had noticed. He swallowed the water before whispering, his eyes desperate, “How do you know?”
She covered his hand with her own before thinking that he likely could not feel it and pulling back. “It’s one of Neverland’s tricks. Ignore it.”
His voice broke as he murmured, “How?”
Tink sighed as she stole a glance at Regina, intent on Emma’s training.
“Just think of something – anything – else. Eventually they will fade away.”
Tinkerbell sighed again as she thought of the many times she had seen Regina throughout her years in Neverland. She gave a sad smile, “For a while.”
o you were back in the Enchanted Forest, safe and sound?”
“No. I was somewhere else.”
29 Years Ago
Hook walked through the marketplace in awe – it was overwhelmingly large. Each vendor he passed cried out in foreign tongues. The air smelled of exotic spices and tantalizing food being cooked. He had visited this market once before as a young Navy Crewman. His second voyage away from home. He’d sent his mother dried dates, apricots and tales of a land where the sun and sand were endless and carpets flew – Agrabah.
Despite the many years between visits, he felt no less excitement. The thrill of the crowd was intoxicating, although he wished that he was better able to blend in. His heavy black leathers drew attention from the crowd and absorbed the blistering sunlight. The natives wore loose, light garb that he envied.
His walk through the marketplace ambled as he pondered what his next move should be. It was absolutely vital that he attain coin, and in order do that, he would need to pull out all the stops in the profession he knew best – piracy.
Directly ahead of him and above the market was the white and gold palace. His face split in a wide grin as a plan came together in his mind.
“Let me guess,” Neal groaned, “You disguised yourself as a prince and tried to woo the princess.”
“Of course not. What kind of rubbish is that?”
29 Years Ago
Sneaking into the palace had been no challenge at all for a man of his skills. They had practically invited him in by making it so easy. What kind of palace allows a thief to enter merely by climbing the wall and knocking out a few guards? It was easy pickings. He quickly found the treasury and began to load up. A jeweled tiara. A gold lamp that, oddly enough, had been given pride of place on an embroidered pillow.
Hook turned slowly, expecting to see another guard. His jaw dropped open when instead he saw a beautiful young woman who was definitely no native of Agrabah. He nodded his head respectfully and gave a charming grin.
“I haven’t had the pleasure, Love.”
She was completely unamused, ‘And you won’t. I have a buyer for the lamp so hand it over.”
He shrugged and drawled, “Honor among thieves, I suppose.”
“I’m not a thief,” she snapped.
Holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender he said, “Could have fooled me, Love. Well, if not a thief, what do you call yourself?”
He dangled the lamp from his hook and she snatched it off and shoved it in her pack. She glanced up from beneath her lashes and smirked.
“A jack of all trades.”
Before Hook could parry in their verbal repartee, shouts sounded down the hall. He had no idea what they were saying but he was fairly sure it meant they needed to get out of there.
“Time to go,” he extended an arm as though to allow her to lead the way.
Instead, Jack shoved him so that he fell backward into the treasury and flashed him a wicked grin before taking off running.
Hook scrambled to his feet and chased after her.
“Not good form!”
“There is no honor among thieves.”
“I thought you weren’t a thief.”
“Neither are you, Hook.”
“Ah! My reputation precedes me.”
Ahead was a junction where they needed to decide to turn left or right. Hook had come in from the right, but as he slid to a stop in the intersection of the hallway, four guards wielding spears came barreling down that hallway so they quickly turned left instead. After a few yards the hallway opened up into a garden with a large, ornate fountain. A lady and a tiger sat alongside the fountain.
“Lady!” Hook warned at the same time Jack shouted, “Tiger!”
The woman, a princess with a jeweled headband, stared at them with wide eyes.
“Thieves! Aladdin, stop them!”
A man, dressed like a commoner, rushed toward them. Jack drew her sword and he backed away. Killian snatched the princess’s headband. Jack laughed as they sprinted toward the wall and clambered up and paused on top.
Panting, Jack turned to face the garden and said, “Cherish this day, oh Guards of Agrabah, as the day that you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow.”
Then with a rakish wink, she jumped off the top of the wall. Hook grinned at her retreating form before giving the guards a cheeky salute with his hook and following.
