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It snows for three weeks in April, blowing, whispering, screeching through the trees. It stings like sand when anyone braves the outside and fell deep. It could have just been a bad winter, but there is no hint of spring in the air. May dawns and the sun climbs in the sky, but there are no returning birds, no new grass, no hints of buds on the trees. Spring comes without life.

Everyone feels it. The dogs are listless, the fruit in the supermarket has no taste, and the lettuce from far south, brought here with the magic of the curse, has no taste. Even the shades of green are wrong.

Not to mention, Regina's kale salad.

They're all on edge, searching desperately, terrified of what's crept up on them.

Belle figures it out, of course, buried in the library while Maleficent translated ancient texts so old that she only understood half of the runes. Then they are all summoned. Belle sent a polite text, but Mal is so excited she sent a globe of fire into the air.

It's effective.

So they arrive, Regina teleporting in a cloud of smoke, Killian in the prowler, with coffee, because he is pretty thoughtful that way, and Emma trudges through the muddy, quiet street. She scrapes mud off her boots on the mat. "So, you found something?"

Maleficent and Belle shared a look, and something in Maleficent's eyes was almost amused. Nothing about this was funny. Something was horribly wrong with the town, but Belle's flushed pink and Mal was smiling.

Smiling not like a dragon, but that soft sort of 'Regina's getting off work early', smile. It's weird.

The whole thing.

Mal takes the coffee. "Please tell me you have your flask."

"Rum?" He pulls it out of his coat. "Of course, would you like a nip?"

"Mal--" Regina raises her eyebrows. "It's not even eleven."

"You haven't heard the translation." Mal takes the flask and pours some of it into her coffee. "Go ahead, dear."

Belle blushes harder, looks down and then meets Regina's eyes first. "The land has to be renewed."

"All right."

"But since it's tied to your family, the Charming family, it involves them, well, all of you."

"Maybe not all of us."

"It's not funny," Regina mutters towards her wife. "You're gloating."

"You're not letting her finish."

Emma reaches across the desk. "What is it, what's the thing, Belle."

Belle holds up the tattered little volume, and walks to the window so they can all look outside. "This land, isn't from here. I mean, it's Maine, yes, but it's made with magic from the old world. That magic has to be renewed."

That's progress. Emma has no idea what the fancy writing says and there aren't any pictures. It's always frustrating when ancient books don't have any pictures. "Okay, what do we do? Do a dance, sing a song? Singing was really effective last year against the Black Fairy."

Mal raises an eyebrow again and sip her coffee, all smug for some unknown and steadily more disturbing yet unrevealed reason. "Not singing. Some other kind of emotional energy."

Belle and Regina stare at each other and Regina holds out her hand for the flask. "Hand it over."

"You don't even know."

"I know that look."

Killian chuckles as Regina takes a long swig of rum. "You hate rum."

"I hate rum." Regina passes the flask to Emma. "Just drink."

"Why?" She looks from Regina to Mal, then back at Killian who shrugs.

"Magic isn't my forte, love."

"Regina, what does that look usually accompany?"

Regina rolls her eyes and turns, hands on her hips. "Just tell them, Mal, so help me."

Belle's face turns steadily redder and Maleficent finally sets her coffee down and drags her fingers over the lid.

"There are several kinds of magic, death magic is often considered the most powerful. The Dark Curse that created this land, required a sacrifice, the heart of Regina's father. It needed a death."

Emma turns the flask in her hands, then takes a swig. Rum has a familiar heat to it, and a brown sugar sort of burn. "Why are you smiling if we have to kill someone?"

Maleficent's smile softens, and it's almost kind. "Oh we don't have to kill anyone, we don't want Dark Magic, if we renew the land with a curse, it'l just need more death. We need something better."

Killian asks the question before Emma can find words. "Like what?"

"The opposite of death," Belle says gently. "The exact opposite."

"Life, right, we need life for the grass and trees and stuff."

"We need to create life," Regina says, turning back and reaching for the flask. "Mal, you can't be serious."

"The prophets of Ninhursag are always correct."

Emma's missing something, so she looks at Belle. Poor, gentle Belle. "So we have to create life, like a tree or something?"

"The curse that created the town took the life of the person Regina loved most."

"That's Henry, we can't make Henry."

Killian clears his throat and meets Mal's eyes and why does everyone but her get this.

