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Winter Winds

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It was cold when you broke the curse. It was cold as I walked back home without my son, knowing he was alive, but also knowing that, with the whole town remembering who I am and confirming to him he had been right all along, and with me having accidentally almost killed him in an attempt to get rid of you, there was just no chance he would ever want anything to do with me again. It was cold as I walked into his bedroom and sobbed into his pillow and ended up falling asleep on his bed that night.

It was cold the next morning, and even chillier as I found out I did not have my magic back, differently from what I had thought. A shiver ran down my spine when the mob approached, and Whale grabbed me, and I was sure they would make me pay for all I had done to them, curse included, but far from only; but it went away when you stopped them.

It was freezing in that jail cell, and when that creature tried to suck my soul out, it was like it also took all the warmth in my body; but a little bit of it was restored as you took my hand and helped me up and stood close to me as your father tried to decide my fate... and a little bit of that warmth even reached my heart when you not only stood up for me, but told them it was something Henry had asked.

Still, the danger I was in with that wraith around quickly made me cold again, especially after realizing the hat was not working at all. I literally froze in fear, and the only thing that broke me out of that was your hand on my arm. But just a moment later, it was as if there was ice coursing through my veins instead of blood, because the monster was gone, but so were you... you pushed me away to protect me, but ended up paying for that, not only yourself, but your insufferable mother as well.

I forgot how to move for a few moments, I was locked in place as if stuck in a blizzard, and for once, there was no you to break that spell. Your father did that, forcing me to defend myself, and I took out on him the anger that was meant for my own self for letting that happen. Funny that, such a short time ago, I was looking for ways and more ways to get rid of you for good... but as soon as I achieved that, without as much as really trying, panic set in, chilling me to the core.

It was cold the morning of the day you came back, and I couldn't tell how much of that came from the air around me, and how much came from inside. The threat of my mother coming through that portal and possibly getting to Henry, and the imminence of throwing all the hard work I had been doing to make myself a better person away, just as Gold wanted me to... all of that drained me and it was as if there was a snowfall coating my heart.

But then there was Henry, and his trust and his love that I had to live up to... and after a moment of torture that felt like hours, and the ice-cold realization that it might have been absolutely useless, there was you. And you walked up to me, with my son, our son, in your arms and for once gushing to you about me and how I has saved you - not the other way round – and the snow melted, and I realized, against all odds and predictions, I was actually glad to see you again safe and sound. I was honest when I welcomed you back, and your incredulous yet sincere smile finished drying the melted snow around my heart.

It's a shame that these kinds of moments are so fleeting, and so quickly they're gone. And for me, that means going back to the coldness I've gotten used to, the one I've lived in for the biggest part of my life. That time, it came with watching everyone go away, together, happily, to a celebration – to which I wasn't invited. It came with seeing my son leave with you, without as much as a look back.

And once more it was you to fix that, or at least try, by actually remembering, even if as an afterthought, to invite me to your welcoming party. I am still not completely sure why I went there, why I even bothered to cook something to take with me. I could tell myself it was because I was trying to change, and maybe part of that involved trying to make amends and being friendly to the people who hated me and who'd have gladly killed me, hadn't you intervened. But I guess it's very clear that would have been a lie. Henry would be there, and I knew it... so I know a lot of what made me drag myself there was the chance of spending at least a few moments with him, even if with no privacy at all, and even knowing there was a chance he'd be too busy with his biological family to spare me as much as a glance. Still, I am a mother... I always try; I can't even help it. But I also knew that wasn't the whole reason. In a way, it was also because I wanted to see you again, make sure you were really back... and because the cold had started to settle in again.

But soon I was forgotten even by Henry, and ignored by everyone else as, honestly, I had already supposed it would be. And it wasn't as if you had spoken a single word directly to me either, although I was surely thankful that you again stood up for me instead of letting that dwarf attempt to cut me open with a kitchen knife. It wasn't working, though. Neither of my intentions for that night were. I had gone there looking for sun, and been met with heavy rain. I could as well give up.

As soon as I did, however, there you were. And your words, although not the ones I had hoped to hear, worked a little bit. They always do, I guess, even if in mysterious ways that I can rarely understand. Short-lived as it was, I had a small moment to tan in your smile. But I dared to want more... I dared to want to see my son, to ask for it even... and of course it all went downhill for that, and ruined the tiny progress I had made.

It was freezing as I walked back home that night. I could feel it in every single bone, and not even the fireplace that I put to work, not even sitting right in front of it with a few blankets around me, was enough to keep my teeth from chattering. I felt like I was about to pass out from hypothermia at any second, and nothing could help me.

