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Smith and Guyliner

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           The warmth of the sun washed over her skin. Oh I’m so going to burn. She managed it once on a cloudy winter day back on the East Coast, so it wasn’t going to be any surprise if she roasted in the LA sun. But she walked on regardless. Have to enjoy my lunch break to the fullest.

           A familiar wheezing groaning sound interrupted her reverie. Can’t be. She hadn’t heard that sound since that whole mess with the roboforms, the huon particles, and him. But there was no mistaking that sound, like nothing else on Earth. And quite a bit beyond she suspected.

          Cat turned her head toward the sound, emanating from an alley. She ducked in to see a familiar blue box materializing into view. I wonder why he’s returned. She hadn’t expected to see him ever again. All of time and space was… well everything. The odds must be infinitesimal.

           When the doors made no move to open, Cat gathered up her courage, sauntered over and knocked. Once. No response. C’mon he has to be home. Twice more. Crickets. Well I suppose it is really big in there.

           She was about to knock one last time- Fourth time’s the charm. That’s how the saying goes, right?- when the doors unexpectantly flung inward. She ended up rapping her knuckles against his chest. Not awkward at all then.

           “Oi can you not with the knocking. Heard you the first time. Lord, humans are just so impatient.”

           The mild irritation on his face melted away when a flash of recognition lit up his eyes. “Oh, I know you, don’t I? Cat Donoghue, right? American. Fiery ginger. Accidental consumer of huon particles.” He listed them off one by one as if he was playing a word association game.

           She raised an eyebrow. “Well you’ve managed to quote my dating profile exactly… how’d you manage that?”

           He frowned. “Don’t know how many people you’d attract with that huon particle remark…. maybe some Racnoss.” He made a face, but soon amended, “I’m not judging…”

           She couldn’t decide between laughing and rolling her eyes, so she ended up doing both. “Oh don’t be daft. It was a joke. Never change, Doctor.” The look on his face was priceless.

           “That’s the plan.” Something about the way he said it made her shiver. So matter-o-fact, but also a declaration of intent. A challenge to the entire universe to prove him wrong. A dare to strike him down. And Cat knew enough about him that she would never bet against him, no matter the odds.

           The silence dragged on a beat too long. Only one question to ask. “So what are you doing back? Don’t seem like the type to clean up after yourself.” What with leaving the entire restaurant filled with robots and half of Los Angeles without power and all.

            Although somehow the neither made the headlines she had expected. Some secret spy organization must play nanny and put all the toys away when he’s done with them. Sounded like a rather thankless gig.

            A familiar sheepish grin came into view. “Well, I’ve been thinking, and I feel like I should have given you a fair shake. So would you want to join me?” Noting her barely contained excitement, he added. “For just one trip mind you. But it can be anywhere. All of time and space. Only limit is your imagination.”

           Cat was riding high. It was every childhood fantasy she ever had while reading all those adventure books. The chance to fall out the world into something extraordinary. Leaving behind all that boring office administrative work.

           Her brain was racing through all the possibilities, reaching and grasping at one before tossing it aside in favor of a more brilliant idea. I could try to see the man behind Arthurian myths. Or maybe meet Cleopatra and hang out in the Great Library of Alexandria. Or catch an original Shakespearean production in the Globe. Or go off world and say take me to your leader to actual real life aliens on some planet millions of light years away.

           And then suddenly it hit her. Lord I’m such a nerd. “Pirates, eighteenth century, their Golden Age. I know it’s not going to be some glamorized or kitschy version like Pirates of the Caribbean. But c’mon who can resist the chance to play at being a real life pirate.”

            Her choice had absolutely nothing to do with her crush on a certain fictional pirate as played by Colin O’Donoghue. Or the hours of research she had put into sailing ships to satisfy her own curiosity (and make sure certain works of fanfiction were more historically accurate). Nope those minor details had no bearing on her decision making process at all.

            The Doctor began messing with the controls and was about to pull down one final switch before pausing to ask, “So just to confirm, you want the golden age of piracy, the one with sailing ships on water, right?”

            “As opposed to….” She trailed off letting her implied question speak for itself.

            “Well, there are space sailing ships… complete with space pirates including robotic parrots, cyborg captains, and treasures beyond your imagination.”

            “So basically the plot of that animated movie Treasure Planet is right about the future… not mad about that.”

            The Doctor nodded vigorously, stupid grin plastered to his face. “Underrated gem for sure. Got a surprising amount right. Solar surfing is a blast… literally if you get a little too close to the star. Also cat people ending up in inter-species relationships, more common than you’d think.” Yeah definitely just going to let that one slide.

            Cat considered his suggestion for a moment. It’s not like Captain Hook is real. And this going to be my one chance to go out there. Experience something no one else will get a crack at. At least in my lifetime.

            The Doctor waited, his big brown eyes screaming puppy-dog. “Honestly screw it… take me to the stars space-man.” I’m not cringing, you’re cringing. The line sounded like something a heroine in an adventure novel would say. It’s too sincere by half.

            “The final frontier it is then.” A mad twinkle lit up his eyes. He flicked a few switches, turned a couple knobs, and then threw down a final lever. The central column began bobbing up and down as the TARDIS came to life, emitting that familiar wheezing groan.

            This is really happening! Until it didn’t. The lights cut out momentarily. Then returned with a warning red glow. A crimson shade bathing her sight in blood. The Doctor lost his easy calm and frantically circled the central console, going to and fro, trying to regain control.

            The whole structure shook. It feels like an earthquake. She was used to earthquakes. They were a California rite of passage. But this time there was no solid ground beneath her feet. I’m unmoored, adrift in whatever space or dimension or rift or vortex this thing travels in.

            She struggled to maintain her balance, leaning back against the outer railing for support. Taken by surprise, the Doctor was flung like a ragdoll away from the console, crashing into the railing. That’s going to hurt tomorrow… assuming we have a tomorrow.

            A cloister bell rang out, echoing throughout the entire machine. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, the bell tolls for thee. Cat could never remember where that line was from. Some poem or play from hundreds of years ago. Didn’t much matter now.

            Then everything stopped. Silence fell. And darkness descended upon them again, the light fading from red to nothing at all. Cat waited, unsure exactly what to do next.

            “Doctor, are you alright?” she called out experimentally.

            She could hear a soft groan let out on an exhale. Well that answers that question. “Where are we? What happened?”

            “Something malevolent- a force, an energy I don’t know what- tried to hijack her.” He sounded a bit worse for wear. “She ran off the plotted course to throw them off. But they kept up at it. I think she had to leave our universe to find a refuge.” That’s a bit more falling out of the world than I bargained for.

            “But it’s over now, right? Just give her a reboot, rejoin our reality and then off to be space buccaneers, get the treasure marked X on the interstellar hologram map.” The fear was leaking into her tone, which aimed for light, but was about as well piloted as the TARDIS had been.

            “Not so easy as all that. She’s in need of a refuel. Powered down to the barest of essential functions.” The dark smudge she thought was the Doctor thrust itself into an upright position. “It’s all she can do to maintain the air quality and internal gravity. The energy of whatever void or dimension is outside those doors isn’t compatible.”

            “So to sum up, we’re trapped on life support...” He nodded. “Without any way back home…” The nodding intensified. “And you’ve got no plan.”

            At that he took umbrage. “Well, who said anything about not having a plan? I always have a plan. I’m the man with a plan.” Cat groaned. “Even when I hadn’t thought about one yet.” Yeah pretty sure that’s not how plans work.

            “Back in a jiffy.” And like that the shadowy blob got up and dashed into the bowels of the interior, leaving her alone in the dark. With nothing to do but contemplate where it all went wrong. Seeking out the dangerous adrenaline junkie alien who nearly got me killed last time… I’m a genius.

            But he had offered her the world… only if for a moment. And how could she say no to all that. And suddenly Cat understood his initial reluctance to take her on. Just because the danger is alluring doesn’t lessen the peril.

            The Doctor called out to her, announcing his return while tossing a lumpy pile of clothes at her. “Here you go. Try that on for size.”

            Further examination revealed they were some kind of diver or space suit if she had to guess… complete with bulbous helmet and airway tubes galore. She started wrestling with the suit while the Doctor made a motion with that totally-not-a-sex-toy device of his. Sonic screwdriver? Because that’s clearly used to put together IKEA furniture.

            Thankfully after a moment the lights were back on… well kind of… looks as well-lit as a typical episode of Game of Thrones. Still better than pitch black. Certainly made it easier for her to put on the rather ugly orange suit. Not exactly my color. “Thanks.”

            Once on, she looked up to see the Doctor ready. Noticing she was suited up, he said, “If we’re trapped here might as well go exploring. No point just waiting around here.”

            Cat conceded he had a point. But the sheer amount of unknown that lay beyond those doors was also intimidating. The range of possibilities wasn’t even bound by the laws of their universe. Physics as she knew it was absolutely meaningless.

            “Any chance this old thing has a scanner that could give us a hint about what’s out there?” Doesn’t seem his style, but worth a shot.

            He answered, “Wouldn’t want to risk booting it up with the power situation and all that.” A wild grin occupied his face. “Besides what’s the fun of that.”

            He blazed past her and thrust open the TARDIS door, letting in a wave of light and a sliver of blue and green. A normal sky and field. Well this is unexpected.

            The Doctor immediately disposed of his helmet and took in a giant gulp of air, smacking together his lips in satisfaction. “Hmmm not too off Earth’s atmosphere… oxygen-nitrogen mix with an assortment of other gases… perfectly breathable for humans. And to think I wasted all that time searching for these suits in the dark.”

            Cat removed her own helmet, enjoying the feel of wind gusting through her hair, carrying the smell of wild flowers and grass. Her eyes narrowed, momentarily blinded by the oppressive glare of the light, unsure where it was coming from beyond the general direction of above them. Wonder if it’s a two sun situation like Star Wars. Or maybe a massive one. Certainly seems really bright.

            Covering her eyes, she glanced up to behold there were indeed two suns of differing sizes. Well that’s trippy and a little too much of a coincidence for comfort.

            The Doctor’s features narrowed in confusion as he followed her gaze. “Well that’s odd. Could have sworn there was just one a moment ago…” He petered out, muttering under his breath.

            He seemed to be talking to himself in a stream of consciousness, forgetting her presence completely. He’s traveled alone for quite a while now. She knew from experience that when someone were used to being alone, the boundary between their own thoughts and spoken words blurred a bit. Not that I’m antisocial hermit or anything like that.

            Cat was about to ask what he meant. Suns didn’t just spontaneously appear. But her question died when she saw the struggle occupying the meadow they had landed in. Armored knights upon horseback, the flower of chivalry charged under the banner of a golden grail. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table? They faced off against Norse berserkers, who looked like they stepped out straight from the sagas, bathed in blood and gore, seized by the madness of battle.

            Roman legionnaires marched in lockstep, square shields and short swords at the ready. Pale warriors, men and women alike, in blue swirling Celtic war paint, encircled them on foot and on chariots. Yells and hoots filled the air as the basically nude warriors went in for the kill.

            Cat resisted the urge to drink in their bodies. Just a tad voyeuristic. But also I’m so thirsty. The California drought is over… why can’t mine be? It’s 2018…at least back home… it’s time.

            A storm of arrows was released from some brushwood at the edge of the meadow. An unconventional force armed with a mishmash of farming implements and worn homemade bows made its move to enter the fray. A dashing figure in scarlet and green costume leading the rabble. Robin Hood. No… can’t be… that’s ridiculous.

            How they hadn’t heard this battle royale in progress the moment he’d opened the TARDIS’ doors was beyond her. This place feels like its operating on a dream logic. She frowned. No it’s much too grounded and solid to be like a dream. It’s more like a story. All these myths and legends and histories clashing and mixing together.

