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Be What You Want

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Be What You Want

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The light of the dawn has no meaning,
you're lost in the haze of the night.
The strength that should be there within you
is wasted and all left behind

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Regina could never kill her father. She simply couldn’t.

Some people aren’t strong enough to rip a beating heart free from a chest and create a curse that will destroy everything and everyone. Regina was never strong enough.

Rumplestiltskin is though. He’s desperate enough, and sometimes enough desperation can amount to strength. That’s why he escapes those feeble barriers holding him captive and takes off, skin glittering under the darkness of the night. He’s a wicked beast, and he’s through with petty deals and making victories through contracts.

He needs one thing, and thing alone.

A heart.

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It takes him a year to find her.

He digs his heels and snaps his teeth, but yet he finds her.

There was never a grave dug for her, and there never was a tower. But there was a wicked queen, and that’s where he will start and where it will end. He finds her in a dungeon, chained and tortured.

Rumplestiltskin wants to take her though. He wants to carry her home and to his castle like a hero, back to her library and his safety. He shudders and shakes, drawing in close to her. She’s not a fool because she knows exactly what he wants and he’s had it all along.

Her love.

He thinks of his son vanishing into nothing, and imagines her dead body mixed in with Milah’s. It’s a hideous abstract design, but he can’t escape the reality of which he has created since the day he grabbed hold of that dagger.

There’s a chorus of angry and pained voices, guards with their broken hands and shattered hips. They’re screaming at him, but they don’t matter.

She’s not dead.

She was never dead.

(“Well played, dearie.”)

He wants to be Prince Charming for her, but in reality he is just the monster and she’s just an unlucky victim. She knows this, pressing her hands tight over her chest so tightly. “Please don’t do this.”

“I’m sorry, Belle.” He has so many things to say, and not enough time to say it because there is never enough time to simply say it. She is twisting and shaking, her back a bloody mess and her knuckles are so swollen. All he can do is taste the ozone and ash.

He plunges his claw into her chest, digging out the most precious heart in all of the worlds.

The moment he creates the curse, she will die. So similar to Milah.

He rips her heart in half.

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He doesn’t understand what he has done until he’s miles away from the tiny little women locked away in chains and nightmares. (once, she had searched for adventure. once she had struggled for love. once she was his and now she’ll never be his.)

It’s too late for love now.

Crimson mist starts to unfurl out of the cauldron and he hisses from the endless pain. Happy endings were only miseries and tragedies.

He knew that.

The world would know that.

“Forgive me, Belle.” He whispers.

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He wakes up alone.

Welcome to Storybrooke.

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Chapter Text

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Counting on Hearts

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I'm counting on hearts like yours to keep me crazy,

to rough me up 'til nothing can phase me.

Will you tell me when it isn't enough?

And never let me live halfway-

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It’s three in the morning and all she can see is her home burning.

There’s a shrill wail of sirens in the night, and she’s just one person amongst persons, all watching their homes dissolve into ash and smoke. Everyone is rushing back and forth, trying to do something to fix everything. A woman with hard grey eyes tries to push a cup of hot chocolate into her hands but she refuses, because it simply wouldn’t taste right without the cinnamon.

She looks over her shoulder to her yellow Bug, and tries to smile at the child curled up in the front seat, gazing out at the smoky scene.

She tries to look for stars in the sky, the way she’s always done. The city hides them well though, and all she can do now is watch her home burn.

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The hotel isn’t as awful as she had first thought, pulling into the trashy parking lot. Her eyes ache from looking at endless papers and forms, balancing sums in her head and trying to sort out what was already safe in storage and what had been saved and been salvaged from the hot coils of flames.

She eventually calls it quits, shoving aside thick papers and digs around for the map or the area.

She’s just trying to piece their life together again.

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“Mom?”

She looks up and at the boy standing at her doorway. She’s sprawled out over her bed, gazing at a map. Emma imagines New York, filled to the brim with people and lives and plenty of opportunities. But she’s simply done with that. She’s done with crowds and towering buildings that look like they might topple over, and she’s sick of the streets that always roar with noise even at three in the morning.

“You okay, kid?” She asks him because she knows he isn’t. He has dark circles beneath his eyes and the kid can’t help but remember rushing through a wall of flames, her hand vicelike around his wrist.