You did, though. Your hands on my shoulders, even through all the layers, were efficient in spreading some warmth through me again. Your voice asking me if I was alright, saying you had thought better and talked to Henry, and that he had wanted more time with me and you had changed your mind and realized it might be good for both of us... that was enough to bring me to a normal temperature again.

A shiver ran down my spine at the sudden change, as if it could help my blood turn liquid again more quickly, and together with it, the icebergs behind my eyes decided to melt all at once and fall out of them before I had a chance to control it. In just a few seconds, I was crying and sobbing, and no matter how hard I tried to stop, it did not work, because there was way too much saltwater forcing its way out; the dam was broken and it took far longer than that to repair it again. But your eyes as you forced my chin up and made me look at you as you told me over and over that it was okay, that everything was fine... your eyes made all that water vaporize instantly.

The heaving of my chest and the contractions in my gut did not go away so easily, but the flowing river stopped; that was already a start. And then you wrapped your arms around me, God even knows why... and, unexplainable as it might be, I let you. Not only that, but after a few moments, I actually allowed my own self to cling to you. I was clearly not on my right mind anyway...

You took the chance to press your lips to my temple, and although the rational part of my brain that was somehow still working – even if barely – told me that you were probably just trying to check whether I had a fever (since it was indeed a winter night, but it was not that cold apparently), it felt just like a kiss, and a very tender one at that. My body responded to that by sighing and, embarrassing as that was, snuggling closer to you. I realized a second too late how pathetic that was... but it was done, and it was not something I could take back anymore, so I just hoped you somehow would not have noticed any movement on my part.

Of course you did, though. When does anything ever pass you by? You did notice it, and you did not say a word, but your arms did tighten their grip on me, and I could swear I felt you smile against my forehead – which made me realize your lips were still there, far longer than would have been necessary for a simple temperature check. I felt like I should protest, like I should demand to be released and let be... but I couldn't find it in myself to. I felt warm, safe, protected; all things I had pretty much forgotten about already, since I could not even recall the last time I had felt so.

So, instead of protesting, I moved my head away from your mouth just enough to be able to lift it and actually look into your eyes again. Once more, I was met with their unbelievable warmth... but this time, I also got more.

I felt your lips crashing onto mine, and all it took me was a second of shock before I was responding to it just as fiercely. I needed that. I needed you, and I needed the sun in your hair and the eternal summer breeze in your voice and the calm lake in your irises in which one could swim without any fear. And I remember having such a hard time forming any coherent thought, and I also remember how the only thing I could tell myself over and over as we kissed was "But I don't love her... I can't love her...". But honestly... it did not matter, and I did not care at all anymore. I just wanted the cold to stay away, and you were the one to make that happen, and that was a feeling I most definitely did love. So what use was it to overthink any of it?

As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts
Oh, the warmth in your eyes swept me into your arms
Was it love or fear of the cold that led us through the night?
For every kiss, your beauty trumped my doubt

Somehow we made it to my bed, although I honestly cannot tell exactly when that happened or even how we managed to walk the way there without letting go of each other... I guess the vapor must have fogged my vision and my mind, but I do know we got there at some point. Clothes were torn off, all the half a dozen layers that I had on me suddenly fell away and, differently from what I would have guessed, I did not feel any colder from that, but quite the opposite. The contact of your skin with mine set me ablaze, and at that moment I could perfectly understand what they mean when they say cold does not exist; it is simply the absence of heat.

And you had more than enough of that to share with me, to transmit to me, to fill the room and the house and to produce an incredible amount of steam that covered the walls and windows of my bedroom. No ice, no snowfall, no blizzard could have ever survived that and remained intact, or even existent; mine sure didn't. For the rest of that night and up until morning came, I did not think about anything at all, if that is even possible. Or if I did, I sincerely do not remember doing so. What's more, I also do not remember feeling anything other than the sheer warmth that came from you, from being close to you and connected to you, and the comfort that entailed. That was all I could register, and that was more than anyone besides Henry had been able to make me feel for so many decades.

That night, I finally understood why everyone referred to you as the Savior. Because that was exactly what you did to me. You saved me from death by internal hypothermia, caused by my own self. I was freezing myself from the inside out, and then you came and found a way to undo all that from the outside, and it was nothing short of magical.

But here's the thing: magic can become addicting. I can attest to it better than most... And, just like it had happened with the kind of magic Rumplestiltskin introduced me to, I became addicted to you. Because, the moment after you were gone the next day, the cold started settling in again, and with it, the panic. And it was even worse than before, because of the contrast with what I had just experienced.

