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We used to be broken (but we can heal, I'm sure.)

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They meet by chance.

 

He is wandering in the Enchanted Forest, not a long time after Gothel separated him from his daughter. Now, his ten years old girl is alone in the tower, and he can't get back to her, because of this curse of the poisoned heart.

 

And he walks, and walks because there is nothing else he can do.

 

He doesn't let her completely alone (no, he can't do it, he already did it with Bae, it's not happening again, not anymore), but he lets his crew with her, they will look after her, they promised they would.

 

Smee did, in fact, as some of the other pirates, and they may not saw him since ten years, but the thing is that they are still loyal to him, and if it doesn't help to heal the pain or to make it disappear, it helps a little.

 

His little girl won't be completely alone, and she shouldn't have to be separated from him, hadn't he been such an idiot, fighting for his honor, fighting for the thing that shouldn't have mattered for him, but he did. And now, they are both alone, far from each other.

 

Because these pirates won't be her family, even if they were one for him.

 

It breaks him, to be forced to recognize it, but he should have listened to the imp.

 

This one, even in his madness, knew what mattered the most, and it doesn't really surprise the pirate, regarding to who the Dark One lost, his own son.

 

His child.

 

Just as he himself did during this day.

 

He failed her, he failed Alice, his daughter, just as his own father used to do in the past, and this breaks him too.

 

Because he is still hearing her, his daughter's cries, asking him to save her.

 

But he can't. He never was a Savior, and never will.

 

He will always be a pirate.

 

He wishes he could be more than that.

 

He wishes he could stop disappointing his daughter.

 

§§§§

 

He isn't the only one to be broken.

 

She is, too.

 

Her.

 

Rapunzel.

 

Just like him, she had been broken by Gothel' actions, by what she did, and also the things she made her do.

 

The witch destroyed her (or maybe that she destroyed herself and the things around her, maybe that she was already broken when this damn witch told her that she would be happy if she cursed Cecilia, that everything would be easier then), and, now she has nothing else than her pain.

 

Marcus was dead.

 

He died because of her, because of this whole situation, because of this mess, he died because she went too far in her project.

 

He died because she killed him.

 

He died, and now she is all alone, even though she still has her daughters (but not the one who matters the most for her, the one who is the symbol of what had been taken from her, and maybe that if she can make her come back, everything that had been broken will be fixed), and it happened because of her.

 

It was an accident, and no one ever knew what she did, not even Drizella or Ella, and none of them realized what really happened, and it's the reason why they can't understand why their mother became so cold.

 

Even if Rapunzel is trying, she is really trying, so hard that it hurts her, it's hard to look at Ella and not to see Cecilia in her, or to see what she did to the other woman.

 

A part of her heart begins to hate the little girl, because she is a constant reminder of what happened to her, of what Gothel did to her, of what she herself did to the poor woman.

 

It's hard to look at Drizella, and not to think about Anastasia, her dear and precious daughter, that she lost because of an accident.

 

But she will make her come back, she knows it.

 

And then, everything will be okay, as it used to be.

 

§§§§

 

He was tired when he arrived next to the house. The pirate didn't really walk during a long time, as Rapunzel's house wasn't really that far away from the tower, but it was the first house the pirate saw since he left it.

 

And the thing is that before arriving, he walked without any real purpose, just wandering here and there.

 

He had no idea of where he could go, the only thing he knew, was what he wanted to do.

 

To find a cure for his poisoned heart.

 

Oh, and destroy Gothel too.

 

He may just cared for his daughter now, but it didn't mean he didn't want to get revenge.

 

Arriving close to the house, he saw on the outside a young girl, sitting down on the ground, who couldn't be more than eleven years old, and who had a doll in her hand, and a book in the other, that she was reading.

 

She had dark hair, and also a melancholic air on the face.

 

She started as she saw the strange man, and she looked at him with curiosity.

 

“Who are you ? She asked him. And why are you here ?

 

- My name is Killian Jones (he wasn't stupid enough to name himself as the pirate he used to be. He abandoned his statute when he had his daughter. Until captain Achab threw it back into his face and reminded him of who he really was), and I am looking for… (he didn't himself know) for a place, where I could have some rest.”

 

The door then abruptly opened, and a woman got out of it, a weapon (it was a crossbow, in fact, not a frying pan like the one the fake Rapunzel had with her.) in her hand that she pointed at him.

 

“Drizella, enter into the house, right now, she ordered to her daughter, with worry.”

 

Drizella obeyed, and immediately left them.

 

The pirate blinked with surprise, when he recognized her.

 

“Rapunzel ? He asked her with astonishment, really hoping that it wasn't again Gothel, disguised as the young woman.

 

- How do you know my name ? She asked him, still having her weapon in her hand, not ready to get rid of it.

 

How could he say this…

 

Hey, we slept together, but this was not really you, so we never met before, but I do know you in a certain way, even if it was not you…

 

So, then…

 

I’m happy to meet you ?

 

I guess…

 

I would be, if we were in other circumstances.

 

- Please, he said, not answering to her question, could you stop pointing this at me ? I personally don't want to be shoot by you, by accident, or purposely.”

 

She accepted, still suspicious toward him.

 

“Who are you ?

 

- Killian Jones.”

 

She looked at the place where his left hand should have been, and she became pale when she saw the hook, and she took again her weapon in her hand.

 

“You're a pirate, aren't you ? You're the infamous Captain Hook.

 

- Well, he said with a smile, I would have preferred to be known as the “famous” Captain Hook, but yes, it's me. And his face became dark. Or it was.

 

- Why are you here ?

 

- As I told it to your daughter, if she is, I want a place to get rest, I was separated from my daughter some hours ago. I just left the tower where she is imprisoned.”

 

Astonished, Rapunzel put her weapon down a new time.

 

“What ? What did you just say ?

 

- An evil witch, Gothel, I guess it’s the same than the one who imprisoned you some years ago, she did it with my daughter too.

 

- So, you know Gothel. Why do you hate her so much ?” Rapunzel asked him.

 

Hook's look was sharp and full of hatred.

 

“She took my daughter from me. Just as I told you. And you ? I kind of know, but I guess you still hate her.”

 

- She turned my life into a true Hell, the widow answered.

 

- How ?

 

- You first. What happened to you ?

 

- Ten years ago, I entered in this tower, searching for magic, and I found you. As Rapunzel blinked with surprise, he added. It was her, disguised in you, and she sent me on a quest to find a magic flower, which would allow her to flee herself from the tower.

 

- The tower in which she locked me up, and where I locked her up too, added Rapunzel bitterly.

 

- A thing I didn't know at that time. I found the flower I was looking for, and, instead of running away from her, and leaving the place, and then, getting my revenge, I came back to the tower. He chuckled. Maybe I shouldn't have, the irony is that, at this time, I tried to do the honorable thing, and it turned against me.

 

- What happened then ? I guess the story isn't over.

 

- The best part of it is coming right now, love, he said, ironic. Then, she… “thanked” me, if I can say that… We slept together after I gave her the flower who could help her flee.

 

- So… she made you sleep with her and… it was me, in a sense. Must have been awful to discover who she was, hum ?

 

- Yes, indeed. She used magic to get pregnant and so her baby would be born the morning after that.

 

- She is your daughter… and she stayed imprisoned in the tower, because Gothel needed someone of her blood to be able to escape, Rapunzel realized, having a disgusting air on her face. It doesn't surprise me, after what she did to me…

 

- What happened ?

 

- My husband and I, we were on a way to find something to cure him, as he was sick. And we did, well, I did. I found it, in Gothel's garden, and, well… she was not ready at first to give me anything. Well, not freely, in fact. So…

 

- You made a deal with her. And she took your freedom from you. She locked up you in this terrible tower.

