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Finding Home, Again

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The crew continued to scramble around them as Milah called out orders and assisted Killian to their quarters.

"Apparently a man loses all reason when left by you," Killian joked. She huffed out an anxious breath and continued sorting out his wounds. "I wouldn't worry love. We just have to outsmart the coward and sail off into the sunset."

"He may be a coward but he hasn't ever been an idiot." Milah's lips tightened into a thin line as she pressed a clean cold cloth to his wound. "Rumple may want the bean but I'm afraid he'll want revenge as well."

She whirled around the cabin, wringing the cloth, pushing books and plates out of her way. Ignoring his injuries, Killian followed behind to wrap her in his arms. He rocked them side to side as she pushed at his arms and slapped at his hands but he refused to release her.

"As fast as the Jolly Roger is, we cannot outrun the Dark One," she said through clenched teeth. "There is no way we can escape."

"The Dark One likes his deals love." He whispered the words into her hair. "He gets the bean, we get away."

Milah tugged herself free, looking down at the floor. "There is one place."

"No."

She lifted her gaze to her Captain as he shrugged out of his heavy top coat and unbuttoned his vest. Her knuckles were white as she wrung out the cloth carrying his blood. She dipped it into the cold water again and walked back over to him to press it on his wound.

"The Dark One is immortal." Milah let her body rest against his. "No ordinary weapon will kill him and our lives will run out running from his wrath." Her arms wrapped around his neck, she lifted her eyes to look into his. "If he doesn't kill us tomorrow."

"That place." Killian's eyes closed as his face went white.

"He’d not think we would use the bean ourselves, that we’d waste the only bargaining chip. And there, there we will have all the time we need." Milah took his face between her hands. "We need to go and go now."

Killian opened his eyes and looked into hers, staring, searching. He grabbed his coat from the floor and swirled it on, holding his hand out for the bean. Milah placed it in his hand, kissed him then followed him out on deck.

"Prepare to sail!" He shouted and in the blink of an eye the Jolly Roger was out at sea. "Ready yourself lads, for this will be an adventure you will never forget."

Killian Jones threw the magic bean into the open ocean before him and spun the wheel.

"To Neverland!"

Chapter Text

The glare of the sun demanded she get up.

The bed itself was beyond comfortable and the sheets were smooth but crisp, the blankets were light but warm. If only the drapes pulled over the windows were just as wonderful.

Being a princess of the Enchanted Forest was better than Emma imagined. In Storybrooke she had pictured corsets and curtsies and being nice to everyone but that hadn’t become her life. It’d been three months since the entire town of Storybrooke woke up back in the Enchanted Forest.

Her mom and dad were thrilled. Hell, Henry was thrilled. As she pulled herself away from another restless night’s tossing and turning, she really wished she felt thrilled as well.

Emma's entire family were settling in. Her parents worked on restoring their kingdom and were really good at it. Regina was nearby, snuggled up to her thief, mending bridges with her witch of a sister and even worked together with the Charmings on restoring the kingdom as the dowager Queen Mother (which she was entirely too young to be). Gold and Belle had taken up residence at the Dark One's castle after being separated for so long.

Emma rolled over on her stomach and pulled a pillow over her head. Then there was Neal.

Every time she thought about him, about them, all she had were questions and no good answers. If only it was more like Henry's story book then everything would be simple and easy. She rolled back over on her back and stretched out taking up as much of the bed as possible.

Once upon a time Neal and Emma were in love but life happens. Yes, he was there when Peter Pan kidnapped their son, and there again to help fight against the wicked witch of the west. So Emma had put the past behind her, resolved not to punch his lights out for Henry’s sake and they really were friends now. Except that everyone in the kingdom expected them to be so much more than friendship. Love maybe.

Emma sometimes wished it was love. Every day for the past three months, she had woken up and felt emptier and more alone than ever before. At first she spent more time with Neal, trying to reconnect but it just made the ache worse. The feeling made no sense. Her family, her entire family was here and all the sudden attacks and villains popping up that plagued the Maine town just stopped happening in the Enchanted Forest. The only person not living happily thereafter was her.

Someone knocked on the door.

"Yeah?"

"Hurry Mom, we have sword practice today!" Henry called out from the other side.

"On my way kid." Emma responded sitting up. The room spun around her and she launched herself across it to empty her stomach into a chamber pot. Panting over the bowl, she wondered how much longer she would be able to hide everything from her family.

Two weeks ago it was as if a light bulb had gone off in her brain and she put her tiredness together with her inability to wake up without vomiting and got four, or to be more specific, the future addition to the family growing inside her.

Emma was not prepared, not for another kid and not for telling her family. There was only one explanation that made sense.

Three months ago everyone woke up back in the Enchanted Forest and while it all seemed fine, their memories must have been altered. Because unless it was a miracle, the memories she woke with could not provide any details on who, what, or when she ended up pregnant.

Once she figured it out Emma's dreams filled in some of her blanks. Part of her was shocked to think it but two weeks of dreams plus her morning vomit routine had left her with three solid facts. One: she was pregnant. Two: she had been with the father of her child, as in married to him in fact. Three, the dark haired scruffy almost remembered face in her dreams wasn’t Neal.

Next to her superpower, Emma's main skill was running and it was her first impulse in this as well. Oh god, did she want to run. From her family, from these people who depended on her, and from Neal who hadn’t given up on wanting something more for them.

Instead Emma just kept moving forward.

She got up and changed into what had become her daily outfit: breeches (she rolled her eyes just thinking the word for the skin tight pants) shirt and vest (her mom kept saying it was a doublet, eh no). She faced the mirror and tied her hair back; waved her hand over her face and let the magic remove any evidence of sleeplessness, fatigue and morning sickness. Emma went to her weapon's chest, possibly her favorite part of the Enchanted Forest world, and armed herself.

Emma looked into the mirror one last time before grabbing her star off her vanity. False memories, missing husband and a baby on the way didn’t change the fact that Emma Swan was her kingdom’s sheriff and savior.

 


 

 

The sky had begun to lighten and Killian was already at the wheel. He told Milah it was old navy habits haunting him since their return but he remained honest with himself and knew it was his desire to shorten the nights spent by her side. He either spent a long time at a tavern or on deck up before dawn could touch any piece of his beloved ship.

His ship soaked up his attention happily. Milah, on the other hand, didn't comment on it and they both kept going as if nothing had changed in the last three months.

After over three hundred years of life Killian expected that some memories would remain while happily some faded with time but then he woke three months ago back in the Enchanted Forest aboard his ship with his love by his side. Every other bloody thought at odds with his feelings.

He remembered running from the crocodile, running to Neverland where he and Milah made a deal with Peter Pan. Three hundred years of safe passage back and forth to Neverland in return for carrying supplies for the eternally young arsehole. And thus they lived, searching for clues to skinning the croc.

When he concentrated on that time it was all very fuzzy. It had happened but it was a footnote in some larger tale and the details were lost to time. His heart was of no help either.

Killian woke up that day and looked at Milah breathing beside him and a wealth of gladness spread through his body. But as he studied her sleeping face, he waited for the passionate love he felt for her to flood his body but all he got was remembered pain and sorrow, rage and a memory of hate darkening his heart as if she was no longer there. He experienced flashes of it every time she spoke to him and woke with it every night he tried to lay beside her.

Eventually, Killian had a new feeling to add to his turmoil --  a deep loathing for his own self. For as happy as he was to see her, he no longer felt the deep love he remembered. Sometimes while watching the dawn light up his ship, he tried to bring it back through memory alone. Milah showed up on his ship, asked him to take her away and he did, whisked her off on his next adventure. How he had to ignore the image of her left behind son but it wasn’t that hard truly and didn't that little bit of darkness feel good. Consoled himself with the thought of someday returning for the boy.

The wheel creaked as he moved it a notch toward port, the sails snapping with just a bit more wind in them.

Once upon a time, it was love, strong and passionate if not true but time passes doesn’t it. Through the haze of the last three hundred years he couldn't remember what happened or when but his heart proclaimed he was no longer the man who ran away with her.

Killian didn't know why he would let that love go in favor for this emptiness that now filled him.

He heard footsteps on the stairs as Milah came above deck. The wind tossed her long brown hair into her face. When she pulled it away he caught a glimpse of her face. He flinched.

"It won't be that bad."

"Really love, just say it."

Milah sighed. "We need to talk Killian."

"I've found when a woman says that I'm rarely in for a pleasant conversation." He fussed more at the wheel as if that would convince her he was so busy steering the ship that now was a bad time to talk. "Just give me a second…"

"No, we do this now." Milah stood next to him, turned so the wind blew her hair behind her and body swaying with the ship. "We can talk now or you can remain in denial till exhaustion sails the ship into land."

"Oh good, a choice." Killian looped a line around the wheel and moved off down to the captain's cabin.

Her steps followed behind him. "You keep up like this and it will happen. You’ll end up killing yourself avoiding me." Milah closed the hatch and bolted it before standing right in front. "And yes you could escape out of here in any number of ways but you won't."

"I don't know what happened three months ago." Killian grimaced and flopped into his chair. "I truly don't, I simply woke up…" He waved a hand.

"No longer in love with me." Milah continued blandly. "Fine."

"No, not fine." Killian sat forward leaning his arms on the table. "I have no explanation; this was no gradual death of feelings. I just bloody woke up and while I love you, I don't love you." He flung both hands in the air and leaned back in the chair again, arms crossed. "And it doesn't bother you?"

Milah looked a bit uncertain. "It is oddly sudden but it's like." She took her own seat and leaned toward him. "I woke up three months ago, happy to see you but I wasn’t in love anymore. Nothing is what it was."

Killian sighed. He had ignored so much when he fell in love with Milah. The feeling of being together out shined the desertion of her son. So if it wasn't love anymore, what were they supposed to do, how were they to gain forgiveness for their sins.

"I think, I think I need to move on from here," she started to explain but the words seem to tangle up in her mouth. "With your help."

He looked at her. "Anything that is within my power."

"Killian Jones, you are a good friend and I need you with me," She paused, grabbing both his hands and looking him directly in the eyes. "I need you to take me back to Misthaven."

"You're counting on the rumors?" He raised an eyebrow.

Milah threw his hands back at him. "We've been to over five different ports and the story is the same." She paced around the cabin, grabbing this item and that then throwing them into an opened chest set out on the floor. "The Evil Queen's curse in not only broken but the people have returned. With them are the Dark One and his family."

"Family is rather vague."

"Specifically. We have heard of his lovely wife." Killian waggled his eyebrows at that and Milah just rolled her eyes. "And his grown son as well as his grandson."

"Which rumor has it, he shares with the Evil Queen and the missing daughter of Queen Snow and King David." He began shaking his head. "Really love? You want to go home to the crocodile, the evil queen and the annoying goody goody royals. Oh, and wait for it, you want me to go with you?"

"Yes." Milah closed the chest and looked around the room and Killian followed her glance. For being together over three hundred years she was able to collect and remove her belongings quickly. He sighed, stood and took her by the shoulders to look into her eyes. Milah's head tilted up and her shoulders pulled back. He lifted a hand to her cheek and she closed her eyes.

"I wish," he said.

"Who doesn't," she replied. "Killian Jones, are you ready for a new adventure? Ready to find what happened to us three months ago?"

He rolled his eyes. "We'll make port in two days." Milah's mouth dropped open. Killian kissed her on the forehead and shrugged. "I am a bloody brilliant pirate."

Chapter Text

The Dark One studied the faces around the table. Their lack of calculation made his inner imp giggle in glee but the part of him in control reminded the imp that while these people may be easy pickings, they were also family, their family.

He couldn't control the smirk though, thinking of the Dark One sitting around Snow White and Prince Charming's council. here he was and here he planned to stay. It began three months ago when everyone had woken up in the Enchanted Forest and They had all come together, Charmings, Savior, Evil Queen and the rabble from the woods.  To figure out the who, the how and the why of it all. Three months of toil and still they had no answers.

Life, however, rolled right along, quite happily thereafter.

Belle turned, smiled at him and squeezed his hand while giving him the look. The pay attention Rumple this is important look. He tuned the rumbling ramble back in but it was merely boring details about rebuilding. He rolled his eyes and peeked over at his son.

Bae. No, he shook his head. Neal was seated beside Ms. Swan. Or should he refer to her as Princess Emma? Did it truly matter? The two shared their son awfully well and seemed cordial enough. Rumple supposed if the relationship between him and his son was better, he would know what hopes and dreams Neal harbored for the Savior. From what he observed Ms. Swan was happy to have Neal around, content with his involvement with her son but she showed no signs of being in love with him.

Rumple wasn't sure if Neal wished to pursue the princess but as a being who had lived over three hundred years, he knew that even a measly span of ten years could change a person. Love could live and die and move on. It was a harsh lesson to learn but whoever his son was, whoever the savior had been, their time together had likely passed.

Nevertheless, if she was what Neal desired, as his father, he would help in any way he could.

"There are rumors of a pirate ship," Leroy, or is it Grumpy now, reported and drew Rumple's attention. "There haven't been any attacks on ships coming or going out of Misthaven but this particular ship has a notorious reputation."

Belle glanced at him and he shrugged. Without more information he had nothing of value to add.

"The Jolly Roger has a history of appearing and disappearing for over the last three hundred years." Grumpy continued and most of the council turned to the few members who had been alive for a similar duration. Belle began to frown his way.

"I may have some knowledge about said vessel but to be honest," Rumple said then looked down at his hands and shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm afraid I must have a quick discussion with my son before sharing it with this council."

"I've heard of the ship as well." Neal spoke up. "It was known to be able to come and go from Neverland at will, which means…"

"They had a deal with Peter Pan." Emma finished for him.

"And with Pan’s demise that will be the least of our concerns." Rumple stood and turned to Neal, offering a hand to Belle, needing her to join them as well. "I require a quick family conference and as I don't believe the ship portends mortal peril, I think you can give us a moment."

Belle stood and took his hand, walking away from the council table arm in arm. Neal got up, reaching a hand toward Emma but the slightest shake of her head had him turning to follow his father without her.

Neal found the couple looking out at the forest beyond the castle. Belle patiently waiting as his father wasn’t yet ready to speak.

"Papa, if the council needs to know."

"Bae, we both know I'm no saint." Rumple turned away from the view and sat in the window seat, studying his hands. "Our relationship is not what I would wish it to be but you are reaching out to me and I wish I wasn't about to tell you something that would turn you away." Belle laid a hand on his restless ones. "It will come as no surprise to know I lied to you, Bae. And that lie, as much as I told myself it was to protect you, protected me."

"Just say it."

"Your mother isn't dead or at least, she didn't die when you were a child." Rumple exhaled and inhaled another breath before continuing. "I'm sorry I lied but she ran away. She hated life with me so much she begged a pirate to take her away."

"Are you telling me she's on this ship?" Neal paced away from them.

"It's a possibility and if what I suspect is true, they've been hiding in Neverland. Hiding from me."

"There's more…"

"Bae, there's always more, details, stories, impressions." Rumple stood and walked over to face his son. "They didn't run from the coward. they ran from the Dark One and honestly, to the only person who capable of providing refuge."

"Peter Pan." Neal placed a hand on his father's shoulder. "So we got more to deal with when it comes to us, and Papa, we will deal with it. Knowing about Pan, about your father kind of changed how I see everything that happened.”

"Thank you, Bae." Rumple looked over at his wife. She smiled at him, her love and support bright in her eyes. "I don't care what the "council" knows." He paused, moving to join her at the window. The feel of her hand in his a comfort. "But you needed to know first."

"Thank you, Papa." Neal turned toward the council room. "Do you think they mean any harm?"

"Well, they certainly aren't coming to end the world." A smile crept across his face. "They may be interested in seeing the last of the Dark One but" he entwined his fingers with Belle's. "I doubt they mean harm to anyone else. In fact, given what I do know, they are probably coming to see you."

Rumple once again offered his arm to Belle.

Neal tilted his head toward the room. "Shall we?"

Rumple nodded and his small family returned to share their information with the council.

 


 

 

"Let me get this straight." Emma grimaced and tried to sum it all up. "An over three-hundred-year-old pirate ship, notorious for appearing and disappearing, is heading our way but we really don't have to worry because it's most likely your mother, who isn't dead, and her pirate lover." She paused and threw a side glance at the Dark One. "And they're coming for a family reunion."

"Precisely Miss Swan, I mean Princess," Rumple corrected himself and making Emma flinch.

"Well, we'll need to know their names for their welcome sign."

"Milah and Captain Killian Jones." Rumple leaned back in his chair.

"Alright then," Charming nodded to the council. "Welcome to the Misthaven Captain Jones and Milah."

  


 

 

Henry Mills ran.

No one really paid much attention. Henry running around the castle was a daily occurrence. Living in the Enchanted Forest has been everything he imagined it would be. Yes, his mothers still made him attend school but he had courses on sword fighting and horse riding, archery, forest survival and magical theory as well.

The last three months had a dream like quality to them. Sure, no one knew how they got there but they had managed to establish that it wasn’t a curse. Nothing and no one else was popping up trying to destroy everyone's happiness. And everyone was happy, that was the dream part.

Henry's family was here and thriving. Well, for the most part and now he ran.

Henry never expected these feelings and he should have. It was losing one mother after gaining the other. It was having to leave behind his family when they were finally together. It was also like the joy he felt when Emma opened her door to him all those years ago. He had missed Hook but now everyone would find out what he had done. The happiness of these past three months would crumble and Henry didn't know what would take its place.

He raced over the ground to the giant hollowed out redwood he had found in the forest. It was his place he made it the perfect spot to be just himself. Henry went to the desk and stared at the three books he kept there: his first storybook with the past as it had happened, an incomplete book from the sorcerer's house he started before they returned and lastly, a spiral notebook stained with ink which wasn't a book at all but had started this whole mess.

After all a lot had been changed when they woke up in the Enchanted Forest three months ago, but Henry was still the Author.

Chapter Text

When the Jolly Roger pulled into port three messengers made their way through the Misthaven – one to the Dark One’s castle, one to the Queen Mother’s and last to Queen Snow and King David. The first to get the news was, of course, Snow and Charming, then Regina and finally Rumplestilskin. Neither dismay nor surprise greeted any of the messengers but once the news was received each household took up their assigned duty.

 


 

 

Charming ducked as his daughter slashed at him and then swept out his leg but failed to catch her off guard and ended up landing on his butt. Snow, Leo and Henry cheered from the sidelines and Emma curtsied for her audience.

"I see the etiquette lessons are paying off," Charming teased his beloved daughter. "But you know the fights not over and you shouldn't be distracted by your fans."

"Oh, this fight is over," Emma replied and nodded to the approaching messenger. "It's either a king and queen thing or a sheriff." She reached out a hand to help her father up. "Let’s go get this over with."

Charming wrapped an arm around his daughter and walked with her to the messenger.

"Your highness," the lad began. "The Jolly Roger has made port. Two persons were seen leaving the ship and headed to the local tavern." The royal family grimaced almost as one (well except the baby). "Two other messengers have been sent out to the Queen Mother" – Emma snorted – "and the Dark One." Charming signaled his dismissal and the lad quickly bowed, making for the kitchens.

Emma's heart stuttered at the beginning of the message and picked up speed. Killian. Ever since Gold mentioned the name it stuck with her and she wasn't quite sure what it meant. Whether this was the man she had begun secretly searching for or if it was just a link in the chain to really knowing the past and finding her missing husband. Killian. Combined with her urge to run meant she wasn't ready for the answers. Yet.

Charming looked at his wife and then toward his daughter, neither which met his eyes, trying to avoid going to greet the new arrivals as per the council’s arrangement.

Snow lifted the baby and started walking away. "Looks like someone needs a nap."

"That's not fair!" Her husband called after her. She ignored him and continued on to the castle. Charming turned to his daughter and grandson.

"Sorry Dad." Emma started putting away the practice swords. "A barely trained princess has her lessons. You know I really should be better with this etiquette stuff before I greet people." She also walked away.

Henry just shrugged at his grandfather. "Am I old enough to be in a tavern?"

"I hate you all." Charming turned, strapped on his sword and headed to the barn to pick up his horse. "One incident and you are all too embarrassed to be seen there ever again. And it wasn't even my fault!"

 


 

 

Killian nodded to the barmaid who plunked their drinks down on the table. Milah anxiously looked around at the unusually quiet tavern. Those patronizing the establishment turned away from her glance and the uneasy feeling in her stomach got worse.

"Maybe this was a mistake."

"Stop imagining trouble before it's here love," Killian replied and took a long swallow of his mead. "First order of business is to get the lay of the land and if we are lucky we'll find someone to approach the reptile for us."

"How many people do you know that would deal with the Dark One for people he would prefer to kill."

Killian shrugged and went back to his drink. The rumors they gathered over the past three months gave him an inkling of a plan but it was an itch beneath his skin.  Royalty was not his cup of tea, or his flask of rum, whichever a body would prefer to drink, and placing both himself and Milah at their mercy felt doomed. However, the most logical path to the crocodile was to get the do-gooders to do good.

The tavern seemed to come alive as the sound of hooves beating a path to the door grew louder. A man close to the door nudged it open to have a look and promptly scurried out the back door.

Hushed whispers passed around the room. "It's him."

Milah looked at Killian. He raised a brow and waved a hand nonchalantly in response. What could they do but wait and see.

"It could be anybody." Both of them turned towards the door hearing the creak of a saddle as whoever "him" was got off his horse and headed into the tavern. A cleanly handsome, clear eyed, well dressed and in general pleasant looking man pushed his way into the tavern. He smiled at the room until he noticed the swing of the back door and how empty it was. He began frowning.

"It wasn't my fault," he proclaimed to no one and approached the only occupied table, theirs. He looked them over as they lounged at the table in a carefully posed relaxed manner. Charming thought that the woman seemed pretty, dark haired blue eyed, a mix of determined and anxious at the same time. The man, the pirate, Charming's mind pushed that description into his mouth such that he almost sneered it aloud, was dark and scruffy looking with a grin that just spoke of trouble.

"Pirate," Charming called him. He was surprised at his own rudeness and the captain was not pleased by it from the dark look on his face. He shook his head and began again. "Captain Killian Jones and Milah, well I don't suppose Gold ever had a last name here did he?" He paused in case there was something to add.

"It's Jones as well," Milah stated clearly.

Charming noted that he wasn't the only one surprised at the married proclamation and the man didn't look entirely happy about it either. She discretely elbowed Killian in the side and when she looked back she just got an identical raised brow from the welcoming committee.

"I'm David." Charming pulled up a seat to the table and waved at the barmaid for another round. "You certainly don't look hundreds of years old." He observed then smiled up at the barmaid. "Thanks"

"You're welcome your highness," she fidgeted a bit. "Um, do you know how long you will be…"

Charming shrunk down a little, tracing a pattern on the table. "Not long, I swear. One drink, no dwarves and hey, either way if you need to you can just call the sheriff then Emma will come deal with me." He smiled hopefully up at her.

Killian sputtered over his drink and he placed it away from him, frowning. He wondered over that brief moment when his breath left him but it must have been the drink as sheriffs never made much of an impact on him.

Milah nudged Killian again. Tilting her head toward his highness and raising her brows.

Killian had no response as the man made even less sense to him. "So the Dark One told you about us," He leaned forward toward royal chisel chin. "Which side you on mate?"

"That's a hard one to answer." Charming leaned back crossing his arms. "Not really any sides to take. Family is family and I do know that your grandson," He nodded at Milah. "Henry, would like to meet you. He's not allowed in the taverns either."

"Family?" Milah placed her hands on the table leaning forward. "Maybe you should be more specific."

Charming studied her. After Gold supplied further details to the council, they had all agreed that it was unlikely the couple was coming to cause trouble but this was the Enchanted Forest and it was wise to be cautious. Additionally, for Neal's sake Gold had promised not to raise a hand except in defense to his ex-wife and her lover. Charming shuddered at that descriptor and for the first time in a while the sense that something was wrong tightened his shoulders. It happened more frequently when they first arrived in the Enchanted Forest but the feeling didn't plague him much. Not like it did Emma and Henry. Not that they admitted it. Charming sighed and it made the two frown at him.

"Once upon a time," he began. "Your son left this world, trying to find a land without magic where he could live with his father, who’d cease being the Dark One once there. That totally didn't work out." He took a long drink before continuing. "In fact it separated the two and Rumplestilskin searched desperately for a way to travel to the land without magic. I think your last encounter with him probably fits in that time period." He paused again, his hand waving in the air as he internally sorted out what to say next. "The story isn’t all that short or simple. He found the dark curse, got someone else to enacted it with a failsafe. My daughter Emma." Charming looked away, pained, thinking of that damn wardrobe.

Killian felt the tug again. Maybe it wasn't about sheriffs in general, but a Sheriff specifically.

"The product of true love who ended up in the land without magic. Alone." He grimaced. "Before undoing the curse and when she was certainly way too young, Emma stole Neal's car. Well, she stole the car he was sleeping in which he stole first. Then he got her arrested and she ended up having his son, Henry, while in prison."

The three looked at each other awkwardly.

"It all works out in the end but it's really impossible to make this sound good." The awkwardness was in no way alleviated by Charming's words. "So that's how you ended up sharing a grandson with us, Snow and me and Gold, I mean Rumple. And now Emma and Neal have worked the past all out."

Killian pulled out his flask and took a long pull.

"Rum?" Charming asked. Killian looked at the flask and back at the King.

"Good guess." He held it out for his royal highness. Charming shook his head no and again thinking about the feeling of wrongness. Milah lifted her mug and took a long sip as well, each of them lost in their own thoughts for a moment.

The door to the tavern banged open and the dwarves walked in. Charming grimaced and looked apologetically at the barmaid who now glared in his direction. He dropped some coins on the table to cover their drinks.

"There’s more to go over but I was hoping to escort you to the castle and offer you our hospitality. Repairs are ongoing but we have plenty of space available." Charming stood sweeping an arm out toward the door. "You can meet Henry tonight and I promise you protection from the Dark One while you're here."

Killian snorted. "What exactly can you do to stop the Dark One?"

"My daughter, she's the savior," Charming bragged, but just a bit. "Or to put it another way, a powerful light magic wielding sorceress."

"We'll be happy to join you," Milah said and stood to follow the king.

Killian scratched behind his ear, looking between the two determined faces. "Allow me to secure my ship first."

"Excellent." Charming headed for the door without stopping even as a dwarf called out his name.

"Did you just ignore that dwarf?" Killian asked a mocking grin stretching his mouth.

"Safer for everyone this way."

Chapter Text

Emma blew off magic lessons and took one of the horses out for a run through the woods. Of course, Tinkerbelle tracked her down anyways and pestered the princess until the magic shielding all evidence of Emma's problems fell away. Tink backed off with a reminder she was around when needed. Emma nodded silently and spurred her horse further from the castle.

She slowed down to a walk and stopped at the edge of cliff where she could look out at the kingdom of Misthaven. Hopping off, she walked along the edge as her mind twisted and turned over her current situation. Emma placed a hand over her mostly flat belly.

"Well Peanut, it's a whole new world for us," she spoke aloud to the tiny vulnerable life inside her. It was time to talk to her family, time for some explanations. "Here's the thing. I don't know how they'll react and I don't know what news they really need to know. Neal, not your father but your brother's father, and I haven't had the talk. The what do we want talk. The sorry it's not you, it's me talk. And what if his father isn't thrilled or friendly and that goes to hell." The horse snorted. "See even the horse gets dealing with the Dark One is not a barrel of monkeys."

She came to a pile of rocks and sat. Once again to stare at her kingdom, kind of, the place where she was born and left before she was even an hour old.

"Then there's the fact that our memories have been changed and while I have inklings of what really happened but I don't know if I really want to share it." Emma stroked her baby. "Everyone is so happy and if, yes if, I tell I could destroy that and I don't want to destroy anyone else's happy ending ever again." She felt something shift in her heart and it felt right. "No lies, but not all of the truth then."

She took a deep breath and her magic settled around her again, hiding any visible sign of exhaustion and stress until she could sit down and talk with her family.

"Don't worry Peanut, it's you and me and your brother and your grandparents and, well, technically your step-great-grandmother. And none of us will let anything happen to you."

Emma stood, rubbed her cheek against her horse’s nose and turned toward her parent's castle.

"Home."

 

Emma kept her eyes peeled for the strangers she knew her father was bringing to the castle. Sure, it was time for the truth, well some anyways, but she wasn't ready to learn why the mysterious pirate’s name had such an effect on her. There was only so much an exhausted pregnant not quite a princess savior could take in one day.

Once she stabled her horse Emma crept with as much stealth as possible across the castle grounds and inside. As she slid around a column by the welcoming hall, she heard voices and ran to hide behind some curtains.

"Allow me to present my wife, Snow White." Her father was making introductions and with everyone facing away from her hiding spot it was the perfect time to peek. Emma moved to the edge and glanced at the very informal presentation. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the figure in black sweeping into an elegant bow before her mother. Emma’s stomach rolled and her heart began beating like she had run all the way back from the cliffs.

"Grandpa," Henry called out to her father and the group turned and Emma saw his face.

"Killian," she whispered, her hand clenched around the curtain. "My pirate." Memories began to flash through her mind, the beanstalk, Neverland, New York, their first date… and on and on. She could barely breath, joy welling up in her, remembering their wedding, their life and then the woman next to him took his arm. She took his arm as her father introduced her to Henry and Snow as Milah Jones.

Emma's hand flew to her mouth to muffle the sound of her hurt as she ran.

 


 

 

Henry smiled and smiled and smiled. He kept hoping no one saw how nervous he was and if his grandmother did notice she thought it was about meeting one more relative. It was the Jones that was doing the hurting.

He hadn't written that, not at all, not that. Henry had plotted it out so carefully and so many times that he knew when the pirate was in any part of their story, his mom was destined to be together with Hook. He had needed to take the pirate out of the story and once Killian was off in Neverland he hadn’t given him another thought.

"Henry," Snow called to him. "Why don't you see if you can find your mother?"

"Which one?"

Snow rolled her eyes at his question. "Emma."

Henry watched Killian flinch, wondering what the pirate knew. "Sure grandma. Um." He turned to Milah. "I guess I'll see you later grandmother? Milah? Mrs Jones?"

"Grandmother is fine." She smiled a bit too much while the pirate was scratching behind his ear flustered. Henry took off, glancing over his shoulder to catch his step-father frowning at the woman who was apparently his wife.

Henry took his time searching the grounds, eliminating place after place till there was just her room left and he felt ready. He knocked on the door but continued in without waiting.

"Mom," he barely got out before his voice cracked. Emma was there, curled up on her bed and he ran to her. "Mom." She looked up at him, her eyes drowning in tears. "It'll be okay, whatever it is, it'll be okay."

"Oh Henry." She lifted a hand to touch his face. "It will be okay, and everyone." She closed her eyes and swallowed back her pain. "Everyone will get their happy ending." She pulled him into her arms and they held onto one another.

"I'm sorry Mom, so sorry." Emma squeezed him one more time before pulling back and wiping away her tears.

"No sorry," she said, wiping tears from her cheeks and then his. "We move forward."

"I…"

"Henry, I get the feeling you have something you'll have to tell me." She shook her head. "But this is our life right now, and it's pretty damn good. There will be a time when you'll have to tell me." Her head tilted to the side as if listening to a faint tune in the distance. "I don't know what weird Savior spidey sense is telling me this but I know at this moment I'm right."

"But," he tried to interrupt her.

"There will be a time." She smiled. "So much is right, we'll take whatever it is as we go, okay kid?"

"Thanks, Mom."

She wiped at her face again. "Right now, I need you kid."

He raised an eyebrow at her.

"I cannot meet your new grandmother and her, her..." She choked and stopped to take a deep breath.

"I can help with that." Henry helped her stand and she frowned. He was just so tall and to have to look up at him just a little made her tear up again. "Mom."

"I can't help it, you're so tall kid."

Henry rolled his eyes. "I ran into Grumpy earlier and he ran into Anton before me," he paused to take a breath. "Anton was looking for you, he needs some help from the sheriff."

"You are a lifesaver. Let my mom know I was packing and heading out." She winked at him. "And make it sound urgent enough that my bad manners can be excused."

"You got it." He looked away for a moment. "I might go hang over at Mom's a little earlier than usual."

Emma took a deep breath. "Do what you got to do, kid. We'll get everything back on track after we take a little break." She brushed his hair out of his eyes. "I love you."

"I love you too mom."

Emma disappeared in a cloud of white smoke.

 


 

 

Killian concentrated on studying the castle, anything to avoid talking about the colossal lie Milah told.

To be honest he was surprised, the buildings in the village looked to be in order and in better shape than the castle. Walls had obviously been repaired but no work had gone into restoring the splendor most royals required. He couldn't tell what annoyed him more that these particular royals cared and acted with honor or that they were good and offered to help without being asked. They were just a little too ideal for him to trust.

Milah tugged on his arm and he gave her a baleful glare. She rolled her eyes then nudged him to indicate that they were not alone and to behave. Queen Snow led them into a cozier room of the castle which was already occupied.

"Good Evening," a jolly voice spoke up from behind the chair of an incredibly regal female. "Robin of Locksley at your service." He came around the chair with his hand out, a pleasant smile on his face and dressed for the forest. "This is my soon to be wife, Regina, also known in these parts as the Queen Mother." Snow snorted. "Very true, she is much too young for such a phrase but it is better than calling her by her old moniker."

"And what would that be?" Killian asked cheekily.

Regina rolled smoothly to her feet, a small smile fixed to her face and said in a voice dripping with acid. "The Evil Queen."

"Ah, well than, is the gang all here so you can start explaining a few things?" Killian glanced around the room, impatient and waiting for something he couldn't name. Dread built inside him. He knew something was wrong but whatever it was wasn't in this room, yet.

"Henry's gone to fetch Emma," Charming informed Regina and Robin. Killian retreated again at the sound of the princess's name and began searching the room for a distraction. A compass sat on the mantle and he let it draw him away from his worries and Milah's side.

"I know we look good for three hundred years but the same could be said of you folk." Milah addressed her question to Regina. "This entire kingdom and more has been missing for over 28 years?"

"Emma's, what, thirty-two or something now," Snow spoke up drawing attention back to herself. "So over thirty years really." She gave her guest a smile and turned to her husband. "Did you realize that our baby has parents who are in their sixties really?"

"You've got to be joking," Regina chimed in. "This is what we're going to talk about? Can't we just skip the politeness and get to the point."

"Henry should be a part of this." Robin pointed out to his love. "And speak of the devil."

"Sorry Mom, Grandma, Grandpa and Robin," Henry panted out. "I was trying to track down Mom but I couldn't find her." He leaned over, trying to catch his breath. "But I ran into Leroy, Grumpy, and he said Mom had to go out and see Anton. Sheriff business at the beanstalk. It could take a while and she, you know, felt bad about missing our guests." Snow raised a brow and studied her grandson but said nothing.

Killian dropped the compass and watched it roll across the floor. It wasn't until Milah put a hand on his arm that he remembered where he was.

"Opps."

Noise erupted at once as they all began talking over one another except Regina. She walked up to Henry and put a hand on his cheek, staring into his eyes before nodding.

"Let's get this show on the road," she called for order. "Basically, we want to know what you want. Until we do there will be no contact with Rumplestilskin or Neal or Belle. Also, the Dark One has promised to keep his distance and not kill either of you unless provoked."

Milah blinked, surprised. "That seems very simple and straightforward." She took a seat by the fire. "Are you sure that's what Rumple agreed to?"

"Yes," Snow answered. "Three months ago, we were brought back here to the Enchanted Forest. While we haven’t figured out the why or the how or the who, we were all brought back together." She reached out and held Regina's hand. "After everything, we are family and that now includes you. Both of you."

Killian faced away from the group. Damn his mixed-up head and heart. The Queens words filled him with warmth, happiness even and made him blink away tears. The feelings that continued to be at odds with his memory had been careening about from the moment his highness walked into that tavern. For the first time in three months, being in this room, he felt right.

"Killian." Milah reached out a hand to him and he returned to her side, his feelings back under control. She gripped his hand tightly. "We heard of your return three months ago and began listening, trying to find out if Bae was among you. It took a while but I'm here to see my son, find peace with the past and build a new future."

"Well said," Regina commented lightly. "We ask that you stay here, with David and Snow. Neal, as we know your Baelfire, will start by visiting you here." She glanced at the other people in the room. "We think it would be best for you to keep your distance from the Dark One as much as possible for as long as possible."

"It's not that Grandpa wants to hurt you, Grandmother," Henry added in. "Just probably smart to ease into it and make sure Dad has your back."

"Also, we don't wish to confine you to the castle," Charming spoke up. "If you need to sail off for a few days, so be it. We just ask that if you're visiting, you stay here."

Killian watched Milah absorb this news. Her eyes were shiny with tears.

"What do you say love?" He lifted her hand and kissed it which caused a few of the room’s other occupants to frown. "Shall we make port for a bit?"

"Yes please," Tears began to trail down her cheeks. "I wish to see my son."

"Excellent," Snow took charge of the conversation again. "I'll go prepare a room for you two."

Before Killian could intervene, Milah spoke another yes please and pinched his side. Frustrated, he held back a pained sigh as they followed the Queen from the room.

Chapter Text

Snow led her guests down the hall, mulling over all that was said and all that was not, and tried to identify what caused that itchy tickle of wrongness to slide down her back this time.

Regina wouldn't be this calm and welcoming if she’d found anything suspicious on board the Jolly Roger. Snow thought the Dark One's ex-wife to be pleasant and the pirate captain to be charming as a rogue could be. Still, there was this feeling of something being slightly out of place. David and she had talked it over as they had each experienced the feeling but after months of being on guard against whatever, nothing had happened.

"The repairs to the village are rather extensive, your majesty," Captain Jones inquired, interrupting the Queen's thoughts.

"Charming.” When she turned to address him, she realized she had traveled just a bit too far but as she turned back, her exact location caused her to rethink her guest's accommodations. “David and I both can handle conditions other royals, and well I guess Regina for that matter, consider 'rough'."

Snow continued to walk briskly around a corner and down a shorter hallway. "A shepherd and thief learn to make do. After everything our people went through during the curse, curses, we owed them a fresh start." She stopped in front of a set of double doors toward the end of the hallway. "I don’t know how long you’ll be here and coming and going. So, I thought this suite might work best. I hope you approve and you feel at home here."

Snow White pushed the doors open to reveal a sparsely decorated but pleasant enough looking parlor. She walked around the room, opening different doors to reveal the bedrooms and a balcony. Killian and Milah wandered about, looking in on the different rooms as Snow White nervously reeled off the details of the suite.

"More space than maybe you need but you’ll have your very own bathing chamber. Also, a bit away from everyone else, not that we’re trying to keep you from everyone else. I know it's kind of simple…"

"Your highness, there's a view of the docks," Killian said from the balcony. "What more could we ask. I believe this will serve us quite well."

Milah nodded at the queen and Snow flushed happily with their approval. "Regina and Robin are joining us for dinner," she explained, heading for the door. "It's the small dining room next to the sitting room you met them in. Plenty of time for you both to get what you need from your ship and settle in. I'll see you then."

 


 

 

Killian stood on the balcony watching the castle grounds and distant village bustling with people. For the past three months, he ignored his feelings and kept steering a course forward. He thought this trip would either end in death or the reunion Milah wanted, but he wasn't prepared for it to pluck at his own heart. He could hear doors opening and closing behind him and closed his eyes, dreading the talk they needed to have. His time was up when he heard footsteps coming his way.

"My darling wife." Killian fired the first shot of the coming argument without opening his eyes.

"I'm sorry," Milah whispered and reached out to stroke his arm. "I just didn't know how to explain. Yes, this is the pirate I escaped my husband and son with, no we're not a couple. Three hundred years is a long time."

"Looks like you know exactly what to say love." He pulled away from her touch, looking at her with eyes darkened by anger.

"To Snow White and Prince Charming, the couple who is considered a shining beacon of true love. Did you hear the man describe his daughter as the product of true love? What will they think of a woman who ran away, with a pirate, deserting her child?"

"According to the story, they put their newborn daughter in a wardrobe that took her to god knows where on the advice of the Dark One. I hardly think they have room to judge."

"Listen, it will only be for a bit. Give me time with Bae, see what he's like and gently ease him into the truth." She paced back to the room and sighed, her voice gritty with her own frustration. "You owe me. Three hundred years together and then you just wake up, needing to get away from me, from the life we built."

Killian turned to watch her. She had a point. They had three hundred years together and then suddenly it was all gone but he knew her well enough to know she was holding something back.

"I'll play your game," Killian informed her, taking her by the shoulders to turn her so he could look into her eyes. She tried to avoid his gaze but he just waited till her eyes connected with his. "There is, however, a time limit. You have three months."

She pushed his hands away. "Six. It isn’t only about appearances. Part of this is making sure the Dark One doesn't kill us."

"Six." Killian studied her as she walked out on the balcony. "I hope this gets you what you want. Let's go get our things from the ship."

 


 

 

Emma emerged from a cloud of white smoke at the base of the beanstalk and flinched from the sight it presented. There were four, no five, dead bodies splatted on the ground around the stalk. She bent and examined the closest remains first before making her way around. Back at the first body, Emma picked up a hand and turned it over. It was scratched and bruised. Again, she rounded the beanstalk. The older looking the dead body, the less damage done to the hands. She looked up and counted five cut marks, each one higher than the last. Reaching out a hand toward it, Emma didn't feel the magic that supposedly protected the beanstalk and Anton.

Emma poofed herself up to the top and caught herself mid-fall. Anton had been cleaning and rearranging the giant's home since his return and removed most of the rubble scattered about the courtyard and entrance. He also installed a small gong there where the beanstalk came through. Emma banged on it. He must have been waiting for her because she barely hit it the second time when she felt the tremors of his steps. She leaped down and held onto the raised edge of the hole as the whole floor continued to shake.

Anton was running.

"Emma, oh Emma," He got down on his knees to speak to her. "I didn't mean for anything to happen but there are people dead at the bottom of my beanstalk." Anton wrung his hands, apologizing over and over again.

"Anton," Emma called to him, trying to get him to calm down. "ANTON." She finally shouted to get him to stop. "It looks like the word of the beanstalk has spread and I think the magic protecting it isn't covering the entire thing anymore. Whoever they are managed to mark how high they got before the beanstalk knocked them off. The idiots are dying from the fall."

"This is not good Emma, not good at all." Anton held out his hand for Emma to climb up. "I don't know how it happened and I meant to tell you or your parents but it seemed better if no one knew." Emma climbed up onto his hand and let the giant lift her to his shoulder as he walked into the castle in the clouds. "It's not like I did this either, but I probably should have told you." Anton exited out through the back of the castle to look out on the fields. Fields filled with magic bean plants.

"Oh, hell Anton."

"I know but I thought the magic was still protecting the beanstalk so no one needed to know." They both silently stood, thinking about a realm filled with magic beans.

"You haven't let the dwarves see this?" Emma started turning it all over in her head because while she held on to hope more than ever, she wasn’t that optimistic. She agreed with Anton's initial reaction when kept the plot twist to himself.

"My new brothers visit but they're still small and like to be in the tiny part of the castle we built together with the leftover rubble." Anton smiled at Emma. "Dwarves only really care about work and drinking together. They also are, maybe, afraid of being crushed. But just a little. Afraid I mean."

She grimaced at the thought of dwarves crushed just a little but it would work in their favor.

"I think I can fix the magic protecting the beanstalk," Emma began and then hesitated but looked at Anton and nodded to herself. "Here’s the thing. It won't work forever but I kind of have a solution. It's not easy and maybe you’ll hate it" She twisted her own hands. "It does also kind of help me with my own problem? So be honest with me, if you don’t like my plan."

Anton looked at her as he thought her words through. "I can do that.” He smiled down at Emma. “I trust you so let’s go to tiny town and we can figure this out." Anton looked out at the fields, nodding to the ghost of his family he imagined working them. "If it's not right for the beans, then we'll figure something else out."

"Deal."

 


 

Snow White sat at her vanity, brushing out her hair and thinking over the day. The captain and Milah were easy companions at dinner, even Regina appeared to enjoy their company. It was clear thought that the couple was hiding something and she turned to mention her suspicions to her husband when her mirror started to ripple and her daughter's voice called for her.

"Yes, Emma," Snow responded with a grin, letting her daughter know she would accept the call. "It was that day you came back with Henry to make tacos that makes you overly cautious." She put down the brush as Emma's image solidified in the mirror.

"Do you really blame me? You're my parents and as happy I am that you're happy, in that way, I don’t ever need to see it or something worse."

Snow studied Emma’s image not, trying to place where her daughter could be. Giving up, she asked baldly. "Where are you?"

"I'm in Tiny Town, well that's what the dwarves and Anton call it anyway." She smiled at the room around her and then back at her mother in the mirror. "It's kind of nice at the top of the beanstalk. Anyways, I was going to make it home tonight but things have kind of changed. There's some stuff we need to talk about, family stuff."

"You don't want to bring it to the council."

"Can’t really wait another week. Anyways, this isn't council business, it's family. Kind of." Emma pulled on a loose lock of hair looking uncertain. “Mostly.”

"Emma, whatever it is you know we'll help in any way we can." The slow smile that spreads across her daughter's face made Snow's eyes tear up.

"I know Mom, but first, just you guys, Henry, Regina and Robin." Emma bit her lip. "Tomorrow morning, I have to have a talk with Neal but after, I thought we could meet at Regina's."

"We have guests." Snow watched as Emma's face lost all color. "And dwarves to keep them busy."

"Thanks Mom."

"Tomorrow."

"Tomorrow." Emma's image rippled and faded away.

Chapter Text

Emma returned to the cliffs overlooking Misthave.

This time it was to wait, for Neal to arrive, to have “the” talk which might break his heart or might not. She wasn't sure. The story she awoke with had made them a couple, fighting to keep Henry, the town and their family safe. Still, there was no romance, no suggestive remarks, no blushing as a smoldering-hot pirate made eyes at her. In the past, the real past, even as they fought the day's big bad, Killian managed to romance and win her.

Remembering all she shared with Killian didn't help. In this world he had both his hand and his love. She didn't know if it changed him but it could be a second chance for him and she didn't want to take it away.

If it was what he wanted...

The sounds of the forest were soothing but not quite as good as being by the sea. This wasn’t the place for her but her plan was almost fully formed and gave her hope. She and her unborn child would have a place of their own, that no one could take away or intrude or hurt them. When the forest went quiet around her, she turned to see Neal making his way toward her.

"This is an interesting spot," Neal said as he walked past her to look over the edge. "If you're looking to get rid of someone." He turned back and examined the woman he always thought of as the love of his life. She smiled at him but her eyes still seemed sad. He'd been racking his brain for a while now, trying to remember if that sadness had ever disappeared. He didn't think so, not before when they were young and in love and not now. "So."

"Yeah," Emma sighed out. "I don't know where to start. I could ask what you want from me, what you want the future to be." She paused and took a deep breath in. It felt like she had to put on a suit of armor, piece by piece, to hold herself together. "But here’s the thing, I already know my answers. I don't know what happened three month ago but I know that my memory isn't right. My heart isn’t mine to give. Anymore." She tried to read his face but couldn’t get a read on what he felt. "I love you. I'm so happy you are a part of my life, more importantly, a part of Henry's life. I think part of me wanted to try, to give Henry a mom and dad who were together. But that’s a bad reason and I can't do it."

"Emma." Neal reached out and wiped a tear from her cheek. "We’re on the same page. I mean it’d be nice but for all the wrong reasons will never make us right." He sat next to her and took her hand. "We got a good kid though."

"We got a great kid." Emma leaned her head on his shoulder.

"It’s been a weird three months but I'm happy I'm here." He shrugged his shoulder, making her look at him. "I'm sorry I for what I did, all those years ago. Can you forgive me?"

"Yeah," She pronounced with a bit of a laugh. "I've met your father, I totally get it now."

Neal shook his head and he looked at her. "What else you got?"

"I got married. I don't know why we're apart or why everyone's memory of him is gone but I have dreams every night." Her lips pressed together, holding her emotions in. "I've missed something every day since we got here and I finally know what." She took his hand, gripping it hard. "I'm pregnant Neal. Baby on the way and once again…"

"No Emma," He stopped her, squeezing her hand in return. "You're not alone this time and even if he isn't here, whatever happened you can't think it was his choice."

"I don't but here I am again." Emma stood and walked to the edge, looking into the distance, thinking of the things she couldn't say. She sniffed back any tears. "And emotions and the crying, it's becoming a little much." Neal laughed at her. "Friends?"

"Friends. Co-parents is what they’re calling it these days."

"Poor kid. Regina, you and me. Not sure how he's survived it."

"I think it's mostly just who Henry is."

"Yeah." She turned back to face him. "So, I hear your mom's in town."

"Nice subject change."

"Hey, I'll take what I can get. Humor the pregnant princess." This caused Neal to chuckle. "So, you heading over there today?"

"Yeah, what's she like? And the pirate?"

"I haven't met them. I had a sheriff emergency." Emma gloated. "Mom seems to think they're okay and I heard Regina didn't find anything on the ship, they probably don’t need to know that. Might be a little awkward."

"I think my father introducing my mother, who he hasn't divorced, to his new wife and infant son will be awkward." Neal huffed out a breath and slumped. "Thank God we're friends at least.  My parents are like baking powder and vinegar. I remember loving my mother and loving my father but together they are their worst selves." Emma grimaced at his words. "My father's the Dark One. He really doesn't need to be any worse."

She patted his hand. "If it makes you feel any better, your mum and her pirate husband are hanging with the dwarves this afternoon."

Neal just stared at her. "They're married?"

"Well, she introduced herself as Milah Jones. There may not be divorce in the Enchanted Forest but there’s gotta be some rule about three hundred year desertion and realm separation."

"Tell me we don't celebrate Thanksgiving."

"Sorry pal, we may not celebrate it but my dad’s planning a ball." Emma stood and wiped off her butt. "You've got two weeks before you have to spend time with both your parents in one room. Kind of makes me feel like we aren't doing too bad, you know."

"Not helping." Emma shrugged and held out her arms to him. He gathered her close into a hug. "Take care of yourself and the little hitchhiker, okay."

"I will."

 


 

 

Killian came to the conclusion that he did not like dwarves.

The morning had been going so well. He joined the king in the practice ring though neither emerged victorious. The lad was there, Henry, and they both worked with him as well. It brought him a sense of peace he needed since the deal he made the previous afternoon.

Lunch had been lovely as well. The Queen escorted them to the village market and introduced them to the best pie maker in the kingdom. David disagreed and the married couple had a friendly fight as they all enjoyed lunch al fresco. It was while they were walking back up to the castle that the day went sour and the royals began acting strange, whispering back and forth.

"Fine."

"Fine."

Killian watched the queen turn to walk backward in order to finally impart whatever the hell was the problem.

"We have to go," Snow announced. "I mean, there's this family thing we have to see to at Regina's. We'll be back tonight, for dinner, but this afternoon we have to go."

"We didn't want to leave you on your own. In fact, Emma let us know that Neal plans on coming to see you this afternoon." David joined in hopefully.

"Emma, your daughter who is away on sheriff business told you?" Killian had to ask, wondering if sheriff's business was a lie to hide the fact she was off playing around with Bae. His stomach churned a bit at the thought.

"Mirror message." Snow answered. "But she said Neal also had to speak about with his father beforehand and, well, who knows how that went."

"We have other good news," Charming interrupted. "We've officially set a date for the ball. Two weeks and we'll have a welcome home ball." He smiled at his wife who just rolled her eyes. "Emma's never been to one. It will be a moment." He plucked a flower from the road and offered it to his wife. "The dwarves thought they would keep you company this afternoon."

"They know every inch of the kingdom and can answer any questions." Snow added.

"Dwarves," Killian asked, raising a brow. "The same dwarves you ignored at the tavern?"

"David!?"

"It was for the greater good, Snow."

Milah pulled Killian back a step and gave him her unamused look. "Sounds like a plan."

A horrible very bad plan that gave Killian a headache. Worse, Baelfire did eventually show up and off they went, Milah and her Bae, leaving him with the bloody dwarves. While they proved an excellent source of gossip, (spotted the princess out by the cliffs this morning, seemed to be waiting for someone) they were also easily distracted and prefered to be working. Of course, there was Tiny, a giant of a man who they called brother. Curiosity was killing him, but asking questions just made the one called Grumpy glare at him with suspicion.

"Do you think it'll be announced at the ball?" A pink cheeked dwarf asked his brother with a sigh of longing. "It's been so calm these last months, isn't it time the princess take the next step."

Killian listened to stories of wolves, old women with cross bows, knights from Camelot seeking out the royals and story after story about the princess, the savior, the sheriff. Most of the gossip centered around her and Bae. So here he sat, drinking, brooding in the back of a tavern surrounded by dwarves and feeling the rum eat through his stomach like acid.

The one called Tiny pulled up a chair by the pirate who glared up at him from under heavy brows.

"They mean well," the tall man explained. "They just like to talk, a lot."

"They also seem to have quite the handle on kingdom’s gossip."

Tiny shifted on his stool, shaking his head. "Mostly, maybe, they do exaggerate. Sometimes." Tiny offered the pirate his hand. "I'm Anton, the giant."

"Why do they keep calling you Tiny?"

"That's what my dwarf axe named me when they adopted me into their family." He lifted his tankard and took a long drink. "I was alone for a long time till I ended up in Storybrooke. Emma was my first friend after a lot of time alone and then the dwarves adopted me."

"Ah, the mysterious princess everyone talks about." Killian scratched behind his ear, wondering what information the giant had to share and how to get when he didn’t even know what to ask.

"She's great, just real busy." Anton looked uncertain. "And, maybe, lonely. I think there are these little things all over that are just wrong and she feels it more than most. I’ve felt it. Like everything's good but one or two details are just, just wrong." His mouth twisted up a bit. "I don't know what needs fixing or if fixing will make everything worse."

Killian considered the giant, considered sharing his own unease and the little things that his head and heart disagreed upon.

"I just remind myself that it’ll be okay, Emma will figure it out. You'll like her, don't worry about what the dwarves say." Anton nodded as if the matter was closed.

"I'll drink to that." With that the pirate and the giant toasted.

 

Chapter Text

Neal tracked his father down to his study. He shifted closer as Rumple delicately unrolled a scroll and held it under a magnifying glass. He heard a soft murmur of sound and checked for a source. Neal's heart squeezed in happiness and a bit in envy. From his father’s work bench he could see into the library as Belle rocked Gideon.

"If we were a normal father and son," Rumple declared before Neal could take another breath. "I would ask if you were okay, if this is what you wanted." He looked up from the scroll. "But we aren't, and it feels rude to assume you've had an unpleasant conversation with the savior."

Neal didn’t look away from the library. "Do you know how lucky you are Papa?"

Rumple followed his gaze and smiled. "I don't plan to mess this chance up." He put the scroll down and placed a hand on Bae's arm. "If you wanted I would wheel and deal, to get the fair maiden's heart for your own. But I think we both know that wouldn't work out, in the long run."

"It's not that I want Emma." Neal walked away, examining the shelves. "I just want to find my own “happy ending”, you know. We aren't those kids anymore and we can't go back." He picked up a wooden box and put it down again. “No regrets with it and I think we’re pretty damn good job now, with Henry."

"I tend to agree with you." Rumple waved a hand toward the door. "Tea?" The two walked into the library and joined Belle. She smiled up at her husband then at Bae. Rumple poured, handing the first cup to Belle then pausing before handing over Bae's.

"There is something more going on," Rumple said as he handed over the cup. His son looked at him with a blank face and stood with a casual air. "Hiding things has caused more trouble than even me."

"Emma's pregnant." The shock on both Belle’s and Rumple’s faces made him rush to finish. "Not mine. She's sure our memories were messed with and that her husband was erased from everyone's minds. Almost everyone’s."

"There's more isn't there?"

"Well, my mother and her pirate have hit town."

"Come, come, something else. That’s yesterday’s news."

"They might be married?" Neal kept his eyes on his tea cup letting his father's response stay between him and Belle. "She introduced herself as Milah Jones."

Rumplestilskin stirred his tea and thought. He thought of the past and the paths he’d taken, the choices he made. He thought of how he finally felt whole and how it happened three months ago when he woke up with his beloved wife, his infant son, his firstborn, his sanity and his power. In order to keep those precious pieces of his heart, he had to master letting go.

"Well, alright then." He thought a bit more. "I have no clue about the memory business but I guess I will have to offer your mother congratulations at the Charming's ball."

"Thank you Papa." Neal sat back to enjoy tea with his family. Belle stood and kissed her husband on the cheek.

"Thank you, Rumple."

A high pitched giggle escaped him before he settled down to tea.

 


 

Emma sat out by Regina's beloved apple tree, waiting and thinking and planning.

"Here chew on this," Regina said and placed an apple in Emma's hand.

"I'm not sure that's a good ideal." Emma twisted the apple's stem and watched Regina anxiously pace around her gardens. "Did you have a nice night with Henry?" Whatever reply she got was muffled and didn't stop the pacing. "It's not the end of the world Regina."

"How am I supposed to know that?" Regina spit the words out. "You take off on guests – I had no clue Charming's could be so rude. Then, you call a family meeting but not the whole family which means there's something you would rather not tell the Dark One. Does any of that sound like good news to you?” She threw her arms up in the air “And Henry. Last night I went to say good night and he was hiding tears, Emma, tears."

She stalked away. "We will not be making small talk, we will wait for your parents and you will tell us the news and then we will deal with it and if I am very lucky there will be someone to kill."

"Okay then." Emma ate a few bites of the apple before bolting for the bushes, gagging it all back up.

"That's just rude."

"Sorry."

"Mom!" Both women turned as Henry rushed into the garden and over to Emma's side. "Are you okay?"

Emma tried to reassure him but sighed instead. She stopped and looked over at Regina. "Can we have a minute alone?"

Regina rolled her eyes, swept her skirts up and headed back into the castle, calling over her shoulder. "I will go see if you parents are dillydallying."

Emma and Henry looked at each other and started laughing. "Dillydallying."

"She really shouldn’t use such language."

"Henry." Emma walked back over to the tree, dragging her son with her. "You've gotten too old on me."

"You had me way too young."

"True I guess," Emma said, sitting and holding onto his hand. "I was going to do this once with everyone but I think you get to hear this first. I'm not going to get into the details” – she shrugged – “I will when we talk to everyone else. I'm just going to tell you." She stopped, her eyes traveling over the garden, trying to figure out how to say it. "I. I mean I'm really sure, well. There's no tests here but it's almost, well it's a feeling and then there's the crying and the vomiting and then I ate an apple. We don't eat apples in this family."

"Mom, just tell me already."

"I'm pregnant Henry." Emma choked a bit around the words. "You are going to be a big brother. But it isn't your father's. I'm sorry, so sorry. I tried, I really did but your dad and I, we love you and we do love each other it's just not…"

"Mom, stop," Henry pleaded. "I, I get it. You aren't in love and that's okay. You guys are friends, family really, but you aren't like grandma and grandpa or Mom and Robin." The sat together for a moment protected by the quiet of the garden. Till the sound of the Charming’s and Regina with Robin in tow intruded.

"There's more isn't there Mom?"

"Yeah, but we'll do the rest together." She squeezed his hand. "And when you're ready, you can tell us what happened, or just me. I remember Henry, I remember what our stories really are. I can't tell them though." She watched the two couples coming toward them and whispered to him. "I promise you, I won't let this happy ending die."

"Well, we are all finally here," Regina announced. "What the hell is going on?"

"There's kind of a list," Emma reached out a hand to her mother. Snow took it. "And you're going to want to be sitting down." She lifted an arm but Regina beat her to it. Charming, Snow and Robin found themselves seated. Regina went and sat on the other side of Henry.

"Spill it, Sheriff."

Emma took a deep breath, smiled at Henry and stood.

"Just," she paused and considered her audience. "Just let me make it to the end before you start with the questions." Emma looked at each one of them in turn, ending with Snow.

"What?"

"No questions yet." Emma kept her eyes on her mother. It made it easier to breath. "I know why things are strange, other than us just showing up back here in the Enchanted Forest. When we came here, whatever caused it also changed our memories." She glanced to the side at Henry. "I don't know everything but there’s just, well, one thing. I was married."

"Ah!" Charming got out before Snow smacked him on the shoulder. Emma raised her eyebrow at her father, waiting to see if he'd stay quiet.

When he did she continued. "I dream, every night." Emma crossed her arms rubbing them, trying to feel some warmth. The spell keeping her sleep deprived face hidden flickering. "I wouldn't think they were real but they're the only thing that explains – okay, so I should really just say it." Emma closed her eyes. "I'm pregnant."

"What!" Her parents could be quite similar some days.

Snow started to rise as Emma’s spell dropped completely and her tired face was revealed. "Oh Emma."

"It's just been hard to sleep," Emma dismissed the concern over her appearance and shrugged. "Three months of sleepless nights and now add in morning sickness. I'll be fine."

"Yes," Regina agreed. "We'll see to that. Sleep the damn mornings away and stop hiding."

"I'll kill him." Charming stood. "I will hunt this man down and kill him."

"Listen Dad, he didn't run away. Hell, he didn't even frame me and send me to jail."

"Yes, David," Snow interrupted her. "When are you going to punch Neal for that one?"

"As far as I can tell, I was barely pregnant when we came here and you're going to have to just hang on, there's more."

"I dread finding out what you're talking about." Regina wrapped an arm around Henry.

"It's why Anton called me out to his castle yesterday." Emma took a deep breath. "The magic protecting the beanstalk is fading. I managed to restore it but it won't last long and more people will die trying to reach the giant's treasure. I don't think Anton cares about that but he was keeping another secret. The bean field is back."

"People won't just kill themselves getting to those beans, they'll kill each other." Robin's voice was hoarse. "And then there's what they’ll do once they have them."

"I kind of have a plan," Emma spoke up. "For all that and the sleeping and, well. So Anton's agreed but I'm afraid none of you will like it."

"Emma, what are you thinking of doing?"

"I'm going to move to an island in the middle of the bottomless sea?" Emma looked to Henry to see his response. He rolled his eyes, shaking his head. "AND we thought redistribute some of the treasure would help to kind of kill the rumor of riches in the sky."

"Didn’t they also have some magical items as well," Regina asked.

"I was hoping you, maybe Gold or Zelena could sort that out before we get the gold and whatever out. Still before you guys can do that we need to burn the bean field." Everyone fell silent and Emma rolled her eyes. "Except for a couple. I showed Anton my island and he thinks he'll be able to transplant the bean plants there."

Snow stood and walked to her daughter, holding her by the shoulders. "How often have you been to this island?" Snow refused to let her hide and it made Emma squirm.

"Whenever it got too hard to hide that I wasn't fine."

"Oh Emma."

"Wait a second," Regina spoke, one finger twirling in the air. "So your plan is to move your pregnant self to an isolated island in the middle of the sea and raise magic beans."

"It's not as stupid as you make it sound," Emma replied. She pulled a piece of chalk from her belt and went over the nearest castle wall. "I’ll show you."

Reaching out she began drawing a door on the wall. "I got the idea from a couple of movies. There's maybe another door at home." She blushed a bit. "In the back of my wardrobe." She knocked three times on the door and stood back as it opened. "But with this I can get just about anywhere. You guys want to see?"

 

Chapter Text

Long grasses grew sparsely over an island that was just the other side of a pile of rocks. The dock they stood on and a few crumbling towers the only evidence that anything had ever occupied the space. Waves swept over the weathered wood at the far end of the dock but it didn’t tremble under the force of the bottomless sea.

Everyone turned to look at Emma.

"It's not that bad." Regina snorted in derision. Emma walked up the dock to the battered building. "Fine, it's awful."

"So far away," Snow said.

"And it looks dangerous," chimed in Charming.

"It's a pile of rocks." Regina stated bluntly. "This is no place for a pregnant woman. What happens when you go into labor?" She shrugged her shoulder. "Probably a great place to hide a few magic bean plants."

"Just come on." Emma led the way up the dock, through a doorway and over to the tallest tower.

"Mom, can I go check out the rest of the island?" Henry rocked back and forth on his feet, looking from one mother to the other. Regina raised an eyebrow.

"Don't go in to the other buildings. Anton says they're not safe yet." Emma answered and looked to Regina.

"Go."

"Emma?" Her father stopped them at the base of the stairs. "I think I’ll check out the rest of the island as well. What do you say Robin, want to explore a bit?"

Robin and Charming left to search through the grounds of the island and the women climbed the stairs of the tallest tower. At the top was a single round chamber with wide windows, one led to a balcony that looked out over the sea. Emma had managed to scrounge up a lounging couch and a bookshelf for the room. A number of books were occupying the shelves and other odds and ends were spread out throughout the room.

"Emma," Snow White sighed, taking in the details of the room. Regina went out to the balcony after pacing around the tower.

"I wouldn't be staying here here. Maybe" Emma explained hurriedly. "This has just been a place to get away for a bit. I think with Anton and the dwarves help, we can reconnect and rebuild the towers. Restore the rooms. Turn the center into a garden and hide the beans in plain sight. Sort of." She studied her mother and Regina carefully, reading signs of disapproval or disbelief on their faces. "You both have your own castles."

Snow sighed again. Regina studied the sea then turned to study the savior. She saw pain etched into the tired face of her friend and that wasn't acceptable.

"It's a widow's walk up here," she said, nodding her head at the balcony. "He's a sailor, your missing hubby, isn't he?" Emma rolled her eyes, looking around the room. Regina frowned at Snow. "What is it? There's more isn't there, more that you haven't told us."

Snow walked to her daughter and caught her eyes, watching them fill with tears. "Emma I've been wondering one thing. Why didn't you ask us to look for him?"

Emma pushed into her arms, burying her face and squeezing her mother tightly. "Not now, please Mom, not now."

Snow stroked her daughter's hair and looked up at Regina. She pulled back to wipe Emma's tears away. Regina stood next to them and placed a hand on Snow's shoulder.

"Do I get my own room when I visit?" Regina asked.

Emma let out a squeaky bit of a laugh. "Yeah, you all will."

 


 

 

Killian managed to ditch the dwarves before shooting himself in the head became necessary.

If only the giant had stayed, he could have continued to drink well into the evening but Anton got called away. Thankfully, he had to check on the Jolly Roger and escaped being invited to have some fun, dwarf style. Now he made his way back to the castle to see what new fun the Queen and King had in store.

His luck held and Charming helped him get through the castle guards. If life kept going his way for once, he’d make it back to the suite before running into anyone else. Milah should be back after her meet up with Bae and he was anxious to hear how the two had got on.

Killian was about to turn down the hall when a flash of white caught his eye and he turned in time to see a tail of blonde hair heading in the opposite direction. His body froze, a desire to chase after the woman fighting against his previous plans. He gritted his teeth and turned himself back round. Refusing to look back, he made his way to the suite he shared with his "wife". Once through the door, he fell into the nearest chair.

"Oh good," Milah said. "You're back in time for dinner."

"I have spent a good portion of my day with dwarves." He glared across the room. "What makes you think I wish to spend any more time today with the royals?"

"There will be food there." Milah smacked the back of his head. "As will Bae. He's so grown up and kind." She wrapped her arms around his shoulders from behind. "He's not like me, and he's not like his father either. Bae raised himself, he shouldn't have had to but he did and…"

Killian sighed. "Fine but I am not dressing for dinner."

"At least take a bath or something. Not that you don't look lovely, but then you can smell that way too." She walked to her room and slammed the door.

"Bloody hell." Killian wasn't sure if he truly cared Milah was miffed with him. His fingers tapped out a slow beat on the arm of the chair. If he ever attempted matrimony it wouldn't be a constant struggle to reach an unhappy stalemate. The tapping of his fingers picked up speed. She was so anxious about how they appeared to the royals that he got caught up in a story that didn’t suit him.

But. He sat up straight. But he had taken her away from her family. At her request but he had done it all the same.

Bracing himself, he stood and walked to her door, listening at the banging around inside. There were things wrong with bloody everything and his memory had holes but a few were crystal clear. Waking up a slave after his father’s abandonment was one and the pain of it chilled him, scarring deep into his soul.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on her door. He was not going to be responsible for tearing any more families apart.

The door opened and Milah peered out at him.

Killian leaned against the door frame. "I'm sorry, but the dwarves are impossible," He said cajolingly. "I now understand why King Square Jaw was avoiding them. More importantly, how did this afternoon go with Baelfire?"

"It went well, I think." She opened the door farther, swinging the door back and forth. "Mostly, he told me about his life. Why he left the Enchanted Forest, the realms he jumped through. He was in Neverland. He was there for close to three hundred years, like us."

"That makes no sense. Pan never…

"I know, I don't know how we missed him." Tracing the design on the knob of the door, she looked down. "I didn't bring that up with him. What do you say, we were in the same place for hundreds of years and we just missed each other? Add it to the list."

"List?"

"Of weird things that make no sense." Milah pushed him off the door frame. "Dinner, go."

"Fine," he said strolling across the room. "Let's do our best not to put ourselves on the list."

"Too late."

 

Emma studied her face in the mirror and decided only her mother would know how tired she was, she scrunched her face up, and how emotional. There really wasn't any other choice though, there were only so many dinners she could skip before someone said something.

“So let’s get to it.”

All her weird family connections should have prepared her for this. Hey, think life is strange in a town of story book characters, think again. Here meet your parents, fun fact you're all about the same age. Settling in to being a sheriff savior, nope, well don't look now but here's the man who knocked you up and sent you to jail. Thankfully not on the same night. Bonus round, it turns out his father is the manipulative bastard you've been trying to outwit for a year. Then there was Cora and Pan and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Keeping up a front while dinning with her husband who had no clue that he was her husband ‘cause as far as he knew he was married to his true love whose death (which no longer happened) drove him to darkness and revenge should be a piece of cake.

Picking up her brush, Emma took a deep breath and started brushing her hair, again. Her mind flashing back to the placid life of Singing Princess Emma from the wish realm and started humming "Someday my prince will come" to steal some of that calm. The door opened behind her.

"Really?" Regina asked. "A prince was he?"

"Knocking would be nice."

"Pffft. Useless manners." She looked Emma up and down. "That's an interesting ensemble, will we be sacrificing you after dinner?"

Emma stroked the sides of the white dress. It reminded her of the time in Camelot before things went to hell and the high waist would hide her pregnancy in the weeks to come. "The hormones are totally messing with me. The dress makes me happy and the style will hide the peanut in the future. So go with it." Emma stood, tossing her hair behind her shoulder.

"In all that got discussed today, we didn't talk about Henry." Regina stood in front of the door. "What do you know. Why is he so out of it?"

"Does this stay between us for now?"

"Yes," she replied slowly.

"I'm pretty sure Henry knows what happened, the memory erasing and the jump to the Enchanted Forest."

"Henry would never.."

"Not on purpose."

The two women remained silent for a long while. A bell began to ring, calling the castle denizens to dinner.

"How do we fix this?" Emma sighed at Regina's question but Regina just kept going, with question after question.

"Regina, let's just get through dinner tonight." Emma once again concentrated on calming her emotions.

"Emma what the hell is going on?"

"It's complicated."

Chapter Text

Killian sat in the window seat of the small parlor chamber from the previous day. Milah chatted with Queen Snow as they all waited for the rest of the family to head the call of the dinner bell. Killian occupied himself with the compass once again, turning it this way and that, studying the needle. It didn’t point north.

Robin of Locksley towed a small moppet with dimples into the room who eagerly escaped his grasp to run toward the queen.

"Snow, Snow, Snow," Roland repeated tugging on her sleeve. "Where's Leo?" Snow gave a shake of her head but before she could answer Robin pulled his son away.

"Manners first Roland." Robin introduced him to Milah then Killian before letting the boy run back to the queen. He came over to the window and tapped twice on the glass of the compass. "As far as I can tell it has never worked."

"The needle points to something." Killian turned the compass in his hand. "The question is at what?."

Thief and pirate speculated on the use of the compass as Charming family members continued to trickle in. Of course, when King David came in, looking windblown and casual, Killian shot a glare at Milah which she ignored, not that she truly cared. Killian sighed.

Henry came in carrying the little prince who he handed directly to his grandmother. "Mom's getting, umm, Mom." Henry informed Snow and made his way across the room away from the small children to Robin and Killian. Robin repeatedly elbowed him in the side to get his attention while Henry concentrated on ignoring the intrusion.

"Are you a child?" Henry finally resorted to asking rudely.

"Were you babysitting?"

"Not really, I was reading to Ne -- Leo."

"You know Roland loves your stories." Robin looked at Henry with wide unblinking eyes.

Henry glared back. "I was raised by the Evil Queen, try again." Killian couldn't help but laugh at the boy, enjoying the ease with which the boy and man interacted.

"Please tell me you are not corrupting my son, thief," Regina called out from the wide doorway. "You're better off trying to cut him a deal. What do you think Snow? Such a rich pool of talent for Henry to pull from in this family. Thief, dealmaker, ruler, shepherd, bailbonds person."

"Hey kid, what did Robin do to get Regina's panties in a bunch?" A new voice interrupted the queen mother. A woman in white stood beside Regina, her hands on her hips and without thinking, Killian stood, his gripe on the compass tightening. He ran his tongue over his teeth and his eyes over the woman.

"Must you be so vulgar." For a moment Killian feared Regina addressed him while she managed to look down her nose.

"It's a talent," the woman said and smiled at the room. Her eyes traveled around the room and when she caught his stare, she gave him a tight little smile and nodded. Killian felt a wide grin stretching across his face followed by a heel hitting his shin. He turned to catch the boy coughing before looking back over the room to see her introduced to his "wife". Falling back on the seat, he kept staring at the scene before him. There was something wrong about seeing the two women standing in the same room.

"Killian," Milah called for him. "Come meet the princess."

"Uh, just call me Emma." She turned again toward him but her posture was stiff with fists bunching the fabric of her dress. He watched her fight the frown that pulled at the corners of her mouth repeatedly and he felt heart broken. Somehow even with an illogical pain pulling at his chest, Killian walked across the room and gave his best heel clinking bow, reaching for the princess' hand.

"My compass," her highness said with a total lack of grace. She stopped trying not to frown.

He looked down at the compass griped in his hand, his knuckles white. When he looked back up, he saw the princess reaching out toward it and snatched his hand behind his back. "Finders keepers."

"What are you, twelve?" She took a step forward about to reach for it.

"Emma," Snow said aghast at her daughter’s behavior.

Emma. Her name echoed in his ears and it felt like he could breathe again.

"But it's our…" Emma turned red and backed away from him.

Gritting his teeth, he held it out to her. Ready to do anything to bring her closer and keep her within reach even if it meant giving up the compass that had captured his attention. "Forgive me love," he said sweeping into a slight bow. "Hard for this pirate to resist such an interesting treasure" – he paused so briefly, wanting desperately to be able to leave the statement there were it could remain such an enticing possibility – "as this particular compass."

Her eyes seemed to get wider in horror at his statement. The princess took another step back, stretching her arm out to take the compass from his hand without touching his skin before swiftly moving to her father’s side. Again, a strange anguish rushed over him at her obvious distaste.

"Thank you," she said in a surprisingly prim voice. "Pirate."

There it was, the problem with royals and all good people, they couldn't get past the whole pirate thing. Anger boiled in him and he glared across the room. Milah moved a hand to his arm but it didn't quell the fierce need inside him. Killian wished to make her highness take back the disdain she dripped all over him, make her see that her assumptions were stupid and misapplied.

Taking a deep breath and placing his cracked heart aside, he smirked at her from across the room and when her eyes met his again he spoke. "You're welcome love."

 


 

 

Charming felt Emma's hand digging into his arm as the pirate exercised his dubious manners.

Maybe he was the most annoying father a grown woman could have because he wanted to punch the pirate in the face for that smirk. Because however strange he found Emma's haughty attitude, she trembled as she held onto his arm and there was so little he could do for his daughter. His pregnant daughter was a fully capable woman, who had given birth and gone to jail and who did not seem to need a father anymore. Punching the pirate was unlikely to accomplish anything even if it would make him feel better, until he felt worse again for hitting the wrong man.

In his heart, Charming believed Emma and her assessment of the situation and the missing status of her husband. He knew the man was not to blame but the need to punch him not being here was overpowering. It was definitely stronger than David’s urge to punch the pirate.

Emma's fingers dug further into his arm pulling David away from his thoughts of possible future violent acts to look closer and figure out what was disturbing her. Studying the scene before him made him smile while it drained the good mood out of his daughter. Regina took the pirate's seat by the window with Roland on her lap and Henry at her side. His grandson's posture wasn't quite as tense as his mother's but it was close. Robin was speaking with Killian again who stood at the side of his wife.

David felt that little hiccup of wrongness in his chest again. It seemed to happen occasionally around the pirate and his wife. It would zing its way through him most often when he called his son's name. Why did he agree to name him Leopold? The kids were all going to make fun of him. Charming turned to look at his wife and son. Cuddled together in the chair Leo looked peaceful and Snow, well, Snow was doing much the same thing he was, checking out the room and frowning while scrutinizing their daughter.

"Charming," Snow caught his attention and he moved closer, keeping Emma on his arm and dragging her with him. "I think we're just waiting on Neal. Milah, he did say he would be joining us tonight?"

"Ah, yes," Milah answered and pulled away from Killian. "I may have made a mistake but I asked if he would stay here tonight. From what he told me, he's been living on his father’s land."

"Neal's welcome to stay here anytime." Snow responded and reached out to grasp the wrist of Emma's hand which held the compass. She shook it a bit and Emma pulled her arm free to put it in her pocket, which didn't exist.

"What is with this place? No pockets? Do I have to wear a fanny pack to carry my stuff." Emma huffed out.

"Welcome to the Enchanted Forest, Ems." Neal came into the room and Emma hugged him. "How you feeling?"

The exchange between the two made David feel guilty about the promise he had made earlier. Oh, one day the opportunity would present itself and he’d punch Neal for leaving his baby the first time.

Charming turned to announce that they would proceed to dinner and his gaze caught again on the married pirate who couldn't stop staring at Emma. Before his ridiculous urge to smite the intruder over took his reason, the anguish on the man's face registered. He took a breath and offered his arm to his wife.

"Shall we all go to dinner," David addressed the entire room.

For three months they had been living in a happily ever after cloud and now trouble was ahead. Nothing could be done tonight and thankfully they weren’t at the edge of a curse or in immediate and desperate mortal peril. Charming looked down at Snow and Leo as they led the way, this was their family and together they would work it out.

"I love you," he said leaning down to kiss her quickly.

She smiled and shifted the baby a bit and returned the gesture. "I love you too."

And love would win, every time.

Chapter Text

Emma had a plan, a plan to channel her mother – to be sweet, or at least polite, maybe a dash of Regina's snooty attitude to refine it. She wanted to keep and create plenty of space between her and Killian. She was not going to let him bait her nor, more importantly, challenge him in any way.

You know, most men would take your silence as off-putting, but I love a challenge…

She remembered when he said it, remembered tying him to the tree, trapping him with a giant and having to handcuff him to the hospital bed. Every step in their, she grinned to herself -- ‘cause it was his word really, courtship played on a loop in her head. A challenge didn't sum up everything they came to mean to each other but it was there at the start and she wasn't ready to let it happen again.

If it even would.

If.

If she didn't have to avoid rum right now, she'd be downing shots one after another. The plan imploded last night the moment she saw the compass in his hand. Their compass, the one she used to punch him. She rolled her eyes at herself.

Emma Swan the romantic.

When everyone had awakened here, they thought the big issue was suddenly appearing in the Enchanted Forest. Sure, a common complaint was a vague feeling of wrongness. Neal never experienced it and neither had Robin. Emma figured they were simply less afflicted by a past they hadn’t experienced and lives already lost.

Emma didn't know how things were for Killian and Milah.

If it was the same for Milah then Killian probably shared the same reaction as Rumple and Regina. Both admitted to sometimes finding little things giving them a tinge of wrong but everything else felt overwhelmingly right, so perfectly right. Emma knew this second chance, the return of their loved ones, held far greater power than a tiny detail, like a baby's name changed to Leopold, ever could.

Maybe she was comparing apples and oranges. The life they built wasn’t a tiny detail, but Emma wasn’t going to destroy Killian's second chance. If he wanted it.

She wiggled restlessly in her chair as she ate a bit of bread. Maybe there was a tiny part of her, a tiny corner of her heart which remembered being an orphan and never anyone's first choice for so many years, messing up her head. Even Neal, in the past and before she had broken the curse, had chosen himself and chosen Tamara before her. This tiny corner of her heart wasn't sure Hook would be any different.

Fear was a bitch and mixed with pregnancy hormones an asshole as well.

Emma concentrated on the now, on taking tiny bites of food and not missing someone actually directing a question or comment her way. A small smile crossed her lips as she picked up on her family keeping the conversation directed away from her. She scanned the faces around the table, hoping to boost her fake involvement and caught blue eyes staring at her from under a lowered brow. It took more than a few heartbeats before she managed to tear her eyes away and stopped holding her breath. Neal placed his hand over her fist on the table between them. She smiled at him in thanks.

Then the mutton came from the kitchen.

Emma bolted from the table the second the meaty smell hit her nose and ran for the nearest window. Every bite she had managed to get down came rolling back up. Someone pulled her hair back out of her face and held it as they rubbed gentle circles against her back.

The hand was too small to be really comforting.

Emma leaned against Snow when she finished, her tired eyes meeting her mother's. Snow pulled Emma into her side as a cup appeared in front them.

"Drink, please" her father urged her. Emma took a small sip and swished it in her mouth before leaning back out the window to spit it out.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "The smell.”

"No apologies." Her mother kept Emma in her embrace as she walked her out of the hall. "I think it would be a good ideal for you to go upstairs and rest. We'll bring you up something later." Emma looked up at her mother and tilted her head with a grimace to the room behind them. "Guests do not matter as much as your health. Henry, come escort your mother to her room."

Henry leaped from the table and hurried over. Snow gave Emma push toward him, her cheeks red in embarrassment over her behavior but Henry had his head angled in his worrying way. She cupped his cheek in one hand and smiled at him. With a nod, he offered his arm and she took it. As they passed close to the table, she pulled him to a stop. Without looking all the way up, Emma mumbled an apology before letting Henry pull her along again.

She leaned into him a bit. "Did your mom roll her eyes at me?" she asked.

He laughed and slowly they left their troubles behind them.

 


 

 

It was as if all lights were dimmed.

At the start conversation around the table was lively. With three thieves and two pirates at the table, the tales of adventure and near misses got competitive. Except.

Except the princess, who said nothing and her silence bothered Killian.

He kept staring at her down turned head till he  finally caught her. Her green eyes widened when she met his, oh so briefly, before she looked away with a frown. Baelfire was now a problem as far as he was concerned. She smiled at him, let him provide her comfort, his bloody hand holding hers. That one gesture making Killian imagine standing and running the man through.

Anger was not an unfamiliar emotion for him but this constant up and down was getting ridiculous. Milah had kicked him several times already and they weren't that far into the meal. In fact, the mutton had just come out of the kitchen when the princess ran from the table. Again, Killian found himself on his feet without thinking, a need inside him to run to her side.

A sharp tug on his arm got his attention away from the window. He looked down into Milah's frowning face. She jerked her head toward the others in the room calling his attention to the fact he was the only person on his feet. A downward tug and he fell into his chair before anyone else noticed.

Previous dinner conversation halted as everyone watched the princess and her son leave. Killian followed them until they disappeared through the doorway. The moment the king and queen sat back down, everyone seemed to speak at once.

"We're going to have to keep an eye on her," Regina pointed out. "Your daughter does not know how to slow down."

"What do you want us to do Regina? She's a grown woman who makes her own decisions and has for a long time." Snow looked down the table at her husband. "You're going to have to find a good reason to cancel sword practice."

"Snow," he started and stopped, not knowing what to say.

"No David," she smacked hand on the table. "This we can do. We’ll have to watch her run herself into the ground otherwise because she doesn't know where…" The queen trailed off as she blinked at the newest residents of her castle.

Killian glanced at Milah to get her take on the royal's drama but she was studying Bae with a hurt look on her face. Glancing around the table he found more meaningful looks passing between the others. Robin and Baelfire tried to rekindle the past conversational ease but the royals couldn't pick it back up. Killian refused to help as well, smirking without humor at every attempt directed at him.

Henry came back into the room and immediately stopped at the threshold to study the adults in the room, catching Killian's smirk and rolling his eyes at the pirate. He took his mother's seat next to his father and began to load the plate in front of him.

"Grandma," he addressed the queen. "Don't forget to bring Mom some food. I don't think she's eaten much today." He offered a platter of mutton to Killian who just shook his head before the lad piled a large piece on the plate. "Apparently, mom didn't inherit any of your shepherd genes Grandpa. She said the mutton smelled awful." He took a large bite of the meat.

"It's a tad dry really," Killian added. He decided he liked the boy and his straightforward attitude. Royals always had secrets to hide but if Milah and him stayed here nothing would stay hidden for long. "A fairly common occurrence in royal households." Killian tipped his wine glass to his hosts as Milah smacked his arm.

"Don't be rude," she commanded.

"Love, I don't think that was me." Killlian tilted his head to the end of table and smiled at the queen.

"mwah mwom's…" Henry began to say around his mutton.

"Dear God, Henry." Regina looked aghast at her son. "Could you be a bit more refined? I did not raise you in a barn."

"What's wrong with being raised in a barn?" Charming asked, smiling at Regina. His wife laughed into her wine while Henry choked around the mutton.

"I don't know how I put up with you people." Regina huffed and walked off into the kitchen area. The tension around the table finally eased.

Henry grabbed a cup of water and drank. He looked around the tabled and shrugged. "My mom's pregnant," he said bluntly. Killian's teeth clenched and his knuckles whitened around his knife.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Milah asked her son.

"Woah, slow down there." Bae held up his hands then pointed at Henry. "This one is mine. The new addition is not. I'm not the father."

Killian looked down, tracing the pattern on the table and scratched behind one ear. "Well, someone seems to be missing then? Or is it a bloody miracle?" The reactions varied from uncertain to uncomfortable. He glanced at the king then caught Milah's eye shrugging with a raise of his brows. "Does it have anything to do with the whole showing up here out of nowhere problem?" No one looked happier to hear his question.

"Henry," Robin spoke up. "Would you mind taking Roland to the library to pick a book?" Henry sighed, unhappy at being asked to leave. He was saved when Regina came back through carrying a tray from the kitchen.

"Roland can come with me," she said, crouching next to the little boy. "We'll visit Emma and then hit the library." Roland rushed to join the queen mother and the remaining adults exchanged questioning looks.

"Our memories were altered," Henry began, speaking directly at Killian. "So when we woke up there were things we didn't know, but mom's the savior and I guess that means she kept some memories." He paused, opening, and closing his mouth before finally looking away from Killian. "Mom is, was, no, is married. None of us remember her husband and she said she doesn't know where he is."

The silence that followed was grave.

"I think." Killian considered the expressions of everyone around the table. "That it's time for me to leave you to this. Milah?" He stood by her chair waiting for her response.

"I need to speak with Bae." Milah's gaze was unwavering and on her son.

"Of course." Killian walked away without looking back. His anger driving him on and out of the room. Married to bloody hell who?

Chapter Text

Regina knocked on the door but there wasn't an answer. She looked down at Roland. "Shall we go on in then?" He giggled in response, his dimples flashing. Regina nudged the door open a bit then used her back to push it further while Roland slipped past her into the room. He bolted to the bed and she almost dropped the tray in her hands reaching to stop him. Running into the edge of the bed took care of the boy’s impulsive dash.

"Roland," Regina whispered as loud as she dared halting his hand in the air. She placed the tray down gently on the nearest table and joined him by the bed. Emma was sound asleep, breathing deeply and letting out the occasional soft snore. Roland smiled up at Regina.

"You see Roland, even princesses snore. Just not as loud as Little John."

He took a hold of Regina's hand and reached out to Emma with the other, stroking her cheek gently. "Poor baby," he cooed.

Regina smiled at his words, the ones he got used to hearing when he was ill and she would comfort him. "In so many ways, my little man." Regina pressed a finger to her lips to remind him to be quiet as she picked him up and crept silently out of the room.

Roland squirmed in her arms so she let him down and he skipped on ahead toward the library. He was one of the brightest parts of her life since she woke up in her castle with Robin in the bed beside her. She watched other Storybrooke residents getting flustered or wincing over tiny little things and the remaining piece of the Evil Queen inside ignored them. What did it matter when she had her happy ending.

But the Evil Queen was not who Regina was now nor was she alone with only Henry able to see the good trapped inside her. She was part of a family, a real family who didn't always get along, hadn't always got along, and wouldn't always get along but who did not give up on each other.

Roland skidded a bit, almost falling but he caught himself and smiled back at her. She smiled at him and nodded for him to keep going.

With today's revelation, Regina finally knew what bothered her about the savior. Every little hiccup caught Emma's attention but she didn't pursue the cause. Emma Swan never let any strange little detail irritate her, she was someone who went out and tracked down what was going on. It wasn't about her super power acting up but right and wrong and truth mattered to the sheriff. Her half-hearted investigation into their reappearance in the Enchanted Forest should have set off warning bells.

It had set off warning bells that Regina tried to ignore but Emma’s inaction was a thorn in her side. The only time anyone got the savior to back off was roughly the same as when she put herself in mortal peril. Emma doing something stupid to protect all the happy endings.

Roland made it to the library door and wiggled excitedly. When Regina reached past him to turn the knob and swung the door open.

"Choose a good one," she told him. "One where the hero gets their happy ending."

 


 

 

Milah walked across the castle grounds with her son.

A new kind of joy coursed through her at those words that even if it was only said inside her own head. Bae was a constant surprise. He was calm and kind, interested in what had happened in her life and why. His genuine interest was rewarding and soon she might be able to ask him for his forgiveness.

"How are you so content with your life?” She asked as it was something that continued to baffle her. “When your father and I, well, we caused you so much strife? You dislike magic but being here, in the Enchanted Forest, is fine. You brag about the cozy little cabin on your father's land then spend your days wandering the kingdom, checking on people for the King and Queen." She hesitated and studiously avoided his gaze.

"You talked of the princess as if she was important to you but are very understanding when she claims to be married to a missing man and is expecting his child." She flashed him a quick glance before exhaling a breath. "I don't suppose I get it at all."

Bae laughed as she meant him to, hoping to soften her curiosity on such personal issues.

"It's complicated," he explained. "And then again, it isn't. I've lived a long time and things change, you must feel the same way?"

She just shook her head.

