Once upon a time, in a land far away, four people were happy. The fifth, a queen, longed for something more - something she had never known.
"A masquerade ball?"
Emma's eyes moved over the invitation as they read the elegant gold ink that covered the page.
"So it would seem," Snow said coldly, turning away.
"Well, I'm certainly not going."
"Because it's hosted by the evil queen!"
"Her name is Regina, and I hear she never shows up at her parties anyway."
"That's true," Snow conceded. "But still. I'm not going."
"Well, I think it would be fun," David interjected, sitting down beside his wife. "After all, what's the worst that could happen?"
"She casts another curse, or kills us all?" Snow suggested.
Emma rolled her eyes.
"She's changed. And she's probably not even going to be there. I'm going."
"Yeah. Emma needs to meet a nice young lady, anyway," David reasoned.
His wife was not amused, not fond of the idea of her daughter being with anyone. She hadn't been bothered when Emma admitted her orientation to her parents, but she was overprotective, and wasn't ready to see her daughter dating again. They'd known Emma's preference for women since they'd returned to the Enchanted Forest. Of course, Neal, Hook, and Snow had been surprised, but David had known for a while. After all, once they'd all found out, they agreed that it had been pretty obvious. All of them had taken it well, except Henry. The only thing that bothered him was that it would now be impossible for his parents to get back together. But they all wanted her happy, and so they tried to encourage her to be herself.
"David!" Snow exclaimed, nearly slamming her mug of coffee down on the counter.
"What?" he said, smiling. "She deserves to be happy!"
"I am happy, David," Emma protested. "I have you guys."
Henry poked his head out from the hallway.
"I wanna go!" he cried.
"No way, kid," Emma told him, looking into his hopeful eyes.
"You're too young, kiddo."
"I'm thirteen now. Why can't I go? I bet Grace will be there."
"I don't care if Grace will be there. I said no."
"Henry," Snow cut in. "It's really a party for adults. I don't think Grace's father would allow her to go, either.
The boy looked down and sighed, but didn't say anything else. He knew he could protest, but he was outnumbered. He'd simply have to live with their decision to leave him behind.
"So, it's settled, then," Emma said. "We're going?"
David nodded emphatically and smiled at the three of them.
"I am not going to what woman's party!" Snow protested.
"It's a masquerade, honey," David tried to convince her. "Even if she is there, she won't know it's you."
Snow considered this, and then considered her wardrobe.
"We'll have to come up with something for Emma to wear."
"I'm sure she'll fit into some of your old dresses."
Snow considered this, too, and finally nodded in agreement.
A smile spread across Emma's lips as she looked at her father and mouthed, 'Thank you,' while her mother wasn't looking.
"So, what's your type, Emma? Tall, dark, and handsome? Blondes? Red heads?"
"I don't have a 'type,'" Emma told him, rolling her eyes. "I'm not talking about this anymore. Let it drop."
He laughed, but let the topic go. Upstairs in Snow's bedchambers, the girls searched through her enormous closet, looking for something to wear.
"No. No. Nuh-uh. No way. That one's not... nope. No."
And the conversation when on like that for the next twenty minutes, until finally...
"That one!" they both said in unison, pointing to an elegant white white gown with a skirt covered in diamonds.
"Mom," Emma breathed, "it's beautiful."
"This was my wedding dress," Snow told her with a smile.
"Wait, what? Mom, I can't wear your wedding dress!"
"Why not? It'll look beautiful on you. After all, this is a formal ball, and you're going to look spectacular. Is it just that you don't want... I mean... Don't you like it?"
"No, Mom, it's not that! I love it! It's beautiful. I just think... I think it would look better on you. Why don't you wear it?"
"One should only wear something like this one, and I think it's your turn, Emma. I really do."
There was a knock on the door. Emma and Snow exchanged looks, and Snow approached the door.
"Who is it?"
"It's me, Grandma! I wanna help pick out the dress!"
"Come on in, Henry," Snow said with a smile, opening the door for him.
When he entered, he rushed to his mother's side and threw his arms around her.
"Emma!" he cried. "Have you picked one yet?"
"I don't know," Emma said, looking over at the dress Snow was holding. "What do you think of this one? It was Grandma's wedding dress."
"It's beautiful! I love it! Are you gonna try it on?"
"I guess so," she said, looking over at her mother, who nodded.
Emma disappeared into the walk-in closet and reappeared what seemed like ages later.
"This thing is impossible to get on," she mumbled, looking down at herself.
