Chapter Seven - Nasty Habits

The Enchanted Forest, the village of Hamelin. Then.

The mayor of Hamelin stood atop a tall box, this new issue at hand was pressing, yet he was trying best as he can to exude an aura of calm over the frantic crowd.

His attempts to reassure his people were hindered however by the sudden appearance of the Dark One. The Dark One was known far and wide, and those who did not know him by face knew him by ill reputation. It was not uncommon to hear of the newest exploits of the Dark One - a greedy youth transformed into a swine in some town a few leagues away; an accident come to befall a lord's manor on his daughter's wedding day after rejecting the offer of a cloaked traveller; spinning a barn full of hay into real gold - such was the power of fear, and fear spread well especially when bogeymen come to life.

A few shocked gasps were released, others looked to hide behind their peers but the mayor himself held his ground as the Dark One, Rumpelstiltskin, walked briskly into the village square, all terror, and no mirth. "You think you can hide him from me?" he shouts with anger. "Where is he? Where's my son?!"

Their situation was becoming stickier by the second. The mayor once again made an attempt at placating his audience, clearly, there had been some misunderstanding, "He's not here, Dark One. I swear!"

Rumplestiltskin juts out his finger in accusation, "Don't lie to me! Magic has led me to this rathole of a town! His trail ends here in Hamelin." No one dared try to meet his eyes but the mayor. "I know you're hiding him from me."

Quickly, the mayor steps down from his makeshift pedestal and comes closer to the creature in somber fashion, "No. No, we're not. Many of our children went missing last night," he tried to explain, "lured from their beds by some unholy music."

Rumpelstiltskin was skeptical. "What kind of music?"

"From the Piper." the mayor answered him, "Only the children could hear it. Some of them tried telling their parents, but no one believed them. They were sent back to bed. And this morning, they were gone." A sob came from a weeping mother, her husband had held her as she turned her face into her husband's chest.

"And who was playing it?" Rumpel questioned, his fingers miming the playing of the pipes.

"No one saw his face. O-only a figure hidden by a pied cloak of multicolor patches," Rumpelstiltskin had grown more curious, the mayor's words seeming to have an effect on him, "leading the children from their homes and into the forest. Don't you see? It... It has to be the same man that has taken your son." the mayor inferred.

Rumplestiltskin started to tremble in a silent fury, "Then whoever this Pied-Piper is, he's about to play his last note."

Neverland. Present day.

The fire had crackled softly, as if it too, was aware of the secrecy of it all and the danger of crossing Pan and his Lost Boys. Mary Margaret sat beside Emma as her daughter laid out the plan of attack. Though it was not the appropriate time to think so, and more than little vain, she thought that the way Emma had built the makeshift plan of Pan's camp was quite accomplished, the mom inside of her beamed with shallow pride. It was not so different as the ones she had made in her days as the traitor/renegade/bandit Snow White, or more recently, with her students as they created dioramas at the school in Storybrooke where she taught. She hid her small smile and paid extra attention.

While Emma was still growing acclimated to what she had dubbed 'family stuff', she had felt that this, the running, the planning, the sword-fighting, this was her finally being in her own element. Alright, maybe not so much with the sword-fighting, but it did trigger the muscle memories she'd gathered in her years living in Boston as a professional bailbonds-person."This is where they're keeping Henry." Emma motioned, her stick dragging across the ground as she drew, "Pan's compound. According to, uh…"

"Tinker Bell." The ex-faerie chirps with a twinge of a smile on her lips. She drops the bundle of kindling she previously held in her arms off to the side. Tinker Bell was the newest addition to their rag-tag group of heroes and villains off to save Henry and get out of Neverland, though she did not yet feel comfortable being so close to the Storybrooke group. Years of living alone had not done her any favours.

"Yeah, I know." Emma breathes, slightly overwhelmed, "Still weird to say." she confesses.

"Tink is fine." she provides.

"Not sure that's any better." Emma interjects, "Anyway, she says that there are sentries positioned across the front, which is why we are gonna come in through the back entrance here." her stick hits the different points of the compound's layout, wanting to make sure everyone was on the same page. "She's gonna talk her way in. Once she makes sure the coast is clear, then we are going to sneak on in."