 

- Yes, she did. For six years, before I found a way to escape. And then, I realized that it was what she wanted… She wanted me to go, and discover that I had been replaced, that someone else took my place in my family, someone else became the mother of my daughters, someone else was my husband's wife. My family was happy, even without me, and she wanted me to know it, to see it, and to ruin it. Well, she wanted to test me, to be sure that I was the Guardian she was looking for. Someone who would be pure of heart.

 

- But you weren't, right ? Because, I guess that if it was the case, your family would be as it used to be.

 

- Indeed. I… I poisoned Cecilia, and I made her leave, because her heart was poisoned, and any time she would touch Marcus, my husband, she would get hurt.”

 

When she saw the pirate's face become terribly pale, she understood something was wrong.

 

“This is what she did to me, the man confessed. She poisoned me too, she poisoned my heart, so any time Alice touches me, I will be hurt.

 

- I am sorry.

 

- And then ? What happened ?

 

- She left, I reconnected with my husband, and then...”

 

Rapunzel suddenly stopped. She couldn't, she just couldn't tell him what happened to Anastasia. Only Marcus knew it, he was the only one who used to know, with her and Gothel, that their little daughter was still alive, that she was in her coma, from which she couldn't wake up. Drizella and Ella still thought that their sister/step-sister was now gone.

 

So, she said nothing.

 

“Something terrible happened. Gothel did something terrible to me, and then… my husband died. I killed him, by accident. And now, I am all alone, with my daughter, Drizella, and a child, Ella, who is not my real child. Who will never be my daughter. And all I want is revenge against the woman who destroyed my family. I trapped her, in her tower, but now, according to what you told me, she is free. And she can hurt my family again. I refuse to let this happen again. I won't let her ruin everything another time.”

 

There was furor in the woman's eyes, a furor the pirate understood easily, because it was a furor that he himself shared with her.

 

“I know what it is, you know. The will of revenge. He chuckled. For years, for literally centuries, I lived with just this in my heart. Everything stopped the day I had my daughter.

 

- Really ? You just stopped wanting revenge ? Rapunzel asked him in interest and curiosity.”

 

She didn't know herself if she would be able to stop feeling this rage, this anger, against the woman who took her freedom, her family, her daughter from her.

 

She didn't know if she could, or if she wanted this.

 

Her anger helped her to deal with her pain, the pain of her loss, her loss of Marcus and Anastasia.

 

“Yes, he answered. I looked at this little child, in my arm, who was my daughter, and I was everything she had in the world, and I just couldn't let her here, I just couldn't abandon her. So, I stopped being a pirate, and I began the father Alice deserved. Or so, I tried to, he added bitterly, remembering that he failed her just the other day.

 

- Hey ! Rapunzel said, feeling the strange urge to comfort him. This is not your fault ! Gothel did this, she is the only culprit who has to be blamed.”

 

Hook had an ironic look and a cynical laugh, which were terrifying and which made Rapunzel be afraid of what he could do against her if he wanted to attack her.

 

Because there was so much pain in his eyes, so much anger…

 

Just as in herself, she realized.

 

“Do you have any idea of the reason why I was cursed ?

 

- No. No, of course, no. I guess Gothel just wanted to punish you for some obscure reason.

 

- No. She did it, because I didn't come back home at the right time. Because I fought for my honor, instead of going back to the tower, to my daughter, with the magical artifact which could have freed her from where she was locked up ! I made one bloody freaking detour, and she punished me for this, because she thought I was not good enough for Alice !”

 

Rapunzel grinned.

 

“She can talk, she said with irony. She is the one who abandoned her daughter, who wanted to leave her alone, in a tower where she would have grown up with no one to raise her properly, as you did. This tower may be enchanted to make the occupant of this survive, but it doesn't mean this is enough to truly live. I know it well, I had to endure it for six years. You don't have to feel guilty for this Killian, I am sure she was just waiting for an occasion to trap you. Unfortunately, you gave one to her, but it was just a mistake.”

 

The pirate smiled, warmed and moved by this unknown woman's defense, who was the first person of not accusing him of anything, while he deserved it.

 

“Yeah. But maybe she wanted to punish me for my past crimes and mistakes.

 

- People can change. Look at me, she did attack me when I was still innocent. Now, because of her, I turned into a monster.

 

- I am sure you're not.

 

- How can you be sure of this ? You don't know me, you know nothing about me, except what I accepted to tell you. You have no idea of what I did.

 

- I think you're wrong, Rapunzel. Because you're the one who has no idea of what I did.”

 

And suddenly, she smiles.

 

“At least, we can both agree on the fact that we are both monsters. And that we have a common enemy. Would you accept to help me fight Gothel ? I guess this is the only thing we can do now.

 

He nodded.

 

- I accept, of course. I guess I will need some help.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

He stays.

 

The first night at Rapunzel's house is not the better he ever had. His night is short, his sleep is not good, and he wakes up abruptly at 5 am.

 

He dreamed of his daughter, who was asking for help, desperate to have no answer.

 

When he woke up, there was a little girl standing up next to him with an air of curiosity on her face.

 

It was the other girl, the one who was not Rapunzel’s daughter, Hook remembered.

 

Ella.

 

“Hum… Hello… What are you doing here ?

 

- I couldn't sleep, she simply answered, as if it explained everything, crossing her arms.”

 

Did Rapunzel tell her at all who he really was ? Did she tell her that he was a pirate and that it would be better if she didn’t stay too much close to him ?

 

Well, if she did, the kid was not listening to her at all.

 

“Did your step-mother tell you why I’m here ?

 

She frowned.

 

- She said you were trying to find a way to get back to your daughter.”

 

Oh. So, she didn’t tell them everything.

 

Maybe that she thought that they were too much young to heard things about pirates, criminals, and monsters.

 

He smiled for himself.

 

Maybe that she was a much more better mother than she thought she was, if she did it in order to protect them from the cruelty of the world.

 

Hook then had a sad smile.

 

“Aye… Yes, this is what I am trying to do.”

 

She sat down next to him, directly climbing on the bed, and Killian realized that he was surely not going to sleep for real for this night.

 

But it was not like he would have succeeded to sleep either, and he was in fact grateful toward the little girl, since she could help him to support this night more easily, if they both decided to talk together during the rest of the night.

 

“Why ? What happened to you ? And her ? How did you lose her ?”

 

I made a bad life choice.

 

As I always do.

 

“I made a mistake, he confessed. A terrible mistake. I am a pirate, he finally told her, wanting to be sincere with the little girl. Or in fact, I was one, once.

 

There was no fear in Ella’s eyes, only a wild curiosity, and her eyes were shining with excitement.

 

- A pirate ? She exclaimed, astonished. A real one ? Like those who are traveling into the sea, going to new worlds, hunting for treasures ?”

 

Killian smiled again, and it was a real one this time, as he was quite amused by the girl’s naive and refreshing way of seeing things.

 

She was still a little girl, after all, it was normal that she saw things she didn’t know well in a far more brighter way than they really were.

 

And he was not going to delude her about it for now, she deserved to continue to dream for a time, even if one day, she would surely know that pirates were not really good people.

 

He wanted her to stay innocent for now, she would have time to grow up and learn hard truths later.

 

She kind of reminded him of his Alice, by the way, because of her curiosity and to think again about his little girl made him loose his smile.

 

Oh, he missed her so much now, it did hurt him to be far from her, even though they were separated since only one day.

 

Ella saw it, and she frowned, understanding that she might have said something wrong without wanting to do it, and she tried as much as she could to divert him from his dark thoughts.

 

“What… what happened to you then ? Why did you stop being a pirate ? In fact, why did you become a pirate at all ?”

 

She had not come here by chance, but because she was bored and couldn't sleep, and that she had nothing to do, so it made her being really interested by his story.

 

The little girl felt quite lonely in this big house, being only surrounded by her step-mother, her step-sister, and their servants.

 

Rapunzel was a bit cold toward her, she was not a bad mother, this was not what she thought or felt about her, she was not cruel, but it was clear that she didn’t consider Ella as her own daughter (and since Anastasia was dead, it was even worst), but to be honest, the contrary was also true for the little girl.

