A/N: Thank you to everyone who has reviewed, followed, favorited, or PMed me about this series.
Chapter 1: Pinocchio and the Evil Queen Walk Into a Bar
"You've thought way too much about this," Regina said.
"No, no, no," August replied, fairly certain that he wasn't slurring yet. "Henry and I figured it all out. He loves Harry Potter."
"I know that. I am his mother."
"So you should have thought about this too. Everybody who knows Harry Potter sorts people in their head. Admit it! David, Mary Margaret, Emma, and Henry are all Gryffindors…"
"Naturally," she said flatly.
"Papa and Jiminy are Hufflepuffs, plus Nova and all the dwarves. Although you could make the Gryffindor argument for Nova and Leroy, but you know they wouldn't want to be in a different house than Leroy's brothers…"
"Bae's a Gryffindor. Belle's a Ravenclaw."
"Not a Gryffindor?"
"No! I refuse to be the only Ravenclaw! And there are too many Gryffindors in this town. We're all storybook characters - most of us - there should be more than two Ravenclaws!"
"How are you a Ravenclaw? I did a background check on you; you didn't graduate high school."
"How am I not a Ravenclaw? I'm a writer! I work in a library! And I'm the guy that wakes people up the truth; I'm a Lovegood! Besides, I'm clearly not any of the others."
"Well, not Gryffindor, certainly."
"Obviously. And I'm too lazy for Hufflepuff, and I think I might actually be allergic to ambition, so Slytherin is out."
Regina snorted. "That I could believe." Then she morosely added, "I'm a Slytherin."
"Are you sure? I'd have pegged you Gryffindor."
"Don't try to flatter me."
"I'm not. I read the Book, remember? You never wanted the crown or any of that shit; that was your mom. Now she was a Slytherin."
"The villains are all in Slytherin."
"Not actually true; you're forgetting Pettigrew. Plus some of the Hufflepuffs were total assholes to Harry."
Regina stared at her whiskey. "Robin is a Gryffindor."
"Ruby and Granny too. Like I said, too many Gryffindors. Maybe you should be in Slytherin; we could use one."
"What about Rumple? I thought he was your Slytherin."
"What? Gold's not Slytherin."
"You can't claim him for Ravenclaw just to shore up your numbers; that's cheating. Besides, why would you want him?"
"He's not Ravenclaw either."
"Then what the hell is he? He's a self-described coward; he's as far from Gryffindor and you can get."
"He's the rarest of the rare: a Hufflepuff Dark Lord."
Regina actually laughed for the first time that night. "What?"
"I mean it; Henry and I figured this out. Think about it. He's not Gryffindor, like you said. He's not Ravenclaw either; he uses books, but they're just tools to him, like anything else."
"That still leaves Slytherin."
"Ah, but Slytherin and Hufflepuff both have two traits: cunning and ambition, and loyalty and hard work. He's cunning…"
"But the guy is seriously the least ambitious super villain ever. Think about it; all that power, and he never tried to rule anyone. He collects doomsday devices and doesn't use them…"
"He just tricks other people into using them," she said darkly.
"Right, but why did he do that? To find his kid. See, people think that loyalty is always a good thing. They think Hufflepuffs are all like Jiminy, but suppose you were so loyal to one or two people that you didn't even see other people as human…"
"My God, you're right," Regina said, laying her glass on the table. "And Gold is the biggest workaholic I have ever met."
"Exactly! Even under the curse he had, what, three jobs? Laywer, landlord, and the pawn shop. And he fixes things; that's four. And when he's the Dark One, it's all magic all the time, but all he does with it is collect shit. And what does he do with his free time? He makes gold he doesn't need in the most unnecessarily labor-intensive way possible! He's a Hufflepuff Dark Lord!"
She looked at August and started snickering. Considering that she was four drinks in, and they'd been here less than an hour, he thought she was handling her booze quite well. Maybe not the break up so much, however. She went from snickering to angry in an instant, throwing back the rest of her glass and ordering a new one. The bartender made eye contact with August as if to ask if he would be able to get her home all right. He nodded.
"He made me what I am, you know," she said. "He doesn't deserve a True Love."
August was of the opinion that no one ever really got what they deserved in life, but he doubted that Regina was in the mood to hear his particular brand of cheerful nihilism just now. "I read the Book. And I don't think he'd disagree with you." It was true: Gold had self-esteem issues. Gold had a lot of issues, actually. Don't we all?
Regina slammed her glass onto the bar. "Why did she have to interfere? Why couldn't she just leave that woman in the past! She jeopardized the entire timeline!"
There were a lot of ways to answer that question, but Regina clearly wasn't asking for one. He passed her the bowl of pretzels and let her rant.