All this uncertainty had made Tink anxiously pace this way and that, double-checking, triple-checking everything in preparation. "You'll still have to deal with any lost boys once you're inside."

"I think we can handle a few children with pointy sticks." Regina supplies with confidence from where she sat.

"It's not the sticks you need to worry about." Tinker Bell voices, rounding on the dark-haired woman, "It's the poison they're dipped in." Across the camp, David and Killian's eyes meet in a worried glance, unseen by the rest of them, both knowing the very present danger of the poison native to the island.

Mary Margaret nods, "Dreamshade. Hook warned us." she adjusted her white shirt for something to do, they were all terribly restless.

"Good." Tinker Bell proclaims, "Because one nick, and you'll spend the last of-"

"Poison sticks equal death." said David somewhat quickly, standing on his feet; his voice lowering once he realises the small outburst. "We got it. Now when can we put this rescue mission into action?"

Tinker Bell answers him with speed, she wanted nothing more than to leave Neverland. "I'm ready to go, just as soon you tell me the exit plan." Her smile fades when the others seemed to come up empty, much to her fears, "You do have an escape plan, don't you?" she says, more softly.

Mary Margaret was hesitant, and Regina couldn't help but grimace at her response, "It's... it's more of a last-minute trip."

"If you don't have a way off this island, then none of this matters." Tinker Bell cries.

"We'll figure it out." the Storybrooke mayor mentions, wanting to cool off the situation.

"You'll figure it out? No one comes and goes from this place unless he allows it." the ex-faerie was more than exasperated, she threw her arms up, "This is a waste of time." Tink had put her head in her hands.

David also had thought to calm her down, "When it comes to family, we always find a way."

But Tink was finished with excuses. She couldn't afford this plan to fail, or for Pan to retaliate. "You don't get it. Here. Let me show you something." she says, pulling a contraption from her pouch and raising it to them, "You know what this is?"

"A watch." Emma says simply.

"I got it from the people who brought your son here for Pan." Tink said coolly.

Emma rounded on her at once, her words spitting out in rapid fire, "Greg and Tamara? Where are they? Why'd they give you that?" They must know something. And if they didn't, she could still kick their asses for kidnapping and endangering their kids.

Tinker Bell remained composed, "I got it off the girl's body." When Emma made a grab for the wristwatch she put it closer to her chest, scavenged or not, it was hers now, "Spent half the night cleaning the blood off it. And the other guy... Well, there wasn't enough left of him to find anything useful."

Though it seemed quite sadistic of her, Regina could not help but smile at this thought, Greg and Tamara got what they deserved, especially after taking the only two people she truly gave a damn about anymore.

"This is what Pan does to people he employs. What do you think he's gonna do to you? I'm not sticking my neck on Pan's chopping block without a way off this island. When you figure that out, you know where I live." Tink said decidedly before stomping off, muttering to herself in annoyance.

"Where the hell is she going?" Mary Margaret questioned in a panicked voice.

"I'll get her, bring her back." David expressed about to turn around.

Emma cut him off, "Don't. She's right. If there's one thing I've learned, you never break in somewhere unless you know the way out." there was a knowing look in her green eyes.

Regina spoke flippantly, "And where'd you get that, in bailbonds-person school?"

"Neal taught me that." Nobody dared to oppose her, not wanting to complicate things further.

David then turned to the pirate, "What about you, Hook? You got off this island before."

Hook nodded, coming closer, his eyes never turning upwards to look at them, he sighs softly, "Yes, aboard my ship, which would require some form of magic to create a portal, which... I got from Pan in a deal I don't think he's ready to repeat." he says dejectedly.

The mayor's continuing dislike for the leader of the Lost Boys grew by the second, "So no one's ever left the island without Pan's permission?"

"One man. Her partner in crime," Killian said, turning to Emma. "Neal."

"How?" The blonde said, eyes widening.

"Maybe we can find out." Killian offered as he drew the band back into the Neverjungle. "We should hurry, the longer we stay here the worse it will be. This rock tends to change people - and not for the better."