He shrugs at her, walking over to her. “What are you doing?” His eyes narrow slightly, looking at the map with circled areas and neatly labeled notes. She frowns, imagining the melted remains of his glasses. She had been lucky enough the her glasses and contacts had been stowed away in her bag, the very same bag that she had grabbed just before fleeing the burning building with Henry.

“Trying to find somewhere.” The rest of her sentence is swallowed, because she doesn’t know what exactly she is looking for. A home, or just a resting place.

He throws himself next to her, looking at borders and cities cautiously. She smiles for a moment, imagining forgotten dream catchers.

“Close your eyes and point, kid.” She orders, and he sticks his tongue out at her but complies. Slowly he drags his finger across the map and points.

A starting point.

(Maybe an ending point?)

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They’re leaving for breakfast when the man at the desk stops her, holding out an envelope to her.

She takes it and shoves it in her bag to read later.

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Dear Miss Swan,

I am dreadfully sorry about the fire that destroyed your home and would like to extend an offer for you to join our small community here in Storybrooke, Maine. We have need for a teacher and would be delighted if you would take up the position for us.

Sincerely,

R.H.G

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They start organizing what they have and don’t have.

Her books were engulfed by fire and most of his toys had melted away. She regrets the loss of her books, and he doesn’t know how to feel about the fire anymore.  They pick at clothes and shoes together, slowly assembling a small wardrobe easy enough to pack up. Some basics they purchase, and she eventually hands him some money to go buy what he wants as she deals with purchasing a new pair of glasses for him.

They make up for what they lost, raiding grocery stores for boxes that smelt like bananas and coffee. Together they load up her yellow bug until they themselves can barely fit, and they just drive.

Henry demands that they stop at nearly every Starbucks that they pass, and after his third Frappuccino she begins to regret it.

Eventually he falls asleep and she listens to old music, trying to navigate down old roads.

She’d been an English teacher once, and a computer science teacher longer. After prison she had used the money from the watches left for her in the compartment to support herself and her son, working as a waitress and taking online University courses. It hadn’t been easy, fighting to make ends meet but she had managed because she had sworn she’d do her best for Henry.

For the past two years she had spent her time working as a part time librarian and teaching late afternoon classes on computer tech. He would come home from school and she’d be waiting for him. Together they’d go out to movies or museums, checking out local theaters and everything they could, trying to make adventures out of their lives. He loved adventures, and she just loved when he was happy.

“Where are we going to stay?” Henry asks her quietly, rubbing his eyes furiously.

She looked at him for a second before back at the road. “Supposed to be a bed and breakfast there. Once we get settled in we can look for a place to stay.”

He didn’t say anything for a minute. “Are we staying there forever?”

“Depends.”

He paused, looking up at her. “Depends on what?”

“How much you like it.”

Henry grins at her before snatching her phone from her bag to start playing games on. His smiles melted away, and he forgot the phone all together.  “Pull over!” He shouted, grabbing her arm sharply. The car swerved and narrowly missed falling into the steep ditch.

“Kid!” Emma shouted, hitting the brake as hard as she could. The car behind her honked at her before passing.

Henry blushed slightly before turning and digging around in the backseat. “Sorry. I just forgot something.”

She counted backwards from ten, and at number four he passed her a crudely wrapped box done up from newspaper. “What is this?”

“When you were getting me my glasses yesterday, I used some of the money to get you a present. Open it!”

“Present for what?” She dumbly started to peel of the tape, trying to think of a present worthy event.

Henry looked at her in shock. “You don’t know what day it is?”

“Haven’t really been giving it a lot of thought, to be honest.”

“It’s your birthday today.”

She’s twenty-eight, and she hadn’t even realized it. And she begins to cry when she finds out what’s inside the shoebox wrapped gift. Books. They’ve been bought from second hand bookstores, but that doesn’t matter. Her books burned up into ash, and he’s found every one of her favourites for her. 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Great Gatsby, Call of the Wild and so much more. They’re all there before her, and it’s one of the best presents she’s ever been given.

He flings his arms around, and she’s mistaken.

This is the best present she’s ever been given.

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Welcome to Storybrooke.

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Chapter Text

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Cali to Chicago, on the road tomorrow,

follow me and we’ll go anywhere.