            “Doctor, are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

            He nodded grimly. “I know this place. We need to leave. Now.” The last word he barked, desperation creeping in. He’s afraid. That thought was more terrifying than she cared to admit.

            A voice boomed. “But what would be the fun in that?” A holographic face was projected into the sky… like the Wizard in the Emerald City. I know him. An involuntary shiver went down Cat’s spine. But he can’t be real… he’s just from a tv show I like. 

            The Doctor summoned his cool and said, “The new Master of the Land of Fiction I presume.” Land of what now?

            The projection winced. “I prefer to be called the Author. It is my profession after all. This…” An astral hand materialized, sweeping over the land and the combatants, before fading into nothingness. “…is just a side gig.”

            The battle continued unabated, no one caring to notice the giant head suddenly appearing in the sky. Are they even real people?

            “I suppose I should put away my toys.” There was a flurry of astral hand movement… like he was writing something down. And suddenly the brawling stopped. Everyone frozen in place. It’s like time stopped. I don’t think they’re even breathing.

            Another flurry of movement and the former fighters snapped to attention and marched out of the field like automatons. The whole display was eerie. Which I suppose is the point. Frighten us into submission.

            “Doctor,” Cat hissed under her breath. “He can’t be real.”

            “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Cat Donoghue.” Quoting Hamlet at me? Really!?

            “Not what I meant. This isn’t one of those mind-blowing experiences that my narrow little human brain can’t process.” He raised an eyebrow. Fuck off.

            “I mean well yes it is, but not him. It’s the opposite problem with him. I know him too well. Isaac. The Author as he likes to call himself. He’s a character on this tv show I like. Once Upon A Time.” Both eyebrows were up now. Less quizzical looking, more surprised idiot.

            Cat explained, “Professional Disney fanfic. All the classic fairy tale characters are related. And I mean everyone. It’s the kind of show where like the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White has a kid with Rumpelstiltskin’s son and then she goes off and marries Captain Hook.” An absolutely drool worthy Colin O’Donoghue. Not that I have to mention that part to anyone.

            “Really? Well, everyone’s related in fiction. One day you’re living on a moisture farm on Tatooine. The next thing you know Darth Vader is your father and you’ve made out with your royal twin sister. While we’re at it… are you my mummy?” The Doctor’s shit-eating grin was infectious for once.

            “Wouldn’t have pegged you for a Star Wars fan.”

            He just shrugged. “Just you wait until you see Episode IX, you’re going to absolutely flip.”         

            The projection coughed. “Sorry was I boring you? Because I can bring back the entertainment. Curated it just to your liking Ms. Donoghue.”

            A shiver traveled down her spine, trailed by a couple beads of sweat. How the fuck does he know who I am? And more importantly how the fuck is he in my head?

            “You should be careful what you leave online Cat… the Master Brain can piece together all kinds of pretty pictures out of your digital footprints.” Cat’s ears burned bright red, her cheeks flushed. Oh lord they found my search history and even worse my fanfiction.

            “You on the other hand were a bit harder Doctor… that is the moniker you prefer is it not. Doctor who? So famous a man, but not a name to be found. UNIT does a fair job cleaning up after you, but all the gaps and holes in the record craft their own kind of picture. Walking among the storm and flood. Fire and blood.” Ouch… not the most generous description.

            The Doctor set his jaw. “Not sure if the Master Brain informed you of the last time I was here… didn’t end well for any of the parties involved.” Seems like that’d be true of most anyone facing off against the Doctor.

            The Author laughed. Well he’s got the villain cackle down pat. “Well this time I won’t be making the mistake of letting you anywhere near the Master Brain. That poor computer has learned its lesson. You are poison Doctor.”

            “And how do you think you’ll manage that?” Oh Doctor that’s just tempting fate.

            Smirking all the while the Author declared, “Oh I think I’ll just rewrite this particular story. No escape for you. I’ll be having that TARDIS.” A quick astral scrawl and the big blue box began dematerializing.

            “Oh no you don’t.” The Doctor reached into his jacket and pulled out the sonic screwdriver.

            Pointing at the TARDIS, he pressed down, one end glowing blue, emitting a pitched noise. The TARDIS was stuck in a feedback loop, rematerializing and dematerializing at once in an uneasy equilibrium.

            “Nice try Doctor. But I don’t think you know much about the divine right of authors. You’re too used to playing at the hero. And I think it’s time you learned that heroes don’t always get what they want.”

            Cat witnessed the TARDIS finally dematerialize for good. She glanced at the Doctor, whose vibrator had been replaced by a banana. Hardly a fair fight.

            “Well I got what I wanted from you. Infinite travel in a brand new realm. Far away from this accursed land. I suppose there is the question of how to dispose of my unwanted guests.”

            Cat tensed. No way in hell I’m going down like this. “Isaac Heller.” Yeah I know your true name bugger. In all the fairy tales knowing a true name had power. And she realized why. It’s a symbol of intent. Forget know thyself, I know you. I see you villain.

            Certainly makes for a great way to get his attention. “I know who you are. I know you’re a coward after easy success. Writing as a way to make a quick buck instead of creating fabulous worlds from your mind.”

            The words were spilling out now. She had no idea where she was going or if she even had a point. But she would not go quietly into whatever dark night he could have planned for them.

            “Because any real author would have a field day with the Land of Fiction. This collection of so many hopes, dreams, and desires from people across time and space, all mixing and melding and mashing. But instead of the ultimate crossover you turn it into a blood sport. Like some bored Roman Emperor.” Hit him where it hurts. His artistic ego.

            “You doubt my commitment to the craft. Well I actually have a story in mind for you. I’m sure he promised you an adventure. Well you’re about to get more than you bargained for Cat Donoghue.”

            A flourish of his hand and everything cut out. To black. Before color reasserted itself. Everything is green. The green mass eventually became distinguishable as plants, a tangle of vines, trees, and bushes. I’m in some kind of a jungle.

            She was instantly drenched in sweat. The Doctor was next to her looking green as well and disoriented. Thrown for a sudden loop by their change of locale.

            There was rustling in the corner of her eye. Some kind of animal? She turned her head to see a man… no a boy emerge from the wall of green. Hungry eyes peered through the leaves, some poking their heads out. More boys… an army of them. Hopefully this isn’t some Lord of Flies situation.

            Something grasped her from behind. She struggled, swatting at the bulk. But then she realized it was a shadow. Black as night but somehow substantial with a void texture, but uncomfortably pressing against her back. Oh shit.

            “Well, well what have my Lost Boys found for me today?”

Chapter Text

        Fuckity fuck fuck. Cat eyes once again traveled across the impossible scene in front of her. They glazed over Pan’s smug self-satisfied smile. Looking like a lion playing with its food.

        The Lost Boys looked like they’d just walked out off the set of a film adaptation of Lord of the Flies. A sea of grimy faces and based on the odor wafting off them, they’re strangers to soap and deodorant too. Boys are pigs.

        “Names both of you and be quick about it.” Pan unsheathed a dagger hanging from his belt and toyed with it. Because clearly we’re not worth his full attention.

        The Doctor, evidently used to the whole being held captive thing- definitely not his first rodeo - was decidedly unfazed by being significantly outnumbered and metaphorically outgunned.

        “I’m the Doctor and this is my associate Cat Donoghue. We don’t mean any harm, just passing through.” Somehow doubt that’s going to fly. “Who might you lot be?”

        That last question triggered a cascading burst of laughter with even Pan joining in.

        Cat hurriedly whispered to the Doctor under the cover of their hyena cackles. “Pst Doctor that whole Lost Boy comment wasn’t just a throwaway. They’re legit Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.” As trademarked by ABC a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company . I feel like copyright lawyers would have a field day with this. “I think Isaac sent us to the Once Upon A Time version of Neverland.”

        The Doctor evidently not caring whether they were overheard responded much too loudly, “Don’t be absurd. That’s just storybook stuff. Fiction pure and simple.” Says the man who was just literally in the Land of Fiction for the second time.

         As if anticipating her snarky comeback he added, “And this goes beyond the Land of Fiction.” Cat made a mental note to confirm if the Doctor was psychic. She had gotten into the habit of occasionally testing to see. He is an impossible man after all.

         Rather than be intimidated by the array of sharp and pointy objects directed in their general direction, the Doctor began pacing about deep in thought, monologuing all the while.

        “I mean it’s one thing to have an entire universe devoted to be the junkyard of human imagination, the flotsam and jetsam of untold dreams and wishes generating a new reality.”

        The Lost Boys shifted uncomfortably, confused to have their would-be captive distinctly unintimidated and roaming free. Peter Pan shed his lazy lion act, letting his dagger lay still in one hand. He seemed intrigued by the Doctor’s speechifying.

        “Quite another for one to exist that so precisely mirrors one tiny specific bit of rubbish.” Well he’s not wrong about the show being trash. “The odds are so infinitesimal as to be impossible.”

        Cat countered, “Who exactly do you think wrote the book? Not the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. It was that fucker.” At least the current edition, I guess technically his predecessors wrote the originals but the show is a tad fuzzy on that point.

        Pan cleared his throat loudly, demanding the undivided attention of all present. “I’m seeing a lot of jabbering. I think it would best for everyone if you left the talking to me. You see it’s quite literally my island. My realm, my rules. And as you’ve so rudely invited yourselves, I think it’s high time I extracted my toll.”

        Pan advanced upon Cat first, brushing past the Doctor who let out an irritated hmph. Probably not too often he’s not the instant center of attention.

        Pan’s eyes examined her, every inch falling under his gaze. But unlike with straight boys it wasn’t a lecherous ogling, there was a cool detachment as if he was playing at being a scientist and she was a particularly fascinating insect. Honestly it’s almost a more unnerving experience.

        “Much too old.” Doesn’t he know it’s rude to remark upon a lady’s age? “Not that I think a younger model would be of much use either. Your belief shrivelled up quite quickly.” Catholic school usually does the trick. “Even now you doubt the evidence of your own senses.”

        “Oh I don’t know about that. I think I know exactly who I’m dealing with… Malcolm.” Laying my cards on the table, same trick I tried with Isaac. As anticipated mentioning his original name threw Pan off, the dagger slipping out of his hand, landing upon the ground.

        Pan must have summoned every ounce of his self-control because the shock soon melted into a preternatural calm. All the more dangerous for its artificiality. He summoned the blade back to his hand and held it against her throat. The uncomfortable pressure yielded a prick, blood trickling down to her chest.

        He spat out at her, “I’d think very carefully about the next words that come out of your mouth. I have a feeling your life depends upon it. How do you know me? Did that meddlesome son of mine put you up to this?”

        Cat resisted the urge to burst out laughing. As if there was any universe that she’d do any favors for Rumplestiltskin. However the knife at her throat was good motivation. She was liable to accidentally cut herself if she so much as breathed wrong.

       The Doctor suddenly materialized at her side- although without some kind of weapon what lot of good could he do. Pan stared down the Doctor, who gave as good as he got back. The silence was deafening. I think they’re both a tad old for a staring contest. The Doctor looking portentous and grave, clearly unnerving Pan and Cat herself.

        “Aren’t you a little young to have a son?” That’s one way to end the stand-off.  

        “Don’t challenge me. I’m hundreds of years old, outliving entire civilizations. And I always get what I want.”

        “Oi don’t get all self-congratulatory with me. I’m 906 years old, and you don’t see me bragging.” Someone’s looking good for being nearly a millennium old, I should ask him what his skin routine is… you know assuming we get out of this alive.

        The Doctor frowned and started muttering to himself, “Although come to think of it, I really should have caught your age. It’s your eyes, they’re all wrong, much too lived-in.”

        Pan narrowed his eyes as much due to self-consciousness as suspicion. “What kind of doctor are you, really?”

