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Ursula dies when Uma is 16.

There is no funeral.

No wake.

No mourning.

There are no tears for the woman. Not even from her own daughter.

Ursula’s body is cremated, ashes in an urn tucked down into the bottom of Uma’s knapsack that holds some of the girl’s clothes and the few other personal belongings she possessed. Around her neck, hanging like a heavy weight is her mother’s necklace.

Uma doesn’t know why she still keeps the damn thing. It’s tarnished and Ursula, when she wasn’t black out drunk or out with her male “friends”, always claimed the damn thing was cursed. But the shell shaped necklace is her mother’s and some small silly part of Uma clings on to it. Besides, Uma’s life had never been easy. She doubted a cursed necklace could make it any worse.

“Is there anything else you think you’ll need?”

Uma glances around the room. It’s a quaint little studio above a quaint little coffee shop in a quaint little seaside town. (The total opposite of the busy city street’s she was used to.) It’s not much, but it’s cleaner than the small two bedroom apartment in Harlem her mother had managed to find, and it’s furnished and it’s hers along with the coffee shop, Flotsam and Jetsam, beneath it.

Well, she thought, turning back to the man who was now her legal guardian for the next two years and her mother’s former partner (in business and other areas), it was half hers. 

“No,” she shakes her head pausing before muttering almost as an afterthought, “Thank you, Captain Jones.”

He laughs a bright hardy sound, and Uma can understand briefly how the man in front of her matches with the man her mother told her stories about when she was nostalgic and drunk on cheap wine and spirits. Uma never liked her mother drunk but the times when Ursula was nostalgic, always so soft and gentle and almost loving when she talked about this man were the worst because the next morning, after Uma was plagued by dreams filled with too tempting “what-ifs”, Ursula would wake up in a fouler mood than usual, cursing and hitting and spitting at anything in sight. 

Uma never knew she could hate a man she had never met until she met Killian Jones, dark eyes filled with pity for little lost girl Uma.

(She didn’t need his pity. She didn’t need anyone…)

“Killian is just fine, lass. And no need to thank me. You’re practically family,” he corrected her with a smile that even at his age would make most women and men swoon. Uma didn’t return it, instead she tossed her bag with everything she brought from New York onto the bed, beginning to unpack.

Sighing at the obvious dismissal, Killian couldn’t help but shake his head. Proud like her mother, he thought to himself before saying aloud, “I guess I’ll leave you to it. You have my number if you need anything.”

“I won’t,” Uma responded automatically before sighing and giving a bit more politer (though not by much), “I’ll be fine,” as she continued to unpack.

Knowing when he was unwanted, Killian said his goodbye before leaving the young woman to her own devices.

It wasn’t until Uma heard the door close behind him that she let out a deep sigh, flopping on to the bed and ignoring the way that some of the objects that she unpacked poked into her as she laid on top of them. She stayed that way for awhile, watching as the setting sun casted long shadows in the room, eyes closing when the exhaustion of the last few days caught up to her.

Chapter Text

Weeks had passed and just like the week before, and the week before that, and the week before that, Uma found herself falling into the mundane patterns of the quaint little coffee shop, in the quaint little seaside town.

Her day began with the chirping alarm of her old and slightly scratched flip phone. On the best days it pulled her from dreamless sleep and on the worst days knocked breath back into her waking stiff body as she struggled to breathe from nightmares that settled a numbness deep in her bones.

Several minutes would be spent staring at the ceiling, cataloguing the familiar sense of numbness and dread that ran through her body, weighing heavily on her chest, before she’d shuffle her way to the bathroom. The light bulb in the small bathroom had blown out a day after her arrival and she had yet to replace it, fumbling and cursing as she always stubbed her toe in the dark while getting ready.

Breakfast consisted of dry cheap, stale, and overly sugary cereal she had found in the cabinet from whomever rented the small apartment before her. By the time she was done, like clockwork, there would be a loud banging from below on the coffee shop’s back door until Uma finally came down and opened it, easily being pushed to the side by one of Killian’s daughters, either Harriet or CJ, with barely a “hello” or “good morning” before they began the opening process.

Working with Harriet and CJ was like working with forces of nature.

Harriet was commanding, solid, a no nonsense leader working the weekday morning shifts before her summer classes at the local community college. Mornings with Harriet were surprisingly a relief for Uma. Harriet didn’t pry or delve. Harriet didn’t ask annoying questions about Uma’s life before she got here. Harriet didn’t try to be friends with Uma.

The longest conversation that the two had was Uma’s first day when Harriet showed her around, bored expression looking only momentarily relieved when she realized that Uma had previous experience and she only needed to teach her the speciality drinks. For the most part, the two worked in relative silence, only speaking to each other when calling out an order during the busier periods or when one noticed a spill or a shortage of an ingredient.

CJ was a whirlwind, controlled chaos in a tiny blonde body working mostly the afternoon shifts when Harriet got off or the weekend morning shifts. Shifts with CJ were basically long one-sided conversations that never ended, branching off into several different conversations before an hour or two later returning back to the original topic. Uma had quickly realized that if she grunted and nodded every once in awhile as CJ talked - about the boat her dad had promised her, about her crazy Friday nights, about whatever girl she had a crush on, or whatever else came out during the blonde’s tangential stream of consciousness - she could usually get through the shift with barely a headache.

Though Uma would rather be anywhere else but here, the fast pace and familiar eb and flow of the coffee shop kept Uma preoccupied for most of her days. For the most part, she was able to forget the heaviness she felt in her chest, caught up in the drone of idle coffee shop chater and the whizzing sound of the many drink machines behind the counter. By the time she would be done with her last shift and close the cafe, Uma’s limbs would be so tired and heavy that she often flopped face first on her bed, patched and worn clothes and all.