Despite her bravado, their chase was far from over as the guards continued to chase them through the winding marketplace. Jack and Hook competed to see who could set off the greatest diversions by causing utter chaos among the stalls.
He knocked down an entire cart of fruit, causing a few guards to fall down.
She opened a pen full of chickens, who flew into the faces of the guards still in pursuit.
A snake charmer was directly in their path. Jack jumped over the snake basket, but Hook, a few steps behind her, got a devilish smirk and decided to toss the basket back at the guards. But in the motion of hoisting the basket overhead to gain momentum, he did not realize that the snake fell into his rucksack.
As they neared the bay, Jack put on extra speed to make it to the relative safety of her ship, the Heart Maiden.
The brush became thicker and heavier as Neal and Hook began to climb up toward the Fountain of Youth.
“So you just took off with a strange thief and sailed home?”
“More or less,” Hook grinned and shrugged, “Well, more toward the ‘less’ side.”
29 Years Ago
Hook awoke abruptly to the sound of cannon fire. He jostled Jack as he jerked up and then settled back in with salacious grin as he remembered where he was and who was wrapped around him. When the cannons grew louder, however, he sat up.
Jack peeked out the window of her captain’s quarters and groaned.
“Worse. King George’s Navy.”
Hook immediately stood, “Shit!”
They both scrambled to dress and arm themselves. Jack was in such a hurry that she left behind her magical compass. Hook eyed it for a moment – she had told him that she got it from someone who understood hearts and desires. He had replied that he knew a little something of desire, too, and then they…
A cannonball splashed the water close by and Hook slipped the compass into his pocket as Jack flew out on deck to steer the ship. Hook watched her disappear above and then quickly scooped the collected treasure they had looted into a chest.
Jack’s voice cried out from deck, “We’re out—gunned. Full sail. There’s not a ship in George’s fleet that can catch The Heart Maiden when she’s caught the wind and my map will show us the way to safety.”
She was about to crow victoriously when the ship lurched hard to port. Anchors had fallen into the water, dragging them down. A long boat fell too, with Hook in it. As the crew fought with the anchor chains, Jack leaned over the side and saw Hook rowing away with the treasure.
He grinned broadly, “Pirate!”
She slammed her hands down on the edge of her ship, “You’ve killed me! They’ll hang me for this!”
“No honor among thieves, Love!”
Jack’s reply was inaudible once the cannonballs began hitting the ship.
“So you left her there to die.”
Hook shrugged, “They fished her out.”
Neal shook his head, “A lot of your stories end like that. So King George killed her?”
As Hook cut through the leaves directly in front of them, the rocky path to their final destination was revealed.
“He wasn’t there. His son was, though. Prince James. Fine upstanding letch and womanizer he was, or so I heard.”
“So you sold the stuff and then what, bought the new ship?”
Hook nodded confirmation. “Met Jack’s buyer. Odd little man, jumpy. Too well dressed for the dive pub we met in. Said his wife arranged for Jack to take the lamp.”
29 Years Ago
As he entered the tavern, Hook looked around for his contact. Although the man was clearly taking steps not to be recognized, he could hardly be more conspicuous in a cloak that left his face in shadow. When Hook joined him at the table, he pushed back his hood. Hook was unaware of the politics of royalty in this part of the realm, or he would have recognized Henry Mills.
“So you take the lamp and we’re done?”
Brown eyes studied him closely.
“You’re not what I expected.”
Hook snorted, “Well, what were you expecting?”
The man shook his head, “With my wife, something far more…sinister.”
Hook grew impatient, “Look, Mate. Take the lamp, give me my money. I’ll throw in the snake for free.”
Hook rolled his eyes at the question, “All I want is the money. I have a ship to buy.”
“Buy?” Hook prepared to cut the man off again, but he held up a hand, “What if I told you I can get you the finest ship in the kingdom for free?”
Hook gaped for half a moment before chuckling, “I’d say you’re daft but I’m listening.”
The man had a calculating glint to his eye as he said, “Eva’s Radiance, have you heard of it?”
