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The Queen's Pirate

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They’d come in the night on silent feet with swift blades and cruel intentions. The only reason she’d heard them was because she hadn’t been asleep. The trip out to the summer castle had been arduous, but the king always wanted her body after a long ride and tonight had been no different. After a long bath, she was still mentally putting herself back together when a muffled thump outside her bedchambers roused her from the unseeing study of the fire. Frowning, she’d barely risen to her feet when her doors opened and three dark figures stood in the doorway. A long moment stretched between them as they stared unexpectedly at each other, her at intruders in the castle and them at finding someone awake.

The sound of a sword sinking into flesh and a gurgled grunt of pain behind them shattered the frozen tableau. Regina darted to the side, racing for the balcony to raise the alarm as the three figures rushed forward. One slid across her bed, cutting off her intended route.

“Guards!!” she shouted towards the moonless night. “Guar-mmph!”

The two intruders behind her caught her roughly by the arms and hauled her backwards. “No point in doing that, love. There’s no one left alive to hear you.”

“Unhand me!”

They all laughed as rough hands caught her around the middle and pushed her towards the bed.

“No!” Hot fear rushed through her and gave her strength. She lashed out, scrambling with every fiber of her being, twisting and turning against their grasp. They laughed and pushed her around between them, continually herding her towards the bed. She was shoved roughly into the chest of the one that had spoken and saw a glint of metal as he raised a silver hook up to her face. She sucked in a breath of cold recognition.

“So.” He grinned as the sharp metal tip dipped lower and pulled at the neckline of her dressing gown. “You know who I am.”

Everyone knew the stories of the merciless pirate called Captain Hook. She swallowed thickly as the smooth metal grazed against her chest and she felt the heat of his cohorts press against her back.

“Tell me, love,” the pirate said, the hook lowering between them, teasing at the belt of her robe. “Did you honor your husband tonight?”

Rage burned into her veins and without thought she slammed her knee upwards into the captain’s groin. He staggered backwards doubled over with a groan and Regina seized the moment to throw her elbow back, crushing it into the face behind her and hearing a satisfying crunch. The third pirate lunged for her, but she slipped through his fingers as she threw herself across the bed, sliding off the other side and onto her feet.

There were ten steps between her and the open door. She rushed towards it and the castle beyond. She knew the castle better than anyone. If she could make it out of her room, she could escape. There were passages no one knew about. She could duck into one and…two steps away from the door a figure stepped out of the shadows. The hard metal of a sword’s hilt caught Regina on the side of the head. Her muscles failed her as she fell against the door and slid down to the floor. The shadows rushed towards her, overtaking her vision. Her head lolled against the stone floor; she hated that the tip of a bloody sword and a glimpse of blonde hair were the last things she’d see in this life.  

Chapter Text

The pirate ship rocked and pitched beneath her feet, straining her arms, as it sailed into open waters. She’d woken, bound and gagged, lying in the bottom of a small boat as the crew of pirates made their way back to their ship. Her head had felt like it had been split open and after a few blinks she’d recognized the pirate responsible for knocking her out sitting over her, one foot on either side of Regina. The blonde had pulled a dagger from her belt and held it to the brunette’s throat insuring her complete cooperation.

She’d been thrown over a shoulder and carried on board the larger ship like a bag of flour. Voices had barked orders and Regina had been brought below deck to a cell and strung up like a common prisoner. The pirate with a bloody nose, courtesy of her elbow, had not been gentle. He’d hooked the chain between her wrists into a fixture that he’d leveraged up to the ceiling, leaving her feet flat on the deck with her arms pulled straight over her head. She’d glared at him, despising the gag that kept her from calling him all the vile names she could think of.

“Bitch,” he’d muttered and wiped the blood from his nose off on her sleeve, grinning as she’d recoiled.

In hindsight, she should’ve seen the hit coming, but she hadn’t. The fist he’d slammed into her gut had knocked all the air from her lungs and made her gasp. Her body’s natural attempt to recoil had been thwarted by the chains holding her in place, and she’d simply had to endure as the pirate’s hand had wrapped around her throat.

“That was for Hook,” he hissed into her face, his hot, rank breath invading the air she was desperately trying to pull into her lungs. “And this is for me.”

He hit her again and the chains cut into her wrists as her legs gave out, jerking her to a stop before she hit the deck. She groaned, the combination of the ache in her stomach and the pulse pounding in her head punctuated by the sharp cut of pain in her wrists was too much to hold back.

The pirate laughed. “Not so tough now are you, Princess?” He shook out a dark length of fabric in front of her face. “Got one more present for you.”

Regina blinked through tears and realized the fabric was a hood. She cried out against the gag and tried to jerk away from him, but it was pointless and she was soon shrouded in darkness. She panicked, plain and simple, and tried to shake it off, no longer caring about appearance or tears. She tried to beg him to take it off, but the pirate laughed and told her to enjoy her stay.

She moaned against the gag and tried to talk to him, tried to get the hood off, tried pulling against her chains, but he locked the cell door and left. She listened in fear as his steps moved up the stairwell and then a hatch was closed cutting off all noise from the ship above.

She was alone.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She assumed an entire day had passed. The temperature had risen enough that her gown had begun to stick to her back, but it was starting to cool again. The pitch and the sway of the ship suggested they were now sailing in open waters, each rock of the boat was murder on her shoulders as she fought to keep her balance. Her hands and arms had long since gone numb, but her shoulders, back, legs, and feet burned with the long hours. The ache in her gut had receded as had the pounding in her head only to be replaced by dizziness, hunger, and thirst. Despite her thirst, she had another problem pending as well. She desperately needed to relieve herself. She’d already cried and shown fear in front of her captors; the last thing she wanted to do was soil herself, but her options were very limited.

As she stood, trying to convince herself to simply do what she needed to do, the hatch leading to above deck opened. Regina’s head whipped up even though she couldn’t see anything beyond the hood. She listened intently as careful steps made their way down the stairwell. Then she heard a muttered curse.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

Somehow, Regina knew it was the blonde. The voice was rough and not the most feminine, but somehow she knew. Nothing more was said as she listened to the steps close the distance to the cell, then a jostle of keys and other things, before the door was unlocked. Her bladder forgotten for the moment, Regina felt more than heard the blonde approach her and blindness was replaced by light as the hood was pulled off her head.

She blinked several times against the torch light and thought she saw the blonde grimace. Regina felt her hair sticking to her face where she’d sweat during the hottest hours of the day and tried to wipe her face against her arms.

“Hey! Hey! Easy, Princess.”

The blonde reached for her head but Regina jerked it away, tired of being pawed at and manhandled. She glared as best she could ignoring the fact that she probably looked pathetic.

The blonde raised an amused eyebrow. “Hey, if you want to keep the gag in your mouth, I’m all for it, but if not, then you’re going to have to hold still.”

Considering Regina’s mouth felt like she’d sucked on sand, yes, she wanted the gag removed. She inclined her head slightly and held herself frozen as the blonde invaded her space, reaching around her head to undo the gag instead of circling behind her. As soon as it loosened, pain raced along Regina’s jaw when she was finally able to move it. She closed her eyes against the ache and missed the blonde moving away until something was once again pressed against her chapped lips. She jerked away as her eyes flew open.

The blonde was offering her a canteen. “Take a sip.”

The water was warm from the day’s sun but it was quite possibly the best drink Regina had ever had in her life. The first sip was quite small and she couldn’t help leaning in, trying to take more, not caring that it spilled over the sides of her uncooperative mouth.

“Easy,” the blonde said quietly, barely tipping the canteen upwards. She sidestepped expectantly when Regina coughed, spitting half a mouthful out, her throat rebelling.

There were so many things Regina wanted to say now that she was ungagged. Wording the many criticisms and scathing insults in her mind had helped her pass several hours today. She was just as surprised as the blonde when the first words she managed in a rough whisper were, “Thank you.”

The blonde nodded, slung the canteen to her shoulder and moved towards where the chain holding Regina up was leveraged. “When I told those dogs to put you down here, I didn’t know they’d strung you up.” She glanced at the brunette. “This is going to hurt.”

Regina nodded her understanding but she still cried out as her shoulders dropped from their stretched position. Her legs buckled and she collapsed to the deck, her arms like lead weights dropping in front of her, shackles rattling against each other. Every part of her body that had hurt when she’d been standing flared in agony at her unceremonious drop. She whimpered quietly as she swallowed back against pain and exhaled through her mouth.

Pins and needles stabbed at her arms and hands as she tried unsuccessfully to point at something past the blonde. “Please.”

The blonde frowned and reached for the canteen again, but Regina shook her head. She hated having to ask, especially since she was going to need help, but the alternative was worse. “…pot.”

“Oh!” the pirate’s eyebrows raced up her forehead but she reached for the chamber pot that was resting in the corner.

It was humiliating. Regina needed help getting to her knees, she needed assistance hiking up her dressing gown and robe, then the blonde had kept a grip on her forearms so she could balance while she relieved herself for also longer than she would care to admit.

“Been holding that awhile, huh?” the blonde remarked before swallowing back a laugh at the prisoner’s expense.

“My accommodations have been lacking,” Regina snarled as the pirate used her booted foot to push the pot over to the far corner of the cell. “I demand to speak to the captain.”

The blonde laughed. “The captain’s busy.” She turned from her unpleasant chore, leaning back against the bars of the cell. “But, now that you’ve got some fire back, we should probably talk about the rules, Princess.”

“I am not a princess; I am the Queen, and my husband-”

“Is dead.”

Regina quite honestly did not know how to process that news. She’d held no love for the man, quite the opposite in fact, but if he was truly dead, she highly doubted anyone would be looking too hard for her.

She blinked when a bowl was held under her chin and the scent of some sort of stew hit her nose. Her stomach growled and she accepted the bowl with a look up at the blonde. “Thank you.” Then she realized she hadn’t been given any utensils and was expected to drink from the bowl like a peasant.

The blonde laughed when the princess…queen simply looked down at the food instead of eating it. “Damn, but you’re high maintenance, aren’t you?” She shrugged. “You don’t want it, don’t eat it, but don’t expect anything else. You want to starve? That’s on you, your Majesty.”

Regina felt her mother’s disapproving glare in the back of her mind, but she tipped the bowl up to her lips and tried to keep it from sloshing forwards all at once.

The pirate took a black rolled cigarillo from a pouch on her belt and smoked while Regina ate. “You know, for someone who just found out their beloved husband is dead, you sure are taking the news well.”

Regina refused to slurp at the last bits of stew clinging to the inside of the bowl despite her unappeased hunger and set it aside. “It was an arranged marriage.”

The scent of tobacco and vanilla filled the air. “Meaning?”

“Meaning he was my husband,” Regina snapped. “That did not make him my beloved.”

Another puff of smoke. “Yet you expected him to come for you?”

“He considered me his property. He would’ve objected to having it stolen.”

The blonde seemed to consider that. “Fair enough. Glad it won’t be a problem.” She shrugged. “Since we killed everyone in the castle, I’m pretty sure word won’t even get back to your kingdom for another couple of weeks.”

“And by then I’ll be dead,” Regina assumed.

The blonde frowned. “Not unless you do something incredibly stupid between now and then.”

Regina scoffed, “And what actions would you consider to be incredibly stupid?”

“Try to escape for one. You jump off this ship and into the ocean, I’ll let you drown. Not a pretty way to go, I promise you.” She stubbed out the cigarillo. “And that stunt you pulled with Hook back in your bedchambers, you try something like that again, and you’ll be tied naked to the mast from sun up to sun down. We’ll see how that royal skin of yours fares against the sun and sea for a full day.”

The blonde’s entire body had hardened into that dark figure that had appeared in Regina’s bedroom doorway. She took the warning seriously but it still angered her. “I suppose by your standards of conduct that if someone wants to assault me I should just allow them then.”

“It’s what you’ve been doing with your husband for years, isn’t it?” the blonde bit back coldly.

Regina flinched. “That was uncalled for.”

The pirate shrugged. “I call ‘em like I see ‘em.” She pushed off the bars and gestured towards the back wall. “Come on. I’ve got other duties to attend besides you.” When the brunette didn’t move, the blonde grabbed the chain between her wrists and dragged her towards the back.

“What are you doing?” Regina asked stumbling forwards on aching feet.

The blonde locked the chains into a ring on the back wall. “Getting you settled for the night,” she said. “Unless you prefer to try and sleep standing up. Personally, I find that rather chafes the wrists.”

“I prefer to sleep without chains.”

“Yeah, well,” the blonde laughed, “that’s not going to happen for a while.”

“How long is a while?”

“That’s up to you, Queenie,” she said, gathering up the empty bowl and canteen. “Once you accept your new life and circumstances, we’ll discuss the chains.”

“Wait!” Regina called as the blonde stepped outside the cell and locked it. “Please, I don’t…”

The pirate waited. “What?”

“I don’t even know why I’m here,” she admitted. “What is it you want from me?”

“What is it that pirates always want?” the blonde asked with a smirk. “Treasure.”

“Treasure,” Regina repeated. “You killed the king. There’s no one left to ransom me to.”

“Do you have any idea how much a queen would sell for in Tortuga?” She walked the length of the cell and looked in through the bars. “I haven’t been able to decide who would pay more for the likes of you. Another ship and crew who would love the opportunity to plough a queen? Or one of the whore houses that could sell you over and over, night after night, touting to anyone who wants to pay that they offer royal cunt.”

Regina felt all the blood drain from her face at either prospect. Her life at the palace had been her mother’s doing and aside from paying her dues in the king’s bed, she’d lived in comfort. Now it seemed she was to be sold off to the highest bidder as some cheap thrill to boast about.

“However,” the blonde continued, “since we took all the gold from your castle, our holds are near to bursting with fortune as it is. We don’t really need the purse that selling you would fetch us.”

Anger bubbled in Regina’s stomach chasing away the fear that had churned it moments earlier. She was being toyed with. “You bitch.”

“Then again our own crew hasn’t had much sport lately. It’d only be fair to let them have a go at you before we turn you over to anyone else.” She looked up towards the upper deck. “There’s only about twenty-five of them give or take a few. The young ones would probably only last a few thrusts.” She pretended to contemplate it. “How long do you think you’d need to go through them all? Couple of days?”

Regina locked her jaw against replying.

“Oh!” The blonde seemed to be warming to her subject. “What if they all got one free go at you, but then those what could pay could have you more than once? The captain could pay out their shares of your husband’s treasure and then collect it all back probably within a couple of weeks. Not that you’d ever see a single gold coin as you’d be rightfully donating your wages back to the captain to pay for your room and board.”

“Didn’t you have things to do?” Regina sneered. “Duties to attend to or some such nonsense?”

“Aye, that I do, but they’ll wait,” the blonde laughed, glad to see the brunette’s fire hadn’t been extinguished. “The truth of the matter is that our captain decided to take a bride. You were the lucky chosen one.”

Regina felt her knees buckle and used the wall to keep herself upright. “What?” She shook her head. She couldn’t do it. Not another forced wedding bed. She wouldn’t. “No…I won’t do it.”

“And should you refuse the captain, then one of those other futures I laid out will most certainly come to pass,” the blonde said. “The captain wants you. You’ll be held in high regard. No man on the ship will be allowed to touch you. You’ll be safe and protected, free to sail the high seas and put that life as a king’s plaything behind you.”

“Free?” Regina scoffed. “I’ll be the captain’s property the same as I was the king’s.”

“Honor the captain. Be faithful and loyal and you won’t be treated like property. You’ll be treated like a partner. You weren’t just chosen because of your pretty face, your Majesty. The captain wants an equal. All you have to do is prove yourself worthy.”

Regina shook her head. “No. I don’t have to prove anything. I’ll never submit to another husband who thinks he owns me.”

The blonde considered her. “The captain isn’t a villain, your Majesty. You’ll be treated respectfully.”

“Thank you for telling me,” Regina said quietly. “I think I’d like to be alone now.”

“The captain will expect your answer day after tomorrow, in the morning, before we make port.”

Regina nodded silently and the last of the light left with the blonde pirate. In the darkness, Regina accepted her fate. On whatever day she was finally allowed to see the sky again, it would be her last. Her life would end in the frigid waters of whatever sea they were traveling. She would not submit again.

Chapter Text

Exhaustion dragged Regina down and held her under, forcing her to sleep more than she would have expected. Voices and the thump of footsteps over her head eventually dragged her back to consciousness. She blinked at her surroundings, her predicament quickly reasserting itself into her memory. She ached from her mistreatment but it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. She’d been forced to sit through state dinners after having suffered worse at either the hands of her mother or husband.

The same pirate that had strung her up brought her breakfast and a fresh chamber pot. He leered at her and made several suggestions about how she could thank him. When she refused to say the words even after being prompted, he pulled a knife from his belt and brandished it close to her face. The previous night’s conversation with the blonde, however, made her bold. She leaned towards the grumpy little man. “Go ahead and strike me. I’ll be sure to let the captain know exactly who it was that marked up his new property.”

The pirate leaned away from her, frowning. “There’s plenty of ways to hurt you that won’t leave marks.”

“And you think I’ll just keep that to myself?”

“If you know what’s good for you, you will,” he snarled, pulling back another step.

Regina laughed darkly. “I’m to be the captain’s wife.” She had no intention whatsoever of claiming that title, but he didn’t need to know that. “Do you think your quality of life will improve or worsen once I am by the captain’s side?”

He swallowed thickly.

“I have a very long memory, Mister -?” she paused, waiting expectantly for him to give his name.

“Leroy.”

“Mister Leroy,” she repeated. That was a trick she learned during her days of court. People rarely refused to give you their name when prompted unexpectedly, even if it was to their own detriment. “You’ve already punched me twice, Leroy. What else would you have me tell the captain when he asks how I’ve been treated?”

The corner of his mouth curled upwards. “What makes you so sure the captain will give a damn about how you were treated?”

Something had flashed unexpectedly in the pirate’s eyes. Regina had misspoken about something but she wasn’t sure what. Before she could challenge him on it, the blonde pirate’s drawl crawled out from the shadows.

“Don’t you have somewhere else to be, Leroy?”

The stumpy pirate jumped and looked more surprised than Regina did to find that they were not alone. She recovered before he did. “Yes, Leroy,” she leaned towards him, “why don’t you scurry back above decks and give Hook a hand? Clearly, he could use the assistance.”

Before he could do more than scowl at her suggestion, the blonde gestured for him to get out. “I’ll finish up here.” She snatched the keys from his hand as he left. “The captain’s future wife, huh? Does that mean you’ve made your decision?”

The blonde might have been amused; Regina wasn’t quite sure. “I guess the captain will have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out.”

She snorted as she locked up the cell and then leaned against the bars. “You could make life a little bit easier on yourself by not goading them.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Regina snapped back, eyeing her breakfast offering with distaste. She picked up the dark bread and sniffed it; her stomach felt empty enough that it’s slightly stale scent was still appealing. She looked up to find the blonde still watching her. She arched an eyebrow. “Was there something else you needed, pirate?”