 

Her true mother was Cecilia, and would always be, and even if she was gone since years now, it would not change soon.

 

Drizella, as for her, was like her mother, she was still hurt by Anastasia’s loss, even though she hid it better than her mother, she also had difficulties to form a real bond with her step-sister, as Ella herself.

 

She was alone, and she wanted someone to talk with her.

 

In fact, Hook then realized that he hadn’t told Rapunzel about his past as a pirate, or about his past quest for revenge against Rumplestiltskin.

 

He told her he wanted to destroy Gothel, and get his daughter back, but he still hadn’t told her about this part of his past.

 

(Just like she didn’t tell him anything about Anastasia.

 

They both had hidden wounds and dark secrets.)

 

But indeed, they had met just yesterday, it was not surprising that he didn’t trust her enough to tell her that kind of things.

 

She was still a complete stranger to him, after all.

 

So, yeah, if he still didn’t tell to a grown up woman that he had tried for centuries to kill a sorcerer, the “crocodile”, could he talk about that with a twelve-years old kid ?

 

He didn’t think so.

 

And by the way, could he tell her about his brother’s death ?

 

Or about all these other things he lived or did ?

 

He decided he wouldn't.

 

Not for now, not with her.

 

“This is a really long story. I became a pirate because I was hit by a terrible injustice which happened in my family. I stopped being a pirate after my daughter was born, because I didn’t want to leave her alone in her tower.

 

- But… Ella asked, surprised. Why didn’t you take her with you ?

 

Hook froze, before remembering that, no, unlike her step-mother, Ella didn’t know that Alice was trapped into a tower for what seemed to be like forever, because of some blood magic.

 

- I couldn't. Magic… magic had trapped her in it.

 

- Then, why did you leave her alone ? Why are you here ?

 

- I’m cursed. An evil witch named Gothel, the one who locked up your step-mother some years ago, she poisoned my heart, so, any time I am near my daughter, anytime she touches me, I’m hurt, and if I stay too much close to her, I die. I am looking for a way to cure myself.

 

- And how is Rapunzel going to help you do so ?

 

- Your step-mother wants to get her revenge on Gothel as much as I want to do. To be honest, I still don’t know what we are going to do against her, I know nothing about magic, all I want is Gothel to be… to be stopped and locked up for forever.”

 

(He had almost said he wanted her to be killed or dead, before stopping himself.

 

Again, she was a child, she didn’t need yet to hear things about murders or killings, even if it was exactly what he wanted to do to Gothel.

 

To make her suffer.

 

To make her pay.

 

Hell, what would Alice say of him, if she was seeing him being this way ?

 

Didn’t he promise to change for her ?)

 

Ella nodded her head, listening to all of this really carefully, with a serious air on her face, which was making her look a little older than she really was.

 

“And then… after it’s done, after you stop being cursed, and your daughter is free… What are you going to do ?”

 

Hook blinked, surprised.

 

To say the truth, he had never thought about it any second before Ella asked him the question.

 

He… he didn’t know.

 

He couldn't be a pirate again, not with Alice being in his life now, of course, he couldn't go back to this life anymore, this was not who he was, or so he hoped, the duel he had with Achab kind of showed the contrary.

 

“I… I have no idea, he answered. I guess that my daughter and me, we will try to find a place where we can live without me being recognized as the pirate I was once.

 

- You could also stay with us ! Ella affirmed, sounding hopeful and maybe also a little pleading too.

 

- What ?

 

- I mean… if you have nowhere else to go, well, you could stay here.

 

- Why ? You don’t know me, I don’t belong to your family, and I’m sure all of you would be better without me being here. In fact, staying here now is a bad idea. The more I stay here, the more I risk to cause you troubles, because of my conflict with Gothel. She might come back here, in order to hurt me or your family.

 

- I don’t really think she can hurt us more than she already did. And if she tries to, you and Rapunzel will protect us, right ?”

 

He smiled and his heart broke as he saw the complete and sincere confidence which was in Ella’s eyes.

 

Since Alice, it was the first time that someone did believe that he could be someone good.

 

“Aye… I swear I will try, kid. But, for what other reason do you want me to stay here after we defeat Gothel, by the way ?

 

The sadness which immediately appeared in Ella’s eyes made him realize that he had surely asked the wrong question, and he regretted asking it.

 

“My dad died when I was really little, I never knew him, to say the truth, I don’t remember him at all. Then, my mom got remarried with Marcus, while Rapunzel was locked up into her tower. He was like a father to me, I really loved him, and then, everything was ruined. Rapunzel came back, and my mother left me. She… she abandoned me, the little girl said, with tears in her eyes.”

 

No, no, she didn’t, she left you because she had no other choice. She wanted to protect those she loved. Just like I did it myself with Alice, he thought, remembering Rapunzel’s confession about that, but knowing too that he couldn't say that to her, that it was not the time nor the place, or his role.

 

He just kept listening to her.

 

“And then, my dad lost hope that he could find my mother and he just came back home, him and Rapunzel seemed to be really happy… And so were we. I just told myself : “Hey, maybe that we can really be the family we all always wanted to have and be, maybe that we can make things work…” Except that… then Anastasia got drowned, died, and Marcus died as well.”

 

Killian immediately froze.

 

Rapunzel didn’t tell him anything about her.

 

Then, he remembered a thing that Rapunzel had told to him, without saying it clearly.

 

Something terrible happened.

 

Gothel did something terrible to me.

 

She must have been talking about her, for sure.

 

“Excuse me, but… who is Anastasia ?

 

- Oh… I’m sorry, I thought… I thought Rapunzel had told you. She was my step-sister, Drizella’s sister, and Marcus’ and Rapunzel’s daughter… During winter, while we were making a snowman, my scarf was taken by the wind, and I had the stupid idea of walking on the ice because I wanted to get it back.

 

And I didn’t tell anyone I was doing so. Anastasia followed me, the ice broke and we fell into the water. Marcus… he plunged into the lake, immediately,and saved me. He never got the chance to get her in time. She died.”

 

Tears began to roll along her face, and Hook immediately heard the guilt in her voice.

 

He then did what he would have naturally did in the same situation, had it happened with his daughter. He hold her into his arms, while she continued crying.

 

He gently brushed her hair, and hell, it really felt weird, to do this with a girl who was not his daughter, except that at the same time, it felt terribly right because they both had lost someone they cared about, were both separated from someone they loved.

 

And because they both needed comfort, even one coming from some stranger, and the only reason why he was not crying too was because she was the one who was in pain and who needed to be listened to.

 

“Ella, listen to me. You did nothing wrong, it was an accident, this is not your fault.”

 

She got away from him and nodded her head, before wiping her tears.

 

“I know that, she sobbed. But… now I feel like Rapunzel thinks I did it, and that she resents me for Anastasia’s death, and I think she hates me for that.

 

How could anyone hate a child for something which was not its fault ?

 

She tries to cope with it the best it can, maybe it’s the only way she found to grieve her daughter’s death.

 

Not the best one…

 

Says the one who thought that hating the Dark One’s son for being the Dark One’s son was a good idea, before realizing that the father and the son had nothing in common.

 

- Well, she shouldn't. And you shouldn't feel guilty for just being alive.”

 

She tried to smile.

 

He was the first person to tell her that.

 

“But, in fact, she added, remembering why she had beginning all this conversation, my point is that, since Anastasia is gone… Our family is broken. What I once could call family doesn’t exist anymore.

 

- What does it have to do with me ?

 

- I don’t have a father anymore. Drizella doesn’t either. Not since Marcus died. And I thought that maybe… you could be our new father. If you wanted to be, of course.”

 

What ?

 

What the hell is this ?

 

“What do you want exactly ? Me, to date your step-mother ?”

 

He thought again about Milah, and his heart broke a new time.