Running from the middle, everyone’s a rebel.

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Regina looks over at the school yard from her office. There’s a dull roar that always accompanies children outside her window and she feels at peace watching the youth run back and forth. From above them all, she feels protective. She keeps a close eye on Rowan Hood, climbing the trees as far as he could possibly climb. Children mill around the trunk, watching the small boy lift him higher and higher, never daring to follow. The bright orange vested teacher is trying to call the boy down, but Regina wants him to keep climbing.

She thinks of Rowan sitting in his classes, awkwardly placed amongst walls and roof, fidgeting until the bell rings and his father arrives to take him home at the end of the day.

A knock draws her out of her musings.

“Come in,” she snaps, spinning around to take in Mary Margaret clutching a folder of bright papers to her chest protectively. “What do you want?”

The young teacher meekly holds out the folder to the other woman, looking fiercely down at the floor. Regina wants to bitterly laugh at the scarlet blush across Mary Margaret’s pale skin. “These are the markings that you wanted.”

Regina flipped through them loosely. “Good. Get out.” She threw the package of papers onto the desk before stomping over to her desk and sitting down in her chair. The door had almost snapped shut when she called Mary Margaret back.

“Yes?” The pale woman stood at the door, playing with the dark sleeves of her cardigan.

She swallowed. “Thank you.”

(If she were to be honest with herself, she hates this feeling on loneliness that has settled down into her bones.)

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“Did you ever live anywhere like this?” Henry asked Emma as they drove down one of the main streets of Storybrooke. It was an odd contrast to the city life that she had raised Henry in. She looked around at the sheer stillness, the lazy sounds of water hitting the shore flooding her senses. Small businesses were slowly closing down, and the lull of the small town becoming muter and muter.

She parked the car next to the building boarded up before looking up at the clock town, frozen at 8:15. “A few times I was in a group home someplace like this, but not really long term.” The bright afternoon was bleeding out into sunset, the sky turning burnt orange slowly.

Henry pointed across the street. “Hey! Game of Thorns. Like that show on TV.”

“That same TV show that I told you not to watch because of how inappropriate it was to a ten year old, right?”

He gave her a toothy grin. “That’s the one.” He paused before looking up. “Is this supposed to be a library?” The boarded up windows look out of place compared to the almost cheery manner of the town. The window ledges budding with potted plants and the colourful doors that glinted in the darkening sunset.

“I can’t really say without a sign or something.”

“Can I help you with something?” A cold voice emerged, and Emma turned to see a dark haired figure staring her down. “Or are you just passing through?”

There’s a slight edge barely contained within this woman’s frozen words, and Emma doesn’t know if she really what she sees is a threat, but at the moment she just places her hand lightly on Henry’s shoulder and edges him back ever so slightly. “We’re just looking for the Bed and Breakfast here.”

“I see.” She paused. “You’re about two blocks from it. Granny’s, the restaurant owned by the same management, is however here.”

“Thank you,” Henry chirped, because he’s always so positively polite and he certainly does not get this skill trait from his mother, as he smiled at the woman. “I’m Henry, and this is my mom.”

“Emma.” She tucks a blonde curl behind her ear before extending her hand out. She feels almost surprised that the cold hand takes it.

“I’m Regina, the Principal of Storybrooke Elementary. I should have known when I saw you.”

She wants to laugh, because already she feels so much confliction about this woman and yet she is her boss. She doesn’t laugh though, because she despite what confliction she feels, she simply doesn’t trust Regina. Something dark lurks in her eyes, and her words seem simply to delicately chosen to be simple.

So she smiles thinly and departs from this icy cold woman, leaving her in her shadow as she steps into the warmth of the diner with Henry fastened to her side.

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The retro styled diner was filled with occupants who all looked up at Emma and Henry as they stepped in through the door, the bell giving a cheery tinkle above their heads. Several faces looked startled, and others look blank to their arrival.  “Why are they looking at us?” Henry whispered up to her, looking over his shoulder. He pushed his glassed higher up his nose awkwardly, before pushing them down.

She felt uneasy being gawked at. “I don’t know.” Emma let him lead her to the counter, away from the majority of the diners who gazed shamelessly at them. “What are you hungry for?”

