Author's Note: My first attempt at a multi-chapter story for Once Upon a Time. With summer here I will do my best to stay focused and try to update regularly, but I make no promises on a set schedule. I hope that you enjoy reading it, and will let me know if the characters get too out of character. Constructive Criticism is always welcomed!

Disclaimer: I have never and will never claim rights to Once Upon a Time, its characters or plot. I simply borrow them temporarily for amusement purposes to tide myself over until the fall season begins once again. :)


But you'll be rewarded
When at last I am given my dues
And injustice deliciously squared
~ The Lion King, "Be Prepared"

0-0-0

The woman barely glanced up at the figure that entered her office. "This girl is your next target." She slid a glossy photo across the smooth, dark wood surface of her desk before returning back to her piles of reports.

"Not interested," came the reply from her doorway.

Flinty eyes finally glanced up to see the man leaning casually against the doorframe, an almost bored expression on his hard face. A sharp, dangerous smile flitted briefly across her own. "You will be with this one." Legendary icy blue eyes met her own dark ones and her smile hardened. "She knows how to get in contact with Gold."

His gaze narrowed, a spark of something dark flashing behind his irises. "How?"

She knew she had his full attention now, but she merely responded offhandedly. "Ask her yourself when you find her."

"And how do you propose I should – extract this information? By charm and wit or more…forceful terms?" His grin was a challenge; they both knew he'd only follow her orders so far. Allies or not, he had his own set of codes and rules that he adhered to most astringently.

She gave the smallest of shrugs with her shoulders as if she couldn't care either way, but they both knew that was nothing more than show. She had tolerated his bending of her orders because of the results they produced, but she had begun to wear of his constant resistance to her authority. "However you choose, though I would prefer the former." She turned back to her notes. "When you are done with her I want her brought back here."

His brow rose in interest. "Are you branching off into kidnap and extortion now, your Ladyship?"

His tone earned him a glare in response. "My affairs are my own, Captain. All you need know is that the girl might have information I desire as well."

As the two stared each other down for a moment he finally gave a one-shouldered shrug, as if deciding that he really didn't care all too much anyhow. He pushed himself off the doorframe and made his way towards her desk. "Does this new target have a name?"

Amusement glimmered in her eyes for the briefest of moments. "She has had many names and aliases in her life, but the one our sources say she currently answers to is a 'Miss Emma Swan.'"

The name caused his brows to rise in slight surprise. "Swan, eh? Is she an undercover agent for the royal family then?"

A look of annoyance flashed through her dark eyes. "She holds information about the royal line, including your old enemy, Captain," her voice was clipped. "That's all you need know."

He smiled crookedly in return, soaking in the pleasure of being one of the few who could get under her skin and live to tell about it. "The less sordid details, the easier the mark," he quipped before glancing at the photo still lying on the surface of her desk. "The man in the photo with her –"

"Her hired bodyguard," she interrupted, waving the matter aside as if it was nothing more than an annoying gnat hovering around her ear.

He whistled lowly between his teeth. "Her information is that valuable? She must be quite the insider to feel she needs protection." He let his eyes roam over the figures in the photo. "Should I be concerned about this bodyguard problem of hers?"

There came a sigh of impatience at all the questions before she responded with a cool assurance that bordered on arctic. "The problem will be nullified before you make contact."

He studied the powerful woman before him sitting cozily behind her desk. "Then why not simply have your 'problem-solvers' detain her?"

The woman pursued her lips in displeasure, the closest thing she'd ever come to a scowl. "This target is as tight-lipped about the secrets she possesses as she is elusive to catch. I'm hoping your," her gaze flitted over his figure briefly and her lip twitched, "charm and wit convince her to loosen her lips before having to resort to more extreme measures." Her lips lifted in a mockery of amusement, the cold that radiated off her chilling the very air around her. "Failing your charm, I believe you capable enough of gaining information from her in more – creative manners, though I urge you to leave her mostly intact before delivering her here."

Pale blue eyes read the nuances on the woman's face before him, making sure to keep a tight lock on his own thoughts as he replied. "So you want me to seduce the lass into giving up state secrets, but if she proves resistant to my advances you wish me to force them from her by any means necessary so long as she's alive by the end of the procedures?"

Her eyes gleamed with dark desire. "Precisely."

He glanced back briefly at the female in the photo. "And if I say I'd prefer to not stain my hands in crimson with this one?"

An impatient tsk sounded in the quiet room before her irritated tone filled the silence, "Patch up your bleeding heart, Captain. It's been several years since then. This is a war. There's no time to play the gentleman just because your target's a woman."

He stared back, his jaw-clenched in anger until she sighed in exasperation.

"If you don't find a way to break her, Captain, I will."

He grimaced internally, letting his gaze travel back to the woman – Swan, his thoughts reminded him – in the snapshot once more. Poor lass, what ill-fated star were you born under? Pictures of another woman filled his mind, followed swiftly by the memories of another man, then several men accompanied by screams, blood –pain and he hardened his resolve. He might finally have the best shot at his revenge, he couldn't hesitate now. He wasn't about to let a mere woman get in the way of letting the spirits of his haunted past finally be laid to rest.

"No worries, your Ladyship," his grin was almost feral. "It won't be any trouble. She'll talk – one way or another, and we'll both get what we need."

Her answering smile was like that of a cat that had just caught a mouse and he tried his best not to think of who the smile was meant for – him or this Swan woman.

He took a moment to study his new target's features – wild, flaxen hair surrounding vivid green eyes in a fair face – before tucking the photo securely in a pocket inside his dark, leather jacket and making his way out of the office.

If he was lucky – if they were all lucky – this Emma Swan could be the key to all their hopes and dreams, the last puzzle piece that could shift the entire course of the never-ceasing battles.

And then finally – finally!

This infernal war could be over.