Characters: Emma Swan, Rumpelstiltskin|Mr. Gold, Pete, Elliot, OMC, OFC, Snow, Charming, Henry
Genre(s): HC, Drama, Angst, Adventure
Timeline: Season 3 AU. Diverges from canon during S3;E15 (Quiet Minds)
Warnings: Canonical character death
Word Count: 1756
Story Summary: Instead of leaving Gold in the Woods after Neal's death, Emma decides that the wisest course of action is to get him out of Storybrooke and away from Zelena's control.
Chapter Summary: A little bit of unexpected help goes a long way
Notes: All Pete's Dragon references are to the 1977 film, not the 2016 remake.
Disclaimer: Disney owns OUAT and Pete's Dragon.
“Seeing as the place is empty,” Pete said from the back seat of the Beetle, “you can pretty much have your pick of the units. I’d think you might want one of the cabins; they’ve got full kitchens, while the motel rooms just have bar fridges and an outlet for a hot plate or coffee machine.” Before Emma or Gold had a chance to reply, he added in a slightly louder voice, “Take that left coming up and follow the signs for Eddystone Light Motel.”
Emma raised her eyebrows. “Eddystone Light? Like in the song?” she asked.
“That’s right. And fitting,” he added. “I used to live in the old lighthouse, back when it was still standing. Of course now,” he said with a faint edge, “everything’s modern. Now, it’s a flashing light at the top of a steel skeleton. Fully automated. The old one,” he sighed. “Well, everything has its day and that one’s long over. I’m just glad my grandfather passed on before he had to see it come down. But the motel logo? I had that adapted from a picture I took of it in better days.”
“The modern one’s not so bad,” Nora said.
“You’re just saying that because it’s the only lighthouse you’ve ever known,” Pete teased.
“No,” Nora said seriously. “I’m saying it because it looks like it’d be easier to climb than the old one.”
Pete chuckled at that. “Your father takes you rock-climbing once, and you’re ready to scale the Passamaquoddy Point Light,” he said. “Somehow, I think it’s going to be a while before you’ll get the opportunity. Thankfully,” he added in an undertone, but one meant for them all to hear.
“It’s not like I’d try it without safety equipment,” Nora muttered.
“And here we are,” Pete said. “Office is at the end of the drive. Right. If you folks would care to step inside, I can get you registered in no time.
Emma glanced at Gold. “If you’d rather wait here,” she said, thinking about his ankle.
Gold was already unfastening his seatbelt. “After what happened a few minutes ago?” he demanded. “I think I can manage a few steps.”
He consented to lean on her though, as they made their way inside.
“You can borrow this for a day or two,” Pete said, returning to the front desk with a carved wooden knob-stick cane and several neatly-folded garments. “I don’t care so much about the clothes; if they fit, you’re welcome to them, but the cane was my grandfather’s in later years and I’d rather not part with it.”
“Are you certain you’re willing to lend it?” Rumple asked, already reaching for it.
Pete shrugged. “Right now, you need it and I don’t. I’d just like it back whenever you check out.” His expression turned serious as the cane changed hands.
“I know we’ll need to discuss what happened in the parking lot earlier. I think we’ve all got questions. Maybe they ought to keep until morning, considering that they’re likely to be the sort to keep us up half the night talking and I guess you’d probably like to get settled in. Now…” he gave the brochure display carousel on the desk a spin and removed one pamphlet. “These restaurants,” he said, marking an ‘x’ with his pen next to several of the names, “are open all year. And these,” he underlined a few of the ones he’d already marked, “will deliver up here. Some charge a fee for it, some don’t. Or, if you’d prefer to do your own cooking, there’s a grocery store on Main Street.”
Leonora, who was industriously pulling out towels and toiletries from a shelfing unit behind Pete and stacking them on the desk, lifted her head for a moment. “I’ve got a bike,” she said, with some pride. “If you want me to pick anything up for you, I’ll do it for five dollars a trip, so long as it fits in the basket.”
“And so long as you place your order by seven pm,” Pete added. “If you place it after eight am, she’ll bring it by after school.” He smiled indulgently. “Leonora may spend a good part of her time with me, but her parents still think she needs to come home sometime. We tolerate their peculiarities.”
“You can’t run this place without me,” Leonora said, transferring the toiletries to a wicker basket and tucking the towels under her arm.
“I probably could,” Pete smiled. “That doesn’t mean I’d want to.” He slid a key across the counter. “Cabin 3. Nora will direct you. And keep everything from sliding around in your back seat.”
Emma picked up the key and slipped it into her jacket pocket. Then she scooped up the pile of clothes. “Thanks,” she said. “Seriously.”
