The Once Upon a Time Virtual Series
Virtual Season 3
“As You Were”
Executive Producer: Silverbluemoon
Story By: RebelByrdie and Silverbluemoon
Written By: SwanQueenGranger
Edited By: Silverbluemoon
Advisors and Consultants
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.
Please Note: This episode is still actively being edited, so please keep that in mind. This message will disappear when the edits have been completed.
Publication Date: 11/22/2015
orning came bright and way too early to the shittiest secret clubhouse ever.
Emma sighed and followed the sun as it leaked through the tree and began possessively creeping up her boots as she sat in the rough doorway. Green eyes gazed across the rickety rowboat that served as some sort of balcony and she scowled.
Another day in Neverland.
Another day without Henry.
She hadn’t slept much last night, not with her thoughts racing about what had already happened and what was potentially to come. Not with what could be happening to her son.
Regina had finally stopped thrashing in her hammock a few hours ago. Emma had watched her with a quiet understanding. Nightmares of their son’s fate had plagued her all night.
She was keenly aware of that because she had refused to sleep, instead watching as Regina cried out Henry’s name and reached for him multiple times when she had finally been too tired to fight rest. Neverland was taking its toll on all of them and there was only so long Regina could pretend that the magic she was forced to do wasn’t draining her quickly.
A deep sigh left Emma’s chest at the thought and she sank further against the rough doorway. She had never felt more helpless in her life.
Her parents were curled up together in the far corner as they had been all night. David was propped against the wooden wall, seated as best he could with Snow against him. Only the prince’s face was flesh now. Snow stayed by his side, inconsolable, but bravely smiling whenever his blue eyes darted to her.
Regina had insisted on pumping as much magic as she could into him to stave off the worst. One look from her tense eyes had told Emma all she needed to know.
It wasn’t going to help much.
It was only the fairy who seemed to possess the ability to sleep unfettered through the night or at least lay quiet and still, which Emma admitted was probably a learned skill from so long on this godforsaken island.
Emma pushed the immediate flare of annoyance from her mind and rolled her neck to work out the knots. She hated to admit it, but the fairy seemed helpful.
That didn’t mean that she had to like her, however and she damn sure wasn’t going to trust her.
Hook and Neal had been gone for days it seemed and all they had to do was wait for the two of them to return with a vital ingredient to hopefully save her father. Another sigh pushed itself from her lips. Why had they agreed on letting those two go? It was, in retrospect, a freaking awful idea.
Her father’s survival depended on a couple of ridiculously old (thinking of it made her head hurt) thieves who had always chosen themselves first and foremost over everyone else.
She and Regina should have gone.
Honestly, she was starting to think that she and Regina should have gone off by themselves in the beginning. No fairies, no baby–daddies, no fields of golden hell and no death traps. Just her and Regina and Henry. They seemed to work best that way, anyway.
Her scattered thoughts were interrupted by a low gravelly voice over her shoulder.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this about you, but you’re thinking too hard.”
Emma felt the corner of her lip twinge with what felt like the stirrings of the first smile she could remember in ages. Leave it to Regina to bring the comfort of the known to this hell hole.
“Good morning to you too, Your Majesty.”
She could hear the hammock groaning as the Queen slipped out of it; the soft footfalls as she made her way closer.
Emma turned and glanced at the outstretched mango in Regina’s hand before taking it without question. They’d need to keep their strength up even laying in wait. Who knows what could be lurking around the corner.
Regina nudged her right thigh with a bare foot and Emma silently slid a little further against the door to allow her to sit beside her in the open doorway. Silence descended upon them as their legs stretched out into the rowboat beneath them.
Emma turned the mango over in her hands mindlessly as Regina settled, her left shoulder brushing against Emma’s right one. It wasn’t a comfortable fit in the tiny doorway, and yet it stilled Emma’s skirting thoughts quickly.
The brunette scanned the horizon around them as she said it and Emma felt another sigh bubbling into her chest.
Her eyes trailed across the other direction of the forest below them.
“The room service here sucks.”
Emma’s eyes halted their trek across the landscape and swiveled back towards the brunette. She knew Neverland was playing tricks on her, but there was no way that had happened.
“I’m sorry, did you just say that?”
Regina never turned. One shoulder lifted in a silent shrug before she brought the ripe apple she’d taken for herself to her lips, “Crude but true.”
Emma watched as she bit into the fruit and wondered yet again how many times Henry had seen this side of his mother.
The thought brought a small warmth to her chest and she smiled. One hand lifted the mango to her lips to hide the gesture as she turned back towards the horizon. “Madam Mayor, you shock me with your language. Do you kiss our son with that mouth?”
Regina huffed low in her chest and lifted one finger in pause as she swallowed her food.
“Your son was the one who taught me that word. He went through a potty–mouth stage. I blame Nickelodeon.”
“I see, so when he does something bad he’s my son.”
The statement caused an ache to spread through her chest and she was reminded quickly of the fighting they had endured before. A tireless back and forth over their son. She was determined to never allow that to happen again.
“I’m playing the odds.”
Emma turned as much as she could at that, surprise etched on her face. “Wait, you let Henry watch that crap?”
One delicate shoulder raised again as Regina returned her gaze with a glint of hurt in her eyes.
“He likes cartoons and I’m not the ogre he made me out to be.” Silence reigned for a moment as the brunette turned her gaze back to the horizon. When she spoke, her voice was lower, sadder than before. “We had fun.”
Another pang tore through Emma’s chest at the sound and she shook her head, determine to quickly let the Queen know what she had meant.
“No I mean, seriously. Everything post 2000 on Nick is crap. I can’t believe you let my kid think that is entertainment.”
She could hear the lilting smile pulling in Regina’s voice when she spoke. “I suppose he should have grown up on a steady diet of 1983?”
Emma scrunched her nose in mock disgust at the thought. “Ew, no. He’d be rocking the 90’s with me.”
A chuckle slipped past Regina’s lips at that and she turned to watch Emma bite down on the mango. “And what am I doing while you and he are watching all these mind-rotting 90’s shows?”
Emma cringed at the fruit before swallowing. “Making pancakes hopefully.”
She smiled slightly when she was rewarded with another chuckle from the woman at her side.
“Besides, I have all the good stuff on DVD. So when we get back, we can have Saturday Morning the way it’s supposed to be. How big is your TV anyway?”
Regina raised one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at the thought, “Size hardly matters.”
Emma’s gaze deadpanned on the woman as she took another bite of her apple.
Her gaze drifted to Regina’s throat bobbing up and down while she swallowed.
“The largest is downstairs. I suppose I could move the pool and foosball tables so we can pull back the…”
“I’m sorry, the what now?”
Brown eyes turned to meet disbelieving green.
Emma laughed incredulously for a moment as she leaned back. “I have been to your mansion and know damn well that there isn’t anything like that in your fancy–ass place.”
Regina rolled her eyes momentarily and shook her head. “The game room is in the basement, Miss Swan.”
Emma almost laughed at the way she could hear Regina rolling her eyes. As if, duh, of course the massive game room would be concealed in the basement. It probably looked like Dave and Buster’s down there knowing Regina.
“Oh, we are so having a party down there when we get home. Henry is gonna get schooled in real cartoons and then I’m gonna kick your ass at pool.” Emma brought one finger up in emphasis.
Regina raised one lone eyebrow once more before bringing the apple back to her lips. “You can try.”
This time Emma couldn’t fight the grin that overtook her face. Regina’s eyes sparkled mischievously for a moment as she turned back towards the landscape.
Snow’s voice rang out through the tree house louder than Emma thought necessary. She supposed her faux cheer needed to be spread to them all in order to give a sense of security to David.
As green eyes turned back towards her smiling mother, she glimpsed a fleeting look of something else in her eyes.
ost of the visions were of the past, of that he was sure.
None had been of the future.
He knew when a vision was of future events. He knew its taste and smell.
He could see the fog round its edges; still malleable and changeable.
The future could be modified and directed. It wasn’t set in stone like the crystal clear visions of the past. He liked the future as much as he loathed the past.
No, this was not the future. This was the present.
It felt fresh to his senses and the smell of mango and sap was almost overwhelming.
It smelled like Neverland.
Flashes filtered before his eyes, disjointed and staticy like a far away voice fading in and out. Voices came through clearly now and then and the tone is always decipherable, but the words and context are lost to him like a TV signal when the rabbit ears are out of alignment.
He saw the Queen and the Savior talking.
The Charmings waking up.
The images changed, like fast forwarding on his old VHS tapes and suddenly Regina and Emma are no longer side by side, but arguing passionately, stepping up to each other in anger.
He could see flickers of the Evil Queen spread across his old pupil’s face and everyone suddenly turned from him. Their backs were all he could see, but the shouted words filtered through and then back out again. The Savior’s face hardened as she turned once more in what appeared to be exasperation.