       “All sorts of things, really. But right now I’m responsible for Miss Donoghue’s safety, a physician’s duty of care and all that. You think you’re the ultimate survivor, but you’ve got nothing on the sole victor of the Time War. So I wouldn’t challenge me either.” Time War… that sounds a tad apocalyptic.

        Pan let out a low whistle and his shadow released Cat, letting her ungracefully hit the ground with a thud. Yeah my tailbone will be complaining about this for a while. The shadow seized the Doctor holding him in place .

        “In my experience it’s the cowards who survive.” With a burst of magic Pan sent Cat flying off into the undergrowth. Taken by surprise, Cat had no time to prepare herself for the rough landing as the wind was knocked out of her, her body crashing against a tree trunk.

        Pan’s full attention was now directed at the Doctor. Pan lunged at him, sinking his free hand into the Doctor’s chest. Cat’s eyes widened as she realized what was going on. He’s going for his heart.

        “Oh my, Doctor, you have been busy, rather naughty of you. A man after my own heart.” In my nightmares. Pan held the Doctor’s blackened and bruised but still beating heart in the palm of one hand. A tiny ember of red glowed faintly swallowed by the surrounding doom and gloom. What kind of man is the Doctor, really?

        “Hmm but something tells me this isn’t the whole story.” Pan held out his free hand over the Doctor’s chest, right over the spot he had just stolen the heart out.

         He closed his eyes and muttered under his breath, focusing intently on something, Cat couldn’t tell what. Pan rapped a closed fist against the Doctor’s chest, knocking four times in a doubled beat. Like a twinned heartbeat.

         His hand gravitated to the opposite side and then plunged into the Doctor’s chest cavity again. Cat suppressed a cry in shock, while the Doctor let out a muffled noise of pain. She made a move to run at them, try to stop Pan, but a pair of Lost Boys blocked her path, brandishing two spears, the bronze tips glinting in the sun.

         Pan’s face glowed triumphantly when his hand emerged with a second prize- another heart! Is his chest bigger on the inside too? - of a completely different character to the first. The heart blazed forth crimson without a single blemish. It had a bit of the refracted glory of the sun, almost uncomfortable to look at for long.

        “Now this, this I can use.” An evil grin spread across Pan’s preternaturally neotenic face like a blight. Was there ever a face so punchable? ...You know if he didn’t look like a toddler…

        Pan violently thrust the first black heart back into the Doctor’s chest. “You can keep your guilt and angst and darkness. But I shall be taking this.” He cradled his precious red cargo, while the Doctor looked on in horror.

        Pan turned away, evidently bored of his new captives now. Without so much as a glance backwards he began to dissolve into a cloud of black smoke, transporting himself away to who knows where. Probably off to steal candy from a literal baby.

        Before he departed, he issued one final order to his lonely band, his voice calm and cold as winter’s kiss. “Kill the girl.” Insurance policy I see.  

        Cat made a move to run- to where she had no clue, the jungle looked distinctly unwelcoming, but still better than waiting about like livestock about to be slaughtered. But before she could take more than one or two steps, Pan’s shadow resumed groping her. Handsy much?

        She struggled to move as the lead Lost Boy- Felix that’s his name -brought a pipe to his lips, ready to release a poisoned dart straight at her. But Pan’s shadow’s grip upon her was steel, and she could no more escape than breathe underwater or fly. I’m so dead.

        The expected prick of the deadly dart never came. No toxin injected right into her bloodstream. The Doctor leapt into action, running interference, taking the dreamshade laced dart to his chest. He stopped dead and collapsed on the ground, already looking like a corpse. No not yet but he’s about to be. 

        She could almost swear she heard the mournful chime of a cloister bell in the distance. A faint whisper carried by the wind. Gone so fast she was sure she had simply imagined it.

        The Lost Boys began nervously chattering among themselves. Unsure what to do next, their orders in tatters without their fearless leader to provide a guiding strong-arm.

        One cried out, “Pan is going to kill us when he finds out.”

        The lament was repeated ad nauseam, until a nonplussed Felix, tired of their frenetic squealing and bawling, qualified, “You mean if, if he finds out.”

       “Of course he’s going to find...” The gears were visibly turning in their brains. Lord how did these idiots catch us in the first place? Until finally the cheerful boys declared, “If, if is good.” The chant was taken up among them as if they were a bunch of parrots. Smelly giggly parrots.

       The Doctor was still doubled over in obvious pain, his veins dilated and an awful violet color. It was her time to step up, so she asked, “Now that’s settled, would you mind letting us go?”

       They looked at her like her hair was on fire. Worth a shot. They had seemed dumb enough to fall for such a basic ploy. I can’t even call it a trick it’s so transparent and straightforward.

       The Lost Boys began closing in, and Cat gathered that the new plan was simply to kill her and the Doctor together. Lovely. I’ll be killed by psychotic little middle schoolers… I always knew it end this way… well maybe not the Neverland part, but the roving gangs of the youths part yes.

       Their advance stopped in its tracks when an arrow, quickly followed by two more, were fired at their feet. Warning fireballs were launched above their heads, singeing quite a few hairs.

        Cat turned to see the cavalry had truly arrived. And she was just a little starstruck. Snow stepped forward into the clearing, bow at the ready, flanked by Charming and Emma fucking! Swan wielding broadswords, the latter wearing her iconic red leather jacket. May or may not have swiped some of my aesthetic from you girl, sorry not sorry.

        The Evil Queen herself, Regina, entered into view, smug and imperious as ever, dual fireballs at the ready. She could tone down the melodrama of it all. Her business attire was incongruous in the jungle setting. As if looking the part of the high powered career woman would bend her surroundings to her will.

        And then there was the big one. Oh captain, my captain. Killian Jones, Captain Hook himself, brought up the rear, hook-hand glinting in the sunlight. The old cliche about ocean colored eyes reared its head, but she couldn’t help it. His eyes were just as much of the sea- it’s passions, rages, and willfulness- as his person.

        The impractical all leather outfit paired with the black eyeliner should have read as mid-00’s emo wannabe whose dream in life is to work at Hot Topic. But instead it was just so fucking hot. Like unbelievably attractive. How is he even real?

        Cat was pretty sure her knees would’ve buckled, and she would’ve collapsed on the ground if it wasn’t for the unwelcome support of Pan’s shadow. The scruff and dark brooding features that absolutely destroyed her when displayed on a television screen were right there in the flesh. And no guilt about lusting after a happily married actor.

        The Lost Boys retreated into the jungle, evidently unwilling to commit to a full battle with the Charmings and co. A tad more trying than killing a lost American with dying alien in tow.

        Cat tumbled to the ground when Pan’s shadow realized that sticking around would probably end in it being magically captured or vaporized in some fashion and it decided to retreat to some other part of the island.

        Emma- the only one actually properly dressed for jungle adventuring, looking like Indiana Jones and Lara Croft had a love child - gave Cat and the dying Doctor a once over with piercing eyes, judging and calculating. “Who the fuck are you?” Todo we’re not on ABC anymore.

        Cat wanted to make a move to get that psychic paper thing the Doctor had used to trick that ritzy restaurant into letting them in. Sir Doctor of Tardis and Dame Catherine of Westchester about town. That all seems a world away now... probably because it literally is.

        She wasn’t quite sure how it worked. But she knew it probably would come up with a better response than hey we’re interdimensional travelers, he’s an alien with two hearts because why the fuck not, and we got banished here by a villain you haven’t even met yet who can casually rewrite reality on a whim.

        However the actual job of getting the psychic paper would require approaching the distressed Doctor, rummaging through his jacket, all the while Snow had an arrow-point aimed directly at her heart, bow strung, ready to release at any moment. Cool... cool cool, cool.

        “I’m Cat Donoghue and this is my.... err...” How do I describe my relationship with this strange alien spaceman who’ve I’ve met all of two times?  “Companion... the Doctor.”

        Mary Margaret- lord that name is just so cringe, it’s trying so hard to be saintly and lily white that even a nun would blush and think it’s a bit much - narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “Doctor who?” Does it sound like I fucking know? He doesn’t exactly come with a handy name tag.

        Cat did notice Emma stiffen slightly at Snow’s question. A bit of tension gathering in her shoulders. I mean she’s not the one in eminent danger if she makes a sudden wrong move.

        Regina sniped at Snow, “Does it really matter? Who cares who they are? It’s what they’re doing here and what Pan wanted with them that I want to know.”

        “Calm yourself, your majesty. We clearly share the same enemy, I’m sure they’ll be more than forthcoming with the desired information if you asked nicely.” Regina huffed at Hook’s unsubtle jab at her regal airs and graces. You’re the one who desperately wanted to be queen, can’t complain when people burst your overly inflated ego madam mayor.

        Sheathing the cutlass he held in his hand, Hook approached from the edge of the clearing. He met Cat’s gaze and already she could feel the color rise in her cheeks. I’m not blushing you’re blushing.

       “May I?” Oh honey you can do whatever the fuck you want. But his eyes shifting downward at the Doctor, who lay prone upon the ground, clearly indicated he intended to examine him. Words failing her, she nodded her assent.

       “Oi, I’m not dead yet. Thank you very much.” With much visible effort, the Doctor forced his body into an upright position. “Even cyanide can’t take me out, I’m sure I’ll be fine after a cup of tea.” Keep Calm and Carry On. That’s the most British thing I’ve ever heard… is he even actually an alien?

        Hook bent down to the Doctor’s level to address him directly. “Mate don’t strain yourself, dreamshade may act slowly, but it guarantees everyone a painful death. It’s not like you’ve spent a night boozing and can sleep it off.”

        The Doctor dismissed Hook’s concerns. “I’m a bit tougher to kill than the average person. Even in the worst case scenario I don’t die. I’ll just change. A new man will saunter away from this one way or another. Regeneration… the last gift of the Time Lords.” He spat out the last words bitterly as if the prospect of his quasi-immortality was more a burden than anything else.

        Emma had a light bulb moment, letting out a small gasp. “You’re that Doctor.”

        The Doctor flashed a winning grin that soon devolved into gritted teeth as the toxin continued to work through his body. “The one and genuine article.”

        Regina looked ruffled, “Miss Swan, you mean to say you know this strange man.”

        Emma nodded slowly as if unwilling to commit to the enormity of the idea. Don’t blame you there girl. “From the ropey British sci-fi show with the dodgy special effects.” I wouldn’t be throwing any stones in glass houses, but that’s none of my business.

        “The one Henry likes.” Regina stared blankly on. “C’mon you’ve must have tripped over the figurines a thousand times. It’s about traveling in all of space and time in a magic blue box with a mad man.”

        Emma turned back toward the Doctor and said, “You’re a dead ringer for the one played by David Tennant.”

        “I’ll just assume he’s a devilishly handsome actor.”

        Emma shrugged her shoulders, “More like a matchstick man held together with toothpicks.” Way to deflate the Doctor’s ego real quick… although she’s not wrong.

        David finally spoke up- so the charming prince actually has a working tongue- “That’s all well and good… I guess. But back to the matter at hand what did Pan want with the lot of you?”

        Cat knew she had to step up and seize control of the narrative. If I can convince them we have the same goals, just maybe I can get us home. “He stole one of the Doctor’s hearts.” Yeah that raised some eyebrows. “I’m guessing he’s going to use it to help supercharge the ritual to perpetuate Neverland and his own immortality.”

        “It’s simple then. Let the Doctor die and that little problem is solved.” Regina was calm as if she was just stating the obvious logical course of action. “The heart will crumble to ashes, and with it Pan’s plan for it. We can get back to what’s really important, saving my son.”

        “Our son,” Emma pointedly corrected. “And that’s not how we operate Regina.”

        “Besides his hearts not going anywhere, it’ll probably stick around when that regeneration thingy goes down.” Cat looked to the Doctor to back her up.