One could argue that Hook was exactly the type of man to exploit the leverage he had over others, that secrets were just another currency he could use to barter with or shape to his advantage. But he had hoped that the time he had spent with Emma and the rest of his Storybrooke troupe had influenced him to be more like the honourable man he once was. Trekking their way through the ever-dense thicket, he keeps his mouth shut, never voicing his growing concern for the Dreamshade racing its way to David's heart, nor of his memories of the girl with the bright red hair and her former turns as one of Neverland's most fearsome predators.

Meanwhile. The Lost Boys' Camp.

With a critical eye, Rose Mills watched silently as the boys hooted, hollered and danced around the blaze of the bonfire. These youths had beat at drums, stomped their feet, jumped and tumbled, their stage framed by a deep green curtain of the jungle. She hears a rustle to her right and feels a familiar gaze settle on her, knowing who it was in an instant. "I see the boys have grown more violent than ever," she comments aloofly, her thin arms crossing over her chest. Rubbing her wrists, she tried to soothe the rope-burns there, the boys had already moved on and gone back to their reveling, not even ten minutes after their altercation with a loaded crossbow. Rose wasn't about to let that go just yet.

Pan's mouth twists, he could still feel her anger simmering on the surface, "The boys will be boys, Princess." he says, motioning to the wild festivities. "You've always coddled them too much."

"So," she said, her eyes still searching the crowd. "Where are they? Where have you hidden them?"

"Who?" the boy's brow lifts.

She pauses. "The boys. My boys. Tootles... Nibs, Curly, Slightly, the Twins," Rose had assumed that Pan must have hidden them in a cave somewhere in a remote part of the jungle in the chance that she might turn them against him. She had observed to her curiosity that the new Lost Ones were made up of older boys, looking to be no younger than thirteen.

Pan rubs his chin for a moment as if trying very hard to remember. 'Oh them? I sent them away."

"What?" she says, incredulous. She faced him straight on, searching for the truth in his eyes, she could feel his breath on her cheeks.

He sends her a wicked grin, "Oh they're back where they came from." he informs her, "They were annoying- reminded me of you." Rose blinked, having fallen silent. "Only Felix and some of the older ones got to stay. Though you won't recognise them at all." His voice was so flippant about it, so casual and devoid of any depth of emotion. It scared her, chills ran up her spine.

Rose couldn't believe what she was hearing, "They didn't- You kicked them out? When they had no place else to go, no homes, no family? They were orphans."

Pan shrugged his shoulders, "They didn't follow the rules." he answered simply, his eyes cold. "See, Princess, only the loyal stay. That's how it goes. Besides, they got a Neverland education. They would have learned to fend for themselves." Pan no longer took in lost children but instead recruited boys on the cusp of manhood. Those forgotten and neglected boys more enamoured with wild freedom, seduced by danger and adventure in a place where nobody could tell them what to do. They were mean looking youths who carried matchsticks in their pockets, who enjoyed lighting flames, who openly played with fires. They didn't know to fear being burned.

The words Pan threw meanwhile were like icy daggers stabbing at her gut, Rose grew hot in her fury. "The twins were barely nine! Tootles was six!"

"And how long had they been nine and six?!" Pan exploded, "The lessons you gave them surely didn't help them keep their innocence! It made no difference, nine or six, they finally got a taste of that reality they deserved. They asked for it," he said, jabbing a finger at her chest, "they wanted to leave as soon as you did. Cried for you every night. I couldn't stand it! So the hardships they would have faced, all alone on the streets? They were on you. It was you who put those not so lovely thoughts in their heads." Pan didn't miss the way she flinched at that comment.

"They were our family!" she said in protest.

The boy nodded."Which you abandoned." he gave a loud scoff, "Oh please, Princess. I see you on your high horse, but don't pretend you don't have blood on your hands. You yourself were quite ruthless after all. Your own brand of cruelty. Habit forming, wasn't it?"

Rose was shaking her head. "That-that wasn't me. You made me do those things."