The argument must have been heated, as the Queen stomped away quickly, shoving through the foliage around her as she went, a man in a green cloak with her as she did.
The man turned quickly towards Emma as he and Regina pushed their way into the jungle and he could not believe his eyes.
Rumpelstiltskin shook the vision away quickly.
He was alone by a cold fire pit. The embers had long burned down to smoldering coals.
The word echoed through the forest around him, mocking him as he tried to sit up. A cool hand on his forearm halted his movement.
“You need to rest Rumpel.”
Frenzied eyes danced across her delicate features as Belle looked at him with unending patience and knowing.
He had to make her see. “But Bae…”
She shook her head slowly, understanding etched on her face as she smoothed one hand down his face lovingly. “He’s gone, Rumpel. Neverland—Pan is toying with you.”
He sank into the touch momentarily, lost in the warmth and love he felt there before anger sparked inside of him.
He shook his head from her fingers and gazed directly at the eyes he knew so well. “You’re not real.”
Belle smiled softly, reaching once again to take his hand in her own. “Neither is he.”
A sob loosened itself from his lips as his face fell. Neverland was driving him mad, he could feel it.
Belle’s soothing whispers flowed into his ear as she scooted closer and pulled him close. It was a familiar action; one that she had done numerous times when he she had found him awake in the middle of the night in some abandoned section of their home.
“Shhh, it’s ok, Rumpel.”
A whimper fell from his lips and he wrapped his arms around her, pressing his head to her chest as she held him close.
“You need to rest.”
He could feel the vibration of her chest against his ear as she spoke, low and soothing; felt himself being lowered to the ground.
The hard soil was cold on his back as he settled against it. Belle wordlessly spread on the ground next to him, warm against his side as she pressed her head to his chest.
He wrapped one arm around her small frame and pressed his eyes closed – groggy, unfocused; confused.
He wasn’t sure what was real and what was delusion anymore.
He’d spent twenty-eight years in a coma.
He hadn’t been awake.
He hadn’t been cognizant of the time as it moved.
He had heard stories on television of coma patients hearing voices and being trapped in their bodies. He didn’t know about all of that. He very clearly remembered hearing Snow’s voice, but that had been at the end as he was waking up.
Before that? There had been nothing.
Now, though, he understood the stories. He understood the terror or being trapped inside his own body and feeling the world go by you without the ability to communicate.
Now, he knew because now he was living it. He fought for every breath. His chest constricted against the stone that encased them, lungs unable to fully expand. His body refused to obey his commands. His limbs lay motionless and heavy at his sides. His eyes and lips were now the other things still listening to him and even that was limited.
He could feel the panic swelling in him at every thought; fear of his mind working and the rest of him stiffening, inside and out.
Fear because he knew.
He was dying. He was dying in a nightmare jungle with his wife and daughter watching.
“So this is how it ends.”
Blue eyes blinked at the sound from over his right shoulder. He could not turn his head to capture the image of the speaker, but he knew the mocking voice.
“The great story of Prince Charming.”
A version of himself stepped into his line of sight and stopped, jauntily biting into an apple as he surveyed the occupants of the room. He seemed so free in his motions and when leaned back against the wall, he smiled as he swallowed.
“I don’t think that title would have suited me.”
David felt his pulse quicken and breathed as deeply as he could to slow it. He didn’t know if he could hasten the poison spreading through his body, but he’d be damned if he was going to chance it.
James chuckled as he took another bite of his apple.
“Don’t get me wrong, I was raised to be a prince–just like Snow was raised to be a princess. The charming part, though…”
He smirked as he tilted his head to the side in question and finally tossed a look towards the man on the floor. “I guess you learned that from the goats or sheep or whatever it is you chased after.”
David tried his best to block the sound, hearing Snow’s voice in his head reminding him it was not real. He searched for her now, his bloodshot eyes finding her making arrows alongside Tinkerbell. He knew she had done it thousands of times before, had watched her effortlessly create dozens of arrows. Yet now, her nervous hand movements made more of a mess of the fletching than anything.
“Look at her. Her Majesty, Queen of the Enchanted Forest, making arrows like a peasant apprentice. She is descended from blood bluer than the sky and look how far you dragged her down.”
Disgust dripped thick from James’ words and David blinked blue eyes back towards him.
James stared at him with thinly veiled contempt, but David could not respond. His voice had long ago betrayed him.
James scoffed as he raked his eyes over the grayish form of his body. “Brought down by a fish–a girl fish. Honestly I’m embarrassed you and I share blood and a face.”
One hand quickly moved to rub a clean shaven face.
“Especially the face.”
David watched as he smoothed his hand across a strong jaw line. The absence of the scar on his chin leapt out as the glaring difference to David.
Snow had given him that scar.
He focused on the thought.
“I would have made a great King.”
David could hear the pride in the man’s voice and watched as he pushed his way off of the wall and slowly circled Snow. One hand rose to lightly touch her tousled hair.
When he spoke, his words were easy, unladen with history. He eyed his wife like a prize and David wanted to scream to stop touching her – to back away, but he couldn’t. He feels the moisture of tears well in his eyes as James tilted his head and leaned in close to breathe Snow’s scent.
“I mean obviously things would have been very different. No dark curse for one thing.”
He paused quickly and leaned back to glance mockingly at David. One finger rose to point at the woman before him. “I mean honestly, you let her counter your execution order.”
Blue eyes turned towards the Queen standing close to Emma and he shook his head.
“She is beautiful, but a few arrows would have prevented so much.”
He tilted his head slightly once more and took three steps towards the pair. David could only watch as he placed a hand on the doorframe near Emma’s head and leaned in.
“If Emma were my daughter she would be a princess–a real princess.”
Fingers traced across a loose blonde tendril and he smiled. “All of Abigail’s class and gentleness without the smart attitude I think. She would have been pampered, loved, cared for. She would have never known hardship or pain.”
The smile graced his features once more, “Daddy’s Little Princess.”
When Regina touched Emma’s arm, he let the blonde hair drop from his hand and leaned against the wall beside her. Sharp blue eyes turned back to the man unmoved on the floor.
“How do you live with yourself? Letting the Evil Queen touch your baby girl? You let that murdering bitch corrupt the only half–decent thing you’ve ever created.”
He bit into the apple again and turned his gaze back to the women.
“First your wife and now your daughter.”
A grin crossed his unmarred face as James tossed a lazy look between Regina and Snow.
“Then again, who’s to say I would have sided with Snow in the first place? “
He turned his eyes back to the women in the doorway, pushed off of the wall and slinked around towards Regina.
“The Evil Queen does have a certain appeal to her, doesn’t she? Emma certainly thinks so.”
He chuckled lightly as David followed his eyes, watching the way Emma looks at the brunette.
“It’s almost like the Evil Queen is more a part of the family then you are.”
Another bite of the apple.
“Rich. Royal. Definitely smarter than you. Hell I’d taste her forbidden fruit too.”
David’s eyes darted back and forth between his daughter and Regina to Snow. He opened his mouth slightly, willing his vocal cords to shout his warning.
It was pointless.
His protests, his outraged screams, his warnings to everyone else – end up a squeak–like grunt barely audible from his lips.
James laughed out loud at the sound and muttered a contemptuous, “Pathetic.”
Snow’s eyes darted towards him then and she laid the arrow in her hands back on to the table, and moved towards him without thought. His blue eyes searched her worried face as she bent down to him, hands already moving to his face in a show of comfort. He saw the sadness in her eyes before she leaned down, pressing light kisses to the parts of his face that couldn’t be mistaken for Mount Rushmore.
“You’ve failed her for the last time, Davey-Boy.”
David’s eyes landed on him over Snow’s shoulder. James smirked down at him and crouched slowly beside the pair. His eyes fell to the dark haired woman who had her face pressed against the side of his head.
“Do you think if she’d met the both of us that she would have really chosen you over me?”
He felt his pulse quicken again and struggled to control his breath that now came in quick spurts.
“A shepherd over a prince? A failure over a hero? You’re actually dumber than I thought.” A chuckle once more left James’ lips as he leaned forward gleefully and tapped his fingers against David’s stone chest.
“Not that your brain will matter much when it’s full of rocks and barnacles.”
David tried to focus on Snow and the way she is pressed against him. She pressed another kiss to his forehead and whispered a soft pledge of love. He tried to focus on their love for each other, for Emma; for Henry, but all he could hear was his twin’s laughter.
egina clamored down the rickety ladder then scowled at herself for her clumsiness, her weakness. She had watched Snow whispering promises of love and salvation to Charming, watched Emma try to act as if it didn’t affect her, watched Tinkerbell squirm at the words and toss a glance her way.
She had to be away from it. All of it.
She couldn’t sit by and helplessly watch everything burn once more. She couldn’t stand idly by and feel the vestiges of hope knowing they were doomed to be snuffed out.
Dark eyes raked over the dense jungle around her and she sucked in a quick breath.