I was never sure that made any sense, but for once I could actually agree with the theory that it might better to not experience any sort of improvement than to have it and then see it go away, and simply revert back to the initial situation. Once you get to know how much better it can be... it's like what was only merely annoying before suddenly becomes unbearable. It was like I could not stand a single more moment of that, like I had, I needed to just go back a few hours and make time stop so that I could be in your arms for the whole of eternity. And it scared me to no end to not know if I would ever be at that place again.

I was far too proud to admit it, however. But in the end, I didn't need to. You were back that night, and the next, and the next, and Henry started coming with you every now and then, and we'd have dinner all together and watch a movie afterwards, and he'd be in awe of the fact that we were actually getting along. And then I'd tuck him in bed while you pretended to leave, but instead simply went to my bedroom and waited for me there; you'd only really leave when morning came, but always before he woke up at first.

And then, with time, we decided all that fuss was really no longer necessary. It might have had something to do with the fact that I unknowingly snuggled into you once during movie time, and he happened to catch the exact moment when you, without realizing what you were doing or thinking about it, wrapped your arms around me instead of pushing me away and reminding me of his presence. After that, it made no sense to hide it from him; and in fact it was worth letting him know, just for the look of joy on his little face.

Still, there were no names to it. Nothing official, nothing open, Henry was pretty much the only one to know, and was immediately made to swear secrecy – which, for once, he was able to do quite well. Maybe he did know what was at stake if everyone else found out, and how bad that could be for you. Your parents did notice you were not spending nights at their place anymore, obviously; but you somehow managed to drop hints about being with somebody else, and deter them from further questioning.

There were also no obligations, no strings, no talk about feelings or anything similar. It was just what I needed, because all I could be sure of was still the very same thing as in that first night: that I loved the way I felt while you were close.

I loved feeling like I was in a tropical paradise, with the warm breeze blowing at my face and the sun kissing my skin, and I loved feeling like I was involved in a magic blanket that provided me with the perfectly right amount of heat, and I loved feeling like I was at last receiving the warm embrace that I never got from a parent, and I loved how it made me feel protected and safe and for once taken care of.

That was the kind of comfort that I had been looking for my whole life, without ever being able to find it. I couldn't find it in my mother, because she did not want to provide me with any level of comfort at all; that would ruin her plans to mold me into the woman she would have liked to be herself. I couldn't find it in my father, because although I am sure he did love me, there was always the fact that he was somehow able to stand there quietly and watch my mother abuse and berate me without speaking as much as a word against it. I couldn't find it in my husband, because all he wanted was a body that remained frozen in place whenever he needed it, and a mother to his daughter.

I couldn't find it in magic, because the more I used it, the colder I became; the price I had to pay for it was perhaps exactly the freezing of my heart. I couldn't find it in my revenge against your mother, probably because said revenge never worked correctly, and all I had was the constant desire for it, that kept me moving on against all odds and made me dive deeper and deeper into magic. I couldn't find it in my curse, because depriving everyone of their loved ones and their happy endings did not, contrarily from what I had imagined and hoped for before it was set into action, provide me with a happy ending of my own, much less with love. I couldn't find it in prayer, because I was much too wretched and much too far gone to even deserve to lift a single thought in prayer; it would probably be seen as pure mockery at that point; besides, I was not sure at all whether I did still believe in anything anymore.

And no, I could not even find this kind of thing in Daniel, although I did find many other things in him, love included. But he, too, tried to change me into the woman he wanted me to be, and to understand every last bit of me – even the parts that I myself did not understand -, and for that, he broke me apart and confined every single piece into neatly organized boxes, when nothing in me was every that clearly settled; and his organization just unsettled it more and more.

But I did find it in you. Perhaps exactly due to our lack of labels and, especially, of expectations. You were there, you'd be there every night, that was all I needed to know, and that was all I needed to get. I'd have to make it through the cold days, but the nights would be the warmest they could ever be. And I was there too, ready to let you in every time you came; and that seemed to be enough for you as well.

I did not expect you to save the day, or the town, or the people, or anything; hell, you were already saving me even without trying, and possibly even without realizing it, and that was everything I cared about. You did not expect me to be a proper lady, or a queen, or the personification of "good" like your parents, or your deceased wife... you did not expect me to be anyone or anything besides the best version of me I could possibly be for you and for our son. And that... that was something that I could be, because being me involved being bad at times, no matter how much better I might have become – and you were okay with that. So it worked. I felt at ease in your arms, and that was all that ever mattered to me.

Oh, the shame that sent me off

from the God that I once loved
Was the same that sent me into your arms