All characters and canon situations belong to ABC & Disney

The Moon and the Stars

Pushing her cart full of library books down the green tiled hallway of the only little hospital here in Storybrooke, Maine, the girl everyone called Belle looked in each room as she walked by, looking for the man called Captain Hook. She was told he was on this floor, but she had yet to see him. Perhaps he had already left.

Stopping outside a partially opened door at the very end, she looked inside and saw him. He was standing in front of the windows, which overlooked the port. He must long to go back to the sea, this man, this pirate, whatever he was.

She didn't remember him from her previous life, before the curse, and she certainly didn't remember him from after the curse. That was the problem. She couldn't remember anything. She was told, by Mr. Gold, that her memory loss was this man's fault, and she wanted to know one thing. Why?

Knocking upon the door with three sharp raps, she waited to be invited inside. No invitation was offered. Instead, without turning toward the door, the man said, "Leave. I told you I didn't want to talk to anyone."

She stepped into the room. "Perhaps you'd prefer reading to talking. I have some books here." She lifted a book from the top of her cart, just as he turned around to look at her.

Frowning, he asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I'm the librarian," she explained, although that wasn't why she had wanted to see this man.

He smirked, laughed, and said, "You're here to offer me a book? A book?"

She nodded. "I have all sorts," she began. "I have adventures, fairy tales, romances, nature stories. What would you like?"

"You want to know what I'd like, pet? What I'd really, really like?" He approached her slowly. She felt like prey to his predator.

She backed up until her hip hit the sharp corner of her library cart. Gasping in pain, she rubbed her hip with her hand even as she said, "Yes, I'd like to know what you want."

"I want to be left alone, that's what I want. I want to go back to my land and forget all of this ever happened, that's what I want. I don't want to stay here one second longer. That's what I want." He turned back toward the window.

"I have a book here about a man who gets stranded on a tropical island – if you're interested. It's called Robinson Crusoe." She lifted the book in question off the shelf at the bottom of her cart.

He turned around with a grim look upon his handsome face. "Why would I want a book about a man stranded on a deserted island, when all it does is remind me that I'm stranded here?"

Walking toward her, he grabbed the book from her hand and threw it across the room. "Now do you think I want a book?"

She hesitated one moment, and then answered, "Well… yes."

Crossing his arms in front of his chest he said, "What is it about me that makes you think I want a bloody book? Especially from the likes of you?"

"I don't know what that has to do with anything," she said honestly.

He leaned close. So close that she felt his breath upon her face. He said, "I'm the one who took your memories from you, darling. I know you may not recall that – since you can't recall anything – but it was me. And do you want to know why I did that? It's because of this." He held up his arm that was missing a hand (and at the moment, missing a hook.)

Her eyes darted to the place where his hand once was.

"Looks nice, doesn't it, pet?" he said with a sarcastic laugh.

"What happened to your hand?" She found she really wanted to know.

He narrowed his gaze. "Let's just say I had a small encounter, a mostly unforgettable one, with a nasty, no good, crocodile and this is the result. Now leave me alone."

He walked back over to the window.

Belle looked through the stacks of books on her cart. "I have another book here that might interest you. It's about a boy who was raised by wolves. It's called The Jungle Book. I don't know if there's crocodiles in it or not, but there might be."

She approached him wearily and held the book out toward him. He slapped it out of her hand without looking at her. "Take your pretty little arse out of here and leave me to my painful memories."

Bending to pick the book from the floor, Belle crossed to the door – picked up the first book as well – then after placing them back on the cart she closed the door to his room, leaving them in privacy.

Sitting in a chair in the corner of the sparsely decorated room she asked, "Why are your memories painful?"

Hook opened his eyes even as he turned to face her. She thought he looked as if he were in pain. He didn't answer her; instead he sat back on the bed, closed his eyes again, and sighed.

Feeling at a loss, Belle leaned forward, grabbed another book from the cart and said, "I could read to you, if you'd rather." She opened the book and began: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…"

He interrupted her. "What the bloody hell do you suppose you're doing?"

"Reading." She closed the book on her lap. "If you would prefer, we could talk instead. You could tell me why remembering things are so painful to you, and I could tell you how painful it is to me that I can't remember a single thing beyond the day when I woke up here at this very hospital."

