A/N: This will be an extensive rewrite of season three with much more character and story development. It is eventual SQ but will focus on multiple aspects of the characters in Neverland as well as Storybrooke. If you'd like to give it a shot, I think you'll very much enjoy it. Thanks for reading :)
In the little town of Storybrooke, Maine, there is a paper. Originally headed by Sydney Glass, it is now run by Marc Shepard, who seems to have matured since his days of crying wolf, and he devotes himself to trying to make the lazy town interesting. Regardless of decent town gossip or not, a paper goes out every morning. Every morning, the young paperboy, dressed in jeans and a button up, hair sloppily combed as if he tried to style it himself, rides up on his bicycle, ready for his duties. He gives nothing but a nod of acknowledgment to Marc as he hoists the bundle of papers into his arms and teeters out the door with it. Marc used to watch the boy from the window as he loaded the papers into the blue wire basket on the front of his bike, but that stopped. For the boy always came, just as he had before Marc became editor and chief, and just as he had for the 28 year history of the cursed town.
When the curse broke, Marc had more news that he ever dared dream. Amidst the confusion and anger and giants and werewolves, the editor knew that honest, confident news was needed among the town. Something to keep their spirits up and their minds sane. And so the paper continued, written every day by Marc and delivered every day by the paperboy. Today, as Marc looked out the window after the small earthquake and saw the vines emitting from the clock tower, he knew it was the end. He had no regrets, really, watching as the vines bore through the concrete and asphalt, stitching the houses and buildings together before consuming their foundation. That is until he heard the creaking of his own roof overhead and saw a bicycle down the street get rolled away by the foliage. It was then that he realized he never even knew the boy's name, and a single regret entered his mind before the roof collapsed over top of him.
Rumpelstiltskin stared out the window of his pawn shop, idly tapping his cane against the floor. He had felt the quakes, and now he could see the vines slowly making their way towards him. Trees were starting to sprout like weeds through the asphalt and cracks of the concrete, the sound of wood stretching and breaking muffled the cries and screams of the townspeople.
And oddly enough, he found it comforting. There was no more reason to go on, no reason to fight, feel bitter or angry. Neal was dead and gone so what was the point of anything anymore? Best to just return to the earth as nature intended. Nature always won out in the end, regardless of how powerful you could become.
A pale and quivering hand came into view, and Rumpel watched as the delicate fingers slid over his own homely paw before giving it a gentle squeeze. He smiled faintly at the image, and looked over at the only woman who could bring a smile to the Dark One's face. Lacey, hair done up in an expertly messy manor, with dark eyeliner and fishnet sleeves, was staring out the window also. Tears lined her eyes and despite her best efforts, she couldn't keep that full bottom lip from quivering as she looked on at their inevitable demise.
Slowly, Rumpel lifted his hand to grasp at her chin, and pulled gently. When she complied and faced him, he brought his lips to hers, tasting the liquor and cigarettes on her breath. Belle used to taste of sweetened tea but he forced that memory aside as Lacey's panic caused her to kiss him with increased fervor. He returned it as best as he could, holding her close to stifle the choked sobs that she pressed against his lips.
"I don't want to die," she whispered, pulling away just enough to look out the window.
"I'm sorry," he whispered back, pressing his lips against her cheekbone and taking the tear with him. "It will all be over soon."
"But shouldn't we…we should try to leave or—
"Shh…you know we've been through this, darling."
His voice was calm, unlike his pounding heart, but Lacey nodded at his words, wiping her nose before resting her head on his shoulder. She watched the vines for a few more moments, but when his pawn shop began to groan with the effort of their weight she turned her head inward, lips pressed permanently against his neck. Rumpel allowed his cane to drop to the floor as he held her tightly. It would all be over soon and dying in his lover's arms, however lost she may be, was enough consolation.
Although he had accepted his death, he wasn't without his regrets. He wished could bring Belle back, and his son. He wished he hadn't squandered their reunion before his death. He wanted a relationship him, but now he would settle for a relationship with his grandson, but even that seemed like a difficult task. All the tasks seemed too difficult for a cowardly man. And magic could only do so much. But there was one thing magic could do that he never could. It could end his life. At least the wait for that reprieve was finally ending.
It just wasn't fair.
Emma Swan wasn't usually one for petulance, but she thought she could be granted a little leniency in this regard. She'd finally been reunited with her family, including the father of her beloved son, only to have it all end in a matter of moments. Neal was dead, disappearing before any reparations between them could begin. Greg and Tamara had set off a town-annihilating trigger that had been concocted by Regina, and Hook had scampered off with their only means of saving anyone. There was nothing to stop it now. Nothing to do but sit and wait until Regina exhausted all of herself and the trigger unleashed.
