Sometime early in the morning, while it was still dark, Kaelin woke with a start to another terrifying howl. She started again when she realized she was leaning against Jiminy’s chest with his arm around her shoulders. Blushing, she scooted away. Had she really fallen asleep in his arms? The Wraith’s cry sounded again, pulling her attention away from the awkward moment. She stared around the still-dark room, half-afraid the Wraith would fly out of the shadows at her. Her head was still foggy with sleep, and the flashlight was flickering, starting to run out of batteries.
Jiminy and Pongo had been woken by the howl as well. Whining, Pongo leapt up on the couch between Kaelin and Jiminy, shoving them further apart. He curled up and buried his nose in the crack between the couch’s back cushion and seat.
“Are you all right?” Jiminy asked Kaelin, distractedly patting the dog’s spotted back.
Gradually pulling herself out of dreamland, Kaelin told herself how very unlikely it was that the Wraith was in here specifically, but the glimpse of it she had seen the night before kept filling her mind. “I’m okay,” she replied nervously, “It’s outside, isn’t it? We’re safe here.”
“Y-yes, we’re safe here,” Jiminy agreed, though he sounded nervous as well, “We just have to wait it out.” A strong wind had picked up outside, and sounds of shattering and cracking mixed with the Wraith’s screams.
“But how long will it be out there? Why did it come back?”
“I don’t even know what it is or where it’s from or—or why it came in the first place,” Jiminy responded, shaking his head.
There was nothing more to say. All they could do was sit and listen to the eerie sounds from outside. The Wraith’s voice had grown farther away. For several minutes, Kaelin thought the shrieks and howls rose in intensity. Then, with all the suddenness of a light being switched off, they were silent. Pale, morning sunlight drifted in through the window. Kaelin and Jiminy looked around the room, unsure what to say. The flashlight finally died.
“I should get some batteries for that,” Jiminy said, standing up.
“Do you think the sunlight scared it away?” Kaelin guessed.
“I don’t know.” Jiminy walked around the table and picked up the flashlight. He slid the switch to the “off” position.
Kaelin stood up as well. They were facing each other across the coffee table. “I’m sorry,” she said.
Jiminy looked confused. “For what?”
Kaelin blushed, realizing that, of course he didn’t know what she was referring to. Yet it would be unbearably awkward to say, “For falling asleep in your arms last night,” and she didn’t even think that was a thing people usually apologized for. “N-nothing,” she mumbled, searching his face for any sign that he was embarrassed by it too, or if he had even noticed. She brightened up a little. “Oh, can I make breakfast?” she asked.
Jiminy smiled. “Just like old times, huh?” he remarked.
“I hope you haven’t just stuffed your fridge with grass this whole time,” Kaelin returned with a grin. Then she became self-conscious about the comment, wondering if it had been clever or weird.
To her relief, Jiminy laughed. “You’d be surprised.” He led her through an open doorframe to the kitchen. The kitchen was spacious and comfortably arranged with counters all around and cupboards coming down from the ceiling. There was a stove, a microwave, an oven, and a refrigerator. The microwave and the oven both had digital clocks, but Kaelin couldn’t tell what time it was because they were off.
They were off.
Oh, yes. The power line had fallen last night. Kaelin turned to Jiminy apologetically. “I don’t know if I can make breakfast after all,” she said, “The power’s still out.”
“Depends what you wanted to make. It’s a gas stove,” Jiminy replied. He pulled open a disorganized drawer and dug through it, taking out a box of matches and handing it to her. Then he found some batteries and proceeded to change the batteries in the flashlight. As he worked, he asked, “Have you had experience with a gas stove before?”
Kaelin noticed how he had phrased the question in such a way to invite her to ask for help without assuming she couldn’t do it. She was vaguely annoyed. Was she really that sensitive? Or maybe he talked to everyone like that. Setting down the box of matches on the counter by the stove, she replied, “Yes. We had a gas stove at the nunnery.”
When Kaelin opened the refrigerator, she laughed. It was full of fresh vegetables. “I was right; it is stuffed with grass,” she remarked. Jiminy gave a little snort of a laugh in reply. Fortunately, Kaelin was able to find the things she needed: a carton of eggs, a stick of margarine, and a quart of milk. As she searched for the ingredients, Jiminy set two places at a table beside the window. Then he showed her where the pans and cooking utensils were. As Kaelin set to work cooking, he filled Pongo’s food and water bowls then disappeared to the other room.