The blonde smirked before shaking her head and heading for the stairs. “Try not to get into any more fights today, your Majesty. I might not be around to stop them.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Regina slept sitting up with her back propped against the ship’s bulkhead. It had been another long, tedious day. The access to above deck had been left propped open so she had been able to track time better and there’d been a decent breeze all day through the cell, but she had been bored out of her mind. The day before, fear had kept her in a mild state of panic for hours on end, but knowing her fate was all but sealed left her feeling fatalistic. Leroy had returned twice more during the day but even his muttered threats were far more muted since she knew he would no longer strike her.

She’d watched a few of the pirates come and go, checking cargo and whatever other chores they could think of that allowed them a peek at her. She felt very much like one of the circus animals she’d been forced to watch as queen; a simple bird trapped in a cage being passed off as a magnificent phoenix to the awe and spectacle of a curious crowd only to leave them disappointed when all they saw was a pigeon.

When night had fallen, she’d enjoyed listening to someone play a flute of some sort above deck, the notes whistling down to her in bits and pieces. Eventually the crew had quieted and the access had been closed leaving her in darkness. She wasn’t sure when or how she had fallen asleep, but the sharp clink of metal hitting metal woke her. It sounded again and again as someone rapped along the bars of her cell.

She sat up straighter as the sound moved down one side of her cell all the way to the front. Her heartbeat increased, the pounding telling her nothing good could possibly come from this noise. But she would not be played with. “Who’s there?”

A match was struck into existence and soon the low glow of a lantern illuminated a silver hook before the man himself. “Hello, love.”

“Captain Hook,” she said, managing to quell the tremble in her chest before it betrayed her in voice. She dug her nails into her palms when she heard the telltale thunk of her cell unlocking. She pushed up to her feet as he swung the door open and stepped inside.

“I’m glad to see you remember me, princess,” he said, hanging the lantern from the same hooks where her arms had been restrained that first night. He cupped his crotch with his good hand. “Because I certainly remember you.”

His display of vulgarity offended her. “I am a queen not a princess, and you would do well to remember that, pirate.”

“And you would do well to remember where you are, your majesty.” He pulled a flask from his hip pocket. “You’re a prisoner; a captive chained up on a ship full of pirates filled with rum and lusty thoughts.” He drank from the flask as he took his time eyeing her from the deck all the way up to her chest. He grinned. “But where are my manners? I’m sure you’re thirsty.”

Regina jerked away from the burning scent of rum as he thrust the flask underneath her nose. She stepped back, trying to put more space between them only to feel the chains on her wrists tighten to their furthest length.

“No need to be rude, love,” he drawled out, insuring she was at the end of her leash before trapping her between his body and the bulkhead. He pushed the flask against her closed mouth. “Have a drink.”

Her lips mashed against her teeth as she turned her head to the side, the abrupt motion enough that some of the smoky liquid sloshed on to her face. Rum dripped down her chin and the silver hook sunk into the wood in front of her.

“Now that’s just being wasteful, lass.” His hot breath crawled over her ear and she felt the whiskers on his face scrape against her cheek. “You’re trembling.”

She despised herself for it but it wasn’t like she could hide it. Leopold never chained her down but the rest of the details were the same. An unwanted body pressing against hers, stinking of alcohol and her complete inability to fight back. Hook was the captain; if he wanted to mistreat her, he would and no threats from her would make him back off. The cold, smooth metal of his hook slid against her chest as the sharp tip dipped inside the hem of her gown.

“Last time I tried to get to know you better,” he pulled the gown down with his hook causing it to expose the tops of her breasts, “you rudely interrupted me.” He pushed his weight forward, trapping her legs with one powerful thigh. “This time, you’re going to show me a bit more hospitality.”

“You might take this body, pirate,” she hissed, “but I will fight you every time.”

He grinned and began pulling at the knot that held her robe closed. “Glad to hear it, love. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the feisty ones.”

Regina tried to strike him but he easily pinned her arms against the bulkhead with his forearm, his hook coming dangerously close to cutting her face in the process. He laughed at her attempt. “What else you got, your majesty?”

She spat in his face.

All the humor drained from his features as he slowly wiped it off. “That wasn’t smart.” He reached between their bodies and began unbuckling his belt.

The hard, cold sound of a pistol being cocked scraped through the darkness. Hook spun on his heel away from Regina, his good hand reaching for the hilt of his sword. “Show yourself!”

The scent of tobacco and vanilla filled the cell as a figure emerged from the shadows and exhaled a plume of smoke.

Hook squinted in the low light. “Swan?”

The cigarillo briefly glowed red as the blonde pirate inhaled and then leaned against the bars of the cell. “You just don’t learn, do you, Hook?”

“What are you talking about?” he asked, keeping his hand on his sword, not that it would do much good against the cocked pistol she held at her side.

“The last time you touched someone that didn’t belong to you, you lost a hand,” she said coldly, eyes briefly taking in Regina standing frozen and forgotten for the moment. “Are you trying to lose your other hand?”

Hook straightened to his full height. “Is that a threat, Swan?”

“The queen doesn’t belong to you.” She tapped the pistol against her thigh. “And if all I was going to do was threaten you, I’d use my sword.”

He glanced over his shoulder at the brunette. “She owed me a bit of fun.”

“And now you’ve had it.”

He considered his options for a long moment before reaching to rebuckle his belt. “Yes, it would seem I have.” He turned and bowed mockingly at his waist. “Your majesty.”

He pulled the flask back out of his pocket and took a long drink from it as he walked out of the cell. The blonde watched him, never moving from her seemingly relaxed slouch against the bars. She waited until his boot hit the first step leading to the upper deck. “Hook.”

He paused.

“Touch your sword against me again and your headless body will decorate my mast.”

A strained silence filled the space before he resumed his climb upwards with a sullen, “Aye, Captain.”

Chapter Text

 “You alright?”

The question was absurd and the least important of the flurry of thoughts rushing through Regina's head. She had so many it was hard to nail down just one. In an effort to collect herself, she looked away from the blonde pirate entering the cell.

“Your highness?”

Regina fingered a rip in her gown and hastily tried to pull her robe closed. Hook had clearly made more progress in undressing her then she realized. Her hands shook, and she fumbled as she tried to retie her belt.  

“Regina?”

She could still smell the rum he’d spilled on her; she brushed at it, trying to wipe it off. Scrapes on her arms burned where he had pinned her against the wall, and there was a familiar ache at her hip that she knew would be bruised from fingers digging into her skin. Her life couldn’t be more different than it had been three days ago and still she was treated as nothing more than a-

“Regina!”

Her head snapped up, surprised to hear her name and to find the blonde pirate standing so close to her. She blinked. “What?”

“Are you all right?”

 Regina stared at the woman Hook had called Swan. “What?”

The blonde reached forward and gently folded the robe closed over the queen’s chest. She pulled the belt that was bunched tightly in the brunette’s fist free and quickly tied it into a secure knot. Then she held both of Regina’s shaking hands between her own. “Did he hurt you?”

Warmth seeped back into Regina’s hands as the blonde held them and she managed to shake her head. “N-nothing I can’t survive.”

A shadow darkened Swan’s eyes at the revealing answer. She pulled their cupped hands towards her mouth and blew warm air over them.

Regina stared at her incredulously before her mind finally began to reengage. “You’re the captain?!”

The pirate grunted without comment, her head still bowed over their joined hands.

"Swan, that's… that’s what he called you," Regina muttered. The name sounded familiar. "Captain Swan, why do I know-" She jerked her hands free as she stumbled back a step. "You're the Dark Swan!"

"I prefer Emma," she said a bite of impatience betraying her tone as she reached again for Regina’s hands.

“You killed Rumplestiltskin.”

The blonde shrugged. “Did you know him?”

“Yes.” She shook her head. “I mean, no. Not really. I met him. Once.”

“When?”

“The night before my wedding.”

Emma finally looked up and cocked her head to the side. “The night before you became queen.”

Regina looked down. “Yes.”

“Curious timing,” the blonde remarked, reaching again for Regina’s hand.

“Why do you say that?” The queen asked, watching as Emma examined one of her wrists. She hissed when the pirate prodded a particularly bruised area.

“Sorry,” the pirate muttered, turning her attention to Regina’s opposite wrist. She slid the manacle back to reveal a nasty scrape. “This could get infected.”

Regina caught Emma’s hands in her own; she didn’t care about her wrists. She wanted the blonde captain to focus. “Miss Swan.”

The corner of the pirate’s mouth pulled upwards as green eyes met brown. “It’s been a long time since anyone called me that.”

The queen resisted the urge to growl. How did one manage to captain a ship when they were so easily distracted. “You were telling me about Rumplestiltskin.”

She frowned. “I was?”

“You were saying it was curious the timing of my meeting him,” Regina prompted.

“Oh.” She shrugged. “It’s interesting that you met him then when I killed him the next day.”

The queen blinked. “You killed the Dark One on my wedding day?”

Emma nodded like it was no big deal. “During the ceremony if memory serves.”

No wonder Regina had never seen the imp again. “And did you…do you have powers like he did?”

Emma hummed a little in her throat, the deflected, “The real question is, do you?”

“W-what?”

The blonde eyed her shrewdly. “You’ve used magic before.” She squinted slightly. “Got rid of your mother right before the wedding, didn’t you?”

Regina felt her heart drop into her stomach. “H-how do you know that? No one knows that.”

“Rumple knew.” Emma tapped one finger against her temple. She took a deep breath in, her eyes falling closed. “And he was right about you. You are powerful.”

Regina opened and closed her mouth a few times, trying to formulate an appropriate response but nothing came to her. Luckily, the pirate didn’t seem to require one.

“We need to clean these.” She fished a key out of her back pocket and began unlocking the manacles on the queen’s wrists. She saw the brunette wince as she pulled the heavy cuff off, letting it drop to the deck. “Promise you aren’t going to jump overboard on me if I take you up top?”

“Up top?” Regina blinked, forcing herself back to the problem at hand, namely a pirate captain that was apparently also the Dark One.

“Yeah, to my quarters,” Emma said. “We can get these bandaged up, maybe get you something decent to eat.”

“Your quarters? The captain’s quarters.”

Emma eyed her, brows furrowed. “Yes.”

Hot realization raced through Regina’s blood. “You’re the one that wants to marry me.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The cool night air was a godsend when Regina stepped out onto the deck. After two days below decks, she threw her head back and sucked in lungfulls of the fresh, salty breeze. Stars crowded the night sky and a half moon provided a pale light across the deck. After several minutes, she came back to herself and found Emma waiting patiently for her, an amused look on her face.

Regina straightened, thankful the shadows would hide the blush she felt creeping up her neck. She looked away from the pirate captain and out at the dark waters. She’d promised not to throw herself overboard as soon as they’d reached the deck, but still she raised an eyebrow at Emma and gestured towards the side rail. “May I?”

The blonde gave her a slow nod and followed her over to the side. The seas were calm and there was a smooth rushing sound as the ship cut easily across the waters. Regina could see very little but she imagined for a moment the sprawling seas and the sight of land on the distant horizon. She tried to think what land she knew of that was three days out from the summer castle and realized she didn’t have the slightest idea. Despite her status as a kidnapped prisoner, the wide open space welcomed her with an unfamiliar sensation of freedom.

A shadow moved somewhere above her and she turned to see the silhouettes of two men standing at the helm. It would’ve been impossible to identify either of them except for the glint of a hook catching in the moonlight. Hook was watching them.

“Come on,” Emma lightly took hold of Regina’s elbow. “Let’s go inside.”

They moved towards the stern and Regina followed the pirate inside to quarters that managed to be both spacious and crowded. A table covered in maps and ledgers was just inside the door next to a cabinet filled with several books, more maps, and several bottles along the bottom shelf. Several chests were lined along the bulkhead to the right and a wash basin and mirror were in the corner. Along the far bulkhead, under a long, narrow window, was an unmade bed. It was wider than a single bunk but far smaller than what Regina was accustomed. Anytime she’d been forced to stay the night with the king, the bed had been large enough that she’d been able to lie without touching him after he’d gone to sleep. The captain’s bed did not look like it would provide that amount of room for two people.

A loud scrape of wood against wood jarred her away from her thoughts as Emma pulled out a chair beside the table. “Have a seat.”

Regina sat and watched as the blonde rolled up several maps together and stashed them away, clearing room on the table. She then moved over to the basin and poured some fresh water into a bowl and returned with the bowl and a wash cloth. She set the items on the table and then fetched out two glasses and a bottle before she finally sat down in a chair opposite Regina. She poured a dark red wine into both glasses and handed one to Regina then gestured for the queen to let her see her free hand.

Regina sipped the wine as Emma dipped the cloth into the water and began to gently clean her wrist. She steeled herself after the first touch made her jump and green eyes glanced up at her; she hadn’t realized how badly the cuffs had bruised her that first night. She cleared her throat. “All the stories one hears make it sound like Hook is the pirate captain of the seas. The one everyone should fear.”

Emma chuckled and finished her inspection of the first wrist. “When we’re on his ship, he is the captain. He is a pirate, and,” she looked up, “people would be right to fear him.”

Regina set her glass on the table and let Emma inspect her other wrist. It did have a cut on it that looked rather angry. She had no idea how or when it had happened. “Am I correct in thinking we aren’t on the infamous Jolly Roger then?”

“Hook would not be taking orders from me if we were on the Jolly Roger,” Emma said, dabbing at the cut and tightening her grip when Regina instinctively tried to pull away. “We’re on my ship, The Darkness.” She pulled out a flask from her back pocket and pulled the top off with her teeth. “This is going to sting.”

It was all the warning Regina got before she hissed in pain as the pirate poured rum straight over the cut. It was the only reaction she allowed herself as Emma eventually dabbed it dry and then wrapped a loose bandage around it. Her arm pulsed with heat and felt worse than it had before they’d started. She reached for her wine and downed the glass.

Emma didn’t say anything as she refilled the glass then cleaned up the bowl and water. She fished around inside a trunk, pulling out a set of clothes, a long-tailed shirt, and a small pouch. She offered the pouch to Regina. “It’s not much but we’ll be arriving in port tomorrow.”

Regina opened the small satchel to find pieces of dried fruit. She popped a piece into her mouth, sighing happily. It was possibly the best thing she’d ever tasted.

“You can stay in here tonight,” Emma said. She gestured towards the wash basin. “Get freshened up if you want. There’s something for you to sleep in and a change of clothes I’d suggest you make use of before tomorrow.”

Regina glanced down at the robe and nightdress she was still wearing. She was aware she should be highly embarrassed that anyone had seen her in such a state but at this point she was simply too tired to care. It wasn’t as though the entire crew hadn’t already seen her wearing it when they’d forcibly removed her from the castle.

“And if I’m in here,” she said, pushing slowly to her feet, “where will you be?”

Emma smirked. “I’ll be at the helm until we’re safely in port tomorrow.”

Regina frowned at the unexpected answer. She’d been readying herself for an argument about sleeping arrangements and how she’d rather be back down below than to share a bed with the pirate captain.

The blonde laughed. “Don’t look so disappointed.” She swigged down the rest of her own wine then nodded towards the windows. “There’s a few hours left before dawn. Get some sleep, princess. Come out on deck when you wake up.”

“My answer hasn’t changed,” Regina said quietly as the captain reached for the door to leave. “I won’t marry you.”

Emma paused with her hand on the door and kept her back to Regina. A hardness crept into her bones and voice. “You’d rather be a whore in a brothel than to call yourself my wife?”

There was a cold danger in the question that Regina would be a fool to miss. “No, Dark One. It is nothing against you, per se. I simply cannot…I cannot play the dutiful wife and submit myself to another’s control over me like that again.” She looked down at the deck, her voice quiet but strong. “I won’t do it.”

“And if I sell you to a brothel?”

“I will be dead by my own hand before your ship leaves the port.”

Emma slowly turned around. She eyed the brunette, her dark one senses telling her more than any mere mortal would ever know. “This is not a new thought for you.”

“What isn’t?”

“Death by your own hand.”

“No,” Regina admitted quietly, “it is not.”

The Dark One let her senses probe deeper. “Your mother used magic to prevent you from doing it before your marriage.”

How in the hell did she know that? “Yes," she stammered, then lifted her chin. "Mother wanted me to be queen at any cost.”

Emma began to circle her. “Your mother has been gone for a few years now. The king has treated you unkindly many times since then.” She saw the queen flinch at the words. “Why have you waited?”

“This…” she stopped, closed her eyes and swallowed thickly before trying again. “This trip to the summer palace is the first time I’ve been away from the princess since the wedding. I didn’t…” she took a harsh breath, “She’s already lost one mother; I didn’t want her to be the one to find me.”

Emma scented the confession and frowned. “You don’t even like the princess.”

“No, I don’t,” Regina admitted with a dry, humorless breath of laughter, “but no child deserves that.”

That was a subject worthy of more discussion some other time; Emma set it aside for the far more interesting topic. “You were never going to leave the summer palace.”

Regina kept her hands clasped in front of her. “I was going to leave it forever.”

The pirate considered her words. They were said with a sincerity she believed. The woman in front of her was prepared to die. As the Dark One, it presented her with a rather interesting problem. She circled back around to stand in front of Regina impressed that the queen hadn’t once tried to look around for her. “I tell you what, princess, don’t kill yourself tonight.”

“What?” Regina’s head snapped up from its unseeing inspection of the deck. “How did you-”

“Lots of sharp pointy things on a ship like this,” she said, gesturing around the cabin, “and I did give you the idea of jumping overboard which I’m guessing you would’ve done tonight,” she cocked her head to the side, “or maybe first thing in the morning?”

The brunette exhaled a long slow breath and admitted, “Tonight would’ve been better until you said you’d be at the helm all night.”

Emma appreciated the bit of sullen attitude she could hear in Regina’s voice. It assured her that not all was lost. The personality that had drawn her attention in the first place, the spunk she had prodded at that first night to gauge a reaction were all still there. Just because Regina was prepared to die didn’t mean that she wanted to. Now it was just up to the Dark One to find a better deal the Queen would accept. Good thing deals were something she was very, very good at.

Chapter Text

Sunlight warmed her face and dragged Regina from sleep as it poured in through the windows over the captain’s bed. She laid calmly for several minutes, feeling the gentle sway of the ship rocking, and remembering exactly where she was and how she’d come to be there. She sat up and considered her promise from the night before and the situation she now had in front of her.

Emma paced the short length of the cabin, ordering her thoughts and options. Regina silently watched her, unsure what to expect or even hope for at this point. Finally, the blonde dropped down onto the bed and gave herself a nod before looking up at her audience of one. “Okay, here’s the deal. We take the word marriage off the table, and you give me one year as my…companion, let’s say. One year without killing yourself or actively trying to get yourself killed.”

Regina’s chin came up, her eyes narrowed. A negotiation. She’d sat through many of them at the king’s side. She grasped the back of the chair and positioned it closer to the bed where Emma sat. She took a seat on it, her back as straight as though the chair were her throne, hands clasped neatly in her lap. “I’m listening.”

Emma was satisfied with that and knew she could make it work as soon Regina didn’t rule her out immediately. “You stay with me for a year, and I don’t mean we’re attached at the hip, but I don’t want to have to worry about you running off every chance you get either. We’ll share a life together, go on adventures, see the world, that sort of thing.”

