Chapter 1: The Invitation
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.
Chapter 2: Someone New
The moment they reached the castle, Emma's heart began to race.
"I can't do this," she said, turning back to her horse and gripping the reins.
David grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back towards the stables.
"Tie up your horse. You came all the way here, and now you're going inside, and you're going to have fun."
"Nuh-uh," she protested, shifting her weight back and forth.
"Besides, what if your soul mate is in there? Huh? Maybe the perfect lady is just waiting to dance with you. Maybe you'll fall in love tonight!" he suggested cheerfully.
His eyes were lit up with the typical hope and excitement he displayed about everything. Unceasing was his optimism.
"Shut up," she mumbled, walking towards the stable and tying her horse up inside, hanging the tack on the wall beside the stall.
"You never know," he said with a grin.
Snow rolled her eyes and laughed.
"David," she said. "Leave her alone."
Charming chuckled and shook his head, holding out his arm. Snow threaded hers with his graciously and looked up into his eyes. As they shared a kiss, Emma looked away and covered her eyes.
"Gross," she groaned.
They both laughed, and her father grabbed her arm, gently tugging her out of the stables and leading her towards the castle's entrance. Inside, each of the strings of lights illuminated the sea of people who were all elegantly dressed and waltzing to the beautiful music of the orchestra. Surrounded by masks and hidden faces, Emma quickly became disoriented as she watched the beautiful dancers make the room spin.
"Why am I doing this?" the queen muttered to herself. "I look ridiculous."
She gazed at herself in the mirror and shuddered at the thought of being seen by hundreds of guests. But something pushed her onward, something strange telling her that everything would be okay. Somehow, through her nervousness, it still seemed like the right thing to do. As she adorned herself with her mask and descended the stairs into the main hall, her stomach churned.
"It's beautiful," Emma whispered to her father.
He nodded with a smile.
"She may be an evil queen, but she certainly knows how to host a masquerade ball, doesn't she?"
"You're right. She does."
Snow simply turned up her nose at the scene and made her way over to the refreshments table on the right side of the ballroom. Emma and David followed, not wanting to be left alone for fear of feeling uncomfortable in the room by themselves. When Snow turned around, she was clutching a glass of champagne and downing it quickly. To David's surprise, it was gone in a short moment, and she grabbed another glass just as quickly. Receiving a confused and disapproving look from her husband, she drank her next glass at a slower pace.
"I don't know how to dance," Emma told David quietly.
He smiled at his wife and stepped closer to his daughter. David took one of her hands and put the other on her waist.
"Just follow me," he told her.
The two danced together, Emma awkwardly following each of his steps.
"See? It's not that hard. You've got this, Emma," he encouraged her.
She shook her head and sighed, stopping and letting go of his hand, watching as his arms fall to his side.
"What's the matter, kiddo?"
"I'm clumsy, and I don't know what I'm doing."
"You're not clumsy. You just a little with stiff. Relax your muscles."
He held out his hands and waited for her to take them. Reluctantly, she moved back into the dancing position.
"You're a good dancer," she said with a weak smile. "I bet you and Mom had a great dance at your wedding."
He smiled too, and nodded.
"You're right. It was perfect. Your mother and I are truly made for each other, and when we dance, it's evident."
Emma rolled her eyes and laughed, continuing to dance.
"You guys are so gross."
He laughed, too. When the song ended, David stepped away and looked at his wife, who was smiling at them.
"You two are precious," she said, touching Emma's shoulder, "but I think it's my turn."
She stepped into her husbands arms, who held her close and gazed lovingly into her eyes. Emma, not wanting to watch their tender moment, looked around the room at the beautiful masks covering every face. She reached up and touched her own, making sure it was concealing her features. With a sigh, she grabbed a glass of champagne, retreated back towards the rear of the room, and leaned against the wall, watching everyone else dance.
After the next three dances were over, her parents looked around for her. She watched them, knowing they were confused and looking for her, but didn't make her location known. She didn't want to hear them nagging her to dance. But alas, eventually, they found her. As they approached, Emma shut her eyes and groaned, wishing she was back at their own palace, thinking she'd made a great mistake in coming to the ball.
"Come on, Emma," David said. "Go find a lovely lady to dance with."
"I can't dance!" she protested, stomping her foot.
"Stop it!" Snow hissed. "Emma, lose the attitude. You're acting like a child."
"Stop trying to control me."
Her parents both shook their heads and looked at her. David looked around the room for a suitable partner. It took him a while of watching everyone, but he finally found one courtly enough to satisfy his captious nature.
"Her," he whispered in her ear.
After a moment of silence, David took her drink away, grabbed her arm, and shoved her back onto the dance floor. The brunette's exquisite dress embraced her body in all the right places, and when Emma looked to where David was pointing, she noticed. She was the only one in the room wearing black. Emma's mouth hung open. It was the first time Emma had noticed her, and she was sure she hadn't been there moments before. She'd been watching the room intently, entertaining herself by observing the people's interactions. But she hadn't seen the woman in black that night until David had found her. She was standing on the other side of the room near the wall, watching the rest of the people on the dance floor. Emma looked over at her father, unsure, but he motioned for her forward.
Reluctantly, Emma moved closer to the mysterious woman in black, but kept looking back and forth between the woman and her father. He shook his head and turned around, wrapping an arm around his wife and pulling her back into a dance, ignoring Emma's pleading looks. Unable to get more encouragement from her father, she crossed the dance floor and made her way towards the woman in black. She hesitated before she stepped closer, but swallowed her fear and approached her with caution, preparing herself for immanent failure. Just relax, she told herself. Relax and follow her lead.
"Miss," she began softly, "would you do me the honor of giving me this dance?"
She looked Emma over, her eyes moving over the blonde's body. She hesitated, but moved a little closer to Emma. The savior held out her hand, praying that it wasn't covered in sweat. The woman placed gentle fingers on her palm and looked into the eye openings in her mask without saying anything. Her mask cast a shadow over her eyes, concealing their color, but the woman searched for it anyway. The sparkle in Emma's eyes as she accepted her hand was hidden. Emma led her onto the dance floor. Please don't let me fuck this up, she prayed, shutting her eyes briefly and sucking in a shaky breath. As she got into the position to dance, she worried that she would blow her chance. But as they began to dance, Emma letting the other woman lead, she found herself relaxing slowly.