This was too much. Too much like everything she had ever known. Too much like her attempts to change – to do what was right and still losing it all.
Her baby boy was still out there – in this hellish jungle with the Lost Boys and Pan and she couldn’t save him.
A hand raked through her hair and she slammed her eyes shut.
She couldn’t save him.
In her mind’s eye, she saw Snow clinging to the prince, saw Emma’s quiet desperation before she dropped her eyes and she felt the familiar pain of failure wash over her again.
She couldn’t save David and for someone who had actively tried to kill him in the past, she was bothered by that more than she wanted to contemplate.
Regina turned quickly to face the voice. Her hair, still braided from Emma’s touch before whipped around as she moved, the end curled into a corkscrew. Regina could feel the tendrils against her face, soft and curly. She pushed them away slowly and tried not to think of her past when she had felt them in her youth.
When she had failed everything.
She didn’t want to talk, though with Emma, she would at least make an effort.
“Another day in paradise.” Emma’s paltry attempt at either humor or small talk. Either way it was pathetic and it grated on her already raw nerves.
Regina turned her gaze to the foliage and away from the blonde. Hopper’s advice, anger management drivel about vending breathes and counting to ten, flew out the proverbial window.
“Another day with Henry out—“ her hand moved wildly towards the jungle, “there!”
She could hear Emma sighed and assumed that the would-be Sheriff had pushed her hand through her tangled mop of light hair.
“As soon as we get David on his feet again we’ll find him. We’ll find him and we’ll go home.”
Regina scoffed at the statement and Emma continued.
“I mean you got the water coming and then you can voodoo him well again and we…”
Her temper. Not pretty at the best of times, snapped. She could feel the tendrils of control fly away in her chest and stomach, like cutting corset stays.
”I see that you’ve learned absolutely nothing.”
Why was she surprised? She didn’t turn to look at the other woman. Couldn’t do so, because if she did, well she wasn’t sure she’D be able to maintain her shaky composure.
“I should have left you and the idiots the moment I stepped on the beach. Now I’m playing nursemaid to a sheep herder and tutoring a numbskull instead of saving my son.”
She turned, finally, to face Emma, her son’s other mother and bane of her existence.
Regina’s voice was shaking, and if Emma didn’t know her well she would say it bordered on hysterical,and the volume rose as she spoke. Dark eyes were hard, wild and they pierced Emma like arrows. She knew the struggle Regina was having, could see it in her eyes.
Emma had felt it many times over her life, but damn it, she was just about at her own limit here and she was going to be damned if she let this crazy direct to dvd adventure go off the rails again.
Emma took two steps forward when Regina’s face morphed into her ‘We-are-not-amused’ scowl.
“Our son that needs his mothers—both of them. Now, and when we get home.”
She can feel the anger boiling in her as each word left her lips and she pushed further. Regina straightened to her full height, as though trying to make up for the fact she wasn’t wearing five-inch-I’m-better-than-all-you-bitches- Prada heels, as Emma pressed into her space, an accusatory finger outstretched.
“So you can forget any ideas you have about running into those trees and going off half-cocked again.”
Regina had the nerve to look insulted. “I beg your pardon?”
Emma scoffed loudly and shook her head. Seriously, she was going to act like the nightmarish flower fields was no big deal? Seriously? “You heard me. Stow your self-destructive tendencies and focus on what’s best for our son!”
Her shout was swallowed by the surrounding jungle and for a moment, Regina stood, her haughty face paled a little and her jaw dropped open, disbelieving. Emma jumped on the opportunity, fury she hadn’t felt a moment earlier suddenly pressed to the surface.
“Our best chance at saving Henry is together and you know that!”
She had to know that!
”There aren’t any triggers to defuse or balconies to jump off of here.”
Regina swallowed hard and crossed her arms around her own waist. She might have played it off but her quick glance to the tree house before she turned her back to Emma again, gave her away. Apparently Tinker Bitch had not been lying.
Emma kept going because if Regina didn’t understand then Emma had to make her understand. She couldn’t protect Regina if she kept running off on her own.
“Just stick here with us—with me and together we can…”
Regina’s shoulders stiffened and when she turned slowly back around her face was hard and blank,her eyes cold and missing the warmth and emotions that Emma associated with Regina. This wasn’t Regina or even Madam Mayor. She had taken on the persona, put on the mask, of the Evil Queen.
Emma Swan sucked a deep breath through her nose at the sight. This was 100% the opposite of what she’d been going for. Fuck.
“Together? Oh, that’s rich coming from you.” She laughed, it was haughty but empty, forced and caustic. The sound scraped against Emma like course sandpaper. It pissed her off, but she kept quiet and let Regina blow off her mouth.
“You took Henry away, crossed state lines to a place where you knew I couldn’t follow.”
Emma watched, unable to look away, as the beautiful brunette paced furiously as she spoke, punctuating every raised word with a swipe of her hand. Rage flushed her face a furious red and the vein in her forehead bulged. It should have been ugly, but Regina made temper tantrums look like a photoshoot.
“You took him without talking to me. Your darling mother said that you didn’t even need to check with me. You trusted Gold over me!”
That was it. Regina didn’t even know her side of things. Hadn’t even asked! Besides it wasn’t as if Regina had been making good decisions at the time. Gold wasn’t exactly Dudley Do-Right but he was a predictable son of a bitch, unlike Cora-Heart Ripper-Mills.
“You sided with your psycho mother!”
Regina’s body language tightened, became harder, ready for a fight. Her jaw jutted out, her fists clenched and her already cold eyes went all but lack and icier than Maine in January.
“Oh, don’t even, Miss Swan. You were running away.”
Emma raked a hand through her hair and spun on the spot, pressing one palm into her eyes as Regina continued. She was not going to lose it. She was going to remain calm, cool, collected and cooperative.
“You were taking Henry and running because that’s what you do! You were overwhelmed and you were running away!”
Calm, cool and collected flew out the door.
“Who could blame me?!”
The words were wild as she spun back. She heaved a disbelieving huff and spread her arm in a circle.
“Look around you, Regina. We’re in a fucking fantasy novel—no a shitty soap opera—gone way wrong! My kid is living out some crazy fairytale and it’s not normal. None of this is normal!”
She ran defeated hands over her face and saw Regina advance again, eyes wide and moisture threatening to leak from them.
“I tried to give him normal!”
Emma dropped her hands and shook her head in disbelief, because really this was too much.
Regina wrapped her arms around her waist once more. “Don’t you think I tried to do normal? Everything was fine until you came along!”
Emma’s arms slapped against her sides. “Oh yeah, obviously not since he came to look for me!”
The brunette didn’t reply to that, but Emma could feel the magic radiating off of her. It buzzed in the air and tasted salty-like sorrow. How Emma could taste the magic was beyond her, but she did and it was overwhelming.
“A nice shiny new mother, yes.” Regina’s voice had dropped an octave and dripped hate and spite, “ I remember. A mother that signed away all legal rights and didn’t see him for over a decade,”
Emma threw her arms up at that but if Regina noticed, she didn’t seem to care that Emma was about to snap.
“But that doesn’t matter because you’re the great and wonderful Savior. But god forbid I ever bring up the fact that you’ve never been his parent. You just barged in and encouraged him to skip school and sneak out. You let him do whatever he wants no matter what because hey you’re the fun Mom he’s always wanted. Who was the one who makes sure he eats his vegetables and carries his epi-pen. Who taught him manners and made sure he knew how to be respectful and kind? Well it couldn’T have been me! Because I’m the Evil Queen first, last and always. Nothing I did, not all the love I’ve given or the care or sleepless nights, the tears and smiles, matters. Thank goodness you arrived to save him from a life of safety, security, and love!”
“He was miserable!” Emma screamed at her, because as right as Regina was, that fact was still true. “I was just trying to help!” Somehow things had spun way out of control but she couldn’t stop now, and doubted Regina would either.
“I do not need your help.”
Emma could not hold back the disbelieving bark of derision at that. “Lady, you need more help than anyone I’ve ever met! You’ve got issues!”
Regina turned her head away once more and mocked, “Well excuse me for not being fucking Snow White.”
The words, filthy beggar speech, had no sooner left her mouth before Regina clamped her lips tightly. A shot of aggravation spread over her face and her mother’s voice rang in her ears.
Ladies don’t use foul language.
Even now, in the middle of Neverland, Cora’s voice rang very clearly in her mind. It haunted her. It taunted her. It reminded her of everything she had had been and everything that she had lost. Everything she was on the brink of losing.
Emma, however, could know none of that. Emma, who was supposed to be on her side. Emma, who was rubbing salt in her raw wounds. Emma, who wouldn’t ever, not since the night they’d met, leave well enough alone.
“Really? Still?! Jesus Regina, when will you let it go? I mean…” She drew up short for a moment, her face screwed up in confusion.