 

He had slept with other women since her death, Gothel was a good example of it (hum, hum…), but to fall in love again ?

 

He was not sure he could.

 

Not disturbed, she just shrugged with nonchalance.

 

“If you want to, why not… But this is not what I mean. I am simply talking about… co- parenthood ? I guess… Maybe ?

 

- We just met, and you don’t know me.

 

- I know that you’re the only who told me I had nothing to do with Anastasia’s disappearance. You know me as well, you don’t care at all, because we just met, and yet, you tried to comfort me when I needed to be… Your daughter must be a lucky one, to have someone like you.”

 

Yeah…

 

Alice.

 

“I am not sure you’re right, he said bitterly. I failed her the other day. I fought for my honor instead of coming back home immediately, Gothel maid me pay, and now, I’m cursed and she is still locked up in her tower.

 

- This is not your fault. She trapped you, she cursed you, it’s the witch’s fault, not yours.”

 

He smiled at the little girl.

 

“Tell me, she asked, shyly. Can I… can I stay with you ? For the night ? I can’t sleep, and I don’t think I will if I don’t have someone with me… And I don’t dare going to Rapunzel’s or Drizella’s bedroom.”

 

In a flash, he remembered all the times where his daughter had asked him the same thing, because of a nightmare involving Gothel, or for any other reason.

 

He nodded.

 

“Of course.”

 

She smiled, and cuddled against his chest, and hell, she seemed to be so little, just like Alice herself was, and guilt came back, and he tried to ignore it, even if it was easier said than done…

 

If he closed his eyes for enough time, he could almost imagine that it was Alice that he was right now holding in his arms, and he understood why Ella wanted to have a new father, since she missed hers so much.

 

He wanted Alice to be with him, to be back into his arms, he just wanted to tell her everything would be okay, even if it was a complete lie.

 

For the first time of the night, as he was finally coming back to sleep, he allowed himself to silently cry.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The morning after, Rapunzel had the surprise not to find Ella in her habitual bedroom, that she used to share with Drizella, but since Anastasia’s “death”, the two girls both had their own room.

 

She immediately felt an unexpected feeling of worry cross through her as she realized her step-daughter was missing, which showed that, unlike what she genuinely believed, she did care a little about the little girl.

 

Well, enough to be scared when this one was not where she should have been.

 

Wandering though the entire house, she went to Drizella’s room first, in order to see if Ella was there, as she used to be once, but she only found her little girl on her bed, sleeping peacefully.

 

She looked at her silently, and felt a wave of love invade her.

 

And then, realization hit her.

 

She was keeping Drizella away from her since Anastasia’s “accident”.

 

She had been so much taken by her quest to wake up Ana, that she hadn’t seen that she had another daughter, just in front of her, who worth something too, as Ana did, as Ella too, that she loved, a daughter who just wanted to be loved by her.

 

For some seconds, she tried to imagine being cruelly separated from her daughter like Hook had himself just been separated from his own child, and she felt her heart break into a thousands of pieces.

 

She had already lost Ana (not for forever, no, no, she swore to herself, she would one day find a way to get her back, to woke up her), if she lost Drizella too…

 

Her world would completely explode and mean nothing to her anymore.

 

And it would be the same if she lost Ella too, she understood, a girl who was not her daughter, but who was considered as being it by Marcus, who perceived her as being his daughter, as much as Drizella and Anastasia were.

 

This one didn’t deserve to be hated by her, but to say the truth, the reason why she couldn’t love her was because of what she did to Cecilia.

 

But it didn’t mean that the girl deserved to be mistreated because of what she herself did.

 

(She knew it, one day, she would have to tell Ella what had really happened to her mother, just as she would have to say to Drizella and Anastasia that she had killed their father.

 

One day, when Anastasia would be awaken again, when she would get enough courage to do so.)

 

Just as Drizella didn’t deserve not to be loved because her sister was gone for what seemed to be like forever.

 

Walking slowly near her daughter’s bed, she smiled at her, and she felt a tear roll along her face.

 

Hell, she had been really a bad mother, wasn’t she ?

 

She kissed her daughter’s forehead, trying to remember the last time she had that kind of moment with her, and realized that nothing like that had happened since Anastasia had disappeared, and she cursed herself for her own behavior.

 

Rapunzel had just seen a father devastated because he had been separated from his daughter, that he may not see for forever, and her, she was complaining because she had temporary lost one of her three daughters ?

 

Yes, her pain was still real, but at least, unlike Hook, Ana was near her, she could fight for her, and she had still two daughters she could love and take care of.

 

She promised to herself that now, she would.

 

Some seconds later, Drizella opened her eyes, and blinked with surprise.

 

“Mom ? What are you doing here ?”

 

She smiled at her with sadness.

 

Did it become so unusual for her to go to see her in her room so Drizella was surprised when she showed herself there ?

 

When did their relationship become so fucked up ?

 

When did she let it become this way ?

 

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

 

I’m so sorry, Drizella.

 

“I love you Drizella, she just said.”

 

A light of surprise and joy appeared in the girl’s eyes, and her look then softened, a smile appearing on her face.

 

“Hum… I love you too mom.”

 

When did our mother-daughter relationship become that awkward ?

 

And the other important question was : what could she do to fix it ?

 

Well, only by making Drizella understand that she mattered a lot for her.

 

Yes, she loved her, and she would do anything so she wouldn’t forget this truth : she was her mother and she cared about her.

 

Oh, and yes, she had to find Ella now.

 

“Tell me, Drizella, do you know where Ell… where your sister is ?

 

It still felt strange to say it aloud, it meant that she was beginning to consider Ella as being her real daughter.

 

- I don’t know… I think I saw her leaving her bedroom this night and going to Killian Jones’ room. I think she couldn’t sleep again.”

 

Rapunzel frowned.

 

“What do you mean by “again” ?

 

- Well, she frequently has nightmares and insomnia, she once used to go to my room, but she stopped when Ana… got drowned. Because she thought I blamed her for what happened.

 

Oh.

 

Because she thinks Cecilia abandon her right ?

 

So this is just my fault.

 

- Did you ?

 

- No ! But…

 

- But I did… Rapunzel realized, her eyes opening wide at the other realization.”

 

Indeed, she did it, and so did Drizella herself, unconsciously.

 

The daughter replicated the mother’s behavior.

 

Another thing she would have to fix soon.

 

“Fine, I will take care of it later… First, I have to know where she is. Thanks for helping me Drizella.”

 

Her daughter smiled to her another time, and Rapunzel felt well for the first time since Gothel came back into her life in order to ruin it again.

 

§§§§

 

When she entered into Killian Jones’ room, she didn’t expect to find what she would see, that is to say : her step-daughter cuddled against him, and as she saw it, she was reminded of how Drizella or Anastasia once used to sleep with her and Marcus this way, when they were still little girls, before she was locked up into her tower, and before everything went down.

 

She felt an unexpected tenderness take her at this scene, and she smiled, and for one second, she hoped that things could go back as they used to be before, when Ana was still here, and when Cecilia was still not here.

 

But then, Rapunzel shook her head.

 

It wouldn’t, not until Anastasia woke up again.

 

Not until Gothel was defeated and destroyed.

 

Realizing that it was still early, she decided to let them sleep together for some time, realizing they both needed some sleep, since Ella had came here because of insomnia, and since the pirate must have talked with her before letting her finally take some rest. So, he needed to sleep too.

 

She asked herself how it would feel like, to have it again, to have a new time the family she had lost when both Anastasia and Marcus were taken from her.

 

(No, her conscious corrected her, when you turned bad and lost them because of your actions.)

 

Going at the kitchen, she asked to the cook to prepare a breakfast for everyone for two hours later, and this one looked at her with surprise.

 

It was the first time it was happening since… the accident, no one in the family ate with the otters, or at the same moment, in fact, the three women of the house always ate alone.

