Fandom: Once upon a time.
Characters: Archie Hopper, Ruby, Henry, Belle; Rumpelstiltskin, Milah, Baelfire, Hordor, the Dark One.
Categories: Time travel, changing history, what if, light character study. (action? Adventure?)
Story summary: Belle's fondest wish is granted, and everyones' problems will be over -- if she can stop Rumplestiltskin from ever becoming the Dark One. What's the worst that could happen?
Chapter 1: The wish. At LJ: Chapter 1.
Chapter 2: Introductions afresh. At LJ: Chapter 2.
…Chapter summary: The day after that encounter in the bar, Rumpelstiltskin and Milah meet our heroes. And the Dark One has plans.
Chapter 3: Perhaps a change of scenery. At LJ: Chapter 3.
…Chapter summary: The problem with leaving for new lands isn't the destination - entirely.
Sometimes, its in us
Chapter 4: I put the choice to you. At LJ: Chapter 4.
…Chapter summary: Why the Dark One hates the Time Traveler... And what the Duke does to friends.
Disclaimer: I own none of the canon characters, locations, or spells.
Feedback is always welcome.
Zoso looked down the hill at the local boy welcoming the four strangers to the village.
"Fresh blood," Hordor said eagerly.
"The King's Law," Zoso said as a reminder. "Passed when he took the throne. Itinerants may not be drafted."
Hordor grumbled. "His majesty has always been adamant that his Law ever be violated, even to save his kingdom -- 'law separates us from ogres' and all that shit. "Your advice, then?"
A smile could be seen in the shadow of the cowl. "If they acquire places to sleep and friends or confidences..."
"Then they cannot be called itinerants, and may be drafted," Hordor said. "But why should we bother with them? There's only one of them we can draft - two if we lower the minimum age again."
"Three of them are cursed, Hordor. Two of them may become creatures." And one has embraced the Dark One - though she is a stranger to me.
"Magic is not cast to make things useless," Zoso said dryly.
"And where are they from?"
Zoso held back a sigh. "Befriend them, Hordor, and perhaps they will tell you."
"Why - ? Hey, where are you going?"
That earlier smile grew. "Why Hordor, are you standing in the way of me patrolling the lands of the king as I was bid do?"
Hordor gulped. And said in a very small voice, "No," and moved to the side, just in case there was any doubt in that Dark Lord mind.
Zoso started to pass, but then paused his horse beside Hordor's. "I will test them," Zoso said, "and if they fail my test, it will be in such a way that provides you an excuse to do away with them," and let his horse resume walking away.
"Do you know him?" Ruby asked Belle as Henry walked with Baelfire up ahead, the village nearing more and more. "A friend of yours?"
"I know of him," Belle said. "And we all know his father."
"Wait," Archie said, mentally reviewing the wishes which had been suggested, and the one he had made in his heart. "If we came to a point in time when Regina hadn't yet turned evil - she learned it and magic from Rumpelstiltskin."
Belle nodded. "Baelfire was his son. Is."
Ruby's inner wolf wasn't the only part of her brimming with curiosity. How is this Baelfire not running the entire realm? He become a monk or something?
"Was? He died?" Archie asked.
"Nobody knows," Belle said.
"What about...?" Ruby asked.
"Rumpelstiltskin doesn't know," Belle said. "That's why he brought magic back to Storybrooke - in the hopes of locating his son."
So how far back did we go? Archie wondered, and asked that. He frowned, doing the math in his head, and stopping when he realized how many question marks the equation had.
In her most expressive, "I don't know," Belle said. "But I know that if Baelfire is taking us to his family... then either Rumpelstiltskin is still a mortal man, or has only recently become the Dark One."
Ruby could hear the longing and wistfulness in those words 'still a mortal man', but she didn't call Belle on it. I know there's something with the two of you back in Storybrooke, but I didn't think it was... Shit, though, no wonder you didn't think my wolf was that scary.
"So," Archie asked, "what happened to Rumpelstiltskin that the four of us could solve?"
"We can work together," Belle said.
"To...?" Ruby asked.
"I don't know. Rumpelstiltskin only mentioned his son twice to me, and his family once - he told me that he had lost his son, like he had lost his wife. Until we came to Storybrooke, I thought his family had died around the time he became the Dark One."
"Our job's to keep a family together," Archie said. "Sweet, kind of like Quantum Leap."
"No, I don't know that game either," Henry said. I used to think this world was like Earth, only with, you know, royalty and spells. But I've never heard of most of the games Baelfire's mentioned - and he sounded excited about them when I asked how they were played.
"Oh," Baelfire said.
"My, uh, my mom's always been busy, and I never really had any friends I could play with."
"What about your dad?"
"My mom's not married." Which was true for both of them, Henry reflected.