"Me and Emma, we had our moment. We got Henry and he's why all this doesn't matter as much as it did when I left. I can put up with a lot to be with my son." He grimaced and looked at her, reaching a hand out to her arm in comfort. "Not that it was the same. But hundreds of years change who you are, it changed Papa and it changed me. I learned more about Papa's past and that just cleared away a lot the anger I carried."

Milah shrugged and didn’t reply. She wasn't sure she experienced the same thing. Three hundred years with her love then one day it was all gone. She, in her way, left before he did as standing still was never one of her talents. She wanted the world and Killian had given it to her. Three months ago when she woke up he wasn't that man, the one who had sailed away with her, and it upset her.

Even if it didn’t break her heart.

Anger churned in her belly and watching him watch the princess made it worse. She was trying to prove that she gained experience and wisdom with her years, trying to let go gracefully. Still it felt like losing to a weak, pampered little princess every time Killian couldn't take his eyes off her. It was petty and small and bitter but it was how she felt.

"What is it?" Bae asked her.

Milah rolled her eyes, how to explain the lie, the truth and her feelings she kept trying to wrestle into submission. "Nothing," she said.

"I may not have Emma's superpower but I was on the grift long enough to know a lie when I hear one." He pulled her to a stop and looked down at her. "I am glad you came here. I don't know everything you've done with your life but I'd like to and it doesn't matter what, or why. From now on, like the rest of us, it's about what you will do. Even though I kind of want to punch your husband for his crush on Emma."

She raised a brow at that.

"It's not about Emma, he's your husband."

Milah winced. "Well…" her eyes swept across the castle grounds.

Bae pulled her arm through his and pulled her along. "Maybe you should start there."

"It's just so happens that no, we are not married. Please don't spread that about yet. Three months ago, well, the return of the cursed wasn't the only weird thing to happen." She took a deep breath. "Everything changed for us as well and I asked one last thing of Killian, who to be honest, is my dearest friend even if we aren’t in love with each other anymore."

"Mama, did he hurt you?" Bae's face was so earnest.

"No," she nodded her head to a wall and they sat together watching the sun set. "I had a powerful hate for your father. His cowardice in the war separated both of us from our friends and what family I had. Then you got sick and he signed away any other children I might have." She drew her shoulders back and didn’t flinch. "Which was a ridiculous feeling as I did not want any more children."

"Sometimes it's about not having your life limited by someone else, even over stuff you don't want." Bae smiled at her and she bumped her shoulder against his.

"Such a wise son from such dumb parents." She shook her head. "Whatever it was, it was powerful enough that I ran. My love for Killian was powerful enough that I stayed." She took a deep breath. "He's a rare man my son, that brash adventurous exterior and something so sweet buried underneath. He gave me everything I could dream of, spoiled me rotten really." She patted Bae's arm. "Don't get angry with him. If I asked, even now, he would stay with me. He is staying with me, he's my support and friend."

"Okay, I guess I get it."

"His crush, as you called it, is annoying though."

"Totally is," Bae agreed. "And the age difference." They both laughed.

"I have six months Bae," she explained. "To figure out what I'm going to do and Killian, although it may kill him, he's here to help."

Bae looked out at the sunset. "I don't think it's a little crush," he said. "But I won't spill the beans." He wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Don't forget, I'm here for you too."

"Thank you Bae."

 


 

 

Hunger woke Emma as the sun dipped below the horizon and she walked out onto the balcony. Placing her hand on the belly, she let the horizon calm her rollercoaster of emotions. There would be more such dinners if she stayed at the castle and she wasn’t sure how much of the pirate's attention she could take. The plan's time table needed to be stepped up.

"Peanut, things are going to get rocky for a bit. But I found us a place all our own. We'll have to share for a bit but it's with the extended family. Anton is going to be a hell of a babysitter one day."

As the darkness spread across the sky and the stars came out Emma returned to her room and the tray of food someone had brought. They had thankfully not brought any mutton.

"Yelch, I agree with you completely about the mutton though." She ate quickly and spoke to the new kid around a full mouth. "Your father is a pain in the ass by the way. Getting all handsy with my compass, and the looks. Captain Guyliner is working the brooding look quite effectively. But I will remain strong, Peanut."

Emma yawned with the last bite of bread rolling in her mouth. She worked at the fastenings of her dress till it slid to the floor and crawled back into bed.

"You try to keep this batch of food down, okay?" She rolled over in the bed and reached under the pillows. Emma studied the compass.

"Maybe I should have let your daddy keep this so he can find his way." She hugged it close. "But you’ll see. It may not seem like it and it probably won't be soon, but he will find us again and he won't need a compass to do it."

Chapter Text

Emma tied back her hair then sorted through her weapons chest to arm herself. Sliding a dagger into her boot, she took a deep breath and listened to how her body felt this morning.

For two weeks the nausea came and went at all hours of the damn day. Peanut had a lot of opinions about food: bacon yummy and mutton disgusting, leading to plenty of upchucking. Baby didn't care about the time of day or location so chamber pots had been placed in every room. The dwarves took the task seriously as no one wanted a repeat of when she used a window and accidentally splattered her dinner all over a dwarf.

Thankfully Bashful was the forgiving type.

It had been five days since Emma had been to the castle most of her time devoted to rebuilding the island. It was coming along quickly and Henry was running out of time to come up with a proper name for the island, or the castle. Whichever. Either way, right now she had sheriffing to do, family time to make up and a ball to attend later.

She was determined that sword practice would be part of today’s to do list.Though her body continued to adjust she was finally feeling good.

Emma stretched one last time and grabbed some food from the platter that always seemed to find its way into her room in the morning. If her mother and Regina weren't distracted by the ball, they’d have placed several road blocks between her and the practice grounds. Luckily, she could hide any training and all of her more physical activities on the island from the two smotherers.

Emma smiled as she came around the side of the practice ring, listening to her father and son banter back and forth. When the pirate's voice joined in, she started to turn back but it was too late.

"Mom!" Henry called out to her.

Emma walked over to join the group. "Hey kid," she said, squeezing his shoulder with one hand. "It's good to be back. Looks like you're improving."

"A concentrated study of any number of techniques is required to become a truly good swordsman," the pirate asserted, leaning back against the bench. "Master Henry has come quite a ways. Although he has a deplorable habit of fighting fair."

Emma frowned and looked at her son intently.

"If only you weren't in such a delicate condition, I'd challenge you to a match. I don't think you fight fair."

Emma's hostile glare raked the pirate over quickly before turning her back on him. Ignoring his challenge she opened her mouth to ask her father to go a round when the pirate spoke again.

"I suppose a pirate is beneath you," he added.

Emma felt her cheeks burn as she could picture it quite clearly in her head, or her bed. Bastard was probably smirking.

Mostly he wasn’t done yet. "Not worthy of fight.”

Her teeth started grinding when he bit out the t on the last word. She glanced over her shoulder to scowl at him. "You will lose, pirate."

Number one on her list of things she wasn't supposed to do: make direct eye contact.

"Don't be ridiculous." Killian stood and sauntered her way. "While we can't have the answer as to which of us would emerge triumphant, a blind man wouldn't bet on you, princess, even if you weren't, um, so delicately indisposed." With that he bowed and walked away. He didn’t get far.

"Walking away from a pregnant woman?" She taunted. "Chicken?"

Check on number two of things Emma was not supposed to do around Killian: challenge him.

"I don’t know what that means and this may be hard to believe considering your views on pirates," he sneered at her. "But I don't wish to fight you like this."

Emma rolled her eyes. "I am pregnant not dying or sick or incapable. Plus it's not like it's a fight to the death, just a little practice round." She took Henry's practice sword from him and turned toward the pirate. "And I've been practicing."

"Emma," her father interrupted. "If your mother finds out…"

"Don't worry it's all on me." Emma tested the balance on the practice sword. "Land without Magic knowledge facts for old guys: a pregnant woman is able to keep doing whatever exercise she's been doing unless experiencing problems with her pregnancy. So, pirate." She bowed, sword extended towards him. "Want to show me what you got?"

Killian looked over his shoulder at her. Emma smirked up at the pirate from her position and their glances held. She flushed with pleasure at the obvious fascination on his face. God, she could remember the times when her walls were up and she did her best to ignore it, deny his feelings for her. Now, she missed him, them, and she basked in it.

The long stares into each other's eyes created uncomfortable silence in her father and son. Charming coughed and Emma remembered why she had a list of things not to do around the pirate but it was too late as she watched any worry about fighting a pregnant woman melt away under her reassurances.

Killian turned back with a flourish and came to stand in front of her. Toe to toe. Emma tried to look calm and ready to fight as she calculated her chances. The whole not fighting fair thing was accurate, too. She had never been a trained fighter; she was a street kid and a brawler. So no, she didn't fight fair. If she had to Emma would punch, kick, pull hair, and bite.

She looked down at the sword and shivered. This little match meant having Killian’s attention focused on her and only her. A big mistake but after so long without him, she simply couldn’t resist. It also occurred to her that she'd probably get to lay hands on her husband. A snort escaped Emma.

"You find this funny princess?" Killian asked her as he swung his long black coat from his shoulders.

She rolled her eyes and decided given half a chance she was going to punch him in the face.

He took her father's wooden sparring sword and swung it. "There will be rules, your highness."

"Why when you call me your highness, do I hear brat?"

"Because you're quite perceptive?” He bowed at her. “There still needs to be rules as I don't want to be killed by your father. Embarrassing way to go, done in by someone named Charming."

The king shrugged, because, of course, it was true.

"If you hit the ground in any way, I will be waiting till you stand. If you get tired, the match is over. Also if your father sees fit to call a halt, we both stop." He rolled his eyes with a grimace. "And if you need to puke for the gods’ sake – do not puke on me."

"Ohhh, I don't know. Puking on you would be like an automatic win."

"Automatic loss."

"Totally worth it."

He snapped to attention and raised a brow. She assumed a similar position and they both bowed before assuming a ready stance. They started slow, circling each other step for step.

"Come on pirate, make your move." Emma glared as he smiled, his tongue moving over his teeth and poke at the corner of his lips. Dammit. Her blush spread across her cheeks and down her neck.

"You couldn't handle it," he said with a grin.

Emma paled at those words and stepped forward swinging her sword at the pirate with a yell. He parried and pushed forward, slicing through the air. She moved back and let her momentum spin her full circle sweeping her sword up. It crashed against his but he forced her to retreat back again. She shifted farther out of his reach.

"Running, highness?" Again, he hit her with that damn sexy smirk.

"Not from you," she said through gritted teeth. "Never from you." The phrase whispered out of her and he blinked at her not quite believing his ears. Emma took the opening and began a barrage of thrusts and parries, trying to push him around the practice ring. He met each one barely giving any ground. His brows lowered in concentration and nothing existed for either of them outside the match. Emma reveled in the intensity of his concentration. It made her pulse pound harder than the exercise.

In the center of the ring they met over crossed swords, the wood grinding as they met face to face. The pirate looked down to study her. Emma raised her chin, refusing to run away or let up on the push of her sword against his. Still, another blush swept over her face under his steady regard and the damn pirate smiled, slowly letting his tongue slide over his teeth before biting his lower lip.

Emma groaned and pushed away enough to punch him in the face. He fell back, his sword lowered in shock and shaking away the pain. She moved farther from him, taking slow, deep breaths to get rid of the attraction, the need she felt to grab hold of her pirate.

"Nice jab love."

"Don't call me that."

This time he attacked first. They danced around the practice ring, the wooden swords filling the air with loud thwacks. Emma attempted to trap the pirate back into a corner but he found an opening, flicked her sword away and swirled around gracefully to escape. Emma growled at him and he laughed with pure delight.

"It lacks a certain drama without the coat swishing about," he said a wide grin.

"We can pause if you need a costume change." Emma sneered.

"Why would I do that when I'm winning?" Killian smiled back at her and advanced on her with a new attack.

He moved in a circle around her, constantly ducking under her parry and twisting around to hit again. Finally on an unexpectedly quick turn Killian managed to catch her from behind, holding her body against his and angling his sword across her body. He held her there, his breath quick and harsh in her ear. Emma's heart beat picked up as she savored the feel of his arms around her even as she struggled.

"See princess," he whispered in her ear. "I win."

"Thanks for that." Emma elbowed him hard in the gut as the heel of her boot stomped his instep. Within his loosed grip she turned and smiled up at him before kneeing him in the balls.

The pirate landed on the ground with a muffled groan. Emma kicked his sword away and placed the tip of hers at his throat. He glared up at her and put his hands up in surrender.

"Apparently, I wasn't the one who couldn't handle it." Emma lowered her sword and backed away, trying to slow her racing heart.

"I was right though," he called out in a hoarse voice.

Emma kept backing away.

"You don't fight fair."

She stopped abruptly and turned around, catching the horrified look on her father's face and resignation on her son's. She winced and opened her mouth for an explanation which she didn't have.

"Appalling and shocking in a princess," Killian wouldn’t shut up, slowly getting back on his feet. "But you'd make one hell of a pirate."

Emma closed her eyes, happy to be facing away, tears pooling in her eyes. She shook the pain away and blinked.

"Yeah, I don't really know about fighting fair," A bitter smile twisted her lips. "But I'm not a pirate, or a princess really. I'm the savior and I will protect those I love." She nodded to herself and walked away. "I have work, boys. See you at lunch."

 

Chapter Text

Killian picked up the sword from where the princess had kicked it. The corners of his mouth twitching as he fought a smile while playing the sparring match over in his head. He noted each instance that proved the attraction was mutual.

For the past two weeks he had collected every little snub and snarky shot the princess fired his way. Thinly veiled insults were slung back and forth by both parties, followed by a tortuous nothingness when the princess disappeared for days.

He never thought himself as contrary. Dramatic when the circumstances called for it but not contrary. Their battles left him wrecked, bleeding on the inside, and floundering in her loathing. Still not as bad as when he wandered the grounds and not catch even a glimpse of her. Black days were the ones that Killian had no bloody idea where the princess was and none were inclined to enlighten him.

Not that he was in a position to ask.

Swinging the sword, he walked joined the king and Henry. "Well, your majesty, you certainly raise them lethal." He offered the wooden sword to the king.

"She wasn't raised here," David replied, taking it and putting the sword away. "The Land without Magic wasn't a good place to be an orphan."

"Mate, there's no realm where it's good to be an orphan." Killian ruffled the lad's hair. "And you, young prince, what do you think of your mother's defeat of the nasty pirate?"

Henry sighed and slumped.

"Come lad, it was simply a friendly sparring match." Killian glared at the king’s derisive snort. Royals, in his humble opinion, were thick headed and unaware of when a lad needed a bit of cheering up. "I know the ball's tonight and while you are not dashingly handsome like meself and therefore require a great deal of time to pull off a modicum of sartorial splendor, there's time for bit of a sail?"

"I don't know, what will your.."

"Yes," Henry interrupted eagerly and sent his grandfather an earnestly pleading look. "Please Grandpa."

"Then I was never here, and no your mother did not fight the pirate." David looked back and forth between the two. "Are we clear?"

"Really Grandpa, you're going to lie to Grandma?"

"No," he admitted. "I’m not planning on mentioning it. Besides, it isn't your grandmother that worries me. Regina's scary." They all nodded. David saluted and headed back to the castle.

"Shall we?"

"Yeah," Henry agreed with a smile. "At least we won't have to steal a ship."

"What?"

 


 

 

"Come on August," Emma asked for the thousandth time. "Tell me what's going on over here."

"Emma, it's complicated." August wiped his hands and hefted his tool box. The work he completed for Granny was perfect. "And it’s being handled. Neal came through and is off to check on the other side of the forest."

He jerked his head toward the door and she preceded him out. "His mom was with him. Looks like things are going well. She and the pirate also fit in pretty well. One of the dwarves saw them having a picnic on Firefly Hill."

"How romantic." Emma snapped and headed over to her horse.

"I don't think…" August tried to help her unhitch the animal. "Should you be.."

"Don't even think it." Emma butt in as she swung up on the horse. "I'm perfectly capable of riding a horse and smart enough not to stray from the path. Besides, I think there’s enough people telling what I can and can't do. Anyways, difficult but being dealt with, I guess I can leave you to it. Leroy says they're ready for you and your dad."

"That was fast."

Emma shrugged. "It's good to be the princess."

August laughed as she rode away.

 


 

 

"Lad! Watch the line." Killian called out from the wheel. He enjoyed running the boy ragged and in return, the lad seemed to appreciate the constant distraction. Smooth sailing really as Henry was also better tempered than either mother.

With the line tightened, the Jolly Roger picked up speed on their way back to harbor.

"You know quite a bit about a sailing," Killian asked and looked away when the boy sighed in answer. "In fact, I find you always have a keen grasp on any number of situations around the castle as well." He adjusted the wheel a bit to port and smirked.

"Your perceptiveness is quite intriguing in one your age. One would think you'd be more interested in quests and jousts and girls."

"If you keep this up then we will have to talk about your wife and your obvious crush on my mother."

"Please lad, I know better than to dog Regina with my affections."

Henry rolled his eyes. "Not that one. You want to know more about Emma." He frowned. "Is that why you took me sailing, to get on her good side? Maybe see what information the lad will spill? Not going to happen."

"So you share your mother’s hate for all things pirate?" Killian watched the boy retreat. "I thought you could use some time away, as did I. No offense intended but your family togetherness is very, mmmm, together." He waggled his eyebrows to make the boy laugh.

They both looked off into the distance, listening to the birds overhead and the creaking of the ship as the harbor loomed closer and closer.

"I don't hate you." Henry paused to take a deep breath. "There is just stuff going on right now…"

"You mean the mystery of the missing husband and the regular disappearances of your mother?"

"Kind of." Henry tilted his head back and forth. "I miss him too you know."

Killian felt a squeeze around his heart at the lad's words.

"I mean my Dad is my Dad but my Mom's husband was my friend and he made her happy, like completely happy, kind of like Robin with Regina and he was there when things were really bad.” Henry glanced at the pirate from the side of his eye. "He had an obvious crush on her too, but that didn't matter when it came to helping me."

Killian mulled over the lad's words when a sail snapped but before he could shout the order the lad took care of it. He studied the way the young prince managed the sail with natural ease and sure knowledge. When Henry returned to the quarterdeck, Killian simply raised an eyebrow at him.

"Yeah, the missing husband," Henry smirked. "My missing stepfather taught me to sail."

"Your mother fell in love with a sailor?" Killian grinned.

"Don't get your hopes up." Henry glanced at him. "And what about your wife?" He asked, curling two fingers of each hand in the air and received a puzzled look from the pirate. "It's just a way to, like," and he gestured again.

Again, Killian looked at Henry like he was demented.

"Fine you don't want to talk about your fake marriage, be that way."

Killian sighed.

Not answering was his preferred method of dealing with both the subtle and blatant inquiries into his relationship. Lying to the Charming family left a bitter taste in his mouth and was one more weird feeling upsetting his generally sunny demeanor. His promise to Milah was important and no matter the progress she'd made, she still had moments when she needed him. Either way, his gut twisted from the lies and the feelings roaring around inside him.

One feeling persisted after all the lad revealed.

Killian was not a man to deny himself whatsoever he desired, never had been. Except, except the needs and wishes of those he loved – Milah, Liam. The strong lure of the princess was kept in check by his commitments and now, another bloody person was added to the list. He laughed at himself – technically, two other people.

"If he is a sailor, this man you both miss so much, perhaps – perhaps I could help you find him?" Killian scratched behind his ear and stretched his hand out to examine it.

"You would do that?" Henry asked, surprised and watched the pirate look away from him even as Killian nodded. "You want to win her, but you would go find the man she loves and bring him back to her?"

Killian rolled his eyes. "And you."

"Thanks Killian." Henry looked off to the harbor they continued to approach at a fast clip. He nodded and his stance relaxed a bit.

Killian steered the ship to shore and studied the lad as he silently battled out whatever issues were weighing on him.

"Heads up lad," Killian called. "We're home."

Henry smiled and started setting the ships to rights for docking.

 


 

There was a knock on Emma's door as she sat at the balcony brushing out the tumble of messy blonde waves.

With each stroke she worried over the different tales she heard on her sheriff rounds. Milah and Killian. Everyone had something to say about Milah and Killian. Couldn't have one without the damn other. Pretty picnics and cute strolls through the village were described in nauseating detail. Of course inside the castle, the rumors circulating were about separate rooms and distant affection.

The knock came again. Emma called out for whoever was disturbing, well, not her peace but her time alone, to come in. Henry slipped into her rooms and searched a bit before finding her out on the balcony.

"Mom, we need to talk," he stated it flat out, striding across the room.

Emma watched him, studied him. Her child, who she gave up, who found her, who always had a belief that inspired her. She held out a hand to him which he took and she pulled him to sit next to her on the bench. When she leaned her head on his shoulder and teared up at how much he had grown.

He saw the tears and placed his arm around her shoulder with a squeeze. "Are you okay?"

"I'm just so proud of you," she wept. "It's the pregnancy. God, I hope you know how lucky peanut is to have such a wonderful big brother."

"Mom."

The teenager's aggrieved tone made her chuckle.

"I need to tell you…to tell you what I …"

"Stop," she said gently and wiped the tears from her face. "I'm pregnant not stupid. Tonight your grandparents are throwing the ball they've always wanted to have, for me and for you." She placed her hand over his mouth when he tried to interrupt her.

"I know you’re finally ready to talk about it and I hope you know that whatever happened, I love you. Regina loves you." She rolled her eyes. "Then there's your grandparents and.."

"Stop Mom."

Emma just smiled at him. "Well, you get it anyways." She stood and walked away from him to look out at their home, their kingdom. "Here’s the thing. Tonight we need to be with our family and celebrate. Tomorrow, I think we can persuade Regina to let you come with me to the island." She turned to him. "Then you can talk to me and we will figure out what to do next."

Henry’s spine deflated. Emma didn't know if it was relief or disappointment after being ready to talk. He closed his eyes and just sat there for a while. Emma waited to see what he would do. Henry got up and came to stand next to her, leaning his head down onto her shoulder.

"You're getting too tall for this."

"I went out on the Jolly Roger with Captain Jones today," he said plaintively.

Emma stroked his cheek. "I miss him too."

"He offered to help find your husband, my stepfather."

Emma’s tears escaped down her cheeks.

"He didn't say why but I don't think he likes to see you, or me for that matter, sad."

Emma lifted her other hand to cup Henry's face. She smiled at him and leaned up to kiss his forehead. "I think it would be brilliant to send the pirate out to search for himself, don’t you?"

Henry choked on a laugh and pulled his mom into his arms to hug her. "And I think we should get Grandpa to help him."

They both shook with laughter, thinking of the two mates out on an impossible mission together. Emma pulled back to rest her forehead against Henry's. Opening her eyes she saw the tears sliding down his cheeks. They both reached out at the same time, wiping away their tears.

"Henry," she whispered. "Do you believe that no matter what, it's all going to work out in the end and we'll get our pirate back?"

"I believe it." Henry smiled.

Emma nodded. "I believe it too."

Chapter Text

Snow spun slowly in the middle of the newly repaired ballroom. It was perfect.

Life would always be out of step for the Charming family. She had lived longer than her daughter but they were also the same age, leaving few milestones left in Emma's life. All the baby firsts gone, no teenage phase and now her baby’s wedding day ripped away as well.

There was this ball though and it would be as grand a first ball as possible.

"I think we've outdone ourselves," Regina commented.

Snow tilted her head as she continued to consider the room. White flowers, yards of white satin and a multitude of silver candles throughout the ballroom. Snow smiled in agreement. "We make a good team."

Regina smiled back and they took a turn arm in arm around the ballroom together. Snow grew quiet as her mind traveled far away.

The silence irritated Regina. "Earth to Snow White.”

"I was just thinking." Snow hesitated. Her hands twirled in the air as if they could pluck the right words out of the air. "Milah and Killian, ahh, there's something up…and then Emma, things around the pirate are so strange when she's here. I…"

"Pretty sure the" – Regina applied air quotes with both hands – "'couple' are hiding something which is hilarious because Captain Guyliner isn’t hiding the fact that he'd like to jump your daughter."

"Regina!"

"You know it's true." She scowled. "I'm just surprised Charming hasn't punched his lights out, or run him through. You know the wife has seen it too."

"David doesn't think they're actually married." The words escaped Snow in a rush, practically tripping over themselves. She wrapped both hands over her mouth.

"You really can't keep a secret can you?"

"It's not a secret. Exactly. Just his opinion, which he didn't want to share with everyone because he likes Killian and he doesn't have a lot of friends outside of the dwarves." Snow grimaced as Regina gave a sharp barking laugh. She rolled her eyes and focused on making her way to the family wing letting Regina trail behind her.

"Come on," Regina pleaded. "Doesn't the thought of a bromance with those two make you laugh?" She caught up and threaded their arms together.

Snow bumped her hip against Regina's. "Yeah." She considered how to explain her feelings. "It’s like there's this tiny snowball that’s been thrown down a hill and we see it and we wonder and we know it’s slowly building into something huge that can smash us flat but we do nothing."

"Not a lot of hope in that statement."

Snow considered her words. "I didn't say we wouldn't survive it."

"You're worried about Emma."

Snow snorted in response. "You're worried about Emma."

Both women sighed.

"She likes him too," Snow complained. "Now add in a missing husband and a surprise pregnancy. Hello drama, oh how we haven't missed you."

"There's nothing to do though." Regina pulled Snow to a stop. "Are we willing to pay the price to know what will be?"

"Nope." Snow squeezed Regina's hand, taking comfort from her. "We're finally here Regina, a place where everyone is finding their happy ending and sure, some aren't what we thought they would be but for the first time in forever we weren’t on our guard waiting for some big bad to destroy everyone and everything we love."

"I feel like I should apologize here."

"Don't be stupid." Snow started forward again. "Something's going to happen."

"In about six to seven months. Something always happens so enough worrying about looming catastrophes.” Regina shook her head. “Tell me the truth, you’re not making Emma wear that pink cake of a dress?"

Snow laughed and smiled sweetly in reply.

 


 

 

Killian crunched down on an apple he snatched from the bowl the castle caretakers freshened daily.

Any other royal abode and he would call them serfs but the men and women who lived and cared for the castle didn't seem like the down trodden and abused cast of characters typically surrounding monarchs.

Milah was rushing around the room straightening the everyday clutter back and paused long enough to glare at him.

He tried to chew quietly and her scowl deepened.

Killian tried his best downcast remorse laden look but it only made her roll her eyes.

"Does it seem like we're the only ones who have apples in our fruit bowl?" He polished the offensive fruit on his arm. "I mean at the morning meal there's always a bowl of fruit but no apples. A bit odd really."

"I know you know the story." Milah didn’t spare him a glance. "I don't imagine anyone in the royal family likes apples at this point."

"I've been to the Evil Queen's castle for a bit of a chat with the thief and I can tell you she is tending an orchard full of apple trees."

"You're an idiot."

"I resent that remark. I have been particularly helpful today – using my afternoon to entertain your grandson." Killian caught her flinching. "You know you can tell the lad not call you grandmother."

"I don't know how the Queen handles it and she's younger than me." Milah huffed and fell into the nearest chair. "Henry is amazing but I'm not ready to be old."

"Love, you're over three hundred years old. It's time to accept it."

She threw a pillow at him which he ducked.

"You didn't say anything to him about us did you?" Her hands twisted her skirt. "I get weird looks from people, including the King. Full of suspicion and scrutiny."

"I've said nothing," he spoke around the apple which increased her ire. He choked a bit as he swallowed it. "People in the castle may suspect something as the servants know we don't share a bed. Not the rest of the kingdom. That picnic at firefly hill looked sweetly romantic."

He paused and looked up at her from under his brows. "As you intended."

Milah's mouth opened and closed as she floundered for a response.

Killian waved it off. "I’ve gathered no information to indicate there’s an issue."

"But what does the dark one believe?" Her mouth tightened into a straight line.

"That I do not know." He looked over his apple considering where to bite next. "I thought Bae would tell you that."

"He hasn’t said and he's out and about for the royals so maybe he doesn’t know." Milah crossed to her door and looked into her room with a sigh. "Tonight we’ll find out. Is my dress alright or should I try to find something else?"

"It is perfect for you, love." He stood behind her, studying the tastefully dramatic blue silk gown with an underskirt of wild swirling purple, pink and gold. "You'll be the most beautiful woman in the room."

She shot him a look over her shoulder. "That's almost a well done lie." She smirked at him with one brow raised.

"First there's the Queen, known as the fairest of them all then there's her daughter who you keep provoking in order to gain her attention."

"Maybe it's a bit colorful, but you will be lovely and a stand out in a room full of royalty."

Milah's eyes filled up a bit and when one tear finally fell he wiped it away.

"I'm sorry, I'm trying I swear. Today I offered to help find that bloody husband of hers."

"You told the princess you'd find her husband?"

"I offered your grandson my assistance on tracking down his stepfather." He scratched behind his ear. "He’s upset, Milah."

"You soft hearted pirate." She held his face in both her hands. The door to their suite opened and Baelfire popped in.

Bae frowned. "Did I interrupt anything?"

"Of course," Killian answered him and scowled back. "However, I must go and get my beauty sleep before I can exhibit my exquisite sense of style this evening." He swaggered to his chamber and slammed the door.

"I don't think he likes me."

"You don't like him either."

"He stares at Emma."

Milah rolled her eyes at her son. "I'm certain her highness can handle the pirate's attentions." She pulled Bae farther into the suite.

"Mama, she's married and she loves her husband." Bae took a seat. "Are you ready for tonight?"

"Is anyone ever ready to attend a royal ball and meet their ex-husband known as the Dark One?"

"I'll take that as a yes."

"You do that."

 


 

 

"Rumple," Belle called to her husband. "Stop staring into the mirror and come on."

Rumplestilskin turned away from the conversation his son and ex-wife were having. Milah’s worry over his reaction soothed his soul and he frowned.

It would be nice to be a well-balanced and happy individual. The wounds of abandonment lingered for far longer than he desired.

"Husband." Belle peeked around the doorway. "The carriage is packed. Your son is swaddled and your wife is looking forward to an evening of socializing."

Her grin widened. "Pleasantly with our extended family."

"You don't ask for much do you?"

"No curses, no maiming, no killing." Belle ticked off each prohibited activity on her fingers.

"However." She frowned seriously at him. "You may be cryptic, withdrawn, and sarcastic as much as you wish. Oh, and the hand thing." She mimed the gesture with both arms and imitated his high pitched giggle.

Rumple offered his arm to his wife, her instructions alleviating his mood and escorted her to their carriage.

"What more could an evil beast ask."

 

Chapter Text

Emma caught her mother exchanging pointed looks with Julia, the go to for outfitting the entire castle. Several mirror consultations followed by two in person fittings left Emma unable to fake enthusiasm over The Dress anymore.

Pink was not her color. Large flowers made of lace were not her style and they looked vaguely threatening next to the purple satin bows adorning the fussy dress.

She hoped, prayed, her mother was playing her and if so, Snow White kept a secret better than anyone thought. Emma was thankful her mother excused Julia from the room.

The sweetest woman in the castle didn’t have to experience her upcoming tantrum.

"Isn't it something?" Snow White asked in awe as she stretched one of the lace roses into fuller bloom.

"It's something alright." Emma shuddered in revulsion and crossed the room to pour a goblet of wine to alleviate the pain then she remembered that alcohol was no longer on her menu. After studying the drink wistfully, she held it out to her mother. "You better take this. Peanut's not allowed any."

Snow took a sip and studied her daughter. Reaching out she tweaked a loose curl framing Emma's face. A loose braid pulled her hair over her left shoulder letting the rest of her hair curl wildly down to her waist.

"Why is your hair so long?" Snow turned back to the ball gown. "I mean you look lovely but you don't normally let it get that long. Is it an Enchanted Forest thing?" She walked over to the pink dress with a nearly full goblet of wine.

"It's an avoidance thing," Emma replied while she calculated how to trip her mother and spectacularly splash red wine all over the offensive dress. "This long means braids and pony tails will keep it out of my way. Plus, who cuts hair in the Magic Kingdom."

"Enchanted Forest."

"Do you know where Goldilocks and the three bears ended up?" Emma shrugged and popped a grape into her mouth. "They were magical in Storybrooke."

Snow laughed and looked over her shoulder before lifting the goblet and letting the wine dribble down the dress.

"Oh, thank god."

"Do you really think I would do that to you?" The queen shook the last bit of wine onto the dress.

"I had hope but there was a slim chance…."

"I kind of feel bad. This was your grandmother's favorite table cloth."

Emma snickered at her and crossed to her mother’s side.

Snow smiled seeing her daughter relax. "I just needed a distraction, and, well, you needed a break. Torturing you with a hideous dress was a bonus."

"Thanks Mom."

"I don't want thanks," Snow held out the goblet. "I want information, and wine." When Emma winced and Snow held back all the questions she had since her daughter had launched into action but she couldn't contain a huff as she sat on the bed. "I mean I'll wait, but if you think no one notices anything that's been going on around here you are sadly mistaken young lady."

"Young lady," Emma asked with a raised brow.

"It just came out."

Emma sat beside her mother on the bed and held one of Snow’s hands as her glance traveled around the room. Her mouth opened to say something, anything but then curled into a frown.

Snow squeezed the hand holding hers. "And tonight's not the time for this," She sighed and peered over at her daughter. "I was talking with Regina earlier, about the pirate."

Emma stiffened up.

"Something bad is going to happen.”

"Something bad already did." Emma stood and walked out on the balcony her earlier conversation with Henry replaying in her head. "Whatever happens now, I'm going to protect everyone's happy ending."

"What about yours?"

"Mine?" She laughed and turned back to face her mother. "It's been paused." Her hand hovered over the slight swell of her belly. "Well, some of it has been paused. Babies are all full speed ahead aren't they?"

"Yes, they are. And for some reason my daughter who gave birth for the first time in prison, isn't leaving to find a lovely modern hospital with a doctor who hasn't slept with her mother." Snow shook her head. "Instead, she is embracing medieval times and plans to be on a deserted island in the middle of the most treacherous sea imaginable when the baby comes."

"Should I refill your wine?"

Snow nodded and Emma crossed the room for the decanter. When she turned back her mother was slumped on the bed. Well, she was might as well complete her day of doing things she shouldn't.

"And you know, considering dad's family history, it could be twins."

"Bring me the damn wine."

Emma crossed over quickly trying to keep her face straight.

Snow pulled the decanter from her hands and started pouring meeting her daughters face with a raised brow. "You just had to go there."

"You made that." Emma stretched her arm out to point at the dress.

Snow saluted her with the goblet. "True."

"I assume there's another dress, less likely to make everyone gag?"

"Julia's gone to get it I think." Snow sipped her wine as they both retreated into silence. She wasn't sure any reassurances could be given, anything could be said to ease her worries.

When Emma presented her plan, both Charming and she knew Emma hadn’t told the whole story but they were determined to support Emma’s wishes. So what if Snow hated one particular part of the plan and found the reason they'd been given logical and annoying.

One more thing stolen from her daughter by the curse. "Soon, you'll tell me soon."

Emma kneeled at Snow's feet and placed her head in her mother's lap.

"You'll wreck your hair."

“You need this.” Emma felt Snow’s fingers stroke over her head and through her hair. "I need this."

"If you wanted it, we'd give it to you in a heartbeat."

"The crown?"

"It supposed to be yours. One day or any day."

"I suppose a lot of things were supposed to be mine." Emma shrugged and tried not to think of the pirate. "I'll never rule this kingdom and that's more than okay by me. Whether it's Henry or it's Ne -- Leo, that's for you and them and hell, Regina to decide."

Emma looked up. "Never me."

Snow sighed and put the goblet aside, taking Emma's face in both hands. "My biggest comfort is that since we've put your plan in action, you look less tired and more importantly you aren't hiding it from us."

"I’m sorry. I didn't know what to do, everyone was so happy and I, I felt lost again." Emma shrugged and got up as the door opened. Julia had returned with a white ball gown over her arm. "One week."

"One week," Snow agreed.

Emma went to examine the white ball gown Julia was carrying.

"To be clear, you will tell me everything, in one week."

Emma winced but nodded her agreement.

 

Chapter Text

Robin of Locksley had never experienced a ball quite like this.

While couples twirled in the center of the glittering silver and white ballroom children skipped and played. The eclectic mix of drawn from all walks of life celebrated together. He supposed it was a result of living through the curse in the Land without Magic.

A smile split his face as he heard Roland's giggle through the buzz of the crowd. The effortlessness of the past few months astonished him, even with Zelena here and finding a way to be a family. The tension had been heightened by the arrival of the pirate and his wife but it wasn't the kingdom pressed to the brink of doom. Just new family issues.

Robin’s only objection was the worry weighing on Regina and pushing her to call off the wedding.

It had ended in a loud roaring fight when they had returned from the Savior's island two weeks ago and negotiations continued thereafter. Zelena complained it was causing Sweet Pea indigestion but his and the witch's daughter had a happy and placid disposition.

Someone smacked the back of his shoulder and Robin turned to fend off the culprit. The pirate looked quite upstanding this evening despite the open throated shirt. Robin adjusted his own loose collar.

Neither pirates nor thieves had any fondness for nooses around their necks.

"Don't you look charmingly handsome." Robin shook hands with Jones and bowed to his wife.

"Charming? How could you."

Milah rolled her eyes at her husband's response.

"But you're darling."

"I happen to be taken, thief."

"No, he's completely at your disposal Robin. I see Bae." Milah patted Killian's arm and nodded to Robin.

"Mrs. Jones," Robin called out. "Have you been informed of this evening’s plan?"

"Yes." Milah glanced at Killian. "I'll find you and then we'll face the Dark One together."

Killian nodded and kissed her hand before urging her to go to her son.

"You have an interesting relationship," Robin blurted out. The pirate was good company but constant speculation surrounded him and his. "None of my business really."

"Well, along with your obvious good taste in looks, and by that I mean your appreciation of mine, your aim is accurate with statements. And arrows." Killian grabbed a glass from the passing tray. "Do these people know everyone in the realm?"

"It is the King's Ball."

"I'm fairly certain every single noble and commoner in the entire realm is here."

"They are very friendly people." Robin shrugged and saluted the pirate with his own glass. "Aren't you going to return the compliment?"

"You're not my type."

"But I'm blond." Robin smiled and flirtatiously fluttered his eyes. "Don't I deserve a lovely compliment?"

He snorted but returned the smile. "No."

Trumpets resounded from a balcony drawing everyone’s attention to the dais. Killian froze in place and stared determinedly down at his boots.

Robin shifted, placing himself between the pirate and the wide staircase leading down to the dais. "Anything I can do?"

Killian laughed bitterly and flashed an unhappy smirk. "Nothing to be done by anyone, mate."

The two men stood silent as the herald announced the royal family members.

"Her royal highness, the Queen Mother, Mayor Regina Mills."

Robin smiled as his Queen majestically descended the staircase in dark purple and diamonds. A sigh of longing escaped him. She always commanded his attention and stole his heart.

"Go ahead and act like you aren't calculated how to get your hands on those jewels." The pirate nudged him with his shoulder. "I must say, I expected her to be in black."

"You'll see."

Regina hit the center of the stage and curtsied gracefully before stepping to one side as the herald continued.

"His royal highness, Prince Henry Mills."

The thief and pirate grinned at each other as the teenager loped down the stairs on long legs. Henry smiled at the crowd in his red coat and dark purple waistcoat then flicked the tails of his coat behind him as he swept into an elegant bow.

"You taught him that didn't you, Captain?" Robin asked as the boy swept back up and stood at his mother’s side.

"He kept asking me during sword lessons. He's quite the precocious lad."

"Her royal highness, the sheriff, Princess Emma Swan."

Robin watched the pirate’s stance stiffened. He had expected the pirate to injure himself whipping his head around to see her but Killian's head remained turned away.

"Swan," he whispered hoarsely and watched out of the side of his eye. She curtsied clumsily in a white dress similar to Regina’s. Her long hair spilled over one bare shoulder and a tiara of rubies sat upon her head. "What a princess she makes. Swan."

Robin coughed lightly. Killian glanced over and blinked, coming back to his surroundings. He looked around the room, searching.

"No one else noticed," Robin said in low voice. "I believe Milah and Neal are in front of us as well."

Killian exhaled softly and shook his head.

"You'd think that was the problem but to be honest, mate, I've been studying these men and I wish to run them through for being able to stare at her so openly." Killian tossed back the last of his drink and turned away from the staircase. "A man not willing to fight for what he wants, deserves what he gets. In a different world, nothing would keep me from pursuing her, not that she's royalty and not her marriage."

"Killian, I think…"

Killian looked Robin in the eye, his face set and body tense. "No. No thinking. I made two promises, one before I ever heard her name and one after, the second which may damn my soul."

"His and Her majesty, King David Nolan and Queen Snow White, the Charmings."

The crowd roared as the king and queen descended the steps hand in hand. Robin placed a hand on Killian's arm which the pirate shook off as he stalked out of the ballroom. He wished to follow his new friend but with the crowd returning the royal’s bow, it was time to make his way to the front.

"Welcome to all," decreed Charming. "After many years away, we have returned home and while rebuilding is ongoing, it is time we took a moment to celebrate being together." He looked to his wife, his daughter, his grandson and Regina. "Together with our families, with one another. Again, we welcome you all and invite you to share this night of celebration with us."

With that, David bowed to his wife and offered his hand. She took it and they descended to the floor for their first dance. Henry turned to the princess, bowed and they both joined them.

Robin approached the bottom of the dais, glaring at a few of the nobles who headed in the same direction.

"My Queen." He copied the elaborate bow Killian had taught Henry and delighted in the grin it brought to her face. "It would honor me more than a poor thief deserves if you would grant me your first dance of the evening."

"My first and my last is yours," Regina responded. "Always."

Robin offered her his arm and guided her to the floor, setting aside his worries to enjoy a dance with his woman.

 


 

 

Emma sneakily watched as Killian strode from the ballroom. She wanted to chase after him or simply stand beside him. Neither were possible. Being presented as the princess she was supposed to be felt empty and hollow without him.

Once upon a time, as a little girl, she had dreamed of finding home, finding family, finding her parents and learning why they had abandoned her. Once she had all that,  they had to work at being together between each new disaster. Defeat and repeat as her mother had said. Finding Killian, finding a happy beginning was more than she had ever dreamed possible.

Now, it was gone as if it never existed.

The pain of the emptiness, sickness and loneliness she diligently hid couldn't compare to two weeks of knowing she was meant to be with him and not being able to stay at his side.

Snow and Charming, Mom and Dad now, took to the floor for their official first dance. Emma took the hand Henry held out. Forcing herself to stop watching as her husband walk away from her into the night.

Chapter Text

Emma nodded at people as she crossed the ballroom rather than stopping to talk. Now that her first couple of dances were out of the way she was eager to get to the food tables. Peanut made her stomach gurgle in a demand to be fed. Picking her way around the tables her mother followed behind and took her first full plate from her.

"Hey."

"If you’re anything like me, you’ll need two full plates," Snow advised then tilted her head at the door outside. Shrugging, Emma continued to fill a second one then followed her outside.

The balcony looped around the entire ballroom and several guests had made their way outside to sit on the benches or lean against the stone balustrade. Emma placed her second plate next to her first one.

"You color coordinated us."

Snow looked down at her simple red sleeveless ball gown, the same as Emma's white and the dark purple Regina wore.

"People needed us to make a statement," she clarified. "Without us making, well, a statement. Same dress, different color but intertwined. Just like our family."

Snow’s hand reached up to steady her crown of amethysts.

"Most of our kingdom has adjusted to Regina not being the Evil Queen. Now, everyone outside the kingdom understands that we stand together as a family, Regina included."

"You're scary sometimes." Emma started working on the food and talked around it. "When do the fireworks start?"

"Emma."

Emma simply made a go on gesture with her free hand.

"I can't believe. No, no I can." Snow sighed at her daughter. "Fireworks are at the end of the ball."

"Not those."

"Oh. Well, now I suppose, or at least very soon."

Emma pointed to herself with a thumb and tilted her head to the side.

"Seriously?" Snow stared at her daughter who proceeded to pat her barely-there baby belly.

Emma smiled with wide pleading eyes.

"Sorry but you have to be there too. And no, that sad face doesn't work, especially when you've stuffed your cheeks like a chipmunk."

"Mom," she whined.

"A really cute chipmunk. Let's go." Snow tugged Emma away, leaving two empty plates behind.

 

Emma finished swallowing her last bite right before they entered the family parlor and got smacked in the face with the tense silence. Her parents started one of their wordless exchanges.

She tilted as translated it to herself.

Snow's frown: What the hell is going on?

Charming's return frown: Where have you been?

An eye roll: Please, as if that's important.

Slightly panicked shoulder shrug: What did you expect me to do? Followed by a grimace: I have no clue what to do with these people.

A sighing huff of breath: Must I do everything.

Emma snorted and turned bright red when all attention focused on her. Snow rolled her eyes at her daughter now and took control.

"I take it we skipped introductions," Snow announced drawing everyone’s attention to her.

Emma joined Henry and Neal by the fireplace. Neal looked from between his parents as they sat, seething with anger but studiously ignoring each other from opposite corners. Not that it helped as the animosity and tension in the room continued to rise.

Regina responded to Snow with a ‘you have got to be kidding me’ look.

Snow nodded in return. "I guess we’ll do this formally then."

She walked to the center of the room, holding out one hand which Charming took as he stood by her side. One brow winged upward and she waited.

The occupants rose to their feet for the queen.

"Milah and Captain Jones," Snow acknowledged. "I present the Dark One, Rumplestilskin. More importantly, this is his wife, Belle and their son Gideon."

Rumple rolled his eyes while Belle curtsied with the baby in her arms and smiled at the couple across the room. Killian and Milah nodded politely in return.

"Well this is going good," Emma said, into the awkward silence.

Rumple let loose a high-pitched giggle that made Killian and Milah flinch. "I think you're over estimating us, dearie."

"Let me be perfectly clear," Queen Snow interjected.

"At this point both parties have promised to refrain from maiming or killing each other." She nodded at Belle. "More importantly, the Dark One has promised his wife. I don’t know where either of you wish to go from here. If you want, we can stand as witnesses as you talk or if you both feel safe, we can leave you to it."

The Dark One eased back into his chair by the fire and stared into the flames without commenting. Milah stared at him, her mouth frozen in a sneer. Emma looked from them to Neal, twitching beside her.

"No offense your highness," Killian spoke up first. "I don't think such a large audience is required."

"Feel like having a private chat, pirate." Gold shot out without turning from the fire.

Milah placed a hand on Killian's arm to stop him and Gold's head snapped around to watch the two interact.

"Papa," Neal pleaded.

Emma placed a hand on his arm in comfort as everyone else shifted nervously in place.

"I thought you were okay with this."

"There are varying degrees of okay, Bae." Gold glanced at his son and recovered his composure. "I'm afraid there are things that your mother and I must speak of without an audience."

He tilted his head as if listening to a conversation far across the room. "Don't you agree, Milah."

"If you think…" Killian moved to stand between her and Gold.

"Don't think, dearie. It's not your strong point." Gold took Belle's hand in his. "Belle, my promise to you stands as well as the promise I made to their majesties and to you, Bae. I will not retaliate for the past."

He leaned down and kissed Gideon's head while he spoke quietly to his wife. "This life is what I want and I will protect that, even from myself."

"I'm willing to talk, Rumple." Milah stepped forward. "But I think, it should be just you and me."

The room erupted in disagreement. Emma felt Henry nudge her and he held up one of his most precious possessions. Both eyebrows shot up as he volunteered precious battery life. He just shrugged at her and pushed her forward.

"All right, people," Emma called out and the arguments continued. Her sharp whistle pierced through the noise. Emma mumbled an aside to Henry. "Living in New York was good, huh? Anyways, we may have a bit of solution and not a magical one."

"These should keep the conversation private." Henry held up a pair of headphones. "We just need one person to chaperone but not hear." He turned to his mom and Emma jolted before noticing everyone else eyed her as well.

"Oh, come on," she whined. "I'm still hungry."

 

Chapter Text

Emma sat between the two by the fireplace in all her finery but she traded her tiara for her son’s headphones. She felt lucky that Henry was in his 70's and 80's music phase before they landed in the Magic Kingdom.

It was pretty boring watching Milah and Gold alternate between glaring at each other and staring off into space. She almost wished they would break their promises. The Dark One flinging out some magical pain as Milah tossed daggers at his head, the room getting trashed around her as Kenny Loggin's sang about the danger zone.

Instead, they sat and glared and stared. Peanut let out a large feed me grumble and Emma answered with a loud sigh.

 


 

 

Rumplestilskin's mental meanderings were interrupted by the sound of the Savior's stomach followed by her weary sigh. He studied the pregnant princess in all her royal glory sporting the ridiculously large headphones and the silliness of it all tickled him. Rumple giggled.

"Must you laugh so?" Milah groaned, breaking the silence between them.

"This is possibly the silliest thing the Savior has done." Rumple paused as an out of place feeling tickled his spine. His head tilted as he listened to it. "Although there might be something worse."

He continued to study the princess, his gaze unfocused, revealing a white glow around her and a smaller one under her hand where she tried to soothe her unborn babe. "Interesting character this one. Keep wondering what our son saw in her. I doubt it'll ever make sense to me."

"I'm surprised you didn't try to fix that for him," Milah said with a flat tone. "Didn't you want Bae to have everything?"

"I do." Rumple stared back into the fire. "But magic doesn’t make it real."

"You know he said something to me recently, when I asked about it, about time passing and people changing." Milah closed her eyes and sat back. "He thought I would understand but I don't feel like I've lived for over three hundred years."

"Life with the pirate is so good that you don't note the passage of time?" Rumple sneered.

"Hell of a lot better than with you."

"And still, I have just one question." Rumple leaned forward, placing both hands on his knees and glaring at his wife. "How could you leave Bae?"

"Your cowardice made us pariahs in our village." Milah stood returning his glare. "Then instead of doing as I told you, you bargained away any future children we could have and you ask how? I had to leave or I would have killed you."

"Doubt that, dearie," Rumple sliced back at her. "You couldn't kill a hedgewitch to save your son's life. You couldn't even leave on your own. You had to beg the pirate to take you away from your awful life."

Rumple stalked toward her. "I may be a coward but so are you. Always acting as if you did nothing wrong."

"I had to take care of everything in that hovel!"

"Oh, please. That's not what this is about. You were just as much a coward as I."

His words turned her face red in anger.

"I was coward by everyone else’s standards but when I wanted something bad enough I reached for it, I schemed for it, took all the wrong paths to get it. You, you wanted me to risk everything but you couldn’t go after what you wanted yourself." He held out a hand and waggled it. "Or not wanted."

"Bastard!" Milah shouted.

Rumple opened his mouth to shout back when the princess popped up between them. She glanced at him then at Milah and each took a step back. Emma rolled her eyes at them and made a shooing motion with her hands, waiting to sit until both retreated to their chairs.

"That was idiotic," Milah huffed out.

"Something we agree on, dearie." Rumple crossed his legs and stared at the princess.

Emma simply shrugged and rearranged her skirts. When she was primly and comfortably seated between them she gave them a thumbs-up.

"What's that?" Milah sneered at the princess.

"That particular gesture is called a ‘thumbs-up', consider it a signal to proceed now that we are a safe distance apart." The pitch of Rumple's voice increased as he spoke.

"Not that it matters though." He waggled a finger at her. "I've made promises."

"Has that ever really stopped you before?"

"I make deals, dearie and I keep them."

"Fine." Milah got up to pace. "What exactly can we say. We can go over and over the past but I don't think anything will get accomplished that way."

Milah ended up between Rumple and the fire. She waited till his eyes met hers and her chin lifted. "I'm not sorry for leaving you."

A slow sardonic smile spread across his face and he shrugged. "No one ever is."

Milah's defiance fell away and she resumed her trip around the room. Her glance caught on the strangely elegant picture the princess made and disgust crept over her face.

"We need to put the past in the past. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to bury it, or more accurately, you." He giggled before his face dropped the joyless smile. "It would be simple to pretend everything was fine. Might even be enjoyable, watching the tension rise while the royals waited for me to break my word. But." His mind and gaze went elsewhere.

Milah waited for him to answer. He didn't.

Rumple's mind traveled down each road, every possible route to revenge with every outcome and each time it left him alone, abandoned by the family he had made. Family that forgave him and gave him so many chances. He fought the evil imp inside him to let go of revenge and sought out what was left. Rumple's world narrowed further seeking insight. Not paying any heed to the princess listening to music, discretely watching the body language of the rooms occupants or Milah pacing the room angrily mumbling.

Peace wasn't just about letting go, it could also be knowing the truth of things. Hearing it said out loud.

"But," she prompted him when her patience ran out.

Rumple tuned back in. The savior bopped her head to the music and Milah glared angrily at both of them. He sighed. The coming of the pirate and his ex-wife had a domino effect, upsetting this happily ever after. He didn't want to lose what he had but the heart of the matter eluded him and was something to contemplate another time.

"But it would not solve anything," he finally said into the tense silence. "You might not fully believe it but I treasure the life I have, the wife I do not deserve and a second chance at being a better father. To both my sons."

He pressed the fingertips of each hand together and examined Milah. "I need answers, possibly incredibly painful answers, for me and for you. I need truth, Milah. The truth in all its ugliness, not just mine but yours as well."

"Why would I lie?"

"Why does anyone lie?" He rolled one hand dismissively. "We lie to protect ourselves. We always say it's to protect others but telling Bae you died, that the pirate killed you was to protect me from losing him. I know you love Bae."

He stared into the fire for what he was about to say, not sure if it was a feeling or a fact or a fear. "But you also hated being a mother."

The words froze in the air around them. Milah's mouth flattened and her face darkened but she said nothing.

So, he continued. "I thought of it over and over again, before the war came and before I made the choice I did."

Milah stood abruptly hands fisted. "You mean before you took the cowards way out."

The princess shot up to block Rumple from Milah's ire. He waved her off.

"Maybe it was in ways, but it was also a hard thing to do and I know why I did it and I know what was inside me that made me choose it." He sneered up at her. "I admit that. Can you? Better yet, let me give you some Land without Magic help."

Rumple waved a hand and the headphones fell to the ground and the princess snapped around to look at him. "Tell her, your highness, where were you when you gave birth to Henry?"

Emma shook her head at him.

"Please Ms. Swan. Sometimes the hardest thing to face about the past is ourselves."

"In prison, jail," Emma snapped and seeing Milah's confusion, explained flippantly. "The dungeon, is that a good equivalent?"

She turned back to her tufted perch and fussed again with her skirts but left the headphones on the floor. When Rumple tilted his head toward them, Emma smiled wide. "Everything comes at a price, dearie."

He let out a giggle.

"I don't know what you think that changes," Milah interrupted. "What does knowing Princess Perfect gave birth in the dungeon matter to me."

"Hey lady, it was your son who put me there." Emma shot back.

"Ladies, please." Rumple held up a hand for attention and directed his question at Emma. "Did you want to be a mother?"

"God no." Emma grimaced as her hands settled on her belly. "I wasn’t even 18, besides what did I know about having a kid? I loved him, wanted him but I wasn't good enough, or I thought I wasn't good enough to be a mother. Which is basically the same thing. He deserved everything I never had, everything I had no clue how to give him."

Rumple looked at Milah, watched her digest the information before asking another question of the savior. "And isn't that what women are meant to do, be mothers?"

"I hope you aren't fucking serious," Emma replied bluntly while Rumple raised his brows at her vehemence. "That is not the point, we are people who have dreams and desires, sometimes its family, sometimes it survival and sometimes it's a dozen dogs and sometimes it changes but either way it's about what makes a person happy."

Milah laughed mirthlessly and Rumples attention returned to her.

"I never had those choices." Milah sat on the edge of her chair. "It was marriage or endless work trying to get out of that village, trying to get more." She turned away from her own words.

"More," Rumple said with a laugh. "Wanting more isn't a sin. Wanting better isn't either. I have loved three women in my life and each came to me wanting something. You wanted a better life, so you married the most talented spinner in your village and expected me to give you more. Cora wanted to be royalty and asked to learn magic to get it herself."

He took a deep breath. "Belle wanted safety for those she loved, and she gave up everything she knew to get it. Wanting more is not a sin. Desiring to be with your family again, not a sin. It's all in the execution, dearie."

Milah's face looked pained but still she didn't speak.

"No one is all good, all innocence. No one is perfect," the princess spoke. "As no one is all evil. We make choices, we struggle and we survive."

Emma gestured and the headphone were in her hands. She put them back on and pressed play.

"So now I need to ask you." Rumple hesitated because this would be the painful part. He studiously regarded the fire. "Did you ever really love me?"

"I…"

"I hate to remind you but I will know if you lie."

"No."

"I thought not." Rumple sighed. "It does make me wish to kill you and maim the pirate a little."

"Don't be dramatic," Milah tartly replied. "I didn't love you but I liked you and I was happy before the war but when you came back I was responsible for everything and it was hard. You were a coward but none of it mattered to you and that was so irritating. You didn’t take our situation seriously."

She waved her hands in the air. "You were out playing with Bae and none of it made any difference to you. You had what you wanted all along, a son. And be honest, you had Bae and forgot about me except as his mother."

Rumple nodded. "You are right about that."

He enjoyed the shock he caused with that bit of honesty.

"I've never pretended to be perfect and with few exceptions, I have made apologies and reparation where I could." He coughed a bit but looked directly into her eyes. "I am sorry that I made your life unbearable and that I didn't see you any longer."

"I'm sorry I left Bae," she replied. "I'm a bit sorry I didn't just tell you I was leaving. I think we would have been fine if our life had only good times but that's not how it went."

"No, it's not. What will you do now?"

"God, I don't know." She glanced at the princess who remained oblivious. "I think the only thing I really need to do is make it up to Bae."

"The pirate and I still have to come to terms I suppose, but I'd like to extend an invitation to you, which won’t include the husband. You should feel free to stay at Bae's home on my land."

"Thank you."

"Also, something my wife proposed. I don't know what you and the pirate may have amassed these past years but I have a chest of spun gold for you." He giggled. "Think of this as the divorce settlement."

"I'll take it." She studied the dark one. "So will I be able to form a new life here in the Enchanted Forest? With your permission."

"Milah, it's not about permission." He gestured offhandedly. "It's about an agreement to live and let live. It's about both of us, and the husband, letting go of the past and us learning to share our son. As strange as it is, this family stretches from the Queen Mother to Henry to the newest problem brewing right in front of us. I am a part of protecting that family, I'm a part of that family."

"You can choose to be a part of it as well. I hope you believe me." He paused and looked her in the eye again. "I wish that you'll to find your happy ending, whatever that may be. And I'll work on burying the hatchet with the pirate."

Milah raised an eyebrow at him and he rolled his eyes at her.

"And yes I know, not in his skull."

Chapter Text

Emma didn’t hear the door shut when Milah left the room.

Gold touched her on the shoulder and she jumped. He stood over her, examining her like a bug. Ignoring him she shut down Henry's ipod and took off the headphones, glancing between the tiara on the mantel and the door.

She had plenty of problems of her own. Did she have to deal with the Dark One drama as well? And she did she really need to wear the tiara anymore?

"Now, now don’t rush off, dearie." Rumple gestured to a chair. "Time you and I had a word."

Emma focused on the door.

"Are you ready to tell me what you’ve been hiding?"

Damn Dark One.

Emma thought of her time in the dark and the way people's secrets whispered on the wind. The darkness eager to find all those desperate souls.

"I'm tempted to lie to you." Emma placed Henry's things on the mantel. "But it won't work. The darkness has a nose for secrets and lies.”

Gold froze and she could see the wheels turning in his mind.

"Neal told you. Our pasts, our stories have been changed."

"Yes," Gold purred.

"What more do you need to know?"

"Tell me of the giant and his beans."

Emma's eyebrows shot up. "Do you need one?"

"I think you know I’m where I want to be." Rumple caught Emma's gaze and held it. "But things change. Milah dislikes you and if I had to guess it has something to do with the pirate."

"What can I say, I'm a heart breaker."

"You're a pregnant princess with a missing husband and a newly acquired island."

"You have the dark castle."

"Miss Swan."

Emma rolled her eyes.

"Please Emma, I want to protect my family, our family."

Emma glared and picked up her tiara. He held out a hand for it. Gold still spoke in his usual cryptic manner but his plea was sincere. She offered the tiara and bent her knees to lower her head. Gold placed it carefully on her head.

"We transferred some plants to the island and harvested some from the field before burning it. There are magical items we need to ask you about but passing out the stash gold comes first. Mostly to keep people from dying trying to get to it."

"I have little use for gold or treasure," he announced. "Otherwise I am happy to provide assistance."

"You might have to store some stuff in your super-secret scary dark magic vault."

"How do you know about that?"

"I told you, our stories aren't what we thought." Emma placed her hands on her lower belly. "I'm pregnant, for godsakes."

"Fine, but that's not all." Gold peered at her as if he could see beneath her skin. "There's still something you're not sharing and I, I…" He stopped as if listening to the secrets whispered on the wind. "I don't think I want to know but I need to."

"Need to, huh." Emma huffed and fussed with the folds of her dress. "I'm sure you can imagine being separated from Belle."

Rumple rolled his hand in a go on kind of way.

"Would hanging out with all the happy people be all that when you have lost your heart?"

"No, this isn’t about the island." Gold dismissed her with a shake of his head.

"You do not want to know." Emma pushed the words out through gritted teeth.

Gold grabbed her arm and hissed. "You will tell me."

"Please, don't make me do this."

His hand tightened on her arm but the pain didn't outweigh her desire to keep her secrets. Then again, maybe she could tell someone.

Someone who could keep a secret.

"Some people," she whispered as tears slowly dripped down her cheeks. "Were gone but returned when we woke up."

Gold let her go, knowing the loses were not likely to be random citizens of Storybrooke. He fell back into the chair and stared at the fire.

"I do not wish to know more," he informed her. "I am sorry."

Emma nodded but couldn't seem to regain the calm she wished she actually felt.

"You have my word," she reassured him. "I will protect everyone's happy ending."

It was a promise she kept over and over again even as it broke her heart. Every step down the stairs at her father's ball, in the home she supposed to grow up in, with her family around her while she ignored the one person she wished to have at her side. She wanted, she needed her pirate.

The Dark One was studying her again.

"Your husband isn't missing, is he dearie?" He pointed at her, waiting for an answer.

Emma returned his stare.

"I guess not everyone's getting their happy ending." Gold’s hand lowered.

"Only Henry knows that people are back from the dead." She turned to leave as he nodded in understanding.

Emma stopped by the door. "There's something I'm looking for. When the first curse hit, stuff turned up in Storybrooke. Turned up in your shop because you are a collector of things."

"There have been a few interesting items that have made their way to my castle."

"I'm looking for a set of rings, wedding rings. Nothing particularly special about them, plain silver bands."

"Even I need more than that, dearie."

"Both are engraved on the inside."

"Go on."

"The larger one says," Emma replied with a shaky breath. "My true love – Death cannot separate us."

"And what did he have engraved on yours?"

Emma wiped away her tears and glared over her shoulder. "My heart belongs to you."

They eyed each other uneasily. Gold looked away first. "I will keep an eye out."

"Thanks," Emma said and opened the door.

"Thank you,” Gold replied and with a raised hand saluted her. “Your highness."

Emma had had enough of being royal, of this party, and she gave in to her instinctive response to chaotic emotions.

Emma ran.

Chapter Text

Emma lifted her skirts and ran along the corridor.

Voices echoed down the hall and growing louder as people headed her way. Emma ducked out the nearest open door and found herself in the gardens below the balcony where guests chatted and cooled off in the night air.

Even in a white dress if she stuck to the shadows she could make her across the garden. Maybe fit in a trip to the food tables and then upstairs to her room.

Milah’s blatant dislike and Gold's interrogation added up to a need to get away and grab some quiet. She slowed her run and dashed from one shadow. Not much stood between her and freedom.

A pair of angry voices cut across her route from above. Her foot snapped something and heads turned in her direction, hushing their conversation further. Emma’s next spot just past the bright light outlining the two. Nothing to do but stop and wait.

The female, according the bell-shaped skirt, made a sweeping gesture encompassing the ball and her male companion threw his hands up as if he didn't care. She reached out a hand and stroked her companions arm soothingly. They embraced, the dark shadows they presented to Emma melding together. A slow smile spread across her face thinking of fights and making up when a door opened and the couple were more than just silhouettes.

Emma’s eye grew wide as Milah and Killian pulled back from their embrace, holding hands while the light lit every detail. Her heart froze in her chest and her vision clouded with tears. It was a while before she realized the door had closed, the balcony had darkened and there was nothing to stop her. She scrubbed at the tears on her cheeks and rushed to the other side of the garden.

Emma almost made it when she ran into someone.

They spun on impact and whoever Emma hit caught her before her back hit the ground.

"I'm so sorry."

"Your highness," Killian's voice answered her apology.

Emma's body locked in place as she stared up at him in disbelief. What kind of stupid fairy tale world did she live in. He held her there as if he had just dipped her in the middle of a dance. One arm cradling her above the ground. Her heart pounded and she stared into his eyes for a couple of loud beats.

Then she remembered. His wife and the embrace earlier and pushed away, scrambling upright.

"I'm sorry I wasn't looking," she mumbled, swiping at her skirts, and trying to regain her breath. She gestured to the distant terrace, taking a step toward it. "I was heading for the food."

"My apologies I was…" He trailed off staring before he stepped into her path. "Did you hear what they talked about?"

"Not really." Emma stepped to the side and returned his frown when he stepped to block her. Her need to comfort him fought with her instinct to run, comfort won. "I don't think they’ll ever get along but I think they came to an understanding.”

Emma took another step away. “Here’s the thing. They’re never going to be pleasant to each other all the time but upon occasion it’ll be fine. No one should die or get maimed."

Killian’s frown deepened.

"Gold really likes that word, maimed but hey, if he's saying it maybe he won't actually do it."

"Thank you, I suppose, your highness." He bowed a bit and finally backed out of her way.

“I'll just go then," she muttered and lifted her skirts to go but she ran into him so she turned back. "Thanks for catching me."

He smirked and without growling at him Emma swiftly turned away again.

"Your highness," he called out. "I should inform you I made a promise to your son."

Killian waited, saying nothing more. Emma rocked up on the tip of her toes and swaying back to her heels, wanting to leave. Needing to stay.

Again, she gave in. She turned around even though she already knew what he promised Henry.

"Your husband is a sailor and I told the lad I would find him."

"I couldn't ask you to do that when you and your wife have just begun settling here."

"You didn't ask," he shot back. "Neither did the boy. I offered."

"As you wish," she replied, hoping she wasn't quite the open book he always claimed she was before turning away. Again.

"I have a few questions for you, princess." His words halted her once more and she looked over her shoulder at him. He remained quiet, studying her.

She raised her brows.

"Any details or a description would be helpful. Maybe the name of his ship, or any bit of information would help."

She looked toward the balcony. Most everyone had returned to the ball and maybe she could steal a bit of time with her pirate. She straightened her spine and swept back around to face him.

"My memories are a little fuzzy still. I know he captained his own ship," she said softly. "He's tall, well taller than me. Dark haired, light-colored eyes, maybe green like mine or, maybe blue." She shrugged one shoulder. Just how much she could describe and keep the pirate from recognizing himself? "Scruffy looking, maybe. That could’ve changed."

Emma glanced over her shoulder to check for an audience. With none, she took a step closer to Killian. "There’s this one detail that’ll help. He lost his left hand” – she gestured to his left hand – “and in its place is a hook."

"You're married to Captain Hook?"

"Oh, so you've heard of him?"

"No but any captain sporting such an appendage would end up with that blasted moniker."

Emma looked to the side, wondering if she dared. Killian lifted his left hand and pushed a length of her hair back over her shoulder slicing her heart in two with the familiar gesture.

"If he has it, he'll be wearing his wedding ring on his right hand." She reached up and pulled her hair over her other shoulder. "It's engraved."

"With what?"

Emma's heart hurt at his question, at the flat determined look on his face. "My True Love," she said and stuttered over the look in his eyes. "Death cannot separate us."

"What an uplifting sentiment."

"You'd have to know the story I guess."

He nodded at this.

"Anything else you need?"

His head tilted at her words as his brows went up and Emma wondered what the pirate thought she was asking.

"Tomorrow, Milah goes to spend time with Bae on the Dark One's lands. As I have not been invited." He stopped a moment and swayed slightly to the music from the ballroom. "I will take my leave tomorrow morning and begin the search."

"I…"

"Alas princess, I do have one last request and it's a bit unorthodox," he muttered and scratched behind his ear. The nervous tick a sign that he was still the Killian she knew. He swept into an elaborate bow, much like the one he’d taught Henry. "A dance if you please, your highness."

"I wasn't going to go back…"

He straightened up and gazed directly in her eyes. "I'm not asking for a turn on the ballroom floor."

Emma exhaled sharply, his words and the look in his eyes a physical blow. There it was again, the longing, the love and the adoration he had always given her with a single look.

"Just a dance, right here, before you go wherever it is you go and I set sail to bring back your true love."

The faint strains of music floated in the air around them and they both held their breath.

Emma's eyes fluttered close as she stepped forward and held out her arms. Killian stepped to her, taking her hand in his then wrapping the other around her waist to sweep her into a waltz. It was like the sparring match all over again. Emma's blood rushed through her body as they glided around the barely lit garden.

Emma kept her eyes closed to soaking up the familiar feel of his arms but the hold of his left hand as he spun her instead of his hook disturbed her She glanced up at him. Blue eyes stared into hers and the gap between them growing smaller, their steps slower.

"Is there something on my face," she asked in a hushed whisper.

He shook his head no.

"You stare any harder…"

"I merely wish to provide an accurate description for your husband." He interjected, cutting off any conversation as they spun slowly around the garden. The dim music from the ball faded away entirely and they slowed to a stop. It wasn't till more upbeat music filtered out into the garden that they took a step away from their embrace.

"He must miss you a great deal." Killian bowed, lifting her hand for a kiss.

Emma pulled away and quickly dipped into a curtsy. "Not as much as I miss him."

"So, what is true love like?"

Emma deflated at the bitterness in his words and sank to the ground, blinking tears from her eyes as she looked up at him. Behind her voices rose and fell as guests came outside or went inside while the two of them remained frozen. A pirate and a princess unable to look away from each other.

So many words and things he had done told her that he felt something for her. It was tempting to give in and tell him about the fool's errand he was undertaking. And she’d promptly upset the delicate balance her family was trying to maintain.

"Killian," a female voice called out into the night.

Emma watched as he stepped past her, hiding her outline from the woman on the balcony.

"Like my heart has been ripped out," she whispered to the night and heard him sigh behind her.

"I cannot bear to see your pain," he whispered. "I will find your Captain Hook and drag him back to you." He walked to the woman waiting on the balcony above.

"Keep a weathered eye on the horizon, your highness."

"As you wish."

Emma watched him escort his wife back into the ball. She stood and brushed the dirt from her dress, wondering when exactly she had gone out of her damn mind. Dancing in the moonlight was foolish and she continued to chastise herself as tears streaked down her face.

"Mom."

She wiped the tears from her cheeks and held out her hands to her son.

"Mom, Regina, says I can go." He took hold of her hands. "She expects us to visit come back in two weeks a lot happier."

"Sooner, I promised your grandmother the truth in a week." She swung their joined hands a little. "You know how good she is with secrets."

Henry laughed awkwardly at her joke but it didn't last long, his eye tracking the tears falling down her face.

"Let's just go chill in your room. We can get one of the maids or pages or whoever they are to bring us snacks."

Emma shuddered through a deep breath and tried to smile. "Good plan, kid."

Chapter Text

Killian Jones lived by a code.

A code that trapped him in a web of lies, infecting this new beginning in the Enchanted Forest. The decision to go searching for a man he didn’t wish to find was easy to make when it coincided with his selfish desire to get bloody hell away from these people and feelings.

Milah was not particularly happy with his decision but then he wasn’t particularly happy with hers. She helped in making it by accepting the Dark One’s invitation, seconded by her son. Neither man even pretended to extend the invitation to him.

The door behind him closed. Milah came out of her room toting her bag and much like that morning on the Jolly Roger she gathered and packed her belongings with a sad efficiency that left their rooms practically bare.

“You’re forgetting this,” Killian said holding up a book of poetry she had brought from the ship. “Unless you’d like me to return it.”

“You could leave it here for when I return.”

“How strange. You really think you’ll return here.” He paged through the book. “I thought you more pragmatic.”

“You don’t think I’ll return?”

“No, not to here.” He stood and held out the book which she snatched away. “I think you’ll go live with Bae, and along the way you’ll find what you want.” His head rolled back as he sighed and he studied the ceiling. “I sincerely hope you do.”

“Why? Because then you’re free of your promise and can start stalking your princess.”

“The woman is married.” He rolled his head forward to meet her eyes, tapping his chin with a finger. “Of course, that hasn’t stopped me before.”

She snorted and dropped the book in her bag. “And giving up one of Liam’s precious books?”

“As unromantic as they are, I like the naval histories better.” He smiled and grasped her hand. “Don’t be petty about the princess. You know I want you to be happy and more, I” – he looked down at their joined hands – “I don’t want to break up another family.”

“You’re serious about finding the missing husband?”

“Yes. I should be able to hit several port towns, find a few realm jumpers and be back in two weeks.”

“You’ll need more time unless you get lucky.” Milah squeezed his hand before letting it go. “Worried about the princess?”

“No, I will be back to check on you.” He placed both hands on her shoulders. “Make sure to eat properly. These people are strange. Last night I accidently ate an onion fried in bread or something.”

Milah laughed. “What makes you think I can’t take care of myself without you?”

“Oh, I know you can.” He touched her cheek. “You’re the one who needs to believe it.” Milah buried herself in his arms and he rocked them back and forth. “You are my dearest friend. You have but to send a missive and I will return.”

“I think I can make it two weeks,” she told him pulling away. “Walk me to my son.”

“Of course.” Killian kissed her forehead and took the bag out of her hand. “Let’s go give the castle gossips a gift.”

The castle servants scurried around, nodding and calling out greetings on the short trip to the main hall where Baelfire waited. Everyone busy as bees after such a grand affair as last night’s ball. Bae wasn’t waiting alone, his son and some of the royal family with him. He glared intently at Killian but they managed to peacefully transfer Milah’s bag.

“Thanks man,” Bae said and held out a hand to his mother. She smiled and embraced Killian one last time. He whispered to stay safe before she kissed his cheek. Her hand slipped from his and she said her goodbyes to their hosts.

And then it was him and a family of royals who seemed to focus solely on him. He smiled and dismissed that foolish thought. Killian was happy to see that Robin was about for this morning’s farewells. Mayhap it shouldn’t have surprised him to find he liked the do-gooder thief about to marry a queen. Worse, he liked the King.

Bloody damn feelings.

It was enough that he felt he could never show his face in a disreputable tavern ever again.

“I’m afraid I’ll also be taking my leave,” he announced and truly drew the royals’ attention to himself. “Need to be out with the tide this afternoon.”

“You’re really going to look for him?” The lad asked and Killian raised a single brow, certain that the lad didn’t wish to speak in detail about the quest.

“Among other things lad.”

“I will be sad to see you go,” Robin lamented and offered his arm to. “You are welcome any time in Sherwood Forest, Jones and I expect a visit upon your return.”

“I will and thank you.” Killian maintained an even face as Queen Snow issued a similar welcome. She even hugged him. Most of the family wandered off till it was him and the King.

“Are you really…”

“Yes.” Killian cut him off. “I’ll do my best to find your daughter’s missing love.” Husband may be more legally binding, love reminded Killian the attraction he felt would never win against a heart already given away. “I plan to be gone two weeks whether he turns up or not.”

“Pirate,” David declared and stopped. He studied Killian before offering his arm. “Safe journey. Send us a message if you need help.”

Killian studied the arm offered to him and thought of the man he had come to know.

David was not like the king who betrayed him, his family was like nothing Killian had ever experienced. It was dangerous to accept his offer of friendship when everything in Killian’s life taught him that neither friendship nor family was constant. Life here was full of feelings, the opposite of that morning when he woke with a lack of any for the woman sleeping next to him.

Today he was running away from all the turbulence but he would be back.

Killian grasped his arm in return. “Thank you, your majesty.”

 


 

 

Supplying the Jolly Roger hadn’t taken long and the tide was on it’s way out.

It was time to go.

Killian looked up past the village to the towering spires of the castle in the distance. He could have made a fuss then maybe his anxiety as his ship floated away from the dock would calm. Her tear streaked voice and the look in her eyes as they danced pushing him to go and demanding he stay.

Hopefully he would find peace with his ship pointed at the open sea and the castle full of unaskable questions behind him.

A cloud of white smoke appeared near the rail and blew away to reveal the princess. She faced away from him with the wind blowing her blond hair and white dress behind her.

“Your highness,” Killian addressed her holding fast to the wheel.

“Captain Jones,” she said, still admiring the sea. “I’ve come to say goodbye.”

“You’ve said it,” he replied curtly. She spun to glare at him. “You know, I’m quite perceptive and I know there’s something you’re not telling me.”

This just seemed to make her smile. “There’s a lot I’m not telling you.”

“Is it actually possible for me to find him?”

“Yes,” she said and shook her head. “It’s possible.”

“Very well then. You’ve said your goodbye.” He hated the hard tone of his voice as he tried to get her to leave.

She ignored his plea and stepped closer, placing a hand over his. “Stay safe.” The words escaped her as she dissolved back in to white smoke and disappeared from his ship.

“As you wish,” he replied to the ghost of the woman he longed for but did not belong to him.

 


 

 

“Did you do it?” Henry asked as soon as Emma poofed back from the Jolly Roger.

“Yeah, kid,” she answered. “I got every mirror he had, which was a lot.”

“Well, I have heard that Captain Hook is devilishly handsome.”

“Directly from the captain himself, huh?”

Henry smiled and held out a hand mirror. Emma waved a hand over it and the interior of the Jolly Roger appeared.

“Captain’s quarters. Good job, Mom.”

“The better to admire his own devilishly handsome face.” Emma took the mirror from his hand and moved one finger in a circle. The mirror flipped through different views of the Jolly Roger till it showed an image of Killian at the wheel. “I think we’re ready to go ourselves?”

Henry took her hand and they went through the wardrobe.

 

Chapter Text

Henry was surprised by the amount of work completed on the island. The dwarves and Anton had rebuilt the towers and erected a solid portico around a large garden. It was tempting to ask exactly where the bean plants were but he had things to do and more to see.

The original wardrobe entrance had been modified to include optional doorways. Emma showed off by taking them through by the docks and dragging Henry along towards her tower. His head kept swiveling from one thing to the next. Maybe he needed to brush up on geometry because he couldn’t figure out the strange outline made by the six linked towers. The distance between each varied just as much as their height did.

“It looks like it was designed in Wonderland,” Henry remarked as he tried to calculate the actual size of the garden.

She rolled her eyes and decided to play tour guide. “So, the small tower where we came through got claimed by Anton and the dwarves and well any other visitors” – she gestured behind them – “This is mine. The next one is yours and on the other side of that is Regina’s, if she wants it. Also I put Mom and Dad on the other side of the guest tower.”

“Cause Grandpa loves hanging with the dwarves.”

“Because that far tower there, well, is for your dad and your other grandfather should they ever visit.” They both studied the distance to the furthest tower.

“Nice strategy.”

“Cross your fingers that it works kid.”

“I get a whole tower to myself?”

“Not quite a whole one. It’s and has passageways between Regina’s and mine.” Emma wrapped an arm around his neck. “No wild parties but some privacy.”

“Thanks Mom.”

“Go check it out.”

He took one step when a thought occurred to him. “How do we get fed?” He walk backwards toward his tower.

“You’ll see.” Emma smiled and fiddled with the mirror in her hands. “Tonight dinner at my place okay?”

He nodded and jogged away with his bag over his shoulder.

She called out again. “And tomorrow we talk in the garden.”

Henry didn’t stop and didn’t say no. Maybe he could tap into some of the peace Emma built this place to find.

Pushing open the door engraved with an H, Henry stepped into his tower. It had to be some kind of spell. The room was larger than it appeared from the outside with a bench and hooks for cloaks or coats along the walls. A staircases dominated the center of the space twisting upwards. He climbed them to find an open living room space that reminded him of his grandparent’s old loft.

It even had a small kitchen-ish set up.

Two doors were set directly across from each other, one with a VW bug burned into the wood and an apple on the other. He grinned.  Henry couldn’t resist checking out the Enchanted Forest refrigerator and opened it up. Magic must keep the ice block from melting. He stared at a soda can, letting the door close on it before he continued on up the next set of stairs along the outside wall.

They led to a single door. Beyond was a room with wide windows that looked out onto the sea and garden. The ones on the sea side wide enough to climb out onto a small balcony. There was a bed, a wardrobe and a few chairs but otherwise the room was pretty empty and plain. Except for the desk. The Desk, really. A broad thick slab of polished wood with bookshelves and cubbyholes and drawers sat gleaming in the sunlight.

He opened all the windows and Henry took a deep breath of sea air.

He picked up his bag and threw it on the bed. Rummaging around he pulled out a large flat box and placed it on the desk. In the distance, a small storm swirled over the sea and Henry hoped Killian wasn’t caught up in it. He sat behind the desk and admired the view before opening the box.

He removed the Author’s pen first, followed by a bottle of ink. Then Henry unpacked more modern implements, pen and pencil and paper, securing the tools of his trade in the drawers and cubbyholes of the desk. The stained spiral notebook was gently lifted out and set it to one side and a half blank storybook set to the other.

All that remained was his first storybook. The past as it had happened. Henry closed the box and looked around the room. There weren’t a lot of choices. Grabbing a chair he pulled it over to the wardrobe and climbed up. With the box secured on top, he got down. Walking around the room, Henry stopped in different spots and turned to look at the wardrobe from every angle, making sure the box would remain hidden. Pleased with the results, he returned to the windows and stared out at distant storm.

Tomorrow and the time to tell the rest of the story was coming.

 


 

 

Emma climbed the single staircase that twisted up the inside wall of her tower, the tallest one, built to her exact wishes and supported by her own magic. Each floor was open with windows wherever they could fit. At the top was her sanctuary. The balcony now circled the entire tower and walking it Emma could see the ocean in all directions. She closed her eyes and the mirror in her hand swirled bringing into focus the deck of the Jolly Roger.

Killian looked better, a little less lost than while he’d been on dry land. She laid the mirror on the mantel and backed away slowly to curl up on the chaise lounge. The sound of the sea carried her away from her thoughts and finally she slept.

Her dreams were full of the life that once was and of the life that was supposed to be.

The home they’d made in Storybrooke. Working together at station and grabbing meals at Granny’s. The discussion and decisions made about their life, their town and the next disaster. Taking that final step and deciding to add to their family. Telling Kilian when the pregnancy test turned up positive. Preparing a room for the baby, babies.

Emma woke up choking and fighting to catch her breath.

In the dream, they were figuring out how to fit two of everything into one room.

She laid a hand on her growing belly and wondered. Closing her eyes, she let magic gather and warm the palm of her hand, letting it spread out and feel.

“Well hell,” she whispered with a dry throat. “I guess I can’t call you both Peanut huh?”

An unexpected and new adventure – motherhood at double the pleasure. And alone again. She cringed because it wasn’t his fault but it was honestly her next thought. Her eyes caught on a picture frame she’d sat on the mantel and found herself smiling at the view beyond her window, at the other five towers.

Emma was not alone and she never would be again.

“I’m going to swell up like a balloon aren’t I?” She got up and grabbed a cold water pitcher from the ice cabinet. “Peanut and Jelly Bean? Ugh, we’ll try a few out and find one you both like.”

Emma chugged the glass down then wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Barefoot, she padded down the cold stone stairs, a white smoke swirling around her body till she was comfortably dressed in leggings and one of the pirate’s shirts she had stolen that morning. She found Henry sitting on a stool in the kitchen drinking from the soda can she conjured for him.

“What do you think?”

“Honestly? I’m pretty sure everything Grandma and Mom objected to has just gotten worse.” He smirked. “Highest room in the tallest tower? If you’re going to be a cliché at least be cool about it and get a dragon too.”

“I thought about asking Lily to visit.”

Henry rolled his eyes.

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know, what can you actually cook with the stove that isn’t a stove?”

“Most anything. It’s all run on these simple spells from an old book I found in the castle library. They kind of preserve things so the stove works like our stoves. Like the fire doesn’t go all the way out and the ice doesn’t melt. Less power and like, once a year checkups.”

“So we can have grill cheese tonight?”

“Your wish in my command.” Emma gathered ingredients and a pan. “Hey kid, you’re a teen with his own tower. Make a salad.”

Chapter Text

Killian weighed anchor off the coast of Hangman’s Island. A rest here would mean making port after the evening meal and a prime time for a visit to the local taverns. He secured the ship then stripped off and dived into the sea.  Swimming to the island was tempting but checking the ship for damage came first.

As he swam around the waterline a cold hand seized his ankle and pulled him under. The next thing he knew he was coughing up water on the beach across from a red haired mermaid without a weapon to defend himself or stitch of clothing for cover.

“Bloody hell,” he cursed her, scrambling away. “What do you want treacherous creature?”

“You’re the one trespassing pirate.” She touched a hand to a bracelet on her wrist and she no longer had fins but stood upon legs. She looked him up and down. “Why are you here?”

“I needed to rest.” He checked his surroundings for anything to make him feel less vulnerable. “I’m on a mission for King David and Queen Snow of Misthaven.”

The mermaid snorted at him.

It wasn’t a lie exactly but it wasn’t the entire truth and the creature wasn’t buying it. “I’m in search of their daughter’s husband.”

“Emma?”

“Yes.” He licked his lips. “Emma.”

“I thought her and Neal…” She trailed off as the pirate rolled his eyes.

If she was concerned with the latest gossip traveling around the Enchanted Forest then she wasn’t as dangerous as the rest of her kind. “I would love to tell you the entire tale but I would prefer to be wearing pants while I do so.” Her head tilted as if she couldn’t understand and he gave her a tight lipped smile and gestured to his naked form.

“Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhh.” She perked up and waved for him to follow her as she skipped away. “My husband has pants you can borrow.”

Killian wondered if she brought home naked sailors often and hoped her husband was the understanding sort.

 


 

 

Emma carried a basket of food with Henry trailed behind her carrying the blanket. She led him to the grassy knoll shaded by small fruit trees and pointed out where she wanted the blanket. Dropping the basket, she waded deeper into the surrounding trees.

“Get over here when you’re done.”

Henry straightened the last corner of the blanket before following her voice as she continued to call out.

“I haven’t figured everything out but it’s a start. I mean permanent benches in the garden are the dream but like why sit on stone? Just because we’re stuck in medieval times doesn’t mean we have to live like that.”

When Henry found her Emma had stacked cushions from a hidden wood bin on the ground. She gave him some and carried more back to the blanket herself. They spent time quietly arranging their picnic, getting the food and the cushions just right. Different bowls and plates of food passed back and forth as they settled in.

“So,” Emma said ending the silence.

“I, uh. It.” Henry’s eyes roved around the garden searching for the beginning of his story. “I didn’t…”

“We could, you know, eat first?” She lifted a shoulder giving a half-hearted of shrug.

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

 


 

 

Killian pulled on the pants the mermaid threw out the front door of the island hut. It looked like the couple spent a number of years here, collecting all kinds of strange objects that washed up on their shore. He picked up a fork from a pile and with a raised brow wondered what exactly she planned to do with so many of them. It seemed unlikely that the couple got any guests, let alone the friendly sort over for a bite.

“You dressed now?” She poked her head out of the hut and he dropped the fork. “I want to hear everything. How’s everyone in the Misthaven? Belle and Snow and Emma and Henry and Red. I mean I heard they were back and all but I haven’t gotten a chance to visit. I would so love to visit and catch up with everyone. I...”

“Then you know what happened three months, no, four months ago?” He interrupted her speech. “The cursed returning from the Land without Magic.”

“Yes and…”

“Well, they, or the princess discovered their memories were altered. Her husband is missing and she’s with child.”

“Oh no.”

“Since he’s a sailor and I’m a pirate, I offered to look for him.” He hoped this was enough for her. Regaling her with gossip about Emma and Neal followed by trying to explain his connection wasn’t a task he was keen to undertake. He looked around again, his mind ruminating on all he’d seen of the mermaid’s island abode. “Has anything unusual washed up recently?”

“Well,” she drawled out slowly. “Only one weird thing. Eric didn’t want me to keep it but there was something familiar about it and well, another thing came with it. Together actually.”

“What?” The urgency in his voice tipped his hand and the mermaid’s expression became sly.

“I’m afraid that answer comes with a price,” the mermaid informed him and crossed her arms, ready to deal. “And remember, we could simply just sail on off with your ship.”

“No lass, you couldn’t,” he replied considering her words. “You want passage somewhere. You can hop realms but not with your Eric I take it? Can’t the husband breath underwater?”

“It would be just to his kingdom in this realm and what I have, it’s a wedding ring. It washed up on the beach on this, oh I don’t know, almost a thing-a-ma-bob and it’s probably something that can help you.”

“Indeed, sounds intriguing.” He glanced around the hut.  “I’ll take you and your prince back to his kingdom aboard the ship if, if I deem these items sufficient.”

“Deal,” she said and reached out to shake his hand.

“Now, I suggest you take the next few hours to get yourself together.” He gestured to a distant grove of trees. “I’ll take my rest there. In two hours bring the items we’ve discussed and maybe we’ll sail away from here together.”

“Aye, aye Captain!”

He returned her salute and walked off toward the hammock he spotted strung between the trees.

“What’s your name pirate?” The mermaid called out to him.

“Jones, Captain Killian Jones.” He tossed the words over his shoulder.

“Well Captain, I’m Ariel.”

 


 

 

Emma tried to hold it in but it was impossible and she let out a long, loud burp. Henry rolled his eyes at her. She wasn’t pleased. When Henry hit his teen years she thought no one would be able to out eat him but today she had. There were extenuating circumstances and all but he didn’t know about the twin thing yet.

Henry packed up the empty containers and continued to give her attitude while Emma rearranged the cushions. Stretching out next to each other was a good place for their talk.

“The sky’s soothing,” she explained when he flashed her a disgruntle look.

“You’ll fall asleep.”

“You wish.”

She patted the space next to her and waited for him to lie down. When he was settled, she scooted over till she could loop their arms together. He looked over at her, his mouth opening and closing as he searched for the words.

“I love you, Henry.”

“I love you too Mom.”

“Just start at the beginning.”

“Once upon a time…”

“Maybe not the very beginning,” Emma said making Henry laugh.