"Your dress is beautiful," Emma finally said, trying not to blush.
"Thank you," the woman replied slowly. "Yours is magnificent."
Something about her voice was familiar to Emma, but she couldn't place it.
"It was my mothers wedding dress," Emma told her, bringing a smile to her lips.
"Well, it's wonderful. It's certainly the most stunning in the room."
Emma couldn't fight the blush that rose to her cheeks. Song after song brought them closer together as they talked, until their cheeks brushed.
"This ball is incredible," Emma mused. "I've never been to one."
"Never?" the woman asked in surprise.
"I'm... I haven't... I just never had the opportunity."
"They're overrated anyway. I don't really like them. I don't usually go."
"Then why are you here?"
"I guess because I felt obligated."
"Why?" Emma asked, subconsciously gripping the brunette's hand a little tighter.
"It's a long story," the woman said dismissively.
They were silent for a while, until Emma slowed their pace. But she didn't move away.
"I assume it has something to do with your parents," Emma said gently. "Things like this usually do."
The woman nodded her head, surprised at Emma's observation.
"They used to force me to go, and I've hated dances ever since."
Emma looked at her with genuine concern. Although she hadn't had real parents for long, she could sympathize with her experience of overbearing parenting.
When the woman said nothing, Emma continued with, "I sort of know what you mean. Anyway, parents are also overrated."
When the woman who had been serious up until that point chuckled, Emma smiled at her and giggled too.
"You have a beautiful laugh," Emma told her softly.
This caused the woman to blush as she looked up at Emma's mask, watching the blonde's expression.
"And you have a beautiful smile."
Emma bravely slid her arm around to the woman's back and pulled her closer, closing the space between their bodies. The rest of the night went on like that, the two of them talking as Emma made her laugh.
"Who are you?" Emma whispered, her breath warm on the woman's cheek.
The brunette felt a shiver electrify her body, taking hold of her and causing her to press herself tighter against Emma. The blonde burned with curiosity, unable to believe how well they had connected. She was dying to know. How was it that this woman was able to make her smile so much, more than she had in months? Sure, she was happy - she had her son and her family back in her life - but something was missing. She was still lonely. But that space in her seemed to fill as she listened to the woman's laughter.
The woman shook her head but continued to smile.
"This is a masquerade," she pointed out. "I can't tell you."
"You could," Emma protested. "You just won't."
"Don't be pushy," she giggled, surprising Emma with her geniality . "The mystery is part of the fun."
"But I may never see you again."
The woman considered this and looked at Emma.
"That's true... But I still can't tell you."
Emma stopped dancing and averted her eyes.
"You've no interest in seeing me again, then."
"No, it's not that," the woman told her quickly. "I just... I just can't."
When she saw that Emma looked greatly disappointed, she stepped closer and took her hand, resuming the position to dance. Emma followed her lead quietly and avoided looking at her face.
"Don't be so quiet," the woman said with a tender smile.
"Alright," Emma said softly, but didn't say anything more, the distress still written on her face.
"You're upset with me."
"Yes, you are."
"I just wish this night would never end," Emma admitted quietly.
The woman stopped to raise a hand as she lifted Emma's lowered chin with a gentle finger. Before either could think further, the woman kissed her, locking their lips and holding Emma close.
"I'm sorry," the woman whispered, but Emma lowered her head again. "Smile for me?"
Emma blushed but gave a weak smile, encouraged by the softness of the woman's voice.
"Talk to me," the woman said.
At first, Emma didn't know what to say.
"What's your name?"
With a gentle shove, the woman laughed lightly and smiled at her.
"What is your favorite food?"
"Apples. Definitely apples."
"Not a bad choice. Your favorite hobby?"
"I'm terrible at riding," Emma confessed. "You should teach me."
The beautiful woman gave another smile.
"I've been riding since I was young, so I've learned it well by now."
With a nod, Emma gave her a smile as well.
"I've only just started a few months ago," she told her.
"And your hobbies?"
"Bringing criminals to justice, or the mystery of the name of a beautiful maiden. I used to be a sheriff, back where I come from. I've only just moved here recently."
"And do you enjoy this area?"
"I do, yes, but it's been a big change."
"Where did you originally grow up then?"
"That I can't say. If you get to keep a secret, so do I."
"It's curious that you'd choose that as your secret. How about your name?"
"That I won't tell you, either. Not until you tell me yours."
"Well, that's not fair, is it?"
"Oh, I think it is." Emma was quiet for a while as they continued to dance, but she stopped once more and asked with hopeful eyes, "Will you kiss me again?"
The woman obliged, kissing her softly as their masks brushed against each other and almost moved to the side to expose their faces, but the brunette straightened hers before it could do so. Emma saw this and sighed, her heart racing from the kiss.
"I'll think of your kiss every day from now on," Emma told her, reaching up and touching the woman's cheek.
The elegant woman looked up at her.
"As will I."
Chapter 3: Stay
It took Emma a while to think of what to say, but when she decided on the words, she surprised herself with their intimate nature. She wasn't used to having personal conversations with strangers.
"What is the most important thing in your life?" Emma asked her.
"My son, but he's... He's with his mother."
"I'm sorry," Emma said with sincerity in her eyes the woman couldn't see.
"He means more to me than anything."
"What's his name?"
Emma's mouth fell open.
"Oh, my God," she gasped, stepping away. "Regina?"
The woman ripped off her mask and stared at the blonde, who pulled off her own mask just as quickly.
They stared at each other, jaws dropped.
"Oh, my God," Emma repeated, her mouth dry and her heart frozen with shock.
"It can't be you," Regina said, gaping at her. "This can't be happening."
They both put their masks back on as Emma stepped closer and reached out her hand.
"No," Regina repeated, taking another step back.
"Tell me tonight meant nothing to you and I'll leave you alone."
"I... I..." Regina stuttered, still staring.
"Tell me," Emma pressed.
"I can't. I can't tell you that."
"Then dance with me..."
Hesitantly, Regina took Emma's hand and stepped forward. Emma pulled her closer and gently pressed their bodies together, unsure of how the woman would react and therefore nervous about Regina's response. But Regina didn't pull away. Instead, she leaned in and allowed their cheeks to brush again and they began to dance.
"Emma," Regina whispered. "I can't believe this is happening."
"Neither can I, but I'm okay with it."
Regina started to move away, but Emma pulled her back.
"How can you be okay with this?"