        Instead of providing unqualified support that would help their case, he just said, “Don’t know what would happen. Not in the habit of losing hearts. How you people cope with just the one is beyond me. I mean there was this one instance when my hand got chopped off…”

        “Save it Doctorman or whoever you really are.” Regina snapped.

        Hook motioned for attention, not that he didn’t already have hers. “To remove the uncertainty the best course of action is to heal the Doctor with the same spring water that saved David.” Damn why didn’t I think of that… I suppose it’s been awhile since season 3.

        “We split into two groups. The lass, David, and I will escort the Doctor to the spring. You three,” He gestured to Regina, Snow, and Emma. “Will scout out Pan’s base at Skull Rock and see if you can rescue your boy and the Doctor’s heart. We’ll provide back-up as quick as we can.”

        Emma and the Charmings nodded in agreement with the plan. Regina let out a reluctant assent after huffing and puffing a bit longer. Bitch and moan some more why don’t you.

        David sheathed his sword and went to help Hook to get the Doctor to his feet. Snow finally relaxed her bow arm- what’s her workout routine because I want in. They were all prepared to part when an unwelcome presence made itself known.

       “My my, you lot have been quite busy in my absence. I’d suggest not sealing the deal quite yet, dearie.” Rumple-motherfucking-stiltskin. “No need to sign on the dotted line when there’s a much better one on offer.”

Chapter Text

        “How stupid do you think I am?” To her satisfaction Gold looked stunned at her complete and utter dismissal of him. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Hook grinning ear to ear at the seeing his Crocodile cut down to size.

        “As if I’d make a deal with you untrustworthy slime-bag.” She could have sworn she saw his eye twitch before he reasserted his cool, calm, and collected facade. You’d think he’d been called worst over the centuries.  

         He stapled his fingers- like every villain ever - and took a deep breath. “You’re making a big mistake, dearie, I’m not your enemy in this. Our interests are aligned.” Perhaps for the moment, but the instant they’re not, you’ll stab me in the back in some suitably ironic fashion.

        “The only mistake I’m making is continuing this pointless conversation.” She said while glancing at her fingernails to convey the correct level of contempt she held for him. Although really this is the most fun I’ve had in ages.

        “I-” Cat didn’t let him finish. She covered her ears with her hands and began taunting him, repeating nonsense words. LA LA LA NOT LISTENING.

        When Rumple finally gave up on speaking, she stopped resisting the urge to grin self-indulgently at her antics. Incredibly juvenile… yes. Incredibly satisfying…also yes.

        Hook was guffawing in the background. In typical fashion Regina looked vaguely irritated, and the Charmings- bless their hearts- seemed utterly at a lost. Emma played at being the scold, but Cat thought she was enjoying the undignified display besides herself, her eyes smiled even if her mouth remained a firm thin line.

        Gold shifted his “charm” offensive to their audience in the clearing. “Let the good Doctor die. My grandson’s life is on the line, and we are running out of time.” Your former apprentice already tried that line dearie.

        And it had a similar non-effect. The Charmings exchanged a loaded look. Regina looked tempted but seemed to want to stay on the good side of her recently reconciled… allies? family? frenemies? and so said nothing.

        He whirled back upon her and snarled, “You will not thwart me bitch.”

        Oh hell to the no.

        Cat slapped him, almost wishing she better maintained her nails so she could really dig in and claw him. The smack was the most satisfying sound she’d ever heard. This moment would easily enter her highlights reel whenever she looked back on her life.

        His eyes flashed dangerously, and he raised a hand as if to strike back. But Hook stepped forward between them, brandishing his hook hand. “I wouldn’t try anything… dearie.” He spat out the last word like an insult.

        Gold scowled but did nothing. Only preying on the easy targets, once a coward, always a coward, even with all the powers of the Dark One.

        Cat was soon unnerved when the scowl transformed into a cruel thin-lipped smile. “I do hope your Doctor enjoys his current surroundings. The Spring of Neverland is a font of many miracles, but even it cannot permanently cure dreamshade.” His lips curled further upward as he saw understanding dawn on her face. “He’ll be trapped here forever.”

        Cat sensed the Doctor stiffen behind her and knew instinctively that it was not due to any discomfort from dying. “And after your antics today, I have no intention of helping you find a more permanent solution. Don’t forget that some fates are worse than death.”

        Having made his point, he disappeared into a cloud of black smoke. And I thought Regina was melodramatic. But still Cat felt a twinge of guilt. As little as she knew about the Doctor, she did know that he was not one to settle down and build roots in any one place. And certainly not a cursed fantasy island.

        “Ignore him,” Emma said as she approached Cat. “He’s not used to losing.” A perpetually middle aged white dude lacking maturity… oh the shock, oh the scandal.

        “I imagine he’s off somewhere trying to strike another deal, maybe with Pan himself. But we have more immediate problems to deal with.”

        Emma gestured in the direction of the Doctor, who’s attempted smile devolved into a grimace. Cat nodded in agreement.

        “I am curious how you already knew that he was untrustworthy.”

        Cat had been prepared for Regina to give her the third degree, but Emma Swan was a different animal. She actually had experience interacting with flesh and blood human beings as opposed to hapless minions of various stripes.

        Plus there was her infamous “superpower.” Which really is just being able to read body language. And I’m an actress, controlling my body and how I project myself to the world is basically my whole job.

        Cat didn’t want to commit to explaining the whole alternate reality/fictional universe thing. She wasn’t quite she completely understood it herself.  But after a charged moment the answer came to her. Duh.

        She met Emma’s calculating gaze head on. “I’ve learned to recognize his type on sight. And I’m happier for it.” Smooth talkers who manage to get their way by the power of their wits.

       That almost sounds like the Doctor, hell they’re both functionally immortal as far as I know. The comparison was disconcerting to say the least. Almost like good cop or bad cop… well more like fun wacky uncle or bad cop.

        For a moment Emma stood there, weighing how straight Cat was being with her- aka not very- but then she just laughed. “Fair enough.”

        “Alright let’s execute Killian’s plan. Operation Rescuing Cobra is a go.” I see what you did there but cringe oh so much cringe. Seeing the muted response to her rallying cry, Emma doubled down. “I know what I said.”

        The Charmings shared a parting kiss. Yuck, maybe the whole true love thing is overrated. Emma, Regina, and Snow, presumably knowing where to go, headed together as a band in one direction.

        They left Cat alone with a still-dying Doctor, the most generically handsome man imaginable, and the most gobsmackingly attractive human she’d ever laid eyes on. Cool cool so much cool.

        They planned to all take turns supporting the ailing Doctor, half-dragging him through the undergrowth. He was surprisingly light- matchstick man indeed - but it was still quite the workout as they journeyed through the thick brush. Shouldn’t have skipped leg day… or arm day… or you know maybe should have just walked into the gym.

        The going was slow, the heat weighing down on all of them. David and Hook were walking ahead, clearing the thicket. David swung his broadsword hacking at the vegetation, and Hook was whacking away with his cutlass. They make for surprisingly good weed-whackers.

        The arching of their backs, the swing of their arms, the way their sweat glistened on their skin underneath the unforgiving sun… Cat would be lying if she said she wasn’t enjoying the view.

        Can honestly say I have never felt the compulsion to lick someone before my sweet Irish lollipop. She took a second to confirm she had in fact just thought that. Yeah… the heat is definitely getting to me, I need to take a cold shower and chill the fuck out.  

        “So what’s the deal with you and Mr. Pirate over there?” He’s psychic or more realistically I need to keep my heart eyes in better check.

        Cat could feel her ears start to burn and color rise to her cheeks- the curse of being so fucking pale, I can’t hide a blush to save my life. But she forced her expression to remain neutral, a task only accomplished by avoiding eye-contact with the Doctor. I mean someone has to keep their eyes on the path ahead.

        “He’s quite the looker,” the Doctor observed non-committedly, a gentle teasing tone bleeding in. “Has that whole dark, tortured, and handsome thing going for him- if you’re into that type of course. Byronic heroes are just so nineteenth century.” I’m trying to save your life here, and this is how you repay me?!?! By reading me for filth!

        Cat finally mustered up a response, after confirming that both Hook and Charming were out of earshot. “Well he’s soon to be taken, so how I feel on the matter doesn’t really matter.”

        “How exactly does that work?”

        “TV show, remember? And in this universe, there is such a thing as true love like the kind that breaks curses with kisses and all that gooey sappy stuff.” Cat resisted the urge to gag on the overly sincere and sentimental magical system. Where’s some irony I can latch onto?

        She continued while surprised at the creeping bitterness entering her tone. “And he’s already got one name carved onto his heart, so forgive me for not wanting to get steamrolled on the way to his happy ending.”

        “Well time can be rewritten.” He stated it so matter-of-factly that Cat was caught off guard. Well the resident time traveler would think that.

        “I’m talking, walking proof of that. Every time I step outside my TARDIS, I change reality in little imperceptible ways that all add up to a big wibbly-wobbly ball of timey-wimey- err stuff.” Guess I know who to blame for living in the darkest timeline.

        “Even seemingly fixed points have a little more wiggle room than you give them credit for.” Seems like he’s talking from experience.

        Cat considered the temptation for a moment. Trying to go for her biggest crush- who just happens to be a fictional character. I mean how many people get the chance to legitimately flirt with their fictional crush. It was the stuff of sweeping epic romances. The kind immortalized in sonnets and songs and movies.

        But the pull of reality was too strong. This wasn’t her life. Not by a long shot. I have a home I need to get back to. And a completely different impossible man is my meal ticket.

        Cat attempted to put a pin in the matter. “Yeah this isn’t some battle I can win. Just sounds like a recipe for tempting fate and being punished for hubris in some fittingly ironic fashion.”

        Honestly has he not watched any tv show, movie, or read a book? I suppose he’s too busy living actual flesh and blood adventures to care about the tropes of fictional ones.

        “You make it sound like I’m giving you a choice.” What the hell is he planning?

        It soon became evident. The Doctor slumped, letting his full weight nearly drag her down. She hadn’t realized how much he had been helping to support his own body until he sunk her like a lead weight.

        He called ahead, “David, I think my friend here has reached her limit, care to take over?”

        And, of course, Mr. Prince Charming leapt at the chance to play at being the gallant hero. He definitely thinks he’s chivalry’s gift to humanity. 

        When he got to them, he paused for a moment unsure what to do with his sword- hope he’s not this indecisive in the bedroom - before ultimately deciding to offer it to her.

        Cat gratefully took it, appreciating the weight of it in her hands. She gave it an experimental swing, nearly hitting the Doctor in the process. Oops. I swear I’m usually more coordinated than this.

        “Oi, watch it! I’m already dying, you don’t have to accelerate the process.” She parried his outrage with a sheepish grin.

        David helped the Doctor to his feet to resume the long march. Cat waved goodbye, but when David was momentarily distracted, she made sure to give the Doctor the finger. That’s for trying to play matchmaker shithead.

        She approached him, slow and deliberate. She wanted to give herself time to think and try to get the fan-girl out of her system. Fat chance of that.     

        When she caught up to Hook, she was just intimately aware it was the two of them all alone. Hacking at plants in an intolerably hot jungle. Bugs buzzing everywhere. Sweat dripping from places I didn’t even know sweated. The stuff of epic romances for sure.

        Still her heart pounded away in her ribcage, trying to pull a prison break. Her mouth was dry, well drier than it had been from the creeping dehydration- might need a taste of this spring water myself soon enough and not just because I’m a thirsty hoe.  

        She’d feel less self-conscious if it weren’t for the fact that Killian Jones looked like he was completely in his element. Imagine how smooth and confident he’d be on the open sea. In absolute control… well maybe not absolute. The Jolly Roger is surely in need of a proper mistress.

        Actually scratch that wet daydream- not helping. She internally groaned at her own pun but was also weirdly proud. Story of my life.