Watching the clouds slide past, Henry told his story.

Chapter Text

It was an accident.

Here’s the thing.

Henry didn't know exactly why it happened. It wasn't like any of the other times they'd been cursed or cursed themselves or had their memories wiped or even that time their stories had been rewritten.

When Rumplestilskin and Isaac wrote Heroes and Villains, they needed the author's pen, the author's power and ink with the savior's darkness. Even then there were rules. They couldn't undo the past. They couldn't erase the existence of the savior instead they had to hide her away and take away her powers.

No one could be brought back to life and more – like a past injury leaving a pirate with one hand – couldn't be changed. Then again, considering it was the world according to Grandpa Rumple, maybe that was something he just didn't wish to change.

Doesn’t matter.

What happened now shouldn't have happened at all. At least according to all the magic and mayhem they’d survived so far.

Additionally, Henry worried about the price to be paid for the magic that had brought them across realms and scrambled their brains. He was consumed by the cost for all the happiness. When he found out that Emma remembered and was suffering, he feared she was paying for everyone else's happiness.

And all that was just the stuff Henry didn’t know.

The beginning was when they returned from Underbrooke.

Despite his attempt to rid the land of magic, the people from the Land of Untold Stories crash landing in town and the splitting of his mom in two, he had tried to go back to living life. Finding the quiet moments between all the drama. But Hook's return from the dead sparked questions he wanted answered.

Why was Hook brought back?

Was it like when his grandfather was brought back by his father?

Are those who sacrifice their life for their families not quite dead?

Why did his dad then have to die? What if his father hadn't died?

What would it be like for his mom and dad to be together?

Henry loved Killian.

He was a friend and, mackerel for breakfast incident aside, a good step-dad. Killian loved his mom and she loved him. More importantly, they were happy together. So, when he began his project he knew with Killian around, Emma would always end up choosing to be with pirate.

He didn't want to change their lives.

He wanted answers.

Henry didn't use the author's pen or the ink from the Merlin’s manor. He didn't write it in one of the blank story books. A cheap spiral notebook and an old bic pen was what he used to get his answers.

After all, who doesn't like fanfiction?

Henry started by whisking Killian and Milah away. Why stay and fight the Dark One? Killian knew about Neverland, had been there with his brother. Why wouldn't he let Milah talk him into running away to live to fight another day?

Once the devilishly handsome pirate was gone, Henry rewrote every adventure they had from breaking the first curse (which didn’t even need to be rewritten) to Neverland and the wicked witch. He had figured out the Elsa and Anna and Snow Queen thing as well as the three witches. After all that drama he had sent everyone back to the Enchanted Forest for the next adventure.

He skipped his mom saving his mom from becoming the Dark One by becoming the Dark One.

Somethings he never wished to relive.

Henry had finally figured out how to work Camelot when he and Killian returned from the Nautilus.

That’s when he stopped writing.

He would always miss his dad but the rewrite didn’t have the answers. His mom and dad worked well together, had fun together but he couldn't write the glow, the spark, the connection between Hook and Emma from the storybook. It was totally embarrassing to live with in real life. He thought it’s be easy but he couldn’t get it in his story of Emma and his dad.

Then Killian and Henry returned from the Nautilus and he realized he’d never know the answers to his questions. Questions that mattered less now.

Henry had learned what was important. It was the people who made up his family. His moms and grandparents – both sets –   Aunt Zelena and the babies and the pirate that made up his whole family. Very real and alive people who loved him and who he loved.

The spiral notebook sat on the corner of his desk and gathered dust.

Six months since the final battle and life had slowed down to a crawl.

It was disappointing for a boy who had grown up surrounded by fairytales and knew the adventures were real. To fight the boredom, he collected a few empty storybooks and started writing in them. Stories happening somewhere else, exciting new one that he wrote all night and read the next day.

But it was frustrating reading about other people's adventures. One night, when he had filled another story book full of other people’s stories Henry threw the book across the room and pushed away from the desk angrily. Wishing for adventures of his own.

That's when it happened.

An ink bottle toppled and splashed on that dusty spiral notebook, the pages soaking up every drop of spilled ink. Disgusted with it and himself, he threw it away and went to bed.

The next morning, everyone from Storybrooke woke up in the Enchanted Forest.

Henry had torn his family apart and brought them back together at the same time.

 


 

 

Killian’s slumber was disturbed by the sound of sand shifting under feet. He rolled out of the hammock, stretched, and was gaging the position of the sun when the intruder spoke up.

"I hear you're providing passage for us."

He turned to study the tallish, darkish, and blandly handsome man who held a sword at the ready and whose pants he must be wearing.

"You must be Eric," Killian spoke calmly. "Your wife, the mermaid, has secured passage aboard my ship, providing you want to leave paradise."

"Paradise?"

"Alone with the woman you love with no one to interrupt you."

Eric laughed and lowered his sword.

"I suppose we'll be swimming out to the ship? We best get started soon but first, the items in question?"

Ariel peeked out from behind Eric's back. The two shared a look and she came forward placing a silver hook in his hand.

"How did you know that the princess' husband had a hook for a hand?"

"I didn't," she explained. "That's a hook? It and the ring washed up about three months ago and not at the same time but together together."

Killian held out his hand for the ring and Ariel placed it in his palm.

"The ring was on the hook. It was weird." The couple nodded in agreement.

Killian studied the ring and tried to ignore the feelings rising inside at the sight of the hook. He didn’t remember meeting a one-handed pirate but it struck him as familiar. His initial troubled response calmed at the feel of the cool metal.

The ring was a plain silver band but the size was smaller than he expected, likely a woman’s. Not exactly what he imaged a princess would wear. He held it up and read the inscription out loud.

"My heart belongs to you."

A small smile flashed unconsciously across his face.

 


 

 

Emma leaned her head on Henry's shoulder as they watched the clouds pass. She wanted it all thought out before she said anything.

It was something she'd been working on since her words sent Killian from her and straight into Gideon’s trap. Trust isn’t her default response but after pushing him away and having it play right into the bad guy’s hands, she had had enough.

She also remembered the pain she caused her mother when they were dealing with the Wicked Witch and all Emma wanted, more than anything, was to retreat back into the dream of New York. A wish can hurt others when that wasn't the aim. The whole thing also brought back the wish realm and Emma winced. Singing Princess Emma wasn’t how she’d thought her wish not to be the savior would play out.

She needed to thank Regina for not telling anyone about that version of herself.

"That explains a lot," she finally said.

"That's what you're going with?" Henry's voice squeaked out. "I just told you I reimagined our entire lives and it destroyed your happy ending and that's what you say?"

"Do not make me quote my mother."

He shrugged his shoulders jostling her head.

"Happy endings aren't always what you think they will be and it's not the end of my story quite yet and also, I get it. The rewrite, that was a wish or a thought. I mean, you have the power to make it really real and you didn't, you just wanted to think about it."

"Still."

"Accidents happen."

"I haven't tried to fix it you know." He sat up abruptly and looked down at his mom. "I could use the author's pen and ink and write it away like I did Isaac's story."

"No."

"It would be the right thing to do."

"You don't know that." Emma sat up and placed both hands on his shoulder holding him still. "Here’s the thing kid. While I get that the whole spilled ink thing is a part of this, I’m absolutely sure there was something else going on as well.  Maybe something needed us here and juiced the ink and story up but I don't think it was just you."

"Mom."

“It’s not all your fault, and no rewrite. Especially not till we talk to the entire family." She stood slowly. "There are things you haven't considered. It might be your rewrite but how far does it reach in this realm or past this realm and maybe who did it reach? Is the wish really a part of it? And what about the return of the beans? And the stuff that is totally against the rules of magic — hello two-handed Killian. Not to mention your story is missing at least a year of time but my baby brother isn't any younger. There are some pretty big holes."

"I guess but whatever it was, it was built off my story."

"Yeah. We'll end up talking this to death. Because we aren’t doing this alone." Emma told him and started piling up pillows. "At the end of the week we have to come clean to your grandparents and your mom and figure out what’s next." She held out the pile for him to take and shooed him away.

Emma's mind was still working.

When Henry worked his way back, she had folded the blanket and made a decision.

"You know, in some ways nothing has changed."

He seemed surprised by her words then took the blanket and the basket from her.

"We are where we are and need to live the life we have and we want. I will never rule the kingdom, you might if you wanted. Anyways, I've started building a home here and I'm going to figure out what it means to me and what I want."

They began walking back through the garden.

"It includes these two still growing and you." Henry stopped walking even as Emma kept going. "That life I need to build and someday Killian will be here. I think when we figure all this out with everyone I may have to take a step I don't wish to."

He jogged to catch up, his eyes shimmering with tears.

"The fatherhood thing isn't something I should hide from him and I think I'm going to have to be stronger and tell him."

"But I was enjoying the fruitless search."

Emma rolled her eyes at her son.

Chapter Text

Killian kept the hook on him at all times.

Every morning when he dressed for the day he considered, for a moment, leaving it behind. It wasn’t like he would be holding it out to each one-handed man and asking him to try it on. This was not some twisted Pirate Cinderella mission.

Fortune seemed to favor him, at the moment, for a two-day sail was all it took to get the mermaid and her prince to their kingdom by the sea. It was also a port he had planned to visit. Killian spent a night with this new set of royals and now had to contend with the gratitude he felt for the strange couple. Granting safe passage thru their kingdom’s waters to a pirate.

It left a bitter taste in his mouth

He lifted his tankard to wash it away and forced his mind away from the disgraceful way he had been acting. Cozied up with the ruling classes.

The tavern was filling up steadily with sailors of both the reputable and disreputable variety. Killian turned back to eavesdropping on the men at the end of his table while keeping an eye on the door. They were arguing about some issue between the kingdoms of Arendelle and the Southern Isles.

So far this particularly pungent lot of scalawags had the most promising lead. A well-known pirate captain languished in the dungeon of the northern kingdom, having ended up on the wrong side of a powerful royal who commanded ice magic. Killian placed Arendelle on the top of his list. Perhaps it was the princess’ husband.

With his tankard in hand he swaggered across the room. It was time to gather information from a few additional sources before he called it a night. A table of seamen sporting naval uniforms, a bit too sloppily for him, had coin on the table and dice in their hands. Killian staggered toward the table and tossed down a small purse of coins.

“What are you gentlemen playing?” He slurred.

 


 

 

Emma had hands covered in suds when she heard Henry running up the stairs. The past couple of days he spent his time with the dwarves or Anton or Geppetto and August as they worked on the island. The physical labor seemed to help him, almost like their morning sparring sessions did her by getting them out of their own heads for a bit.

She shook the water off her hands and grabbed a cup and a pitcher of water. She left the filled cup and the pitcher out on the counter then turned back to her task. Henry was panting and gulped down the water before refilling or speaking.

“The whole water treatment system they built is so cool,” Henry poured and guzzled down more water. “I mean Mom and Grandma are going to be jealous over your plumbing.”

“I do have hot and cold running water,” she said, coming around to sit next to him. “The envy of all.”

“Please, once Mom gets a load of this she’ll have the dwarves working overtime to update her castle.”

“Whatever. You know they’re still working on getting the rest of the island up and running.” She ruffled his hair but pulled her hand away quickly. “You’re sweaty and disgusting.”

Henry laughed.

“And you should probably clean your tower before you wash up.”

“Are you kidding me? No friendly house elves who do that sort of thing for us?”

“Nope. Small magics to help us poor pampered modern folk deal but we still clean up after ourselves.”

“And I was so happy to get a whole tower all my own.” Henry got up and even if she cringed away scooped her into a hug. “How are Peas and Carrots?”

“No.”

“Rum and Coke?”

Emma squirmed out of his arms and hit him on the shoulder. “I’m calling them Two and Three.”

“Two and three?”

“Let’s just say you’re One.”

Henry smiled but shook his head. “I’ll go clean my tower and see you at dinner.”

“I’ll be in the study if you need me.”

Emma climbed the stairs up and stopped halfway between her room and the floor below. She placed one hand over her heart and the other on one of the stones. This was one of the bits she created herself, by herself, for herself. The wall shifted and opened to a room lined with bookshelves that were still pretty empty.

When she started searching for her place in fairy tale central, she had gone to Tinkerbelle with her magic questions. Together they gathered information on transportation spells, portals, hidden doorways, and dimensions. She combined all that with the movie magic from the Land without Magic.

Regina had been right when she had said that magic wasn’t a thing to be picked up and put aside as needed. It was a lifestyle.

Before realizing the whole memory rewrite, Emma knew she would never follow in her parents’ footsteps and rule their kingdom. It was all logic really. They were still young and by the time they’d retire, she would be ready to retire with them. She had planned to do something like Neal was doing. Traveling the kingdom, really the realm, errands for her parents as sheriff and discovering more of this world she was born in but not raised.

Two and Three changed that, or at least delayed it. Eventually, her and the twins would explore this world together. Maybe with their older brother and hopefully with their father at the wheel.

In the meantime, Emma prepared and studied. Magic, history, geography, cultures, and navigation were currently on her reading list. She raided the royal library for books and brought them over to the island. In time, she would have a list of places to see, maybe books and magical objects to find and she would set out to explore the realm.

There was one more subject she planned to become the expert on and sent Tinkerbelle scrounging the realm to find anything about saviors. She started her own journal as well.

Emma wasn’t going to let another savior be born to blindly face their fate or live their life out in the cold.

She went to the large table Geppetto and August carved for her and studied the map of the realm carved in it. There was a tiny wooden ship drifting in the harbor near Eric’s sea kingdom. Emma wondered if Ariel had run into the pirate and if she recognized him.

Turning away she picked up a new magic book from the stack Tink sent. It was a plain and slim book.

“Let’s hope you know something about doing laundry.”

 


 

 

It was a good thing Killian was a savvy captain.

After a few rolls of the dice he quickly realized that the untidy navy men displayed further bad form by using loaded dice. Expected behavior from a pirate but utterly unacceptable from members of a royal navy.

Liam would not have stood for it.

Alas fisticuffs were unwise and thus he let them win his small purse as he plied them with drink. If only they had had any useful information instead of being clumsy and stupid bastards who couldn’t steal candy from a babe. The Jolly Roger was infamous, the fastest ship in all the realms as well as the last enchanted ship ever made. He hid her accordingly and the poor fools would have to content themselves with his purse.

Still he rolled out of bed this morning with one hell of a hangover and the sound of the perky mermaid calling for him.

“Captain Jones!”

“Ariel for the love of the gods, stop shouting,” he mumbled as he stumbled above deck. “Is there something you wanted?”

“Oh, you don’t look so good.”

“Thank you, your highness.”

“We got a letter for you, via bird. Actually, its more than one.” Ariel held out three small paper packets to him.

He recognized Milah’s script but not the others. “Thank you m’lady, if that is all?”

“I wanted to say goodbye. And thank you.” She nervously clasped and unclasped her hands. “Where will you go from here?”

“I’ve grown on you haven’t I? I’m sorry to tell you this but you must remain here, your prince needs you, desperately.”

“Do you know that from the moment you coughed up water on my beach, I felt that you could be trusted,” she said peevishly. “At the same time, I really wanted to slap you across the face.”

“I have that effect on people.”

She harrumphed at him and settled for punching him in the arm which hurt a great deal. She walked away to the side of the ship to dive into the water. He tried to rub the feeling back into his arm.

“Don’t be a stranger and have a safe trip,” she called over her shoulder, clearly annoyed.

“Ariel. Thank you.” He waited till she looked at him and did one of his more theatrical bows. “I sail for Arendelle, any advice?”

“Queen Elsa is known to be friends with Snow and David, but more like a sister to your Emma.”

“She’s not mine.”

The mermaid ignored his response. “Good luck, Captain and good bye.” Ariel dived over the side of the ship and swam away.

“Lovely, more royals.” Killian scrubbed at his face and went below. He opened Milah’s letter first. Seems the time with her son was agreeing with her. The second letter was from the thief, or the king, it was hard to decide. Even though one hand clearly wrote it, reading it he could hear the two arguing about what news to tell him. The last was from the lad and the pirate got lost at a brief mention of an island in the bottomless sea and his mother.

He read the first two all the way through but, without a thorough read, placed the last away a box high on the shelf in his quarters.

“Well my girl,” he spoke to the ship. “Time to haul anchor and be on our way.”

Chapter Text

Henry left the island early.

Since the afternoon he explained his story they had talked about who to tell and when and how much each night at dinner. They had discussed including the people who had died or excluding those most likely to fire ball the place.

The satchel slung across his shoulder was heavy with the weight of his first storybook and he felt his task was just as heavy a burden.

Emma had made a promise to Snow and part of her wanted to tell only her mother just a bit of the truth. Henry disagreed.  He argued for bringing in all his grandparents, Regina, and Belle as well as the dwarves. She had snorted and said that they might as well invite the entire kingdom to a presentation of the whole mess.

His strange mess.

He dreamed terrible dreams last night, where only some of his family knew the truth. Rumple’s and Regina’s hearts turned dark as they attempted to fix it and fixing it tore their family further and further apart.  He also dreamed of every one around the grand council table and when the truth was revealed both his father and Robin turned to dust and blew away on the breeze.

Both outcomes sucked.

Logically, once Henry escaped the nightmares, he knew they reflected only two outcomes of possibly thousands.  Knowledge alone was the least likely way to kill those returned from the dead but the pain of the dark machinations Regina and Rumple came up with was all too real. After all, once upon a time…

He preferred to learn from history rather than repeat and defeat.

Henry borrowed some magic chalk from his mom and Beetlejuiced his way to the Dark One’s castle. With a smile he threw the handy piece of chalk up in the air before catching it and putting it in his pocket.

“Henry,” Rumplestilskin called out from his place by the spinning wheel. “What an unusual way to make an entrance. I suppose I’ll have to ask the savior about that bit of magic.”

“Mom’s been combining things she saw in movies and spells from here.”

“That particular mother of yours has suddenly become much more interesting.”

“I’ve come on a mission,” Henry declared. “Operation Veritas.”

His grandfather slowed his spinning wheel and made a rolling gesture with his hand.

“Tomorrow, Mom and me, we need to tell everyone what happened, how we ended up here.”

Without looking up Rumple sent the wheel spinning. “Why your father is alive and well?”

The question froze Henry in place. “How?”

“I may” – Rumple shimmied his shoulders – “have convinced your mother to part with some knowledge. I’ve never been a slow one, dearie.”

“Grandpa,” Henry sighed out. “Was that necessary?”

“I’m afraid it was, my boy.”

Henry shook his head and decided to get back on track. “You need to bring Belle and Dad with you.”

“Not Milah?”

Henry turned red. He forgot about that particular grandmother. Her presence complicated everything. He scratched behind his ear. What he needed was a good reason which he didn’t have.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea?” His voice squeaked out.

“I have a feeling I agree with that statement. I’ll think of something.” Rumple crossed the room and placed a comforting hand on Henry’s shoulder. “Are you sure your father needs to be there?”

“Yes, Grandpa. Dad too.” Henry looked into the eyes of the Dark One and saw his grandfather looking out. “Dealing with the truth, out in the open should save us from making some of the same old mistakes.”

Rumplestilskin’s lips quirked into a grin. “As you wish, Henry.”

“Do you even know…”

“We may have only had VHS tapes but a number of movies made it to Storybrooke. I just hadn’t seen the possibilities, unlike your mother.”

“I love you too, grandpa.”

Henry wrapped his arms around his grandfather and hugged him tight. He grabbed the chalk out of his pocket and drew a door over the wall. He knocked three times and went on to his next stop.

“Where does he get such wonderful toys,” Rumplestilskin rolled the words off his tongue and let out a high-pitched giggle. Time to inform his wife of tomorrow’s outing.

 


 

 

Killian was less than a day away from the kingdom of Arendelle and the air had become colder, the sea rougher. It suited his mood. Any moment spent in his quarters, however briefly, the box on the shelf called to him and he fought to ignore it. It wasn’t as if he knew what the lad had written. He only knew the words mom and island were included.

It wasn’t as if when the lad mentioned his mother there wasn’t more than one option.

To find some distance, he re-read Milah’s letter whenever he thoughts wandered to the princess and whatever information her son had sent him.

According to her letter, Milah shared her son begrudgingly with his father and new wife and a strange man who persistently hung about the Dark One’s castle. Lumiere was a victim of the Wicked Witch but he had provided help to Belle and Bae in some manner at some point. His reward from the Dark One was to be returned to his human form. To Milah, he was an annoying hanger on who interrupted her time with her son and would be more useful as a candlestick. She was working on calling Bae Neal which she found to be a perfectly awful name.

Killian played with the hook and focused on steering the Jolly Roger, keeping her on course. Although Ariel indicated that the Queen would be welcoming to a friend of David and Snow’s he wasn’t quite sure how to wrangle an audience with her.

He had till tomorrow to figure it out.

 


 

 

The doorway to his mother’s castle opened onto an empty hallway. Henry searched the main hall and then headed up to Regina’s rooms. She wasn’t there but he managed to find her. From the balcony he watched as she played with Roland, the two running around her apple tree while Robin Hood ambled in from the woods.

His father wasn’t the sole reason he hadn’t fixed it all with the Author’s pen.

Roland spotted him on the balcony and happily called out to him. “Henry!”

His mom looked up and the smile on her face got wider. Regina tilted her head to one side and her smile turned smug as she waved a hand. Henry poofed into the garden.

“That’s just weird,” he told her.

Regina caught him close in a squeezing hug.

“Hi Mom.”

“I missed you. How was the island?” Regina took his hand and held it in hers while Roland launched himself at his father in greeting. “Is it still a wasteland in the middle of nowhere? Can we finally make Emma come home to have the baby?”

“I missed you too,” Henry interrupting her before she could ask more questions. “Where’s Zelena and Green Pea?”

“It’s that bad that you’re trying to distract me with your aunt?”

“Actually, mom has hot and cold running water.” Henry smiled waiting to see what she made of that.

“Really? Maybe it’s not the edge of nowhere.” She looked Robin dead in the eyes. “I could kill again for hot water.”

“Does my love not enjoy the woods with our canopy of diamonds?” Robin asked sweeping one arm skyward.

“And bugs that crawl into everything. Everything thief.”

“But Gina, I love the bugs.” Roland piped up from his father’s arms.

Henry watched his mom melt. Emma was right. There was no easy fix and either way, it was time to live the life they had or get the one they wanted.

“Come little man, we’ll go check on your sister shall we.” Robin raised his brow at Regina and Henry looked back and forth as the two engaged in silent communication. If Emma was here, she would whisper the translation in his ear like when her parents did it.

His mom smiled at her thief as he walked off with Roland and Henry studied her.

“Are you happy?” he asked, drawing her attention back to him.

She linked arms with him as she considered his question. “You know when I had the author under my control and was going to make Zelena’s life hell.”

He rolled his eyes and let her drag him around the garden.

“She deserved it. She claimed that I was using a man to define my happiness.” She looked at him out of the side of her eye. “But it wasn’t true. It wasn’t just him, it was our family and more. It was inside me. I may not have known it then but I had finally started accepting who I was – the good, the bad and the ugly.”

“But are you happy?”

“Yes, even if things get rough or we end up losing each other for a bit. I know it won’t be for long.”

“Bet you feel like quoting Grandma right now?”

It was Regina’s turn to her roll her eyes.

“Maybe a line or two about hope or happy endings or finding each other.”

“Surely you didn’t upset Emma by taking off without a word just to tease me like this?”

“Was she mad?”

“No, not mad. A little shaky at first but I think she knows what you’re up to.”

“And doesn’t approve.”

His mom made a humming sound and pulled him to a stop. She took his face in both her hands before replying. “I don’t know about that but she did ask how we managed to raise you to be a better person than either of us ever were. Particularly at your age.”

Henry sank down on the nearest bench.  “I don’t deserve the praise.”

“Henry. You know what I’ve done. Still you loved me. You saw past the mistakes I was making to the good inside.” She sat down next to him and held his hand. “Do you really think you could do anything that would make your mothers not love you?”

“No,” he whispered. “That’s why I don’t….” He took a deep breath and shook off the need to explain. “You need to be at the council tomorrow. We’re going to tell everyone what happened.”

“Then I will be there.” Regina kept hold of his hand and leaned her forehead against his.

“You’ll need to bring Zelena and Robin too.”

“Ugh. Fine, I’ll bring the witch.” She paused and pulled back. “Are Rumple and Belle going as well?”

“Yeah.”

“Think Granny can handle the Pea, Gideon, Leo and Roland?”

 


 

 

Emma received messages from both Rumplestilskin and Regina, letting her know the where and what of Henry. She wondered offhand what he’d called this specific operation. She knew he was right, had always know it was right and it would be easier to tell it all once.

Knowing that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to totally suck.

She waved at Anton as he turned over dirt in the garden. Magic bean plants weren’t the only thing giants were good at growing. She could hear Geppetto and August happily working together on the last touches to her parent’s tower and even further in the distance was the sound of dwarves hi-ho-ing their way through the last tower’s upgrade.

Emma avoided them all, skirted around the practice area and her picnic spot to follow a hedgerow that really belonged in Wonderland. At the end she turned a corner and stepped into the field of middlemist. 

She laid down in the middle and placed both hands over her bump and told her story to her children.

“Once upon a time…”

Chapter Text

Snow stacked the last block on the tower. Leo and his pudgy toddler hand decimated it immediately. She reached for a block and began building again.

Her mind was far away from the baby’s block tower. It circled round and round about the upcoming meeting and everyone attending it. One thought burst through like sun at dawn and stunned her.

This wasn’t a council meeting, it was a family one.

Once upon a time her father had decided he needed to provide a new mother for her and Snow White had built dreams of family, of gatherings and celebrations and no one ending up all alone. It took a long time to achieve that particular dream. Curses broken, hearts and minds opened and here she finally was surrounded by family, friends and love.

Leo knocked the blocks to the floor again and brought her back to the present. She clapped her hands and he wobbled into her arms. She hugged her son. Maybe it was time for another. Snow tickled him putting that conversation on a list of things to do with her husband as they built their life here.

 


 

 

The port of Arendelle was one of the nicest Killian had ever weighed anchor. He heaved a sigh. Finding a seedy tavern full of sailors inclined to indiscretion would be nearly impossible. People here were annoyingly pleasant, welcoming and helpful. The harbor master cheerily explained how he could go about setting up an audience with the queen.

It was like being in Misthaven – full of disgustingly happy people. Killian’s stomach rolled with acid and his bad humor from fighting with the cold and harsh sea worsened.

According to the harbor master, who promised that the Jolly Roger was in good hands, any one could approach the castle for an audience with Queen Elsa or Princess Anna. He added that many preferred to deal with the princess as she was friendlier if a bit of a talker. The awe and reverence with which the man addressed the Jolly Roger indicated that the harbor master was a man of impeccable taste who could be trusted.

Killian had done a quick survey of the town to confirm the information on these particular royals. Everything he observed and heard supported the decidedly upstanding reputation. He was finally on his way to the castle when an exceedingly short snowman ducked behind him.

He stopped abruptly and counted to ten. The magical wonders of this world were not outside of his experience.

“Oh Hi!” The snowman looked up at him. “Don’t mind me.”

The queen’s powers were no longer a rumor with a talking snowman hiding behind his legs. A disgruntle reindeer came to a screeching halt in front of him, sniffing the ground like a dog and looking at Killian suspiciously.

He held up his hands in all innocence when the snowman giggled and took off. The reindeer snorted then took up the chase again.

Killian reached for his flask.

“Sorry about Sven.”

Killian swallowed down a shot of rum and studied the shaggy blond man who spoke and was either apologizing for a snowman or a reindeer. He lifted one brow and slide the flask away.

“The reindeer. He has this thing about carrots.” The stranger took a large bite of the carrot in his hand and spoke around it. “And he may think Olaf has the last one. In the world.”

“Well that’s certainly illuminating.”

The stranger laughed a bit and took another bite before looking Killian up and down. “You’re not from around here are you?”

“What gave you that impression?” Killian resumed his walk toward the castle. The man followed as leaving the sounds of a reindeer hoofing it after the snowman behind.

“Mostly it’s the coat. I mean it’s nice and all but we don’t wear quite that much black leather up here in Arendelle. And well, I’ve never seen you around town before.”

“What inescapable logic. I didn’t know you had it in you.” Killian stopped and examined the guards on the bridge. He was pretty sure if they decided to take him prisoner he could get a message to the King.

“Do you need to see Queen Elsa?”

“Princess Anna.”

Killian’s new friend shifted in front of him blocking the way. “What do you need with the princess?” The stranger crossed his arms and his brow furrowed.

Killian glared back at him.

“As the princess’ husband I’m asking.”

“I see. Well to be honest, the harbor master indicated that compared to the queen, your wife’s a bit easier to deal with.”

This caused the man to roll his eyes.

“But I suppose if you have a preference, your highness.”

“Oh God, don’t call me that.” He held out a hand. “It’s Kristoff and I deliver ice. The harbor master is good with ships but that’s about it. Seriously, it wouldn’t matter if you requested one or the other. You always end up dealing with both.”

“Maybe you’d like to escort me then?” Killian figured the short trip would be enough to make friends and he might as well start furthering his mission now. “I’m here on a quest for King David and Queen Snow of the Misthaven.”

“Well why didn’t you say so.” Kristoff walked backward in order to grin at him. “Elsa and Anna have been wanting to take a trip over to Misthaven but Elsa’s forte is not magical travel and sailing isn’t really their thing either . Plus leaving the kingdom tends to be, well, disastrous.”

Once again, the king and queen’s names opened doors for him. He reminded himself it was efficient and saved arguing or ending up in a dungeon somewhere even if it was also a lot less fun.

“Lead the way then, mate,” Killian said.

“I hope you are up to date on all the news. Especially anything you know about Emma.”

Killian flinched and surprised Kristoff.

“Is Emma okay?”

“The princess is fine. In fact, this mission is something her son Henry asked me to undertake.”

“Well, be prepared to be questioned. Elsa can be really scary when she’s grilling you. Made me sweat when I first started dating Anna.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Well let’s go.” Kristoff stroke off across the bridge and Killian ambled along behind him.

 


 

 

When Snow realized this wasn’t a council meeting, she decided to switch the venue.

After today, when decisions would affect the entire kingdom were made then they would make them in the council room. For now, she put David in charge of re-routing everyone to the family wing as she made sure there were enough chairs.

Some of Snow’s happiest moments since they all woke up took place in this room. Nights spent with her husband, son and daughter in one place, talking about what they had accomplished that day and what was on the to-do list for the next. She needed two more chairs brought and two brought down from her and David’s room.

Working on the logistics of fitting their family in this smaller space was a feeble distraction from the questions plaguing her mind.

What had happened three months ago?

What was so bad that Emma tried to keep it to herself?

What did it have to do with Henry?

Why was her daughter running away from home?

She worked hard to be supportive of Emma’s decision to move to the middle of the bottomless sea but it still hurt that home wasn’t here with her parents. On the other hand…

Snow shook her head and re-counted the seats available. Still a few short. Behind her she could hear the door open.

“We’re almost set,” she said and turned to find Emma leaning against the door. Her hair was in a loose braid and even with in a simple loose-fitting dress the pregnancy was more obvious now. As were the dark circles under her eyes. “Tell me you haven’t been exhausting yourself making that island inhabitable.”

“Nights are hard,” Emma replied. “Afternoon naps work but don’t last long. Why is it that trying to get to sleep can be so exhausting and impossible?”

“You know, you have a great bed here. A bed you love very, very much.”

Emma crossed to her and wrapped her arms around Snow. “I love you Mom.” She squeezed tighter. “Being here in the castle, it’s not like in Storybrook or being sheriff. I feel like I have to be someone I’m not, not really.”

“Well, when you put it that way.” Snow hugged her daughter and pulled back, smoothing a loose tendril of hair behind her ear as she held on to Emma’s face. “My poor baby.”

“It’ll be okay Mom.” Emma’s smile was shaky. “I have hope.”

“You’ve picked the worst time to take after me.”

The two dissolved into watery snickers as Regina pushed open the door. She watched them with pursed lips. “Really you two?”

And mother and daughter used each other for support as they gave in to laughter.

 


 

 

Killian had managed to survive an introduction and a meal with the northern royals. He simply needed to make it through the after-dinner chatter. Princess Anna of Arendelle was a double-edged sword. On one hand, she kept the conversation going without his or anyone else’s input which was good. Then again, she kept the conversation going. He was sure the princess had mastered the art of breathing and talking at the same time.

“I’d apologize for my sister,” Queen Elsa spoke quietly to him as Anna told another story about her time in Misthaven. “But from what I saw, you don’t seem to be in the mood for small talk.”

Killian grimaced and tried to figure out how to explain without insulting them.

“It was good of you to humor my wish for news of my friends earlier,” the queen continued.

“To be honest, your majesty, I’m a pirate and that typically doesn’t include knowledge or a knack for the high social graces.” His fingers tapped a steady rhythm on the arm of his chair. “I’ve been lucky in my dealings with the king and queen. David and Snow have been welcoming and opened many doors for me outside of Misthaven.”

“You are helping locate their son-in-law after all.”

“I am.”

“Sorry to put you through all the social niceties.”

He shot a side glance at the queen and caught her amused expression. “You’re too kind your majesty. It’s the least I can do after you granted me permission to interrogate Black Beard tomorrow.”

When they rejoined the conversation, Anna was detailing their past adventures with the rock trolls and memory magic.

Killian straightened in his chair. “Did you just say rock trolls, your in-laws, could retrieve lost memories?”

“Well, yeah.” Anna paced from one side of the room to the other. “I guess that would help everyone in Misthaven but I don’t think Grand Pabbie travels. I don’t suppose everyone could come here either.”

“Maybe there’s something else to consider.” Killian pushed the tiny bit of resentment bubbling in him aside. “The princess doesn’t have all her memories back and if she did…”

“Knowing who he is would make her husband easier to find?” Anna cut in with a bright smile on her face.

“True.” Killian’s mind examined the implications of everything he’d learn that night as the princess and queen fell into an argument. Perhaps he hadn’t paid close enough attention to Anna’s story. Another detail from her stories festered in his mind and he blurted it out. “Both of you were in Storybrooke.”

Anna and Elsa looked at him and then each other.

“Yes.” Anna replied hesitantly. “Kristoff as well.”

“Then it’s probable you’ve met the man I’m looking for?”

Elsa nodded slowly and the two women shared a uncertain look.

“What the bloody hell was that?” Killian asked gruffly.

“How rude,” Anna chastised him.

“Stop Anna.” Elsa stood and placed a hand over her sister’s mouth. “I’ve been thinking about this since dinner. We were there and I think it’s possible but we didn’t just show up back here three months ago. We left Storybrooke a year or more ago.”

“And the only man you remember being with the savior was Neal?”

“Yes.” Elsa replied and Anna nodded her agreement.

“And they were a happy couple?”

At this both Anna and Elsa looked confused. Anna’s brow furrowed as she worked something out in her head and she removed her sister’s hand.

“You see,” she said scrunching up her face as she struggled with the words. “It’s so hard to think on it now but they were like together but not like together together.”

Elsa rolled her eyes.

“I’m not wrong. And you know you agree with me.” Anna turned to Killian. “It was like we all knew they were a couple but like I can’t remember them being all couply.”

“That certainly clarifies things,” Elsa sighed.

“Like seeing them together.” Anne tried to explain again. “Did not make anyone go ‘awwww’.”

“Really, Anna.” Elsa directed her next words at Killian. “As badly put as that was, I know what she’s trying to say and I agree. It was a fact but I don’t feel anything about it. I don’t remember what I thought of them as a couple or feeling like they were together.”

Anna placed a hand over her heart. “Changing the mind is easier than changing the heart.”

Facts without feelings was a familiar complaint but this wasn’t about him.

Elsa and Anna and Kristoff had returned from Storybrooke before everyone else but within the last year or so. Elsa and Anna had to have met the man.

“I believe a memory check is in order, your highnesses.” Killian fiddled with the plain silver band hanging on his necklace.

Facts without feelings. Maybe they should all be checked.

 

Chapter Text

Emma sighed as her father slipped through the door into the overcrowded room her mother insisted they use today. She asked why earlier and got a one-word reply. Family.  It was one of those moments she felt all weird and gooey and, with the hormones, crying happy.

For a long time, family wasn’t something she had, just something to dream about.

Her sense of humor reasserted itself. But who really dreams of a family like this?

The most notorious imp to every grace the pages of a book, an Evil Queen and Robin Hood. The Wicked Witch from Oz was technically her great-aunt. Emma muffled a laugh. She was going to share that one with Regina and see what Zelena did when she started calling her Auntie. Her mother caught her laughing and smiled.

Okay, it wasn’t at all normal but it was hers.

She started to stand but her son grabbed everyone’s attention first.

“So, I think this will work better if you save your questions till the end,” he said with confidence which disappeared from his next words. “Provided no one turns to dust and like, blows away.”

“I very much doubt that will happen my boy,” Gold spoke from the depths of his chair, pushed into a corner where he could watch everyone. The Dark One’s words helped. Emma imagined he had more than a clue about the tale about to be told.

Henry drew his shoulders back and took a deep breath. Emma, seated next to him on a footstool, reached out, pulled his clenched fist apart and entwined their fingers. He squeezed, turning their knuckles white.

“It’s my fault,” he declared and Emma tugged his hand. He looked down and rolled his eyes at her. “Fine. I know something that happened, that I did, that kind of caused us to come back to the Enchanted Forest and that well, changed the story.”

“Henry, you know using the author’s power…” Regina’s voice shook.

“Just, like listen before you start imagining the worst.” Henry interrupted her and looked down at Emma. She kissed their joined hands and let go. Picking up her footstool, she plopped it over next to Regina then crossed the room and eased herself down on the floor by Snow.  Leaning her head against her mother’s knee, Snow stroked her hair and they waited.

Henry sat and held his hand out to Regina. Despite her frown, she took it and he began again.

“So in our real story, things happened and I started wondering why and why not.” He looked over and directed his next words at Gold. “I began rewriting our story but it’s wasn’t for anyone but me. I didn’t use any of the sorcerer’s storybooks or the Author’s pen or the ink. Just some dumb spiral notebook and a ball point pen.” He turned back to Regina. “It was just stuff I wanted to think about, what if’s I wanted answered. But I didn’t use my powers as the Author to do it. Then, well, I realized maybe life wasn’t exactly perfect but the one I had was good and our family...” He turned to Emma now and she smiled at him. “was my family and I loved them.”

“But something changed?” It was Snow who asked.

“No, it was an accident.” Henry grimaced. “And maybe a wish. But the wish wasn’t about the story being true. You guys are going hate this part…”

“Best spit it out quickly lad, I think the suspense is what’s killing us.” Robin spoke up from behind Regina.

Henry’s face turned a burning red. “Not a good choice of words there.”

Emma choked back a groan at Henry’s response.

“Life was just peaceful and boring but I was still the Author and there were these stories happening in other realms.”

“So, you wished to go on an adventure,” David interrupted. “Like any teenager, any one would.”

“Yeah, well Grandpa there isn’t a lot of other teenagers who can wish for that after they accidentally spill some magic ink on what is essential a fanfiction of their life and have it come true.”

“Fanfiction?”

“I’ll explain that later, Rumple.” Belle said but kept her considering gaze on Henry fidgeting. It was as if there was an itch he couldn’t reach. “That’s not all though is it?”

“This isn’t like anything that happened before. Not like any curse and not like when Isaac wrote Heroes and Villains.” Henry’s shoulders sagged. “Theoretically, and please correct me if I’m wrong Mom and Grandpa, it should have changed what we knew happen but it couldn’t actually alter the past.”

“Isaac was able to remove the savior from the story and strip the savior of her powers but he couldn’t make it so Miss Swan didn’t exist.” Rumple clarified. “But that’s not what happened here, is it Henry?”

“Maybe, my story wasn’t written trying to maintain details of the present,” he answered Gold’s question and looked over at Emma. “We think it’s partly how the story was written but still magic isn’t supposed to do what it did.”

Emma exchanged a knowing look with Gold.

“Wait a second guys, what are you  talking about?” Neal asked angrily. “Theory’s nice but what the hell does that mean…” His brow furrowed and Emma watched him try to work it out in his head.

“It means,” she spoke loudly and clearly. “The story we think we know is wrong. It means that along the way, we have lost people we love. They’re no longer gone.”

“Who?” Regina caught Emma’s eyes. “Who died?”

“Do you really want to know?” Emma shot back.

“Mom, we agreed.”

“Yeah kid, we did.” She sighed and closed her eyes. “But we also know, we remember exactly what happened, they don’t. I think the choice is theirs.”

“And you’ll make us make this decision without all of the facts.” Regina carped. “What happens if we choose to remember and then it turns out we’re dead?”

“Regina, you know it wouldn’t mean dying now.” Gold sat forward in his seat and directed the rest of the comments at her. “Knowledge is power, dearie. Not knowing would mean not being prepared for whatever comes next. I imagine the boy could simply use his powers to fix the mistake.”

“Grandpa.”

“No.” Emma awkwardly stood up and placed herself between the Dark One and Regina. “Not only is that against the rules but it could mean the death of those we love. Neither is acceptable.”

“Even if it would help get your pirate back.” Gold retorted back at her, his smile cruel. “Always the hero Miss Swan.”

She ignored everyone else and their questions, raising her chin. “It’s not that.” Emma took a deep breath. “You don’t remember but one thing that didn’t change was this, this is our family. Even if we start thinking we are alone, it isn’t true.” She glared at Regina and then Gold. “We won’t be doing anything about this separately. Yes, there are angles to be considered but trust me when I say we all want the same result.”

“I want to know.” The room collectively turned at Belle’s words. Her gaze was steady and when Gold caught it, she smiled her head tilting. “I have faith. Maybe this life’s based on a rewrite but good always win. I don’t imagine Henry changed that bit.”

“I didn’t,” he told the room quietly.

“So how do we do this?” Belle asked and stood up. “Some kind of spell?”

“There’s one way we wanted to try first,” Emma answered her, nodding at Henry. He went and picked up his bag by the door. It was a tight fit but he slid his original storybook from the bag and walked back over to Belle.

“During the first curse, Mary Margaret gave this to me. To give me hope.” Henry ran a hand over the cover. “It got swept away but it came back when we needed it. Belief and this book brought my memory back during the second one.” He held the book out to Belle. “Do you believe?”

She nodded and grabbed it with both hands. For a moment, her eyes glazed over and she was somewhere else. A wide smile started to spread across Belle’s face and she came back, looking toward Gold but she ended up staring at Neal.

Belle gasped and dropped the book.

“Belle?” Gold approached her and put a hand on her cheek. Belle looked at her husband with devastated eyes.

 


 

 

Killian sighed for the hundredth time as the sisters argued about the best way to proceed.

The rock trolls seemed to be a bit of a climb up into the mountains north of the castle. Whenever the path got harder, Elsa wanted to build an ice staircase and Anna wanted to climb the rocky hillside. After the first such discussion Killian learned that Kristoff was indeed a wise man, who stayed out of the two sisters’ arguments.

He sat next to Kristoff as the iceman munched on a carrot. Killian shook his head when offered a bite of it. Afterwards, Kristoff offered it to the reindeer and Sven took a bite. Killian let his head fall back and stared at the sky.

He missed the dwarves.

“They’ll stop arguing soon.” Kristoff nodded as he spoke. “I mean they have to stop some time.”

The reindeer snorted in response.

Killian wondered what he evil he committed to deserve his current fate.

 


 

 

Rumplestilskin pulled his wife into his arms and held on tight. She snuggled further in and closed her eyes.

“So, what did I do now?” He asked her quietly, ignoring any further discussion bouncing around the room as everyone else desperately ignored the book on the floor. “You need to let me know what I can do to earn your forgiveness.”

“Oh Rumple,” she said into his shoulder. She heaved a deep sigh and pulled away a bit. “Whatever you did, we were past it. Actually, not much different from how we are now.” She smiled and pushed a lock of hair behind his ear. “Instead of a Dark Castle sitting on the vault of uber evil, you had a pawn shop and I, my library.”

“No, there’s something.” Rumple tilted her chin up with one finger. “Are you afraid I’ll lose it when I know?”

“Yes.”

He nodded at her and pulled her back into his arms. “I may have an idea on what that bad news is. But I think Henry is right, we all need to know the truth.”

“I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

They were surrounded by rocks.

Killian should have just questioned the pirate in Arendelle’s dungeon then sailed away on the next tide. Instead he was stuck here on an expedition with the best intentions and worst execution. The trip should have taken the morning but it was now well after the noon hour and they had only just arrived and dammit, he was hungry.

“Grand Pabbie!” Anna called out. “Grand Pabbie!”

“I think he heard you,” Kristoff informed her.

“Then what is he waiting for?” Anna shot back.

The wedded pair bantered back and forth while the queen edged closer to Killian. “I haven’t been here, well, lately,” she confessed.

“Scared of a few rock trolls, your majesty?”

“No,” she said primly and walked off.

Killian sighed. He missed dealing with people who were not nice. It was far easier to get what he wanted and be done with it when he could be rude or threatening. To make matters worse, during their trek he had come to the conclusion his own memories were definitely in question. It was an unwelcomed revelation and added to his irritation.

The memory of sailing away to Neverland with Milah was different and he could no longer blame time. Killian had compared it again and again to older memories. His father’s abandonment, becoming his brother’s Lieutenant, Liam’s death and falling in love with Milah. He remembered the details, the sounds and smells and how fast his heart beat, the devastation and the joy. When he replayed that dawn, Milah helping him to the ship it takes just one step and the memory becomes corrupted.

If his history was altered then at some point he had visited Storybrooke or connected with them beyond his history with Rumplestilskin.

He couldn’t fathom how on the first or why the latter would have been erased.

“Your majesty,” Killian called to the woman walking away from him. She stopped and he could see her tense, waiting for something. “Bloody hell. Elsa.”

“What can I do for you, Killian?”

“From what I’ve learned, it’s extremely difficult to get to the Land without Magic from ours. How did you do it?”

“I was trapped in an urn, Henry knocked over in Rumplestilskin’s shop. I don’t know how the Dark One got his hands on it. In the end, I was one more person who came over in the first curse,” she answered, turning back towards him. “Anna and Kristoff got brought over by a wish I made.”

“And the return trip?”

“A doorway in the sorcerer’s manor.” She paused beside him and considered. “Neal and Henry found it. It disappeared once we were through.”

Killian thanked her and strode off a bit to continue thinking. Perhaps there was a deal with Pan he no longer remembered or they’d exchanged something for magic beans. Working on how he could have gotten to Storybrooke was better than the other persistent thought that kept racing around his head.

Excluding Rumplestilskin, Killian Jones was unknown to the rest of the cursed folk. Therefore all contact with him had been wiped from their memories completely. 

A circumstance he shared with one other man.

He spun the hook he got from the mermaid in his hand and thought of the message engraved on the ring around his neck.

My heart belongs to you.

 


 

 

Everyone in the room was still avoiding the book of fairy tales that had fallen open on the floor.

Emma blocked out the current argument and walked across the room to pick it up. She took the nearest available seat and paged through the book. The flip of the pages became the only noise to be heard along with the crackle of the fire. Emma ignored it all in order to find a specific page.

Henry came over and flipped pages for her till he found the picture of Killian, Captain Hook, at the helm of the Jolly Roger. Emma ran a hand over his face.

“When I burned the book,” she said without looking up in a strained voice. “Because that’s what the Black Fairy wanted, because it would keep you safe.” She shook her head. “It fell open to this page and I wanted to reach into that fire and pull him out.”

“You didn’t.”

“No, I failed both of you.”

“Mom.”

“It happens, mistakes get made.” Emma brushed away tears and smiled up at Henry. “But we’re stubborn and we just don’t give up.” She flipped through the book again till she found herself in a red ball gown. Her first dance at her first ball and it was with the pirate. “Sorry, Dad. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that the King’s ball wasn’t my first.”

Charming sighed and looked around the room. “Sometimes the truth hurts,” he said, looking at his tired and probably hungry daughter. He swept the room, looking each of his family members in the eye. Regina and Gold nodded in return. “But it’s important to know.” He walked over to Emma and kneeled in front of her. “So if I take this book, I’ll find out how I let your mom talk me into naming your brother Leopold.”

“Something like that,” she answered, nudging the book forward.

“Thank god, cause that’s been really bugging me.”

 


 

Killian remained lost in thought till the rocks surrounding them decided to roll across the ground and circle around the bickering couple.  The rocks unfolded into short mossy trolls and several tackled Kristoff to the ground. Anna spoke earnestly and quietly with one.

Killian wanted to run away from it all.

That desire made him feel incredibly stupid but he couldn’t decide what was worse, knowing or not knowing. Or maybe he was avoiding finding out he was wrong, finding out that there was no hope for him.

Knowing meant understanding what caused a sudden shift in his feelings for Milah and his connection to Storybrooke. Not knowing kept his past vague and without emotion.

He had a short scornful laugh at himself because knowing, not knowing didn’t change the six months he promised Milah. Neither option got him any closer to the woman he wanted, not for five months or so. Unless…

“Killian!” Anna shouted for him. The three stood surrounded by the rock trolls, waiting for him to join them. He stood and hesitated, part of him wanted to walk away. Anna put her hands to her hips and yelled louder. “Stop being an idiot. Come on.”

How did he meet these people?

He walked through the gathering of rock trolls to join, he sighed, his friends.

“A pirate!” One troll happily exclaimed.

“Ooooooooooo.” The rest of the assembled rock trolls replied.

“Welcome, Captain.” A troll wearing a moss cloak addressed him. “We don’t get many sailors up in these mountains.”

“Thank you for speaking with me today.” Killian replied, bowing his head a bit. “Did Anna explain?”

“Yes, yes she did.” Grand Pabbie seemed to be thinking before saying anything further.

“Can you not tell if memories have been changed?”

“Is that all you require? The acknowledgement that something is not as it was?” The rock troll looked earnestly at each of them. “It’s a choice to be made. I can tell if there has been changes to what you remember and bring out the truth of what really happened.” He gave Killian a knowing look. “The truth is not always easy to learn and is rarely kind. Especially for those who have lived a long life.”

“Truth can be handled.” Killian responded and shook his head sadly. “Otherwise, I am running around in the dark with my head and heart at war. It would only be a matter of time till someone got hurt.”

“I like him.” Grand Pabbie elbowed Anna with his pronouncement. “People will always get hurt, it’s what they do next that matters. First, let’s see who, if any of you, have been touched by this memory change.”

“Me first!” Anna exploded excitedly and raised her hand in the air. Kristoff, Elsa and Killian rolled their eyes and took a step back. Grand Pabbie took one of her hands and held his other first over her head then over her heart.

“Mmmmmm,” he said. “Interesting. Strange, well done yet clumsily.” He let Anna go and gestured for the next to be tested and Kristoff stepped up. Grand Pabbie repeated the process on him, then Elsa and finally Killian.

“Yes, yes yes.” He chanted as he let go of Kilian’s hand. “There are changes, and then there are changes.  Anna, Kristoff and Elsa have been touched by the same magic as you Killian. But with them, it’s a subtle and slight thing. I can see where someone covered up a spot and directed their memories to a new one.”

“And me?” Killian asked quietly.

“Your memory was cut. It should flow with a life lived over three hundred years but instead it’s vague, cloudy and distressingly short. To you it might feel like memories faded with time but not to a rock troll who can feel the truth underneath.” Grand Pabbie gestured to a pile of rocks and Killian sat. “The life you’ve forgotten was painful, at times dark and desperate. The choices you made weren’t always right or just. Do you want that back?”

Killian smiled bitterly and took the hook from his pocket. “I think sometimes our happy ending isn’t what we think it will be,” he said.  “And I’m not dead yet. There’s time but I have to know the past in order to start moving forward.”

“And you?” Grand Pabbie asked the others.

“Yes!” The queen and the princess replied at the same time and giggled together. Kristoff just shrugged.

“You three first.” Grand Pabbie called them up one by one. From each he pulled a stream of purple light that reformed into a stone. “You’ll need to prepare a pot of tea.”

Killian found himself waiting amongst the other rock trolls. The lively group asked question after question about being a pirate and the sea but never let him respond. A few kept giving him pats, on the head or the knee or the shoulder. He was sure they were trying to comfort him. He sighed and wondered again what he had done to bring himself to this place and with these people and these trolls.

“Killian,” Grand Pabbie called for him. Killian moved to stand but the troll waved a hand at him to keep his seat. “I’m afraid this isn’t quite a cup of tea for you. If I tried to pull all your memories up, I would get a stone too large to lift and possibly a headache for the next hundred years.”

“Then what do I have to do?”

“Believe.” Grand Pabbie replied and the gravity of his words hushed the other rock trolls. “There must be something, a feeling, a belief, that is greater than this false life you’ve been given.”

Killian could feel the weight of the ring around his neck.

“I know where my heart belongs.” He whispered it and made the rock trolls around him sigh.

“Then hold onto that,” Grand Pabbie said and spoke to the rest of the rock trolls. “It will take all of us I’m afraid.” He moved his hands to draw out the memories from Killian’s mind but there was no purple light being pulled from the pirate.

Killian closed his eyes and concentrated. He felt a rock hand press into his heart and another placed on his forehead. There was no audible sound but the vibration of the rock trolls magic hummed as it rumbled through him. Killian’s sense of self swirled and dipped, like riding the waves of a restless sea and the hum went deep into his soul, pulling him down into the depths of a dark ocean.

Killian didn’t fight it. He no longer felt the rock trolls’ hands or even the ground beneath him. He floated in a black bottomless nothingness and he let the magic take him further down with only one thought held close to his heart.

My heart belongs to you.

Still sinking deeper there was a pop like a cork from a bottle and all the blackness drained away. Three hundred years of memories hit Killian at once.

The world spun Captain Hook around and around before going dark.

Chapter Text

Emma looked away as Regina took hold of Henry’s storybook.

Emma had watched both her parents go through the process of reclaiming their memories and every bit of it showed in their eyes. Unfocused eyes with the color shifting with heartache and joy as the past was relived. Their last emotion had been relief. As Belle surmised, good won and they had been living happily ever after.

With their memories back Snow and David looked at her with concern.

When Regina finished, she threw the book across the room. Tears streamed down her face but she didn’t make a sound. Robin pulled her into his arms and held her tight, filled with worried as he looked to everyone else in the room for an explanation. There was only Henry saying the same thing the entire time.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly, over and over and over again.

Nothing they said so far had stopped his apologies so Emma turned to get the book.

“No,” she commanded.

Neal stopped the book at his feet with one hand stretched toward it.

“Gold first.”

“Really Em, I think I can handle the truth,” Neal said with a cocky grin but it was too late. The Dark One held the book and Belle waited by his side.

“Great.” Neal stood beside Emma. “I should have gone first then I would be able to help him.”

“It’s better this way,” Emma told him and sighed. “This is just what parents do, try and shield us.”

“It’s what kids do for their parents as well. Sometimes.”

His reply made her smile. “Just so.” Emma crossed the room to Henry. He turned into her arms and she felt him whispering his sorries into her shoulder. She caught Regina shaking her head, coming out of her stupor and raised her brows for help.

“Henry, no.” Regina’s voice cracked. She kept a hold of Robin with one arm and reached out for Henry with the other. Emma pushed him towards her. “Thank you. This explains a lot.”

“Well I wish someone would clue me in because frankly I find all your maudlin emoting to be nauseating,” Zelena spewed the words out into the room. “Sonny there will have to wait. I’m tired of waiting at your beck and call.” She stalked over to Gold and ripped the book out of his hands. “Thanks.”

Belle managed to catch Gold as he fell forward and back into reality. Emma moved swiftly to stand between the couple and the witch. Everyone warily watching Gold struggle with the memories he gained.

“Please,” Emma whispered as the fog cleared from his eyes and he looked up at her.

Zelena sank into the floor and Snow knelt to comfort her and pulled the book away.

Emma’s eyes closed. “We’ve just gotten to the hard part.”

“Who’s next?” David asked uncertainly, darting a glance between Robin and Neal.

 


 

Elsa finally escaped her council meeting and headed to the east wing of the castle. It had been a difficult journey down the mountains.  She had to make an ice sled which the trolls lined with moss to transport Killian back. It was strange what a pot of magic tea could change. All three of them had begrudgingly liked the charming pirate but the next day knowing who he was made them care all the more.

Emma and Killian had come a long way from that first date.

Anna careened around a corner and almost ran Elsa over. “Are you going to check on him too?” Anna asked breathlessly.

“Slow down Anna,” Elsa replied as she swiped imaginary dust from their near collision off her skirt. “Yes, I’m going to see if he’s awake yet.”

“Grand Pabbie said sleep was the best thing for him” – Anna skipped along – “But I worry, I mean, doesn’t he need to eat and drink and well, you know.”

“Anna, please.” Elsa tugged her to a stop outside Killian’s door. “Grand Pabbie also said it’s a magical healing sleep and quite different.” She pushed open the door and frowned. Kristoff had snuck Sven into the room and he was telling both the reindeer and the sleeping captain a story.

“Really Kristoff?” Anna sighed dramatically at her husband.

Elsa sighed with relief mentally, thankful that someone was on her side.

“Why would he want to hear that story? You should tell him about when we were chased by wolves.”

Elsa closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Any signs yet?”

“Still asleep.” Kristoff replied with a smile for Anna who stood beside him and took a hold of his hand.

“You need to wake up soon Killian,” Anna leaned over and whispered in the sleeping pirate’s ear. “Emma needs you.”

 


 

 

The room became somber and still with her father’s question.

Emma held her breath as she stood between the Dark One and the Wicked Witch. Everyone whose memory was returned avoided eye contact.  Robin and Neal exchanged confused looks.

“Does it really matter at this point?” Neal spoke up and turned toward Snow. She wrapped both arms around the book and looked at Gold. Rumplestilskin inhaled deeply, tugging Belle into his arms.

“Snow.” Neal asked holding out one hand.

She shook her head and waited.

“Papa, please.”

Gold pulled away from Belle and raised a hand to her cheek to wipe away her tears. “Aye.” The word escaped Gold’s dry mouth and he held out his hand to Snow.

Neal frowned as she handed the book over to his father.

“Sit Bae. Please.” He added the plea when Neal’s face went blank as if to refuse him.  He grimaced a bit but he went and sat.

Emma shifted back and forth fighting the need to hover nearby and felt someone grasp her hand. Henry’s face was pale so she gave his hand a squeeze.

“This will most likely hurt,” Gold explained. “Unlike the rest of us, I imagine there may be real physical pain. You can still say no.” Gold glared at the room, daring them to argue with him. “But I think life here will make more sense and mean something very different if you go through with this.”

Neal sent a side glance at Emma and Henry before looking up at his father. “I want to know.”

Gold held out the book and Neal took it. His eyes became unfocused as different emotions darkened them. Love, fear, hate, triumph and determination before his whole body jerked and he let out a low cry. The book fell from his hands as he slumped over unconscious.

Emma knelt beside him and checked for a pulse. She nodded at Gold who sighed in relief.

“He’s alive,” Belle stated, speaking only to Gold.

“Yes.”  

Robin pulled Regina fully into his arms, his glance traveling around the room until it met Emma’s. She smiled sadly at him and picked up the book from the floor. The stillness of the room was broken only by the quiet sobbing of the woman in Robin’s arms. He clasped her close, pulling back enough to lift her face, turning so she couldn’t see Emma and the book.

“I love you.” Robin’s eyes touched upon every feature of her face. “Worse comes to worse, you’ll take care of Roland and help Zelena with the baby?”

Regina closed her eyes and shook her head a bit before nodding yes.

“Every moment I have been given with you has been a treasure which I would steal only for myself.” Robin brushed her lips with his and rested his forehead against hers. “I don’t believe this is the end, at least not this time, but I want you to remember whatever happens and wherever I go, I carry you with me and I wish, I hope, that you do the same.”

Robin watched as a slow smile spread across Regina’s face. He held out his hands to Emma for the book.

 

Killian dreamed.

He dreamed of when he and Milah first stole away on the Jolly Roger and days filled with exciting, and sometimes underhanded, pirate adventures. He had nightmares that went on and on and on. The Dark One squeezing Milah’s heart to dust, slashing his hand off, centuries of searching, plundering, killing and deal making with one goal in mind, the suffering and death of the crocodile.

Small pieces of light leaked through the darkness of those nightmares, memories, but they never fully pierced through, not yet. His choices always led further and further away from the man he once wanted to be.

One scheme after another, dealing with Regina, flirting with Cora, until he met up with an immovable object. Killian couldn’t lie to this woman. Well, he could but she knew, she bested him, and she frustrated him yet at the same time, he knew her. He could see through to the orphan underneath. It was like looking in a mirror. So he teased and flirted and light started to cut all the way through his darkness.

And dear god, it was fun.

 


 

 

Milah set up her supplies deep on the grounds of the Dark Castle.

Princess Precious called a meeting and off Bae – Neal and Rumple and the missus trotted. With a deep breath she tried to reign in her pettiness. She sorted through the pots of paint and let the process of painting take her away. It was a delicate balance finding the right blend of colors to create the pink bleeding-hearts.

Mixing bold colors and delicate flicks of the brush required concentration. She didn’t hear the footsteps or the clinking of plates. When she took a step back the sounds of the garden and extremely loud chewing finally registered. She glared over her shoulder at Lumiere. He shrugged at her and toasted her with a glass of wine.

“You must eat sometime,” he said and picked up a drumstick to wave at her.

Milah glared at him. She wiped her hands on a rag and sat as far away from the annoying man as she could get.

He shot her an amused look and passed her a plate filled with food. “Is this what you plan to do all day? Paint in the garden?”

“Well it appears everyone I actually wish to spend time with is busy elsewhere.” Milah took a sip of wine and picked at the food. “The savior summoned and they all answered. We were going to head out to the east today.”

“I believe it was the boy,” he said with a small smile on his face. “Your grandson who called the meeting.”

“Either way it was rally around Princess Precious.” She enjoyed curling her tongue around that bit of alliteration. “And her pregnancy.” Milah bit into a drumstick with ferocity.

“Why do you dislike Emma so much?”

“Emma? You call her by her first name.”

“She insisted. In fact she doesn’t seem to like being a princess. Which still doesn’t explain why you dislike her.”

“Dislike is inaccurate.” Milah gestured with the drumstick. “I just don’t get the worshipfulness everyone seems to feel around her. She’s calling the tune to suit herself and it’s irks me. A bit.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And it has nothing to do with your husband who likes to stare at her?”

“Killian’s a pirate, he flirts with every…”

“Flirts yes, in fact I am a great admirer of his skill,” Lumiere interrupted her. “With the princess, he is a man in the desert staring at the only cup of water.”

Milah tore a chunk out of her roll and chewed ignoring the candelabra’s words.

“Do you know her story?”

Milah dropped her plate onto the blanket and stood back up. “I have a painting to finish.” She walked away, waved her drumstick up in the air. “Thanks for the food.”

Chapter Text

Robin ended up face down sprawled across the floor.

Regina grabbed a pillow and placed it next to his head. She tugged on his shoulders trying to move him when he started rolling slowly onto his back. Charming gave her a quick smile. She brushed a lock of Robin’s hair out of his face and let her hands slide down his arms and legs to check for injuries.

“Is he okay?” Charming asked her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”

Regina gave a tiny shake of her head. He squeezed her shoulder and helped her to her feet.

“I don’t know, he’s unconscious but alive.” She tried to discretely wipe her tears away with the back of her hand.  “He’s alive, not dead which he was. I mean, not just dead but dead with no get out of hell free card. Whatever else he changed, Henry kept him alive.”

“Sis?” Zelena broke into their conversation and reached a hand out to Regina.

“Well I think this memory thing just improved our life a little.” Regina accepted her sister’s hand and pulled her into a hug. So much of their past resolved. “Although I suppose we have to stop calling Robin Green Pea.”

“I kind of like it.” Zelena smirked and crossed the room to get comfortable in a chair by the fire. “Besides dealing with the walking dead when they, well, wake up, what’s our next move?”

“There was something Henry said earlier.” Regina paced around the room. “About not knowing if the spilled ink and the wish was what did all this. There had to be something else to do this.”

“We’ll have to find out what else contributed to create the perfect storm.” Gold’s commentary came from across the room. “Zelena is right. We have to deal with both Bae and Robin when they awake but otherwise, I’m afraid we sorely lack key information.”

“Could it have been something in Storybrooke?” Snow juggled closing the door and a tray piled with a ridiculous amount of food. Regina raised a brow at her and Snow shrugged. “I didn’t want anyone else in here and I wanted to make one trip. Charming.”

David went into action and carried the mountain of food to the table.

“Again, could the origin or whatever be back in Storybrooke?”

No one spoke as they all sorted through their memories of their last days in the Land without Magic. Regina tilted her head toward the table and then glanced over at Emma. Snow nodded and put together a plate for her daughter.

“I’m afraid my memories fully support Henry’s opinion. Life was good but uneventful.” Rumple reached out a hand to Belle and she nodded in agreement. “It’s all about timing as well, it means any magic contributing to these circumstances had to act in concert with Henry’s accident in Storybrooke. Not impossible for it to come from another realm. Tricky though.”

Snow walked to Emma and pushed the plate into her hands.

“Really Mom?” Emma rolled her eyes but started eating anyways.

“You’re pregnant and eating for two.”

“Three.” Henry and Emma replied at the same time.

“Now can I kill the pirate?” Charming directed his question at his wife.

“I’m pretty sure this is your side of the family Dad.” Emma spoke around the food in her mouth. “Celebrate later. We need to figure out what happened and what would undo it and what undoing it does. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s second chance but I can’t leave Killian in the dark forever.”

“I can’t believe what I’m about to say. Even though” – Regina swallowed down her disgust – “I miss Captain Guyliner, I don’t think waking the pirate is a good idea. We need to more information first.”

“Divide and conquer.” Rumple stood to address the room. “We have four of the most powerful magic wielders ever born.”

“Rumple dear, I am quite without a single drop of power.” Zelena held her wrist with the Pan’s cuff aloft.

Regina frowned and pulled the leather cuff off.

Zelena concentrated for a bit but nothing happened. “I stand by my statement. I have no magic to call upon.”

“But you have more knowledge about magic than me and certainly more than Emma.” Regina complained tossing the cuff aside.

Zelena preened under the compliment. “That’s true. I am a font of insight and enlightenment when it comes to the magical arts.”

“As I was saying, dearies, together we’ll have to figure this out. I suggest we each take a piece of this puzzle.” He looked to Henry. “I’m interested in that ink you spilled. Perhaps it’s not quite what it seems.”

“I think I can work with Zelena on finding any other triggers or events that could twist the wish and the fanfic together.”

Zelena nodded her agreement. “I may have some ideas on how we can check in on other magical realms without tapping the Savior to spy.”

“You’re just so modest, greenie.” Regina knelt next to Robin. His breathing was relaxed and even. “Emma – no kissing the pirate, like at all.”

“He’d have to remember for it to be true loves kiss. Yeah I get it now. No waking him either.” With a blank face Emma passed her half-eaten plate to her mother. “I don’t think not kissing him will be an issue just yet.”

“Interesting move,” Zelena remarked. “Sending him off to find himself. He’s a little old for a mid-life crisis.”

“The pirate knows something’s wrong or feels it. We all did.” Regina examined Emma carefully. Her friend bore signs of strain but she was dealing with it. “Not to mentioned all the yearning looks he’s been sending your way. It the Snow Queen incident all over again. We need more facts first.”

Emma remained silent and withdrew further into herself. Regina exchanged a concerned look with Snow.  

“I agree, mostly.” Emma’s response was flat and listless. “I’m worried about what he’ll think when he realizes how long we kept him in the dark about...” Her voice faded and her hand lifted in a vague gesture.

“Miss Swan, I’m afraid that your separation from the pirate was a major goal of Henry’s story and so being together could undo everything.”

Regina’s head snapped to glare at Rumple, trying to come up with something to soften his words.

He shrugged at her. “I wish it wasn’t true and I know during this time, his presence is needed. Upon occasion, even I find him not entirely moronic.”

“I can promise not to make him remember, to avoid kissing him but that’s all.” Emma turned away from her family. “I don’t want to undo everything. I don’t want Neal or Robin.” She tossed a pointed look over her shoulder. “Or Milah to just disappear back to wherever. I know Neal was in a better place but Robin was just gone and Milah.”

“Had been thrown into the river of lost souls by me.” Rumple finished her sentence.  “You don’t know if she’ll make peace or war once she privy to that little fact and if it’s war what will your pirate do?”

“I don’t know,” Emma snapped at him. “But what I do know is that keeping us apart will only get harder and only last so long. I can avoid kissing him and returning his memories but I’m won’t be able to stay away.” Emma felt her mother’s arm encircle her from behind. “I belong with him and even with whatever else, he belongs with me. You all know how this works. We will find each other. So we might want get those answers before then.”

“Well, I nominate the Charmings to go talk to the fairies, see what they know.” Zelena broke the pensive quiet of the room. “They’re all a bit prim for my tastes but if anyone has information about wish making it was Reul Ghorm and the fairies would be zealously guarding it now. Also they actually like you two.”

“Who doesn’t?” Charming answered her with a flash of a grin. “We can handle that but I think we also need to go back to Storybrooke.”

“Does it have to be like right now?” Henry had a wonderful-and-terrible=idea look on his face. “’Cause I think I know the perfect team to send and how to get them there.”

“Other than not kissing, what do you need from me?” Emma asked from the comfort of her mother’s arms.

Rumple chuckled a bit. “You Miss Swan, should start thinking about every curse and spell you’ve ever broken, the how and the why and the consequences. Your powers are unpredictable in their abilities. But like all magic, they’re fueled by your emotions and you have a way of accomplishing much that defies all we know.”

“Did you just call me an idiot savant?”

This time Rumple’s laugh was a high pitched giggle. “I suppose I did.”

“Jesus Christ.” The hoarse groan from a far corner of the room stopped all discussion.

Neal was waking up.

 


 

 

Lumiere remained on the blanket he brought for his impromptu picnic. Sipping his wine, he tried to analyze why the artist fascinated him. It could be because she had been the wife of the Dark One before he was the Dark One. He wondered just how old she was, how many hundreds of years she had lived. A good bit of experience accumulates in so many years.

She was incredibly lovely as well but what woman wasn’t? He shrugged to himself. Even Granny, that wonderfully wolfish woman was a treasure to behold.

Milah, er, Jones was a talented illustrator and, in his humble opinion, had the talent to be a master painter. Lumiere’s thought process paused momentarily, trying to think of anyone who’s opinion could matter more than his. He drew a blank and returned to his contemplation of his fascination.

Maybe it was the pirate thing. There was a nice dangerous edge to those who lived life at sea, even if he shuddered delicately thinking of being without the luxuries a good castle provides its guests.

“Candlestick.”

“Oui?”

“Why are you here all the time?”

“For being the Dark One, Rumplestilskin is an impeccable host. With hot and cold running magic, this castle is a joy to live in.” Lumiere ambled over to look over her shoulder. “You are certainly talented, mon cherie.”

“Your opinion means very little to me.”

“But very little is more than not at all.” He saluted her with his wine and watched her lips kick up into a small smile.

Chapter Text

Everyone crowded Neal as he sat with his head in his hands trembling. Emma had to push her parents, Regina and Zelena away to give him enough space to take a breath. Emma exchanged a look with Belle and they both stepped away as well to leave Neal to Henry and Gold.

“You said it would hurt,” he grumbled. “You didn’t say it’d feel like every hangover I’ve ever had.”

Emma felt a cool glass touch her arm and turned to find Snow. She passed it over to Henry. He looked confused and lost but held the glass out to his father. Water splashed out as it almost slipped from Neal’s shaky grasp.

“I’m sorry.” Henry held his father’s hand steady. “I didn’t mean…”

“Henry, stop.” Neal squinted at the room around him. “Being alive is nice.” Getting the words out was too much and he pressed the glass back into Henry’s hands. “I swear, as soon as this headache ends. We’ll talk.”

“Bae, let me help.” Gold reached out a hand, waiting for Neal nod before waving it over his head to catch the pain and pull it away. “Better?”

“Much. Thank you, Papa.” Neal sat up straighter and his eyes opened fully. “It’s still there but like a normal human headache and not a thousand and one nights drinking with the dwarves.” Across the room, Charming laughed. Neal nodded at Robin. “What about him?”

“Alive,” Regina responded. “So far so good.”

“Remembering dying isn’t pleasant, no matter where you ended up. It’s almost as bad as dying was.” Neal nudged Henry with his shoulder. “That’s some power you pack kid.”

“It’s wasn’t just me.”

“So what’s the plan?” Neal’s blunt question seemed to surprise his father but it made Emma smile.

“We try to get everyone’s memories back,” she answered him. “But we need to figure out what happened and why, and if we can fix it without, you know.”

“I would appreciate that.” Neal grinned sadly. “But I’m willing to take my chances.”

“Dad.”

“Henry, I lived the life I was given.” He ruffled his son’s hair. “There was a reason I wasn’t in Hades’ purgatory. Don’t get me wrong, I like being here with you and I like being a big brother.” He studied his father from under lowered brows. “I even like being back in the Enchanted Forest.”

“Stop being some kind of sad sack saint.” Zelena stopped him. “There are always unintended consequences but I doubt you’ll die from it.”

“Gee, thanks for those words of comfort. Zelena.” Neal glared at the wicked witch.

“Enough,” Emma stepped in before it got any farther. “She’s right and what I’m dying to know is how much do you know about everything that happened after you died?”

Neal smirked. “Really Em? Wondering about the afterlife.”

“You sure seemed to know a lot about what was going on when we met on the way to Hell.” Emma crossed her arms. “It’s more about what do we need to update you with. Like please don’t fight with Zelena, we know she pretty much got you killed but she’s…”

“Well don’t start with that. Tell him how much help I’ve been.”

“Or maybe how little magic she has.” Regina added.

Snow smiled and nudged her husband. “I really liked when she hit the Black Fairy with her car.”

“Yes, there was something very enjoyable about watching that.” Gold’s statement sent the room into mildly awkward silence.

“The black fairy is my grandmother?”

“Are you really surprised?” Belle said with a bit of sigh.

“I guess not.” Neal looked up at Emma and then down to the hand she had laid on her pregnant belly. “I think breaking news from Storybrooke can wait till Robin is here to enjoy it as well.” He caught his father’s eye. “Can me and Emma have a minute?” Gold nodded and moved away from the two.

Emma took Henry’s hand. “I got this kid, go keep the rest of our family in line.” He looked back and forth between his mom and dad suspiciously. “Really, go. It’ll be okay.” They watched Henry join Regina. Emma turned back to Neal and found him studying everyone desperately trying not to listen. “Not quite the family you always dreamed of, huh?”

“But it’s ours. I mean, yours and mine too.” He chuckled. “Sometimes I think that was the big difference between us. I kept running from mine and you kept running towards yours, even if you didn’t know where you were heading.”

“Maybe.” Emma sighed as she sat next to him. “Even if you believe in fate, the choices we make have consequences. If there was a time for us, it passed. Like we said before.”

“Yes, but now I know who it passed to.” Neal let his head drop back to look at the ceiling. “The pirate took a lot from me you know.”

“Actually, yeah I can see how’d you think that but I wasn’t yours to take.” Emma elbowed him hard. “Do you think he lied to me? Told me stories that made him some kind of misunderstood hero? That’s not what happened.” She closed her eyes and when she opened them, they were on fire. “So, let me be clear. I married the man who ran off with your mother, who lived only for revenge, who killed people. As a matter of fact, he killed his own father, killed my grandfather and was willing to make a deal with Cora in order to kill your father.”

Neal tensed and looked away from her.

“I married the man who offered you a home and then sold you out to Peter Pan. A man who tricked me and pretended to give me a magic bean which he kept for himself.”

“I get it.”

“No, you don’t. He tried to kill Belle twice, shot her once. He made a promise to a mermaid and then broke it, creating an evil sea witch. There’s a lot more too. And I married him knowing all that.” Emma looked away, blinking away the tears. “I married the man who swore to win me, without using any tricks. The man who my gut told me to trust when he gave me his word, but I couldn’t because of you. The man who the second he decided he wanted me, committed to it. He was there for me because I’m his happy ending and it didn’t matter when I wouldn’t admit he was mine.”

“Emma.”

“This new thing that happened, I know it changed more than our minds.” Emma turned and held Neal still with the force of her stare. “I know we have to figure out what it means now that your mother is back in our lives but even if he chooses her, and I don’t believe he will, it’s my turn to always choose him.”

“I’m not supposed to tell.” Neal took one of her hands. “And I did make up with the pirate, before, you know, I died so you could stop Zelena.”

“I remember.”

“I think when we came back, they came back but whatever they remember didn’t make sense or something.” Neal let go and ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know everything but I do know that my mom cares a lot for him and he made a promise to her.”

“He won’t break it.”

“Yeah, she seems to have the same sort of faith in him that you do.” He shrugged. “It’s a little annoying. She trying to find out what kind of life she wants now. I guess I’m in the same boat as her.”

“And before remembering that’s exactly what you were doing.” Emma nudged him this time, hitting the same spot she had elbowed and he grunted. “We’re kind of in a holding pattern. I already promised I wouldn’t make him remember and I won’t kiss him. Long story, don’t ask.”

“They aren’t married, Em.” Neal blurted out.

Her eyes closed and she smiled, the corners of her mouth trembling a bit.

“I know he made a promise and I said I wouldn’t spread it around but I didn’t promise to tell no one.”

“Thank you.”

 


 

Milah worked hard to shut out the confusion of her mind and the presence of the wax man. She forced herself to use the most delicate strokes.  Setting aside thoughts of Killian and what he was up to, thoughts of the princess and why this strange family was conducting secret meetings, thoughts of Lumiere, and thoughts about the future.

The painting was looking good but once finished, she would have to return to thinking about life and what to make of it.

The pots clinked against each other as she impatiently put her paints away and cleaned up her brushes. In less than a week Killian would return and if she was a better person she would release him from his promise and start being honest with these people.

She huffed to herself. It was bloody annoying. Killian connected with the royals easily which was a huge shock considering his general outlook on the ruling classes. Then again, he and the forest thief also became fast friends which was also unusual for the isolated pirate.

Milah tried shaking that uneasiness out of her head. It was easier to be annoyed with the princess and her perfect little life. When talking with Bae, she found herself changing the subject whenever Emma Swan came up. She had her own version of the woman’s life in her head and she liked it much more than the sad tale gossip and her son tried to tell.

Sometimes, she pretended it was the way Emma looked at Killian as if she knew every part of him and accepted it. Whatever the cause she could feel her distaste simmering inside her.

Twilight was swiftly sinking deeper into a dark night and Milah needed to go. She collected her things and headed toward the small cabin she shared with Bae. Once in the door, she dropped the case of paints and brushes and placed the canvas on the easel Bae had gotten her. When she turned back the table grabbed her attention.

The damn candelabra had laid out an evening meal for one. It touched her that he had thought of her enough to put the meal together and even more perceptive to realize she wanted to be alone. It also worried her. Lumiere seemed able to read her when she was uncertain of everything in her life than she’d ever been. Honestly how could she not resent anyone who was more in touch with her emotions than herself.

Still, it would be wasteful to refuse the meal he’d prepared and she did enjoy food she didn’t have to cook herself.

 


 

 

Henry looked over his shoulder at his parents and tried not to listen or wince at the annoyance in Emma’s voice. Zelena bumped into him to get his attention. She nodded at Regina where she sat with Robin on the floor.

“She needs you.” Zelena explained with a careless shrug. “It was a while before Neal woke up and if what Hades said was true, it could be worse for Robin. Also, we’ve been here almost all day.”

Henry turned to the windows where twilight was bleeding into night.

“I suggest we all go home and meet up tomorrow.” Grandpa Rumple’s suggestion was met with nods.

Regina spoke up from the floor by Robin. “I think we all need to take a few days, to think, to remember and..”

“You’re right,” Snow jumped at the suggestion. “Three days, then we could meet back here.”

“I think Emma’s island might be better.” David added in. “It’ll give us some privacy and if it’s as Henry told us, there’s also plenty of space to get away from each other.”

Henry studied his family and felt hope. Sure, Robin was still passed out on the floor and his dad looked shaken. Both his moms were paler than usual but neither were running from this fight. Everyone had the same determined look on their faces.

“Three days.” Henry picked up his storybook, sliding it into his bag and raised a brow at Emma in question. She nodded. Henry turned to Regina. “Let’s go, Mom.”

The room swirled with purple and dark red smoke till only the three Charming’s remained.

Chapter Text

Neal enjoyed the sunset on his walk home.

The last couple of days had been a rollercoaster ride. Hearing about everything that happened after he died was weird. What was he supposed to think of Gideon coming to Storybrooke as an adult under the control of the grandmother from hell and his father was a savior for like a second. He always knew his father’s fears fought against the purest part of his heart. Rumplestilskin love for his family always triumphed. Well, eventually.

Keeping it a secret from his mom was wrong but he didn’t know how he felt about it and unleashing the whole sordid tale upon her seemed just as bad. Whatever peace his parents had negotiated, their relationship remained strained and conversations between the two sometimes deteriorated into metaphorical slings and arrows.

Then again, they could fight each other with real weapons.

So Neal felt grateful, to be alive and that he and Emma had resolved their own issues.

“Another day closeted with your father.”

Neal turned to find his mother marching her way back to the cabin. “Hey. Where did you set up today?”

After a deeply theatrical exhale Milah gave him a displeased stare as she swung a canvas with each step.

“Let me see.”

She flipped the canvas to reveal the rocky outcropping west of the castle. “You don’t have to deflect. You can simply tell me to mind my own business.”

“Mom, that’s not it.” Neal studied the painting.

“You’re keeping secrets. I suppose the royal family doesn’t consider me important enough to be kept informed.” She sniffed at the end.

He checked her face for tears but all he found was anger.

“Yeah, I’m keeping a secret,” he conceded. “But it has nothing to do with how the royal family sees you. There’s still too much we don’t know. Honestly, it’s not an emergency so we’re waiting to speak to both you and Killian at the same time when he gets back. It’s a lot to tell over and over again.”

“So I get to know when the princess decides it’s okay and can ogle my husband.” Milah’s comment dripped with disdain.

“Actually, Emma voted to tell you now but you’re my mother and they left the decision up to me.” He took the heavy paint box from her. “And considering you are willing to lie to an entire kingdom about your ‘husband’ to ‘give you time and support’, I thought I was doing you a favor.”

“Oh my.” Milah swung the canvas again. “You sound like me and your father for once.”

“Mom.”

“Fine.” She brushed her hair over her shoulder. “I trust you.”

“You can trust Emma as well you know.” He slowed to match her steps. “Do you even know why you dislike her so much?”

Milah opened her mouth to respond.

“Don’t say it’s cause she’s a princess or because everyone does as she says or any of that other bullshit. You’re smarter and kinder than that.”

“I don’t want to think about it.”

“Afraid of the answer?”

“Maybe.” Milah sighed. “Maybe it’s the way they look at each other.”

“Killian and Emma?”

“See I didn’t have to say who and you knew.”

Neal shrugged and the two walked in silence for a bit. He looked up as they came to the clearing in front of his cabin in the woods. It lacked New York pizza and other amenities but he was figuring out what kind of life he wanted in the Enchanted Forest. Moreover, he had a place to miss whenever he went away.

“No, you didn’t have to name names,” he finally responded to her. “Were the two of you ever like that?” He looked at her when she didn’t utter a sound, her lips tightened into a straight line. “We weren’t, Emma and me, not like that really.” He pulled her to a stop. “I want it though. A connection that exists no matter what else or who else is in the room. I’ve just started figuring this shit out, you know, my happy ending. I’m going to do it no matter what else happens.”

“Good for you.”

“You can do it with me.” He nudged her side with the box of paints. “Because being surrounded by this nonsensical group that is our family is totally a part of that happiness. So you know, my happiness includes you.”

Milah nudged him back. “I’ll try.”

“Good.” Neal pushed open the door. “By the way, you know Lumiere totally has a thing for you…”

“Oh, shut up.”

 


 

 

Voices echoed through Killian’s sleeping mind and his eyes stirred behind his lids trying to track the words in the dark.

Anna and Elsa were... He hesitated to call it bickering. Though the words were flung about with astounding speed neither sounded aggravated and honestly, the two women constantly broke out in giggles. He didn’t think they had him in the barn though he could hear the occasional grumble by Sven.

His situation was greatly disconcerting.

Killian understood each groan and neigh and he desperately wished it to be completely in his head. Surely the two royal sisters didn’t let the reindeer into the castle.

Then he remembered who he was dealing with.

His mind surfaced from the deep black sleep and the weak light of the room blinded him. He promptly closed his eyes and boosted himself up in the bed. Before he could blink to fully adjust to the light, a smallish form threw themselves at him.

“Anna!”

“Have you ever been able to control your sister, Elsa?” His voice weakened by his dry throat. He patted Anna on the back. “Good to see you again, Anna.”

She leaped off the bed and chattered away at him. The room focused just as Sven groaned in response to Anna and he winced trying to raise one brow.

“Anna,” she interrupted. “I sure Killian is hungry and thirsty and you know, maybe Sven would like to go to the barn for his carrots?”

The reindeer rushed from the room and Anna followed.

“Thanks,” he said.

“I owe you.” Elsa came to the side of the bed. “What do you remember?”

He looked in awe as he stretched out the fingers of his left hand. “Where is it?”

She nodded at the pillows and Killian reached underneath to pull out his hook.

“So, Captain, what will you do now?”

“I wish I had a simple answer.” He twisted his hook and took a deep breath. “What I want to do? I want to go find my wife” – he exhaled with a shudder – “my pregnant wife, and never leave her again.”

“What’s stopping you?” Elsa gave him a concerned look.

“I could pretend that I care whether or not she fully remembers me, but I don’t.” He got out the bed and stretched his arms above his head. “Without my memory, I managed to get my hands on her twice and I didn’t want to let go either time. Not quite sure how I managed to walk away. Now, now there’s no way I’d let go.”

“There are other excuses – her thinking I’m married to someone else and the drama of that situation.” Killian crossed the room to lean out the window. “Fact is, without remember what we are to each other, I’ve been a fool who hasn’t been able to hide his fascination with Swan since we met. Even with the promise I made.”

“You made promises to her first.” There was a knock at the door and Elsa went to open it. Anna came in with a tray of food.

“Hey Captain, I filled this for you.” Anna tossed him his flask.

He pulled the cork out with his teeth, saluted the princess, and took a small swig of rum. “How long have I been out?”

“Four full days,” Elsa informed him.

“I need to head back to the Enchanted Forest.” He crossed to the tray of food and studied it. “Then I need to remove all obstacles from returning to my wife.”

 


 

 

Emma used her study to organize her assignment. Everything found so far in her investigation of curses and true love’s kiss and spells and prophecies scattered throughout the room in a mess of books and paper and scribbled notes.

Her mother liked to say that happy endings aren’t always what we think they’ll be and Emma applied it to every assumption she could. She went straight to the source too, Henry’s original storybook.

It was all in the ending. When good and evil both did the thing then everything was righted or whatever. It just meant something put life out of whack.  Wherever the book began before, after being burned it now started with Fiona and the cutting of Gold’s thread of destiny.

The moment great darkness was born in their world and all their lives became entwined together.

Emma was disturbed to realize the storybook had so many stories of bad parenting and child abandonment. The list was pretty long for people with unhappy childhoods.  Gold, Regina, Snow, David, Killian, Zelena, Red and Belle all had at best difficult relationships or at worst horrific abandonment stories. The Magic Kingdom was filled to the brim with emotionally manipulative parents.

Maybe that was the start.

A horrific act by a parent who lied to themselves. A parent who pretended they were protecting their kid but it was all about themselves. Setting the sleeping curse Regina used on Snow White aside, every dark curse was broken by the true love of parent and child.

Emma thought about the moment when she dropped her sword and Gideon stabbed her. It weirded her out to think it in these terms but at the heart of it was a sacrifice made to protect an innocent. But it had to be done to restore balance – dark and light choosing to truly protect and placing the needs of others ahead of their own, before even their own survival.

Emma wanted post-it notes, colored ones. She could use one color for fucked up family stories and one for protective actions.

God, if she was trying to be organized about it, then clearly it was time to think of something else.

She pulled the journal of a savior from before even Merlin’s time Tink found turning to dust in the fairy archives. The last entry wasn’t by the savior themselves but someone else had supplied the end of the story. It shared a lot of similarities with Aladdin’s. Isolation from love, from people in general, was not good for a healthy savior. Emma stretched at her desk and flipped to the beginning.

The scratch of wood against wood whispered across the room. She frowned at the table. After days of being docked in Arendelle, the Jolly Roger was on the move. Emma wondered what sent her pirate there and if he enjoyed his time with Elsa and Anna. She huffed out a breath and tried to return to the journal but sound of scratching intruded and she gave in to her need.

Emma climbed up the stairs and grabbed the hand mirror from the mantel. Swinging it, she went out on the balcony with the turbulent sea below. She closed her eyes and lifted the mirror in front of her face. To concentrate, she inhaled deeply before opening her eyes to find her pirate at the helm.

He looked worn out, tired and pale but he stood strong and straight at the wheel.

Something was different.

Emma closed her eyes and pushed more power into the mirror, sliding her fingers on the glass to zoom in closer. Her breath got trapped in her chest. His eyes were alight with determination and purpose.

“Hook,” she whispered.

Chapter Text

David waved good bye happily to the dwarves. For no other reason than his eagerness to explore the stronghold his daughter was building. For no other reason did seeing them depart made him smile so broadly.

The dwarves’ water system was impressive and there was still so much more to see. Of course, all work on the island had been halted for the next couple of days. Snow sent out word that they were on a family vacation and only to be contacted for emergencies. The dwarves loved her enough to accept her explanation without complaint.

David had a bounce in his step and plenty of plans for their tower. The odd magic tech hybrids Emma had built really wowed him. David should be used to the way in which her mind could put things together.

As he strode along the portico he saw Regina in garden, staring at something somewhere behind him. Turning, through the doorway he could see Robin sitting on the end of the dock.

David worried a bit as the wood creak beneath his feet. A new dock added to his list of fixes.

Robin glanced up at the sound but returned to staring out at the sea. “If Killian were here he’d have something to say about the sea soothing the soul.” He tossed something into the water.

“I thought the forest was more your thing.” David sat next to him. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not sure what I can say,” Robin shrugged. “I was killed by Hades, god of the underworld. I think that’s going to take some time to recover from and to be honest David, since waking up it’s hard to keep a single thought in my head.”

“It’s going to take time.” David winced at his own platitude.