He almost growled. Sitting upright in the bed he said, "A fact that is indeed my fault, but never mind that. Didn't I tell you that I didn't want an effing book?"

"Yes, that's true, but I only assumed you didn't want to read it. You said nothing about me reading to you." She closed the book and placed it on her lap. Fingering the leather binding nervously she said, "Or as suggested, we could talk. Tell me why you shot me. Tell me why you caused me to cross the line that separated Storybrooke from the real world. Tell me why you wanted me to forget my whole life."

Again, he laughed, but Belle could hear bitterness and derisiveness in his laugh. "I think it's implied, pet, that I don't want to talk to you when I turn my back from you or close my eyes. You should also count yourself lucky that you can't remember a thing. Take it from me – remembering is painful." He pointed toward the door and said, "Now get your lovely little self out of here before I do something we'll both regret."

She stood and carefully placed A Tale of Two Cities back on the cart. Walking slowly toward his bed, she sat down on the end. "Do you have many regrets?"

Wincing, he looked up at the ceiling and declared, "What have I done in my miserable, wretched life, to deserve this?" He looked back at her. "My whole life is a regret."

"Do you regret shooting me?" She bit her bottom lip in anticipation of his answer.

"You want the truth?" he asked.

Guardedly, she replied, "Yes, I do."

He moved his legs to the side of the bed and sprang forward so fast that she leaned away. He grabbed her wrist with his good hand and pulled her closer to him. When they were both sitting on the side of the bed, he said, "You should despise me, you know. Everyone else does."

Taking a deep breath she said, "That doesn't answer my question. And why are you so angry with me? If anyone should be angry in this room, it's me."

He laughed again, his fingers around her wrist almost painful. "Don't count yourself special, darling. I'm not merely angry with you. I'm angry at the whole bloody world, or at least THIS world, or haven't you noticed? Now please, leave." He dropped her wrist and went back to the head of the bed. Sitting down on the bed, he crossed his legs at the ankles and his arms across his waist.

"First, will you answer my question? Do you regret shooting me?" She waited patiently for him to answer, her stare never wavering from his. She added, "I'm not leaving until you answer my question."

"Do whatever your bookish little heart desires," he replied, closing his eyes.

She moved closer to him, until she was sitting right by his legs. He opened his eyes and said, "Seriously? You're still here? Aren't you the least bit afraid of me? I'm a dangerous pirate, for goodness sakes! I've killed people! I've made people walk the plank, fed them to sharks, sold them for bounty. I caused you to lose your memory. I SHOT YOU! I wanted to kill you!"

She shook her head. "You might have shot me, but you didn't want to kill me." She smoothed her hands down her skirt. "You only wanted to make me lose my memories, and I really want to know why. Won't you tell me? It doesn't matter what you say, for I've decided I already forgive you."

He barked a short laugh. "Save your forgiveness for someone who's repented."

"I'd rather give it to you," she leveled.

He snorted. "To a pirate? Right. Do I sound like a man who needs forgiving?"

Belle grabbed his good hand, which shocked him. He tried to pull it from her grasp, but she held on tight. "You sound like a man who has had great deal of pain in his life and who for some reason wanted retribution. But I have a feeling that retribution still didn't make you happy. Am I right?"

He finally pulled his hand free from hers. "You know nothing."

"I know you hate Mr. Gold." She swallowed a lump that was forming in her throat. He kept his brilliant blue eyes on hers. "Mr. Gold told me that you killed his wife because you hated him so much, and that you tried to kill me for the same reason."

He openly blanched and turned to look back toward the window. "I never wanted to kill you, you know. If I had meant to kill you, you would be dead. I meant to rob you of your memories, which in turn hurt someone I hate very, very much. Mr. Gold. My very own crocodile." He held up his stump. "The man who took my hand. And that's why I took your memories." He walked back over to the window. Bringing his forehead forward to rest on the glass he added, "I answered your bloody question. Now please, just leave me to my memories."

"But don't you see, Captain?" She began, "that's the whole reason I need to speak with you. I want to know WHY you did what you did. Saying you hurt me to hurt Mr. Gold means nothing to me – and that's the point – I don't remember anything, especially Mr. Gold, so I don't know WHY you did this to me. At least you have your memories, painful or not. I have nothing. I don't remember my life before we came here, or after. I don't know how old I am. I don't know if I was married or not. I don't know if I was ever in love. I don't even know my own birthday."

