Virtual Season 3, Episode 5

The Once Upon a Time Virtual Series
presents
Virtual Season 3
Episode 5
“Ripple Effect”

Executive Producer: Silverbluemoon
Story By: RebelByrdie and Silverbluemoon
Written By: RebelByrdie
Illustrated By: Dalliance-Amongst-The-Stars, Konako,
Napfreak, Mara-Artsy, and Love-Will-Have-Its-Sacrifices
Edited By: Silverbluemoon

Advisors and Consultants
Characterization: Rushemiiaah
Continuity and Consistency: QueenOfAllSwans
Research and Development Assistant: Archaeomedic

This series is Rated M for language, violence, drug and alcohol references, and adult situations.
It is not intended for all audiences. Please use discretion.

Publication Date: 09/26/2014

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hen he had been a little boy just learning to direct lambs with a thin twig he called his “staff”, his mother had always warned him not to wander too far away. “We wouldn’t want Peter Pan to snatch you away from us,” she would say. As he grew, the stories of Peter Pan, his Lost Boys, and Neverland became gorier, scarier tales, often told by boys to scare each other witless. They had been silly kid’s stories, or so he had thought. Then again, one of David’s friends had gone missing that very next summer, never to be seen again. Of course there had been hundreds of explanations for the boy’s (David could no longer longer remember his name) disappearance. The possibility, though, that the child  had been taken by Pan had stayed with David as he had grown, haunted him. He’d been around 12 summers when the other kid had not come home (David had been about Henry’s age, now that he thought about it), and the tragic event had struck him deeply, a stark reminder that evil was real and stalked little boys in the night.

David wiped the sweat off his forehead again. That mind numbing fear of Pan, along with nightmares filled with shadows come for him, had faded as he grew from boy to man. Neverland’s imaginary monsters had been replaced with real ones: ogres, dragons, greedy kings, evil queens, dark ones, giants, pirates, curses. Yet somehow, he had still ended up in Neverland. He could still hear his mother’s voice telling him, “If that Pan boy gets a hold of you, you’ll be gone, never to return. No little boys come back from Neverland.” He sat there, the magnitude of knowing where he was, where Henry was, weighing heavily upon him. Fresh shivers slithered up his spine. They had to rescue Henry. Henry, the sweet boy who had Snow’s chin (the exact same chin as Emma), a nose shaped like his own, and Neal’s soft smile. Henry, the little boy who had been in David’s care when he’d been taken, his grandson, was here in this godforsaken realm of nightmares. They had to get to him, and quickly.

David had always imagined he and Snow would be grandparents someday, and now they were, though not how they’d expected. In fact, much of their life had not gone as expected. He glanced over at Snow. Her short dark hair was mussed, standing up in damp tufts and spikes. Her skin, usually like porcelain, was sunburnt and peeling. Her lips were twisted in a scowl and she paced, full of restless energy. She was dressed in simple leathers, much like when they had first met. She carried the bow and quiver with the same grim determination as she had back then, her eyes flickering with same shades of fear and anger. In short, she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on. His wife, his soul mate, his True Love, his Snow. They had been walking for hours, the green and brown jungle unending and monotonous, the humidity thick, the foliage abrasive and annoying. They’d taken side trails occasionally, sometimes breaking off completely at Hook’s lead. It was nothing like the forest David had known back home, in either the Enchanted Forest or Storybrooke. Even the small clearing they were resting in seemed haunted and wrong. It was like he could feel eyes on him at all times, but it was nothing he could see. It was unnerving as hell, and it was getting to them all.

“I am not here for a ‘Save the Rainforest Charity Hike’, Pirate. If I didn’t know any better, I would say you’re going in circles on purpose so you can stare sweetly at the Savior and pass notes like a sixth grader asking if she “like-likes” you.”

Regina’s voice had erupted into the clearing, thick with her signature brand of piss and vinegar. David flinched, momentarily feeling sorry for Hook before relief washed over him. It may not have been very kind or “charming”, but he was glad not to be on the receiving end for once.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Your Majesty. By all means, please take the lead through the jungle full of deadly booby traps, murderous boys, and magic so wild it drives trespassers mad. It sounds like your sort of trek.”

Regina, David thought, was almost predictable in her rage. After so many years of sparring with her and Snow, he knew when each woman was about to lose it. And when one of these two was about to lose it, the other was usually not far—

On queue, Regina exploded again, “Excuse me? Might I remind you that you’re one of reasons that my son is—”

“Enough!” Snow stood in the middle of the clearing, fists tight at her side, lips taut, eyes flashing wildly. “Both of you STOP IT. Just stop!” She slid her bow onto her shoulder, “I have had it with the BOTH OF YOU!” Her face was flush with with anger as well as the effects of the sun. Regina turned away sharply, obviously too caught up in her own anger to care much about Snow. Then again, David thought, considering their past, perhaps she just didn’t care. Killian only curled his lip, leaned against a tree and drank from his ever-present flask.

Snow looked toward Emma, saw her rubbing her temples.

Snow set her jaw, fists still clenched. David knew his wife well and these were not good signs. Not good at all.

“I’m going back to that stream for water,” she stated tersely, barely containing her rage.

They didn’t need water, but David knew that Snow was just using that as an excuse to walk off her anger. He had made the mistake, only once, of commenting that she had inherited her father’s kindness and Regina’s temper. He now recognized and respected her when she got like this. He started to get up, to walk to her, “Would you like me to—”

But without even a glance his way, Snow replied with a curt, “No,” and stomped off into the jungle without another word. He watched her disappear into the trees.

Emma took a step forward, “Should we go after her?”