Robin waved a hand at him to stop. “I know about time and its ability to heal. Don’t think I’m not grateful to be here, with Roland and Regina and our family.” He struggled with the words.

David watched him for a bit and turned his own gaze to the sea.

“It’s been close to a year since I’ve felt like this.” David turned away from the sea and studied his hands. “The feeling that something is hanging over our heads. The need to watch out for the next disaster.” A bitter laugh escaped him. “There were times these last few days when I thought we’re never going to get it again, that feeling of peace and togetherness. I once told Emma that we had to enjoy the good moments, more so when they seem to be always surrounded by the bad.”

“Sounds like good advice.”

“Annoying advice that’s easier to give than take.”

Robin nodded in agreement. “Giving it time, concentrating on the good. All helpful words but I’m afraid my head’s still spinning.” He held out his hand and counted on his fingers. “One, I was beyond dead. My soul didn’t move on because it was obliterated. Two, there’s a second version of myself or there was. We haven’t quite figured out what happen to our doppelgangers as they don’t seem to be where Regina left them. Three, he hadn’t become the gentlemen thief.” He smiled sadly at David. “That one thought keeps bothering me. The thought that I wasn’t who I am.”

“It might have been nice if Wish Robin was stored in your memory. I know I learned a lot from Dark Charming. Mostly about eyeliner.”

Robin laughed at him.

“I guess you could keep counting off every thought in your head.” David stood. “And I suppose you will at times. I’ll get used to or get over worrying about what going to happen next.” He looked over the castle his daughter had built and finally it made sense to him. “We can let all that stop us or we can build the life we want, with our family around us, wherever we land. You weren’t here for Emma’s wedding which is sad, there was singing. I was very good.”

David offered the thief his hand and pulled him up. “Whatever comes, we’ll fight it and we’ll win. Probably because we finally learned a very  important lesson.” David walked back up the dock. The sun was high in the sky and lunch waited in the garden.

“What was that?” Robin shouted after him. “The lesson?”

“To win? We need to all work together. You coming?”

 


 

 

Killian once again weighed anchor at Hangman’s island.

The stop was necessary. He spent four days in a magical coma. His body was returning to normal but he kept falling asleep at the wheel. It wasn’t anything new or particularly dangerous but every time he awoke, the ship’s trajectory shifted to the bottomless sea.

Killian looked out across the water. Two, maybe three, hours away was the place he belonged and wanted to go directly there, to never to leave his Swan again. He smiled sadly and turned away. Throwing off his garb, he dived into the water. He studied the distance to the shore. Swimming there and back should leave him exhausted and, hopefully, he would sleep deeply afterwards.

He needn’t to stop thinking.

Barely more than three months ago, it had felt wrong to wake up next to Milah but he didn’t know why. Now he knew and could remember what felt right, remember the nights with his wife, waking, sleeping, and loving her. Still it was remembering the smallest domestic bits of their life that made his heart bleed with longing.

Morning’s together with coffee and breakfast, being sent out to pick up groceries from the store and stealing the covers to get Emma to wake up before the alarm clock went off. Movie night with her and Henry, finally watching Back to the Future and the painfully disgusting experience of watching every Peter Pan and Captain Hook movie the two could find. A regular family activity which the two found hilarious.

Killian pushed himself to swim faster and feel the burn in his muscles instead of his gut. Storybrooke still had the occasional magical outbreak. Someone would make a silly wish (Dopey and the never empty beer stein) or come across a magical item that would spring like a trap and catch the unwary. Sheriff Swan and Deputy Jones would handle it.

The life they had been building together was dear to him and they hadn’t even talked about…

He could not wait months to be back by her side, to talk to her about everything. Killian stood in the shallows by the shore and looked back at the ship. In less than six months their child would be born and every time he remembered it, he recalled Belle living on the Jolly Roger. This wasn’t something he wanted to miss and Emma was doing it alone right now, without all the bells and whistles of the Land without Magic.

He dove past the waves and begun the swim back.

Killian had made a number of promises. The promises he and Emma had made to each other, that they would fight for each other and that they would stop keeping secrets from one another. Before that was a promise to himself and to Henry, to not destroy another family ever again. Those promises had led to a stilted peace between him and the crocodile. Those promises had started him on the path to the man he wanted to be.

It was an impossible choice, picking which promises to honor. He clung to the hope that there was a simpler solution. Killian would return to Milah, speak with her, find some way to explain and ask her to release him.

His arms burned as he climbed up the side of the ship and fell onto the deck. He tried to slow down his racing pulse by taking deep breaths but it didn’t seem to help. He sat up and forced himself to face the darkest thought he hid in his heart.

For hundreds of years he fed upon hate and anger to seek revenge against the man who had killed his love. His love, who he was now willing to push to the side for the new one.

Killian wasn’t sure what kind of man that made him.

If he could speak with Emma, spill the good and the bad thoughts running around in his brain, then they would talk it out. She’d question him till he gained an understanding and a plan. Help him put his head on straight then deal with it like they had so many other things – together.

He shook the water out of his hair and picked up his clothes. Dripping across the deck he made his way to his quarters. Dumping the clothes, he picked up a towel and quickly dried off before falling into his berth. The merry-go-round in his mind slowed down but hadn’t changed his decision.

In the morning, the Jolly Roger would sail back to the Enchanted Forest without detouring to the Bottomless Sea.

Killian closed his eyes, ready to sleep but something itched in his brain. Something was missing. He jerked from the bed and started searching through the pile of clothes he dropped on the floor till he found it. He flopped back on the bed and slid his hook underneath his pillow.

With a sigh, he finally slept and dreamed of Emma.

 


 

 

Neal, baby Neal, sat beside his sister. Green Pea stood braced on Emma’s shoulder and the baby of the group, Gideon was laying back in her lap. She had propped the storybook up and was reading the story of the Pied Piper and the Dark One.

Occasionally Green Pea would be distracted by Roland who would run away from the group and then back but the magic of the storybook would draw her back.

“Why don’t you have a real table out here if you’re going to make us eat out here?” Regina’s acerbic comment pulled Emma’s attention away from the book. Emma just raised her brows in question. “Your castle, your responsibility Miss Swan.”

“Are we really back to Miss Swan?”

Regina shrugged and looking adamant, her arms loaded down with plates of food. Emma waved a hand and a long table appeared. It made the babies giggle and Green Pea copied the wave. A small cyclone of green clouds spun on the table and became a green apple. Regina and Emma both stared at the toddler who fell onto her diapered bottom when she started clapping at her new trick.

“Zelena!” Both women yelled for the witch.

“Just tell her to put it back,” shouted the witch.

“Do we know anything about raising a magic wielding baby?” Emma placed Gideon in his basket and picked up the baby girl, cuddling her close. “Sweet Pea, are you hungry?” The baby in her arms giggled and reached out for Emma’s face with both hands and pressed a kiss to her mouth.

“Give her to me.” Regina plucked her niece out of Emma’s arms. “I’m going to be the only able to say no to you aren’t I, baby?”

Emma watched Regina stride away while delivering a stern lecture to the little sweetheart. When she turned back to her brother and Gideon, Neal had toddled over to the baby’s basket to help him make a break for it.

“Can’t take my eyes off you two for a second.” Emma swooped up Gideon and slowly walked away from Neal, letting him chase after her. He had almost caught up when the sound of someone taking a large bite of the apple stopped Emma. She turned to find Roland munching away. “Roland Locksley! What did Regina tell you about magically acquired food?”

“That it’s good?”

Emma’s mouth dropped open and she sat right where she stood, shaking her head as Neal crawled into her lap and started babbling to the baby in her arms.

Snow crossed the garden to the table and started arranging more plates of food, catching the entire exchange and her baby girl’s shock.

“Emma?”

“I’m not ready for this,” she whispered. “I mean one, okay but two at the same time?”

Snow smiled and stole her son from her daughter’s lap.

“Well, you kind of have to,” she told Emma. “Come on, foods ready. You can have a panic attack about having twins after we eat.”

“You know I’m considering letting Dad kill the pirate.”

Snow’s laughter trailed behind her.

Chapter Text

In the past week or whatever, family time in the Enchanted Forest had increased quite a bit and Emma looked forward to everyone heading home in the morning.

Today’s meeting surprised everyone by being quick and staying on point. She was pretty sure it had to do with a serious decrease in the number of separate and hidden agendas being pursued. Emma smiled. The Enchanted Forest was going to get interesting with this family all pointed in the same direction.

Closing the storybook in front of her, she considered if anyone who read it could or would predict all this.

The research assignments would take more time but Gold had been right days ago. A different piece of the puzzle for each of them had got a lot done and other than a few additional questions, today had been about planning the Storybrooke mission.

Emma pushed away from her desk and picked up the large box Gold had given her before retiring to his corner this evening. She wasn’t sure she wanted to open it as annoyed as she was with him, with everyone really.

She wasn’t going on the mission to Storybrooke. Even after being declared a marvel at portal and dimensional space magic by the Dark One, he had added his voice to all the others opposed to having her along. Not even Henry had taken her side.

Everyone had been so bloody logical. She rubbed her small belly.

“You two are lucky I suppose.” She twisted the string tied around the box. “Your father isn’t here to remind me not to do the heavy lifting so everyone else is doing it for him. I’m not a total fool. I know portal travel isn’t easy.” She shook the box and listen to sound of fabric sliding around then placed it on the table. “Maybe I just need some distance from your father. Or not really.”

The wooden Jolly Roger moved again. Emma frowned without turning to look at it. Something about it bothered her but she chose to ignore it. For now.

She pulled on the end of the string wrapped around her gift and the brown wrapping fell away. A note was on top.

“Miss Swan,” she read aloud trying to imitate the rolling cadence of the Dark One. “Per your request, I kept my eye out for the items you expressed an interest in recovering. The enclosed piece had found its way to the Dark Castle and one of the items you’re looking for is in the pocket. I sincerely hope this helps you during this unusually trying time.”

Her fingers brushed over the box to find the edge of the top but she hesitated. The small ship scrapped across the table and drew her eye again. “One thing at a time.” Lifting the top off, she pushed tissue paper protecting the contents to the side. “I haven’t needed you for a long while.”

Emma lifted her red leather jacket, her armor, out of the box and hugged it to her chest. Her hand sought out each pocket, finally finding something in the inside pocket.

She held it up to the light and smiled slowly. The sound of the wooden ship sailing across the map echoed in her head and she tilted her head to stare at it. The flash of the ring made her blink as she put it all together.

“My true love,” she whispered. “Death cannot separate us.” She closed the ring in her fist and placed her other hand on the table, pushing her magic into it and completed her map. “Life might try to separate us but not for long and never forever.”

Emma raced up to the balcony while an outline of her island burned itself into position on the map with the home scribbled next to it and a pirate ship within range.

 


 

The star-dotted sky stretched all the way to the horizon and past it, reflecting in the mirror of a calm sea. Killian listened to the Jolly Roger creaking its way through the water and tried to enjoy it.

The calm surface of the sea did not help. A good tussle between him and the waves would do much to take his mind away from where it could not go. Not yet.

Still it was a perfect night. He set a line to hold the wheel on course and climbed up to the yard arm, hoping to be soothed by a calm sail through the sea of stars.

“Beautiful.” The word left him in a sigh.

“It’s funny how the sea turns into a mirror some nights.”

Killian choked on his sigh.

He grabbed a line and swung down to the deck, turning to find her. She sat on the rail on the quarter deck, her hair falling free down her back and swinging her feet as if she had been sailing with him this whole time. His Emma. He closed his eyes briefly to find his sea legs again before he turned to the sky. The stars blinked and their new position revealing he was at the edge of the bottomless sea.

“It’s part of the island’s defenses.” He could hear her boots hit the deck and footsteps walking away from him. “You never really know how close you are to it unless you’re trying to find it and then only if I want you to.”

When Killian turned back to Emma she was making her way down the steps to the main deck. He rocked in place, clenching his hands into fists to contain the need to reach out to her but even as she came closer she slid away from him. He licked his lips and tried to think, tried to do more than stare at his beautiful and impossible wife.

“And you.” The first words out of his mouth were hoarse and too intense. He took a breath to rein in his heart and swallowed the saliva pooling in his mouth. “You just happened to see the Jolly Roger out your window and thought, what a lovely night for a visit?”

Killian stared helplessly, entranced by her, all kitted out in her Storybrooke gear. The jeans, the boots, the red leather and if he wasn’t mistaken one of his shirts on underneath it. Her hands twisted and fiddled with a necklace, the only sign that her serene demeanor was a facade.

She shrugged in response without meeting his eyes. It made him take a step closer.

Emma took one step back.

Interesting.

He slouched back against the mast crossing his arms and legs, feigning his own nonchalance. “I’ve met some friends of yours.” He offered the information and waited to see her reaction.

She hmmmm’ed and stepped closer.

One corner of his mouth kicked up. “Mermaid named Ariel with a husband, Eric something or other.” He stroked his chin with one hand, keeping his eyes down and posture relaxed, listening to her take another step closer. He tapped his forefinger against his lips, humming a bit. “I’m trying to remember how she put it.”

“Put what?” Emma asked, her voice sounding breathless.

Killian flashed a quick glance up at her and bit his lower lip as she drew another step closer. “She had some very precise and peculiar phrase.”

Emma mumbled in response and a broad grin stretched across his face.

“Something or other about trusting me immediately.”

Emma snorted, swaying toward him now.

“I agree,” he replied, holding himself still. “Who goes about trusting pirates? I mean if she had said I had charmed her, well, I wouldn’t deny that. I can be quite charming when I want to be.”

Killian batted his eyes at her and when she rolled her own, his lit with glee.

“I remember now. Can you believe she felt sure I deserved a sharp slap across the face?” He couldn’t stop the joy stretching across his face as he got Emma to laugh.

“I imagine at some point in your life,” Emma said, her eyes shining. “You deserved that and more.”

Killian held her gaze and lifted a hand to push her hair over her shoulder.

Emma disappeared in a puff of white smoke.

“Bloody Hell.”

“So, do you have any news?” Her voice called to him from the stern of the Jolly Roger. “I mean it’s been two weeks, surely you must have something.”

He stood below her and glared. “Is that why you’re here? To get an update about your missing husband.”

She gave a little smile and twisted her necklace. “Something like that.”

“I have no news for you.” He stalked up the stairs to stand across from her. “There are rumors and more but I have nothing tangible to give you.”

“Really?” Emma pulled a hand from behind her back and tapped his hook against her chin.

He forgot the game to be played. “Bad form, messing with a man’s hook.”

Emma froze, her eyes gone wide as she stared up at him. Killian took advantage of her confusion and lifted a hand to her cheek. He felt her lean into it and watched as her eyes fluttered closed. It was all too much. His hand slid to the back of her neck tilting her head as he rocked closer.

His hook clanked as it dropped on the deck and Emma disappeared, again.

“Don’t you remember,” she spoke from behind him now. “You’re married, Captain Jones.”

Killian picked up the hook from where she dropped it and frowned at her from under lowered brows. “I am married.” His agreement surprised her and he used it to close the distance between them and gazed into her eyes. “Would you like to speak about my wife and what she’s up to?”

Emma’s facade crumbled and her eyes pleaded with him.

“Fine.” He replied curtly and put the hook into his pocket. “Then I guess it’s time to say good night.” He managed to turn away from her but couldn’t ignore the painful sound of her shuddering breath. “Maybe…”

“Yes?”

“A story first,” he said and thought fast and hard. “But there are rules if you wish to hear it.”

Emma shrugged as if she didn’t care to hear it but she also stepped toward him and waited. He let the silence stretch as far as he could stand before stating his conditions.

 “First, we will sit next to each other on the yard arm.”

Emma rolled her eyes.

“Bad form, lass. Also, you have to stay till I tell you goodnight.”

“No kissing.”

“Really love, is that a necessary condition?”

“Well, you are a devilishly handsome pirate,” Emma replied mischievously. “Swooning from the yard arm isn’t good for the pregnant princess.”

He sputtered at the reminder, his heart cut in two. Once recovered, Killian offered his hand and they shook on it. With a wave of her hand they found themselves sitting side by side, studying the calm sea of stars as white smoke dissipated around them.

“Once upon a time…” Killian angled toward her so he could make eyes at his wife.

“Seriously, you can’t think of a better beginning?” Emma shifted as well and looked up at him.

“Shhhhh, love. It’s my story.” He placed a finger to her lips to keep her silent. “Once upon a time. A dastardly no good but incredibly charming and, shall we dare say it, devilishly handsome pirate fell in love.”

Behind his finger Emma’s lips quirked up a little.

“And he fought for his love and became a better man.” He watched Emma frown, all solemn and thoughtful. “For her, some, but mostly for himself. Because while every bad deed he’d done had tried to drown the man he truly wished to be in darkness, his love could still see that man inside the dashing scoundrel. And soon, he saw it as well and remember what kind of man he wanted to be.” Killian watched her blush bloom across her cheeks and her eyes fluttered. “No one, however, is perfect. Not him.”

“Not her.” His Emma looked up at him so fiercely.

“Aye, love. Not her. But they made promises to each other, to keep their promises and to try to be the good that the other saw in them. To see the best in each other.” He bit his lip as a wide smile spread across her face. “They had beaten all the odds and fought hard against monsters and their own demons and pasts. Their love was true and no matter what happened, they swore…”

“To always find each other. To fight for each other.”

“Yes,” he whispered. “No matter how long it takes.”

Emma reached out a hand to stroke his cheek. “And they always had faith that no matter how far apart…”

“…And no matter what separated them.” He leaned into her hand.

“They would to fight to get back home.”

“To be together, always.” He leaned forward and rested his forehead against hers.

“Always.” She didn’t pull away from him this time and they sat still for a moment, a really good moment, letting their breaths mingle and sinking into the feel of being together.

 Emma pulled away with a trembling smile. She tapped the hook against his chin.

“Really love, you have no need to steal from me.” He brushed a tear away from her cheek. “You could simply ask. I doubt I could deny you anything.”

Emma pocketed the hook and took off the chain around her neck. “I would like you to hold on to this please.”

“As you wish.” Killian didn’t look at what she placed around his neck, he just kept his eyes on hers.

Emma scooted farther away from him and she shook her head. “I’m afraid some issues have arisen and the search for my dearly missed husband will have to be put on hold.”

“I’m yours to command, princess.” When he caught Emma’s raised eyebrow, he shrugged. “For the most part.”

“I get it.”

“You do?”

“It’s complicated.”

“It’s always complicated.” Killian’s reply dripped with sarcasm.

Emma shrugged and waited but he couldn’t stop staring and didn’t even try to wipe away his silly smile.

“I’m waiting,” she prodded him.

“Do I have to?”

Her hand slipped over her belly. “We need some sleep.”

He exhaled all the air out his body and placed his hand over hers. “Aye, love,” Killian conceded shakily then leaned close to whisper in her ear. “Good night, Swan.”

Emma pulled back a little and smiled before leaning in to whisper in his ear.

“Good night, Hook.”

Killian closed his eyes so he wouldn’t see her wrap herself in white smoke and disappear.

Chapter Text

Regina stretched slowly, her eyes closed to block out the morning sun for as long as possible. Her hand slid across the empty pillow beside her and her eyes snapped open to find the room deserted. She tied her robe closed with an angry jerk as she headed down the stairs to find Robin.

The castle, if you could call it that, Emma was building on the island was growing on her. It wouldn’t do as a home for Regina but it could be a place she was happy to visit.

Each tower was uniquely suited to its inhabitants even if Emma provided only the bare minimum of furnishings. She had complained about it to Robin when he cheekily pointed out that it wasn’t Emma’s tower to decorate.

Damn Savior thought of everything.

Fine. Regina and Snow had less to object to and convincing Emma to leave and give birth to her children somewhere more civilized was now an impossible task. She had won the war with hot and cold running water.

Regina found Zelena and the baby in the kitchen and murmured a greeting. Breakfast seemed like the wisest option in her current mood.

“Roland was up early. I think Robin took him and met up with Charming for some manly pursuit. Rumor is the Savior managed to fit in a practice area somewhere.” Zelena offered her a spot of tea. “They didn’t eat everything.”

“Lie and tell me that’s coffee.” Regina pulled a mug from one of the cupboards.

“Nope.” Zelena snickered at her sister and poured. “Just tea.”

“Someone must of added coffee to the list of things that need to be brought back, right?”

“I think Emma did.”

“Excellent.” Regina held the mug in both hands and used a bit of magic to warm it up. “Do you need a warm up?”

“No thanks, I’ve had enough and it’s time to get this one cleaned up.”

“We should probably leave in about an hour.”

“Sounds good.” Zelena opened her mouth to say something more when humming in the garden drifted through the open balcony doors.

“That sounds like…”

“Impossible.” Zelena walked out to confirm the theory. Regina grabbed an apple from the table and trailed behind.

Emma was humming, no singing as she gathered flowers in the garden below. The sisters exchanged surprised glances. At some distance across from them, Snow was on her own balcony waving her arms above her head.

“You going to get her to stop that?” Zelena asked without taking her eyes from Singing Princess Emma. “Is Emma like required to wear white all the time?”

“Shhhh,” Regina hushed her and waved back at Snow then pointed at Emma.

The three women stared, thunderstruck.

“I know you…” Emma sang. “I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, the gleam in your eye…”

Regina raised her hands up, silently asking Snow what the hell was going on. Snow shrugged back that she didn’t know.

“That is one happy singing princess.” Zelena stated in a tone tinged with annoyance. Green Pea was captivated by the sound and let out a happy squeal. Regina and Zelena dropped, crouching behind the balcony’s railing. They listened to Snow and Emma exchange good mornings.

“This is ridiculous.” Regina whispered.

“You did it too.”

“I didn’t even think about it.” Regina shuddered. “Singing Princess Emma scares me.”

“Not sure it’s scary so much as weird.” Zelena rubbed the baby’s back trying to keep her soothed and silent. “She’s been such a sad faced bore lately.”

“This has something to do with the pirate.”

“Now you’re just making me sick.” Zelena scooted across the balcony and made it to the kitchen. “Well no one disappeared so whatever it was can’t be that bad and therefore it must be a total snore. I’ll leave this one to you sister dear.”

Regina watched her prance off. Heaving a sigh, she stood with all the grace she could muster and found both Emma and Snow looking up at her. She smiled tightly, waved, and waited till Emma went back to her flower picking. Regina shot a look at Snow and jerked her head at Emma. Snow held up ten fingers.

Regina hurried to her room in order to make it to the garden in ten minutes.

 


 

 

Emma could feel herself start humming, again.

She tried to swallow it down and keep it from shifting into a song. Her face was still hot from getting caught singing by her mother. Even with her mouth pressed closed, happiness leaked out and she found herself wearing a wide closed mouth grin.

She shifted through the basket of flowers and picked out a sprig of lilies of the valley. It smelled sweet and she rolled the stem between her fingers as she thought of the night before.

Life was not perfect. Emma smiled. Nothing was ever perfect but instead of feeling lost and out of place, she knew where she was and where she was headed. At least figuratively speaking. She was also humming again.

“I thought neither of us were fans of Singing Princess Emma?” Regina’s voice cut sharply through the air. “What do you think Snow, a little too Disney isn’t it?”

“You know how hard it is to get her into a dress.” Snow added solemnly. “Let me enjoy the moment.”

“Aren’t you both heading home today?” Emma turned to see her mother and Regina exchanging amused looks. Maybe fate had the right idea, putting these two women on opposing sides. When they stood together it was a little frightening. “I wasn’t singing, much.”

“I checked the dock.” Snow ignored her daughter and directed her words to Regina. “No ship of any kind, let alone the Jolly Roger.”

“Interesting.” Regina also ignored Emma. “I was studying the protections set up by your daughter. You know, making sure it was safe to leave her here. All on her own. While pregnant. With twins.”

“Oh my,” Snow exclaimed with a hand held to her forehead. “Is my daughter safe from any dangerous, charming and handsome pirates sailing the seas?”

Emma rolled her eyes and groaned.

“Yes, Snow. She is. In fact, ships will pass right by without knowing they’re anywhere near the Bottomless Sea, let only this island.”

“Are you two done yet?” Emma waited, feeling like a teenager in trouble with her mother and grandmother. She tried to shake the feeling off but it remained as both women blocked her path.

“We could try guessing but it would probably be better if you just told us.” Snow reached out and ran a hand down Emma’s arm. “You are happier than I have ever seen you in the last four months.”

“And no offense but the situation is a bit delicate,” Regina added.

“I didn’t break my promise,” Emma said quickly and wrinkled her nose. “Entirely.”

Snow started to ask a question but Robin, Charming, Henry and sons interrupted. Both men and boys came to an abrupt stop then collectively took a step back. Emma could see them debating whether they should proceed or run.

“I need to go get the chalk,” Emma said and tried to walk away.

“No.” Snow held onto her arm now. “Whatever happen, you’ve kept your promise but something has changed.”

“Mom?” Henry moved to Emma’s side. “What’s going on?”

“She’s happy,” Regina blurted out, throwing her hands in the air. Charming and Robin exchanged the same confused look.

“And that’s a problem?” Robin looked between Regina and Snow and Emma.

Emma shook her head. “Fine, I’ll tell you but I kept my promise and I don’t think this changes much.” Her hand clenched mashing the flower into pulp. Opening her fist, it dropped to the ground. She opened her mouth to explain but nothing came out.

“I find it best to start at the beginning.” Henry told her.

“I saw Killian last night.” The words bolted out of her mouth. “I’ve been tracking the Jolly Roger and I might have kind of spelled every mirror on the ship to spy on him.”

Henry piped up. “I helped.”

“Yeah, well, the ship was docked in Arendelle for like a week or whatever but he wasn’t anywhere on board and so when the ship started to move again…”

“You checked in,” Regina finished for her.

“Oh yeah.” Emma closed her eyes. “He’d changed. I mean he was Killian but…” She stopped and struggled for words again. The difference in him between when he arrived in Misthaven with Milah and now, the look in his eyes when he left Arendelle. It was the difference between who she was now and who she had been months ago. “He wasn’t lost anymore.”

“You think he remembers,” Snow said softly.

“I thought he might remember.” Emma looked away from the curious faces. “Last night, the Jolly Roger was…”

“Close enough to poof there?” Regina’s tone was angry. “And how does that not break your promise?”

“I didn’t go to make him remember or kiss him and undo whatever this is.” Emma glared at Regina then closed her eyes. “I just needed to see him.”

“How is he? Does he remember?” Henry’s voice cracked a little on his last question.

“He was good, but I didn’t ask if he remembered.” Emma shrugged sheepishly and lost the fight, her smile beamed. “And he didn’t ask what happened.”

“Stop talking in circles. Does the one handed wonder remember?”

“Yes, maybe. I’m like 99% sure.” Emma rushed the rest of her explanation. “Neither of us actually talked about it. No questions, no asking - do you remember or hey, you know you’re looking for yourself?”

“Then how do you know?” Snow asked. “It could change everything.”

“Not really,” Emma replied.

“She’s right, Grandma. If Killian remembers then it’ll be easier to talk him into the Storybrooke mission.”

“And his other ‘wife’?” Charming dared to speak up.

“Yes, he is currently on his way back to her and no, we didn’t discuss that either, kind of.”

“What did you two do? No kissing, no actual discussion of what the hell is going on” – Regina threw her hands up in the air – “Did you just sit there making eyes at each other.”

“I don’t make eyes.” Emma grinned. “We talked around it all. He figured out I was keeping my distance and I got the message that there’s something with him and Milah to deal with before…”

“Before he can come back to you.” Robin finished for her. “I have a specific perspective on new loves and old ones, occupying the same timeline.”

“Whatever, I know he’s work on finding his way home.” Emma swayed happily. “I told you we wouldn’t stay apart for long.”

Charming smiled. “Henry’s right, this’ll make it easier.”

“And nothing has changed.” Snow moved to her husband’s side and taking Neal from his arms. “We’ve got research. Charming, Neal, adult Neal – maybe we should stick with Leo?”

“No.”

“Fine. And Henry will convince Hook to sail them to Storybrooke.” Snow looked to Regina and raised a brow.

“Sounds about right.” Regina leaned into Robin. “I think this moves up the talk we had scheduled with the Captain and Tennille. Emma, stay away from the pirate.”

Emma glared at her. “Isn’t it time for you all to leave?”

Regina rolled her eyes and dragged her thief off.

“You’ll keep in touch,” Snow asked.

“I promise.”

“Okay then.” Snow kissed Emma’s cheek and Charming placed a kiss on her forehead before heading off as well.

“Kid?”

“Someone needs to tell Grandpa, and Dad.”

Emma nodded and waited.

“You’re not going to argue?”

“Nope.”

“You’re going to let me do it?”

“Nope.” Emma hooked an arm through his. “Let’s get this over with.”

The two turned to the far tower. Henry tipped his head against his mother’s.

“At least Belle will be there,” he said.

“Kid, I love that you think that’s going to help.”

Chapter Text

Killian secured the Jolly Roger quickly and ambled down the gangplank.

Two weeks was not a long time but the village and the castle beyond seemed different now.  A small smile played across his lips as he remembered how strange the ‘royals’ had seemed.

Not now.

The Charmings’ castle was an extension of everything he called home and he looked forward to teasing David, especially about missing the farm.

Killian had found some peace the night before from simply seeing and touching his Swan. Something was afoot and she had kept her distance, mostly, but he believed she had understood everything he tried to tell her. Later when he had examined the chain she had put around his neck, he smiled. Emma had given his ring back. Until he could return hers, he would wear both over his heart.

As he neared the castle gates, Killian crossed paths with David.

His wife wasn’t the only person missing from his life. Without the memory of what once was, he had lost his friend as well, a friend he missed almost as much as his true love. Still, how to handle this – what to say or what not to say. Emma surely had explained. Bloody hell, explained what?

He needed to have a real talk with his wife.

Killian hesitated in the middle of the road and looked at David with slightly panicked eyes. The same panicked indecision was on David’s face as well.

“Ahhh, good day there, your highness,” he sputtered.

“Ah, yeah. Hi.” David did no better and the two men stood awkwardly across from each other.

“Nice day?” Killian cringed, listening to himself.

“Yes, it is a nice day.”

“So.”

“You know. Uh.”

Just two men going nowhere fast.

“You’re back!” David scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Shall I, no. Are you coming to the castle?”

“I am still welcomed there, correct?”

“Of course you are,” David said in a rush. “We would never ban you from it.” He mumbled something more.

“What did you just say?”

“Nothing?”

“No, you were mumbling David.”

“It’s not important.” David’s eyes made a slow circle. “Really missed you at sword practice. We need to fight soon.”

“Fight?”

“Spar, I meant spar. Why would I want to fight you?” He gestured awkwardly, hands waving in the air. “I mean there’s no reason I could have to, say, want to punch you in the face.”

“Really David?”

“Stop raising that eyebrow at me pirate.” David huffed and mumbled again.

“Oh, now really, you’ll have to tell me what that was.”

“Twins!” David shouted as they stood alone in the middle of the road.

“That’s not my fault,” Killian shouted back.

“Oh really?”

“I am not the one here who has an evil twin brother. Am I Dave?” Killian threw the words at Charming with all the astonishment he felt at the announcement.

The two yelling men froze and studied each other. David took a step back, looking down at the ground. Killian scratched behind his ear.

A smile broke out on David when he caught the pirate’s gesture. “Two hands?”

Killian sighed. “So, you remember?”

“Remember the second curse, we asked Henry to believe and gave him the storybook?”

“Aye.”

“Worked this time too.” A goofy grin broke across Charming’s face. “Welcome home, Son.”

Kilian closed his eyes with a groan before giving his father-in-law a disgusted look. “Dad.” He swept his hand toward the castle indicating they should resume their trip. When Charming began to walk slowly, Killian matched his pace. “So, who knows what?”

“The family right now.” David tilted his head as he listed people. “Regina, Robin, Zelena, Henry, Snow, Neal, Belle, Rumplestilskin.” He turned his head to watch the pirate take in the news.

Killian’s face darkened. “How thorough. Was I going to make the list?”

“Well, we were planning on telling the dwarves first.” David rolled his eyes. “Come on, we were waiting to talk to you and your “wife” at the same time.” He made air quotes with his hands and Killian winced.

“I can’t.” He stopped when Charming held up a hand.

“I don’t know what’s going on with that but from what Emma told us today, there are reasons.”

“Aren’t there always reasons?”

“Good ones and bad, mate,” David replied flippantly.

Killian rolled his eyes. “Still, I was pretty low on the list huh?” He shrugged it off.

“Killian, it’s not.” David sighed. “I guess we have reasons as well, good and bad. What brought us here, part of it was about separating you from Emma. So, and I really don’t like to think about this part too much, true love’s kiss could fix it.”

“And we aren’t rushing to do that because?” Killian’s question was angry but David glared incredulously.

“Robin and Neal…”

The truth dawned across the pirate’s face. “And Milah,” Killian conceded softly. “Sorry, mate. I gathered something was going on but I guess I let myself forget for a moment. I miss…”

“I know.” David glanced at him and then away. “So.”

“So.”

“You’re totally ignoring the whole twin thing right now, aren’t you?”

“I mean really Dave? How much more melodrama can life toss at us right now. Lost memories, mistaken identities, long distance separations and a surprise pregnancy was quite enough on its own. You just had to add in that little tidbit as if I didn’t already wish to get back on my ship and sail home to my wife.”

“Would it help if I have something else for you to do?”

“I have something to do.” Killian picked up the pace and Dave matched him. “Nothing comes before clearing my path back to Emma.”

David winced and looked away.

Killian caught it with a quick side glance and stopped. “What is it?”

“We kind of need you two to, ah, well.”

“I get that and fine, you have a little mission you want me to go to keep us physical apart till you all bloody well solve the problem. I’ll go.” He paused, drawing in a deep breath. “But this has to happen first. I can’t go on without Emma knowing I am fighting my way back to her.”

“She knows.” Charming reached out and squeezed his arm. “For Regina and Rumple, it’s a second chance they never dared dream of and maybe, for a second Emma thought.”

“That this was my second chance?” Killian kicked a rock down the path. “It’s not the same. Who I was then, isn’t who I am now and it changes everything.”

“Which you didn’t know until?”

“Fine, recently.”

“For what it’s worth, she might have been scared about what you wanted but she believed in the end you’d find her.” Charming smiled slowly. “Also, you’d be surprised what pregnancy brain can do.”

“Do I really want to know what that is?”

“You don’t have a choice.” David wrapped an arm around Killian’s shoulders. “Twins.”

The two men smiled at each other in understanding and continued home.

 


 

 

Regina slipped through the chalk doorway into Snow White’s bedroom. Snow had heard the scrap of stone across the floor and stood waiting, tapping her foot with her arms crossed.

“This is just awkward.” Regina glared at the piece of chalk in her hand.

“You aren’t done playing with that?” Snow crossed to the hallway door and waited for Regina.

“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to end up here, here,” she said as they exited the room. “Really it’s your own fault. I thought about you, next time I’ll think of the library.”

The two women walked side by side through the halls. Snow waited patiently for Regina to get to her reason for visiting but she remained silent.

“How’s Robin?” Snow prompted.

“Fine.”

“Really Regina,” she scoffed. “Fine is the best you can do when for some wild reason you took the quickest way here and now I just get a fine.”

“Yes. That is all you get.”

“You’ll feel better if you just talk about it.” Snow deliberately slowed her steps and let Regina get in front of her before turning down a different hallway. She could hear Regina’s groan of frustration and the quick staccato of her footsteps. “Grumpy came to tell us the Jolly Roger was spotted pulling into port.”

Regina did not reply.

“David went down to meet Killian.” Snow peered over at her friend. “Now we just have to get his wife over here and we can tell them they’re in the same boat as the rest of us.”

“You need to stop sneering when you call her his wife

“You just did.” Snow shot back.

“Fine.” Regina rolled her eyes. “I too need to stop sneering when I say it. It’s not the woman’s fault.”

“And yet none of us want to say her name out loud.”

“No one’s perfect.” Regina sighed and tugged Snow out onto a balcony.  “We’ve found nothing so far in any of the other realms.”

“Oh, Regina.”

“Henry’s just weighed down by all this guilt but I know, we all know, there has to be something else. Magic bean fields weren’t even in his little fanfic.” She leaned on the balcony’s stone railing and rested her head in one hand. “Something else had to have happened but I can’t find it.”

“You need to take a breath.” Snow wrapped an arm around Regina’s waist and leaned against the railing with her. “The story world has to be infinite, there’s no way you’ve checked everywhere.”

“True, and not that I can. But, but with the effect it had on us, it can’t be that far away.”

Snow looked out over the castle grounds, out over Misthaven and tried think of something. “Is there absolutely anything I can say to make you feel better?”

“No.” Regina started to say more but two voices, shooting words back and forth caught her attention. “Oh God, it begins. Just look at that will you.”

Snow turned her head to see what Regina was complaining about now and there was Killian and Charming making their way home. She hadn’t see Killian this at ease since Storybrook. The two were arguing, happily and it made Snow giggle.

“That’ll just encourage them.” Regina sniffed. “And those are the two men we’re letting take my son and my thief off on some bro-trip to Storybrooke. The number of things that could go wrong are endless.”

“Maybe.” Snow considered. “But we’ll talk to the “couple” then send the boys off. When they come back we’ll know more and figure out a solution.”

“What if the solution’s not for the best, but for the worse?”

Snow hugged Regina and smiled down at her husband and son-in-law. “I don’t believe that but I also think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have that wedding Robin wants waiting for him when he returns.”

Regina nodded and the two women watched Killian and Charming bicker. Eventually the two men looked up to see them standing there. Snow smiled at her husband and started to greet Killian when he shouted out to her.

“Mummy!”

Charming howled with laughter.

Regina and Snow turned and walked away from the idiots at the castle doors.

Chapter Text

Visitors were not an unusual occurrence at the Dark Castle. Desperate souls would always seek out the magic of the Dark One. Invited guests, on the other hand, were not the norm.

In the Enchanted Forest Belle preferred to go out to visit family and friends. Today, preparing tea for a number of invited guests was a new and satisfying experience for her. She even allowed herself to obsess a little over what to serve, but just a little.

Rumple demanded the meeting be held here and Belle offered her library for it.

The library Rumple had given her was once again in meticulous order, a one of a kind collection of which Belle was justifiably proud. There were no regrets at leaving Storybrooke and for her the similarities outnumbered the differences.

Although, she did miss her shoes.

“I hope you haven’t worked yourself to death over this,” Rumple interrupted her thoughts as he lounged in the doorway.

“Really Rumple.” Belle continued to fuss with the tea tray. “You’re the one who wanted to meet here. If you didn’t want to trouble me, we should have met at Regina’s or Snow’s or in the middle of the forest for that matter.” She glared as her husband shrugged. “I can’t stand it any longer.”

“What?” Rumple looked worried.

“I was trying to resist asking, but why did you insist on meeting here?”

Rumple glided across the room and pulled her away from the tray. “I could tell you it’s so Milah has a place to retreat to after her world crashes down.”

Belle pursed her lips and waited.

“I could also tell you I’m doing this for Bae, giving him home field advantage when he has to face the pirate.”

“But?”

“But those reasons are only part of the whole.” Rumple pulled her arm through his and escorted her to the front entrance hall. “This is our family, thus our turn to host. Still, today will be toughest on Milah, and therefore Bae.”

He rolled his eyes with a pained sigh. “And as much as I have always detested it, I’ve not forgotten that the pirate is for all practical purposes Gideon’s godfather and your friend. He needs to know you welcome him here.”

Belle pulled her husband to a stop and leaned up to kiss his cheek. He caught her close and turned his head to fully kiss his wife when someone knocked at the door and let themselves in.

“Seriously, Grandpa?” Henry asked.

“You’ll understand when you’re older,” Rumple replied and reached out to flick Henry’s forehead.

“Please, I’m basically surrounded.”

Belle laughed and grabbed Henry by the arm to pull him toward the library while Rumple greeted the rest of the crew. Regina tossed him a smirk and followed Belle and Henry tugging Robin along.

“Here, be a useful Dark One.” Zelena thrust her daughter into his arms and gave her Green Pea a stern look. “She’s not allowed to conjure anything for the rest of the day.”

Rumple watched the witch walk off and stared down at the baby girl in his arms who smiled back. “And what do you suppose I should do with you?”

Belle came back into the hall, wanting to see what was keeping her husband. She leaned against the door jamb while he crooned to the baby girl who giggled in his arms. “You’re pretty good at that.”

“I don’t think there’s anything more miraculous than a baby, its innocence and potential.” Green Pea reached out and placed both hands on his cheeks and started smacking her lips. “I think you may need to take her.”

Again, a knock interrupted them.

“I’ll just get the door.” Belle scooted past her husband. “Go join the others.” She muffled her laughter as she swung the door open. “Killian.” Belle opened her arms and hugged her friend.

“What will your husband say.” Killian waggled his eyebrows at her and returned the hug.

“Get your hand off my wife or I can cut it off,” Rumple called from the library’s doorway, making the baby in his arms frown. “Again.”

“It’s almost good to see you, Crocodile.”

“You’re almost not a pain in the ass, Captain.”

“And that concludes any conversation the two of you will need to have for the foreseeable future.” Belle pushed Killian toward the library and shared an exasperated look with Snow White. “Has he been like that since he’s gotten back?”

“Oh yes, he keeps calling me Mummy.” Snow glared at the pirate. “And don’t get me started on him and Charming on the ride over here.”

“I was a prince.” Charming added, setting Neal down after the long carriage ride.

“Which is a shame as you’re supposed to be a king.” Killian leaned down to hold one of Neal’s hand and help him toddle off toward the library.

“We have tea,” Belle said, finally hugging Snow hello. “We’re waiting on Bae and Milah at this point.”

Killian passed the toddler off when Neal reached out to use the Dark One’s leg for balance.

“Will they knock or..”

“They both have the run of the castle, so they’ll come right in.” Belle walked toward the library with Snow, considering Killian. “You can wait here for them, if you’d like.”

Killian looked unsure to Belle’s eyes and before a decision could be made Bae and Milah were there. Milah’s eyes lit up to see the pirate and she rushed to embrace him.

They all watched the reunion between the pirate and his ‘wife’.  Belle shivered a bit, thinking of the island in the Bottomless Sea where Emma waited alone. Snow White’s hand gripped hers tightly, hiding it in the tangle of their skirts.

“Hey now,” Killian pulled back from the embrace. “I haven’t been gone that long.”

“Not long but you were missed a great deal.” Milah held on to him. “Apparently without you, information doesn’t exactly flow my way.”

Behind her, Bae threw his hands in the air at his mother’s words and seeing it, Belle just raised one brow in question.

“Well let’s not keep you in the dark any longer,” Rumple snapped out from the doorway. The change in his tone made Green Pea frown and they could all feel a breeze move through the hallway.

“Now none of that, witch.” He tapped her on the nose before tickling under her chin. Once the baby had calmed he crooned to her, his words for everyone. “Everything will be alright.”

 


 

 

Milah felt isolated from everyone in the room, even Killian.

They all kept exchanging looks. Confused ones and dark ones, none were particularly inclusive. There was also a new ease between Killian and everyone, in particular the royals who looked upset when she sat by his side and held his hand. Killian had changed as well, his demeanor determined.

The past two weeks had been a different kind of life for Milah. Her time was her own to do as she wished. The itch under her skin to go and see the vastness of the world had receded and she didn’t need to run from the monster. Free and directionless, it was frightening.

Introspection could wait for another day. Everyone had tea or toast or whatever and no one was taking command.  Just shooting glances and letting their mouths open then shutting them when they had not a clue what to say. Milah looked to Killian but he was no longer her partner in confusion and exasperation but mirrored these people’s uncertainty.

“Are we waiting for your daughter, your majesties?” Milah had enough of their gasping silence. “I assume secrets of such awkwardness would demand your entire families’ attention.”

Snow considered her. “Emma is working on a piece of the problem.”

Killian frowned at the queen’s tone but Snow ignored him.

“Today was supposed to be about bringing you and Killian up to date, now that he’s returned.”

“How magnanimous of you,” Milah replied coldly to the Queen and Killian frowned at her too. Too bad for him, she thought. The queen implied that what was supposed to happen was no longer necessary and it made her angry.

“Mom.” Bae tried to intervene.

“Milah.” Killian coughed and pulled his arm from hers. “It’s a long story.”

“Which you now know?” Milah’s accusation silenced the room. Pushing aside any guilt, she turned to Rumple. “You. I want you to explain what the hell is going on?”

Her once husband tilted his head. “Demands, how quaint.”

“Crocodile,” Killian growled through gritted teeth.

“Please, pirate. She doesn’t need you to defend her or shield her.” Rumple giggled. “She can handle so much more but being disgusted with us – because of withheld information, the hypocrisy”

“Don’t be an ass, Rumple.” Milah stood and walked away from Killian’s side. “Everyone but me in this room knows what’s going on. What is this big secret you’ve all come to share with me? And I want the truth.”

Bae moved to her side and took her hand. Milah didn’t pull away though she was tempted. She wanted to pile on the guilt, make them aware that she knew she was on one side and they the other.

Bae shook his head no at his father.

“Mom,” he said and waited till she looked at him. “The changes made to our memories didn’t affect just us, the past changed for you and Killian as well.” Bae slid a glance at Henry who stiffened up. “We’ll get into the how later. Because there’s worse news coming your way right now.”

“Really, you’ve told me the life I remember.” Milah glanced at Killian. “The life I love was a lie?”

“Not all of it but the ending isn’t what you think.” Bae hesitated. “Maybe we should do this somewhere else?”

“Sorry to seem cruel Bae.”

Milah snorted at Rumple’s words.

He addressed her directly. “You need to accept that we are in this together and start believing in second chances.”

“Oh really Rumple.” Milah glared. “Is that what I have to do?”

“I’m quite happy to have mine,” Robin answered her and tangled his fingers with the Queen Mother’s. “I died but now I’m here, with my family.”

“Well good for you.” Milah snapped and refused to think what that could mean for her.

“And me,” Bae whispered.

Milah felt the horror build inside her.

“Mom. I…”

“No.” She slapped both hands over his mouth. “No.” Milah could feel tears in her eyes and panic beating through her blood. It was back, a thought just beyond her reach beckoning her. Shaking her head she focused on that moment, the moment when she knew if they stayed to face Rumple he would kill her. No other memory was as important as that one.

Milah refused to think about whatever beckoned from the haze of old memories. “The dead can’t be brought back to life. That’s ridiculous. This is all ridiculous. We weren’t even in your Storybrooke so whatever happened has nothing to do with us.” She turned to Killian for support.

Milah could see his heart breaking in his eyes and the weight of the promise he’d been carrying was back. She swallowed down the bile rising in her throat and pushed all other thoughts aside, searching frantically for a way out.

“Mom,” Bae said, taking her by the shoulders. “I remember dying. I did it to protect my family.”

Milah winced.

“I was in a good place after and whatever, I remember and I’m still here. Didn’t you ever want a second chance?”

“Bae.”

“I do. I want my second chance.” Bae glanced at Henry and the boy handed him a book. “All you have to do is believe in second chances, believe in me and take this.”

She looked at the book. Once Upon a Time was embossed on the cover and tried to figure out what she should do. Did she really have a choice?

Milah took the book into her hands and nothing happened.

Chapter Text

Milah tossed Henry's storybook away and Killian lost hope.

She crossed the room back to him and once again, positioned herself at his side, linking their arms and their lives together. Milah apologized in a sullen fashion. Snow and David took the lead and tried relating to her through their story.

With Milah's attention directed elsewhere, Killian slipped away into the forest.

The forest didn't soothe as well as the sea but it helped after the tension in the library. He flung himself down on a fallen tree and wondered what to do. The birds and animals hushed when a branch snapped underneath someone’s boot. Killian didn't want to see anyone but another branch snapped.

With a sigh, he rolled up off the tree and saw Henry.

"Killian?" The lad waited.

"Henry." He smiled and Henry walked right into his arms. Killian hugged him tight before pushing him towards the tree. "That could have gone better."

"Yeah well, we haven’t even gotten to the good part." Henry sat. "Mom wasn't real specific on what you two talked about."

"I'm afraid we both danced around all of it, lad."

"Seriously." Henry shifted and pulled something from his satchel. "When we get back they're going to want to talk about the how but I thought..." He rolled a beat-up notebook between his hands.

"I needed to tell you now, here, where you can like, yell at me without Dad trying to protect me." Henry winced.

"You know, as callous as this may sound. Neal, live or dead or back from the dead, doesn't change anything, we’re still family. It is truly good to see him." Killian took advantage of the boy's hesitancy. "Much better now that I remember and don't just get annoyed when he's handsy with Emma." His mouth tightened into an unhappy curve.

"I'm sorry."

The pirate studied the lad he considered his son, trying to identify the issue. "Sorry for what?" The question made Henry look seasick and bewildered Killian. "Whatever it is, it can't be anywhere near as awful as anything I've done, Henry."

"That's what Mom said – Regina."

"Then just tell me."

Henry thrust the notebook into Killian's hands first.

Looking at the notebook in his hands, Killian gave Henry a questioning glance.

"You should open it, it'll be easy to figure out the rest." He stood to pace back and forth, waiting while Killian read.

He stopped after the prologue and studied the notebook. It was worn and stained and the pages weren't filled with neatly looping script but messy and scratched out scrawl. "You rewrote our stories."

"Kind of."

"Henry." Killian tossed the notebook at Henry's feet. "That isn't like your storybooks or anything I've seen you do with the Author's powers. So, you tell me what it is. I have enough to ponder of my own.”

"It's like fanfiction." Henry gave him a sour look. "Remember when I showed you all those stories based on Peter Pan. Remember when you wrote that one and was almost crucified for making Pan evil?"

Killian's head fell back and he stared open mouthed at the sky. "I thought we were never to speak of that, ever again."

"But you get it right?" Henry’s voice turned desperate. "I just want to see what the story would be like if, to see what would have happened if…" He couldn't finish and just let himself plop down on the ground.

"If I wasn't there, you thought, or think, your parents would be together." Killian finished for him as he stared out at the forest. "Must have caused real problems when I showed up."

"That's not it." Henry waited, willing Killian to look at him. "There was never really time for them. Curses, portals, kidnapping and everything."

“Me?” Killian raised one eyebrow.

Henry threw his hands in the air. "I didn't want to change our lives, Killian. I just wanted to know, if our lives were different, would…"

"Would Emma and Neal have their happy ending together." Killian couldn't look at Henry, the pain in his chest was overwhelming.

Henry slumped on the ground. His stepfather’s pain so obvious, it weighed him down and he tried to find a way to explain.

"I didn't want you gone, it was just a story." Still a story that hurt. Maybe a different truth was needed. "I never looked at our story, our real one, like everyone else. I wasn't the one falling in love, or trying to keep hope up or ignore feelings because you know, walls. It feels like I've always known."

Henry picked up the notebook and started flipping through the pages.

The silence stretched between them till Killian closed his eyes and pushed his pain down deep. He watched Henry flip and read, flip and read through that stupid notebook. The lad was shaking his head, looking at what he had wrote with disgust.

He gave in and asked. "Known what?"

"Grandpa told me once that you said you and Emma weren't destined, that you both had to fight for your love." Henry glanced up quickly to find the man who had become his father watching him with pained eyes. "But I knew, probably since after the second curse. I knew it would always be you for my mom."

"And what gave you that idea?"

"You." Henry threw the notebook back at him. "Maybe if he hadn't died it would have taken longer but you lived hundreds of years with one goal, one pursuit. You’ve master dedication and the only thing that ever really kept you out was her walls. Plus, I know the beanstalk story and more. She always trusted you in the most ridiculous circumstances."

Killian snorted.

Henry stood and went to sit next to him. "I didn't just write him in. What I should have done was just save Dad from Zelena's plans but I didn't. I rewrote the whole bloody thing. If you were anywhere near Mom, I just knew, even if it was my story…"

"I'd run away with her?"

"No." Henry rolled his eyes. "She'd find you and never look back."

Killian stroked his beard considering and found the pain had retreated. The clever lad soothed it away. Fathers and sons were a tricky thing. Knowing someone thought that he and Emma would always end up together was a balm to his old soul.

"They might have made it." Killian tossed that out for the boy.

"Do you know I have two memories about learning the story of my birth father?" Henry shrugged. "I remember how angry I was that Emma lied and how I welcomed Dad with open arms because he hadn't." He tucked the notebook back into his bag then frowned at the forest.

"I also remember growing up with my mom and learning the truth from her and the rest of the story after that curse. He didn’t just leave her, he sent her to prison because Pinocchio said to. Even if he chose to leave her, what idiot thinks leaving someone in jail is a good ideal?"

"August hasn't always tread the straight and narrow."

"Sure, but come on. Mom tried excusing it, or something so deserter dad wasn’t so bad – we were both so young." Henry shook his head. "The man was hundreds of years old even if he didn’t look it but whatever. His need to run away from his father was greater than his love for her."

"Hundreds of years don't make you wise, Henry." Killian gestured to himself. "Even I made mistakes with your mom."

"Maybe." He clapped the pirate on the shoulder. "But you always did it for her, you always chose her." Henry patted the bag. "This aside. I need you to know how I think of you. I was a kid with just Regina for my mom, and she wasn't whole then, wishing for a real family."

"And I hope you learned your lesson. Be careful what you wish for."

"Well yeah," Henry responded. "'Cause you'll end up like me, two mothers, two fathers, possibly three when Mom marries Robin and grandparents galore."

"Shame Cora isn't here to round out your family."

Henry rolled his eyes. "Our family."

 


 

 

The return to the Dark Castle passed pleasantly enough. Henry filled in the details of his story rewrite, the return of the dead, the magic bean field and the things he didn’t know. Killian stopped to take a deep breath before returning to the problems of the day.

"What are you going to do about Grandmother?" Henry asked from beside him.

"I don't know." Killian shook his head. "I made her a promise and this has to be traumatic for her. Losing her changed who I was and now, the person I am loves someone else. Emma saved me, well, made me wish to save myself." He shrugged. "I can't pretend differently."

"There was one more thing I needed to do before we go back." Henry gave a dismissive shrug as if what he said next wasn't important. "To make up for what I did."

"Henry, it hurt to hear but I can understand." Killian scratched behind is ear. "And as silly as it sounds to tell you. I love you, I think of you as my son, or if that's weird then as someone who belongs to me."

"Stop before this gets sappier." Henry pulled something from his satchel. "Do you want your gift or not?"

Killian held out a hand. "Fine."

"I'm dying to know what you think about having two hands again but I guess that can wait." Henry placed a compact mirror in his hand.

It was as wide as Killian's palm. "What am I supposed to do with this? I already know I'm devilishly handsome."

"Knock on the lid three times. If you hear the latch release, open it. Don't take too long." Henry caught the skeptical eyebrow raise from his father and hugged him quick before heading inside. "And it's yours to keep."

Killian watched Henry grin and walk away. He tossed the compact up, flipping it in the air before catching it. He knocked three times and opened it once he heard the snick of the latch.

"Henry?" Emma's voice asked.

Killian looked into the mirror filled with Emma's face and a slow smile spread across his face.

"Emma."

"Killian."

The two stared into each other's eyes through the mirror.

"How are you feeling?" He asked anxiously.

"Good, better than in a long time." Her fingers touched the mirror. "How's it going?"

"Not as good."

"You weren't too hard on Henry?"

"Maybe." Killian looked to the side. "But we settled it."

"Do you like your present?"

"Yes love, but the magic, it always has a price."

"Oh, it does. Henry paid for it."

"There's so much I wish to tell you." Killian glanced up at the Dark Castle. "But I need to get back in there." He studied her face in the mirror. It looked tired to him but not as sad as when she had slung insults at him. "Swan, you…"

"I know." Emma closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Take care of yourself."

"And our family, as long as you take care as well, you are carrying our children."

"Dad told you. Did he punch you?"

"Aye and no, he didn't." He knew he needed to go but couldn't stop staring at her as she lit up and shone just for him.

"You're doing that thing."

"What thing?"

"That thing where you stare so hard you could drill a hole in my head. We've faced worse."

He rolled his eyes. "Aye, that’s a comfort. I wish to be there, not, well not not there."

"Then get going. We'll be waiting here on the island for you."

"I love you." He stroked a finger over her face.

"I hope you appreciate this because it's just too cheesy." She leaned in and pressed her lips against the mirror. "I love you too, forever and beyond."

"Soon."

"Soon and with two hands no less." Emma laughed at his blush. "Go Killian and come home safely."

"As you wish." Killian never looked away but the compact slowly closed. He considered it then pressed the button to release the latch. His own face looked out at him from the mirror half and fixed on the other was a picture of Emma and Henry.

Killian snapped it closed and flipped the compact through the air again. Time to make good on all his promises to his family.

Chapter Text

Zelena stopped paying attention before the Charmings got the first word out of their mouths.

It was all just so – she swallowed a whine – boring. She wasn’t sure why she had to be here anyways with nothing to contribute other than as a receptacle for all the irate looks whenever they recounted her wicked deeds.

A small green cyclone swirled on the floor in front of her and she kicked at it. Once the green clouds dissipated she turned to her scowling daughter. Green Pea had her father’s nauseatingly pleasant disposition most of the time but thwarting her brought out the witch. Without dropping the glare connecting them, Zelena reached out and pressed a kiss to her daughter’s mouth. Her Sweet Pea giggled and forgot whatever she had been attempting.

“How often does that happen?” Robin asked.

“Often enough. Doesn’t she use magic around you?”

“Never.” He shrugged. “My daughter is a perfect angel.”

Zelena switched her frown to him. “Of course.”

“Disgusting isn’t it?” Regina eased down next to Zelena with a roll of her eyes.

“I just hope he realizes even at this age, she does it on purpose.”

Regina laughed and offered to take the baby.

Zelena shook her head. “What’s going on now?”

Before she got an answer, Henry pushed open the library door. He dropped his satchel by the door. “Where are we?”

“Same place as before.” Milah answered him, her voice sounded stilted and cold to Zelena’s ears. “These stories of yours have nothing to do with me. I’ve never been to Storybrooke so none of it effects Killian and me.”

Zelena waited for everyone to stop coddling the woman. No one spoke and due to the fact that she wasn’t blameless, Zelena swallowed her opinion down. This was her least favorite part of being a family – consideration for other’s feelings.

“Beside what’s up with all this? Secret meetings and all that drama for nothing.” Milah casually dismissed their concerns.

Regina contained herself but watching her fight actual tears was the end of the line for Zelena.

“That’s enough.” Zelena plopped her daughter into her sister’s arms and marched across the room to face the bitter crone. “Fine, the storybook didn’t work but there are other, more painful ways, to jog your memory. Dancing around it because you’re a pathetic wimp is getting old.”

“Zelena.” Neal stepped between her and his mother.

“Don’t. I may not have my powers but that hasn’t robbed me of all sense.” Zelena pushed him aside. “And I may be fairly new to this whole family thing but I’m not letting you hurt my sister. So here’s some of the truth you so graciously demanded.”

Milah turned to leave.

“Go ahead, run,” Zelena shot the words at her back. “It won’t change the fact that you died, and you did it centuries ago.”

“Zelena,” Killian barked at her from the door.

Milah looked up at him, her eyes wide.

“Too late, Guyliner.” Zelena sneered at him. “And I’m not sorry. Storytime wasn’t getting us anywhere and she demanded the truth.” She turned in a huff and went back to her sister, holding her arms out for her daughter. Regina handed Green Pea to Robin before embracing her sister.

“You didn’t have to do that.” Regina whispered and squeezed her tighter.

“I told you, wicked always wins.” Zelena returned the hug. “I’m the only one still mean enough to do it.”

When the sister separated, they found everyone studying the couple at the doorway. The pirate had his arms around the woman trying to disappear into his neck. Zelena felt sick at the sight of them.

Neal moved to pull his mother back and took one hand while Killian held the other.

“Papa.” Neal frowned his mother’s tear-less and angry face. “Let’s honor her request.”

“Very well.” Rumple sighed and sat forward with his elbows on his knees. “You didn’t use the bean and flee to Neverland. You and the pirate were there the next morning to deal with me. Your freedom for the bean.”

His gaze clashed with Killian’s but the pirate just nodded. “Before you handed it over I had questions about leaving Bae. It angered you enough to give me the truth.”

The grip Killian and Bae had on Milah changed from comforting to holding. Zelena couldn’t blame her, after all she too remembered being killed by the Dark One. Sort of.

Belle placed a hand on Rumple shoulder and he continued. “You told me that you had never loved me, that life with me was such misery. So I ripped your heart out and crushed it. Then I cut the hand off the pirate to get the bean and so he’d never forget me.” He saluted Killian.

Milah looked between the two in confusion.

Killian held his left hand up stretching and clenching his fingers together. “Outwitted you there, crocodile. I managed to keep it and sailed for Neverland. I needed time to plan my revenge.”

Milah started to speak but Rumple interrupted. “There is more. Which makes your circumstances as strange as Bae’s and Robin’s. We made a short trip to the underworld.” He paused, raising a brow at Captain Guyliner.

“They were there for me.” Killian supplied that bit of information.

The sisters exchanged a look. Would Milah be able to put together the reason this family would go to hell to save the pirate?

“You were there, in Hades’ Underbrooke, waiting for your chance to move on. A shot at redemption.” Rumple smiled ruefully. “In fact, you won over Miss Swan enough that she told you about Bae, that he was wherever and happy. You helped and volunteered to watch me, make sure I didn’t destroy our boat home.”

“What did you do Rumple?” Milah asked through clenched teeth.

“Naturally, I destroyed our way home and tossed you into the River of Lost Souls.” Rumple said it simply.

Zelena watched a flicker of something cross Milah’s face and opened her mouth to find out what it was when Regina nudged her and shook her head.

 “Later. When Neal and Killian aren’t there to hide behind.” Regina whispered to her.

“I’m beginning to think the Evil Queen is back where she belongs.” Zelena whispered back and the sisters shared a grin.

 


 

 

Milah escaped the craziness. She knew Killian and Bae followed closely behind but she could lose them soon enough.

The two weeks spent on the Dark One’s land provided sufficient knowledge to twist and turn about the garden and find some bloody space to be alone.  She quickly took the next turn and backed into a hole in the hedgerow. The two men passed her bickering.

“Why was Zelena even invited?”

“I admit the witch is pain in the arse but she was also right.”

“Why didn’t Henry’s storybook work?”

“How should I know, do I look like a bloody sorcerer?”

“It was fine for everyone else.”

“Everyone else trusts and believes in one another and Henry and Emma.”

“What are you going to do? About Emma?”

“My plans haven’t changed.”

“Mom’s not going to like it.”

“She really doesn’t like Emma.”

“I wonder why.” The sarcastic reply hung in the air.

“I made a mess there.”

“You were kind of obvious about it.”

“Well you were kind of handsy.”

“You know they want to use the beans to reach Storybrooke.”

“Is that Dave’s brilliant idea to keep us separated?”

“Not just for that and it’s Henry’s ideal. We need more information.”

“So I’m to take off in the Jolly Roger and just hope my way home?”

“One bean to get us all there, each passenger will carry two in case of emergency.”

“Passengers?”

“You, Henry, David, Robin, me.”

“Are you sure the women didn’t just decide they want us out of the way? Or your father?”

“Nah. We’re not on team research so might as well send you guys and a few of the walking dead.”

“I loved that show.”

“Of course you did.”

“We have to talk to your mother before.”

“Sure. Um, I’m kind of looking forward to sailing with you again, Captain.”

The two passed by without a clue and Milah hurried in the opposite of the direction. Bae believed. Killian believed. And all she could hear was a chorus of no no no inside her head. She was never dead and what the hell was the River of Lost Souls.

Water, dark green with strange glowing wraiths trapped inside and never ending misery flashed in front of her eyes. Milah shook it away and relived the moment they fled to Neverland, again and again.

That is what she chose to believe in.

Not these people who don’t understand her or her life. What did they know about loss and being set adrift in the world, about pain and misery. Milah pushed the welcome and the kindness they’d shown away and focused on what to do next.

Damned if she knew.

She wasn’t so weak that she wanted Killian, a man who no longer wanted her. Getting along with Rumple was a annoying but not impossible. It was all about sharing their son. A grown son who didn’t need her and was about to take off again, leaving her to sit, painting and waiting for nothing.

Maybe that was the answer. Standing still wasn’t doing anything for her and it was time to stop.

Once upon a time Milah had run far and fast and found a life she loved. According to Bae, there were answers in their Storybrooke. If they could go and search, she could go and find some of her own.

Milah changed her course and headed back.

Chapter Text

The walk back to his father’s was quiet and slow. Killian had attempted talking to his mom but she put a stop to it quickly. Neal wasn’t sure how to help her. Killian was right that trusting people she barely knew, even if they were family, was too much to ask.

He wished Emma was here.

No one person made this family but Emma kept them glued together. Maybe the lack of family growing up combined with finding it later in life made her so fierce about it. Maybe it was the struggle to find their happy endings which started when Emma came to Storybrooke.

Milah wasn’t a part of that story but now they needed to help her be part of this family. Things needed to change.

Neal felt a tug on his arm and his mom pulled him to a stop.

“Bae. Killian.” She faced them both. “I don’t care about their story and I don’t want to talk about what you all think happened. Are we clear?”

“Milah.”

“No Killian. I don’t know why you buy into all this but no.”

“Mom.” Neal looked between the two of them. “I’m not sure you deny all this stuff.”

“I won’t get in anyone’s way. I just don’t have anything to do with this mess.” Milah took a deep breath and nodded her head. “But I am going with you.”

“How the hell do you know about going to Storybrooke?” Killian’s tone was angry and the pirate had his hands on his hips. He shook his head. “Never mind, explain. You want no part of this but you’ve a mind to take a bit of a trip.”

“I’m tired of being left behind.” Killian flinched at her words but she pointed at Neal. “By both of you. Nothing get done hanging around here. So that’s the deal.”

“Mom, I’m not sure this will work. It’s kind of a group project and you don’t want to be part of the group.”

“I’m not going to get in your way, Bae.”

“That’s hideous, you rhymed.” Killian muttered in disgust.

“Seriously man.” Neal looked at the pirate. Why did he always do this? Concentrate on inconsequential nonsense.

“While he has such a sad lack of taste, your son is right. This isn’t going to fly with the Wicked or the Evil or the in…the Charmings.”

“That is why you both are going to convince them.” Milah crossed her arms and watited.

Neal melted a little inside. He didn’t think she wanted to get in their way and it couldn’t really hurt to have her on the trip.

“Let me get this straight. You need two favors from us.” Killian waited till Milah nodded. “One. No talking about or trying to involve you in this whole altered memory, what really happened timeline?”

She nodded again.

“Two. A trip across realms to Storybrooke with us?”

“You owe me,” she responded simply.

“I’ve already paid love.” Killian walked away. “You already bought six months of my time.”

“And that’s a pittance compared to what you did to me when you woke up three months ago.”

Killian stopped. Neal looked between the two and didn’t know how to help either.

“I’ll support you, Mom.” There were things he could do and things he could not. “I can’t keep what happened from you but I can promise not to pressure you into anything.” He glanced at the pirate who was listening carefully. It slowly dawned on Neal that Killian was aiming for something specific.

“I still captain the Jolly Roger, and I determine who boards her.” Killian looked over his shoulder at Milah.

“You promised to be there for me for six months, this is what that means.”

Killian simply raised a brow. “Is that what I promised? I thought it was something so much more specific.” He pulled something from his pocket, staring at it before stroking his beard with his hand. “I agree with Bae, I won’t force you to remember and I can’t force you to accept but I can’t live as if I don’t know.”

“What is it you want pirate?” Milah glared. “I can’t believe you’re…”

“There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for you, Milah.” All his attention centered on the compact in his hand. “If there was something I could get you or do to help you, whatever it is you wanted, I would. I’ll still be your support and even take your side in this but I know the truth. I gave you three hundred years, so please let me go.”

Neal studied the pirate, studied Killian and considered his words. It reminded him of Emma and everything she said when he finally remembered. That it was her turn to choose the pirate no matter what.

Killian lived three hundred years seeped in revenge and hate and darkness for the one he had loved most. A lot like Neal’s father had to get back to him. None of which got the Dark One or Captain Hook their happy ending.

“It’s not like everyone’s buying the whole marriage thing anyways,” Neal said his next thought out loud.

Milah gasped and glared pointedly at him. Killian closed his eyes and covered them with one hand.

“Seriously, Milah,” he barked out. “The whole point was Bae and he just happens to know the truth?”

“I just…”

“Release me from my promise and you get your trip.” Killian pointed at her. “You are still important to me but since you don’t want to know what really happened, you can simply imagine what could possibly mean more.”

Milah’s face darkened. “Fine,” she replied tersely.

Neal and Milah watched Killian stomp off neither saying anything till he slammed the door behind him.

“Oops?” Neal offered to his mother with a shrug.

She rolled her eyes at him.

“Because of me?”

“I didn’t want you to think badly of me.”

“My father’s the Dark One.”

“Well, did you want to have a lousy mother too?”

“She ran off with a pirate. He’s dashingly handsome, I know because he told me so himself.”

“You’re not funny.”

“I totally am.” Neal laughed. “I actually did pretty well you know. Dad’s parents were the Black Fairy and evil Peter Pan.” He tugged his mom along to the castle. “No one’s going to care and they all probably think…”

“Stop,” Milah interrupted him. “Let’s just go and get this over with.”

Neal stopped her before they entered the library. He wasn’t sure what to say, how to let her know he was on her side, that this was her family and there was room for her here. He sighed.

“I love you, Mom. And I know you don’t trust me much.” He lowered his head and shrugged away any hurt he felt.

“Bae, that’s not true…”

“It’s going to be alright.” Neal ignored whatever she wanted to say and nodded with those words. “Let’s do this.”

 


 

Emma continued to sort through the trunk that had arrived from Regina. It was the only one of three with her name on it.

She peeked into the others and smiled. The contents left a warm feeling in her chest. Emma rolled her eyes at herself but honestly it was heartwarming to know Regina was interested in putting her mark on her tower.

All this sappiness and hoping shit better be directly related to her pregnancy hormones.

From the trunk Emma removed an incredibly soft baby blanket (with an attached note that from now on baby supplies would be doubled), several nappies, some crude but effective safety pins and Henry’s old storybook. She had opened it to the last page and set it on the mantle.

The fairytale version of the last supper sat next to the one family portrait she managed to conjure.

The island was coming along but she missed the things they had acquired as a family. The photos that hung on the walls and the strange DVD collection of every Peter Pan movie ever made. She sighed and reminded herself they were just things. Unimportant compared to the very important person she missed more.

The last update to reach her was from Henry and he hadn’t much to share. Since the day had to have been difficult she hadn’t asked questions. It was frustrating not to know exactly how the talk with Milah had gone, if it had gotten any better.

Emma was still in the dark about how Killian got his memories back. She would bet on the rock trolls but did anyone share that news with her. No. If some distance from her family hadn’t originally been the goal she might allow herself to whine about it now.

Back to something she could do.

Someone had added books with really long subtitles to the trunk. Emma tossed them to the side as she shortened them in her head. History and Care of Magic Beans. Portal Jumping and what not to do.  The World at a Glance. The First Three Months. Emma examined the last title again surprised to see a magic kingdom baby book. Beneath all of it was a small wooden chest and satchel.

She opened the chest first to find a piece of parchment and nothing else.

 

Emma,

 I was going to give you my hook and ask you to hold onto it till I return but again you’ve stolen it from me.  

Bad form, love.

Please keep it safe, for while I have no plans to lose my hand again and every intention of enjoying it fully in the near future, I have had that hook for a very long time and it remains part of me. It reminds me how lucky I was you fell for a one-handed pirate with a drinking problem.

I don’t know if your magic mirror will work across realms but I will continue to keep what I prefer to think of as the first promise I ever made to you.

There's not a day will go by I won't think of you.

Henry has informed me that I also must be thinking of names for the children. His suggestions are deplorable. Even I wouldn’t name a child Rum.

I hope you and Team Research – Henry again – have some answers when we get back as my heading will be home to you and no other.

I love you,

Killian

 

She pressed a kiss to it and refolded the letter. Crossing the room, she shuffled through the unmade bed till she found his hook. Grabbing the chest she set it on the mantel between her family pictures. Emma grabbed their compass and placed it on the bottom of the chest, followed by the hook with Killian’s letter on top.

Opening the satchel she found six worn pouches and laughed when she recognized some of them. The black leather was Killian’s and the fancy gold monogrammed one Henry’s, a gift from Regina. Of the three brown leather pouches she recognized one from her parent’s tale of highway robbery and figured the one sporting a leaf design was Robin’s. That left one brown and one red she didn’t know. Emma frowned and searched for an explanation.

She assumed these were the pouches of everyone going to Storybrooke and she was supposed to add the beans. Assuming the last brown one was Neal’s, there was still the owner of the tooled red leather to discover. Emma turned the satchel upside down and shook it. No note fell out.

Emma pawed through her father’s and Killian’s before finding a note in Henry’s from Regina.

 

Emma,

Don’t ask me why but That Woman, who they’ve finally admitted isn’t his wife, is going on the cruise with them. Neal and Killian vouched for her even though she’s in permanent denial and lying because something we said hit the mark.

We were going to get her alone to interrogate, fine, question her but off she goes.

Also, you should probably know we’ve started dropping hints about you and the pirate but she ignored them even though she gave up her claim to him.  

I hope you have better news.

Regina  

PS Just put the pouches back in the satchel and then into trunk. It’ll return to me tonight.

 

Emma sighed and threw the note into the fire. She was not going to get mad or swear or anything stupid just because she had to be stuck here while everyone else went off and had a fine time back in her town.

Stuffing the pouches back into the satchel she calmly and deliberately walked down the stairs to her study.

Emma dumped the bag on the table and dug out the glass jar of magic beans. Next to it was a small potted stinging nettle plant. Regina said it would be useful. Her lips pursed as she argued with herself.

Feelings were feelings and didn’t mean that she could hurt someone because hers were currently on an erratic rollercoaster ride and she felt like it. She thought of the two letters she received before carefully cut a few leaves from the plant.

Taking it back to her work table, she put two beans in each pouch and added the leaves and a third bean to Killian’s.

Now Emma could guarantee he’d think of her tomorrow.

Chapter Text

An evening aboard the Jolly Roger was preferable to a night at the castle.

Yesterday had been bizarre. The disaster with Milah who abruptly left them to their plotting and promptly followed by an interrogation by Regina and the crocodile about how exactly his memory had been returned. They had argued for quite a while with each other and Zelena about how far the changes had spread.

When they had settled down a bit, he had mentioned the mermaid and it all started again. Snow had whacked him on the back of the head for that. None of which had driven him to spending the night aboard his ship.

Killian was dogged by guilt. This was what made being a hero so bloody hard, failing to live up to the title.

He had pushed Milah, and pushed hard, to get what he wanted. Measuring out the wrong and right of it kept his mind rowing in circles. It would only get worse. She refused to accept, refused to listen to what had happened to them. A part of him had always thought she would have hated the path he had chosen after her death but mayhap he was wrong.

If it had been him instead of her, would he have wanted her to take up arms and avenge him?

Avenge him as he had done for Liam, for her and let the darkness flood the heart. The man he was now shouted no, but what about the one he had been then. He could no longer tell – did he start his crusade with a blackened heart or had it grown that way over time?

He sought the comfort of ship and sea but too many bloody questions kept him from being soothed.

By morning light, the heart of the matter was the only thing left. He was not the Killian she remembered and, perhaps, she was no longer the Milah he had tried to avenge.

The turmoil of the day was better kept to himself and he had concentrated on all the positive aspects when he had written his missive to Emma. Detailing yesterday’s disaster wasn’t going to make sailing away from her easier or feel any better.

Sadly, neither was not telling Emma of Milah’s plans to join them.

Killian was ready to bang his head against something hard. It was as if he wasn’t capable of making a good decision to save his life.

“Ahoy Captain!”

Killian shot a squinty eyed glare at the chipper king but David just smiled back and waited for permission to come aboard. He smirked and crossed his arms while leaning back on the mast, saying nothing. David made a circling motion with his hand and Killian responded with a confused face. Well worth it when the chipper man’s smile fell into a frown.

“Children, stop playing around.” Robin ambled down the dock and clapped a hand on David’s shoulder. “Ahoy Captain, permission to come aboard.”

“Permission granted!” Killian grinned at David as his eyebrows shot up. He clasped arms with the thief before taking a punch on the shoulder from the king. “I couldn’t resist. You were so bloody chipper.”

David glared in return. “Regina’s coming with Henry and the beans.” He stopped glaring when he noticed the dark circles under Killian’s eyes. “You ready for this?”

“Is anyone ever really ready for the whims of fate?” Killian moved off to side and started adjusting the ships lines. “At least we aren’t being sucked into a portal against our will.”

“I’m worried about what we’ll find.” David’s head waggled from side to side. “Or not find.”

“I’m sure the farm is okay, Dave.” Killian sent another smirk the king’s way.

Robin coughed to cover his laugh. “Has much changed?”

The two men filled the thief in on the minor and major changes around the town. The three men were laughing at a story about the dwarves when Neal’s voice hailed the ship.

“Ahoy.” He said from one side of the gang plank. Milah stood beside him frowning.

Killian’s smile faltered. “Welcome aboard.” He offered his hand out to Milah to help her down. She took it but kept frowning. “Charming, did you managed to talk to Granny about accommodations?”

“Yeah, I mean she won’t be there but everything should be in order to use the bed and breakfast, without the breakfast.” David turned anxious again. “I do have to spend some time out by the farm. Snow has a list.”

“The rest of us will be at this Granny’s place?” Milah asked the question and was met by more uneasy silence.

“Well, Grandmother,” Henry said from behind them. “Some of us have homes to check on but Granny’s is the heart of the town.” He stood next to Regina at the top of the gangplank and glanced at Killian.

Nodding at the lad, Killian offered a hand to Regina who regally descended to the deck.

Regina looked them over with an unimpressed air. “Okay, Team Expedition let’s get this over with.” She shifted through the satchel on her shoulder. “Magic beans are possibly the easiest magic portals to use. Throw the bean, think of where you wish to go, and jump in. Or sail in.”

“We know that Regina.” Killian sighed.

“One-handed wonders should shut up.” Regina received a look from her son and rolled her eyes. “This isn’t for you, Captain. Each of you will get two beans to carry on you in case of emergency. One which you get to keep if you return without issues, one which you will have to give back.”

She passed the satchel to David. “You have a supply list and two weeks. At that point, none of us will be able to hold the Savior back from coming after you.”

Killian shot a smirk at Henry who smiled in return.

Emma had never been on team research and preferred action over waiting. The thought clarified the brief explanation he’d been given about the island where she had apparently built a fortress. She waited the only way she knew how, conquering the new world she found herself in and shaping it to suit her.

Out of the corner of his eye, Killian noticed the bewildered look on Milah’s face covered up by another frown. How was he supposed to prepare the woman he once loved for the facts of his new love when she wouldn’t listen. He watched Neal face palm at catching the same expression.

Enough was enough. Killian wouldn’t and couldn’t force her to remember but he could no longer honor her wish to know nothing at all.

Killian waited patiently for Regina to say goodbye to her son and her thief in exchange for their promises to stay safe before she turned to him.

“Do you need my promise as well?” His question pushed the worry from her eyes to replace it with irritation.

“No.” Regina slid a side glance at Milah. “Take care of our son.” Her brow lifted at the grin on his face before she disappeared in a cloud of purple smoke.

David shifted through the satchel and tossed the few pouches to the proper person, holding out others for the owner to take.

“I’m not sure where they put the extra bean.” He opened his own and found only two beans and looked over to Killian who wore a little smirk. “Well then?”

Killian laughed and reached into his black leather pouch. Something stung his hand and he dropped the pouch. “Bloody hell.” David, Robin and Henry came over to check out the fallen pouch.

“I think those are stinging nettle leaves,” Henry said and looked up at Killian. “What did you do?”

“Nothing.” Killian examined his injured hand and glanced around to find three dubious faces staring at him.

“You gave Regina a letter to send Mom.” Henry leaned down to examine the leaves and handling the beans carefully. He handed the pouch back to Killian.

“Yes.”

“And you told her about the trip and all of the passengers?” David said it quietly and shot a look over his shoulder.

“Ah, no.”

They all groaned at the pirate.

“It wasn’t quite an easy explanation or appropriate in a, well....”

“I’m out,” Henry mumbled not wanting to know any more as David and Robin snickered at the pirate. He turned to his father and grandmother. “We found the bean, you guys ready to go?”

Killian pulled out the beans, his tender hand stung again before pocketing them. He threw the pouch over his shoulder into the water.

“Let’s go lads!” Killian took the wheel and shouted orders for Henry and Neal. David and Robin stood beside him on the quarterdeck. “Ready for another adventure your highness.”

David laughed and watched Neal and his grandson tying off lines. “Better find a spot and hold on.” He nodded at Milah standing on the port side. “You too, ma’am.”

Holding the wheel steady, Killian waited for David to secure himself and Henry. He tossed a bean into the air and caught it. He checked on his crew one last time and once the thief wrapped a hand in the ropes, he nodded.

“To Storybrooke!” Killian shouted, throwing the bean into the waves, and spinning the wheel.

 


 

It was a delicate process.

The science of the Land without Magic was in and of itself a miracle too many took for granted. Even in the Enchanted Forest the Dark One relied on mix of science and magical means to suss out the components of Henry’s ink.  Five drops of the blackest ink trickled through a complex system of glass pipes.

Rumplestilskin held a saucer in one hand and sipped from the teacup in the other, waiting for the results and ruminating on the previous day’s debacle. He found it all terribly suspicious.

Through death and beyond, Milah had retained her narrowly focused mind. She had ignored hints about the pirate’s life and had refused to believe, clinging to the past implanted in her head. A past she had no wish to reclaim.

Thus the question remained, why?

Belle was a kinder soul and when they had discussed it, she had posited several valid reasons for Milah’s stance. Still, she, along with Regina and Zelena, had observed Milah visibly flinching at the mention of the River of Lost Souls.

Staccato puffs of air caught Rumple’s attention and he returned to the procedure. The glowing green smoke dissipated above a glass vial which caught the drops of ink. Grabbing the vial, he held it to the light to examine.

A high-pitched giggle trilled through the air of the Dark Castle.

Rumple might not know exactly how this piece fit in their puzzle but another piece pointed toward the River of Lost Souls.

Chapter Text

With a whoosh the portal closed behind them as the Jolly Roger rose up out of the ocean.

David checked on his grandson. Henry was weighted down by guilt and David wished he knew how lift it off. This wasn’t Henry’s fault even, more like one of life’s unintended consequences.

He could only counsel his grandson to do his best because sometimes that’s all anyone had. David studied him. Henry stood with a determined look that rivaled his mother’s. Either one. It made the king smile.

“Coming about!” Killian shouted from the wheel and the cobbled together crew of Henry, Neal and Milah moved, releasing some lines, and securing others.

David’s trip to Neverland had made him more familiar with the ship but he hadn’t spent as much time as the others sailing it. Whatever they did, the Jolly Roger shifted beneath his feet, its course set for Storybrooke.

“We made it.” The words escaped Robin with a quiet relief and David smirked at him.

“How could you possibly doubt me?” Killian stood steady at the wheel and handed over his spyglass to David.

Extending it, he scanned the town in the distance and saw nothing unusual. He shook his head and checked again. “There’s no movement, no people that I can see.”

“I hope the same can be said for the town line.” Killian raised a brow. “From inside the barrier, it appears the town’s protected from the outside world.”

David scanned the horizon behind them, hoping the pirate was right. It wasn’t hard to imagine how Storybrooke would appear to the outside world. He thought through their plan. Secure downtown, set up “camp” at Granny’s and gather supplies. Next came examining the town line. Robin had a number of tests concocted by Regina to run.

As the Jolly Roger was the fastest ships in all the realms, it took no time for them to dock in its regular berth. Once the ship was secured, they gathered up their things. David took a deep breath, he wasn’t the captain of the ship but he was in charge of this part. Before he could speak Killian nudged his shoulder from behind.

“Can you get the town secured without me,” Killian asked and nodded at the lower deck. “And without Milah?”

David’s head tilted to one side. Things would be easier with Killian’s help but he wasn’t one to ask for favors often. His hesitation prompted the pirate to explain further.

“We have to talk.” Killian sighed and looked out to sea. “She can disbelief whatever she chooses but I have to tell her my story.”

David couldn’t deny his son-in-law’s earnest request. He went down to the main deck and handed out assignments.

“Henry, you’re with Robin. No buts. You two can start on the outer edge of town and work your way in. Neal can start at the pawnshop. I’ll head to Granny’s.” David felt for his pouch of beans and made sure his sword was secure. “Keep your beans on you at all times. If you run into any problems, people or magic or otherwise, let it chase you to Granny’s.”

“I’ll go with…” Milah interrupted him.

David stopped her abruptly. “Killian needs you here. Once done you both can meet us at Granny’s.” He nodded at Killian. “Then we’ll check out the town line, together.”

David didn’t wait but quickly strode off the ship, hoping the others would follow his lead. At the end of the docks, he managed to see that the others followed behind. He was one step away from heading out when Neal’s hand on his arm stopped him.

“What’s going on?” Neal’s question came out abrupt if quietly with a glance over his shoulder at the ship. “Why the change of plans?”

David grimaced and found that Robin and Henry were confused as well. “Make it look like we’re talking about something else.”

Neil pointed off to the east and Robin shook his head in answer while David explained.

“He’s going to tell her his story. No, no don’t go back there.”

“Killian won’t make her remember but he needs to tell her his story. And don’t ask me why.” David shot a quick look over his shoulder and shrugged. “He doesn’t ask for favors really.”

An awkward silence engulfed the group.

“She really doesn’t like Emma,” Neal whispered while he pointed a different direction.

Henry shook his head at his father and pointed in another direction entirely. “She doesn’t have to but she needs to understand him, Hook.” He shrugged. “Killian.”

Robin looked off into the distance contemplatively. “It is a strange and hard predicament having two loves alive at the same time.”

Henry rolled his eyes at Robin’s hundredth time using that response.

“Gentlemen, we have work to do.” David smiled at Henry. “Stay safe and I’ll see you at Granny’s.”

“I hope the bar’s well stocked,” Robin said and tipped his head in goodbye.

Shouts from the ship made them all wince.

“I just hope the rum isn’t gone.” David ignored it. “We’re going to need it.”

 


 

 

Milah dumped her bag onto the deck and glared at Killian.

“This is your doing, isn’t it?”

Killian looked at her from beneath furrowed brows. He had no intention of denying the accusation and hoped this wouldn’t completely blow up in his face. Although maybe that was exactly what was needed to work it all out. He shrugged carelessly, leaning back against the port rail and examining his fingernails.

“Yes. I require an audience with your glorious self.”

Milah sputtered. “You can go…”

“Now, now. No need to be rude.” He interrupted her and proceeded to annoy the hell out of her. “Time to talk about your attitude when you can’t hide behind your son.”

“Well, aren’t you one with the demands.” She stomped across the deck and away from him, her voice rising in volume as she continued. “I don’t give a rat’s arse about what you want. You came back to the Enchanted Forest with me. You promised to help me but now, you’re one of them. Every time I turn around you’re with the royals and the second I needed you, you were gone chasing after some spoiled blond.” She took a great gulping breath.

“This…”

Milah interrupted him, drilling a finger into his chest. “Don’t even try to tell me this has nothing to do with the princess.”

He pushed her hand away from his chest and stood tall. “Oh I won’t darling, it’s certainly about her but honestly, it’s about something you detest even more.”

“Really? What exactly do I detest even more?” Milah threw her hands out and sneered at him in a sickly-sweet voice. “The truth? Happy endings? Hope? What is it Killian?”— she shouted – “What do I detest even more?”

“Anything that isn’t about you!” He shouted back.

It shocked her, causing her to release a scream in anger. Her reply, a hoarse utter from behind clenched teeth. “That is not true.”

“You’re right. It’s not or maybe, it wasn’t.” He stood in front of her, pleading. “That’s not the woman I loved or the one who said she loved me.”

“But you don’t anymore.” Milah spoke so softly he almost didn’t hear her. She backed away and eased down to sit on the deck.

Killian closed his eyes and rubbed a hand against his chin. He leaned back on the rail and tried to figure out how to help her and himself.

“I did love you. I remember it well.” He shrugged and smiled sadly when she looked up at him. “And I remember what happened when I lost you.”

“That’s not…”

“You don’t have to believe me.” He crouched down in front of her. “You just have to listen and understand that this is what makes me the man I am today. The man I always wanted to be, because of Liam. Because of you.” He took a deep breath. “The man I still want to be, because of Emma, and the entire crazy lot of them, that bloody family I finally found after hundreds of years alone in the dark.”

Killian watched the tear stream down her face but Milah nodded and so he began the tale.

“Once upon a time…”

 


 

Emma escaped into the garden.

Her study was a wreck, papers tacked to the wall with whatever she could find and books piled in around the room instead of neatly on the shelves. The research she was doing would make her an expert in the dark curse and all true love lore.

Everything was about origins, intentions and connections.

The thought buzzed through her mind before she could stop it. For now, she wanted to stop thinking of curses and kisses. Later Emma would welcome her mother, Regina, Zelena and Rumple and together they would review everything they’d found. That would be the time to unspool everything she had twisting inside her mind.

Now she wanted to walk in the garden and chill the fuck out.

Emma studied the sun in the sky. Team Expedition would have already met and left. Her husband and son were now worlds away and she worried. Plopping down in the field of middlemist she sighed.

It was stupid. Henry was clever and quick; Killian was a survivor and David was with them as was Robin and Neal.

Emma snorted. As was Milah.

Annoyed was easier to be than worried. Fine, so she wasn’t used to be the one left behind. The person stuck paging through books and it was just one more thing in this realm making her feel like Princess Emma and not the Savior.

Enough of this shit.

Plucking one flower she stood and threw the budding bloom into the air. Extending her arm, a stream of smoke slipped down her forearm and into her hand, extending into a sword. She moved fluidly, her sword whistling through the air and slashing through the falling bloom, raining petals down onto the ground.

“I still got it.” Emma turned away doing her father’s customary twirl. “Now let see what else I can do before I get that chocolate milkshake we want.”

Chapter Text

Milah followed Killian through the town.

She kicked a stone out of her path. The roads were as strange as the buildings and the docks and just about everything else. Giant poles extending up in the sky and were connected by lines. Her desire for an explanation almost got her to break the silence.

Although according to the story he told, he didn’t have all the answers. Once again she was thinking about things she’d rather not know.