“Share a life,” Regina repeated. “Will we be sharing these quarters then?”

“Yes, we would share quarters, however,” Emma had caught the way Regina had tensed and briefly looked at the bed, “You have my word that I will not touch you in a sexual manner without your express consent.”

“Which I will never give,” the queen stated.

“Understood.” Emma hoped that would change with time but that was for later. “But for the sake of appearances and your protection, while in public, I will need to…lay claim to you.” She saw cold fury bank deep within brown eyes and held up a hand. “Now wait, just hold on, your Majesty. All that means is that we present a front to others that we are together. My crew needs to know you are not to be touched, and if we go into any port, my claim on you would protect you.”

Regina’s shoulders remained tense. “So far this deal is terribly one-sided in your favor, Dark One.”

Emma didn’t think so, in fact, her darkness was balking at her generosity. “How so?”

“I am your prisoner for a year. I am to act as your wife in public. I assume as you are the captain of whatever ship I’ll be traveling on, I will also be forced to obey your commands in that regard as well,” Regina said. “How is any of that beneficial to me?”

“I’m offering you the world!” the blonde exclaimed. “If there is somewhere you wish to travel, we will go there. If there is something you wish to see, we will see it. If you want to stay in this cabin and read all day, do so. You will be a prisoner only if that is how you wish to label yourself.” Emma scrubbed a hand over her face. “My only requirement is that you live for a year; I don’t believe that makes you my prisoner.”

Regina considered her for a long while. On the surface, it didn’t make sense. The king had wanted her to warm his bed, be a glorified baby sitter, and be a pretty decoration on his arm to show off at parties. Emma claimed sex would be off the table but that she would have to act as a wife in public. That wasn’t so bad; she’d had plenty of practice delivering inane conversation and a pleasant smile. She could do that for another year with her eyes closed. But did she want to? And what did Emma get out of all this?

“What’s in it for you?”

Emma did have an ulterior motive. Two even, depending on how one looked at it. Neither of which she could offer in explanation. “I’m bored.” It wasn’t entirely untrue. “You’ve peaked my interest and offered me more entertainment in two days than the rest of these hooligans have offered in two months.”

“So, I’m to be your entertainment then?” Regina asked coldly.

Emma threw her hands up and flopped back on the bed in frustration. “No, woman,” she growled and sat back up. “You aren’t entertainment; you’re simply entertaining. There’s a difference. You have ideas and thoughts, you’ve got fire, you aren’t scared of me. I wasn’t lying when I said the captain wanted an equal.”

Should I be scared of you?”

You shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t say the same for anyone else.”

Regina considered her. She didn’t know if she entirely believed that reasoning but it was enough for now. That left one question. “What happens after the one year?”

“That’ll be up to you.” Emma shrugged. “You can run back to the White Kingdom and claim you were kidnapped by pirates. I’m sure the princess will welcome you back and you’ll live comfort-”

“I will not return to the princess.”

“Oh-kay,” Emma agreed easily. “Then maybe you decide you like Agrabah and you want to make a life there.”

“Agrabah?”

“Or Wonderland, I don’t know.” Emma got back to her feet. “The point is, it’ll be your choice, and you’ll be alive to make it. You’ll be free.”

Regina sat back. She’d always wanted to travel but the king had deemed it too dangerous for her. The summer palace and neighboring kingdoms were as far as she’d been allowed to go.

“Look, just think about it, all right?” the pirate snatched up her hat from the bed post. “I’ve got to go up top.”

Regina stood, turning as the captain headed for the door. “You will have my answer in the morning as promised.”

Emma paused, then nodded. “Good night, my Queen.”

Regina got out of bed and dressed herself in the shirt and trousers Emma had laid out for her the night before. They weren’t a perfect fit but they’d do. She hunted around for a pair of boots and found some in the third chest. Emma’s legs were apparently longer than hers and the boots reached her knee, but they fit well enough around her foot. She also found a blue leather vest that cinched tightly over the plain shirt. If she was going to live the life of a pirate, she may as well dress like one.

As she brushed her hair out, she considered her decision. If she was being honest with herself, Regina had already made it last night; it was the only reason she’d been able to sleep at all. She would pretend to be the captain’s wife and in return she would see the world. She still suspected Emma’s motives, but it seemed a far better trade than when her mother had sold her to the king. And after a year, she’d be free. Free to choose her own life, her own destiny. That thought alone left her nearly breathless.

Now she just had to go out and publicly accept a deal with the Dark One and hope the pirate would keep her word.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If her mother had done anything right in raising Regina, she had prepared her to remain calm and collected in any situation. Never show fear or weakness. She hadn’t wholly succeeded in that regard given how the last few days had started, but it was never too late to correct herself. Lifting her chin, she opened the doors of the captain’s quarters and stepped confidently out onto the deck of the ship. The morning sun felt glorious on her face and she paused, eyes scanning the lower deck, ignoring the stares of the pirates that noticed her.

Knowing the helm was on the upper deck, she turned, looking up and found the one pirate she was looking for. She let a small smile play across her lips at the sight of Emma holding the wheel, feet shoulder width apart, hair looking slightly wind swept. Living with her for a year wouldn’t be so bad, she was a damn sight better looking than Leopold, after all.

Regina moved towards the short flight of stairs leading to the upper deck. She recognized Leroy slouching away from her and she let him see that she noticed him. She ascended the stairs and although Emma hadn’t said anything, Regina knew the pirate was aware of her as soon as she had stepped outside.

“Good morning, Captain.” It was only after she spoke that she noticed Hook standing a few feet away, leaning against the ship’s rail.

“Good morning,” Emma replied, watching Regina warily. She hadn’t expected such a cordial greeting. The queen seemed to be in a good mood. “Does this mean you’ve accepted my offer then?”

“Yes.” Regina extended her hand towards the captain. As king, Leopold had never shaken hands, but growing up she’d seen her father make many a deal. A shake of trustworthy hands was a bond. “We have an accord?”

The corner of Emma’s mouth ticked upwards. “We have an accord,” the pirate shook her hand, “my Queen.”

Your queen?” Hook asked, pushing off the rail to join them near the wheel. “Did you bend the knee, Swan?” He eyed Regina slowly, taking in her clothing that was obviously all Emma’s. “When you took her to your quarters last night, I thought for sure she’d be the one on her knees.”

Emma moved so fast, Hook didn’t have a chance to back away before he found a dagger at his throat. “Watch your tongue, Hook, or I’ll cut it out.”

Regina stepped forward, standing at Emma’s side. “Of course, she didn’t bend the knee, pirate. She’s the captain. I, however, accepted her offer of marriage.” She almost strangled on the word but managed to say it without a noticeable hesitation. “Therefore, I am…hers.”

Emma slipped her free arm around Regina’s waist. She could feel the tension radiating off the woman despite the cool facade she presented. She made a mental note to ask Regina about the honorific once they were alone. She really liked referring to Regina as her queen, but if it made the woman this uncomfortable she wouldn’t.

She scraped the sharp blade over Hook’s chin, thinning the light beard he kept. “Anything else to say, Hook?”

He grinned and stepped back as Emma lowered the knife. “I suppose congratulations are in order.” He saluted them with his flask then stepped towards the rail overlooking the ship. “Gather round, men!”

“Hook.” Emma warned even as the pirate crew eagerly crowded forward. The majority of them had stopped working as soon as Regina had stepped onto the deck. With Hook’s call they gave up all pretense of not openly eyeing the captive queen.

“The captain has taken a bride!” Hook announced. A round of cheers sounded from the lower deck. Hook gave the two women a devilish grin that was devoid of kindness or humor. “Go on, then, Captain,” he said, “let the men see you give your wench a kiss.”

Before Emma could refuse, Regina caught her face between her hands and pulled her close. She pressed their lips together and thread her hands down and around until she had both arms wrapped around the back of the blonde’s neck. The crew began to cheer and Emma tried to retreat, straightening, but Regina held on causing their bodies to press together as the kiss continued. It wasn’t how or what Emma had wanted but she took her cue from the queen and wrapped her arms around the brunette’s waist. The cheers sounded again and after another moment, Emma managed to pull away.

Regina ducked her head as soon as the kiss ended and stepped away from the pirate. Despite the cheers, she didn’t look up or around as she moved away from the wheel and towards the stern of the upper deck.

Hook watched her go then turned back to the crew. “Alright you dogs, get back to work.”

Emma watched the crew jump back into action. She didn’t blame them, but she was bristling with fury at the man standing beside her. “You disrespected her twice in a matter of minutes, Hook,” she said quietly. “Do it again and I’ll take both your legs and the Jolly Roger. You’ll spend the rest of your life sitting outside taverns begging for scraps. You’ll live a long life because I will insure that no one grants you the mercy of a quick death lest they wish to incur the wrath of the Dark Swan.”

Hook inwardly shuddered, knowing she’d do it. “I’m done, Swan,” he said. “From here on out, she’s your wife. I’ll protect her with my life.”

“She doesn’t need your protection,” Emma growled. She ran a thumb over her wet lips. Regina had ducked her head when the kiss ended, but not before Emma had seen the damp track of a single tear across her cheek. “She has mine.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Emma gave herself the time it took Hook and the crewman to leave the upper deck to calm down before calling Regina over to join her at the wheel. The brunette’s eyes were once again dry when she stood at the Dark One’s side.

Emma started to speak and stopped herself twice before she finally managed, “I appreciate what you did, but I don’t want you to ever put yourself out there like that again.”

Regina frowned. “I thought that was part of our agreement, Dark One. I am to appear as your wife in public.”

“Leave the public shows of affection to me, all right," Emma said. "The most I’ll do is put my arm around you or kiss you on the cheek. I don’t want you to have to…do anything.”

“Do anything,” Regina repeated. “I should just leave it up to you then. Let you decide when to show affection and how much. You’ll know when it is appropriate.”

“Well…yeah,” Emma said. She could hear the strain tightening the queen’s voice but she was clueless as to why.

“I see.” Regina crossed her arms over her middle and looked out over the ship. “Very well, Dark One, I will abide by your demands.”

If Emma didn’t think that half the crew was still watching her and Regina interact, she’d drop her head and bang it against the wheel. “It’s not a…” she took in a breath and released it. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable any more than necessary. I didn’t want you to think you had to show me affection.”

Regina turned to face her. “You’re trying to make me more comfortable by taking away any autonomy I have over when and how you will touch me? Do I have that right, Dark One?”

“Well, shit, Princess, when you put it that way.” Emma tightened her grip on the wheel to keep from throwing her hands in the air. “Feel free to touch me whenever you like, but don’t ever feel like you have to. That’s all I was saying.”  

The brunette eyed her. “Truly?”

“Truly.”

Regina gave it another moment’s thought before nodding. “Very well.”

“Good.” Emma nodded too. “Glad we got that settled.” She waited a moment, confirming they were finished with that topic before adding, “And stop calling me Dark One.”

“Fine. Stop calling me princess.”

“Fine.”

They both returned their attention to the sea and the horizon. Emma was frowning as she turned over just how strangely the morning had gone since Regina had stepped out on deck. It hadn’t even been thirty minutes but the emotional upheaval had been up, down, and sideways. Well, she’d wanted things to be more interesting on ship. She looked over and caught the brunette smirking. Again, Regina surprised her. “What’s that about?”

“What?” Regina asked innocently, too innocently.

“You know what,” Emma said, smiling herself now. “What are you grinning about?”

“I do believe we’ve had our first official fight as a married couple, Captain.”

Emma bust out laughing. “And this pleases you?”

Regina sobered slightly. She was pleased. Leopold had never fought with her. He’d simply issued orders and she’d had no choice but to follow them. With Emma, she had expressed her opinion and it had been considered. More importantly, she’d felt the freedom to express her opinion. It might be a fake marriage, but it was already better than her previous one.

“It does please me.” And just to keep the Dark One on her toes, Regina leaned over and kissed the blonde on the cheek.

Chapter Text

“Emma.”

The blonde pirate was grinning broadly as she sighed in blessed relief. Crossing the threshold of the tavern was as close to coming home as she felt outside of her ship. A tankard of beer was immediately thrust into her hand. She raised it in salute to everyone already drinking and a cheer echoed back to her.

“Emma!”

The beer was warm and oh so good. She was halfway across the floor, toasting more than one person, and absorbing a couple of rough slaps to the back. She searched over the heads of the patrons for the lady of the inn. “Where’s my Amelia?”

“Swan!”

“Is that the voice of a no-good, card-cheating, dirty pirate I hear?” A booming female voice called out as a redhead emerged from behind the bar.

“Dirty?!” Emma yelled back. “I bathe quite frequently thank you very much.”

“Maybe,” the red-head allowed, “but you are a no-good card-cheat.”

“If you’re not cheating-” Emma started to argue but was cut off by a raised voice from the open doorway.

“Emma. Swan!”

Amelia smirked at the brunette standing in the doorway, hands on her hips, color high in her cheeks. She looked back at the blonde who had her eyes squeezed shut. “Did you forget someone, Captain?”

“Maybe,” Emma admitted, cracking open one eye before spinning around on her heel. She threw her hands out wide. “My Queen!” She shouted and tried to ignore how the entire bar had gone quiet and turned their attention towards their captain.

Amelia whistled as she watched the pirate hurriedly make her way back to the brunette’s side. The unknown woman had not moved from the doorway, and if the bartender wasn’t mistaken there was fire burning in those dark eyes. She couldn’t wait to hear the story on this one.

Regina glared at the blonde as she approached. As soon as Emma was close she hissed, “I cannot believe you brought me here!”

Emma’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. “What?” She looked behind her to check that the bar hadn’t somehow changed. “What’s wrong with here?” Here was her home away from home.

“This. Is. A. Brothel.”

Again, Emma glanced around taking in the men and women drinking at the bar and gambling at different tables. Several working guys and gals moved around the floor, offering luck and other services to the willing patrons. “Uhm, yeah.”

“You knowingly brought me to a brothel?!” Regina snapped. “I am a queen! I can’t be seen in a place like this.”

Amelia sidled up to the pair, snaking one hand over the blonde’s shoulder. “Emma, dear,” she purred, “who is this lovely creature you’ve graced my establishment with? And where are your manners? You simply must introduce me.”

The woman’s voice dripped with saccharine and Emma half glared at the hand playing with her hair. “Really?”

Amelia smirked at her but before they could continue Emma noticed a remarkable change take over the brunette at her side.

All the fury and indignation from a moment before drained out of Regina’s expression and she was left with a fake but perfectly believable pleasant smile on her face. Her back straightened and her hand slid seamlessly off her hip. She regarded the red-head with a practiced interest. “My name is Regina Blanc…Mills. I appreciate your hospitality and am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Emma raised an eyebrow at the slip of a name and Amelia caught her eye. The saloon keeper didn’t miss a thing and she most certainly caught enough of the name to know what Regina had been about to say. Recognizing the royal moniker, Amelia gave the pirate an exasperated look before returning her attention to the queen. “Thank you very much, Miss Mills,” she said. “And, uh, how is it that you find yourself in the company of this ruffian?”

She indicated Emma with a nod of her head and Regina released a polite laugh. “We are recent acquaintances,” she allowed. “I found myself in an unexpected situation that could have been quite dire had Captain Swan not come to my rescue.”

“Oh-kay,” Emma said, stepping forward and grasping Regina by the elbow. “We need to talk.” She turned Regina away from Amelia and guided her towards the empty corner of the room.

Regina jerked her arm out of Emma’s grip. “Unhand me.”

The blonde rolled her eyes but held up her hands. “What the hell was that?”

Regina looked over Emma’s shoulder and could see Amelia had moved on to talk with a group of men playing a card game around a wooden table. “What was what?”

“That!” Emma repeated. “That show you just put on. One second you were railing at me for bringing you somewhere so beneath you,” she said with an eye roll, “and then the next second, you’re making nice with the lady that runs it.”

“It’s called having manners, Captain Swan,” she hissed. “I was being polite.”

“Why?”

Regina was as confused with the questioning of her behavior as Emma was confused as why she was doing it. “Why?! Because I had no call to offend that woman.”

“Even though you think she’s beneath you?”

Regina took a step back. “I never said that.”

“But you thought it,” Emma countered. Nostrils flared and a muscle ticked along the queen’s jaw. The pirate grinned. “And you’re offended that I brought you here, why?” Regina opened her mouth to answer, but Emma cut her off again. “And don’t say it’s because you’re a queen. You’re a pirate now, remember?”

Regina snapped her mouth closed on the reason she’d been about to give, momentarily stumped. She tugged unnecessarily at her sleeves, physically reminding herself that she was, in fact, dressed like a pirate. She’d also agreed to be married, sort of, to a pirate. And pirates, obviously, went to brothels. Ergo, she now could and would be seen at brothels. Taking in a deep breath, she inclined her head slightly. “You may have a point.”

Emma had watched silently as the woman in front of her had worked through her thought process. She hadn’t been expecting a freak out but maybe she should have. Regina’s entire world had been turned upside down and it had only been a matter of days. Truth be told, she was handling it all rather well. But Emma didn’t want Regina to just ‘handle’ it, she wanted the woman to learn how to live. “And the whole polite manners thing?” she waited a beat until Regina looked at her. “Yeah, pirates don’t worry about that kind of shit.”

Emma laughed as Regina reared back like she’d been slapped. “You can speak freely here; it’s expected.” She gestured back towards the bar. “Amelia knows you were lying through your teeth about being happy to meet her.”

Regina’s gaze was directed at the floor as she scuffed her boot across the dirty floor. “So, you’re saying I should’ve told her that prior to today I would have never spoken to someone of her character.”

“Well, there’s no need to be rude,” Emma laughed. “A simple hello would’ve been plenty.”

“I see.” She didn’t see.

“Just, you know, don’t go out of your way to offend someone,” Emma said, trying to simplify their way of life, but then Hook came to mind, “unless, of course, you want to offend them. Then, hey, go for it!”

Regina just stared at her.

“Right.” Emma gave up trying to explain. She ran her hand through her hair and looked around the tavern. Hook was seated at the card game and was being paid close attention by Amelia. At least, he was going back to the Jolly Roger now that they’d made it to port. He caught her eye and smirked then raised his glass in salute; it gave her an idea. Emma looked at Regina, standing beside her, still wide-eyed and clearly uncomfortable. “You know what will help?” she asked, linking her arm through the brunette’s. “Rum. Let’s go drink some rum and things will make more sense in the morning.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Regina woke up slowly. Her entire body felt heavy, and she swallowed thickly against the awful taste of sawdust that seemed to have accumulated in her mouth. Cautiously cracking one eye open to survey her surroundings, she tried to recall where she was and how she’d gotten there. A warm ocean breeze blew in through an open window, fluttering the floor length drapes that hung raggedly from it. The walls were a pale green and nowhere she had ever seen before. She frowned, part grimace as her head pounded, and she started to push herself up-

She froze. Her breath caught in her chest and her entire body locked up as she realized she was not alone in the bed. The warmth behind her was a body pressed up against hers and the extra weight she’d felt was an arm draped over her middle. Had it all been a dream? Was she back in the king’s bed? Would she once again be forced to endure his rough hands pawing at her and his wine soaked breath reminding her that she belonged to him?