Emma looked to her family. Her mother and father, so young and alive just as much as she was, clutching onto each other as the mine shuddered around them. Henry stood between them, clutching at their sides, his eyes bearing the expression of fear and hope. He looked to Emma with them, pleading for her to find a way to stop it, to save them. She was the Savior, after all. But today she could do nothing, and she felt the tears at her eyes, cheeks burning with shame as she called to her family and fell into their arms.
Regina gave a small gasp of effort and Emma felt her son wiggle from their grasp. She couldn't force herself to look, but she could hear as he made her way over to his mother, the one who had raised him to be the most amazing child anyone could ever want. He was sniffling, and Regina's voice cracked as she spoke to him. Emma closed her eyes and imagined the tears running down her cheeks as she spoke to her son for the final time.
"I'm just not strong enough."
Emma had heard that line before. It had reverberated in her mind all her life, wriggling at the back of every decision she'd ever made. But it had never hurt worse than when it came from Regina's mouth, and she felt her heart ache, wishing she was strong enough to tell her that she was wrong.
Her eyes opened. Confidence—probably the result of survival instinct—swelled in her chest as she pulled away from loving arms and turned to face Regina. The sight struck her. Regina, the most powerful woman in the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke, was dying. Her skin had blanched and her reddened eyes were heavy, threatening to close for the final time. Emma pushed the tears back and walked over to the glowing diamond of a trigger. Regina raised her head from where it was resting on her son's, taken aback by the blonde's self-assurance as she neared, slowly peeling her gloves off and dropping them onto the floor.
"You might not be strong enough," Emma said, ignoring the hurt in Regina's eyes at the comment, "but maybe we are."
Emma raised her hands then, towards the trigger. They tensed, fingers flexing as she looked to Regina with the same expression that was on Henry's face. Sometimes they looked so alike that it pulled at Regina's stomach. Such was the case now but she forced herself to swallow that feeling. Emma still believed in her. And now, she was looking to her for guidance. The queen straightened her posture, feeling a small bit of life flood back into her as she instructed Emma.
"Focus on the situation at hand," she said slowly, her voice coming out with the strong confidence Emma needed to hear. "Think of what's at stake. Think of Henry and…your family and what you need to do to save them. Feel the magic pulse in your heart and guide it out through your hands."
There was a tense moment of silence as Emma concentrated. Snow, Charming, and Henry stood against the wall, eyes wide and clutching onto each other as if the trigger would blow at any moment. And it honestly could. Whatever second wind Regina had gotten was gone, and she was feeling herself falling again. She closed her eyes, furrowing her brow as she forced herself to keep going.
"Emma," she said through clenched teeth, "I can't hold this much longer."
She heard the sound of Emma taking a shallow breath… and then she felt it. Magic that was not her own flooded into the trigger, and Regina felt her burden ease tremendously. Slowly, she opened her eyes to see the magic expelling from Emma's hands, feeding the trigger and even herself. Regina could feel some of Emma's magic pulsing out of the trigger and back into her, and she was gaining strength from it. Despite her exhaustion, the queen smiled, and it only grew as Emma returned it. The moment was short lived, however, as trigger broke then, sending both women out with a final burst of magic before it fell harmlessly onto the floor.
Regina felt herself flying through the air and she braced for impact on the floor. But her body was too weak from torture and trigger to do much of anything and she fell back ungracefully, feeling a surge of pain spike through the back of her head. But it was nothing new to her. What was new to her, however, was the fatigue. She'd had a rough few days and now that her body was finally prone somewhere, it didn't seem to want to move. Regina closed her eyes and heard the scrambling sounds of joy from the family a few feet in front of her. A small smile touched her lips at the realization that they had done it. They had stopped the unstoppable. Henry was safe and—
Was he safe? Adrenaline surged through the queen as she shot up, blinking furiously to rid the dizziness from her eyes. By the time they cleared she could just make out Henry's legs as he was being dragged away. "Henry!" she shouted, rising to her feet.
There was another explosion. It rocked her back a second time and this time she could do nothing as she flew through the air. She hit the wall this time, her neck snapping back to meet with the hard stone and rendering her unconscious before she even hit the ground.
Greg Mendel had just finished throwing the last box into his SUV when he saw the trees pushing through the asphalt. His SUV had four wheel drive, but somehow he didn't think they it would be able to maneuver through all this. He cursed under his breath, kicking the side of the car before he headed back into their small base where Tamara was throwing a few last articles into her bag.
"The car's a no-go. We're gonna have to book it out of here on foot. It's either that or swim," he said with a small gesture to the ocean behind them before extending his hand to her.