“Wait did you just say ‘fuck’? Queens don’t cuss. I’m pretty sure Disney forbids it.”
Regina half chuckled in disbelief at the statement as she turned on the still confused look on Emma’s face.
“As difficult as this may be to wrap your miniscule brain around, Miss Swan, this is my life, not a cartoon. I am human. I curse and right now I’m fucking cursing because you bring it out in me! You’re infuriating! Sometimes I wish that I –“
The statement was cut off by twigs snapping in the rattling underbrush.
Both women whirled immediately, a fireball springing to life in Regina’s suddenly outstretched hand as Emma pulled her sword and pointed it towards the brush.
Neal swatted a low hanging branch from his face and immediately pulled up short, hands up without thought.
“Holy shit! It’s just us!”
Regina deflated, the other idiots had finally returned.
Emma, easily amused and most likely happy for the distraction smirked as the branch Neal had swung connected with Hook’s face. He stepped into the clearing directly behind the man, hook outstretched in exasperation.
“Take it easy.”
The pirate slowed to a halt next to the man and glanced between them. “Swan. Queen.”
Regina allowed the fireball to dissipate as she stepped forward.
“Finally. You have the water?”
Hook tipped his head in acknowledgment and pulled a taut water skin from beneath his jacket.
Regina snatched it without a second thought and rolled her eyes when she heard Emma sigh.
“And the scale?”
Neal shook his head quickly, bending down to catch his breath now that that were relatively a little safer than before. “Next thing on the list.”
She wanted to scream. To stomp, to set fire, she settled for a scoff. “Next? Well by all means, let’s take our time. Did you have time to stop by Starbucks on the way back?”
Emma watched as Neal glanced up. Hook scowled silently.
Regina turned to the Savior once more. “If you want me to keep David from becoming a museum display then just maybe they should try to get the things I need to save his annoying life.”
Another eye roll was loosed before Regina bent and swiftly yanked a dagger from her boot, “I have to do everything around here.”
Emma scrunched her brow as the Queen stood straight again. She hadn’t even known that was there.
Regina’s eye slid closed and a deep sigh pushed past her lips as Snow clamored down the ladder from the tree house. Emma could actually see her annoyance pounding in the vein in her forehead.
“And then there’s that Idiot.”
The brunette shoved past Hook, who started with a jab of mocking outrage as she stalked towards the jungle.
“Regina.” Emma’s warning rang through the clearing.
Snow’s feet hit the ground and she quickly stepped past Emma, Neal, and Hook. Her eyes followed the Queen’s movement.
“Regina where do you think you’re going?”
Regina did not slow, but waved the dagger over her shoulder. “To get a mermaid scale so I can save Idiot Number 2.”
Exasperation raced through Emma’s veins once more as she took two steps towards the retreating woman. “Don’t call him that!”
Regina stopped then and turned with a fake smile plastered on her face. “Oh, I’m sorry Miss Swan, let me rephrase it so it’s Disney Appropriate.”
She backtracked a step closer to the group and clasped her hands in front of her. “I am gonna skip into the woods and down to the water to skin the Little Mermaid alive so I can shove a magical potion down Prince Charming’s blabbering mouth so he can be a real boy again.”
She sneered as she finished, turning roughly to continue her trek back towards the jungle.
Emma spread her arms wide and spoke to her back.
“Oh, so this is the appropriate time to be a bitch? Right now?”
Regina turned once more, mouth already open to reply when Neal’s hand wrapped around her wrist and tugged her back towards the jungle.
Regina’s head snapped to the side in shock and she glared at the man.
“Just what the hell do you think you are doing?”
Neal sighed and shook his head, exasperation plainly etched on his face.
“You need a mermaid scale. We’re going to get a fucking mermaid scale.”
Regina shook her hand free easily from the man’s grasp and drew herself up to her full height once more. She stared for a second before throwing her arm in front of her.
“Lead on, Mister Cassidy, but if you touch me again without my express permission, you’ll have to use the Pirate’s back up hook for a hand. Are we clear?”
Neal tossed a look over her shoulder and nodded, “Crystal.”
He pushed forward once more into the jungle and Emma watched them disappear.
“Damn it!” Emma shouted to no one in particular.
She worked on her magic, because obviously fireballs were freaking useful in Neverland. But she just couldn’t do it. The fire just wouldn’t happen.
Of course Regina had no problem with it. She could fling fireballs around like it was the easiest thing in the world.
Anger flared up in her again at the thought of the woman. Regina had done exactly the opposite of what she’d asked. She’d stomped off into the jungle without a care in the world.
With Neal, of all people.
To go fight mermaids.
Because that had gone so well the first time.
She should have gone after them. She should have tied Regina to the damn tree to keep her in one place. She should have–
The fire flickered in her hand and she suddenly grinned in disbelief. She had done it!
The fire disappeared as soon as she smiled.
Emma’s face fell immediately as she stared at her empty palm.
“Well, son of a bitch.”
From somewhere to her right, Tinkerbell snorted.
Emma didn’t even spare her a glance. Annoyance raced in her veins as she wrought her hands together. She took a calming breath before she shook them out.
“You got a problem?”
Tinkerbell looked back down to the blade in her hand and guided a whetstone across it dutifully with a smile. “Not at all. I haven’t had this sort of entertainment in a long time.”
Emma shook her head and rolled her eyes, “Go to hell.”
Tinkerbell lifted the blade and peered at the edge with a trained eye. “Already here. I might as well enjoy the show you’re putting on.”
A sneer crossed Emma’s face as she snatched the water skin from the ground and pried the top open. “Well I never got my Hogwarts letter and my Mom wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West so I didn’t get lessons like some people.”
The gentle motions of the whetstone started again.
“Regina sent that witch to Wonderland, not Oz. Lucky for the munchkins.”
She could hear the anger easily in the fairy’s voice, but sighed instead of press about it. Emma wanted to scream because of course Oz was real.
Hell, Hogwarts probably was too, come to think of it.
She gulped a few swallows of water and snapped the cork back with a dismissive shrug.
“Whatever. It’s harder when you don’t get a magic dagger or daily lessons from Mommy Dearest.”
She dropped the water skin lightly on the ground and turned her attention back to her hands.
The whetstone stopped moving.
“Who told you that Cora taught Regina magic?”
The fairy’s voice was low and Emma tossed a glance over her shoulder. Tinkerbell sat with her head bowed in thought, eyes trained on the dagger and whetstone paused in mid motion.
“I just assumed, I mean, it makes sense. She probably had her ripping out hearts when she was Henry’s age.”
The answer came quick this time, but still low.
“No. She didn’t learn magic until she was an adult. She was already married to the King.”
Emma watched as the woman’s face darkened at the word King. She supposed she should feel some sort of unsettled response to the hate filled reaction to the man that was her grandfather, but something stopped her.
Perhaps it was the look of barely controlled rage on the fairy’s face.
Emma turned slowly, fully facing the woman now.
“So she was my age when she started learning all of this eye of newt, use the force, wand-waving crap?”
Tink’s eyes rose to find Emma’s own and she paused with an eyebrow raise, “Your age? How old do you think she is?”
She turned her attention back to her dagger, scouring its edges. “No. She was all of seventeen when Cora sold her to your grandfather.”
Emma flinched at the words and Tinkerbell ran an angry whelp of the whetstone down the knife blade again.
“She was barely twenty when we met and even after a few years of lessons from The Dark One she hadn’t given herself over to magic. That came later.”
The fairy was leaving a lot out; Emma didn’t need a super power or magic to know that. Still though–
“Wait. Seventeen?” Emma’s mind was blown. She had always imagined the Evil Queen as Regina, full grown and well, evil.
Tinkerbell’s action halted and slowed, “She wasn’t always the Evil Queen, you know. Before The Dark One, she was…”
She waited a beat, like she was trying to find words, or control them. After a moment, she sagged a little.
“…different. After spending time with The Dark One, and later Maleficent, with years of pent up emotions and loneliness, along with raw talent – she….changed. Her magic grew and twisted and became unstoppable.”
Emma felt eyes pierce her with dismissal as Tinkerbell looked up at her finally. “You don’t think a few lessons in the woods will equal up to that, do you? You may be the Savior but all magic comes with a price, any fairy would tell you that.”
The methodically movement of the whetstone started once more and Emma swallowed the rawness in her throat.
“And what was Regina’s price?”
“Some would say her soul.”
Emma turned fully toward the woman now, her hands finding her hips as she stared at her. “For what? A happy ending. It didn’t really work, did it?”
Tinkerbell paused and slowed her actions to a halt. Emma watched the fairy breath out loudly, sighing, watched as she contemplated something. Finally, Tinkerbell leaned back and waved the dagger slightly around her.
“I don’t think this, everything that happened then and now, was even about her or any of us.”
The words were delusional to Emma’s ears and her jaw dropped.