Kaelin liked cooking for Jiminy. Cooking was one thing she knew she could do, though she was no master at it. Finding some bread in the cupboard, she decided to make French toast. The recipe was blindingly simple, but French toast still seemed like a special breakfast. She was in the mood for something special. As some margarine melted in a small pan, she used a fork to blend three eggs and some milk in a bowl. Then she dipped one slice of bread in the mixture, covering all sides, and placed it in the pan. It sizzled. Seeing that there was enough room for both, she prepared the other slice of bread and added it to the pan. As the toast was cooking, she sprinkled some salt and pepper into the remaining eggs.
After flipping the toast, Kaelin went snooping around the kitchen for syrup until she found it. She set it on the table along with a tub of margarine and a bread knife. Then she waited in front of the pan until the French toast was done. Once it was ready, she carried the pan out to the table and used the spatula to scoop a slice of toast onto each plate. Jiminy came in as she was placing the toast on his plate. He was wearing different clothes: a white, button-up shirt with a thin, blue plaid that made it look like grid paper, and a maroon tie. He always wore a tie.
“You did all that in the time it took me to change?” he asked, sounding impressed.
“I’m not done yet,” Kaelin replied, deflecting the compliment. She hurried back to the kitchen, dropped another tablespoon of margarine into the pan, and dumped the eggs over it before it could evaporate. They were scrambled within a minute. She placed equal portions on her and Jiminy’s plates, returned the pan to the kitchen, then sat down across from him.
“This is amazing,” Jiminy said, staring at the fancy-looking breakfast.
“Come on, anyone could do this,” Kaelin returned, though she felt her face grow warm, “Anyway, you haven’t even tasted it yet!”
“I don’t think I could do it.”
“Well, you’re a cricket,” Kaelin grumbled, applying margarine and syrup to her toast, “And judging from what food you have here, it looks like all you eat is salad.”
“You really can’t take a compliment, can you?”
Kaelin fell to eating silently, contemplating this. It was modest to refuse compliments, wasn’t it? Or perhaps it was rude. Kaelin had always thought of compliments as rather empty, but what if they weren’t?
In any case, the breakfast was delicious. Pongo begged, and Jiminy snuck him little bits of scrambled egg. Kaelin wasn’t so sure about this practice, but she didn’t feel she had a right to scold him, since Pongo was his dog. It was 6:45 by the time they finished. Jiminy stood up quickly. “We should get into town as soon as possible,” he said, “There’s so much to do—people looking for loved ones, people who need counseling, people whose property was likely damaged by what happened last night.”
“And we need to find Geppetto,” Kaelin added.
“Quite right. Now, I’m going to go get the car.” With that, Jiminy hurried off. Not sure what else to do, Kaelin did the dishes. There weren’t many, and she had them all washed by the time Jiminy returned, carrying the bundle Kaelin had taken from her apartment. “I’ll put the blanket in the guest room,” Jiminy said, “But do you want your clothes and toothbrush now?”
“Oh—uh…yes, I’ll…I’ll take them,” Kaelin stammered, receiving the clothes, toothbrush, and toothpaste. She was too awkward even to say aloud that she was going to go change, but she went to change. She returned a few minutes later in a beige top and a long, brown plaid skirt. Jiminy was printing out a few forms and attaching them to a clipboard.
“Counseling sign-up sheets,” he explained, lifting the clipboard slightly, “I want to offer counseling to anyone who needs it—at no charge, of course.” He looked embarrassed as if he thought he hadn’t even needed to specify that. “Well, let’s go,” he said.
In town, in the park outside the school, Red was already on top of things. She and the seven dwarves were setting up canvases, tables, and bulletin boards and helping those injured in the wraith attack to get to a doctor. Jiminy and Kaelin immediately jumped to help them.
As they worked, Red explained what had happened last night. Rumpelstiltskin had summoned the Wraith to take Regina’s soul, out of some kind of revenge. Emma, Snow, and David had managed to fight it off for a while. Then, early that morning, they had forced the Wraith into a portal, back to the Enchanted Forest. Whether that meant it had gone into nothingness, or to a barren wasteland, or to the Enchanted Forest as it had been, no one knew. But Emma and Snow had been pulled into the portal with the Wraith, so whatever had happened to it, had happened to them. This came as a horrible shock to everyone. What would they do without kind Queen Snow? And wasn’t Emma the only one who had given them hope of returning home?