Milah wanted to point to all the ways she could prove his tale false, the pieces that made no sense. Her Killian would never hurt a woman, never and certainly not one as harmless as Belle. He wouldn’t have killed a man in cold blood to hide his crimes and any amicable relations, let alone friendship, with royalty was simply impossible.

She let out a short grunt as she stubbed a toe on another rock. Before she could kick it, Killian called out. This must be Granny’s. The king and Robin sat outside in a fenced courtyard at a wrought iron table. They saluted Killian with their drinks.

“Neal and Henry are checking out the freezer.” David caught her confusion. “Food storage. Henry really wants to bring some onion rings back for his mom.”

Milah nodded, ignoring Killian’s wince and walked inside. She listened to a muffled conversation between Henry and Bae and trailed a hand over the strange stools which moved beneath her touch.

Queasiness started twisting in her belly. This place felt familiar, the whole damn town did even as she found it strange and new. Perhaps she should have let Killian finish his story but she had stopped him after he had poisoned Rumple with dreamshade.

She sat at one of the stools, twisting back and forth before leaning back against the bar and closing her eyes. It wouldn’t matter if she aired every objection. It wouldn’t matter if she accepted it and rebuilt her understanding of the world. Flashes of a glowing river filled with despair, of this town under a clouded red sky plagued her and none of it mattered. None of it diminished the anger inside her.

The anger kept twisting, growing stronger each instant it rose. Didn’t matter what chased it back down deep insider her, nothing soothed it for long.

It had been a tiny speck that first morning she woke in a cold bed beside her lover. There had been happiness to see him but something was missing in his eyes, in his heart and in her heart as well. That tiny speck had unfurled insider her despite every step she took forward – reuniting with her son, making peace with Rumple, a future full of possibilities – it just grew bigger.

Was it the cost of her redemption? To be held hostage by a growing anger that wanted to destroy the world around her.

Milah turned on the stool and her image sneered back at her. Unable to look away, she lashed out with her hand knocking everything on the counter in front of her to the ground with a loud crash.

 


 

 

Snow was not happy when she tracked down her daughter on this isolated pile of rock.

Emma was dressed in her breeches and boots with black gloves wielding her sword, fencing with an invisible opponent. Snow’s eyes narrowed as Emma stumbled a bit before slashing through the air. She grunted and groaned with each swing.

Snow simply watched and wondered who she imagined fighting.

Years spent alone had made her daughter tough and the years spent with family had opened her heart. Snow was so proud of her. Now if only Emma would be as careful as Snow wished her to be.

Not that she planned to say that to her. Her baby girl was an adult and would make her own decisions, plus Snow remembered how she felt about similar requests when carrying Emma. She would trust her daughter and rein herself in so not to smother her.

“Hey, Mom.” Emma turned and wiped a sleeve across her forehead. “I was just…” She used her free hand to gesture to the open space beyond her. “Um.”

“You’re were practicing.” Snow held out a hand for the sword and grasped the hilt. “I know that you aren’t at the point where you have to stop doing things.”

She made sure to step away from Emma before copying her husband’s twirl and adjusting her stance into a fighting position, extending the sword out.

“I get it. I do. I remember.” Snow shuffled a few steps forward. “In fact, I kind of want to do it again myself.”

Snow lowered the sword and let the tip rest on the ground. Emma was just so good, so good at saying what was right and working through her own feeling till she believed what she said. Snow felt like an idiot and not much of a mother, unaware that her daughter had felt lost and alone. Turning around just enough to look at her, she waited.

Emma was smiling when she took her sword back. “You know what I’ve been thinking?” She extended it and slowly white smoked slide up the sword and into her hand till it was gone. “Fairy tales suck.”

“Really?”

“Think about it. I know everyone’s finding their true love or whatever but the number of abandoned or orphaned kids is high. And if you aren’t missing your entire family, at least one parent is dead and the other is worthless.”

“My father was…”

“Willing to marry someone, so they could take care of you but ignored them and doted on you when he was there. Which was rarely.”

“Fair point. He was wonderful, to me, when he was there.”

“See!” Emma pulled Snow’s arm through hers as they walked together. “And some people have such a hard time having kids or some evil imp wants to take their kids. I can only conclude that the fairy tale world is just dangerous, for kids.”

“Your point?”

“I’m not there yet.” When the two reached the portico, Emma turned so they took the long way around to her tower. “Most fairy tales only have one kid. I mean there’s Hansel and Gretel.”

“The old women and the shoe.”

“That’s a nursey rhyme.”

“Still counts,” Snow replied.

“Maybe.” Emma leaned her head on her mother’s shoulder. “But the ones we know, the stories we’re a part of, one kid.”

“Well, I have two.”

“That’s what I’m saying. You should have more if that’s what you want.” Emma hummed a bit even as tears pooled in her eyes. “Damn hormones. It seems pessimistic to say it but if our family get bigger, and not just with you know, babies we birth ourselves, then no one will be left alone.”

“True. And we’d have an army coming to find anyone who’s lost.” Snow turned her head and pressed a kiss to Emma’s hair. “We need to make sure to teach them to share.”

“Do you think the whole evil twin thing is a real?” Emma sighed. “Like could I have a David/James situation here?”

“Nah, you and Killian should be able to manage it.” Snow nudged Emma with her hip. “I bet you anything Killian will be wrapped around their little fingers.”

“Like I’d take that sucker bet.”

Emma and Snow made it to the door when it swung open. Regina stood there glaring at them with Neal in her arms. “What took you so long?”

“Nothing,” they replied at the same time.

Emma grinned and threw her mother to the wolves, or the Evil Queen. “Mom’s thinking of having another baby.”

“Really, Emma.” Snow watched as Regina’s expression turned sad. “I haven’t even talked to your father yet and well, do we really need more kids and…” She shot a look at Emma for help.

Regina’s voice cut in, her tone light, nonchalant and at odds with the sadness in her eyes. “Well, I for one won’t be popping out a kid.”

Snow watched as Emma matched Regina’s nonchalant attitude and breezed right by her into the tower. “You’ll just have to do what you do best.”

“And what’s that?” Regina replied sourly.

Emma’s response came from the inside of the tower. “Adopt an orphan and give them what every abandoned child wants, home and family.”

Snow watched the light dawn in Regina’s eyes and a small smile crook her lips before informing her stepmom and friend. “I would love some siblings, I mean besides my grandson.”

Regina rolled her eyes and thrust Neal into his mother’s arms. “Let’s get this done.”

 


 

 

Neal and Henry rushed in from the kitchen after hearing the crash of metal and glass.

Milah stood and looked out the front windows to see if Robin, Killian and David had also heard. Only Killian looked in her direction and Neal waved him off.

“Henry, why don’t you go see if they’re ready to go yet?” Neal nodded at his son and waited, listening to the bells as the door opened and closed. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” She sat stiffly on the stool. “It was an accident.”

“Sure.” He looked across the counter and raised a brow at her. “We’ll go with that. Are you okay, after…”

“Does everyone know what Killian and I talked about?”

“David told us he wanted to talk. If you want to we can talk about it.”

“I have nothing to say.” Milah stared out the window, watching Killian interact with her grandson. They were all so close. Bae was saying something to her but it was just noise to her.

“Mom!”

“I’m sorry.” She reached out a hand to him. “I’m sorry. It hard to concentrate here. Everything’s so strange.”

“I know.” Bae offered her an arm and escorted her outside.

“We’ve cleared the town and the supply list is long.” Henry tapped a scroll against one hand. “You guys can check out the town line and I take care of a few things on the list.”

“Kid, I don’t think your moms would like us splitting up.” Bae squeezed Henry’s shoulder.

“But they aren’t here and what they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

“The problem my boy, is what could hurt you.” Killian reminded him with a grin. “And how they’ll hurt us when they find out.”

“Killian, come on, please.”

Robin rubbed the back of his head. “It would help if your mothers weren’t the scariest, most powerful women in the realms.”

“I could stay close?” Milah offered. “I mean I can hold down the fort here, and Henry can run his errands?” She didn’t think the four men would turn down an opportunity to converse without her around. With nods and looks and barely made gestures the men came to an agreement.

The king tossed something at Henry which made him smile. “Stop by the station, Grandpa?”

“Briefly.” David took a similar device, flicking buttons and turning nobs. “Milah, you can run command from here. Anything comes up, contact us with these. Click this button twice if something comes up on your end and we’ll know to come back.”

He showed her the button to press and it made a click which echoed on the one in Henry’s hand and another attached to David’s belt.

“We’re off to the town line.”

David and Robin started down the street. Killian turned toward Milah but she turned her back on him.

Bae put a hand on her shoulder and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “We’ll be quick, okay.”

She nodded and made herself comfortable at the table. Henry settled across from her as Bae and Killian went off as well.

“Grandmother.”

“Not you too.” Milah rolled her eyes. “Why does everyone in this family want to talk?”

“Because keeping things to ourselves really makes everything worse, or harder.” He stood back up, opened his mouth to say something then shook his head. “I’m off.”

Milah waited till the road in front of her was empty then went on her own tour of Storybrooke.

Chapter Text

Three of the most powerful and knowledgeable magic wielders in the Enchanted Forest lounged around Emma’s living room.

Emma wished for a camera or phone to capture the moment. The Dark One, the Wicked Witch and the Evil Queen having tea with three small children playing on the rug in front of them.

Thankfully, Snow was in charge of the meeting.

“I’m surprised Belle didn’t come,” Emma said, watching Gideon and Green Pea tug a stuffed bear back and forth.

Gold conjured a similar bear and presented it to Gideon to cuddle it.

“I was surprised as well when she sent us off with a fond fare thee well.” He shrugged and sat back in his chair. “Either way, here we are, dearies. I hope you all have some answers.”

Regina snorted. “No offense but we just keep coming up with more questions than answers.”

“Sister dearest, you need to remain positive or hopeful as you lot say.” Zelena brushed a lock of hair behind her shoulder. “I, for one, figured that would be the case.”

Emma shrugged. “Most investigations work that way.”

“Let’s get this over with then.” Snow called for everyone’s attention. “Rumplestilskin you first, I get the feeling the ink results are simpler if a more difficult undertaking.”

“Your appreciation for my genius is accepted.” Gold giggled and with a roll of his hand a stoppered glass bottle of ink was in his hand. “I tested the remaining ink in the bottle and pulled a few drops of ink from the notebook as well. The results were the same.”

“Get on with it, o annoying one.” Zelena and Gold glared at each other, a tug-o-war similar to their kids.

“This ink isn’t from our world.” He studied the bottle. “It’s from the world of the dead.”

At Gold’s news Zelena and Regina exchanged an excited look.

“I need to speak with Henry. Inquire about how he got it or if it was given to him.”

“He brought the pen back from Underbrooke.” Emma added.

“But once he was back, it’s not like he was dipping the pen in ink to write in the storybook?” Snow turned to Regina. “I was asleep half the time but I remember the pen glowing and writing appearing?”

Regina shook her head in response. “Doesn’t matter. If that’s the source of the ink, it also goes with something Zelena and I caught when we spoke with Milah.” 

“Belle sensed something as well.”

“What? I didn’t notice anything.” Snow looked between the three. “I mean I know the woman was stubborn and all but I didn’t see…”

“It was a small thing, Snow.” Regina stood, pacing to the fireplace. “The barest flinch when Rumple mentioned the River of Lost Souls.”

“Looks like we need to find out if anything is going on down there.” Emma took a deep breath. “Is that even possible? I mean to communicate with them?”

“It’s possible.” Regina exchanged an unhappy look with Zelena. “In fact, Underbrooke or purgatory or the waiting room to hell is more permeable than the Land without Magic. It connects to a number of realms.”

Zelena huffed out a sigh. “They just refuse to answer our calls.”

“No response at all?” Concern leaked into the Dark One’s voice. “Wasn’t Arthur Pendragon left in charge there?”

“That’s what Killian said.” Emma wondered what was up and unsure how to fit this new piece from another puzzle into theirs.

Neal walked over to Emma and held his arms up. She cuddled him into her arms where he giggled. Zelena and Gold looked to their children playing on the floor while Snow and Regina communicated silently.

Snow stood and picked up her son from Emma. “So Underbrooke goes to the top of our list for places of origin. Emma, your turn. What have you learned about curses and true love’s kiss?”

 


 

 

Milah wandered more than searched the streets of Storybrooke.

The ghost town was eerie in its pristineness. Nothing was out of place or carelessly left when the townspeople had been swept back to the Enchanted Forest. Everyone couldn’t have been home asleep in their beds but no doors were ajar or windows open.

She stopped on a corner of a crossroads. Down one was a school in the distance and walking between the two thick white lines to get to the other side caused a shiver to trickle down her spine. Her mouth firmed. It meant nothing even if this place made her want to scream and run away. Closing her eyes, she turned so the wind blew across her face.

A muffled hum in the air drew her down one avenue. Milah wasn’t sure she should follow it, whether the sudden urge was in the air or her own head. Instead she put the anger in charge. Let it fill her with disgust at this pretty little town and the pretty little life all these fools must have lived and brought back with them to the Enchanted Forest. As if life was simple and easy and good.

The breeze that cooled her wasn’t powerful enough to cut through the heat of the anger and hate burning inside her.

Something had to be done and between her next breaths Milah stood next to a house, a large rock in her hand ready to throw it through a pretty little window with lace curtains. Pulling her arm back to throw, the heft of the rock brought interrupted her thoughts. She pushed her anger down, panting as she dropped the rock.

This time she answered the tug. The hum in the air pulled her down roads till she came to a white fence around a blue gray house.

The gate opened easily and she walked up the steps, hesitating at the door. The mat under her feet read The Jones’ in fancy script. Milah kicked it away and turned to leave but the pull wanted her to go inside. The urge kept her anger in check so she followed it.

Milah spun back and quickly turned the knob.

 


 

 

Emma looked down at her hands. The question was where to start and she thought she might as well go with her biggest revelation.

“Here’s the thing, breaking a curse, any curse isn’t done by any old true love.” She spoke without looking up. It seemed foolish for her to be the expert here but if there was something she missed Regina, Zelena and Gold would know.

“The intentions of the caster is a thing and not just anyone’s true love can end just any curse. Take Jasmine and Aladdin, Jafar cursed the kingdom that hated him and left him isolated. Jasmine and Aladdin broke the curse when Jasmine stopped isolating herself, stopped hating herself.” Emma looked up to see if she was making any sense.

Their attention was still on her. Gold did a rolling, carry on gesture.

“That’s the connection part. There’s always a connection between caster and breaker, breakers? It’s not always a direct one, there’s some wiggle room.”

“And,” Regina said encouragingly.

Emma took another breath and paced around the room. “So, another important thing is the origin of the spell itself.”

“The Black Fairy built the dark curse to protect a child.” Gold interrupted.

“Yeah. The cursed apple was about separation, so finding one another can break it. That one’s pretty simple. The dark curse, even when cast by Regina, was all about family ties. Seeking, finding, protecting, whatever. It’s why you and Dad couldn’t break it.”

“You’ve lost me there.” Zelena crossed her eyes. “For heaven’s sake stop pacing. What about my curse? Well, not exactly my curse.”

Snow interjected. “My curse to get to my daughter.”

“And Regina broke it reuniting with her son. Again, a family love bond.” Emma stopped pacing but swayed with pent up energy.

“Go back to how Snow and Charming couldn’t break it the first time. With their memories lost when was that an option?”

“The pixie petal magic.” Snow frowned. “When we woke up, we almost went to get Emma instead we stayed.”

“You are not going to try and tell me you and Dad shook hands hello when you both woke up.” Emma said with mild disgust.

Gold giggled that high-pitched sound cutting through the room. “It’s why after sacrificing yourself to Gideon, Henry woke you up, but the pirate wouldn’t have been able.”

“Okay, then we need to figure out the origin and the intent of the original spell before you and Guyliner lock lips.” Regina smiled slowly. “That was actually helpful.”

“Gee, thanks Regina. I can detail all the evidence if you want.” Emma added. “But we need to keep in mind how much can be done, undone? With a kiss. During the first curse, when I kissed Henry – it broke the sleeping curse and the part of the dark curse that made everyone miserable and took away their memories. But just deciding to stay in Storybrooke fixed the time freeze.”

“Nothing sent us back to the Enchanted Forest,” Snow finished.

“Yeah. And killing the Black Fairy returned memories and brought you all back that time, not a kiss.” Emma shrugged. “According to everything I found true love’s kiss can only do so much.”

“An impressive job on research, Miss Swan.” Gold steepled his fingers, still spinning the information over in his head.

“Thanks professor.”

Snow stood, holding her son in her arms and smiling over at her daughter. “I think this is progress. I mean, we still have a lot to do but we’re closer.”

“Still, no getting freaky with your pirate Emma.”

“And to round it all out, thanks Zelena.”

Zelena smiled happily. “You’re welcome.”

Snow rolled her eyes. “Emma, I think you can switch to researching the underworld while the you three figure out a way to get there…”

“No,” Emma said bluntly, a cold chill making her rub her hands up and down her arms to warm up. “None of us are going back there. Communicate with them yes, traveling is a last resort.”

“Emma?” Regina moved to her side and put a hand on her shoulder. “What is it?”

“Side project of mine – geography research. I wasn’t looking for anything on purpose and to be honest, you already know don’t you Gold.”

“Yes,” he answered quietly. “Since our trip there.”

“Any trip to the land of the dead by the living, even if it’s just inside the door come with a cost. We paid some by helping people move on then the rest with Milah, James and Gaston’s plunge into the river.”

“In or out is paid by the removal of souls from purgatory. One way or another.” Gold crouched to play with his son. “Though the river isn’t quite the final exit we thought it was.”

Regina put her arm around Emma in a half hug before pushing Emma over to her mother’s arms. Zelena watched her daughter play with the Dark One and his son.

“What does that mean for a soul pulled from the river to the land of the living?” Zelena looked at her sister. “What do they have to pay?”

 


 

 

Without looking, Milah walked in a trance to a door set below the stairs and turned the handle.

It wouldn’t open. Halting her progress cleared her head and placed her back in control. She took deep, steady breaths and noted the details she missed like the latch set high on the door. When she reached for it she ended up facing the pictures on the wall.

Her hand trembled as it reached out to touch the life like renderings that marched up the stairs. Milah stepped closer and followed the pictures to the next room. She went from one to the other, her nose pressing against the glass. Smiles and hugs and happiness shining out from so many images. Killian and the king, Snow White and her children, Henry and Emma, Regina, Snow, Zelena and Emma, the smaller children in high chairs around a table, Belle and even one of Rumple. But one after another and another, pictures of Emma and Killian, Killian and Emma.

It rose up inside her so quickly and smothering every thought. Filling her with hate and the room with the sound of breaking glass as she threw one picture after another around the room.

Milah didn’t hear it, didn’t feel anything except the anger as she grabbed the next picture. A woman’s back was all Milah could see but it was obviously Emma secure in Killian’s arms looking up at him. The love, the happiness blindingly clear on the pirate’s face, shining in his eyes.

“Grandmother?”

Milah felt sick but this time she didn’t even have to push, the anger hid itself away with a satisfied smirk at the destruction around her.

“Oh god, I didn’t mean…” She slipped slowly to her knees among the broken glass.

Chapter Text

Henry crouched down, pulling the frame from Milah’s hand. Sending an SOS to Grandpa would be overkill and seeing her sobbing and distraught amid the mess broke his heart.

When the Jolly Roger had been spotted on its way to Misthaven Henry hadn’t thought much about the grandmother he never knew.

At the time he was anxious about the return of Killian. Then, when she let him call her grandmother, even though she obviously hated it and it was pretty formal for the woman who ran away with a pirate but perfect for keeping him at arm’s length.

Again, he didn’t feel a need to fix the distance between them and neither had she. Milah thought only of her son and sometimes Killian.

Avoiding the broken glass, Henry grabbed a dishtowel from the kitchen and a broom. His grandmother stood quickly, bewildered by the damage she had done. Henry recognized the look in her eyes and took her by the hand to lead her to the couch before she could make a run for it.

Henry held out the towel. “Here.” She took it but didn’t use it. He pulled it from her hands and held her face as he wiped the tears away. “I don’t know what to do for you, but I don’t think you really want my dad or Killian right now.”

A no squeaked out. She pulled away and she used the towel herself. “I don’t know what to do, boy. It’s all mixed up inside.”

“Do you really hate my mom that much?”

The question shocked Milah and stopped the crying.

“Every time someone asks it’s dislike, not hate. I don’t hate.” She shrugged. “I just, every time I saw her or people talked about her, this thing inside me would get bigger.”

“What thing?”

She gestured to the room around them. “I didn’t do that because I hate her.”

Henry persisted, ignoring the mess. “What thing?”

“The anger,” she whispered. Milah leaned down and picked a piece of broken glass from the floor. She pushed it gently against the tip of her thumb, drawing out a drop of blood. “It’s been there since I woke up.”

“Do you still love Killian?”

“Good lord no, and…I suppose, yes.” She closed her eyes.

“Well that’s makes perfect sense.”

She threw her head back, releasing a quick barking kind of laugh. Henry finally met his grandmother, the woman from the storybook, from the sketches.

“Don’t disrespect your grandmother.”

“You aren’t, not really, not yet. It never suited you anyways, plus I’m a smart kid I know you’re stalling.” Henry took the towel and pressed it to the cut in her thumb. “No and yes?”

“It’s not what you think, it’s not the kind of love a woman leaves her husband and child and runs off with a younger pirate.” Her eyes caught on something on the floor. “I was in love with him once but when I woke up, it was gone, changed to something less I suppose. We both pretended for a bit.”

“Not over a man then.” He switched subjects. “The anger?”

Milah shook her head at him, unwilling to say anything further.

Henry thought quickly and chose puppy dog eyes to go with his question. “Don’t you want to be a part of my family?”

An automatic yes seemed about to escape her. She frowned at him. “You’ve spent too much time with Killian, haven’t you? As if the pictures weren’t enough, now I can’t deny it.”

“Deny what?”

She let out a long sigh and her fingers tightened on the glass shard. “His story, he’s the husband your mom is missing. The step-father you miss.”

Henry pulled it from her hand and tossed it on the floor.

“He didn’t finish telling me but everything’s a little clearer and I’m finally adding it all up.”

“Clearer?” He raised an eyebrow at her.

Milah hesitated, concentrated on herself. “Yeah, I...” She looked surprised. “It’s quiet inside. This whole bloody mess is annoying and weird but the anger isn’t overwhelming me right now.”

Henry didn’t think it was necessarily a good sign. “So what happens if I mentioned Emma?”

She glared at him. “It’s not gone, boy.”

“But Killian’s still your friend, your family?”

“Except now he seems to belong to everyone.” She froze at the bitterness lacing her words. “Well that’s not the monstrous thing that wishes to bite your mother’s face off. But it is me, my feelings.”

“Huh. Good news and bad news.” Henry sighed and looked at the mess around him. “Why don’t we get this cleaned up and then head back to Granny’s?”

“That’s it?”

“You’ve already heard this but once more can’t hurt.” Henry picked up the photos from the floor. “It’s your choice – to be a part of this family, to believe us when we say we’re here for you.” The photo in his hands was of Killian and him on the Jolly Roger. “Here’s the thing. Whatever happened four months ago was powerful enough to bring back the dead. So, maybe it’s not just your anger you’re carrying.”

“I think I’m remembering things, too.” Milah handed him photos rescued from the floor.

“Sounds like something you need to share with the group.” A teasing grin flashed across his face. “I know this means being part of a family that includes Grandpa Rumple.” Henry enjoyed drawing out another laugh. “But if Killian and Dad can do it.”

“As if I’m scared of that imp.” She frowned at the couple in the photo in her hand. “I’m a mess, you know. But I could believe in second chances and I’d be an idiot to make the same mistakes again.”

“Good.” Henry smiled down at the couple then at Milah. “How about I call you Nana?”

Her reply was flat and immediate. “No.”

 


 

 

The four men stood contemplating the town line.

Keeping it clearly marked with orange spray paint had been a regular chore for the sheriff’s department. Now, a foot of desiccated cracked pavement marked the border on the road then turned to dead land a foot wide heading off into the forest.

David sighed. “I don’t think we need to run any tests.”

“Well, it’s not proof the barrier is still up,” Killian retorted.

“Guys, I’m pretty sure if the barrier was down someone would have noticed and the town would be crawling with X-file fans or agents.” Neal kicked a rock across the line and they all heard a zap when it hit the barrier.

“That’s not good,” Robin said and the other three men nodded their heads in agreement. “We still have to pour potions on the line per Regina’s instructions and watch the reactions.” He shrugged. “I wonder what it looks like from the other side.”

“Not it.” Neal and Killian hooted at the same time.

David scoffed. “No one is going across that line. There’s a spell right?”

Robin nodded and the four men went back to glaring at the town line.

Killian reached for his flask, taking a healthy swallow. There was a tickle in the back of his brain, a memory tugging at him. He looked from his flask to the dead plants then he smacked David’s arm.

“Mate, does this dead earth thing look familiar to you too?”

David squinted and the answer slowly dawned across his face. He crouched over the dead ground without touching it. “When the Evil Queen threatened the town to get her hands on Snow’s heart.”

“Water from the River of Lost Souls.” Killian growled. “I really don’t want to go back there.”

“Back where?” Neal asked.

“Underbrooke,” Robin clarified and sighed.

And so they remained quiet, four men studying the swath of dead earth.

Chapter Text

No one answered Zelena’s question.

Rumple mulled over all he knew about the price of magic and striking a balance. The peculiarity of a cloak acceptable in return for a map or the first-born child as the price for outing to a royal ball.

He had perfected finding this balance but it relied on intuition even when he managed to align it with his own plans. There was also the inherent karma of it. One of his favorite words from a far off land. Doesn’t matter what a person gains, there is always loss when magic plays a role, whether used for good or ill.

Peter Pan got one thing right, cheaters never win.

“Miss Swan, where exactly did you find your information about the underworld?”

Emma pulled away from her mother’s arms. “A book Tink found. Something like, a Mapping of the lands of the non-living or whatever. Subtitled as, and I wish I was joking, a guidebook for the living.”

“Sounds Beetlejuicy.” Regina’s offhand comment relaxed the atmosphere of the room.

 “It does, doesn’t it?” Emma shrugged and addressed Rumple again. “It might have more details on the whole living souls in the world of the dead. I kind of stopped on the first page when they said don’t go and here’s why.”

“Next time, read the entire book. Pay particular attention to movement of the dead from one area to another and from the river specifically.”

“You seem worried Rumple.” Zelena sneered at him. “You know that river isn’t the only one and they all leak through to other worlds.”

“Enough that we had a spring from the River Lethe at home.” Regina turned a speculative look on Rumple. “What if that was more a Hades problem than a natural course for the rivers?”

Snow watched the three of them with confusion. “I don’t get it.” She turned to Emma. “What am I’m not getting?”

“I don’t know, I’m not picking it up either.” Emma’s stomach gurgled loudly. “I need food.”

Snow waved her off and went back to take her seat, waiting for the three to share their thoughts.

Rumple couldn’t sit any longer and decided to meander around the savior’s tower as he thought aloud. “Traditionally a soul caught by the river endures eternal torment within its waters.”

“They can’t escape it and tragedy ensues.” Zelena pantomimed despair, placing one hand, palm out on her forehead.

“Great, you have a future in the silent movie industry.” Regina sighed. “Stop the theatrics.”

Emma grunted and tried to speak around her food. Ignoring horrified looks on Regina and Snow’s faces, she swallowed.

“Killian and Arthur were attacked by skeletons from the river.” She took another big bite from the drumstick in her hand.

Zelena studied the floor, avoiding eye contact with everyone. “Hades’ death will have changed the underworld even more than his escape did.”

Regina sat down next to her sister and nudged Zelena with her elbow. “Maybe it’s similar to how the waiting dead didn’t remember much. Henry had to write their stories for them.”

“Exactly. We thought it was a place of waiting and over time, the souls forgot …” Rumple let his words trail off to see if the two witches came to the same conclusion as himself.

Zelena frowned. “Hades again. He must have erased memories to keep souls trapped for maximum suffering. It’s what I’d do.” She rolled her eyes. “If I was still the bad type of wicked.”

“Are we really thinking that Hades used the River Lethe to make people forget and whatever he did allowed it to leak into other realms?” Snow asked the question.

Regina grimaced and answered with a slow yes and shake of her head no.

“Let’s stick with facts.” Regina held out her hand to count off what they actually knew. “One. Hades messed up the underworld. Two. Souls aren’t permanently trapped in the river. Three. Everything comes with a price. Four. We have a soul, a person, who’s back from the river, is not a skeleton and remembers a good bit of their life.”

“I got nothing.” Emma spoke around a bite of chicken. “I mean those are some facts but we’re worried about getting people’s memories back without killing off anyone who returned.”

“Which we,” Rumple said pointing to himself and then the two sisters. “Will be working on. Right now, all clues point to Underbrooke. Information is power, and we’ll need more.”

He faced Emma directly, glaring till she stopped eating. “Fact is we’ll need to know the price for each of our returnee’s.”

Emma swallowed. “Fine, I’m on it.”

“And if you just so happen across information that could explain the stick up Milah’s ass, lucky you.” Regina pursed her lips waiting for the savior to argue with her when support came from a different and surprising direction.

“Regina has made an excellent point,” Snow proclaimed.

“Fine. Whatever.” Emma turned to return to the kitchen for more food. “Just figure out what the hell is going on so I can kiss my husband.”

 


 

 

After sweeping up and collecting the pictures, no, photos the boy called them, they had gone back to Granny’s.

Henry managed to make a hot chocolate drink that was delicious if she didn’t really care for the cinnamon he sprinkled on top. When she wrinkled her nose at it, Henry had smiled and scooped off the fluffy cream and spice.

On the way back, he had insisted they stop at a store and came out with a strange little toy. Every time her anger started to overtake her, she was supposed to squeeze the little red ball. Tossing it up in the air, Milah wondered how that was going to help but then the bells on the door rang and she watched the happy band of brothers make their way into the place.

Squeezing the ball, she looked over at Henry watching with a raised brow and simply shrugged. Maybe it helped, a bit.

Bae slid into the booth next to her and stole a sip from her mug, making a face at the taste of it. “Geez, kid, not everyone likes a dash of cinnamon on their hot cocoa.”

“Glad to see I’m not alone on this.” Milah grabbed her drink back and swatted at her son. “Get your own.”

“Children, please.” Henry licked the fluffy cream from his upper lip. “What did you guys find?”

Killian waved for Henry to move over and sat beside him. “Not much really, just dead earth.” Taking a swig from his flask, he held it out to the king. “We’re lucky the first test even worked.”

“Don’t jinx us.” David grabbed it and took a small sip. “The barrier is in place, test one confirmed it. I’m surprised you didn’t see it. Robin dumped the potion and the entire thing lit up, like a dome covering the town.”

Milah wasn’t sure what to say.

I was busy having a fit, destroying pictures, no photos, of your happy life? Then my grandson and I were sweeping up glass? Congratulations on your marriage and impending fatherhood.

None of that seemed right.

“We’ll get to that in a minute.” Henry waved it off easily. “Tell us about what you found first.”

Robin pulled a chair over, first offering it to the king who remained standing with his arms crossed. “Well, lad, your mother sent a number of tests and strict instruction of when to do each test. Now we wait for the next.”

“You should have seen the scroll Henry.” Killian nudged him in the side. “When Robin rolled it out I almost expected it to scold us, like that movie with the magic and the owls.”

“I’ve never let Regina anywhere near the Harry Potter franchise.” He rolled his eyes. “I can’t bear to think of her making a howler.”

“I could hear her with every word I read,” Robin said blissfully and the others groaned. “Anyways, test two is to be run sometime around the witching hour and will tell us if it can be crossed safely, physically.”

The qualification he gave confused Milah but seemed to make sense to everyone else. She took a deep breath, being a part of this family would mean caring, taking an interest and being part of the solution, not the problem.

“Physically, you say,” she asked.

“With different curses,” David explained and frowned at Henry when the boy opened his mouth to interrupt. “As well as different situations throughout our time in Storybrooke, the town line and crossing it had consequences. In one case, it turned one of the dwarves into a tree.”

“A physical problem.” She nodded, encouraging him to continue.

“Another time, Little John was attacked by flying monkeys,” Robin contributed, shooting a glance at Killian.

Killian glared back. “Bloody bastards.”

Bae, Robin and Henry all laughed at him.

“Laugh at Killian later, he’ll be sure to give you a reason. Finish the explanation please.” Milah suggested gently.

David grinned. “The first curse, you’d lose your memory of who you were and go back to your cursed self.” His arms uncrossed and he looked down at his feet. “Not really your best self.”

“Okay. So how many tests are there? I’m pretty sure you can’t test for every possible outcome.”

David dragged another chair over and sat. “Not everything, but according to Regina’s list: Physical and mental changes, whether anyone can visually see the town, whether anything can sense the town then whether anyone can return once they leave town.”

“Just the really hard ones.” Killian took his flask off the table and put it back into his coat. “Overall, testing will take four or five days. Then there are supplies to grab.”

“And that’s it?” Milah turned to Bae. “Don’t you have to search for more clues.” She watched the four exchange glances and tip heads.  Even Henry didn’t seem to get what they weren’t saying.

“Just tell us what you found,” he demanded hotly.

“We did, lad.” Killian shrugged and looked down at the table, tapping his fingers along the edge. “Dead earth.”

“Nice try, but you’re doing that thing we do so we don’t lie to Mom.” Henry sneered at him. “Be more specific.”

David answered while Henry and Killian glared at each other. “It’s looks like it came in contact with water from the River of Lost Souls.”

Bae sank back into the booth letting his head fall back with a sigh. “Looks like the undead are a big chunk of the problem.” He rubbed his hands over his face and turned to Milah. “Did you pick out a room or anything?”

She squirmed uncomfortably and shook her head no then shot a glance at Henry. The boy pushed at Killian till he moved out of the booth.

“Dad, let’s do that.” He turned to Robin and the king. “You can help and Killian, you can sit back down.”

With a bewildered look the pirate sat back down while Robin merrily followed Henry’s instructions and David grumbled.

 


 

 

Zelena picked her Sweet Pea up and cuddled her close.

Speaking of Hades reminded her that no one had truly loved her until her daughter. Of course, Sweet Pea took after her father and merrily loved everyone. Zelena felt lighter having someone to accept the love she had to give.

The mistake of her mother would not be hers, or her sister’s.

“What now then?” She asked a petulantly. Zelena wished to go home to her sister’s castle. “We have reports from a few other realms about spells and incantations going awry. A lot of newbie magicians thinking they were all powerful when it’s likely our ‘origin’ spell super charged them.”

“Contacting Arthur is priority number one.” Rumple looked out over the sea. “With that and whatever the Storybrooke expedition learns we should have enough answers to take action.”

Snow clapped her hands together. “Great. You three can work on contacting Underbrooke or Arthur. Emma will get information on the Lands of the Dead and the River of Lost Souls.”

“And pray tell what will you be doing?” Regina glared at the Queen.

“Planning your wedding.” Snow glanced over at Zelena. “I trust I can count on your help with that.”

Zelena ignored the heat of her cheeks to look sly and wicked. “Nothing I would love more.”

Chapter Text

Killian tapped his fingers against the table top.

Henry’s mothers were the most powerful women he had ever met but neither was as scary as Henry when he was up to something. He placed his back to the wall and swung a leg up on the bench of the booth.

Pulling his flask out, he yanked the cork out with his teeth. He offered it to Milah. She glanced at it fleetingly and shook her head as her eyes wandered around the room.

Killian saluted her and took a sip. “Not eager to pick out your forest or square view at Granny’s?”

“I don’t know what that means.” She released a deep breath and took another. Sitting straighter and higher in the booth, she pushed her cold mug of cocoa around by the handle. “I wandered off.”

Killian waited, watching from beneath lowered brows. The devil was in the details and he would let her tell them all.

She lifted the mug and sniffed it, the smell causing her to wrinkle her nose. “Congratulations are in order I guess.”

His eyebrow lifted at her statement.

“Or is it Best Wishes for the groom?”

Killian’s head fell back against the wall and he closed his eyes. Somehow, she had finally filled in the missing pieces of his life. A small smile flitted across his face but when he opened his eyes, he read anger flashing in her eyes.

“I would accept either from you.” He pulled the mug from her hands. “But only if you meant it.”

“I’m working on that. I have a possible explanation but I…” Milah looked him directly in the eyes. “You being happy is a good thing, it’s my own issues mucking me up.”

“You mean Emma.”

The cold mug of cocoa flew across the room, the arm that threw it remained stretched out past the table.

“Bloody hell,” she muttered bitterly.

“You were never one for throwing things. Before.”

“I wasn’t. I’m not.”  She closed her eyes and squeezed a red rubber ball in her other hand.

Killian looked from the remains of cocoa and mug splattered on the floor to the red ball squeezed tightly in her hand. “I know I’ve made it a point to separate our lives but that doesn’t change the fact that I care for you and want to help.”

“I know that.” A mirthless laugh escaped her. “I know that. It isn’t that I’m not upset and I do feel out of place but there’s something, larger and nastier, making it all worse.” A genuine smile crossed her face. “Henry agrees with me.”

“Oh, so you talked with the boy but not your Bae, or me?”

Milah rolled her eyes. “That is your first question? I completely lost it and blew through your house and destroyed your family’s pictures. I almost threw a rock through a window.”

Killian scratched at his scruff. “Any ideal why?”

She shook her head. “Right now, any mention of her pushes me out of control and I break things. To be honest, it’s completely ridiculous, Killian. I felt helpless and stupid when Henry found me.”

He opened his mouth to speak but had no thought of what to say. Killian needed to hear that his happiness mattered to her, that she understood but Milah couldn’t say Emma’s name without losing her composure. That was more important right now than his need for reassurance.

He pushed the cork back into his flask. “What can I do?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I think it has something to do with being brought back.”

“Really? There’s a surprise,” he said flippantly.

Milah stole the flask from his hands. “No need to be snippy. I’m trying to, I don’t know, make up for keeping you apart.”

He read the embarrassment in her demeanor. At least this particular burden he could lift from her shoulders.

“It isn’t your fault, entirely, our being apart.” He flashed her a cocky grin. “I’ll have you know it isn’t simply love and marriage for my dashing self.”

He took her hand, holding it. “It’s true love, tested and everything. One kiss and the lot of you could be dead again. We’re a powerful combination. Me and the wife.”

“Happy?”

“Beyond anything I ever imagined.” He scratched behind his ear. “Neither one of us grew up knowing or trusting this kind of thing. Family, love, belonging. She is everything to me. We’re a team, but we aren’t alone. It’s Henry and Snow and Charming, Regina. Even with all the snarky pet names. Sometimes I even look forward to the Wicked Witch’s company.”

Killian squeezed her hand before letting go. “It’s Neal, and Robin and now, you. I would be less without her and she, without me but we aren’t complete without our strange messed up family surrounding us. Right now is a momentary affair. Apart, we’re fighting for the same thing, each other. Till we’re together again, in this life and the next.”

His words seem to echo in the silence. Maybe it was too much but he felt the truth of it in his bones even as the embarrassment of sharing it flushed his face. He risked a quick glance at Milah. He likely said too much and he hoped it hadn’t rekindled her anger.

Rolling her eyes, Milah’s head tipped to one side and she crossed her arms. “You have always been a hopeless romantic, you know that?”

“I am devilishly handsome dashing rapscallion who terrorized the seas,” Killian proclaimed. He nodded to the mess on the floor. “We should get that cleaned up, displeasing Granny is dangerous. She’ll smell it on you and then shoot you with her crossbow.”

“A man of honor with a heart like a marshmallow,” Milah said bluntly and got to her feet to clean up her mess.

 


 

Carefully Emma placed the hand mirror back on the mantle and returned to looking out at the sea.

It felt like spying, like she didn’t trust her husband and father and son so she didn’t push her magic to cross into the Land without Magic. For the hundredth time, she took the mirror out then quickly put it away again.

Her mother promised to let her know the second the Jolly Roger was spotted in this realm. In return Emma promised to check in nightly from the island.

Emma rolled her eyes.

As if she wasn’t surrounded with people who would inform Snow immediately if anything happened. Anton and the dwarves were already overprotective of the twins and her. Thank goodness August and Marco were around to shoo them away. Snow wanted to talk about Emma’s pregnancies, thinking living here was comparable to the prison where she had Henry.

The island wasn’t as bad, it was the waiting that was killing her.

As far as she could see the sea was all foam topped choppy waves with lightening flashing in the distance. Emma took comfort from it – at least something shared her impatience and moodiness.

Moving to look out over the garden, she smiled. Despite her family history, she had never been a princess and now here she was, an old cliché. A princess waiting in a tower. She worried over what Killian would think of her island home.

He’d approve of the dock, waiting for the Jolly Roger to come home, and being close to the sea. It was strange, trying to picture what kind of life a princess and a pirate would have here.

The titles didn’t matter as much as the life they would build wherever they landed.

The heavy pressure of a heated stare slid down her spine. Emma slowly turned, a hand moving to cover her pregnant belly as she studied the room. The wind shook the bushes and the soft murmur of the dwarves and Anton finishing up for the day echoed around the garden. Neither set off the alarm ringing in her head.

Emma reached for the box on the mantel and removed the compass. Holding it in her right hand she thought of Killian and the needle spun round and round. It wasn’t unexpected, her goal to let the compass center her mind enough to search the room with her magic.

Her brow furrowed in concentration before she casually placed the compass back in the box. Emma sighed with sorrow and went to the opened storybook set on the mantel. She picked it up and her hand trailed over Killian’s face, letting a sad smile and the longing for him shine in her eyes. Closing the book she hugged it to her chest.

Maybe she was wrong.

Emma hadn’t really studied the last supper picture before returning to the Enchanted Forest. However, she was familiar with Granny’s. Killian’s cooking skills were improving but he wasn’t capable of much beyond eggs and pancakes and coffee.

Above the counter in the diner was a clock. Not a mirror with a long thin shadow staring out.

Chapter Text

The town line was an ordinary place that elicited a good deal of irrational fear in Robin. He eyed the dead land marking the boundary with displeasure. The witching hour was not improving his impression. Of course the town line held no fond memories.

It was where Little John had been carried off by the flying simians and he had walked away from Regina.

David nudged him, pulling Robin from his thoughts. The king held up a cell phone showing one minute to midnight. “What are we looking for this time?”

“According to my Queen, the bottle has been magicked to make the barrier think a person is crossing.” Robin answered quickly, his eyes on the modern device. “If it makes it through with no transformation and in one piece then good. If not.”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“We will need to pay close attention for the unexpected as well.” Robin caught the nod in response as the cell phone started to sound off the hour. He tossed the bottle of swirling blue liquid through the barrier. The two men watched the bottle turn to dust.

“So.” David studied the black dust blowing away into the night. “What’s next?”

Robin sighed and read Regina’s detailed instructions. “Noon. Tomorrow. We’ll find out if anyone can get in.” David headed back to the truck but Robin felt frozen in place. “Does nothing good ever happen here?”

The king had the driver’s side door open when he caught Robin’s soft murmur. “Well, not much. Though this is where I stopped wondering about who I was, David Nolan or Prince Charming and accepted both to become the man I wanted to be, flaws and all.”

Robin looked over his shoulder at the king in boots and flannel who would happily tend a kingdom or a town or the family farm. “How? How do you keep adjusting to these new places and circumstances and memories?”

David shrugged and got in the truck. Robin jogged over and got in, waiting for the rumbling of the mechanical beast to stop. “How?”

The king’s hands rested on the steering wheel and he leaned over it, looking off into the forest.

“Sometimes I wasn’t me or just made of all the worst parts and made all the wrong choices but who I am was, is, still there inside. And it’s not about where we are, its being together. I can endure anything as long as I’m with my family, as long as they’re safe. Or when I know we’re all working to be together again.” He sat back and turned the truck towards town. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the thief brood in silence. “It’s not like I never have to relearn it all.”

Robin considered those last words and thought of Regina and Roland waiting for him. “I guess there isn’t anything I wouldn’t face if it meant getting home to my family.”

 


 

 

“This is becoming a bad habit.”

Zelena shrugged at her sister’s words.  She threw a green apple high into the air and watched as her daughter caught it with her magic and floated it back. “You know training will help her.”

“Not that.” Regina huffed and crossed her eyes, lounging back on the cushioned chair. “Being here. Why do we always end up here?”

Snow White rolled her eyes while Zelena held back a grin.

“Regina, it’s the easiest, especially with the kids in tow.” Snow watched Neal try to chase Roland. “I know you don’t like how isolated it is out here but it is also quite peaceful.”

“We are supposed to be working.” Regina closed her eyes and tapped a finger against the bridge of her nose. “Not having Mommy and me lunches.”

Snow stood up and went to lean over Regina’s chair. “Stop stalling and answer the question.”

Regina’s mouth tightened into a pout and she glared. “In the woods.”

Snow stood quickly in surprise and looked over at Zelena who shrugged.

“Sis, you can’t mean that tiny chapel from Issacs’s awful book?”

Regina sighed. “There’s a clearing at the edge of Sherwood, near my castle.” She sunk further into her chair. “It’s no roof in Storybrooke but…”

“It’s perfect.” Snow smiled down at her. “For you and Robin.”

Regina let out the breath she was holding. “And I’m informing you now, it will be small. Family and a few select people.”

“Fine.” Snow turned away and fired her final stipulation over her shoulder. “But you will wear white and have anything else you want.”

Zelena laughed at the surprise on her sister’s face. “Face it, Mummy would never have approved but this wedding isn’t under her control. Instead you have the second scariest wedding planner of all time, Snow White.”

“Zelena, please,” Snow begged her.

Regina’s smile stretched slowly across her face. “No, Snow. The witch is right, you are the second scariest wedding planner. It’ll be more elaborate than the forest dwellers like but you’ll do everything you can to make it exactly as I wish.”

Regina hugged Snow quickly then pushed her backwards to glare into her eyes. “I am not wearing white.”

“You will and you will like it.”

Zelena rolled her eyes as the two bickered and tossed the apple in the air again. Soon lunch would be over and they’d go back to work. This morning’s chat hadn’t been very promising.

Snow had contacted Ariel and cross realm communication via mermaid was out. Mermaids could not travel to the worlds of the dead. In fact, all waters known to contain leakage from the rivers of the dead were avoided. The sea princess had promised to reach out to a few ancient sea creatures to discover if it was a relatively new development.

An apple thumped to the ground in front of her and Zelena looked down into the pouting face of her daughter.  Smirking, she threw the apple back in to the air and when her daughter started to float it, she snatched it with her hand. Green Pea’s pout turned to tears slipping down chubby baby cheeks. Zelena restrained herself from rolling her eyes and waited to see what her baby would do next.

Green Pea wiggled her way onto her hands and knees and across the blanket, using Zelena to pull herself up on her feet where she stood unsteadily and pursed her lips to give her mother kisses.

Snow and Regina turned when they heard Zelena’s happy laughter and grinned as the Wicked Witch of the West cuddled and kissed her daughter.

Settling the girl on her lap, Zelena blushed but ignored their sappy smiles. “So white dress, forest wedding, limited guest list. Which really, dearest, you should definitely not invite the dwarves. Conga lines are such a cliché.”

“Finish lunch, greenie. It’s back to work for us.”

“And I’ll take care of the wedding details.” Snow waved for Roland and Neal to come finish when Emma made her way across the meadow. “Honey?”

Emma set a basket filled with cuttings from the garden down and hugged her mother. “Mom.”

“You missed Mommy and me lunch.” Regina took a few steps and scooped up Neal, giving Roland a pointed look then tilting her head at his unfinished lunch. “What’s in the basket? This pregnancy must be really crazy if you’re suddenly into salad.”

Emma shrugged. “It’s a new project and there’s no need to worry, pretty sure the twins are into chocolate and fried food.”

Zelena frowned when the Savior sunk into Regina’s chair with a sigh. Snow and Regina exchanged a silent look of worry, an all too common occurrence since Emma started showing.

Heroes were too polite for their own good.

“Do you really think another new project is good idea right now? Finishing the castle, research and, oh, I don’t know, preparing for twins is bit much already.”

“True.” Emma gave the one word reply and let her head fall back to look up at the sky as a hand moved over her belly. When she opened her eyes Emma stared at each of them in turn, gaining their undivided attention before she shrugged. “I thought when I came out to the island I’d have more privacy.”

Zelena snorted and opened her mouth to mock her when she noticed the stillness of her own sister. Neither Regina nor Snow responded. They didn’t argue with her statement considering the idiot savior had built space for her parents and son and Regina and the Dark One as well. The only redeeming feature Zelena found here was that it was far away from the opinions and needs of the entire kingdom.

“Oh.” The exclamation escaped Zelena.

Snow glared at her, a new low point when the White Queen figured it out before Zelena did. Rolling her eyes, she caught the grin on her sister’s face. Let Regina enjoy the moment, Zelena wasn’t out of it entirely.

“Get over it, Savior.” Zelena tossed the green apple up and over to Emma, who grabbed it out of the air and took a bite before making a face. “We just came for lunch.”

She sent a look at her sister, lifting Green Pea into her arms and raising a brow.

Regina deflected the attention of any spying eye and ear. “No getting rid of us now.”

Emma shrugged and closed her eyes again. Snow picked up a stool and pillow and eased her daughter’s legs onto it. A sighed escaped the pregnant princess and Snow placed a kiss on her forehead. “We’ll be going back soon, don’t worry.”

“Soon but not yet,” Emma mumbled.

The three women watched Emma’s body relax into a light doze before going back to their children and lunch.

 


 

 

The hold of the Jolly Roger was more orderly once upon a time.

When Killian had become a pirate, he had welcomed rum and freedom and theft onto his ship but had retained the orderliness drilled into him by the royal navy. Between curses and realm jumps and general Storybrooke mayhem, he had never gotten a chance to sort it out properly. Killian wiped the sweat from his brow then carried another unknown crate to the stack to be hauled up on the deck.

With the last crate was stacked, he grabbed his third cup of coffee and went up top, checking the time on the phone he had found on the bedside table last night. Ten minutes till Dave and company were due to help hoist away. Killian needed another hit of coffee to feel as awake and alert as he wished. He never should have let Emma talk him into those damn blackout curtains. Sleeping in never agreed with him.

“Ahoy, Captain.” Henry’s voice called out.

“Welcome abroad.” Killian watched Henry lope up the gang plank with a couple of take out cups. “On your own?”

“Robin and Grandpa gathered some of the stuff on the list and headed out for test number three.” Catching the pirate’s raised brow, Henry rolled his eyes and held out one of the cups. “Milah is at the diner, she helped some with packing and then took on lunch.”

Killian wrinkled his nose and tossed the remaining coffee from the morning over the side before taking the cup from the boy. “I’m not sure we should…”

“Don’t worry, she said she could manage lunch.”

Killian took a long swallow of fresh coffee and sighed with satisfaction.

“Didn’t you sleep well?”

A small smile flitted across Killian’s face, unsure how to respond to his step-son’s question. Last night, he slept in the bed he had shared with Emma. It was the deepest sleep he had in the last few months. The sun had been unable to break through Emma’s beloved curtains and he had woke up late, groggy with his arms wrapped around her pillow.

“I slept too well, lad. So, thanks for the refill.”

Henry tapped Killian’s cup with his own before slurping up the contents. “Have you checked any of the crates yet?”

“Nay.” He lifted the cup for another sip, raising an eyebrow at the lad slurping. “No sense littering the hold with whatnot when we’ll need all the space we can get.”

“Why? With the return of the beans, we can come and go pretty easily.” Henry slurped louder.

Killian waited for Henry to stop. “Entities unknown have messed with our lives resulting in magic beans magically reappearing. Therefore, these unknown bloody foes know much, potentially know enough to put up unpassable barriers between realms. Which has happened. Before.”

“Point taken.” Henry saluted him. “It shouldn’t be more than a couple of days before we can head back. What’ll you do?”

“Do?”

“When we get back.” Henry looked down at his feet before looking back up. “Will you stay at the castle with Grandpa and Grandma? Or, well, I don’t imagine Grandpa Rumple really wants you around…”

“Well, I will have to unload.” Killian scratched at the scruff along his jaw. “Make sure you all make it home safe and sound.”

“Find a place for Milah?” The words came out quickly as if Henry couldn’t hold them back.

“You’ll find lad, that your grandmother can find her own place.”

“Here, here!”

The two turned to find Milah standing at the top of the gang plank and holding bags from Granny’s. “Lunch. I’m afraid it’s not much.”

She grabbed a white container and handed it to Henry. She held out a second one to Killian.

“Thank you.” Killian opened it to find slices of meat and cheese, cut vegetables and a roll. “And you brought more for the boys. Let’s save that for after they haul up the load from the hold.” He tucked the remaining bags behind a barrel and returned to his lunch.

Milah wandered around the deck waiting until both their mouths were full to speak.

“Henry, I may be wrong but I imagine once Killian clears the Jolly Roger of cargo and passengers, he’ll be heading directly to wherever she is.”

Killian swallowed his food and caught the smile that stretched slowly across Henry’s face. He studied Milah who waited patiently.

“Your grandmother,” he started.

“Stop that,” Milah interrupted.

He rolled his eyes and ignored her request. “Happens to be right.”

Henry chewed and swallowed. “Good. Still can’t say her name though.”

Milah glared at him and included Killian when he covered his laugh with a cough. “Small steps, gentlemen. Small steps.

“Ahoy, Captain!”

“Let’s go mates, plenty of cargo to haul up.” Killian set his lunch aside and started tossing out orders to the grumbling men.

Chapter Text

With a shadow spying on the island a new routine was necessary.

Emma still managed to fit in a painfully slow morning of research then Gold showed up, ostentatiously to drill her in magic. It took three full days of lessons before he found conclusive evidence of a watcher. Afterwards Regina and Zelena joined the masquerade but no one discovered anything else. No who or how or where or what.

Water splashed over the bow of the row boat as Anton propelled them around the island with a grunt. More than a week after first sensing the watcher Emma was finally ready to banish it.

“Last one.” Emma held onto the sides of the rocking boat and grimaced, trying to find a way to apologize to the giant. “I’m sorry but I couldn’t do this alone.”

He tilted the oars into the boat, panting, and looking at Emma as if she was insane. “H-h-here?”

She nodded and Anton pushed the anchor overboard. For the tenth time that day, the never-ending chain unspooled and sank into the deep.

“I.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “I thought this was the bottomless sea?”

Emma shrugged and ran her hands over the white sphere in front of her. It glowed underneath her hands. “I called in a favor from a friend. Or two actually. Ariel said there is a bottom, just never enough rope, or chain. Also, the sea creatures don’t like to swim around so they just chomp through them.”

Anton hmmm’d and turned back to Emma, the rattle of the unspooling chain continuing to ring in the air. “Thank goodness this is the last one. Queen Snow would be upset if you missed your evening check in.”

Emma rolled her eyes. God forbid she miss check in. The small boat jerked when the anchor hit bottom.

“Don’t you have a bunch of protection spells around the island already?”

The sphere floated up from Emma’s hands and out over the water swinging back and forth to find the exact spot. When it stilled, Emma nodded at the giant and he leaned low in the boat to hold it as steady.

“It’s for my magic lessons.” Emma stood slowly, trying to account for the extra weight messing with her balance. “When Gold assigns homework, you do it.”

She ignored Anton’s frown. Tomorrow she could talk to him the truth about the new wards, when the island was safe from the eyes and ears of the shadow.

The glow of the sphere brightened and Emma lifted her hands palms up, the trailing chain of the sphere in one hand and the barbed end of the chain in the other. Her brows lowered in concentration to float the chain out to the sphere with the barbed end pointed straight down. While one hand held the floating object aloft, the other turned and slashed straight down. A rattle filled the air as the barbed end dived deep into the sea pulling the glowing sphere down into the depths.

Anton watched Emma flinch as the barb hit the bottom and the boat rocked. Her balance thrown off, Emma tried to hide it as she fell back into her seat.

“Really?” The giant asked.

Emma frowned and lifted the nearest oar back into the water, making Anton leap for the handle.

“Not nice, Emma.”

“Then don’t annoy the pregnant woman.”

Emma flicked a hand to pull the anchor from the sea then watched as he heaved a deep breath and put the other oar into the water. He rowed back to the dock with the sun setting in the distance. Anton groaned with exhaustion as he fought the rough water. Emma took a deep breath and focused on calming the water around them.

It didn’t work. “I’m sorry. I should’ve done this myself.”

“Stop it.” Anton pushed and pulled the oars, each word punctuated by a gasping breath. “I’m happy to help.”

“Yeah, right.”

Leroy waited at the dock and helped Anton tie up before the giant reached for her. Emma’s mouth turned down but he lifted her up and onto the dock anyways.

“I can get out of the boat myself.”

“Sure you can Emma.” Anton shrugged and smiled up at her. “But you didn’t have to.”

“Thanks Anton.” Emma spun toward the end of the dock and almost tripped over the angry dwarf. “Come on Leroy.”

“Listen sister, anything happens to you and your mother will kill us.”

“Tripping over you and falling in probably counts.” Leroy frown deepened with her comment but Emma just smiled tightly and skirted around him. “I am pregnant, not sick or unable.”

Behind her she heard both men sigh and ignored it, slamming the door behind her. An extremely well made door of her extremely well made castle. Emma groaned and released her clenched fists. She pulled the door open and stuck her head through.

Anton and Leroy waited on the other side.

“Thank you,” she said with a nod before turning, leaving the door open for them.

Anton caught her from behind and picked her up off her feet for a quick squeeze of a hug then whistled on his way to the dwarves’ door home. Leroy stopped in front of her and they glared at each other.

He looked away first, closing his eyes with a sigh. “Marco and August already left for the day. Your far tower is done, sister.”

“And tomorrow?”

“Truth is there isn’t any more work for us dwarves. Just the fancy work and well, you know, that other project. The one we’re waiting on.”

“Yeah, I know.” Emma stared out across the garden then back at Leroy. Her brow furrowed at his downward gaze. She followed and saw her hand stroking across her belly.

“You don’t know when you do that do you?” A grin cracked across his face.

“Nope.” They both stared down at her growing pregnancy. “Only the twins’ room, huh?”

“And you want to wait for the husband.” Leroy’s heavy hand tried to pat her gently on the shoulder. He shuffled back and forth on his feet, pulling the hat from his head and rolling it. “Marco said they’d be here tomorrow but just in the morning.  We all talked and we thought we’d take a week off. Give you some time to settle in.”

Emma studied the grumpy dwarf’s face, unsure why he seemed hesitant to ask for time off. Then again, the dwarves were all about the work.

“Regina has some real work for you, doesn’t she?”

“Running water is going to be real popular.” Leroy grinned again. “You’ve no one to blame but yourself.”

“Mostly I won’t be seeing you guys till we know what we want for the babies.” Emma accepted his nod and blew out a breath. “Brace yourself Leroy.”

Before he could actually brace for it, she wrapped her arms around him in a hug then pulled back to place a kiss on his cheek.

“Thank you, and the rest of the guys. Second I have these kids I’ll take you all out for a round at the nearest bar, or tavern, or whatever.”

Leroy blushed bright red and began backing away.

“You got it.” He stopped briefly. “Just don’t ever do that again, Sheriff. It’s just weird.”

Waving goodbye to the dwarf, Emma hurried along the portico to her tower. As annoying as getting the reminder from just about every male working on the island was, missing her check in with her mother was a bad idea.  With no one to tell her to slow down, she moved quickly up the stairs to her room. At the wardrobe she spun the dial set above the knob around one full turn and set it to the snowflake. Opening the door, she pushed through to the back and past the open wardrobe door into her room at her parent’s castle.

Snow White waited by the balcony doors. She held out her hand in invitation and Emma took it, standing at her side. Snow squeezed it.

“A bird came. The Jolly Roger’s been spotted about day away for the southern port.” She rolled her eyes. “I know so don’t say it. It’s the fastest ship in any realm so they should be here late tomorrow morning.”

“We don’t have enough answers.”

Her mother pulled Emma in for a hug and a cuddle.

“True. But we know more and maybe enough that certain preventative measures won’t be necessary.” She kissed the top of Emma’s head. “Hope, Emma.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Emma wrinkled her nose. “Do you think I should wait here?”

“According to the dwarf grapevine.”

“God, they gossip worse than anyone I’ve ever known.”

Snow smirked. “But are a valuable information source not to be ignored. By noon, you’ll be on your own for a week. Might as well enjoy it.”

Emma blushed. “Mom, please.”

“What? To be honest, you’ll probably have to convince the pirate that you’re perfectly able to…”

“Stop there.” Emma pulled away from her mother and walked out onto the balcony. “We are no longer discussing this.”

Snow followed her out into the twilight. “You’re such a prude about this. I mean, once upon a time.”

“Do you really want details about Killian’s and my sex life?” Emma leaned back against the balcony and crossed her arms.

Snow waved her arm. “Point made. But in general, remember I’m here for you and I know about this particular subject and pregnancy.” She shot a quick glance at her daughter. “I imagine that when you were pregnant with Henry, it was a little different for you.”

Emma’s head kind of shook back and forth a bit as she thought about it.

“Very different.” Emma’s mind went back to being pregnant and in prison. She remembered the other mothers trying to connect with her, when they talked about their experiences, their children, and what they did when they got out the first time or what they would do once they were out again. Emma remembered those who were proud, those who were ashamed and those who were determined to be better.

It wasn’t until her mother placed a hand on her cheek she came back to the present. Snow smoothed a loose strand of hair behind Emma’s ear.

“Maybe something you’ll share with me another time.” 

Emma nodded as her mother wiped away her tears.

“As of tomorrow I think you can forgo the nightly check in.”

A smile trembled across Emma’s face. “Thanks, Mom.”

Snow rested her forehead against Emma’s and took a deep breath. Pulling back, she studied her daughter’s face once more and nudged her. “Go home. Wait for your husband and son.”

 


 

 

The night sea was calm and the stars overhead shifted into older, more familiar patterns. Killian didn’t have a preference for any particular night sky, Storybrooke’s or the Enchanted Forest’s or Neverland’s, but then it was never simply beauty that drew him.

As far back as he could remember, even as a child, the stars had spoken to him, letting him know where he was in the world. His father had taught him and Liam from a young age to read the sky until it was effortless.

Less than a day away is what the night sky told him now. It whispered through his brain so sweetly, so seductively that he almost forgot about his passengers. Killian steadied the ship and held to the course he had set when they arrived back in the Enchanted Forest. A ship full of cargo needed to be unloaded and knowing Charming as he did, the king was focused on reuniting with his own wife.

It never failed to make him smirk, thinking of David and Snow as Mummy and Daddy.

“What’s that about?”

Neal’s questions broke the silence of the night as he moved to the starboard railing. Killian lifted a brow to elicit a further explanation from the man.

“That smirk. It’s kind of freaking me out and if it has to do with Emma, please for the love of all that’s holy, keep it to yourself.”

A bright open smile replaced the smirk and seemed to freak Neal out even more.

“The smirk was for the royals.” Killian’s lips quirked up a bit. “Mummy and Daddy.”

“You didn’t.”

“Oh but how was I supposed to resist?” Killian chuckled. “It was a lovely bit of comic relief during a horrid time. And now, only used to tease them.”

Neal retreated into his own thoughts and Killian watched the boy he knew in the man that stood before him struggle with some bit of annoyance in his head.

“You might as well say whatever it is. Your thinking is incredibly loud.”

Neal hmphed, his eyes traveling over the ship. “The smile following the smirk was for Emma, wasn’t it?”

Killian couldn’t help it, he smiled brightly again.

“That’s what I thought.” Neal shook his head. “You just fucking light up. I came here to talk about my mom with you.”

“Then let’s if you’re just going to have a fit over Emma and I.” Killian shifted, realigning the wheel and causing the sails to snap in the wind. “Of course, when your mother finds out.”

“Yeah, starting to look like coming up here was a bad idea.” Neal made his way back to the steps to the crews’ quarters but stopped on the top one.

“It doesn’t, you know, freak me out.” He sighed and stared up at the sky. “It’s just weird to see you happy. Not bad weird, just weird. I guess if you sometimes see the boy you once knew, I see the pirate who gave me a home, for a bit.”

Killian didn’t have a response. That pirate wasn’t all that he was then or now and the future stretched before him.

“I love Henry and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him but we were still becoming whatever it is we are, friends and family, sure, but not father and son.” He winced. “Yet.”

“I think when it comes to Henry, we’ve proven the more parents he has the better.”

That particular thought had occurred to Killian as well on more than one occasion. But.

“Still,” he said. “Henry is practically grown.”

There it was, the tiny worry plaguing Killian even as he planned his trip back to Emma. “As were you.”

Neal leaned forward and waited for more but Killian wasn’t sure he wished to say more.

The soft scrap of a boot below deck drew Neal’s attention away from the pirate. David blocked the corridor below, glaring with serious frown darkening his features. Neal blinked and ignored whatever the king’s problem with him could possibly be. One thing at a time.

“Killian, you’ll be a good dad.” Neal shrugged. “The details you’ll learn but you already know the most important thing.”

Killian nodded and turned back to the wheel. “We should be docking at the Charmings’ mid-morning.”

“Aye Aye, Captain.” Neal went down the stairs where the king clapped him on the back with a smile.

Killian gazed up and spoke directly to the night sky. “I will never abandon them.”

Chapter Text

A swarm welcomed the Jolly Roger to port.

Milah took note of Killian and the King speaking with Rumple and Regina. Several crates they found contained magical items, rare books and strange relics from many different kingdoms and realms. The explanation of why the hold was a mess had been the most shocking tale Killian ever told her. A Killian who traded his ship to Blackbeard for a magic bean to find the Savior and save the town was not something she could imagine.

According to the king, the pirate’s motives weren’t entirely altruistic.

Killian threw his hands up in the air and Rumple sneered in response, the two men glaring at each other. Their hostility was oddly reassuring. Forgiveness was all well and good but that bit of remaining conflict was evidence of the history they all shared. Evidence that she belonged here, all be it in an odd way.

Bae wove his way around the people working on pulling up the crates and hopped up on the rail beside her. “They’re still going at it?”

She nodded in reply.

“What’s the deal?”

She signed and turned away from the quartet arguing.

“Killian wants to move ten times faster while the Queen Mum and your father want to sort through Blackbeard’s crates now. But then the king implied it’d be safer to do so on some island.” Milah shot a look at her son to see if he had any idea what that meant. He winced and she wondered what the secret was. “Killian was appalled by the suggestion.”

Bae’s eyes were closed and he opened one to look at her. “It isn’t a secret, really.”

“It’s where my mom is.” Henry came up and leaned on the other side of her.

“What’s the deal, kid? I was getting to it.”

“And as I’m still prone to throwing things.” Milah finished for him. “A bit of caution is to be applauded Henry.”

Her grandson rolled his eyes at her.

“I can clearly see you’ve spent too much time with Killian.”

“Sardonic reactions to overly dramatic statements run in the family and come from all sides, as does a tendency for overly dramatic statements.”  Henry hugged her hard. “I’m waiting to head out with Killian but after I check in there, I’ll be back at Regina’s to prep for the wedding.”

Bae jumped down from the rail and pulled Henry in for a hug. “Wedding?”

“Regina and Robin. I don’t think Robin knows yet.” It came out a bit muffled from his father’s arms but Henry pulled back with a shrug. “In case it all goes bad.”

Milah watched her son smile bittersweetly as her thoughts whirled. She forgot they could be on borrowed time. And bloody hell if a future beyond breaking this curse didn’t scare her more.

“Mom?”

“Sorry what?” She looked down at the hand Henry was holding out to her. In it was a magic bean.

“Henry’s collecting the extra bean. Remember one to keep, one to return.”

Her right hand began shifting through the pouch at her hip. Milah pulled out a bean from inside, holding it between her thumb and forefinger. The light made it glitter. She placed it gently into Henry’s outstretched hand and could feel her mouth stretching into a slow smile.

“I’d forgotten about the beans.”

 


 

Snow stood at Charming’s side as Henry wished one mother goodbye then leap from the dock onto the Jolly Roger to go to his other. Thinking about the reunion of her daughter and her son-in-law made Snow shift her weight and lean into her husband’s side. David was just a bit put out by it though Neal’s less-than-enthusiastic welcome home hadn’t helped.

“We’ll see them all in a few days.”

David’s stance relaxed at her words and he slung an arm around her shoulder. “Yeah.”

“What is it? You missed the farm more than you thought, didn’t you?”

He kissed the top of her head and turned back to their home, their castle. Someday, Snow supposed she would learn to let things go and not push.

“Is it about Emma and Killian?” She heard him murmur and growled at his back.

Charming smiled over his shoulder at her and held out his hand. She batted it away and stalked past him. Snow let out a grunt when her husband caught up to her and wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on the top of her head.

“I missed you so much.” David held her tighter despite Snow’s frown and crossed arms. “And you were right, I missed the farm more than I thought I would.” She didn’t relax her stance at his words and he sighed. “But mostly, I kind of wanted to see my daughter as well as my son and wife.”

“Really David,” Snow chastised him, turning to poke him in the chest. “This is the first chance the two of them…”

“Don’t say it.” He interrupted her quickly, catching a hold of the finger trying to poke a hole in him. “He’s… and she’s...”

David kept shaking his head so Snow wrapped her arms around his neck to hold onto him. “Poor Daddy, no need to think about the pirate and your daughter’s reunion.”

David stopped holding her and placed his hands on his hips. “Snow.”

“Oh no, Charming. You are doing nothing to interrupt them.” Her smile was wide as she had fun poking at his sore spot. “It’s a miracle she’s even pregnant with the number of times you just had to stop by the house.”

“Like you never.”

“Once.” Snow stepped back a bit. “I think I can keep your mind off what’s happening far, far away.”

With a smirk, David pulled her close again. “Oh really?”

Snow rolled her eyes even as her half of their heart skipped a beat as his eyes smoldered. “You think you’re so irresistible, don’t you?”

He leaned down till his lips just brushed hers and said softly. “To you? Yes.”

Snow closed her eyes, leaning into his body, letting him lean into hers.

“Charming,” she whispered softly and felt his heartbeat speed up before she let him have it. “I want to have more children.”

“What?” David’s hoarse questions followed Snow as she turned and skipped off to find Granny and their son.

 


 

 

The people who welcomed Team Expedition home had deserted the docks as quickly as they had appeared. Returning to whatever corner of Misthaven they had carved out as their own. Robin had stayed throughout the hauling away of the cargo and the arguments about what to do with Blackbeard’s trove.

Regina had waved him away repeatedly throughout the morning, urging him to go see Roland. He held out for a while before snatching her up into a heated kiss and promising to see her at home. When the haze cleared her head, she caught a knowing look from Snow. She was in an awkward position, trusting everyone not to speak of the wedding before she got a chance to inform Robin.  Well, it was mostly keeping Robin as far away from Snow as possible.

The plan had been to tell Robin as soon as possible, or rather to ask Robin as soon as possible. Regina had hidden evidence of the wedding, storing key items on the island that morning when she chickened out and as soon as possible became eventually.

The Jolly Roger disappeared in the distance and Regina could no longer put off returning home. With a sign she waved her hands and disappeared from the dock in a cloud of purple smoke and stepped out onto the balcony of her castle. Roland’s giggle floated up to her and she watched as he ran circles around his little sister and Zelena.

A pair of arms came from behind and pulled her back into a familiar chest. “My Queen.”

Regina closed her eyes and snuggled back into her thief.

“I trust you are well, milady?”

A low throaty yes was her response as she turned in his arms and looped hers around his neck. “Better now.”

Robin’s smile was just too big and bright. Regina jerked him close and kissed him. Her body buzzed from the heat of it and the feel of being in her lover’s arms again. When Robin started to lift her up without separating their mouths, she knew eventually had come.

“Wait,” she whispered against his lips, trying to wiggle free.

“Mmmmm, no.” Robin rubbed his nose against hers before bending and hoisting her over his shoulder. “It will take three minutes to reach our room and that is all the wait I have for you.”

“It’s important.” Regina sighed the words out breathlessly.

“Only if you are telling me no?” He paused his steps but with no verbal chastisement received, he continued on his way unable to see her eye rolling response. “Two minutes now.”

She braced her hands on his back to prop herself up. “This is serious.”

“No, I’m serious as I have been days without you and whatever time I’m given I will bloody well make the most of.”

“Fine.” Regina huffed at him. “You have no say whatsoever in our wedding. Which by the way is in two days. If you have a problem with that, too bad.”

Her words reached him at the same time he reached their door. Regina dropped down to her feet, her back stretching as she became every inch the regal queen she was and arched a brow waiting for the thief to respond, hoping he didn’t see any of her fears.

Her lips twitched into a smile, because studying his face Regina realized what a fool she had been. That joyful smile was back even as his eyes melted her with heat.

“As in all things, I follow my queen’s commands.”

Regina turned and pushed their door open, shooting him a look over her shoulder as she sauntered into their bedroom. Robin happily followed, kicking the door closed.

 


 

 

“I could have sworn the last time I sailed this way, there was nothing here.” Killian called to Henry from the wheel.

“Do you honestly think Grandpa and Grandma would let Mom be here all alone without any defense in place?” Henry made his way back to Killian from the bow of the ship. “Do you think Mom wouldn’t make sure she was safe here?”

The Jolly Roger was the fastest ship in any realm and it seemed to go even faster than ever before. Henry wondered if it was the ship responding to the desires of her captain or if the island wasn’t as far away as they thought. Questions for another time.

“So, um, I was thinking.”

“Oh, this should be fun.” Killian smirked but didn’t look away from the island they were approaching at a fast clip. “You say that the same way you’re mother says ‘we need to talk’.”

“Listen, I don’t really want to, you know, be around for the whole big reunion or whatever.” Killian’s chuckled added to the blush darkening Henry’s cheeks. “Seriously, Killian.”

“I suppose I understand.” Killian scratched the back of his ear and shrugged. “And I guess I can sail you back after…”

Henry shook his head at the pirate. “Not necessary. I can take the doorway to Regina’s castle easily enough.”

“Doorway?”

“Apparently, Mom’s gotten really good at magic.” Henry grinned. “Well, she’s gotten good at making movie magic real.”

“Really?”

“Yep, magical wardrobes, chalk outline doors that lead to wherever you need them.”

“Light sabers?”

“I’m waiting for Christmas to ask.” Henry thought of future fun but got distracted by the pirate once again. Killian was frowning and shuffling at the wheel. “What?”

“You don’t have to run off you know.” He turned to Henry with a small smile. “It would be good to have our little family all together again.”

Henry shook his head. “No thanks. I prefer leaving you to tie up on your own and heading out.”

He walked over to the port side and looked toward the island. “Besides it’s only two days and then you’ll both have to be at Regina’s for the wedding.”

“Wedding?”

“Robin and Regina.” Henry frowned. “Then it’ll be time for everyone to meet and talk about what we’ve learned.”

“Rushing this would be just as foolish as doing nothing to prepare,” Killian calmly reminded him. “I need you to go…”

“Yeah I got it.”

Henry moved off as they approached the dock and the two worked together seamlessly to tie up.

Henry surprised himself and didn’t run off as fast as he had planned. His stepdad threw him several questioning looks to which he didn’t respond, keeping his face blank.

Tying off his last line, Henry smiled to see Killian stare past the dock at the fortress in front of them. Maybe this was one of the silver linings of the return to the Enchanted Forest. This strange family of theirs had a little extra space to breath and live, to be together and apart at the same time. In the Land without Magic it would be considered healthy boundaries.

With distance, and new journeys came goodbyes. Everyone deserved a proper one.

Henry stood in front of his stepdad. “Two days, no kissing and please don’t say anything more about that.”

Killian couldn’t resist smirking at him and striking a pose, hands at his waist and hip cocked out. “I know the rules lad. If you need us, don’t hesitate to come home.”

“I won’t.” Henry turned to go but Killian tapped him on the shoulder. He spun back around and found himself being hugged with a clap on the back.

“We’ll see you soon, my boy.”

Henry hugged him back. “Yeah, yeah.” He grinned, stepping back. “Give me ten minutes?”

“Very well then, just get on with it.”

Henry raced up the dock and through the doorway, heading for his mother’s tower when humming reached his ears. His smile spread wide across his face. Emma did that when she was happy. He streaked past the picnic meadow and found her in the practice field. She moved slowly as if dancing to whatever she hummed but her sword whistled through the air as she fought an imaginary foe.

Panting, he waited for her to twist, turn and skewer whoever she fought.

“Mom.”

“Henry.” Emma dropped the sword and turned to her son with open arms. He rushed to her and hugged her close.

“I missed you, kid.”

“Mom.”

She pulled back and looked him over. “One piece, just like I like you.”

Emma nudged him toward her sword. “Pick that up. I got a basket of snacks over…”

“Mom.” He halted her words even as he retrieved her sword. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“And I will see you at the wedding.”

“You’re leaving already? But you just got back, I thought I’d get a day with you.”

“Mom, I sailed here.” Henry watched his words wash over her and freeze her in place. “I’ll see you at the wedding?”

She was at a loss for words but she reached out to hold onto his arm. “You can…”

He placed her sword into her hand. “I know. Still. I’ll see you later. I just needed to say hi to you and the twins.”

“Not one word about weight gain.”

“My lips are sealed.” He smiled at her and tears began filling her eyes, spilling down her cheeks. “Moooom.”

“I know. I just…”

“Swan!”

They both turned as Killian’s shout echoed through the gardens. Henry watched as his mom melted before his eyes. He took a step away but she caught him, taking his face in both her hands.

“I love you kid, be good.” She kissed his forehead and let him go. He pressed a quick kiss to her cheek and ran for his other mother’s tower.

Behind him, Killian called out again.

“Swan!”

Chapter Text

The island in the middle of the Bottomless Sea was no longer a pile of rocks with a crumbling edifice and a dragon but a fortified island of towers and walls hiding a vast garden.

“Swan!”

His shout did not receive an answer but he could hear the quick footfalls of Henry racing along the portico and up steps which meant he was unlikely to find his quarry in that direction. Treading the garden paths seemed a more likely way to locate his wife.

“Swan!”

Killian turned in a circle seeking a sign to point him in the right direction. Mildly curious he passed a meadow with chairs and tables but as she wasn’t here, sitting like any sensible person who was pregnant with twins, he moved on. The bloody woman could poof places and here she made him shout himself hoarse trying to find her.

“Swan!”

He exhaled his frustration, closed his eyes as his head fell back. This confounded pile of rocks Emma called home appeared to have unlimited space and about a hundred bloody paths leading in every direction. He would just have to search each and every one. The sound of footsteps came from behind him. He turned and slowly opened his eyes.

There she was – dressed in leathers with her hair pulled back, sword in hand and hesitation in her eyes. Whatever that was would be handled later. Killian strode quickly to her and held her face in both hands. Her name escaped his lips on a sigh. “Emma.”

“You’re doing that thing again.” She leaned her cheek into his hand.

He traced her lips with one finger. “What thing?”

“You’re looking at me hard enough to drill a hole in my head.”

“Get over it. I’ve no plans to stop any time soon love.” Killian couldn’t look away as she bit her bottom lip, holding her thoughts in as her eyes traced over his face. His tongue slid along his teeth and he grinned when she couldn’t hold back a groan.

“No kissing.” She reached out a shaking hand and traced a finger along his jaw and tapped his chin.  

Killian leaned his forehead against hers. “I know and it’s a bloody nightmare.” His head tilted to one side, letting his nose slide across her cheek and down behind her ear, his lips barely a breath away from her skin. His hands left her face as he wrapped his arms around her to pull her body to his, eliminating the space separating them.

“Killian.” His name shuddered out from her lips and she burrowed into his neck. “I’ve missed you, so much.”

“And I, you.” He took the moment to let the feel of her soak deep into his bones, the stir of her breath against his skin, the smell of her hair and the pounding of her heart. He bent and lifted her high, turning back to the seating available in the meadow. “Oomph.”

“Killian, don’t. I…”

“Did you always weigh so much darling?” He hid his smirk as she stiffened in his arms. “And why do you have furniture out in the garden? Please tell me our bed is located somewhere with a bit more privacy.”

Killian carefully eased them down into a chair, making sure Emma was tucked into his side. His hands shook but he couldn’t stop touching her. What a pleasure it was to have two with which to do it. One twirled strands of her hair and the other kept sliding from cheek to shoulder to hand to knee, up her thigh then stroking over her belly before tracing the same path all over again.

“No weight jokes.” Emma grabbed one hand trying to keep it still but he distracted her by sliding the tips of the fingers tangled in her hair down the back of her neck. She shivered and tried to swat it, freeing his other hand. “Killian, stop.”

“No.”

“You know, you were dangerous enough with one hand.”

“Not prepared to handle a two-handed pirate, wife.” He waggled his eyebrows and smiled down at her. He closed his eyes to let the feel of her settle into his soul. “Minor detail really, my love. I’m more concerned with the whole kissing ban. How are you meant to resist all this?” A fizz of excitement skittered down his spine and his eyes trained on her to bask in her response.

He shivered.

There it was. The eyebrows furrowed skeptical look that blatantly asked if he really thought he could play the dashing rapscallion bit with her. The joy that look sent through him was so pure and so true, he fought hard to not kiss it from her face. Instead he smiled, broad and beaming, and shifted his hold on her.

Emma went from skeptical to worried. “Killian what are you...”

She never finished. He managed to propel them from their seat and swung her legs up to prevent any escape from his grasp.

“Where’s our bed, Swan?” He turned toward one tower and then another before jiggling her lightly. “You are almost as challenging to haul as one of my rum barrels.”

“That’s not funny.” She wrapped her arms around his neck to hold on as he started to walk toward a tower and leaned back in his arms. “It isn’t nice to make fun of your pregnant wife. Take the left path.”

His right brow winged up as he followed her directions. “Now, now back to our serious problem. How exactly do plan to resist my luscious lips?”

“If only I still had morning sickness, then I wouldn’t just feel like throwing up on you.” She groused. “Keep left, the tallest tower is mine.”

“Yours?”

“I may have more room than I need.” Emma lifted a hand to stroke his cheek. “Know any dashing one-handed pirates?”

“I knew it.” He hooted and lifted one brow at her cheekiness. “You’re going to miss the hook.”

He kicked open the door to the tallest tower and watched as his teasing wife’s tongue slide over her upper lip. Killian forgot about finding their bed or the stairs and simply mesmerized by the woman in his arms. Slowly he leaned closer till he felt her breath against his lips.

“No kissing,” she whispered and he growled in response. “Come on, Killian, we can do this.”

He lowered her down, till both feet touched the ground and made sure she was steady. “I’m not entirely sure about that love, but please go on.”

Emma headed for the stairs, waiting at the bottom for him. “I think we both are smart enough to figure this out.” She rolled her eyes, blushing. “Experienced enough.”

He joined her and entwined their hands. “That has nothing to do with anything right now.” He squeezed her hand. “Kissing has always been more than just a pleasure for us. Remember Neverland?”

“You mean when I tried to show you I could handle it?”

“Saucy wench that you were, yes.” Unconcerned about the frown he caused. “Life suddenly changed in one moment.”

“Are you looking for another life changing moment?”

It was Killian’s turn to roll his eyes. He stopped at the first floor they came to and glanced in but Emma pulled on his hand to keep going.

“No, I simply wish to kiss my wife.” Killian walked ahead of her and turned backward in order to face her. “However high your walls were, I could always tell how you truly felt by your kiss.”

“Oh really?”

“Uh huh, it’s like the song.” He stopped and let her advance till she was in his arms again. “It's in your kiss.” Killian leaned forward, letting his arms brace Emma as she leaned away from him.

“The shoop shoop song?”

“If you wanna know.” He licked his lips, letting his eyes melt into puppy dog sadness.

“Yeah, yeah I got it.” Emma put her hand over his mouth and gave it a quick smack of her lips. “Three days and then you’ll really know how I feel about you.” When she removed her hand, he was frowning. “Until then we can retire to separate corners of the island and wait if it’s that important to you.”

“Madam Wife, I am a pirate who has just return after an excruciatingly long separation from his wife.”

“So, patience isn’t one of your virtues?” Emma shrugged, stepped away and then moved past him on the stairs. “No kissing.”

Kilian straightened up and sharply turned to watch as Emma grinned and climbed up the stairs. He looked down, stretching his fingers and admiring his two hands.

“I do love a challenge.”

 


 

The rustle of leather pulled Emma from her light doze but she kept her eyes closed and faked sleep. Bare feet slapped against the stone floor then the balcony doors creaked open. Rolling to her side, she curled around her pillow and enjoyed the sight of her husband studying the bottomless sea. Dashing and magnetic as he was, the sight calmed her heart even as her breath hitched in her chest.

She moved quietly, stretching her sore body. Damn pirate and his challenges. Emma smiled to herself, he hadn’t needed a reassuring talk with her mother about sex and the pregnant mother. Her gaze caught on shifting muscles as he stretched his arms over his head and she was no longer happy to be so far away from him.  Kicking the covers to the bottom of the bed, she stood and shifted through the pile of clothes on the floor.

Pulling Killian’s shirt from the pile and over her head Emma walked over the cold stone floor to catch him from behind. Pressed to his back she could feel his happy little hum while he laced their hands together. She barely caught herself before she kissed his shoulder. With a resigned sigh Emma dropped her head forward, letting her forehead rest against his back.

“Told you.”

“Shut up.” Emma wanted to bite him but settled for head butting his spine, making him laugh and turn to face her. She felt his heated gaze take in her bare feet and legs, his shirt hanging on her smaller frame. “I resisted.”

Killian backed up to sit on the balcony’s railing. “You are simply breath taking wife.”

“I’m not the only one. Besides, you really just like your shirt.”

“Well, not everyone has the cleavage for it.”

Emma rolled her eyes and went to lean next to him. “What’re we doing out here?” 

She couldn’t stop the flutter of her lashes as she looked up at him but Killian was distracted, his gaze focused down. When she followed it Emma found her hand was resting on her growing baby bump. Babies bump? She shook the thought away and nudged her husband. “Quite the surprise isn’t it?”

“Your father is an identical twin, so no, not entirely.” His right hand reached out toward her, stopping before making contact.

Emma grabbed him by the wrist and brought his palm to rest on her belly, grinning as he held his breath. “You know a few hours ago…”

“I wasn’t thinking about them.”  Killian rolled his eyes with a grin. “Other matters occupied my thoughts.”

Emma slid his hand to the side a bit and studying his face to see his reaction when he felt the flutter of movement. Killian’s whole body flinched but the pressure of his hand on her increased and his wide eyes caught hers. “Is that feet?”

Emma laughed, letting the joy inside her out. “Maybe.” He got down on his knees, putting his ear up to her belly. “I don’t think you’ll be hearing much that way.”

Killian frowned up at her as his hands stroked over her belly. “Robin talked about hearing the heart beat.” He scratched his ear as his cheeks redden and he looked away. “As well as something about a picture from, eh, inside.”

“Technology we left behind when we landed here.” Emma looked down at the top of his head as his hands searched for further signs of life from the twins. She let a hand thread through the black mess, combing it to one side and out of his eyes when his head dropped back to look up at her. His eyes had turned serious, the mischievous twinkle held at bay by whatever thoughts were crossing his mind. Both of her hands came up to stroke his face as a sigh escaped her. “We need to talk don’t we? This isn’t exactly what we planned…”

Killian moved quickly to stand, his lips almost catching hers before she leaned back just in time and he growled at her.

“Did you just growl at me?”

“Aye.” He paced away before coming to stand in front of her. “The kissing thing is ridiculous but I will let you have that. In return.” He tangled his fingers in her hair, gently tugging her forward and letting his hand cup the back of her head, fingers kneading. For the hundredth time since his return to her, they held each close, lips a breath away from touching, their bodies tense. He shook his head, his other hand moving to cup her cheek and rubbing his thumb over her lips.

“In return?” She whispered, letting her head fall forward enough to touch her forehead to his and put distance between their lips. “There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for you.”

“Kiss me.”

“No.” Emma felt his sigh feather over her cheek as he moved to brush his nose against hers. A small smile tilted the corners of her mouth as they sparred in a new way. Their heads tilting, noses and mouths moving forward then to the side as he sought and she avoided brushing their lips against each other. “Robin.”

Killian held still, blue eyes staring into green.

Emma spoke again. “Neal.”

A single black brow arched at her and she closed her eyes as she felt his nose brush hers again. Emma straighten her back and pushed her emotions down, feeling a cool breeze flow between as the space widen, knowing her face became colder. Her eyes opened and stared into blue ones shocked at her lack of emotion. “Milah.”

Emma felt the hand tangled in her hair pull away and closed her eyes. She shivered in the wind and concentrated on taking one breath after another. She was being silly and worse, mean to the man who held her heart and her trust in his hands.

“I’m…” She wasn’t able to finish. Standing before her was a highly unamused pirate shaking his head at her.

“Is this that pregnancy brain your father spoke of?”

“What?”

“He implied that there was a loss of reason related to your current state.” Killian crossed his arms and stood with his weight braced to one side. He shook his head again, raising a hand to cover his eyes. “It must be as my Emma would never behave like such a dull-witted lout.”

“Hey now.” Her hands clenched. “Who you calling stupid?”

“The woman who knows I promised to love her for eternity.” He glared while his fingers circled his temples, massaging away a fake headache. “By the way what is with your family and promising eternity?”

“Now you have a problem with that?”

Killian’s arms dropped down to his side and he met her glare head on. “No, and I never will. I guess there’s no other way really.”

“What?”

The pirate scooped her up and carried her back into the room. She squirmed in his arms and when he set her down by the bed he placed a hand over her mouth.

Killian’s eyebrows rose high when she licked his palm but he didn’t remove his hand. “Yes, we need to talk.”

Tears began to pool in Emma’s eyes and her breath shuddered as she inhaled, preparing to hear the worst. He placed a single finger against her lips.

“Please don’t. I can’t stand it when you cry my love.”

She lifted a hand to wipe away the tears, their hands tangling as the both tried to clear them away. “You’re going to have a hard time till these kids get here then.”

“There is so much to say and so much I wish to know but.” Killian paused as she held on to the wrist of the hand brushing her face. “I haven’t had enough of just being with you yet. When I woke, I.” He placed her hand over his heart where she could feel the rapid beat. “I thought it had been a dream. I need to know this is real, that I finally have what I wanted from the moment we met, for like the hundredth time.”

Emma closed her eyes to enjoy the feel of her husband’s finger stroking across her cheek. “We haven’t met for the first time that many times.”

“Enough times that I need this feeling to sink all the way to my bones.”

“So?” All the emotions she buried earlier sparkling in her eyes.

