The Once Upon a Time Virtual Series
Virtual Season 3
“Tiger Lily Fields”
Executive Producer: Silverbluemoon
Story By: RebelByrdie and Silverbluemoon
Written By: RebelByrdie
Illustrated By: Dalliance-Amongst-the-Stars
Edited By: NotEvilDear-Wicked and Silverbluemoon
Advisors and Consultants
Continuity and Consistency: AsraiaySoph
Research and Development Assistant: Archaeomedic
This series is Rated M for language, violence, drug references, and adult situations.
It is not intended for all audiences. Please use discretion.
Publication Date: 06/05/2015
he setting sun filtered through the jungle’s canopy and tinted it green, her color. Tinkerbell might have found that ironic if she wasn’t caught up in her own chaotic thoughts. Most of the thoughts centered around the woman she was trying to drag through the jungle. Her decision to knock her out first now seemed a little short-sighted. She carefully let Regina’s dead weight slump to the ground, careful of her lolling head. The woman—the woman that she remembered all too vividly—was pale and still, her chest barely moving with each breath. Even now, after the pain and the isolation, Tinkerbell still found her beautiful.
“Should have let you fall.” Tink said, sighing, while looking down at the unconscious woman. She knew even as she spoke the words, she did not mean them.
“A nice day for a hike, isn’t it?”
Tink’s eyes flashed up towards the voice to meet a green cloaked figure leaning against a tree. He was tall and lanky, a smirk visible beneath his cloak. He was playing with a dagger, flipping it into the air end-over-end, carelessly tossing and catching it. She could smell his over-ripe odor of smoke, sweat and old blood, and it made her wrinkle her nose in disgust.
She leveled a glare at Felix and hoped the frisson of fear that shot up her spine didn’t show on her face. Felix was Pan’s second-in-command and was just as violent and dangerous as his (eternally) young master. He was, though, slightly more predictable. Not that she trusted him, but evil that was known and obvious was always preferable to the limitless evil that festered in Pan’s mind.
“Care to lend a hand, Felix?”
He looked at her and she imagined him cocking his pale brow under the cloak.
“You need help killing an unconscious woman?” He balanced the tip of dagger on his forefinger.
Tink’s heart rate tripled, but she forced herself to stay calm, not to run.
“I’m not killing her.”
Felix flipped the knife again and caught it by the blade. “His orders were clear. Get rid of her. He won’t like that you’re defying. Pan has a tricky temper.” He played with his knife some more and then pushed his hood back to reveal his scarred face and a tangle of knotted sun-bleached, white blonde hair. His eyes were red-rimmed, cagey, and colored a flat, emotionless stormcloud gray with shadows of savagery painted in them. He towered over her, easily six feet tall, and he was a Lost Boy; he was ruthless, and Tink knew better than to toy with him, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
“And your orders are always clear, keep a Tiger Lily in the fields. The way I see it, I’m doing both of us a favor.”
If he was surprised, he didn’t say anything. Neverland was a small island, and the few secrets it held were closely guarded, but most news—new arrivals, deaths, and Pan’s decrees of “games”—traveled fast. Everything in Neverland had eyes and ears, and messages were whispered by the shadows themselves.
“Pan is aware of the fate of the last Tiger Lily. The shadow will bring another. It always does. So if we’re exchanging favors…” His voice tapered off, but he finished his statement by raking his eyes up and down her body. She repressed a shiver. “You’ll have to offer something else, something more,” his smirk grew larger, “enticing.”
She swallowed bitter and acidic bile at the very thought of touching him. He was young but oozed slime and filth. She had seen him fight, seen him kill, seen him crow out in victory while blood dripped from his sword. He, like so many innocents that arrived on Neverland, had become a monster. “Go soak your head in the volcano, Boy.”
He didn’t seem to take offence to her words, she had said much worse. He instead turned his attention to the unconscious Regina, and Tink felt the fear take over her spine again, locking it into place; she was scared stiff, afraid to move either closer to Regina to protect her or further away to give him what he wanted. She felt a bead of sweat, cold like a sliver of ice, slide from her hairline and down her temple and neck. Felix knelt down beside the Queen, and his smirk turned into a small but vile smile.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had such a pretty woman on the island.”
He pushed a lock of midnight dark hair out of Regina’s face. His fingers brushed down Regina’s cheek slowly, with intent beyond what Tink wanted to think about. Then his dirt and bloodstained fingers wandered lower and pulled the edges of her jerkin apart to reveal the paper thin white tunic that seemed to entice and tease what was underneath more than hide it.
“And you dosed her with…” he leaned closer and sniffed her skin. Tink wanted to lash out, to bat him away. “Lily pollen. That already? She’s under the spell. Completely helpless. All the magic in all the realms won’t help you if you’re not awake to use it.” His fingers tugged at the drawstrings of her shirt.
She slapped his hand away, unable to watch any more. A name, a name she hadn’t allowed herself to think of in decades echoed in her mind. She pushed him away from Regina’s prone and defenseless form. She pulled the leather jerkin back into place and glared at Felix.
“Have some respect,” she snapped, “she’s a queen.” Always a queen, whether it be the Evil Queen or the Queen of Nothing. It was what Regina had been named for, born for, bred for, lived for, killed for. Regina was a queen, always. Once she had been Tinkerbell’s Queen. She may hate her, curse her very existence, but Tink could not let Felix hurt her.
“There are no queens or kings here,” Felix reminded her in a sing-song voice. “Only boys.” He reached for Regina again.
“Don’t touch her!” she screamed.
Felix raised a brow and held out his hand for a shake instead, knowing he’d won. “Then we have a deal?”
Damn him. Damn Neverland. Damn Regina and damn her own treachery. She couldn’t speak the words, so she nodded. She nodded and blinked back tears as she did so.
Felix’s smirk was positively lecherous. He pulled a necklace out of a hidden pocket of his cloak. It was beautiful, made of shining silver and gleaming gems. Sapphires, turquoise, aquamarines, emeralds, they shined together like a river in the sun. It was as gorgeous as it was dangerous; Tinkerbell had never seen it before, but knew it by reputation alone.
Felix grinned like the fiend he was. “Yes.”
Tink cocked her head to the side as she examined it. She hadn’t exactly paid attention to every single tiny syllable of every single word that had been spouted to her about magic, but she knew enough to know that this necklace was powerful, dangerous, and frightening, even to her—a woman who had been a fairy.
“How did Pan come to possess something so powerful? It shouldn’t even exist. It’s against the very laws of—”
“There are no laws here.” Felix interrupted her with something that was less of a sentence and more of a growl, spittle flying from his lips as he spoke. She flinched away from the sprayed words and he continued, unconcerned with her discomfort.”You should know that by now. C’mon pick her up. We need to get her all the way to the fields tonight.”
Tink bit her lip and wanted to protest, but her fate, just like Regina’s, had been sealed.
“You take her feet.”
Tinkerbell picked Regina up again, her weight more than cut in half with Felix’s help. Somehow, Tink wished that she could have taken Regina by herself. She couldn’t. She carried her, arms wrapped around Regina’s shoulders. She was careful of her head and neck, and Felix carried her by the knees. They didn’t speak, they just carried the doomed Queen west into the setting sun.avid watched, conflicted, as Hook and Neal slowly but surely pulled Emma away from the petite woman who called herself Tinkerbell. He had met many fairies, including the most powerful of them all, The Blue Fairy. He had never, though, seen a fairy with no wings or wand. He had never heard of Tinkerbell—well, before his Storybrooke memories, at least. The woman, a small slip of a thing whose head was barely level with his shoulders, rubbed her neck, apparently happy to be free.
“She’s crazy!” Tinkerbell kept a distance between herself and Emma.
“You kidnapped Regina, but I’m the crazy one?” Emma’s voice was still rough and it cracked as she shouted. She lunged forward again, sword still in hand, but Neal and Hook had stayed close and held her still. David couldn’t say that he understood Emma’s obsession with finding Regina, but he knew that it was something they needed to do. Perhaps less violently than Emma would like, though.
“I don’t understand,” Snow spoke, breaking the short but tense silence. “What are these fields?”
Hook, his one hand firmly on Emma’s left shoulder, let out a huff of breath. “That is a tale best told sitting down, and with something to drink—something strong.”