"It wouldn't be Henry, this would be--"

"A baby?" Fuck. Really? "We need to make a baby? Who??"

"You?"

Regina and Mal share a look and there's a sorrow there for a second, something dark. Killian's starting to blush almost as red as Belle.

"Someone connected to the town."

"Like?" Something lurks in the room, like an invisible monster Emma can't see.

"Regina's an obvious choice, however-" Mal pauses and looks at her and Regina sighs, dropping her eyes to her boots.

"It's all right, Mal." Regina crosses her arms firmly over her chest. "I can't have children."

Emma reaches for her without even thinking. "Regina?"

"It was a long time ago, and I'm all right with it, really."

Mal circles the desk and kisses her forehead. "It was Regina's curse, and the spell to bring life would ideally ask for a child of Regina's, but that's not possible."

"So we're fucked?"

"No, no there's always a loophole in ancient rites," Killian touches Emma's back, and she looks at him, curious. "Pan spent a lot of time looking for loopholes, sending us searching for ancient scrolls. I learned a little."

"As Regina's mate, I am tied to her."

"So you need to have a baby?" It's definitely not romantic, at all, and Emma should probably have another thought than Regina and Mal would make a cute baby, but...

"Potentially, I'm tied to Regina, who's tied to the land, but--"

"Dragon magic alone isn't enough. We'd need Regina's magic, and another kind."

"Savior's magic," Killian says before Emma can even think of it.

"So I need to have a baby with Maleficent?" She needs more rum, like, a barrel of it.

"That might work."

Killian laughs skips straight past chuckling and goes straight to almost hysterical laughter. "Might?"

"This particular right of renewal is more traditional than most. We might need all four of us."

Killian shakes his head, still laughing. Regina buries her head in Mal's shoulder and Emma looks at Belle, because she seems to be the sanest person in the room at the moment.

"All four?" Her heart beats so loud that it echoes in her ears like the sea.

"You and Killian share true love, which is a very powerful magic."

"So Mal and Regina don't love each other enough?" That sounds like bullshit, but no one has written down the rules of true love in a way that makes sense.

"Villains don't get true love, dear."

"You can hardly claim to be a villain, dragon, your crimes pale before my own, and those of Regina, no offense." Killian's voice has a steadiness Emma doesn't understand. They're on the verge of planning some kind of orgy and now he's calm?

"Enough, you two." Regina lifts her head and sighs before she looks at Emma. "Mal and I don't have true love, we have renewed affection, something that rekindled after death and separation, it's enduring."

"I think that's one of the most romantic things you've ever said about us," Mal observes dryly, kissing Regina's forehead.

"Hush."

Emma stares at Regina, then Maleficent, then turns to Killian. Why do they all have the the same resigned expression. "We're not actually talking about this."

"It might be the only way. Between the four of you, you have true and enduring affection, dark magic, light magic, the elemental magic of dragons and-"

"A certain devilish charm?" Killian jokes, and Emma elbows him because this is not funny.

Belle rolls her eyes a little and taps the book. "You've sailed the seas between worlds and lived centuries past your time, you're otherworldly, that should help."

"Help with what?"

Maleficent reaches out and touches Emma's shoulder, stilling the racing of her heart. "Regina and I can try alone, as can you and Killian."

"We're not ready to have a baby."

He nuzzles her forehead. "Emma-"

"We're not, I don't- I've given enough to this damn town."

"I will have the baby," Maleficent offers, wrapping her arm around Regina's waist. "That's acceptable."

"Oh, that's acceptable now?"

Regina and Mal make eyes at each other and Killian smirks into Emma's hair. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad having a baby, but they just got--

Later. There's later.

Belle somehow manages to have the calm none of them do. "If all of you intend to do this, then you'll need this spell. It's ancient Sumerian and there are four elements. It's based in earth, air, fire and water."

"So Maleficent is the fire, obviously."

Belle walks them over to another table, where she has an old parchment spread out. Emma can read none of this one either, but she's seen Avatar (the good one, with the elements.

"It's not that literal, fire is the protector, a healer."

Killian nods. They've agreed to literally make a baby to save the town with their friends and he's cool with it. "So, it's Emma."

"I believe so, Maleficent would be earth, since she's willing to be the bringer of life."

This is happening. They're talking about it without using the hypothetical.

"That makes sense." Regina leans over the parchment, following Belle's lead. "So between the pirate and I?"

"Air is apart, reserved, the wind touches all corners of the world."