"Like the Brier kids," Baelfire said. "Their mom was going to marry their dad when he got back from the War."
"Uh, yeah, I guess. My mom doesn't really talk about my dad."
"Which one of them's your mom?" he asked Henry. "The cloak, or the trousers?"
Wait, you think Ruby or Belle are my mom? "They're my babysitters - my mom's back with the wagon our stuff is all in," Henry said.
"Wow. You rich?"
"Not really." At least, Emma's not. I think Regina is, or at least was. Has there ever been a poor evil queen? "What's your mom like?"
"People say she's pretty. I don't think she's happy," Baelfire said. "But who is, in Wartime?"
"Yeah," Henry agreed.
"I think she'd be happier if dad hadn't been a coward."
"Did he survive?"
Baelfire looked at Henry weird. "He ran away." Which part of 'coward' didn't you get?
Henry saw a man sitting at the edge of the village - a man who shouted "BAE!" as soon as he saw Baelfire with the travelers.
"I'm right here!" Baelfire shouted back. To Henry, "That's my dad. Pllllease don't ask him about his leg."
"I won't; promise," Henry said quietly.
"I've got things like that in my life too. So, what's your dad's name?"
"Rumpelstiltskin. My mom's Milah."
Wow. And I thought I had a long-suffering childhood.
"I'm Ruby," Ruby said as the introductions were finishing up. Wow, someone my height, Ruby thought, looking at Milah. "And this is Belle," clapping her on the shoulder. "She doesn't always shake hands."
"It's nice to meet you," Belle said. I thought I'd be braver than this. So why can't I look him or his wife in the eyes? Yeah, maybe that's why - as complicated as it was, back home, it was just the two of us. Now... Belle took a breath and said, "I think I just need to sit down. We've been on our feet a while now."
Milah smiled. "I'll see if anyone has any spare rooms you can use."
"Til then, you can rest your feet in our house," Rumpelstiltskin said.
"I couldn't," Belle said quickly. "I mean, I don't want to impose."
"Rest your feet, not your head," Milah said, and Belle wasn't sure which side of the argument she was on. To her son, Milah said, "Bae, could you play with Henry while I'm out?"
"Okay," Baelfire said, and he and Henry ran to the edge of the village to play with the other kids, as much as they'll let me. Maybe I can get a bigger role now that I've brought a new kid.
"So," Rumpelstiltskin said, once he and Archie had walked Belle to his house.
Archie nodded. "So." Intellectually, he knew this Rumpelstiltskin wasn't capable of turning him into a snail or anything. But he had lived too long in the shadow of large and powerful things - granted, usually humans - to be at ease.
"Not what you were expecting?" Rumpelstiltskin asked.
"Not really, no." Maybe Quantum Leap wasn't the best analogy for us...maybe it's more Terminator.
Rumplestiltskin shrugged. "It's alright. Our village used to be a lot livelier... before the drafts were instituted."
Drafts? and Archie rummaged through the long years of his pre-Storybrooke life for what that could mean in this world. "I suppose that would do in just about anywhere."
"I wouldn't doubt it. But what's it like where you're from?" he asked, curious.
Umm...do I tell him about life in Storybrooke, or in the wagon I spent my childhood in?
"What's it like where you're from?" Milah asked Ruby as they headed to the second house to inquire about lodgings for Ruby and her friends.
"Oh its cold. A lot colder than here," Ruby said. "You ever see snow?" and between inquiries, she built up a mental picture of life in the snowy forested mountains. Sans any mention of werewolves or angry villagers.
"I would love to see that," Milah said. "Or anywhere else."
"Never been outside the village?"
"Outside our district, no. I was born two villages westward of here. Does it show?"
I'm assuming you're talking about being outside your village or district. "I'm the same, actually. How do you think I could describe my childhood home so well? Ruby asked with a smile to indicate it was intended in the spirit of friendship.
"What finally decided you?" Milah asked.
"Why'd I up and leave one day?"
"Circumstances beyond my control, mostly. But on the plus side, I made a new friend right before I had to move - and we're still friends." If you don't count the years between us right now.
"I wonder...No," Milah said.
"Go ahead and ask," Ruby said.
"Do you think you - and your friends maybe - could speak to my husband? I've tried asking him to leave this village, just the three of us - Rumpelstiltskin, Bae, and I - but he refuses. Says we have a 'life' here."
"We could put in a word," Ruby said. "Any idea where you'd want to go?"
"Not here," Milah said definitively.
"Definately know that feeling," Ruby nodded.
"If I may ask, are people fighting the ogres where you live?"
"No," and meant both her time and Storybrooke both.
"Sounds like a good place to live." No reason for the past to repeat, or for anyone who knows Rumpelstiltskin to find us.
Ruby wasn't sure what she could say to that.