"Because I've never felt the way I feel tonight."
"I haven't either."
"You really do look beautiful," Emma told her, smiling as she touched the woman's cheek, turning them red.
"As do you," Regina said softly. "I don't want you to leave tonight."
"And I don't want to go."
"Then don't. Send your parents home and stay with me tonight."
Blood flooded Emma's face as she looked at Regina.
"My parents will -"
"I don't care," Regina cut in. "Stay with me."
"A minute ago you were telling me 'no.' Now you want me all night?"
Emma's blush returned.
"I didn't mean it like that," the blonde said, looking away from Regina.
The queen leaned in, her lips close to Emma's ear, and whispered, "I did."
"What changed your mind?"
Regina took her hand and pressed it against her chest, letting Emma feel her racing heartbeat.
"Don't you think it's strange that you found me, out of all the people in this room?" Regina asked.
"I didn't," Emma told her. "David did. He pointed you out from across the room."
"Are you serious?"
"I know. But I'm glad..."
"Me, too," Regina said. "I just can't believe you found me."
"Will you kiss me again?" Emma said suddenly, squeezing the queen's hand gently.
This time without hesitation, Regina pressed their lips together.
"Don't leave tonight," she begged.
Emma thought about her options - to stay or leave - and looked around the room for her parents, who were staring lovingly into each others eyes on the other side of the room.
"I can't," Emma told her. "They're... I can't."
"Forget about your parents!" Regina cried. "For once, just do what you want! Tell me what you want."
"I think... I think I want to stay."
"I do. I want to stay with you."
Emma looked down and sighed, but suddenly noticed the woman's perfectly shaped breasts, which were displayed beautifully by her dress.
"What are you looking at, Miss Swan?"
"N-Nothing!" Emma said quickly, her head snapping up as her eyes met Regina's.
"You're lying. But do you like what you see?"
"No... I mean, yes! I mean..." Emma started. "Of course I do."
Emma's heart sank as she looked back to her parents.
"Do you think I could ever be that happy one day?"
"I don't know, but I certainly hope I can be. As much as I hate your parents, I've always envied what they have together," she told Emma. "Let me bring you upstairs, to the tower."
"The tallest tower of my castle looks over the entire village beneath us, and it gives a perfect view of the stars."
Emma looked hesitant, but continued to hold the woman's hand.
"Come on," Regina said, dragging her off the dance floor, out of the room, and up three flights of stairs.
When they finally reached the top of the tower, which was surrounded by glass windows, Regina gently nudged her closer to the wall. As Emma looked out of the window, her lips parted slightly. The moonlight splashed on her face, illuminating her profile. Regina was staring.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Emma just nodded, until Regina took her hand again, standing next to her and leaning towards the window to see the view. Emma's eyes were locked on the sky, until Regina leaned in and whispered in her ear.
The blonde wasted no time turning around and cupping her face in her hands, kissing her hard on the lips. Regina's hands moved up and down her sides. Emma savored each touch as her breath quickened and became shallow. She whimpered, pressing their bodies together. The brunette lifted the skirt of Emma's dress and slipped her hand between her legs, stroking her center slowly with gentle fingers. Emma moaned, unable to keep the sound from escaping her lips. Their tongues danced together, not stopping until the booming sound of fireworks made the floor vibrate beneath their feet. They turned to look out the window once more and watched as the bright, vibrant colors filled the sky.
"You certainly know how to throw a party," Emma said softly, still trying to catch her breath.
Even though her fingers had stopped moving, Regina didn't pull her hand away. They watched the first few fireworks, until Regina moved her fingers again, using her free hand to turn Emma's face towards her as she kissed her lips. The more exasperated Emma became, the harder the brunette moved her fingers.
"Please," Emma moaned, grabbing the woman's wrist and pressing her hand closer to her core.
Regina moved her hand away, smiling as she watched her new lover squirm in agony. When she'd had enough, finally feeling pity for Emma, she pulled Emma's panties down past her thighs, letting them drop to the floor. When Regina's finger's slipped inside her, she nearly screamed with pleasure, but the sound was covered by the noise of the fireworks, which were still lighting up the sky. When the blonde was spent, Regina took her time licking her fingers clean, letting Emma watch. The sweat on Emma's brow told the queen she'd accomplished her goal of pleasing her lover.
"God, you're good at that," Emma gasped, grabbing Regina's hips and pulling her closer. "Is it my turn to please you now, my lady?"
Suddenly filled with courage, she pushed the queen to the opposite side of the room, holding her up against the wall as she slid her tongue over Regina's bottom lip. This earned a moan from the other woman, which Emma savored. The slower her tongue moved, the hotter the fire between Regina's thighs became.
"Take me," she moaned, holding up her skirt as an invitation for Emma to touch her.
"I'm going to."
Chapter 4: The Worst Thing Possible
It wasn't long before the worst thing possible happened. The door flung open and Emma's parents appeared, mouths agape as soon as they saw the scene before them.
"Oh, my God," Snow gasped, staring with shocked, wide eyes.
"Oh, shit," Emma mumbled, dropping Regina's skirt, pulling away, and covering her face with her hands.
"Get out," Regina hissed, charging the door, backing the Charmings into the doorway.
They stumbled backwards, still staring with their mouths open. Snow was directly behind Charming, and when Regina shoved the man backwards, they both nearly fell onto the stone castle floor. When she slammed the door and turned around, Emma was leaning up against the windowsill, panting.
"Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit."
"Calm down," Regina said sternly, stomping back over to Emma.
"They're going to have me assassinated."
"Why? Am I that horrible?"
"To them, you are."
"Then why did they come to my masquerade ball?"
"Honestly? I don't know. I thought it was weird too."
"I'll never be anything but the Evil Queen to anyone," Regina sighed, sitting down on the floor and leaning against the cold stone wall.
"That's not true," Emma said slowly. "You're much more than that to me."
"What, now that we've fucked?"
"No! I mean... I've always... I'm..."
The brunette looked up and stared into Emma's face, looking for the rest of the sentence.
She didn't find it.
"What?" she pressed.
"You've always been more than that, to me."
"I don't believe you," Regina said sullenly.
"Don't be broody," Emma scolded her. "Just trust me."
"Trust you how?"
"What do you mean, how?"
"How am I supposed to trust you?"
"You take a deep breath, shut your eyes, and believe that I'm telling you the truth."