"Birthday?" He turned to look at her. "You can't remember your birthday? How tragic," he said sarcastically. "I, on the other hand, remember my birthday clearly. It's in two days. In two days I'll be thirty years old and do you know what I'm going to do on that milestone birthday? I'm going to be right here, in this bloody hospital room, all by myself, unable to leave, because if I do, they'll arrest me. So yes, I still say I did you a favour by causing you to forget everything, including your birthday."

Taking another step toward her – his eyes serious and bright – he said, "Count your blessing, pet, when I tell you it's better to have forgotten things like birthdays and lost loves, than to remember them and feel heartache and regret all the days of your life. I think you should thank the moon and stars above, as well as my right hand, that you can't remember your past, love."

Belle took a step toward him. They were standing mere inches apart. "You live with regret and pain?"

He reached out and touched a strand of her hair, which was across her shoulder. "The woman I loved had hair similar to yours. It was a bit darker, perhaps, and definitely had more curl. Her eyes were brown, where yours are bright blue. I loved her with all my heart, and even though she's been dead for years, I remember her every single, blessed day. I have so much regret, pain and hatred inside me that sometimes I'm certain I'll explode."

He sat back on the edge of the bed. "And thanks to me, you no longer have that luxury. So what if you can't recall a birthday or your past. Pick a new birthday… you can have mine if you wish." A muscle in his jaw clenched. "I have nothing more to say."

And neither did Belle, so she turned around, pushed the cart toward the door, opened it and left.

The next day she knocked on the captain's door again. She picked up a book from the cart and waited. Just as the day before, there was no answer. Opening the door slowly, she peered inside. This time he was sitting in the chair, but he was still looking out the window."

Belle walked into the room and closed the door, book in hand. He didn't stir from his task of looking out the window. Since he was in the only chair in the room, she sat on the end of the bed, opened the book and began to read aloud.

She got no further than two pages when he said, "Please stop it."

Closing the book, she leaned forward from her spot and said, "I thought of another reason why it's better to remember than it is to forget. Shall I tell you it?"

He didn't respond, but he also didn't ask her to leave. She said, "You can recall the people whom you loved, and who loved you in return. You mentioned yesterday that the woman you once loved had hair similar to mine and that she died years ago. Even if she's no longer in your life, you have her memory in your heart. That must count for something."

Turning, he looked at her intensely. "No, it counts for nothing. Now forgetting, that would be sheer peace and tranquility. No unpleasant memories springing upon you in the dead of night. No anger when you see someone you hate walking and breathing while someone you once loved is gone from you forever."

"How did the woman you loved die?" she asked, feeling uneasy. Yesterday this man seemed angry. Today he seemed sad and resigned.

He moved, almost a flinch. "She was killed, sweetness. She didn't just die. There's a big difference between the two."

"Who killed her?" Belle asked quietly.

He answered just as softly, "She was killed by the very person who loved you. You see, that's why I did it… caused you to forget. I wanted him to live the rest of his life without you, because I have to live the rest of my life without her."

Belle looked shocked. "I was in love?"

"Unfortunately, yes, at least I assume you loved him in return. You were in love with Mr. Gold," he said plainly, standing from the chair to sit beside her on the hospital bed.

"But then that would mean that Mr. Gold is the one that killed your love," she said, not stating it as a question, yet pondering it just the same.

"Give this girl a gold star," he returned. "I thought to myself, why should Gold have this fresh, young beauty, when he's the one who took my love from me? You really should thank me for wiping him out of your memories. The things he's done are so much more heinous than anything I could ever wish to do. You're lucky he's out of your life."

Belle didn't know what to say. She stared at her hands in her lap. He continued, "You can start all over again – have a fresh, memory free life – and fall in love with someone worthy this time. That's why it's better to forget than to remember." He turned, pulled back the covers on the bed, and sat down on the opposite end as her. "Now leave."