“Do you think they have grilled cheese here?”

She snorted. “I’d be surprised if they didn’t.”

A girl wearing an apron with long dark hair streaked red swirled into view, smiling brightly at them. “Hi, I’m Ruby. Do you need any menus, or do you know what you want already?”

“Grilled cheese, please.” Henry asked immediately.

She jotted down his response onto a pad of paper before looking at her. “Just a salad, please.”

“Caesar alright?” Ruby responded almost automatically, looking up at her only to be affirmed. A loud clatter of dishes emerged from the back, and Emma flinched at the sound of breaking glass. “Damn,” Ruby swore before slipping through the swinging door and into the kitchen.

“She said a bad word.” Henry told her quietly, tugging at his sleeves.

“I know she did. Just don’t repeat it.”

Emma frowned as her son frowned, and he leaned forward. “This place is weird. Everyone is acting like they haven’t had visitors before.”

She looked around, meeting every look coldly. “What?” She snapped at the gruff man sitting nearby who hadn’t stopped watching her and her son for a second since the walked in. The man glared before turning away. “Don’t mind grumpy over there.” Another server told Emma, stepping up into Ruby’s place. “Sorry about her taking off like that. Ashley’s a little clumsy in the kitchen at times. Can I get you guys anything to drink?” A woman cautiously asked, her auburn hair falling into her face. “I’m Ana.”

“Hot chocolate with cinnamon, please.” Henry asked her instantly. “Mom’ll have the same.”

“Easy enough.” She smiled. “Are you new here? I don’t think I’ve seen you anywhere around here before.”

Emma turned her back to the diner before answering. “I’m supposed to start Monday as the new English teacher at the high school.”

Ana gave a bright grin. “That’s great. I always thought it’d be cool to be a teacher, opening the doors to learning.” She leaned back on her heels for a moment. “But I’m guessing you see how that ended up. Anyways, your dinner will be up in a couple of minutes.”

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They slowly unpack the car into the bedrooms. They don’t have a lot of space but it’s enough for now, she muses, and when she has enough time she will begin seeking out an apartment.

He hangs his clothes up while she deals with her portfolios that were lucky enough to remain unburnt from the blaze. She has lesson plans laid out over her bed when Henry wanders into her room, looking tired and worn out.

“You should be in bed.” Emma tells him, pushing away the papers. “You look like you’ll fall over.”

“I’m not tired. I just wanted to know if you’d read to me for a bit.” He’s got a book clutched in his hand, and she doesn’t really want to say no so instead says yes.

“What book? Alice in Wonderland?”

Together they crawl into bed, and she opens the very first page to the very first words. “Alice was beginning to get very tired of-”

“Wrong.” Henry’s sleepy voice emerged almost instantly. “You gotta begin with a ‘once upon a time’, mom.”

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Chapter Text

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Your crooked love is just a pyramid scheme

And I'm dizzy on dreams (and I'm dizzy on dreams)

But if you ask me two's a whole lot lonelier than one

B-baby we should have left our love in the gutter where we found it

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She wants to scream.

They burn her skin with matches and drive her down again and again, forcing her under with needles poisoned with nightmares. Her words fall away, leaving her hollowed out and empty. Hands are grabbing at her, nails digging into her skin. She is begging, falling to her knees and pleading for everything to stopstopstop.

She is nothing, she realizes, when they shove her down into the tiny little stall, white walls glaring at her violently. She is nothing nothing nothing nothing.

The nurse takes the hose and sprays her, hot water turning her skin red red red.

She howls, her lungs filled with broken glass and rusted nails.

She is nothing nothing nothing nothing nothi-

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“How are you enjoying your stay here?” A man asks Emma, words light and airy.

“Just fine.” She scans her eyes across the park, looking for the dark head of hair on bobbing back and forth of the swing set. “I didn’t get you name.”

“I forgot to introduce myself.” His teeth glint in the afternoon. “My name is Richard Gold, town mayor. I believe I wrote you a letter a few days ago.”

Emma doesn’t know what to say, and doesn’t have to, because suddenly Ana almost materialized between her and the strange man, glaring daggers at him. “You called off the search.” Her words are surprisingly hard.