They'd named the baby Graham. Emma had thought that maybe it was a good thing that Regina hadn't been there, after they had announced that. She killed a lot of people. Can you ever really come back from that?
But, of course, Henry felt her absence. "Do you think she'll be all right?" he asked.
"She's with August, kid; he'll make sure she gets home safe."
"You're not going to try to take me back to New York, are you?"
"No, Henry. This is home, for better or worse. We've got family here."
That made him smile. "I knew you'd change your mind. You're the Savior. So what happened in the past?"
"Yes, Emma, I'd like to hear it," Mary Margaret agreed. She'd known something had changed when Emma had come back from Ingrid's place (they'd found no clues on where she'd gone, unfortunately) and hugged her. Emma wasn't a big hugger.
"Didn't Hook fill you in?" Emma asked with a sly smile.
Currently, the pirate was dodging Granny's side-eye, and awkwardly trying to insert himself into the party. He wasn't having much luck, but she had to give him points for trying.
"I'd rather hear it from you," Mary Margaret said with an identical smile. "He said that you were Princess Leia and Prince Charles. Is that true?"
It occurred to Emma that even if everything had worked out the same in the end, they had changed her parents' story. "Yeah. Henry, do you have the Book on you? I want to take a look at it."
There they were, in living color, but interestingly enough none of their interactions with Gold had made it in. Of course not - that would have tipped off Regina when she read the Book. This was planned; whatever god is responsible for Nate wanted their story to change. Why?
Emma plastered on a smile and told the story with as much humor as she could manage.
I need to talk to Gold.
"Does your father know that you write pornography?" Regina asked the puppet.
He put his drink down. "The question is… how you know that? You're not one of my readers, are you?"
"And you didn't tell Emma? I thought you were trying to drive me out of town."
"By the time I got that bit of information, she was convinced I was a liar. I doubt she would have believed me."
"Tell me about it," he said dryly, and she snickered into her whiskey.
"But that's not the point. Does your father know?"
"I believe he has decided to be willfully ignorant of it. I would appreciate it if you didn't burst his bubble."
"You don't want him to be ashamed." She was definitely drunk. It was the only explanation for the thoughts in her head and the words coming out of her mouth.
"I don't want him to think about me having sex, and I believe that he feels the same way."
Regina looked at her drink. "Was he ever ashamed? You were a thief and a liar. Everything he didn't want you to be."
The puppet sighed. "I thought he would be, but he wasn't. He blamed himself. And Blue, of course, but never me."
"Right, the fairy."
"Personally, I blame her for all of this."
"All of it?"
"Why only her?"
"Because I'm lazy and can only carry one grudge at a time. I have learned this about myself."
"There's a story here," Belle said as Rumple and Bae exchanged a knowing smile over the nighttime breakfast that Rumple had made.
"This is what Papa made the first night he found me during the curse," Bae said, cutting into his omelet.
"Because there was no food in the house," Rumple added. His own plate was empty except for a single slice of toast. Belle restrained herself from commenting on it. She now knew that her worst fears about his time as Zelena's prisoner were true. She couldn't blame him for feeling too sick to eat. She felt ill herself.
"But you managed. You always do," she said.
Rumple didn't meet her eyes, instead reaching for the jar of Nutella. He very precisely spread a thin layer of it evenly over the entire surface of his toast. His hands were still shaking.
We'll get through this. Zelena is dead; she can't hurt us anymore.
Belle forced herself to sample some of everything simply because Rumple had made it. She could tell he was forcing himself as well. When he put the rest of his toast aside, clearly unable to go on, she put her hand on his arm and smiled encouragingly.
He placed his other hand over hers and squeezed back, unable to smile.
When the meal was done (only Bae had cleaned his plate), it was time to get back to the matter at hand. None of them wanted to start. Rumple finally did. "I saw the portal open and close again, but it seems little has changed."
"It was Emma and Hook," Bae said. Belle and Rumple looked at him. "Tink was already at Granny's when I called her; Mary Margaret told her. They got sucked in and then came out again."
Rumple sighed in relief. "Not Malcolm or Ingrid, then," Belle said. "That's good."
"Although I worry what the pirate got up to."
"I'm sure Emma didn't let him do anything too bad."
Rumple nodded absently. "I should speak to her tomorrow."
Good. That was good. Rumple being willing to work with their friends was exactly what they needed right now.
"What is Dante's punishment for wrath?" Regina asked, apropos of nothing. She was pretty wasted by this point and had gone mostly quiet.
"Why are you asking?"
"You're a writer, aren't you? I thought you would know."
"'K. Hold on." He took out his phone and Googled it. "It's… searching… searching. Woah, this can't be right."
"What does it say?"
"Basically, mud wrestling."