Kaelin had a happy reunion with Ella and finally got to meet Ella’s baby, Alexandra. When she saw Sister Astrid and recognized her as Nova, the two best friends went crazy, jumping up and down in excitement and hugging each other. For a while, Kaelin and Nova carried cots into the school for the people whose homes had been damaged in the Wraith attack. Sometime during the morning, the seven dwarves seemed to unanimously decide to go do something. They stomped away down the road.
When the park started to fill up with people, Jiminy finally caught sight of Geppetto. “Look,” he whispered to Kaelin, “He’s here!” They hurried up to him and found him pinning hand-drawn posters of the child Pinocchio to the bulletin boards—though Pinocchio would no doubt be an adult by now.
“Geppetto!” Jiminy exclaimed.
The old man turned around. His thin, pale face was lined now, and he had a short, snow-white beard, but his eyes were as deep and dark as ever. His cheeks were tearstained. His brow furrowed slightly. “Archie…” he began, not quite recognizing him. Then he saw Kaelin. “Oh! My sister!” he cried warmly, his face breaking into a grin. He clasped her in his arms, still clutching the papers in one hand, then held her shoulders. “It’s not fair! You have not grown old, like me!”
He turned abruptly to Jiminy. “Then you must be—” Recognition dawned in his eyes, but his smile was gone now. There was a hint of pain in his face. “Forgive me, my dear friend—I…I haven’t seen you like this since…”
“Oh.” Jiminy lowered his head quickly, no longer able to meet his friend’s eyes. “I see,” he said gruffly. Seeing him as a human again must have brought back old and painful memories for Geppetto.
“No…” Geppetto shook his head, his lips trembling, “No, don’t…” He tried to blink back tears, but they rolled down his lined cheeks anyway. “My dear friend,” he repeated shakily. Dropping even the posters of Pinocchio, he suddenly embraced Jiminy. “Don’t feel guilt for me anymore,” he urged, “Your debt to me is fulfilled now! I was wrong to tell you it never could be. How is it that you’ve always been with me? Even in another world, even with no memory of the past, you still remained by my side. You’re my family, Jiminy! You’re my brother!” And he wept all the more.
“Geppetto…” Jiminy whispered in astonishment.
Kaelin watched them with unspeakable joy. Never before had Geppetto shown this level of forgiveness to Jiminy. Never had he accepted him as family. Kaelin felt that all her life up to now had been worth living, just to see this moment.
But the pictures of Pinocchio were blowing away. Tearing her eyes away from the reunion of her two most precious people, Kaelin scampered about, trying to catch the posters. She managed to grab most of them, but then suddenly stopped, feeling that someone was watching her. She looked up, and her blood ran cold.
Rumpelstiltskin stood nearby, leaning on his cane, looking at her. Was that anger she saw in his eyes? Shakily, she straightened up. Though she wanted to run, she approached him. “S-sir…?” was all she could get out.
“You left the toilet half-cleaned yesterday,” he said softly, “Left the cleaning supplies out. As a result, my…guest had to finish the job for you. She’s not a maid. You are.”
Kaelin trembled with guilt under his criticism. Though she found it hard to imagine Rumpelstiltskin having a guest, she felt awful for the trouble she had caused her. “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll go right away—”
“Oh, it’s too late for that,” Rumpelstiltskin interrupted. Then he paused, seeming to think better of it. “All right. Go clean. Whether I’ll be needing it or not, it was your end of the bargain.”
“Y-yes sir.” Kaelin was also a little curious at his implication that he may not be needing it. “I suppose because you…” she faltered, “…You’ve found out that you’re…”
“Oh, I’ve always known, dearie,” Rumpelstiltskin replied with a slight, sardonic smile, “I wrote the curse.” Though he still spoke with all the cold calmness of Mr. Gold, there was now a hint of Rumpelstiltskin’s madness in his voice. “Now, go clean.” He turned and walked away.
Kaelin ran back to Jiminy and Geppetto, just to give Geppetto the posters and explain where she was going. Then she hurried off to do her job.