“This is hardly the place to discuss these matters, dearie.” He gave her a thin smile. “Surely we could meet somewhere more shielded from the public eye.”

She snorted, her braided hair swinging. “You keep rejecting my requests for a meeting.”

“I am a very busy man.”

“Why did you call off the search?” Ana ground out. “You had no right to do that!”

“It was a waste of time, dearie.” Gold shrugged before turning away and limping to a dark car parked nearby. “You should let things be.”

Ana mumbled dark curses under her breath as her shoulders slump. “I’ll show you a waste.”

“Easy there.” Emma tells her hesitantly, confused. “Attacking him in broad daylight isn’t going to help.”

Her green eyes meet Emma’s. “You better be careful about him. He likes to hurt people.”

Emma tries to remember the cheerful waitress, but all she can see is the rage burning in her gaze. “What search did he call off?”

Ana fiddled with her dark blue purse, digging deep inside. “My sister went missing. The sheriff’s been looking for her, and he went ahead to call it off.” She handed a folded piece of paper to Emma, her hands trembling. “She’s my sister,” Ana whispered.

“How long has she been gone for?”

She snorted. “Seems like forever. Everyone said she ran away, but I know her. She’d never just leave like that.”

Slowly Emma unfolded the paper. The headline was bold, Elsa Frost in a large black print. Ana’s sister was a cold sort of pretty, an icy stare emerging from the image.

“I should go. I need to pin these up.” Ana muttered, turning away.

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Emma likes teaching. She likes the routine of it. Planning out each lesson plan the week before and sticking with it.

It’s strange though, her students.

(the entire town, to be honest.)

She’s never been in a place like this where everyone was almost trapped by their lives. Every day was the exact same, almost. The way people revolved around the frozen clock.

The problem though was that every day at exactly two, a woman arrived at the front door. Her dark hair and demeanour stood out against the sea of students flooding out the doors. Emma had only been teaching at the school for a week, but every day the woman would appear on hour intervals, gazing up into the building.

“Rachelle? Is everything alright?” She called just as the blonde haired girl gathered her books from her desk last. The room was silent, chairs strewn sloppily and desks straightened.

Rachelle Punze, the girl notorious for sketching during her classes was constantly running behind. Emma sighed, watching her struggle to gather up the pencils.

“Pardon?” She looks almost startled, handful of coloured pencils and paper clutched guilty in her grip.

Emma paused, casting a glance at her desk with papers to be marked already shuffled messily across the surface. “Is that your mother?”

Rachelle peered out the window to the dark woman, her gaze meeting as she rose her hand almost meekly. “Yeah. She hates waiting.” she shrugged before slipping out the door, a single paper falling to the floor.

A drawing of a tower glared up at her.

“Do I look like a bloody art class?”

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“How was school, mom?” Henry asked as they sat down in the dinner.

“Everyone here is messed.” She rolled her eyes before taking the menus from Ruby. “Ana here?”

Ruby looked surprised. “No. She’s out hiking in the woods today. She does it every Monday afternoon, I think. It used to be a family thing apparently.” She gave them a bright red smile, vivid as a gunshot.

“Are there actual hiking trails here?” Emma leaned back in her chair. “It didn’t look like there was from the road.”

“There is a path to the toll bridge, but it’s so overgrown you can barely push past it. Ana likes forging her owns path. Just carries some compass.” Ruby lowered her voice. “I think that she’s looking for Kristoff.”

“Who’s Kristoff?” Henry asked, playing with his napkin.

“He’s this guy who lives out in the cabin. Barely ventures out of the woods for supplies. I’ve never seen him, but Mary Margret met him once in winter.”

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He could see them walking together from his window, their shadows dragging out in the evening.

His hands trembled.

The clock was moving.

 

Chapter Text

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Temporary Bliss

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I am fiendin' for the sunshine

To show our love in a good light

Give me reason

I am pleadin' to the stars

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She doesn’t bother to think.

She can’t think.

She can only fly.

(so she flies.)

(simple.)

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They find the car first turned into the ditch.

Everything is broken glass and blood on pavement, and she’s on her knees clutching her heart. “My heart,” she gasps out, clawing at her chest violently.

Everyone is watching because everyone knows what she had been trying to do.