David sank into the boulder and rested his chin on his fist. His back popped when he leaned over, reminding him that he’d spent the previous night on the hard ground. He had, at least slept. Regina and Emma looked exhausted, like they hadn’t even closed their eyes. Hook was watching the jungle, his eyes darting between the shadows, hypervigilant. It made David’s stomach clench, and not for the first time, he wondered not only what Hook’s past was with this place, but what house of horrors was waiting for them. Wait. Waiting. The feeling of being watched was suddenly intense and he shifted his weight, needing to move, almost certain he’d heard actual breath on the breeze. This place was unimaginably creepy. How the World Without Magic had managed to turn Neverland into a whimsical fairytale, he would never understand.

Regina leaned against a tree, her arms wrapped around herself, her face locked in a sarcastic mask of indifference. She would have fooled him, once upon a time. Now he sees her for what she is: a woman who has lost everything and is desperate to recover her son. Magical? Yes. Evil? Probably. A Mother? Definitely.

“Did you ever tell him about this place?”

He didn’t direct the question to anyone in particular, but Regina answered all the same, “The stories from the old world? No, I didn’t want to scare him. Though he did love the Disney cartoon. We must have watched it a hundred times over the years. I never thought—” Regina shook her head and went silent.

Emma opened her mouth, but closed it without saying anything. Hook only scoffed.

David blew out a breath. Would he have told Emma the Pan tales, he wondered? Maybe? And if he had, would his little princess have been scared enough to want to sleep with her parents or would she have begged for more tales of adventure and horror?

He simply didn’t know. He sighed silently. Another question about his daughter he would never have the answer to. He glanced at Regina, but did not have the energy or desire to blame her right now, seeing as how she was dealing with the loss of her own child.

David was in over his head, he knew this. He wasn’t cut out for this life of adventure anymore. People called him Prince Charming, but he wasn’t, not really. He was a shepherd who had taken over the life, name, and title of another man, his own twin brother. He was a fake prince–turned animal shelter volunteer–turned small town deputy. He didn’t belong in Neverland. Neither did his wife, his daughter or Henry. Here they were, though, in the place of his childhood fears. They were here to save Henry. They had to save Henry. Family is everything, and after everything they’d been through, he won’t rest, can’t rest, until his family is whole and safe.

Decorative LineKI-S_cropnow White stormed through the forest, kicking vines and knocking leaves out of her way as she crashed through the underbrush. Red would have laughed at her and told her that the whole island would be able to track her. Red wasn’t with them, though, and oh how Snow wished she was. She missed her best friend. But instead of Red, Granny, Grumpy and the rest of those she trusted, her family was accompanied by the Evil Queen and a Pirate. She had to deal with Regina’s rage and Emma’s silence and Neverland and she just couldn’t. She just couldn’t take anymore right now. She was hot, sore, tired, and she smelled. She smelled like dirt, sweat, blood and jungle. She remembered long cold nights in the forest on the run from Regina. That had been so long ago, though, and she didn’t miss those days in the slightest. She really didn’t want to be in Neverland. Henry shouldn’t be in Neverland. It had all happened so fast, and she knew Regina blamed her for losing him. One moment her sweet grandson had been in her arms, and the next he had been gone, torn away from her and sent to another realm, just like Emma.

She ran her fingers through her pageboy haircut and blew a sigh. She rested for a moment, her temper slowly lifting. She paused and listened to the jungle around her, trying to remember everything Red had taught her about tracking and navigating. She took a deep breath and calmed herself, focused on her senses. Everything around her was green and brown, an endless jungle, so she closed her eyes. She didn’t have wolf senses but she could find her way. The breeze shifted and the leaves rustled and she smelled it. She smelled water. She stood for a moment and let herself smile. She hadn’t lost her sense of her direction after all.

She pushed through the trees and could hear the gentle lapping of water. She had found the stream all on her own, they didn’t really need Hook. She stopped short as she came out of the forest and onto a pebble covered shore. This was not the stream. She had found a beautiful lagoon. The sun played off the water, gleaming and reflecting blues, golds and greens. She was not alone at the tiny oasis in the middle of the Dark Jungle. Three mermaids were laughing, talking, and swimming.

Mermaids.

She smiled widely and moved closer.

The three mermaids swam upright in the crystal clear waters, talking to each other: one blonde, one brunette and one with hair the same coal black as her own. She could see their tails, long iridescent blue fish tails, swaying below the surface.

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She watched them talking from the treeline before they all began to laugh and broke away from each other. Two of them, the blonde and the brunette, began to swim in large lazy circles around the lagoon, occasionally floating. A third, the one with black hair, slipped up onto a large rock and began sunning herself. Snow felt a blush creep up her neck when she realized they were topless, breasts proudly and uncaringly displayed for all to see. She couldn’t look away though (Mermaids!), and moved closer, just as a twig snapped beneath her feet. All three mermaids whipped around to see what dared disturb them.

A word that she would have never even entertained uttering in her younger days ran through Snow’s mind. Her blush intensified, and she froze, a deer caught in the headlights. “Umm, hi,” she said, trying to casually pretend she hadn’t just been creeping these three from the treeline. She sat her bow down, leaned her quiver against a tree, and held up her hands. “I don’t mean any harm. I just want to sit by the water, drink a little. . .  and maybe talk?”

The blonde rolled over in the water, tail beating rhythmically just beneath the surface. Her arms waved in the water to keep her buoyant, and her long blonde hair slicked over one shoulder, partially covering her nudity (though Snow doubted that was on purpose). The mesmerizing creature raised a light colored brow and shrugged, as if she didn’t really care one way or the other. It was all that Snow needed. She slowly came forward and sat on the pebbled beach. She tugged her boots off her feet, wiggled her toes and pushed her pants legs up to her knees. She stretched her legs out into the water. There was only about a foot of shallow water before the lagoon darkened, became deeper. The water was cool on her sore feet and Snow purred, feeling the tension lifting for the first time since Regina’s tear dropped into her eye.