"Which makes you the water." Mal rests her head against Regina's and Emma reaches for Killian. They're not doing this. They're not.

(They are.)

Fuck. Fuck them all.

Oh, gods.


 

The venue is the subject of brief debate before Belle, bless her patience with the lot of them, reminds them all that it'll work best if they're in the heart of Storybrooke. Which, bizarrely enough means the bridal suite of the hotel, which isn't the Jolly Roger , or the Mayor's mansion, but perhaps it's better if they're in an inn. This is a one time thing, after all. A reverse sacrifice, creation instead of destruction. He's gone over the books with Belle, and she's right.

As Emma keeps muttering. They're doing this.

Emma holds his hand tight as they walk up the stairs, rum in hand. They sat, hands in each other's laps and talked. They're not ready for a child, they'd like one, someday, but Emma's right. She's given enough to this town. She doesn't want her child tired to it as well.

Regina and the dragon must have had a similar conversation, because they're hand in hand by the bed. They left the door open, saving them from needing to knock. Hell, perhaps the queen cleared out the whole hotel.

Just tonight.

This one, bizarre little night.

Perhaps it's a dream. Another curse.

Emma crushes against him for comfort and he squeezes her fingers.

Reality hits him like the tide. They're here, staring at their friends, and taking off their clothes. Maleficent starts unbuttoning her shirt and Regina stares at her before she sighs and reaches for her belt and he slips off his coat. Maybe they shouldn't talk. Sacrificial lambs don't give flowery speeches.

"We brought rum."

"There's whiskey on the dresser."

"If we get drunk enough..." Emma trails off and shrugs. "Not that you're not."

"Oh, we're very attractive, you're quite fortunate."

"As are you."

Maleficent faces him and Regina watches, her eyes on Emma.  There's always been a certain amount of tension between those two. He thought Emma and Regina were the only ones not aware of it, but it seems Regina knows. It's just Emma.

Or was it something denied? Maleficent takes the rum from him and pours. They lift glasses to each other, four shots of liquid courage, or the power to forget.

Except, none of them hate this. Yes, they're married, yes, he never thought he'd kiss anyone but Emma ever again, but something hums in the air around them, perhaps it's the candles, or the smoke from the fireplace. The room is modern, and the bed's probably going to be big enough but there's a sense of something ancient here too.

Perhaps they're not really them, each playing a part, joining a dance. Becoming more than they are, just for tonight. Emma removes her shirt and he stops, leaning in to kiss her gently. He strokes her face and smiles, warm with affection. "I love you, Swan."

She returns the kiss, then kisses his cheek. "I know. This is okay, we'll be okay."

Regina and Maleficent turn, facing them in their camisoles, Maleficent toys with hers, then pulls it over her head. "If it'll be easier, we could just use magic."

"Don't rush things."

Mal leans over to kiss Regina's hair and then extends her hand to Killian, and Emma. "I know this is strange, uncomfortable, even unnerving."

"It's for the town."

"It's magic," Regina says, fidgeting with the waistband of her skirt. "Sometimes, if you surrender to it, it's easier."

The four of them join hands, and they stumble over ancient words at first, reading the pieces of paper Belle copied for them. As they speak, it makes more sense, the words stop being unknown and uncomfortable, they stop being words at all. It, magic, pulses through them, and suddenly they're speaking in unison.

As one.

The fire rises, the wind howls outside their window and lightning cracks before the storm begins. Rain patters onto the mud and dead grass below and he feels it, they feel it, useless moisture striking dead earth.

Storybrooke isn't dying, it's dormant, still like the desert, waiting for the rain. Quiet like the doldrums, cold as a stone fireplace before it springs to life.

The dragon takes a step forward, perhaps it hits her first because she's a creature of magic, pr perhaps she's just more willing. She leans down and Emma looks up; their mouths meet, gentle and testing, exploring. He raises his eyebrows towards the queen and she rolls her eye before she reaches for him. Their kiss is hungrier, because something's tugging at all of them, guiding, demanding.

They spoke the words, the surrounded their flesh, their hearts, whatever energies exist that rise within them.

And rum.

Regina tastes like rum, as he kisses her. The second shot they drink together has a sweetness like honey, and it burns like smoke. Maleficent's hand brushes his chest and his own fingers touch Emma's breast, then Regina's and--

He thought they decided not to use magic, but there's no more fabric in the way. Did they finish undressing? Or do their clothes simply not matter? Maleficent kisses him next, and she tastes of rum and spices, something hot and wild and her skin presses against his and Emma strokes his back.