"It's not that easy. I never believe anyone, because everybody lies."
"Why would I lie to you? What would I have to gain from that? If I thought you were truly evil, would I be here? Would I have done what I just did?"
There was a booming knock on the door, but the lock was frozen shut with magic.
"Shit!" Emma hissed, turning to face the door.
"Relax. They're not coming in here. They can fuck right off."
Emma had to laugh at Regina's nonchalant but defiant attitude. As embarrassed as she was, it felt good to see Regina so relaxed and unfazed by the situation. Something about the woman's attitude helped to calm Emma's nerves.
"But they're going to kill me," she protested, starting to pace around the edges of the circular room, looking up each time she passed one of the windows as the fireworks fizzled to a stop.
"Not if I have anything to do with it," Regina said defiantly.
For some reason, Emma looked surprised. It wasn't like Regina to come to her defense, or anyone's, for that matter. Really, it was more her style to defend herself, rather than others.
"What do you even care?"
"I'm not going to let anything happen to you," Regina told her, backing away from the original question.
Emma wanted to talk, to say something - anything - but she swallowed the words and sat down beside the queen. What could she say, anyway?
When Regina realized that Emma probably didn't put much stock into her previous declaration, she spoke again.
"I mean that."
Emma raised her eyes, but didn't look at Regina. She stared at the wall.
"Emma, please," Regina said softly, reaching over and bravely touching the woman's hand.
"What?" Emma asked, still refusing to meet the queen's gaze.
"Please believe me."
There was a touch of desperation in her voice that made Emma shut her eyes and suck in a breath. She tried hard to believe the words, but found herself unable. Again, she said nothing. There was another knock at the door.
"Oh, fuck it," Regina sighed with frustration.
She stomped over to the door, threw it open, and stared at the unhappy couple, noting that Charming's sword was drawn. Quicker than he could swing the steel, she froze his extended hand with magic and watched as his eyes went wide in shock and he struggled against the force. Snow lunged at the woman, but was also put in paralysis by the same magic Regina used to still her husband's hand.
"Get away from my daughter!" Snow screamed, but Regina just laughed.
"Oh, quiet down, Mommy. I'm not going to hurt your precious little princess."
Then, something strange happened. As charming looked into the face of his darling daughter, he saw desperation in her face. Taking in a deep breath, he relaxed his muscles and watched as the girl stepped closer. She was apprehensive, but she approached anyway, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Regina. At first, they both went quiet, but then Emma decided to speak.
"You can't control me anymore. I'm an adult, and I'll make my own choices. And... And..."
"And what?" Snow screamed, still fighting against the magic that bound her.
Emma looked from her parents to Regina and bit her lip.
"Look," she started. "You said you wanted me to find the one. You said you wanted me to settle down."
She paused and sighed. Snow was rendered speechless.
"David," Emma continued, "of all the people you could have pointed me to, you found her."
David, too, was speechless, and Emma went quiet. Regina said nothing and waited. Waited and waited.
Then, finally, Emma confessed boldly, "She's the one I want."
Snow's mouth dropped open, and when Regina saw that they were practically frozen by Emma's words alone, she dropped the spell, causing Charming to drop his hand and his sword to his side.
"Then be with her," Charming said to Emma.
Snow's eyes went wide with shock.
"Surely, you can't be serious!" she shrieked, glowering at her husband.
"Quite serious," he retorted.
"Not her, Emma," Snow begged. "Anyone but her."
"Snow," Charming interjected. "If this is what she wants - if this is who she loves - why should we keep them apart? There were plenty of people who tried to keep us apart, too, and they were wrong. I couldn't possibly love you more. We have a beautiful daughter together. She's grown up strong and independent. Everything worked out."
Snow had to concede. After all, the opposition to their own marriage had been great. It hadn't been easy. Though Regina was the last person she wanted to see making love to her daughter, there was nothing she could do to stand in the way. Like standing on train tracks, trying to bring a train to a halt, she was helpless to stop it.
"Maybe," Charming continued, "this was meant to be. I found her from across the room, after all. I could have picked anyone, but I didn't. Not even knowing who it was, I found Regina."
Again, Snow couldn't protest. Now, Emma's mouth was agape as she watched her father defend her controversial choices. Was this really happening? Regina, too, was in shock, her hands hanging at her sides as her palms began to sweat. Suddenly, she wasn't so relaxed. As Snow moved away and turned her back on them, Regina grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back around so that she was facing them.
"I'm not going to hurt her," Regina promised.
For a moment, Snow thought she could see tears welling up in the woman's dark eyes. David thought he saw them too. Emma simply stood, staring back and forth between the three of them. Again, Snow turned and walked away, and this time, Regina let her. Emma's father stayed, suddenly scowling at the queen as the woman watched his wife walk away.
"If you do," he warned, "I'll make you very, very sorry."
With that, he followed his wife down the corridor and left the two of them alone. The women looked at each other in disbelief.
Chapter 5: Yours
"I can't believe that just happened," Emma breathed, sitting back down on the floor and leaning up against the wall.
"Me either," Regina replied, staring across the room towards an open window. Then, suddenly, she continued, "This is really what you want? You really want to try this?"
"More... I mean...," Emma stammered. "More than I want to breathe."
Regina's mouth fell open, but she managed to say, "Me too."
The conversation that followed was slow, both of them nervous to say the wrong thing. Emma was afraid to set off the queen, not wanting to ruin the precious moments they'd shared that night.
"How is our son?" Regina asked softly, after a few other conversational points had been discussed.
"He wanted to come tonight. I told him no."
"Good," Regina said with a smile. "This really is an adult's party."
Emma barely saw it, but the woman winked.
"How is he otherwise?" Regina asked.
"I don't know if he likes it here. I think he has fun, but I know that he misses you. He doesn't say so - I think he knows it hurts me to see him sad - but I know it's true."
"I bet he's getting big," Regina said sullenly, sulking.
"He's grown three inches this year."
"Wow. That's incredible."
Regina shut her eyes, picturing the memories she'd shared with the young boy.
Snapping the woman out of her trance, Emma asked, "But what about you? How have things been here? Um... How is ruling the kingdom?"
The queen sighed, lowering her head.
"I've been so alone," she choked. "To be honest, I've missed seeing you. Seeing your face. Your smile. Even your audacious scowl."
"I mean it," Regina snapped. "Don't laugh."