"I'm serious. 'The actively wrathful fight each other viciously on the surface of the slime*'. Huh. What's lust? Uh… 'These souls are buffeted back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow one about needlessly and aimlessly*' Holy crap, that is my life."
"What circle is that?"
"And what's wrath?"
"Oh. What's the worst?"
August didn't have to look that up. "Betrayers."
"Oh," she said flatly and turned back to her liquor. Regina had killed both her father and her spouse, which placed her firmly in that category, but August was a betrayer too, as was his own father. Was that why he cared about making Regina feel better? Because he needed to believe in redemption?
"I really wouldn't worry about it. Of the gods that have been fucking with us, there's no evidence that the Christian God is involved, and the Inferno is just fanfiction anyway. And Dante wasn't an Author, as far as I know. And it's not like the other Authors were all that accurate in their Earth writings. Hans Christian Anderson got a lot of stuff wrong. More than Walt, who wasn't all that accurate, either."
"You know, the ones that write the Books. You're caught up in that, right?"
"Right. Henry mentioned that."
"Right. Anyway, there's more to you than wrath. Just like there's more to me than lust."
"Is there?" she asked skeptically.
"Absolutely. Sloth and gluttony, for example."
"Gluttony?" She eyed him.
"Booze counts." He chugged the rest of his beer and smacked his lips. "Ah, sin."
She sniggered, taking a sip of her own drink. "But you're not wrath. I'm wrath."
"If you want to be."
"I don't. I mean, I do, but I never works out for me. Of course, being good hardly worked out, either, did it?"
"I don't know about that. I mean, you're out of prison. That's a plus, right? And there's Henry. A year ago, you didn't think you'd ever see him again."
She side-eyed him. "Are you saying I'm greedy?"
He shrugged. "Aren't we all?"
She huffed. "No one's as greedy as Rumple, and he gets to keep his True Love," she grumbled.
"Watch out; that's envy. Although I think Zelena cornered the market on that. Literally turning green? That's hard to top."
"I can't believe my mother hid that from me," Regina muttered.
"You can't? I can."
"Don't insult my mother. And I can, but I'm pissed. You should understand fig- figures of speech, Mr. Writer."
"'K. We're missing some sins here. What about pride?"
"I have no pride; I'm here with you."
Regina had no idea how long they'd been in this disgusting bar drinking swill, but she did know that she was very, very drunk. And angry. And lonely. She stood up, wobbling in her heeled boots, and the puppet caught her by the arm. "Woah, there."
"I am no… am not a horse," she said peevishly.
"Good. I'm no good with horses."
He stood up and pulled out his wallet. "You are not paying for me," she said. "I know what that means."
"'K. Can you separate the bill?" he asked the bartender.
"For you two? Sure."
"Who were you?" Regina asked the bartender. "I don't know you."
"I ran the pub that served your Black Guards, your Majesty," he said.
"You're cheerful. Why are you cheerful?"
"Uh, I don't know?"
"I'm cheerful too!" the puppet said.
"You're drunk. You're not drunk, are you?" she asked the bartender. "That's very unpr- un- irresponsible."
"No, I'm not drunk. Cash or credit?"
"You're not afraid of me." He should be afraid of her. Everyone should be afraid of her. She looked at the puppet. "You're not either. And you're a coward. What the hell happened to me?"
"You're a good guy now," he said.
"Right. It sucks."
He sighed. "I know."
Later, she would not remember him walking her home.
So it seemed that the Savior had recovered her powers. Ingrid had smiled brilliantly when Emma had revealed that fact to her audience at the inn. Malcolm himself didn't much consider that good news, but keeping his partner happy did seem like a good way to stay alive long enough to find a way to recover his powers. Or any powers. Rumple's would do, if it came down to it.
Over the course of the evening, Malcolm and Ingrid had watched with satisfaction as the cabal of heroes had fractured, their two greatest magic users withdrawing to lick their wounds. They were both fragile, which made their allegiances fragile. It was an opportunity.
Slowly, the residents of Storybrooke returned to their homes, most blissfully unaware that a storm was coming. When the Evil Queen - the last of the 'heroes' to retire - was finally passed out in her bed, Malcolm looked at Ingrid. "I take you have a plan?"
She smiled. "Oh, yes. I only need one more piece for my mirror, and then we can begin. In the meantime…" She lifted her hand.
"What are you casting?"
"Just some insurance. We can't have Emma leaving town, now, can we?"
On the border of Storybrooke, the temperature suddenly dropped, frigid even for a November night in Maine. The ground started to shake, and a wall of ice emerged out of the ground, trapping everyone within.
*Quotes from Wikipedia entry: Dante's Inferno (June 10, 2017)