The Company of Wolves.

Chapter 4: Hit and Run

Putting as great a distance as possible between themselves and the company of goblins -and doing so as fast as he possibly could- was Graham's only concern. All other questions suddenly faded into the background, waiting to be picked up again when they had time and the luxury of safety. If they ever would have such again.

Get her out of danger first, Graham thought. And then ask your questions.

The child's arms were like spindles, so fragile and thin that Graham thought that she might snap with any sort of pressure or too much jostling. How she had survived such rough treatment at the hands of the goblins was beyond him. But she seemed to be made of sterner stuff than he was giving her credit for. For she was the one who tugged on his hand, pulling him onwards in silent earnestness, telling him that they were not safe yet. Not by a long shot.

And so on they trudged, walking through the day and well into the night with not a word spoken between them. The goblins would know that she was gone by now. The alarm raised as the moon climbed high into the sky beyond the curtaining treetops and they woke from their earthy dens to find that their captive was gone again. They may even be tracking them right now since there'd been no time to cover their tracks or lay false ones. Graham had hoped that a day's head start might put them off from pursuing…but that all depended upon how important the child that they'd held as their prisoner actually was to them. And the fact that they'd chased her before did not bode well.

They stopped for the night only when they began stumbling with exhaustion, feet and knees numb with the cold and exertion (though he suspected that she could've carried on for longer). Graham searched for somewhere hidden, but it was his young companion who again tugged upon his hand and pointed up into the branches of a gnarled old oak tree, as wide as three of his arm spans stretched from fingertip to fingertip.

It made sense.

Goblins liked heights about as much as they liked the sunlight. And if they were still hot on their heels, at least being out of their reach would give Graham a small advantage if it came down to a fight.

And a small advantage was better than a non existent one.

"Wait here," Graham murmured. His voice was thick from lack of use and throat raw from ragged breathing; a hazard of their hectic, scrambling pace. He coughed to clear it further, before crouching down and placing a reassuring hand to the girl's shoulder. "Will you be alright for a moment?" his eyebrows quirked upwards in concern, brow wrinkling beneath icy, weather-dampened curls.

She nodded immediately in reply, swiping skinny, pale fingers at her own bedraggled hair where it half obscured her view, and Graham nodded too, before he rose once more to his full height and set about tackling the climb into the tree's upper branches.

Had he been warmer, or less exhausted or hungry, he might have made a better job of it. He slipped numerous times, feet scrabbling for purchase, and his knuckles and knees were bloody by the time he reached the safety of the first branch that was large enough to fully support his weight. He use to be such a good climber. After all, he had climbed in and out through the Mayor's bedroom window for years…

That sudden, unbidden remembrance made his stomach clench in on itself, filled with a leaden weight and, scowling now, welcoming the painful distraction as the unfamiliar bark bit into the flesh of his palms, he pushed onwards and upwards, seeking a higher place and wider branches, trying to force all such damaging memories from his head. Luckily there was not much more climbing required of him, a few more feet up and there was a splitting of the trunk at its very centre, where bows of branches split off and fanned out; each in their own direction and yet all reaching for the sky. It made for a secure nook, just wide enough that it would make do to cradle their combined weight and well hidden from prying eyes that may be searching for them from ground level.

Satisfied, Graham descended again slowly to the lower branches, offering a hand down towards his young companion who watched him with those wide, pale blue eyes.

"Here, child," he called down softly as he reached for her, gesturing for her to put her palm into his, outstretched. "I'll pull you up." Once again she didn't hesitate, so trusting was she.

Her hand was seemingly colder than his own. Fingers tiny and hard and white knuckled as they grasped his and he heaved her upwards with a grunt of effort, her feet scrabbling at the tree's massive trunk to speed her ascent. It was Graham's precarious balance that made the task a difficult one, for she was light as a feather, but even so she was up sitting beside him in no time at all, grinning from beneath the mud and dirt (now streaked; stripes of clean skin where snow and sleet had given way and turned into a bitter pelting rain that had trickled down their faces and partially removed the grime) and what he presumed were bruises.

"What's your name?" he queried as they shifted in tandem further up into the centre of the tree and he gestured, waited for her to settle down before he took his place leaning against the branch opposite hers.

"Which one?" her voice was high and small, betraying just how young she truly was, and yet she seemed amused, tone lilting very close to laughter.

Graham's responding frown was one of confusion. "I don't understand…"

She did laugh then; how she could be so cheerful after being captive to a band of the roughest goblins Graham had ever seen, while they were still in danger of being recaptured, while they might die out there in the frozen unfamiliar forests, he did not know. She reminded him of Henry suddenly, so optimistic in all his assessments, his opinions of people, his beliefs. Both a blessing and a curse. Both commendable and potentially foolish. But she was a child, all of 10 years old. He was not about to start making little girls cry…

"Do you want to know who I was in Storybrooke?" she clarified, drawing him back out of his own thoughts. "Or do you want to know my name here?"