"No, no, Tiger. You did. And all by yourself. I only gave you a little nudge. But you, you had your fun." he said with a wicked grin. "I wonder...these vices are hard to break, nasty habits and all that. Know what I think? I think the Tiger's still in there." Pan whispered, pointing to her head, "How long have you kept her locked up? I bet she's just waiting to come out and have her fun again."

Before she had known what she was doing, she had taken Pan's knife from his belt and found herself pressing it to his neck. The boy's eyes had grown wide with surprise, but he was not frightened, "Oh there you are Tiger. See, I was right." He tutted at her, looking extremely pleased with himself, a silent smug laughter had filled him.

The girl was finding it hard to breathe, tears brimmed in her eyes. Something in her just took over and it scared her. She had not meant to do it. She wasn't thinking straight. "Leave me alone." a sob had escaped her. Dropping his knife, she had nothing more to say, Pan once again broke down her walls.

Rose needed some air, racked with guilt, she stalked away from the camp. She could not suffocate the guilt and rage stoking inside her, nor could she prevent darker thoughts from coming into the fray. She was a monster. No, Pan was the monster, she had to remind herself. She could not believe that he had sent away the boys that for so long had been their family. More than ever, she felt the resolve to leave this place bolster, but not before she gets Henry, and not before they had dealt with Pan once and for all.

Then. Hamelin.

The Dark One had staked out on the rooftops of the town, He sat silently on the rickety shingles, waiting patiently for the Piper to show. He had been waiting since the sun had gone down, the orange afternoon melted away into the purple cloak of nightfall. The streets were bare, windows shuttered, doors closed. The town of Hamelin waited with baited breath for something to happen. It was not until the dead of night when the townspeople were all in their beds that the rats started to play.

As if on command, one by one, young boys began to poke their heads out of windows. Still in their night clothes, they had fled their homes, eyes glazed over, heads almost swaying to an unheard tune. They strode out of town, distracted, too hypnotised to even notice the Dark One stalking their tails as they filed into the darkened forest. There they joined a camp where a small bonfire had been lit, the boys had donned on masks and furs and picked up the instruments that were laid out for them on the forest floor. The Hamelin boys had joined a larger group already reveling by the fire, their twisting and leaping bodies casting menacing shadows, they whooped and laughed in abandonment. Acrobats dancing to the will of the pipes. They felt careless and free. Some clapped, a few rested by the fire and played instruments made from animal skins, all the while playing along to this unintelligible music in their heads. It was a party, loud, raucous and they seemed to have only just begun.

Rumpelstiltskin began searching for his son amidst the night's festivities. "Bae? Bae!" he began calling out to the crowd. No one seemed to pay him to mind, all too focused on the dance. He started seizing the boys by their shoulders hoping to discover his son among them. Each of their faces was obscured by masks of different kinds showcasing different animals, a wolf, a bear, a boar… But Baelfire was nowhere to be seen and the boys all shrugged him off as they continued on.

Beyond the flames of the bonfire, Rumpelstiltskin spots the Piper, a hooded figure in a pied cloak. The more he blew into the pipes, the louder the tune of the song and the more frenzied the dance became. Rumpel was relieved that his magic proved to be stronger than the enchanted pipe's, and though he could hear the music, it did not seem to control him like the others, it merely made his head swim.

A hood provided the Piper's anonymity as his body moved with the song, his pied cloak looking anything but lowly and ill-repaired. There was something in his step that was equal parts musicality and youthful vigour. The Piper himself was a slight looking fellow, and his person was presented as if he were no more than a foot soldier in this small faction of boys, but the way he mesmerized this little troop suggests he was something more akin to an actor in complete command of his stage. Years of developed intuition and his proclivity for magic had told the Dark One that there is something more than meets the eye with this mysterious player.