She watched the mermaids and could not help but remember the last time she had seen a mermaid, Ariel—

She had travelled this road before. Her father had brought her to the Kingdom by the Sea a few years before he hadbefore Regina hadwell, before, just before. She was alone, having put leagues and leagues of forest and plains between herself and Regina. Between herself and Charming. It hurt to think of him; she bit her lip and continued walking. Some time by the sea, away from Regina’s traitorous Dark Knights, from running and hiding all the time, would do her some good. She had to think, to plan and to recover. The water, her father had often told her, was just as good for the mind as it was the heart. She could smell the salt before she could see the shore. She sped up, her feet kicking up dust as she jogged. The hunter’s trail she’d been following (the main road had been too dangerous for her to travel), came to an end where the trees thinned out. She could hear the sea now, waves rolling in. When she finally saw the open ocean, she felt her heart speed up. It was so beautiful and vast, never ending, awe-inspiring, both dependable and mysterious. The sea, to Snow, was just like love.

She pushed back her cloak, doubting anyone would recognize her this far from home. Here she was not a princess, just another traveler. The sea breeze tugged at her long curls and she could hear seagulls calling cheerfully to each other. She pulled off her boots and pushed her trouser legs up as far as they could go. At the moment, she justified, she was not a princess and therefore did not have to worry about being inappropriate. She carried her boots and felt the damp sand between her toes. It was heavenly.

“I’ve met one of your kind before, you know. A long time ago.” Snow said, feeling braver and scooting her bottom closer to the edge. The water felt so good on her tired legs!

The brunette mermaid, a sea shell adorning her long locks, spoke. “Oh? We don’t usually associate with—” Her eyes lingered on Snow’s pale legs floating in the water, “Humans.” The word came out of the mermaid’s mouth with a sneer.

“Well this one did. We found each other when we both needed a friend more than anything.” Snow cocked her head to the side, “But I think that’s how it works, really. A friend is always there when you need it, whether they know you yet or not.”

Snow wandered down the beach until she found an outcropping of boulders jutting out into the sea. She rested her quiver and bow inches away from her hand, an arrow out and ready to be nocked and released at moment’s notice. Yes, she was far from home, but she had no idea how far Regina’s cronies had spread the thrice-damned wanted posters.

She sighed and settled on one of the rocks, not wanting to think about all of that right now. Her feet dangled down into the tug and pull of the ocean’s waters and she willed herself to have a blank, calm mind. She let her back relax slowly, then her shoulders, then allowed her head to fall back towards the sky. The sun, the sand, the seait would have been the perfect escape had Charming been sitting beside her. A familiar pain went through her chest and tears gathered in her eyes. Charming.

Her train of thought, bittersweet and fraught with as much pleasure as pain, was abruptly cut off by a loud splash and gasp for breath. Her bow was immediately in her hand, arrow locked and loaded, as she jumped down into the knee-deep water, ready for anything. Well, anything but what greeted her.

A woman stumbled out of the surf, completely naked, her long red hair slicked over her shoulders, barely covering her breasts.

“Oh!” Snow exclaimed in surprise and lowered her bow, the woman before her obviously unarmed. Snow immediately looked away from the other woman’s nudity. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was here.”

She didn’t hear the soft footsteps in the sand, but soon felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to find that her new companion (still naked!) had come closer.

Snow scanned the beach and upon seeing no discarded clothing, realized the woman wasn’t naked on purpose. “Oh! You don’t have any” She quickly removed her cloak so the woman could cover up. The redhead took the garment in her hands, and seemed confused for a moment, but then donned it, wrapping it around herself, and smiled. Her smile was infectious; Snow couldn’t help but mirror it.

“My name is Mary Margaret.” It had become a long-standing joke between her and Red, ever since she’d finally shared her true identity with her. Red had, of course, teased Snow mercilessly with it over the years, and it was, ironically, the only name her tongue could find at the moment.

The redhead opened her mouth, as if to speak, but then closed it without making a sound. She scowled before placing her fingertips to her lips and shaking her head. It took Snow a moment to decipher her meaning.

“You’re mute?”

The redhead nodded.

Snow looked around and formed an idea. Ariel (Snow had learned the other woman’s name first), had quite a story to tell, and she used one of Snow’s arrows to sketch it out in the wet sand. Snow’s heart fluttered. Ariel had traded her voice for three days as a human so she could be with her Prince, her True Love. How romantic. Three days to find Happily Ever After.

“How could I resist?” Snow smiled, speaking once again to the mermaids in front of her her. “I had only three days to help True Love find a way. It reminded me of how powerful a heart can be. How brave a person in love can be. She was so amazing. She reminded me that you have to fight for love. I had to leave just before the end of the third day, though.”

She had coached Ariel all she could. The Dark Knights had already arrived in town nearby and that meant Regina was in the area, hot on her heels as always. Snow refused to put innocent people, innocent lovers, at risk. They didn’t deserve the Evil Queen’s wrath. No one did. Regina’s vendetta had already torn apart one kingdom (her Father’s kingdom, the kingdom that should be hers)! She hugged Ariel just before the woman set out for a romantic picnic and row through a secluded lagoon with Eric. “You can do it. All he has to do is kiss the girl.” Snow said, smiling warmly at the redhead. “You’ll be singing again long before sun down.”

“She was a good friend,” Snow stated wistfully, those few days vibrant in her mind’s eye.

The mermaid whose hair was flaxen blonde, only flipped her tail, “Our people don’t become friends with your kind.”

Snow chuckled, “Well she did. I taught her, literally, how to walk on two feet, and she reminded me that True Love really does triumph over all.”

Another mermaid, the brunette, swam over. “What’s a woman doing in Neverland?” she asked the other, her voice full of suspicion.