“You’ve been in the woods too long, Jingle Bells. You sound like a paranoid whack-job who’s jumping at shadows.”
“This would be the place for that”.
Tinkerbell merely shrugged her shoulder and shook her head before looking up at Emma once more. “If you watched someone you loved, someone you knew loved you, be twisted up in puppet strings and corrupted beyond hope of ever turning back, you’d be jumping at shadows, too.”
The venom was back in her voice and she turned her attention once more to the ground.
“I knew Regina, the real Regina, and she wasn’t an Evil Queen. She was a sweet, beautiful, smart young woman who had everything ripped away from her.”
Flashing eyes turned back to Emma and she turned towards the challenging woman a little more.
“Ripped away by your family as a part of Rumpelstiltskin’s grand design and the worst part is? You’re still playing his twisted game. You just don’t even know it.”
Emma felt the anger spark to life once more. Something caught her eye and she tore them away from the woman and saw that her clenched fists were burning like never before.
The fire wasn’t a nice neat little ball, it crackled and burnt around her fist like it was a part of it. When she punched out at the air, the fire flew away, burning not orange and yellow but white and blue, hotter and more dangerous due to her temper.
The echoes of the whetstone surrounded her.
eal breathed heavy as he hacked his way through the thick jungle before him. He knew the way to the lagoon all too well, but getting anywhere on this island was never easy.
“So you can’t just poof us there?”
He could hear the other woman following him, shoving the thick foliage that he had missed from her face.
“If we were going back to that lagoon from before, then yes. This new place? No. I have to know where I’m going to teleport there.”
Neal hated magic, but even had to admit that that made sense.
Another swipe of the machete tore through a fern. He really was getting too old for this.
“And you’ve got enough magic to do that right? You’re recharged?”
The exasperation was clear in Regina’s tone. “Magic is not a battery, Mister Cassidy.”
Neal paused and turned finally, bringing the woman up short. “Please just call me Neal. I’m old enough without a title adding to it.”
Regina rolled her eyes.
A grin suddenly broke across Neal’s face and he shook his head in mirth before he continued forward. “I knew it.”
Regina picked up the pace behind him. “Excuse me?”
The smile was still present when he looked back at her. “I told Emma that Henry got that expression from you. I didn’t think it was possible for a pre–teen to naturally be able to show that much sarcasm on his face. He learned it from you.”
The reaction was instantaneous and it brought Neal to a halt. Regina deflated, her anger gone. One hand lifted to wipe at her brow as she turned her eyes to look around them.
“And you think he’s okay?”
The question was soft and it hit Neal in the gut. This was his son out there and he knew what horrors Pan and Neverland could have. But Regina’s tone was that of a worried mother and there was no way he was going to add to that. Neal shifted uncomfortably and shrugged.
“As okay as anyone can be in the situation. He’s got more going for him than I did. He knows what’s what.”
The reaction was quick again as Regina turned suddenly cold eyes towards him. “And I suppose you will take credit for raising him too?”
If it would have been appropriate to laugh at that moment, he may have done it. But not here and not now.
Neal shook his head and turned to raise him machete once more. “I’ve known him for two weeks. He’s my son and I love him and I want to help raise him from here on out, but I definitely can’t take credit for raising him.”
The sarcasm was back in Regina’s response. “For some reason I doubt your sincerity, Son of the Dark One.”
Neal smirked and shoved another fern from his face, “Like you have so much room to talk, Oh Evil Queen.”
He heard the pause in the Queen’s step and he filed it immediately away. He knew how to give as good as he got. Regina’s voice was irritated when she finally spoke, “How much further?”
Wrong button to push, he quickly realized. Whatever she and Emma had been fighting about already had Regina riled up. No need to poke a hornet’s nest.
Neal sighed and pushed a branch low and out of the way. “Okay, so maybe that was a little uncalled for. That’s something Emma and I do when we’re scared–we lash out. I can’t tell you how many times Emma called me every name in the book, and that was back when we were kids.”
Regina scoffed behind him. “She was a kid, you were a two–hundred-year-old miscreant. I’m not here to help you with your Daddy Issues or your obviously disastrous past with Miss Swan. I’m a Queen, not a therapist.”
The irony was not lost on Neal. “Well I can’t exactly go to a therapist, you know. Fairytales come to life, evil parent, curses and secret identities, I’d sound like a lunatic and then probably go crazy for real since it’s all true and no one believed me.”
He realized his mistake about half a second after the words came out of his mouth and turned quickly.
“That’s not what I mea–“
Regina was already angry. He could see it in her eyes. He was about to die.
He thought fast and steered the conversation quickly to what he hoped would work. Because if anything could distract The Evil Queen from killing him, it might be talking about Emma.
“And Emma and I are done. I’ve moved on, she’s moved on. I mean it’s been over ten years.”
When Regina merely looked confused for a brief second at the transition, he turned and pushed on. “Besides she’s definitely decided that I’m number three in the parent phone tree. It’s Team Moms all the way, and then I’m a distant runner up. I kinda think the Diner Waitress outranks me too, actually.”
He could hear Regina moving to keep pace with him and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Miss Lucas has known Henry his entire life. She has fed him, babysat him and knows all of his food allergies.”
Food allergies? Neal hadn’t even known the Kid had allergies. He shook off the feeling of loss the thought provoked.
“Well it doesn’t matter if I’m first or fiftieth, I’m here and I will kill or die for Henry. He’s my number one.”
The words were returned in an instant and Neal smiled. “Finally Mister—Neal, something we have in common. Now how much further?”
It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
“Not much further. Henry is Emma’s Number One too, you know.”
He tossed a fleeting look over his shoulder at the woman. Her face was cased in a mask, but he could see the worry in her eyes. The Queen was infuriating on a good day, he could tell, but while he was sure that Henry would always be first to Emma, whether she would admit it or not, Regina was a close second.
The thought brought a pang to his chest and he shoved it away quickly. Emma was a big girl and he wanted her to be happy no matter what. Even if she didn’t acknowledge half the things other people could see.
“She’s lost a lot. So when she loves, she is protective. She fights and over reacts and pushes away but she would rather die than see people she cares about hurt. She’s the most loyal person I’ve ever seen. She won’t betray Henry…or you.”
He dropped his shoulder and pushed into the thicker foliage ahead of him, never seeing the look on Regina’s face.
riel didn’t like to stay in one place for too long.
For one, things got boring when you stayed in the same place for so long.
The more important reason was that in the Industrial World, technology had far outpaced magic and he didn’t want to see headlines about real mermaids flashing across the internet.
Ariel’s current home was the decommissioned and sunk USS Oriskany which was in the balmy Gulf of Mexico right off of the Florida coast. Ariel would have never dared stay there during the summer, because tourists made the ocean around Florida a messy pain in the fin, but the tourist season had come to an end and the warship–turned–artificial reef was left to him and the various sea creatures. He loved the way so many different species inhabited the same place.
If only the humans could figure out how to do the same.
Not that Ariel didn’t find tourists useful, because they were.
They left such interesting things on the beach and he’d been itching for something new to read. Mermaid magic could preserve paper book pages under the water, but had not caught up to Kindles and iPads yet and that was a pity because far too many beach–goers read the Twilight series and Ariel’s internet access was limited to the occasional smart phone he found and dried out. He was tired of reading about sparkly vampires and lackluster romance.
This time, however, he’d actually found some things worth reading. In the handful of days he’d been in Pensacola he’d found eight books, two phones and an iPad with half a charge buried in the sand.
He was stretched across one of the abandoned steel tables that had once probably held maps or equipment for the ship and was halfway through The Casual Vacancy when the small spiral conch that he wore on a fishing line had started to vibrate against his chest.
In a second, he had pushed himself off of the table and stretched his hand outward. The water in front of him swirled in various directions like warring tides as the portal began to open. Ariel tossed one look back at the book on the table and swam forward into the whirlpool.
He surfaced in Neverland and expected to see Neal standing on the shore. His eyes land on him happily but then sweep past to the other person. Though she is staring at the horizon and not him, he knew who she was in an instant.
“Ariel!” Neal shouted, a smile breaking across his face instantaneously, but Ariel shook his head, lifted one hand to point to Regina and scowled.
The Queen’s eyes trained down on him slowly, her face unchanging. “Oh, it’s you,” she stated, clearly irritated.
Neal’s confused gaze tore between the two of them for an instant before he turned fully to the woman next to him. “Wait a minute, how do you–I mean–he doesn’t have a voice.”
Regina merely shrugged and waved her hand quickly towards the merperson in a sweeping motion. Ariel felt a strange sensation in his throat and gasped. Shock registered on his face as a sound comes forth.
Neal took in the reaction and turned wide angry eyes towards the woman. “You’re the one who took Ariel’s voice? You’re fucking kidding me!”
Regina crossed her arms and tried to look indifferent, but the shame was in her eyes. “It was a long time ago. A different time. A different me.”