Neal, with his hand wrapped around Emma’s right bicep, winced. “And I’m sort of down to one leg.”
“And David could use a rest,” Snow spoke for him, and as much as he wanted to protest, he knew she was right. Damn it all, she was right.
“Isn’t your lovely home just around the bend, Miss Bell?” Hook seemed to know the fairy, or was it ex-fairy, well enough.
Tinkerbell looked at them, and he could only imagine what was going through her head at the sight of their motley crew. “And I suppose you’re all just inviting yourselves over.”
Emma, already antsy and bouncing her weight from foot to foot, said, “This is not the time for a Disney in the Afternoon Tea Party!”
David winced. Good ol’ Walt had never imagined anything quite as wild as their lives.
“We’re all tired and injured, sweetie,” Snow tried to soothe Emma. “Rushing into a jungle screaming is not going to help anyone, least of all Regina.”
Logic worked just as well on Emma as it did with Snow when it came to Regina, usually not at all. Emma’s eyes, green and lit with an inner fire, darted around and took in their situation. “Fine.” She shoved her sword through her belt—he winced at the proximity of sharp steel to the fragile flesh of her leg—and threw up her hands. “Whatever.”
Tinkerbell sighed at the lot of them. “Well, then by all means, follow me.”he hike to Tink’s, or Miss Bell’s (as he so often called her), was blessedly short. Then again, when they reached the clearing and he saw the all-too-familiar planks, rails, and unmistakable bow of his old long boat, he wondered if, perhaps, the scenic route could have been an option. Killian Jones had just told himself that he should change, mend his ways, be less of a pirate and more of a man, but staring at his past misdeeds was a rude dose of reality. Saying, or even thinking of reform was easy, but it seemed all so much bigger and in focus when it smacked him in the face. Suddenly a nice, long, rum soaked three day bender sounded like a much better plan. He reflexively reached for his—Milah’s—flask. His hand curled into a fist and he dropped it back to his side without taking a drink.
Rum wasn’t something he could rely on if he wanted to change. Rum kept him in a stupor, a numb place where cad, cheat, killer, betrayer, and pirate were just words, and the world was his play thing. That wasn’t a place he could redeem himself in. He had to stay grounded, at least part of the time.
Tink didn’t want them there, but she kept quiet and even helped Neal up the rough hewn rope ladder—he recognized the re-purposed ropes from his ship—and into the tree house. He watched as Snow White fussed over her charming husband’s personal stone prison and its disturbingly fast progression. Tink checked on Neal’s wounds with the practiced ease of comrades who had patched themselves and each other up more than once. Emma paced around the small space, silent and fuming.
He felt out of place, something that he hated. Captain Hook prided himself on always being the center of attention, of being the draw of all the barmaids and wenches, of being the best at the game of stolen treasures and broken hearts. He reached up to scrub his fingers across his face, and instead of the roguish five o’clock shadow that was his trademark, a ragged and sweaty beginnings of beard met his fingers. He scowled; scruffy, unshaven, and not a barber in all the realm. He hated Neverland.
“So,” he started the conversation that neither he, Bae, or Tink really wanted to have, “you took her to the Fields.”
Tinkerbell stood up and went to the large gap in the wall that served as a window. “What’s it to you, Pirate?” She wouldn’t look at him. He didn’t blame her. He had betrayed her, too. There were precious few people he hadn’t double-crossed in his life.
“What the hell,” Emma exclaimed, “are these Fields? Where is Regina?”
“Hopefully,” Neal spoke from his place on the floor made of a patchwork of reclaimed planks and tree limbs, “not too far gone yet.” He looked to Tink, “The necklace?”
The blonde shook her head in the affirmative and Hook winced. There were many fates a person could suffer on Neverland, but Her Majesty had been handed one of the very worst.
“What does that mean?” Emma’s pacing became faster, more frantic, her hands clenched at her sides. “Someone talk to me, damn it!”
Neal sighed, and Hook felt shame swim in his stomach. Milah’s baby knew this story, this tale, had lived the nightmare of it, because of him.
“Sometimes,” Neal stared past Emma and Tink, out into the ether of the past, into the hell that was Neverland. “Sometimes the Shadow takes boys that are too young—way too young to be his warriors. Pan is not interested in fathering a lot of babies, so he puts them to the Fields. It’s a large meadow with fruit trees and a clean stream, plenty of sweet grass to sleep in and wooden swords to play with. A boy’s dream—endless days of play and no adults to say no.”
Snow, a school teacher now or so he’d been told, gasped at that. “Alone? That can’t be safe! What if they hurt themselves or—”
Neal chuckled and let his head fall back against the wood that made up the wall he was against. “Yeah. That was sort of a problem until Tiger Lily.”
“Wait,” Emma interrupted, “Tiger Lily? Like Tiger Lily —as in feathers, teepees, and the blatantly racist song Tiger Lily? There are really Native Americans living in this shithole?” She clenched her eyes shut. “Fucking fairy tales.”
Hook had no idea what she was on about.
“No. That movie—” Neal began, his face lined with fatigue and hatred. “—Just no. It’s nothing like that. Tiger Lily is a title, a name, a fate. Every so often the Shadow takes a girl. A girl meant to—”
Neal’s voice broke. He looked down and away. His throat was working and Hook knew, knew in his bones, that Neal was swallowing more than bile. He was swallowing back fear, horror, and memories. . . and Wendy. Bae was trying, but the words did not emerge.
“She serves as a mother of sorts.” Hook added, picking up Bae’s story. He had a little more distance from it. How lucky for him. “She tends to the boys, keeps them fed and safe. She is devoted to them, completely. She lives for them, and only them. She will not eat until the little demons are sated. She will not sleep unless all of them are asleep. She is theirs and theirs alone. They will tear her down, demand her constant attention, control her completely, and she cannot say no.”
Emma laughed at that, chuckled with her whole being. “This is Regina we’re talking about. She’ll have those brats marching in line and singing Edelweiss in no time.”
She had hope and he hated to stomp upon it. Hope, though, didn’t last long on Neverland. “The magic of the Fields is insidious, lass. The lilies that grow there are a powerful drug. Then there is Pan’s magic necklace. She’s already under its sway. I don’t know if it will even be possible to free her.” Though if anyone could overcome the power of the Fields, it would be Regina. The woman was a fighter. She would not have survived her mother and then her husband to become the Evil Queen otherwise.
“No Tiger Lily lasts long, and they never escape,” he continued. “The necklace stopped the worst of it—the suicides, I mean—but they still don’t last very long. Little bastards are vicious and feral—like fighting dogs.” Neal found his voice again; it was low, bitter, and carried the ghosts of boys long dead and gone with it. Beads of sweat—not all of them from physical pain—appeared along his furrowed brow. “One is a handful, but fifteen or twenty? I don’t even know if The Evil Queen has a chance.”
Emma didn’t take that news well, and lost her temper. “Oh, so you’re saying we should just abandon her to that, then!”
The woman had dangled herself over a bloody volcano for him—a few words would not deter her from saving the mother of her boy. Emma didn’t wear the mantle of Savior comfortably, but its meaning, its dedication, was natural to her, like breathing. She was a savior by deed, and that was more important than title. Her heroics would get her killed one day, she knew—possibly very soon.
“She deserves—” Tinkerbell was now shouting, too. Hook had spent enough time with the ex-fairy to know bits and bobs of her story, and the pieces had started to fall together. This would not be a pretty scene.
“Shut up!” Emma glared at the fairy, her hand falling to her sword again. “She doesn’t deserve to be left with the Children of the Corn to die.”
“Corn?” Tinkerbell, unused to Emma’s habit of muttering sentences that meant nothing to anyone outside of The World Without Magic, shook her head. “No corn. Tiger Lillies. It’s a field of Tiger Lily flowers, hence the name.” She spoke a little slowly, breaking it down, as if talking to a fool.
“I don’t care if it’s the Field of Dreams, lady. I am going to get Regina back.” She turned to Tinkerbell fully, a determined glint in her flashing jade eyes. “And you’re going to help me.” They glowered at each other, the tension between them excessively thick—more than what it should have been maybe. Isn’t that interesting. Hook filed it away for later.