Belle stood, placed the book she had been reading on the small table beside the bed, and went to the door. She turned around when the book she left for him hit the wooden doorframe. Picking it up and turning back around, she said, "At least you can recall falling in love with her." She blinked quickly, to brush away tears that had inexplicably formed in her eyes. "Love is no longer in my future, not that it matters. Love may not be in your future either, but it was in your past, and if you want, you can recall it with affection or pain, but at least you can remember it."

"And I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you, pet." He reclined against the back of the bed and closed his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest, as he had the day before. "Now, be a good little librarian and go bother someone else with your books and philosophies."

She studied him while he feigned sleep. Standing over him, she said, "I bet I can prove to you that it's better to remember than it is to forget." Belle left once more, determined to come back tomorrow, on his birthday. She didn't know why she wanted to come back tomorrow; she just knew that she did.

The next day Belle walked into his room without knocking. In one hand she had a brown, leather book. In the other hand she had a card and a small, silver picture frame with a picture of her inside it.

Today he was standing as he was the first day, in front of the window. As soon as she entered he turned and said, "Are you truly back again? I swear you're like a bad rash that won't go away no matter how hard I scratch it."

"How eloquent," she said to his churlish retort. She placed the picture and card on the table next to his bed and then walked around the bed to the other side to hand him the book.

He took it from her, looked at the cover, and then back to her again. "Peter Pan?" He laughed at the irony. "Really, love?"

She shrugged. "I thought you might enjoy this one." She sat on the edge of the bed facing the windows. He threw the book beside her. Opening it, she said, "Shall I read some of it to you?"

"Do whatever your little heart desires." He swiveled back toward the windows.

She started to read, but then noticed that today he had his 'hook' replacing his missing hand. "They gave you back your hook?"

He nodded. "Emma – do you know her – anyway, Emma brought it back to me today."

"That's good." She closed the book and placed it beside her legs. "She's a nice person. I went and talked to her yesterday, after I left here."

"She told me," he replied, coming to sit beside her.

"And she told me everything… everything that Mr. Gold has done to you and to me and to Henry's father. She told me you weren't lying when you said he killed his wife. Did you know that Emma's son's father was the woman's you loved son?"

Hook laughed. "Sounds complicated, doesn't it. Yes, Emma told me as much as well. So?"

"I just think it's curious that you have a connection like that to Mr. Gold… you know, his grandson is the grandson of the woman you loved."

"Doesn't sound that curious to me," he spouted, jumping up from the bed. He walked around the bed, her eyes following him, and stopped by the bedside table. He picked up the picture frame and the card. "What's this?"

"A birthday card and a picture of me," she said matter of fact. "Don't assume I'm being conceited by giving you a picture of me, however. The real gift is the frame. You can replace my picture with any picture you'd like." Opening the book again, she started to read.

He walked back toward her side of the bed, grabbed the book from her hands and threw it down on the floor. The sound was loud and reverberated throughout the mostly empty room. She looked up and asked, "Why did you do that?"

"What are you about?" he asked.

"I thought you already knew… you see I'm a librarian. I bring people books. I brought you one that was actually written about events from your life to prove to you that it's better to remember than to forget."

He bent at the waist so he was nose-to-nose with her. "Leave off, love. I mean what the bloody blazes are you doing bringing me a birthday card and an effing present?"

"Everyone should have something for their birthday," she explained. Pushing him away, she stood to retrieve the book he'd thrown to the floor. She placed it back on the bed. Then she approached him slowly, as if he was as dangerous as he wanted her to believe. When she was standing next to him she said, "And I also thought of another reason why it's better to remember than forget. Shall I tell you?" She sat back down on the end of the bed.

He raised one eyebrow. "If you feel you must." He sat down, too, although not exactly next to her, but very near. "I recall saying you should thank the stars and moon above that I wiped out your memories and you argued that I should thank my lucky black heart that I could still recall every painful moment of my wretched life. Is that about it?"

"Exactly," she smiled brightly. "I thought of another reason, you see, to support my argument. I don't recall my first kiss. There. That's it. I don't recall any kisses, but I assume I have kissed someone before, at least once. There was surely a first kiss somewhere in my girlhood… perhaps behind the barn with a stable hand, or maybe a young man with whom I went to school. Surely I've kissed someone before… had a first kiss… but I'll never know, and I'll never remember that feeling." She paused, and then added, "And you will."