        Unsure what to say, she stuck with the obvious observation. “David’s taken his turn helping carry the Doctor.”

        “Ay I see that lass.” He didn’t bother to look in her direction- rude - intent on the task at hand. He didn’t seem quite all the way here though. As if his mind was a million miles away. Probably with Miss Swan. Not that she could blame him. Emma Swan was incredible. Everything she’d want to be.

        The silence stretched on as they worked. And Cat was besides herself. The quiet wasn’t quite awkward, but the moment it was acknowledged it’d be intolerable and suffocating. I’m blowing it. And not the thing I’d want to.

        “Poke it with a stick- yeah!” Oh my god, I actually said that aloud. To him. What the fuck were you thinking brain.

        He raised an eyebrow at her outburst. I just made this a million times more awkward. I’m an idiot. Just too stupid to function apparently.

        “Sorry, just something I say with my best friend whenever we chat and neither of us have anything to say. Usually jumpstarts a conversation one way or another. Or at least gives a good laugh.”

        He smiled, and suddenly everything was alright. “I think it certainly accomplishes that trick.”

        Before they would lapse back into silence, he asked, “So Cat Donoghue,” HE REMEMBERS MY NAME! “How did you end up in Neverland?”

        Cat ruminated for a moment, weighing how truthful to be, before settling on, “Spirit of adventure.” It’s how the Doctor got me to go along in the first place, well that and…

        “The Doctor promised me pirates. Then we took a few wrong turns, our ship got hijacked, and we ended up stranded here.” That’s the gospel truth… more or less.

        “I don’t know what kind of ship you were piloting. But neither of you look much like the seafaring type.” I mean… fair.

        Still she had to push back, so she said, “I’m not some landlubber you know. Been on boats my whole life.” Just not the sailing kind or you know on the open sea. “Once even got into an argument with the janitor at work over whether the Jolly Roger or the Queen Anne’s Revenge was the better ship.” Although Captain Swan gives both a run for their money.

        “And?” he prompted. Aw someone’s wondering which side I landed on. She almost laughed, as if there was any doubt where she stood when it came to all things Killian Jones.

        “And I did quite a lot of research and absolutely proved, scientifically without a shred of doubt, that the Jolly Roger is clearly superior.” Even if the Queen Anne’s Revenge has the advantage of being real.

        But really so was the Jolly. This Captain Hook standing before her was flesh and blood, no less real for his resemblance to some tv character. Presumably his ship was docked somewhere off the coast, polished wood gleaming in the sun, cloth sails ready to open up and follow the winds to the ends of the Earth.

        “I’m sure you’d know plenty about masts then, lass.” A sly grin shone on his face. Two can play at this game captain.

        “Ay, almost as much you know about wood, captain.” To her satisfaction he guffawed. I went to an all-girls Catholic school. I’m the queen of innuendos, you won’t top me… that’s what she said.

        She continued, on a roll. “Especially in the morning. You must beat quite a few planks to start off the day. Smart too, before it gets too hot for you to be bothered to do it at a later hour.”

        There was a knowing glint in his eyes. “But that must also be the time when you encounter the most cocks. Roosters tend to like to strut their stuff then.” Oh, it’s on.

        “I prefer to leave the roosters be then. They tend to be quite small peckers that are just so annoying. Besides I’ve always found waking up to the dongs of a big brass bell much more satisfying.”

        Hook halted, doubling over in a laughing fit. Got him. Cat tried to hold a serious face for that little speech, but then seeing Hook’s priceless reaction had her cackling away.

        When Hook recovered, breathing slow in and out, he said, “Well you certainly have a sailor’s mouth if nothing else lass. I concede defeat. Unless you happen to know any Richard’s or William’s, I’m fresh out of ideas.” That was easier than expected… what a weenie… hey-ooo. Although I suppose we did pluck all the low hanging fruit.

        “If it’s not too forward to suggest,” Cat leaned in in anticipation at his next words. “When we rescue Emma’s lad, I’m sure there will be plenty of room on the Jolly to take you back home.” As if assuming she’d be hesitant he added, “You’d really be doing me a favor. I’ve been far too landlocked lately.”

        Nothing sounds better than the open sea right now. The smell of salt and brine would be cleansing. The ocean breeze would be a relief after the stifling jungle air. And of course the biggest attraction would be acting as her chauffeur. What’s not to like?

        “I’m looking forward to it, captain.”

        He was close to her now that they had paused. She could catch his scent, which still had something of the sea clinging to him as if the salt and water had soaked into his skin, his very essence.

        She looked up into those almost too lovely eyes. And they looked back at her, really seeing her. So focused and intent as if they were each the only other person in the entire world. She caught her breath, her mind going blank. Please don’t be drooling, please don’t be drooling.

        And he went in for the kiss. And despite all her promises otherwise, she returned it. And my Irish lollipop is as tasty as advertised. Oh god, what is chill?

        Cat was fairly sure she’d spontaneously combust or melt into a puddle of goo. But here she was whole and attached at the hip to her dream man. The kiss was followed by another. And then another.

        But then they separated. And Cat fell back to Earth.

        That was a mistake. A lovely too tempting mistake. Cat could feel it in her bones.  “Look I’m not out to be anyone’s rebound.” I’m not some consolation prize.

        Hook’s eyebrows scrunched in a terribly adorable way. Why are you this devilishly handsome? It’s not fair.

        “Don’t give me that look. I see the way you look at Emma.” Admittedly mostly on my laptop screen. “Don’t be coward, don’t have regrets. Just go for it. It’s what you want. And I’m pretty sure it’s what she wants too.” I only have multiple seasons of television and reams of fanfiction devoted to your epic romance as evidence.

        “But her boy and the boy’s father. They deserve a chance to try at being a family. It’s only right.” Fuck Neal. Fuck Neal so much. Just aaaarrggggghhhhhhh.

        That was Cat’s initial reaction. She could write a thesis paper on all the ways Neal was a dickhead who didn’t deserve shit and why-in-the-living-fuck did the Charmings name Emma’s brother after him as if that wasn’t fucking weird as fuck.

        Hey you know your lover who literally and metaphorically screwed you over only to reenter your life with his own agenda... yeah we’re gonna name your new baby brother in his honor.

        But she knew that wasn’t likely to convince Hook much of anything. Besides that I’m probably a crazy stalker. Which wouldn’t be a terribly inaccurate way to describe a fan. The word is related to fanatic for a reason.

        Instead she said, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Quoting Shakespeare just seems like the kind of thing to do in these kinds of situations. And I already know this story isn’t one of his tragedies.

        “Nice line, but fate hasn’t been kind to me in the past. I don’t see why it’d start know.”

        Because you of all people have earned the hero moniker. It wasn’t thrust upon you by circumstances of birth. You actively chose what is good and right despite being expected to do nothing better than be a rapine pirate.

        She was so tempted to spoil him with all her foreknowledge. To tell him the next few years of his life. The saga of the Dark Ones and the Underworld and then marriage and a child- Hope. But he’d have to experience it all for himself firsthand.

        She cupped his face, surprised at her own boldness, but the gesture just felt right in this moment. His eyes were a sea of doubt and pain and regrets. “In this story of fairy tales you’ll get your happy ending. Trust me on that.”

        He went in for a hug and her every nerve ending felt like it was on fire. Just the feel of him overwhelmed her. The soft worn leather overcoat, the skin tanned to match under the hot sun, and his sea salt scent right under her nose. Well fuck.

        “Sorry, are we interrupting something?”

        The Doctor was leaning on David. The pair must have caught up to them when they had slowed to a crawl and then stopped.

        He looked far too satisfied with himself, even having the gall to give her a thumbs up when he thought no one else was looking. Oh if you weren’t already dying you’d be so dead right now.

Chapter Text

           Cat was not easily embarrassed. She had walked in her roommate having sex not once but on multiple occasions. She had read smut in multiple churches across multiple continents. If God noticed, he’s a perv. She had once even *redacted* .   

          Second hand embarrassment, on the other hand, was absolutely lethal. Like instantly pause or turn off whatever movie or tv show she was watching and roll around on the ground for a little while kind of bad.

          So when Killian Jones turned beet red, she never stood a chance. They couldn’t even so much as look each other in the eye. Not that we were even doing anything. I quickly put a stop to that.

          She was still surprised at herself. Who knew dignity would beat out thirst. Although it was quite the close call. She snuck in one last mournful glance at Killian. It’s for the best. Which is really just something people say as a consolation prize.

          They resumed their work, clearing a path for David and the Doctor. They had to be nearing the spring soon. They had started while the sun was still rising, and now it was beginning its descent. If they could make it before dark, that would be ideal. She wasn’t sure if the Doctor would make it through the night. And none of them would rest easy with the Lost Boys out and about.

           When they finally reached the spring, Cat was panting, ready to keel over and lay down forever. Or at least until she could take a nap. The water looked all too tempting, even though she knew if she drank it she’d be trapped. All magic comes with a price.

          One thing to agree to those terms when dying, quite another just because she couldn’t handle one jungle hike. Honestly how do people deal with the humidity?

          David helped the Doctor settle down into a seated position, while Hook collected some spring water in his water skin.

          Like any good patient, the Doctor swallowed his medicine with minimal fuss. His skin returned to its normal pallor instantly. His eyes became sharp and alert. He sprang to his feet as if to dispel any doubt about his rapid return to health.

          “Well then, now that’s sorted. Where were we?”

          “You seem chipper for a guy bound to this little hellhole.” Cart supposed she could have worded it a bit more delicately, but he was a big Time Lord, he could handle the stark reality of it.

           “But why is that? How does it work? Some kind of harmonic resonance between the spring water and the island? Or maybe some geographically linked isomorphic field?”

           Cat reached up to grasp his shoulder. This is actually much more of a bother than I thought it’d be . Why are you so tall?  “Dude it’s magic, do you think adding technobabble will have it make any more sense?”

           “Clarke’s law. Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. Doesn’t actually mean they’re the same thing. There’s no such thing as magic. Just unimaginative people unable to come up with a better explanation.” Aka writers with a deadline.

           “Cat’s corollary.” He raised an eyebrow. Yeah I just named it after myself, you’ve got a problem with that? It’s got alliteration going for it, what more do you really need?

           “Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from science.”

            Not something she necessarily believed. She wasn’t that much of a Potterhead. Although that might just the lingering bitterness over missing out on my Hogwarts letter talking. But it did feel good to be more familiar with something than Mr. Know-It-All.

           “This magic is a bit shit then.” No arguments here.

           “Gold promised me a cure when we get back to Storybrooke.” David chimed in. Well bully for you. “But somehow I don’t think he’ll extend the same courtesy to you. Especially after- you know.” Charming gestured her way.

           You slap a man once, and suddenly you’re mortal enemies… still totally worth it.  

           “Eh I’ll figure something out. Always do. Kind of my M.O.” And look how well that’s been working for us so far.

           “Well I know you’re suddenly feeling magically better given the spring water and all. But some of us are tired.” And cranky. And generally are having an awful, terrible, not-so-good day.

            She stole a glance at Hook. Well maybe it hasn’t been all bad.

           They set up camp in a clearing just beyond the entrance to the spring. Not there was much to set up given the general lack of camping supplies. So it was more like a collective agreement to clear some ground and make do.

           Almost like the Doctor and I didn’t expect to spend the night in the fricking jungle. Cat was more judgey that neither Hook nor Charming seemed to be prepared. What kind of ramshackle rescue mission is this? It’s basically your job at this point.

           Cat had been camping before. Shaver Lake. Every year. Like proper in the woods camping with tents and sleeping bags, not in some log cabin or RV (admittedly on properly maintained campgrounds and sometimes I ended up sleeping in my car- more to avoid my dad than not being able to rough it.)

           But this ordeal was in a league of its own. Like how did my ancestors do this shit.