But the Piper was not alone, he was accompanied by a leaner figure whose body slinked around his with ease and practice, a dancer wearing the mask of a ferocious jungle cat. The mask was well crafted and covered the top half of their face, as well as the sides and the top of their head, leaving only the mouth and nose unobstructed through the gaping maw of the beast that was cast in a perpetual snarl. Its colour was a dirty ochre accompanied by black stripes, complete with a set of silver whiskers and a wiry mane that protruded over the edges of the piece. Compared to the others that their fellows were wearing, this particular mask seemed to had been made with a keener attention to detail and an accomplished hand. And though the activity was just as wild as their comrades, the air of this person was more graceful, enunciating their movements with dramatic and languid gestures. All in all, the effect of envisioning these partners was something unexpected, terrifying, and captivating in summary. The Pied Piper and The Jungle Cat shared their dance as the party swelled around them.

Wasting no more time, Rumpel at once teleported himself across the fire and broke the two merrymakers apart. Grabbing the Piper's instrument, he destroyed it in a swift motion. Though the music was gone, clearly the revelers were still under a spell. "Off with your guise Piper, there's no fooling me! Now where's my son?!" the Dark One demanded.

"Is that what they're calling me?" The Piper had asked, "We both know who I really am." the hooded musician turned to face Rumpel and drew back his hood. The Dark One was potently taken aback, he had not anticipated this, and the ghosts of his pasts were not usually so tangible. "Been a long time, laddie. Glad you could make the show." The Piper smiled casually like it was nothing, but Rumpelstiltskin knew better, he had not seen Peter Pan for an age and did not expect to meet the boy again, ever.

"Surprised to see me Rumpel?" Peter Pan quirks a dark brow upward, his grin widening, "I don't blame you. I'm a little surprised myself. Aren't we Princess?" his companion materialises at once beside him, pushing up their mask. Tiger Lily greets Rumpelstiltskin with a wry smile.

"How rude of you to stop our dance." her voice drips with petulance, "I see you've grown Rumpel, oh, but it isn't by very much..." Tiger Lily says, giggling into her hand, the other rested atop Pan's shoulder, her cheek leaned against it. The Jungle Cat's teeth glinted in the firelight.

"And look who's become the Dark One!" Pan exclaims in a proud tone. "Good for you."

Having been stunned silent, the Dark One tried to regain his wits about him. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm looking for more Lost Boys, of course. You can never have too many friends." Pan baited, Tiger Lily nodding along.

A look of horror struck the Dark One's features, "You're here for my son."

"I am." came Pan's reply.

Rumpelstiltskin shook his head, "It's gonna take a lot more than a magic pipe to take my son!"

"The only thing magic about this pipe, is that only certain boys can hear it. Boys who feel unloved, boys who feel lost." the youth's voice grew sharp, "I guess that's why you can hear it Rumpel. Isn't it?"

"Yes, Neverland has very select entry requirements." Tiger Lily mentions nonchalantly, "But, you'd know all about that, right Rumpel? Didn't you want to be us once? Aren't you lost, still, after all these years?" her jabs were sickly sweet and mocking.

"You were my friends, but don't think you know me." Rumpel spat, "You don't. Not anymore."

"Oh I think we do," Pan asserted, "Even with all that're nothing more than an unloved, lonely, lost boy." he laughs, raising his lean arms, "And my island, is the home of all lost things and Lost Boys."

Rumpelstiltskin's face crumpled. This was the Peter Pan and Tiger Lily he knew as a child? They were his friends once before! Determined, the Dark One spoke with finality. "Baelfire will not be a part of it."

"He's already a part of it. The question is," Pan challenged, "What are you willing to do to get him back?" By his side, Tiger Lily chuckled.

"I'm gonna make you regret ever asking that question." The Dark One told them.

"I understand you're upset." Pan retorted, "Most parents' worst fear is that their child will be taken away from them. But that's not yours, is it Rumpel? No. You're not afraid Baelfire will be taken from you, you're afraid he'll leave. Little Rumpel, abandoned again, it's what you're good at after all."

Rumpelstiltskin had stepped back unconsciously, as Pan made his way forward. The Head of the Lost Boys knew he had the upper hand, "Everyone you've ever loved has abandoned you, hadn't they? Like Bae's mother, Milah? Not to mention your own father...Why should Baelfire be any different?"

"Well, if I were in his shoes I'd be positively afraid to go home to a Crocodile." Tiger teased, grinning, her nose in a wrinkle. She clutched at her chest in fake shock,"I heard that old Croc has already eaten half his village… I'd wager that poor child couldn't wait to get away."