Moving slowly, she turned her head just far enough so she could look over her shoulder at the body behind her. A riot of blonde hair and tanned skin kissed by the wind and sun greeted her. A shaky exhale escaped her. She was not in the palace; she was not in the king’s bed. The king was dead.

An unexpected sob tinged with laughter broke free, her entire body shuddered as her new reality truly hit her in the face. She wasn’t sure what made it all suddenly so real, maybe the fact that she was waking up in a bed, in a brothel if she recalled the previous night correctly, with someone besides the old man she’d been forced to marry. There’d been many nights since her wedding when she’d slept alone but never had anyone else slept with her. No one except him.

But the king was dead. Never again would she be forced to endure the way he would stand behind her and press himself against her before commanding her to retire to his bedchambers. Never again would she be stripped of her clothes while drunken words of love and hate were slobbered over her neck. Never again would pain-

Regina gasped as the body behind her shifted in sleep, picking a most inopportune moment to tighten its unknowing grip around her middle, attempting to draw her body closer. A snuffle sounded behind her as the blonde head nuzzled the back of her neck and Regina hadn’t realized just how far she’d allowed herself to spiral down into bad memories until she was fighting against the arm that was around her, slapping at it, desperately trying to get out from under the grip by pushing against the body all while trying to free herself from the bed.

Instincts honed from years of fighting had Emma awake in seconds, up on her knees, a knife produced from somewhere held in front of her and a snarl curling her lips. “What!” She looked around wildly for a threat as she towered protectively over Regina’s frozen form staring up at her. The blonde blinked, finding no danger and glanced down at her brunette sleeping companion. “Regina?”

As soon as Emma had sprung up from the bed, Regina had both come to her senses and been struck dumb as the pirate loomed over her. Her heart was still racing from the panic she’d let crawl its way into her chest, but she was also thoroughly relieved to see the pirate captain had indeed been the body pressed against hers.

“Regina, you all right?” Emma asked.

The blonde captain that was also allegedly her wife. The Dark One that had kidnapped her and was already sharing a bed with her, apparently. A pirate that she’d only known for a few days and already trusted more than she had her husband.

The knife slowly lowered as Emma took in the sight of the uncharacteristically quiet brunette. She had a hint of panic in her dark brown eyes but it was fading as Emma sank down on the bed, sitting back on her heels. “You’ve been crying.”

“I- what?” Regina touched her fingers to her cheek, surprised at the moisture she found there. She quickly swiped it away. “I’m fine.”

“Uh-huh,” Emma grunted, clearly not believing her. She scrubbed her hand over her face before dragging it through her hair. “Want to tell me what that was all about then?”

Regina didn’t answer. She was staring at Emma’s bare knees and her tanned upper thighs which were barely covered by the tails of a very loose linen shirt. Upon seeing Emma’s state of undress, underwear being the only other thing besides a shirt that Emma was wearing, Regina looked down at her own chest that was barely covered by some sort of sleeveless shirt that showed off her bare arms. Her hand wrapped tighter in the sheet and she was thankful it was still covering what she could now tell were her bare legs. She had been undressed and taken to bed. What a fool she’d been to think…

“You gave me your word, Dark One,” she said, her voice low and disappointed. She should’ve known better than to hope. “I trusted you.”

Emma reeled backwards as though she’d been slapped. “Whoa! What are you-”

“Where are my clothes!” Regina demanded, cutting her off.

Emma immediately pointed towards the corner of the room. “You spilled rum on them and refused to sleep in them.”

“What. I never-”

“Had rum before?” Emma interrupted. “Yeah, you mentioned that last night. A few times. After you’d had more than a few drinks.”

Regina glared at her. The memory of Amelia offering her a glass slowly returned to her. The glass had never seemed to empty no matter how much of it she drank. Every time she’d reached for it, it had been refilled back to the brim. She’d never had hard liquor before. She hadn’t been allowed. One or two glasses of wine were the only thing the king had ever permitted for her and the entire staff had abided by his rule. He’d wanted her sober and aware.

She forced herself out of the memory. So maybe she had enjoyed drinking the rum, and perhaps she had refused to sleep in wet clothes. But the rum had been Emma’s idea in the first place. She distinctly remembered the pirate making the suggestion. “You got me drunk!”

Emma opened her mouth and stuttered through a few excuses before shrugging. “Yeah? Maybe. You weren’t exactly protesting.”

“You kept refilling my glass.”

“Actually, that was Amelia,” Emma countered. “She thought you needed to relax.”

Which did not explain waking up with the half-dressed blonde draped all over her. “And then you took advantage of me.”

“No, I didn't.” Emma held up one finger in protest. “I did not break my word to you.”

“You were in bed with me!”

“I was asleep!”

“Yes, by practically lying on top of me.”

Emma frowned at the exaggeration, then shook her head. “Okay, I was touching you, but it wasn’t in a sexual manner.”

“You’re not even wearing any pants!”

The blonde glanced down at her bare thighs. Honestly, Regina was lucky the pirate hadn’t slept in the nude. “Still not sexual.”

“I find that hard to believe.” Regina jerked at the sheets, trying to cover herself more but Emma was kneeling on top of them and she didn’t move.

“Which part?”

“Which part what?” Regina tugged the sheet again, glaring at the blonde until she moved slightly allowing the material to slide from beneath her.

“Which part do you find hard to believe?” Emma asked.

Finally free from the bed, Regina sat up with an abundance of sheet wrapped around her. She intended to stand up and stalk away but the dizziness that swept over her forced her to wait a moment. It gave Emma time to slide off the other side of the bed, pull on a pair of pants, and circle around to Regina’s side to stand in front of her. When the brunette didn’t look up, Emma knelt down so she could see her eyes. “Please tell me what has you upset.”

Regina sighed. “We were in bed together, Emma, and you were…embracing me.”

Emma waited for more but there didn’t seem to be anything else forthcoming. “And?”

“And that only happens after.”

A horrible realization dawned on Emma and she rocked back on her heels. She swallowed thickly, the darkness in her rising, conjuring several ways in which she could resurrect the dead king just so she could kill him again. With meaning this time.

Regina shivered at the sudden chill in the air. She didn’t like the way Emma’s skin had paled and begun to shimmer. “Emma?”

Dark green eyes snapped up to meet brown. At Regina’s quiet gasp, Emma blinked and the darkness began to fade, returning her eyes to their normal ocean green. “You and Daniel were never intimate, were you?”

A warm flush climbed into Regina’s cheeks. “H-how do you know about Daniel?”

Emma shrugged. “Dark One.” Rumple had known all about Daniel which Emma filed away for further consideration later. “You loved him.”

“Yes,” she whispered, “but we never…”

“And in five years of marriage, the king never once treated you with kindness in his bedchambers, did he?”

When Regina flinched, Emma’s eyes darkened again. She couldn’t help it. She was furious at the thought of her queen being so mistreated for so long. She began making plans to find the bitch of a mother that forced this on her daughter. If she thought being shoved through a mirror was bad, Emma couldn’t wait to introduce her to what true evil could do.

“Emma, please.”

The softest touch on her cheek, dragged the Dark One out of her musings. She huffed out a laugh as she shook off the dark whisperings; she shook her head and dropped her shoulders. She couldn’t believe she was about to admit this. “I was cuddling with you, Regina.”

It was Regina’s turn to be taken aback. “I beg your pardon.”

“I like to cuddle; I’m a cuddler.” Emma threw up her hands in amused defeat. “I was cuddling you. I have a tendency to do that when I share a bed with someone.” She was rambling now. “I probably should’ve mentioned it, but…well, I mean we haven’t really known each other that long or had that sort of conversation yet. I’m not even sure when would have been the proper time to try and talk about that.” Her head snapped up. “But it was not sexual, nothing sexual about it, I swear.”

Regina was still blinking owlishly when Emma finally fell silent. After an awkward moment of silence, she cleared her throat. “You were cuddling with me.”

Emma nodded.

“And it wasn’t sexual in nature.”

Emma shook her head.

“I see.”

Regina was so bewildered, she hadn’t even realized she’d let the sheet that she’d had wrapped around her shoulders drop to her lap. She pinched the bridge of her nose.

Emma fidgeted. Her knees were starting to ache but she didn’t think she should move yet. “Regina?” She waited for the brunette to look at her. “Please say something.”

She waited a beat before allowing a small smile to tug at the corner of her mouth. “If only the Forest knew that the monster in their dreams, the ferocious and feared Dark One…was a cuddler.”

Chapter Text

3 months later

Regina woke with a start as something loud thumped against the deck of the ship. Weak sunlight broke in through the windows as she pushed up to her elbows. She was alone in the captain’s cabin, not entirely unusual as the Dark One slept less than normal people, but she and Emma had retired together the evening before and usually woke together. Truth be told, she’d grown accustomed to Emma’s cuddling and found herself missing it when she woke without having the blonde curled around her.

Another thump sounded and as she gathered her senses she could hear a great deal of activity happening outside the cabin’s doors. She dressed in one of four outfits she rotated through and quickly ran her fingers through her hair trying to tame the curls the sea air liked to tease. She slipped a dagger down the side of her boot and grabbed her sword.

The dagger was more for show or peeling apples than anything dangerous, but after three months she was gaining proficiency with the sword. The three years of fencing lessons she’d had when she was younger before her mother deigned them unworthy of a princess’ time had, at least, given her a base on which to build her skills. If she was sparring with Emma, she lost every time, but she had bested a couple of the crew on occasion. Knocking the sword from Leroy’s hand had been quite satisfying.

Opening the cabin door, she was met with the crew working efficiently at readying the canons, securing the rigging, and sharpening bladed weapons of all sizes. They were clearly preparing for a battle of some sort and she was profoundly glad that she had grabbed her baldric. Scanning the horizon, she spotted a ship ahead of them off the port side and knew she was about to see the pirates in action.

A barked order from above her head had her moving towards the upper deck. If they were about to attack the other ship, and she had no reason to think they weren’t, it would mark the first time since her own abduction that she’d seen the pirates in action. Her abduction had been quite profitable for the crew and they’d only ransacked a single town in the past three months. And that had been more for sport then any real need to restock. At Emma’s behest and her own misgivings, Regina had stayed aboard ship while everyone had gone ashore for that trip. But with a ship at sea, a fight would be rather difficult to avoid.

Emma stood at the wheel, her long coat snapping at her legs and subtly betraying the array of weapons she carried on her person. She had on her battered cocked hat and Regina could just see a glimpse of the dark green bandanna the pirate wore wrapped around her head beneath it. “Were you going to let me sleep right through the fight?”

The blonde smirked. “That would’ve been quite the feat to sleep through the boom of a canon.” She nodded towards the ship they were gaining on. “We’re still an hour out. I was going to wake you soon enough.”

“Hmm.” Regina held out her hand. “May I?”

The captain slipped a hand into her coat and handed over her spyglass, watching as the brunette held it up to her eye. She didn’t have to wait long for the expected reaction.

The former queen’s mouth dropped open as she beheld the intended target’s colors. “Those are King George’s colors.”

“Yep.” Emma frowned. “Rumplestiltskin had big plans for him.”

Regina lowered the spyglass and eyed her. “Like what?”

As the Dark One, Emma would often have glimpses of possible futures, alternate versions of realities all based on choices people made. King George was a very rich king in this world with a strong alliance, but in another world he had been bankrupted and Regina, as a dark and ruthless queen, had been a major factor in his undoing. Rumple had his fingers in more pies in the realm than anyone could possibly imagine.

“Captain?”

Emma snapped back to the present and saw Regina arching an eyebrow at her. The brunette was often amused by the Dark One’s meandering thoughts and the possibilities she saw, but now probably wasn’t the best time. Visions of an Evil Queen could be revisited later when they weren’t about to wage a battle on the sea. She grinned at Regina. “Doesn’t really matter now. What does matter is you.”

“Me?”

“Your appearance.”

Regina looked down at her weathered grey pants and dark blue vest. She was quite fond of the vest and the knee high black leather boots. It was an ensemble her mother would have never approved. “What’s wrong with my appearance?”

“Nothing, my Queen. You are easily the most stylish pirate ever to sail the seas,” Emma reassured. “However, you do look like…you.”

“And just what is that supposed to mean?” Regina snapped, her arms crossing over her chest.

Emma prayed for patience. There were days she was still learning how to phrase things correctly around her new friend. Clearly, she had misspoken yet again and tried to explain. “Since your body wasn’t found alongside the king’s, the entire realm is looking for the missing Queen Blanchard.” She pointed towards King George’s ship. “Since I don’t plan on killing every single sailor aboard that ship, I’d prefer they not see you.”

“Oh.” Regina dropped her arms. She hadn’t considered that.

They’d heard the news of course that everyone was looking for her; Princess Snow had insisted on it. She was queen, after all, and in spite of whatever Snow had in mind, as a young unmarried royal, Regina would be quite the prize for several kingdoms to attain. A beautiful young wife and an alliance with the strong and thriving kingdom left behind. For anyone that was truly ambitious and without morals, it’d be easy enough to arrange an accident for the young princess and create an easy path for their own heir to take the kingdom.

“So with your permission,” Emma said, breaking into her thoughts, “I thought I’d put a glamour on you.”

The corner of Regina’s mouth quirked upwards. “Very well.” Before Emma could cast the spell she held up one finger. “But keep me female.”

“Of course.” The Dark One nodded and twisted her wrist. A red tinted smoke swirled around Regina, dissipating to leave behind the appearance of another woman. Regina immediately fingered the long red-brown curls that reached past her shoulders. A brown leather coat hung over a dark green shirt and black leather pants. She arched an eyebrow at the blonde captain.

“Was changing my clothes necessary as well?” She felt different as she rolled her shoulders. “This is a bit more than a glamour, isn’t it?”

The pirate shrugged, grinning. “Might’ve given you a few more sword skills.”

“That’s not all you gave me,” Regina said, looking pointedly down at her chest which had decidedly more bosom than usual. “Tell me, Captain, is there something about this appearance you prefer?”

Emma gulped and shook her head. She’d been having a bit of fun but now saw that she’d backed herself right into a corner. If she didn’t handle this well, fake wife or not, she’d be sleeping on the deck for the next month. “Nope,” she finally managed. “Don’t even like redheads. Wanted to make sure you weren’t a distraction.”

“I see.”

Emma nodded, quite pleased with herself and the plausible reason she’d come up with.

“And am I a true red head, Captain?”

Emma’s hand slipped on the wheel and inadvertently turned the ship several degrees when Regina so innocently asked her question, her fingers playing idly with the buckle of her belt. Usually Regina was as skittish as a kitten when it came to flirting or anything remotely sexual in nature. Given her personal history, Emma had understood, but now she wondered if she’d accidentally given the brunette a different personality when she’d added a little more muscle to the transformation spell.

Then Regina laughed. “Oh, relax, Emma. I’m only teasing.” She put her hands in the jacket’s pockets and pulled it close over her chest. “You look like you’re about to swallow your own tongue.”

Emma gave a shallow laugh with her. “Right.” She cleared her throat and gestured. “You should try out a few moves, get used to the sword in this form.”

The brunette pulled her blade free, adjusting her grip on the handle. “You’re going to let me fight?”

“I’d rather you were not part of the boarding party,” Emma admitted, “but anything can happen in a situation like this. One of them might be foolish enough to come aboard.”

Regina nodded her understanding. She was in no particular hurry to find herself in combat either. When she could only best Leroy three out of ten times, she knew she wasn’t very capable yet. She rolled through a few slashes, enjoying the strength of the new body. She turned to ask Emma a question but found her words stolen by surprise instead.

Emma had been watching her closely and even with an unfamiliar expression she saw Regina’s shock a split second before several members of the crew began shouting. Emma spun on her heel and saw that the single ship they’d been rapidly closing on was now in fact two ships.

And The Darkness was poised to sail straight between them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“What is going on? How did this even happen?” Regina yelled at Emma while crossing swords with one of King George’s sailors.

“Magic,” Emma grunted as she stabbed one soldier with her short blade and held off two others with her long sword. “King George has a magic user.”

With the appearance of the second ship, Emma’s original plan had obviously gone to hell. Instead of leading a boarding party, her crew was having to fight tooth and nail to repel boarders. If it hadn’t been for Regina’s presence in the fight, Emma was quite sure she’d be having the time of her life. It had been too long since she’d had a good brawl. She hadn’t even resorted to using magic yet; she’d saved Regina twice with a couple of magical pushes, but those didn’t count.

“Any ideas?” Emma asked as she dispatched her two opponents and took a quick peek over the rail to gauge how her crew was faring. They were almost all immortal so she wasn’t overly concerned.

“About what?” Regina asked just before she gave up on fair play and knee’d her opponent in the crotch, pushing him backwards and over the railing into the water below.

Emma laughed as she eyed the four newcomers racing up the stairs towards the upper landing. There were two more on the side closest to Regina and she magically pushed them over the railing and off her ship. “Which magic user King George would employ.”

Regina clutched at a stitch in her side as she considered the question. She trusted the blonde captain would hold the incoming attackers off until she was ready. “Leopold trusted the fairies.”

The Dark One let the scrawniest soldier slip past her for Regina to fight. “There’s no way. That’s too much magic for them. He’d have to have an entire platoon of them to pull off that trick.”

“Seriously, Emma?” Regina didn’t bother engaging with the runty soldier. She simply waited for him to lunge, sidestepped neatly, and tipped him over board. “Give me a bit more credit than that.” She didn’t bother moving forward to help the pirate though, choosing instead to lean back against the rail and continue her breather. “Maybe he captured a sea witch?”

“Possible but hiding a ship isn’t really their deal,” she said, trapping one blade under her arm while ducking beneath a second blade. “They’d be more likely to sink a ship than hide one.”

The bloody, pointed end of a blade thrust out of the chest from the man in front of Emma’s face and she looked as shocked as he did when she saw Regina standing behind him. To be fair, the former queen looked a bit shocked as well. Emma quickly dispatched the two soldiers she’d been toying with and stepped over them to assess Regina. “Was that your first kill?”

The glamoured red head nodded. “I didn’t think…you saw him.” She swallowed thickly as she tugged half-heartedly at her sword trying to remove it from the body at her feet. “I was…concerned for you.” Her blade suddenly slid free making her stumble back a step and then gag at the sight of blood dripping off of it. “It was easier than I thought…”

“Hey, hey!” Emma stepped towards her, gripping her chin before she could spiral too far. “Hey, stay with me.” She grinned when dark brown eyes flashed at hers. She hadn’t had the heart to change that about Regina’s appearance. “You did good.” She flung away several men that had braved their way halfway up the stairs.

Regina cleared her throat. “Well.”

“Well, what?”

“I did…well,” Regina corrected almost shyly. “Not good.”

Emma couldn’t help but laugh and was thrilled to see her reaction pull a small smile from the former queen. “Very well, your Majesty.” She wrapped her hand around Regina’s tightening it to the grip on her sword. “Now. Are you ready to do some more?”