They’d seen her rusting beast of a car fly down the street, nearly hitting the mechanic. The sheriff had flown after her in his cruiser and by default the town followed at a distance. They first followed the smell of burning rubber, than screaming.

“She’s bound and determined to leave this place,” Mrs. Potts had told Ruby over the counter hours earlier, pushing her glasses up her nose slightly. “Mark my words, that girl is going to fly out of here soon as she’s able.”

“Hey, hey.” The sheriff was on his knees in front of her, trying to catch her hands and prevent herself from tearing herself into ribbons. His deputy was behind her, waiting for the moment.

Emma watched from a distance. “Who is she?” The night sky looked like rust, the stars looking strangely bright in the sky.

“She’s crazy.” Leroy grimaced. “Always flying off the handle.”

The woman beside her drew nearer. “Her father hits her. I saw her walk into Mulan’s bar with a nasty black eye.”

Leroy rolled his eyes. “I bet its Garret hitting her. He’s a bastard when it comes down to her. Never liked him anyways.”

“He took my heart,” The woman choked out, clenching her fists tight despite the Sheriff’s grip on them. “You don’t understand. You don’t see it, do you?”

“Tell me what I don’t see.” The Sheriff coaxed her softly, shifting forward on his heels slightly. “Is this about Garrett?”

She seethed for a moment. “He isn’t Garrett. You aren’t this. This isn’t you, but a mirror.” She flinches from his grip. “Not a mirror. No. No. You just don’t understand where we are and who you are.”

Her voice is growing louder and louder.

Everybody is crowding, watching her melt further down.

“C’mon, Arabelle. I’m taking you back to get cleaned up.”

She looked down almost surprised.

“I’m bleeding?”

“Yeah,” The Sheriff began to help her stand, grasping tight on her arms and keeping her steadied. “Graham, do you mind?”

“How long have I been bleeding like this?”

The deputy wordlessly got the car door opened and helped strap the trembling woman in. He then looked up and gazed out at the crowd. “You can leave now.” He called out, waving his hands out. “Go home and let us on through.”

Emma frowned.

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“What happened, mom?” Henry nearly pounced on her as soon as she got in her room. “Was there a car crash?”

She threw herself down onto her bed, barely taking the time to slide her glasses off. “Yeah. Someone slammed there car into a tree leaving.”

Henry wrinkled his nose. “You smell like smoke.”

She blew at him.

“I probably smell like burnt rubber as well at this rate. God, she was going fast. She almost wiped out that guy on the street.”

“What happened to her? Is she okay?”

She frowned as she flipped onto her back and kicked her shoes off. “She was freaking out. Started going on and on about everything, really.”

“That’s weird.”

“Tell me about it.”

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“Are you okay?” Rachelle hissed, leaning out the attic window slightly. “I saw you.”

He stood below her, hands planted against the brick wall as he looked up towards her. Her long blonde hair fell over her shoulders and caught in the moonlight. “Fine, Blondie. Arabelle couldn’t hurt me.” He rolled his eyes.

Despite the darkness and the height he could see the bruise under her eye.

“What happened?”

“I was late.” She shrugged. “It’s fine. Barely hurts, Flyn. Stop worrying about nothing.”

His heart twisted. “I’m taking you out of here.”

She froze, tensing as a shadow fell over her. “Rachelle Punze. Is that window open again?”

“Yes, mother.” She whispered, gripping onto the window ledge violently.

Her hair was grabbed roughly and she was pulled back in the room. “You do not ever open this window again. Do you understand?” Her mother looked frantic, her black eyes glittering in the darkness. “I will kill you if you open it a crack.”

She flinched as the window was slammed shut behind her. “I’m sor-” she began but was cut off by her mother’s hands around her throat.

“I will boil you alive if you even think about opening that window.”

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“Elsa!” Ana called into the night, ducking under the low branches. “Elsa. Are you out here tonight?”

Kristoff stepped out of the shadows, Sven following at his heels playfully. “She isn’t here tonight.”

She jumped. “For someone so tall, you shouldn’t be that good at sneaking up on people.”

He shrugged. “You should go get some sleep tonight. You’ve been out here all day.”

Ana tugged on one of her braids restlessly. “I’m not really worn out. I just need to find her. Gold’s shut down the search and I have to find her. What if she’s hurt? Or starving?”