 

And he decided not to ask her why, still it was not his job, so he did what he was asked to do.

 

§§§§

 

Two hours later, everyone was up, and Rapunzel seemed to be more… peaceful than she was the previous day, Hook rapidly remarked.

 

It was really furtive, and not really visible for someone who wouldn't have paid attention, and the truth is that he hadn’t known Rapunzel for a very long time (well if you didn’t take into account the fake Rapunzel thing), but he could see that her behavior was quite different from what it was the previous day.

 

She was more… warm toward her daughters, and Killian saw at two or three occasions a real smile draw itself on the girl’s faces, another detail which showed that, even if Rapunzel was not the best mother of the world, yet, she was at least trying.

 

It was something, more than anything Gothel ever done for Alice.

 

The atmosphere had quite changed too, Ella and Drizella were more cheerful than usual (a thing only Rapunzel or the servants could perceive and know, in fact), and indeed, the entire family around the table was more united than she had ever been in years.

 

It was just a facade, of course, and the pirate himself knew it.

 

They were not playing a game, but obviously, the “we-are-a-real-and-complete-and-loving-family” thing was not a thing they sincerely believed in, even if it was clear that they were trying hard to pretend they did.

 

Since Ana and Marcus were gone, nothing was the same anymore.

 

Their family was broken.

 

And in her innocence, Ella firmly believed that this pirate, whose family had just been broken the other night, could be the one who would help them fix it.

 

Maybe that she was the only one who was right about it.

 

§§§§

 

After they finished eating, Rapunzel decided to send the girls with their private tutor, in order to give to herself and to Hook some space to talk about their future projects against Gothel and how they would succeed to destroy her.

 

(It was not something little girls like them were supposed to hear.)

 

“Tell me, she asked him, knowing that they were alone now, what do you intend to do at first ?

 

- Go back to the tower. I want to see Alice, well, as much as I can, I guess I will just be able to talk to her from a far place, since I can’t be near her. I want her to know I am fine, I want to be sure she is fine, and I want her to know I am not abandoning her.”

 

Rapunzel couldn't stop the wave of warmth which reached her when she heard the pirate’s discourse.

 

She smiled with tenderness, realizing that the pirate's first reaction to what happened two days before was not to immediately go and find the monster who ruined his life, and kill her, or torture her, but to be sure that his little girl was okay, and that she knew he kept fighting for her.

 

As a good father is supposed to do so.

 

While she had herself completely neglected the two children she was supposed to take care of.

 

Yes, Marcus would really have a poor image of her, had he been able to see her now, to see what she had become.

 

She nodded.

 

“Okay, she approved, you’re right, that’s the first step. And maybe… maybe we could go with you to see her at the tower, and explain her the situation, since… since you can’t do this.

 

He blinked, surprised.

 

- Wait, you would… you would accept to come back… there ?

 

There.

 

In the tower.

 

Where her life had been tore apart by Gothel, where everything was taken from her.

 

Could she really do this ?

 

Well, did she really have the choice ?

 

If she wanted to help him, if she wanted to heal, if she wanted Ella and Drizella to understand what changed her into the person she was now, she had to.

 

 

“I can try. It’s the less I can do.

 

He smiled awkwardly at her.

 

- Thanks.”

 

After some seconds of a comforting silence, he then said :

 

“Ella told me. About Anastasia.”

 

Rapunzel immediately froze, and her look became charged of sadness and anger.

 

“What did she tell you ? She said with difficulty.

 

- That she got drowned and died.

 

It’s true.

 

And at the same time, it’s false.

 

She is still alive, even if she is not breathing, and I am not letting anyone take her away from me.

 

- Yes, she did… she whispered, tears threatening her to leave her eyes.

 

- I’m sorry.

 

- I…

 

- I know you don’t want to talk about it. (For the same reason I don’t want to talk about my brother’s death, he thought. Or Milah’s. They didn’t know each other well enough to be ready to make that kind of confidence to the other.) I just want you to know I am sorry for your loss. And I want you to know too that you still have two daughters who need you, who love you, and even if you think you’re a bad mother, I assure you you’re not. You’re trying to do your best, alone, and I knew mothers far worst than you.

 

- Thanks… Yes, I know it now, and I promise I will try to get better. To be a better mother than I have been these past years.”

 

This time, she smiled, and for some terrifying seconds, Killian had the painful impression to face Gothel again, remembering the way she had been and had smiled during their night together, and he shivered, before the illusion disappeared.

 

Rapunzel was not Gothel, just as Gothel was not Rapunzel either, he tried to remind himself.

 

And she would never be.

 

When the pirate, the lady and her daughters began their walk to the tower, Hook tried to hope that Alice would not resent him too much for what had happened during the night where Gothel had attacked them.

 

Because, after all, he was the one who had failed her.

 

I am coming home, Alice.

 

And I promise you, I will do everything to make you escape from this tower.

 

One day, Starfish, I swear you, you will be able to see the world.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Alice Jones was terribly afraid.

 

It had been since less than three days that she had not seen her father, and yet, she already missed him.

 

Because, unlike the other times where he had left the tower, she had no idea of when he would come back, nor even if he would come back.

 

By the way, it was not like the other times when he left the tower because he had to, or because he wanted to get her something he knew she would like.

 

No, it was not what happened, not this time.

 

The witch had come, the witch had hurt her papa, the witch had smiled when she had seen their pain, the witch had cursed him, the witch had taken him away from her, the witch had ruined her life.

 

The witch was her mother.

 

She had given birth to her, and not only did she abandon her when she was a baby, she had decided that it would be a good idea to come back into her life ten years later and ruin it completely, because hell, it would just be fun, right ?

 

Her mother had separated her from her father, and now, the ten years-old girl had no idea if she would one day see him again, and she didn’t know either when (or even if) she would go out of this damn tower one day, since she had also taken the magical artifact from them.

 

Oh, the pirates that her father had let near her to take care of her while he was away had tried to reassure her, to tell her that things would be fine, Mr Smee especially tried to do so, but he hadn’t convinced her at all.

 

She couldn't believe it, not since her father just couldn't be physically with her or he would suffer and slowly die by enduring terrible sufferings.

 

The thing is, the tower never felt that cold to her before her father was taken from her.

 

She already knew loneliness, as despair, and despondence, it’s true.

 

Living in a tower from where she couldn't go, not being able to see the world apart what she could see from her window, knowing no one else than her father and being often separated from him, and not knowing if she would be free one day, there was of course moments in her life when she was not happy and deeply depressed.

 

But these moments never really lasted for long.

 

Because her father was with her, trying to distract her from her pain, and even when he was not here, at least, she could comfort herself by the certitude that he would soon come back, and that one day she would be free from the tower.

 

But now ?

 

She didn’t even have this anymore, even this tiny hope had been ripped out from her.

 

The three next days were passed by Alice between rage, sadness, despair and brief moments of joy thanks to the pirates’ presence.

 

Even if, despite their best efforts, there was something which would never changed.

 

She missed her papa.

 

§§§§

 

The closest she got to the tower, the scariest Rapunzel was about all this situation.

 

She remembered everything.

 

The loneliness, the coldness of the tower, the despair of these six years where she was locked up without being able to escape, if she didn’t want to break her deal with Gothel.

 

She should have stayed in the tower, she thought.

 

Maybe her family would have been safer and happier without her coming back and ruining everything by her own presence.

 

In fact, she realized that it might be her, the real reason why her family fell apart.

 

Before her return, everything was okay and fine, the girls were sisters, they had a mother and a father who loved them, and Marcus was happy with Cecilia.

 

It was what she had wanted for him, for them, in fact, she had never asked him to wait for her return.

 

All of this was just her fault, she had provoked this by breaking her promise to Gothel, by running away from the tower, she had broken the deal which was supposed to keep her family safe.

 

She could continue to accuse Gothel, or Cecilia, or Ella, or even Marcus for being the responsible of their current unhappiness, but it would have been pure hypocrisy.