The interlude had been nice and necessary, but Emma did want to get her ship out of the clutches of George’s men before they destroyed too much of it. Even with magic, she hated doing repairs.

Regina took in a breath, squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. She gave Emma a curt nod of assurance and raised her blade. “After you, Captain.”

The tide really began to turn after that. Emma fed Regina a bit more magical prowess and the two of them fought their way down to the main deck. The canons had not been fired from any of the ships and Emma could only guess that George had ordered them to take the ship, not destroy it. She couldn’t wait until she had time to question one of the officers. She did not like being taken unawares and she wanted answers.

An hour later and Emma’s crew had begun to go on the offensive. Bodies lay everywhere on the ship but none of them were her crew. By her rough accounting, there were barely enough of King George’s men left alive to crew one ship let alone man two. She hated the idea of letting anyone slip away and yet that was how legends were grown.

“All right, men!” she called out and whoever wasn’t actively fighting turned towards her. She pointed her sword at the lead ship. “Let’s break the hull wide open and see what riches we can find!”

There was a loud chorus of cheers and a renewed energy swept over the crew as they began to fight their way on to the ship. Survivors left aboard The Darkness fled for their lives in the opposite direction, jumping onto the ship that had mysteriously appeared.

Emma had just grabbed hold of a rope and was about to swing over when she heard Regina call her name. Her inner beast whined at not immediately going over to the ship, but she let go of the rigging and hopped down from the railing. “Yes, my Queen?”

Regina's knee-length coat had long been discarded and the green shirt she wore had turned a darker color from accumulated sweat and blood. Emma thought she’d never seen the former queen look more alive, but she could also see the fatigue settling in as the adrenalin began to fade. Even with the magical help, Regina had taken a few cuts and bruises during the fighting. Emma had already healed the injuries despite not hearing a single cry of pain or word of complaint. Honestly, she couldn’t have been prouder at how well Regina had stood up during the fighting.

Regina wiped the back of her hand over her forehead before limply dropping it to her side. “Are we going over to the other ship?”

Emma noticed that despite her fatigue, Regina had yet to sheath her sword. Her pride in the woman ticked up another notch. “I need to, yes. The captain’s quarters could have all sorts of invaluable intel that my sea dogs will very likely ignore.”

“Very well.” Regina straightened. “How do we cross over?”

Emma slung an arm over Regina’s shoulders and turned her around. “You do not have to go, my Queen.”

“But-”

“It’s been an honor to have you fighting by my side all day,” Emma spoke over her in a way she knew was rarely tolerated by the former queen, “but I know you’re tired. And I know that you’d love nothing more than to wash all the grime and blood off your beautiful skin.” She had them headed towards the cabin they shared. “Maybe even put on a fresh set of clothes?”

“Or maybe just go to bed and sleep for a week,” Regina admitted tiredly, allowing her shoulders to relax and feeling the strain of already aching muscles.

“You can do that, too.” Emma chuckled, surprised really at how easily Regina had capitulated. “Whatever you wish to do.”

Regina stopped their slow-paced walk, slipping from beneath Emma’s arm to turn and face her. “And if I wished to join you and the boarding party?”

“I’d be the luckiest pirate alive to have you at my side.” Emma meant every word of it.

The former queen looked over at the ship that was now swarming with their crew. There were a few skirmishes taking place on the deck, but King George’s colors were being dragged down the mast as she studied the ship. She turned to the side and noticed the second ship had pulled away and was gaining sea between them. “What will you do with the ship?”

“Once I get everything of value off of it, I’m going to put it on the bottom of the ocean,” the pirate captain swore.

Regina pursed her lips slightly before nodding. “Well then, captain,” she sheathed her sword, “I think I’ll leave you to it.”

“I have your blessing to go ransack, pillage, and plunder?” Emma asked with a grin.

“Proceed, Captain,” Regina consented and then turned towards the cabin door. Calling back over her shoulder she said, “Bring me something shiny.”

“As you wish!” Emma bowed and then took off for the other ship with a spring in her step.

Regina stepped inside the cabin and leaned back against the door letting her eyes fall closed as she groaned. Even with the magical assistance, she was dead tired. Three months of living aboard the pirate ship had not adequately prepared her for the sheer physicality of a day like today. In her younger years, she’d had at least some physical conditioning from horse riding, but as queen, she’d been expected to stay lean and pretty. There’d been absolutely no consideration given towards physical exertions outside the bed chamber.

A creak from the floor boards had her frowning and she opened her eyes in time to see a shadow rush towards her. Weight slammed into her, pinning her against the door and she gasped in surprise. A filthy hand that stunk of gunpowder and blood clamped down over her mouth and hot words flew against her face.

“Make one sound, bitch, and I’ll gut you like a fish,” the enemy soldier hissed and Regina felt a sharp blade press against her neck.

Chapter Text

Emma’s crew knew her so well. They’d left the captain alive for her. She tossed him a sword as her men cheered and cleared space on the ship’s deck for them to fight. A niggling tingle of fear clawed unexpectedly at the back of her mind and she eyed him more closely.

“You aren’t a sorcerer of some sort, are you?”

He brought the sword up to a guard position. “I am nothing like you, demon.”

“Oh, good, then,” she said and half-heartedly began to engage him as her crew cheered and began to take bets.

She feinted her attacks and withdrew under his barrage for several minutes. The members of her crew that thought she was going to end it quickly were going to be sorely mistaken. She wanted answers from this man. She engaged with him, making it feel like a fair fight for him.

“You’re good,” she said as she fell back against the starboard rail, locking her hilt with his. “Have you done this a lot?”

“You won’t be the first beast I’ve slain, Swan!” he snarled into her face. “It will be my honor to send you to join the rest.”

Poor soul had no idea she was toying with him. She spun out of the lock and moved slow enough that his blade sliced the top of her arm. Rolling her eyes at his smug look of accomplishment, she grabbed the wound with her free hand. “What did I ever do to you?”

“That was but a taste, pirate.” He raised his sword again. “On behalf of Princess Snow, I will cut you down the way you did her father.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Her father?” she lazily defended against his attacks. “I never even met the man.” It was true; they'd never been properly introduced.

“Liar!” the captain thrust his sword forward with force and missed as Emma neatly side-stepped. “Everyone knows you killed King Leopold. Your colors were spotted that night leaving the harbor.”

“They. Were. Not.” Forgetting her act for a moment due to her indignation, she fought back, making him retreat under her onslaught. She knew her colors weren’t spotted that night because she hadn’t flown them. What self-respecting pirate that was even semi-intelligent would fly their own colors when killing a king and kidnapping a queen?

He grunted as they locked swords again. “Why deny it, pirate?”

“Why does King George care?”

There was a dark glint in the officer’s eyes as he pushed his face close to hers. “Because, you beat him to the punch and stole away the prize.”

And there it was. The murky vision of a possible future that she had seen finally becoming clear. “King George was going to kill Leopold.”

“And take the young queen as his own,” he sneered. He pushed her off and readied his sword once again. “I’m sure by now you’ve taken advantage yourself of her physical attributes.”

Emma’s back stiffened at the insinuation. “What did you say?”

“Come now, Swan.” He shrugged genially as though they were old friends chatting. “The King won’t mind that you’ve had a taste. It’s not as though she wasn’t already soiled. Just turn Regina over to me and your crew will be allowed to go free.”

The man disgusted her. She made a point of glancing around at her crew surrounding them. “I think you’ve overestimated your odds of survival, captain.”

For the first time the officer seemed to take in that he was the last man standing for his side. He growled and tightened his grip on his sword. “The entire realm is searching for you and the queen, pirate. There’s nowhere left for you to run. Give her to me and grant me safe passage away from your ship.”

“No.” Emma was done playing; she began fighting him in earnest. “I will grant you nothing but death. Regina will never sit at the side of another king she does not choose for herself.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “You care for her.”

EMMA!!

The niggling fear that had shadowed the back of Emma’s mind since she’d left Regina’s side roared into life. She stumbled backwards as the cry of her name echoed through her head. She looked past the officer she was fighting and her crew, trying to glimpse her ship.

The captain took advantage of her inattention. He lunged forward, knocked her sword from her hand, kicked it away and thrust his sword straight through the pirate captain’s middle.

Emma heard him shout, a belt of noise, thinking he had slain the demon. She felt her crew draw back in surprise that a mere mortal had bested her. It had been awhile since she’d been stabbed and getting run through fucking hurt. He started to pull the blade free and she clamped one hand down on his forearm, keeping him in place. Startled dark eyes raised to meet hers and she saw them widen further as the captain realized the error of his ways.

“Taking advantage of a distraction? Fair play to you, sir,” she said, her voice dripped shards of ice as her grip tightened on his arm. He cried out in pain and dropped to one knee as she crushed bone. Her pale skin shimmered as the Dark One came to the forefront. The darkness demanded reparation. “Allow me to repay you in kind.”

She released him, letting him drop to the deck as he cradled his injured arm. The Dark Swan slowly pulled the sword from her gut, hissing in pain, before using the bloody blade to force him to look up at her. “What is your name?”

“G-Gaston.”

She smirked. She’d heard of him. “I know the things you’ve done.” It seemed she was making a habit of saving young princesses from disgusting husbands. “You deserve to die slowly. I think I’ll-”

A rolling blast of magic reverberated over the ship. The Dark One’s revenge was forgotten as Emma felt the magic and remembered the cry that had echoed through her mind. “Regina!”

With one quick motion, she sliced off Gaston’s head and disappeared in a swirl of dark grey smoke, reappearing almost instantly inside her cabin. The scene that greeted her made her blood run cold. An enemy sailor hung dead from the bulkhead. Every sword or blade that had been in the cabin was stuck through his chest pinning him to the wood of the ship. Every shard of glass that had ever been a bottle, bowl, or mirror was driven deep into his skin. More than a dozen blunt objects that had been used in the cabin for various reasons lay in a heap at his feet. It appeared as though anything that had not been nailed down had struck the man.

And Emma felt magic building at her back.

She turned slowly, pivoting silently on her boot heel. On the deck, next to the disheveled bed which had smoldering hand prints burned into the sheets, sat the young queen. Emma couldn’t see her face as she had her head buried on the tops of her knees, her natural dark hair curtained her face, but she could see the brunette was trembling. “Regina?”

Emma sank slowly to her knees as she cautiously reached out a hand towards the queen’s shoulder. At the lightest touch, Regina’s head jerked up as she skittered away pushing herself back. The blonde held up her hands. “Hey, hey, it’s just me. It’s just Emma.”

Wide, wet, brown eyes and a tear stained face stared back at her. She blinked. “Emma?”

“Yep.” The faint smell of wood smoke filled the air and Emma dared a glance down at Regina’s hands held flat against the deck. She pointed down with one finger. “You want to do me a favor, and uh, turn off the magics.”

Regina glanced down and jerked her hands away from the smoldering deck as though it had burned her and not the other way around. She clamped her hands together tight to her chest. She shook her head. “I don’t…”

Emma slowly lowered her hands and tried again to move closer to the former queen. “It’s okay. Whatever happened, it’s okay.” She had so many questions but they hardly mattered at the moment. “Regina. Look at me, please.”

It wasn’t clear if Regina even heard her. She just sat rubbing her hands together and shaking her head. Tears continued to roll down her face. “I came in…I came in and he was here. He was here, hiding.”

A coward, Emma realized. A fucking coward had taken refuge in her quarters and then had the audacity to attack her queen. Hatred rolled through her as she realized yet another man was dead that she would’ve liked to have taken her time with. What was the point of being the Dark One if she couldn’t get revenge where it was deserved?

“He tried to…he tried to and I couldn’t fight him off…”

The darkness within Emma roared and she held herself rigid, trying to battle it down. That would come in due time, but for the moment, she needed to be here. “Regina?” She could hear the strain in her voice. “Did he hurt you?”

The brunette was twisting her hands in her lap as she stared blankly across the quarters. “I couldn’t fight him…threw me on the bed.”

Emma wrapped her hands around Regina’s, stilling them. She absorbed a jolt of magic with a grunt. “Regina, please look at me.” For a moment, the brunette’s attention was fixed on their joined hands before she finally looked up. “Did he hurt you?”

Regina blinked. “Emma?” Tears flowed from her eyes as she launched herself into the blonde’s arms.

The pirate grunted as Regina’s sudden movement knocked her off balance but quickly wrapped her arms around the shuddering woman. “It’s all right. Whatever happened-”

“I-I called for you,” Regina cried into her shirt.

Emma felt a piece of her heart, that she thought long deadened, break off at her absolute failure to protect the woman she had sworn would be safe at her side. The sword that had stabbed through her gut and distracted her hadn’t hurt nearly as much as the knowledge that she had failed Regina in the one thing she had promised. “I, uh…”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

The Dark One froze at the whispered utterance. She looked down at the figure huddled against her; Regina seemed so small when less than an hour ago she had seemed invincible. “What?”

“This isn’t me,” Regina whispered. “I thought I could stand beside you and share in your adventures, but I can’t. I was trying to be someone I’m not, someone I can’t be.”

Emma’s heart broke at the confession. She thought Regina had finally been shaking off the shackles of her upbringing. That she’d been free for the first time in her life and she’d been becoming who she really wanted to be, but what if she’d really just been trying to be the person that she’d thought Emma had wanted her to be.

“I’m not strong like you. I’m not brave.”

Emma frowned, her spiraling thoughts grinding to a halt. She glanced over her shoulder at the dead man hanging from the bulkhead and the power that it had taken to achieve that. She thought about being forced to spend five years with a man that raped her just to guard against a young girl’s innocence. Regina was one of the strongest people Emma had ever met and not just for the magics that she seemingly had no control over. If Regina thought she wasn’t strong, then she clearly wasn’t seeing herself the way Emma saw her.

“I’m sorry,” Regina said quietly as she slumped against the pirate’s chest. “I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

“Sshhh, you didn’t disappoint me,” Emma said softly, recognizing Regina’s flagging energy. “You could never disappoint me. I let you down.”

Regina’s head moved slightly and she murmured some sort of disagreement, but Emma just held her close. “Rest now. I promise I’ll make this up to you.”

She already had a plan brewing. It would take a little bit of dealing on her part but that shouldn’t be a problem. She knew quite a few kingdoms that could benefit from a deal with her.

Chapter Text

Emma hated waiting, but considering the ball going on downstairs she felt it was in her best interest to be patient. She sat back in the high wing-backed chair idly rolling the unlit cigarillo between her fingers. Her thoughts, as usual, drifted to Regina. It had been two days since the battle and the younger woman hadn’t left the cabin; she’d barely left the bed except for necessities. Emma had used magic to set the room to rights and remove all presence of the cowardly intruder. Her rage was still unsated in his regards. The only thing that saved him being yanked out of the underworld just so Emma could kill him herself was her own self-loathing.

She had failed Regina. She’d left her in danger when she’d promised her she’d be safe. She’d thought the younger royal was adjusting to a new life when apparently, she’d been drowning. Perhaps the greatest sin of all was that she’d failed to realize just how little Regina thought of herself. And somehow, the brunette had gotten the idea in her head that she was unworthy of Emma.

The idea was so ludicrous Emma actually snorted, shaking her head. She checked the time and growled. This was taking too long and she hadn’t even started. “Fuck it,” she muttered, lighting the cigarillo, relishing the hit of tobacco. As though she had rung a bell, not a minute later, the doors to the chambers swung open. The temperature in the room dropped several degrees.

“I thought I told you never to smoke in here.”

Emma winced. Pissing off the person whose cooperation she needed was not the best way to start a deal. She held the cigarillo up where it could be seen and magically poofed it away. There was a muttered hum of approval from behind her.

“You could’ve come downstairs, you know.”

Emma heard the queen’s heels tap across the floor as she moved and knew they would be the first things to be taken off. When bare footsteps padded back into the chambers, Emma stood and turned away from the fire in time to see the platinum queen pluck the royal tiara from her head and carefully place it into a plush lined box. The queen’s favored sky-blue dress had been exchanged for the evening with a dark, midnight blue dress that sparkled like the stars as she moved. White fur lined the top of it accentuating bare shoulders.

“I didn’t think you’d appreciate my unexpected appearance at your event,” Emma admitted while flourishing a small bow.

“It was a boring agricultural celebration event. I would’ve welcomed your unexpected appearance.” Queen Elsa of Arendelle gave Emma her back and gestured towards the clasp of her necklace. “Help me out?”

Emma swallowed thickly and moved forward. Deft fingers undid the clasp but then she stepped immediately back. The queen carefully placed the necklace on her dresser then turned and leaned back against it. She sighed. “I guess that means this is a business visit.”

Because in time past, Emma would’ve taken the invitation for what it was and unzipped the queen from her gown as well. “It is,” she admitted. “Sort of. Mostly.” She sighed. “I need a favor.”

The Queen arched an eyebrow and waited.

Emma didn’t like being on this side of needing a deal, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. She also hated dealing with someone like Elsa who knew her so well.

Too well.

“So, what is it this time?” Elsa asked when the silence stretched out. She gave Emma her back again as she began unscrewing her earrings. “And please don’t tell me it’s a woman.”

Emma winced.

Elsa had been watching for her reaction in the mirror and laughed. “Relax, Dark One, you know I won’t hold it against you,” she paused briefly before adding, “or her.”

“It is a woman,” she admitted, and Elsa dropped a ring on the dresser a little harder than she’d probably intended. “But it’s not like what you’re thinking.”

Elsa offered her a look of surprise then requested, “Unzip me?” When Emma hesitated, she added. “The night has been entirely too long and I have a feeling you’re going to make it longer. I just want to get changed into something more comfortable.” She smirked. “I promise not to take advantage of you.”

At the teasing smirk, Emma finally relaxed. She undid the queen’s fastenings and stepped back as Elsa held the dress in place until she was out of sight.

Three years earlier, in a moment of frustration, Elsa had inadvertently called for Emma. Knowing the young queen to be a good and fair ruler, Emma had been intrigued enough to respond to the summons. Long story short, the seven brothers from the Southern Isles were wreaking just enough havoc to be a constant nuisance to Arendelle. After spending a day or two with the queen, Emma had come up with a few creative ways to ensure the brothers stayed away from Arendelle without killing them, per Elsa’s request. It was more time consuming, magicing their boats to be unable to sail in the direction of Arendelle, but it had been entertaining watching them try. And if Emma and Elsa had found that they enjoyed each other’s company during the process, the Dark One considered it time well spent.

“So, who is she and why do you need my help?” Elsa asked as she strolled back into the main chamber, tying together a dressing gown of deep teal over her chest. “And if this story is going to take more than a few minutes, I’m going to require refreshments.”

“What refreshments shall I provide?” Emma asked, then offered a sheepish smile. “Because there’s actually two women.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Regina flipped lazily through the book in her lap. It was a subject she was interested in and yet she couldn’t seem to concentrate for more than a couple of sentences. They’d been staying at the palace in Arendelle for a month and she was bored.

No, not bored. Restless.

And she couldn’t determine why.