“Then you’ll find her and feed her sandwiches.”

She blinked.

“Thanks.”

Sven barked.

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Gold limped into his office, leaning heavily onto the cane. The cold mornings had been settling into his leg rather unpleasantly these days.

He flinched when he saw her sitting there in his chair.

“Rumpelstiltskin.” She whispered, her hands latched tight onto the arm rests.

He stared at her.

Gold’s lungs felt suddenly very papery. “What did you just say?”

“You heard me, Rumple.” She stood from the chair quickly, and the sudden motion of it made it topple over. “How long has it been?”

“Since you left?” He swallowed.

“Since you cursed us.” She ground out. “Just answer me.”

“It has only been twenty eight years.”

Belle made a choked noise, her hands pressed to her forehead. The movement revealed the white bandages against her skin. “Why do I remember when no one else does?”

“You’re missing half a heart, my dear.”

“Do not call me that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You will be.”

Chapter Text

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Scream My Name

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Love it when I'm play-pretending

When I can take bullets to the heart

Fuckin' up my happy ending

But I can take bullets to the heart.

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She lay on the floor trembling, a thin blanket spread across her thin form. “It burns.” She whispered, her skin stinging from a thousand burns.

The door swung open, making her flinch. “No, no. No more, just kill me.”

“Relax; I’m not the one who’s going to hurt you.” The man informed her from the door, bowing slightly at her. “In fact, I’m the one who is going to save you.”

“I’m nothing. Kill me. No more.”

The man squatted down. “They really did a number on you, didn’t they? Come on. Can you stand? I got a wheelchair ready to get you of here.” He pulled at the blanket, uncovering her form. “Shit.”

Her pale skin was reddened and left a mess, burns covering her flesh.

“Please.” She begged, cringing from his careful touch as he sought to pull her up. The hospital gown barely hung on her narrow frame, revealing too much of the damage.

“Good thing I planned ahead.” He mumbled as he took out a slightly oversized set of scrubs for her to slip into, averting his gaze as he helped her dress. “See, the war is coming. I’m stealing you before they screw you up even more, if that’s possible.”

“I don’t remember.” She whispered in his ear as he helped her lean her weight on him. “Who am I?”

He cocked his head. “I don’t really know. They just want you really bad.”

.

Flynn stood awkwardly outside the classroom, dragging the toe of his boot across the surface of the floor. He could dimly remember sitting in the classrooms and gazing out the windows. He had hated it, watching the world slowly drift by the way clouds do. It’d been a long time since he had willingly come to the school since then, still a few months until his eighteenth birthday, but no one cared. If the sheriff caught him and dragged him back to the red bricked building, Flynn would simply take off again out the door as soon as he could.

There was a class still in session, students sitting quietly in their desks as a blonde woman stood in the front of the chalkboard with the words Great Gatsby scrawled across the cloudy surface. Rachelle was sitting near the window, her blonde hair spilling over her shoulders. He could tell by the way she was sitting bent over the desk that she was drawing, her pencil slashing across her paper to create something that was simply magnificent.

Eventually the bell rang shrilly and the students lurched out of the classroom with copies of worn books tight in their hands. Rachelle followed slowly, clutching her book to her chest. “Hey.” He announced, unsure if she would even notice his presence.

“Flynn!” Her expression brightened. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see if you were alright.”

Rachelle looked away, her face pale so the bruise on her face looked more violent. He had heard her scream once, the moment her mother had yanked her back into the attic.

“I’m fine.” She smiled at him, but there was something fragile in her gaze.

Flynn scowled, grabbing her arm and yanking her sleeves up. Bruises marred her wrists. Her left hand suffered a burn across her palm, making her bite back a wince. “Liar.”

“So what?”

“What did she do to you?”

“Go away. I need to get home before she sees us together. Or I’m late.” Rachelle whispered. “Let me go.”

The door opened behind her, the blonde teacher emerging from the classroom. “Can I help you with something?” She arched a brow as she spoke, gaze fixated on Flynn’s grasp on Rachelle’s arms.

“Everything is fine, Miss. Swan.” Rachelle informed her softly. “Flynn was just leaving and I was just going home.”

The teacher’s gaze hardened, as if understanding everything was not fine.