The blonde turned, her face set in a scowl, “She says she’s friends with one of us.”

Snow rolled her eyes, why did they think she would lie about something so trivial? “Well it’s certainly been a few years, but Ariel and I were really good friends.”

Three heads snapped up and to look at her. The third mermaid slid off the rock and quickly joined them. “Did you just say Ariel?”

Snow grinned, “You know her! How is she? It’s been so long!”

“You are friends with that traitor?” The black mermaid’s voice held anger and outrage.

Snow’s jaw dropped at the accusation, confused and upset. “A traitor? No, no, not at all! Ariel became human for love! She was kind and brave and sweet, not a traitor!”

For a moment, Snow started to relax, thinking they had understood. Without warning, a cool hand wrapped around her ankle and jerked her into the water, hard.

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KI-E_cropmma Swan was done. She was so so so done. She was done with magic, with fairytales, with adventures, and she was totally and completely done with freaking Neverland. She was over waiting, planning and plotting. She was done with hacking her way through the jungle like the love child of Lara Croft and Indiana Jones. She was done with everything. She wanted Henry back, safe and sound, and she wanted to go home. Home, scarily enough, now meant Storybrooke. The messed up fairytale town by the sea where she was the Sheriff who rescued cats from trees and excelled at pissing off the mayor. 

She knew she wasn’t the only one. They were all a little (well a lot), stressed. Regina hadn’t even sat down. Emma watched as the other woman paced, her face a thundercloud waiting to dump lightning and misery on any convenient target. David was brooding. Seriously, he had moved to a log and looked like the most doom-and-gloom version of the thinking dude statue ever.

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Personally, Emma felt like she was about to explode, and Mary Margaret had thrown a tantrum and stormed off. The only calm person seemed to be Hook, and she was reasonably sure he was half drunk. He’d been drinking out of his back-up flask all morning. He had a back-up flask, she mused. Who thought that one up? A back-up flask. She shook her head, partly in amusement, partly in judgement. He was like a walking replica of Johnny Depp’s character from the Pirate movies, guy-liner and rum obsession totally intact. If she had to be stuck with a Depp character all day, she would have voted for the guy from 21 Jump Street. Not that it mattered, though, because she didn’t get a say in how crazy her life was, apparently.

She stood up, unnecessarily brushing the dust and debris off of her already dirty jeans, “Okay, break time is over. Where’s Mary Margaret?” Because if she acknowledged that she was in freaking Neverland with freaking Snow White and Prince Charming, she just might go all the way to crazytown.

Hook shrugged one shoulder, “Stream is about five minutes back that way.” He gestured towards the trees with his hook.

David frowned at that, pointing in the opposite direction. “But she went that way.”

Hook blew out a sigh, and looked up at the tree tops like he was asking whatever god pirates pray to for strength, or maybe more rum. “Well why did she go that WA—” He had begun to roll his eyes, but stopped mid-snark, looked around, then looked around again.  Emma was startled to see he looked terrified. Then he drew his sword, his voice urgent, “We need to go fetch her—now.”

He set off at a jogger’s pace through the jungle, David hot on his heels. Emma sighed and started to move, wondering what they could possibly be in for now, and glanced at Regina; the other woman only motioned her to go ahead.

It didn’t take long to reach their destination (a little lake or pond?), but when they did, Emma’s jaw dropped. She actually lost her grip on her sword and it fell, clanging loudly on the pebbles below.

“Are those fucking mermaids?” Long blue tails (fish tails!), attached to female (naked female!), upper bodies were in the water in front of her. She simply could not compute.

Regina stood beside her, “Yes, and they appear to be killing Snow White.” Emma thought she sounded rather amused by the whole situation.

“Snow!” David called out, his voice echoing through the clearing as he lunged forward and leapt into the lagoon (it was THE Mermaid Lagoon from the movies, Emma was pretty sure), right into the the middle of the fight.

Hook cursed, Regina smirked and Emma watched in utter disbelief as human and mermaid bodies thrashed and fought in the water. She saw flashes of metal, too many to be just David’s sword. The mermaids had weapons.

“Wait—they have knives? The mermaids have knives? What is this, Disney After Dark?”

Decorative LineKI-T_crophe water was startlingly clear. Snow’s eyes were wide open as she fought to keep air in her lungs while the mermaids attacked her.

She didn’t even have a dagger because she had foolishly placed it in her boot—the same boot that was now on the shore along with her arrows. The mermaids held her down with their hands and tails, taunting her, drowning her. Their long hair floated around them, obscuring her vision in waves of yellow, brown and ink black. Her chest burned and no matter how hard she kicked and fought, she couldn’t seem to reach the surface.

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The water was rough and choppy from their fighting but soon David’s face appeared only inches from hers. For a moment she was so relieved, she opened her mouth to ask if it was really him. It was a mistake, what little air she had left escaping in bubbles. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, his legs kicking out at the mermaids and knocking them back, freeing her. They both kicked furiously and when her head broke the surface, she gulped in air, gasping. She treaded water for about thirty seconds before a pair of arms wrapped around her shins and dragged her back under.

It came to her in flashes. Tails. Snarling faces. Gleaming steel in the water. Blood. Not hers.

She buried her elbow in a stomach and freed herself. She struggled back to the surface and looked around frantically. She couldn’t see David anywhere.

She dove back under the surface, desperate to find her husband. She swam to her a left a bit and saw David being held captive by the blonde. The brunette had a knife and blood was spilling into the water from David’s side. His sword had fallen from his hand. She dove for it, her hand wrapping around it just as the third mermaid hit her with a full-body, underwater tackle. She struggled but knew that even with the sword, which was ungainly and clumsy in the water, she was at a distinct disadvantage. She looked over at Charming through the few feet of water that separated them (it might as well have been miles!) and wondered if this was how their love story really ended.