The blonde placed a hand on the woman's shoulder.
"I thought of you too, Regina."
Interrupting their heartfelt discussion, a knock resonated throughout the empty room, causing Regina to huff impatiently and she rose to her feet.
"What?" she barked, throwing the door open once more.
It was Charming.
"Emma," he said, "Your mother and I are leaving. Are you coming with us?"
But he knew the answer. He knew what it was like to ache upon leaving someone. Emma looked to Regina, who had hope sparkling in her eyes, then back to her father, shaking her head.
"I'm staying with Regina. I'll be home tomorrow. Tell Henry I love him and I'll see him soon."
"And what should I tell him is the reason for your delayed return?"
He looked concerned, but Emma stayed firm in her conviction.
"You can tell him I'm with his mother."
At first, Charming looked like he was about to say something, but decided against making commentary.
Instead, he simply said, "I love you, Emma," and embraced her.
Once he was gone, Regina turned to Emma and asked, "You're not ashamed of this?"
"I would never keep something like this from our son. He deserves to know, and no, I'm not ashamed."
"You should be," the queen mumbled, quietly enough that Emma didn't hear her. After a while of silence, Regina said, "Let's go to my bedchambers and get some rest. Or a little physical exertion."
She was grinning, but Emma was blushing.
"Oh...Okay," she mumbled, standing up.
When the queen didn't stand with her, she extended her hand and asked, "You coming?"
With a smirk, the woman answered, "Not yet." Once they'd reached the queen's bedchambers, the woman shoved Emma back onto the bed, whispered, "Lets finish this," and straddled Emma's hips.
They made love four times before the sun rose, and obviously got very little sleep. In the morning, Regina was gone. At first, Emma panicked, wondering if it had all been some horribly cruel dream - at least until Regina appeared in the doorway with a tray full of hot breakfast.
"Good morning, Princess," she cooed, sitting down beside Emma on the bed and resting the tray on the blonde's lap.
It was only when Emma noticed the two glasses of juice on the platter that she realized just how dry her mouth had become. Hesitantly, she reached out, taking the glass carefully, and took a sip, sighing with relief once the liquid had gone down.
"Thank you so much," Emma breathed, looking up at her new lover, who was smiling brightly at her. "I never thought I'd wake up like this."
"Nor did I," the queen admitted, still smiling. "But I'm glad for it."
Emma leaned in and placed a shy, soft kiss on the woman's warm cheek.
"Thank you again."
Shaking her head, Regina leaned in and kissed Emma's forehead.
"You don't have to thank me," she said. "You deserve this."
"No one's ever done anything like this for me before."
"Get used to it," the queen smiled. "You're a princess, after all. You should be treated like royalty."
"I don't even know what that means."
"It means someone should be waiting on you at all times, catering to your every whim."
Something about this made Emma uneasy, and she looked away.
"What is it?" Regina asked, touching the woman's shoulder.
"I don't want that. I can take care of myself."
"But you shouldn't have to," the queen protested, her back straightening.
"I want to."
"Can't you just let me treat you like the princess you are?"
"Stop saying that!" Emma snapped. "I'm not a princess."
"By blood, you are."
"But not in my heart. That's not me."
"It can be."
Emma shook her head vigorously, pushing the tray of food away.
"Rule with me," Regina said softly, looking at Emma with gentle eyes.
This caught Emma by surprise, never having seen this expression before. It was strange. Again, she felt uneasy. Something wasn't right.
"Don't be ridiculous."
Regina's face became stoic as she looked at the princess sitting up in her bed.
"How would that even work, anyway? Two queens? How the Hell do you think that would go over?"
"I don't give a shit," Regina said harshly. "I want you by my side. I never realized it before last night. I mean, I thought about... I thought about you, but I never thought... I never imagined..."
"I didn't either," Emma told her, finally meeting her gaze.
Finally, Regina admitted, "I can't do this by myself. Now that I've tasted you, I can't possibly get enough. I can't lose you. Not now that I've had you."
"Who says you have me?" Emma teased, letting a smirk play across her lips.
At first, Regina looked offended, but, realizing that it was a joke, she smiled back.
"I'm kidding," Emma clarified. "You do have me."
"Then don't be afraid. Fight your fear and join me on the throne."
"Isn't this moving a little bit fast?" Emma asked, swallowing hard as her nerves took over.
"After last night, I've never been more sure about anything in my life, except knowing that I love Henry more than anything."
"I'm not... I mean... I..."
Regina lowered her head and sighed, "You're not sure. I'm sorry. I thought... I don't know what I thought. I'm being foolish. Of course we can't do this. You're..."
"I'm what?" Emma pressed, the intensity of her gaze increasing.
"You're too good for me. I'm evil. You know that's why I wanted you to take care of Henry. I'm the villain, and villains don't get happy endings."
She looked as if she might cry, so Emma lifted her chin and stared into her eyes.
"You. Are not. A villain."
"Of course I am. Emma, don't you see? That's all I'll ever be. That's all I can be."
"That's not true. You can be anything, Regina. Anything at all. You just have to choose it. Now, tell me. What do you choose to be?"
There was a pause before Regina said, "Yours."
Chapter 6: Home, But Not Home
Emma hadn't brought a change of clothes. Of course, she hadn't been prepared to stay. That being the case, Regina insisted on loaning her one of her finest dresses. This Emma declined vehemently.
"Absolutely not," she asserted, crossing her arms as she glared at the woman before her.
"Fine. This one then."
Regina pouted and held out a simpler, but no less elegant, dress.
"What's wrong with that one?!"
"Then put the goddamn thing on!"
"No!" Emma shouted, stomping to the other side of the room, arms still crossed defiantly.
"I swear, Emma Swan, I will crush you and destroy your happiness if you do not put on that fucking dress on."
Startled but no more willing to cooperate, Emma turned on her heels to face the wall.
"Fine," Regina said, her voice suddenly smooth and seductive. "We'll do this my way, then."
She approached the blonde slowly, then slid her hands down Emma's back, stopping at her waist. Goosebumps rose on Emma's arms, and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. But Regina didn't stop there. Slipping her hand between Emma's legs, she stroked the woman's center and waited for a reaction, which she got very quickly.
"There now," Regina said softly. "If you want me to finish, you'll put that dress on."
Emma whimpered and braced herself against the wall as Regina pressed their bodies together from behind.
"Do it," the queen instructed, her voice quiet but firm.