“Would you mind if I walked with you?”

Rachelle shrugged. “Up to you.”

.

Flynn watched them walk away.

.

“Get out.” Mulan glowered at the red head. “I’m closed.”

“I just want to hang this flyer up. Please, it’ll only take a second.”

The Asian woman planted her hands on the counter. “Get out of my bar. I’m not interested in your pathetic run away sister; I just want to be left alone before I stab you.”

Ana’s eyes widened. “You don’t even know me!”

“Nor do I want to.” She rolled her eyes. “How many times am I going have to tell you to get out of my bar?”

The door opened, revealing a tall man. “You opened early?”

“No, this girl wants to hang up her flyer.” Mulan flung herself away from the bar counter and grabbed a cloth to furiously clean a glass. “Look, Princess. I don’t care about your sob story. Go harass someone else before I call the police. And you, Shang. The sign says five, and it’s three o’clock. Go drown.”

He smirked. “Someone is feeling bitter today.”

Mulan flung the glass at his face, barely missing.

“I will rip your spine out and beat you with it if you do not get the fuck out of my bar!” Mulan threatened Ana, watching her stumble to exit the building with satisfaction.

Shang slid into the stool at the counter. “Was that really necessary?”

“Been a bad day.”

Shang cautiously reached for her hand. She didn’t push him away. “Your father?”

“I visited his grave earlier.”

“You should have told me.”

“I wanted to go alone.”

“I’m still here.”

.

Belle gazed at the street from inside her apartment. Since the accident she had moved out above a shoe shop, paying the old woman who ran the place a reasonable price for moving in such short notice. Books were sprawled everywhere, filling the empty spaces within her new home.

It was endless, watching the little people trapped within their own little worlds.

Ruby stood by her car, smiling at some passing man. Belle frowned, watching the woman she had once known turned into some sort of tramp, seeking some form of freedom. It was pathetic.

A blonde woman walked across the street with a boy, catching her attention. “Who the hell are you?” She spoke softly, leaning her forehead against the glass.

The woman and child disappeared into the diner.

Belle sighed, pressing her hand against her chest. Her heart beat painfully, fully understanding something was horribly wrong with everything.

“Fuck you, you bastard.”

.

Mary Margaret sat alone at the counter with her hands wrapped around a warm mug of hot chocolate. The diner was rather empty, minus the arrival of the new teacher and her son.

“Can we sit at the counter, mom?”

“Sure.”

She smiled slightly at the two.

“Aren’t you the teacher for the younger grades?” The blonde asked her as her son began flipping through the menu. “I’m Emma, by the way.”

“Mary Margaret. I teach the sixth grade. I believe your son is in my class.”

“Don’t mind him. He’s apparently been starving waiting for me to finish teaching.” She rolled her eyes, running her hand through his hair affectionately. “He’s going to analyze this entire menu, but he’ll end up ordering hot chocolate and a grilled cheese.”

Henry grinned as he pushed his glasses further up his nose. “Hot chocolate with cinnamon.”

Her heart leapt at his correction. She ignored it though, pushing further into the conversation. “Where are you from?”

“New York. Our apartment got destroyed in a fire, and then I got offered a job here.” Emma shrugged. “Right now we’re living at the Bed and Breakfast.”

“Have you been looking for a new place?”

“Haven’t even had time, to be honest.”

“There’s an apartment over the carpenter’s studio if you want it. I hear it was a two bedroom, fully furnished. He’s been desperate to get someone to move in.” Mary Margaret took a sip of her hot chocolate.

Ana arrived, her expression looking exhausted. “What can I get for you?”

“Are you okay?”

She blinked, tugging on her braid. “Mulan’s feeling a little testy right now. I just wanted to hang up a flyer. Everyone goes there, so I figured people would notice. She attacked this guy with a glass, and pretty much threw me out.”

“You’ll find her.” Mary Margaret told her, speaking quietly. “People find people. It’s what they do.”

“Who’s Mulan?” Emma asked.

“She owns Mushu. Which is impressive, because no one ever owns anything around here. Gold owns everything in this town.” Mary Margaret informed her. “Mulan is kind of restless, like a more aggravated version of Arabelle. She’s the best though, dealing with Leroy when he gets in his moods.”

.