Killian sent her text messages that she never replied to everyday, checking in on her, seeing if she needed anything, if she would like to come to family dinner...

Uma never answered them and if nothing else was extremely satisfied with seeing her new legal guardian as little as possible. She could totally avoid him for two years.

“Gonna head out now, Umie! Close up for me, will ya?” CJ called out already tossing her apron haphazardly at the apron hook as she quickly made her leave, only giving Uma enough time to roll her eyes at the ridiculous nickname before she was already out the door, the sun halfway set beyond the shop’s windows.

It was a Wednesday night, one of their slower ones where it seemed like even their regular customers who would stay until closing wanted to enjoy the nice summer night.

Though closing was Uma’s least favorite thing to do, she appreciated the quiet respite from CJ’s ongoing chatter. Today for some reason, Uma’s patience with the hyperactive blonde ran thin. All she wanted to do was go back upstairs to her little loft and just lie in bed staring up at the ceiling until sleep took her.

She bit her lip, playing with the chain of her mother’s necklace. Glancing around, the coffee shop was completely empty. She could close an hour early. After all, it was summer in this sleepy little town and unlike the city that she was used to, she quickly realized that the crowd died down by 5pm in the middle of the week, either to go home or to shuffle their way to the nearby diner or pub. And besides, if anyone asked she would just say she hadn’t been feeling well. Afterall, CJ and even Harriet had commented more than once how she looked like she was one strong gust of wind away from being knocked off of her feet.

Killian had given her enough money each week for groceries and even to splurge on a few things but the majority of her money went into the small little locked box that was tucked in a duffle bag with her mother’s urn. Once she turned 18, she was going to take the first bus out of this damn town.

Having just taken the keys off the hook in the back to lock the door, Uma heard the jingle of the bells above the door ring as someone entered. Sighing in defeat, Uma tossed the keys back on the hook. Work never ends for the wicked, she thought.

“What do you want?” she called out, retightening the strings of her apron as she made her way back to the counter.

“Yeh know what I want, Callie!” a voice growled back irritatedly.

“Callie ain’t here,” Uma crossed her arms, glaring at the startled expression of the customer practically leaning across the counter like he belonged there. Despite the warm weather, he wore a dark red leather jacket with the collar popped up framing his sharp cheekbones.

Ugh, bet he knows how pretty he looks, Uma had to refrain from rolling her eyes at the thick eyeliner around bright blue eyes and even she had to admit that he wasn’t horribly unattractive.

“Yeh ain’t CJ,” he frowned, the only clue to his confusion since his eyes were hidden behind a dark pair of sunglasses.

“I’m new,” Uma replied flatly crossing her arms. “Now are you gonna buy something or not?”

He grinned, watching her with a sort of off kilter grin that felt like it struck lightning in her bones.

“Don’t know,” he settled his chin in his hand looking at her with a look that was both mischievous and thoughtful. “Yeh have any coffee that’s as hot as you, darling?”

Uma’s face didn’t even twitch when she flatly replied, “So hot you’ll get burned if you look.”

If it was possible, his grin grew even wider. “Careful,” he chuckled. “Keep saying things like that and I may just fall in love with ya.”

“Order or go,” Uma growled. “I don’t have all night.”

He dug out some money from his jacket pocket, grin still on his features, and tossed it on the counter. “One latte to go, lass.”

Grabbing the money, Uma quickly gave him his change before turning to start his drink. As she fell into the familiar pattern of making a drink, she unconsciously began to hum. The sound was usually drowned out by the busy sounds of the cafe but quite loud now in the empty shop with only her audience of one. It was a song that she had heard CJ playing earlier on in the day and surprisingly Uma hadn’t hated it.  

When she turned around to hand over the latte his grin had softened into something a little less intense, a little less performed.

“What?” Uma asked defensively,  handing over his drink.

“Just thinking about what a lovely voice you must have, lass,” he winked before taking a sip of his drink. He hummed approvingly taking a step back towards the door. “This is good. Not what I wanted, but it’s good.”

“Then why didn’t you just order what you wanted?” Uma scoffed.

He grinned, taking another sip. “Now where’s the fun in that if yeh don’t even guess, Uma?” he chuckled before tipping an imaginary hat at her and then stepping out the door with a over exaggerated bow.

Uma rolled her eyes, locking the door soon after he was gone, prepared to start the closing process when she paused.

How the hell did he know her name?

Chapter Text

It didn’t take long for Uma to remember that her name was stitched on her apron, and days later, she had managed to push Mr. Pretty-Face from her mind...mostly.

(Sue her. She had eyes. She wasn’t blind.)

The alarm on her phone chirped to life, her hand instantly reaching out to fumble for it on the stand nearby. Once it was silenced, she closed her eyes momentarily against the rising sunlight that filtered in through her blinds, numbness and dread ever present companions weighing on her chest.

She had that dream again. That dream where her mother was alive, calling her degrading names while slowly choking the life out of her with long purple tentacles. Uma held her breath, to recreate the burning feeling in her dream but after nearing two minutes, she let go, letting the stale air of her loft fill her lungs again.

Uma sighed, momentarily clutching her mother’s necklace around her neck. “Let’s just get this fucking day over with,” she whispered to the room, stealing one more final moment before getting out of bed.

She entered the bathroom, the light still not working, only the already sparse sunlight from the next room able to come through. In here, tt was easy to forget the world outside hidden in the dark. It was easy to forget herself.

After her usual few minutes of fumbling around in the bathroom, it took her only minutes to get dressed and eating before making her way unhurriedly down the stairs just as the usual loud pounding on the door began.