When David appeared in the doorway, they all turned to look at him. Startled, Snow looked over at him, surprised to see him standing there. Her eyes went back and forth between her husband and her daughter as she gaped with her mouth open, completely silent.
"Oh, my God," he said, gaping at her. "Emma, you look amazing. It's perfect."
Emma blushed. When she looked up, she saw his eyes watering.
"Aw, come on... Don't cry..."
He held the tears back, but it was clear that he was close to crying. Snow wrapped an arm around him with a smile, but didn't take her eyes off her daughter.
"What about you?" Emma asked, intentionally changing the subject. "Let's see what you're going to wear."
"You'll see tomorrow night," Snow said with a grin.
Her husband looked disappointed and sighed, but Snow just smiled at him, enjoying the feeling of keeping a surprise from them. Henry beamed up at his grandmother.
"What about me?" he asked. "Will you tell me?"
Snow nodded, her face full of mischievous excitement. Henry bounced on his heels and turned to his mother, laughing.
"I get to know! I get to know!" he bragged.
Emma rolled her eyes, pouting, but Snow didn't budge.
"Go on," Snow said. "Both of you. Shoo!"
With reluctance, they left the room, and Henry shut the door. After Snow had put her dress on, she reappeared from the closet. The red, yellow, and white gown accentuated her features. As Henry smiled at her, she looked at herself in the mirror.
"You look great, Grandma! They're gonna love it. I wish I could go."
He stuck his lower lip out and looked over at her.
"No, Henry. Not to this. We told you; this is an adult party. There's going to be alcohol and..."
"But it's not fair," Henry whined.
"Enough, Henry. We told you no."
"Fine!" he cried, stomping out of the room.
Snow laughed and shook her head. She changed out of her dress and hung it back up in the closet, shutting the door to make sure they didn't know which one she'd chosen. Downstairs in the magnificently large dining hall, Henry had the same discussion with his mother and his grandfather, who gave the same response. He went to bed feeling dejected, and unfortunately for Henry, his family stood their ground.
After the boy went to bed, David and Emma excitedly begged to see Snow's dress, but she stood her ground on that as well, making it clear that stubbornness ran in the family. It wasn't until the next night that her family saw her gown. They marveled at her beauty and agreed that the dress was perfect.
"Are you ready, Emma?" Snow asked, looking her up and down, taking note of her daughter's beauty.
The woman nodded, but her face was covered with worry.
"Maybe this is stupid," she said softly, looking away from her parents. "I feel dumb in this dress. This isn't me at all."
"But Emma!" her son cried, bouncing up and down. "You have to go!"
"I do not."
"Oh, yes, you do," Snow interjected, putting her hands on her hips. "You convinced me to go, and you're not backing out now."
"Oh, come on. I look ridiculous in this dress."
"You look beautiful," her father told her quickly.
"And it's about time that you looked like a lady," Snow cut in.
"Whatever. I'm bringing my belt and my sword."
"Why? I thought you said nothing was going to happen," Snow said, scowling at her daughter.
"Then leave your weapon at home. Besides, it would look silly with your dress."
"You weren't armed at your wedding?" Emma pressed, raising her voice.
Snow hesitated and looked at her husband, who chuckled and put his hand on his own sword, which was hanging from his belt.
"We both were," he told her.
"But I hid my knives under my dress - one on my right thigh, and one on my left ankle."
"Then that's what I'll do," Emma decided out loud.
Her parents both sighed.
"Alright, Emma," Snow agreed. "But you'd better act like a lady."
"And what the Hell is that supposed to mean?" Emma snapped, glaring at her mother.
"It means that you're going to be polite, and you're going to act like the princess you are."
"I'm not a princess."
"You also said you weren't a savior," David said softly. "But you are."
"You're a beautiful woman, and you have it in you to show your elegance. Can't you just act like a woman for once?" Snow asked.
"Ugh!" Emma cried, throwing her sword down on the table. "This is bullshit!"
"Stop it, Emma," David scolded her. "Just get ready to go."
She sighed, not wanting to continue the argument. She was wasting her energy, and she knew it would take all the energy she had to act like the 'lady' they wanted her to be. It wasn't that they'd won the quarrel; it was simply that she had no desire to deal with the squabble and also had no desire to listen to them complain.
"I am ready," she said shortly, strapping on her knives and standing by the main doors to the palace. "Let's just get this over with."
All three of them put on their masks, which covered their faces enough to conceal their identities. On the way to the 'evil' queen's castle, they rode their horses in silence as Emma's anxiety grew.