 

Rapunzel Tremaine was the responsible of the fall of their family, because she had refused to stay Gothel’s prisoner, she had broken the deal she had done, and the consequences had been terrible.

 

She had chased Cecilia by poisoning her, she had lost Anastasia for maybe forever, and she had killed Marcus.

 

Gothel had been completely right.

 

She was not the Guardian, nor a hero.

 

She would never be.

 

She had a sad chuckle, as she remembered how, in her naivety, she had found it quite easy to escape from the tower, since there had been no guards or no magic to keep her locked up into the prison.

 

Now, she finally understood the reason why.

 

Gothel might began to plant the seed of jealousy in her heart, and pushed her to ruin everything, but she was the one who had decided to do this.

 

Her family was not safe anymore and it was all her fault.

 

Looking up in front of her, she saw her two daughters walking next to Hook, the three of them were talking together, the pirate was evoking with them his life as a pirate, mainly talking about his adventures, and trying not to talk about the darker parts of his past.

 

Rapunzel began to smile.

 

It’s not too late.

 

I can still prove to Gothel that she was wrong about me.

 

These girls were all the things she still had kept from Marcus.

 

They were her daughters.

 

Her future.

 

The only one who might succeed to make her believe she was still not completely twisted and broken.

 

They were the reason why she must fight against Gothel, not just because she wanted to enact a personal revenge, and not only because the witch had to be stopped, but because the two girls had deeply suffered from the dryad’s crimes as they had suffered from her own.

 

The witch had to pay for what she did, for all the lives she had ruined, for all her crimes, Alice’s abandonment, Hook’s curse, and all the other things that Rapunzel knew nothing about but that the witch had committed.

 

(Like killing the first humans of the Land Without Magic.

 

Or like her project of killing all the non-magical creatures of the world.

 

Yeah, this witch was pretty crazy.)

 

The young woman was then taken from her thoughts by Hook’s voice :

 

“So… here we are, he said, showing the tower to them.”

 

Rapunzel looked at the place which used to be her prison, and she suddenly paled, realizing too that she risked to immediately collapse.

 

Only Hook’s, Ella’s and Drizella’s presence stopped her to do so.

 

If she wanted to win against her old demons, she had to stay strong.

 

“Yes, she answered with a false smile. Here we are.”

 

She took a deep breath.

 

She swore to herself that one day, she would be able to look at this tower without being afraid, and without feeling like a lost little girl again.

 

§§§§

 

“I never thought before this day that I would return willingly here, she said for herself, and Drizella frowned as she heard her mother talk.

 

- What do you mean ? You already came here before ?”

 

Rapunzel tried to smile without any conviction, and she brushed her daughter’s hair gently, pulling her into a tight and tender embrace.

 

She never told them.

 

The tower, her imprisonment, her deal with Gothel and her conflict with her, only Marcus had knew everything which had happened to her during the six long years where she hadn’t been at home.

 

The girls (including Anastasia, of course) had learned rapidly that Rapunzel had been kept as a prisoner by an evil woman, but there was a lot of things they ignored.

 

They never knew she had done this to save their family, and they didn’t know either that she had doomed them to their fall when she had escaped.

 

“Yes, I did. It’s the place where I was kept imprisoned.”

 

Drizella looked at her mother, and so did Ella.

 

“I never told you, right ? Drizzy… do you remember that night where your father was so sick, how much I was afraid he might die, and how I was so desperate to save him, and ready to do anything to cure him. Then, she smiled with tenderness at her younger daughter. No, of course you don’t remember it. You were so young at that time, and you and Ana, you were both so scared…

 

- I know… Anastasia told me, when… there were times where I couldn't remember you well. Remember your face, or your voice, how you smiled to us, how you tucked us in and kissed our forehead to say good night. She told me about that night where we lost you, but the more she talked about it, the less I remembered it. I wanted you to come back, I suggested the use of the lanterns to Ana, but in the end, I didn’t even remember who you were, the girl admitted.”

 

Rapunzel tried not to cry, just pulling her daughter tighter into her embrace.

 

Six years.

 

Six years of separation with her daughter had been enough to make her almost completely forget her mother and everything which concerned her. There had been the lanterns, of course, that Drizella had the idea to use to give hope to her mother, but in the end, she had lost complete hope to get her back.

 

 

It was different from Anastasia and Marcus, her other girl had never lost hope to see her again one day, and she had kept more memories of her than Drizella did, and Marcus…

 

Well, Marcus had just moved on.

 

But Drizella, her, she had forgotten her completely, she had found a new mother in Cecilia, she had just replaced her.

 

It was what hurt her the most.

 

Looking around her, she did everything not to look directly at the tower itself.

 

If she did, she knew that she would just fall down.

 

She looked at Hook for some seconds, who was next to Ella and listening carefully to her, and she felt incredibly relieved that he was here, with them.

 

The woman felt less alone with him on her side, first because he was an adult (and apart her servants, she had not a lot of adults in her entourage, since she had no friends or family), and also because he knew too what it was to be trapped into the tower.

 

Just as her, he had never been truly imprisoned there, they just both had a duty of staying there, both for their own family, her for her husband and her daughters, and him, for his daughter.

 

He knew the tower more than anyone, maybe even more than herself or Gothel.

 

The pirate was looking at her with sympathy, seeming to encourage her to pursue her story.

 

She took a deep breath.

 

There was so much things she had never said to Drizella or Ella, so much things she still couldn't say, about Anastasia’s, about their father’s death.

 

But she could talk about what had happened to her in the tower, and how she got there.

 

“During this night, when I lost almost all my hopes of finding a way to save your father, I arrived then into the garden of a woman named Gothel…

 

- It’s the woman who trapped you too, right ? Ella exclaimed immediately at Hook.

 

This one nodded his head and had a false smile.

 

- Yes, indeed.

 

- I made a deal with her. She saved your father, provided happiness and riches to our family, and in exchange, I had to stay there.

 

- But that’s horrible ! Ella screamed. What kind… what kind of person does that ?

 

- You did this for us ?

 

- Yes, Drizzy. Of course I did. I got out six years later, and after that, everything began to fall apart.”

 

Because of me, she thought.

 

“You’re not the only one who was used and abused by Gothel, Killian then said. She used me, and when I gave her what she wanted, a daughter and a way to escape, she abandoned her immediately and let her locked up for forever. She left without looking back.

 

- That’s the reason why we are here, right ? For her. For Alice, Drizella said, curious.”

 

As Ella herself, she didn’t have a lot of friends, and the idea of knowing someone else, someone new, especially a person who knew nothing about the world and who had met no one in her life except her father and his crew, was making her really enthusiastic.

 

This time, despite his sadness, the pirate let a real smile illuminate his face.

 

His little girl.

 

“Yes. My little Alice. The members of my crew sent me a message yesterday, saying that they had to leave for a time. Being a crew of pirates, they are still wanted, and searched, so, if they didn’t want to be imprisoned for being who they are, they just… couldn't stay. So now, she is left alone, on her own, and my efforts to keep her safe and with some company were all done for nothing.

 

- You don’t have to worry about that ! Ella affirmed with a great smile of kindness on her face. You can’t be near her because of the witch’s spell, but we can, and we will stay with her as much as we can and as long as we can.”

 

Moved by the little girl’s discourse and kindness, Hook felt like he was about to cry, right now, knowing his little girl would not be alone now, and he smiled again.

 

“Thanks Ella. I appreciate it, really.”

 

§§§§

 

Thewoman and the two girls prepared themselves for the climb of the tower, and as Rapunzel Tremaine looked at the tower a new time, she shivered, images of her captivity running again and again in her head.

 

“Hey ! It’s going to be okay, right ? She can’t hurt you anymore, you’re free from her now.

 

- I hope so. As long as she is away from the tower, I will never be completely free or safe. I am afraid of her coming back and taking away from me the last rests of happiness I still have.