Killian held her gaze as he unbuttoned his shirt. “In return for sufficient time to indelibly mark our love upon my soul, tomorrow we’ll talk. About everything.”

Emma fiddled with the fastening for his beloved leather pants. “Okay.” She shrugged the shirt from her shoulders and slid onto the bed. The sweep of his eyes caused a wave of heat to spread up her body. She snuggled back into her pillow and watched her husband strip off the leather pants and crawl in after her.

He tugged the covers up then pulled her close to rest against his side. Blue eyes stared into green as their restless hands soothed their souls with soft touches.

“I love you,” Emma whispered.

Killian touched his nose to hers as their breath slipped deeper into sleep. “I know.

Chapter Text

“We could have stayed in bed.”

“You could have,” she replied and patted her belly. “We needed to eat.”

“We could have eaten in bed.”

“I wanted something other than boiled mackerel.”

“I learned how to cook other stuff, sort of, so we could have, in fact, stayed in bed.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “We could have but we didn’t. Move on.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

He pulled the chain from around his neck and held it out to her.

She shook her head. “Talk first.”

“Fine.” He snatched back the necklace then mumbled quietly. “But we could have stayed in bed.”

 


 

 

The chill in the air retreated at sunrise and Regina shed the blanket she had grabbed last night. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling had given way to sitting under her apple tree staring at the night sky.

Last night the past haunted her. Believing in the possibility of redemption was easier than the pursuit of it. Every step she had taken, every decision she had made changed her, created who she was now and she couldn’t regret it, fully. Refused to do so but the wake of destruction behind her was bound to continually disrupt their lives.

A bright and beautiful day was dawning but it would surely be an utter disaster.

Leaving the blanket behind Regina transported herself back to her room. Her eyes felt gritty and dry from the long sleepless night. Splashing water on her face only helped a bit. Happy endings were for stories, happy beginnings were just the start of the next one and for a soul as black as hers the road to redemption was filled with pot holes from past horrors.

Leaving her on her own last night had been a terrible mistake.

But it wasn’t the end of the world. No, not the end of the world. Robin and Roland would be waiting for her today and Henry would walk her down the aisle to the bower Snow White had built for her. Her sister and Emma would stand at her side and Regina would finally make promises to a man she loved.

The knock on the door came as the beautiful day fully dawned.

“Come in, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”

 


 

 

“You have made me leave a perfectly lovely bed.”

“Yes, and?”

“And we will not be returning to it or the countless number of pleasurable activities we can enjoy in it any time soon.”

“Yes.” She rolled her hand for him to go on. “And.”

“And now you have the audacity to sit across from me?” His voice rose at the end of his complaint.

“Yeah, I do.” She worked hard to contain her amusement at the utter disgust of his expression. “Wow, the last time I saw that face was when Regina told us about her and the Dark One’s chemistry.”

“How can you bring up such an appalling notion?” His eyes closed as he fell back into his chair.  “I think I may faint.”

“Stop being a drama queen.”

 


 

Snow walked around the cart, checking its contents and the wheels. Yesterday she had dragged Charming out to the forest with her to prepare for today’s wedding. This last load was flowers and garlands to be set out this morning for the afternoon wedding. She was pleased with how the wildflowers and roses looked bundled together.

“You know, your majesty, you put an awful lot into this wedding.”

Snow wrinkled her nose at Leroy’s frowning face and picked up a flower that had fallen to the ground.

“Come on, sister. You told us just enough that we know trouble’s coming.” He tossed a look over his shoulder. “I don’t like sitting around waiting for it.”

“Geez, Leroy, tell me how you really feel.”

“I’m just sayin’. Now’s not the time to be fussing with some wedding.” Grumpy pulled his hat from his head and fiddled with the brim. “We should be on high alert. Maybe making a run for it.”

Snow glared at the dwarf, a beloved friend but that hadn’t blinded her to his irritating quirks.

“We aren’t in immediate danger.” She waved his concerns away. “And there were too many times we went from one crisis to the next. Trouble is out there and we’re ready for it.” The skeptical look on Leroy’s face made Snow roll her eyes. “Fine, we will be ready.”

“Whatever you say, your majesty.”

“A little respect would be nice. I had to pull strings just to get you and your brothers invited,” Snow groused at his retreating back. “We need this.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Charming placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re up early.”

“I want everything to be perfect.” She looked up at her husband.

“Then it will be.”

Snow’s eyes narrowed.

“I have complete faith in you?”

“That shouldn’t be a question.”

“It wasn’t?” David took her hand in his. “Mostly. We’ve had three months of quiet. Whatever is going on isn’t going to happen suddenly.”

“You don’t know that.” Her hand gripped his tightly, her knuckles whitening. “You don’t.”

He squeezed her hand back. “I hope.”

“I know, just sometimes…”

He pulled her toward the castle doors. “We’re together, we know who we are, what our history is…”

“Mostly.” She cut him off.

He nodded and pushed the doors open. “…and it might not be someone out to get us this time. Think of all the people who were caught in consequences of our story. It’s our turn.”

“I know.” Snow crossed in front of him. “I know I shouldn’t let Grumpy get to me.”

“What we should have done was let him stay on the island.”

“Charming, really?”

“It was just a thought.”

A sigh escaped her and she pulled him along by his arm. “Let’s go get ready for the wedding.”

“I was kidding.”

“Sure you were.”

 


 

Killian stopped pacing around the middlemist meadow and stole a glance at Emma as she picked flowers.

It was a pretty picture to be treated to after all their time apart. They had covered the facts of the matter but a distance grew between them. Killian wished they had remained in bed.

“You should just ask and get it over with.”

At her words he realized that while he had been staring at her, he hadn’t seen her.  Killian focused beyond the pretty picture his princess presented. She wore a calm mask that was just as bad as the cold wall she put between them yesterday. Her every movement slow and deliberate.

Crossing to her, he crouched down and slid the flower she just plucked from her hand. Lifting it to his nose he inhaled the sweet scent then held it to hers for a sniff. Her mask dropped a bit and a small smile lifted one side of her mouth. Emma looked into his eyes as she inhaled the fragrance of the flower.

“I’m supposed to get it over with.” Killian bopped her on the nose with the bud. “What about you?”

“I wasn’t the one pacing.” She grabbed the flower from him and placed it in the basket with a shrug.

“Not talking about things was something we weren’t going to do. Anymore.”

She turned and reached out to place her palm on his cheek. “That’s not what I’m doing.” Her palm slid down till her fingernails scratched along the scruff of his beard. “I just don’t have anything I want to ask.” Her hand cupped his jaw and held him still as she considered.

“You, however, know the questions plaguing my mind?”

Emma nudged him back and he let himself fall onto the ground. “Yeah I do. We had peace for while when you asked me about, well, the thing you asked me. I didn’t say no but I made the “face”.” She left her hands hanging in the air after she did the air quotes. “Whatever that is.”

“You have always had an expressive face for a woman with such high walls.” Killian teased her, shrugging without concern at her nose scrunch of distaste. “At least to me.”

She waved a hand. “Whatever. The point is, after that...”

“After that I started the game.” He leaned back on his hands and kicked his legs out in front of him.

“We,” she corrected.

Killian saluted her. “We. Over more months of peace and quiet.”

“Quiet? That beer stein thing wasn’t quiet.”

“But hardly a real problem.”

“You didn’t think so when my mom got her hands on it.”

“Honestly, your parents should never drink. Which reminds me, what happened with your father and the dwarves at the tavern?” The question escaped him quickly and when he caught his wife’s glare he barely contained his flinch. “Annnddd nothing to do with anything.”

Emma’s hand drifted down to the basket of flowers she collected to shift through them. “Nothing to do with the question you want to ask me.”

“I asked if we could remain in bed and see where that got me.” Killian closed his eyes and let himself fall onto his back, hitting the ground with a thump. “Well if you know my question, then I know your answers.”

“Really?”

He nodded. “Word for word.” Killian heard the rustle of her clothes and a change in the air as Emma moved closer. He opened his eyes to find her leaning over him, her face close to his. “Come closer love.” Shaking her head, Emma’s eyes traced the features of his face while he reclined below her with a raised brow and his best “I’m irresistible” smirk.

Killian watched her stop an eye rolling response, only to be captured by her glance down and away, her lashes fluttering before her eyes lifted back up to his. It wiped the smirk from his face and trapped the breath in his chest. His eyes closing as his lips puckered and he lifted up for her kiss.

He tasted nothing but air.

Emma sat with her arms crossed. “You’re really sure you know my answers?”

He didn’t answer. He just sat up with his lips still pursed for a kiss, waiting.

“Then I’ll ask and you answer.” He smiled in response but she had a condition. “No extra time to think.”

Killian held out his hand and Emma shook it. “We have an accord love.”

 

 


 

Belle smiled as she poured another spot of tea then offered the pot to Milah.

Since returning, she and Neal had taken their morning meal at the castle. It was safe enough as Rumple was an early riser who rarely lingered at the table. The company of mother and son had been a treat Belle hoped would continue whenever they were here.

Milah gave the offered pot a suspicious look but mumbled a thank you and yawned.

As little time as they had spent together, Belle remained sure that the woman viewed her with a great deal of suspicion. She had no clue how she had made such an impression but from everything she observed, Milah found her strange. As it caused her a great deal of mirth, Belle made sure to be extra attentive and courteous.

“Toast?” Belle asked holding out a platter and smiling when she received a grunt in reply. “Is there anything you need for this afternoon’s wedding?”

Milah shook her head and exchanged a look with Neal, both ill at ease with the topic. “Fact is I don’t think I should be going.”

“Mom.” Neal floundered and turned to Belle for help.

“You need to be there.”

“I’ll end up throwing things or something equally as bad.”

Belle let the two bicker back and forth as she considered what was best. Throwing things would be bad but there was no time like the present to start being a member of the family. Plus, Rumple and Regina, not to mention Emma, could handle anything thrown their way, magically speaking. She sipped her tea and concluded there was only one real concern.

Belle posed the question quietly. “Will it hurt you?” It cut through mother and son’s bickering.

“Will what hurt?” Her response was short and barbed. “The point is…”

Belle rolled her eyes and Milah stopped whatever nonsense she was spouting. “Emma has never hidden behind anyone and, even without magic, she’s always been a force to reckon with.” She lifted her cup to her lips. “The question is can you emotionally handle the wedding. And it’s something both of you should think about. It is no place for a fit of jealousy.”

Neal stared down the table and his mother glared.

Belle ignored them and stood to pull Gideon from his chair. “Killian will be there with Emma.”

The room echoed with the sound of porcelain cracking. Neal pulled the cup from Milah’s hand and set it gently on the table.

“We get that,” Neal added, sitting back in his chair. “It’ll be a little weird but –“

“But nothing Bae,” Milah stopped him. “I’m a danger so I will not be going.”

“Three of the most powerful people in this realm will be at the wedding. From what I’ve been told your anger might be have a magical component but you yourself aren’t capable of causing something truly catastrophic.”

“I thought a wedding wasn’t the place for a fit?” Milah crossed her arms and pushed herself away from the table. “Throwing things makes quite the scene.”

Neal examined the cracked cup. “So we’ll make sure your hands stay free. Belle’s the smartest person I know and she’s right. Is this going to hurt you? Seeing them?”

“No, it’s not like that.” Shrugging, Milah smiled softly at her son. “You know it’s not like that, not for me or for you.”

Gideon squirmed in Belle’s arms. “Excellent. We’ll leave just after lunch then.”

Neal made a face. “We’re all going together?”

A single brow lifted as Belle turned to leave. “Two carriages.” She could feel their stares on her back and waited past the doorway where they couldn’t see her.

“That woman is frightening.”

“She always struck me as determined and smart.”

“That’s what I said.”

Chapter Text

“You going to give me my hand back?” Emma asked with a smirk. “You do have two now, no need to ‘borrow’ one of mine.”

“Happy, happy memories wife.” His eyebrows bounced up and down but he kept ahold of her hand.

Emma enjoyed his warmth against her chilled fingers but the time had come. They had talked of what happened and now they needed to finish it all out. “Why didn’t you tell me? The second you remembered, why didn’t you come for me?”

Killian faltered briefly at her words but quickly responded per their agreement. “It’s complicated.”

“It’s always complicated. We talked about this when we played the game.” She struggled to raise one brow. “If we get separated, we find each other.”

“I know.” He flipped an imaginary lock of hair behind his ear. “We spent four months going over all possible calamities.”

She narrowed her eyes in warning after the hair flip. “If one forgets, the other finds them and fixes it.”

“I know.”

“So why didn’t you?”

Killian rolled his eyes at her. “Well, when I finally figured it all out, you introduced me to your wife.”

She pulled her hand from his and fiddled with the flowers in the basket. Looking up at him from beneath lowered brows, she continued, “That’s not exactly what happened.”

“Close enough.” He pulled a flower from her hand and lifted her hand to his cheek. “Do you really think that’s the question plaguing my mind?”

“We made plans. Promises.” She placed her other hand on his chest, covering their rings and closed her eyes as her words whispered out. “I feel like I failed you, again.”

Killian put a hand over hers on his cheek so she couldn’t ignore his words. “We did not plan for the return of the dead. Do you think I don’t know what this island is?” He reached out and tipped her chin up but Emma refused to open her eyes. “Running, hiding, rebuilding your walls. Waiting.”

Her eyes opened and sparked with intensity. “Just for you.”

“I know.” He looked away. “Still, that’s not it.” Killian’s mouth opened and closed but nothing came out like he wanted. “Bloody strange thing to have two hands again.”

Emma watched him closely, trying to figure out what he wasn’t ready to say out loud. Her own worries made her guess wrong. She needed to know what was going on with him, to know what else stood between them.

She pulled her hand away to brush a piece of his hair back. “You need a haircut.”

His lips broke into a small grin. “I miss the bears.”

“Me, too.” Emma took his free hand in hers again. “Tell me this isn’t about the kissing. Or tell me why you can’t tell me. Or, I don’t know, just tell me anything that’ll get us back to being us.”

“Emma.” He sighed and tightened his grasp on her. “It’s not, not that. I worry but.”

“I love you and that’s not changing.” Emma interrupted and shrugged one shoulder. “Ask me.”

“I love you and that will never change.” Killian’s right hand pulled away and moved to rest on her growing belly. “I asked and you said you weren’t ready.” He watched her face fall. “It’s why we started the game. I thought if you felt prepared, safer somehow, then we could talk about children.”

This time it was her whose mouth opened and closed, unable to prevent a whimper from escaping her lips. Emma tried to gain control but couldn’t hold back the sudden pooling of tears. He was right. She hadn’t even been ready to talk about the possibility of them and kids, had barely committed to discussing it in the future.

“It wasn’t about safety.” Her hoarse words surprised him. Her eyes darted around the meadow and her shame came out in a whisper. “I gave Henry away.”

“You were a child on your own.”

“I know that.” She swiped at the tears and rolled her eyes, shuffling across the ground to be closer to him.  “I don’t deserve a second change, or I thought, felt, whatever. I didn’t deserve one. “

“Emma.”

“Logically I know it’s idiotic but feelings and then I started to worry.” She finished in a whisper.

He used the back of his hand to help wipe away her tears. “Worry that your happiness could slip from your fingers because you don’t deserve it?”

“Yeah,” she shrugged helplessly. “Everything we had was so much more than I ever thought I would. What kind of fools ask for more?”

Killian just let his eyebrows rise in response and waited with for her to catch up.

A watery hiccup of a chuckle escaped her. “You are my kind of fool, I guess. I wouldn’t have let that stop us forever you know.”

“I know, but you weren’t ready then and now.” Killian couldn’t finish and simply gestured to the meadow around them. “Well now, it’s bloody well worse.”

“Ah, come on now.”

Killian put both hands on her shoulder and shook her gently. “I believe you enjoy using the term medieval times, whatever that is, but I don’t have to know that to be aware of how difficult giving birth is in the Enchanted Forest.”

Emma shrugged. “There’s worse and then there’s worse.”

Killian’s mouth dropped open in exasperation and he mumbled to himself, imitating her shrug and shaking his head. “Worse. Worse?” He looked to the sky for answers before settling on glaring at his wife. “You are having twins in a world where there are people who still think cutting hair cures a fever and you didn’t even want to be pregnant in the first place!”

“Breath.”

“I am breathing.” His frown deepened. “How is it you’re not more, more.” He waved his hands erratically through the air.

“Apparently I can keep my shit together while you’re losing it.” Emma grimaced, thinking now was as good a time as any. “Plus I know something you don’t.”

“And what’s that?”

She ignored his frown, his exasperation and his hands on his hips. “I’m happy, happy that you are such a terrible cook that I suffered from food poisoning long enough that you knocked me up and we’re about to have twins.”

“Is that really how?”

“Yes,” she replied with a nod.

“Seems a bit trite.”

“Trite?”

“Food poisoning leading to pregnancy. Name a worse plot device.”

“You really read everything, don’t you.”

“Of course, and some of your favorite things come from those books.” He took a long slow breath. “Tell me again.”

“I’m happy.” Emma stroked her growing belly with one hand. “Having them helped me when I didn’t have you.”

“Scared?”

“Well I’m breathing aren’t I?” Reaching out she pulled on his necklace. “This isn’t how we wanted things to go, I know that. But.” She reached up to undo the clasp, letting the necklace fall into her hands. “But I think, if we had waited to have that conversation when I was ready, we would have got here.”

“Here?”

Emma enjoyed the twinkle in his eye and the deftness of his brow raise. “Mmmmmm.” Carefully she separated their rings from the necklace and looked coyly at her husband.

He snatched her ring and held it out to her. Her lashes swept down as she held her left hand out to him, fingers separated, waiting.

“My heart belongs to you,” Killian said solemnly as he slid the ring onto her finger where it belonged. “For eternity and through every bad plot twist life throws at us.”

Emma beamed at him, closing her hand into a tight fist. He held out a shaking left hand to her and frowned, then offered the right. They both stared at his two hands stretched out between them.

“I just don’t know.” Scratching behind his ear with the right, he flexed the left one. “What happens if it goes away? I don’t want to lose my ring.”

“It’s your choice.”

“You don’t have a preference Swan?”

Shaking her head, she held his ring up. “Nope.”

Killian held out his right hand. “As we began then.”

Without looking down, she slid the ring on his finger as she repeated the words engraved on it. “My true love, death cannot separate us” – she lifted a shoulder up – “nothing ever will.”

His right hand held onto her left as he leaned his forehead against hers. “Wouldn’t it be nice to seal this with a kiss?”

“Come on, we’ve got just enough time for a snack and a nap before we have to get ready.”

Without letting go of each other’s hand, he stood and pulled Emma up as well. The awkwardness of the hand hold made them clumsy but neither was willing to let go.

“Tell me nap is one of those euphemisms you’re so fond of,” Killian remarked and Emma’s laughter floated out over the gardens.

 


 

 

The sound of liquid hitting ice was drowned out by the pounding fists on the door to the Room of Mirrors.

With the glass half full, the watcher dismissed the noise from their mind and took a slow sip while they contemplated the clouded mirrors before them.

Time meant little to them. Tracking how long the problem had been going on was mind numbing. Eternity was so long and so difficult to fill really and then to have one’s favorite show taken off the air added insult to the injury of the afterlife.

Something would have to be done to rectify the situation but it was such a complex problem. The perfect storm doesn’t just happen overnight. It would be another boring round of waiting and watching to harness the chaotic flow of incidents and accidents needed to unblock the broadcast. Not to mention further maneuvering required to reignite the drama.

The watcher’s hand clenched around the glass and they took a sip to calm themselves. Reminding themselves that breaking another mirror would be bad. They kicked a piece of shattered glass across the floor. It had been a difficult lesson to learn, the losses had left them unprepared for a waking savior.

A third sip cooled their ire completely. On the other hand, the angst of it all was simply brilliant. Lost memories, love triangles, surprise pregnancies and separated lovers, it was all just too juicy to resist and possibly improved with the heroes awake and aware. They had just been getting to the good part too, passionate reunions and a wedding but something was interfering with the mirror.

Blasted do-gooders, always ruining the fun.

The watcher startled a bit as the sound of fists pounding was replaced by a solid thump of, they listened closely, a battering ram. Interesting but the magic blocking them would remain undamaged. Someone incredibly powerful would have to intervene to get past it. The watcher turned and tapped on the bell jar sitting on the side table, but the little blue light inside no longer reacted.

When they had first caught Reul Ghorm, the fairy had frantically buzzed about the glass prison. Now she listless laid about but she wouldn’t die in there. Of course, no one died in the world of the dead and now the Blue Fairy was just one more soul stuck waiting.

One very useful and magical soul.

The watcher rattled the jar until their little blue light moved then commanded her. “Flip the channels.”

Mirrors came alive with different worlds to watch. Not nearly as fun or dramatic or soul satisfying as the Enchanted Forest but still ripe with possibilities.

The assault on the door continued but the watcher once again tuned out the noise and searched for a solution.

Chapter Text

A wide bower of roses, apple blossoms and wildflowers stood where the forest stopped. Under it Friar Tuck and Jiminy Cricket waited. A modest crowd of Storybrooke citizens marched across the clearing on their way to the wedding. They stopped at the Queen’s signal before the bower.

Along the edge of the forest, Merry Men and other denizens of Sherwood Forest allied with Robin Hood stepped through the trees, followed by the man himself with Roland at his side. All waited as the Queen Mother’s family stepped forward. David and Snow greeted Robin while Rumplestilskin situated his family to one side.

The crowd parted to create an aisle. Confusion spread as the pirate escorted the princess to the front.

Killian ignored the confusion and delivered Emma to the bride’s side of the bower. With a wide smile, he clapped Robin on the back and offered his congratulations. Robin clasped his hand tightly so the pirate couldn’t get away.

After a few words, the pirate scratched the back of his head and took his place beside Little John at the thief’s side.

Up the aisle next swept the Wicked Witch with her Green Pea in her arms. Zelena held her head high even as a murmurs traveled through the crowd and passed their daughter to Robin. A glare to silence the waggling tongue and she took her place at Emma’s side.

Robin held out a hand to Roland and turned to wait for his queen.

Regina stepped into the aisle on Henry’s arm. She had won this time. She wasn’t dressed in white but rather a lavender gray with a white bouquet. Hopefully only Henry knew she was shaking.

“Once upon a time,” Henry spoke softly. “The Evil Queen learned her lesson and changed her ways. She welcomed love into her life and let it heal the hole she had made in her heart, let her find the family and the love she had always wanted.”

Regina looked down the aisle at the man waiting underneath a bower with the cricket and the friar. “I don’t know about this.”

“But the hardest task still faced her. Could she continue to choose good, trusting that good things would follow?”

“I’m serious, Henry.” She glanced at the children waiting with Robin. “My past is still out there.”

“With the help of those who love her, she knew, whatever came – the ghosts of the past or happiness she doesn’t believe she deserves – she could face losing it all and, more importantly, she could face having it.”

Regina took a deep breath.

Henry pulled back when they reached the bower and took her hands in his. “Because she had the most resilient heart. One that had learned to love even when it was blackened, would continue to love and protect and fight for those she loved.” He kissed her cheek. “You can do this, Mom.”

Henry passed her hand over to Robin who thanked him and went to stand with Emma.

Regina looked into Robin’s eyes and stopped shaking. Henry was right, she could do this. When she smiled at him, Robin lifted her hand and kissed it before pressing a kiss to Sweet Pea’s cheek and holding her out to Regina.

She accepted the baby and kissed her as well then turned to hand her to Zelena. Regina watched something flicker in her eyes at the gossipy tongues in the crowd. Giving her niece one last affectionate pat, she kissed her sister on the cheek and turned back to the man who would be her husband without incinerating anyone.

Robin waited with that stupidly cheerful smile on his face and Roland’s hand in his. Henry had two mothers, a father and a stepfather, another wouldn’t hurt him any but Roland had been a while without a mother. Regina thought about Emma’s words in the garden days ago. She reached out to take Roland’s other hand.

After today, he would be hers no matter what happened.

Together Robin and Regina turned and nodded for Archie and Friar Tuck to start.

“It is a privilege to welcome you all here today to witness this happy occasion.”

 


 

 

“What would you call this?” Zelena sat on a blanket and motioned with head at the crystal chandelier above them.

Emma chewed and swallowed. “Forest meets castle?” They both looked covertly over at Snow White. “I don’t know how she got this fancy ass, flower decked reception set up in the middle of the forest. Not sure I want to know.”

Zelena quickly turned her attention away when Snow took glanced their way. “There are times I think we all forget how much we should fear your mother.”

Emma nodded and hmm’d around her food, awkwardly leaning down to wipe goo off Sweet Pea’s face.  The forest sparkled as twilight fell and people spread out on blankets and chairs and benches celebrating the happy couple. Emma found Zelena at the far edge of it all and decided to hide there with her and Sweet Pea. They both received frowns from Snow and then Regina and then Snow again. She leaned back against the tree behind her and tickled the baby.

“So, I know why I’m hiding. What’s your deal?”

“I should think it’s obvious.” Zelena tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Or did you miss the twittering unwashed masses.”

Emma shrugged. “Are you really that bothered by it?”

“Please, I am the Wicked Witch of the West.” Zelena’s side glance slid over her daughter’s happy face. “But Robin is just a baby. And let’s be honest, there’s no need to throw a pall on the festivities by emotionally scarring anyone with my razor tongue.”

Snorting, Emma let baby Robin wiggle free of her lap and she scooted over to her mother. “As if that’s all that would happen to anyone who made her cry.”

Zelena sniffed in disdain but couldn’t disagree so she turned the tables. “Why are you hiding? And where’s the husband? I suppose I should just count myself lucky not to be stuck with you lovebirds making goo-goo eyes at each other.”

“Why don’t you just go with that and leave it there.”

“I’m not known for remaining quiet.”

“You could try something new.”

The witch pretended to think about the suggestion. “Turn over a new leaf?” She shivered and shook her head. “I like my blunt force honesty. It feels like my path to redemption and my one remaining power.”

The two women remained locked in a staring contest when Neal plopped down on their blanket with plates of cake. He held them out but only Emma took one. “So what were you two talking about?”

“Nothing,” they said at the same time.

“Yeah, right.” He quickly lifted the remaining two plates high out of the toddler’s reach. “Um, Zelena can she?” Neither woman responded but enjoyed watching as he tried to juggle plates and baby. “A little help please?”

“No.” Zelena visibly turned away from him and eyed the savior. “Good?” Emma mumbled around a mouthful of cake and the witch just rolled her eyes. “It boggles the mind that you’re royalty.”

Emma smiled wide, proudly displaying the partially chewed cake and causing Neal to laugh, losing a plate to the determined baby who promptly smeared frosting across her face.

Swallowing a cough, Emma choked down the cake. “Well I wasn’t raised to be one.”

“Who was?” Neal chimed in.

“For the love of magic. We are not about to have a tragic childhood competition, are we?” Zelena raised a brow at the two. “I’m not sure anyone wins those.”

“Not something I ever thought you’d say,” Neal quietly replied. “Not the same witch who killed me are you?”

Zelena’s eyes narrowed at the Dark One’s son and his unfortunate inability to handle one small child. “I may have started certain wheels turning, but you chose your death. You brought Rumple back and gave up your own life to do it.”

“But.”

“Oh, I’m not saying I’m blameless.” She interrupted with a snort. “Never that. But you chose it. I might be wicked but I’ve never had a death wish.” Zelena picked up Sweet Pea from the blanket and ignored the pouting baby to stalk off.

“Way to go genius.” Emma stole the untouched plate of cake from his hands. “Pissing off Zelena tends to bite you in the ass later.”

Neal frowned. “Come on Em, she’s not blameless.”

“She didn’t say she was.” The words came out around the cake. She swallowed so he wouldn’t miss what she was about to say. “Look around, no one here is blameless. I sped up her pregnancy so I could kill her. This whole forgiveness and redemption thing isn’t based around denying what happened, it’s in spite of it, dumbass.”

“Is that how you became friends with Regina?” He frowned at the plate in her hands.

Emma raised another forkful of cake to her mouth as she glared at him. “Henry needed me to forgive her. It’s not like we all just upped and forgot what she had done but she was, and is, his mother. I mean, every time something bad happen we worried about what Regina would do and yeah, it was touch and go a time or two but she put up with our doubts and kept trying.” She got back to the point. “Henry needed us to get along, so I found a way. We all had to find a way to forgive and live with each other. This is the family we have, deal with it.”

“In spite of.”

Emma nodded when a voice behind Neal chimed in.

“I hope you have an explanation for upsetting my sister at my wedding reception.” Regina’s arms were crossed and she tapped one well shod foot. Neal’s head whipped around to look up at the queen standing behind him.

“Nice shoes,” Emma interjected.

“Thanks,” Regina said sourly. “I’m waiting.”

“No, I, well I didn’t mean anything, I swear.” Neal fumbled for the words and found none. He hung his head down. “I’ll go apologize?”

“Is that a question?” Regina shot back.

Emma smirked, catching the eye of her pirate who sauntered up to join them. Killian eased down next to her, flipping a lock of her hair over her shoulder. He waved his flask and shrugged at her frown before pulling the cork with his teeth and taking a sip. Emma huffed, leaning into his side.

“Oh God save me, they’re back.” Regina glared at the two lovers flirting without words. The grimace on Neal’s face was a fine down payment for her sister’s discomfort. “I suppose we should be grateful that they’re being discreet.”

Neal stared at the couple and stood up to whisper a question to Regina. “And that’s not all kinds of weird to you?”

“Hey!”                             

“Really, Bae, don’t be so appalling rude.” Killian pulled Emma further into his arms while she stuck her tongue out at Neal.

Regina glared at him and Neal sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“That’s a start.” Arms encircled Regina’s waist from behind.

“Wife, I do believe you owe me this dance.” Robin pulled her back against him. “I’m sure Neal” – he nodded at the man – “can handle apologizing to your sister.”

“Come Swan, the dancing has finally begun.” Killian pulled Emma up, leading her towards the music.

Off they went with heads tilted toward one another. Regina leaned back in her thief’s arms with a sigh. Tomorrow was quickly approaching.

“Come on, you have to find that a little weird.” Neal watched with bewilderment as Emma and Killian joined the dancing, completely wrapped around each other.

“They really like dancing,” Robin replied off hand, his attention focused on Regina.

She nodded and turned to look at him. “They really do. Not something you’d think they’d be in to but..” She shrugged.

“You’re thinking of Camelot too, my love?”

“Mmmmm.” Regina answered, distracted by Neal’s unwavering stare. “Did you think we were lying about the two of them?”

Neal shook his head in reply and squinted. “They’re kind of,” he cautiously threw a side glanced at Regina and Robin, “annoyingly sappy.”

Robin let out a long loud laugh at that while Regina just rolled her eyes.

“I know, but you shouldn’t be so surprised.” It was perhaps a bit cruel to say but Zelena was her sister and sometimes it was more obvious than others. “They’ve been making eyes at each other since Neverland.”

Neal rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. “They really have, haven’t they?” He blew out one long breath before formally bowing to Regina. “Your highness, I’m off to apologize to your sister.”

Regina responded with a slow barely perceptible nod.

“And congratulations.” Neal smiled and shook Robin’s hand before wading through the celebration to complete his task.

Regina let out another sigh.

Robin took her hand and threaded it through his arm, leading her toward the dancers. “My Queen, what bothers you on this momentous occasion?”

“Tomorrow, I guess.” She let him lead her toward the center of the dance floor. “My past sins, my present happiness, my future destruction.”

Robin’s smiling countenance turned solemn at her words.

“I’m happy so this is normally when everything falls apart.” Regina’s head twisted as she found Henry dancing with a young lady. Her attention switching to Neal bowing to Zelena. Belle held out her arms to take Sweet Pea then promptly passed the baby to Rumplestilskin as his eldest son dragged Regina’s sister out into the melee. The pair passed by Snow and Charming and baby Neal dancing together along the edge, Snow’s face glowing at her husband and son. “Anything could happen.”

The tune changed and Robin pulled his wife into his arms, holding her close to sway slowly to the music. “I have not a clue either.” He leaned his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes. “But I was thinking.”

“Really?”

He nodded without moving a single bit away from her. “If I had died in a more normal way.”

“Oh god, we live in world where there are normal ways to die.”

“Hush you,” he sternly warned her. “If I had, I would have been there, in Hades’ Underbrooke, with my own unfinished business.”

“I promise, I’ll be there no matter what for Roland and Robin. And if not me, then Snow and Emma, Henry and, god help us, Hook.”

He shook his head and stroked a hand down her cheek. “You truly are a marvel, but it isn’t that.” Robin’s smile stretched across his face and he kissed her and kissed her, lifting her up in his arms. The crowd around them cheered and he set her down, raising a hand to quiet them.

“I thank you all for being here and celebrating this day with us but I’m afraid it’s time for my wife and I to leave you.”

Regina ignored the laughter rippling through the crowd as her husband took her hand to lead them out of the forest. Past the festivities, Regina and Robin stopped at the bower they had been married under.

“My children would have and would be at a loss without me but they were, and are, in good hands.” He held both her hands in his. “I’m afraid that you, you would have been my unfinished business.”

Regina reached up and held his face in both hands. “Not anymore.” As she kissed him, the two disappeared into a cloud of purple smoke.

Chapter Text

The sky stretched out endlessly, clear and dark and full of stars above the gardens of the Dark One’s castle.

Soothing as it was it held no answers for Milah. Plotting out a course consumed her waking hours, more so than when she was a young girl chock full of impossible wants.

The afternoon wedding had been lovely and like all of Queen Snow White’s plans, filled with subtle messages for the people of Misthaven. The ceremony a true test for the thing inside her that had provided some perspective. Milah had focused on anything other than Killian and his wife as they walked together, had even indulged Lumiere as he whispered observations in her ear.

She stretched out both hands, studying them, remembering the white knuckles she had hidden in her skirts when she could no longer avoid the princess that afternoon. Her fingers still felt stiff. The anger had been like a heartbeat inside her, pounding furiously, pushing her to throw, kick, or punch something, anything.

Whatever pushed at her, it was aimed directly at the princess and no one else. It had been pleased by the disapproving gossip of the crowd that had pushed her to the edge of the celebration. Momentarily, the petty ugly thing still lurked inside her and Milah wanted it out. The course may remain uncharted but she wanted her second chance life.

Footsteps interrupted her thoughts. When she looked over her shoulder she hoped to find Bae, or maybe Lumiere. She sneered and returned to the night sky.

A high pitched giggle pierced the quiet of the garden. “Ignore me later, dearie, when there’s someone else to witness my humiliation.”

“Ha ha, Rumple.”  She glared up at him. “You don’t care about that anymore.”

“But I have no other way to take you to task for ignoring my mighty presence.”

“That wife of yours, now she’s quite the presence, absolutely frightening in the power she wields.” She raised a brow at him. “Do you think anyone gets how scary your little librarian is?”

“There’s a rare member of this family that isn’t totally terrifying when properly motivated. Ahh, to be an evil puppet master once more with what I know now.”

Milah snorted. “You have what you want.”

“All it takes is one thing. One loss, one wish and any member of this entangled lot becomes the most dangerous person in any realm. Then again, that’s true for most people. It’s the ties that bind us which will strangle us all.”

“What do you want?” She bluntly requested. “You didn’t seek me out for a laugh.”

Rumple fingers tapped a steady rhythm as he watched and waited.

“Just ask,” she sighed, “Today has been long enough.”

He shifted his weight to his other foot, a hip cocked out and crossed his arms then he held one finger up. “You learned something today.” Ignoring her surprise he continued. “Something interesting, important maybe. You should share it dearie.”

“I thought we were all getting together tomorrow afternoon in a secret location to discuss, well, everything?”

He cackled. “True.” Slyly he moved closer. “But if you tell me know, maybe we won’t have a repeat of today.”

“I don’t know what…”

“Please Milah,” he stopped her. “Even with the candlestick’s” – he waved his hands – “jokes, you spent every second reigning yourself in.”

She flashed him a big and toothy smile. “Not every second.” Milah picked up a blade of grass and smelled it. “Just anytime I actually looked at her.” She blew the blade out of her fingers and watched it float into the night.

“So, it has nothing to do with the pirate.” He looked off into the night. “How strange, but useful.”

“Yeah, I thought you’d say that.” She shrugged as the blade of grass plummeted to the ground. The night breeze too gentle to hold it aloft. “Who did princess perfect get on the wrong side of? I mean you seem to like her, what other villain would be out there looking to hurt her?”

“Like is a strong term.”

Milah rolled her eyes, unimpressed.

“But close enough.” Rumple shifted his stance, leaning forward and plucking a hair from her head.

“What the hell!”

He giggled and grinned happily. “With the information we have, I had a few suspects on my list.” Holding up the hair Rumple nodded. “With this, I should be able to eliminate a few.” His nose wrinkled and he pursed his lips. “I must say, terribly unskilled of them really.”

“You could have done better?”

“Then to send someone who I wouldn’t be able to control to randomly attack the savior, whose the embodiment of true love magic, with physical violence?” He sneered. “Certainly.”

The look of disgust on his face made Milah chuckle and smirk up at him. “You were a master weaver.”

Rumple twittered in response. “A compliment, how droll.  Well, it is all about seeing the bigger picture dearie.”

“Weaving or playing puppet master,” Milah asked, holding her hands out and wiggling her fingers.

Again that ridiculous giggle split the night. “Both.”

 


 

It was a clear and quiet night that would have come with a light frost in Maine. Charming watched his wife tense up as she exchanged a few words with Tinkbelle and Nova, their fairy clean-up crew. He took a deep breath, mentally preparing for whatever news she just received. They needed to return home for a goodnight’s sleep before tomorrow’s meeting.

His horse neighed at the distracted king and pushed his head against David’s shoulder to demand a treat but he had nothing in his pockets. Snow’s arm reached out from behind him, holding out sugar cubes. She had thought of everything today. He lowered his head in thanks and took two. “You never miss a thing.”

Snow snorted and shook her head, frowning. The frown stayed put even when she treated her own mount. “I didn’t think about how everyone would react to Killian and Emma.” She gathered the reins. “You know, being together.”

Running his reins through his fingers, David mumbled a bit as he studied the forest floor. When he looked up he caught an unamused eyebrow arch from his wife and smiled. Reaching out with his hand he brushed her cheek. “You are so beautiful.”

“Charming,” Snow replied flatly without changing her expression.

His smile got bigger. “I’m not kidding, you are, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman I have ever known.” One shoulder lifted. “And you look exactly as you did the first time you called me charming.”

“David.”

He leaned down, cupped his hands and waited.

Snow took the boost up onto her horse. “I mean I know they don’t know and we do know, and I know that but I still didn’t think about it and then it was all awkward.” When she looked down all she could see was the top of his head. “David.”

His head tilted up with a face she regularly saw him give their son-in-law, something between a “really” and “you’ve got to be kidding me”.

“Fine. I know I’m not making perfect sense but you know what I’m saying.” She pulled her mount around to the path home. “Are you coming?”

He waited till they had settled into a steady walk on the path and David had a change to think it through. “It went well, even with the awkward.” The moonlight lighted the way home and made it impossible to hide the tense set of Snow’s shoulders. Maybe he could sneak up on whatever was keeping her worried. “They really love dancing.”

Snow turned in the saddle with wide eyes. “You caught that too? I mean, in Storybrooke all they really do is that snuggle shuffle thing but give Emma formal waltzes and traditional country dances and she won’t leave the floor.”

“They danced at their wedding,” he pointed out.

“Please.” Snow huffed. “They sang at their wedding. We sang at their wedding. It wasn’t like modern Land without Magic dancing.”

“Eh. He did okay, I mean for a pirate.”

“You aren’t going to bring that up again, are you?” She glared at him. “That’s just what everyone was saying. Perfectly fine for Milah to run around with a pirate but the princess, Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter. Totally inappropriate.” He started to reply but she held up a hand to stop him. “And then, oh and then. Then someone just had to go and say thank goodness she’s no longer in line to inherit the throne.”

Snow twisted back around with a growl of frustration. “The nerve of them. I mean, Killian has had more formal training and more education than me, certainly more qualified than you. My father would have loved having a man from the Royal Navy as part of the family.”

“Alas, I am just a poor boy, from a poor family.” David hummed the rest of the song to himself as Snow’s rant turned into a review of all the professions her father had admired and revered.

“It’s a good thing I don’t have magic.” Snow drew her horse to a stop as they reached the end of the forest path. Their castle aglow a short ride away. Her eyes narrowed. “I’d have fire balled them.”

“No you wouldn’t.” He exhaled loudly. Why had he thought he could sneak up on her? “What news did the fairies have?”

Snow shot him a quick glance.

“You’ll feel better if you tell me.” His head tilted from side to side. “I’ll feel better if you tell me and then we can sleep better.”

Her lashes fluttered as she looked down at her hands. “Sleep?”

He smiled and nudged his horse forward. “After anyways. Tell me before we have to wake up Sleepy.”

“Who keeps putting him on guard duty?” Snow flicked her reins, urging her horse into a trot to catch up to him. “So, I was on fairy detail.”

“I thought you were on wedding detail,” he interrupted.

She raised a brow at him. “I can do two things at once, you know plan a wedding, talk to a few fairies, run a small kingdom.” He nodded in agreement and she got back to it. “Tink’s been doing research with Emma so Nova, Astrid? Whichever, went to work on finding any information Blue left behind.”

“And?”

“She found a journal, or series of journals. Like the series to end all series. I’m beginning to wonder just how long fairies live?”

David pulled his mount to a stop and reached out to do the same to hers. “Irrelevant, what did Nova find?”

“Blue isn’t dead.”

“Isn’t that good news?”

Snow shook her head and once again nudged her horse into a walk then a canter, ignoring the question and shooting a look over her shoulder along with a simple phrase – “Race me” – which Charming barely caught over the pounding of the hooves as she galloped home.

David pushed his mount to catch up, the clatter of hooves waking Sleepy from his nap by the castle gate. He frowned at the dwarf who shrugged. By the time he caught up, Snow had dismounted and was tending her horse. He secured his reins and unbuckled his saddle.

“Blue’s not dead?”

“Nope.”

“And that’s bad news because we thought she was?” He hefted the saddle over a post and turned to his wife who looked up briefly from her task with a put upon frown. “Even though we have our memories back?” He slowly turned back to care for his horse. “Even though we have our memories back.”

Snow leaned back against the stall once her horse was brushed and put away. “More missing pieces and who knows what happened to Blue. For every bit we find out there are ten thousand things more we don’t.” Snow dusted off her cloak and resettled it around her shoulders. “Who knows what’ll happen tomorrow because in case you missed it, we will not be keeping the pirate and your daughter from kissing for much longer.”

David tended his horse in silence while she fumed and fussed behind him. He didn’t like to dwell upon the physical distance or lack thereof between their daughter and her husband. He rolled his eyes at himself, the two were so stupidly happy together and he really needed to drop the whole ridiculous overprotective thing.

Tossing his brush in an empty bucket he undid the reins and watched his horse head over to his stall. Time to tend his wife. David took both her hands in his and lifted each to his mouth for a kiss.

 “I think,” he began and pulled her toward the stable doors. “That this conversation will have to wait for tomorrow.”

“But…”

“I think,” he interrupted her. “Our resident expert in hope needs to remember to have it because we are all fighting this. Together.”

Snow wrapped her arm around his waist and leaned into his side. “When did you get so smart?”

David smiled down at her. “The day I fell in love with you and every day after.”

“Well, aren’t you a real Prince Charming.”

Chapter Text

Emma stared out across the sea and wished it soothed her. At least it was better than the argument between her son and pirate. A full volume discussion of the twins’ room kept them distracted them from the upcoming meeting.

Yesterday was a good day.

Sure, Neil got into it with Zelena but they danced it out. There was the annoying, nosy, gossip of everyone from Storybrooke. Still, overall, a good day with everyone tucked safely away in their homes for a good night’s sleep.

Today, they paid the piper.

Emma had never believed life was fair and learning fairy tales were real and she was a part of them hadn’t changed her mind.

She just wanted to live normally, kiss her husband, find out who was messing with her family and put an end to it. Her sigh interupted the argument in the room behind her. Emma turned around to face two scarily similar expressions from husband and son.

She pointed to her kid. “When did you learn to do that thing with your eyebrow.”

Killian looked at Henry, his brow still raised and gave him a nod. “Just because you can’t, doesn’t mean the lad wouldn’t be able to.”

Both smartasses smirked. God, she hoped the twins would be on her side. She crossed her arms and did her best not to let her eyebrow twitch trying to copy them.

“Come love, what’s the sigh for?” Killian held out a hand to her in invitation. It was one she wouldn’t refuse and she placed her hand in his. He pulled her down into his lap. “Fess up, you’ve been worrying about today.”

Emma ignored him even as she snuggled deeper into his arms.

Henry gave them a bland look. “You know I can go hang over at Regina’s with Zelena and the baby if you two are going to…whatever.”

“No, I want you here kid.” Emma entwined her fingers with Killian’s. “And the sooner we know what we want the sooner the dwarves can start on the twins’ room.”

Henry flipped through their plans and let out a long exhale. “Are we even staying here?” He didn’t look up, avoiding their stares. “I mean we have enough beans and all, we could sail the Jolly Roger back to Storybrooke. Isn’t it safer there?”

Killian groaned. “You sound like your mother. Is any realm actually safe?”

“That’s why I said safer.” Henry let the “er” go on till he needed to breath. “I mean the Land without Magic is the hardest realm to get to.”

“But it isn’t impossible, particularly with the return of the beans. On the other hand,” he paused as mother and son shared a small smile. “Now that I have an other hand.” Killian stopped altogether when she laughed and his stepson snorted. “Really you two?”

Emma shrugged. “I kind of miss the puns and the hook.”

Henry let out a sharp barking laugh unable to resist when Killian lowered his brows. “I miss our DVD collection.”

Emma and Henry watched in anticipation as Killian’s head fell back and he placed a hand over his eyes. She reached out with one foot and nudged her son, jerking her head toward the pirate.

“Hey, does this mean you have to do the whole perm” – the moment Emma said perm, Killian’s head shot up and he glared at his innocent looking wife – “and waxed mustache thing now? I mean how else will people know that you’re Captain Hook ‘cause, you know, two hands. No hook.”

Before Killian could respond, Henry cut in. “Hey, stop flirting and go back to your other hand.”

Killian bowed his head to the kid’s request. “I don’t know, but they had some lovely shiny modern things that probably come in handy with the whole birthing process.” He placed a hand on her belly. “Particularly as there are two of them in there.”

Emma studied the worry crossing his face and stole a glance at Henry whose face was thoughtful as well. “Actually, it’s kind of a toss-up. About safer for any of the things you mentioned. Plus, well, there’s this other thing.” She pushed herself up and out of her husband’s arms, crossing the room to grab a snack. “It’s always bread and cheese and fruit here isn’t it? I want a bear claw,” she grumbled.

When she could feel the weight of their combined stares, she glanced up to find identical looks again, this time of annoyance.  Smiling she went back to the food in front of her. “In the Land without Magic, and I’m not talking a Storybrooke with magic but the prison hospital in Arizona with no magic whatsoever, there may have been some flickering lights when you were born.”

“Flickering lights?” Henry asked.

“Well, it started with flickering lights. Took out the power to the entire maternity ward for a bit.” She shrugged and grabbed a roll. “Shattered a couple of light bulbs.”

“You have busted a few lights before love.”

“That first night in town.” Henry flipped over one of the pages in his hands and sprawled out on the floor with his pencil and began drawing franticly.

Killian stood to see what the kid was up to and Emma moved to his side. When he nudged her she shrugged in response. Emma had no clue what Henry was up to even. “The only weird thing from that night was the wolf.”

“No it wasn’t Mom.” Henry sat back up and held up the rough pencil sketch.

Both adult tilted their heads as they studied the sketch.

“Swan, that is definitely the death trap you drive around.” Killian traced a finger over the roof of the VW bug.

“Funny.” She studied the figure that stood at the side of the bug. “So, going by hair length alone, that’s me but I don’t know what that explosion you put in the background is.”

Henry rolled his eyes. “Remember when you stopped the car, right before we talked to Archie. You were mad because I wouldn’t give you my address.”

“I got out and slammed the door and the street lights, ohhhh.”

The pirate looked back and forth at mother and son. “Oh what?”

“I took out the street light.” She sighed and took the page from Henry. “I was kind of upset that night.”

“It makes sense.” Henry tapped the page with his pencil. “Plus Mom mentioned you called up a storm or something.” He shrugged, his voice hesitant. “When you almost shot Lily.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “When I almost killed Lily.”

“I think almost can count in this case.” Killian wrapped an arm around her. “The point being, you have magic no matter where you are.”

“The point is,” she said. “A Land without Magic hospital isn’t necessarily the best place for me.” She held up one hand when both of her guys opened their mouths to object. “And until we have more information we don’t know if anywhere is safer. Besides home isn’t home unless we all want to be there.”

Henry stood and looked directly into her eyes. “You know I keep thinking…” He couldn’t finish.

Emma placed both hands on his shoulders and thought of the little ten-year-old who had come and saved her, who had brought her home.

“I know. You’re growing up and one day you’ll leave home.” She wanted to pull him into her arms and never let that day come. “You’ll go and we’ll miss you. You’ll miss us and maybe you’ll find your place is not in one of the many castles you could live in or a little town in Maine. But.”  Emma stepped closer and rested her forehead against Henry’s. “You will write and you will visit and you will not be going off without any way to communicate. Land without Magic or Fairy Tale Central, we will figure it out.  There are no acceptable excuses for not talking to us on a weekly basis and absolutely no going years without visiting.”

“Jeez.”

“Are we clear?” Emma asked him.

“Yes, Mom.”

“Don’t think this gets you out of a lecture from Regina by the way.” Emma pulled back and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “Those who wander aren’t always lost or whatever may be the life you’re planning but you will be E.T.’ing the hell out of it as well.”

Henry laughed and hugged her, lifting and spinning her in a circle.

“E.T. That’s a movie isn’t it?”

Emma smiled at her husband and squeezed her son extra hard before wrapping one arm around his should and leaning into his side.

“Come on guys, back to the now and what to do about the twins’ room. I’ll try to stop worrying about this afternoon if,” she looked from one to the other and held out a finger to them both, “if you guys drop needing a theme.” She poked Killian in the chest before he could speak. “And we are not asking Regina to catch a kraken, a griffin or any other scary beast, to turn into a stuffed animal.”

Henry slumped against her. “That was the only thing we agreed on.”

“Well this princess says no.”

“Ah, such a commanding tone.” Her pirate smirked at her.

“Chills?”

Killian shook his head and gave her that look, the she’s absolutely brilliant glowing look that made her heart pick up speed. “You’ll make a hell of a Queen one day.”

Emma blinked twice, frozen in place. When she caught Killian looking back and forth between her and Henry, she cast a quick side glance at her son. He looked like a fish gasping for breath. Her arm tighten around Henry’s shoulder and the past couple of days played over in her head. They had talked, she felt her cheeks heat, eventually, but mainly it had been about what they had or hadn’t done the past couple of months and about the twins, the surprise pregnancy and no kissing.

The clearing of a throat brought Emma’s attention back to the present and she could no longer avoid looking at her frowning, foot tapping husband. She started counting the taps.

“Emma.”

“Fifteen.” Her count escaped her lips quietly. She felt an elbow nudge her side.

“Thirty-two,” Henry replied. “I started sooner.”

The tapping stopped and Emma watched the tips of his boot disappear under the hem of her skirts. Her arm around Henry was gently pulled away and Killian’s hand take a hold of hers. She closed her eyes and shook her head a little, her shoulders pulling back as she stood up straighter.

“Love,” he said. “Did you forget to tell me something?”

Emma rolled her eyes. “It’s not really important” – she shrugged one shoulder – “Not to me anyways.”

“I don’t care either.” Henry added.

“But alas,” Killian said as he threaded his fingers with hers. “I’m completely in the dark, am I not?”

Smirking, Emma’s eyebrows lifted quickly. “You distracted me thoroughly.”

A tiny smile flitted across Killian’s face as they listened to Henry groan and mutter about things he didn’t need to know. “Well, who wouldn’t be by one as dashing as meself.”

Henry flung himself down on the chaise. “You two are unbearable. Just tell him already.”

Emma tried to pull her hands away and Killian’s grip just tightened. “I made a big decision, you know before coming here, here.” She took a step back and he followed her. “I thought or I didn’t know what else was coming but I knew this. Three months of sleepless nights, and council meetings and everything.” Focusing on the buttons of his waistcoat seemed to help.

“Mmmm, I’m getting it,” he said, his voice carefully unconcerned. “You made a major life decision without me, something to do with the whole royal side of our life.” Killian lifted a hand and tilted her face up, holding her there with his hand on her cheek.

Damn the man and his ability to radiate so many feelings. Emma reached up and trailed her fingers across his forehead and down his cheek, her thumb tracing the slight scar there before brushing over the wide sweet smile he wore just for her. “I’ll never be queen Killian and I don’t want to be.”

He wrapped her free arm around his neck and felt her relax into him. “You do have a stunning lack of tact.”

“Hey.” Emma threaded her fingers into the hair at the nape of his neck. “I managed to keep the peace, and not just in Storybrooke.”

Killian leaned his forehead against hers. “You make an awe inspiring sheriff love.” Her lashes swept down as she hummed in her husband’s arms. He brushed her hair behind her ear before leaning away. “But I can see clearly that those skills might not work well for trade negotiations.”

Henry cracked up and both of them turned to watch the kid laugh his ass off.

Emma rolled her eyes at her son’s guffaws and Killian just sighed. “That’s no way for future king to treat his parents, lad.”

Henry’s laughter stopped as he sprang to his feet. “Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not me.”

Emma shrugged. “Who knows.”

Killian frowned. “Who knows? That seems vague.”

“Well we are talking about the future.”

“Shush lad, your mother knows something, or has her own pet theory.” From beneath furrowed brows Killian considered his wife.

Emma leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder and looked up at him through her lashes. “It’s just a phrase. Like who even knows what’ll happen after today?”

His eyes narrowed. “Try again love.”

Emma pouted, happily watching the pirate eye her lips.

“That’s just not fair.” He let the words escape in a huff. “Henry your mother will never be queen because she has way too much pirate in her.”

 “You knew that when you asked her to marry you.”  Henry went back to the plans.

It was finally Killian’s turn to roll his eyes. “Are there any other large pieces of news you’ve forgotten to tell me wife?”

“Let’s see,” Emma said, pushing away. “I have given up my claim to the crown which I am surprised you didn’t hear yesterday as everyone was super happy about it because apparently a princess hanging out with a pirate is a problem for them” – she ignored the matching frowns – “later today we’re all meeting to figure out what’s next. There will be no theme for twins’ room. I’m pretty sure regardless of how this works out, there will be a rash of babies in the next few years. There’s a protective barrier blocking this place, sight and sound, from a watcher who’s probably responsible for all this.  Also no weird stuff animals made from actual scary monsters.” She took a breath. “I think that’s everything.”

“More kids?” Henry squeaked out.

Killian frowned. “A barrier?”

“For now, everything for now.” Emma rolled her eyes at them and proceeded to stuff the rest of the roll in her mouth so she wouldn’t be able to answer any more questions.

 


 

With the assault on the Room of Mirrors remaining unsuccessful, the watcher tuned back into the Enchanted Forest. More broken glass littered the floor since the garden gnome’s assessment of their intelligence and skills. The mirror for the island in the Bottomless Sea showed only static. Still.

The watcher counted off all the little homes of the ridiculous Charming family except the one.

The Evil Queen’s wedding night had been excruciatingly boring as had the reception after the ceremony. The shunning of Emma Swan hadn’t been as thrilling as they hoped and they were severely disappointed in the pirate wench and mean greenie. The kind of scene that witch could enact would have been so delicious but no, peace love and understanding mucked up some good old fashion drama.

It was simply not true to human nature. No one was so irritatingly kind and forgiving and whatever else these saps did to get through the trials and tribulations of life. The watcher knew this twisted family tree had its weak branches and they only needed one to break.

They tapped on the glass bell jar on the table where the blue light glowed faintly.

“I am no longer entertained rat with wings.” The watcher sighed. “That’s a problem you’ll need to work on. Just look at them and their sappy lives.”  They flung their arms out towards the mirrors. “It’s positively revolting.”

In a small mirror the watcher caught the dark bastard cuddling his squirming larva. They sneered at his cozy little family as the wifey took his arm and they disappeared through a door.

They disappeared through a door.

The watcher slammed out of their chair, jostling the side table, to stand with their nose brushing the glass. From the corner of their eye they saw the Charmings’ and their young son open a door before disappearing from the mirror.

“No, no no no no no no.” The watcher frantically searched the mirrors, their pulse pounding and vision turning red as every member of Team Hero walked through a damn doors to somewhere the mirrors couldn’t follow.

A bellowing screech echoed through Underbrooke making the bell jar ring and causing those assaulting the door to pause in their task. Blue had her hands over her ears but kept her eyes on the watcher. They stormed and stamped in front of the mirrors. Time to return to her own mission.

From one end of the jar Blue flew as fast as she could and slammed into the other side, knocking it just a bit further off the table. The blue fairy quickly checked on the watcher before going again.

During the angry ranting and raving over Rumplestilskin’s words Blue’s prison had skidded to the edge of the table and with a big enough push she would fly free.

Chapter Text

Just before dawn Milah had grabbed a lantern and set out to a bluff with her supplies to capture dawn. The sight had been as beautiful as any morning she had welcomed at sea and she gave herself to it. The swipes of her brush were swift and uninhibited.

Walking back to Bae’s cottage, the canvas taunted her with every step. It was too bright, too swirly, too emotional. She wanted to slam it against the nearest rock, destroying the frame and any evidence of the beautiful dawn. Every time her hand clenched around the piece with destruction in mind, she’d see beyond her own mental chaos to the beauty of it. The conflict continued all the way to the front door and inside the cottage where Milah placed it on her easel, turning her back on it.

“Hey.”

Milah’s head whipped around to catch Bae’s greeting and she grimaced. The paint wasn’t dry enough to cover it. “Good morning.”

“Good afternoon.” He corrected her. “It’s not my fault time passes when you’re having fun.”

“Who said anything about fun,” she shot back. “I’ve been painting, over on the bluffs to the north.”

Bae looked over at the easel. “Yeah that doesn’t look fun.”

“It’s an appalling mess of paint which barely looks like anything.”

“Looks like it would go for a few million dollars if we could fake its age.” Bae held up his hands. “Kidding, kind of. It’s amazing Mom. Like something a French impressionist or modern artist would do.”

Milah scoffed at his words and pumped water into the basin to wash her hands. “I don’t paint like that.”

“Apparently you do.” Bae stared at the painting. “Not quite the photo-quality stuff you’ve been doing. What’d you do? Paint your feelings?” He received no answer other than the clatter of furious scrubbing. Bae rested his back against the basin’s counter, leaning to the side to look at her face. “You did, didn’t you?”

Milah dropped brushes into the sink and walked away from him, ending up right in front of the problem she didn’t wish to face. Chaos and paint and anger and love and beauty all swirled together in the dawn of morning. She wanted to hate it. Milah felt Bae next to her and sighed when he wrapped an arm around her shoulders in a half hug. “I don’t paint with feelings. It’s an intellectual pursuit.”

Bae shrugged. “I saw your drawings on the Jolly Roger once, they seem a kind of emotionally driven.”

“Those were the ones I never sold and were just for me. The things I cared about.” She glanced at him from the side. “The things I left behind. Some feeling but mostly, practice sketches.”

“It’s one hell of a painting.”

“Thank you,” she said primly. “I think.”

Bae nudged her side. “It’s time to go.”

Milah ducked past the painting and into her room to grab a satchel. Stuffing a shawl and other odds and ends into it she called out. “Cutting it a little close aren’t we? I mean, unless the Jolly Roger is taking us there?” She was slinging the bag across her body when she came out of her room. Bae stood waiting at the closed door with his hand resting on a decorative knob on the door frame. “So?”

Bae grinned. “The dwarves installed this while we were in Storybrooke and I don’t know when but someone got it up and running.”

Milah tilted her head to the side and raised a brow. She hoped he would ignore the way her hands twisted the strap of her satchel.

Bae didn’t. “Do I need to check the bag for weapons?”

“Not even a dagger for dinner.”

“Thanks Mom.” Bae grinned. “Watch this.” He pulled the knob out from the frame with an audible click and spun it all the way around before pushing it back in and swinging the front door open.

Milah stared at the scene beyond the doorway. Belle was coming down stairs in a round stone room with Gideon in her arms and there was an open door with sunlight pouring through.

“Is it real?” She waved at Belle.

“Very.” Bae took her hand and tugged her through the doorway. “It’s not always open but this is how we get to Emma’s island. When we’re invited.”

She closed the door, running her hand over a similar decorative knob of wood. Pulling it out with a click, she copied Bae’s spin and pushed it in before opening the door again. Milah pulled her satchel over her head, dropping it in the closet before her.

“Excellent,” Rumple rolled the words off his tongue. “You’re here on time and you’ve locked up behind you. Let’s go.”

Bae rolled his eyes at his father and stole his little brother from Belle to head out into the sunlight. Belle and Rumple followed behind.

Milah blinked at the brightness of the sun from the doorway. Once her eyes adjusted the garden came into focus and the murmur of the wind brought the sound of voices closer. In the distance there were more towers of varying heights, stone walls linking them but it was the garden or field or whatever that held her attention. Granted they seemed to be as far away from everything else as possible but the paths in front of her seemed to lead into a never-ending garden. She couldn’t stop trying to measure the space.

“Come on, dearie,” Rumple trilled from a bend in the path. “It’s a small island but there’s plenty of twists and turns to take an unwary soul off course.”

With a roll of her eyes, Milah followed the Dark One and his bookworm deeper into the garden.

 


 

 

“I blame you.”

David’s shoulders hunched at his wife’s words and he flinched at the metal clang of sword hitting sword.

Regina’s icy tones came from somewhere behind him. “I blame you as well.” She ignored Robin’s attempt to hide his mirth with a cough and poked the king in the side. “How did this seem like a good idea?”

David rolled his shoulders back and concentrated on the bout. “I’d like to see either one of you stop Emma from doing what Emma wants to do.”

Killian knocked her thrust away, spun and caught her from behind with a grin.

Regina rolled her eyes. “I don’t know how you can stand to watch them flirt like this.”

“I wouldn’t call it flirting really,” Snow said, directing her comment to Regina. The two women remained quiet trying to catch the whispered words of the two sparring and sharing a look when the pirate grunted and Emma spun away from his hold.

“I don’t think that move will work on the any true villain love.” Killian grinned wider.

“It just had to work on you,” she shot back with a smirk. Licking his lips, he quickly adjusted his grip on the cutlass and went on the attack.

David did his best to ignore the two women standing on either side of him. It was a sparring match no matter what they thought, even with Regina now fanning herself. “Its not like they haven’t been doing this when we aren’t here,” he grumbled.

Snow didn’t even hesitate or think about his precious baby girl complex. “Oh I don’t think this is the kind ‘sparring’ they’ve been doing without us.”

“We could call it wrestling,” Regina suggested and Robin no longer hid his laughter.

“I’m standing here too you know,” Henry spoke up from his seat on the sidelines of the match. “If you don’t care about Grandpa’s feelings maybe we could all work on not scaring me for life?”

David felt himself relax, knowing his wife and stepmother-in-law would back off for Henry’s sake. Regina left to go join Henry, gracefully lowering herself onto the ground next to him and wrapping an arm around him.

Snow patted his lower back and leaned up to press a kiss to his cheek. “I’m going to go help Zelena wrangle the kids before I give in and shoot Killian.”

Turning to watch her walk away, he caught Robin passing off Roland to Snow and reached out a hand when the forest lord joined him. “Congratulations, again.”

“Thanks mate.” Robin nodded his head at the two fighters once again locked close together, sword pushing against sword. “Have they been like this for a while now?”

David sighed and rolled his eyes at the stubborn pair. “Yeah, and I know they’re flirting. I just prefer to ignore it.”

Robin glanced between the king and the match before shrugging. “I suppose I can understand.” Killian groan interrupted his thought and both men grimaced at his pain. “How much longer are they going to…” Robin gestured to the practice bout where Killian was kneeling and holding his side as Emma grinned smugly at him.

A small smile at his daughter gaining the upper hand graced the king’s face but disappeared as he looked over at Robin. “We’re waiting on Belle and Neal and so on.” He watched the pirate swiftly get to his feet, returning his wife’s grin, and beginning a new attack. He felt the thief nudge his side and turned his head to looking across the practice field.

A greeting was about to leave his lips when David caught Milah coming down the path behind Neal and his family. Her eyes traveled restlessly around the clearing before they found Killian and a small smile appeared on her face. It seemed she would be able to handle this meeting. David greeted Gold when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.

Regina stood abruptly and sent Henry scrambling to his feet. David’s gaze moved back to Milah who was staring at his daughter. They all froze for a moment, waiting and hoping that this woman who carried such hate would unclench her hands.

Only the sparring match between husband and wife continued, the clash of thrusting and parrying swords and quick breathing filling the clearing of the practice field. Emma and Killian ended up losing their swords and she lifted her fists ready to continue the fight.

Killian rolled his eyes at her. “Really, love.” He shifted his weight to one side and stood with his hands at his hips. “This fight is over and it’s a tie.”

Emma lowered her hands with a laugh. That’s when she heard everyone shouting at once.

“No!”

Chapter Text

The world stopped for Emma and everything went silent. Her eyes shot to Killian and his fear of something behind her. There was a woosh of movement and the world spun again.

Emma didn’t think, she acted.

Catching an arm reaching toward her, she let the momentum take them down to the ground. Twisting the arm behind their back, they hit face first and Emma pulled the dagger from her belt and held them down with a knee on their back. With the attacker subdued she checked in with everyone.

“Is everyone okay?” No one answered and she growled at the shocked faces. “Is. Everyone. Okay.”

Regina crossed her arms. “Emma, did you not consider using your magic?” She sniffed disdainfully and gestured to Emma and her captive. “Rather than that.”

Emma shrugged one shoulder. “No.”

If she was being given attitude then everyone was okay and she could concentrate on whatever waited under her. The long dark hair had her quickly glancing at Killian. He struggled to contain it but she saw sadness in his eyes. When he finally met her eyes she smiled for him.

Drawing a deep breath Killian moved to the ground alongside Milah and raised a brow at his wife. She shrugged in response and nodded at him.

“I hate when they do that,” David fake whispered to Robin.

“As if you don’t.” Robin fake whispered back, making David sigh and Killian rolled his eyes at their family’s antics. Emma snort at the entire exchange and her husband took the hint.

“Are you all right?” Several long slow deliberate breathes were the only response he got. “Milah, talk to us.”

She responded through gritted teeth. “Can her highness let me up?”

Emma put the dagger away but didn’t release her hold. Waiting for someone to volunteer but they all remained stock-still.

Killian rolled his eyes again. “Your majesty, if you could hold Milah?” Killian commanded then waved Neal over. “Neal, I think you and I should take a moment here.”

Handing Gideon to his father, Neal nodded. “Regina?”

Her majesty snorted and raised a hand. “There. I have her.” Regina flashed an exasperated look at David. “Go help your daughter.”

Emma accepted a hand up from her father. “I’m fine Dad.” She dusted her pants off. “I just…”

Killian tugged on her hand and pulled her to him running his hands down her arms and legs. Laying one hand over her pregnant belly he cupped the back of her neck with the other to pull her close.

“I’m fine Killian.” Emma snuggled into the crook of his neck.

“I’m sorry my love,” he whispered into her ear.

Her reply was quiet. “Not your fault.” She pulled back. “Likely not her fault either.”

Killian rested his forehead against hers. “I know, mostly.”

“Just keep it in mind. My pirate.” Emma leaned into him, letting her nose brush his before turning her head and…

“No kissing.” Regina’s voice rang out, loud and clear. “How is that so hard to remember?”

Emma glared at her tormentor. “I’d like to see you do it, or, not do it, or whatever.” She pushed away from her husband and elbowed her dad. “We’ll head on over to the food.”

“Is that all you think about?” Regina scoffed.

Rolling her eyes, she gave Killian’s hand a quick squeeze. “And you can handle this.”

“Aye.” He reluctantly let her hand fall from his grasp.

Crossing the field Emma picked her sword up from the ground and sheathed it as well. “So Gold, ready for lunch?”

“The Dark One doesn’t need much to eat.”

“I remember,” she replied as the small group walked away. “Makes me sad to think about.”

Gold decided play along. “Didn’t mean you couldn’t eat.”

“True.” Emma shook her head. “But there was no anticipation or eagerness or craving.”

“The darkness is rarely satisfied with anything other than pain at its worse, or mischief at its best.”

“You handle it well. Lately.”

“Well, well,” Gold giggled. “Quite the compliment.”

Emma nodded and kicked a stone from the path. “You should just say thank you.”

The dark one hummed a bit. “Should is such a useless word.”

“Useless is a little harsh.” Emma smacked into her father’s back. “Dad.”

At the end of the path David faced them with his hands on his hips. “If you and the dark lord need a little dark one support group, pick another time to meet. It’s creepy and besides.” He swung around and to the side with one outstretched arm. “Behold, we are here!”

Gold eased around Emma and Belle while glaring at him. “And they tell me I’m dramatic.”

Emma shared a smile with Belle and her father bopped her on the nose then jerked his head in the direction of her mother. “Not a word. Your mother’s waiting.”

“Daaaaaddddd.” Emma whined while Robin and Belle laughed.

“I’m not telling her you were attacked by your husband’s ex.”

 


 

 

Without thinking Henry, Regina, Neal and Killian circled around Milah. Killian helped her stand while she remained within the queen’s magical hold. Standing her arms were locked to her sides and her feet stuck to the ground.

Swan was okay, she was safe.

Alas, safety was an illusion, one could only be clever and careful. She hadn’t gone into details but she had said the island’s shields and protections were strong and it truly was a fortress. But Milah was a danger to Emma. He glanced to the side and caught Henry shifting from one foot to the other, his arm reaching out.

“Henry!”

Neal shook his head. “Come on, Regina. She’s not a threat to him.”

Her majesty’s spine straightened and she looked down her nose at him. “She’s still a threat.”

“I won’t harm my grandson and I didn’t mean to.”  Her shoulders jerked as she struggled against Regina’s magic. “It just. Please.”

“Mom it’s okay.” Henry put a hand on Regina’s shoulder. “Grandmother’s not going to hurt any of us.” He ignored Milah’s annoyed grunt. “And I have questions. You were fine earlier and yesterday, so what changed today?”

Regina released her hold and took Henry’s hand. “You managed to survive the wedding and all the dancing and” – she shuddered delicately – “flirting.”

Killian closed his eyes, fighting the urge to verbally spar with the queen.

Milah stretched and shifted, testing to see if she was in control. “It’s not about them. It’s about her and I don’t know what happened. And the wedding was mostly fine but, maybe, today’s more trying and that weakens me.”

Killian accepted her explanation. “I think Neal and I can handle escort duty.”

“No.” Milah’s quick denial surprised them all. “It may be a ridiculously inept attack but it could happen again.” She turned to Regina for support. “You need to keep me in check. I have no magic and no weapons but apparently whatever it is doesn’t care.”

“Hmmmmm.” Regina considered the woman and the stance of the men who cared for her. “Finally, someone with a bit of sense.”

Killian sighed. “I’m not sure you two getting along is in anyone’s favor.” He nodded his head to his cutlass. “If you could lad? Milah, if necessary, walk away. No one else is unarmed and you could…”

Neal offered his arm to his mother. “As much as I hate to agree with the pirate.”

“Oi, how’s that fair?”

“Shut it Guyliner.” Regina walked toward the path. “Only Emma likes agreeing with you.”

Henry handed off the cutlass and jogged to catch up with his mom. “That’s not true.” He tossed a grin over his shoulder at Killian. “I find I sometimes agree with him. The kraken would have been perfect for the twins.”

“We’d have needed two.” Killian slid his blade into the scabbard and bowed slightly at Neal and Milah. “After you. Regina, I will be telling Emma.”

“I didn’t catch that,” Regina shouted back. “And I’m pretty sure I don’t care.”

Killian laughed and caught Milah looking over her shoulder at him.

“You’re all a little insane aren’t you?” She asked with a shake of her head. “I just attacked your wife you know.”

He hummed in response. “We’ll figure that out.”  When he caught her glaring he waggled his eyebrows at her. “Besides, wasn’t she magnificent?”

Neal tried to swallow his laughter and started choking. Milah patted his back. “No hesitation at all.”

“Yeah, she’s quite the woman,” Neal added.

Killian replied sharply. “Mine.”

“Yes, we’re all insane,” Henry interrupted with a grin for his fathers and grandmother. “See Grandmother, you don’t have to worry about it, you fit right in.”

 


 

 

David waited at the end of the path and swung an arm out with unnecessary flair. “Welcome!”

Regina looked at him like he had grown two heads and pulled Henry away. “Whatever is wrong with him I hope it’s not catching.” She flounced off to join Robin and Zelena.

“Spoilsport,” David grumbled with a hand on the hilt of his sword and a tight smile. “Foods on the table. If you’re hungry eat, if not find a seat.”

“Thanks Dave.” Neal tried to tug his mother along but she stopped in front of the king.

Milah offered her hand. “I’m sorry I attacked your daughter.”

David’s face relaxed as he studied Milah. He found her determine and contained which worked for him. “It’s okay.” He shook her hand and nodded to the cast of characters behind them. “We’ll figure it all out…”

“Together.” Milah interrupted him. “You lot do go on about the togetherness.”

“Better than being alone,” Killian said from behind her. He punched David on the shoulder. “Dad.”

David squeezed Milah’s hand before letting it go to glare at the pirate. “Son,” he said and paused watching the pirate’s smile widen to a grin. “in-law.”

“That hurts you know.”

The king rolled his eyes. “Drama Queen,” he said under his breath.

“Now, Dave, you know you missed me.”

Milah watched the two bicker back and forth when a hand light touched her elbow. The who had her dipping into a small bow. “Your Majesty.”

Snow waved a hand. “Just Snow here.” She indicated for Milah to follow her. “They’ll keep at it for a while and then Killian will come annoy me by calling me mummy.”

“Um, I..Yes.”

Snow patted her hand. “Neal and Henry are over by Regina.” She considered the tension she was reading in the woman. “David and my daughter explained what happened earlier so we want to keep you as far apart as we can manage and with one, well, guard dog.”

“Rumple…”

“Belle thought Rumple guarding you, magically of course, was a bad idea. You’ll be stuck with Regina,” Snow interrupted. “Grab something to eat, that way if you’re about to say something you shouldn’t, then you can stuff some food in your mouth. Either way, settle in. We have a lot to talk about.”

“Aye, Aye Captain.” Milah grimaced as she spoke without thinking.

“Oh this is wonderful.” Snow smiled gleefully. “You’re going to do well here.”

Chapter Text

Under a wide blue sky the family Emma had found assembled in the meadow at the heart of her island.

Belle and Gold settled around their tea table with Gideon. Regina and her crew spread between a picnic blanket and the benches of another table. Her mother stood at the center, directing the discussion and her father sat on the ground with baby Neal, not far from the oversized arm chair Killian shared with her.

It was ridiculous. Like a Fellini-esque garden of the Fitzi-Contadini or whatever that melded the Magic Kingdom and cushy chairs.

“Storybrooke is safe then?” Regina asked.

“Undiscoverable. But safe?” David answered with a shrug. “As it ever is, except for the circle of death surrounding it.”

Belle put down her tea cup. “It would have been useful to know if this so-called circle of death was expanding.”

“We didn’t check that, with the supply run and the list of tests to do. Plus cleaning out the Jolly Roger…” David looked over his shoulder at Killian sitting on the arm of the chair. “It didn’t look like it to me.”

“Besides, safe is a ridiculous word.” Killian looked down at Emma. “We could start wagering on it.”

“On what?”

Killian thought about it for like a second. “Which has a higher chance of death by dragon – Enchanted Forest or Storybrooke?”

Zelena grimaced. “That answer changes daily living with the dragon witch and her spawn. So moody.”

Snow held up her hand. “We need to stop and focus on the real problem.”

“Quite right, dearie.” Gold shrugged the cloak off his shoulders and stood. “All indications show that the origin is the land of the dead. The ink, the town, and the lack of response are all lovely signs pointing to Underbrooke.”

“Grandpa, it doesn’t make sense.” Henry shook his head. “The ink from Underbrooke wasn’t out on my desk.”

“An additional mystery,” Gold mumbled. “But a minor detail. Anyone who managed this would be able to get the pieces into place from there.”

“What about the missing fairy? And the fact that our memories related to Blue are still foggy?” Snow asked Gold. “That seems like a pretty significant mystery.”

“I believe that answer may be found with your daughter.” Gold turned his back on the queen to skewer Emma with a look. “We never did get that report on tolls and the land of the dead.”

Emma squirmed when everyone’s attention turned to her. “It’s complicated.”

Killian chuckled and she glared up at him. He waved an arm at their present company. “Should be the family motto, right after the one about finding each other.”

Her eyes crossed before she closed them to ignore the snarking and staring.

“The travel and tolls depends on your state of being.” This explanation couldn’t be worse than the curses and true love’s kiss one. “Miracle Max wasn’t wrong. There’s all dead and there’s mostly dead. It’s more like a scale of dead and where you are on it makes a difference.” Emma’s nose wrinkled. “And, as always, so does your intentions.”

Zelena interrupted. “Are you actually saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions?”

Emma fought a sigh. “Not quite. Accidentally wandering into any land of the dead, no matter how alive or dead someone is, means no toll. But it’s super hard to do and even harder to wander out. Taking a trip there on purpose for anyone not entirely dead means paying up with souls.”

She opened her eyes and caught Gold raising a finger and opening his mouth with a question.

“No, I don’t know how to measure how dead anyone is and there’s a few… I guess you’d call them…” She wrinkled her nose and the pitch of her voice rose. “Exclusions? Whatever. There are things, people, whatever, who don’t have to pay like ever.”

“Fairies.” Gold uttered in disgust.

Emma nodded. “And cats.” She scowled up at Killian. “And you know, there’s a whole separate deal for people who’ve died, more than once.”

Killian sat up straight, eager for the news. “So, no toll for me?”

“Oh no,” she responded. “The toll goes up for you. Exponentially. Free for cats and fairies.” Watching her words sink there was a bit more before the questions flew.  “I have a guess.”

Belle raised a brow. “You have a guess?”

“No, no,” Zelena shushed her. “A guess is sufficient for me.”

“Mostly a guess, kind of backed by research.” Emma leaned into the chair arm Killian sat on. “People are tied to time, however fast it runs in whatever realm they are in but when it runs out...”

“Death.” Regina slid closer to Robin on their bench.

“And they end up in the lands of the dead. Time moves forward but it doesn’t run out.” Emma sighed and closed her eyes again, concentrating on finding the right words. “Cats, don’t care to be tied to, well, anything and die and come back however they want. Fairies aren’t tied to time either. I think. I think they’re tied to magic or maybe, belief.” Emma clapped her hands.

Her guess brought a wave of silence and skepticism. Emma pushed herself out of the chair and headed to the food. Gold planted himself in her way. She stepped to the side and he mirrored her action. Crossing her arms, she waited for the imp to make his point.

“So, sending fairies to the Land without Magic was like killing them?”

Emma could hear Killian scoffing and he was probably rolling his eyes. Out of the side of her eye she caught her mother exchanging a concerned look with Belle.

“Sorry to ruin your day but no. The Dragon was right, magic is everywhere. It’s just hard to harness for some.”

Gold frowned. “Not quite a problem for you though, is it?”

“And not you,” she retorted. “At least before your mother.” Emma made a snipping motion with her fingers and clicked her tongue. The Dark One moved out of her way in a huff. “Can we get back to the point?”

Gold glided through a turn and lowered himself down into his seat.

Belle patted his arm in slightly disapproving comfort. “The point is fairies can travel to Underbrooke with no cost.”

“Mmmmmmhmmm.” Emma mumbled around a mouthful of food. “ahdmd stmuck…”

“For the love of…” Regina interrupted. “So, the blue fairy might be stuck there. Fine. We haven’t figured out how to get in touch with them and we still need more answers.”

Emma swallowed quickly, eyes darting around the field. “I have more on tolls,” she mumbled, balancing her plate on her way back to Killian. “Certain tolls.”

This time it was her mother who got in her way. “Emma, what tolls?”

“Maybe it’s better to say price.” Biting her lip she looked from Regina and Robin to her son sitting with his father and grandmother. Milah’s eyes caught hers and her lips pulled back from her teeth in a snarl but at this distance she was safe enough. “Here’s the thing. Even if it’s taboo magic for the living, raising the dead is different for the dead. Also crossing boundaries between different lands of the dead for the dead has a price tag attached.”

A cough drew her attention and she looked up at Killian standing beside Snow. “Is there a toll for moving on?”

Emma nodded and pushed her plate into her mother’s hands to hug her pirate. “A soul has to let go or hold on – to the past, regrets or people or something. Either action pays the toll for traveling within the land of the dead.”

“That explains how Mother managed to move into the light. Instead of hellfire.” Regina said quietly.

Zelena snorted. “It certainly wouldn’t have worked if it was based on all her good deeds.”

Emma turned toward the sisters. “I guess. It’s specific to the person. Whether they let go or hold on and that which direction it moves them.”

Robin placed his hand on Regina’s shoulder and stood. “And to leave the land of the dead entirely?”

“As a person who belongs there?” Emma’s hand trailed over her pirate’s shoulder to cup his cheek. “A sponsor. Some other dead dude has to have a use for you.”

Killian leans down, sliding an arm around her hips and picking Emma up, walking them back to the chair. “Sending them to the place where they belong.”  She doesn’t stop looking, seeing, his scruff and scar, the pointed ears and blue blue eyes but manages to nod. “To watch over stubborn saviors.”

Emma rolled her eyes as he lowered them down to sit. “Or to lessen the damage a savior takes into the final battle.”

His breath whistles out and he considers her words while holding out a hand for the plate in Snow’s hand.

Emma tried to explain better. “Whatever. Something the newly not dead are supposed to do in the land of the living.”

“What happens if you don’t do it?” The hoarse question came from Milah, her head down, looking at the ground, hiding her expression.

“I don’t know.”

Neal groaned. “Why don’t you just tell us it’s complicated again?”

“Because it’s not complicated. It’s more ephemeral.”

“Big word.”

“Stow it, pirate.” Emma sighed. “It’s not like a compulsion but more like a game the” – she curled her fingers to do air quotes – “’sponsor’ is playing.”

Gold’s giggle split the air and even with everyone staring, he shook with glee. Even with Belle’s help it took a while before the Dark One reined in his mirth.

His lips curled in a devious smile. “Sponsors return pieces to the board.”

Emma saluted Gold. “Yeah. But not pieces they control.”

“Really precious,” Milah spoke bitterly. “How do you explain me?”

Killian stuffed a roll into Emma’s open mouth and she glared at him as she chewed. He scratched behind his ear and nodded at Gold. “Maybe you have an idea?”

“Well,” Gold said soaking up the attention directed his way. “It’s not complicated.”

Neal heaved a sigh. “Papa, please.”

“You’re no fun.” Gold rolled his eyes. “You get that from your mother.”

“Rumple.” Belle hit his shoulder. “Explain it if you have an answer and shut it if you don’t.”

“As you wish.” Gold lifted Belle’s hand and kissed it. “Adding pieces previously removed always alters the game, regardless of their actions. You aren’t a puppet with strings. Whatever was done to you, Milah, is additional.” He stretched out both hands and his fingers wiggling to move imaginary puppets hanging from strings.

“If they held your strings, you would have no control whatsoever in the presence of the savior.” He shook the imaginary puppets from his hands. “It’s more likely you carry a part of this person’s wants, emotions, which causes you to act.”

“Fine.” Milah threw her hands up. “How do we get rid of it?”

Gold picked up his wife’s hand. “By figuring out whose it is.”

Emma swallowed and placed a hand over her husband’s mouth. “How do we do that?”

Gold just shrugged.

“We add it to the list,” Snow said taking back control of the discussion. “We work on contacting Underbrooke, figure out what they did.”

Zelena snorted. “What could they have done that has the power to change memories, pull a town full of people to another realm, raise the dead and the deader than dead…”

“Thanks Zelena,” Robin interjected.

“You’re welcome.” Zelena smiled happily. “But I wasn’t finished. AND restore the magic bean fields.”

“You forgot my hand.”

Zelena rolled her eyes at the pirate. “I was trying to spare your father-in-law from thinking about what you’ve been doing with that extra hand.”

“Again with the scarring me for life.” Henry put his hands over his ears and hummed. “Not listening.”

Emma caught the look of disgust on Gold’s face and closed her eyes, ignoring the family banter.

“Children.” Snow clapped her hands. “I think we need to talk to the fairies again and see about sending someone to Underbrooke. Rumplestilskin, will you take charge of figuring out who is responsible for Milah?”

Underneath her, Emma could feel her husband tense up but Killian said nothing. She nudged him and tilted her head to the conversation going on beyond them. He shook his head no and Emma frowned. He wasn’t planning to speak up even if it made him uneasy. Killian lifted a hand and turned her head toward Milah. 

Sitting beside Neal, she didn’t seem upset or tense but indifferent to being examined and helped by the Dark One. Weird family dynamics strikes again.

“Regina, if you would assist?” Gold asked and received a nod. “Excellent. I’ve already started looking into this and there is a bit of good news.”

Milah laughed coldly. “You mean the fact you think using me is a stupid plan.”

“Another person I hate agreeing with.” Regina conceded. “But it is a stupid plan. Sending a bunch of rage in someone you can’t control who has no magic after the savior, not what I would do.”

“Me either,” Zelena added.

Killian rolled his eyes. “Well if the axis of evil agrees, it must be a ridiculously bad plan.”

“Oh, come on Killian,” Charming added in. “You probably had better revenge plans as well.”

Emma laughed. “I’d agree with Dad except you kidnapped Archie then shot Belle, ended up with cracked ribs and lost your hook when I handcuffed you. Again. Not a really well thought out plan there.”

“I managed to get to New York to poison him. He was almost dead.” Killian frowned down at his wife. “That was a pretty solid plan.”

Gold shuddered delicately. “Now, I hate to agree with the pirate but there is a bit of truth to be gleaned from all that.”

“Is the Dark One about to compliment me?” Killian shuddered. “I feel sick.”

“Which would be that even the one-handed wonder was a better villain than this one.”

Snow closed her eyes, holding a hand over them. “All of you realize you’re arguing about being evil villains.”

Charming hummed a bit. “Actually, they’re arguing about being smart evil villains.”

“See, Dave gets it.” Killian grinned at his father in law. “But on to more important things. Does this mean I can kiss my wife now?”

 

Chapter Text

“No!”

Henry’s hands covered his ears as his whole family, well, most of his family yelled at his stepfather.

From the look on Killian’s face it was a good thing his mom was sitting in his lap or the pirate would have stormed off. Henry wished he could tune out the upcoming discussion. As happy as he was with both his moms being happy and the men in their lives, Henry didn’t like to think about the details.

Now would be a good time to practice sword fighting or archery.

“How long must you come between a man and his wife.”

Etiquette, Henry would welcome with open arms an etiquette lesson. His grandmother snorted as the discussion got heated.

Regina’s scathing tones cut across the field. “Yes, we all see the distance we’ve put between you.”

A hand was patting his back in comfort. It was attached to his grandmother who looked like the perfect escape route. Jumping to his feet, Henry pulled Milah up beside him.

“You guys don’t need us so I’ll show Grandmother the island.” He sent pleading looks at both his moms.

Regina tilted her head to the side and Emma shrugged in return. “An excellent idea,” Regina agreed and glanced at Emma again.

“A visitor’s tour,” he clarified and with nods from both mothers he made his escape.

 

He marched quickly away and dragging Milah after him further into the gardens. Henry was listening, wanting enough distance to silence the discussion behind them.

Stopping, he squeezed the hand he held. “Thanks for coming with me without asking a lot of questions.”

“I still find your mum and Killian a bit too precious.” Milah smiled and jerked her head at the branching path. “And I would like a tour.”

Henry didn’t smile in return but considered which fork in the road to take. “I’m like ninety percent sure the dock is that way.” Instead of tugging her along, he offered her his arm. “Shall we?”

“Such nice manners,” she responded taking it. “When you wish.”

“Etiquette lessons, my mom has to take them too.” He escorted her down the path. “We didn’t exactly grow up here.”

“Hmmmmm.”

“Fine. No talking about that mother.” He felt Milah tense and plotted out his next words carefully.

“I know why I wanted to leave. I mean the true love talk was embarrassing enough. Guess you had something you wanted to leave behind as well.”

She released his arm and walked ahead, leaving him to follow. Hedgerows shrank and they ended up in an open area near the portico. Henry watched as she turned in a slow circle considering which way to go.

“You can just ask me.” Being the author didn’t make finding the right words any easier when talking to someone, family in particular. It also hadn’t changed who he really was. His belief remained true. There were bad choices, darkness, pain, and evil in the world but there was also second chances, redemption, love and light.

“If I think it’s none of your business, or I don’t want to tell you then that’s exactly what I’ll say. I blamed magic for all evil and the one time I tried, well, succeeded in destroying it I left my family separated and trapped.” He looked back over his shoulder at the path they came down. “We didn’t give up then. You know it wasn’t just worrying about my mom. You attack and someone could end up hurting you.”

“You said you had etiquette lessons, yes?”

He shrugged. “Are you calling me rude?”

“No.” Milah studied the door before her and reached out a hand to trace the letter carved there. “This is yours, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a crocodile on…”

“Yeah, he had words with mom about that but I’m pretty sure she played the ‘pregnant princess’ card with a side helping of ‘it’s twins’.”

“I’m not sure I entirely understand what you just said but regardless, you’re all a bit much eh?” Milah faced him. “Even considering that, it’s rude to ask something from someone you attacked.”

“Maybe it just seems like it.” She wanted something from Emma but that couldn’t be it. Could it? “The tower that way” – pointing to the right – “is Regina’s, built with enough space for Zelena. Charming and Snow have one as well and then there’s a guest tower which is really Anton’s and the dwarves.”

“The giant lives here? With dwarves?”

“Visits. And you came here through the tower my mom built, on purpose, for the Dark One.” Henry shook his head, hoping she remembered their stories and he’d made his point. “What do you want ask my mom for?”

“Beans?”

Her answer was a question, so Henry waited, crossing his arms over his chest and raising one brow.

“You’ve spent too much time with Killian.” She replied tersely. “I think, if we get this second life, I know what I want to do.”

Henry signaled her to go on with a roll of his hand.