Tamara sighed and zipped her bag up angrily, swinging it over her shoulder. "We should have gotten this done before we set off the trigger."
"Yeah well, neither of us could have planned for what all went on here," Greg said before flashing her a kind smile. "You kept up your running, didn't you?"
Tamara smiled back, prepared to answer, when a small voice cut through the room.
"Where are you running to?"
They both turned and looked to where the voice had emitted. Standing in the doorway with a backpack on was a boy only a few years older than Henry. His dirty blonde hair was combed back haphazardly and the shirt he wore was wrinkled and dirty, just like any young boy. But the look in his eyes, showing great purpose and determination. That coupled with the strange angle of his smile caused Greg to place a hand on his pistol for reassurance.
"That's none of your business, boy," Greg said coldly, flinging his arm out towards the door. "Now why don't you run along and find your parents before you die."
The boy laughed confidently, shooting his eyes to the ceiling before stepping further into the room. "Actually, Greg…Tamara," he added, looking her up and down once over with a look of disinterest, "it is my business. You're not supposed to make it out of here alive. Didn't the Home Office tell you?" His voice was laden with patronization and Greg pulled his gun from his holster but kept it at his side.
"What do you know of the Home Office?"
"Much more than you do."
"The only thing we need to know is that their cause is just. I believe in that," Tamara said defiantly.
The boy laughed. It was bitter and cold. "You still think the Home Office just wants to get rid of magic? Fine then. But if you truly believe in their cause, why are you trying to outrun your mission?"
"We're not outrunning the mission. We activated the trigger as ordered."
"Activate the trigger and see it through." The boy gestured to the fully loaded SUV outside. "Judging by the looks of that, you weren't planning on doing the latter.
Greg opened his mouth to protest but the boy silenced him with a wave of his hand. He neared them again, this time only a foot apart, and shrugged his shoulders. "But it's no matter, really. That's why I'm here."
Tamara raised her eyebrow and leaned in towards him. If the look intimidated the boy he made no effort in showing it.
"And what, exactly, are you here to do?"
The boy smiled again, running his tongue along his teeth in a bizarre manner. "I'm here to make sure you don't make it out of here alive."
With that, the boy brandished a jagged piece of black glass, wrapped in cloth, and swung it outward towards them. It slashed both Tamara and Greg directly across their chests. The two barely had time to react before they fell over in pain. Greg's gun fell to the floor and the boy kicked it away as he turned around and made his way out. The two were dead before he reached the door and he smiled again before hopping onto his bike with the blue wire basket and peddling out towards the mines. He had completed the first part of his mission, but the most important task of all lied ahead.
It was only a short ride to the mines, and he was only slowed a bit by the erupting foliage around him. Sweat was starting to creep down the back of his neck and he shook his head as he ran into the mines, slowing once he felt he was near to the device. His plan was simple. Get the boy and return with him. He figured it would be easy, but he kept his backpack on just in case. If his predictions were right, everyone would be too absorbed in their own deaths to pay attention to the boy. He had a knack for running off as it was anyway. But when he slid against a wall and turned his head around the corner, the boy saw something he didn't expect.
Regina was slowing the trigger. This was not news to him. He had been watching her progress, or lack thereof, with the trigger all day. But what was new was Emma was helping her. He had known she was capable of some magic. He felt it that day when she set up a barrier against Cora at the pawn shop. But now she appeared to be helping Regina with the trigger. And were they winning? Impossible.
The boy shook his head, focusing his thoughts on the task at hand. Henry was a mere two feet away, but he was entangled in his grandparents' limbs as he watched his mothers fight. Quietly, he placed his backpack on the ground and unzipped it, pulling a strange looking firecracker from his back as well as a lighter. As soon as it had it lit, the impossible was done. A small burst of magic exploded from the room and the boy braced against the wall, spared from its blow.
He peered around the corner again, and saw that everyone was on the ground, unconscious. The trigger was lying on the floor, void of all magic. His mouth opened in awe. Storybrooke was supposed to be destroyed. He was not going to be happy about this. That was when he remembered the firecracker in his hand. The desolation of Storybrooke was not his mission, not his problem. It was useless now, but the firecracker already lit so he tossed it in between Henry's two mothers before heading over to Henry himself. As quickly as he could, the boy picked Henry up and threw him with ease over his shoulders. He heard the second explosion go off just as he exited the mine and smiled to himself as he situated Henry on his bike and took off on the newly flattened and treeless street.