"You were in Storybrooke too?" he countered her query with his own rather than answering it, the surprise at her revelation clear upon his features. How had she returned here from Storybrooke? The same way that he had? Death? "Do you know why we're back here again? Is it something to do with the curse?" Graham paused, realised that he was bombarding her with questions that she may very well not know the answer to and she gave him a smaller, weary, somewhat knowing smile (her previous grin diminished). Suddenly she seemed far, far older than her years, as if she had seen things that no child should and perhaps she had…

"Everyone was supposed to be magicked to Storybrooke by the curse." She began, lowered her eyes and busied herself with tucking her hands into the tattered sleeves of her dress in a futile attempt to keep them warm. "There's only a few of us who are back here now. There's even some who didn't go to Storybrooke at all! My friends talk about it a lot when they think I'm asleep or can't hear them. The Woodcutter is one of the ones who never went to Storybrooke. He never got taken. The Shoemaker says that's because he must be someone's happy ending. Woodcutter says its because even the curse didn't want him…" her explanation trailed off for a moment, a pause filled only by the howl of the wind above the branches over their head.

Graham shifted into a more comfortable sitting position, tucked his own hands beneath his armpits to warm them from the bone-biting chill. "Where are these others? Your friends?" he asked, finally breaking the silence and drawing the child's eyes up from where she'd been studying a hole in the hem of her left sleeve.

"Hmmm?" she raised her eyebrows at him. "Oh." She abandoned her inspection of the material in favour of swiping at her hair again, rubbing the heel of her palm into a tired eye. Their journey was finally taking its toll on her now that they'd stopped and her eyelids drooped, heavy with sleep unslept. "When the goblins took me I was collecting firewood. It was my turn. I wanted to help out too. That was about three days ago. We've been walking every night since -except for when I escaped. I tried to run back but they caught up with me again. I couldn't remember the way. I only know we came from the West…"

"Then West we will go. We've walked for almost a day and a half now. Surely we are closer to your friends. We will find them."

She nodded, smile back upon her lips -albeit faint and weary- and another lull in their conversation fell between them, punctuated by a wide yawn that even her hand couldn't disguise. It made Graham yawn too in response, feeling the tiredness seeping deep into his own bones. He chuckled then slightly. He'd made many jokes back in Storybrooke about yawning being contagious.

"My name was Harriet Locksley in Storybrooke." The girl stated after a while, eyes closing for a blink so long extended that Graham thought she might have drifted off to sleep. She shifted, drawing her knees up beneath her chin and wrapped her arms about her legs. "I lived with my Uncle Patrick. He ran the grocery store on the corner of Main Street. I didn't have any parents in Storybrooke…"

Harriet Locksley…

Recognition clawed at the back of Graham's subconscious and it made him frown. He knew that name. But how? He was uncertain. He blamed his failing memory on the cold, his exhaustion, on the shock of waking -suddenly alive again- back in the Enchanted Lands.

"That name is so familiar…" he murmured, squinting at her face as if he might suddenly find the answer written in her features. "Why is that name so familiar?"

"I was in an accident." She answered with a shrug, small and sombre. "The night the clock tower started working again. I remember standing in the street outside my Uncle's shop -he was locking up for the night- and I was looking up at it, the clock. It never worked in all my life! I remember thinking it must have been magic." Her speech faltered then, little voice catching in the back of her throat and she lowered her eyes back down to her fingers. She picked at the bark, scratched at it with a grubby nail. "Dr Whale tried to save me, he said it was a hit and run driver."

And just like that, recollection hit him just like that driver must have hit her -a ten year old girl waiting outside for her Uncle to lock up their shop, unsuspecting. Unknowing that the driver of the beat up Chevrolet that came speeding down the main street of the town had just split up with his girlfriend that night and had been drinking…

"Harriet," Graham breathed. "I'm sorry…" He remembered because he'd been the one to chase the guy down. He'd been the one who the guy had slurringly yelled at to 'leave him the hell alone! He'd not meant ot kill that kid. It was all his ex's stupid fault for dumping his ass!'. Graham had been the one who'd slapped the handcuffs on him after the man had attempted to assault a policy officer in the course of his capture...

The child painted a brave grin back onto her face, waved a hand in dismissal and smoothly changed the subject.

"You can call me by my real name if you like. I never really liked my Storybrooke name, it always felt…wrong, like it didn't fit." Sitting up straight she held out her palm for him to shake. "My name is Goldilocks, but the Woodcutter and Shoemaker call me Goldie for short. You can too!"

"I'm pleased to meet you, Goldie." Graham shook her hand with a smile of his own. "I was never given a name in this world. I was only even known as the Huntsman so I guess my Storybrooke name will have to do."

A wary light flitted briefly through the girl's eyes at mention of his previous occupation. Ah, so she'd heard about the Queen's pet Huntsman then…But her gaze flickered back down to his Sheriff's badge, still gleaming and gold beneath and between the mud spatters and dirt, and her trepidation seemed to fade back down again.

"You can call me Graham then, I suppose. It's the only name I've ever had to call my own. I think I'd like to hang on to it."

That drew a chuckle from Goldie's lips. "Okay, Graham." She responded, settled back against her branch with another yawn.

Tomorrow he needed to find them food and tomorrow night, better shelter. And then, then he would find her friends.


A/N: Once again, apologies for the long wait for this chapter. I've made notes about the next chapter and, everything willing, should have that up tomorrow or early next week. The next chapter is Emma and Storybrooke.

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