Emma nodded her head, whimpering again and turning around so she was facing the queen. Regina pushed her towards the closet and waited as Emma's shaking hands pulled the dress on.
"Oh, God," Regina breathed. "You look..."
"You look perfect, Emma."
"I look silly, just like last night."
"You're a beautiful woman, Emma Swan."
With a sigh, Emma mumbled a quiet, "Thank you," and turned her back on the queen, forgetting all about the sensual moment that had passed between them.
This was, of course, frustrating for Regina, who approached the woman and tried her trick again. This earned quite the reaction from Emma, whose lips permitted the passing of a tortured moan.
"That's it," the queen whispered. "Moan for me."
The teasing went on for what seemed like forever, and by the time Regina pushed two fingers inside, Emma was screaming. When the blonde woman finally came, the queen felt oddly self-conscious.
"Was that... okay?" she asked, her hands starting to shake as she hovered above the panting princess.
"Again," Emma begged, wrapping her hand around the back of the woman's neck and pulling her into a desperate, passionate kiss.
The queen, smiling at last, complied with the request. By the time they'd both finished, it was well past noon.
"Oh, shit," Emma gasped, groping for the pocket watch her father had given her. "Henry."
Both women scrambled to their feet, hurrying to clothe themselves again.
"Come with me," Emma said quickly as she zipped the dress closed.
The queen shook her head.
"Your parents wouldn't have me in their home."
"It's not just their home, Regina. Come with me."
Hesitating at first, the queen conceded and gathered more clothes, which she packed in an elegant silk bag.
"Come on," Emma urged her, looking at the watch again before stowing it away.
"Do you think he'll be happy to see me?" Regina asked, not moving an inch.
"Of course, Regina. Come on. It's a long ride, and he's going to wonder where I am. We've got to go."
"Alright, alright," Regina said anxiously, gathering the rest of her things and following Emma all the way out of the castle and heading towards the stable.
Once they'd reached it, Emma quickly untied her horse and mounted it, then waited for Regina to do the same. When they were both ready, they both took off and nearly raced back to the Charming residence. They arrived a few hours later, both of them exhausted from riding, but as Emma slid off her horse, Regina didn't do the same. She looked around apprehensively, examining her surroundings.
"They're going to slit my throat while I sleep," the queen muttered, finally dismounting and standing beside her new lover.
"I thought you weren't scared of them?"
"It's different in their own house!"
"I won't let them hurt you," Emma promised, giving the woman an encouraging smile. "Now, come on. Let's go inside and see our son."
Inside, the Charmings looked up, all smiling, expecting to see only Emma. When their eyes fell on Regina, their smiles were wiped clean, except for Henry's. Tossing his book to the side, jumping up from his seat in a comfortable chair, he ran over to his mother and threw his arms around her.
"Mom!" he screamed. "I thought... I thought..."
"Baby boy," Regina whispered, kneeling in front of him and returning his embrace. Then, knowing full well what he was thinking, she continued, "I only wanted to give you your best chance."
Emma's eyes widened at this, but she said nothing. The Charmings were also in shock, but after a moment or two, Emma's father began to smile, seeing just how thrilled the boy was to be reunited with his adoptive mother and noting just how tender the woman's expression was. By the time the hug was over, Regina's eyes had lifted and fallen between Snow and Charming, watching the difference in their expressions. When Charming saw his wife's, he frowned, then looked back to Regina.
"You're welcome here, Regina," he told her, causing his wife's jaw to drop in disbelief. "No one's going to hurt you."
"I... I'm... Thank you," she managed, casting her gaze to the ground as her son finally pulled away and went over to his other mother and embraced her as well.
Dinner was far from expected. Charming's behavior continued to be warm and welcoming - which was strange - and Snow's continued to be cold and suspicious - which was not strange. Finally, after a few of Snow's snide remarks, Charming snapped.
"That's enough," he bellowed, his voice sounding very out of character. "Leave her alone, Snow."
Regina raised her eyes from her plate and stared at the two of them. They were glaring at each other. When she looked over at Emma, the girl's eyes were wide. They waited for Snow's come-back, but it didn't come. The woman stayed silent and began to pick at her food once more. Charming said nothing else and returned to his food as well, signaling the other two women to do the same. After the meal, it was Henry's bedtime, and so the women walked him to his room and each took a seat on either side of his bed.
"I don't want to go to bed," he whined, looking at his adoptive mother. "You're finally home."
This isn't home for me, Henry, Regina wanted to say, but she couldn't bring herself to protest. Besides, somehow, being with Emma did feel like home, even if the woman's mother had made her feel incredibly uncomfortable and unwelcome. At least the woman's father was supportive, which was more than Regina ever could have hoped for. Emma, too, was grateful for this. When both women shook their heads at Henry and began to tuck him into the covers, he wiggled free and sat up.
"Story," he demanded. "At least read me a story."
"Aren't you a little old for that, kid?" Emma asked with a laugh. "You can read, you know."
"I know," he fussed, "but I want you to read to me."
The women looked at each other, and each one of them sighed simultaneously. Regina waited until Emma nodded to say anything.
"Alright, honey," she said, looking toward the gigantic bookshelf beside the boy's bed. "What do you want us to read?"
"I don't care," he answered. "Just pick one."
With a shrug, Emma got up and shut her eyes, then stuck out her hand, her index finger pointing towards the mountain of books. When she opened her eyes, she grabbed the one her finger was pointing to and handed it to Regina.
"Go ahead," she said, going back around to sit on the other side of the bed.
When the woman started to read, Henry finally shut his eyes.
Chapter 7: Safe Here
That night, when the two of them lay curled up in each other's arms, Emma whispered, "He loves you, you know. Really, really loves you. And what you did tonight was beautiful."
After some hesitation, Regina asked, "How so?"
"You were just so tender and sweet to him. I've never seen you like that, except this morning."
"You're my family," Regina replied slowly. "How else should I treat you?"
"I just didn't think... I knew you loved him, I just never got to see it. You were always so angry about me that I never got to see you really interact with him. And... Well... I never thought you could... You know..."
"No... I don't."
"Love me," Emma finally said. "I knew you loved him, but I didn't think you could ever love someone like me."
"Someone like you? What does that mean?"
"I'm weak, Regina. I couldn't even protect my own son against Pan."
