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.
Chapter 5: Call me Ahab. At LJ: Chapter 5.
...Chapter summary: The Terminator said it best: "Come with me if you want to live."
Chapter 6: The Gathering. At LJ: Chapter 6.
...Chapter Summary: Everyone is in the same building. But who will fall on the sword, and who will save the day, now that Archie is a beast and Belle has been lost?
Chapter 7: In my end is The Beginning. At LJ: Chapter 7/7.
...Chapter Summary: The birth of a new era was not easy, but it happens.
Disclaimer: I own none of the canon characters, locations, or spells.
Feedback is always welcome.
Seeing the large squad of soldiers approaching, Henry said, "That doesn't look good."
"No it does not," Ruby agreed.
"Is that how it looked when my mom's soldiers came for you?"
"Trust me, Henry, your mom and her soldiers weren't the worst things we had to deal with."
And Ruby saw Archie went over to Belle while he was thinking, I really didn't want to have to do this. But it looks like... Archie held Belle by the shoulders and upper arms, and looked right into her eyes as he told her this: "Belle, you have to go to the docks. Run, and see if anyone has seen a Captain Ahab. If he's not there, then Killian Jones. Tell him this," and whispered something in her ear.
While Ruby wasn't comfortable seeing a large number of armed men heading towards her, she held her ground - unlike Belle, who ran away before anyone could stop her. Not for the first time, Ruby wondered if there was any way to summon the wolf into action, without it being a wolfstime.
What the man in the lead of the soldiers said in a loud voice to the villagers who were out watching, was, "Your lord the Duke has sent us to gather Rumpelstiltskin and his family for promotion to title. The rest of you may go about your business."
The man in the lead then stopped a few steps away from Ruby. "I am Hordor. What is your name?"
"Ruby," Ruby said.
"I have orders to bring you and your friends to the ducal palace. However, I wish to escort you personally there."
No matter where I go, or if I want it or not, guys still flirt with me. Some more baldly than others. "And if I say no, Hordor?" Ruby asked.
"Then you walk with your friends. But it is a long walk. Observe," and gestured to where Milah and Baelfire were being assisted onto horses of their own.
"Huh. Henry! Come here," she said, and Hordor saw the boy come over. "This nice man's going to give you his horse," Ruby told him.
"I'm supposed to ride up to the castle?" Henry asked, eager to, as his grandfather kept putting it off. The only reason I know anything about equestrianship is because my mom signed me up for horseriding lessons for a bunch of years.
"No, I can't!" Henry said to her. "I'm training to be a knight. Knights-in-training have to walk - right?" directing the question part to Hordor.
"We all have had to, yes. A long walk such as this would indeed test your mettle," Hordor said. "But what every student must know before he may become a knight, is that you do not refuse the invitation of a lady."
A neighboring soldier dismounted and held out his hands to give Henry a boost up to the saddle.
"You've got them well-trained," Ruby said. "They housebroken?"
"Fine," Henry grumbled, and got into the saddle by himself.
"Nice," Ruby granted Hordor.
I strongly suspect her other tests will not be as easy, Hordor thought. "Will you come?" Hordor asked her.
Ruby glanced over at Archie before telling Hordor, "I'm not riding behind you, and I'm not riding in front of you."
Hordor gave a nod. To the soldier riding beside him, Hordor said, "Give her your horse," in a tone that brooked no opposition; the soldier obeyed, hopping off his horse and handing the reins to Ruby.
Did not see that coming, Ruby thought as she slid up into the saddle. "And my friends?"
"Guests, to witness the promotion of the family," Hordor said. "Therefore, we'll meet them at the ducal palace."
"If anyone attempts to waylay us or them, the Dark One will destroy the assaulter. By orders of the Duke."
"Comforting," Ruby said. "Then lets go," riding alongside Hordor and Milah and Baelfire and Henry and Rumpelstiltskin.
At the docks:
After leaving the fifth bar, Belle was starting to wonder why she had been sent here. Could Archie have sent me away for my own protection? But then why not tell Ruby or Henry to help me search? Had she been wrong about -
Belle froze where she was.
Magic was not the culprit this time. No, it was the feel of a steel blade's edge against the back of her neck.
"I hear you're looking for me," she was told by whomever was holding that blade.
I remember you. You captured me, thinking to use me against Rumpelstiltskin... and Regina kicked your ass and took me away from you. "Are you Captain Ahab?" Belle asked.
