Notes on on my current project: the Lynchpin universe
The basic premise: I have seen tons and tons of AUs where Rumple finds Belle before the curse breaks, and a fair number of AUs with a teenage Bae, but very few where teenage Bae was taken from Neverland by the curse. I found one (Hidden Away by baelfires - it’s on my favorites list if you are interested) that really got me thinking about how such a thing would play out, and this universe grew out of that. Beyond that change, I have tried keep as consistent with cannon as possible; however, as you can guess from the name of this universe, I believe that just that one event would affect a great deal. First and foremost: Henry.
Henry’s parentage: Of course, the biggest change that would result from teenage Bae being cursed is that Henry would never have been born. That presents a problem. I didn’t want to just hand-wave it, and as I said before I do want to stick to cannon as much as possible, so I came up with a rather convoluted answer to that problem that will be revealed over the course of the fic. I will tell you that there is no Neal. However, many (but not all) of the experiences Emma shared with Neal are shared with someone you will initially only know as Nate - Nate is not Neal. As for who he is - you’ll have the read the fic for that.
Format: This story is written as a series of discrete scenes. Each scene is written from the exclusive POV of a single character. The lines in italics are that character’s thoughts, and their opinions are going to color how the scene is presented. Those opinions may or may not reflect my own (e.g. most of the chapter dealing with Ella and her baby is written Rumple’s POV - he is not a charitable towards her as I would be).
Pairings: You can expect all cannon parings except those that involve Neal (for obvious reasons) and Belle/Will. CaptainSwan will be explored but there will be no CaptainSwan endgame.
Additional romantic pairings: Gaston/LeFou (more may be added later)
Additional sexual parings: August/Gaston, August/Tinker Bell (more may be added later)
Rumple: Without a doubt, Rumple is the focus of this fic. If you have no sympathy for him, don’t bother to read it: you’re going to have a bad time. That is not to say he will be sweetness and light; I will be trying as hard as possible to keep him in character. However, I believe that circumstances contribute a great deal to how we react things, and I also believe that what Rumple really needs in order to make better choices is love, hope for forgiveness, and to have someone keeping a close eye on his behavior, keeping him accountable (I cite as evidence the latter part of season 3A, which is the only time this really happens for him, and in which he makes better choices). In this fic, that is exactly what he’s going to get; and, as a result, he will be getting his redemption arc much sooner (and it will actually take).
Bae: Just because this fic is sympathetic to Rumple does not mean it will ignore how he hurt Bae. To the contrary, it is addressed at length. Yes, Bae will forgive him, but you can bet he will make Rumple work for it. As for Bae himself, he’s even harder to keep in character than Rumple, because we see so little of him at this age in the show. Additionally, like Belle, he has no memories under the curse, and he does not get his real ones back until the curse is broken. In general, I see him loving but hurt, brave but traumatized by extreme events, helpful, moral, and (initially) lost and looking for his family. But he’s not Neal, so don’t expect that.
Belle: Like many fans, I believe Belle is underexplored in the show. She gets the Mary Sue treatment, fridged (several times), and given random ‘character development’ without explanation (*cough* season 4 *cough*). I’m hoping to do a better job with her than the show. My impressions of her are that she is brilliant, brave, independent, and loving, but also sheltered to the point of naiveté. Most of what she knows she has either learned from books or from experiences that were limited because she was not allowed to move around freely (except that short period between leaving Rumple’s castle and being captured by Regina). She is then plopped into Storybrooke with very little support. She does amazingly well for the situation she’s in, but I feel like she could have really blossomed with a guide to the 21st century who wasn’t distracted or put off by her association with Rumple (I feel like they started this with Ruby, but dropped it pretty quickly). In this universe, she’ll have that.
August: I don’t know how he became such a huge part of this fic, but he did. I know a lot of people don’t like him, but he’s really grown on me. If you dislike him, I recommend avoiding this fic; he is the most important character after the Gold family. If it helps, in this fic he never does two of the most obnoxious things he did in cannon: impersonating Neal and stealing the money Neal meant for Emma. He also never gets “rebooted”. He does befriend both Belle and Baelfire, and he provides something I believe the Enchanted Forest sorely needs: a 21st century social perspective. He especially does this - initially unwittingly - in regards to the Enchanted Forest's view on sexuality. I’ve written him as a sexually active aromantic bisexual, because I wanted to challenge the view that romantic “True Love” is the end-all-be-all to human relationships. August never falls in love, but he does have many sexual relationships - and that is OK. (Note: I’m aware that the “bisexual slut” is a common and destructive stereotype of bisexuals. I am trying very hard not to fall into that stereotype, but because August is a self-described slut - and becomes rather outspoken about it - I know it might come off that way. As balance, I will be adding other bisexuals (Little John and Tiny), but because they are simply not nearly as central to the story, they will not be as visible as August. I do apologize for that, but see little way around it without altering cannon relationships, which I do not want to do.)
Dove: Like August, I never intended for him to become as important to the story as he did. I do not believe that he and Rumple are anything more than boss and employee, or he would have been referenced more in the show. However, Bae needed a bodyguard, and so he got a larger role. I gave him a backstory that I found interesting but also consistent with the relationship I believe he and Rumple have.
Hook: Meh. Honestly, I just don’t find him that compelling either way. However, he is very important canonically, so he will be important in the fic. Additionally, because there is no Neal,
he will be Emma’s main love interest. Personally, I’m not that interested in Emma’s love life, but again, it’s important canonically, so it’s in there; but I don’t spend any more time on it than necessary.