“Geez, you’re going to break the damn door down,” Uma sighed as she unlocked the door, stepping back as Harriet entered. She was about to turn around and begin the opening process, just as they had always done for weeks now, when Harriet suddenly reached out, grabbing the back of her collar, and pulled her back with such force that Uma stumbled out of the door. At the last moment she caught herself before getting a face full of concrete.

She growled, about to snap at Harriet when a car horn startled her.

“GET IN THE CAR, LOSER!” CJ yelled leaning over to the driver’s seat of a yellow Beetle to hit the car horn again as Harriet turned back to lock the door. “WE’RE PLAYING HOOKY!”

Uma looked between the two sisters confused but she was given no time as Harriet grabbed her arm tugging her to the car.

“The less you struggle,” Harriet stated dully, opening the door to the car and pushing Uma inside, “the less painful your headache from her will be.”

“Hey! I heard that!”

Merely rolling her eyes, Harriet slammed the door behind Uma and got into the driver’s seat, quickly pulling out of the small alley and taking off down the narrow road.

---

Granny’s Diner looked like a two-story house where the first floor was cleared out to make a quaint little dinning space that fit into the aesthetic of this quaint little town. The owner herself, who everyone called Granny, was a much older woman with a sharp eye and even sharper wit that oddly fit into the town’s overall aesthetic of a small but bustling port town.

As she took a bite of a plain toasted bagel, sunlight fully filtering through the modestly filled diner, Uma wondered if there was anything in this town that wasn’t so fucking quaint.

“Geez, you’ve been so quiet all morning! You’re always so quiet Umie!” CJ pouted across the table from her, before cutting into her rather tall stack of pancakes that was drowning in syrup and whip cream. “You didn’t even say anything about the dresses or the awesome red leather jacket I bought!” she frowned, waving at the shopping bags at her feet from their early morning shopping trip.

“It’s hard to get a word in edgewise when you’re always running your mouth ya brat,” Harriet mumbled before taking a sip of her coffee. (“She likes it black like her soul,” CJ had muttered to Uma when Harriet didn’t add any sugar or cream to it.)

“Why are we doing this?” Uma asked bluntly, beginning to tear apart the rest of her uneaten bagel into small pieces that then went untouched on her plate. “I don’t want any trouble from your dad when he finds out we ditched work.”

“You say that like Daddy wasn’t the one who told us to get your ass out into some fresh air,” CJ said offhandedly before flinching at her slip. “Oops, you weren’t supposed to know that…”

Uma’s hand clenched. “So he’s trying to control me?” The phantom feeling of her mother’s tentacles from her dream seemed to wrap around her neck, squeezing.

Harriet put down her cup of coffee, leveling a glare at Uma. “No, he cares and wants to make sure you’re settling in okay.” The older girl casually threw an arm along the back of the side of the booth that she and CJ were sitting on. “But you wouldn’t know that because you don’t answer the texts he sends you. The least you could do, selfish little bitch.”

Anger boiled in her. They didn’t know anything! They didn’t know shit about her or what she’s gone through! They worked in the quaint little coffee shop in this quaint little town and didn’t know shit about the hardships that she had seen! That she had been through! CJ and Harriet had a father who obviously cared about them and despite their bickering Uma could see how close they were as well.

(She never had that. Never had someone who she could trust to have her back.)

“Fuck you,” she murmured quietly getting up quickly and making her way to the door.

CJ got up to follow her but Harriet tugged her sister back down by the back of her shirt. “Let her blow some steam off.”

Looking back and forth between her sister and the door that Uma just walked out of, CJ pouted, just as a cloud blocked the light of the sun streaming in. “But she didn’t even take the pretty jacket I bought for her.”

Chapter Text

 

If being dragged forcefully against her will across town to go shopping with Thing 1 (Harriet) and Thing 2 (CJ) was bad enough, standing under the awning of a random shop, then watching as rain poured heavily around her, as if the heavens went through a bad breakup, covering everything in gray was just the rotten cherry on top of this rotten day.

She wiggled her toes, feeling the water already seeping through her thin socks and the small crack on the worn sole of her left boot. She found her mind drifting off, minutes slipping by, listening to raindrops pounding relentlessly on the awning above.

Uma shivered, feeling like every gust of cold wind cut right through her already soaked clothes. She was deciding whether or not to just risk it - the likelihood of her getting sick high whether she stayed or not - when the door under the awning of the next shop opened, a head of dark hair sticking out to look at her.

“Um, excuse me. W-would you like to come in?” a girl, slightly older than Uma, asked brows furrowed in uncertainty.

Uma frowned at the girl’s kindness.

It must have been taken as anger though because the strange girl immediately began to backpedal, speaking quickly. “I mean, if you want to. You don’t have to but, um, yeah. You just...looked cold?” the girl finished lamely.

Seconds seemed to drag by before Uma nodded. “Thanks,” she murmured, as she moved towards the open door. The other girl stepped back, allowing her to step into the dimly lit shop immediately warmed her and filled her nose with the smell of sea salt and driftwood.

Uma oddly felt safe here.

“I’m Melody by the way,” her host introduced brightly, apparently having gained some confidence amongst the white porcelain plates and antique grandfather clocks and other odds and ins that filled the room.

“Uma,” she offered in return before letting out a loud train of sneezes.

“Oh my gosh!” Melody gasped, remembering Uma’s wet clothing. “Let me get you something dry!”

“You don’t-” Uma began but stopped as Melody hurried away to what Uma assumed was the back of the shop.