 

- This won’t happen. You’re strong Rapunzel, you succeeded to imprison her one time, you can do it again, and I will do everything to help you do it.

 

She looked at him with determination.

 

- Thanks Killian, for your support. And I will do everything to make sure your daughter is safe with us, even if she can’t be with you.”

 

To make the ascension of the tower was quite strange for Rapunzel.

 

She was coming back to a place she had always wanted to leave, and the trembling of her legs and her hands only stopped when she reminded herself that Gothel was not here anymore and never would be.

 

Killian Jones was right.

 

She was safe.

 

She was not happy, her husband was dead, one of her daughters was in a deep coma, she had difficulties to reconnect with the other one, and her step-daughter was the living proof of what a terrible woman she was, but at least, she was not in danger.

 

Not for now, in fact.

 

As she finally entered into the place, the first thing she saw was the only inhabitant of the place : a little girl with blond hair and blue eyes.

 

“Who are you ? The kid asked, on the defensive.”

 

Rapunzel immediately thought : she looks exactly like Gothel.

 

In fact, for some seconds, rage completely overtook her and she was deeply tempted to do to the girl what Gothel did to Anastasia, put her between life and death and try to take her from her mother.

 

Only the sound of the arrival of Ella and Drizella took her from her dark thoughts, and she remarked something else about the child.

 

Alice Jones has her father’s eyes, she thought.

 

She regained her calm and her composure, and she looked at the child with confidence.

 

She is living the same thing I had lived, except that she was less alone than me.

 

But she is also cursed to stay here, what a terrible fate !

 

“My name is Rapunzel Tremaine, and here, there are my daughters.

 

- Are you Alice Jones ? Drizella asked her.

 

- Yes. Yes, it’s me. Why, she added, gaining some confidence, are you seeing someone else here ?

 

Drizella chuckled.

 

- No, indeed… I am Drizella Tremaine, she said, giving her hand to Alice.”

 

Alice cautiously looked at her hand, before taking it.

 

“Nice to meet you Drizella. And you are ? She asked at the other girl.

 

- I am Ella, the older girl said.

 

- I’m happy to meet you too. Why… why are you all here ? How did you find the tower ?

 

- You father sent us there to find you and take care of you.”

 

The little girl’s eyes became then illuminated with joy.

 

“My father ? Where is he ? Is he okay ?

 

- He is. As much as he can be, being separated from you as he is, of course. He is just there, under us, near the tower.”

 

Walking in direction of the window, Alice put her hand on the magical protection which stopped her from leaving the towerand looked at the outside, especially at the ground.

 

For some seconds, her heart stopped and she froze.

 

He was here.

 

Just as the woman had said.

 

“Papa ?”

 

The pirate looked up, and Alice felt relieved to see that he was okay, and her breath became more appeased as she realized that the distance between them was great enough which meant that he was not suffering from the spell the witch had inflicted to him.

 

“Alice ? You’re okay ?”

 

No. I’m not, not anymore because you’re not here and I’m all alone.

 

I miss you papa.

 

She forced herself to smile, not wanting to worry him.

 

“Yes, I’m alright papa ! Rapunzel and her daughters are with me ! Thanks for sending them to me, now that all the pirates are gone, I was feeling a little lonely.”

 

Thanks for coming back to me.

 

He smiled at her and it warmed her heart.

 

Her papa was here, with her, and he was okay.

 

“I love you starfish, he screamed to her, with tears in the eyes, and raising his hand in the air, as if he wanted to hold her against him.

 

- I love you too papa, she answered, trying without any success to put her hand out of the tower.”

 

Hell, he was both so close and so far from her…

 

She wiped her tears, continuing to smile with both joy and sadness, before turning back in Rapunzel’s direction.

 

Alice didn’t hesitate any second, and she run in Rapunzel’s arms, hugging tightly.

 

The noble woman froze, not understanding what was happening to her, since she was not used to these marks of affection, before automatically pulling her arms around the little girl, replying to the embrace.

 

Why ?

 

“Thank you, the prisoner of the tower simply said. Thank you very much for bringing back my papa to me.”

 

Rapunzel smiled, feeling tears begin to form themselves in her eyes.

 

I’m sorry you have to endure that, kid.

 

She tried to imagine a little girl like her, all alone in this so great and so cold tower, like she herself was for six years, and it broke her heart.

 

It was a chance that she hadn’t become crazy during her life there, and she had been a grown-up woman who could handle herself.

 

While Alice wasn’t.

 

“You’re welcome Alice, she whispered, deeply moved.”

 

She then promised to herself that she would defeat Gothel one day, not only for revenge, or because it was the right thing to do, or for Anastasia, but also in order to free this little girl from the terrible prison where her own mother had locked her up.

 

Hugging her in her arms, she closed her eyes, imagining for some seconds that the little girl right here was Anastasia, alive, awake and breathing, as it should be.

 

And, just as Killian Jones himself was doing so under the tower, Rapunzel Tremaine began to cry.

 

§§§§

 

Gothel was quite satisfied of how the things had turned.

 

She had done what she had to do, and if she was lucky, things would go the way she wanted them to do so.

 

And they would, she knew it.

 

The pirate was cursed, far from his daughter, her daughter, and one day she would come back, one day she would exchange his life against her daughter’s help.

 

One day, she would come back to Rapunzel’s home, and take Drizella’s from her, when this one would be too much broken to accept her mother’s indifference toward her.

 

One day, the curse sending them to the Land without magic would be finally cast, and then, she would finally eradicate all the non-magical humans from the world.

 

But that would be for another day.

 

Walking in the coven’s garden, she finally smiled when she saw Seraphina.

 

“My love…

 

The dark-skinned woman looked at her, and smiled, before kissing her.

 

- Gothel, you’re back !

 

The witch smiled.

 

- Yes, I am…

 

- Did the plan work ?

 

- It did. Then, she interlaced their fingers. One day, I swear to you, we will finally get our revenge on the humans who destroyed our lives, she said, before kissing her again.”

 

What she didn’t know, is that sometimes, the determination of two parents can be much more powerful than magic.

 

To be continued…

 

 

Chapter Text

During the following hour, the three girls chatted together, talking about books, paintings, drawings and about the sea too, since it was a thing they all dreamed to see for real.

 

To Alice’s relief, the two other girls avoided talking about her father’s curse, and they tried their best to divert her from her dark thoughts, while Rapunzel was looking at them with a smile.

 

It felt right, strangely, to be here, in this tower, since she was not locked up there.

 

In fact, it still hurt a lot, because of her memories of what she had lived here, but with Drizella’s and Ella’s presence, the tower didn’t feel anymore like a prison to her.

 

And she realized it must have felt the same for Alice, until her father was brutally ripped out from her, and anger rose again in her chest, when she understood more and more what a terrible mother Gothel had been.

 

Worst than her, indeed, and even if it didn’t change the fact that she was herself a bad mother, to know that there was someone else more monstrous than she herself was, it made her feel a little better.

 

It proved that it was not too late for her.

 

That she could change, and she surely wanted to.

 

She wanted to be a good mother, and the first step in this process was to make her daughters know that they were loved, to know that she cared, and the only thing she could do was to talk with them.

 

She had to make Ella understand she didn’t blame her for what had happened to Anastasia.

 

She had to make Drizella know that just because Anastasia was not there anymore didn’t mean that she didn’t love her.

 

She also had to accept the idea that maybe, she wouldn't be able to make Anastasia come back, she had to accept fully that her little girl may be totally dead now.

 

It didn’t mean that her family was broken definitely, not at all, and maybe she just had to do what Marcus had done while she was herself gone.

 

To move on, and learn to live again.

 

And she as well as had to make Alice know that her father hadn’t abandoned her at all.

 

Yes, she swore to herself, she would become a better person.

 

She would make things right this time.

 

§§§§

 

Alice Jones didn’t know what it was to have friends.