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KI-R_cropegina watched the Two Idiots thrash in the water with the mermaids. She gave Emma a hard look; she did NOT need yet another Charming leaping into the water. Emma was standing agape at the scene, had even dropped her sword. Apparently even Saviors had their limit of profound experiences.

Evil Queens certainly had a limit as well, and she was far past her own.

“This is not Sea World and we do not have time for a ‘Swimming with the Dolphins Experience’. Idiots.”

She stepped to the water’s edge and felt the magic rise within her. It was far weaker than usual, a campfire compared to the usual forest fire of her power. It was enough, though, to take care of a few pathetic excuses for sashimi.

The magic crackled and popped in her body and then into the air, gathering around her like a powerful electric charge, feeding off of her frustration, anger and though she wishes she could deny it, fear. She focused on what she wanted to do and then twisted her hands to emphasize and direct the energy.

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Everything in the water stopped. The magic left her in a rush, feeling momentarily amazing. All magic came with a price, but that price always came afterwards; in the moment, magic felt like the most potent drug, better than any alcohol or nicotine buzz, better than sex. Her body hummed with it, her mind momentarily serene. The lagoon was frozen in time, a difficult spell to maintain for very long. The drops of water and waves, ripples and spray had all frozen in place. Everything was static which was why when she stepped forward, her foot did not sink into the water. She walked across it. She walked out onto the lagoon, the water along a thin path just as solid as concrete beneath her boots. She hadn’t wanted to teleport the Charmings, because in the fray she couldn’t see them, and that’s when accidents happened. As much as she disliked the Charmings, they didn’t have time to deal with a traumatic amputation or brain damage at the moment.  Though considering who she was dealing with, brain damage didn’t exactly worry her. She reached into the more malleable water around the pathway and tugged on a shirt. She fished Snow out and when the woman (frozen solid but for her eyes), was in her grasp, she used her magic to pull her into the air and send her back to shore. Snow landed with a none-too-gentle thud on the beach. Regina reached back into the water, having to reach farther for David and untangle him from his captors, but soon had him freed and repeated the process.

She could feel the spell weakening and the water growing less solid under her feet. The mermaids, nude bodies frozen in the water like a fantasy painting, were twitching and slowly starting to fight off her magic. She started walking, because a Queen did not run like a coward, back to shore. The water now bent under her feet, like a semi-solid pudding. She was sinking in, but it was slow, controllable.

Regina was in control and that was exactly how she liked it. She let a triumphant smirk take over her face as she stepped onto the beach, no worse for the wear. The spell faded away and broke completely only a moment later.

She turned to watch the mermaids come back to themselves. They turned around in the water, confused and enraged.

“Witch!” the blonde mermaid hissed at her. Regina only raised a brow.

Another, the one with hair as dark as her own, reared back and threw a dagger at her. It flew through the air with surprising accuracy. It was not the first or, she assumed, the last time someone would throw something at her. She waited until it was inches from her face before making it poof into violet smoke using a lazy wave of her hand. Amateur magic, really. Now, though, she was angry. They had attacked her. To attack the Dimwitted Duo was one thing, they did bring it on themselves ninety-nine times out of one hundred. She, however, was a Queen and didn’t take assault lightly.

She pulled the mermaid to shore with a twist of her wrist. The purple smoke brought the mermaid far away from the water and her sisters. She flopped and flapped on the rock-strewn beach like a codfish. Her black hair was a heavy sodden mess and her nudity was less exotic in this state. Now her teasing display of flesh was a vulnerability. Regina stood over her, her magic flowing through her like the most potent methamphetamine. She flicked her fingers and an image of Henry floated in the air two feet in front of the mermaid’s face. She hadn’t had the chance to interrogate a Lost Boy about her son’s whereabouts, so the fish would have to do.

“My son. His name is Henry. Have you seen him?”

The mermaid lunged at her, and Regina stepped back out of harm’s way, but needn’t bothered. Emma, her wits and her sword recovered, all but tackled the mermaid from behind, pulling the slimy half-human against her, holding the sword to her throat.

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“We’ll ask again. Have. You. Seen. Him?” Emma spat out, gritting her teeth, her words harsh, staccato, and dripping with anger.

The mermaid scowled but stopped struggling, “He’s at the bottom of the lagoon rotting away with the other dry-land trash that dare bother my sisters and me.”

Something inside of Regina, in her dark heart and tattered soul, snapped. The filthy sea-bitch dared to taunt her. She dared to speak about Henry in such a way. Her anger built in her head and chest, pounding against bone and flesh to be let out, to be sated.

Her eyes caught Emma’s and she found the same sort of rage burning in the Savior’s green eyes. It seemed that she and Emma Swan were finally in-sync about one thing.

The blonde pressed the sharp edge of her sword against the mermaid’s pale throat harder, slicing a long, shallow cut into pale flesh.

The fish (Regina reserved a special hatred for the creatures of the sea), was lying of course. Henry wasn’t at the bottom of the lagoon, she was certain. But it didn’t really matter, not anymore. These three had royally pissed her off, pun intended. Someone, something had to pay. Someone had to suffer her wrath. Her son was missing and she wanted him back. She wanted revenge, she wanted others to feel her pain, and wanted it all paid in full with their blood.

“Is it true what they say? That if a mermaid dies on land, her soul can’t return to the sea? How far on land do you have to be, you think? How much of your blood has to touch the ground to curse you to eternal torment?”

The darkness inside Regina swelled and she felt the desire for violence and gore that she usually kept so tightly contained, flare up again.

“Because if my baby—” The floating image of Henry had faded away but she knew the mermaid could still see him in her mind’s eye, “—is really dead. I—”she cut her eyes to Emma’s again and the blonde nodded, her face twisted in a snarl of rage, “—we will burn this wretched island to the ground and dance on its ashes. We will raze this island until nothing on land, sea or in the air will survive. You would just be the first.”