Too aware of her skin color amongst the treasure trove of priceless objects, Uma made sure to keep her hands in a visible place, eyes taking in the place as she heard Melody searched the back for dry clothing. Standing awkwardly in the middle of an aisle made up of hand carved, wooden furniture and dripping water onto a rug that Uma had the distinct feeling was worth more money than she ever had in a year, Uma felt like she had stepped into a space that was disconnected from the world outside.

There was a glass long case filled with neatly lined antique pieces of silver, a chipped teacup, sparkling jeweled necklaces that were just delicate looking enough to not look too gaudy, and an unfurled map, yellowed in age despite its otherwise intact shape. It was so different from the maps that she remembered seeing in her history book. The colorful illustrations of ships riding crashing waves, the four winds pushing the sails, and beautiful mermaids with colorful tails sat on a rock waving at the ship decorated the corners of the beautiful map. On closer inspection, it didn’t look like it depicted any place she had ever heard of before. Neverland, it read.

“So I had some clean leggings in my bag, oddly enough,” Melody grinned reappearing. She held up black leggings and a black shirt. “Didn’t have a shirt though but my boss sometimes let’s the other worker here spend the night in the back room. He and his dad..” she paused, shoulders sagging.”They aren’t on the best terms right now.”

Uma shifted uncomfortably, not knowing how to reassure this girl she had just met about someone she didn’t even know, her rain soaked clothes sticking to her skin, the chill settling in becoming more pronounce even in the warmer shop. She was the last person anyone should talk to about dealing with shitty parents. Thankfully, Melody broke the awkward silence with an embarrassed laugh before Uma’s silence became too uncomfortable.

“Geez, sorry. I’m talking about random people to you and you’re still soaking wet!” She handed the shirt over to Uma along with a towel and plastic bag for her wet clothes.

“Uh...will the guy mind?”

“Don’t worry. He’s always misplacing his shirts so he won’t even notice,” Melody smiled warmly at her.

Uma allowed herself to wait a beat before asking, “So...is there somewhere I can change?”

Melody slapped her forehead, embarrassed. “Of course. Duh. I’m so sorry, Uma. I promise I’m not always this spacey. Just a long day. If you go all the way back, there’s a bathroom you can use to change.”

Nodding, Uma followed the older girl’s direction and entered the closet sized bathroom at the back of the antique shop. She stripped quickly of her wet clothes, sighing at the realization that she would still need to keep her dampened bra and underwear on.Wrapping the towel around her provided some comfort as she was finally allowed to dry off to the best of her ability.

Her eyes made connection with the mirror, meeting the gaze that she had been avoiding for weeks in her own bathroom, the real reason she had never tried to fix the broken light in there.

She had lost a lot of weight, not quite sickly looking but noticeable enough that her own reflection almost wasn’t recognizable at first. Dull brown eyes stared back at her, anger, hurt, and sadness hidden deep under layers of learned apathy. (They reminded her too much of her mother. Sometimes on her better days, Uma would wonder who had hurt Ursula like Ursula had hurt her own daughter.) There were streaks of hair that were beginning to turn a dingy brown, the natural white streaks of her hair, an odd hereditary trait supposedly from her mother’s side, threatening to make a reappearance through the cheap dye she had used on it right after her mother’s death.

She didn’t want to have any reminders of Ursula.

“So why did you keep my urn and necklace, huh angelfish?” her mother’s voice taunted her.

Uma harshly snapped her head to the side, avoiding the reflective surface and its unwanted truths.

“Priorities. Get dry,” she reminded herself patting herself down further with the towl before reaching for the leggings and easily pulling them over her legs with almost hurried tugs. Then she reached for the shirt. She paused, holding it up.

It was black and several sizes too large for her and she was sure that it was going to swallow her small frame. Her fingers traced the name stitched on the front pocket: Hook. Her brow wrinkled. What kind of name was Hook?

“Does everything fit okay?” Melody called through the door.

Uma closed her eyes, calming down her startled heart before finally replying. “Y-yeah. One sec,” she said. She pulled the shirt over her head, tying the hem in a knot quickly and rolling the sleeves up so it didn’t quite look like she was playing dress up. She made sure her mother’s necklace was securely tucked underneath the shirt before stuffing her wet clothes in the bag she was given.

When she opened the door, Melody was back at the front, peering out of the window.

“Looks like the storm has let up,” the older girl grinned. “I can give you a ride to wherever you’re going if you want.”

Feeling extremely uncomfortable around this girl’s strange hospitality and like she had maxed out her socialness for the day, Uma shook her head. “No. Uh, it’s fine. I’m not that far actually...uh thanks...you know,” she said awkwardly gesturing at the clothes.

Not for the first time, Melody smiled brightly. “No problem,” she shrugged leaning against the glass case. “It was my pleasure. I don’t get that many customers during this time of day normally plus Harry,” she said gesturing towards the shirt that Uma now wore, “is usually out making deliveries for our boss, so you were actually a nice change in pace. Definitely feel free to stop by again.”

She didn’t know why. Her plan since moving to this town was to have as little interactions with its inhabitants as possible but despite that, Uma found herself nodding the corners of her mouth turning up slightly, practically unnoticeable but still there. “Okay.”

Melody grinned brightly again, as if Uma’s presence alone was gift enough before looking out the window. “You better get going. Just in case it starts back up again.”

Taking her chance to leave, Uma murmured one more thanks to Melody before stepping back outside. The air smelled of fresh rain and the streets seemed quieter. More serene.

She unconsciously began to hum, doing so all the way until she stopped suddenly in front of the closed coffee shop, a familiar figure sitting in front of the door.

“Darling!” Mr. Pretty-Face grinned up at her.  “Just the lovely lass I was waiting for! Mind opening up and letting a poor lad rest his soul with a warm drink and beautiful company?”

