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can't see for all the trees

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She does not know him.

Lying in his strange bed in his even stranger room, James is lost. This is not the castle, not their world, and everything is wrong. This place is impossible, so much about it that he does not comprehend, cannot comprehend, but that most of all.

Snow White does not know him and he aches with the knowledge of that. What dark magic this curse of the Queen's must be. He'd thought that all was well in that first, gloriously confusing instant when he'd awoke to the freezing night air and wet, strange fabric against his skin. He'd thought them victorious and the battle won with his love bending over him, flush with triumph and why not?

Waking to her lips on his, the warmth of her hands against his cold flesh, and her pale face stark against the night sky had told him all was well until she'd spoken and the illusion shattered to dust. The battle, it seems, has yet to begin and he is lost in a forest made of metal and rock with no Snow White to come to save him.

She does not know him and he does not know this world. This is more than he would have thought the Queen capable of and yet she appears in the midst of them all with sharp, probing eyes to watch his every step.

It isn't so difficult playing the fool as he is questioned, as they watch, just so long as he does not look at her. That is most difficult of all. She's different, adrift, small in a way that unsettles and alarms him for she has never been that, even in her deepest fears and agonies she has not been this, and the urge to go to her pushes at his limbs.

He listens to the visitors, his doctor, the sheriff, and all the while his heart beats its message.

You found me. Remember, Snow. You found me. We've made it. We're here. All is not lost. Remember, my love. Know me. Remember us.

If she hears then, when he looks, he can see no sign of it in her eyes where she stands at the door. He meets her gaze and she almost smiles. There. There she is. Just the faintest hint, but there nonetheless. He dare not pin his hopes on such faint an inkling, but it's difficult to resist. Not when that smile wavers, strengthens, and transforms her features into something like the Snow White of his memories.

He stares at her while she stares back, ignoring the people that pass between them, afraid to even blink lest he spoil this moment. There is indeed something to that look. Whether it is a hint that the spell has not stolen all that they are and were is something he can't tell, but it's there.

The spell. It's all he can do not to throw himself from this bed and sweep her into his arms. Her kiss brought him back to this place, her voice summoned him up, might his do the same of her?

He breaks the gaze, looks back at his doctor and the queen secure in her power. She's smirking, only just, and he knows her intent. He was never to wake in this place, never to know anything even the curse of a half-life, and now that he has, he's become a threat to be handled.

It's difficult to quell the fury, but he manages. For the sake of his love, their daughter, and their kingdom he must.

"Don't worry," the queen says, laying a hand on his. It's cold, like ice, and her nails dig at his flesh like talons. "We're going to take good care of you."

He doesn't look at his beloved when he says, "You already have," but the queen yanks her hand away as if burned. "I have no idea how to repay your kindness." He does not betray his mockery with the words, but tis a near thing and he almost chuckles with it.

"I'm sure you'll think of something," she says, making her excuses before she sweeps from the room, murder in every step.

At least that remains unchanged.

He turns his head, not watching her go, but looking for his beloved and even the faintest glimmer of hope.

She stays where she stands and he tells himself that he must be content with that. Magic cannot steal her from him forever. She summoned him back and, now, he must find a way to do the same.

His resolve is rewarded with a shaky smile, eyes that seem to shine with unshed tears, and a raised hand that waves hello.

She doesn't remember him, but she's still wearing his ring. He is hers and ever shall be, curse be damned, and while he deals with the Queen's first salvo of a substitute wife (and such a poor choice she made at that) he knows Snow carries him with her. If their daughter is near, then she carries him into battle and their victory is assured.

He has found her as he always promised and she will save him as she has always done.

The curse is indeed powerful, but the Queen's mistake will be its undoing. For all her hatred and obsession, she's never seen the obvious even when shown the truth over and over again.

Snow White is not a woman accustomed to defeat.

The Queen has stripped her of her home, chased her to the brink of exhaustion, forced her into a hovel in the forest to fight and steal to survive, but it never once dampened the fire in her eyes or quelled her spirit. No spell can withstand Snow White. Not even when her will has been muddied and her mind clouded by magic...and their child. Emma. If she is here and if their daughter has inherited but the barest hint of her mother's fire then the Queen lost before her spell even began.

He smiles.

"You seem pleased." The doctor watches him closely and with too much worry to be a healer's natural care. The Queen's minions are plenty in this new land and, perhaps, one stands at his side now. "Is something coming back?"

He shakes his head, grinning. "I have a visitor."

"Yes, your wi—" the doctor turns, sees Snow at the door, and sighs. "Mary Margaret? What on earth is she doing here?" He makes as if to go to the door, but James is quicker, waving her in. He knows why she's here even if, at present, she does not.

"You look better," she says, smiling wide.

"David's recovery has been nothing short of miraculous," the doctor agrees. "Now, if you'll excuse me, there are rounds to be made." He nods, smiles, and leaves almost all in the same instant. In quite the hurry to go running to the queen to report, no doubt.

James doesn't care. She'll learn nothing from this.

"Rounds," Snow huffs and shakes her head. "He's going to call the mayor and tell her I'm here."

"Probably, he reports in all the time." James grins. "He thinks that I don't know."

"They all do," Snow says, eyes taking him in. He sits still beneath the scrutiny and hopes for another moment of recognition. He has no explanation for how he remains himself, but perhaps this is a sign of their daughter's presence and that the magic binding them is already beginning to weaken. Of course, there is the chance that wounded as he was, he somehow escaped the spell's effects. He chooses to believe the latter and that they might soon be free. "You should get used to it. She seems very interested in you."

"I would say she's more interested in you." He's free to look at her now and he does. The spell has changed her, but she's not the stranger he thought. "At least, in keeping you out of here."

She flushes, ducking her head. "I can't imagine why."

He can, but how to say? "Perhaps she would have preferred I stay as I was," he says, cautiously. "Since you brought me back, she might think you could restore my memory as well."

Snow peeks up at him, wry amusement in her eyes, and his heart leaps at the familiar look. "I read a book. That's hardly magic."

"The right words spoken by the right voice at the right time," he smiles. "I can think of no better definition."

"You don't believe them, do you?" she asks, sitting up. "About—"

"My name? My wife?" he shakes his head. "No."

"Why?" she leans forward, laying a hand on the bed. It's the one with his ring and he can't help but reach out to cover it.

"I remember the strangest thing," he says, leaning in as well. "A woman's voice saying a name which makes no sense."

Snow's eyebrows rise. "And?"

He looks at her. Her eyes seem so much darker than he remembers, made so by the strange cut of her hair, and his fingers long to trace the lines of her face. She's smaller in this place and he wants to curl himself around her, wrap up in each other until their daughter can save them from this hell. "Charming."

She doesn't know the touch of his hands on her body, but his cries out for hers, and he is certain that salvation is in their grasp. They but have to wait for it.

"Charming," Snow grins. "It fits."