When Aurora slept, she dreamed of another life. It was only after they had met Emma that the dreams had started, met someone from another world, with different rules, with different ideals. (Henry’s ‘other mom’? What was going on with that?) And Aurora dreamt herself to Storybrooke.
Sometimes she wondered if she dreamed of who she would have been if she’d been caught up in the Evil Queen’s curse, and sometimes she didn’t even know what she was dreaming. There were so many unfamiliar words and ideas – College, med school, jeans, femur, motorcycle, pinterest, but the gist seemed clear. She was a student, happy in t-shirts and flip-flops, studying all day, drinking and partying at night. She remembered Philip in the dreams, her high-school boyfriend, who hadn’t been comfortable with long-distance, or maybe hadn’t been comfortable with her going to med school while he worked at the garage, and had married someone from back home.
She remembered a dumb Christmas party where she’d gotten wasted on ‘Christmas punch’ half mint-chip ice-cream and cherry soda, half vodka, which was too sweet to be anything but tempting, and pitched down the staircase and broken her neck – or would have done, if she hadn’t felt warm arms grab her from behind and jerk her back just as her life flashed before her eyes.
“Hey,” the girl had said sternly, “be careful.” And she had been gorgeous with mussed dark hair and fierce dark eyes and a black beater and overshirt, and Aurora had gaped at her.
“Oh my god, you saved my life,” she’d said, and then kissed the hell out of her, because what else were you supposed to do to someone who flipping saves your life?
The girl had choked and fought her off, but all of their friends had seen it, and would not let it go. “Come on, Ri,” they’d said. “You just got dumped hard. At least hook up with her.”
And the girl had given her a look, cool and serious and so familiar, and Aurora had dropped to her knees and clung to her waist. “Please take me home,” she begged. “I promise I give really good head.”
The girl barked out an unexpected laugh. “You are so drunk.”
“Oh my god, yes.” Aurora nuzzled into her jeans. “Please take me home and get me off.”
“I’ll take you home, because you’re cut off for the night, okay?” The girl walked her back to her apartment. She came inside and made her drink water and listened to Aurora ramble incoherently about neuroscience until she passed out.
In the morning, Aurora found her at the stove, making hash browns and eggs in the horrendous state that was her kitchen. “Please tell me your name and then marry me.”
“Glad to see you didn’t choke on your vomit,” the girl said. “I’m Riley. And, I’m sorry, but,” she glanced around the hellhole that was her apartment. “I think I could do better.”
Even her dismissal was hot. Aurora leaned against the counter and watched her. She knew she was supposed to take a hint after three rejections, but Riley was still there, and she was still gorgeous. She gave Aurora a look when the food was ready, and Aurora hurriedly cleaned off the table.
“I want your number,” Aurora said, after devouring delicious, greasy anti-hangover food.
Riley raised an eyebrow. “And do you always get what you want?”
Riley shook her head, grinning. She stuck out her arm and passed her a felt tip pen. “Give me yours. I’ll call you.”
And Aurora dreamt of the phone call, of not being able to sleep before the coffee date and then oversleeping and running in late, in her pajama pants, with unbrushed hair, and having Riley laugh at her.
“I brushed my teeth in case you wanted to make out.”
“But not your hair.” And Riley pulled her down into her lap and kissed her.
Aurora dreamt of a life, imagined or possible, she didn’t know. She dreamed of a girl she couldn’t keep her hands off of. She dreamed of her parents – still living – dropping by at the most inopportune times (naked times). She dreamed of studying too hard, and drinking coffee until she puked, and freaking out before her exams. She dreamed of Riley being hugely embarrassed, but still letting her grandmother give Aurora a lucky cricket to take with her to her boards. She dreamed of color and light and sweat and sex, and for the first time since her curse, she didn’t want to wake up.
When she did wake up, to the barren lands and uncomfortable bedrolls, she would seek out the figure of Mulan standing guard, staring off into the forest. Riley’s mild exasperation had been too familiar to mistake. Aurora just hoped she never awoke from one of those dreams to Mulan lying beside her. Her dream self had taken to waking up Riley with sleepy wet kisses to the neck or the ear, and she was pretty sure if she tried that while awake Mulan would actually, seriously, kill her dead.
She’d be sorry afterwards. But Aurora would be dead.
And yet, even while awake, Aurora dreamed.