Uma rolled her eyes at his obvious flirting before frowning when she really took in his appearance. An ugly bruise was blossoming along his jaw and as he stood, she noticed the careful way he held his side.

She was surprised when she realized she actually felt concern for this stranger.

“You look like shit,” she found herself saying thoughtlessly before adding, “And the shop is closed for the day. Owner’s orders.”

“Come on, lass,” he pouted leaning against the door, attempting to look casual but the sweat on his brow and his heavier than normal breathing gave him away.

She would blame it on karma and wanting to pay the universe back, one good deed for the good deed she was given earlier. It was not because in the gray quietness of the world around them, the anger, hurt, and sadness in his own eyeliner smudged eyes were very familiar to her.

Pushing pass him, careful not to jostle the side he was holding protectively, Uma pulled out her key and opened the door to the shop, stepping aside to allow him in.

“Well?” she arched a brow when he hesitated, obviously not expecting her to actually comply.

“Yer a goddess, lass,” he sighed with relief as he walked in. “Nice shirt by the way,” he commented offhandedly as he gingerly took a seat at one of the counter stools. There was something mischievous light in his eyes though as he obviously allowed his eyes to roam up and down her body. Uma felt her guard up, already chastising herself for letting him in when he merely grinned. “Looks like it’s made of real boyfriend material. Lucky lad.”

Uma rolled her eyes again, ignored his comment, going around to the other side of the counter and putting on her apron. She turned towards him with a no nonsense look on her face. “What do you want, Guyliner?”

He chuckled at the nickname, running his hand through his messy dark hair before grinning up at her. This time it was soft. As soft as the sound of rain beginning to fall again outside. A moment just between them.

“Guess.”

 

Chapter Text

“Wow,” he moaned taking another sip of the drink in his hand, looking like the definition of pure bliss. “This, darling,” he said quickly taking another sip and looking as if he had reached nirvana, “is delicious.”

Uma snorted, whipping down the already clean counter with a rag to give her hands something to do. (She found that it was easier to ignore the intensity of his vibrant blue eyes if she pretended like he wasn’t staring holes into her.)

“You know it’s just regular coffee, right?”

“Regular coffee?!” Mr. Bruised-But-Still-Pretty-Face exclaimed in disbelief. “I think ye mean nectar of the gods!” he declared, slapping the counter before pointing at her and giving her a cheeky wink. “And served by the most beautiful goddess of all.”

“Are you always this extra?” Uma rolled her eyes, pouring herself a cup of freshly ground coffee.

He shrugged, purposely giving her a very blatant once over of her body. “Ye look like a lass who could handle it,” he purred leaning forward over the counter towards her. “How about it? A little bit of somethin’ extra sweet with your coffee never hurts.”

“I like my coffee bitter,” Uma didn’t miss a beat as she took a long sip from her cup, black and unsweetened, while also managing to push him back down into his seat, one finger against the middle of his brow. The wide flirtatious smirk never left his lips as he took a sip from his own cup.

Uma used the cover of her cup to hide the way she bit her lip. It was strange to have his undivided attention on her. (She didn’t hate it though....)

“So, Guyliner,” she put her cup down with one hand, waving the other towards the blossoming bruise on his jaw. “You going to tell me how that happened?”

The smirk on his face waivered, caught off guard. His silence, caused anxiety to claw at her throat and a long line of berating that sounded like her mother began in her head before he finally spoke again.

“That, darling,” he sighed staring down at his cup, “is something I rather not talk about at the moment,” he looked up at her, flirty smirk gone and replaced with something sadder. “If that’s alright with you.”

Curiosity to push a bit more and anxiety to step back and not get any close to this strange boy, to once again become aloof to the world around her, warred in her head but Uma merely nodded, taking his empty cup that he gently slid over to her. She didn’t know this guy past the two encounters they’ve had. He didn’t owe her an explanation.

“What do I owe ya?” he asked already pulling out his wallet, his voice a little bit more restrained, a tight smile stretched across his lips.

Uma pushed his hand away, withdrawing it quickly when he quirked an amused brow down at where her hand fell over his for a few seconds longer than was necessary.

Pulling her hand quickly away, she ignored how her cheeks suddenly felt warm.

“It’s on the house,” she turned around and started cleaning the little dishes she had made. It gave herself something to do and allowed her to not have to look at his bright blue searching eyes. “Part of our you-look-like-shit discount.”

He chuckled behind her and Uma turned her head just enough to see him getting up from his seat, careful not to move too quickly due to his injured side. “Well, I see the the service here has gotten superbly better due to the addition of a certain beautiful barista,” he said dropping the money he had pulled out into the empty tip jar.  

“Laying it on thick, Guyliner,” Uma rolled her eyes, crossing her arms as she turned back to face him.

He smiled at her, another one of those soft almost vulnerable smiles. “Only speaking the truth, Uma.”

She bit her lip, watching as he walked towards the door. A cool night breeze blew through the shop as he opened the door, pausing to look over his shoulder to throw her a wink before leaving.

It wasn’t until the bell above the door had stopped ringing that Uma realized that she still didn’t know his name.

 

---

The next morning the alarm on Uma’s phone chirped to life and just like every morning before her body slowly dragged her into consciousness. The phone continued to ring for a few seconds longer before Uma reached over and turned it off.

She pulled herself into a sitting position on the edge of her bed. Her body felt stiff, her nose was blocked, and her head felt like it was full of cotton.

Great. Being sick was exactly how she wanted to spend the day.

Shuffling over to the small kitchen area, Uma opened up the cabinet to pull out the box of stale sugary cereal she had been munching off for the past few weeks. She scowled as she tossed the empty box into the nearby trash.