Since their arrival, Queen Elsa and by proxy everyone else in the palace had been nothing but cordial. Anna, the younger sister, was so friendly it was obnoxious. Thankfully, Belle had befriended her and managed to steer her away from Regina when she could tell the older brunette was nearing her breaking point of civility.

Emma was in and out. On the nights she slept, she stayed with Regina but two out of three nights she was out conducting deals or Dark One business as she referred to it. During the days, they went to the markets or rode horses. They took day trips out to parts of the kingdom that Anna or Elsa insisted were worth seeing. At least once a week, they took The Darkness out for a sail. Sometimes Belle joined them and sometimes she chose to stay at the palace. She could often be found in the library curled up with a book.

Despite all the activities, unless Emma was with her, Regina wasn’t sleeping through the night. She was having nightmares. Sometimes it was the brute from the ship, but it seemed that incident had merely opened a gateway in her mind. She was now contending with nightly visitations of all manner of horrible incidents from her past. The king showed up on a regular basis as did her mother. She also had the free-floating anxiety during the day that someone would recognize her.

Emma trusted the queen and had apparently had dealings with her before. Therefore, Queen Elsa knew exactly who Regina was but she had been introduced to everyone else as a cousin named Isabella who was visiting from Corona. Since Belle hadn’t quite achieved the status of royalty and was far less likely to be known, she’d kept her name and was simply traveling with Regina as a friend. When Regina had asked Emma how Belle had come to be in their company, she’d seen the Dark One enter the blonde’s eyes.

It had been the first she’d heard of Gaston and King George’s plans to take Regina as his wife. Emma had then told her how with the death of Gaston and Regina’s disappearance, she’d seen a glimpse of the future that had included George taking Belle as a consolation prize. Emma had refused to let that happen and Regina had wholeheartedly agreed with her decision. Leopold may have been a bastard but Regina knew George to be sadistic and cruel. The son he was raising was no better.

As Regina flipped another page of the book she wasn’t reading, the door to the library burst open and she was unsurprised to see Anna rushing in. When the excited princess eyed her and headed straight for her, Regina gestured over her shoulder. “I believe Belle is just around the corner.”

With wide eyes and a toothy smile, Anna dropped into the chair opposite the brunette. “That’d be great if I was here looking for Belle, but I’m not. I’m here looking for you. And I found you, I mean obviously I found you since we’re sitting here talking to each other, but wow!”

She sat back seemingly out of words but still smiling widely as Regina felt the anxious tightness in her chest turn into a low vibration. She kept her voice even as she asked, “You were looking for me? Why?”

Anna leaned forward, elbows on her knees, hands clasped together. “I’m certainly not the only person looking for you, am I?” she said eagerly. “I mean, I know Elsa said you were our cousin and all, but I never really bought that. After all, I’ve never heard of you before and believe me I spent a lot of time in this library growing up, like a lot of time, because you know, well maybe you don’t know, but Elsa was always in her room. She probably hasn’t read all the family histories contained in this library like I have and now that she’s queen it’s not like she has time to just spend time reading for fun, so I can see how she would think she could slip a relative past me, but…” She just grinned and shook her head.

Regina swallowed tightly, willing herself to breathe. “I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about, but,” she closed the book in her lap and made to stand, “I’m sure if we go talk to your sister-”

Anna stood with her and reached forward, clasping her hands in her own. “Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t mean to frighten you or anything. Your secret is safe with me.”

“Secret?” Regina croaked, the vibration in her chest was quickly becoming a tremor.

“You’re Queen Regina,” Anna said breathlessly, “the missing queen from Misthaven!”

A swirl of dark grey smoke appeared next to the two women. Emma quickly took in Regina’s rigid stance and the way Anna was holding her hands as they stood toe to toe. “Hey,” she said, “what’s going on?” Even before she placed her hand on the small of Regina’s back, Emma could feel the magic building inside the queen. That and Regina’s fear were what had summoned her. “Everything okay?”

Before anyone could answer, although Anna was the only one of the two that seemed poised to do so, a light blue smoke appeared next to them. Anna’s jaw dropped open as her sister appeared.

“Since when can you do that?!” Anna exclaimed, releasing Regina in order to fully face her sister. “You never told me you could poof!”

Elsa looked nervously at Emma. “I just learned.” She glanced between Anna and Regina. “What’s going on?” She was no magic expert but she could feel the energy building in the room. “Emma?”

“I can guess.” She eyed Anna, knowing how much the younger sister ran her mouth. “What did you say to her?”

“Emma,” Elsa scolded.

“No, no it was me. I mean, I didn’t mean to,” Anna said, grasping Elsa’s forearm as she faced Emma. “It’s just, I know who Isabella is. I know she’s the missing queen from Misthaven, Queen Regina.”

Emma felt the Regina’s flinch; she also felt magic shock her fingers. Elsa apparently felt it as well as alarmed blue eyes met Emma’s. “Emma, perhaps you should-”

“Yep.” She wrapped her arms around Regina and disappeared in a swirl of dark grey smoke.

Chapter Text

Regina and Emma reappeared in a billow of magical smoke at the edge of a snowy forest. Emma glanced around to make sure they were alone. “Okay, good.” She turned back to the brunette. “All right, your Majesty, let it go.”

Regina was trembling, her fists clenched so tight her knuckles were white. “What?” she managed.

Emma waved a hand towards the silent, snow covered trees. “Blast them.”

Dark eyes swirling with purple met green. She was so tense it hurt to turn her neck but Regina knew she must’ve heard wrong. “What?”

The blonde had the audacity to laugh. “Magic is emotion, my queen, and right now you are full to the brim. You need to let some of it out.” She gestured at the trees again. “Afterwards, we’ll talk about what set you off.”

Regina’s hard-fought control slipped and a bolt of energy flew from her hand and straight at Emma who quickly disappeared, reappearing almost instantly on her opposite side.

“Good!” Emma said. “Frying me not exactly what I had in mind, but good.”

“That wasn’t on purpose, you idiot,” Regina growled through clenched teeth. “I can’t…control it.”

“Sure, you can,” Emma argued. “You’ve been controlling it your whole damn life.” She moved behind Regina and dropped her chin on the queen’s shoulder. “I’m telling you to release it.”

“H-how?”

“Scream at the trees,” Emma said quietly. “Direct your emotion at them and your magic will follow.” She settled her hands on Regina’s hips. “I want you to rage, Regina.”

Regina turned her head slightly trying to catch Emma’s eye but the blonde was looking resolutely forward. She looked back to the trees, blinking through her suddenly blurred vision. She raised her hands in front of her.

“Feel that energy buzzing inside your chest.” Emma slid her hands up to support Regina’s trembling arms. “Let it out. Release it, Regina. Now!”

Both women grunted as magic pulsed out of the queen in all directions. The trees blew as though a strong gust of wind had blown over them.

“That was barely a tickle,” Emma complained, clearing her throat from the unexpected hit. “And you did not contain it to just one direction.”

“If it was just a tickle, why are you complaining Dark One?” Regina was slightly breathless herself. The release had felt good, but years of controlling the magic festering insider her had her instinctively shutting it down.

“Just. Try it again,” Emma chuckled darkly, settling in behind her again. “And focus this time.”

“I was focusing,” Regina grumbled, then eyed the treeline. She took a steadying breath; it was easier now as though she had released the pressure building up in her chest.

“Knock the snow off.”

The queen thrust her hands forward and laughed when she caused some of the snow to fall from the limbs as the front row of trees swayed. Emma sighed, letting go of Regina when she turned in her arms to face her. “What?”

“Nothing,” Emma said quickly. “That was good.” She was completely unconvincing.

“You want to try that answer again with a little more truth this time?” Regina asked in no mood for the Dark One’s half-truths.

Emma hesitated then said, “Let’s try it again.” She turned Regina back towards the trees. “Only this time,” she slid her hands down the queen’s arms and pinned her wrists to her sides, “don’t use your hands.”

Regina frowned. “But I-”

“Magic is an emotional power not a physical one,” Emma reminded. “Try again.” She stayed silent for several moments, waiting. Nothing happened. “Magic is emotion," she reiterated. "Remember how you felt when your mother trapped you with magic.” Regina physically jerked at the unexpected reminder, but the Dark One kept her still. “Think about how you felt when you learned you were going to marry the king.” Emma could feel a surge in the magic building within the brunette. “Remember how you felt when that…man confronted you on the ship.” Emma’s own magic reached out with that particular memory, growling and lashing in anger. “How did you feel when your mother killed Daniel?”

Regina’s magic roared, digging a deep furrow in the snow all the way to the tree line where timber cracked and blew backwards as a shockwave slammed into the trees. A scream mingled with the shock of the earth until both the magic and the sound died out. Knees gave out and the only thing that kept the queen from dropping to the ground were the arms around her middle. Gently, Emma lowered them both until they were slumped together, the blonde on her knees supporting the younger woman in front of her. They stayed that way for several minutes. Long enough for the forest to settle back into calm silence.

“Why?” Regina finally whispered, her throat raw. “Why would you say those things? Why would you do that to me?”

Emma gently wrapped her arms around Regina from behind as she looked past the brunette at the absolute destruction the queen had created. She wouldn’t apologize. “You needed a release. You were too worked up and-”

“And I was close to blowing a hole in Elsa’s castle.”

And I needed you to see what you could do,” Emma continued. “You think so little of yourself when you could do so much.”

“No,” Regina said, a tiredness creeping into her voice as she shook her head. “No, I won’t do it again.” She sat up, away from Emma. “I won’t use magic again.”

“Two problems with that,” Emma said, disentangling herself and pushing back from the brunette. “One, it will happen again because you have emotions and you have magic. You’ve finally been able to unlock your emotions after years of repression and therefore your magic will be unlocked as well.”

Regina was turned on her knees, looking at the blonde now. Worry and concern in her eyes. “And two?”

“Two,” Emma frowned and leaned forward, “why the hell wouldn’t you use it again?” Emma held up a finger to hold off Regina’s answer. “Don’t answer that. Answer this instead – how did it feel?”

The concern in the brown eyes morphed into anger. “Horrible. You think I want to remember those times. You think I want to relive losing Daniel or when I had to…lay with the king.”

“No,” Emma said far more gently than expected, “but that’s not what I meant.” She leaned closer into Regina’s space. “How did it feel…to use magic?”

The young queen sucked in an unsteady breath. The green eyes glittered before her, filling her vision as they stared deep into her soul, and there was nowhere to hide. With reluctance, she admitted, “I loved it.”

The Dark One made a noise deep in her throat at the admission; a chill raced up Regina’s spine. She spoke again before the blonde could say anything. “But if the price I have to pay to use magic is feeling those emotions again,” she shook her head, “I’m not interested.”

Emma caught Regina’s hands in her own before the queen could physically move away. “It won’t always be like that,” she promised. “I can show you how to use your magic without needing emotion to jumpstart it. I can teach you to control it so that when you do get emotional, you control it; it won’t control you.”

Regina was tempted; the Dark One could feel the desire, but she could also feel the fear as the queen looked away from her. She watched as the dark, soulful eyes scanned the destroyed tree line. “What are you afraid of, my queen?”

Regina scoffed and shook her head slightly. “I don’t-” she looked down at their joined hands. “I keep waiting for it all to come crashing down.”

Emma tilted her head as she studied the woman before her. “Is that why Anna’s discovering who you are upset you?”

She closed her eyes and swallowed. “Yes,” she admitted, “and I won’t…I won’t go back to that kingdom again.”

“Regina-”

“No!” Regina cut her off, pushing up to her feet. “If Anna knows, then how long before someone else figures it out. How long before someone shows up in the middle of the night to drag me back to either play nursemaid to a spoiled princess and likely get married off to some other tyrant or, or be executed for killing the man who treated me like a whore for five years, a toy that he bought and paid for.” She released a half laugh-half sob as her shoulders dropped. “And sadly, I’m not even the one that killed him!”

Emma wanted to promise that those things would never happen; she wouldn’t let them. She wanted to make grand sweeping promises that she would protect Regina with her dying breath and she would. Happily. But this moment wasn’t about her or her need to protect this woman that she had grown to care about so much. Instead, she got to her feet and stood in front of the slightly shorter brunette.

“You remember that day on the ship, after the fight with King George’s men?” she asked, her voice firm and only a shade less than full on Dark One.

Regina shuddered. She felt the air between them cool suddenly and knew it had nothing to do with the weather. “What are you doing?”

“You went into our cabin, and while I’m not entirely sure what happened because you’ve never spoken of it, you were attacked.” Emma’s skin had started to glitter in the pale afternoon sun. “He was head and shoulders taller than you, armed, and based on the cut I saw, he at some point had a knife to your throat.”

Regina paled considerably, and she could feel the magic building in her chest again. “Stop it.”

“Yes, I imagine you said that to him as well.” Emma’s eyes had gone dark, the green barely visible. “He was bloodied, probably gotten scratched in the fighting before finding our cabin and hiding out in it like the cowardly dog he was. I’m betting he stank of sweat and blood and fear. Was probably close to pissing himself, but then there you were. Someone smaller than him, someone weaker.”

“Don’t do this,” Regina pleaded.

“I’m guessing he got a good look at you and figured he might as well get a good fuck in before he died,” Emma said harshly.

The door was closed behind her and Regina felt his hot fetid breath as the man panted against her cheek. The knife blade dug into her neck as he pulled back slightly and looked her over. “Well aren’t you a pretty thing?”

“But I saw how you stood up to Hook the day we killed the king,” Emma continued. “It wouldn’t have mattered if he was twice your size, you fought back, didn’t you?”

“For all the good it did,” Regina whispered.

She didn’t care about the knife at her neck. All she felt was the man’s free hand stroking the side of her face and down her neck before grabbing a handful of breast and squeezing. She gasped, saw red and pushed against him. With more than just physical energy hitting him, she took him by surprise and managed to make him stumble back a step. “You coward,” she spat, reaching for the sword at her hip.

It was a mistake, the quarters were too cramped for a sword, and it was more than enough time for him to recover. He snarled and lunged at her again, wrenching her away from the door and throwing her towards the bed. She hit the wooden frame, knocking the breath from her chest, barely feeling the sword being torn from her limp grasp. She was still reeling when he spun her around, grabbed her by the hips, and tossed her onto the bed.

“Oh, I beg to differ,” Emma argued, wrenching Regina out of the past. “I think fighting back made all the difference in the world.” She took a step forward, closing the distance between them. “Because the queen never fought back, but Regina…” the Dark One smiled, “Regina fights.”

Regina was shaking her head. “No, he…he pinned me down on the bed. He was going to…he would’ve-”

“Yes. He would have,” Emma agreed. “But you. Didn’t. Let. Him.”

Regina blinked, her brows drew closer together. “No,” she whispered. “I didn’t let him.”

“That’s right. You didn’t.” The bite of steel that Emma could hear in the brunette’s whisper warmed her heart. A slow smile twisted her mouth. “You fought back.”

“I-I called for you.”

“And I was trying to get to you,” Emma said, a twist of guilt and shame forever coloring her soul for failing her queen, “but you didn’t need me.”

Regina stared down at their hands.

“You saved yourself, Regina. You stopped him.” She paused briefly, wondering if the former queen had even realized what she’d done. “You used magic.”

The trembling had all but stopped and dark brown eyes were suddenly dry; Regina slowly nodded. “Yes, I did.”

“And if anyone ever comes for you again, to take you somewhere against your will…”

“I’ll fight them.”

Emma nodded. “That’s right.”

Regina looked up from lowered lashes. “You’ll teach me?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

10 Years Later

The clash of swords echoed across the deck and sparks flew as metal struck metal. The two swordsmen – or swordswomen if you prefer – had been going at it for well over an hour. The crew had almost become bored watching them.

Almost.

“C’mon sister,” Leroy cheered when the two women locked hilts close to where he was staying out of the way, “I’ve got five gold pieces riding on you.”

Emma pushed Regina off and hooked her foot enough to make the queen fall backwards against the crates. She’d probably pay for that little maneuver later. “Only five, Leroy? Don’t you have any faith in me?”

“Sorry, Captain,” Leroy scratched at his beard, “my gold is on the Queen.”

“What?!”

Before the deckhand could answer, Emma felt herself flying backwards into a stack of barrels as magic struck her square in the chest. She barely managed to extricate herself before the ropes that had secured the barrels tried to wrap themselves around her. “Really, my queen?” she said, sidestepping a reaching tendril of rope. “If you wanted rope play, I could’ve arranged something.”

Regina charged forwards, color high in her cheeks. “Don’t be crass in front of the crew.”

“If the crew isn’t around, can I be crass?” Emma asked as she lunged forward.

The brunette easily blocked her thrust. “Must you always use Capo Ferro?”

“You always use Thibault.”

“Because you always use Capo Ferro.”

Emma shrugged as she stepped backwards, making her way towards the bow of the ship. “You’re the one that studied, I’m just trying to keep up.” She lazily tossed a barrel into her opponent’s path. “And since when did we start using magic in this fight?” She dodged the barrel when it came flying back at her.

Regina made a come hither motion with her hand and the barrel reversed course hitting Emma in the back of the knees, knocking her down. The queen rushed forward, pinned the blonde’s sword to the deck with her boot heel, and leveled her blade to the captain’s neck. “Yield.”

Emma considered her options. “I thought you said using magic in this fight was cheating.”

The brunette shrugged a shoulder. “I am a pirate.” She let the blade press closer to skin. “Do you yield, Captain?”

The blonde played her fingertips along the blade. “Aye, love,” she sighed, “you win this round.”

A resounding cheer went up from all over the ship and multiple groans could be heard as well. Regina sheathed her sword and then pulled Emma to her feet. She wrapped her arms around the blonde, pulled her close and branded her with a deep kiss. Another cheer went up from the crew as they separated.

“I still say you wouldn’t beat me in a fair fight,” Emma muttered even as she bowed to Regina, acknowledging the win.

“Not much incentive for me to fight fair, then is there?” Regina smirked, adding an arched eyebrow for effect. “Now, I expect you to uphold your end of the bargain.”

“By all means, my queen.” She offered her elbow and called up to the wheel, “Mister Jacques, make sure we are not disturbed.”

“Emma!” Regina scolded even as she took the offered elbow and pinched Emma’s side. The pirate captain grinned at her.

For the last ten years, time had stood still for the two women. Literally. After the emotional breakthrough with Regina and her magic, they had left Arendelle and traveled to the Realm that Time Forgot. A pirate crew mixed and traded easily with the residents of the Land of Untold Stories and skirmishes with the Lost Boys kept their blades sharp.

News filtered into the realm slowly, but they’d heard that Snow White married Prince James, the son of King George, and taken her rightful place as ruler over her kingdom. The missing Queen Regina hadn’t been seen since the night she was taken and most assumed she had been killed. She was barely a footnote in anyone’s mind which was exactly the way they wanted it.

Regina had spent the last ten years learning. She’d picked up her sword lessons immediately upon returning to the ship and practiced at least two hours a day. Her magical studies had also become a priority for her. Having access to the Dark One’s vault as well as the library Rumple had left behind insured that her knowledge of magic far surpassed any other current practitioner. Emma still had more raw power than her, but even she deferred to Regina when it came to theory and new applications.