Pete smiled. “You’re not the only person who’s had to run a time or two. Or who found Passamaquoddy a good place to stop. And I’ve got a friend who’s generally a pretty good judge of character. He vouched for you.”
“You mean, Mr. Coleman?”
Pete blinked. Then he smiled again. “Yeah. Him, too.”
The efficiency cabin wasn’t large, but it had two bedrooms, a bath, a small kitchen, and a common area. As soon as Nora departed, Gold made a beeline for the shower as fast as his dignity—and his limp—would allow. Emma settled into one of the bedrooms and placed her change of clothes—Pete had apologized about having no women’s garments on-hand, but she could manage with sweatpants and button-down shirts—on the chair in the corner. Then she called her parents.
She wasn’t overly surprised to discover that Zelena had given them the slip. Still, “I guess, that means we won’t be back tomorrow,” she sighed and explained about the monkeys. She left out the part about the unseen force that had come to their aid; she wasn’t sure how she could describe it. “…But if they can attack out here, I can’t leave Gold by himself. I’ve got a lot of practice getting by without magic. He doesn’t. More to the point, if I come back without him, he’ll be stranded here. No car, no money… and if those monkeys come back…”
“Right,” David agreed. “Meanwhile…?”
“Meanwhile,” Emma echoed, “well, we may not have Henry’s book to help us out, but I just downloaded all of the original Oz novels onto my phone. Maybe there’s some clue in there.”
Snow came on the phone. “I just remembered,” she said. “When Zelena came over the first time, there were dishes in the sink. I’d just been about to start on them, but she insisted. I think that probably means that water isn’t going to melt her.”
Emma stifled another sigh. “I guess it makes a certain amount of sense. If she were that vulnerable to water, she probably wouldn’t have realized it until the first time she went out in the rain, and then, that would also be the last time.”
“Henry has a lot of questions,” David had the phone again.
Emma closed her eyes. “What have you told him?”
“Only that you had to follow up a lead and you called to say you were going to be away overnight. We weren’t sure what to tell him about Neal.”
“Where is he now?”
“Grumpy took him fishing. They should be coming back pretty soon.”
Emma nodded to herself. “I’ll call him. Do me a favor? Talk to Belle, tell her what’s going on and… see if she has any ideas. We need to figure out what Zelena’s after. We need to see if there’s a way to change our friends back, because if the monkeys keep attacking, sooner or later, I’m going to have to defend myself and I don’t want to end up shooting Bashful or Little John or any of the others. And… if anyone has any other items to add to the list, go for it. I’ll work on Gold. Something tells me that he’s going to be a lot more interested in helping now than he was when Greg and Tamara activated that failsafe.”
They chatted for a bit, hanging up only when David remarked that Henry had just walked in. Emma called him next. He’d clearly had a fun time and she hated to deliver bad news, but she knew it was only going to get harder if she delayed.
“Kid,” she said softly, “the reason we came to Storybrooke was because… someone was in trouble and it wasn’t a client. It was your father. Some bad people wanted to hurt him. Yeah,” she whispered, when Henry asked if she’d found him. “I did. But I was too late to save him.” Her eyes were burning again and she fought the lump that was rapidly forming in her throat as she kept talking. “He’s… he’s dead, Henry. I was too late to help him, but not too late to help his father.”
“I have a grandfather?” Henry asked excitedly.
Her tears were brimming over as she continued. “Yeah, kid. You do. And hopefully, this will all be over soon and you can meet him. But that’s why I had to leave so suddenly.” She took another breath and willed herself to stay calm. “David and Mary-Margaret told me that they’ll be happy to look after you, but if anything should happen, if the baby comes early and everyone’s at the hospital, if your instincts tell you something’s… off, I want you to go to Regina.”
“She’ll protect you if the Nolans can’t. Got it?”
There was a brief silence. “Yeah, okay,” Henry said finally. “I got it.”
“Love you, kid.”
“Love you too, Mom.”
She ended the call and looked up to see Gold standing in the doorway, wearing a white terry robe over red plaid pajama bottoms. The expression on his face, she thought, had to be a mirror image of her own.
“Emma?” he said hoarsely.
She slid off the bed and walked toward him. It occurred to her that there was probably something she ought to be saying, some words of comfort, some memory to share. Something. But she couldn’t think of a one in the maelstrom of emotion that engulfed her now. Neal was gone. Neal was gone and she couldn’t hold it together for another minute. “H-he’s gone,” she whispered, taking another step toward him.
He nodded. “I know.” His voice broke on the last syllable.
They reached out for one another and held on for dear life.