Milah shuddered. “Too much time with Rumple, too.” She crossed her arms and frowned at him. A small grin crossed Henry’s face as the staring contest began. She cracked first, throwing her hands in the air and walking away, shouting over her shoulder. “I want to explore the realms, travel, paint, whatever as you say.”

Henry let her go, his mind spinning the problem around and round and came up with one question. He dashed to catch up to her.

“Would you,” he stopped to take a breath. “Would you come back to visit?”

Milah smiled. “Would you want me to?”

Henry thought about the conversation he had with his mom earlier and he thought about her story, his dad’s story and all the running they had done till they had found home.

“All who wander aren’t lost.” He shook his head at her confusion and couldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s what I want to do someday too. I want to explore. I mean how many people know for a fact that there are infinite worlds out there. Mom said that Jefferson, the hatter, once told her there was worlds stacked upon worlds.”

She nudged him. “Incredible.”

“Yeah,” he said breathlessly. “But this, everyone here, they’re my home or the foundation of it, I guess. So.”

“Return strategy needed.” She nodded knowingly. “And, well, with the doors and everything, seems like your mum is the woman to ask.”

“Yeah,” he concluded. “I could ask my mom.”

She rolled her eyes. “Isn’t that a bit cowardly of me? But I suppose if it’s something you also want as well – I’d feel less obnoxious. There’s so much to think about. Traveling realms, being able to get back, having readily available gold.”

“Devil’s in the details huh?”

Milah shook her head. “It’s a lot to ask for.”

He placed his hands on her shoulders. “Grandmother, you got pulled from the River of Lost Souls and dropped into a life that might have been your happily ever after only to find it was a lie. Mom’s not going to care about it being a lot.”

“Really?” She shrugged him away. “She’s just going to happily tackle a difficult request from a woman who wishes to punch her?”

“When you put it that way.” Henry grinned. “Yeah.”

Milah crossed her arms. “A wager then. I bet she says no.”

Henry laughed in her face. “I accept. Sucker.”

“You have to make it clear who it’s for.”

“Oh, I will.” He grinned and grabbed her hand, dragging her along as he practically skipped down the portico. “Let’s continue the tour. I’ll show you to the dock and you can say hi to the Jolly Roger.”

Dragging her feet, she glared. “What has you so happy?”

“Are you kidding?” He giggled in glee. “I basically get to ask my mom to magic us a TARDIS.”

Chapter Text

Memory – experiences and choices made are part of a person's identity.

Without his true memories he had been an emotional wreck, his emotions at odds with what he thought to be true. The ludicrous number of times they had dealt with memory loss, Killian thought they should have stashed away some memory potions. The fingers of his left hand tapped impatiently against his growing children.

Around him, the Charmings and Mill-Hoods discussed the moratorium on kissing with Belle and the crocodile. Killian felt Emma’s hand on his restless one and looked up when Emma entwined their fingers. He reached out to stroke her cheek. “Swan?”

“I don’t know.” Emma’s hand squeezed his. “I just don’t feel like we have a right to argue with them.”

He grunted. “You’re going to let them decide?”

“It’s not either of our lives on the line.” She caught his face with her other hand and turned it to look into his eyes. “They came to hell with me to get you back.” She shrugged with a sad little smile. “They risked so much and then, because we went Hades got out and Robin died.”

“Not exactly how that happened.”

“Details.”

His shoulders slumped as he leaned forward to rest his forehead against hers, closing his eyes. “So, we owe them?”

Her forehead rolled against his when she shook her head. “Not owe. We’re family and right now, I don’t know, we’re all part of some weird game and our actions could end up killing people who are on our team, unintentionally. We need to be careful.”

Killian opened his eyes, nudging her with his forehead. “The game metaphors need to stop.” He smiled as she laughed quietly and became lost in her shining eyes.

However long they had been together, the happiness remained surprising and he lived to soak it in.

It would be so easy to move less than an inch and…

“Really you two?” Regina’s interruption for once carried a slight hint of humor.

Emma hid her face in his neck, but Killian just glared at her majesty. “Shouldn’t you be getting back to your honeymoon?” He could see Robin smiling next to his new wife. “Fortunate isn’t? Being able to go on one right after getting wed.”

“Now children,” Snow interceded, holding up a hand to each of them. “Play nicely.”

Killian tightened his hold on his wife and stared down at the golden head nestled beside his. “We will try our best to accommodate your bloody decision.”

When he rested his head on Emma’s he caught Snow staring at them with her own sad smile. She took a step forward but stopped and knelt down by David. Everyone retreated a bit, taking a moment.

“I think.” Snow lifted baby Neal into her arms. “That this decision needs to be made by Regina and Rumple and Henry. However, I believe that their kiss, if it does in fact have any effect on our present situation will not kill anyone.” She looked to Regina. “Whatever happened, it was our turn to deal with consequences from someone else’s story.”

Regina locked gazes with Robin. “I agree.”

“As do I, my queen,” Robin added softly.

Rumple slammed a fist down on the table and Belle covered it with her hand. Strange as it seemed to Killian, the two were able to communicate without words.

Belle addressed the group, her eyes never leaving her husband’s. “Someone definitely pushed things into place to manipulate us.” She patted his hand. “But we agree as well. The main spell wasn’t about us. I think.” She hesitated.

“Go on Belle.” Rumple said quietly.

“I think the main intention was restoration.” She shrugged one shoulder. “Last we heard, Arthur was working on fixing Hades’ mess.”

“Well, I think the bookworm has something.” Zelena saluted Belle with her glass. Belle scowled in return.

Regina stood to pace back and forth, finally stopping in front of Killian and Emma, slanting a raised brow in question.

Emma nodded at her majesty. “Restored the people of Storybrooke to the Enchanted Forest.”

“The magic beans,” David added.

Rumple chuckled. “The pirate’s hand.”

“And the dead, Dad.” Neal broke in to prevent a war of words. “But that’s another side effect. We came back here because of Henry’s story.”

“Magic rippled out,” Rumple trilled. “And swept our world along, altering it, restoring what was once lost.”

“It doesn’t matter.” The words spoken softly and quietly came from Emma and silenced the speculation. “It’s still a gamble.”

Taking her by the chin, Killian studied her face. Her eyes shined bright and green even as her brow furrowed with unhappy thoughts and he rubbed his thumb over the dent in her chin.

“You really are impossibly beautiful.” A number of people groaned but Killian’s eyes kept tracing the features of her face.

Emma rolled her eyes. “Gee, thanks for noticing.”

He grinned and snuggled his nose into the hair behind her ear, breathing her in, his whispered words only for her. “I don’t always notice as it’s your heart, your strength,” – Killian exhaled softly – “your light that compels me and keeps me safe, makes me love you more than I ever thought possible.” The breath shudders out of her body and he pulls back, his thumb catching a tear falling down her cheek.

Nodding, he leaned back in their chair to address their family. “It’s not our gamble to take. I agree – oomph.” An elbow digging into his side corrected him. “Yes, right. We agree with Snow. It’s up to Regina and Robin, Henry, Neal and Milah. And I suppose the crocodile as well.”

Regina hums at his response and turns to the Dark One. “Well?”

“I suppose we need to assemble all the gamblers.” Rumple waved a hand and a large swirl of dark red smoke spun.

Henry stumbled into the meadow. “Really, Grandpa.”

“I know, lad,” Rumple responded kindly. “It was, however, necessary.”

“Not if you’re all still talking about kissing or anything else I never need to know about my parents.”

Killian snorted. “I rather think your issue isn’t with kissing.”

“Mom did I ever thank you for giving me my own tower?”

Emma smiled at her son. “Not necessary. It’s was totally a bribe.”

Snow grunted as she got to her feet. “Enough playful banter.” She faced the two head on. “We all agree that intent of the spell wasn’t us.”

Slinging an arm around Henry’s shoulders, Regina finished the explanation. “We think it was a restoration spell from Underbrooke. If we allow the pirate” – she tried to find less scarring words for Henry – “freedom to pursue the activity that shall not be named.”

“Clever Sis,” Zelena interrupted.

“More importantly.” Snow White ignored the witch. “It shouldn’t lead to people dying. Again. Most likely.”

“It’s not 100% kid.” Neal added, keeping his eyes on his mother. “But we get to decide.”

Milah focused on Bae. He didn’t add anything so she went and kicked his foot lightly. “We?”

Henry nodded. “Me, Mom, Robin, Neal, Grandpa Gold and you, Grandmother.” He spun toward Emma and Killian. “Did I get that right?”

“Absolutely, kid.” Emma struggled to stand but Killian kept hold of her.

“But no pressure.” Killian disregarded her struggles to get up. The safest place for her with Milah around was in his arms. “We’ve discussed it and I’m sure we can find a way to…”

“Yeah, don’t finish that thought.” Henry turned his back on them. “Are we really discussing this?”

“No.” Rumple kissed Belle’s cheek and strolled to his older son, standing beside Milah. “Myself, Regina and Robin are willing to roll the dice and see.” He looked down at Neal. “Don’t know where you father stands on it.”

Zelena sighed dramatically. “Must I always be the voice of reason?” She tossed a glare over at the pirate. “You’re old enough to last one more day aren’t you?”

Killian scowled back. “Your point witch?”

“Lives are on the line, I think you can manage going another day without snogging. If fairies fly for free, it shouldn’t take them more than a day to go and find out what the hell is up, in hell.”

“It’s not like it’s a vacation.” Emma countered. “I asked Tink about it and she took off like, well, like a bat out of hell.”

“What cunning phrasing.” Rumple shrugged. “Then send one of the other pious mosquitos.”

“Hey,” Snow exclaimed. “They’re our friends.”

“Discomfort or uncertain death?” Regina shook her head and looked at Henry. “I think we need to ask. And” – she rolled her eyes – “we set a 24 hour time limit after which we’ll deal with the fall out of the pirate playing kissy face.”

“Compromise.” Rumple rolled the words out of his mouth drawing everyone’s glare.

“Don’t be ass, Rumple.” Milah shot back at him. She looked back down at Neal and he nodded. “Because it’s a good deal and you do like those, don’t you.”

“Indeed, dearie.” He looked into his son’s eyes then turned to the others. “Finally we have a plan. Here.” Rumple waved one hand over the other and an hourglass appeared out of the dark red smoke. “A gift.”

Snow took charge once again. She grabbed the hourglass out of the Dark One’s hand.  “Emma how do we get fairy help without whoever this watcher is knowing?”

“I don’t know.” Emma won and struggled up on her feet. “It isn’t just the island being watched but none of us tracked down the who or the how but the island was the only place we could completely block. Even then I covered every mirror and kept Henry’s book closed and anything else to stop any magical spying according to our experts.”

“And trust me,” Regina added. “Between the three of us we know a whole hell of lot.”

Stretching her arms over her head, Emma finished it out. “It’s up to you guys but I don’t think we should hide out here or try to block everything. Might make crazy crazier.”

Rumple hummed in agreement. “But I’m afraid any testing we do on Milah should be hidden.” He raised a brow. “I’m fairly certain we are dealing with only one opponent. Moronic as they are, let’s not leave any breadcrumbs for them to follow.”

Snow studied the red sand in the hourglass. “Do you really think we’re going to be that lucky?”

“Luck is pointless.” Rumple glided back to the tea table and offered his arm to his wife. “What we need to do is start spinning the story ourselves.”

“What the hell does that mean,” Regina asked. “Dearie.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think the Dark One is right.” Killian mused from his chair. “Put on a show, one that will keep this watcher enthralled and blind to the fairy reconnaissance.”

“Is this what happiness really is?” Zelena whined. “Finding yourself getting along with your mortal enemies?”

“Well Aunt Zelena, it is for you.” Henry grinned as he looked from one family member to another. “Give me ten minutes and I can have something that will distract the watcher.”

Regina lifted up on her toes and kissed his forehead. “I think we can manage that.”

Snow held the hourglass out to Emma. “I think it best if Charming and I are on fairy detail. Give us enough cover to tell them it concerns Blue and get Tink out here so you can explain the rest.”

Emma grimaced and tipped the hourglass back and forth. “You’re all coming back tomorrow aren’t you?”

Regina and Snow answered her together. “Yes.”

Killian laughed and swung up onto his feet, sliding an arm around her waist from behind.

“I’ll be in charge of this.” He snatched the hourglass from her.

He smirked at the groans echoing across the meadow.

Chapter Text

Life in the Enchanted Forest, the years he had lived and the realms he had jumped has Neal thinking his mind was wide open to infinite possibilities.

But not whatever today was.

In his wildest dreams, he’d never come up with this family. Belle bustled about, setting out tea and sandwiches then checking on the baby sleeping in his father’s arms. They waited for Henry to cue their step onto the watcher’s stage.

“Penny for your thoughts, Bae.”

His father’s softly asked question made him smile. Once upon a time he thought getting rid of the Dark One was the only way to get his papa back.

“You can have them for free.” He stood and held out his arms for his baby brother. Cuddling the boy, Neal kissed the top of his head. “I don’t know how this will go, and I guess I should be bitter but…”

Rumple cocked his head to the side. Belle came up behind his chair and placed a hand on his shoulder which he covered with one of his.

Neal studied the picture they made and shrugged. “It just good to see everyone happy, or maybe together. I don’t know. I’m just filled with peace.” He flashed them a crooked smile. “And it’s weird.”

“You had moved on, died with no unresolved business.” His papa shrugged back. “But whatever we have here or had in Storybrooke, it wasn’t complete without you Bae. Not entirely. At least not for me.”

“Don’t say that.” Neal kissed the top of Gideon’s head again and returned him to their father. “I mean, I get it and it means a lot but I don’t want what might happen to tear everything apart again.”

“I think we’ve proven that nothing will separate this family for long.” Belle smiled. “Especially since I don’t think it’s possible to be left alone with one of this size.”

Neal laughed as Rumple glared at his wife. “It’s true papa.” He sat down by the fireplace. “Anything happens and it’s the whole Charming-Mills-Hood-Gold family to the rescue.”

“And don’t you think it’s weird that we’re playing happy family with the witch who killed you?” Rumple sneered, disturbing Gideon and switched smoothly to crooning to the baby.

“As big a pain in the ass as Zelena can be.” Neal shook his head. “Emma was right and so was Zelena. We’re family despite it because all of us have screwed up royally upon occasion. And each time.” He grimaced and let out a deep breath. “Each time I died, it was my choice. Is it strange that I feel like it balanced my scales? Maybe gave me more peace than I deserved.”

“Deserved is a silly word.” Rumple stroked a finger down the baby’s cheek and considered the idea. “But I don’t see why not. Magic, fate, belief whatever it is that drives the world never picked sensible weights with which to balance the scales. What will you do with this second chance, should it take?”

Neal grimaced and steepled his fingers in front of his mouth, mumbling his reply through them. “I’d like to start, or really continue getting to know my mom for one thing.”

“What an excellent idea.” Belle was ready with another question when the sound of the door made them all jump.

Henry stood by the door shaking off water from his hair. “Hey Dad, Grandpa.” He smirked at Belle when she raised a brow. “Belle.”

“Good job, Henry.” She took his cloak from him and hung it close to the fire to dry out. “How did it go?”

He rolled his eyes and sat on the ground in front of the hearth. “We are not professional actors is all I can say, even with all our drama.”

Rumple scoffed. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Right.” Henry’s head swung away from his grandfather and father. “Snow and David went first. It was a gamble to use a mirror to time it but they returned with Grandmother tied up and calling for fairy help to deal with the supposed ‘problem’.” He stretched his legs out in front of the fire. “And once the fairies arrived, I was able to cue Mom and Aunt Zelena.  They stormed into their castle fighting about, well, anything they could think of.”

Rumple giggled. “To be a fly on that wall.” All three glared at him. “You all lack any sense of humor.”

Henry ignored his grandfather’s mirth. “Anyways, I’m pretty sure their fireworks should have drawn all the attention away from Grandma and Grandpa and give them plenty of time to deliver the message. Maybe.” Henry shrugged.

“What is it kid?” Neal nudged him with a foot. “Not sure about Operation Family Drama?”

“That’s an awful name,” he sighed. “No, I don’t think we need to distract them anymore but…”

“You still want us to do our part.” Rumple finished it for him. “I believe you’re right my boy.”

Neal looked between his father and his son. “Why go through the motions of a fight if we don’t need to?”

Belle studied Henry then Rumple. “It’s still about entertaining the watcher. Snow and David laid the ground work about what supposedly happened this afternoon.”

“Operation Squirrel.” Henry closed his eyes briefly. “Milah wrecked the family picnic, attacked Emma and set off a bunch of fights.”

“Ohhhh, that drama,” Rumple exclaimed.

“Exactly, Grandpa.” Henry stood. “So it’s time for you to go home. Dad, you’re angry at what happened with Grandmother. Grandpa, you’re gleeful and Belle, you’re just a bit disgusted with him. Do I need to give you specific lines?”

Neal chuckled. “I think we get it kid.” He watched his dad hand the baby to Belle. “I think I should go first.”

Henry hugged Neal. “One more day Dad, then we can all move on to whatever’s next.” He hugged Belle and kissed Gideon. “Grandpa, I counting on you most of all.”

Rumple caught the lad in a hug. “I won’t let you down. You’re staying here?”

Henry nodded. “As exasperating as Killian and Mom can be, yeah. Someone has to chaperon them. Plus, we’re working on the twin’s room. Mom’s closing down access to the island till morning just in case.” He went to the closet door and spun the dial twice, pulling it open to reveal the library in the Dark One’s castle. “Now try to have fun with it. Maybe work out your issues.” He smiled wide and innocently at the them.

“You’ll pay for that tomorrow kid.” Neal ruffled Henry’s hair before storming through the door and into the library.

 


 

 

Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where?

The thought played like a skipped record through the watcher’s head as their breath fogged up the mirror they rested their flushed face against.

Where dammit all!

This particular mirror was supposed to show a tormented and alone Princess Precious on her lonely bloody island. It was just one of six remaining mirrors – so few things lasted forever anyways. All that remained was the one question and lifeless mirrors set to the Enchanted Forest.

Where had their dancing bears gone?

Suddenly a door slammed. Snow Whine and Prince Tempting stormed across the threshold dragging one angry trussed up pirate wench. Intrigued the watcher scrutinized the royal pains as they argued over the woman who had apparently attacked their precious offspring.

How delicious.

The mirror followed them into a room with a large round table. How Arthurian of them. The watcher frowned as they summoned fairies and scoffed in disgust as a green and red-orange light flitted into the room.

A shout sounded from another mirror and glass tinkled under the watcher’s feet as they rushed to see what drama the spite they had planted in the dead woman had blossomed. The former evil queen and her noxious sibling were tearing apart their ridiculous domestic bliss one past transgression at a time as Robin Handsome scuttled off with children in tow.

“Yes yes, forest dweller scamper off with the children and let the real women play.” The watcher’s hand clenched around the mirror’s ornate frame. “Come on girls, wade right in. Use all your malice.” They giggled with glee when Wicked Witchy threw a brilliantly snarky dig and the Queen sent her flying into a wall where vines captured her. “Oh oh oh, how nice it is to see the Evil Queen again.”

Another sudden movement and the watcher’s eyes shot to the golden mirror where the gremlin’s family moved with stiff disapproval. Neither his wife nor his son were in the Dark One’s corner this time.

How brilliant.

Pulling back from the wall the watcher smiled and soaked in the distance and dissonance growing between their game pieces with each word and action. Wasn’t family wonderful?

Their eyes flashed hopefully to the remaining mirror but their favorite channel remained full of static.

It was high time that the blue lightening bug stopped flitting about and fixed the connection.

The Room of Mirrors came into focus for the first time after many disturbing hours. The glass of dozens of mirrors littered the floor, fracturing the light around the room. Fabric savaged, their chair lay on its side, missing two legs which were slammed into the wall, decimating the mirrors hung there.

The side table was the most disturbing aspect as it no longer held a tiny trapped blue light.

The watcher lifted one foot and shook it, listening to the tinkle of slivers of glass hitting the ground.  They turned to study the door. It remained closed but lacked the frantic sounds of endless siege. Crunching across the glass shards they opened it a crack and peered out. Nothing and no one stood beyond demanding entry.

Whatever the loose fairy and self-crowned king were up to, the watcher had time and a few associates that could provide assistance. The watcher inhaled slowly filling their lungs then exhaled just as slowly, whispering out the door and onto the wind a command to come here.

A gray cat trotted leisurely down the hallway and passed into the room without acknowledging the watcher whatsoever. It found a mostly clear spot on the floor, lifted a leg in the air and proceeded to groom itself.

Closing the door, the watcher leaned against it and sneered at the animal. “Never my first choice but you’ll do nicely.”

Searching, they found a small scrap of paper and reached for a sharp, thin shard. After pricking a finger and watching in fascination as drops of blood ran onto the shard, the watcher flipped it around and wrote two words before tossing their pen over their shoulder.

Ripping a long piece of fabric from the savaged chair, the watcher tied it around the rolled-up scrap and then around the disgusting animals neck. Breathing into the cat’s face, the watcher gave its command and opened the door for it to go.

They had just bought themselves some more time.

Time to figure out the next move but more importantly, time to enjoy the drama currently playing out. Kicking glass out of their way, they straighten the side table and found it sturdy enough. Clearing a spot of the floor, the watcher set it back down and carefully lowered themselves to watch their favorite drama unfold.

 


 

 

The bar was just one more place where time had no meaning.

What passed for daylight around here never made its way through the thickly curtained and dirt encrusted windows. A heavy green velvet curtain covered the door inside and customers had to fight their way through it, making sure to leave any light and hope outside.

He favored it as it was free of Camelot’s idiot king. He felt no gratitude to the man. Prince James laughed sourly. Even though Arthur had pulled his soul, along with many others, out of the river his brother had tossed him in. He lined up his next shot and struck the cue ball, knocking the eight ball into the corner pocket for the win.

Even if he had only been playing against himself.

Life in Arthur’s Underbrooke was depressingly boring. People remembered more and left often and helped each other on their way to a better place. James knocked back a shot of whiskey and held the empty glass up to signal the bartender for the next. The do-gooders annoyed him but he could be patient and wait them out. They’d move on too, eventually.

“Here.” The surly barmaid dropped a tray of whiskey shots on the hi-top next to the pool table. James watched her short skirt twitch back and forth as she returned to the bar.

The bartender caught his leer and scowled back, nodding to something behind him. “No animals, asshole.”

“I don’t have any animals.” His hand clenched around the pool stick. A brawl would certainly liven up his day when he heard a loud meow. James turned to see an annoyed looking gray cat using the green felt as a scratching pad. He swung the stick at it. The cat was quicker and jumped to the hi-top with his whiskey tray. “Don’t even think about it, cat.”

The gray cat sat and raised one leg to lick its ass and ignored the prince. When James grabbed his tray away from the damn animal, he saw a strip of fabric tied around its neck. He tugged one end, freeing the cat but pulling back a bloody hand before it went on its way.

“Damn cat.” He knocked back a shot before unwinding the fabric to find a scrap paper with two messily scrawled words.

Wreak havoc.

Prince James smiled. It was a request he was happy to fulfill.

 

Chapter Text

Emma watched the tiny green and red-orange lights flit off into the darkest part of twilight. Tink and Tigerlily agreed to make the trip regardless of the risks. The furrow between her eyes deepened as she thought of the restrictions on the fairies. They’d spent too many years human sized to enjoy the limitations of the land of the dead.

“It’s not like either of them were ever particularly tall.”

Killian read her mind and she wrinkled her nose in response. “Open book?”

“Mmmm hmmm.” He exchanged an amused look with Henry. “They will be fine as unlike Blue they aren’t going alone or unprepared for unknown entities with dastardly intentions. Besides, Tink and Tigerlily wouldn’t go if the reward didn’t outweigh the risk.”

“That’s a ridiculous way to put it.” She flopped against the balcony door jamb. “Not like they get a cookie for doing this.”

Henry’s head swiveled back to the pirate eager to see what his parry would be. Killian just shrugged and went back to studying the drawing in his hand rather than his wife. Henry stood quickly and plucked it out of his hand and joined his mother. Emma wrapped an arm around his neck and the two ignored the pirate together, their attention on the drawing.

It was Killian’s turn to roll his eyes. “Nothing to be done about it either way. You never wager lightly when death is on the line.”

Emma eyed Killian for a moment before tightening her arm around her son. “Looks just about perfect. No theme. Just take out the stuffed krakens.” She kissed his cheek and went to stand over her husband, crossing her arms. “You know the Dread Pirate Roberts don’t you?”

Killian fluttered his lashes. “I have no ideal what you are asking me love.” He grabbed her hand and drew her down on his lap. His smile widened while Emma scowled at him.

“Do you two ever stop flirting?” Henry mournfully whined, searching for a pencil to add more stuffed animals.

Killian scratched at the scruff of his beard. “I find it hard to believe we’re any worse than Regina and Robin.”

“I lived with Snow White and Prince Charming.” Emma shuddered. “You got it easy kid.”

“So did I and…” He froze pencil in hand. “And. Oh god.” He voice was hoarse. “Taco day.”

Emma shook her head sadly, fighting a grin. “Yeah. Like I told you before, everything goes well and boom – rash of babies besides the wonder twins.”

The look of horror on Henry’s face sent Killian into peals of laughter, jostling Emma. She tried to stand but he wrapped both arms around her waist and held on tighter. Henry caught her eyes and rolled his. Hearing Killian laugh was too good for either of them to really try to stop it.

When he stopped, Killian looked from one to the other beaming and so openly over the moon happy that Emma scooted right out of his arms and landed on the floor.

“I’m fine.” She swallowed nervously and frowned up at him. “You just can’t do that. Beaming all that love and happiness out.” She growled when both of her guys gave her the twin raised brow. “No kissing.”

He let out a long put upon sigh. “I’m just too devilishly handsome.”

“Wow,” Henry said. “That’s only the fourth time you’ve said that today.”

“It’s not all about me, Henry.” The pirate shrugged. “Today was a team work day and I couldn’t afford to distract your grandfather.”

“Which one?”

“Please don’t answer that.” Emma asked and glanced over at Henry and then back up at Killian. Both were relaxed and wearing small grins, ready to play word games. She placed a hand on Killian’s leg, needing the connection to fully ground the happy moment into her memory. “Let’s talk about something else. We have the room design ready, the fairies are off doing the hard part and you still won’t confirm or deny if you know the pirate from the Princess’ Bride.”

“Anything’s possible, isn’t it?” Henry’s words escaped on a wistful sigh.

Emma’s hand tightened on Killian’s leg. The morning conversation with Henry had been placed on the back burner. She had almost forgotten it and she certainly wasn’t ready to even think about letting him go. There were worlds stacked upon worlds and he wanted to explore them all. Maybe she could understand it, if the thought of him being worlds away didn’t utterly terrify her. Didn’t matter, Emma would have to get over it. After all, she loved him, wanted him to be happy and, more importantly, she believed in Henry.

“There are still things that are highly improbable.” Killian pulled her hand away from his leg to awkwardly hold it.

“Back to making a bet.” Henry tried to hide a grimace.

Both Emma and Killian caught it and he gave her hand an extra squeeze before letting go. Henry turned quiet and they watched the expressions on his face change as he worked through whatever was in his head.

“I really thought he’d gotten better at hiding his schemes.” Killian whispered loudly. He got to his feet and offered her a hand.

She accepted the help. “I think an opening came before he got it planned out.” Henry remained oblivious.

“I wonder how he’ll approach it.” They stepped lightly across the floor.

“You know,” Emma replied. “I thought we were beyond stealth, more open and honest.”

Henry caught Emma’s last word and looked up to find both parents looming over him. “Thieves. You both move like thieves.”

Killian shrugged and helped Emma sit down on the floor next to Henry. “Somethings are undeniable but also irrelevant.”

“Spill it kid.”

He groaned. “I wanted to have the whole presentation together” – he slumped down – “before I asked.”

Emma nudged into his side and leaned on him. “Skip it and ask.”

Henry’s eyes shifted to the pirate sitting across the coffee table from them. “It has to do with Grandmother.” He leaned into his mother.

“No one here has anything against your grandmother.” Emma took a deep breath. “Milah is dealing with a lot of shit right now. It may be frustrating but it’s going pretty well.”

“Really Swan?”

“Guys.” She groaned. “We could be totally in the dark about her being hijacked but she’s trusting us, maybe not as much as you want, and that’s huge. I mean, how long did it take all of us to do that?”

“Point taken,” Killian said. “So lad?”

“She knows what she wants to do, if she gets to stay here or alive or whatever.” Henry leaned into Emma. “She wants to travel the realms, like…”

“Like you,” she finished for him. “Seems like a good idea. So what’s the question?”

“She needs more beans.” Killian frowned. “And she knows you have them.”

Henry rolled his eyes. “It’s not just that.” He turned to look directly in his mom’s eyes. “I know it may be hard for you to understand. Home was a dream, a place you were trying to find so making one, finding it, is everything and you want to stay.”

Emma nodded and waited.

“Well, I’ve had a home for longer than I knew and it’s my foundation.” He laughed a bit. “That’s what I told Grandmother today. It’s my foundation. So yeah I want to see all the worlds I can but I also need a guaranteed way back.”

“Because I said so?” She brushed the long piece of hair that always fell into his eyes back.

“No, and yes.” Henry shrugged. “I felt guilty about wanting to go but when you talked about phoning home I got it. Just because you leave doesn’t mean you can’t come back.”

Emma exhaled slowly. “I hate the leaving.”

“Still,” Killian interrupted the two. “Seems like you thought this through.”

Henry smiled at the pirate. “Planning ahead seems like a smart idea.”

“Okay, enough of the Hallmark moment.” Emma took a deep breath. “What is it you, and Milah…” Surprise bloomed on her face. “She wants to be able to come back here? That’s good isn’t it?” She directed her last question at Killian.

“I think so,” he answered softly.

“So do I.” Emma sensed Killian’s worry and grinned at Henry. “I willing to bet she has some embarrassing stories about the pirate. I mean you weren’t even thirty when you knew each other.”

“I was never anything but suave and devastatingly handsome.”

“Yeah,” Henry said.

“Right,” Emma added.

“Enough mocking.” Henry pulled away from his mom. “So, you’ve been doing some cool magical mashups and considering the more practical details. We thought you could, you know, build us a couple TARDIS’s or something.”

“We?” Emma wished once more she could do the one brow thing and smacked Killian’s arm. “Look at him with one eyebrow raised for me.”

“Of course love.” He tried but the ridiculousness of her request made the face impossible to hold.

“You’re no help.” Emma nudged Henry. “We?”

“Well, I, as Grandmother doesn’t know what a TARDIS is.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “You couldn’t think of a magic kingdom equivalent?” she crossed her arms. “I wonder is there something that will allow you to travel realms with more control than counting on a bean supply.”

Henry looked confused.

“Seriously?” Emma groaned. “Something like a hat.”

“Ohhhhhhhh.”

“Or magical high heels? Have to admit, lad, either would work better than a bright blue police box.”

Emma’s and Henry’s head snapped around to glare at the pirate who sat there looking innocent. It was hard for Emma to decide if he knew something or if it was a game.

“I don’t remember watching that show with you,” Henry accused.

Emma shook her head. “He’s hiding something but I can’t decide if he played pop culture catch up behind our backs or if he’s just having fun or if well” – she glanced at Henry – “worlds upon worlds.”

“Upon worlds,” He responded and leaned back into his mother’s arms. “Don’t you want to see what’s out there?”

Emma messed up his hair and looked over at her husband. “Learning about where I’m from is kind of enough.” She smiled and felt Henry jump when the twins kicked her. “Once the twins are big enough that they can’t accidentally crawl overboard.”

Henry placed a hand where he had felt the kick and smiled when he felt fluttering. “So will you?”

Emma nodded. “It’ll take some time.”

“But I win my bet with Grandmother.” Henry grinned.

“She bet you?”

“That you’d say no.”

Killian barked out a laugh. “Give Milah time, she’s not used to you all yet.”

“Can you blame her?” Henry looked between his parents. “I mean if I had known what I was going to get when I wished for more family…”

“You’d do it all again.” Emma placed her hand over his. “So would I. Every time.” Underneath her hand and her son’s her other children grew. Across the table was her piercing eyed, smoldering, devilishly handsome pirate husband.

This was a life she had never dreamed of but would fight for every time.

“Okay, another Hallmark moment officially over. Since the twins’ room plan is ready I guess it’s time to make a TARDIS.” Emma grinned. “Or maybe a hat.”

 


 

 

Light played a very specific role in the land of the dead.  Light got brighter when it lead to better and happier places while the waning indicated one wandered deeper into hell.

Tinkerbelle shivered as she flew through the grayness, concentrating on the red-orange light of Tigerlily flickering before her. She decided that she really, didn’t like Underbrooke. It was creepy and reminded her of Neverland too much.

Tigerlily suddenly felt too far away and Tink zoomed through the air to catch up.

“We cannot afford to get distracted Miss Belle.” Tigerlily admonished.

“I know,” Tink replied. “It’s just, you know, doesn’t it kind of remind you…”

The other fairy agreed with a sharp nod. “Neverland and this Underbrooke share a similar timelessness.”

“If that’s what you want to call it.”

“Similar to the oppressive atmosphere of Pan’s time.” Tigerlily sent her a gentle smile. “I know it’s a disturbing reminder of when we both lost sight of who we were but it’s important to stay together and on guard.”

“I will.” She sighed. “Sorry.”

“Our ability to travel to the land of the dead may seem free or like a reward, granting us power without the need for wands or fairy dust but it is also a trap.” The other fairy’s words were daunting but necessary.

Tink nodded and flew closer, repeating the rules in her head.

Fairies could bridge the worlds of the living and the dead without paying a toll but there were risks and rewards. Many a fairy was tempted by the increase in power only to find themselves restricted to their smallest size and easily kept as a tool in a glass cage. A shiver shook Tink from head to toe. A fairy could be trapped and under the command of whoever held them.

Tigerlily halted high above the center of town. “So where is this town hall Emma suggested?”

“Follow me.” Hopefully no one would pay any attention to them as the buzzed high over the town and landed outside the windows of the mayor’s office. “No one’s here. Sheriff’s office?”

“Lead the way Miss Belle.”

“You know, you can just call me Tink.”

Tigerlily shook her head. “You young fairs are so informal.”

“Oh, come on.” Tink took flight, keeping from the Underbrooke citizen’s notice on their way to the sheriff’s office. Waving a hand, she opened the door just enough for them to slip through. “I could get used to this.”

“And miss drinking with the Evil Queen.”

“Former Evil Queen.” Tink corrected. “Fine, maybe not.”

Tigerlily pointed down the hall to a lighted room. “We must be silent and stealthy from here on in.” Keeping close to the ceiling they flew down the hall to hover outside the office.

“I’m sorry for the delay,” a man’s voice carried out to the two fairies but neither recognized it. “But as no one is dying, the royal arsehole’s mayhem comes first.”

“I understand,” Blue’s voice trilled out in response. “But I will not be able to stay and help with your current situation much longer.”

Tigerlily threw out an arm, restraining Tink from flying into the room. “But…” The older fairy held a finger to her lips asking for silence.

“You’ve done so much for us already milady.” A chair scrapped across the floor and someone dropped into it making it creak. “Once we figure out who over powered the spell, I imagine there’ll be several different realms and kingdoms that need your assistance.”

Dropping her arm Tigerlily nodded and slowly flew into the room. Tink flew straight in to her mentor hovering above the man. “Blue!”

“Tinkerbelle.” Blue smiled and nodded to the elder fairy flying slowly behind her. “Tigerlily. It is good to see you both.”

Tink hugged the blue fairy enthusiastically while her elder patted her gently on the back. Floating away she looked around the room, noting the dark haired man and another fairer man passed out behind bars. “What the hell happened down here?”

The two older fairies exchanged amused looks and greetings. Tigerlily quickly squeezing Blue’s hand. “I take it things have been difficult?”

Blue blew out a breath and shook her head. “You have no idea. I know Snow White and her family are aware of the alteration of their stories and are looking for answers but I’m afraid there’s more to clean up here.”

Tigerlily solemnly nodded her understanding. “They’re simply trying to understand what happened to cause the changes.”

“I’m afraid we don’t have much time to explain right now.” Blue turned to the man. “Arthur, we need to go and get Cruella before she escapes.”

Tink snorted. “Cruella DeVille? She’s the watcher?”

Blue blinked in surprise. “They know that as well?”

“The savior noticed.” Tigerlily shook her head. “We may have some time. Snow White and Regina and the Dark One are providing a distraction.”

Arthur stood, drawing the fairies’ attention. “Either way, Blue is right. I need to go and collect her. Forgive me but it would be better without your assistance.”

“Another trapped fairy would just make things worse eh?” Tink shook her head sadly. “To think Cruella was capable of causing this much mischief. I mean I know she’d like to but she doesn’t really have the power.”

A deep curt laugh came from the cell. Prince James lay upon the cot and sneered at them. “Please, she’s smart enough to know who around here is looking for a little action.”

“Wow. David really does have a twin.” Tink flew to float outside the jail cell, studying its occupant. “Certainly explains the two Emma is carrying.”

“Tink, come away from there.” Blue addressed Arthur. “You are right. Cruella doesn’t need another chance to capture a fairy. Go take care of her and hopefully”—she looked from Tigerlily to Tink – “I can explain enough for these two to head home quickly.”

Arthur saluted the Blue Fairy and went out to collect the villainess.

Blue looked around at the sheriff’s station and shook her head. “Let’s take this to the office.” Landing on the desk, Blue turned to her sisters. “Can each of you block the doors. I’m afraid my magic has been greatly drained.” She sighed and eased down to sit upon the desk while the two completed the task. “I’m afraid this will be confusing. There are some details we still don’t know.”

Tink shrugged and sat crossed legged on the desk, leaning one elbow on her knee and resting her head on her hand. “What you do know may be enough.”

Tigerlily smiled at the younger fairy and lowered herself onto her knees. “Miss Belle is correct.” Amused by the young one’s eye roll, the orange fairy turned back to her sister. “From the beginning, please”

Blue took a deep breath and shot a smile at her sisters. “Once upon a time…”

Chapter Text

(“Maybe not that far back.” Tink cheekily responded.

“Hush Tink.”)

It was after the defeat of the Black Fairy that Blue received a request from the Land of the Dead.

For reasons she could only speculate on, Fiona had assisted Arthur in sending a message to Storybrooke for help fixing the problems Hades had created. Most pressing was his misuse of the Rivers of the Dead.

(“Wait, Fiona was the Black Fairy but she died, ended up in Underbrooke and became helpful?” Tink wrinkled her nose. “That’s just weird.”

“She wasn’t just a fairy.” Blue explained, placing a comforting hand on Tigerlily’s knee. “Hence she could be killed and her human self ended up here. She possesses a great deal of knowledge in any case.”)

Blue had not known if it would be possible to get there from Storybrooke but Captain Jones had brought back news of Arthur’s undertaking and his help in defeating Hades. The former king’s goals were noble and helping him, or trying to, seemed the right thing to do. Still, the Sisters had a long discussion and consulted those who had journeyed to Underbrooke as well. All had supported her decision to try to provide help.

(“Even the Dark One. And we listened to him?” Tink asked, shocked.

“Well, yes. He confirmed there was at least one soul who had been unjustly thrown into the River of Lost Souls.”

“Probably did it himself.”

“True but irrelevant.”)

Working with the dwarves they collected enough fairy dust to send one fairy and with the known dangers, Blue would send no one but herself.

Underbrooke had changed under Arthur’s guidance. It remained a gray and waiting kind of place, but now souls remembered their stories and though redemption remained difficult they were not without hope.

The king had set up in the library and welcomed Blue there to show her the problems and what he was planning to do.

The River of Lost Souls was over flowing. Arthur had found a way to pull souls looking for a second chance from the river but lacked the ability to do it himself. It was a strange spell requiring an exact amount of magical power. Less than the specified amount would do nothing and more was highly dangerous. According to Arthur’s research the spell overrode standard costs for movement through the Lands of the Dead, was created by the gods to do so to prevent the river overflowing into the Land of the Living.

(“It can do that?” Tinkerbelle interrupted.

“Water is a powerful element and flows through all worlds.” Blue frowned. “Do you not remember any of your lessons?”)

Hades had used the river to punish problematic souls but hadn’t done the spell for eons. It desperately needed to be fixed and soon. Arthur brought Blue to a Room of Mirrors he had put together and let her see the overflow for her self.

(“Mirrors?“

“If you would just listen.”)

Arthur had found the first mirror while dismantling Hades throne room. A mirror that when he touched it allowed him to see Camelot. With trial and error and research he found that it allowed a soul to see those left behind and using a simple potion other mirrors could be connected to it and used to see into the world of the living.

(“Creeptastic.”

“Tinkerbelle.”)

Arthur arranged for souls to bring in a mirror and connect it. Many took advantage and used their mirror to help resolve unfinished business.

A bespelled mirror, however, did not show just anywhere. Additional magic had to be funneled through it for a watcher to direct it wherever they wanted. A technique Arthur had used himself to assess the leakage but forgot that others may do so as well.

With all that she had learned upon arrival, Blue remained committed to helping Arthur fix the River of Lost Souls by providing the magic. Since the spell would pull souls to Underbrooke they had to prepare the town as well before doing the spell.

Cruella must have begun meddling after Blue had arrived and was preparing to do the spell. She shared a great deal of her madness once Blue was trapped under glass.

(“Bitch.”

“Tinkerbelle!” Both Blue and Tigerlily reprimanded her.

“You know you think so too.”)

Feigning remorse had gotten Cruella her own mirror which she tweaked to peek in on the Savior’s life. A deal with Fiona provided the knowledge and power to unlock other mirrors to follow everyone in Storybrooke. She obsessively watched and listened and waited. Unfortunately once she learned exactly what Blue had come to do and she commenced stealing everyone’s mirrors.

The growing trend of missing mirrors distracted Arthur and Blue and with their attention divided Cruella slipped through and messed with the spell. Whatever she did, it pulled too much power from Blue and caused a magical explosion that rippled out through the worlds of the dead and the living.

Throughout the realms magical spells and magical items were restored to their original power.

Her changes the story for the citizens of Storybrooke was a gamble. How she got the ink spilled at the exact right moment was mind boggling.

(“It’s Cruella.” Tink shook her head. “She probably had a cat do it.”

The two elder fairies looked at her in surprise but nodded slowly in agreement.)

While it may have exploded in their faces, the spell did pull souls from the river. More souls than the spell should have and worse, souls that weren’t looking for a second chance. Peter Pan, Gaston and Prince James returned and immediately instigated trouble.

(“I would have loved to see that reunion.”

“Which reunion?”

“Fiona and Peter Pan.”

Blue shook her head in sorrow at the fairy’s gleeful response.

“Me too,” said Tigerlily.

“Tigerlily!”)

With the distraction of aggressively dissatisfied souls to Underbrooke, Cruella captured Blue and the Room of Mirrors. It had been endless torture for Blue trapped with her and all the mirrors she had stolen.

The rules for fairies in the land of the dead are absolute. Blue was powerless to resist any command and the villainess used her to control the mirrors.

Cruella’s favorite pastime was watching Emma, the months of tossing and turning and throwing up, the princess painfully alone in the middle of everyone’s happy-ever-after and hiding from her family then the drama of the pirate’s return.

Blue would never understand the woman but Cruella enjoyed it all, the pain, the joy, and the happy reunions.

(“Please tell me you aren’t saying she went to all this trouble, I mean she returned people from the dead, for entertainment?”

Blue nodded. “I am absolutely sure that it was largely for entertainment value. She enjoyed the saviour’s pain a great deal but was almost as thrilled when they remembered.”

“That’s just twisted.”)

Something changed recently and her most beloved mirror showed only static. Being blocked from her favorite channel had driven Cruella insane, well, insaner and she destroyed one mirror after another, providing Blue with a chance to escape.

 


 

 

“The prince is right, when he said that Cruella knew who in town would be of help in causing chaos.” Blue finished her tale. “None of this was something she could have pulled off on her own and once Arthur has Cruella contained, he will find her accomplices.”

Tinkerbelle and Tigerlily nodded and stood up.

“Blue, I think we have what we need and will leave you to finish your task.” Tigerlily held up a hand to undo the block on the door when Tink caught her by the wrist.

“Wait, There’s a bit more,” she said. “A few souls have been returned to the Enchanted Forest.”

“I know,” Blue interrupted her. “There are a couple more than those you know of but none to worry about.”

“That’s not my question, Blue.” Tink took a deep breath. “You know everyone from Storybrooke and beyond for the most part have rewritten memories. The Charmings, Regina and the rest are trying to fix that and if they do, will those souls return here?”

“Are we talking about something more than a memory restoring spell?” Blue looked between the two fairies who looked a little uncomfortable.

“They aren’t thinking about a spell, yet.” Tigerlily tried to explain. “We actually don’t know if it would undo the entire spell.”

Tink rolled her eyes. “Emma and Hook haven’t kissed at all because everyone knows it would be true love’s kiss and might undo everything.”

“True love is the most powerful magic,” Blue nodded sagely before a smile slowly crossed her face. “It tends to break down magical curses not eliminate all problems those curses cause.”

“So memory restored but no killing off the newly alive?”

“Or sending the whole town back to Storybrooke?”

“Both are unlikely.” Blue held out her hands and the two fairies clasped them. “Magic can be unpredictable but as the kiss would signal reunited lovers, it should end what originally separated them.”

Tink scowled. “Which is kind of a person right now.”

“You forget.” Blue squeezed Tink’s hand. “I’ve been watching and the princess was correct. Even not knowing their true story, nothing would keep Emma and Captain Jones separated for long. It wasn’t Milah, it was the false tale.”

“Still a gamble.” Tigerlily took Tink’s other hand.

“But with the best possible odds.” Blue smiled at her sisters. “All time runs out and I doubt those two can go much longer without kissing.” She let go of their hands and shook out her wings. “It’s time I helped clean up this mess and both of you need to return home before anyone makes it worse.”

Tigerlily removed the magic blocking the door and bowed her head goodbye to Blue while Tinkerbelle rushed the fairy for a hug before skipping into the air.

“We’ll see you at home soon.”

“Bye Blue.” Tinkerbelle waved as they flew to the door. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Blue floated up into the air and waved as the red-orange and green light flickered away. “Safe journey to you both.” She closed her eyes once the twin lights were gone and prayed for their safe return. The clatter of a door disturbed her silent reverie.

Arthur came into the main sheriff’s office with a handcuffed and flirty Cruella.

“Darling,” she purred. “Oh, there’s the fairy. Your abandonment was quite the blow my precious twinkle light.”

“I’m sure that wasn’t the only problem you faced Cruella.” Blue responded harshly.

“You are no fun.” Cruella smiled up at Arthur. “So, my bearded beauty what will you do with me?”

Arthur scowled in disgust and escorted her into the unoccupied cell, happy to lock her in.

“James darling,” Cruella called out to the prone prince and waved a hand at the disgruntle king. “Arthur, be a dear and at least lock us in a cell together.”

Blue and the king stared in disbelieve then glanced at each other. Shaking his head Arthur turned away. “I feel sick.”

“I know.” Blue landed on the desk. “But I think we’re finally ready to clean this mess up.”

The two nodded resolutely and in her cell, Cruella rolled her eyes at all the positive energy they were generating. She leaned back on the cot in her cell with a smile.

She still had one piece on the board.

 

 

Chapter Text

The smell of coffee intruded upon her dreams.

She’d been having a lovely one with Robin and Roland, Zelena and baby Robin gathered around her apple tree for a picnic. When a whirlpool of magic appeared out of nowhere on the sunny day, Regina had stood between her family and it, prepared for something dark and desperate to destroy their sunny day. Instead Henry popped out of the portal, older with a full carpet bag and his eyes lighting up with happiness.

Regina wanted to stay longer but the smell of coffee was calling her name.

She languidly stretched, one hand sliding across the sheets seeking her husband. A pleased smile bloomed across her face. Husband. When a warm body wasn’t found, her hand clenched tight and she sat up abruptly ready to glare the room into submission only to be greeted by her missing husband and a tea cup.

“As much as I want that coffee you’re holding, I would have preferred to wake up to you” – she pointed one finger to the space next to her – “right there.”

Robin chuckled as he went in for a slow soft kiss, grinning like a fool. “Good morning wife.”

Unbelievably she flushed and lowered her eyes. The fool grinned wider. “Do we really want to challenge the savior and the pirate for title of the most twitter pated couple in the Enchanted Forest?”

“Our neighbors are Snow White and Prince Charming. Their smitten-ness overcomes all.” He lifted the tea cup and saucer up as an offering. “And you should have worked in the fact that we are married.”

“Mmmmmmmm.” Regina shot him a side glance as she took his offering, moaning at the first taste of morning coffee. “I could live in the forest as long as we had coffee.”

“Really?”

“No.” She took a second sip then leaned back on her pillows. “The dwarves are installing hot and cold running water which could beat out the coffee.”

Robin picked up her free hand and lifted it for a kiss. “Whatever my queen wishes.”

Entwining their fingers, she pulled him down beside her and rubbed her thumb over the hand she held. “I was dreaming, a really good dream.” She set the saucer down and lifted the cup by the delicate handle to take another bracing sip. “We don’t have to do it now, or maybe we should, but we need to have a talk.”

“Killian has informed me that those words are not a good sign.”

Regina rolled her eyes. “I can’t imagine they ever are for him.” She shook her head. “You know if things go bad today, I will take care of Roland and Robin. But if things go good, we haven’t talked about what that looks like.” Pushing the tea cup into his hand, she stood from the bed and paced around their room. “We’ve had normal for a handful of hours once upon a time and maybe we stay here or maybe we should go back to Storybrooke.”

“Neither of which will change our married state.”

“True but, what are we doing here?” She ended up back by his side and in possession of the tea cup again. She sipped, needing another hit. “What do you want to do? I mean fairy tales are great but they don’t really go into every day detail.”

Robin took the tea cup from her and set it aside so he could hold both of hers. He lifted one than the other to his mouth for a kiss. “We will figure it out. As we have already decided that whatever else, we wish to do it together.”

Rocking back on her heels than up to her toes, Regina studied his face. “Before.” Her shoulders lifted and fell. “I kind eavesdropped on the cute couple. They played a game, what if fairy tale version.”

“What if?”

“A strategy game.”

“Strategy?”

“If we are separated by whatever then?”

“Emergency planning.” Robin mused as she tilted her head her head to the side. “So, you want to add it to family game night.” Catching her slight nod, he exhaled and pulled her down to him. “The important decisions have been made. I love you.” His hand stroked her cheek, mesmerized by the emotions she no longer hid from him. “Are you really worried about this afternoon?”

She smiled and touched her nose to his then shook her head. “Other than not wanting to watch them makeout?” Pulling away, she looked at him with wonder and surprise. “I’m not, I’m not worried at all.”

“That almost hurts my feelings.” Robin said playfully.

“Don’t be silly.” She smacked his shoulder. “I don’t know when it happened but I believe.” Her smile stretched slowly across her face. “I believe that everything’s going to be alright.”

“Good always wins.” He reminded her. Robin caught her head in both hands, holding her so he could look in her eyes. “And you, my queen, are good.”

Delight fizzed through her and she shifted her weight till they fell back into the bed, unable to hide the smugness in her eyes. “You would know best.”

 


 

 

Milah found the dungeon’s traditional dank and dark atmosphere comforting.

The Charmings, their majesties, had the nicest one she’d ever visited. The blanket looked ratty but was thick and thankfully sweet-smelling. The cot was just as comfortable as her bed at Bae’s. Being alone with her thoughts was a far worse prospect than the musty air. Or at least it had been.

A night spent examining every inch of her soul undisturbed had been a blessing in disguise.

Her memory held flickers of the truth. Whatever had been done, either the false story or the anger inside, had erected blockades inside her mind. With concentration she could see the deck of the ship with Killian tied to the mast and Rumple holding a heart in his hands but before the scene could play out her mind went blank. It was the same way for every flash of true memory she tried to recall, whether a boat docked in the glowing river or a crosswalk in Storybrooke.

After a few hours of failing to dig out the past, Milah had concentrated on everything before running away to Neverland. Regrettably, she found herself agreeing with Rumple. She was not blameless. Milah had been a victim as well as a villain. Her life as a pirate was the happiest she could recall but tainted by the abandonment of her son.

No one was perfect, no one was all good and no one was all bad. An angry fire kindled in her as the princess’ words echoed in her mind. Milah had started focusing on Emma. Saying her name over and over again, quickly, quietly, then shouting it. Flipping through images of the princess, the pain and sadness of Emma’s isolation warming the foreign part of her with glee.

Milah refused to be some bitter old crone who pissed on other people’s happiness. Besides, letting anyone else control her life was hell and she was ready to end it. All her pacing and muttering had probably brought the watcher hours of enjoyment.

Pushing the part of her that exalted in Emma’s pain and burned at her joy, she had stoked the anger higher and higher. When it coursed through her blood, her body tense, she tried taming it.

She had tried again and again and again throughout the night. Till she had reclaimed some control. Her body should have felt heavy and tired but some control resulted in a buoyancy to her spirit.

Milah sat up when at the sound of footsteps echoed down the hallway outside her cell. She frowned, not enough reverberation for armored knights or light enough to be the queen’s.

The boy’s head peeked around the corner.

“Henry.”

“Grandmother.” He motioned to someone behind him and Killian ambled around the corner.

“Henry, we had this conversation.” Milah crossed her arms. “Stop calling me grandmother.”

“Nope.”

She shot a look at Killian and pointed to the boy, raising a brow to suggest he should control his step-son.

The pirate shrugged. “Why you think I have any say is bewildering. The lad is always getting into scrapes with absolutely no help from me.”

“Liar.” Both Henry and Milah nailed him with the accusation but Killian ignored them.

Henry rolled his eyes then rattled the keys at her. “Be nice to me or I won’t let you out. Besides, I do it to distract you.”

“Your plans are normally more thought out than that, lad.”

“Thanks Dad.” Henry sneered and shoved the keys at him. “How are you? Sorry about having to leave you in the dungeon for the night.”

“It’s alright.” Milah stood and stretched. “Plenty of thinking time to get my bearings. So where exactly are you taking me?”

Henry sighed and glanced at Killian who swung the cell door open then leaned against the wall. “To Grandpa Rumple’s? And Dad.” Wrinkling his nose, he shrugged. “Not great options but we can’t take you back to the island without, you know, precautions.”

“Very smart of you.” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “I may be better but we shouldn’t take chances with Emma’s or your sibling’s health.” Neither Killian nor Henry responded or even blinked an eye but studied her like something that had just landed in their tea cup. “What?”

“Still possessed are we?”

Milah shouldn’t be upset at all the suspicion. “Yes. I am.”

Henry darted a glance between the two adults. “But you’re better.”

Skirting around the pirate, Milah walked out the door with her head held high. “Again, yes. I am.” She tossed a sneer over her shoulder. “Either way, time continues to marching forward. Shall we gentlemen?”

“Snark and drama.” Muttered Henry, moving to catch up. “Killian’s going back to my mom, Emma.”

She didn’t tense up or clench her hands into fists.

“Wow, okay. Anyways, I’ll go with you to Dad’s and Grandpa’s.”

“Thank you for the escort, boy.”

Looking over his shoulder, Henry rolled his eyes at Killian who just threw his hands up in the air. “Perfect, and since we’re walking we can discuss exactly how you can repay me.”

Milah glared at her grandson in confusion, her eyes narrowing when Killian chuckled and fell into step behind them. “Repay you for what?”

“She said yes.”

Shocked, Milah stopped walking, letting Henry get several steps ahead of her. Killian wrapped an arm around her shoulders and urged her on. “Never bet against Henry.”

The boy turned around to face them, walking backwards. “Plus Mom’s pretty happy you want to be able to come back.” He grinned with a waggle of his eyebrows up and down. “We’re hoping you have embarrassing stories about this pirate we know.”

“I think there may be one or two I can recall.”

“You must be joking…”

“Maybe more.” Milah shrugged off the pirate’s arm and took her grandson’s instead. “Killian, we will see you later. My grandson and I have much to discuss.”

For the first time in a while, Milah’s outlook was brighter than ever before.

Chapter Text

If she opened her eyes, the glare of the morning sun couldn’t be ignored and she’d have to be officially awake.

Instead Emma snuggled into the warmth of her bed and kept her eyes securely closed. Soft bed, comfy bed, so warm. If she concentrated real hard maybe, just maybe she could still be asleep.

Annoyingly loud boots stomped up the stairs and a familiar weight dropped onto the bed.

A hand slid up her back, pulling locks of her hair to one side and out of her face. Emma grunted and hugged his pillow tighter. When he pushed most of her hair to one side she frowned, her eyes squeezed shut and her nose wrinkled.

Killian chuckled and traced a finger along her forehead curling one last piece of hair behind her ear. “Time to get up love.”

She growled and shuffled away from his hand.

“Now come on love, it’s time to get up and get going.”

Without looking she swatted at his hand. “No.” Emma rolled further away from him. “We have hours so I’m going to sleep.” Feeling him stand a small grin of triumph broke out before the sound of his boots hitting the floor registered. She sat up and glared at the undressing pirate. “What do you think you’re doing? I said sleep and I meant sleep. It wasn’t a euphemism.”

“If the mountain won’t come to me.” He dropped his vest over his discarded coat and boots. “I will get in bed with the mountain.”

“That’s not how that goes.”

Killian laid down on the bed next to her. “I don’t care. I was thinking…”

Eyeing him warily, Emma sat back against the headboard. “Next thing you say had better not be we need to talk.”

He rolled his eyes before rolling to the side of the bed and pulling something from beneath it. Rolling back he dropped a book between them. Emma refused to look down at whatever it was and glared at him instead.

He smirked and let his gaze travel down to her bare feet peeking out from the covers then back up to her face. “If you keep glaring at me like that we’ll not have a little chat or get a bit of a lie in. Which is perfectly fine by me as last night…”

“It was nice.” Emma shook her head. “Not euphemism fun but it’s not like Henry snuggles with us much.”

“It was.” Killian reached out to play with her hair. “And maybe when the twins get here, we’ll fall into an exhausted slumber together again.”

“Bed’s big enough.”

His head tipped to the side. “It is.” Killian continued to play with a strand of long blond hair, weaving it between his fingers as he waited for her to look at the book.

“Fine.” She pouted. “But then we nap.”

“Then we nap.” He agreed solemnly, the edges of his mouth turning up slightly.

Rolling her eyes Emma glanced down at the book he threw on the bed. A to Z Baby Names. Picking it up her fingers traced over the cover before opening it and seeing the property of Storybrooke Library stamp inside. “Did you pick this up?”

“No.”

“Henry then.” Catching his nod, she turned back to the book and leafed through some pages. “Do you really think we’re going to pick names for the twins this morning? We don’t even know if they’re boys, or girls, or a boy and a girl…”

He placed his hand over hers, closing the book as he shook his head. “As if we won’t be including Henry in the discussion.” Taking the book from her hands he tossed it over his shoulder to bounce on the floor. “I was thinking, after all these meeting with everyone.” He stopped, looking unsure.

“What?” Reaching out she cupped his cheek.

“I really don’t want to name our children after someone else.” He pulled away from her hand, taking it with his. “It’s not just there being two Robins and two Neals. I was thinking of Liam.”

“Nice name.”

He nodded and shrugged. “But also a lot to live up to and I don’t want that for them.” Killian looked away as his hand squeezed hers tighter. “I don’t want some bar set so high they feel they can never measure up.”

Emma left her hand in his and flopped onto her back to study the ceiling and think and let the silence stretch out.

Killian loomed over her suddenly. “Not that I think your parents or Zelena or anyone really means for that kind of thing to happen or that if we have a boy and name it Liam he’ll suddenly come back to life and make it mildly awkward. Although there is my younger brother Liam as well and his naming just…”

Emma nodded. “I guess I always thought it was nice, like, you know, a connection to”— she shrugged – “family.”

He sat back. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“But you’re kind of right, too.” She sat up. “I mean Gideon’s the exception but it feels like every time a baby is born, we’ve lost someone.”

“Not immediately.”

“But in enough time to pass on the name.”

“True.” Killian tugged her hand and pulled her with him as he fell back on the bed. “My mom’s name was Alice.”

“Another nice name.” Emma cuddled into his side. “My grandmothers were Eva and Ruth.”

“Solid names both. Feeling like you’re carrying around a couple of girls?”

“No, just thinking.” She looked up at him and then away. “There’s this other thing, to the whole naming game stuff.”

“What is it love?”

“Well.” She sighed. “I lived in a lot of foster homes, which equals knowing a lot of kids and then attending public school as a foster kid. There are a lot of names I’m never going to like.”

“Like a couple hundred years of Lost Boys. Thank the gods most pirates end up with salty monikers.”

They both sighed.

“Maybe we can take a leaf from Belle’s book.” Killian nudged her head with his. “Quite literally. Who’s your favorite character?”

Her nose wrinkles. “Peter Pan was.”

“That’s just sick.”

“Was.” She elbowed his side making him grunt in pain. “I don’t think fictional characters will work for us either.”

“As they aren’t quite fictional enough.” He sighed. “Where does that leave us?”

Emma leaned up on her elbow. “We want a name that’s connected but not actually anyone’s name or associated with anything or one we hate, fictional and non-fictional.”

Killian tugged on a strand of her hair that had fallen forward. “Quite simple really.”

“Alice would have been nice.”

“Of noble kin.” He nodded and kept playing with her hair.

“Of what?”

“It what it means. I looked it up in the book.” Both his brows lifted and he rolled to the side, sending her onto her back.

“Hey!”

Killian got a hold of the discarded book and held it up triumphantly as he jumped back into bed.

Emma glared as she bounced up and down. “I thought you wanted to be careful with the pregnant princess.”

“Love, we had a practice bout yesterday after a considerable and painfully long lecture on how you are not that delicate and all we needed to do was exercise a modicum of common sense.” He raised one brow, darting a amused look at her before he flicked through the pages. “Make up your mind.”

“Dumb ass.”

“No, I’m a bloody genius.” He waved the book in her face and thrusted it in her hands, tapping the page with one finger. “Strong willed warrior.”

She looked down at the list of names and found the phrase. “Liam. Got it, names have meaning. Shocking.”

His smile was broad and happy. “Exactly.”

She pushed the book back at him with a sigh. “Use words.”

“We use the meanings of their names.”

Emma grinned. She got it but where was the fun in that. “I meant in words that make sense.”

He again tossed the book to the side and gently tackled her back onto the bed. “You understood perfectly.” Wagging one finger at her before he rolled them over again and started settling back into the bed. “Now just agree that I’m brilliant and we can have that non-euphemism nap.”

Settling further into his arms, Emma rolled her eyes. “It’ll take forever without the internet.”

“We have months yet.” He took a deep breath. “And a teenager heavily invested in finding the right name.”

“Four.” She mumbled, taking a slow breath to settle her heart and ease back into sleep. “Two girl names, two boy names unless we like ones that cover all the bases.”

He hummed happily. “I was thinking hours till the sand runs out.” When she snorted in response he smiled. “Or the total number of kids we should have.”

Emma was suddenly wide awake and sitting straight up.

Killian yawned and stretched his arms over his head before resting his head back on the pillow and letting his eyes close. “Don’t worry love, I was counting Henry.”

She pulled the pillow from beneath his head and tossed it across the room before turning her back on him and curling into her own.

 


 

Watching viscous liquid dribble through glass pipes then spin through a couple copper twists seemed like a waste of a lovely morning. Rumple had a solid theory on the hate carried by his ex-wife but the devil was in the details. Literally, if his hunch was correct.

Not many souls both hated the savior and had the right mix of skills, cunning and idiocy.

“That’s moving pretty slow.”

Rumple turned to coolly greet his son. “True. Is there something you need Bae?”

“Nah. Just received, well, a message.” Bae slouched against the table and tapped a finger to one of the empty glass beakers. “Not a message, more like a visit.”

“Visitors? Today?”

Bae shrugged again and moved further down the table. “On the run after breaking out.”

“You know.” Rumple adjust a valve and the sparkling thick liquid oozed into a vial. “If I wasn’t the Dark One, everything you just said would be meaningless.”

“But you are you, papa.”

“So I am.” He capped the vial and put it in a pocket. “And the message?”

Bae grimaced and turned to make his way to the door. “Exit stage left.”

“Ahhh.” Dark red smoke swirled, leaving Rumple in his cloak. “Did our young playwright have any specific requests?”

“Just an early appearance for”—Bae shot a brief smirk at his father—“experimental purposes.”

The Dark One chuckled and strolled along behind his son. The door to the Savior’s isle abode was open and Henry stood on the other side with his grandmother. He slowly closed the door while he listened to Bae tease the lad and Milah about their early morning activities. Spinning the knob twice to close the way behind him he shook his head when mother and son dueled with tales of imprisonment.

“Enlightening.” Rumple commented. “It must be exciting to compare dungeons.”

Henry smirked at his grandfather. “Now Grandpa, no need to worry ‘cause you still win.”

Rumple placed a hand over his heart, bowing forward. “Thank goodness.”

“The Queen and Kings dungeon wasn’t that bad.”

“That’s not the same place Grandpa ended up in before the first curse.” Henry went and sat by the hearth. “Mom took me to see it and its worse.”

“Now now, I found it quite charming.” Giggling to himself, Rumple searched the room. “Are Belle and Gideon upstairs?”

“Something about figuring out where to put the bookshelves.” Milah nodded at him and headed over to take a seat next to Henry. “I wasn’t expecting to be here this early myself.” She leveled a look at the lad. Bae messed with his hair.

And suddenly there they sat, pieces of his family, waiting for Rumplestilskin to join them. They could wait as he had not spoken to his wife since before breakfast that morning.

He raised a single finger at the small group and moved to the stairs. “It will only be a moment.” Up he went pass the second floor, chambers lacking any but the most basic furnishings, to the third floor and its barely furnished rooms. Standing in the open doorway he watched Belle tour the room with their son. She pointed out spots and talked of chairs and bookcases and what not.

Rumplestilskin smiled. “Not as nice as your library but it will do.”

Belle turned to him with a smile. “Nothing will ever top the library you gave me.” She gave the room a quick side glance as she walked to him. “But this will do nicely for family gatherings. Did you need me?”

“Always.” He lifted her free hand for a kiss and leaned in to kiss Gideon’s cheek. “At the moment, it has just been too long since I last spoke with you.”

“And they all call David charming.”

“I have a few tricks up my sleeve.” He offered her is arm. “Shall we find out what the rush is?”

Belle threaded her arm through his and adjust her hold on Gideon. “Barely morning at this point. The meeting is less than two hours away.”

“Less than four for time to run out.”

“Have you no faith in the fairies?” Belle pulled them to a stop between floors. “Silly question. I really believe everything will be alright Rumple.”

He patted her hand and urged her downstairs. “I happen to agree about today’s outcome, and it being a silly question.” He heaved a sigh. “There are still issues to deal with afterwards.”

“True,” she responded, her arm tightening around her son. “I thought when I was your maid I had a handle on who you were and how you played with those who came to you but it’s different now.”

“All magic comes with a price.” He looked down at Gideon. “Often that price is something precious but it is true. I no longer align the pieces on the board for my own endgame.”

Belle pulled him to a stop at the bottom of the stairs. “I know that and I see that now more than ever but the consequences…”

“Ripple out and effect people who never asked for it.” His head tilted as he followed her thought. “And sometimes it’s tragedy but…”

“Sometimes it’s not.” She pressed a kiss to Gideon’s head and handed the squirming baby to his father. “This time, it’s not and our price is dealing with someone else ripple which I think we are doing splendidly.”

Rumpled giggled and nuzzled the baby in his arms. “You are the smartest among us you know.”

Belle lowered her lashes and then looked up at her husband with a grin. “I know. Now go do what you do.”

As gracefully as possible with his son in his arms, Rumple turned his ankle out and bowed to his wife with extra flourishes. “As my lady commands.”

“Maybe I can come out to the cabin.” Henry said, loudly to be heard across the room. “I imagine there’s less flirting there.”

“Until Lumiere stops by with lunch.” Bae smirked at his son.

“Idiots.” Milah turned a carefully blank face to the Dark One. “Can we get on with this?”

A knock sounded at the door and they all jumped. Henry crossed the room to open the it.

“Regina, to what do we owe this visit?”

“Didn’t Henry tell you?”

“I’m afraid the lad has us jumping to do his bidding with nary an explanation at this point.” Rumple and Regina looked toward the boy.

“I thought we’d figure out who Grandmother’s hitchhiker is?” Henry’s voice rose an octave at the end of his question and he coughed. “You know, before.”

Rumple handed Gideon to Regina and reached into his pocket. “I have just the thing” The stoppered vial he had carried from his work room glittered in the light. “Shall we?”

“I think it’s time.” Regina bounced the baby in her arms. “Let’s get to the end of this chapter so we can start the next.”

Chapter Text

The question was where to put the oversized hourglass. David checked over his shoulder to make sure the pirate and Snow were occupied elsewhere.

Emma knew what she was doing when she assigned setting up to her mother. Snow enjoyed organizing and it ensured that she stopped fussing over Emma. Not that there was much to be done, just enough to keep her busy.

Thankfully, Killian wandered off as well.

After a second glance, David quickly twisted the hourglass over, rewinding a bit of time on their countdown clock. He flipped it back and turned to figure out where to put it. Snow leaned against a table with her arms crossed, watching him with her mouth pursed.  

He smiled wide. “Where did you want this?”

Snow pointed a finger to the table she leaned against. “Did you really…” She shook her head unable to ask it out loud.

“Maybe.” He held up a hand to halt her next question or reprimand and checked over his shoulder for his son-in-law. “But mostly just to mess with the pirate.”

“David, is that really necessary?”

“Yes.” He set the hourglass down with a thunk. “Do we have enough chairs?”

“David.” Snow rolled her eyes. “What did you think you were doing?”

“He’s my friend and I can mess with him.” Smirking he placed a hand on either side of Snow, caging her in. “At most it added a minute but I bet you anything he notices.”

“That’s petty.” Her head tilted to the side. “Anything?”

David leaned back, crossing his arms to study his wife. He considered what she would ask for but he had said anything and he was a man of his word. “I did say anything.”

“You know.” Snow smiled up at him, her nose wrinkling. “There isn’t anything I really want.”

“Nothing?”

“I want this weird mixed up story finished, which I know will happen, and being done with the whole hate possession thing too.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “But I’m a total sap. Our family is together and we’re going to grandparents again, and maybe parents again. Whatever came before, that was the end of our book, not the end of our lives.”

“Hmmmmmm.” David wrapped his arms around her. “So, I guess we’ll be saps together then. How ‘bout if Killian notices we take a week here, just us and them and Neal. Let Regina deal with the day to day details.”

Snow glanced up at him slyly. “What do I get if he doesn’t notice?”

David nodded, attempting to look serious when he was utterly charmed by his wife. “One week, here with me and Neal and our daughter and our son-in-law and our grandson.”

“So, same thing.”

“And bragging rights.”

Snow rolled her eyes at her husband and pushed out of his arms to go to their son. Neal slept in the shade. Nothing would wake him before he was ready just like his sister. Coming up behind Snow, David wrapped his arms around her shoulders and hugged her. “It might not be exciting enough for the story books but I like our life, here or there or wherever.”

Snow leaned back into his arms and nodded. “Fine. You’ve got yourself a bet.”

Kissing the top of her head, David let her go and sunk down onto the blanket next to their son, stroking his cheek. “Are we ready?”

“Aren’t we always?”

“Ready for what?” Killian ambled into the meadow and the conversation to stand at Snow’s side. His glance traveled across the meadow to land on the table.

David waved frantically at Snow to move away from the pirate or look away or maybe not let her eyes widen in surprise or her lips clamp close and turn down at the corners.

For the love of it all, the woman could not keep a secret.

Rocking back on his heels, Killian frowned over at the hourglass before slowly turning to David with a single brow raised. “You’re a bloody git.”

 


 

Relaying the information they found during the trip to Underbrooke had taken a lot of talking and was sure to cause even more questions.

Tinkerbelle lifted a beer stein, chugged some down and ignored the unamused look Tigerlily shot her. Her throat was dry as dust after being forced by the stoic fairy to tell the tale.  Wiping the foam from her upper lip she enjoyed the momentary quiet of Emma’s garden, meadow or whatever. For a rather boring mission, it had stunned her audience.

A finger tapped on glass.

Emma pushed Hook’s had away from the hourglass. “Stop it.”

“What does it matter?” His fingers lifted again, trying to hurry the sands of time. Emma pulled his hand away and dragged him away. “Listen Swan, we still have no assurance that all will be well. Highly unlikely to kill anyone and there’s only a couple hours left.”

Emma’s face remained impassive. “I don’t care about all that it’s just irritating.”

“Well, so is being led around by a psycho with halitosis.”

Charming coughed to hide a laugh. Tink took long drink and awaited their questions, hoping that she or Tigerlily had the answers.

“Cruella is more than just bad breath.” Regina grumbled. “She had to get a lot of ducks in a row to pull this off.”

Robin nodded solemnly in agreement. “Possibly actual ducks.”

Tink hid her own amusement behind her beer stein as Regina frowned at her new husband.

“Why are you guys cracking jokes?” Neal glowered at Charming and Hook and Robin. “This woman messed with the blue fairy’s spell and got ink to spill at just the right moment so I say she’s a pretty credible threat.”

Robin shrugged. “It’s Cruella.”

“You can distract her with a bathtub full of gin.” Killian added.

“She can’t kill.” David twisted around to ask the Dark One. “That’s still true, right?”

“She’s in the land of the dead, there’s no living things to kill. Honestly Bae,” Rumplestilskin addressed his son. “She lacks the knowledge and the power to contrive all this on her own.”

Belle lifted her tea cup up for a sip. “And that’s why it’s not her that worries me.”

“Such deserving souls got pulled out of the river.” Hook grimaced. “Which one do you think is the worst?”

“Pick one Killian.” Belle set her cup down carefully. “We all better hope we have no unfinished business when we go because I wouldn’t want to end up in Underbrooke now.”

Emma nodded at Belle’s words. “Cruella and the Black Fairy were already there and now Pan is back and Uncle James.”

Belle shivered. “Gaston.”

Snow put a comforting hand on Charming’s shoulder at the mention of his brother. “It could be different, I mean, they could really focus on moving on.”

“Seriously?” Emma lifted one shoulder up. “I mean, I’m all for second, even sixth chances but I can’t imagine that particular group even trying.”

“The last I saw her, Cruella was more concerned with not moving on to the fiery hell waiting for her.” Hook reached out to take her hand. “I don’t envy Arthur dealing with the demon and the Black Fairy at the same time.”

“I can’t even imagine what that looks like.” Rumplestilskin sat dazed and looking into the distance. “I mean once upon a time they gave birth to a savior but then…”

“Sounds like I should be happy to be here rather than there.” Milah grimaced. “Do we have any idea whose hate I’m carrying around?”

“From Tink’s story, I’d bet on Cruella’s.” Emma answered her. “The Black Fairy would concentrate on getting back at Gold or if she was aiming for me…”

“We’d be in nastier situation as she’s good at crafting perilous plots to divide and conquer.” Regina nodded at Emma. “Not Pan because, again, he’d be after Rumple.”

“Also again, if Pan was gunning for you, well.” Hook’s voice turned soft. “You my love would be bleeding. As we all would.”

“What about the other two you mentioned.” Milah looked around the group. “Gas something and an uncle?”

“My evil twin brother.” David raised his hand.

Belle raised hers. “My fiancé, ex-fiance.”

“Don’t tell me they both would be out for Rumple’s blood?”

The Dark One sneered. “Only the fiancé.”

“I don’t know.” Charming shrugged and pointed to Rumplestilskin. “You were the one who gave him to King George.”

Turning his sneer on the King, Rumplestilskin hissed his next words. “And aren’t you all nonchalant about tossing him in the river.”

Tink took a slow and silent sip of her beer, hoping to draw no one’s notice or considerable ire. Snow wrapped an arm around her husband. After a long shuddering breath, he faced the Dark One head on. A Dark One who looked surprisingly contrite to the fairy.

“I hope,” Charming started then took another breath. “I hope he makes the most of this second chance but there isn’t much I can do to save him. At this point, he needs to save himself.”

The Dark One’s head tilted to the side and gave a tiny nod. “I’m quite sure the real problem for Arthur will be Mother and Father.” His steepled fingers tapped a steady rhythm as he continued. “A power struggle could, potentially, be brewing in Underbrooke...”

A derisive snort interrupted him. “Does that really have anything to do with us?” Zelena tossed a green apple up in the air, ignoring the curious looks sent her way. “We know what happened.”

Regina snatched the apple out of the air. “Not precisely.”

Rolling her eyes, she glared at her sister. “Do we need a precise how when we have a what and a why?”

Snow perked up. “We really don’t.” She smiled over at Regina. “Whatever trouble Cruella was trying to cause, the magic that did all this was accidental which makes it all a little weird” – Snow held up a finger to stop any interruption – “okay, a lot weird, but not the point.”

“Do you even remember what the point is?”  Regina stood with her hands on her hips.

“The point is we weren’t the point. So, we can keep stalling or we can move forward.” Snow shrugged. “Whatever is going on in Underbrooke is Arthur’s problem, one we can’t provide much assistance with either way. When it comes to our family I have hope that everything will be alright.”

“Well that’s just great.” Regina turned away. “You have hope and I believe so I guess we’re all ready. Rumple?”

The Dark One nodded and glanced at his elder son. “While Cruella interfered with interesting results, the origin of” – he spread both arms wide – “all this was a spell of restoration. Twue wuve’s kiss shouldn’t make a dent really.”

As if on cue, the assembled family turned their heads and stared and glared at the pirate and Emma standing by his side. Killian leaned away from their regard and glanced over at his wife.

“Yeah, well then.” Killian scratched behind his ear. “This is awkward. I think we’ll just wait till all of you have gone home.”

Tink giggled into her stein as the meadow filled with groans and complaints and an unprecedented amount of eye rolling. Setting her drink to the side it was time for both her and Tigerlily to return to the fairies’ sanctuary. She nudged the elder fairy and received a hand telling her to sit still.

The elder fairy stood, crossing her arms in front of her. “What about her?” She straightened one arm and gestured to Milah.

Tink fell onto her back with a loud sigh as everyone began asking questions and arguing over one another. “Here we go again.”

Chapter Text

How could one undead woman cause such a headache?

Regina sighed as Rumple argued with his son and Zelena drew Bae’s ire with her dismissal of his mother. Snow wasn’t any help as she was eavesdropping on Charming whispering to Robin.

What had the realm come to?

Being evil was so lonely, but quiet, oh so peacefully quiet. Mostly.

Roland ran into her. Wrapping his arms around her, he grinned up at her with his dimples flashing “’Gina, can I go play with Leo tonight?” She tilted her head as she caught his hands in hers. “Papa said it was up to you.”

Smoothing a curl of hair behind his ear she nodded at him and watched him run off full steam ahead. She shot a look over her shoulder at Emma who shrugged and raised both brows in question. Regina spread the fingers of one hand wide, hiding the gesture behind her skirt and then waved the hand away.

Emma nodded slowly, stood and shouted for everyone’s attention. “Shut it!” Glaring till they all quieted, she moved to stand behind her husband. “You guys looked into it this morning. Regina, I assume you know the who.”

“As refined as usual Miss Swan.” Ignoring the savior’s sigh, Regina looked to Rumple. “Do you want this one or shall I?”

“What is there to explain?” Rumple tugged the cuff of his coat back into place. “As expected we found traces of a familiar noxious breath in the ink and all over you, dearie.” He waggled his fingers at Milah.

The ex didn’t look amused. Regina sighed and kept the conversation directed away from Emma. “Tigerlily?”

One corner of the solemn fairy’s mouth tipped up as she looked at Regina then quickly glanced behind her. “It can be removed.” A sad smile crossed her face. “But I’m afraid there will be a price to pay for it.”

“What does that mean?” Snow looked to Regina but she just shrugged.

“Yes dearie.” Rumple shot out with a glare at the fairy. “I thought you pests liked helping the rabble.”

Well this was just fabulous – a staring competition between the fairy and the imp. With everyone’s attention focused on the two, Regina chanced a glance behind her shoulder and exhaled. Emma was gone but the pirate remained occupied by the proceedings.

“I don’t think either of you can actually win this staring contest.” Zelena snapped at the two. She leaned forward and pointed at Belle. “What do you think bookworm?”

“I’m afraid I agree with Zelena.” Belle’s statement drew a shocked reaction from the Dark One, whose mouth fell open in shock at his wife. His wife who rolled her eyes at his drama.

Tigerlily lifted a hand to hide her smile. When she resumed control, the fairy addressed the problem directly. “It isn’t a fee for services rendered.” She reached out a hand to the woman’s shoulder. “The piece of Cruella would have had to latch on somehow, find something to grip. Something resembling itself. We’ll have to dig that out at well.”

Looking away into the garden, Regina concentrated on the feel of the velvet of her skirt clenched in her hands. No one should have to scour their heart for darkness with an audience. She felt someone tap one of her clenched fists. The pirate stood beside her looking across the clearing.

“This isn’t for everyone,” Hook whispered. “You and I know exactly how hard it is to draw the hate, the anger, the vengeance out of a heart. Whether it’s full or just the first greasy spot.”

“I hate agreeing with you, you know.” She raised one brow as she glared at him. “More so when you’re right and particularly when I already thought it but you got to say it first.” The damn pirate smirked and shrugged. “By the way, Captain. I think you may have misplaced something.”

Killian’s brows furrowed as he glared at her but she remained impassive. Rolling his eyes, he turned back to his chair and froze.

“Told you so.” Regina grabbed a hold of his arm. “Not just yet pirate.”

“So what exactly do we have to do?” Irritation colored Milah’s words. “Can’t one of you just”—she waved a hand – “and evict the bitch?”

“Language.”

Zelena muffled a laugh at Snow’s admonishment.

“You’re going to have to find the anger, hate or vengeance in your heart,” Regina said loudly, commanding everyone’s attention. “I assume the fairies can help after that?”

Tigerlily nodded.

“That makes no sense.” Milah turned from Regina to Rumple. “I already know which feelings are mine and which aren’t.”

“It’s not knowing love.” Killian sighed. “It’s pulling it out to the light.” He nudged Regina’s arm again.

She glared at the pirate. “And that isn’t something you want an audience for. I suggest we call an end today. We can talk next week if Operation Make Out doesn’t fix the memory problem.”

“Mom, really?”

“Sorry Henry.” Regina smiled at her son before turning to address Milah. “I guess it’s up to you who you want hanging around.”

With a curt nod, Milah glanced around the meadow clearing. “I, before you go. Thank you, all of you, for helping.” She shook her head. “Bae and Killian I think you should stay.” Her head tilted to the side, glancing quickly between her former husband and Regina. “Rumple as well and your majesty.”

“Then meeting adjourned.” Regina moved to Robin’s side. “I’ll be home as soon as we fix her.” She waved a hand at Milah.

“Excellent.” Robin lifted her hand for kiss. “I’ll be waiting. It’s still our honeymoon you know.”

“Which is why I’m going with Dad.” Henry interrupted.

Regina hugged her son close. “Seems like a plan.”

“Regina,” Snow asked. “Where’d Emma go?”

Regina laughed as everyone turned to stare again at the pirate who fidgeted in place. “I imagine she’s waiting some place for her husband where there won’t be an audience.”

Snow nodded with a grin and pointed at the table. “Well that certainly explains that.”

The hourglass no longer stood on the end of the table but a small familiar compass lay in its place.

The cocky pirate captain strolled over to the table and stood, hip shot out as he tossed the compass up in the air and caught it. He shot a look at Regina, one brow raised as his lowered head came up.

Rolling her eyes at the idiot, Regina took command again. “Let’s get this done. I have a honeymoon to get back to.”

 


 

There was always a game to be played and entertainment to be found when one looked at the world from the right perspective.

Cruella’s magic may not work on humans but persuasion was a skill she had honed over the years in the Land without Magic. After all, a girl needs her furs and her jewels and her gin. The would-be king was an easy enough mark and  intelligent enough to keep the martini’s coming.

“Don’t look so down, darling.” The current drink in her hand had been graced with two olives this time and she considered it a good omen. “Pan and the Black Wasp are out and about and really, Arthur McScruff is no match for them.”

The good twin continued to mope.

“Plus, there’s still a bit of havoc trampling around the good old Enchanted Forest.” She pulled one olive off the cocktail stick and held it between her teeth. James rolled his head to look at her with a question in his eyes. She bit down on the olive with a growl and a smolder for the evil prince. “Hope is alive. I’m positively brimming with it. I daresay it almost makes me one of them I’m so full of it.”

James rolled his eyes and rolled over to face away from Cruella.

Chewing the olive, Cruella hummed happily as she studied the shapely backside. Entertainment was wherever one could find it. “Don’t pout.” A grin popped out on her face as his backside tightened with her taunt. “So your goody two shoes brother knows what happened. Won’t make a bit of different in the long run with Pan and wifey together again. Or not. Either way, there will be drama.” She waved her martini glass to the side and swallowed the olive. “Scads more opportunities to cause trouble hither and yon and an eternity to do so.”

“Not everyone wants to spend an eternity here.”

“Oh, my poor poor sex on a stick.” Cruella shook her head sadly and toasted him with her martini. “Unless you plan to give up fun, nothing awaits you but a fiery hell of pain and torture.”

The pretty man just grunted some more and continued to pout. It really wasn’t her job to spread the joy and happiness to others. He’d come around eventually.

A door slammed down the hall and James sat up to face the approaching footsteps while Cruella slouched back and crossed her legs, letting the slit of her skirt drift further up her thighs.

The king returned and without her favorite night light.

“Eternity is just so eternal isn’t it?” Arthur spun one of the uncomfortable metal chairs around to face his prisoners.  He sat down, lounging back as he stroked his beard and examined his two current problems. “What shall I do with you two?”

Fiddling with a bit of her hair Cruella fluttered her lashes. “Whatever you want darling.”

“No thank you.”

“So upstanding.” Lifting her glass she swirled the drink around a bit. “But really what can you do, we’re already dead and unless I’m mistaken you’re no longer the type to throw a girl in the river.”

“Oh how I wish…”

“Maybe, but the soul sucker is right.” James sat up and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “You can’t keep us locked up here forever.”

Arthur nodded. “And so, I’m afraid your punishment will be momentary.”

Cruella cackled and winked at Arthur. “Of course, Sweetums.”

“I wasn’t talking about you.” He stood tossing a small cylinder up and down before gesturing to James. “Hand.” 

Cruella glared at the two men standing near the bars over the rim of her martini glass. Arthur played with his bobble and James resignedly held his hand out to the king. Her eyes narrowed as his royal annoyingness stabbed at her yummy James’ hand.

“Ouch.” James shook his mashed appendage. “What the hell was that?”

“I’m told it’s a stamp, a magical one.” Arthur put the offensive thing back into his pocket and unlocked Prince James’ cell. “No bars, no pool halls, or any place that has wine, woman or song for you. It should wear off eventually.”

“Dammit.” James rubbed at the mark on the back of his hand but it didn’t smear and only appeared darker. “As if this will keep me out of trouble.”

“I won’t even have to arrest you again,” Arthur chuckled. “The stamp will stay on longer if you cause problems. Stay out of trouble and eventually it’ll wear off.”

Cruella sat up, wondering how exactly she could get her hands on this new toy. The applications for torture were just too exciting to resist. “Goodbye Darling, I’m sure we’ll see each other soon.” Waving goodbye to her James was sad but now she had the king all to herself. “Now, you gorgeous bearded behemoth. Whatever shall you do with me,” she said coyly.

Arthur went back to the chair and sat back down. “Actually it’s not about what will I do with you.” He grinned. “I stopped by the pawn shop and the mayor’s office. Apparently, Fiona and Pan agree on one thing.”

“And what’s that? Abandoning their spawn was the only sensible course of action?”

“That a padded cell in the hospital’s basement was the only place you could truly be happy.” He eyed her with pity. “After all, they are concerned with what’s best for you as your friends.”

Cruella drank the rest of her martini straight down and ignored his taunts.

“Here I thought you’d be a little bit angrier.”

“Oh I know exactly how to use my anger for maximum effect.” With a bored look on her face, she held out her glass to him. “Another please.”

Arthur shook his head and turned his back on her.

Still Cruella was not worried, she had all the time in the world and her piece was still on the chessboard.

The sound of the door slamming into the wall was louder than before and both she and Arthur jumped. She smirked, thinking a potential rescue was on its way but no boots or heels or steps of any kind clicked down the hallway instead a whirlwind came toward them.

Air swirled around a dog, a green magic dog that raced down the hall and straight at Cruella.

“NO!” she yelled at it even as it slammed into her, disappearing as her soul became complete. She threw her glass down and walked through the shards to grasp the bars with both hands as she screamed out her frustration and anger. Her eyes fired and her breath came in fast sharp gulps. Nothing lessening the outpouring of hate and anger at the loss of her final chess piece.

“You want angry?” She snarled.  “I’ll show you angry!”

Chapter Text

As her family left the island Emma felt it, almost heard it like doors being slammed shut down a long empty hallway.

This place had its own story. Emma didn’t know what it was exactly but she could feel the island. When trapped during Isaac’s rewrite it was a buzz in the back of her brain that she tried to ignore as she held onto her sanity. Her place of peace and solitude when they had unexpectedly landed back in the Enchanted Forest.

It had wrapped around her like a warm blanket.

Some people got a pet. Emma got an island spirit, maybe. Maybe it was her imagination or the nature of her magic or how she’d created door to door connections. Whatever it was didn’t really matter as it had welcomed her and had let her create a home.

A glance out the balcony doors showed a storm moving across the sea. She grabbed a knitted shawl that Granny had sent with a number of baby beanies and wrapped it around her shoulders. The scent of water and salt greeted her as she leaned against the door jamb. The wind was picking up.

Emma didn’t know why Regina thought she should go but she was glad to take off. Kissing on command was just, just wrong. She rolled her eyes at herself. Unromantic is what it was and boring and anticlimactic. And wrong.

Emma didn’t know when she got so picky about her moments. Hormones. She would blame pregnancy hormones for as long as humanly possible.

Another door slammed and it wasn’t a jolt inside her head this time. It was an actual noise followed by actual footsteps that seem to be running up the stairs two at a time. When the door swung open Emma glanced over her shoulder to see Killian with both hands braced on his knees and trying to catch his breath. Without looking up he held up a finger to ask for a moment. Emma turned to face the room and wait on her husband.