Snow stood, her quiver, empty as it was, already thrown back over her shoulder. “I know Regina better than anyone; I’ll come too.”
Both Emma and Tinkerbell swiveled their heads around so fast, he was sure he heard bones crack and pop in their necks. He didn’t blame them; it was an odd statement coming from Snow White. She had been fighting against Regina since she’d been old enough to fill out a corset.
“Aw, the Little Monster all grown up.” Tink scoffed at the queen, “I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to see you.”
Emma shifted uncomfortably at the exchange, something nagging uncomfortably at her. Sh’d have to come back to it, though. “As much as I hate to agree with Tinkletoes here, you’re not Regina’s favorite person at the best of times, Mar—” a beat later, “Snow.”
Emma still fumbled on her mother’s name.
If the fumble bothered Snow, though, she didn’t let it show. “If these fields are as bad as you say, then you’re going to need all the help you can get,” she proclaimed, standing her ground. “We can’t leave Neverland without both Henry and Regina with us. She’s family.” Snow turned to Tink. “Will Neal and David be safe here in the meantime?”
Tink shrugged, “Safe enough.”
Hook nodded, “And I’ll be here in case there’s any trouble, love.”
The entire group mentally rolled their eyes.
Tinkerbell was in front of him in a flash though, almost nose-to-nose (nose-to-chest, technically speaking), in the blink of an eye, her eyes afire. “I am not leaving you in my home, Hook. If I have to go on this happy little rescue mission, so do you.”
A chuckle sounded from the floor, and Neal muttered something that sounded like “told you she’s a smart girl” to David.
David didn’t acknowledge that comment, but he did turn a bit to look at the pirate. “They need your sword more than we do right now.”
Neal, pale and sweaty, pushed himself to his feet and winced when weight hit his knee. It was still bleeding, albeit sluggishly now, as he hopped and limped across the few feet of floor that separated him from Emma, determination plain on his face.
“Be careful, Ems. They’re not normal kids. Keep this in mind and it will keep you alive. They are not Henry. They’re wild. Some of them have been in Neverland since they were potty trained. This place is all they know. They are trained to be cruel, heartless, and amoral little shits. If they aren’t ready to kill at the drop of a hat, they get killed really quick. Pan doesn’t coddle his Lost Boys. This isn’t Disney, and they don’t sing ‘Follow the Leader’ and wear footie pajamas.” He took his own quiver, empty since their plunge into the pool that had lead them into the volcano trap, and crossed to a rough-hewn table where Tinkerbell had laid out a bunch of arrows she had obviously made herself. He filled his quiver and shoved it at Snow White. He looked at her pointedly, “Shoot to kill.”
David, the oh-so-heroic Prince Charming, sat stiff against the wall with his legs, both coated in rough stone like substance from toes to hips, stretched out in front of him. His eyes had turned from his normal blue to flat gray. What little white was left in his eyes was bloodshot. His left hand was a closed gray fist, and the two middle fingers and most of his wrist and right arm were stone too. His face was still unmarred, but he was in obvious pain all the time. Hook pitied him. What little he knew of the Prince was enough to know that he didn’t deserve the slow and painful death he was marching towards.
“Emma.” He smiled a little, “Take my armor with you.” He motioned to Snow White’s pack where they’d stored his leathers.
“What?” Emma had been so focused on the trip that she had obviously forgotten that she was now woefully underdressed.
“Your tanktop isn’t nearly enough protection. Take my armor. It’s not your jacket, but it is leather, at least.” He smiled again, “You got your sense of style from your old man.”
Emma went over to the packs and pulled out the proffered armor. She smiled softly. “I guess that’s a good thing. Neverland is hardly the place for ballgowns.” She looked at it. “But I can’t—”
David held up his fisted hand to allay her concern, “It’s not like I really need it. I look like one of Henry’s comic book heroes now. I don’t remember all of the names. You need it, though. This way I can think that I’m still protecting you.”
Emma didn’t know how to answer that. “Er—thanks Da—vid.”
Snow and David watched, proud parents, as Emma shrugged into the armor and re-laced it. Save for the one stab wound, it was intact and functional. Though she looked uncomfortable in it, and it was a tad large on her, the leathers suited Swan, or so Hook thought. In lieu of the lewd comment that tickled his tongue, he took a long swig of rum. He was cutting back, but castles weren’t built in a day, he told himself. Tink, paler than her usual self, snagged the flask out of his hand and took a drink herself. When the royal couple started to exchange sweeter-than-honey goodbyes, she rolled her eyes and took another swig. He didn’t blame her.
He started down the rope ladder, the rough hemp familiar against his calloused hands, and knew that the others would follow him. He did not look forward to the trip to the West. Nobody in their right mind would. Still, they would go because, apparently, that’s what heroes did. He took another drink of rum and wondered why in the names of all the gods and goddesses of the Seven Seas, he had wanted to be a hero if it meant risking life and (remaining) limb for a Queen who probably still wanted his manly bits on a shish kebab. Emma’s boots hit the jungle floor and she unfolded Jack’s Map.
“Lets go,” she said with conviction.
He fell into step behind her and reminded himself that was why. Because a blonde princess, of all things, had saved him when she hadn’t needed to, when she’d had every reason not to. Because once upon a time, the boy he’d been would have fallen in love with Emma Swan. Because once upon a time, before he’d fallen in love with rum, women, piracy, Milah, or even the sea, he’d loved stories of heroes and had always seen himself as one of them. He’d stared death in the face, again, and he didn’t want to die a villain and a pirate. He wanted to live and die as Killian Jones—whoever that was now. As they started out due west into the jungle, Killian wondered if maybe hero was just another, kinder, word for madman.e watched them leave and told himself that they would come back. All of them, even Hook. The Fields. The Tiger Lily. The Past. Blood and death and little boys’ screams; his nightmares taunted over him relentlessly, new and shiny and in high definition. He was letting Emma—sweet Emma who loved Doritos and Skittles, and who had worn out the Bug’s cassette player playing their single Nirvana album over and over again because Kurt had got her—go right into the belly of the beast. He watched until they disappeared one-by-one into the jungle. Then he watched a moment longer, and was simultaneously angry at himself for not being able to go with them and glad that he couldn’t go. He was a coward. An injured, useless coward. He limped back to the wall where David was stiffly propped up. He looked at the man, refusing to really think about David’s condition. That was a whole other tragedy he wasn’t sure he could deal with at the moment.
“I wish they weren’t going,” he muttered out loud, though it was more thought than conversation.
“You really don’t like this Fields place.” David didn’t seem up for conversation either, not really, but the silence was suffocating.
“I don’t like Neverland, period.” Neal slid down the wall and tried his best not to shake his leg around too much. He leaned back and sighed. Tink’s tree house was just as he remembered it. It smelled of wood, green things, and magic, like Tink. It was safety and laughter. It was one of the few places in Neverland he didn’t associate with horror.
“How long were you here, Neal?”
“As a Lost Boy?” Baelfire blew out a breath, “Not too long. Just long enough to know that there are, surprisingly, a few things worse than being the Dark One’s son. I escaped, and then it was all about staying out of Pan’s way. Running, hiding, surviving. I went from running from the Duke’s Army to Jolly Old England, the 19th century version. Then I spent a long long time here. When I finally escaped the island, I found myself in the good ol’ US of A just in time for a whole new set of 90’s.” He chuckled, “I’ve had sort of a weird life.”
“Interesting.” David shifted around slowly so they could see eye-to-eye. “So you’re older than you look.”
Neal shrugged, because that was something, on a long list of things, he didn’t like to think about. “You could say that.”
“And,” David continued, “You’ve been through a lot, had a lot of life experience.”
Neal shrugged again, starting to close his eyes and settling against the wood; he was beat. “You can definitely say that.”
The punch came out of nowhere. David’s fully-concrete hand connected with Neal’s jaw, hard enough to make his head snap to the side. He saw stars and bright bursts of fireworks exploded behind his eyes. Everything went blurry, and he heard blood rushing and sloshing in his head. He tasted smoke and copper in his mouth.
“What the hell, David?!” he shrieked, holding his face.
Neal spat a half of a tooth into the palm of his hand. “You busted my bridgework, man. Has your brain turned into a barnacle or something? Christ! I don’t even have dental right now.” Neal was beyond pissed.