Ariel wanted to call the woman a liar, but he could see it in the woman’s eyes, in her face, in the way she stood.
This was not the woman he’d called Ursula.
No, this woman was tired, her eyes held sorrow and even her magic, powerful even for Neverland, was tinged with bitterness and loss.
Neal cleared his throat and turned back to the mermaid. “OK, so you guys have met but
she’s not who she was before. She’s the woman who raised my son. The Mayor I told you about.”
Ariel froze at this and tossed a glance back towards the Queen. She sighed and turned her eyes to the horizon once more. Ariel studied her as Neal spoke about Princes turned to stone and the need of a scale.
He shook his head. The scale was no problem, he knew of the poison Neal spoke of. In fact, Triton had been an advocate of it—anything that killed humans was considered a good idea to him. Ariel had never felt the same.
Of course, he would willingly give the scale to Neal, but something else was going. Neal may not be privy, but he could see it in Ursula–Regina’s eyes.
“And what else?”
Regina turned to him finally, her eyes unblinking and searching.
Neal blinked, confused. He opened his mouth to reply, but the Queen beat him to it.
“As a merperson, you can cross realms.”
So there it was.
Ariel swam a little farther towards them and spoke directly to the Queen. “I can’t take everyone through. Only one person, maybe two if they’re small and only with the help of pixie dust.”
Neal seemed to finally understand and nodded his head, scuffing his toe in the dirt to allow this exchange to happen unfettered between the two.
When Regina spoke, she stepped forward. “What if you had a bigger portal, say ship–sized? Would you be able to navigate it?”
Ariel thought momentarily and nodded slowly, “Perhaps but–“
Regina sighed, “Not without a price, I know.” The brunette twisted her hand quickly and a bracelet appeared.
Ariel stared at it longingly for a moment and then shook his head. “Three days with legs doesn’t seem like a lot compared to–“
Regina took another step forward, cutting off his words, “And if I could make it unlimited? What then? Your Prince, the one you loved, he is in Storybrooke.”
The thought stung and Ariel hid the wince as best he could, but he was certain the Queen noticed. The thought of trusting this woman to keep her end of the deal was not one he would soon contemplate, but Neal had always been his friend.
The thought, though, of walking again, of having a choice was so tempting.
He pushed his way up a little fuller from the sandbar. “Whatever form I want, however long I want.”
Regina nodded once and stepped forward. She closed her eyes and released a slow breath as she held the bracelet out. She gritted her teeth as the bracelet glowed violet and Ariel saw small blisters begin to form on her opened hand.
Ariel watched as she opened her eyes, bracelet still outstretched. He was still weary of this woman, even when she was handing him he thing he wanted most.
“Cash up front, I think.”
The sorceress handed it over without another word.
The bracelet was light in his hand and for a moment, he merely stared at it. Then, with a swipe of his tongue across his lips, Ariel fastened the bracelet around his wrist and closed his eyes.
The tingle of magic spread throughout his body swiftly, but Ariel kept his eyes closed. Suddenly, however, the tingle switched and began spreading like hot fire across his skin.
All magic had a price.
He wanted to scream but clamped his mouth shut and as quickly as it had started, it was over.
It was Neal’s voice that caused him to pry his eyes open.
Neal grinned like the boy he’d been once. He took two steps forward and spread his arms wide.
“So this is really you!?”
Ariel glanced down and felt, for the first time in many many years, right. Tears welled in her eyes as she drank in the sight.
Even her voice sounded right. Light and lyrical. Cute if she did say so herself.
She stepped forward onto the sand and smiled down at herself. Her feminine body, curved and soft, was nude but for a shell across her pubic area.
Suddenly, she was encased in violet smoke that left as quickly as it had appeared. When she gazed down, she saw the over the top pink dress. One she recognized from the Disney movie.
She hated Disney.
Her eyes walked towards Regina who merely wore a smirk.
Regina grinned slightly. “Couldn’t help it.”
She flicked her fingers again and the violet smoke revealed a stylish turquoise wrap dress and sandals.
Ariel couldn’t help it. She twirled.
She opened her mouth to thank the woman, but when she looked towards her, the dark haired woman held a single scale from her now–gone tail in her non–blistered hand. Regina locked eyes with the mermaid momentarily, nodded once and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Neal stared at the space she had occupied for a moment and then turned his attention to the jungle surrounding them and shouted, “Guess I’m walking back!”
Ariel could not stop the laugh that fell from her lips and was delighted to hear the sound of it. Neal merely turned a smile back towards her.
he swirl of purple smoke should have surprised her, but Tink merely raised her eyes to the spot. Regina appeared in a swirl of purple and amethyst that smelled of cider and times long past.
She noticed the blisters on her hands immediately and fought the urge to push herself forwards. She knew everyone saw them, too, but no one said a word. All eyes were on the iridescent scale that Regina held between her fingers.
It was Emma that spoke from her place on the ground. Excitement laced her voice as she stood quickly, “You actually got it!”
Regina nodded without a word and moved towards the fire. Her face was set in deep thought, already on the task of brewing the potion Tink knew. She had never been much of a potion brewer, but even Tink knew that this was the longest shot in the history of long shots.
Her eyes followed the small vial of pixie dust that she kept hidden in a secret box as it flew across the small clearing and directly into Regina’s outstretched hand. Tink should have protested, but kept her mouth closed. Regina obviously needed it.
How the woman had known it was there was—well, that was something Tink didn’t want to dwell on.
Regina’s eyes were trained on the fire before her as she pulled the bottle close. “Pixie dust. Someone told me that it never fails—once upon a time.”
Dark eyes flitted to the fairy briefly before dropping to the vial in her hand. Tink felt a rush of affection spread through her and closed her eyes. She could hear the sound of someone descending the ladder and opened her eyes to find Snow White climbing down quickly. She’d spent most of the day up in the tree house beside her husband. His face was mottled gray now and Tink knew did not have much time—hours, maybe, and that was stretching it.
Snow was beside Regina in an instant, eyes searching the clearing. “Where’s Neal?”
Regina continued to work, laying the ingredients out in front of her. “I teleported here and left him to catch up with his mermaid friend”
Snow’s brown scrunched at the brunette, “Mermaid friend?”
TInk bit back a grin as Regina waved her hand in annoyance towards the woman. “The redhead you liked so much.”
Snow’s face lit up immediately and she actually brought her hands together in front of her.
Her voice was an almost childlike squeal and Tink winced at the sound. Of it. This must have been what Regina dealt with all the time before.
Tink sighed and stood, stepping around the fire towards Regina. She conjured as she moved around. The bare basics, Tink knew, but it would have to do. The ex-fairy’s eyes dusted across the mix of items before them and she sighed, her hands lifting to rest on her hips.
“It’s a long shot.”
Regina nodded almost imperceptibly as she uncorked the small vial of pixie dust. Her voice was low as she raised one brow towards the blonde. “You have a better idea?”
Snow stepped to Regina’s other side and Tink raised her eyes to her confused face. Her words were rushed when she spoke.
“Wait. How can you use pixie dust? Only fairies can use pixie dust. Blue told me–“
Regina’s eyeroll told Tink that she wasn’t going to answer and she bit her immediate smart remark at the comment. She’d forgotten how deluded most humans were when it came to magic.
Tink’s eyes trained on Regina’s movements as she mixed the ingredients carefully. “Regina is a True Believer and has a connection that is deeper than dark and light magic, it’s a part of her, like the color of her hair or the pitch of her voice. She has the heart of a True Believer and that’s why she can use pixie dust. She’s connected to the fairies and to the heart of Neverland and has been all her life.”
Emma’s voice rang out from the other side of the fire. “Translation please, I left my Narnia–to–American dictionary back home.”
Tink bit the sigh back and turned blue eyes towards the woman. “Fairies are born here on Neverland, in a secret valley–so protected and hidden that Pan himself can’t even find it.”
Emma’s face contorted in disbelief momentarily before she tucked her hands onto her hips once more and snorted. “So why aren’t you there in Pixie Hollow?
The joke was lost on Tinkerbell yet the sentiment stung all the same. She raised herself to her full height beside the bent over brunette and glared at the smirking blonde. “Because I’m not a fucking fairy anymore.”
Emma’s face fell momentarily and she dropped her arms to her side. She had the good sense to look ashamed, at least, when she raised her eyebrows. “Sorry.”
Tink shook her head and glanced around the fire, “As I was saying, fairies are born here. When a child is born with a heart totally open to belief–to love–to the universe, their very first laugh breaks into magical energy and forms fairies. Those children are special. They have a connection to Neverland and to fairies. Regina was such a child.”
Emma glanced at Regina who was still working. She hadn’t taken her eyes off of the potion she
was brewing. It was Snow who spoke. Her brows were scrunched in confusion when she shook her head and looked at Tink.
“Are you sure? She’s the Evil Queen. There must be a mistake.”
