Author's Note: Throughout this story I've tried to avoid giving characters names unless that character had a big role in the story because I know that I'm terrible with finding a name for a character that has meaning. (For example I came up with 'Blaze' because I was thinking Baelfire = B (name) + (something to do with) fire = Blaze.) Anyway I'm breaking that rule for this last chapter thanks to a semi-in-depth read through the Wikipedia article on the original Pinocchio story by Carlo Collodi. (It's semi-in-depth mainly because I later figured out that some characters I made girls based off of their name were supposed to be boys...oops. It was too late to change my mind by that point though so I think I made someone who was originally a girl into a boy instead; not sure if a name modification counts…is Judy a boy's name in Italy?)
Enough of my rambling, I hope you enjoy this last chapter and that this story hasn't been a waste of your time. Thank you all for sticking with it this long; it's my first multi-chaptered fanfiction and I didn't know if I would complete it or not even though the idea was fully formed (just lacking the details) for a year now (from the end of season 1). Okay I'm still rambling.
Pinocchio was in the court house the day Emma was released, partially hidden away so that he would be able to see her without her being able to see him. So intent was he on trying to be unnoticed by her that he nearly jumped when he heard someone call his name. Pinocchio was in the midst of turning to see who was calling him when he came face-to- heavily made up face of a woman not much older than himself.
The strange woman stared into his face as her companions grew closer. "August, it is you!" She nearly squealed from delight, "Why didn't you answer when we called? I hope you haven't forgotten about us." She asked him, allowing her voice to take on a mock-hurt tone as she finished.
Pinocchio took a step back in confusion looking wildly between the three ladies before he caught sight of Emma glaring at him and he cringed.
"What's wrong August?" The oldest of the three asked, having noticed his movement. She followed where he had being looking to see the angry blond as she turned away from them to walk briskly out of the building. "Who is-"
"She looked angry, what did you do to her?" The youngest of the three interrupted sharply.
Pinocchio shook his head chagrinned (by the whole mess he's made of his relationship with Emma) to focus on the ladies in front of him. However the moment he had shaken his head, the youngest of the three had taken off -under the impression that August was refusing to tell them- towards Emma. The youngest was quickly followed by the first girl with an angry shout of "get back here".
"Come on August" the eldest sighed as she walked after them as if this was their normal behaviour Pinocchio thought. Since he had nothing else to do, he followed hoping at least to find out how they knew him.
Within moments the other two were trotting towards them, looking smug and eager to speak. "Punch speaks first" the eldest ordered after a moment to decide. Pinocchio furrowed his brow, he could recognize the nickname.
"But Rosaura" the other started, "you're only rewarding her."
"Punch ran first and she would only interrupt you if you spoke first anyway" Rosaura explained. Harley pouted.
"Her name is Emma Swan" Punch announced excitedly. 'Oh yeah, I definitely remember her now,' Pinocchio thought. 'There was no way I could forget that high-pitched reed-like sound her voice made when she was excited. Apparently she never grew out of it.'
Pinocchio then looked at the other two girls critically. The older one, Rosaura, look just as intimidating now with all her make-up, jewellery, and stylish clothes as she did in her hand-me-down ill-fitting clothes when she would stubbornly try to look her best for any new foster parent, or whenever she was trying to manipulate a stranger during that month they were all on the street.
Harley still seemed to favour wearing bright colours, although now her clothes were more form-fitting and lacked the patchwork quality of clothes needing to be adjusted to her still small frame.
"Hello..." Punch drawled, snapping her fingers in his face and waving her hands until he finally seemed to be aware of her presence. "I know they're so-o-o pretty to look at..." she said with a frown and an eye roll, "but can you stop gawking long enough to answer me? Who... is... she? How do you know her, and if you can still hear me, why is she so mad at you? All she said to me was to mind my own business."
"She said it's none of your business," Harley preened, "and she's that baby August obsessed over after we escaped the foster home together. Isn't she" Harley stated more than asked. At his nod, Harley's voice became more compassionate, though her following words weren't; "so you found her and she hates you for abandoning her, just like you feared."