Eventually Killian stood, his chest still heaving as he caught his breath. It was a long process and he kept attempting to strike an intimidating pose before he was ready. Emma grinned when one hand manage to land on a cocked-out hip but he still couldn’t speak. Her head tilted to one side and she rolled her lips inward to contain a laugh when he braced an arm against the wall but fell into it instead.

“You know, sailor,” she commented. “You aren’t as young as you think.”

“Taking aim at my age.” He frowned. “Bad form.” He gave up on posing and tipped his head down to get control of himself. Finally ready, he glared up at her from underneath furrowed brows. “Much like running away from your family in the middle of an important discussion.”

“Pfffft.” Emma turned her back on him. “I wasn’t needed for that part.” She crossed her arms and hugged the shawl closer. “Did it work?”

“Yes,” he answered tersely. “After what amounted to what I can only describe as an excruciatingly awkward therapy session, Tigerlily was able to disconnect Cruella from Milah.”

“And?”

“And what?” Killian strolled across the room to lean opposite her. “Some mongrel made of magical bad breath ran off into the sunset.”

“And?”

“And Milah went home with Bae.” A single finger tapped his lips. “Memory’s still a bit wonky but I just might know what’ll fix that.”

Emma glanced up with a flutter of her lashes. “Really? That’s all.”

“Mmmmhmmm.” He pushed off the door jamb with his shoulders and leading with his hips, took two steps closer. “And.”

Emma laughed.

“And,” he continued with a wag of his finger. “We are, in fact, quite alone.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “And what? Are we supposed to just get busy?”

“How utterly unromantic of you love.”

She shrugged. “It’s just feels”—her nose wrinkled –“a little anticlimactic or something.”

“There is nothing about me, or us, that’s anti-climax.” He took another step closer and swayed forward. “I refuse to play the kiss the dead girl after all…”

“Kiss the dead girl? And after all what?”

“Emma Swan.” Using a single finger he tipped her chin up. “I have died for you, traveled realms desperately to return to your side, battled snow queens and witches by your side. You were a beacon leading the way out of my darkness and you tracked my sorry arse down in hell. I have watched you sacrifice yourself twice now to save another and barely stopped you from doing it to save me. I have fought for your heart and you have stood ready to give half of it to me.”

“Yeah, good times.” Emma blinked away the tears his words created.

Killian’s smile trembled. “Not always but what did that matter as long as we found our way back to each other.” His hand slipped behind her head and cradled the back of it, tilting it up. “And for all that we have given to each other, I never imagined that you would wait for me, choose me over...”

“Only you.” Her words breathed out on a sigh. “I love you and as much as I want you with me always, more than that I want you to be happy. And really, it wasn’t that long of a wait or really hard.”

He shook his head. “Down play it if you wish but I don’t have to imagine what it’s like to wait while your beloved is linked to another.” His head fell forward to rest against hers. “I was drawn to you from the moment we met, for the hundredth first time…”

“It wasn’t that many.” She pressed against him.

“Only you. I needed only to meet you to know exactly where I belonged,” he whispered, his breath passing from his lips across hers. Emma shivered and leaned up on her toes just as he pulled back. “At this point, I don’t give a good goddamn about where or how but I will kiss my wife, my love, as much as I damn well please.”

Emma started to roll her eyes but closed them when she finally felt the familiar pressure of Killian’s lips. She moaned as his mouth opened and dragged her deeper into the kiss. The familiar taste of her husband bloomed on her lips and tongue. Her entire world spun back into place and her back hit the wall as it went on and on and on. It was like dancing, their motions in sync as their heads angled to deepen their kiss and retreated so their lips brushed the other’s, to take a breath so they could dive deep into each other once more.

“Hey.” Emma tried to pull away a bit.

“No.” He growled and kissed her breathless, tracing a path with his lips to her ear which he nipped gently. “No talking. Only us, only kissing.”

“Killian,” she moaned as she tilted her head to let his teeth slid down her neck. “Did it work?”

“You always work for me love,” he groaned, his voice deepening.

Emma pushed at him, not really wanting any distance between them but needing it to think. “Idiot, did we do the thing?”

“We’ll get there.” He reached out to catch her hands and pull her arms back around his neck. “Just let me…”

“Killian, everyone’s memory. Did we fix it?”

“What?”

“Come on Killian.” Emma huffed and tried to untangle her arms but as one arm pulled free, he’d snatch it back. He kept landing kisses along her jaw, on her nose and a sharp quick nip of his teeth on her lower lip as he walked her backward into the room. “A breeze? Rainbow light or whatever?”

Killian glared at her. “I am doing my best work and you are ruining this.”

Emma glared back. “Well excuse me for worrying about other people.” She leaned away from him. “Other people who have been known to interrupt at the worst possible time.”

He spun away and fell back on the bed covering his closed eyes with one hand. “It’s like you have no faith in me whatsoever.” Killian looked up at her with wide hurt eyes and pouting lips.

Her eyes narrowed on his mouth. His swollen mouth that pouted, all hurt and sad except for that one corner the quirked up a bit. Damn drama queen. Emma crawled onto him, straddling his hips and crossed her arms. “Try again, Captain.”

Killian met her glare as his hands slid up from her knees to rest on her hips. “As if I wouldn’t make sure our family wasn’t absolutely aware of the dire consequences should they attempt to disturb us.”

“All hell could be breaking loose and…”

“No. Absolutely not. Because if it involved death – and I was crystal clear on this – not imminent death, not copious amounts of blood which will lead to death or any other possible situation that could end in death, are they about to disturb us.”

Emma pursed her lips to keep from smiling. “You’re sure?”

“Positive.” He raised both brows quickly as he pulled her hips down against him with a groan. “Any other questions or concerns?”

“You never answered my original one.” Emma rocked against him and leaned down, bracing her arms on either side of his head. “Did we, you know?”

“I have no bloody clue.” Killian lifted a lock of her hair and brushed it behind her ear. He bit his lip as his eyes traced over her blushing face and stopped to stare at her lips. “All I felt was you.”

“Same.” Emma whispered. “We’d have heard by now if…”

He nodded and leaned up to nip at her lips. “So.”

Bending her elbows, Emma lowered herself to brush her lips against his, once, twice. “I love you,” she whispered across his lips.

Killian moved quickly, rolling them to hover above and study her face, her shining green eyes and happy wide smile. “I know.”

Emma Jones rolled her eyes at her husband. Captain Killian Jones ignored her sass and did what he did best, loved his wife.

 


 

 

“What do you think…”

“No.”

“Come on. Don’t you wonder…”

“Nope.”

“Well, wouldn’t you…”

“Not at all.”

“How can you not wonder if…”

“Because I know.” Snow White didn’t even look up from the book in her hands. “There was a whoosh of rainbow light and Zelena let us know that Regina was happily snuggled up to live Robin afterwards.” She looked up over the top of her book at her fidgety husband. “True love’s kiss worked, memories are restored, no one died and we sent out word for our people to gather in the morning.”

“That doesn’t explain your negative replies to questions you didn’t even let me ask.” David glared and sat down with his arms crossed.

“Because I know.” Snow smirked. “If she wasn’t pregnant already…”

“Stop.”

“You asked.” She lowered her book. “And asked.”

“Fine.” David leaned back in the chair and sighed. “So now what?”

“Really Charming?” Her book landed with a thud on the floor and Snow moved to stand over her husband. “What are you up to?”

He snatched her off her feet and into his lap. “Maybe I just wish to cuddle my wife and talk about what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives?”

“I think.” She traced the scar on his chin with one finger. “That it’s about time for us to become the most boring people in existence.”

“We could never be boring.”

“Oh, we won’t be bored. But you know, if there’s a book out there with our names on it, this is where most everyone would stop reading.”

Charming tilted his head to the side as he thought about it. “Because it’s all every day family stuff, rebuilding the kingdom and whatever? You really think there’ll be no more curses, or villains out to get us?”

“It could happen.” Her head dropped onto his shoulder. “Does it worry you?”

Shaking his head no. “Come for anyone of our family, terrorize our kingdom and have to deal with us, Regina, Rumplestilskin, Captain Hook and the Savior?”

“Belle, the smartest person ever, The truest believer who’s also the Author, Robin Hood, Zelena.” Snow giggled. “Dwarves, fairies, a giant and Granny and then there’s the kids.”

He pressed a kiss to her hair. “Between you and Emma and Belle – you know, like, all the princesses.”

“See.” Snow closed her eyes.

“I guess we’ll just have to do it then.” He kissed her again, this time landing on her cheek.

“Do what?”

“Live happily ever after.”

“Whatever comes,” she whispered.

He whispered back. “Whatever comes.”

“Okay.”

“So what do you think they’re do…”

Snow White put her hand over her husband’s mouth before he could finish his question. His eyes widen as he met her glare. She shook her head at him, removed her hand to press a kiss to his lips before giving the only answer that would shut him up. “Living happily ever after.”

Chapter Text

Cleaning out Cora’s vault had been a task both sisters undertook and good preparation for tackling the remnants of their own pasts.

Snow had advanced a chirpy little theory that the hearts in Cora’s vault would be easier to deal with than Regina’s own. It had surprised her that her step-daughter was right. Many of Cora’s hearts no longer glowed with life and few family members had remained or, as Regina imagined, wanted to be found by the daughters of the witch who had taken their loved one.

It had also surprised her that Zelena was the first to ask about the vault and suggest cleaning it out. Of course, it had started with a quick and cutting remark about Regina’s while cataloging magical items. Followed by a cagier mutter about Cora and Oz and fixing “it”.

Whatever “it” they could find to fix.

“You’re over thinking this, darling.”

Robin’s words brought Regina attention back to the door she stood in front of and how her hand trembled. “For every right choice, behind these doors…”

“I have been in your vault before.”

“I know.” She closed her eyes and rested her head against the door. “And even though I’m better” — she scowled — “for a long time, I couldn’t, wouldn’t acknowledge that I had done any wrong. Ever.”

“Your mother…”

“Was cold and calculating and heartless, literally. But every chance I had to stop, to heal, well, I let fear destroy each one.” She turned her head to look at Robin standing at her side. “And as much I understand now that I was wrong, that I did evil and I know now that bad things happen regardless. Then, then I blamed anyone else I could for any and all pain or hardship in my life, and the hole I made in my own heart. To protect myself, to make others just as wrong as I was.”

“You’ve traveled a hard path and have come far from the woman you were, to the woman you were always meant to be.” Robin took her hand in his. “We could let these doors remained locked and continue making reparations elsewhere.”

“I could, once upon a time.” Her grip tightened on his hand as she pushed away from the doors with the other. “But I’m will not be that weak or such a coward ever again.” With a flick of her wrist the doors swung open. “When we cleaned out Cora’s vault, we got threatened, spit upon and sneered at...”

“Roland was quite jealous the day you two returned covered in mud.”

Regina glared at him.

“Well, you never let him roll around in it as he wishes to, my queen.”

She dropped his hand and stepped into her vault and held up a hand for him to be silent. The beat of enchanted hearts echoed faintly but she could tell there were more than in her mother’s. “We were also thanked and we helped wherever we could.”

“Zelena is surprisingly happy helping the woodcutter’s wife.”

“She is, isn’t she?” Regina held out her hand for him. “No magic necessary, just a little help around the homestead.”

Robin took her hand and pulled her into his side. “She brings Robin with her every couple of weeks.”

“Well, I guess I should follow my older sister’s shining example.” Another wave of her hand and the bottom most drawer of the first row opened to reveal its wooden chest. “This is going to take a while.”

Robin watched her set the chest on the table and take a deep breath. “Again, we can walk away from this.”

Her hands and stomach steadied as she opened the chest to reveal a glowing, beating enchanted heart. “No, I can, but I won’t.” Regina lifted the heart in her left hand and concentrated, trying to sense the owner’s surroundings, identity, feelings. Anything to help find them. A survivor from the devastated North Woods. “There are so many things I can never make right. Things that I don’t know how Snow managed to forgive me for…”

“Mayhap, much like how you were able to forgive her?”

“Maybe,” she sighed. “But trust me, those scales are not evenly weighted.”

“Again mayhap not, but that’s not what’s important.”

Regina smiled at her husband and placed the heart back, leaning down to write the who and where. At least one heart would be a return. “I know. I just want to do what I can and look at everything clearly. Maybe say it out loud even if it’s just you and me and” – the click of the chest closing echoed through her vault – “the tangible sins of my past.”

“So long as you understand I go with you this time,” he commanded, pointing a finger at her. “Every single one.”

She rolled her eyes. “As if I can’t take care of myself.”

“It’s not about that.” He approached the work bench and placed both hands on it. “It’s about being us, our future, our children’s future.”

Her eyes flicked up quickly to meet his and looked away just as quickly. “Did you?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“She reminds me of you.”

“So?”

Robin’s mouth kicked up on one side. “At eight that’s quite a lot of piss and vinegar.”

Snorting, Regina turned her back on him and went to retrieve the next chest then dropped it on the work bench with a loud thud. “I guess that’s a no then.”

“Oh no, it’s a resounding yes.”

“Yes?”

Crossing his arms, he smiled at the shocked face of his wife. “Yes, although I think both Roland and Henry and Robin should meet your Esmeralda.”

“I agree.” She fiddled with the handles of the chest, studying the box. “I’ve been talking to Emma too.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t been consulting Snow.”

“Well Snow wasn’t on her own since birth, Emma was.” She shrugged. “It helps to know what to expect. It’ll be difficult, and then there’s the whole royalty portion of our lives.”

“But worth it.” Reaching across the table he took her hand and lifted it to his lips for a kiss. “After all, this is what we wanted isn’t it? To live, love and care for our people, our family.”

Regina smiled in response till she opened the chest to the dead, cold heart. Closing it with a snap she placed it to the other side of the table. Blinking, her smile trembled and she fought to hold it. There were a lot of hearts and there would be more dead ones. “Reparations and protecting all our family. Not easy.”

“Nope.”

She wiped away the one tear that had escaped. “And danger is still out there, we could…”

“Mayhap, someday.” He moved around the table to wrap her in his arms. “But we will survive and will have our children, Roland and Henry, Robin and most likely Esmeralda and others, and our friends and our family to lean on.”

Regina leaned back in his arms, her gaze sharpening even as she stared off into the future they would build. “We’re going to more than just survive, we’re going to live.”

His arms tightened around her, lifting her up as he hummed in agreement. Regina let the comfort of his arms settle her nerves, her worries. Robin was alive, they were married and building a life perfect for a forest dwelling thief and an evil – once upon a time – queen.

“Down, thief,” she commanded. Once on her feet she turned and smirked at him. “I have work to do and word has it there are more refugees seeking the legendary Robin Hood.” She leaned forward and kissed him, slowly, deeply until his hands fisted in the back of her dress. Pulling away, she shooed him with one hand. “Out.”

“Regina,” he whined.

“The queen has spoken.” A small grin remained as she went for the next chest. “Maybe you could pick up Esmeralda for dinner tonight? Henry will be here so…”

“No time like the present.” Robin swept into a bow. “As you command, my queen.”

The grin on her face widen as the sound of his steps faded into the distance. While it had not been their last meeting on the island, the hope she had felt going in that day when Robin’s life was on the line continued to well up inside her. Regina was practically an optimist, even when she remembered everything life encompassed.

 Adventure, danger, loss, and pain. And, finally, love and she had learned that love received, love given could never be lost. It would always fill her heart and she would face every day with it shining inside her.

If it was right for all of them, and she believed it would be, Esmeralda would be welcomed into Regina’s heart and family where she would never be alone or unloved ever again either.

 


 

 

Two days was too long as far as Killian was concerned. Even if there was still three more months of waiting for the twins, two days away from the island and Emma was too much.

“I will no longer be available for shipping this and that to and fro.” He dropped the crate of books and what not he had carried onto the living room floor and into the middle of chaos. There were blankets, clothes and bits and pieces strewed about the room, pieces of paper tacked up upon the walls and socks left on the floor, none of which seemed to match. “Did everything we own end up in here?”

Henry shrugged in response and continued to concentrate on the patchwork mess of papers he studied. It had started as a single list and grew across the entire room. At some point, Emma had taken to pulling pages from the main wall and placing them in other corners of the room. Across the top in large letters were five phrases. Friendship, Giver of Life, Strong-willed Warrior, Of Noble Kin and White. All but white was clearly written in large Emma the Sheriff block letters. Killian had added white in his flowing script after a particularly quarrelsome family meal.

Snow had taken his side. The mutton, it turned out, was always dry.

“It was barely a two day trip,” Killian grumbled and started picking up the discarded socks and blankets and what-not. “Am I the only one who tidies up?”

Henry finished writing on the wall. “To be fair, it’s not like there are dirty dishes and food being left out or anything.”

“I see.”

Henry turned and found Killian glaring at him. “What?”

“I dread visiting your tower.”

“Neat freak.”

“If the food starts moving on its own, we’ll simply burn the entire place down.”

“I promise,” Henry pledged solemnly with a hand raised. “To never let it get that far.”

Killian snorted at his words and dropped an assortment of clothes and pillows into a basket by the door. “She asleep?”

“Yeah.”

“Any new names added?”

“You know she’s holding out on us.” Henry looked over the names written, crossed out and written again then written differently by a dizzying number of hands. “There’s one she likes that she hasn’t added yet.”

“Life is about timing.” Stepping up to the wall, Killian looked for new additions. Araminta, Dewey, Duncan, Elowen, Glen, and Winnifred, or Winfred catching his eyes. “I think we’re straying a bit from our purpose.”

“Well I think we should start regrouping them into boys, girls and gender neutral.”

Nodding to papers hanging on the other side of the room, Killian grabbed the pen from Henry’s hand and crossed out Glen. “Isn’t that on the wall over there?”

“That’s the list of never, not ever and please don’t even say it list.” Henry took the pen back and crossed out Araminta. “Honestly, you guys keep adding these really old fashioned names.”

“I’m three hundred years old, why are you surprised?”

“Agatha, Edwin, Laurence, Philomena?”

“Randolph, Rhys, Bellamy and Archibald.” Killian walked over to the stairs to listen for movement. In the last couple of weeks Emma’s sleep schedule had gotten weird, for her. He had company at the crack of dawn but shortly after an early lunch Emma would crash until just before dinner and then stay up late into the night. “Anything new?”

“I found some circles.” Henry raised a brow. “One of the names written by you but I believe Robin suggested the other but again, you wrote in the meaning.”

“Where?” Killian’s eyes followed Henry’s pointing finger. “Finnegan?”

“Means fair, white.” Henry tapped the pen against his chin before leaning over and placing a star next to it.

“And Declan?”

“That may be wishful thinking.”

“Just tell me lad.”

“Full of Goodness.”

“Not a bad wish, eh?” Killian watched Henry smile and place a star next to Declan as well then wiggled his fingers at the boy. He wrapped one arm around the boys shoulder and placed an X next to the names. “Finnegan and Declan.”

“If.”

“If.” Killian hugged him quickly and then began picking up and sorting the clutter. “Any plans for tonight?”

Henry stood in front of another section of the naming wall and crossed out a few more names. “Dinner at Regina’s for me. Somethings up with them and I might be there for a few days longer than planned.”

“I just got back.”

“I know,” Henry replied and then glared over at his step-father. “You’re welcome.”

“We’re not that bad.” He frowned down at the mismatched socks in his hands then tossed them in a pile. Chancing a quick glance he made sure Henry was still occupied. “I thought we could all spend time together or something.”

When Henry turned to study the pirate he caught him scratching behind one ear still frowning at the clutter he was sorting. “It’ll only be a bit longer than a week, besides in the middle of it is some 3F time.”

“Don’t ever let your grandmother Snow hear you say that.”

“Does she know what it means?”

“Forced Family Fun, yes. Swan informed her of its meaning.” Killian tossed the gathered blankets he carried into another basket before landing on the newly cleared armchair with a thud. “Where?”

“Grandma and Grandpa want to show everyone the farm.”

“Is he going to make us herd sheep?”

“Me, no.” Henry grabbed a satchel from by the door. “He loves me. You on the other hand?”

Killian shot a glare at the lad.

“You complained about the mutton.”

“Your grandmother agreed with me.”

“I know, so yeah you’ll be herding sheep.” Looping the satchel over his shoulder, Henry skipped around the remaining mess to stand before the pirate. “Hope it doesn’t rain, I hear wet wool stinks.”

The lad’s smart ass remarked demanded retribution and Killian moved quickly to put Henry in a headlock. “Very funny.” He messed up Henry’s hair and pushed him toward the door. “Don’t leave without telling your mother goodbye. She’ll get extra weepy that she missed you.”

“I won’t, Dad.” Both wrinkled their noses. “Father?”

“Neither really works for you does it?”

“Captain.”

“Too formal.”

“Asshole.”

“Too precise.” Killian grinned. “And you’d get in trouble with both your mothers, for different reasons of course.”

“Killian,” Henry whined.

“This was entirely your idea.” He clapped one hand on the young man’s shoulder. “You’ll figure it out and Killian works just fine and always will.”

Henry rolled his eyes and gave him a quick hug before loudly stomping up the stairs.  

Nothing to be done for it with a teenager running around the tower. Thank goodness Emma slept deeply. Murmurs from the top floor barely made it to Killian as he leaned one hip against the doorway and waited for the lad to come back down and shoot through the passage to his tower.

Returning Henry’s wave as he left for Regina’s Killian waited for the door to slam shut behind their boy before taking the stairs up to the room at the top of the tallest tower. It had officially become theirs the night true love’s kiss restored memories across the realms, or so they had been told. They’d been too busy to notice.

Apparently Emma could now sleep sitting up. Her hair was messy and falling in her eyes, eyes that were closed as her head lolled to the side even as she sat on the edge of the bed. Toeing off his boots he crept quietly to her side and brushed the hair out of her face. Emma slept on.

Clicking his tongue and shaking his head, Killian sighed. “I’m home.”

Emma’s nose wrinkled and she continued to sleep.

“Nap time it is.” Killian lifted her legs onto the bed and swiftly caught her before she fell onto her back. He eased her down and was scooting her over to the mountain of pillows when she rolled further into the center of the bed. “No welcome home kiss?”

Emma snuggled further into the pillows.

Killian pulled his shirt over his head as he moved to the wardrobe on his side of the room. “It was a quick trip.” At times he missed the jeans he had in Storybrooke even though two hands made the laces of his leathers easier to manage. “Poseidon and Ursula were happy to receive the sea kingdom’s lost treasures.” Stretching his arms high with a yawn he grabbed the blanket from the foot of the bed. “And contrary to all of Regina’s advice I did indeed ask them why they chose a bloody stupid location a day’s journey away. Three days if it had been a ship other than our Jolly Roger.”

If his ears didn’t deceive him, Emma grunted in reply.

“It’s all your fault,” he whispered then snapped the blanket out to fluff it to full size, letting it float down over her and crawled underneath it as well. His hand went first to her belly where the children rested with their mother. “Hello young ones.” Killian slid down to share the latest news directly with them. “Apparently, your mother has driven the sea turbulent with jubilation at the return of the white sorceress who has once again laid claim to the bottomless sea.” Both hands moved over Emma’s belly searching for a response from the two sleeping inside and found only a slight flutter of the two lives growing there. “Great, you sleep like your mother.”

“Pray to the gods they do.”

Killian left one hand on her belly and maneuvered his way up to lay on his side and look at his wife’s face. Her eyes remained closed but one corner of her mouth ticked up. “So you have been listening?”

Emma scooted closer to him.

He rubbed his nose against hers. “This is my welcome home?”

Emma’s hand slid up his arm and around to the back of his neck. Killian tensed in anticipation. Her lashes fluttered, her mouth smiled wide and her eyes opened. His mouth fell open as he froze, caught in her green eyes, caught by her glowing happiness.

“Two days is far too long,” Emma whispered over his lips as she pulled her husband to her for his welcome home kiss.

Chapter Text

In return for running an errand for Emma to the Land of Untold Stories, Milah had received another bean. As promised, the realm was an intoxicating mix of people and cultures and things gathered in a small pocket realm.

“Madame Milah! Madame Milah!”

With a damn chaperon. A useless, waxy chaperon who was just so, she sighed, gushy. The candlestick man had talked his way into joining her. So what if she was a grown woman, there were an uncommon number of men in her life to frown about her safety. Luckily she had an equal number of women to stand beside her and sneer at their concerns.

Fine, Snow White didn’t sneer, she simply flashed a deadly glance at her husband and Charming had left the argument to Killian and Bae with Emma to do the sneering. Regina had almost set them on fire.

“Madame, please.” Lumiere called her from a couple stalls over. “I have found it!”

Smiling and expressing her apologies to the stall vendor who held out the canvas cloth she was examining, Milah turned and glared down the row. The candlestick smirked and waved her on. If only Bae and Killian hadn’t come up with the actually sensible argument that everyone could use some backup then she wouldn’t have ended up with a companion foisted upon her, let alone Lumiere.

Sauntering down to the stall, she offered a silent thanks to the pregnant princess. It could have been worse but Emma had distracted Killian with a yawn. A single yawn and the pirate had been toast. A grin tugged at her lips. Seeing Killian with Emma, and the rest of their, and hers, crazy family was sweet and fun. Lots and lots of fun watching Killian be the sweet man he was always meant to be, wrapped tightly around the princess’ little finger.

Milah shook her head and turned her best glare on the man who wouldn’t stop smiling at her. “This had better be good Waxman.”

“Mmmmm, Lumiere Waxman.” He stroked his chin and twirled the long end of his silky mustache. “I like it. My wonderful goddess, that shall be my new name!”

She closed her eyes. “Whatever. What was so important you started shouting my name in a crowded marketplace?”

He pouted. “But you enjoyed it last night when I shouted….”

“Enough.” Men, she thought. “What did you find?”

Lumiere ignored the glare from the stall’s owner and held up a necklace, two thin metal circles around a large opalescent scale.

“You found me jewelry?”

His face fell in disappointment.

“I mean it’s nice and all…”

Holding the necklace up higher, he looked at her as if she was crazy and then back at the necklace.

She tried again. “Not every woman wants shiny, expensive, large and sparkly jewels?”

He flicked the scale in the middle of the necklace. The motion sent the scale and the two circle spinning so fast it looked like a ball with a pearly center flashing at her.

“Oh.”

Lumiere’s eyebrow raised. “Is this not what the blond enchantress said you needed?” He ignored the glare he received for the admiring tones when he spoke of Emma. “Not particularly valuable, wearable and small object with moving parts?”

Milah sighed. The candlestick had found the perfect object for Emma to create a realm traveling device. Combined with the fact she had succumbed to his advances last night, he would be unbearable for the rest of the trip. “It should do.”

He swung the necklace back and forth a little, batting his lashes at her.

Grinning at his antics was unavoidable. “Thank you.” She moved to address the seller. “How much?” Haggling with the man over the cost of the necklace returned her sunny mood but she kept an eye on Lumiere.

The former candlestick leaned back against the pole of the neighboring stall and let his gaze wander over the marketplace. Every time one corner of his mouth tipped up she knew he was studying some female and finding their manner, their look or their anger for that matter a marvel. It was just his way. As she brandished her own wiles for lower price she caught a full grin cross his face and she frowned. Holding up a finger to quiet the seller her head turned to study his face and sighed.

He was looking at her ass.

“Candlestick.”

He blinked and looked up. “What Madame?”

“We have a meeting scheduled soon, try to concentrate on that.”

“As Madame wishes.” Lumiere bowed shallowly at her, holding one arm out and waited.

Men, she thought. One night and they get all dreamy about it. She passed the vendor some gold and put the necklace on, tucking it beneath her shirt. “Let’s go.” Pushing the offered arm out of the way, she left him to follow behind her.

After all, he liked the view.

 


 

It had taken coming to Fairy Tale land for Emma to fully embrace becoming a book nerd.

There was just so much to learn and information here came bound in leather with flowery handwriting. She pushed away from the table to waddle over and refill her water, making Killian jump up from his chair where he relaxed with his own book.

“Let me.”

“I know it may seem like I’m huge and awkward but I’m not quite there yet. It will get worse.” She took the pitcher from his hands. “You might want to wait till then to start running around.”

“But I’ve been reading….”

“I may have to kill whoever keeps getting you baby books.”

“But love, there’s so much to know.” Killian stole the pitcher back. “And you need to be more…”

“Stop right there.” Emma walked away with her drink. “I’m taking a break. Do you want to spend that time annoying me?”

“I do.” He nodded earnestly and followed behind her, pulling a footstool over while she eased down onto the couch. He pouted up at her from beneath his brows as he scooped up her feet onto the stool. “But mayhap we could finish some of the name discussion.”

“Will you be right here?” Emma patted the cushion beside her.

“Always.” He sat down and Emma promptly leaned into his side and snuggled her head into his neck. “Finnegan.”

“Three full votes.” She breathed in his scent. “Finnegan Jones sounds good.”

“Finnegan Swan-Jones.”

“Too unique.” Emma tipped her head to look up at him. “I’m sure there’ll be times when he won’t want to be known as Captain Hook and the Savior’s son.”

“Then he can lie when he runs off to conquer the world.”

“Fair enough. Declan Swan-Jones.”

“Three full votes love.” Killian laid his head atop hers. “And no challengers, unless?”

“Unless what?”

He grasped her chin with this thumb and forefinger, tilting her face for his perusal. “Unless you wish to tell us the name you’ve been keeping to yourself.”

“And get mocked by Henry?”

“We all take our chances.” He leaned to kiss her wrinkled nose. “Besides, you may not have noticed but there’s another name the lad has signed off on. Even though it is, in his words, old fashioned.”

“Where?” Emma scooted to the edge of the cushion to sit up. He placed a hand at her back to help her then stood to pull her to her feet. Moving as swiftly as she could at seven months pregnant with twins she scanned the patchwork wall of paper looking for Henry’s star. “Am I close?”

Killian guided her gently with his hip farther to the right. “Closer.”

There were so many names, crossed out, scratched out names they had considered. Some written by them, some added by their other family members. One had been written by her mother, crossed out by her father and never really under consideration but it was under the hastily scrawled Leopold that Emma found Henry’s star and Killian’s X.

“Huh.” Her left hand reached out and traced the familiar block letters. “I don’t know why I liked this one, but I did. Do.”

“Of a noble kin.” Killian spoke from over her shoulder, his arms coming around to wrap around her and rest the palms of his hands on her belly. “Like my mother’s.”

“Adelaide. Adelaide Swan-Jones.” Her finger made a circle around the name once, the second loop Emma added just enough magic to add her circle to the name. “Adelaide and Declan or Adelaide and Finnegan or…”

“Or what love?”

She sighed. They would still need to speak with Henry because as the other member of their branch of the family, he was the only other person who knew. He knew they didn’t want to name the babies after someone else and he had listened while the two had stumbled over a talk about stories and setting bars and connecting. Everyone asked about the words at the top but Henry deflected their interest. It was Henry who had tacked up the paper on the wall and handed Emma a pen to write the meanings. Like Declan, this one name didn’t have a meaning on their list. “Of unknown meaning.”

One quizzically raised brow met her when she turned in his arms. “Unknown?”

“Unknown,” she said back with a nod. “It’ll be her story to write, up to her to decide who she is and what she wants.”

“As if any child of ours would let anyone else determine such things.”

“Well, we are naming them.” She tilted her head as she regarded her husband, letting her fingers thread through the hair on the back of his neck. “Eleanor.”

“Eleanor? Not Eleanora or…”

“Nope, just plan Eleanor.” Her fingers scratched his scalp, making him purr a little. “When she accidentally sets the kitchen on fire she’ll be Eleanor Swan-Jones.”

“Mmmm, you’re commanding tone.” He nodded. “I like it.”

“And when she cuddles up for a story to read, she’ll be our Ellie.”

“And Addie.” This time it was his nose that wrinkled. “Isn’t that a little overly cute?”

Emma shrugged and grinned up at him. “Do we really care?”

“Nope.” He waggled his eyebrows as he popped out his response.

Emma rolled her eyes and tried to look stern as he walked them backwards till her back was braced against the wall. His nose and lips brushed a path down her cheek and under her chin making her head roll back and bump against the wall with a sigh. She tugged on his hair as his lips softly brushed over hers and she leaned up to bite his lower lip.

With a groan Killian leaned his weight against her as he retaliated with a kiss, angling his head in order to take a deeper taste her mouth, once, twice and again. He felt her moan and lift up on her toes, her fingers digging into his scalp, sliding through his hair when he felt her knee lifting along the outside of his thigh. He groaned with need for her and shifted to lift her up because he had no intention of stopping and they desperately needed to move along to…

“Seriously!”

Emma turned to look at the door and blinked at her son. Her son who they had been expecting sometime, sometime today.

“Henry.” She licked her lips which felt swollen and tried to think. “You’re here. Now. Killian look, it’s Henry. He made it here today, just as we knew he would. Now.” She blinked up at Killian who scowled down at her and her attempts to untangle herself to go hug their son.

“Your timing is worse than your grandmother’s.”

“Save it, pirate.” Henry put his bag down and stepped into Emma’s arms. “I’m sorry I interrupted but I thought you two would be getting some work done.”

Emma frowned and pushed him away. “We did. I know how to cloak a magical item and Killian knows all about cradle crap or whatever and, uh, and…”

Killian rolled his eyes at her and continued taking slow and steady breaths. “We might be done with the name game, lad.”

“Really? So Mom agreed with Adelaide?”

Killian nodded and placed a hand on Emma’s shoulder which only got straighter with his show of support. “And there’s another finally added for consideration.”

“What is it?” Henry looked over the paper wall for the new addition.

“Give me your pen,” Emma asked.

“Just ‘cause I’m the author doesn’t mean I always have a pen on me.”

Killian grinned. “Sure it does lad.”

Emma held out her hand and wiggled her fingers. “Gimme.”

After an eye roll, Henry placed the pen from his pocket in her outstretched fingers and stepped away from the wall. Crossing his arms he glanced up when Killian joined him and mimicked his stance. Emma continued to hesitate and looked over her shoulder to identical get-on-with-it expressions. Her little family she thought with a smile.

This time she wrote the name on the wall with larger block letters than usual, trying to ignore the two behind her while she added the meaning of the name as well.

“El…”

“Shhh, lad. Wait for the whole thing.”

Emma read over what she had written with a nod. She waddled over to her guys and quickly faced the wall without looking at their faces and could feel them standing behind her, one on each side. It was very hard but she wanted to wait. She lifted the pen and held it up to Henry.

“Eleanor Swan-Jones,” Killian murmured behind her and took the pen she held out to the boy. He marked an X next to the circled name then came to stand to the side of Emma, pressing a small kiss to her cheek which made her eyelashes flutter close.

When Emma’s eyes opened they followed Killian’s outstretched arm to the pen he held out to Henry. Her hands came up to push his offering away. “Kid, we’ve got time for you to think about this.”

“Unknown?” Henry took the pen and spun it through his fingers. “I didn’t peg you as being real fond of not knowing.”

Emma opened her mouth to answer him but grimaced as she thought about what he meant. “Yeah.” She turned her head and saw a past of not knowing mirrored in her son’s eyes. “But they won’t. And it’s not about me, or you, ‘cause I believe, or hope, or however you want to say it that these two” – she grabbed Henry’s hand and placed it on her belly – “will always know where they came from. It’s about whenever life or fate or destiny tries to mess with them, what will happen is up to them and not being afraid of taking the first step into the unknown. I don’t know who they’ll grow up to be but they’ll have this family with its strange story book past and a seed of hope to face all the unknowns in front of them.”

“Eleanor.”

“Ellie, unless she takes after her father and then we’ll have to use her full name.”

“She could take after her mother or brother, then we’ll all be living in fear,” Killian grumbled.

Henry rolled his eyes as he made his star next to the name before coming back and leaning against his mother’s side.

Emma slung an arm around his shoulder and smiled at him. “Finnegan or Declan or Adelaide or Eleanor. I think we’re ready for these guys with two months to spare.”

“Ready? What makes you think we’re ready?”

Emma and Henry turned to watch the pirate pace over to his chair and sort through the books stacked beside it. Together, they slowly stepped backward toward the door as the pirate mumbled in panic.

“Don’t even think of retreat.” Killian called out without turning around. “It’s beneath both of you.”

Together Emma and Henry moved to the couch, to sit and listen to professor Killian elaborate on the necessary preparations for the twins’ birth.

 


 

After visiting nine separate taverns last night, Milah had managed to locate a seaman she deemed in possession of sufficient knowledge and trustworthiness to contact the party they wished to meet. She had chosen wisely as the man found them the next morning with a location and time on the outer most island.

The airship ride to the outer edge made the entire trip worthwhile.

The activity in the square was brisk and judging by the angle of the sun, their meeting time was drawing nearer. It was a pleasant area with taverns, no, Lumiere called them cafés, around the square with outdoor seating where they could watch people and artists and a few vendors. Happy with her cup of tea and pastries, Milah concentrated on ignoring the moaning, groaning and happy chirping of the candlestick working his way through the café’s extensive menu.

The woman who owned it slunk up to his side to once again to inquire about his enjoyment of the meal. Sipping tea, Milah hid a small smile behind her cup and chanced a quick side glance. Only a fool would miss the rapturous sounds Lumiere made while eating. It was one more thing to ignore, the extravagant compliments flowing back and forth beside her, in favor of soaking in the sights and sounds of the small square.

The bustling crowd shifted directions like fish trying to avoid a dangerous creature in their midst. Expecting something or someone particularly fearsome Milah eased forward in her seat as navy boys with rigid posture split the crowd in two.

Lumiere was lifting their hostess’ hand for a kiss when Milah set her tea cup down sharply, crossing her arms. He shrugged at her raised brow but the woman retreated with a twittering giggle. Two of the uniformed men stood guard at the entrance, stance rigid and ready for trouble but it was the older and swarthier man who stepped past them that held her interest.

He was definitely a captain and hopefully the right one. With a more relaxed stance than his men he stood on the other side of their table and studied them intensely.

Milah didn’t feel threatened but intrigued and couldn’t help the small smile that played upon her lips.

Whatever he read in her expression caused him to glance over his shoulder quickly and then down at the seat next to her. “Liam, sit.”

A younger man came forward and pulled the chair farther from the table without going too far as to cause offense. She found herself looking into familiar blue eyes. “Captain Nemo I presume?”

“Correct, milady but who do I have the pleasure of addressing?” Nemo executed a small deferential bow with his question.

“A woman on an errand.” She leaned forward with an elbow on the table to rest her face on as she smiled at the newest Jones. “My name is Milah Cassidy and I’m here to deliver a message.”

“What business do you have with the captain?” The young man’s frown made her shake her head.

“Not here for the captain, Jones, isn’t it? Never thought I’d meet a Liam Jones.”

Nemo clapped a hand on Liam’s shoulder. “It’s a common name.”

She nodded. “True, true” – swirling the tea in her cup, she looked away – “First, tell me what you know of Killian Jones, if you don’t mind.”

“Is he okay?” Liam leaned forward. “Did he make it back to Storybrooke? We didn’t find him there. In fact, there was no one there when…”

“So you were affected by the restoration spell as well.” Milah set her cup aside. “Let’s just say a lot of magic did a lot of strange things and one of which was to send everyone from Storybrooke back to the Enchanted Forest. Kind of long story for another time.”

“I would certainly like an explanation for the return of my vessel, the Nautilus, and my crew to this unfortunate land.” Nemo pulled a chair out and sat down, signaling the hostess for service.

“He is well then?” Liam interrupted.

“It took some time but yes, all safe and sound with the wife and family.”

“Wife?”

“You must have missed the wedding. As did I.”

He smiled in return. “He married his Emma? Good for him.”

“It’s actually Emma who sent me.” Milah paused to let them order some libations. “She said Killian was a little unsure about disturbing you.”

“He was?” The youngest Jones brother hesitated. “I suppose it’s good to know everything is all right then.”

She rolled her eyes. “He’s an idiot and she said so to his face, then sent me on this errand.” Her hand reached out to pat his arm, holding out a packet to him with her other. “A letter explaining where to go if you wish to see him and if I’m not mistaken, a magic bean or two to make sure you can.”

Nemo smiled and snatched the packet to push into Liam’s hands. “Excellent.” He nodded over his shoulder at the men standing guard who promptly relaxed and faded into the tide of people in the square. Turning back, his smiled broadened and his eyes twinkled watching the young man open the missive before looking over at Milah. He blinked and leaned forward. “Thank you for running this errand, I hope it has not been a difficult journey for you, dear lady.”

Milah smiled and leaned forward as well, brushing her hair behind her shoulder and lowered her eyes with a flutter. “I find the Land of Untold Storied incredible and full of the most wondrous things.” Beside her Lumiere straightened up in his chair with a frown. “Tell me Captain, have you lived here long?”

Nemo ignored the glare of her companion and returned her smile. “For many, many years, milady.”

“Excellent.” Her head tilted flirtatiously. “Tell me everything you know about the airships. I want one.”

 

Chapter Text

It had been Killian who noticed that the ballast on the Jolly Roger were not merely ballast stones. The round mossy rocks were heavy and almost impossible to move but the pirate fiercely defended his belief that they belonged in the mountains of Arendelle.

Now if only the dumbass had also let Neal borrow the Jolly Roger to transport them there but no, when the question was asked Killian had frozen, unable to say yes to what he even acknowledged was the most logical plan. Emma had rolled her eyes and explained about the pirate’s growing anxiety as they got closer to her due date.

So here he was after a week on a less than magical ship, which turned out to be a lot harder to sail, directing the Arendelle guard to hoist the stones from the ship onto a sleigh.

“Careful there!” He shouted as the last rock dropped quickly in the air. Dammit. At least they stopped it before it smashed into the sleigh. He ran both hands through his hair. “You sure this will work, your, uh, Majesty?”

Elsa raised a brow at him without answering.

“I’m just saying, those are some heavy rocks.”

“If what Killian said is accurate, they aren’t just some heavy rocks. They’re rock trolls” – the corners of her lips lifted up a bit – “and therefore family. We don’t leave family behind.”

He nodded but couldn’t stop a sigh from escaping. Emma made Elsa sound all warm and fuzzy, a hilariously way-out description as the woman was a queen with a capital gold calligraphy Q. He looked away hoping he could rein in his doubts about the trip north and caught a flash of red armor stomping toward them with Henry in tow. “Ummm, your majesty.”

“Really Neal you can call me…”

“Your Majesty!” Mulan’s angry voice interrupted her.

Neal watched Henry grimace behind the warrior’s shoulder and covered his chuckle with a cough.

Elsa’s neck, hell her entire body, seemed to stretch taller to look down her nose. “Fa Mulan, what can I do for you?”

“I have been tasked by your sister...”

“Entirely unnecessary.”

“To watch out for you while she and Kristoff visit Misthaven.”

“Without even asking me what I wanted.”

“And I thought we had come to an agreement.”

“After hours of pointless lectures.”

“That I would be by your side when you left the castle grounds.”

“You were busy.”

“You planned it that way Elsa!”

The queen shrugged and turned away from the angry warrior to fiddle with the sleigh. Mulan’s frown got deeper and she looked over at Neal.

“Henry.” He quickly turned to the kid. “According to, uh, Elsa this is might take a couple days to get up the mountain but less time to get back. Then another week or so back, does that work?”

Henry glanced between the queen and Mulan’s tense stances and nodded slowly. “Yeah, I just checked in with Mom, both of them.”

Elsa moved to his side with a smile. “How is Emma?”

Mulan scowled and crossed her arms, turning away from Henry and Elsa’s exchange. “So, Neal. It’ll be the four of us then, returning the rock trolls.”

“Um,” he hesitated but decided to speak before queen and warrior could start another verbal sparring match. “Yeah, that’ll work. I’m afraid Elsa will be doing the heavy lifting.” He held up his hands and wiggled his fingers. “You know, magically. Me and Henry are just pack mules for food and tents and stuff.”

Elsa glared at the two but didn’t disagree.

“When you guys are ready then.” Neal nodded at three packs that stood at the ready.

“Your majesty, you might be more comfortable in” – Mulan shrugged and then gave up on trying to be more tactful – “pants.”

The queen still looked down her nose but nodded. “A half hour and we’ll start out.” After a quick hug for Henry, Elsa headed back to her castle without a word to Mulan. The warrior sighed with exasperation but a small smile tugged at the corners of her lips. She nodded to Henry and Neal before quickly jogging to catch up with her queen.

“Hey kid.” Neal just had to ask. “What was that?”

Henry shrugged in reply and walked around the sleigh. Neal rolled his eyes and watched the two women walk to the castle. Before they reached the gate, whatever the deal was, Elsa was smiling down at Mulan who had placed a hand on her elbow.

“Looks like they’re friends again.”

“Yes Dad, they’re “friends” again.” Henry rolled his eyes at his father. “Killian has a message for you. He’s sorry.”

“Good, he should be.” Neal went over the sleigh making sure each rock was secured. “That ship’s like a brick in the water.”

Henry moved to the packs. “What’s up after this?”

“Getting you home?”

Henry plopped down next to the packs and directed one raised brow at his father.

Neal smile, shaking his head. His kid had picked up a lot from the pirate. “Whatever comes up is next.”

“Maybe a trip out to Oz?” Henry smirked.

“Zelena has a big mouth.”

“Well, yeah. So, Glinda the good witch?”

“We’re friends.”

“Whatever Dad.” Henry stretched his legs out in front of him. “No one’s going to buy that but it’s cool.”

“Thanks kid.” He plopped down next to Henry. “So tell me. They’ve got the names picked out don’t they?”

Henry sneered at him. “We. We have names picked out and no, I’m not telling you.”

“Come on kid,” he whined. “There’s a betting pool.”

“Seriously Dad? Who’s running it? August?”

“Well, yeah.” He grinned. “Who else?”

 


 

It was one of those perfect days as far as Snow White was concerned.

Maybe perfect was a little much. There were morning council meetings and trade negotiations and rebuilding and planning for the colder months and, well, stuff beforehand and after. There were things to be done with a capital D but she kept having these moments of bliss or maybe peace, even with life being, well, boringly busy.

Snow twisted her head to look down to see if Neal had finally succumb to sleep. He fought sleep like his father but once it took him, he was down for the count like his sister. She pulled a corner of the blanket over him and stood to join the others.

Emma handed her a glass of lemonade when Snow sat down next to her on the garden couch. It was on Snow’s list of favorite things, Emma’s lemonade, lunching on the island, Charming…

“Is he down?” Zelena asked in a low even voice as she cradled her Sweet Pea in her arms. Snow nodded, knowing that Neal and Robin would nap a bit longer if they were next to each other even though they never fell asleep that way. After settling her daughter Zelena settled herself into the chaise lounge. “They’re getting too big to carry.”

Snow couldn’t fight a smile. “Maybe.”

Zelena rolled her eyes. “Thank the gods the two of them get along.”

“Who’s getting along?” Regina asked.

“Princeling and witchling.” Zelena closed her eyes and held a hand into the air. “Would you be a dear sis?”

Emma sighed and poured another glass of lemonade for Regina to take to her sister. “What’re the other two doing?”

Regina placed the cold glass against Zelena’s forehead making her yelp. “Roland is reading to Esmeralda.” She ignored her sister’s offended look and waited for her to take the glass. “Her sight reading is coming along but she likes how Roland reads the storybook.”

Belle checked her son sleeping at her side on the blanket. “They can’t keep reading our storybook. You’ll need another book for her lessons and I’ve some wonderful children’s books, and maybe a few new chapter books for Roland.”

“Thanks,” Regina said and took the glass Emma held out to her before sitting on the other side of Snow.

Snow sipped at her glass and smiled. Regina frowned at her but Snow just shrugged. “Mommy and me lunch.”

“I know, we’re disgustingly cute.” Regina leaned against the arm of the couch. “Emma?”

“I’m good.”

“Where’d you send the pirate off to?”

“Dad took him.” Emma leaned forward to look around Snow at Regina. “They looked like they were up to something.”

“The cribs are done!” Regina and Zelena said at the same time. The two became locked into a staring contest.

Belle laughed. “You think they’re sneaking them into the tower as we speak?”

“I think someone, or Belle as I like to call her, gave my husband way too many baby books to read,” Emma accused. “Which I still don’t know how you got the Land without Magic ones. Anyways, the pirate is full of ideals and well…”

“Geppetto ended up making six cribs, two for here, two bedside attachable bassinets and two portable cribs.” Snow added and watched her daughter blush red all the way up to the tips of her ears. She reached over and brushed a lock of blond hair behind one of Emma’s ears. “I kind of hope they have Killian’s ears. Cute babies with cute pointed ears like their daddy.”

“Cute?”

“Oh come on Emma, you know you think so.” Emma tried to glare at Belle who just smiled in return. “I think your twins will look adorable with their daddy’s elf ears.” She traced her own son’s small ear. “And I’m not sorry about the books.”

“Well you’re not the one who’ll be delivering twins and trying to convince their husband that no, now is not the time to take his shirt off to skin bond with the babies.”

Snow patted Emma’s shoulder while the others laughed. “Honey, it’s not like he was a top button kind of man when you married him.” Snow bit her lip to contain her own mirth.

Emma glared at them all before grabbing a hold of the couch arm and scooting forward to stand. Snow jumped up to take one side while Regina did the same on Emma’s other. The laughter stopped as they all wished Emma would just sit back down.

“I need to walk a little.”

Regina rolled her eyes at Snow but they each took and arm and helped her to stand. “You know, you really could deliver any time now.”

Belle nodded. “Second children often come sooner and faster.”

Zelena sat up on the chaise. “In other words, Emma, could you please just stay put.”

Finally up Emma waddled slowly around their picnic. “Nope. I need to move as these two are not sleeping.” She tried to look down at her bare feet. “I’ve become a cliché who can’t see her feet.”

Snow rolled her eyes and threaded her arm through her daughters. “Just admit it, you like being barefoot and pregnant.” A wistful sigh escaped her.

Snow didn’t see the look exchanged between Zelena and Belle or how Regina froze or feel the pause in Emma’s step. She was caught up in watching the ground for her pregnant daughter. In the perfect afternoon they had passed together with the children and her friends, her family, and all the possibilities stretched out before her. How there would be so many days and moments, with husbands and children and them.

Another sigh escaped Snow.

Emma stopped waddling, pulling Snow to a stop. “Mom?”

“What sweetheart?” Snow glanced at her daughter with a smile.

Emma’s eyes narrowed and waited, examining her face.

“Emma, what is it?” Snow looked around at the others, who were staring at them. “Are you okay? Was it a contraction? What…”

Emma waved away her question and continued to study her mother. “The twins are happy where they are and until Henry comes back they are staying put. I had a talk with them.” She started to smile, then stopped and looked over at Regina who nodded. “You’re kind of glowing, mom.”

Snow pressed her hands to her cheeks. “Oh. Really?”

“Yes, really.” Regina reached up and pulled Snow’s hands away. “Are you?”

“Maybe.” Snow grimaced. “There are signs but we haven’t confirmed anything yet.” Emma wrapped her arms around her mother. It was awkward but Snow turned and embraced her back.  She leaned up on her toes and kissed the top of her daughter’s head then looked at the other three women standing around them. Zelena smirked more than smiled but that was definitely a grin on Belle’s face.

Regina blinked away the tears gathering in her eyes. Without thinking, Snow held out her hand to her stepmother and when Regina took it, she held on tightly. “I think it time for a magic pregnancy test for you.”

“If you insist.” Snow’s hand squeezed hers before she pulled away. She smiled at her daughter then at her family. “Either way, I’m kind of liking this happily ever after stuff.”

 


 

There was something about the mountains and the stars.

It was definitely different than the sky above the ship in the middle of the sea. Maybe it was the elevation, the thinning of the air that made them brighter or brought out more. For now, he filed away the image.

They had gotten farther today than anyone thought possible.

According to Elsa, they had one more day until they reached the rock troll’s home. Away from the castle Elsa relaxed, or more importantly Mulan lowered her guard allowing Elsa to relax. Henry supposed his father was always kind of relaxed and casual.

They sat around the fire and while Henry recorded the details of the trip in his notebook, Neal played his pan pipes. Which was totally weird. Henry’s father had learned to sword fight from Henry’s stepfather and learned to play the pipes from his own grandfather, Peter Pan.

Neal played it well but caught Henry shaking his head so he stopped. “Still weird, huh?”

“A little.” Henry replied.

Mulan threw another log on the fire. “So your grandfather taught you to play?”

“When I was in Neverland as a kid and I didn’t know he was my grandfather at the time.”

She crossed her arms. “The same grandfather who kidnapped your son?”

“And I was once engaged to one of his evil minions who did the actual kidnapping.”

Elsa smiled at him as Mulan took a seat next to her. “Your family has quite the story.”

Neal shrugged. “Well, we are a fairy tale.”

“That’s not how it works Dad.” Henry didn’t look up from his writing. “We came first, then the author writes the book.”

Elsa frowned at him. “But do you know why the sorcerer created the author?”

Henry tapped his pen against his journal and glanced up. All three were looking at him, waiting for him to answer. He sighed and closed his journal, tucking it away. “I don’t really know.” He looked to the sky, picking out constellations Killian had taught him. “I know that the pen is made of enchanted wood and a living thing.”

Neal blew a few notes on the flute before speaking. “Like the Jolly Roger?”

“And the wardrobe they sent Mom through.”

“So, why write them down?” Mulan poked a stick at the fire. “I guess I just don’t know why anyone would care about our stories when they have their own.”

Henry smiled but continued tracing his way across the sky, star by star. “Every story teaches you something, allows you to see the world at a new angle.” He looked over at Mulan. “Even if it’s just a few degrees different.”

“Oh so wise kid.” Neal lifted the flute. “But the question remains, why did Merlin want them written down? Who was reading them?”

Henry scowled at his father. “No one maybe, until they got moved to Storybrooke.”

“You said this Merlin could see the future right?” Elsa asked quietly.

It was hard to stop scowling at his father to address Elsa. When Henry finally stopped the queen was spinning a snowflake between her hands. She pulled them away to make it larger, then back toward each other to shrink it. Holding it over one palm, she twirled a finger above it and sent the flake spinning into the air.

Elsa looked up and smiled at him. “We always think we know our story” – she raised her brows – “putting memory issues aside. I never saw my story or myself the way Anna did, or the way the storybook did.” She pressed her palms together and created another one then floated it up and blew it into a swirl of smaller flakes. “And sometimes you need that new angle. Wherever it comes from.”

“Yeah,” Henry whispered out softly as he watched the swirl disappear into the starry sky and thought about the storybook Emma had burned in the Black Fairy’s Storybrooke. He thought also about the one he had made her that brought her back. “Maybe he just knew we needed them.”

“That’s possible.” Neal added softly. “So tell me kid, what comes next?”

“Dropping off some rock trolls?” Henry glanced around the fire. The warrior, the Ice Queen and his father looked at him expectantly and strangely enough he thought of his father’s question about the twins’ names and…his Mom was right. “I’m just the Author. I only record what happens. The rest is up to you.”

Mulan nodded. “What you’re saying is that the future is ours to decide?”

Henry nodded back.

“What about destiny and fate?” His father asked.

Elsa snorted in response. “What will happen will happen.”

“Pretty much.” Henry stood and grabbed a roll from his pack to set up his bed for the night.

Neal slouched back on his blankets and started to play again. There was no real melody or song or whatever and Henry didn’t care. Despite the origins, he found the sound of Pan’s pipe soothing as he lay beneath the star studded skies. That was a nice alliteration and he itched to take up his pen to write it down but his body sunk further into his blankets and sleep.

Henry gazed up at the sky and thought of all possibilities of the unknown future before them.

Chapter Text

Killian Jones liked his father-in-law.

He did.

Truly thought of the man as his mate and a good mate to have. Killian didn’t mind the times David reminded him of his elder brother. It kind of gave him a warm feeling in his soul which he had no plans to actually tell the man but still.

He liked him. He really did and it would be a shame but he had to kill the blighter.

“Now Killian.” Henry picked up the coat Killian had thrown his way.

“Not one word lad.” Killian flipped the cuffs of his shirt up his arm. “Your grandfather has lived a long life but all things must come to an end.”

Henry sighed but Killian ignored him to continue his homicidal preparations.

“Now Killian.”

“Not you, Dave.” Kilian pointed at him. “You had one job mate, one.”

“She’s not alone. Snow is with her and Regina was on her way. She’s probably already there.” David held up both hands. “Anton is there as well.”

“What do I care about the bloody giant?” Killian yelled. “I asked you to be there while I did this one small thing for my wife, your daughter. And now, now I find you here and not there where I left you. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t gut you and send you down to the depths?”

Henry tossed the coat back at Killian who ignored it and let it hit the ground once more. “Because Mom sent him away.”

“What?!?”

David slumped, crestfallen where he stood. “I was trying to keep her in bed and the next thing I know she poofed me here.” He clenched his hands but faced Killian letting his hands fall to his sides. “I failed you both.”

“She poofed you away?” Killian stroked a hand over his forehead. “How could she poof you this far? What is that woman thinking? Is this pregnancy brain Dave? “

Henry wheezed out a sigh. “Grandpa refused to help her stand.”

“Why are you here?” Killian picked up his coat from the ground.

“Mom sent me to prevent you from killing Grandpa.” He shrugged. “She also may have said she wanted to do it herself.”  Henry shuddered. “Also, there was yelling in pain and I’m not sure I can handle this.”

Killian sighed and placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I know, lad.” He looked to David. “Just please tell me the stubborn woman did not lock down the island.”

David shook his head. “No we can go back, but maybe through our tower and not yours.”

Killian nodded his agreement. “I should not have left.”

“She asked you to go get, well, whatever that is.” David pointed at the basket Killian carried. “It was only twenty minutes at the most, I swear and I, well…”

“You’re thinking this was planned, aren’t you?”

“Killian, she wants you there but there’s something…”

“Yeah, there’s something else going on.” Killian strode along behind David and Henry jogged to keep up. They came to the king and queen’s suite and David spun the knob on a door that normally went nowhere.  Killian pulled Henry to a stop. “Henry, you don’t have to…”

“Yes I do, but maybe I’ll wait downstairs with Grandpa, one contraction was enough.”

“Excellent, but mayhap now you’ll pay a little more attention to our lectures about the measures men must take…”

“Oh my god, stop.” Henry placed his hands over his ears.

Killian pushed him through the door. Once through all three ran. Regina met them at outside Emma and Killian’s tower. “Okay boys, slow down.”

“Regina.”

“Listen Captain, there were some preparations you just had to miss.”

“Mom, why does it look like everything we own is on the lawn?” Henry stared off to the right and Killian glanced quickly at whatever caught the boy’s attention and then stared. Every piece of furniture, every plate, cup, knick and knack that had been in the tower was piled in the garden.

“How did you…”

“Emma, uh…” Regina waved one hand in a circle and then held it up to prevent the angry questions building underneath the pirate’s furrowed brows. “I know, we’ve been trying to restrict her magic use because well it’s gotten kind of erratic and explosive but...”

“It is tied to her emotions,” David interrupted her and drew everyone’s glare. “I’m not the only one whose noticed the mood swings.”

“More like tsunami waves of feels.”

Killian ignored the truth of both David and Henry’s words to concentrate on Regina. “You are in my way.” He walked toward her with steady and confident steps and she stepped to the side to let him past but a yell echoed down the stairs. He froze in the doorway, his heart about to beat itself out of his chest.

“This is your fault Regina.”

“Really David? I’m not the one who knocked your daughter up.”

“You are the one who cast the curse, causing us to send her through the wardrobe where she grew up an orphan with a vocabulary” – David gave Killian a push through the door – “any sailor would envy.”

Whatever the Queen and his father-in-law sniped back and forth was lost on Killian. His knees felt loose as he tried to make his way up the stairs as quickly as possible. The yelling stopped and a large thump shook the tower. Killian caught himself with one hand on the wall and wrapped the other around Henry. It almost seemed quiet and he assumed the slight grumblings he heard was his wife. Henry looked over at Killian and the boy’s worry pierced through his own.

“I’m afraid this is the way of life.”

“Pain? Yelling?”

“Absolute fear, followed by what I expect will be absolute joy.”

“I’ll cross my fingers for you.”

“She’s the strongest woman I know,” Killian said it, repeated it as it had been his mantra for the last two months. “She’s the strongest woman I know. And. And Emma’s done this before…” He pushed Henry up a step.

The boy nodded and made an effort to keep going up the stairs. “And not is some nice normal hospital. I’m sure a prison hospital doesn’t have a lot of the extras.”

“Like a doctor?” Killian pulled his lips over his teeth. He hadn’t meant to say that, most of all not to the lad.

“Okay, okay, you have a point.” Henry pulled Killian to a stop and tilted his head at their living room. “This is my stop. Just” – he sighed and placed both hands on Killian’s shoulders – “tell Mom I love her and I’m okay down here but if she wants me…”

“I’ll send your grandmother down.” Shrugging off the lad’s hold, Killian wrapped him up tight in a hug. “We can do this.”

“We can and thanks Killian.” Henry hugged him back. “Try not to worry too much. No doctor but we got an experienced dwarf midwife and my Mom’s magic.”

“Not helping.” Killian pushed Henry into the room and turned to take the steps two at time, hoping his knees and legs would hold out when he heard the next yell. Emma was still cursing by the time he reached their room and what furniture was left floated in the air including the bed, which was empty.

“Fuuuuuuckkkkkkkk.” Everything floating dropped to the floor when Emma stopped yelling and started panting.

“Emma!” Killian gaped at his walking wife. Snow and Doc walked with her on either side and glanced away when he shouted.

“Don’t.” Pant. “Start.” Pant. “This is.” Pant, pant. “Going faster.” Pant. “Than planned.”

Emma glared at him. Glared at him as if this was all his…and the breath was no longer stuck in his throat. “You are impossible.”

She laughed then choked it back, her glare sliding into a one-sided smile. Killian leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms with one hip cocked out to smirk at her.

Emma shook her head as the smiled bloomed on her face. “And you love me for it.”

Snow rolled her eyes. Emma changed direction and headed toward her pirate. He spread his arms out and she placed her hands in his.

“Sorry.” Emma pushed him to start walk backwards.

“It’s alright now. Must say, the tower looks marvelously neat for once.”

“Shut up.”

“Well if you’re going to throw everything around each time…” He froze as her hands tightened in his.

“Walk. Fucking walk,” Emma yelled. “AHhhhhhh damn fucking shit….” The remaining furniture floated up into the air.

There was no other choice. Killian would lose his mind if he listened to her curses and the pain breaking through her voice when the contractions hit. Blocking it out was the only way. Blocking all the noise out in favor of her eyes, Emma’s very green and very bright, very determined eyes.

“Fuck,” he cursed with her.

 


 

The pain twisting through her body blurred the world around her and time rewound for Emma.

“Emma.”

She shook her head, ignoring the voice. The pain waves were so close together and she refused to listen to the voices. It wasn’t time to push. She couldn’t push, no, wouldn’t push. After the push, the baby would cry and he would cry and then he would go away again.

“Swan, love, please.”

Killian called to her and Emma blinked. Blinking again, the world slid back into focus which maybe wasn’t the best considering Doc was looking up at her from between her wide spread knees. One of Snow White’s dwarves was going to deliver her babies, her and Captain Hook’s babies. Twins.

“What the fuck is my life.”

“Emma love, look at me.” Killian wiped sweat from her brow and tears from her cheeks. “Emma tell me where you are.”

“Killian,” she panted and glanced around the room. Her mother was at her other side. “Mom. We’re at the island, right?”

“It’s time to push baby,” Snow put one hand on her shoulder and squeezed the one she held. “No one’s going to take your babies away.”

“Oh.” She squeezed both hands holding hers. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry…”

“It’s okay Swan,” Killian reassured her. “But it time to see what a pirate and princess make, okay love? It’s time to push Emma.”

Emma nodded, it made sense. Most likely, it made a lot of sense but still, fucking fear and hormones. “Killian, look at me.” She stared into his blue eyes, eyes of a man who always came back to her. “Tell me. Tell me and I’ll believe you.”

He leaned his forehead against hers and kissed her lips, his hand holding her face steady as he stared into her eyes.

“You’re doing it again.”

He nodded and smiled. “Doing what?”

“Do we really have time for you two to flirt?” Regina asked sharply.

“Stow it your majesty.” Killian never looked away from her, didn’t wipe away the tears that fell. “Doing what, love?”

“Beaming. Happy.”

“Always,” he whispered and suddenly his face turned stern. No, Emma thought, determined. “No one is taking our children anywhere. Do you want to hold our babies?”

Emma closed her eyes and nodded.

“Then push.”

Lightening bolts cracked the sky over the bottomless sea, the storm that had swept over it again and again for the last two hours had reached its pinnacle as the white sorceress who guarded it let loose her pain with a loud long scream and finally pushed.

A baby’s cry sounded out from the room at the top of the tallest tower and Doc lifted the child so her parents could see before holding out the baby to Regina.

Emma stared as Regina wrapped her baby in a blanket. “Please, I need to…”

“We aren’t done here love.” Killian leaned his head against hers. “One more to go and then...”

“I’ll keep her right where you can see her.” Regina wrapped the newborn girl in the blanket, gently cleaning off her face.

“Her?”

Regina smiled at Killian. “It a girl.”

“Adelaide.” The baby wailed once more. “Okay, let get your buddy out here.” Emma took a deep breath in through her nose and slowly exhaled. She squeezed Killian’s and her mother’s hand, her eyes on the baby in Regina’s arms. “Tell me when to push.”

 


 

Shortly before the lightning storm had stopped, Henry had heard his mother’s yell followed by the crying of a baby and about ten minutes later, another crying baby. He thought anyways. The waiting was just about killing him when they heard steps coming down the stairs. Doc waved but didn’t stop. His mom and grandmother followed shortly after and finally Henry was done waiting.

On the other side of the door was his mom, his stepdad and his half whatever. No one had told him. Regina had simply hugged him, tears in her eyes and pushed him out the door. Feelings sucked. The twins weren’t replacements and this would always be his family. After everything, his mom deserved this kind of happy.

And the gods knew there would be more. His mom’s adoption of Esmeralda was almost complete and his grandmother was on schedule to give him another pipsqueak aunt or uncle. His other grandmother had an airship and a realm spinner, (he totally nailed naming her necklace) and his dad was dating, a lot.

The happiness waiting beyond the door shouldn’t make him this nervous so Henry knocked on it.

Killian pulled it open. “Regina insisted on closing this. Something about drafts.” He pulled Henry into the room and across to the bed, slinging an arm around his shoulder.

“Henry,” Emma whispered and held out a hand to him. “You’re here, finally here.”

How long does pregnancy effect the hormones? Henry watched tears track down his mom’s face and even with one arm wrapped around a swaddled bundle she wouldn’t stop staring at him. “What’s going on?”

“What?”

“You’re staring, did you decide not to use the names we agreed to? Cause if so that’s okay. I mean it’s your kid and I guess I’m, like it’s half-brother or whatever and well, if you guys both changed your mind and all I understand…why are you looking at me like you want to smack me?”

“I would never hit you,” Emma grumbled. “and if I’m staring it’s because I’m happy to see you. As if we would go back on a decision this family made.”

“I didn’t mean…”

“What’s this half-brother shit?”

“Um…”

“You will be their brother. Full stop. I don’t give a rat’s ass that you have a different father, Killian doesn’t either.”

“Really, a rat’s ass, love?” Killian interrupted.

“Shut it.” Emma shook her head and took a deep breath. “And neither will they. I…I’m sorry for staring. It was. I just forget, before…”

“Mom?”

Emma scooted over and pulled Henry down to sit next to her. “I kind of freaked during delivery and forgot for a bit, you know, where I was.” She turned to look at Killian.

“She was refusing to push.”

“They took you away, even if it was my choice.” Emma shrugged one shoulder and looked down at the baby in her arms. “And I’m sorry for staring but I’m really happy that you’re here and so are your sisters.”

“Sisters? Both?”

“Yeah,” she said with a smile. “Do you want to hold them?”

“Yeah. But maybe one to start?” Henry looked between the baby in his mother’s arms swaddled in yellow and the baby sleeping in the attached bassinet wrapped up in green. “So, who’s who?”

Emma lifted and shifted and laid the baby from her arms in the crook of his elbow. “This is Eleanor. And yes, we Toy Story-ed them.”

“You wrote their name on their foot? Was color coding not enough?”

“Don’t judge.” Killian checked on the sleeping Adelaide. “I’m fairly certainly they will remain identical.”

“So yeah, magical tattoos on their feet till we figure this whole thing out.”

“Nice Mom,” Henry spoke softly and marveled at his youngest sister. “She’s so tiny.” He traced a finger over her cheek. “So, so tiny.”

Emma yawned and leaned her head on Henry’s shoulder. “Yeah and in about 30 minutes or so, they’re going to be so, so loud and hungry.”

Henry glanced up at Killian as Emma yawned again, her eyes closing.

“Swan, make some room for the rest of us.”

Mumbling Emma managed to make it further across the bed and sat back against the head board. Killian scooped up Eleanor from his arms, ignoring Henry’s indignation and waved one hand for him to move on over. He sat next to Emma and frowned at her. “Your husband’s annoying and bogarting the babies.” Emma laughed and tucked her head onto his shoulder.

Killian rolled his eyes and leaned over to place Ellie back in her brother’s arms before gently picking up the sleeping Addie. “Now lad, it’s time for some family bonding.” Killian maneuvered himself onto the bed next to Henry cradling Addie in his lap. “What say you?”

Henry looked down at Addie and then Ellie as she rested in his arms. “Yeah I guess.”

Emma hooked an arm through his and yawned once more, her eye starting to drift close. “Tell our girls a story, Henry.”

Henry shared an amused glance with Killian as his mother nodded off and Ellie blinked up at him and Addie continued to sleep in her father’s lap. He leaned down gently and kissed Ellie’s forehead.

“Once upon a time…”

Chapter Text

Tales are told throughout the realms.

Tales of shepherds and princes, princesses and bandits, beasts and beauties, queens and thieves and of good and evil and redemption and forgiveness and, most of all, hope. They are all great tales and Henry Mills collects them all, for no two loves are the same nor are any two lives.

It isn’t until he acquired his own vessel, a ship with an enchanted sail (which one father finds suspicious), and a little family of his own that he hears this one.

Historical reenactors are a strange group, to Henry at least, but one summer he and his lend their ship to a Land without Magic group and their storyteller spins the tale of the White Sorceress of the Bottomless Sea.

For those looking for help, for magic, for a way to pull the veil aside and see the full breadth of the universe – there is a world. An enchanted land, a Magic Kingdom if you will, filled with wondrous and strange stories. There you can find The Dark One, who balances the scales of magic and the small mouse who brought the powerful wizard to his knees. Tales of a forest rebel who swept the land of its greatest evil, filling the witch’s heart with love. A land ruled by a Queen and King the embodiment of justice and mercy and love who brought their people out of the darkness as well as produced a number of notorious offspring. It is a land of legendary vessels – submarines and airships where enchanted ships sail the sea and sky effortlessly.

It is the land of the White Sorceress who built her home in the middle of the Bottomless Sea, unafraid of the sea creatures in its depths or the sea gods who ruled the waves. There she lived for hundreds of years, helping every hapless wanderer that washed up on her shores. It is said there she waited for her true love to return and each passing year with his absence the sea grew more turbulent, the sky filled with storms and wanderers in search of her magical benevolence sank into its cold embrace…

 

“Henry!”

“What Ellie?”

“That’s not how the story goes.” Ellie pursed her lips and scowled out at her brother from under her father’s brows.

“Well that’s how they were telling it. What did you expect?”

“Accuracy would be nice.” Addie looked up from her book and tossed her blond hair over her shoulder. “How do other realms get things so bloody wrong?”

“It’s Peter Pan all over again.”

Addie nodded at her sister. “I blame Walt Disney.”

Henry lost it at the identical angry expressions on his sisters’ faces. He once thought identical twins meant that they would look the same but have different, opposing personalities, like any sensible person raised on TV sitcoms. One was meant to be an athletic tomboy and the other a stylish bookworm. Instead, Adelaide and Eleanor were different but complimentary mixes of their parents that were inseparable.

Emma’s shout echoed across the island. “Kids, move it!”

Addie and Ellie looked at each other, staring and Henry mentally counted down. One. Two and off they went, racing each other to the clearing where everyone, literally every living member of their family, waited.

Henry sighed and picked up his son from his basket. “Times up Danny boy.” When he got to the clearing he found, as usual, Snow White in charge of everything. Henry handed off Danny to Ella and received a kiss on the cheek.

“What did you think would happen when you brought back a camera?” Killian came up from behind him and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Well, Dad.” Henry shook his head. “Not this.”

“Come on kid. You’re here and there was no way out of a full family reunion even without the whole picture taking thing.” Emma walked over to join them and slung an arm around her husband’s neck, leaning up to kiss him.

“Ew. Gross. Stop.”

Emma pulled back and spoke without looking away from her husband. “Finnegan Swan-Jones, your grandmother needs you.”

“No she doesn’t.”

“Finn, are your arguing with your mother?” Killian’s brow raised with his question but he didn’t look away from his wife.

“Not arguing, simply disagreeing. Strongly.”

“So noted, boy.” Killian wrapped both arms around Emma and waggled his eye brows at both his sons. “Now go see if you can help your grandmother so I can make out with your mother.”

Henry rolled his eyes and draped an arm around Finn’s shoulders. “And now I second Finn. Ew, gross, stop.”

“Ah, children.” Killian sighed as he dropped a kiss behind Emma’s ear.

“You’re the one who wanted more.” Emma hummed happily and leaned into him.

Killian rested his head against hers. “A terrible decision really.”

“Seriously.” Ellie complained with her hands on her hips.

Addie sighed. “Why are you surprised? It’s like all they do.”

Henry switched his hold on Finn to a headlock and nodded at his sisters. “Come on guys, let’s go see where Grandma wants us to stand.”

Killian Jones ignored his children scurrying off to be placed wherever their grandmother deemed appropriate for the ridiculous family portrait in order to continue kissing his wife. When he felt her teeth against his lower lip, he gave in and leaned down to wrap an arm around her hips and lift her up.

They didn’t make it one step.

“Where do you think you’re going Captain Guyliner?”

Henry settled in front with Ella and Danny and Lucy on a blanket as directed while Snow White instructed Anton on how to take a picture with the digital camera. Charming sat behind them and had roped Gideon into convincing Neal and his brothers to, well, sit still. Rumple and Belle occupied their regular tea table sharing it with Neal and Ariadne. Milah and Nemo and Lumiere stood at the back, looking anxious to take off as soon as possible.

Henry grinned at Gideon and tipped his head toward the Sherwood Forest crowd and Gideon rolled his eyes as they heard Sweet Robin let out another whoop. She then withered under Esmeralda’s glare who quickly pulled all her younger siblings into line.

Regina marched across the clearing and gave Esme a pleased smile and placed her arm around the girl’s shoulders.

“Now Killian, just go there.” Snow pointed at a spot where Addie and Ellie wrestled with Finn. “Adelaide. Eleanor.”

“He started it.” The twins replied in unison.

“I don’t care. This is for the family picture.”

The two girls straightened up, finger combed each other’s hair and more importantly, stopped trying to kill their little brother. “Yes, Grandma Snow.” The girls responded sweetly in unison and three Swan-Jones kids plastered similar innocent smiles on their faces for their grandmother.

Snow shot a frowning look at Emma who shrugged. That was as good as it gets with the heathen three. Henry grinned over his shoulder at his siblings’ antics.

Addie nudged her sister then winked at him. “You need to finish the story Henry.”

“I mean, it’s totally wrong.” Ellie’s head tilted in consideration.

Finn’s head swiveled around, trying to pin down his sisters. “What story?”

Addie grinned at Finn and leaned in close. “The great story of the Magic Kingdom of the Enchanted Forest.”

“Of the Dark One and the Evil Queen,” Ellie added.

Addie spread her arms wide. “Of the mightiest mouse and Robin Hood, Snow White and,”

“Prince Charming.” Ellie fluttered her eyelashes at her frowning little brother as she clasped her hands to her heart.

Addie placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder and laid the other over her forehead in shock. “And most of all, the story of the White Sorceress of the Bottomless Sea and her faithless pirate lover.”

“Are you bloody well kidding me?” Killian growled at the children. “Henry where did you pick up this ridiculously drivel?”

“Um, well.” Henry turned away from his overly dramatic sisters and stuttered over an explanation. “It was, uh, Land without Magic kind of…”

“It’s Peter Pan all over again.” Killian let go of his wife and pointed a finger in Henry’s direction. “I forbid any more of those blasted tales you tell from that bloody awful world.”

“Bloody Disney.”

“Finnegan!” Both his parents shouted.

“But.”

“Stop all of you,” Snow White commanded from her seat on Charming’s knee. “Punish Finn and Henry later. Smile now.”

“But milady, my own children…”

“Stow it pirate and smile.” Snow ground out the words from behind her smile.

At which point, everyone quickly turned their attention to Anton and the camera and smiled.

 


 

Henry traced a finger down his baby boy’s forehead one last time to make sure Danny was asleep. As he walked away from the crib, he picked up the toys Lucy had left out around the family’s bedroom. His mom had suggested asking the dwarves to come out and redesign his tower so they could have more space and privacy but neither Henry nor Ella nor Lucy wanted it.

Henry double checked the conch shell set at the center of the mobile hanging over the crib for the hundredth time and silently walked away so the baby would sleep. Everything was in place and they’d be able to hear him if he awakened.

Down in the living room, Lucy nestled against Ella who closed the picture book on her lap and glanced up at her husband as he came down the stairs.

“She’s out too.”

Henry leaned down to place a kiss on his daughter’s forehead. “I can get another shell if you want to come with me.”

“Mmmmm, no.” Ella shrugged gently, stroking Lucy’s hair with one hand. “This is your time with your parents and the heathens.”

“That almost sounds like you don’t like them.”

“I adore the children.” She grimaced and looked up at him. “I’m still very intimidated by your mother.”

He closed his eyes and shook his head. “You practically shove me to the side to hang out with Regina.”

“True, it’s just Emma, Emma is, well, everything and the savior and…”

“And my grandmother is Snow White.” He grinned at her. “My grandfather’s Prince Charming.”

“I thought that was a line when I first met you.”

“A good line. You like Grandma, so what is it with Emma?”

“Fine.” She crossed her arms and lifted one shoulder. “It’s like she glows or something. I don’t know, everything she’s been through and she’s still this beacon of light or hope or something.”

“That makes no sense.”

“How would you feel if you met Luke Skywalker? Or Hans Holo?”

“Solo. Hans Solo. Okay, so you have some epic hero worship but you’ve known her a while now.”

Ella nodded. “Deal with the fact it’s going to take more time for me to adjust. Plus, I know you. You need time with just you guys.” He looked away and opened his mouth to say something but she held up one hand. “It’s the same with Regina and with your father. You and her or you and Neal walk away from the crowd for some togetherness.”

“Well it’s not just me and Emma, Killian and the devil twins and Finn….”

“Yeah, I know and still, you need time with just them, all of just them.” She smirked at him.

Henry leaned down and squinted at her. Ella let one brow lift up and returned his stare.

“Fine,” he mumbled and pressed a kiss to her smirking lips. “I will be back.”

Ella leaned up and caught his face between her hands and kissed him back. “I will be waiting Henry Mills.”

 


 

Emma shook the pot she held over the heat of the stove one last time. A few kernels tinged against the side but it was done. Removing the lid she turned the contents over into the waiting bowl. It was the last batch of popcorn. Behind her she could hear her girls tinkering with their surprise while Finn and Killian argued quietly about cheating and good form. For all she knew they could be playing chess or dice or three card monty.

Teaching Finn the con was risky but she insisted he follow just two rules. Never play against anyone but his father and never, ever, ever play in front of Gold.

“Hey guys, what are we putting on the popcorn tonight?” She called out without turning around as she lightly buttered and salted her and Killian’s bowl.

“Caramel.”

“Chocolate and salted, too.”

“Caramel then the cheesy powder stuff, mum.” A chair scrapped across the floor and Finn appeared at Emma’s side. “Henry called it Chicago style.”

Emma put a hand on her stomach as it found their requests positively revolting. She looked down at her youngest who smiled so sweetly up at her with his father’s face. “Kid, you want to take over here?”

Finn nodded happily so Emma grabbed the bowl she made for herself, and Killian, and left him to it. He was the only family member who had any interest in cooking. He pulled out the step stool Geppetto had made for him and fixed the bowls to his sister’s specifications.

At the game table Killian stared at the chess board. His hand kept lightly touching the tops of different pieces, tilting them to the side a bit before letting them fall back.

Emma leaned her hip against the table and pushed the bowl into his arms. “Has my son beaten you this time?”

“Our son. No,” he replied. “But if I’m not careful, he may in five moves.”

“Henry should be here soon, come on.” She pulled his hand away from the latest chess piece.

Killian let Emma draw him away to the couch. “Not a one of you heathens is to touch that chess board.”

“Yes, Papa.” The children responded together.

“I mean it.” Killian glared intently at them, swiveling his head to encompass Finn fussing in the kitchen area. “I have memorized the board and we are not having another incident like last time.”

A door opened and Henry watched as Killian nodded his head. “What happened last time?”

Addie crossed the room to Henry, her brows raised in question to which he responded by holding out a bag. “We don’t talk about last time Henry,” she said to him slyly, her lips twitching as she grabbed the bag out of his hands. “Much like how Grandpa doesn’t ever explain why he never accepts the dwarves’ invitation to the tavern.”

“It just isn’t done Henry.” Ellie added from her spot on the floor.

“Okay then.” Henry dropped down on the other side of Emma on the couch. “Clearly it’s better if I never know.”

Addie glared at her brother. “One day, oh yes, one day one of you will crack and I will find out what happened with Grandpa.”

For once it was Killian, Emma and Henry who responded as one. “Nope.”

“Come on Addie.” Ellie waggled her eye brows at her sister. “Let’s do this.”

“Should I ask?”

“Probably not,” Killian answered and put his arm around Emma’s shoulders. “But I thought you knew?”

“More like a vague ideal.”

Emma grimaced as Finn presented a bowl of popcorn mixed with milk duds to Henry with a flourish. He leaned over a bit to check out the bowl she shared with Killian and both his brows shot up.

“That popcorn’s looking a little plain there, Mom.”

“It’s yours that’s looking a little bleh to me.”

Henry shot a glance at Killian who quickly looked elsewhere hiding his own expression. “Seriously?”

Emma ignored him and watched her girls hang a large white table cloth across the fireplace. Addie and Ellie had been fiddling in their playroom for a while now and asking frequently for Henry to send them one thing or another. Today was a super secret little family anniversary and they all exchanged gifts.

It was the day Killian and Emma had returned their rings to their fingers and chosen each other, again. Sighing, Emma leaned her head on Killian’s shoulder and looped an arm around Henry. Addie glared at Finn and pointed to a spot on the side where he promptly set down the girls’ popcorn. When he had his own he wiggled into the space next to Henry.

“Alright my loves, on with your show.” Killian leaned over to speak around Emma. “Unless you’d like to go first?”

Henry coughed as every head turned to him. “The camera was my gift but I was showing it to Grandma and well….”

Finn patted his brother on the shoulder. “We understand.”

Emma choked on a laugh. “It’s okay, distracting your grandmother was a lovely gift.”

“And just what” – he dragged Finn onto his lap and angled them into the corner – “did I distract her from?”

Emma ignored him and waved a hand at Ellie. “Come on baby, give your brother his gift.”

Eleanor Swan-Jones scurried away to a corner of the room and returned with a package wrapped in brown paper. She rocked up and down on the tips of her toes as she glanced at her mother. Emma nodded in encouragement. Ellie rested back on her heels, closed her eyes and seemed to exhale forever.

“It’s time,” she whispered then opened the wide green eyes that she shared with her sister. Her gaze was unfocused as it looked off into the unknown future. “It is time for this to be yours again.”

Addie stood at her sister’s side and pulled the package from Ellie’s hands which went limp at her side. Dropping it into Henry’s lap, she grasped her sister’s hand. “Well open it old man.”

“Sassy brat.” The heavy package was a familiar weight in his lap. “Are you sure?”

“A story is nothing until it is told. An author can write what they will, it is the reader who brings it to life and makes the story immortal.” Eleanor’s voice as distant as her gaze. “And it must be passed on and on and on…”

Killian’s thumb stroked the back of Emma’s hand. She looked up to catch the worry in his eyes. Ellie had some form of the sight and it was unsettling when it took her away from them.

“Baby?” Emma asked gently and drew Ellie’s gaze to her.

Her younger daughter blinked and slowly smiled at her mother. “Hey Mom.” Ellie promptly turned to her twin. “Did I fully explain it?”

“Nope,” Addie answered, shaking her head sadly with a sigh. “Just weird cryptic zoning out. If only you could act like that on purpose. The fun…”

“Adelaide Swan-Jones.” Killian’s voice was gruff.

Emma turned to catch his expression and it was as she thought. He barely managed to hide the glee he got from the potential antics of his children. She rolled her eyes. “Ellie do you want to explain?”

“You know it’d be nice if you could act surprised at what’s inside, Henry.” Ellie swung her hand, still held in her sister’s back and forth. “It’s just a knowing, no prophecy.”

“Are we still glad the fairies burned the books of prophecies?”

“Considering it’s impossible to get them right?” Emma nudged Henry’s leg with hers. “Yeah.”

“Beside we have me,” Ellie piped up again. “Kind of. Anyways, no prophecy just a feeling. And anyways, we already know it by heart.”

“You read it to us every chance you got,” Finn groaned loudly.

Addie sighed in pain as well. “Now you can torture your own kids. Poor Lucy and Danny.”

Emma watched her eldest son slid his hand over the still wrapped package reverentially.

“Thank you.” Hugging the book close Henry turned to the girls. “Is it show time?”

Addie and Ellie sprang into action. Emma watched as Addie directed her sister in setting up what looked like a projector and DVD player. From the moment the twins were born, Adelaide’s fascination and love of the thunderstorms and the lightning grew. Eventually Henry fueled her curiosity with all sorts of gadgets and snap circuits and books then more advanced electrical kits. She and Killian had many discussions about Addie’s interests. Someday, they knew another of their children would venture beyond this realm to find their way.

Emma’s thoughts of that specific future were cut short by her husband whose hold tightened on her as he wiggled about on the couch looking fit to burst.

“Wait.” The pirate’s voice cracked and stopped the girls in their tracks. “We have, um something to…” He became anxious and looked to Emma.

She glared in response.

Killian glared back. “We have something to tell you all.”

Emma sighed and looked at Addie and Ellie then Henry and Finn. “This is so ridiculous.”

Henry started choking on his laughter.

Emma kicked her laughing son and elbowed her husband in the side. “This is your fault, pirate.”

“Pretty sure, it took both of us.”

“Ewwwwwww.” Addie’s face twisted into a sneer. “That’s just not something we need to know. God, I thought you two were adults.”

Ellie giggled at her sister and proceeded to launch herself into her father’s arms. “Do we get to name them?”

Finn’s confused face looked from one to the other to the other. “I don’t get it.”

Emma glared her other children into silence then moved to hold both of Finn’s hands. “Kid, I’m pregnant, again.” She kept her eyes on his. “So. Uh, in about six months or so, you’ll have a new baby brother or sister.”

The boy, Killian’s mini-me down to the thick black brows furrowed solemnly, nodded slowly and didn’t look away when he leaned closer to whisper. “Not twins though? Please.”

“Hey! I heard that.”

“Come on Addie,” he whined. “You know you agree with me.”

“Not twins.” Emma nodded. “And I know I agree with you.”

“Mommmm.”

Everyone ignored the girls who were smiling at each other. There were plans and schemes forming in their heads but Emma trusted her girls whose hearts were always in the right place. She sat back and opened her arms to Finn who set his popcorn aside to crawl into his mother’s lap. Henry grabbed the bowls and settled closer to her side as well. 

It was when her Addie slid to the floor and sat back against her father’s leg that Emma finally relaxed. One last thing to do. She turned her head and there he was waiting, his lips puckered. One not so quick kiss from her husband later, Emma was fully settled with her little family around her.

“Time for the show.” Addie flicked buttons on a remote control.

Emma looked down when Henry lowered his head on her shoulder. Her eyes tearing, again, her kid was just so big, grown with kids of his own and the damn hormones were back. He reached out a hand to the package next to him. She leaned her head on his.

“What is it kid?” She whispered.

“Maybe you need this back?”

Her head rolled back and forth on top of his in a no. “You know why I asked them about handing that over to you?”

Henry shook his head gently.

“The heathens wanted to see how much they remembered.” She wrinkled her nose. “And they rewrote it, with illustrations. So we have that and you get the original.”

“They nailed it didn’t they?”

“Yeah but don’t tell them I said that.” She shrugged slightly. “The fact is, they spent many, many years and every moment they could making their older brother read it to them. So they decided it was important that their niece and nephew get the same experience.”

Henry tilted his head to smile at her. “Your children are frightening.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “Yes. Every single one of you.”

“Silence, please.” Addie called over her shoulder as an old but familiar image filled the screen, making five heads snap around to look at Killian. “This is for you, Papa.”

“Bloody hell,” he whispered hoarsely, disgust dripping down his face. “Peter bloody Pan. Fucking Disney.”

“Papa!” Addie held a hand to her heart in shock but ruined it by giggling.

“Such language.” Ellie shook her head sadly while her body shook with glee.

“You do remember you’re the “adult” here.” Finn admonished with air quotes.

Emma smiled over at Henry as her heathen children broke into uproarious laughter but he was once again focused on his gift. He pulled the paper away to revel the cover. The beginning of this very moment, the start of their little family that grew so much bigger than she had ever imagined was right there, under her kid’s finger as he traced the words embossed on the cover.

“Once upon a time…” Henry said quietly.

And the makeshift screen paused on London in the moonlight. Emma didn’t have to turn her head, she settled further into her husband’s side with her youngest son wrapped in her arms as three heads swung around to look at their brother, two light and one dark. Instead she looked to Killian, watching his slow smile bloom.

Ellie leaned out of his arms a bit. “Go on.”

Finn turned to Henry, nudging him with his foot. “We can save the movie for Lucy and Danny and Ella and…well you know, everyone’s going to want to watch it.”

Emma bit her lip to not laugh at the dawning horror on her husband’s face.

Addie reached out to pat him in comfort. “Don’t worry, we made Henry get the whole Disney collection, Papa. Everyone gets to be mortified.”

Henry pulled the rest of the paper off his first and favorite storybook and glanced from one sister to the other to Finn with a single raised brow.

Without thought, well, Emma assumed it was without thought as the second Henry raised the silent question all three nodded, speaking together.

“Tell us the story Henry.”

Henry began again. “Once upon a time…”