Emma’s eyes swiveled to Snow immediately and Tink could feel Regina tense from her position next to her. She felt a momentary sense of anger flow through her as she turned her eyes to Snow.
“Only a True Believer can fly with pixie dust and trust me, Regina and I flew together. The clouds, the stars, the moon, they were our playground.”
She couldn’t help it, she looked at Regina. For a second, under the sadness and anger, she could see her Regina, her Queen, again. It was in the soft curve of her lips and the sudden flash of hazel in her eyes when she glanced up at her. It was in the curling of her dark hair and the softness of her voice when she spoke.
“Thank you, Tink.” Tinkerbell nodded slowly and Regina straightened. “ Can you help me with the water?”
Tinkerbell stepped into her space again and grabbed the water skin. They moved around camp, brewing the cure as carefully as they could. Regina uttering low directions and Tinkerbell following them without question, sometimes before the woman could finish.
Snow hovered around the action, hands nervously moving from body part to body part, trying to find somewhere to settle. Emma tried to pretend she wasn’t interested in watching the women work, but Tink felt her gaze more than once.
It was more than an hour later when Neal returned to the camp, sweaty and panting. He nodded his greetings to everyone and climbed the ladder at Regina’s instruction to help Hook heave David down.
The camp fell under a hush as afternoon turned to dusk then night. Silence reigned loudly as the cauldron bubbled over the low burning fire. Finally, as the moon rose, Regina sighed.
“It’s as ready as it can be.”
Snow moved first, quickly maneuvering to David. He was still and his face had started to go stiff. Tink studied him closely and hoped they were in time. His left eye, cheek and nose were stone.
Regina scooped the potion into a small ladle and handed it carefully to Snow White. She trembled as she grasped the spoon but steadied herself as she turned to face her husband. One smile was given to him before she spooned the potion into his mouth and tilted his head back as far as she could to help him swallow it.
Tinkerbell stared at the prince and then shifted her gaze to the Queen.
Regina sighed a small sigh and dusted her hands. Her eyes never left the prince as she spoke. “All there is to do now is wait.”
And so it went in silence. Tinkerbell watched them, this group of so–called allies, wait to see if David lived or died.
Hook sharpened his sword, which was something Tink knew was a nervous habit. He only paused to pry the top of his flask open and sip at the rum inside. Once or twice, Tink thought about asking for it.
Snow sat next to David, silently crying. She knew everyone was trying to ignore it for privacy’s sake, but it was impossible.
She touched the softness of his hair not turned to stone as tears slid down her face. “David, you have to come back to me. You’re my True Love. I can’t live without you.”
Emma looked away, uncomfortable with her parents, Tink supposed. Hook took a long drag on his flask and Tink knew he was thinking of Milah. Tink’s eyes drifted towards Regina again across the fire. Flames danced across her face, casting shadows on it. The woman’s face was hard and her lips twisted as they formed bitter words.
“Yes, you can.”
Dark eyes never left the flames, but Tink saw everyone’s eyes turn to her.
“It hurts so intensely you may think you will die. It never stops. It eats at you from the inside out. Then one day you wake up and it you realize that you don’t immediately look for him or think of him. The pain is still there, but it is muted somehow. Eventually you can go entire days without the crippling pain in your heart. Then it comes back to you and knocks you back so hard you lose your breath and beg for it to stop. Life doesn’t stop though. It goes on and you will rejoin it, whether you like it or not.”
Regina’ voice cut through the tension that had built around the fire. Her dark eyes lifted to the woman across the fire. “Count yourself lucky that you have friends and a daughter to support you. To ground you; to help you heal. You are not alone, Snow White. Even without your Prince.”
Snow’s red eyes drank in the sight of the Queen and she shook her head.
Regina dropped her gaze back to the flames, “Isn’t going to die today. So stop blubbering and be patient.”
She pushed herself up swiftly then and walked away from the fire and potion for the first time since she’d arrived. Tink moved to follow her and offer some comfort, but she was beaten to the punch by Emma Swan. She sank against the ground once more, hurt and anger mixing in her. She hated that her own heart was betraying her once again. She raised her eyes to the gaze she felt on her and found Baelfire staring at her with understanding in his eyes.
Emma caught up to Regina easily on the edge of the camp, barely reached by the fire’s light. “You burn your hand?”
Regina breathed a deep breath, “I’m fine, Miss Swan.”
Emma shrugged once and stood beside the woman, her eyes drifting to the same spot that Regina’s held. “You’re saving my father, I think you can call me Emma. I mean that and a million other reasons, but we’ll go with this one for now.”
She cast a sideways glance to the brunette and then waved her hand over Regina’s blistered palm. It healed instantly.
Regina didn’t react to the action, merely flexed the fingers of her now healed hand slowly “Don’t waste your magic on the Evil Queen.”
Emma nodded and turned to completely face the Queen. “I’m an asshole.”
Regina’s raised one lone eyebrow and cocked her head to the side. “If you’re looking for an argument from me, then you’re mistaken.”
Emma shook her head and turned her gaze back to the jungle. “Look I’m not saying that it won’t happen again, because we’re sort of tailor made to piss each other off, but I really worry about you. About Henry. About all of this. I’m just…”
She turned once more to the woman at her side, “—if we were in Boston running from thugs I would be the hero. Here, though, in Magic–Land I’m not.”
Silence reigned once more between them before Regina bobbed her head.
“Well, lucky for us we have the Idiots.”
The laugh escaped Emma’s lips before she could control it. She shook her head once more and stared at Regina’s profile.
“Haven’t you been keeping score? You’re the hero in this story.”
Regina scoffed quickly at the sentiment. “Really, the Evil…”
Emma turned fully then and raised a hand to the woman’s arm. “Stop that. Bitchy. Anal Retentive. Sass–master, closet lover of Grey’s Anatomy: yes. Evil? Hardly.”
Regina turned her head in shock and stared at the smirking blonde. “How did you…”
It was Emma’s turn to raise her brows. “You have no idea what I’m capable of, Madam Mayor.”
Regina’s smirk returned at that and she took one deep breath. “Have you managed a fireball yet?”
Emma winced in reply, raising an arm in a half shrug. “Kinda.”
With a raised brow, Regina turned fully and extended an arm. “Well, Miss Swan. Show, don’t tell.”
It was as close to apologizing and hugging as they would get.
Tink sighed internally. There was no mistaking the sparks and the chemistry between them. The way they moved around each other, the way that personal space ceased to be, the way that every word carried weight. A blind man could see that they lo—
“Can you two bicker somewhere else?”
Everyone’s gaze swiveled quickly to the source of the gravelly voice. David’s face was all flesh once again and they could see the gray slowly creeping down his throat.
Snow pushed herself back from her place on his chest and leapt to her feet.
David’s blue eyes sparkled as she grinned. “Sorry, I was just trying not to die and they were distracting me.”
The magic was working slowly. The gray was disappearing, receding at a slow pace, but it crept down towards the man’s chest even now.
Emma Swan turned a wide gaze to the frowning Queen. “You did it!”
Regina cleared her throat and raised one hand. “Well, he’s okay for now. He should still get checked when we get back to Storybrooke. I don’t know what effects he will have long term. I may have saved him now to only kill him later.”
Emma shook her head and started around the fire with a smile. “You’re a ray of sunshine, Regina.”
Tinkerbell pushed her way forward to stand by the silent woman. “Good job, Regina. I knew you could do it.”
Regina scrunched her brows and watched the other fawn over the healing man, but she didn’t smile. In fact, she looked more worried than ever.
Regina knew something was wrong and Tink knew she was right. There was a frantic energy in the wind, a scent of trouble.
It was ominous.
There were no animals in the night, no crickets, nothing.
Neverland was holding its breath and Tink shuddered.
With a glance around the sky, Tink knew. Tomorrow was going to be a long and deadly day. There would be blood in her nightmares and shadows in the night.
She released a deep breath and dropped her gaze back to the motley crew in front of her. “Let’s all get inside.”
Neal, seemingly equally uncomfortable, nodded his agreement.
Tonight, this was a small victory, but he knew that Neverland didn’t let you win without losing something else.
hey woke him up early, just before sunrise.
He remembered the feeling of being awake this early back home. The adrenaline of doing something that he shouldn’t. Everyone seemed excited, but he wasn’t sure why. All he knew was that he couldn’t wait to find out.
He had gotten dressed quickly and darted out the door as fast as he could to follow them through the jungle. Jay was leading everyone somewhere, but he didn’t know where. Felix was nowhere to be found.
That was weird considering the boy was everywhere they went. Watching over them like a disciplinarian.
Henry shouldered his bow and quiver and followed after them quickly. The jungle was thick and he pushed through it on instinct, following the sounds of the others as they went. Soon, he felt the open and heard the sounds of the water before he even stopped onto the beach.