"Well that's not nice" Punch interjected.
Before she could clarify who she was referring to, Pinocchio stopped any further conversation with "There's a lot of history between us that I don't want to talk about."
Rosaura, who at some point had put her hand on his shoulder in sympathy, pulled Pinocchio into a hug for a moment. "Girls we're going to be late for the hearing. We can catch up with August on our way to picking up Romeo from rehab."
"Wait what?" Pinocchio asked, even as he kept pace with them to one of the courtrooms. He was pulled from his own depressing thoughts by the news of his oldest friend in this world. "Why is Romeo in rehab?"
"Things haven't been going so smoothly for us since we last saw you August dear." Rosaura started, "the girls and I were lucky I guess..." at Harley's derisive snort Rosaura amended "-to end up in one home together. The boys got bounced around so much they eventually ran off."
"No one wants a foster boy if he's going to cause even the tiniest bit of trouble." Punch muttered under her breath.
"She and Jude got really close while he was her supplier. They were going to run away together before he died in a gang related shooting. Alexander and Travers are dead too." Harley whispered to August in explanation.
"We hadn't heard from Romeo in so long we thought he was dead too until he called us because he needed to have someone to pick him up from rehab and make sure he doesn't fall back to his old habits." Rosaura continued as if she had meant to be interrupted all along. "His foster parents were okay but he took each death pretty hard and became too much for the parents to handle. According to him rehab was the only thing keeping him from becoming homeless and he doesn't want to face his fosters again until he can pay them back for all the money they sacrificed to try to help him get better during that time."
With what remained of their group back together again, they helped each other get back on their feet and into better social standing while they formed something of a family. They relied on each other too much for Pinocchio to leave even if he had somewhere else to go.
Pinocchio soon found out that Romeo's foster family were going through a rough economical period and were barely able to support themselves and him so he was convinced that they would be better off without him. The girls on the other hand had been drafted into sexual slavery courtesy of their foster father and while Punch and Harley turned to drugs and drinking with older men respectively, to handle their emotional pain Rosaura detached herself from reality.
Rosaura was the pretty one (their foster father, Mangiafuoco Stromboli, took pride in her looks) and as such she was expected to keep herself looking beautiful at all times which she couldn't do if she was discovered to be on drugs all the time. Punch had been the cute one and therefore used in child porn then barely legal videos before she started causing too much trouble after Jude died that she was considered by Stromboli to be almost as bad as Harley. Harley had always been the feisty one and therefore had been given the tougher Johns; the one's that Stromboli worried would mar Rosaura's beauty.
Despite all this, their foster father had shown them just enough kindness at times that they could almost underplay what he made them do because the alternative seemed to be so much worse. Every bit of bad news they heard about the people they knew who didn't survive the foster system or leaving it convinced them that they were better off where they were than anywhere else.
It took years of them bonding through appropriate family interaction and several adventures in far off lands before they seemed to be healing from the damage done to them in childhood. During this time Pinocchio thought of Emma less often as helping his new family was easier than trying to figure out how to help Emma.
The only last real effort he could remember regarding Emma and ensuring that she could one day fulfill her destiny was to ask Blaze to deliver Emma's baby to someone in Storybrooke. It was a town Pinocchio recalled as having zero crime but he couldn't write an article about it because it also had zero tourist appeal (not even to other mayors who would want to know how to bring down their city's own crime rate). If Storybrooke hadn't left such a strange and unidentifiable impression on Pinocchio, he doubted he would think to suggest it while his mind was still in a state of shock from the news that he was possibly the father of Emma's son (and while Blaze was grumbling something about 'should have expected a request like this when I picked Stork as a last name').
The makeshift family truly told each other everything, even Pinocchio's deepest secret, and they supported each other entirely. Therefore it was little surprise to any of them when one day Pinocchio told them he had to leave. Pinocchio only had to tell them what he found when he awoke for them to understand and wish him the best of luck. At 8:15 that morning his left big toe had reverted to wood.