"Neither could I," the brunette pointed out in a low voice, then gently took her hand and stroked her lover's cheek.
"There's no point beating yourself up about it," Regina told her. "It's over. It's not going to happen again. He's safe here."
Then they heard the crash of glass breaking.
The two jumped up and stormed into the hallway, running for Henry's room. By the time they reached the door, the boy was gone.
"How could this happen?!" Emma screamed, pacing in the living room.
Regina stood and watched as the Charmings sat in chairs with their heads in their hands.
"This has Rumple written all over it," Regina finally said.
The others looked up in shock.
"You mean... Rumple took our son?" Emma pressed. "But why?"
"I don't know, Emma, but he's the only one who could pull this off."
Charming looked up fiercely, eyes ablaze, and said, "We'll get him back. We got him back from Pan, and we'll get him back from Gold."
"This can't keep happening!" Emma screamed, reaching down and flipping the coffee table in front of the couch, causing it to fly across the room, the glass cover smashing into thousands of pieces.
Then, she turned on Regina.
"You said he was fucking safe here!"
Regina's mouth hung open in shock.
"Emma, calm down. We're going to-"
"Shut up!" Emma bellowed, stomping into the kitchen and smashing dish after dish on the floor. "We're going to find my son, and we're going to find him NOW."
"Emma, don't be rash," Snow interjected, standing up and walking over to her.
When the woman put a hand on Emma's arm, the furious blonde jerked away.
"Don't fucking touch me," she snapped, storming back into the living room where she continued to pace. "I'm leaving now. If you don't want to come, fine. If you're not going to help me, stay the fuck out of my way."
Regina made her way over to her lover and put a hand on her shoulder.
Emma shook free.
"I was just going to say... I was going to say... I'm coming with you."
Blinking a few times, Emma stared at the brunette. At last, she nodded her head and turned to walk back to the bedroom where she gathered enough things to prepare her well for the journey.
"I'm coming too," Charming told them when they reappeared from the room.
Snow stood up from the couch and stomped her foot.
"Like Hell you are! You're going to get yourself killed! I need you here!"
"No, Snow, you don't. The girls need me. Henry needs me. And you need to stay here and take care of the kingdom while I'm gone. Don't you understand that? They need me."
Snow went silent, only partially understanding but unwilling to argue with her husband, who was clearly set on joining the mission. She knew how driven he was to protect his family, and could at least comprehend that much.
"Don't get hurt," she whispered, kissing him, causing both women to look away instantly.
When they heard the sound of lips separating, they turned back around and watched as Charming gathered his things too.
"You're really coming?" Emma asked, earning a nod from her father.
"I'm going to protect this family."
As they started the journey, each bringing along one bag of supplies and one horse, Emma felt a sudden sinking feeling in her stomach, which, coupled with her fury, spun her insides like a ferris wheel and caused her to lean to the side and gag.
"Emma!" Regina cried, jerking her horse to a stop. "Are you alright?"
"What if we don't find him?" Emma sobbed. "What if I can't save him?"
"We," Regina said, "will save him."
After a few more minutes of riding, having mostly collected herself, Emma asked, "So how do we find him? How do you know where we're going?"
"I just know where he'll be," Regina answered confidently. "I know him."
"Fine," Emma said. "Then where?"
"There's a spot in the forest where he likes to spend his time, when he wants to be alone. He brought me there when I was young to train me to use my magic. He's never told anyone else about it, to my knowledge."
"But how do you know he'll be there?"
"Because that's where he keeps his darkest magic," the queen told the woman hesitantly.
Emma opened her mouth, but found it dry and unable to make sound.
"Emma," Regina sighed. "We'll find him. We'll get him back."
"Don't worry, honey," Charming chimed in. "Everything's going to be okay. Together, we'll-"
"Stop it!" Emma snapped, wanting to scream but refusing to do so.
"Emma, please," Regina begged, looking over at her. "It's going to be fine."
Emma silenced her outburst and rode on without words. It would be days before they reached Rumple's lair.
Chapter 8: Healing Flowers
"We have to stop," Regina announced.
"What?" Emma snapped. "Why?"
"Because it's late, and if we don't rest, we won't be fit to face him."
"That's bullshit. If you want to get left behind, fine, but I'm not stopping until he's safe."
"You're being ridiculous."
"Yes," Charming cut in. "You are. We're going to rest, and you're going to rest, too."
Suddenly, Regina leaned over, holding her stomach, and let out a soft groan.
"Regina?" Charming said. "Are you alright?"
"No..." she answered. "I'm..."
Vomit spewed from her mouth and onto the ground as she remained leaned over to the side of the horse. As soon as Charming saw this, he jumped off his own horse and reached out his hands for her.
"Come on, Regina," he said softly. "I've got you."
At first, she pulled away, covering her mouth in horror, but when more vomit threatened to expel itself, she quickly grabbed onto him and let him set her gently on the ground. As soon as she was sitting, she threw up again.
"What's wrong with her?!" Emma asked her father sharply, jumping off her own horse and kneeling beside her lover.
"I don't know, Emma," he told her, then turned to Regina. "Have you eaten anything different in the past 24 hours?"
She shook her head vigorously and vomited again.
"There's a plant out here, with red and white flowers and a very dark green stem. We should be able to find it at the base of mossy trees in this forest. It should settle her stomach and stop the vomit."
Wide-eyed as she watched her lover expel more of the contents of her stomach, Emma's mouth hung open.
"Emma!" Charming snapped. "Go! Now!"
Shaken out of her stupor, Emma grabbed one of their lamps and took off running.
"Em, wait," Regina whimpered softly as she watched her lover disappear into the thick mass of trees surrounding them.
"Shh," Charming said softly, sitting beside the woman and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "She'll be back soon, okay? She's going to get you something to make you feel better. Just-"
He was interrupted by the sound of Regina throwing up again, so he went silent and rubbed her back gently.
"Why are you... Why are you being so kind to me?" Regina finally asked, after she'd wiped her mouth on the back of her hand.
"Because you're a person, Regina," he told her, "and my daughter clearly loves you. It's in the way she looks at you. It's the same way I look at Snow."
She weakly nodded her head, but still had to fight to comprehend his words. They were quiet until Emma reappeared in the clearing of the forest, holding an armful of the brightly colored flowers and their roots.
"You didn't have to bring the whole forest, Emma," Charming said, forcing a small laugh. "But you did well. Give it here."