"You're wrong." was the only thing Rumpel could say.

"Are we? Well, let's find out, shall we? You ask Baelfire whether he wants to come to Neverland with me or stay here with you. If he wants to stay, I'll leave and never return. Deal?"

The Dark One's voice was small, "I don't have to make any deals with you."

"But why wouldn't you? If you're so sure he'll stay?" Pan was in a betting mood, and nothing good would come of it.

Present. The Lost Boy's Camp.

Henry had sat alone, he did not join the festivities but had chosen to draw in the dirt with a short stick he had found. A little while ago he had seen Peter Pan talking to Rose before she marched off in anger. He had wondered what they were talking about but didn't bother asking Pan about it. Rose had told him several times to stay away from Pan since they had been brought to camp. Pan was dangerous and he can be quick to anger, Henry didn't want to cross him any time soon.

Yet Rose still hadn't come back. Henry wondered where his moms are and if they were looking for him. It must have been at least two, maybe three days since he's been gone from Storybrooke. At this rate, it was getting harder and harder to tell, time was weird in Neverland like that. Everything here full of danger, the boys especially, and he knew only to trust Pan as far as he could spit, but the Lost Boy had a way of talking that made to compel. Before he could think about it more Peter Pan had approached him with a friendly smile. "You don't want to join in the celebration, Henry?"

The younger boy shrugged, eyes downcast, "Nothing to celebrate."

"Nothing to celebrate?" Pan repeats, chuckling. "Henry, this whole party is to celebrate you."

"Me? Why?"

"Because you've come to save magic of course." Pan had voiced it like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "And I for one, can't think of a more deserving celebration than that. Just look at them," he says, gesturing to the raving group.

Henry was resolved, he heard Rose's voice inside his head telling him to keep his distance from Pan, "I'm not like them. Or you."

"Sure you are." Pan grinned, "Don't tell her I told you this - she'll only get embarrassed - but Rose, was actually quite the party-starter when she lived here in Neverland. She'd stand atop a tall rock or climb a tree, and she'd get us all on our feet, she was really good at that. She and I would dance until sunrise." the boy said, reminiscing. He looked like he was enjoying the memory. He actually looked happy, eager to get Henry up and having fun. "Like any boy, maybe a song will get you on your feet." Pan had pulled out his pipes and placed it close to his lips.

The Lost Boy began to play, but Henry only heard the air he was expelled from his cheeks. "Sorry. I-I don't hear anything." He appreciated the older boy's attempts at cheering him up.

Pan's face fell, he had stopped playing abruptly. "Interesting. You see, this pipe's enchanted, Henry. It can only be heard by certain children."

"Like who?"

However, before Pan could elaborate, the older boy's attention was stolen by Felix, his right-hand boy, who came out of the Neverjungle with an ugly scowl. "You'll find out soon enough, I promise." was all Peter Pan had supplied before he left. Maybe Pan wasn't as horrible as people had described him to be, he seemed to genuinely want to have Henry as his friend. After all, he healed Rose's ankle, kept Henry fed and entertained and tried very hard to make Henry feel like he belonged. Maybe he deserved a second chance, and regarding Pan's conflict with Rose, Henry had simply chalked it up to some unresolved tension. It was their business what happened between Pan and Rose.

Pan had walked away from the boy to meet with his lieutenant, "What?" he demanded, "I know that look, what happened?"

Felix hated letting him down, especially when he was entrusted with such an important task. "Baelfire." was the answer he gave, "I'm afraid he got away."

"Well, why didn't you get him back?" the other boy barked.

"I tried." Felix told him. "I followed his trail and found two of our sentries knocked out...By a sleeping spell."

Pan's brows furrowed as he came to the inevitable answer, "The Dark One." Felix nodded in confirmation. "So father and son have been reunited."

"They'll be coming for them." Felix said, nodding towards Henry and Rose, who had just returned and holding the younger child in her arms. "We should move them somewhere safe. If they find out someone's looking for them...Anyway, they belong to us now, we can't risk losing them." His eyes had shifted to the redhead, his sentimentalities giving him away.