David hit him again, this time allowing his concrete fist to connect with Neal’s battered knee. Bae let out a scream that he was pretty sure could be heard clear to Boston. This time, the pain was a white hot bolt of lightning that went from his knee and into his spine. He would never admit it out loud, but a trickle of urine escaped while he was gasping for breath.
He looked up to meet a face tight with rage only a father could wield. “So, you’re telling me that you are over two hundred years old. That you were old enough to see The Children’s Campaign of the Ogre Wars and Queen Victoria, and you’re confused why I punched you?”
“Yes!” He screamed, “I am pretty fucking confused!”
David was suddenly in his face, and he was not at all charming. “Emma was seventeen, Neal. A child. My princess was a baby and you took advantage of her. My seventeen-year-old princess. You taught her to steal. You taught her to lie. You took her innocence. You impregnated her. And if that wasn’t enough, you left her to go to jail for your crimes.”
“It wasn’t like that!” Except that it had been. “Pinoch—”
“She was seventeen, Neal!” David screamed again in the younger man’s face. His neck, not quite stone yet, was clearly defined with cords popping and muscles bulging, his face scarlet red. “She had to deliver Henry, my grandson, in a jail. She had to give him up. She was alone. Because of you!”
He raised his hand to hit Neal again, but didn’t. He let his fist hang in the air. He grabbed Neal’s shirt instead with his still functional hand and held him in place.
“You’re a coward and a thief. You don’t deserve Emma or Henry. You say you weren’t a Lost Boy for long. I think that’s crap. I don’t think you ever stopped being one. Gods forgive me, but I’m glad you didn’t know about Henry. Regina may be a lot of things, but she gave Henry a good home and taught him right from wrong, and she loves him. And I—right now I don’t think you have any decency or love in your worthless body.” He released Neal, panting and sweating from the effort, and found himself falling backwards.
“Says the man who shoved his newborn into a tree portal. Emma had a shitty life, a fucking shitty childhood, and that’s on you, man.” Neal spat back, babying his jaw, blood glistening on his hand.
It was a low blow; a truthful one, but low nonetheless.
“And I will spend the rest of my life regretting that,” David responded, his face flush with anger and exertion. “I will try my hardest every single day that I have left to make it up to her. I missed everything and will never ever get that time with my daughter back. I have to live with that. What about you, though? How long until you run again, Baelfire? Run from your son because it’s suddenly too hard, because life’s too confusing, because someone else tells you to just forget your family? Forget them, and just leave them all again?”
They looked at one another, both fuming, both breathing hard, but suddenly both silent. Neal looked away first; he didn’t have an answer.mma hacked through the jungle, her magical map tucked into a secret pocket in her father’s armor. If she also secretly pretended that the vines and leaves were a certain blonde’s face, that was her business, right? Who did this Tinkerbell think she was, anyway? How did she even know Regina? After all, she was pretty sure they hadn’t gone to the same high school. She patted herself on the back inwardly for that one before actually wondering , did the Fairytale World even have high school? Emma shook her head with all that was swirling around in it, and pushed through the vines and leaves. She seriously hated Neverland. She hated fairytales. She hated Peter Pan. Right now she hated everything. And up ahead Tinkerbell—because that was what her life had turned into, one never ending acid trip through Disney World—was glaring at Hook. There had to be some kind of story there. Not one in Henry’s book, surely, but definitely a story.
“I’m not even sure I want to know, but how did you two meet? Once Upon Speed Dating?” Emma chuckled at her own joke. She should really start writing them down.
“The pirate,” Tinkerbell grumbled, “betrayed me and left me to die.”
Emma’s eyebrows winged up, but she wasn’t sure why she was surprised. “Did he betray you to Cora, too?”
Tinkerbell actually physically stopped mid step. Her face went hard and her eyes flat. “That witch is gone.”
Snow stopped, too. “You know Cora?”
Emma crossed her arms over her chest, the leather armor creaking as she did so. She commented to the group, “She seems to know a lot of stuff for a weird jungle lady.”
Tinkerbell huffed and drew herself up to her full, pint-sized, height. “I’m a fairy!”
Emma snickered. “I’ve met fairies, lady, and you don’t look like one.” Then she rolled her eyes, not believing she had just said that with a straight face and outside of a gay bar.
“Well I was a fairy,” Tinkerbell all but growled. “Before I met the Evil Queen.”
Tinkerbell waited by Regina’s balcony window, wings fluttering. When the Queen came out onto the balcony, she wrapped her arms around Regina’s petite waist.
“I thought that dinner would never end.”
Regina turned around in her arms, and the perfectly painted Queen mask that she wore for Leopold’s endless entertainments cracking and revealing the smiling woman that Tink loved with all of her heart.
“I hated every second, but now it’s okay, because I’m with you.”
Their kiss started chaste, but when Regina snuggled closer in Tink’s arms, hands began to wander.
“Go,” Tink pulled herself away, “get your cloak and we’ll go have some real fun.”
Her face hurt from smiling as she watched Regina fetch a simple, serviceable cloak to hide her rich garb with. Regina literally had everything a woman could want, but she would happily lose it all for her freedom. Something that Tinkerbell understood all too well. She wished with all of her being that she had the power to grant both of them their freedom. But she did not.
So they stole it. Nights away from the castle and the fairies. Nights together, stolen afternoons by Regina’s apple tree. Little presents and clandestine lunches. Theirs was a love that was not supposed to be, but it bloomed like wild honeysuckle, rambling and climbing and growing however and wherever it could. It was strong and hearty like violets that bloomed after long and bitterly cold winters. Tinkerbell was hopelessly and completely in love with Regina, in a way that she hadn’t even known was possible. Regina was the sun and Tinkerbell was a sunflower, forever turned towards her, yearning and reaching for her, basking in her glow.
Regina returned, a pale green cloak over her white dress, “I’m back.”
Tink opened her arms and welcomed Her Queen into them. “And wearing my color.” Tink nodded appreciatively and blushed.
They flew into the night together—because she was a fairy and because Regina had the Heart of a True Believer—and together, the sky was the limit.
After safely delivering Regina back to her castle, her prison, Tinkerbell raced the sun to make sure she was back where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be there. She hadn’t been caught yet, and didn’t want to risk the wrath of it.
Suddenly she was still in the air, caught between the flickers of her wings. Frozen in place by—
“Hello Reul Ghorm, what a pleasant surprise, seeing you here,” she forced, her heart pounding viciously.
“Green.” The response was terse and cool, deceptively calm. The leader of the fairies wore a blue dress, frilly and covered in ribbons and lace, as she floated in the air in front of Tink.
Tink gritted her teeth at the loathed assigned designation of ‘Green’. Green was her color, not her name. “My name is Tinkerbell.”
If the Blue Fairy heard her, she didn’t bother to respond. “The others say you’ve been missing lately.”
Tink’s heart missed a beat. “Missing?” She hoped her voice didn’t betray her fear.
“Going out at odd hours, getting big for days, and,” her face pinched in obvious disapproval, “nights at a time.”
Tinkerbell tried not to flinch at the unspoken accusation. “I like to be out and about among the people. I have friends I like to visit.”
“Friends,” Blue floated around her, constantly moving, constantly glaring at her, judging her, weighing her words against her transgressions and deciding on punishment, “who do not live amongst the fairies.”
Tink would have squared her jaw if she could move. “Friends who should have never been forced out.”
Blue, as fast as lightning, reached out, grabbed Tink’s arm, and squeezed hard enough to bruise. “You’re looking for trouble, Green. Stay away from forbidden fortresses.” She waited a beat, a heavy moment of silence, “and palaces.”
She knew. Blue knew. The time for secrets was over, she had to speak up. It was now or never.
“I was drawn there for a reason. A good reason. She needs help.” If anyone in the realm deserved the help of a fairy godmother, it had to be Regina.
“Not the kind of help you’re giving her.”
Tinkerbell didn’t think, she just spoke. “I love her.”
The shock on Blue’s usually smug face might have been funny in any other situation. The shock was replaced by fury and her hand moved faster than Tink’s eye could track. She smacked Tinkerbell across the face with a hard backhand that made Tinkerbell fly to the side.
“Fairies do not love!” The way she said love made it sound like a sin instead of a miracle.