Fan- freaking -tastic.

Uma’s luck wasn’t any better in the shower. She sputtered from underneath the shower head as she was sprayed with ice cold water, banging her arm against something or the other in the darkened space.

Maybe she should fix that light and then just hang something over the mirror.

She bit her bottom lip, suddenly hit with a desire to scream...or maybe cry. It already felt like it had been a long day and she had barely been up for half an hour. She sneezed three times in quick succession instead.

She hated getting sick.

In any other situation, she would push through it but she knew that if she kept blowing her nose the way she currently was, a spare roll of cheap toilet paper tucked under her arm as she shuffled back towards her bed, no customer would want to order anything from the shop.

It wasn’t like Uma cared about the cute little coffee shop that she apparently owned half of. Not at all. But it would be a pain if her only source of income at the moment suddenly stopped because somebody called the health inspector for giving someone an extra shot of snot.

No. She had personal days, something that Killian seemed to repeatedly remind her of.

Flopping onto her side on her bed, Uma glared at her phone, faced with two evils: either contact Killian himself - something she had been avoiding doing ever since he first showed her this small little apartment - or she could call Harriet - something else that she wanted to avoid doing after the disaster that was their impromptu shopping trip the other day.

Finally deciding on the lesser of two evils, Uma called Killian.

“Can’t work. Sick,” she managed to moan when the phone picked up. (Great. He throat felt like she had swallowed nails too.)

“Oh. Uh...well,” Killian coughed, sounding somewhere between having just woken up (it was about six in the morning) and surprised to have received a call from her in general. (Did he always have an accent, she wondered.) “Do ya need me to send one of the kids with some soup or-”

“I’m fine,” Uma cut him off, her head already beginning to pound like she had her own miniature drumline. “I just...I just need to sleep. Should be fine by tomorrow,” she tacked on lamely.

“Uh. Yeah. Right. Of course,” the agreed. “Uh. Get some rest Uma. I’ll let the girls know that they’ll be on their own for the day and don’t hesitate to-”

“Okay. Nice talk. Thanks. Bye,” Uma said quickly hanging up, silencing her phone before tossing it somewhere on the bed next to her.

She stared up at her ceiling, listening to the faint noise of the coffee shop below until she dozed off. She must have slept through most of the morning rush because the next thing she knew was CJ yelling loudly through her door followed by insistent knocking.

“I know you’re in there!” the blonde sang when Uma tried to pretend that she wasn’t there in hopes that CJ would get a clue.

Feeling like a combination of a bad hangover and what a dance floor must feel like after a herd of elephants danced over it, Uma managed to roll out of bed and shuffle towards the door.

“You look like death,” CJ greeted once the door was open. Before Uma could say anything CJ shoved three large grocery bags into her arms. “Dad made us buy some groceries and meds and stuff for you before coming over here. Would have been here sooner if someone,” she yelled over her shoulder and down the stairs, “wasn’t taking forever doing their hair!” A grin was on her face when she turned back around, ignoring Uma’s raised brow. “Anyway, there should be enough soup for an army and enough cold medicine to knock you out.”

Uma fumbled to keep the bulging bags in her arms. “Thanks.”

CJ shrugged. “Dad was worried. He told me to tell you that he took you off the schedule for a week and ,” she held up a hand when Uma tried to cut her off, “to not worry about anything other than getting better. If you even step foot downstairs before the week is over we have been given explicit permission to drag you back up here and tie you to the bed. Don’t test us. We can actually do it. Dad taught us how to knot ropes.”

“What about the shop?” Uma mumbled head spinning with CJ’s rapid speaking, telling herself that the additional pressure she was feeling in her chest wasn’t out of guilt but probably just mucus running down her throat. She didn’t owe these people anything. “Won’t it be difficult if it’s just you or Harriet running the shop for the rest of the week?”

CJ waved her question off, seemingly not worried. “Dad got our lazy brother to come in for the week. He stopped working at the shop a while before you came but he does the odd job here every now and then. Don’t stress. Just get better, okay?” she said that last part with sincerity before hopping down the stairs.

Frowning, Uma retreated back inside and closed the door.

She had expected anger. Hostility after her abrupt departure yesterday. CJ just seemed concerned. Worried. For her.

Too tired to think further on the topic of someone actually being concerned about her, Uma let one of the bags that seemed mostly filled with medication on the counter before stuffing the other two that was filled with foods into the fridge. She would sort through it later when it didn’t feel like the room was spinning.

Going back to the the bag she left on the counter, she haphazardly opened the first bottle of pills she got ahold of taking one dry before shuffling back to bed, falling easily back to sleep.

Her last thought, before sleep took over, was that she didn’t know that Killian had a son...

Chapter Text

It took three days before Uma felt vaguely human again. Which wasn’t saying much when it was difficult remembering how that felt exactly, again. Didn’t most people wake with a pressing weight on their chest that they just got used to?

She slept through most of the first day, waking up only twice to shuffle her way to the bathroom. By the time she had tucked herself back into bed, an exhausted sleep coming quickly, the sun was setting and the shop below was mostly quiet.

When she woke again, mouth parched and the stars and the moon her only company, Uma grabbed a glass of water and a granola bar from one of the bags that CJ had brought. She stared contemplatively at the bottle of ibuprofen also bought, dark curling tendrils of weariness curling and caressing her mind like the smoke of her mother’s favorite cigarettes curled into the air. She opened the bottle, careful to take one pill, only one, before shoving the rest of the bottle somewhere down deep with the rest of the groceries she had still yet to unpack. She took a long swig of water before swallowing the pill and crawling back into bed.