Update 10/8/16: As time has progressed, I’ve grown increasingly annoyed with the CaptainSwan relationship. I have realized that there was no way for me to write it without it becoming a snarky deconstruction, and that didn’t seem fair to actual CaptainSwan shippers. I therefore asked some of my readers for feedback on several possibilities, and the following option was the clear winner: A snarky deconstruction of their courtship that results in Emma realizing that most of her attraction to Killian is attributable two to things: she’s lonely and he’s exciting (and hot). She realizes that she’s not comfortable with who he is as a person and breaks it off. He has enough respect for her to honor her decision. Going forward, that it was you can expect from this universe.
The Blue Fairy: I am one of those people that views Blue as a villain, so expect that. She thinks she’s doing what she has to for the ‘greater good’, but she hurts people. She will be called out for it. Additionally, seasons 1 and 2 make absolutely no sense to me unless Blue also wanted things to happen the way they did - and if manipulating things to make the curse happen makes Rumple a villain, it makes Blue one too. However, unlike Rumple, she is utterly convinced that she is in the right, so don’t expect her behavior to change over the course of the fic. In fact, because things do not go according to plan, she actually has to make some things happen personally - and they are not very nice.
Anna & Elsa: I liked them both even if I hated season 4’s storyline. Therefore, they are both in this fic, but handled much differently. I know there are people out there who, like me, would have liked to have seen a hero stand up for Rumple back in Zelena’s barn and declare that controlling people is not OK - in this fic, Anna does just that.
Gaston: I knew what I wanted to do with Gaston long before Season 5 started, and had written him well before Her Handsome Hero aired. And then it did, invalidating everything I had written. I went back and changed what I could to match cannon as much as possible without altering the story line that I wanted, and I think I probably ended up with some amalgamation of cannon!Gaston and my original Gaston. He'll probably come of as OOC, but I needed him to make certain points about the Enchanted Forest. And I didn't much like him in Her Handsome Hero anyway; he really just came off as a generic villain to me.
Extras: I’ve tried to make as many extras as possible actual fairy tale or Disney characters - see if you can identify them :)
Redemption arcs: I’m a huge fan of the concept, but don’t expect everyone to get one. I’ve given one to every character I think could reasonably get one given both the circumstances of the fic and my interpretation of whether they are capable of one at all.
Who gets one in this fic? Rumple, August, Regina, Hook, Igrid, Lily, Ursula, Gaston, & Maleficent
Who doesn’t? Malcolm, Zelena (I don’t care what happens in season 5 - she’s not getting one in this fic), Cora, Greg, Tamara, Cruella, & Issac
Character death: Some people who die in the show live in this fic (so far, they are: Bae (obviously), Johanna, Billy, Gaston, Robin, Merlin & Malcolm. No one who lives in the show will die in this fic (yes, that means Zelena lives) - the exception might be the epilogue (but it will be a natural death if I include it). Some people who die in the show will still die in this fic, but some of them will die in different ways (e.g. Cora, Felix, Greg, & Tamara).
Continuity: I’m a bit of a continuity nut. You can imagine my frustration, then, when cannon contradicts itself (as it has started to do more and more). I have tried to keep this fic as continuous with cannon as possible, but there are some irreconcilable inconsistences (e.g. if you count backwards carefully from Skin Deep - as I did - Emma arrived in Storybrooke in early December or late November if you really, really stretch it - that means that August could not possibly have met Neal in New York in November unless the whole affair with the Dragon took only a couple of days and then August got lost for a month or so on his way from New York to Storybrooke). When I encounter inconsistencies like this, I strongly favor the facts as they were first presented, but I may choose the latter interpretation if absolutely have to. (For example, I’ve gone with the details provided in season 1 and put Emma’s arrival on December 8th - this also means rent day is on the 8th of every month and Greg and his dad went camping in Maine in early December. It’s odd, but that’s what everything in Season 1 pointed to.)
Update: I am officially done with cannon. Season 5 was a mess, and the finale... I can't even. You can expect some cannon compliance through Last Rites, but nothing after that. I can't bear to keep watching episodes that so completely disrespect my favorite characters, the fans of those characters, and basic logic. I'm not watching Season 6, so don't expect it to be referenced in this universe.
Smut: Don't expect it. I have no objection to it in principle, but it doesn't really interest me, and I can't write it for the life of me. The M rating on this series is for language and violence that will appear later.
If you were wondering which books everyone posed with in Chapter 26 of Complications, they are as follows:
Watchmen by Alan Moore
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “Trilogy” by Douglas Adams
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Ronald DiSanto
Journey to the Interior of the Earth by Jules Verne
The Shining by Stephen King
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art by Art Boericke & Barry Shapiro
The Tools that Built America by Alex Bealer
The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay
Le Avventure di Pinocchio: Storia di un Brattino by Carlo Collidui
Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg by Bill Peet
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Lorax by Dr. Suess
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Mining and Mineral Operations in the New England and Mid-Atlantic States: a visitor guide
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Fore & Aft Sailing Craft, & the Development of the Modern Yacht by Douglas Phillips-Birt
Mineral Guide to New England by Phillip Morrill and a lot of other people
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Suess
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Suess
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Monet by John House
The Way Things Work by Neil Ardley
Young Avengers Ultimate Collection
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K Rowling
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
1984 by George Orwell
How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff
The Collected Works of Edgar Allen Poe
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
To Kill and Mockingbird by Harper lee
Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Jane Eyre by Charlottte Bronte
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
She wanted more, but Rumple and Nova pointed out that they would not fit in the picture.