The paralysis spell was weakened, and Tink reached up to cup her throbbing face with her hand. Her other was wrapped around her wand so tightly that her knuckles were blanching white. “I love her,” she said again.
Blue glared at her, her hazel eyes were both ice cold and as hot as fire; it was like being caught in the gravity of a frozen sun. “I am giving you one last chance, Green. Do not waste it on this evil queen.”
The paralysis lifted, and Tinkerbell jerked away. “The only evil one here is you,” she mumbled under her breath and flew off, still rubbing her sore cheek.
She and Regina met again that night, unable to stay away from each other for long. The inn was well known to them, as it had been the first place Tink had ever taken Regina. It was nestled on a small roadway, at a crossroads that would eventually lead to a more traveled road. The food was hot, the mead was sweet. and best of all, no one asked questions, even when they probably should have. Tinkerbell liked places like taverns and inns, because you could meet people from all walks of life there. You heard stories, you learned of things. Regina liked just being amongst people who expected nothing of or from her. They did not call her ‘Majesty’ or even ‘Regina’. When they gave names, which was rare, she always gave a different one. It was a game, a lark, something they could escape within. Regina waited for her at their usual table, a cloak over simple, but well made, traveling clothes. Their table was close to the fireplace, and the gleaming coals cast bright oranges and golds across Regina’s face. The glow reminded Tink of the sun, something she often compared Regina to.
A widow sat by the fire sewing on a vivid red cloth and a girl, a gangly little brunette who was on the cusp of growing out of childhood, sat at her Granny’s feet and played with a doll. Regina offered the girl a sweet smile. She was quite good with children who weren’t her step-daughter.
Regina looked up after a moment—the woman had an uncanny way of knowing she was being watched—and met her eyes. The smile that split her face was a balm to Tink’s aches, and reassurance of the rightness of their love. Something that felt so wonderful could not be wrong. She knew the moment that Regina saw her bruised face. Her eyes, bright and sparkling honey brown, widened and she jumped to her feet.
Tink motioned with her head and Regina nodded, they understood each other without words. Regina sat a small purse on the bar and they headed up stairs.
“Too much,” Tink heard the granny say as they ascended, “like her mother, that one.”
She gave it little thought because it couldn’t be about them. She had no mother, and Regina was not even a little bit like her mother.
She showed this in the way that she sat Tink down and fussed over her like a mother hen. She gently examined her and hissed at the damage. The Blue Fairy had done quite a number on her wrist and face. Regina, with soft and careful fingers, drew her injured wrist close and laid a gentle kiss on it. A small pulse of violet magic made the ugly discoloration fade away. The pain vanished just as quickly. Regina brought Tink’s newly healed hand to her own cheek. “Oh my love, who did this to you?”
It didn’t matter. It couldn’t matter. She tugged Regina close and laid a kiss on her forehead. “It doesn’t matter. It’s already been kissed better.” Regina moved and laid another kiss on her bruised cheek, she peppered her injured face with small light pecks, and a spark of magic came with each, making Tinkerbell whole again.
Tinkerbell turned the cheek kisses into ones laid upon lips. Then she pulled Regina back with her onto the bed. She pushed Regina’s cloak off her shoulders and Regina plucked at the ties of her dress.
“I love you, Regina. With everything that I am.”
She didn’t say it all out loud to the group, of course, as some things were meant to be private. Some things, even those that went horribly wrong, were sacred. Still, she laid out the basics and felt like she was betraying Regina with every scant word. Silly, to feel like that, but she did.
“But you already know that it didn’t turn out to be happily ever after. The Blue Fairy found out—was told—and well, now I’m here.”
There was so much agony and regret, and it all rushed up in her chest and mind again, a rising tide of emotion she’d kept bottled up throughout the years.
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” Snow White interjected. “Regina was Queen. She was married to my father.”
Well that was the truth, or one version of it, Tink supposed. Though she owed Regina no such kindness, she started to speak again. “And she hated it all so much that she would have rather died.”
“And what,” Snow narrowed her eyes, “is that supposed to mean?”
Snow had her bunched fists on her hips, and though she was a grown woman, Tinkerbell still saw the spoiled princess that had made Regina’s life an endless hell.
“It’s how we met. The Queen jumped from a balcony, and I saved her life.” She paused and tilted her head to think for a moment, “Though hindsight being what it is, perhaps I should—”
“Bullshit.” Emma Swan, the extremely annoying and violent daughter of Snow White, interrupted her. “Regina would never do that.”
“I think,” Snow piped up again, “that I would remember my step-mother being suicidal.”
How could she not have noticed? Tink found it baffling. Regina had been desperately searching for any way out. She had been miserable, choked by sorrow, imprisoned and alone. That, at least, had not been an act.
“I guess you don’t know her as well as you think you do.”
“And you do?” Emma’s rebuttal was a loaded one, a carefully considered question. Her anger boiled just beneath the surface, and Tink understood not only what she was asking, but why. She could see it, sense it, read the woman like an open book. What was the phrase, it takes one to know one?
The woman, The Savior, lunged at her again, fists lifted to fight.
“A bad breakup? That’s why you took her? We came here to save our son and you are playing broken hearts? Are you out of your mind?”
Tink blasted back, just as angry, “I had to! I didn’t have a choice!”
“There is always a choice, damn it!” Emma was screaming now, furious and all but vibrating with a magic so powerful that Tink could nearly taste it in the air.
“He wanted me to kill her.” Tink pushed into Emma’s space and yelled just as passionately. “Pan wanted me to kill her so she couldn’t help you anymore. For years I swore if I ever got the chance that I could—and would—kill her.” Tears shined in Tinkerbell’s colbalt blue eyes. Emotions—pain, adoration, devotion, betrayal—flashed across her face.
Emma nodded because, though she didn’t seem to particularly want to, she understood. “You couldn’t do it.”
Tink shook her head and stepped away. “I can’t, even after all the pain and loss and time, I just can’t. So I took her to the Fields to buy her time, to keep her alive.”
Emma wasn’t letting her off that easily, though. “You could have said no.”
“Then she would be dead,” Hook sounded off, “and so would the Queen. I know Tinkerbell well, Swan, and she wouldn’t lie. Not about this. Pan is Neverland, and defying him is deadly. She’s done herself no favors.”
“Help us with this, help us save Regina and Henry, help us fight Pan, and we’ll take you with us. You can have a home again, in Storybrooke. That’s where the other fairies are now,” Snow pleaded.
Tinkerbell was unimpressed. “I’ve heard that before,” she glared at Hook as she spoke, and if looks could kill the pirate would be dead, twice, “I was dumped off his ship to drown and was put in debt to Pan because his Lost Boys fished me out of the sea before the mermaids had at me. All while he escaped the island on a flying ship.”
“It was on fire, mind you,” Hook interrupted the blonde, “I damn near died myself.”
“Try harder next time,” she spat back.mma smirked. Maybe the fairy—ex-fairy, whatever—wasn’t all bad. She held up the keychain, something that felt like her only tie to Regina and Henry. “Fine. Forget Hook, forget Regina. His name,” Emma lifted her hand so the precious plastic picture was visible, “is Henry. He loves to read and thinks he’s smarter than every adult he meets. He is smart, but he is just a kid. He’s spoiled rotten by both of his mothers. Hell, by half of the town, really. He was taken from us, stolen away, and we just want to bring him home. He’s just a little boy.” She blinked away tears of her own as she remembered Regina’s haunting words. “He sleeps with a nightlight and plays with a wooden sword. He doesn’t belong here. He’s not a Lost Boy.”
“Henry,” Tinkerbell smiled a little, “after her father. She was such a Daddy’s Girl. He was the only person in that entire castle that really saw her. Is he still—”
Emma shook her head.
“Dead.” Snow’s voice was flat and quiet, barely above a whisper.
“Also dead.” Snow’s voice hitched on her reply.
“Good.” Tinkerbell didn’t elaborate on that, and either didn’t notice or didn’t care that Snow flinched as that word crossed her lips.
Emma didn’t know what to do with that situation at the moment, so she ignored it. She focused on Tinkerbell instead. “So we good?”
“Well, then, let’s get moving.”