Emma woke first. It started out slowly, with the fluttering of eyelids and a deep intake of breath. But when the memory of what they had just accomplished came rushing back up to her she shot up quickly, fighting dizziness as she clambered to her feet. The mine was silent. She could see the light reflecting off of the hopefully useless trigger, and the motionless bodies around her. Still fighting her dizziness, Emma made her way over to the farthest body.
"Regina," she called, shaking the woman below slightly. "Regina, wake up. Come on, we did it."
As she shook the queen's arm, Emma noticed that her dark hair fell back behind her ears. She could see tiny, circular burn marks on the sides of Regina's temples. Emma frowned in confusion, then gently turned Regina's head to the other side, finding the same. When she shook her a second time, it was slightly more panicky. The queen's eyes finally opened, and Emma stood, letting her get her bearings before she reached down and offered her hand. But Regina's eyes were flicking back and forth violently. She grabbed Emma's hand to stand but gripped it tightly, searching the blonde's eyes.
"Henry, they took Henry," she began, heading out towards the entrance of the mine.
Emma looked to where her parents were beginning to stand and saw that he indeed was not with them. Terror filled her heart once more as exhaustion plagued her brain. How much longer could she hold out with all of this?
"Look," Charming said, pointing to the ground.
Everyone followed his finger and saw the indentions in the dirt. It looked like someone had dragged Henry out of here. Not bothering to waste time with inane questions, both Regina and Emma bolted out of the mine. They stopped as soon as they exited, wincing as their eyes grew accustomed to the bright sunlight, but Henry was nowhere to be found. Emma's instincts kicked in then and she turned her eyes to the ground once more. She could see the lines of someone being dragged and followed them until it turned into bicycle treads. Instinctively, Emma grabbed for Regina's hand, pulling her along as she followed the treads all the way to the asphalt.
"He's headed back to town, come on!" she shouted back to Snow and Charming before taking off down the street with Regina close behind.
She needed a cigarette.
Lacey stepped out of the shop and paused to let the warm sun hit her face, the fresh air of the forest fill her lungs. Only moments ago, the entire town had been covered with foliage. It had torn up the concrete and asphalt and houses and buildings and cars. Lacey knew that she was going to die. And then, just like that, it was gone, receding back into the forest or back underground or wherever. If it weren't for the obvious damage to the town she would have thought she made the entire thing up.
She huffed to herself, making her way around to the back of the shop. Once there, in the quiet shade, she pulled out a cigarette and lit it quickly, taking a long drag. She made herself count to ten before she exhaled and then leaned back against the wall, looking up at the damage. People were slowly starting to make their way out into the street. Most looked just as dazed as she felt, looking up and around them as if to suddenly find all of the trees that were just there. Pretty soon they'd start a cleanup, maybe a sweep for survivors. The thought forced her to take another drag and she tapped the ash away, choosing to stare down the alley.
A blue speck caught her eye. It was a young boy riding fast on a back, with what looked like a sack of potatoes on his back. Lacey squinted to get a better look, but the bike turned, disappearing from sight. She didn't really know what compelled her to search further but it was enough to leave her cigarette forgotten on the ground as she ran forward, hoping to see him again.
She'd gone two blocks when she finally caught up with him. They had reached the end of Storybrooke. The pier was before her, as well as the docks and the seemingly infinite ocean. Lacey paused to catch her breath, looking in both directions for the bike. When she turned to the right, he passed directly in front of her. Lacey screeched at the closeness of the bike and realized that the sack of potatoes on his back was a boy. The bike was headed towards the marina. With one final breath, Lacey took off after it, squinting again to catch a glimpse of the unconscious child.
"Hey!" she shouted after him, waving her arms in the air. "Hey, stop!"
But the boy paid her no mind, turning expertly into the marina. Lacey followed behind, taking care to not lose her shoes in the gaps of planks that were the only thing between her and the icy ocean. She had him now. The boy was racing to the end of the dock. There was nowhere to go and nowhere to turn around.
The boy cursed to himself as he heard the clacking of heels of the running woman behind him. He was supposed to do this part silently. There weren't supposed to be witnesses. Then again, the town should have been destroyed by Tamara and Greg so how much blame could he really take. The end of the dock was coming up, and the black water looked more than welcoming for the homesick boy. Keeping one hand on the handlebars, he dug into his pocket with the other and produced a translucent bean. Still pedaling, he pulled his arm back and launched the bean into the ocean in front of him. It created an uncharacteristically huge splash, green waves emitting and rising, swirling the water around it until it became a massive Charybdis, swirling and roaring, welcoming the boy and his unconscious package.
The boy smiled and pedaled faster still. When the end of the dock came he pulled the handlebars up, lifting the device up and out. They hit the water quickly, and the pull of the whirlpool whipped him quickly to his destination. They circled once, twice, three times before they were sucked under, the girl's screams finally muffled by the silence of the water.