 

During the ten first years of her life, it had only been her father and her, and no one else.

 

The other interactions she ever had with other people had been either horrible (the little moment where Gothel had been there, in the tower, was now surely the worst thing she had ever lived) or awkward, like with her father’s crew, as they were not really used to talk with children.

 

And she was either not used at all to interact with people who weren’t her father.

 

It had felt nice, though, not to be completely alone, while her papa was away, but it was not the same.

 

It didn’t feel like home.

 

And a part of her feared he would never come back home, that she would never see him again.

 

Sometimes during the three previous day, she couldn't sleep, being overwhelmed by the fear that, one day, her father would die, and that she would have to stay here without succeeding to escape. She was scared as hell by the simple idea of staying here for forever, alone and miserable, and to be forced to rot there, and to die in the only place in which she had been during her life.

 

The only place she had ever known as a home, turning into a real prison.

 

And now, it was the same, it did feel strange and awkward, but in a different way.

 

At first, her papa was not far away from her, he was just next to her, under the tower, and yes, he was still too much far from her, but at least, he was here, and she was sure he was okay.

 

For just some hours, she didn’t have to feel worried, or to be scarred that something bad could happen to him, she just had to look out of the tower, and she would see him.

 

He was here, he was safe, and she was not alone.

 

Being locked up in the tower was not the worst fate for her, in reality.

 

To be alone there was the most terrible thing that could have happened to her, and she was relieved, so relieved to be with people who had brought back her father here.

 

In a place where she could see him, but without hurting him.

 

And she was so grateful for this toward Rapunzel and her daughters.

 

They had brought her father back home.

 

While Ella and Drizella were looking at her drawings and her paintings with admiration, Alice was herself examining Rapunzel.

 

This one had sat down on one of the chairs of the tower, and was looking around her with an air which seemed to be full of suspicion or discomfort.

 

She didn’t like the place.

 

And it appeared clearly on her face.

 

“You already came here, didn’t you ? She asked her, curious.

 

Curiosity killed the cat, or so people said, but Alice couldn't help herself from asking, and she knew it.

 

She was too much curious for her own good.

 

Rapunzel grimaced at this, with a tense air.

 

- Yes, I did, she answered. It wasn’t… it was not a pleasant experience, she recognized with a fake smile, clenching her fists.

 

- What happened ? Alice demanded to her, frowning with interest.”

 

She shouldn't have asked, and she knew it, but there was something in Rapunzel’s attitude which made her think that maybe she had not been the only one who had been doomed to stay here.

 

“It happened something like… six or seven years ago. During a night where my husband was sick, I found a garden in which there was a cure I could use to save him… But the guardian of the place didn’t let me take it for nothing, of course. So I made a deal with your mother, and…

 

- She is not my mother ! Immediately exclaimed Alice, paling extremely. She gave birth to me, yes, but that’s it. She just used me and my existence to get out of the tower, she let me alone and left without looking back. Without my father, I have no idea of what or who I would have become. She is not my mother. She never was and never will be.

 

Rapunzel nodded her head.

 

- Fine. I understand what you mean. Well… Gothel, this bloody witch (well, bitch would be a a better term, she thought for herself, not daring to say the word out loud, since the girls next to her were still children) made a deal with me. She would provide a good life to my family, and in exchange, I would have to stay here for forever. But I broke the deal, and escaped.

 

- She didn’t trap you there by magic ? Alice said with a surprised voice.

 

- I think she wanted to test me, to test my morality, to know if yes or no I was… selfless enough to stay away from my family for forever. It looks like I wasn’t.

 

- You wanted to come back home, Alice said. Anyone else would have done the same thing. I would have done this, if I had been able to leave.”

 

Even if it would have meant your family’s destruction ? Rapunzel asked herself bitterly.

 

She bite her tongue, stopping herself from saying it.

 

Alice didn’t deserve to hear it.

 

She smiled.

 

“I’m sorry she took you away from those you love, Alice said.”

 

It changed nothing, of course, it wouldn't bring Marcus back, it wouldn't make Anastasia wake up, it wouldn't erase the lost years or make things come back to what they used to be.

 

And yet, Alice’s consideration moved her deeply.

 

“Thanks kid. Thanks a lot.”

 

§§§§

 

Before leaving the tower temporally, Rapunzel looked a new time at the three girls behind her, who were talking, laughing and giggling together.

 

At this sight, she felt a feeling of warmth invade her.

 

As well as fear.

 

A fear which was completely absurd, and she reassured herself the better she could.

 

They are fine, they are safe, okay ?

 

You can leave them alone for five minutes, nothing bad will happen in this little period of time.

 

Nothing is going to happen to them, nothing will harm them, and Gothel is not here, she is far away, she won’t touch them.

 

She won’t destroy your life again, not anymore, not a new time.

 

It’s a promise.

 

And yet…

 

What if Gothel came back one day ?

 

She had no magic, she didn’t know how to fight or how to defend herself, she had never learned to do it…

 

She would be defenseless, if it happened one day.

 

Rapunzel took a deep breath, and left them alone.

 

“Is Alice all right ? Did she lack of anything while I was gone ? The pirate asked her when he saw her again.

 

She forced herself to smile.

 

- Yes, she is. And no, she didn’t, don’t worry about that. I talked with her, she is fine, she is safe and sound, I promise you. Her only problem is that you can’t be with her.

 

Relief invaded Killian Jones’ face.

 

- Fine, he whispered to himself. Then, he began to smile to her. Thank you, he told her, that’s the only thing I wanted to hear.

 

- What do you intend to do now ?

 

He frowned.

 

- What do you mean ?

 

- You saw your daughter again, she saw you as well, and it’s good, really, but… what happens next ?

 

- I still don’t understand…

 

- She is still locked up, and you’re still cursed. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but… this doesn’t promise to be really good. My daughters and I, we can visit her, so it means that she is not alone anymore, but it doesn’t change anything. It just can’t stay this way.

 

The pirate crossed his arms and looked at her with a serious air.

 

- What do you propose then ? I must admit I myself still didn’t find any solution to solve my problems. Despite thinking about it permanently during the last days. There is no way out for her, and if I enter, I will kill myself in the process. Her and I, we are both trapped in different ways.

 

- I’m sure you already thought about it, but… We need magic.

 

- I had magic with me when I tried to free her. But Gothel, well… She stopped me.

 

- What happened there, in the tower ? After she cast her spell on you ?

 

He froze.

 

Clearly, these memories were terribly painful for him.

 

- If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand…

 

- She said I wasn’t good enough… The witch, Gothel, he added, clenching his fists with anger, she dared saying that I was not a good person, while she had been the one abandoning Alice ! It’s just pure non-sense… And then, she kicked me out of the tower, saying I wouldn't see my daughter again, and that I wouldn't be able to save her and get her out of her prison, or something like that. I had an artifact with me some seconds ago, and then… Then it was completely gone.

 

- Did she… did she destroy the object ?

 

He blinked, before a light of stupefaction appeared in his eyes.

 

- No, he answered, astonished. I… I remember her casting another spell and the magical artifact just… disappeared in a purple cloud.

 

- So, it can still exist and be useful for us ! She might have kept the object with her, don’t you think ? Maybe that we could get it back from her ! Knowing her, she must be in a garden by now… she added.

 

- If we attack her, she will know we want to defeat her and stop her. It might have terrible consequences on you and your family. I don’t want to imply you even more in this project.

 

Rapunzel shrugged.

 

- The thing that you don’t seem to understand, captain, is that I’m already implied in this. I would do everything to protect my family from this bitch. If it helps you being reunited with your daughter, well, I’m totally in !

 

- Alright, alright… he accepted, smiling fondly, realizing that him and Alice weren’t alone anymore.

 

- So tell me captain, she asked him, do you have any suggestion ?

 

- I have some, yes.”

 

Smiling, she sat down in front of him, and began to listen to him.

 

To be continued…