They were all glad to be headed somewhere, if not looking forward to their destination and the tricky task ahead of them.now White’s head was spinning like a top. Regina had taken a lover while still married to her father? Regina had tried to kill herself? Little Monster—Tinkerbell had called her that. Was that what Regina had called her? Had she never loved her at all? Had everything been an act from the beginning? She had just wanted Regina to be her mother, to have her as a part of her family.
“She was never your family.” Cora’s voice—only her voice could be so full of ice and disdain—whispered her ear, “She is my family. She is a Mills. My daughter. My grandson. My family. Not that you would know anything about that, dear.”
It wasn’t just the voice, the disdainful and nagging voice, that seemed to haunt her. It was as if Cora was beside her at all times. Snow could smell the cloying sweetness of roses that always seemed to cling to the woman. She could feel the prick of her meticulously manicured nails tracing her neck and shoulders, feather light and deadlier than dagger bite.
“I molded my daughter in my own image,” the voice continued. Snow could all but see the deceptively enticing red lips forming poisonous words and sharp brown eyes narrowed at her. “A pity you can’t say the same.” Snow glanced to the left and saw Cora in the shadows of the trees and heard her voice on the wind. It was all in her head, she told herself. She tried to push it all from her mind.
She was being ridiculous, anyway. Tinkerbell was lying, that had to be it. The fairy was lying, and days of stress had her imagination playing tricks on her.
“They’re both fighting for Henry so hard, going to the literal ends of the earth. All for him, just for him. Would you do the same, Snow? There are plenty of trees here, I bet at least one of them is magical,” Cora whispered, mercilessly.
“Shut up!” Snow shouted, her voice breaking the silence of their jungle march. There were three sets of confused eyes suddenly on her, and the malicious chuckle of her unseen tormentor—her imagined tormentor she reminded herself—in her ear.
“Sorry.” She smiled to brush the incident off. “Just thinking out loud.”
“Right.” Emma’s bullshit meter gave a little ping, but she let it go. They were all hot, tired, and at rope’s end.
Another hour of mostly silent hiking through the jungle went by with only the rhythm of boots tromping across the moist, peaty earth for conversation. Snow hadn’t heard Cora again, hadn’t let her imagination taunt her. She was frustrated, overheated, and her scalp was stinging, aching, burning; she knew at least one of her disgusting blisters had ruptured from chafing against her clothes. She was quickly running out of optimism.
When she first heard it, she thought it was Cora, back to taunt her with talk of motherhood and the lack of it in her life. But then she noticed that although a familiar voice, it was not Cora’s. The voice was as familiar as her own, and to her great sorrow, it rang clear in her memory whereas her own mother’s was faded and fuzzy. This was the voice that had declared doom to her on her wedding day. It was also the voice that had read her stories when she had asked for them. That oh-so-familiar voice, the one that she both loved and loathed, was singing. It was a hypnotizing melody spun around rich foreign words given life by a strong, sure, and undeniably beautiful voice. The song surrounded them, danced around them; it permeated the air like a fine mist.
They broke through the trees, and at first, Snow thought that Regina had set the field ablaze with one of her trusty fireballs. There was no fire, however, and once again she was struck by the intense and untamed beauty that was Neverland. The late afternoon sun painted the field with a fiery light that made the orange and gold lilies glow like embers against the flowing green grass.
There were children, at least a dozen boys of varying sizes, all young and clad in plain shifts. In the middle of the hoard of boys stood a woman in a matching plain shift that only reached her knees. Her dark hair, thick and wavy, fell to her slender waist. There were flowers in her hair, and her exposed skin glowed with pollen.
“It’s the pollen.” Hook said in a hushed tone. “It wipes her mind, makes her pliable, unable to say no.”
Regina turned, as if she’d heard him. Snow lost her breath for a moment. She knew Regina as well as anyone could, and she hadn’t expected to see her look like this. Her hair was long, as long as it had been when she was a queen. It was not just that, though. Her face was relaxed, the tension gone. Her eyes, usually focused and full of emotions that Regina would never act upon or even admit to having, were wide and bright, but blank. She was smiling, and it was not fake or forced, but it too was lacking something that could only be described as ‘Regina’. There was a child on her hip with sun bleached curls that spread wildly around his face. He had his fingers in his mouth, and his big brown eyes were locked on Regina’s face. He was little more than a baby, and he was already enamored with her.
Regina sang a song that she could not understand, but the tune was hauntingly familiar to her. She had heard Regina hum it to Henry when he’d been a baby during the long and monotonous days of the curse. She had heard Henry, Regina’s father, hum it to Regina time and time again during the years they had been her family. Only when they were alone, though. Alone or so they had thought. Regina had never, ever, hummed or sung it to her.
“Oh.” Tink’s voice was breathy, barely a whisper.
“Well.” Hook harumphed and, for once, made no further remark.
“Regina.” Emma’s voice was tinged with awe.
They stood there, all of them, and watched Regina mother the boys. She didn’t seem to be herself, though, not the Regina that Snow had come to know. This was not the vindictive Evil Queen or the hard-nosed Madam Mayor. This woman was soft and sweet and completely devoted to the boys she’d been tasked to care for. She gave the boys attention, and they were greedy for it. They pulled at the thin shift that constituted her only clothes; they ripped at her now long hair. They pinched, poked, screamed and cursed in languages and dialects that Snow didn’t even recognize. They were wild and uncontrolled, like cooped up Kindergartners hopped up on Mountain Dew and Pixie Sticks. Only worse. Much, much worse.
The only calm child was the one in Regina’s arms. His little legs and arms were covered with cuts and bruises. Not, Snow knew, from Regina, but from the other boys. Regina walked among them and attempted to keep the peace. She used gentle touches and soothing words. She was the sort of fairytale mother that every child dreamed of. Placed on her neck, snuggled between her collarbones, was the necklace that Neal and Hook had spoken of. It glittered an iridescent blue, an unearthly color against Regina’s sunkissed and pollen-dusted skin.
Beside her, Emma started to walk forward, as if pulled by magic.
“Emma!” Snow shouted.
Hook grabbed for her too. “The flowers, Swan, the flowers!”
Emma didn’t stop, though, didn’t respond to their protests. She walked towards Regina.
egina was standing in the middle of a field in a fluttering summer length dress and long dark hair that waved and curled. It flicked in the breeze as she weaved in and out between the boys. Little boys, little would-be Henrys. There was a baby on her hip. A chubby little boy who looked at her like she had hung the moon and all the stars. He looked at her like she was the sun itself. Emma couldn’t blame him. She had never seen this Regina. She was a singing and soft and smiling Regina. She was a mommy. She was everything Emma had spent so much time imagining. She was… Emma didn’t even have words. Beautiful didn’t even start to cover it. She was Regina.
She walked closer to her, drawn like a moth to the flame. “Regina.”
The other woman didn’t even look up from her charges. Emma moved closer, close enough to reach out and touch her. Regina finally turned to look at her, and Emma realized that she had been wrong. This wasn’t Regina.Her eyes held none of the complicated emotions that she was so used to seeing in them. Her face was lax and lifeless. This was not her Regina, just the shell.
She closed the gap between them and touched Regina’s arm. “Hey,” she said softly.
Regina blinked owlishly, as if she wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Her so-called-sons did notice something was going on, however. One of the boys, one of the biggest that clung close to Regina, looked at her. Well, glared up at her through cracked and smudged glasses, at any rate. His straw-straight carrot-colored hair was long, shaggy, and needed to be washed. He was a pudgy boy on the brink of puberty and lashed out and kicked Emma in the shin.
“Ow!” She jumped back and away from the little brat, and she held her throbbing shin. “The little son of a bitch kicked me!”
Regina finally reacted.
“Do not talk to my son that way,” she growled out in warning.
Emma smiled despite the pain. Underneath the drug pollen and the magic necklace, Regina was still there. The Madam Mayor tone and the sharp words—that was her Regina Mills. Emma held up the keychain, and the little picture of Henry that had become their talisman.
“No. This is your son. His name is Henry.” Emma looked her in the eyes, hoping for some sort of recognition. “Henry Daniel Mills, and he needs you.”
A single, perfectly shaped, raven brow cocked up, and for a brief and shining moment, Emma thought she had gotten through to the woman.
“Leave my sons alone,” Regina repeated.