           Cat couldn’t relax. The island was alive, pulsating with the buzz of insects and the telltale patter of animals. The ground was unforgiving and hard except for where it wasn’t, and Cat really didn’t want to investigate why. It’s just some mud… probably.

            She was an insomniac at the best of times. Sleep and I are like those ex-best friends who had a massive falling out in middle school and only associate with each other when forced to.

            So when her brain refused to shut down under these less than optimal conditions, she wasn’t surprised. Mildly disappointed yes. Like if I can’t go out like a light after a day like this, I never will.

            She just stared up at the stars, trying to remember constellations before realizing that Neverland probably had a different sky. And somehow it was this little detail, not any of the other absolute batshit shenanigans that broke her, just a little bit.

            “Star-gazing?”

            Startled, she flung herself upward, eyes level with a leather crotch. Because of course they’d be.

           Hook had knelt down so as to speak eye to eye. Somehow it felt more like she was dragging him down to her level. Eh that’s how most of my relationships go.

           “Yeah- um, ergh.” Hook sat down besides her, which she found rather distracting. Brain you could reboot anytime now.  

           “But I haven’t been able to recognize any constellations from home.” There we go, stringing together actual English words.

           “Well if you’re home is anything like Storybrooke,” Fictional small-town Maine vs. very real, very trafficy SoCal. Same difference. “I think you’ll still find some familiar ones.” Not that familiar given I can only see the stars while camping, light pollution and all that.

            But still it would be nice to have some bearings. He traced some pattern in the sky. She had trouble following him. She wasn’t usually spatially challenged- what with being an interior design hobbyist - but it was still tough to focus with him right there.

            They were not quite touching, which was almost worse. She was just so painfully aware of him, and conscious of not wanting to accidentally touch him. Because I’m polite. And don’t trust myself if contact is made… again. Saying no once was already a big ask.

            She could just sense him, right out of the corner of her eye. The air between them charged. It’s just the humidity.

            “Here, if you’ll let me.” He offered his hand to her, indicating with his eyes for her to take it. And against her better judgment, she did.

            He guided her hand to point out nine stars that looked almost like a cross or person with arms extended. “It’s called the Cygnus Constellation.”

            Despite years at a parochial high school, Cat’s grasp on Latin was minimal. AKA I’ve watched enough genre tv and historical epics (those Romans soldiers and their skirts- which ride up just the right amount on horseback) to recognize it and that’s about it.

           “All constellations are good stories.” Andromeda, Perseus, Hercules, Orion, Pegasus. “At least the ones I know. Care to tell me this one? Might help me fall asleep.”

           “Sure thing lass.” She let go of his hand, gently pulling free, knowing the adrenaline of touching a man that hot would just keep her up.

            “Any guess to what it is before I start?”

            She went with her first thought. “A cross?” She frowned. “Don’t tell me you’re about to go all biblical on me.”

            He chuckled. “It’s a swan.”

            She almost laughed aloud. No symbolism there at all then.

            Still there’s no way he chose that one at random. He’s got a certain savior on the brain. And not our lord and savior Jesus Christ.

            He went on, not missing a beat. “See that one on top. The brightest thing around. Alpha Cyngni it’s called. It’s the head.” Mind out of the gutter Catherine, mind out of the gutter.

            “Should I start this bedtime tale with once upon a time?” I so want to make a pun but it would be so lost on him.

            “Why not, all good stories do.” Well quite a lot of them.

            “Well then, once upon a time, there was a son of the sun,” he grinned at his own cleverness, and Cat let him have the win, even a small one.

            “But his heritage was in doubt. Some men are always skeptical of all things related to gods and divine intervention.”

            Cat nodded, “Rightly so.”

            “Not cynical at all then, lass.” It’s my brand, captain, and I’m nothing if not brand-conscious.

            Hook continued as Cat closed her eyes, ready to drink in the sound of him. “Anyway, he journeyed to the heavens to prove his worth. He reached the sun’s court. All bright and gold, blinding in divine glory.” Gag me.

           “Feeling guilty that the light of his life suffered humiliation on earth, the sun swore to his child that he may have one favor, human imagination and divine power being the only limits.” So none basically.

            “And the boy only wanted one thing. To ride the sun chariot for one day.”

            That detail triggered some memory. This sounds familiar. “Oh wait I know this one. Phaeton’s his name. He was struck down by Zeus to save the Earth from being roasting.” If only climate change could be solved that easily. “But this is the story to explain how the Sahara Desert was made. Don’t see what this has to do with that constellation.”

           “Someone’s impatient,” Hook observed. Overrated virtue in my book.

           He let the silence hang for a moment, just the sound of their own breathing, before explaining, “Phaeton had a lover, Cygnus.” Greek mythology gay?? Perish the thought.

           “He mourned for Phaeton, his beloved, running from the presence of the sun that stole him. Taking pity, the gods decided to transform him into a swan.” Because that wouldn’t be traumatizing at all.

           “In life Cygnus had been an accomplished musician and singer, beloved by Apollo. His lyrical gifts did not desert him. He let out a mournful tune, a swan song. Apollo sought to spare him further pain and placed him as stars in the night sky, far from the hated light of the sun who had stolen his love.”

           “That wasn’t a nice story. I thought bedtime stories were supposed to be nice.”

           “Aye lass, but it was an honest one.” It was a response she could respect.

           She just lay there, turning over the story in her mind. Stupid gods. Why would turning someone into a swan help anything? Did they just hear the story of the ugly duckling one too many times and figured swans are some kind of platonic ideal for existence?

           But that bit about the swan song, Cat wasn’t much for praying but she was really hoping that wasn’t any kind of foreshadowing. Just my luck, get to meet my fictional heroes in the flesh and inadvertently get them or myself killed.

          “Good night, Captain.”

          He inclined his head toward her as he got up from the ground beside her.

          “Good night, Miss Donoghue.”

***

          As the sun rose so did they. Absolutely disgusting. It was the first sunrise she had seen in quite some time, and despite its beauty she was not eager for a repeat experience anytime soon.

          The trek back across the island seemed to pass by much more quickly. Helps we’re not dragging dead weight. Already the wilds were working to reclaim the trail they had carved through it, but the shadow of them was enough to work with.

          They were headed toward Pan’s base on Skull Rock, presuming that’s where Emma, Mary Margaret, and Regina would be. And the Doctor’s heart. Oh and Henry I suppose.

          In the end they nearly collided with the three women, rushing in the opposite direction. Henry was slumped against Emma’s back as she carried him. He was paler than she was, which is saying something and most definitely not healthy. Cat wanted to ask if he was unconscious, but in truth he looked dead. No matter how annoying he could be on the show, I didn’t actually want him killed.

          Seeing the concern on their faces, Emma said, “Henry’s not dead. Not yet. Although if we can’t steal back his heart soon, he will be.”

          Regina added, “We had a run with the Lost Boys. Miss Swan worked her magic, and now all they want to do is go home. They were promised a ride on your ship, Captain.”

          “Ladies,” When he remembered the Doctor’s presence, Hook amended, “And gentleman.” Clearly unbothered, the Doctor shrugged, as if to say what does gender mean to a Time Lord.

          “David and I’ll take Henry back to the Jolly. Take care of those strays you lot sent her way.” What is about men and their ships? He sounds like the Doctor and the TARDIS. “Hopefully you can retrieve his heart in time.”

           Emma went up to him, and well she just laid one on him. Hook’s eyes widened before they shut as he returned the kiss. Emma turned on by Daddy!Killian… I mean completely fair.  

           The Doctor shot a glance in her direction. Cat shrugged her shoulders as if to say what does a crush mean to True Love. I’m over him. Probably… Maybe… Possibly…

           Regina coughed unsubtly. “Miss Swan, there will be plenty of time to manhandle the pirate later. After Henry is safe.”

           Emma reluctantly separated from Killian, blushing all the while. Hook went over to where Henry’s body rested against the tree and lifted him up, carefully supporting his head. Almost like a baby.

           Hook then started making his way to his ship, David trailing with his sword drawn. Hook looked back before disappearing into the undergrowth, just once. At Emma. Cat suppressed the unwelcome pang of jealousy.

           Cat asked, “Where to now?”

           “Pan’s Thinking Tree. According to the Lost Boys we rescued, he’s still digesting from the ritual. It’s our only shot, we’ve got to make it count.”

           The five of them marched off together, determined to take on Pan. Time for the final boss battle.

            The tree itself looked distinctly unimpressive, its only noteworthy feature was standing alone in the center of a clearing as if no other self-respecting tree wanted anything to do with it. They fanned out, searching for signs of Pan’s presence.  

          “But it can’t be.” Snow bent down to the ground. Cat leaned in, trying to glimpse what she spotted. A small simple box, Greek letters carved onto its sides. Α and Ω. Alpha and Omega… which means…

          “Snow, wait!” But her warning was too late. The vines whipped into action, grasping and dragging them all toward the tree, cocooning and imprisoning them against the trunk. Cat struggled for a bit before realizing the futility. What’s with this show and stupid magic vines?

         “Oh but it can.” Pan stepped out of the shadows, glowing with confidence, projecting an infuriating ease. He bent down to pick up the box, tossing it between his two hands. “And I think you know who is inside.”

         Regina scowled. “I’m almost impressed. It’s not everyday someone gets the drop on Rumpelstiltskin.”

         “Well even as the Dark One, he’s got nothing on dear old dad.”

         Cat forgot this was still news to her non-Doctor companions, so their initial shocked reactions seemed a bit overboard. I wonder how’d they handle learning Vader is Luke’s father.

         Snow blanched as she sputtered out, “But but but you’re…”

         “Impossibly young. Oh yes, yes he is. But we have other concerns at the moment. Like getting out of these restraints. Time’s like this I wish I still had the sonic.”

         The Doctor thought it over a moment before amending, “Although I guess it doesn’t really work on wood. Shame.” His vibrator doesn’t work on wood. Ha! The innuendoes write themselves.

         “Such delightful nonsense comes out of your mouth, Doctor. I’m of half a mind to let you live. You’d make a fine jester.”

         Hey the sassy commentary and witty observations are my job. Admittedly she was a bit tied up at the moment. Literally. She almost laughed aloud at her own joke before checking herself because well she didn’t want to look insane. Using humor as a coping mechanism?? Never.

           “And I think you’ll find that it’s your regrets that are holding you back. Neverland may be the realm of the fantastic and impossible, but even it can be true to life sometimes.”

           Emma lunged, but the vines tightened further. “Spare me the half-baked psychobabble. If I wanted someone to therapize at me, we would’ve brought along Archie.”

           “Tough talk from a woman who couldn’t rescue her only child.” Knife in her back.

           Emma held her head up high, eyes steely, her face reddening in rage. She looks liable to rip his throat out with her bare hands.

           “You already lost him once, giving him up for adoption, missing all those early years and milestones.” Sinking in, deeper and deeper, aimed at her heart. Emma’s eyes were now like iron, hard and strong, but liable to break from stress.

           “And now you’ve failed him again. His heart is mine, all that delicious innocence lost forever because mother dearest was too busy consorting with con-men, thieves, and pirates.” Twist of the knife. Emma didn’t seem to have the will to attempt another break out.

           Mary Margaret interceded. “Emma don’t listen to him. Ever since you’ve gotten to Storybrooke, you’ve been nothing but a great mother to Henry. That boy loved-” She caught herself, “-loves you, more than anything.”

           “Oh pure and precious Snow White, the fairest in all the land.” Pan did this infuriating sing-song voice as he taunted her. Cat almost wished the vines would wrap around her ears to spare her. “Is it Emma you’re trying to absolve or yourself?”

           Snow flinched, unable to summon a response.

           “Twenty-eight whole years you missed. At least Emma had a chance to leave her mark on Henry. The little girl you abandoned is all grown up.”