Regina had also devoted herself to learning how to captain the ship. As the Dark One, Emma was often called away to arrange deals and contracts, leaving Regina in charge by default as the captain’s wife. Default wasn’t good enough for Regina and she put in the hours in all aspects of sailing the ship to earn the title of captain in Emma’s absence. After ten years, she was as deft a hand at sailing as any one of the crew.

“I told you not to be crass,” Regina said, pushing Emma into their quarters after she’d pretty much announced to the crew what they’d be doing.

Emma stumbled but grinned. “I didn’t want us to be disturbed.” She heard Regina lock the door and turned to face her. “I have no idea what you’re about to ask of me, but I’m sure it isn’t something any of the crew need to see. Might break their little brains to see their captain at the mercy of an Evil Queen.”

Regina jabbed her fingers against the blonde’s shoulder, pushing her back a step. “You know I don’t like that name.”

It had been the Lost Boys that had started calling her that. Emma glanced backwards over her shoulder, judging the distance to their bed. “I know you pretend not to like it.”

The brunette’s eyes narrowed. A flick of her fingers and the sword belt around the blonde’s hips dropped to the floor. Emma glanced down as magic slowly slid open the buttons on the vest she was wearing. She swallowed thickly as she felt the laces on her shirt begin to loosen. “My queen?”

“Hmmm?” She twisted her hand to the right and Emma yelped slightly as her boots disappeared completely.

“This is new,” Emma managed as the vest slipped from her shoulders.

“I’ve been practicing,” the brunette murmured. She gestured with her hand impatiently and after a sigh, Emma raised her arms over her head as the shirt was tugged up and off. Regina tilted her head to the side as she appraised her wife. The blonde still wore trousers and bindings over her breasts, but as the queen drummed her fingers in the air, the buttons on the trousers popped apart one at a time. “Be a dear and slip those pants off the rest of the way.”

Emma huffed as she pushed the pants down past her hips. “This is no way to treat a Dark One.”

“Then I guess you don’t want to know what other tricks I’ve learned,” Regina purred as she walked towards and then past the blonde.

“Whoa, whoa, now wait a minute.” Emma grabbed her by the arm, pulling her back around. “Now I never said that.”

“Oh?” Regina draped her arms over the blonde’s shoulders. “I must have misunderstood.”

“Yes, I believe you did,” Emma said. She leaned forward and began peppering kisses along the brunette’s jaw.

“Are you suggesting I was wrong, dear?” Regina asked, one of her hands curling around the back of Emma’s neck as the other released the blonde locks from its messy ponytail.

“Never would I ever think that much less suggest it in any way,” Emma said, smirking when Regina tilted her head to the side, exposing more of her neck to Emma’s mouth. She happily obliged.

“Good answer,” Regina murmured, inhaling sharply as a hot tongue traced over the spot just behind her ear. She started walking Emma backwards, chuckling as the blonde worked blindly at undoing Regina’s laces.

“You are wearing entirely too much clothing,” Emma growled just before the backs of her legs hit the bunk.

“I could say the same about you.”

In a swirl of magic, Emma’s underclothes disappeared. She looked down at her exposed body then back up. “I’m completely naked and you still have your boots on,” she said, appreciating the hungry, heated stare of her wife as darkened lust-blown brown eyes roved over her. “How is that fair?”

“Who said anything about fair?”

The deep sultry tone made Emma melt, but she jumped when she felt a hand stroke up her back. Her green gaze flew back to the woman standing in front of her with both her hands in plain view. A second invisible hand stroked up the inside of Emma’s bare thigh. She might’ve moaned when an invisible tongue swirled around her breast. Emma gasped, “Where did you learn that?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Regina purred.

Magical pressure coaxed Emma further back on the bed and urged her to lie down. “As nice as this feels-” Emma managed to ground out as more touches ghosted up and down her body, “I’d much rather have…uhhh…the real thing.”

A dark throaty laugh sounded throughout the cabin, sending a burning shiver all the way down to her toes. She felt pressure on the bed near her feet and opened her eyes in time to see Regina crawling towards her, her clothes magically disappearing as she prowled closer.

Regina didn’t stop until her mouth was right next to Emma’s ear. “You shall have the real me,” she said, nipping the lobe, “and so much more.” She arched and rolled her body so that for a tantalizing second their bare chests touched. “You will have more than you can handle, Dark One.”

Emma’s eyes flashed a magical green. “Is that a challenge, my Queen?”

“You have no idea,” Regina whispered, tracing her tongue along the shell of the blonde’s ear, “what I’m capable of.”

“Show me.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Emma fell back on the bed, completely and utterly spent. Her chest heaved up and down as she tried to catch her breath. “Kidnapping you…was the best decision I ever made in my entire existence.”

Regina crawled up the bed and dropped down beside the recovering blonde with a satisfied smirk on her face. “Tell me again why you did it.”

“You know why,” Emma said, moving her arm so there was space for the brunette to settle down next to her. “I’ve already told you that story.”

“I know all your stories,” Regina said, draping an arm over the pirate’s middle as she snuggled into her side. “Tell me anyway.”

Every Dark One had a unique power; Emma’s was that she could access alternate timelines. Some moved faster than others, some were shaped by major decisions, and some were determined by the smallest detail being overlooked. It fascinated Emma and prior to bringing Regina onboard The Darkness so many years ago, she had spent a lot of time across many timelines. It made her a much older Dark One than just the fifteen years that had passed in their realm.

"It all started when a young, dumb pirate got challenged to find the Dark One and take his dagger."

"You were dumb," Regina grumbled. "They were trying to get you killed, daring you to do something like that."

"Hey, I got it, didn't I?" Emma said, proudly. It still counted as one her finest achievements. "I managed to trick Rumple himself, the trickster, into fighting me without magic."

"Yes, dear, and he underestimated you," Regina said. "I have heard the story before."

"You said to tell you the story."

"I meant our story and how you found me."

“Oh! Well. That started with me learning to focus on just specific people,” Emma said, starting again as she used a flicker of magic to bring the blanket up from the foot of the bed. “And one person in particular caught my attention.”

“And what was it about this one person that caught your eye?” Regina asked lazily, her voice husky as she moved towards sleep.

Emma could only see the top of the brunette’s head as it laid against her chest. She smirked knowing her wife would be asleep in minutes. “I’m not sure, really. Maybe it was the amount of cleavage she seemed to show whenever – ow!” She caught the hand pinching her stomach. “It sure wasn’t the way she contradicted her captain every chance she got.” She tightened her grip when the body against her tried to move away. She laughed, “Okay, okay, settle down. I’ll behave.”

Regina growled against her chest. “Just tell the story.”

“Once upon a time-” Teeth grazed against Emma’s collarbone, threatening, “a young Dark One, drunk on new magic, fell in love with a queen she could not have.” The teeth were replaced by lips and Emma continued, “In so many universes, she saw this strong, crazy beautiful, and powerful woman ruling over many lands.”

“Hmmm,” Regina murmured. “And was she loved or feared?”

“Both,” Emma answered honestly. “In some timelines, she was feared by everyone because of her dark magic and her cruel tendencies. In other timelines, she was loved by the people she governed and feared by anyone not living in her kingdom.”

“Why?”

Emma grinned at the sleepy question. “Why was she feared? Because the queen was incredibly protective of what she considered hers. Anyone who was stupid enough to cross her borders, and so much as touch one of her citizens, was dealt with quickly and usually mortally. Some even called her the Evil Queen.”

Regina snorted against her chest, her fingertips digging slightly into skin.

“And in some timelines, the name was well deserved,” Emma admitted. “The powerful sorceress was capable of unspeakable things, acts that make a Dark One perk up and take notice. In other realms, she was an efficient and decisive ruler that was simply portrayed as evil for the sake of storytelling.”

Emma felt the body next to her grow heavy and relax into sleep. “And then there was my realm, my timeline that had no such queen,” she continued quietly. “No great and powerful sorceress leading a kingdom like she was destined to do. Somehow, the queen in my land had sailed off course with no clear recourse. Then most frighteningly of all, a glimpse of the future showed no queen at all in my time, and that my queen, was simply unacceptable.” She kissed the top of Regina’s head and whispered softly, “So, I kidnapped her and made her a pirate.”

Chapter Text

“You don’t need a pocket watch.” Regina glared at the vendor and pulled her wife away from the assortment of junk being passed off as treasure. The Land of Untold Stories' marketplace was both a wonder and a torture. A person, or Dark One, could find anything and everything, be it junk or treasure within the bustling stalls. It usually just gave Regina a headache. “With the way you travel, who knows what kind of time it would keep.”

“But think whose watch it could be,” Emma whined, looking back at the table and its display of unique items. “That watch could’ve belonged to Sherlock Holmes! Or, oh, maybe Doc Holliday!”

The brunette frowned. “Who?”

“I’m your huckleberry,” Emma said, cocking an eyebrow at her wife. She purred, “That’s just my game.”

Regina was not impressed. “You’re quoting one of your movie-things again, aren’t you?”

The blonde released a heavy sigh. “Yes, but it’s no fun when no one gets the reference.”

“You’re cute when you pout.”

Emma frowned. “Dark Ones don’t pout.”

“Mmm-hmm,” Regina grinned and slipped her arm through Emma’s. “So, tell me about this doctor.”

“Well for starters, he was actually a dentist.”

“A dentist? Isn't that a person who works on teeth,” the former queen clarified. “Forgive me, dear, he doesn’t really seem like your type.”

“He was also a gambler and a gunslinger.”

“Ah,” Regina said with understanding, “now I see the allure.”

Emma nodded. “One of the deadliest guns in the wild west.”

“So, he was well known then?”

“Oh, yeah,” Emma said, missing the smirk playing at the corner of her wife’s mouth, “he was part of one of the most famous shootouts ever.”

“If he’s so well known, I doubt his pocket watch is for sale in the Land of Untold Stories.”

The blonde pirate opened her mouth to argue only to close it again with a frown. She sighed, “You may have a point.”

Regina knew her victory was sound when Emma didn’t even try to argue. “Cheer up, dear,” she said, giving her wife a peck on the cheek. “I’ll buy you a hot chocolate from that Whitefall vendor you like so much.”

When she didn’t receive an immediate reply, Regina turned to see that Emma had stopped dead in the middle of the crowded venue. People moved around her but she stood oblivious, chin tilted slightly upwards, brows drawn together as she stared at nothing.

“Emma?” Regina moved back to her side. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m not sure,” Emma admitted after a moment. She blinked, shook her head and gave Regina her attention. “I just had the strangest…unhhh!”

“Emma!” Regina was shocked as the blonde doubled over in pain. She caught her by the arms as she pitched forward. “Emma, what is it? What’s going on?”

“No-” The blonde had paled considerably. “It’s not…possible.”

“What’s not possible?” Regina demanded, ready to shake the answers from her wife. “Emma, talk to me!”

“Get us back…” Emma grunted again, clutching her middle, “to the ship.”

Regina pulled her in close to her own body and then threw up one hand as purple smoke surrounded them. They reappeared on the deck of The Darkness, startling the crewman manning the wheel. Emma slumped against Regina’s side.

“Emma! Emma!” Regina could feel the magic pulsing off the pirate in waves. Emma was fighting hard against something and Regina had no idea what was going on, but she fed her own magic into the blonde.

Pale, green eyes looked up at her. “Someone has…my dagger,” she managed.

“What?!” Regina felt like rock had just been dropped in her gut. “I thought that was impossible.” Emma kept the dagger locked inside the dark vault which could only be accessed by Dark Ones. “You told me it was safe.”

“Thought it…was,” Emma grunted.

Regina watched in horror as her wife’s skin began to shimmer in a way she hadn’t seen in years. She tried to feed more of her magic into the blonde but it snapped back at her as it was rejected. “Emma!”

“It's calling. I have…to go.”

“W-where?”

“Don’t…know.”

Emerald green eyes filled with pain met Regina’s. The brunette shook her head. “No. No, you fight it, Emma. You stay here with me.”

“Trying,” Emma grit out. “Can’t.” She pushed Regina away and fell against the ship’s railing. “It’ll tear me apart if I stay.”

Regina could see the pain on her wife’s face; she could feel the blonde fighting against the magic that was wrenching her across time and space. She closed the space between them, taking Emma’s face between her hands. “Go.”

Emma sagged as soft lips touched her own and she wanted so much more but the call was getting worse. White-hot fire flared beneath her breast bone and she staggered backwards. She managed to say two words before she disappeared in a shimmer of energy.

Regina stood staring at the nothing where her wife had just stood. She brushed her fingers against her lips then dropped her hand down to press against her abdomen. The last words from her wife’s mouth were echoing in her skull even as she heard members of the crew begin to crowd around her. She blinked, forcing herself into the present.

“M’lady, is everything all right?”

She looked up to find Gus and a half dozen other pirates staring at her. She straightened and dropped her hand to the hilt of the sword hanging at her hip. “No,” she answered, “everything is not all right.” She raised her voice so everyone on deck would hear her. “The captain was forced by magic to leave this ship against her will. Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen! There’s killing to be done.”

Chapter Text

“Emma.” The brunette poured two glasses of red wine as she waited. She purposefully dragged her actions out as long as she could stand it, slowly replacing the cork in the bottle and setting it back down on the table. “Emma, I know you can hear me.”

After that incident with King George’s soldier, Emma had cast an enchantment that should Regina need her, Emma would always hear her call.

“Emma Swan, I swear…” Regina slammed her hand down on the table before getting to her feet. She grabbed one of the glasses of wine and took a deep drink from it as she began pacing the small area of their shared quarters. “Do not ignore me, Dark One!”

She shouted into the empty air of the captain’s quarters and stood waiting, fuming. She’d been waiting on Emma for a week. For seven days, during the brief moments she’d seen the pirate captain, the blonde had been moody and distant, disappearing in a plume of smoke whenever Regina tried to talk to her. She’d be gone all day and only show up in their quarters after Regina had gone to bed. During the night, Regina would wake up to find the blonde wrapped around her like an octopus only to wake in the morning and find the bed cold. It was infuriating.

“Emma, I promise that if you do not show up within the next hour, you will be sleeping on the deck for a month,” Regina warned, “and that’s if I even allow you into our quarters because I should just banish you below deck where you can bunk with the other unworthy sea dogs.”

With her intentions stated clearly, Regina sat back down at the table with a second glass of wine and began to eat her dinner. She’d given Emma an hour which meant that if the pirate captain intended to show up, she’d wait until the last possible second out of spite. After living with the woman for a year, Regina had learned a few things about how to handle the Dark One. She didn’t allow herself to consider that Emma might not show up.

After her meal, Regina picked up her book, leafing through pages she’d already read as she kept her eye on the hourglass. Just before the last grains of sand fell through to the bottom, Emma’s signature smoke appeared on the far side of their quarters. The blonde looked as disgruntled as Regina felt and they quickly fell into a silent stare-off.

Emma’s jaw rocked from side to side as Regina sipped from her glass of wine, eyes never leaving Emma’s. The blonde shifted her weight from her left to her right, arms folded tightly over her chest. She scowled at the woman sitting so calmly before her. Finally, she growled, “You called?”

Dark eyes took her measure before she nonchalantly waved at the tabletop. “Your dinner is cold.”

Emma waved her hand and the aroma of warm stew began to fill the cabin. “Now it’s not.”

Regina shrugged one shoulder. “I didn’t wait for you.” She was surprised to see the slightest flinch at her words as she studied the blonde over the rim of her glass. She narrowed her eyes. “Aren’t you going to join me?”

With a loud exhale, Emma dropped her arms and stomped over to the table. She made a production of pulling out her chair and sitting down. Her shoulders inadvertently relaxed as she began to eat. “It’s good.”

“Mmmm,” Regina mused simply, pushing Emma’s glass of wine closer to her. “Is it the first time you’ve eaten this week?” The blonde shrugged and drank half of her glass in one go. “Where have you been?”

“Dark One business,” Emma mumbled.

Regina could almost believe that if the blonde hadn’t returned to her bed every night. There’d been plenty of times where Emma was gone for days at a time conducting business, but she’d never returned nightly during those times. She’d simply stayed away until she was finished. This time it seemed as though she hadn’t been able to stay away.

Marshalling her patience, Regina stretched out her hand, laying it over Emma’s forearm, feeling the blonde still beneath her. She waited for Emma to look up at her but it seemed as though the blonde had turned into a statue with her eyes cast downward in an unseeing study of the table. Regina began rubbing her thumb back and forth in short strokes. “Emma,” she said gently, “what’s going on?”

“Nothing.”

Regina tightened her grip when Emma moved to push her chair back. “Emma, I swear if you disappear on me-”

“You’ll what?” Emma challenged, head finally snapping up.

Emerald green eyes sparked at her with defiance but Regina was more interested in the fact that Emma did not physically pull away from her. Something was definitely troubling the so-called Dark One. Regina kept stroking her thumb back and forth. “If you left, I would be very displeased.”

“That’s not much of a threat,” Emma frowned.

“It’s not meant to be.”

“Oh. Well, you should know, I would be displeased, too.”

Regina frowned. “If you chose to leave, why would you be displeased?”

“No,” the pirate grumbled, “I would be displeased if you left.”

The brunette’s head cocked to the side. “Why would I leave?”

The blonde shrugged and set back in her chair as much as the space would allow without moving her arm away from Regina.

“Emma,” Regina tried again, “why would I leave?”

“Things happen.” Emma looked out the portholes above their shared bed, her gaze flicking around the cabin, landing anywhere but on Regina. “People leave.”

Regina thought that perhaps she finally understood. She fought the smile that threatened to pull at her lips. “Emma,” she started slowly, “do you know why I called you here tonight?”

Another quick shrug of shoulders.

“I wanted you to have dinner with me,” Regina said.

The blonde frowned at the half-empty bowl in front of her and the lack of anything but a wine glass in front of Regina. “You wanted to have dinner with me tonight?”

The brunette sighed. “That had been the idea, yes.”

“But you didn’t wait.”

“You didn’t show up when I called,” Regina countered and continued before Emma could continue arguing. “Do you know what today is?”

Emma eyed her warily. “Yes.”

That confirmed to Regina why Emma had been moody all week. She smiled softly. “It’s our one year anniversary.”

“We aren’t really married, Regina,” Emma said, shifting on her chair.

“No, we aren’t, but we’ve been together for a year today.”

"I know." The blonde seemed to deflate, her shoulders dropping as she picked at a spot on the table. “You fulfilled our deal.” She straightened, trying to project confidence. “I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”

Regina smiled at the woman across from her. “What if I don’t want to go anywhere?”

“Captain Mills?”

Regina snapped the pocketwatch closed and looked up, clearing her face of any emotion the memory had brought up. “What?”

“There’s a ship on the horizon,” Leroy reported. “It’s flying her colors.”

The corner of Regina's mouth twitched upwards as she scanned the horizon, spotting the ship. “Ready the long guns, Mister Leroy.”

“Aye, Cap’n!” He turned and yelled down to the deck, “Ready the long guns!”