His lips return to Emma's, but hands brush his skin, tug him closer and Emma moans into his mouth. He loves her, without doubt, but this act is not about love.

At least, not that kind. Something's rising, touching all of them with a madness deeper than drink. Is this what magic feels like? He's reminded of the rush of darkness that came from that accused dagger, but this is purer.

Primal.

He's out of his mind, out of his league, adrift on whatever this is and he's not alone. Regina's eyes meet his, dark, and knowing. Maleficent's mouth brushes against his neck and he nuzzles Emma's chest. Fingers clutch and tug, drawing him closer and the fire rises, without and within.

Emma removes his hook, and the base of it slips away from his arm. Regina caresses him her fingers cool while the dragon burns hot and he's never been more aware of the redness of the lips of the women around him, and the softness of their skin, their breasts, all different, all wonderful.

Whatever this is kindles, dragging them under, hauling them aloft and his mouth travels from breast to breast, kissing heated skin, licking sweat while he slips his fingers into warmth and wetness. Emma's moaning, but his mouth's on her back, Regina's fingers are in her and his own are in Maleficent while a mouth- Regina's mouth- runs down his aching cock.

He shudders, shivers, burns and trembles. Maleficent's hand follows Regina's mouth, then her lips close over him with a kind of heat he's never felt.

He's never had, and yet, he shares it, is this, is her, is swallowed by whatever this is. He's part of this, part of her, and Regina, of his beloved Emma.

Perhaps that's why climax rises within them together, dragging them all towards the little death, the aching release: the beginning. He thrusts into willing heat, slipping deep within. Slick warmth envelops him, holds him like blue eyes, like brown, like green. He's Emma while she kisses Maleficent, Regina while she runs her tongue over Emma's sex, Maleficent while she pulls him deep. They're him, they're each other. They're all one heart, one thought, one being who kisses and sucks, licks and gasps in creation.

Surrender, and conquest. Rise and ebb. They give, of each other, of themselves, they breathe and beat and writhe together. Their breath is one, their sweat slides over fevered skin and someone kisses him hard enough that he tastes blood.

Perhaps he did the kissing. Heat blooms, and they grow taut together, four strings on a fiddle, or a lone note carrying across the sea. They're lost.

Together.

They fall, one by one, dragging each other up, crashing down. He's only aware as he returns to himself that he's still buried in the dragon, his hand in Regina's hair and Emma, wonderful, divine Emma, has her mouth on his stomach.

"It's all right," she whispers, offering forgiveness and prayer all in one. "We're all right."

Maleficent slides off of him, her thighs sticky with him and Regina holds her, curls around her and they entwine together, all of them, hands searching for each other and the promise of spring.

He falls asleep with Emma's head on his chest and Regina's hand in his hair.

When he wakes, the sky is dark, like the deepest hold of his ship. He turns his head and Maleficent smiles at him over Emma's curls. "Listen."

"To what?"

Then he hears it. A sparrow, confused, because dawn is still far away, sings a jaunty little tune.

"A sparrow."

"I haven't heard a bird in months."

She nods, reaching for his shoulder around Emma. "We did it."

"It's one bird."

She laughs softly upwards. "That's how it starts, one bird, then another, then a flower."

"Then a cacophony outside the window when you're trying to sleep." He sighs, kisses Emma's head and rubs his hand over Regina's shoulder because Maleficent can't quite reach her.

Maleficent rolls to her side, resting her head on the pillow. Her eyes flutter closed.

"Maleficent?"

"Yes, pirate?"

He shouldn't ask, but perhaps it's the rum in his belly and the remnants of the spell. "The child?"

"Is it yours?" Her eyes snap open, bright in the darkness. "In a manner of speaking, yours, and Emma's, Regina's as well. It's too early to tell."

"But it's magic."

"Magic's hardly sure, dear, but yes, she's yours, and mine, perhaps the whole town's, in a way." She smiles at him, her eyes soft and deep. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For what's to come, dear." Her eyes drift shut.

Killian stares up at the ceiling, listening to that little sparrow. Turning his head to the right, he touches Regina's cheek, then kisses Emma's head again. It'll be all right. Having four parents is hardly the strangest thing in Storybrooke.