Hook choked on his rum. The man thumped him on the back. His eyes watering, Hook said, “You’re joking.”
The man shook his head, “All you have to do is make a little deal with me.”
Instantly cautious, Hook narrowed his eyes at the stranger, “You make a lot of deals?”
“When you’ve dealt with the demons that I have, it’s something you get used to.”
“Well, storytime is over.”
As Hook pushed back the leaves in front of him, the Fountain of Youth was revealed. The small stream quietly trickled over stones. Neal crouched to fill the water skin he’d carried. Hook cupped his hands and drank, giving a loud satisfied, “Ahhh!”
He turned and grinned at Neal, “Just one more for the road, eh.”
Neal merely shook his head and turned to start the long walk back.
an’s camp was silent. Nothing moved in the stillness. The Lost Boys had left for their hunt. Only he remained behind.
Felix had no interest in chasing boars. The other boys could go ahead and hunt them all as far as he was concerned. When he was new to Neverland, one of the older boys had told him that the island was teeming with animals. It always provided sufficient food supply for the inhabitants as their relationship was symbiotic in nature. Recently, the animals had not been reproducing in the numbers that once made them plentiful. When Pan became obsessed with his special tree, he neglected the needs of the island.
Felix sat in silence, sharpening his sword.
He smiled grimly at his leader as Pan approached him and gestured with his head for Felix to join him.
“Walk with me.”
They walked side by side in silence until Peter came to a halt in the grove with his special tree.
“You’ve been with me quite a while, Felix.”
Felix shifted uncomfortably. “Not so long.”
Peter put a hand on his shoulder and waited until Felix met his eye. “You’ve been a good second in command. Smart. Reliable. Trustworthy.”
Felix smiled broadly, “Thank y—“
Felix stiffened under Peter’s hand. “What do you mean?”
“I am Neverland, Felix. I see everything. I know everything.”
Felix laughed nervously, “Then you know that I am—“
Peter stopped him with a finger to his lips. “Peter Pan,” he whispered, “Does not lie.”
Felix nodded fervently, “No, never.”
Peter began to circle him. “So when I offered the fairy my protection and you made that filthy deal with her—you made me a liar.”
“I, no, wait!” Fear was truly flooding Felix now, “I’m just a boy.”
Peter tsked and said, “Boys do not look at women in that way. You’re not a boy. You are all grown up.”
Felix panicked. He knew what happened to grown-ups in Neverland all too well, “No!”
Pan smiled at him and growled, “Yes.”
The branches of the tree seemed to lengthen and reach out for Felix.
Peter continued to smile, though his expression had turned feral, hungry, “Do not fight it. Your shadow will live on, and your life will help Wendy and I.”
Felix stopped short, “The Wendy?”
Felix turned and saw the heart of Pan’s tree. Wendy Darling, exactly the same as she’d been so many years before, preserved in amber, floating, suspended in time and space, eyes open and fixed on some distant point. Small tubes ran in and out of Wendy, a new part of her circulatory system. She wasn’t just in the tree, she was the tree—and therefore one with Pan. She was the reason Neverland was dying. No mortal could live—or die—fused to Pan’s fantastic world without siphoning off its vitality. And although she would never run or frolic again like the little girl she was—or even breathe again—The Wendy was most certainly somewhere in between. Felix briefly wondered if her soul was at peace. He doubted it, though, how could it be, when she was forever only partly alive.
Felix never saw the knife coming. His eyes widened as he choked on his own blood. His throat was too full for him to scream when Pan ripped away his shadow. The tree took him, clawing and kicking, down into the soil.
Peter floated up and touched the amber above Wendy’s still face.
“Soon we won’t have to do this anymore. I found him. I finally found the boy. He has the heart of the truest believer. Then you’ll be back. You’ll be back with me. So many years, so many sacrifices, but Henry will fix it all. When I give you his heart, his life force, I will never have to worry about magic failing again. No more stealing magic and no more Home Office. Just you and I, and the most potent magic of them all, belief.”
drenaline pumped madly through Henry’s veins. He ran with the other boys, herding the boar, hunting it. He had never known real tangible excitement like this. At last he was the one in the midst of the action, not shuffled off to a babysitter while everyone else got to be heroes.