           “And Regina, the witch formally known as the Evil Queen.”

           Regina stared Pan down, looking as if she was willing her eyes to become daggers, the better to stab him with.

           “I admit you worried me the most out of this group. The woman who cast the Dark Curse, killing her own father as a catalyst. The woman who persecuted a vendetta against a woman for decades on the basis of a child’s broken promise.”

           Regina was still as a statue, evidently refusing to give Pan the satisfaction of seeing her crack under his examination. I mean of course the woman who basically accepted being called the Evil Queen gives fewer fucks about her reputation than the others.

           “The idea of such a woman feeling remorse or regret is laughable. This little trap would never have worked. You would have walked right up to me in my weakened state and taken out my hearts in quick succession.”

           Cat found herself nodding along as he spoke. Wait am I actually agreeing with Pan?

           “But then for the sake of that pathetic little boy, you tried to become good. And in the process, you now face a reckoning for your crimes. Fool, wicked always wins.” Wow way to encroach on somebody else’s branding dude.

            Cat turned her head toward the Doctor, “Alright you’re always the man with the plan. What you got?”

           Instead of shooting off his mouth in a million different reactions as his mind worked through the problem, the Doctor remained worryingly silent.

           He refused to make eye contact with her, staring into space as if he was a million, billion miles away. Finally, he said, more to himself than anyone in particular. “2.47 billion.”

           “I’m sorry what?”

           “My biggest regret. The blood price I paid to put an end to the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Never-Weres. All with the Moment.” Wait he said with not in, right?

           Cat thought back to the blackened heart Pan had returned to the Doctor’s chest. What did he call himself to Pan? The sole survivor of the Time War. In any event he wasn’t going to be any help. Exact wrong time to become an emo.

           It looked like that fate of her party now lay in her hands and her hands alone.

          We are all so fucked.

Chapter Text

           Well maybe not completely fucked.

           Cat realized she had one advantage in this epic world of magic and fantasy- the best network tv can buy . She was perfectly ordinary. No lingering abandonment issues or regrets about left behind children. Except for my wiggles and noodle at home. My puppers, Audrey, Kidder, Rua, and my one true kitty baby, Shadow, need their mother.

           Also notably absent were regrets about having committed any war crimes on a realm or galactic scale- except in my imagination, but that’s perfectly acceptable… probably .

          And okay lumping together Regina and the Doctor in the same category is weird. Probably a bad sign that I keep comparing him to the villainous characters… but I’ll unpack that when I’m safely back in LA.

          It’s not like she didn’t have any regrets. No one goes through life without occasionally wondering about all those what if scenarios- different school, different job, different friends, maybe finally actually get a S.O.- all the could have beens and never weres. Even when things go right, there’s always the loss of possibility and potential. Reality never quite living up to the image in my head.

         But she was fundamentally satisfied and at peace with the person she was today. Happy even. Who would have thought? And to change any one thing, all those hard lessons learned, the very building blocks of who she was, could topple the whole jenga tower.  

         Which all led to the question: exactly what regrets were binding her in place? None simply none. Mind over matter. The vines loosened their zealous embrace. Gotta love the arbitrary rules of magic. Although she supposed physics was just as arbitrary.

         Pan’s eyes widened as Cat rather gracelessly collapsed once released from the vines, falling forward to the ground, basically doing a belly flop on dry land. Which ow, did not realize how much that would hurt. Stupid arms falling asleep while cocooned.

        She had to quickly come up with an actual plan. Yeah probably should have saved the big personal revelation/self-reflection till after I was ready with that.

        She knew the solution to all her problems was to retrieve Henry’s heart- and presumably the Doctor’s too - from Pan’s chest. But she didn’t exactly know how to pull off the whole snatching-hearts-from-chests trick. And it wasn’t likely that Pan would give her multiple tries.  

        I could try to get Rumple out of Pandora’s box. But it was questionable how much help he’d be. Odds were if he was able to dispose of Pan, he’d turn on the Doctor and her. Which left one magic user capable of helping her. Okay let’s see how we can justify war crimes and tarnish some personal growth… sorry Regina, we need the Evil Queen.

        “Well aren’t you full of surprises. I would have pegged the victor of the Time War as the bigger threat.” The Doctor groaned rather pathetically behind her- I really thought he’d be more use in this situation. “But no matter, I’ll just dispose of you first.”

         Pan pulled a dagger from his belt- that’s not just any blade . How did he get his hands on it? I don’t think he had it in the original timeline. God why didn’t I pay more attention to the non-Hook scenes? Or you know not have skipped them on rewatch- but it’s a big ask to pay attention to anyone but Colin O’Donoghue.

         But the dagger did give her another idea… an incredibly stupid one that would probably go down in flames spectacularly. But it was all she got.

         Pan, or rather his feet approached her as she still struggled to get off the ground. It was like he was moving in slow-mo, which was probably a combination of her fall and him taking sadistic pleasure in drawing out the seemingly inevitable kill. Villains are really their own worst enemy.

        “Malcolm, my dude-” Did that fall result in a concussion… I sure hope not, do actually need to be coordinated for the plan to work. “I think that maybe you should just return the hearts you stole and fuck right off.” No one talks enough about how cathartic it is to just chew people out- the real human rights violation is denying customer service people that blessed privilege.  

         “Everything ends. Everything dies. And you’re well past your expiration date.” She held her nose to punctuate her point. Pan’s face was looking pretty interchangeable with the talking tomato from Veggie Tales.

         “You’re rather nonchalant about death given how impending yours is.” Not everyone has a complex about their own mortality to the point where they literally undo their own puberty… does he think he peaked at 12 years old? That’s just sad.

         And everything worked out according to her rather makeshift plan, she wouldn’t need to worry about it. And if it didn’t she’d be dead, so she wouldn’t be around to care. It’s time I took my place as Satan’s CFO… wait I’m terrible with money, I should not do that.

        “Yeah well you haven’t actually gotten all stabby stabby yet. So I don’t know what I’m supposed to be afraid of.” Take the bloody bait already man. Do I have to break out the schoolyard insults? I already implied you stank… which should be given after living on a jungle island without soap for hundreds of years.

        Pan sneered, but made no move to actually kill her, probably thrown by her ridiculous, clearly overcompensating, confidence. He probably suspected a trap- not wrong. Or that she was stalling for time so that the proper cavalry would take him out. Not bloody likely- what with the parade of traumas behind me.

        Maybe he’s a more modern man than I give him credit for, and the lady has to make the first move. She realized he wouldn’t necessarily know that she couldn’t snatch hearts- besides a certain captain’s… in my dreams.

        So she rushed him, hand outstretched. That properly shocked him, eyes wide, arms driving upward to shelter his chest and its precious cargo. The dagger gleamed dangerously in the light, before he plunged it into her chest, stopping her in her tracks.

        Oh god it hurts. It felt wrong. She would’ve taken a million little cuts instead of this gaping hole filled with pain. Her nerve endings were fried from all the feedback. It burned, the cold foreign metal in her chest, sucking the life out of her. No that’s just blood.

        Still she managed a faint smile that settled into a grimace. Her hand had found its target. Clutching on tight, she pulled it toward her as she fell to the ground, Pan letting go of the dagger. Another mistake.

        “You stupid girl. You thought you could pry back the lost hearts. But it’s too late now, I’ve won.” He doesn’t notice it’s gone. The mighty Peter Pan and his shadow don’t know.

        She was struggling to breathe, each breath a shuttering, rattling thing that required nearly all her bandwidth to accomplish. But she forced herself to examine her prize. Pandora’s Box. Time to let loose the crocodile.

        She pried it open, her vision fraying at the edges. Stay conscious. You can’t pass out.

        There was black cloud of smoke, and Rumpelstiltskin emerged fully formed, disoriented but otherwise appearing fine. Good let’s get the ball rolling.

       Here comes the extra fun part. Bad enough that she had to get stabbed to gain possession of the Dark One Dagger, now she had to pull it out so as to be able to use it. She didn’t exactly feel comfortable with bending another person’s will to her own. But she had more pressing issues like a hole in her fucking chest to worry about first.

       The only feeling worse than being stabbed was pulling it out. It was really difficult to treat a metal blade in her chest like a band-aid and just yank it out. She wasn’t sure if removing it was strictly speaking the proper medical procedure- all those years of researching how to kill someone for fanfics and I never once thought to look up how to save someone… wow unpacking this later. But out it had to go.

       “Rumpelstiltskin, the Dark One, I command you to heal me.”

       Disdain, hatred, and rage commingled in Gold’s face as he realized she had the dagger in her possession. But compelled by it’s magic, he did as she ordered.

       Yeah as much as I hate the guy, this is really uncomfortable. She was now more cognizant of the moral quandary inherent to her plan now that her more basic needs were being met- honestly not sure I can go back to healing the old-fashioned way.  

       Pan lunged at her, eyes alight with fury at being bamboozled. But Cat didn’t need to command Rumpelstiltskin to do anything stop Pan- revenge on his good old dad is in hand. Daddy issues really are the universal motivation.

       Gold stopped Pan in his tracks, commandeering the very vines trapping Emma, Snow, Regina, and the Doctor to hold him place. He looked liable to try to vaporize him on the spot. Or less dramatically turn him into a newt or toad. Anything small and slimy.

       That wouldn’t exactly serve her own interests though. “Dark One, retrieve both Henry’s heart and the Doctor’s and return them to their proper vessels.”

        “As if I would do anything less,” he said through gritted teeth. Maybe for your grandson, but the Doctor is pretty low on your list of priorities if at all.

       The deed was done. Gold methodically pulled out the Doctor’s ruby red heart, just plunging it back in without so much as by-your-leave. A bit of color returned to the Doctor’s face, he looked properly like himself again. The process was repeated, with Gold magically teleporting to drop off his precious cargo to Henry, presumably now aboard the Jolly.

        Pan’s form shuttered, deprived of its new stolen vitality. Cat opened Pandora’s box again, and he was sucked into it. Tbh lucky I didn’t accidentally trap myself in it. Love it when magic is intuitive.

        “The dagger, if you would be so kind.” Cat started, she hadn’t noticed that Gold had returned from his task. Oh he would one hundred percent kill me the moment he got his hands on it, witnesses be damned.

        “How about a deal?” That got his attention. The Dark One can never resist bargaining. “The dagger in exchange for guaranteed safe passage back to the realm from which the Doctor and I hail from and a permanent cure for his dreamshade poisoning.”

        “You can’t seriously be making deal with him after that big stink you made upon meeting him.” Regina had sufficiently recovered from experiencing regret for the first time to make herself known. If I cared for your opinion I would have asked.

        “We,” Regina gestured to herself and Emma, “could achieve all the things you want without a price. The least we could do after your help in resolving the latest crisis.” Regina’s eyes were transfixed on the dagger. The only thing more dangerous than having it in Rumple’s possession is leaving it in yours, dearie. I think I’ve messed enough with the canon as it stands.

        However, Rumple interceded before she could. “Not likely, dearie. You have neither the knowledge, skill, nor raw power to pull off what the girl requires.”

        Directing his full attention to Cat, he indicated his agreement, “Draw up the terms and I’ll be happy to sign on the dotted line.” Gold materialized a feathered pen and some parchment- how old fashioned - handing them off to her.

        She scrawled them out, thinking carefully over the wording so he wouldn’t be able to find some loophole to mess with them or otherwise fail to deliver his end of the bargain in full. As satisfied as she was ever likely to be, she handed the signed contract back to him, and he likewise bound himself to its terms.

        “Let’s start with that Doctor of yours. I do not have the necessary materials to create a permanent cure to dreamshade, and none of them are native to Neverland. And given that we now hail from the Land Without Magic, I don’t think you’d want to hitch a ride back with us and potentially be stuck there forever.”