Regina always had to do things the hard way. So Emma reached for her; she would remove Regina from Stephen King’s version of Candy Land whether the Queen liked it or not.
One of the boys, a scrawny kid with gapped teeth and dirty hands, did not like it. He turned on her quicker than a snake and started punching. He must have been the cub scout’s leader, because all the other boys followed suit, and suddenly she found herself under a dogpile of sharp elbows, knees, and rabid instincts.
“Holy shit!” she panted frantically, trying to get out from under them.
She could hear the others coming, but what were they supposed to do, attack little kids?
“Little demons!” Hook’s unmistakable voice rang out.
“Ah, he bit me!” Tinkerbell cried out.
She thought she heard Snow screaming that she would find her. She tried her best to ignore all the craziness and focused on getting through the seas of prepubescent boys to Regina.
Amidst chaos, Regina stood still, like some ancient statue that was probably in some museum that Emma had never cared to go to. She had the smallest boy in her arms, but he was squirming to get down to join his friends in the fight.
“Down!” The toddler’s scream was wild and jarring. Regina, truly unable to say no, put the boy down. He ran at the pile of boys babbling happily.
“Regina!” Emma reached for her again. “Regina, please!”
The brunette looked distressed and confused, but savage in her own way. When Emma got close enough, Regina lashed out, clawing at her like a feral cat. “You’re hurting them! You’re hurting my boys!” she yelled, teeth barred.
Emma came closer, hands held up in surrender. “I just want to help you,” she stated passively, then lunged forward to grab Regina. The woman reacted like a hellcat. She fought back, hard. She threw elbows and kicked and scratched for all she was worth. She tried to bite. She pulled and fought against Emma’s grasp.
“Calm down, Regina. Calm down! I’m only trying to help you, I swear!” Emma shouted at her captive.
Emma dragged Regina back towards the trees, away from the flowers and the savage little boys who held so much power over her. Regina fought the entire way, twisting and struggling with more power than should have been in her small frame. Emma fought like mad to keep hold of her.
“You can’t take them away from me!” Regina was screaming now. She screamed desperately and roughly, as though being remotely removed from her charges was the worst things that had ever happened in the whole of mankind. She screamed like a wounded animal protecting her young.
“I’m his mother!” she screamed at Emma savagely. “I’m his mother!” Her voice cracked and rasped, and yet she still kept screaming, “I’m his mother!” Her voice finally broke completely on the word ‘mother’.
Emma’s stomach clenched. This was not just magic pollen and enchanted jewelry. This was Regina. This was the mother who’d had her child taken from her. These were the long-repressed cries of anguish that Regina had been holding in. This was the sound of her son’s mother’s heartbreaking wide open. Swan, what have you done?
Emma stopped fighting the other woman and simply held her for a moment. She held her tight and close against her. “I’m sorry, Regina. So so sorry.” For what all she was apologizing for, she didn’t even know anymore, as there were so many moments in their past she’d let slip by without uttering an apology. For a moment, they were both still. Flush together, Emma was wrapped around Regina, rocking her so very gently, and for the first time since the brunette had stormed away, Emma felt something close to normal again. She didn’t even want to think about what that could mean.
She could feel Regina’s fingers sliding across the leather sleeves of her newly acquired armor. Then slender fingers wrapped around her own. Emma pulled their joined hands up, closer to them, so she could still hold Regina’s hand but also stay wrapped around her.
A wet, hot pain shot through the meaty part of Emma’s hand. She jerked away in surprise and Regina elbowed her in the stomach, hard. All of the air in her lungs rushed out in an embarrassing, “Oof.” Regina didn’t even look back, just rushed to the children.
She gathered the smallest and the meekest closest to her. “It’s okay. Shh, boys, shh. Mommy’s here now. Mommy’s here.”
Emma was fed up. These little shits didn’t deserve Regina. She was Henry’s mommy, damn it. She just needed to remember.
“The necklace,” Tink screamed as two boys pulled her between them like some sort of tug-of-war. “You have to get it off her! It’s powerful magic!”
Emma stood up, brushed herself off, and walked towards Regina again. The boys, just as loyal to Regina as she was to them, apparently, started to raise their fists and make faces. Small, but vicious. It was the other boys, the older ones who didn’t gather ’round Regina like little lost chicks, that worried Emma. The older and meaner boys made her nervous. She’d seen eyes like theirs before. Kids who had given up, whose lives had been wrecked. Kids who knew that the one person who would keep them safe was themselves. They weren’t kids. They were little Lost Boys. They had wooden swords and heavy sticks; not toys, these were training weapons. They had savage fists and anger. They weren’t interested in Regina, not as their Tiger Lily and not as their Mommy. She had seen kids like that in the system. They had lost all hope and desire for mommies and daddies. They were waiting for their next out. The little ones, like the toddler clinging to Regina’s legs again, she could handle. It was the ones with dead eyes that made her shiver.
She walked by them and tried to remind herself that she was the adult. She walked to Regina and focused on one thing, and one thing alone—the necklace. Get the necklace, then get Regina.
She didn’t think, she didn’t plan, she acted on pure and unadulterated Emma Swan instinct. She reached and grabbed like she was picking off an easy mark in a crowded mall. And within moments, she wrapped her fingers around silver and stones, and yanked. Hard! And just like that, it was all over. The clasp broke, and the effect was instantaneous. Regina went limp. The rage, the power, and the strength left Regina’s body immediately, like a light switch. Her brown eyes were blank again, wide, empty, drugged. Her knees wavered, and Emma caught her easily before she hit the ground.
“I’ve got you,” she whispered in Regina’s ear, holding the woman tight against her side, keeping her upright.
Regina was easy to lead now—shuffling, stumbling, and swaying like a girl who’d been roofied. Emma shuddered at that thought. Anything at all could have happened to her, and she was in no state to do anything about it. Fucking fairy tale creatures and their fucking magic Rohypnol.
“I’ve got you now,” she soothed again, her voice delicate and soft.
Regina turned her head and regarded her. Her eyes were hazy, unfocused, but she blinked and then blinked again. “Miss Swan?” Her voice was raw, and she was trembling, but she was Regina again.
“Yeah,” Emma couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the fact that even while drugged in Neverland, Regina still called her Miss Swan. But she was deliriously happy, all the same. “It’s me.”
They approached the group slowly; Regina had to lean heavily upon her. The children pawed at them, some screaming, some crying, some hitting. Once they crossed the threshold into the woods, the children abruptly stopped following them. It was like the ultimate version of ‘Out of Bounds’, Emma supposed. One of the boys, the gap-toothed leader who spoke a mish-mash of English, Russian, and something that Emma thought sounded like French but might have been Hindi for all she really knew, tried to follow, but the minute he tried to step from the grassy meadow to the shaded tree-line of the jungle, he received something that looked like an electric shock. Pan had his wild puppies penned in by an electric fence. Emma was so far past caring that she could not tell if she was impressed or disgusted.
“Emma!” Snow jogged towards them, a new collection of bruises, scrapes, and a cut to the the cheek clear souvenirs of their adventure with the Lollipop Guild from Hell. Personally speaking, Emma was not above asking for boo-kisses and rainbow unicorn bandaids at this point. Snow, though, seemed to only have eyes for Regina.
Snow grabbed Regina by her shoulders, wildly, without care, and not to help her. She held the woman at arm’s length, her fingers digging into Regina’s shoulders so hard that her knuckles blanched, and Regina winced despite her pollen-induced stupor. There were tears flowing down Snow’s cheeks.
“You could have been this all along. You could have been my mother. None of this would have happened. We would have all been happy. Truly happy. We would have had everything we ever wanted—together.” Her tone was frantic, pleading, yet angry at the same time. Like she, too, was one of the Field’s children. She shook Regina by her shoulders. “You’ll take care of these—little monsters—but you couldn’t love me? You love Henry, you love them, why couldn’t you have loved me? Why couldn’t you be my mother?”
Emma opened her mouth to shut up her dear and darlingest mother, but before she could even formulate the beginning of her very loud and belligerent phrase that started with a ‘what’ and ended with a ‘k’, Regina answered.