Lacey couldn't believe that she couldn't believe what she'd just seen. After all, she'd just watched a forest attempt to reclaim a city in the span of a few hours. But nothing could have prepared her for that. She'd seen him throw something into the water, and she'd seen the bright green waves that emitted from whatever he had thrown. And as the boy lifted the bike into the air, she recognized the face of the other boy as Henry, Gold's grandson. But now they were gone. The vortex was gone. The green was gone.
Lacey screamed again and fell backwards, but was surprisingly caught. Rumpel, who had followed Lacey to the docks had seen it all too, and took great care to steady Lacey. But he looked far more at ease with it than his girlfriend.
"Did…did you see that?" she said shakily, pointing to the water. "Did you see those boys and the green and now they're gone!"
Rumpel nodded and pulled her close, offering his shoulder as support as she rambled almost incoherently into his ear.
"I saw the bike and something compelled me to follow and...should we go after them? Where did they go? And why was Henry with them. I don't even…"
Lacey continued to ramble but Rumpel had stopped hearing the words. He had been too far away to recognize the boys. One of them was Henry? It couldn't be. He was in the mine with his family. There was too much happening all at once. He needed to stop and think. He needed to get his bearings and figure out a plan.
"Oh no," Lacey muttered against him, pulling back and gesturing behind Rumpel. "His parents."
Rumpel turned and saw the Charming family, complete with the Evil Queen running towards them. They were frantic, steps quick and eyes searching everywhere. When Rumpel saw Charming lock onto his position he waved them over, forcing his expression to remain calm. Someone in this group had to be. Snow, Charming, Emma, and Regina all raced up, widened eyes and red cheeks, chests rising frantically as they tried to catch their breaths.
"Listen to me," he said coolly, "Henry has been taken—
"No shit, Sherlock," Emma panted. "Where did they take him?"
Unamused with her outburst, Rumpel merely pointed towards the water with his cane. Everyone but Regina ran over to the side of the docks, looking dumbly into the water. Regina took a deep breath, crossing her shaking arms across her chest before raising a sculpted eyebrow Rumpel's way.
"Do you know where they went?"
"No, I didn't see."
"Do you have a way to find out?"
"I do. But even then, how do you suppose—
"What are you talking about?" Emma interrupted them, leaving her parents' side and coming over to Regina's. "You know where Henry is?"
"He's been taken to another realm," Rumpel offered, gesturing to the queen. "We were discussing our options."
"There's no option," Emma returned defiantly. "We have to get him back."
"Don't you think that what's we're doing?" Regina shot back curtly, her tired eyes still boring holes through Emma's skull. "Miss Swan, your…intensity is respected but unless you know how to travel through realms I suggest you let the adults talk."
Emma's cheeks reddened, but she gave the queen a nod and Regina returned it before turning back to Rumpel.
"Now, what did Greg and Tamara use to create a portal? A bean?"
"They can't have. They used one for Neal and Hook took the other," Emma offered.
Regina stiffened at her words but her face remained stoic as Rumpel shook his head.
"I don't know if it was Greg and Tamara."
"What are you talking about?" the two women asked in unison, oblivious to the other.
Rumpel raised his eyebrows and gestured for Lacey to come over. She did so obediently, paler than a ghost, her eyes red and watery. "Because the kidnapper looked like a boy to me. But Lacey saw more than I did." Rumpel smiled at his beloved, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder as she nodded at his words.
"He's right. It…it was a boy, on a bike. Henry was unconscious. They…they…" she shook her head in disbelief, looking towards the water and shaking her head.
"Do you remember anything else?" Regina asked, surprising Emma with the tenderness in her voice.
Lacey looked up, hopeful, reminding them all of just how young she truly was. "The bike was blue…no, had a blue basket. And he tossed something small into the water before it opened up."
"It could only have been a bean," Regina said, looking to Rumpel for agreement. "But how could this boy have gotten ahold of one?"
"Well, we did have a bean farm for a while. It wouldn't be impossible to think that he found it somehow before—
"Fine," Regina interrupted, "we have to find out where he went and find out how to get there."
"I can manage the first part," Rumpel confidently, gesturing towards his shop. "But it will be pointless if we don't have a portal."
"Emma!" Snow's voice called out from the dock.
They all turned to see a ship in the distance heading towards Storybrooke. But it wasn't just any ship.
"Is that…a pirate ship?" Lacey asked, squinting into the distance.
"Yeah," Emma answered, a smile slowly creeping onto her lips. "Yeah, it is."