Emma put pressure on her blade again.

Hook’s hand, his real one, fell to Emma’s shoulder.

“Don’t do this, Swan.”

Emma didn’t move, but she spoke, her voice tight with the same anger that was flowing through Regina’s body. “You heard what she said. You heard what she said about Henry!”

Hook seemed almost thoughtful, “I know. I know, Swan. Trust me, though, they didn’t kill your boy.”

Trust him? Him? Regina wanted to scream. How dare he even mutter the word trust?

Emma, though, started to falter.

“They may be sea devils but they’re not the type that would kill a child. No matter how vicious they appear, they’re not the ones we’re looking for.”

Em—Miss Swan, Regina corrected herself—lowered her sword and released the mermaid from her grasp. She looked at Regina, and words were no longer necessary. The Queen could all but hear the Savior’s voice in her head. Cajoling her, telling her that violence wasn’t the way, that blood wasn’t the answer. Asking her to let the mermaid live. All in that in one look.

Regina’s rage boiled in her stomach; she tasted bile and wanted to follow through, to take out her pain on something. She threw out her arm, directing her magic at the mermaid and throwing her back into the sea. The water nymph hit the water hard and fast. Regina hoped it hurt.

“Damn you.” She wasn’t sure who she was speaking to: the Mermaid, Hook, Miss Swan—or herself.

The mermaids, all three, started to taunt them. Yelling, hissing, and mocking. Regina couldn’t even hear the individual slurs, but their tone and intent pounded in her temples.

“Silence!” She held up her hand, summoning a fireball. Her magic, though, was spent, and the fireball flickered and sputtered in her hand.

The mermaid she’d so recently had in her grasp had pulled herself up onto a boulder, blood still trickling from her wound, dribbling down her breasts and onto the rock, and then yelled out to them in disdain. “Weak little, pathetic, washed up WITCH. You won’t last here. Neverland will be your grave. You will never find your son.” She then looked away dismissively, as if telling them they were of no concern of hers.

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A Queen was never dismissed. Regina didn’t even use her hands in response, only her rage, as she sent the spell hurtling at the mermaid. She wasn’t sure she had enough energy, but felt a vicious smile stretch across her face when the creature turned from flesh to hard gray stone.

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The other mermaid’s cries were like music to Regina’s ears. “I hate mermaids,” she muttered. 

Snow, who was fawning over her husband, looked up at her. “Why did you do that?!”

The question, idiotic and a little ridiculous considering the damn creatures had only just tried to drown her, set Regina’s teeth on edge. She didn’t, couldn’t answer, not without using words that were best left to the alleys behind bars. So she walked right past The Idiots and back into the woods. The aftereffects of the magic she had used were hitting her like a sledge-hammer. She had a migraine that was running all the way down her neck and spine, sending crippling pain through her entire body. It was nauseating and weakened her further. She pushed herself, one step at a time, away from the group before she really lost her temper all together.

Decorative LineKI-E_cropmma watched Regina storm away and was a bit glad for the space. She needed to calm herself and think. She had almost killed a mermaid. She would have done it,  she knows that without a doubt. She had been so angry, so scared and she had felt so justified, so right. She would have killed the nymph and not regretted it. Which sort of made her sick. The anger, a twin of Regina’s, had been intoxicating, like really good scotch or ecstasy, or both at the same time. Was that what being the Evil Queen had felt like to Regina?

She shook herself and stopped thinking about it. That line of conjecture would not take her down a productive path. She had to stay in the here and the now, she had to save Henry.

She walked over to where David was lying with his head pillowed on one of the rucksacks they had brought from the boat. She knelt beside him, and felt a little uncomfortable as she did so. “So how you doing there—” Could she really call him Dad? “—David?”

He was pale, wet, bleeding, and didn’t look that great at all.

“It’s just a scratch. Your mother did worse to me when we first met. Still have—” He ran a thumb across his chin, “—the scar to prove it.”

Snow rolled her eyes, as if she’d heard that story a thousand and one times. She probably had.

Hook, though, seemed more concerned. “It’s not the wound you have to worry about, Mate.” He glanced at the mermaids still wailing by the stone form of their companion, “Mermaids coat their blades in poison.”

Snow’s eyes widened, David winced and Emma just sighed. There went another childhood memory out the damn door. She hadn’t been a huge fan of the movie or anything, but she had loved the Little Mermaid cartoon show as a kid. Of course mermaids were poisonous and angry and half naked. Of course they were. Okay, so the half-naked part wasn’t so bad, but still. She just wanted one precious childhood memory left intact. Between her actual life and Michael Bay’s movies, she was running out of things to cling to.

“Not again.” Snow was tearing up.

David, though, wrapped his hands around her smaller ones. “We’ll figure this out. We always do. Together, we’re an unbeatable team.”

Hook, who had somehow become the voice of reason, which was a scary idea all on its own, scoffed at that. “You would both be dead in that water if the Queen hadn’t stepped in.”

Snow nodded then paused, her face pensive, “I did not expect her to do that.”

Emma smirked, “What, save you? Me either. She’s not a member of your fan club.”

Snow didn’t even smile at her joke, “Well, yes there is that, but I meant come out by the water. Regina doesn’t like water very much.”

Emma grinned, determined to lighten the mood, “Why because she’s afraid she’ll melt?” She chuckled at her own joke, thinking that was a good one.

“No.” Mary Margaret was dead-serious, “Because she can’t swim.”

Emma’s stomach lurched at that. Her mirth disappeared. Mary Margaret couldn’t be serious. But when she looked at her mother’s face, she knew she wasn’t lying. Why though would Regina . . .  Emma intuitively knew the answer and it scared her more than having to ask the question. She stood up and brushed the sand off her pants. She set off into the jungle, following Regina’s path.