Henry paused momentarily and gazed at the beautiful sight before him. The water was different, not like the Atlantic in Storybrooke. It was bright blue-green and the beach was all white sand. Cliffs hemmed it in on both sides. It was almost like being in Hawaii, kind of.
He heard sounds from all around him and watched as other younger and smaller boys emerged from the jungle to step onto the beach. Henry was surprised at that. How had he not seen them before?
He leaned towards Jay and shouldered his bow further up. “Who are these guys?”
A dangerous grin flashed across Jay’s face and Henry felt a chill run down his spine.
“Fresh meat. Some of the Field boys are going to earn their right to become one of us!”
Some of the boys closest laughed and muttered agreements before Jay turned his dark eyes back to Henry. He turned to look at Henry.
Henry’s eyes danced back towards the smaller boys as Lost Boys began pushing them towards the center of the beach. Henry lurched forward when Jay shoved him hard and he almost lost his footing. He raised his face to yell back at the boy, but his eyes caught on something in the sand.
Wait a minute, they didn’t want them to fight?!
The first kid hit him like he was trying to tackle him. Mr. Smithson, the gym teacher, had only ever let them play flag football and Henry hadn’t been ready. He went down hard on the sand; the wind out of him.
Screams and chants echoed all around him as he gasped and tried to catch his breath.
“Cannibal Cove! Cannibal Cove! Cannibal Cove!!”
It was like in the movies.
The kid who had knocked him down was advancing on him again. Henry sucked air into his lungs and thought of his moms. Regina’s face danced into his mind’s, but Emma’s advice swam in his ears and he rolled quickly, bringing his knee up into the lunging kid’s gut.
He got to his feet quickly and looked around. There were about eight kids and him. And two of them had broken off and were coming straight at him. He shook his head to dispel his mom’s worried face and latched onto the echoes of Emma’s quick fighting lesson.
Fists with the thumb on the outside and follow through with his shoulder.
One small kid lunged at him and Henry shoved him back hard. He hit the ground face down and blood poured from his nose when he looked up. Another kid hit him from behind, scrappy, and he was suddenly all knees and elbows.
Henry threw his arms up to protect his face and instinctively hunched over to keep the blows from hitting his more sensitive areas. The kid was shoved off of him and he took the opportunity to scramble to his feet.
The shouts of the Lost Boys echoed around him and he watched as one of the bigger kids knocked a smaller one to the ground. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement of a screaming boy charging him and swung his elbow on instinct. It caught the boy with a sickening crack and he went down hard.
Henry felt a rush of adrenaline at the twinge of pain in his arm. If he were honest, he sort of pretended he was in the Royal Rumble. His mom would lose it if she knew Emma let him watch professional wrestling.
It was a sobering thought and it brought him to a steady halt.
His mom had always told him that violence didn’t solve anything. Violence only leads to more violence, she had said over and over again. She had been speaking, he realized suddenly, from experience.
His momentary distraction gave one of the other boys an opening. A sharp pain cut across his arm and he blinked the thought away and looked down. One of the boys, with mean eyes and crooked teeth, had a knife.
He lunged forward, all wiry muscle and murderous, at him and suddenly Henry knew.
This was not a game.
Another boy ran screaming towards him with a club. Henry jerked the bow off of his shoulder and swung with all of his might. The crack of wood across the boy’s face was loud and it echoed off the cove walls. He didn’t have time to think as another boy with a knife attacked him and he reacted on instinct.
Fighting for his life.
He didn’t know how long he had been singing, had been bleeding before he turned panting at the lone boy that stood across from him. He had been on the outside of the group, Henry knew, avoiding hits more than fighting them.
He was pudgy and the glasses on his face were cracked on one side. In his hand, he held a thick club, but it was loose in his grip.
The Lost Boys screamed from all sides of him and he griped the broken arrow in his hand tighter, a makeshift knife he had had to use. The boy looked around quickly before he raised the too heavy club and Henry lunged. Hi arrow head slicked the boy’s hand easily and he dropped the club instantaneously.
When the boy began to cry, Henry paused.
Lost Boys didn’t cry.
Henry shook his head, trying to clear some of the adrenaline stupor there and took a step toward the younger boy.
The boy flinched when he reached out. “Are you okay?”
The boy cried harder at the question, “I want to go back to the Fields! I want my Tiger Lily!”
Tears were pouring down the little boy’s face. Henry felt like an ass.
“Hey Kid I’m sorry—“
The taunts of the Lost Boys pushed against him from all sides.
“Get him Henry!”
“Cut him good!”
The boy was screaming now for his Tiger Lily and Henry felt his gut twist. It sounded like a toddler screaming for his Mommy.
The Lost Boys laughed at the little boy and Henry sun to take in their jeering faces.
“Tiger Lily isn’t here!”
“She doesn’t want you!”
“She ran away from you! She only takes care of real Lost Boys!”
“You’re not a Lost Boy, you’re just a fat crying little piggy!”
Henry felt bile rise in his throat and swallowed the sudden urge to puke. He couldn’t hurt a child. He turned his eyes back to the little boy quickly when he heard a soft melody coming from the ground where he had fallen.
He was sputtering and hiccuping and crying and definitely off–key but he was singing.
Anger rushed through Henry at the sound and suddenly he rushed at the kid, like Leroy going after a stein of beer. He lunged on top of the boy and punched him hard enough to make his nose crunch and bleed.
The Lost Boys cheered wildly as Henry screamed down at the stunned boy, “Where did you hear that?!”
The boy cried but didn’t answer and Henry hit him again. Rage blinded him momentarily as he screamed at the boy’s face.
“That’s my Mom’s song! Where did you hear it?!”
The pudgy boy brought his arms up to stave off the blows Henry reigned down on him as best he could and cried out, “Tiger Lily! My Tiger Lily!”
Anger flared again at the lie and Henry hit him again. This time a front tooth broke.
“No! My Mom! She sang that to me every night. It’s in freaking Spanish! You’ve seen my Mom! Tell me!”
Henry leaned back, and pressed the point of the arrow against the blubbering boy’s cheek.
He leaned close, fear and anger racing through his veins. “Black hair! Brown eyes! She’s pretty, funny and she’s my Mom! Where is she?”
She was there. He knew it.
She was on Neverland.
His mom was looking for him. Why had he doubted that?
She was on Neverland looking for him and this kid, this pudgy little kid had seen her, talked to her, been sung to by her. Sung to like she’d sang to him before Books and Evil Queens and Fairy tales had become real.
Henry shook the sobbing boy hard, “Where did you see my mom?”
The boy lowered his hands a fraction but kept them steady in case Henry began swinging again. Blood poured from his nose and mouth as he shouted, “She’s my Tiger Lily. In the Fields. She took care of me and made me smile. She sang and made me happy. She was like a real Mommy, like on TV but real.”
Henry felt the arrow shaking in his hand. He glared down at the boy and suddenly saw his reflection in Piggy’s broken glasses. His teeth were bared in a snarl and his hair was wild, dirty, greasy and sticking up in messy spikes. There was dirt, sand and blood on his face. If his Mom had been the Evil Queen, then this boy—the boy in Piggy’s glasses, was the Evil Prince.
This was not who he was, not who his Mom had raised him to be. He wasn’t an Evil Prince.
And he was not a Lost Boy.
Exhaustion made him sag back on his haunches as he dropped the arrow to the side.
He heard Jay’s angry shout from behind him.
“No. No you’re not.”
Henry glared up at him, and Jay staked forward with a spear in his hand. He shoved it into Henry’s hand – the same kind he’d used to kill the wild boar.
“He doesn’t deserve to be a Lost Boy. Kill him.”
Horror flashed across Henry’s face and he shoved himself to his feet. “No!”
Jaylen stepped forward and pressed the spear harder into Henry’s hand. His words were low and dangerous. “Kill him now! Be one of us!”
Henry set his face hard like he’d seen his mother do countless times and sneered. “Never!”
It happened in the blink of an eye. Jay went from holding the spear out and then, a blur of motion and blood. The tip of the spear was in the boy’s neck.
Henry felt a hot stickiness coat the side of his face and glanced down to see it gushing from the boy’s neck. It coated the sand and spurted out onto his hands and legs.
His eyes latched onto the boy’s fading eyes and wanted his moms.
He wanted to be home.
He wanted to be anywhere but here.
The Lost Boys were screaming in triumph as he turned and ran for the jungle. He wasn’t thinking, just moving on instinct; his legs pumping hard as he dated away.
He heard the Lost Boys screams turn to anger and felt the wind as things whizzed by him as he pushed through the thickness of the jungle. In a second’s time, he realized that he’d dropped his bow and quiver – someone was trying to shoot him. He didn’t stop, his breath coming hard and fast and he shoved through the ferns in front of him blindly. He ran and ran, blood sticky on his skin, and Pan’s Pipes banging against his chest with every step.
. . . To Be Continued in Episode 18
Total Word Count: 15469 words