The second day, Uma found herself in and out of wakefulness, a strange limbo of fever induced tiredness and bed ridden restlessness. She forced herself to stay awake long enough to heat up a container of soup, despite her stomach clenching at the thought of being forced to hold something. She had been surprised to see that CJ hadn’t just gotten her a bag full of canned soup like any sane person but had instead apparently gone to the diner from the other day, Granny’s , and ordered several sealed containers of chicken noodle soup to go.

When the soup was warmed and Uma took her first sip, she nearly burned her tongue trying to get a second taste of the delicious soup. In just a few minutes, despite her usually low appetite and her stomach’s earlier protest, she had eaten nearly a container and a half of soup.

Feeling slightly better and not having to reach for a tissue in the last ten minutes, Uma returned to bed. She attempted to read a random book that had been left behind by a customer weeks ago, a tale about a knight and a pirate falling in love but two pages in had her dozing off, sleeping the rest of the day away.

The third day, Uma awoke sometime during the morning rush. A muffled buzz of conversation rose from the shop below. The coffee shop’s noise a sharp contrast to her hard disorientated breathing.

The night before her dreams had pushed through her cold medicine fogged mind, demanding to be acknowledged. She dreamt of her dead mother with legs that split into dark tentacles that wrapped and wrapped around her, not letting her go. She dreamt of storms and waves and drowning, pulling her deeper and deeper into inky waters. She dreamt of bright blue eyes and a smile tinged with brokenness that stirred emotions she wished would stay dead to life.

Waking up feeling like her thin sheets were too suffocating and like a rhino had been tap dancing on the back of her eyes, Uma knew that going back to sleep seemed the furthest thing from her mind.

The thermometer that CJ had tossed into the bag of things she had brought days ago beeped actively after Uma placed it in her mouth. She tapped her finger anxiously against her thigh, feeling her mind slowly drift from her body. Her gaze turned towards where she knew the bottle of pills were hidden before she pinched herself, hard, mind sluggishly returning back to focus.

Fuck no,  she reminded herself, albeit it weakly. You're not like her.

The thermometer beeped with a finish chirp, pulling her away from thoughts better not dived into.

Higher than normal, but not a fever. Good enough, she thought, already reaching for her still unpacked bag of clothes.

Uma forced herself to swallow the bile that rose to her throat when her hand accidentally brushed against her mother’s urn or when changing her shirt, Ursula’s necklace glinted mockingly in the dim light until it was covered again by that same shirt that girl, Melody, had given her days ago.

It only took a few minutes for her to pull on some clothes and rush down the stairs from her apartment, anything to pretend to put space between her and her nightmares and the temptation her mother had never been strong enough to leave.

Uma was almost off the stairs, almost close to her freedom beyond the back door, when she heard a voice from the front of the shop, causing her to falter on the last step.

“I’m gonna take off now, Ettie. Tell the little rugrat I’ll be back before the next crowd when she comes in,” a familiar voice smoothly caressed her ears like the milk she had watched him pour into his coffee just a few nights before. He pushed past the swinging doors to the back of the shop, black leather jacket half way on and a wry smile on his lips like fucking Michelangelo himself carved it there.

Guyliner really had no right to be that pretty, her unhelpful mind thought as his forget-me-not blue eyes landed on her.

Harriet shouted something in response back to him from the front but neither really heard as he stood just as frozen as she was at the sight of her.

“How is your face so pretty again?,” rushed out of her mouth before she could stop them. Smooth, she mentally berated herself taking in the way that the bruises on his face seemed almost unnoticeable in such a short period of time.

He took her words in stride as he shrugged his jacket completely on. “Wonders of makeup, lass,” he answered, ego stroked but her unintentional compliment. He almost seemed to preen in a way at her praise that wasn’t totally unbearable for her to witness. “Don't wanna give the gossips something new to squawk over. Now,” he swaggered his way towards her, all tall, dark, and mischief as he was still able to look down at her even from her place one step up.

Uma unintentional breathed in the smell of coffee and old leather off of him. It worked for him, she thought watching him.

“Why aren’t you in bed, darling?” he asked just a hint of genuine concern before he teasingly leaned in, eyes briefly flicking down towards her shirt, seemingly preening even more for reasons beyond Uma's understanding. He tilted his head down slightly so they were eye level and asked in a tone that felt all too intimate for Uma, “Lookin’ for someone to warm your bed? I’d be willin’ to volunteer as your cuddle buddy.” He wiggled his eyebrows flirtatiously.

Idiot,  she thought with very little bite.

Rolling her eyes (something she seemed to be doing a lot in his presence), Uma pushed him back with one hand against the middle of his chest to regain her personal space. “What are you doing here, Guyliner?”

“Well, I’m trying to be a little spoon in this little cuddle party we’re planning,” he easily answered placing his much larger hand over hers that still rested on his chest, thumb seemingly stroking the back of hers unconsciously. “That is, unless ye wanted to be the little but I have a feelin’ yer a big spoon kind of lass.”

Uma snatched her hand away, ignoring the way the warmth from his hand annoyingly seemed to warm her cheeks hot or the wink that he sent her. She crossed her arms, silent and expectant.

Sighing, Guyliner’s flirty expression slipped away. “Just giving Ettie and Callie a hand,” he jammed his hands in his pockets looking uncomfortably off to the side.

He gave no further explanation and something buzzed at the back of Uma’s mind, nagging her to remember some bit of information that it seemed she was forgetting. But like a sneeze that just wouldn’t happen, whatever it was felt just out of her grasp. Besides, his flirting turned off so suddenly revealed the same awkwardness and guarded vulnerability she felt when she asked how he had gotten beat up days ago.