“I,” Regina began, her voice calm, placid, and oddly flat, like a small sound echoing through a canyon, “was just a child, too. I was heartbroken, I was scared and in pain. The King—”
“Stop it!” Tinkerbell leapt forward and physically wrenched Snow away from Regina. “You have no right to ask her those things!”
Whatever Regina had been about to say, the deeply personal and obviously upsetting ending to that sentence was something that Emma wasn’t sure Snow wanted to hear. The woman, however, was insistent. “What does my father have to do with any of—”
Regina’s glassy eyes and threadbare attention had switched, through, to the blonde ex-fairy.
“Tinkerbell.” Even high as a kite, Regina uttered her name softly, gently, like a long-lost lover would. Then she frowned, her brows knitted together, and for a moment, Emma saw a younger Regina, a Regina from a long time ago, a Regina that she hadn’t even expected existed, a heartbroken and confused teenager who reminded Emma more of herself the moment Neal had walked away than she was comfortable with. “You told the King. I trusted you, and you betrayed me. I looked for you.” A tear now slid down Regina’s cheek. “Even after all of that, I looked for you for years.” She reached out, and her slender, pollen stained fingers brushed across Tinkerbell’s cheek. “But I couldn’t find you.”
Tinkerbell gaped at Regina like a fish, her mouth opening and closing. “But I never, have could never, why do you think I told the, but you-we-I—” the fairy stuttered, obviously wounded and horribly confused.
Hook smoothly inserted himself into the situation and lead the clearly stunned Tinkerbell away. “Swan, there’s a stream back there. Take Her Majesty and get the pollen off before any other revelations come out of her.”
Emma, more relieved for the reprieve than she knew how to express, led Regina back into the woods by the hand. Regina followed silently, her fingers limp in Emma’s grip. Her bare feet scraped and stumbled along the leaves, roots, and vines, and Emma winced. Her own feet were raw and cut inside her boots, and she knew exactly how much it had to hurt. Regina, though, didn’t seem to notice the abuse her perfectly manicured (her toenails were painted purple!) feet endured. Maybe drugs weren’t all bad, m’kay. Except for the part where Snow had started interrogating Regina, of course. The poor woman had had no defenses, no way of deflecting, dodging or even trying to lie to protect her privacy. What the hell had Snow been thinking?
Emma plucked a vibrant orange and creme lily blossom from Regina’s hair—how had it gotten so long so fast?—and dropped it to the ground, crushing it under her boot heel. She was never going to be able to look at flowers the same way again. A few yards (meters, clicks, jungle blocks?) further, the stream revealed a gorgeous grotto, complete with a six foot high waterfall that would be a perfect stand in for a shower. How Hook, not exactly the spokesman for Irish Spring, had known about it boggled Emma’s mind.
“Well go on, Your Majesty. Get all the pollen off. Get the rest of the flowers out of your hair. I know it’s not exactly up to your usual level of spa treatment, but a shower will do you some good.”
Regina stared at her blankly, and she made no move towards the water. Oh, Emma wanted to scream, the world was not right or fair. They were literally in what looked like (on the surface at least) paradise, Regina needed to shower off under a picturesque waterfall, and she needed help? Had Emma fallen into a cheap porn or Hook’s daydreams? She looked around for cameras. Nope, she was just the unluckiest lucky woman in the world. She lead Regina towards the waterfall.
She plucked flowers out of the gorgeous brown hair and watched the petals float downstream. The mist from the waterfall wet Regina’s hair and left droplets on her eyelashes and lips.
Emma tried really hard to think of baseball and not the fact that her son’s other mother, one of the hands-down most beautiful women she’d ever seen, was inches away from her under an actual real live waterfall.
She held her there and let the gentle waterfall soak Regina’s hair, skin, and clothes. She watched the pollen wash off Regina and away. She watched as slowly, the cold water woke Regina up. Her dark eyes became more focused and lively again. Her lips twitched and then there was a moan—a moan that shot through Emma’s entire being and woke up parts of her anatomy that she was desperately trying to ignore.
“Em—” Regina’s eyes, almost whiskey gold with new awareness and light, focused on her face. “Emma?”
She smiled and rubbed her thumb across Regina’s wet cheek, taking away a swipe of pollen. “Welcome back.”
Regina blinked rapidly, obviously still very disorientated. “Wh-what happened? I remember—” Her hand shot up to cradle her head.
Emma made sure she was standing steady. “Finish washing up. Make sure all the pollen is off you, and then I’ll explain.” She turned her back, beat a hasty retreat, and tried very very hard not to memorize the outline of Regina’s perfect body beneath the thin dress that, when wet, had clung somewhat transparently to every curve of her body. She turned her back and tried to think un-sexy thoughts. Baseball. Ice fishing, a swimsuit calender of the dwarves back in Storybrooke.
“I-ah,” Regina cleared her throat, “You can turn back around now.”
Regina, still soaking wet, stood just behind her. Her dark hair, thick and wet, was slicked back, and her arms were crossed over her chest, self-consciously.
“So-um,” Emma licked her lips and tried to remember how to speak, “how are you feeling?”
Regina, suddenly shy, only shrugged. “Not great.”
Emma looked her over, checking for new wounds, and found nothing life threatening or upsetting. “Did those kids,” (if you could call them that), “hurt you?”
Regina raised a brow, and for a moment her queenly mask fell into place, haughty and impassive, but the moment passed quickly and that crumpled into a chuckle that sounded more like a strangled sob. “They’re so small and needy, so much in need of love. I remember when Henry needed me that way.”
Of course, Regina Mills would be attacked by demon children and act like they were puppies and kittens who needed hugs and kisses. Still, though, the mention of Henry meant that Regina was back in her right mind, and that, at least, was comforting to know.
“He still needs you. He needs both of us.”
Regina’s smile, though small, made Emma feel suddenly ten-feet-tall.
“I suppose you’re right.” Then, Regina looked down at herself. “I should probably change.” Her toes, bare on the pebble strewn side of the stream, were suddenly covered in purple mist, and then leather boots. The mist covered Regina’s legs with familiar leather pants, but then she tilted sideways, her knees buckling.
Emma, right there, caught her before she could fall. “Easy there, Tiger.”
Regina righted herself, with Emma’s help, and pushed her long dark hair out of her face. “And I need to deal with all of this too. I should cut it short.”
“No!” The word flew out of Emma’s mouth far faster and louder than she had meant it to. “I mean you’re, I mean it’s beautiful, I mean—” Damn it. “I mean uh, here, let me.” Emma quickly took the wet, and silky smooth (despite their time in the jungle—that had to be magic, right?) hair and started to braid it carefully. She moved closer to Regina. Her fingers brushed against her scalp, her cheeks, her neck as she carefully twisted the strands of the woman’s hair together. Never had such a small thing been so intimate. Emma felt connected to Regina in that moment. Connected in a way that she could not, not in a million years, explain. When she was done braiding, she cut a piece of the leather tie that held David’s armor closed in front and tied the braid off. Of course now the armor’s ties were too short. She unlaced them, and the armor fell open at the front to reveal her tank top. She took the leather laces and wrapped them around Regina’s waist, tying the now magically dry sundress-shift-shirt-thing that Regina had been wearing in the fields around her, cinching it like a belt.
“There.” Emma smiled at her. “See, you’re Neverland’s Next Top Model.”
Regina’s smile, and accompanying eye roll, made Emma’s stomach flip and her heart flutter.
“Thank you, Emma.” Regina caught Emma’s hands as they moved away from her. “For saving me. You didn’t have to.”
“I always will.” Emma answered without hesitation. “Always.”
They stood there, in front of the waterfall, close together, heads bent towards each other, hands tangled together, chests almost touching. It would only take a few inches and—
“Swan.” Hook’s voice cut through the moment like a machete, followed by, “Queen.”
They quickly moved (nobody jumped or anything), apart and looked towards the trees where Killian Jones stood waiting for them.
“We have to get a move on if we want to make it back to the tree house before nightfall.”
“Yeah.” Emma answered and hoped her voice didn’t sound like the fumbling teenager she suddenly felt like.
“Of course.” Regina replied. Although usually the calm and collected one, she still sounded hoarse and uncertain.
They walked together, back into the jungle and back towards their group, two feet of space and many, many unspoken words between them.
. . . To Be Continued in Episode 14
Total Word Count: 13840 words