It was all so different, paler somehow, like a faded watercolor landscape. Even the air smelled wrong, although the tang of the sea was a comfort to him. He was so out-of-place here – wrong clothes, wrong world, just wrong – but the cold hollow in his gut that burned like ice on bare skin reminded him of why he'd come. His eyes tracked every movement of the man who had ripped out his heart from his vantage point, hidden inside an abandoned, closed up shop. Gods, but he looked to be thriving here. Talking with Charming, one of those heroic idiots whose exploits were blown up into legends, Rumplestiltskin was clean, well-dressed, and obviously wealthy. That he should be successful, living well after all he'd done … The anger flared and his one good hand settled on the hilt of his sword, tracing the well-worn scroll work in the metal, ready to draw and quarter the bastard who'd killed Milah.

"Ms. Davies! Ms. Davies!" The children bustled down the street, herded along by a young woman, books tucked under their arms, heading for the library just one block away. "Ms. Davies, I know how to do a cartwheel. Wanna see?" The little boy promptly thrust his book into the hands of another and tried to cartwheel out into the street; he managed to get his hands on the ground, but the rest was more of a hop.

"Very nice, Jack." Her voice was patient and kind. "Now please get out of the street before Dr. Whale's car hits you."

She looked nothing like he remembered; her hair was shorter, captured neatly by a silver clasp at the nape of her neck, blonde streaks catching the afternoon sun (brown hair, loose and flowing over her back, swinging as she turned). She smiled as she caught another boy who was about to pinch the girl in front of him, casually tugging him back a step or two, and he got a glimpse of her face, her full lips (lower lip caught by her teeth as she worked through a problem). She was in pants that fit her curves, a smart red jacket over a simple shirt, and black heels that added a couple inches to her small stature (that damn corset laced so tight she could barely breathe). She looked happier than he'd ever seen her, at ease with her young charges, mothering them all in that way she had that encouraged the best in even the roughest character (you are not what they say you are, Killian).

The group crossed the street at the corner – she corralled them all until the light turned red – and she paused before she stepped off the curb, straightening her back and looking around, as if she could sense his eyes on her. He sank back further into the store, and the moment passed. Instead, Charming nodded to her and she gave him a friendly wave, following the students. His was surprised to see her here; he'd thought she would be in London, that her world was safe from the curse. But then life was a harsh bitch, so why wouldn't she be stuck in this tiny town, at the whims of the likes of Rumplestiltskin?


The shrieks were deafening as she scrabbled back from the edge of the water, looking for holds to pull herself up. Clammy hands grabbed at her legs, catching the long skirt, pulling her down. Their faces leered at her as she glanced back, sharp teeth in their open mouths, seaweed wrapped around their pale flesh. She wondered for the hundredth time what she was doing here, why she had let the boys talk her into coming back at all. If it weren't for Michael's crazy scheme, and John's so very logical argument in favor of it, she'd be at University right now, sitting in one of Dr. DeMance's boring lectures. Which she swore she'd appreciate in the future instead of complain about them if she got out of this alive.

She'd almost reached the top when she felt fingers on her ankle, a tight grip that she couldn't shake, and her hands lost purchase on the gravelly surface. She tried to dig in, but there was nothing to hold on to but skittering rock that broke in her hand. Then she was sliding backwards as more hands caught her, slipping towards the brackish pool and the hungry mermaids below.

"Here!" The voice came from above. "Grab this." A rope slithered down, and she wrapped her hands around it as she felt teeth sink into her calf; she kicked at the woman as the rope began to pull her up, freeing her from the monsters' clutches. Human hands caught her sleeves, then her arms and brought her safely over the edge. She huddled in her wet clothes, trembling all over, the terror of the close call washing over her.

"Can you run?" A voice asked, and she looked up to see intensely blue eyes staring down at her.

"W-w-what?" She managed to get out between her shivering lips.

"Their screams have stirred up the tigers and lions. They'll come to finish off whatever is left of you when the mermaids get done." A roar sounded from not far away. "So … can you run or do we leave you here?"

"I can run." Drawing herself up, Wendy Darling bundled up her wet skirts, unheeding of the men around her. Startled birds flew out of nearby trees, and she turned to see the others already disappearing, except for one darkly handsome man in a black coat. With a growing sense of dread, she took in the sword at his side and the glint of the sun off the silver hook where his right hand should be. "And most certainly, I can run faster than the likes of you, Captain Hook." She darted off in a different direction, determined not to go from the frying pan into the fire.

"What the hell?" She heard him say as she disappeared into the trees.