She needed to leave. She didn’t know him. Didn’t owe him anything. He wasn’t her problem.  

“Well...Uh...thanks for helping Flotsam and Jetsam,” she said awkwardly, moving around him and closer to the back door.

She hated the way his bright blue eyes followed her like spotlights, curiosity and humor bright and magnified by slightly smudged black eyeliner that made his stare on her even more intense.

On the heels of the fading but still jarring dreams that had forced her out of her bed, Uma just wanted to disappear. To not feel his stare like a blanket smothering her. To fade quietly out of awareness. To continue to be numb…

She didn’t owe anyone anything. Not him. Not Killian. Not Harriet or CJ. Not her mother...

“I can't be here,” she said quickly, taking the last few steps out of the door and not looking back before sprinting out, ignoring his call after her, ignoring the boy with the blue eyes that reflected back the same easy to identify sadness and detachment within herself that rose and broke like waves ready to knock her over like a lone toy ship trying to survive a storm at sea.

 

Chapter Text

Libraries had always been a place of escape for Uma. When she was younger, just a small scrappy little thing, they were the only place she could go to that wouldn’t outright kick her out for not having an adult with her. As long as she didn’t make a ruckus and put back the books the way she found them, the old librarian of the small neighborhood library wouldn’t question why a young girl spent most of a school day tucked silently away in the corner of an old library. When Uma sometimes started to show up at the small neighborhood library with bruises that she swore was because of her klutzy feet, the old librarian gave her a stern piercing look before silently passing Uma a key to the library and a small first aid kit.

(It had been the greatest kindness Uma had experienced in her young life.)

That library had been her haven. Like the library she had frequented when she was younger, there was a certain reverent quietness that she felt wrapped around her like an old friend. Perhaps it was that bit of nostalgia that pulled her to the building when she saw the sign, breath labored, body aching with fever, and running from dreams haunted by a woman who had been as much of a ghost in life as she now was in death.

There is a soft murmur of a children’s fairytale from one side of the library decorated with bright colors and hand drawn characters and soft looking bean bag chairs. There is a woman with brunette hair pulled up with a soft blue ribbon, enraptured young children sprawled across the floor listening attentively as she dramatically tells a story of a fierce pirate queen with the sea in her blood and the force of an unrelenting storm in her gaze. Uma  never heard the story before and finds herself drifting close to hear but remaining far enough to be hidden by nearby bookshelves.

And as the woman continues to read from an otherwise nondescript book of a girl who was the sea made flesh, who danced across the waves with ease and who stood against a dragon, Uma found a high backed chair tucked against a wall between two shelves. She sinks into its welcoming seat, unnoticed tension melting away. (The chain of her mother’s necklace doesn’t feel so much like a noose around her neck, but it feels still heavy like if she were to forget its presence it would pull her down down down until she drowned drowned drowned…)

Uma only meant to stay until the end of the story. Until her mind stopped conjuring dark tentacles that curled from the periphery like ever present reminders that she is her mother’s daughter and until her mind stopped the guilt that competed in swallowing her up with the rest of her demons until all she can think of is too sad, too bright oh so blue eyes and the taste of dark bitter coffee.

She focused on the words of the storyteller, clutching tightly to each word of struggle, of loss, of unwavering loyalty as if it would block the slow trickle of feeling that cut through the numbness that she surrounded around herself like a thin veil and threatened to steal her breath and fill her lungs until she faded silently and alone from the world.

Adrenaline slowly began to leak from her, the pressure behind her eyes thrumming with renewed vigor and staccato beats. Her limbs felt stiff and heavy, and wisps of darkness grew and bled around the edges of her vision with such smoothness that Uma no longer becomes aware of when her eyes fluttered closed with her returned fever.

(She misses the part where the girl who becomes the fierce pirate queen, finds a boy who would become her First Mate and who treated the sea like an old friend and marveled and praised every breath she took as if the girl herself was breathing winds into their ship’s sails.)

So pulled into the depths of her fever induced doze, all Uma could do was let out a soft moan of protest when strong and sturdy arms easily picked up her small frame. She weakly squirmed before the scent of coffee, sea salt, and sandalwood surrounded her, lulling away any sleep-hazed panic. Uma buried her face into warm leather, beyond embarrassment in her tired state as she took a deep breath, the arms underneath her squeezing her closer in response.

“Jane found her tucked back here. Poor thing must have been here since storytime,” a female voice, the storyteller's, softly whispered somewhere to Uma’s right. “I only knew to call the coffee shop because Ben and Gil had shown me a picture of her that CJ posted in their little group chat some time ago.” A cool palm rests briefly against her forehead, Uma merely having the strength to turn her face away and further into the warm leather covering a strong chest. “Poor girl... She really shouldn’t have been out with a fever that high.”

“Aye, I tried to get her to go back to bed but she’s a stubborn one,” another voice chuckled, the sound vibrating underneath Uma’s cheek. “I should get her back so she can rest properly. Thanks for the help, Belle.”

The woman, Belle, must have been smiling because Uma could hear warmth in her voice as she says, “Reminds me of someone else I know." Belle chuckles and Uma can't help but feel it's at his expense by his groan. "Keep an eye on her this time though and I’ll let Rumple and Melody know you’ll miss your shift.”

Uma heard him thank her before a door was opened and her carrier stepped out onto the street. The outside air was refreshing enough that Uma blinked tiredly up at bright blue eyes. They seemed to stare silently at each other, understanding that neither could explain going through them before she sighed tiredly, resting her head back against his shoulder. “I call big spoon,” she murmured before she drifted off again, dreaming of fierce pirate queens with the sea in their blood and bright blue eyes that would cross the sea for them...