His expression remained passive. Belle looked at him anxiously and said, "So there you have it. There's the last valid reason why remembering is better than forgetting. You can remember all the important and even the frivolous days of your life – like birthdays, the moment you fell in love, the simplistic and exquisite wonderment of your first kiss."

Belle stood. "I'll take my leave now. I'll leave the book for you to read later. Happy birthday, Captain Hook." She paused. "I just realized I don't recall your true name. What is it?"

"You never knew my name, love," he said. "We weren't acquainted on the other side. My name is Killian Jones."

She smiled. "I like that name. I don't recall my last name, or I'd return the gesture to you." Her smile faded away and she held up her hand to wave goodbye. "Well, I'll take my leave now."

Just as she started to turn to go, he lunged forward and grabbed her hand before she could lower it to her side. He pulled her to him, causing her to lose her balance. He held both arms around her, pressing her body to his. She felt a frisson of sexual awareness at his closeness. It might not be the first time for her, but it was truly the first time she could recall feeling this way.

"You forgot something, sweetness," he said softly as she looked earnestly into his eyes. "Today is my birthday."

She looked confused. "Yes, I know… remember? I brought you a card and a present to commemorate the day." Incomprehension caused her to asked, "What does that have to do with anything?"

He stared deeply into her eyes. She noted that he was a very handsome man. He replied, "Nothing or everything, only I think you've finally won your argument. It's better to remember than to forget, and today is my birthday and I want to give you something you can remember for the rest of your life. I want to give you something I'll remember for the rest of my life, too."

Placing her hands on his chest she said, "I thought only the person who celebrated the birthday got a present."

"Sometimes it's better to give than to receive," he said with a slight grin. The arm with the hook tightened around her waist. His other hand came up to cup her cheek. Leaning closer, he placed his lips upon hers in the softest, gentlest kiss she could ever imagine.

In her shock and surprise she didn't kiss him back.

He pointed that out to her a mere moment later. Pulling his head away from hers, he stared into her eyes and said, "I know you may not remember the particulars, but surely you know you're supposed to kiss me back, right?"

She blew out a shaky breath. "Oh, right, of course. I knew that." She felt breathless and lightheaded. Biting her bottom lip for a second, she brought her hands up from his chest, framed his face with them, and said, "I'll do that now."

She kissed him. She moved her mouth over his parted lips. His mouth felt firm and warm under hers. Her fingers went into his hair and she moved her mouth away from his lips to rain small kisses across his cheek, his jaw, his neck.

He made a small noise, almost like a wounded animal. She stopped kissing him to look back into his eyes, which were blazing bright and alive.

"I know this is one thing I'll not want to forget," he said to her, his hand returning to her cheek, his thumb moving across her plump lower lip. His arm tightened around her, he lowered his head and kissed her again. He opened his mouth and pressed his tongue against her lips. She let him in, and he stroked his tongue across hers, over her teeth, across the sensitive roof of her mouth. He explored the moist warmth of her mouth until she felt weightless with desire.

The hand that was on her face moved down her back, where he cupped her backside, pulling her ever closer. His mouth moved as well, kissing her cheek, down her throat, up to her ear. Her breasts throbbed with an empty sort of pain. She could tell he too was sexually aroused. She felt powerless to stop him, not that she wanted him to stop.

When he finally lifted his mouth from hers, they stared into each other's eyes, his dark like the sea, hers brilliantly bright like the sky at night. He said, "Now you have your first kiss memory – a gift from me to you – on my birthday."

She couldn't help but to smile. "And you can consider it a gift from me to you as well."

Then, something truly astonishing happened. He smiled the first genuine smile she'd seen from the man. She thought he was perhaps the handsomest man she'd ever seen when he smiled. "This is one memory I'll never want to forget."

He dropped his arms, and she backed away. "I guess I should go," she finally said. Picking the book up from the bed she started toward the door.

He walked back to the bed, plopped down on it inelegantly and said, "If you'd like, you can stay and read to me a while. You did offer such a service one time before, if I remember correctly, and I always remember correctly."

"Your memory is truly exceptional," she agreed. "Where do I start?" she opened the book.

"The beginning is usually a good place to start," he teased.

"Well, so it is," she agreed.

Then she started to read.

The End