        I mean he’s not wrong. Although I think I could make small-town Maine life work for me. It’d basically be Ireland methadone.

        “But his one heart was never poisoned. I can’t claim to know or understand the biology of a Martian-”

        “Oi, Timelord from the planet Gallifrey, in the constellation of Kasterborous. Thank you very much.”

        Cat couldn’t resist blurting out in this moment. “Sorry, constellation? What use is a constellation to demonstrate a location? Literally purely a trick of perspective and does not objectively exist.”

        The Doctor leaned in and murmured, “Can you not undermine me in front of the locals? That’s like your one job as a traveling companion.”

        “Oh, you are not telling me to shut up after I just saved your hide… again.”

        Gold sighed, loudly. “If you lot could focus, because the one heart was not poisoned and given its evident strength that Pan used it in his ritual, I think he would be able to survive purely from its exertions.”

        “Not good enough, you promised a permanent cure. Do I have to demand it?” She brandished the dagger, the name Rumpelstiltskin emblazoned on its surface.

        Gold shrugged. “Go for it. Command me all you want. It will make no difference. Even the powers of the Dark One are finite.”

        There was a hand on her shoulder. She turned her head to see the Doctor. Good thing its him because if it was Gold, he would lose that hand.

       “Cat, it’s fine. I was told by an Ood, basically a low-level psychic alien with a tentacle mouth…”  He demonstrated that lovely image by waving the fingers of his other hand in front of his mouth. “That my song is ending soon. Still not crazy for the idea, don’t think I’ll ever be.” I’m surprised he’s not leaping at his luck to be potentially trapped on an island of eternal youth if he’s that vain.

       “But I do know I’m basically on borrowed time at this point. Even I can’t run forever. Although I will be trying.” Good luck with that.

        Cat bowed to the patient’s judgment, not really satisfied with how the situation resolved itself, but knowing it wasn’t her life being risked. He should be fine. I hope.

        “If you don’t know the name of your realm, I’ll need an item of some significance to establish a link or you’ll likely end up in…”

        The Doctor handwaved his concerns. “The Void between worlds. Otherwise known as Hell. Don’t worry I think I have just the thing.”

        The Doctor pulled out a banana. “Oh yeah forgot that author fellow replaced the sonic. Uh, give me one sec.” He searched through his pockets, pulling out in quick succession a pair of classic red/blue cardboard 3-D glasses, some kind of device that made an annoying dinging noise, an Agatha Christie novel, and a half-eaten chocolate Easter bunny before finally landing on his item of choice. A key?

         “Here we are, one TARDIS key. It’s connected to my ship. Normally I’d be able to summon it remotely.” That would have been good to know earlier.

        He shot back a look in response to her own. “But it doesn’t work cross-dimensionally. But the link’s still active if faint. Should still be enough to give you a way to home in on our native dimension.”

        Gold accepted the key from the Doctor, eyes closed in concentration. “I’ve got a lock. But can’t open a portal here. Too much lingering magic from Pan’s ritual, it’s running interference. We’d need to at least be on the open sea, if not already crossing the event horizon out of Neverland.”

        The six of them made their way on foot back to the ship, the jungle still oppressive if no longer dangerous. No one made much effort to talk. Mary Margaret, Emma, and Regina still seemed thrown by their experience with the Thinking Tree and nearly losing everything. Rumple was eager to see Cat and the Doctor sent away and regain his dagger. The Doctor seemed distant and distracted. What else is new?

        Cat got her first look at the Jolly Roger in person, and color her impressed. It was just so lovely to see a proper sailing ship in its prime as opposed to a museum piece stuck in some dank harbor. The ship just seemed alive bobbing among the waves, sails unfurled, catching the wind.

        A small rowboat piloted by Charming picked them up in a couple groups until they were all aboard. It took Cat a moment to find her sea legs, adapting to the gentle swaying of the ship in the surf. But she wasn’t afraid. She trusted the pilot.

        And now it was time for goodbyes. Again. I thought I had said my last ones in the season six finale… I’d say seven, you know if I had ever gotten around to watching it.

       “David, Mary Margaret. You’re quite the uh… charming couple.” I could never resist a pun now could I. “David thank you for letting me borrow your sword that one time. I promise in the future I’ll be more careful with sharp objects.”

       Mary Margaret clearly didn’t know what to make of Cat, so she pulled the old smile and wave routine. David settled on a handshake, which was not at all awkward. Moving on then.

       Regina was quite gracious and respectful, which was unexpected. I was expecting more imperious her majesty and some more judgment about the atrocious company I allegedly keep. But apparently saving her son put Cat permanently in her good books. Not sure if that’s a place I want to be.

       Emma was polite, especially given Cat accidentally interrupted a make-out session. They really got going quite quickly. Making up for lost time I suppose. She even had the grace to step away for a moment, so Cat could have a private word with Killian. Here we go, the big one.

       “Well here we are, at the end of the line.” Maybe I could just stay a little longer. “I just wanted to say thank you for everything. You’ve been brilliant.” Got to live the dream, if only for a night.

       “Lass, I think I should be thanking you. Hope is not an easy thing to keep kindled.” At least one of us will consistently be getting some in the near future.

       Her cheeks were definitely crimson, her pulse ratcheting along like machine gun fire. “Yeah well, this is goodbye. I’ll miss you the most."

       “Well if you and that Doctor fellow ever going realm hopping again. There will always be a place for you at Storybrooke. I do believe I promised you a trip by sea.”

        She grinned like a complete idiot. “And I’ll keep you to it. One day.”

       “Goodbye Cat Donoghue, it’s been an honor.”

       “Likewise, Captain Killian Jones.”

       She walked away, legs unsteady, just managing to get away before she completely melted into a pile of goo.

       Rumple already had the portal open. “The dagger now, wouldn’t want it accidentally being dragged along.” He one hundred percent suspects foul play. I mean I wouldn’t trust me either.

       She reluctantly handed over the dagger, but a deal’s a deal and Gold seemed to be upholding his end of the bargain.

       She and the Doctor leaped in, leaving behind the sounds of sea and surf for those of an all to familiar traffic jam. Well that leap of faith paid off.

       The Doctor didn’t immediately collapse, which Cat took as a promising sign that the one pure heart was enough to carry him through his apparent date with destiny. Oods’ seem like odd matchmakers.

       “Earth. Los Angeles. 2018.” He licked and stuck out his finger experimentally. “I’d say maybe fifteen minutes after we first left in the TARDIS.”

       “Oh c’mon. Time Lord or not, you can’t just know that.”

       “You’re right.” He grinned. “There’s a clock, right behind you. But never mind all that. Where’s my ship? The key should have locked onto its location.”

       Cat scanned the perimeter but there was no sign of the now familiar blue box. She did see something of equal interest. Isaac Heller was sitting outside a trendy cafe, nursing a coffee, muttering to himself, and working away on an old-fashioned typewriter.

       “Well there’s our target. C’mon.”

       To her immediate satisfaction, Isaac seemed surprised to see them. I wonder why. He couldn’t make a quick getaway without abandoning the typewriter, which he seemed loath to do. So instead he reached into his jacket pocket, probably angling to get out the author’s pen.

       Before he could write on anything, Cat snatched it from his surprisingly limp grip and stomped on it, snapping the thing in two. That’s sorted, no more accidental interdimensional travel for us.

       “My TARDIS back. Now. And then we’ll just be on our way.” Is it wrong that I find him more attractive right now? Bad Cat, focus on the matter at hand.

       “I’d love to help, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.” A fake smile was plastered upon Isaac’s face. He was clearly hoping that some bystanders would come to his rescue.

       There was a click. And then another. Quite a few actually. He’s really trying to crank out that novel while being confronted?

       But the truth was somehow stranger. The typewriter was going all on its own. What are there ghosts now?

       Cat glanced over to see a message.

       I ’ M  R I G H T  H E R E  T H I E F

       “But it can’t be.” The Doctor went over to the typewriter and started stroking it. “Oh what did the nasty man do to you?” Do you two want to be alone?

       “Wait that’s your ship?” I know it’s supposed to be smaller on the outside but this seems excessive. “Also what does it mean thief?”

       The Doctor scratched behind one ear, suddenly turning all bashful. “The TARDIS might not have strictly been mine to begin. I might have stolen it from my people a long time ago.”

       Seeing the interested delight on her face, he added quickly, “Boring story. Really nothing to tell.” Sure Jan.

       “And yes that’s my TARDIS. He repaired the chameleon circuit. It disguises the TARDIS, so she can blend into the local environment wherever she lands. Been on the fritz for years, that’s why it was stuck as a police box.”

       “But a typewriter? Wouldn’t that attract more notice?”

       Isaac piped up now. “Well a big blue box doesn’t exactly lend itself to subtly. And besides I needed a way to communicate with the ship once I realized it was sentient. The stupid thing took me here and then tried to dump me to the curb.”

       T A K I N G  O U T  T H E  T R A S H

       Oh I like her.

       The Doctor beamed at the typewriter, before wheeling on Isaac. “Well before you disposed of my sonic, I may have locked the controls so she could only phase back to where she started. I wasn’t about to let unlimited space-time travel fall into the hands of an egomaniac.”

       Has he looked in a mirror lately? Besides to talk to himself?

       “But you’re not nearly clever enough to know the multi-dimensional engineering to get her into this shape. How’d you manage it?” The Doctor pressed.

        Isaac gestured to the broken pen at Cat’s feet. Oh did I jump the gun on the big hero moment?

       “You can still repair her, get her back to normal, right?” Aka how much did I just fuck up?

        T E L L  T H E  S T R A Y  I ’ L L  B E  F I N E

        Oh, she means me. That’s a bit catty.

        “But I can’t. I don’t have the necessary tools and…” he stopped when he saw the TARDIS resume typing.

        A U T H O R  S T I L L  H A S  S O N I C

        Isaac gave a sheepish grin before surrendering it to the Doctor’s possession. He really is rather pathetic without his author powers.

        “You can go now mate. Let you off with a warning.” A bit generous that, but I suppose he is basically harmless now. Isaac took the hint and fled the scene, nearly spilling his coffee in his haste.

        “Well let’s do a quick diagnostic scan.” The vibrator buzzed- nothing sexual about that. The Doctor poking and prodding the typewriter. Why do I feel like I’m watching foreplay?

        “Just as I thought. Clever girl.” Cat refused to indulge him with yet another string of questions. If you want to perform in front of an audience, seize the stage yourself, I won’t always lay out the red carpet for you.

        “Well the TARDIS rerouted her interface into the keyboard. Just have to hit the right sequence of keys, and she should restore herself to her default settings. And I think I know just the sequence.”

        Cat burst out laughing when she saw the Doctor type out S E X Y. They are properly an old married couple. Need me to find a man like that.

        They stepped back, and the TARDIS gleamed with her old proper blue wooden shine. She crushed the poor table that had been supporting her. There was a round of applause by patrons and some passersby who thought it had just been an incredible magic trick. The Doctor collected some money and left it in the tip jar inside with a sticky note apologizing for the table.

        Cat saw the writing on the wall. “Well I suppose this is goodbye. You did promise me one adventure. We just got more than we both bargained for.”

        “Yeah, I’m so sorry about that.” Liar, even when he was dying, he was having the time of his life. “You were fantastic though. In another lifetime. Well, they would have watched us run.”

        “Sounds like a bit too much cardio for me.” They both laughed. “I don’t suppose I’ll be seeing you again.”

        “Oh you never know. It’s a big wide universe. Already managed to run into you twice. Maybe we’ll get a hat trick.”

        “I’d like that.”

        The Doctor smiled, happy and sad at once. He shut the door on his magic box. There was the familiar wheezing, groaning noise that had begun to weave its way into her dreams. And then he was gone.

        Cat checked the time. Shit my lunch break ended thirty minutes ago. And so she ran.