Emma handed the small pile of flowers to her father, who quickly used a rock to smash a few into tiny pieces.
"Bring me the water," he said to Emma.
She hurried to carry it over to him with a small wooden cup they'd carried with them. Once he took it from her, Emma knelt down beside her lover and took the woman's hand. Regina continued to expel the rest of what was in her stomach as charming soaked the plant in the glass of water, until finally, a few minutes later, he handed the glass to Regina.
"Drink this," he ordered, leaving one arm around her shoulders.
Regina hesitated, but obeyed, consuming the liquid slowly as she tried to force it to stay down. As soon as the liquid was gone from the cup, leaving only the small petals at the bottom, her face drained of color.
"Regina?" Emma asked cautiously, leaning in a little closer.
But the woman was unable to reply. This time, when she doubled over, she fell to her knees and continued to vomit.
Emma looked accusingly at her father, screaming, "You said it would make the vomiting stop!"
At this point, all that was coming out of Regina's mouth, unfortunately, was stomach bile, but she seemed unable to sit up. Still, Charming left a protective hand on the woman's back. Before the man could answer his daughter, Regina collapsed, immediately unconscious as she hit the forest floor beside her own pile of vomit.
Charming instantly collected her into her arms and wiped the dirt from her face, and only then did he look over at Emma, whose face was red with fury.
"She's having an allergic reaction, Emma."
"I... I can't... She needs to see a healer, and we're too far away from the town to turn back. She won't make the journey. Our only hope... is Rumple."
Emma pleaded with her father to allow her to hold Regina on her horse, but Charming knew that he was stronger and refused, choosing instead to keep Regina close to him.
"Emma, you hold the reins to her horse and lead him. I can't hold Regina and control a second horse at the same time."
"What if he doesn't help?" Emma asked anxiously. "And why would he?"
"He will," Charming assured his daughter. "I'll make him help."
This hushed Emma into silence as they traveled on, their horses moving at a gentle pace so as to make the ride easier on the unconscious queen.
Chapter 9: Scissors
As Regina had relayed the way to Rumple's lair to Charming, the man was able to find it with little difficulty, since he knew exactly what to look for. The small break in the thick forest beside a particularly large tree was his first sign.
"I think this is it," he announced quietly, looking over at his anxious daughter, who was staring intently at him for some kind of direction.
"Now what? We just waltz in there and demand he heal her and give us back our son?"
"Something like that," Charming mumbled, looking around the small clearing.
Hopping off the horse to explore the area, the man went silent, leaving Emma to wait impatiently for her next order. It wasn't like her to stand aside and let someone else lead, but she trusted Charming to take care of her lover, so she allowed him to be their guide.
"Here," he whispered, pointing to a pile of rocks at the base of the large tree.
"What about it? It's just rocks."
"Regina said she'd have to use her magic to open the door."
"But she's unconscious!"
"You're going to have to do it, Emma."
"But I don't know how!" she protested, whining rather like a teenager.
"Emma, do it now! We don't have time for this!"
Emma hesitated, but moved closer to the tree, looking down at the moist, mossy rocks on the ground. After a moment of silence, she reached out her hands towards the base of the tree and concentrated hard on channeling her energy into whatever magic there was there, but alas, it was no to avail.
"I can't do this," she said, exasperated.
"Yes, you can. You have to. Do it for Regina. Do it for Henry."
With the second attempt, the pile of rocks began to illuminate bright green, and each raised up into the air and separated. From the base of the tree, there was a crack that grew and spread, until a small door appeared. Assuming it was locked, Emma looked over at her father.
"What now? More magic?"
She reached for the handle and was surprised to find that it turned instantly, with no effort whatsoever.
Although he hated being incapable of drawing his weapon, Charming carried the unconscious queen inside the small entrance, ducking as he passed through the doorway and into the dark hallway.
"I guess it's bigger on the inside," Emma said quietly, looking around as she held up their lamp to light the way.
They descended down a spiraling staircase, deep into the Earth, for a long time, until finally, they reached another door.
"This is it," Charming said slowly, looking intently at Emma.
She nodded and opened the door. Neither was surprised to find Rumple sitting at his desk. There was no sign of Henry.
"Come in," he said, his voice chipper and bright. "I've been expecting you."
"Where's my son, you piece of shit?" Emma snapped, charging at the man, but her father grabbed her arm and held her back.
"No, Emma," Charming said. "We attempt talk this out first. That's who we are."
"That's who you are," she countered, turning on her father. "That's not who I am. I'm the person who's going to crush this little rat into a pile of bones and mashed up, melted flesh."
"No!" her father said sternly, refusing to release his grip on her arm.
"I hate to break up the love fest," Rumple interrupted, "but I have better things to do with my time than listen to you two bicker."
"What do you want, Rumple?" Charming asked. "What do you need for us to get Henry back?"
"I see you've brought company," the man responded, ignoring the other man's questions. "Sick, is she? Allergic reaction to a healing plant. Truly unfortunate, considering that if she's not treated, she's well on her way to a painful and agonizing death."
"Bastard!" Emma screamed, trashing in her father's grasp, but unable to break free.
"What do you want, Rumple?" Charming repeated.
"I hadn't really thought about it," he said slowly, "but now that you're all here, as a big happy family... I suppose there is one thing you could give me..."
"What?" Charming asked.
"Anything," Emma added.
"Some time ago, I made a potion from your father and mother's genetic makeup. True love's bond created a very powerful elixir."
"Yeah, so?" the blonde asked.
"So, to my great surprise, I seem to have found a bond even stronger."
"Whose?" the woman asked.
"Yours, Emma. With Regina and your son. The precious Swan-Mills family."
Mouth agape, Emma stared at the man, considering the consequences of giving in to his request.
"And what will you use it for?" Charming asked him.
"That, young man," Rumple began, "is none of your concern." Then, he turned to Emma and asked, "Do we have a deal?"
"A lock of our hair?" Emma confirmed.
"Yes. I've already taken Henry's."
"This is too easy," she said. "What are you up to? Why did you take Henry in the first place?"
"Because I knew you'd be indebted to me somehow, and that you'd be of use to me in the future. This just worked out far better than I ever could have imagined. I didn't expect you all here at once."
After hesitating, Emma finally said, "You have a deal. Heal her and give me my son back."
"As you wish," Rumple giggled, handing Emma a pair of sharp, glistening scissors.