She heard but did not acknowledge Snow’s call of “Be careful, sweetie!” behind her.

It didn’t take long to find Regina, the woman hadn’t gone far. She was leaning on a tree with one hand on her head, her whole body trembling.

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Emma reached out to touch her, to comfort her, to offer a shoulder to lean on, but stopped just short of physical contact. Her hand hovered in the air just an inch away from Regina’s shoulder. She didn’t have to see the woman’s face to know what it looked like. Regina’s face would be drawn and furrowed in pain, two shades too pale, and her eyes would be full of shadows and agony.

Emma didn’t know how to fix this sort of situation, how to deal with it, how to deal with Regina. She had to try, though, she couldn’t not try.

“You can’t swim?”

Her thoughts came rushing out of her mouth.

“I cannot.” Regina’s reply was quiet, and she didn’t even turn around. Which told Emma that she hadn’t regained her composure yet.

“You can throw fireballs and freeze time and space or whatever, but you couldn’t take a two-week course at the Y to learn how to doggy paddle?” It was more than that, of course, Emma just wasn’t sure how to say it—and wasn’t sure Regina would know how to respond if she spoke the words out loud.

“Mother,” the word was spoken in a hushed sort of way that spoke of both longing and dread, “felt that swimming was unladylike. A Queen doesn’t need to know how to swim.” Regina’s words were distant, haunted, and heartbreaking.

“Well, you needed to know today. You walked—I can’t believe I’m saying this—but Regina, you walked on water today.”

Emma let her hand fall the extra inch and touched the other woman, gently turning her around so they could see each other.

“You maxed out your magic again too. Over a shit ton of water full of angry mermaids. Before that, the ship. Before that, the diamond, and before that, you were tortured mercilessly. And hell, before THAT, you sucked up a death curse! A curse of MADE OF DEATH, Regina!”

Regina raised a single brow, a gesture that Emma has come to associate with Madam Mayor. Emma couldn’t stop now, even if she wanted to. She had to know the truth. “Do you have a death wish or something?”

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KI-M_cropiss Swan’s words shocked her. A death wish? She didn’t let herself dwell on that. She covered up her uncertainty and discomfort with anger. It was a tried and true trick that had always worked for her.

“If I wanted therapy, I’d talk to that damnable BUG, Miss Swan. I do not answer to you or to anyone but Henry. I just saved the Two Idiots you call your parents, yet again, and everything is fine.”

Emma’s eyes went wide and her brows jumped to her hairline. “Fine? This, none of this is fine! This is not okay. You’re not fucking cannon fodder, Regina. You have a life. You have a son!”

She took a step back, putting space between herself and the blonde. She raised her lip in a sneer, “Oh, Dear, don’t you remember, don’t you understand, you just saw it for yourself. I am the Evil Queen.” The “you said so yourself” burned to fall off her tongue but she held it in. She would not be petty. Queens were not petty.

The Savior reached for her, but she batted the woman’s slender hands away, “Do not touch me.” She turned on her heel. She needed to get away from this so-called-Savior. Emma, though, didn’t stop. She grabbed both Regina’s wrists and jerked her back around so they once again faced each other. Regina pulled against her grip, but couldn’t break free.

“You are not the Evil Queen.” Emma says, intensity flaring in her eyes with every syllable.

Regina was frozen in place. She stopped struggling. She hated being held captive, but Emma’s words made her stop.

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 Emma continued, “I shouldn’t have said that, Regina, ever. I’m not saying you’re Happy Little Miss Sunshine or Miss Congeniality or anything, but you’re definitely not the Evil Queen anymore. That is your past. She is your past. Are you a pain in my ass? Yes.” Emma smirked, “But you’re also the mother of my son. You’re a strong, determined woman and you’re scared right now. Scared but determined. I absolutely believe you will find your son and bring him home.” She bounced their arms a little as she talked, making her point crystal clear. She pulls Regina tightly, closer, fingers on her wrist keeping her in place.

. . .Or was it the fingers? Regina is suddenly hyper-aware that Emma is in her personal space, their noses almost touching, and Regina is completely is caught up in the intensity of her words and— her eyes. It was insanity, but she found herself clinging to every single word, believing it all.

Our son,” Regina found herself responding with a resounding earnestness she hadn’t expected.

Emma gently loosened her grip, her eyes softened, and ran her thumbs over the sensitive skin of Regina’s inner wrists. “Our son,” she confirmed. They stood for a moment, stock still, caught together by a spell more potent than magic. Like many times before, Regina wondered briefly if maybe Emma knew more than she let on, but the moment quickly passed.

“Henry needs you. We need you. We can’t do this without you.”

Ah, this was all about Henry after all, of course it was. Regina chided herself, lowering her eyes and hardening her heart, because of course they need her for magic and intimidation. She was a merely a tool, she was—”Without the Evil Queen, you mean.”

Emma sighed, “No, without Regina Mills.”

Regina honestly wasn’t sure how to reply, words escaping her entirely.

“You actually have to lay off the magic, Regina. You keep using it all up and it’s making you sick and there aren’t any magical 7-11s around to buy magic-restoring potions or whatever.”

It is a corny, silly joke that only makes sense because Regina has seen Henry play one too many video games. She wanted to argue with Emma, but knew pain and exhaustion were written on her face, stark and plainly readable.

“With Rumpel gone, though—” She sighed, “—who will work the magic we need to survive and find Henry? We’re woefully unprepared and—”

Emma cut her off, “Maybe it’s time you start teaching me how to use magic.”

Regina blinked. “Here? Now?”

Emma grinned and squeezed Regina’s wrists lightly, “We’re in actual Never Never Land and were just attacked by freaking mermaids. I can’t think of a better time for Magic 101.”