His heart pounded and he knew himself to be stronger than he’d ever been before. No longer was he the son and grandson of heroes – he was Henry Mills. Marksman. Hunter. Lost Boy.
As he pulled the bow off his back and nocked an arrow he hesitated. He had never killed before.
“Do it!” Amir whispered urgently so as not to alert the boar.
He exhaled as he released the bowstring and a moment later he heard the boar squeal. It wasn’t dead, but it was hit. One of the boys handed him a spear.
“Stick him, Henry! Kill it!” Jalen yelled.
He plunged the weapon forward and the pig shuddered and bled and shrieked, then it fell over dead and all the boys cheered.
They carried the pig, his prize, back to camp. They clapped him on the back and crowed. They were so proud of him that his chest puffed out.
His friends in Storybrooke had never respected and admired him like this. He felt like a hero.
Pan was waiting when they arrived back at camp with a huge smile and a slap on the back for Henry. He led the boys in a loud crow.
Some of the boys got the fire going and before long it sizzled and snapped as the pig roasted, filling the camp with the delicious smell of roast pork. The boys danced and whooped around the fire.
Henry watched them, his face stretched wide in a grin as they beckoned him to join. Their enthusiasm was infectious and, still sticky with blood, he joined them in the dance. He ripped off his shirt as the older boys had and whooped and crowed as he danced and jumped in the circle of his friends.
There was no Evil Queen. There was no Savior. There were no rules. There was no limit.
He was a Lost Boy now.
“I’m a Lost Boy!” he cried out proudly into the night, his voice bolstered by the excitement of his kill.
Long into the night, the boys ate roasted boar and danced and crowed. After some time, Pan handed Henry his pipe. Henry blew into the pipe furiously and the boys all cheered. Henry reveled in their cheers, and though he could not hear the pipe himself, he did not stop to wonder why.
He stood back watching the other boys dance around the flames that licked the night sky – the sparks glowing high above the tree tops.
n the quiet dark of the tree house, Tink, Snow, and Charming had long since fallen asleep. Hook and Neal had not yet returned.
And Emma and Regina stood at the window staring off into the distance. They could see embers dancing in the air from a far off fire beneath the full moon.
In a rare moment of vulnerability, Regina murmured, “Do you think he’s ok?”
Emma’s breath caught as she stared steadfastly out the window. The best reply she had to offer was, “I think we would know if he wasn’t.”
Regina’s eyes filled as she whispered, “I miss him, Emma. I miss our son.”
Emma’s heart clenched and she wished more than anything that she could fix this. For Henry. For Regina.
Aching, Emma slid her hand over windowsill and covered Regina’s hand with her own.
“He’s just a baby. He should be at home reading comics and sneaking ice cream.” For the first time during this conversation, she turned to meet Emma’s eyes, “If I lose him, truly lose him, I don’t know if I will survive. I don’t know if I want to survive, or even if I should.”
Emma ran her thumb soothingly over the back of Regina’s hand and held her gaze, “Don’t talk like that.”
“I would become the Queen again. Without Henry, I wouldn’t have anything.”
Emma sighed heavily, “Without Henry, I wouldn’t be the Savior either. I would go just as bad, just as crazy, just as fast. I gave him up once…I can’t do that again.”
Regina gave her a sad, soft smile, “So it’s settled then, save Henry, die trying, or burn the world down for revenge.”
Emma’s lip quirked upward, “Sounds like a plan.”
Regina’s smile was less sad now, “Operation Henry.”
Emma leaned closer and said, “Team Moms for the win.”
Regina’s smile widened and Emma felt warmth spread through her at the thought that she made Regina feel better in her darkest moment. Regina looked back out the window.
“He would like that.”
Emma sighed and watched the embers once again. “Yeah. Can’t wait to tell him all about it over burgers, fries, and shakes at Granny’s. I’ll make sure you get extra fries.”
Regina was silent a long moment before adding, “And a chocolate shake.”
They stood with their hands together on the windowsill listening as, in the distance, they both heard a tune faintly begin to play.
. . . To Be Continued in Episode 16
Total Word Count: 10060 words