"Not being called that in many a year," he said, slowly walking around her, drawing no blood from Belle's neck or throat. When he was in her field of view, he paused and gave a grand one-armed presentation. "Captain Killian Jones. 'Ahab' to very few. To you?"
Rather than shake her head, Belle said, "No. No, I was asked to give you a message."
"Normally this is where I would say 'pity' and express disinterest in hearing said message. But you know my subnomen, and that's not something I can let pass."
"Does that mean you want to hear what I was asked to tell you?" she asked.
"And who sent you, parrot?" Jones asked.
"Someone we both know," Belle said, thinking she understood why Archie had sent her rather than come himself.
"Oh really? Who would travel in the circles you and I respectively move in?"
When she was young, Belle had read tales purportedly of past eras, when men and women would go to ask questions of an Oracle, whose answer would foretell their future. But what if he doesn't believe me? Belle worried.
"Well?" Jones asked.
Before she answered, Belle closed her eyes a moment and only a moment. She then informed Killian that, "There is a... I don't know what the word is, but if you fail, the Dark One will be in your debt; and if you succeed, you'll have his power."
"And what makes you think I want power?" Killian asked her.
"What do you do as a pirate, if you don't take control of ships or people or treasure?" Belle asked.
"Well put," he granted her. "So, should I do this, I then would have the Dark One to do my bidding, as is said of the Duke?"
"Rather takes out all the fun of life's challenges, not being able to do them yourself."
She smiled like she knew something he didn't - a trick she had learned as part of her education as minor nobility. "I never said you had to have the Dark One do everything for you."
Killian Jones looked at her a long moment, and then he began to nod. "I see. The ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card," he said.
"Exactly," and felt a little guilty about adding this next part: "In our mortal world, there is always someone with a bigger arsenal. If he doesn't like you, you can have him be a water bug."
"She. But I take your meaning. What's your name?"
"Well then, Belle, let me gather my men, and we'll be off."
"To the Duke's castle."
"Was there a plan?"
"Just to make sure you came."
Killian grinned rakishly. "Best not disappoint, then."
Shortly after being walked into the castle:
Ruby had been invited to take a tour of the ducal palace's riches. Rumpelstiltskin had been escorted in the group ahead of them. To fit him for his new clothes of state and title, Archie knew; that was the official story. Unofficially, the Duke or the Dark One or whomever, put Milah and Baelfire with me and Henry in case either of us try anything, it alienates Rumpelstiltskin from anyone who survives of our little group. Some parts of that plan didn't make much sense to Archie.
"Dr. Hopper?" Henry asked.
"Yeah?" Archie said.
"Who's Ahab?" Henry asked. "He wasn't in my book."
"He wouldn't be," Archie said. "One of the travels I took with Geppetto, we ended up on Captain Jones' ship. He told me he once had a great love, and that Geppetto was the spitting image of how she had described her late son. The captain mentioned at one point that no-one called him by an old nickname - Ahab."
"That's not much of a nickname."
Could have been a childhood moniker, or a pet name, or... He never said. "Good point - what was yours again?"
"Okay, point made."
That's my job.
"But if Jones was alive when you were watching Geppetto..." Henry said.
"As was Rumpelstiltskin," Archie said.
"What?" Baelfire asked.
"What is going on?" Milah asked.
Archie sighed. "We...we're from the future," and wasn't sure how to explain further, not without lying, or taking too long in explaining - and still being accused of lying.
"We're from the future, and we're friends with Rumpelstiltskin in the future," Henry said. "This right here, today, - this is what happened the day he was cursed by the Dark One to watch his family die."
Thank the god and gods for Henry's ability to spin a good story!
"And the Dark One never let Rumpelstiltskin die - so they would always be apart."
Technically not a lie, Archie thought proudly.
"What?" Milah asked. "Why didn't you tell us this before?"
"We were hoping it wouldn't happen - there's a chance of changing history when one goes back in time," Archie said. And that was true, insofar as it was attested by a lot of tv series and movies he had seen before the curse was broken.
"So only you can change things?"
"No. Oh no. For you, it's all still unfolding. It's the past to us."
"I see," Milah said, and winced, clutching her stomach.
"Momma?" Baelfire asked.
"I'll be okay," she said. "Breakfast disagrees with me, though." Quieter, she said to Archie, "If trouble comes, get him to safety. You understand me?"
Archie nodded. "That's always been my job." Geppetto, Pinnochio, Henry, now Baelfire.
"I need to go," Milah said to the soldiers, one of whom grumbled but said to follow him and it was this way to the toilets.