Regina smiled despite herself, a new glint in her eyes. “Well, Miss Swan, magic is about emotion—” As she spoke, she realized Emma was still holding onto her wrists, but didn’t bother to pull away.

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KI-T_crophey had done this all before. David on the ground, bleeding, her crying. Death looming over them. How many times would they be on the precipice of life and death? How many times would she have to wonder if this kiss would be the last she shared with her True Love? She sat beside him, stroking his hair. She had taken off his leather armor, leaving him only in a white tunic, to dress his wound. It was a shallow cut along his side. Truly it was not much more than a scratch. It was already showing signs of infection and poison, though. The cut was a painful and inflamed red and around the edges, the skin was turning gray and rough.

“What kind—” she looked up at Hook, “—of poison is this?”

The pirate sighed, picking up the ornate dagger and looking it over, cautiously. “There is no name for the poison itself, it is too rare. The curse it brings, though, is a fate worse than death. They call it Living Stone.” He looked out to the rock in the middle of the lagoon where the stone mermaid is perched. “Within a month, he’ll be just like her.”

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Snow couldn’t control her gasp. David couldn’t be a statue. He was a man of motion, of action. He was never still, not even in sleep. She pressed closer to him, eliminating the space between them, curling her body against his uninjured side.

“There has to be a cure, though.”

Hook shook his head. “Not one known to man. Perhaps to the merfolk, but Her Majesty,” he scoffed, “has assured that they won’t be sharing it with us.”

David, out of breath either from the impromptu swim or from the pain of his wound, was resting, now using his armor as a stiff pillow; it was holding him up better than the rucksack had and Hook had claimed they needed to keep him sitting upright, that it would delay the poison going to his brain. “We’ll find a way, we always do.” David said, trying to comfort his wife. He wrapped his good arm around Snow and she relaxed a bit. “We’ll fix this, find Henry and be home in time for The Playoffs.”

Hook looked confused, “Playoffs?”

Snow rolled her eyes and David grinned, “When we get back, remind me to introduce you to the wonders of ESPN.”

She listened to the two of them banter, David regaining his strength little by little. She lay her head lightly on his chest so she could hear the rumble of his voice as he explained one of the many ball games he enjoyed to the Pirate. Laying against him like this, if she closed her eyes, she could pretend they were at home. On the couch, David watching one of the sports games he had become so enamored with since coming out of his coma.

Rustling in the leaves nearby caught her attention and she opened her eyes, instantly wary of either Emma’s return or yet another enemy. She got up and brushed her hand through her husband’s hair one more time. He hadn’t heard, too busy man-bonding with Hook over professional children’s games. She moved closer to the forest, eyes alert.

She didn’t see anything at first and, for a moment, wondered if she imagined it. Then she heard it. Not leaves and branches moving this time, but a quiet chuckle. It was unbelievably cold, humorless, and all too familiar. She turned slowly and found herself face-to-face with her worst nightmare, Cora Mills. The Queen of Hearts was dressed in the burgundy dress she had worn the day she had told Snow of Regina’s plans with Daniel. Her dark eyes twinkled and her painted lips canted into a cruel smirk.

“Cora,” Snow’s voice was a strangled whisper. This simply could not be happening. Cora was dead, she had watched her die. She had killed her to save Rumpelstiltskin’s life. An action that haunted her, but remained true all the same. After all, Cora’s death was the reason for her blackening heart. Snow lowered her eyes, guilt and shame flooding her.

“Cora, I—” by the time she looked up, though, the woman was gone. She had disappeared into the tinypalmtrees2trees without a trace, not even a curl of smoke. Snow blinked and then blinked again, had she really seen Cora at all?

. . . To Be Continued in Episode 6

Total Word Count: 9423 words

8 thoughts on “Virtual Season 3, Episode 5

  1. Another knockout! Congrats, Ladies. Loved seeing things from Charming’s POV at the beginning. Mermaids were a nice touch and I like how you added the dream shade into this act.
    The confrontation between Emma and Regina was another beautiful scene. No matter how often I read it I love when argues for Regina as Regina and not the EQ.
    Great lines in this one too. Can’t get enough of Regina’s sass.
    Super excited for the magic lessons. Oh, and the artwork this chapter was insane.

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  2. I always love scenes with Emma, Regina, and Snow and this chapter totally delivered. I can’t wait to find out how Snowing gets out of this poison mess, wth is up with Cora, and (of course) more Swenness! Fantastic job, guys!

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  3. very good chapter , and them those mermaids are evil bitches
    swanqueen moment yay
    cant wait for the next episode
    *gives a cookie*

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  4. Wonderful chapter! I liked the whole scene with mermaids, it was really dynamic. Interactions between Regina and Emma were perfect, I cannot wait for the magic making! And damn, the art is so so beautiful! You guys all rock!

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  5. I wished so mush for Emma apologizing Regina to calling her the Evil Queen but didn’t expect for it to be so emotional. And Regina saving Snow for 68975895375 time. I don’t understand the hate-thing of MM towards her. I didn’t expect bringing Cora back and honestly I can’t wait for the rest of ‘her’ story. I, obviously, am eager to read some Swen stuff. This one was so good.

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  6. Loved it! Yet another great episode! And while I enjoy the other storylines I must say I very much enjoyed that this episode focused only on what happens with the group in Neverland.

    Also I adored the art that accompanied this episode. Very beautifully done, cheers to the artists! My two favorites are David brooding (awesome lighting!) and Regina freezing the mermaid pond.

    Looking forward to the next one 🙂

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  7. Emma and Regina interaction was fantastic! Thank you. Did not expect to see Cora in anything other than memories and flashbacks…curious to find out where you are going with this.

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  8. Swanqueen moment was perfect. I like getting a glimpse of Regina’s inner musings during it. Bravo!

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