"Now, now, Felix." Pan reprimanded him, "Where's your sense of adventure? We can't end the party when the real fun is about to begin." His eyes too had drifted to the two newcomers in his camp. After all this time, he'd be damned if he ever let them go without a fight.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the camp, Rose was making her apologies to Henry. "Hey, sorry I took so long. Pan just...he knows how to press my buttons. He's getting to me and I'm too stupid for letting him!" she said in frustration, "I'll try better." she reassured the boy, putting her arm around his shoulders.

"S'okay Rosie." He murmured as she began to pet his hair.

"What were you talking about?" she inquired.

Henry gave a big yawn and smacked his lips together. "Nothing, really. He wanted me to join in with them."

"You don't have to do anything he tells you to, Henry. The Lost Boys aren't exactly role-model material." she says softly, noticing how tired he was. "I suppose you haven't had much rest since we got here huh?"

"Mhmm." he said, curling under her shoulder.

"I think the Lost Boys will just end up ignoring me if I tell them to be quiet. But why don't you get some rest?" the girl offered, pushing his head to rest on her collar. "How 'bout a lullaby?"

"I'm too old for those, Rosie." he says, stifling another yawn.

"If you say so, bud." she smiles, gently rocking him and humming under her breath sweetly. Now with the dark curse broken, Rose remembered all those nights singing Henry lullabies to get him to sleep, sometimes Regina had been too busy at work and came home too late to send Henry to bed, but Rose loved the time she got to spend with him. She helped raise this kid who was more like her own brother than a nephew. They did so many things together, and Henry was growing up so fast...she wondered just how long she had left to share these moments with him.

It led her to think back to when she sang her own Lost Boys to sleep. It was a bit harder back then, there were so many of the little ones to look after. They all used to fight over her attention, over who could choose the game, the next story, the next lullaby. They had all been so eager for love and affection and a sense of family. Long before Bae or even Rumpel had sought out Neverland, Peter and Lily took in those left abandoned by their own. Those who called out the loudest with their despair and loneliness. She and Peter had tried their best to give them good dreams, and soon, when that was not enough, they were brought to Neverland to escape the cruelties of the real world. Neverland back then was a proper home, but something had changed along the way. Deep in her heart, Rose knew she was to blame. It had been her fault, one that she was going to fix some way or another.

"Peter had become the leader of a merry band of youngsters, aged six to fourteen, who followed the Wild Boy wherever he went and seemed to understand his unintelligible noises. If they did not understand, then they pretended to. The life of a princess has many advantages, but I envied those children for their time with Peter and for what seemed to me to be a simple, carefree existence." ― Christopher Daniel Mechling, Peter: The Untold True Story

A/N: Hey all, I hope you guys are still enjoying this story. Just a quick question, what are your feelings towards the new seasons of OUAT? I've kind of stopped watching around season five because I was really getting into so many other shows since I got Netflix, and because I live in Australia, the episodes I do catch of OUAT have been sporadic at best and not really in order. So I wanted to know whether it was worth it to watch the sixth and seventh seasons, I know (at least from what I experienced from seasons four and five) that the writing was a little all over the place, and while I enjoyed some of the writing, there were definitely quite a few episodes where the quality was slipping and I had the feeling that they were really only trying to stretch out the story at the cost of wasting character development.

Of what I do know of the latest season, they sort of did a reboot thing with the story (and while I personally love Regina/Ronnie's new look), I'm still quite skeptical. I also know that they did introduce a Tiger Lily character in season seven, and I am not trying to erase that version of the character. For the sake of this story though, and the creative decisions I have made, I can say that this very much takes place in an AU where I have different plans for a few characters and their origins. You can say that it's one of the stories that take place in another storybook with a different version of events. Anyway, let me know what you think!

As always, please review, the encouragement and insight really means a lot. PM me if you want to talk about everything and nothing at all. :) Any questions? Comments? Hearing from you really makes my day!

I do not own any characters you might recognise, they are the property of Disney. I do own my OC (Rose/Tiger Lily).

Many thanks! And happy fanfic hunting!