A cheer went up from the crew as work shifted from the daily tasks to preparation for battle. Regina pocketed the watch that she’d found in her pocket after Emma had vanished that fateful day more than two years ago. Two years, eight months, and twelve days to be exact. Regina knew the precise amount of time Emma had been missing because she magiced the watch to keep track of that instead of simply the hour of the day.

Two years, eight months, and twelve days ago Emma had been ripped from Regina’s side. Since that day, Regina had been searching for answers, searching for her. They’d left the Realm that Time Forgot and begun sailing across all the realms. One would think that a search for the Dark One would be relatively easy. Whoever had gone to the trouble of searching for the dagger and gaining control of it had obviously known the sort of power they’d be wielding. One would think that person would become quite powerful through riches and influence and other unexplainable means. That’s how it had always been before Emma. But this time was different. Whoever had the Dark One under their thrall this time was being clever. They were keeping their dealings low key; they were using the Dark One in a way no would ever had before. If Regina hadn’t had as much faith in Emma as she did, she may have considered that the Dark One had simply left of her own accord.

But Regina knew better. Their first year together had been full of ups and downs, but Regina had fallen in love with the blonde pirate. She had kept it to herself although she was fully aware that Emma had had feelings for her as well. She’d waited until that night when their original deal was completed – their one year anniversary. She’d wanted to be on even ground before she confessed her feelings; she didn’t want Emma to be able to misconstrue her desire to stay as part of their deal. For a Dark One, Emma was really quite honorable.

Her mouth curled into a smile at the memory of Emma’s face when Regina had made her intentions to stay undeniably clear. The Dark One had quite literally gone slack-jawed when Regina had stood up from their dining table, closed the distance between them, straddled the blonde’s lap, and kissed her like her life depended on it. They’d broken a few pieces of furniture that night. And the next morning. And later the next afternoon. The frustrations of sleeping together for a year without doing anything sexual had resulted in quite a bit of pent up desires on both sides. The unrequited love that Emma thought she’d had was, in fact, very much reciprocated.

They’d been together ever since, and today was their anniversary. They would have been together thirteen years if it hadn’t been for someone gaining control of the dagger and tearing Emma away from her. Finally, though, after more than two years of chasing down leads, Regina felt that she might finally be closing in on the answer.

Three months earlier, Regina had received an unexpected letter from Belle. She still lived in Arendelle and served on Queen Elsa’s council as an advisor. She’d met and married the royal bookkeeper and together they were raising two young children. The message had been a full page of boring details concerning court life and how the council kept pestering Elsa to marry. Regina was sure her brain had glazed over at some point when she finally reached the post script.

P.S. My son Gideon insists on adding a note to you.

Then in the untidy scrawl of a child, Regina read the boy’s note.

Emma said to tell you hi.

Chapter Text

It had taken her the better part of three weeks to reach Arendelle after she’d received Belle’s letter. Under a moonless night, she made her way up the dark, rocky coast and looked up at the castle looming before her. After two years of searching for Emma, Regina had made quite a name for herself as a pirate, and despite their past, she didn’t think the Queen of Arendelle wanted to be publicly associated with the Pirate Queen of the High Seas. As her magic had grown over the years, so had Elsa’s. As she drew closer, she felt the buzz of a magical shield and knew the queen would be aware of her presence as soon as she crossed it. She teleported straight to the library and waited.

She’d barely been in the room a full minute when light blue smoke appeared revealing a very unhappy looking queen, hands raised ready to attack. “I don’t know who – Regina!”

The brunette smirked as the ice queen slowly dropped her hands and straightened, glancing around the otherwise empty library. “What are you doing here?”

“Hello to you too, your Majesty,” Regina said. She swirled her hand around once and then offered the blonde the bottle that appeared dangling from her fingertips. “It’s the finest rum Tortuga has to offer.”

Elsa eyed her warily before conjuring two glasses onto the side table. Regina smirked but popped the cork and poured them each a finger of the rich brown liquor as Elsa took a seat. She accepted the glass when the pirate offered it to her and gestured towards the fireplace. “Would you do the honors?”

Regina tossed a small fireball into the grate and took the seat opposite the queen. She waited for the blonde to take an appreciative sip of the drink before she could wait no longer. “Have you seen Emma?”

Elsa shook her head. “No. I would’ve sent word to you if I had.” She’d known since Regina had appeared back in the realms that Emma had been missing. “Is that why you’re here?”

“Yes. I need to speak to Belle. Now.”

“Now?” Elsa’s brows raced towards her hairline. “But Regina it’s the middle of the night.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I need to speak to her and more importantly her son, Gideon.”

“Gideon?” Elsa frowned. “Regina, what’s this all about?”

Regina pulled the letter from Belle out of her pocket and handed it over to the queen. “Read it.”

Elsa read the letter, looked between it and Regina before standing up from the chair and moving towards the door. She was gone for less than a minute before returning and assuring the pirate that she’d sent for Belle. Regina paced in front of the fireplace while they waited until finally the woman in question appeared carrying a sleepy little boy on her hip.

Despite her obvious confusion, she smiled at Regina in greeting. “Hello, Regina. It’s been awhile.” She looked between her queen and the pirate. “What’s this all about?”

“I got your letter,” Regina said without preamble. “Is this Gideon?”

The little boy who couldn’t have been more than four or five blinked sleepily at her from the safety of his mother’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Belle said, smoothing a hand over the boy’s sleep-mussed hair, “can you say hi, Gideon?” The boy just stared at the unfamiliar brunette before finally murmuring a sound that could have been a greeting. All three women smiled. Belle kissed his cheek then looked back to Regina. “How do you know about Gideon?”

Regina glanced at Elsa then back to Belle. “You told me all about him and your daughter in the letter you sent me.”

Belle’s brows furrowed. “Letter? What letter?”

Elsa and Regina exchanged a look. “You wrote Regina a letter about three weeks ago,” Elsa said. “You don’t remember?”

“No,” Belle said, shaking her head. “Are you sure it was from me?”

Elsa held the letter out to her advisor. “It’s your handwriting.”

Belle set Gideon down on the chair Regina had vacated and reached for the letter. She scanned over it, surprise showing in her expression as she shook her head. “I don’t remember ever writing this much less sending it.”

“What about Gideon?” Regina asked, desperately trying to hold onto her manners since her patience was long gone. “Does he remember it?”

“Honey,” Belle knelt next to the chair where Gideon was sitting, swinging his feet. She showed him the part of the letter that he’d written on. “Do you remember writing this?”

The boy glanced at the paper and shrugged. Regina came close to pulling her hair out. She dropped to her knees beside Belle, facing the boy. “What about Emma?” she asked. “Do you remember meeting her?”

The boy shied away from her, leaning towards his mother while keeping a wary eye on Regina. After a minute, he whispered something in Belle’s ear. She smiled and nodded. “You can ask her.”

He didn’t move away from his mother, but he did eye Regina with more scrutiny than any child should have. “Are you really a pirate?”

Regina blinked. She had not been expecting that and she heard a suspicious cough from Elsa, but she nodded. “Yes, I am.”

Gideon gave her a grin, suddenly much more interested in her than he had been. “Can I see your sword?”

“Gideon!” Belle was shocked and Elsa didn’t manage to hide her laugh a second time.

Regina’s hand had automatically dropped to the hilt of her sword but she didn’t draw it. She eyed the little boy more closely. “You did meet Emma, didn’t you?”

He nodded, shocking both his mother and the queen.

“When?” Regina asked.

He shrugged. Then held out his hand. “She said you’d give me something.”

Regina arched an eyebrow and Belle was once again aghast at his behavior. The pirate put her hand on Belle’s arm before the mother could chide her child. “And why would I give you something?”

“A deal’s a deal,” he said proudly.

Her heart swelled in her chest at the words she’d heard Emma mutter so many times. The Dark One did love her deals. Regina glanced at Belle and knew she wouldn’t approve but reached into her boot and pulled free a dagger. Cold air blew across the back of her neck in warning but she just smirked as she tucked the blade carefully into its sheath before offering it to the boy. Gideon’s eyes were wide as saucers as he reached for it.

Regina pulled it back just before his fingers touched the hilt. “One more thing, Gideon.” He frowned but dropped his hand. “Did Emma talk to your mother while she was here?” He nodded. “Did Emma talk to the Queen?” He nodded again. She glanced at the two women who were both frowning. “That’s what I thought. Now, you be very careful with this, all right?” She handed him the dagger and then pushed herself up off her knees.

“Regina,” Elsa spoke first, “I swear I have not seen or spoken with Emma.”

The pirate queen glanced unnecessarily at Belle who also shook her head. She ran a hand through her hair and sighed. “The Dark One has the ability to make people forget they’ve seen her.”

Elsa’s eyes widened as Belle got to her feet, too. “Are you saying we saw her and then forgot her?”

Regina nodded. “Belle, you sent me that letter three weeks ago.” She eyed both of them. “Who was here three weeks ago?”

Elsa and Belle looked at each other mentally reviewing their schedules. Belle hit on it first. “The delegation from Misthaven.”

“That’s right.” Elsa made a noise of disgust. “King James and Queen Snow were here to discuss opening trade routes. I dislike them, but after a bad season, we're desperate for grain." Her eyes narrowed as she considered it, looking more speculatively at Regina. "And somehow, they'd known just exactly what we'd needed."

 

Two months later, aboard The Darkness, Regina watched the ship they were closing in on as it began firing at them long before they were within range. She shook her head at the wasteful splashes. “Idiots.”

Several of the men close enough to hear her chuckled good naturedly. Within minutes, they’d be close enough to take out the ship and Regina was confident she had the superior fire power. She glanced over the railing at her crew, all of whom were ready to fight, blades and guns at the ready.

“Remember, men, I want the captain alive.” She glared at flag ship of Snow White’s fleet. “I need someone that can give me answers.”

Chapter Text

Several hours later, when all of the crewmen that weren’t on duty were happily drunk on stolen wine, Regina made her way down to below decks. As it turned out, the captain hadn’t known a damn thing, but the man sitting in the captain’s closet, clutching a book to his chest had claimed to know everything. Regina had him taken below until she had time to deal with him.

With the flag ship of Snow’s fleet now resting in Davy Jones’ locker, Regina had questions. A lot of questions. She usually avoided being the one to talk to prisoners held in the brig. It had been a long time since it had been her strung up inside the cell. Oh, she'd eventually given Emma absolute hell for treating her the way she had when they'd first met and for allowing her to be treated even worse. The Dark One had rather shamefacedly admitted she hadn't ever meant for it to go as far as it had and promised similar treatment would never happen again aboard her ship. It still wasn’t an experience one ever really forgot.

Clunking open the lock, Regina stepped inside the cell and hung a lantern. The prisoner, chained up to the back of the cell, watched her closely. A gag in his mouth prevented him from speaking, but he didn't seem scared of her.  She reached forward and pulled the bandanna free from his mouth,letting it hang down around his neck.  He moved his jaw a bit and smacked his dry mouth before grinning at her. 

“Hello, Regina.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You know me?”

“I know your story,” he admitted easily with a pointed glance at the book she held tucked under one arm.

She eyed him for a moment before dropping the book he'd been found with down on top of a barrel. It was a fairly large tome with leather bindings in a slate grey color. Blue lettering embossed on the front cover of the book titled it “The Queen’s Pirate”. She had spent the past hour flipping through the book, reading and seeing pictures of her life and Emma’s. There were parts of the story, like her mother meeting with Rumplestiltskin in the stables where Daniel had worked, or Emma being found in the trunk of a tree when she was only a baby, that she hadn’t even known.

She tapped the book with her fingers. “I have questions."

“I bet you do.”

His eyes held a mischievous twinkle that made her think of Emma. “Who are you?”

His mouth twisted into another grin, “I’m the author.”

“An author?” she asked incredulous.

The Author.”

She’d heard tales of The Author, mostly from Emma, about the one person that was responsible for all stories. Emma had even searched for him on occasion with no luck. Regina drummed her fingers on the book’s cover as she considered him. “You wrote this?”

He nodded. “I record history.”

“History?”

“Well, stories,” he explained, “the ones worth knowing.”

“And our story is worth knowing?”

“It’s one of the best!” He leaned towards her clearly excited. “A reluctant queen turned pirate that falls in love with her captor; her captor who also happens to be the product of true love turned Dark One. A Dark One that is capable of love and sacrifice.” He laughed. “It’s a story for the ages. It writes itself.”

Her eyes widened at his description of events, before she remembered what had irritated her when looking through the book. “If it’s such a great story,” she flipped open the book to a certain spot, “why are there pages missing?”

The prisoner glanced at the book where there were ripped pieces of parchment protruding from the binding. The pages had clearly been torn from the book and with some haste. For the first time, the prisoner looked a bit chagrined. “Yeah, I may have bent the rules a bit.”

“Rules? What rules?”

“I’m not supposed to interact; I’m just supposed to record, but when I heard Snow White was looking for me,” he nodded his head towards the book, “looking for the book, I tore out some of the pages.”

Regina ran her fingers over the rough edges. She’d found two or three places within the story that were missing parts including the last few pages. “Why would you tear out part of the story?”

“I was protecting you.”

“Protecting me?”

“And Emma.”

“From Snow White?” she clarified. He nodded. “I see.” Her heart pounded in her chest as she felt that she was finally close to getting that one real piece of evidence she needed. “Does Snow White have the Dark One’s dagger?”

The man’s sparkling blue eyes were the most solemn they’d been. “Yes. She’s controlling Emma.”

Regina resisted the urge to bolt from the ship and go straight to her wife’s side. Clearly, there was a lot of power at work and she needed a plan. She moved closer to the prisoner and grabbed him by the chin. “You and I are going to sit down and talk. You are going to tell me everything you know. And if I believe your sincerity, I might consider letting you live. Do we understand each other?”

A healthy dose of fear hinted in his expression. He nodded. “I understand.”

“Good.” She let him go. “Now, before I uncuff you, there is one question I want you to answer first.” He looked at her expectantly. “What’s your name?”

The grin returned. “August. August W. Booth.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Regina contemplated the man sitting across the table. He was happily eating the stew she had provided him, and he seemed perfectly content to wait her out. Her problem was, she couldn’t decide where to start. She wanted Emma free of Snow’s control and back by her side. That was her priority. So the parts in the book about Snow gaining control of the dagger and how she wielded Emma were of the most use. But, the pages August had ripped out of the book also seemed to hold crucial pieces of interest that she instinctively felt were just as important.

“Why was Snow looking for you?” she frowned, not sure why that was her first question.

“Because I know who Emma is,” he answered easily. “I know she’s the Dark One, and I know Snow is controlling her.”

Regina’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know that when no one else does?”

He nudged the book towards her. “You can fool the man, but you can’t fool the pen.” He sat back like all good storytellers seemed to do when they wanted to tell a tale. “About a year ago, the royal entourage came through my village. We all came out to see them, of course. Even through the crowd, Emma recognized right away who I was."

"Emma has been looking for you for years. How did she know who you were?"

"Magic recognizes magic," he said. "Once she spotted me, she was obligated by command to tell the queen.”

“Obligated?”

“Using the dagger, Snow has commanded Emma to alert her about anyone useful. It’s not the only command she has Emma working under, but it’s the reason I was dragged out from the crowd and eventually brought before the queen.” He glanced uneasily at Regina’s white-knuckled fist and cleared his throat. “I managed to downplay my abilities and eventually bored the king enough with my recitation of local folklore that he dismissed me. I think the queen considered keeping me, but Emma distracted her and I was led out before she could stop my departure.”

“And you remembered all of this?”

“I remembered meeting the king and queen,” August clarified. “I didn’t remember Emma’s presence at all until I wrote about the encounter." He pointed at the book. "And there she appeared in the words exactly as she had been sitting there.”

“If Snow released you, why were you a prisoner on one of her ships?”

He ducked his head a bit. “Two nights later, I wrote out a scene with Snow interrogating Emma.” He held up a hand when Regina whirled on him. “She can’t hurt her,” he said quickly, “but the Dark One likes to obfuscate and as often as she can she works around the commands she’s been given. Snow eventually catches on and makes her answer questions truthfully and as straightforward as possible. She asked Emma why I was important. Emma had no choice but to answer her. Luckily, writing that scene gave me enough time to get a head start and escape Snow’s hunters until recently.”

Regina stood up and began to pace, worrying her chin with one hand. “Aside from you knowing about the Dark One, why does Snow want you?”

“Why wouldn’t a queen hellbent on ruling the entire realm want to control a person who could tell them stories regarding every kingdom?” he asked rhetorically. “I need only put my quill to parchment, think of a kingdom, and the stories begin to write themselves.”

“How are stories useful?”

August looked offended. “Stories are by definition the very fabric of our existence. Stories tell you about life and death, the struggles of a people, the victories of its heroes. Stories show you the villains and the lovers. With the right story, a person can learn all the secrets of a kingdom. And when you know all the secrets…”

“You have all the power,” Regina finished then shook her head. “It still doesn’t…why does Snow need you? She has Emma! With the Dark One at her command, she already has all the power.”

“Ah, because Snow wants to be the hero of the story. It’s how she views herself.” He chuckled darkly. “And that is so not how I have been writing her.” He picked nervously at a nick in the surface of the table. “The author’s sacred duty is to record history, but that doesn’t mean the power can’t be perverted. The power is meant to record, but it can also be used to manipulate.” He glanced up looking stricken. “If I am under the queen’s control, with the flick of my pen, Snow could rule everything.”

Chapter Text

Two Months Later

The Queen’s Ball, some festival of bullshit or another, had been going on for two hours. Emma figured she probably had, at least, another four hours to suffer through. She stopped a server passing by and had him leave his tray of drinks on the table beside her. It was a damn shame she couldn’t even get drunk. The people crowded near her all began to murmur and quietly back away, and she knew her momentary solitude was over.

“I see you’re enjoying yourself.”

Emma set her newly empty glass on the table before she shattered it. “If you think this is what enjoying one’s self looks like, it’s no wonder the king beds his chambermaid.”

Snow’s dark green eyes glittered with malice. “You will regret perpetuating that rumor, Miss Swan.”

If Emma didn’t hate her as much as she did, she’d be impressed with the levels of cruelty the queen could devise. Having King George as a surrogate father and his equally devious son as a betrothed and then husband had truly twisted the one-time innocence of Snow White. While Snow couldn’t physically harm the Dark One, Emma had been forced to witness and propel acts that even her deviant nature found abhorrent.

“Now, if you want to save that chambermaid from being gifted to my Ravagers, I suggest you tell me what I want to know.” Snow fussed with the cuffs of her sleeve. “And do stand up, your slouching is very unbecoming for a ward of the queen.”

“I am not your ward,” Emma snarled as she got to her feet, the underskirts of her dress falling around her legs. Snow forced her to dress as though she were a proper princess in training. The White Queen enjoyed choosing the most flamboyant styles and colors, knowing that it annoyed Emma.

Snow pulled at the pink gloves Emma wore, tugging them back up above her elbow and closing the distance between them. “No, you are not my ward; you are my servant. My slave to command.” Her voice was dangerously quiet as she spoke only loud enough for Emma to hear. “Now tell me about the crowd, or I will make you witness just how much the king enjoys his queen. Again.”

Emma’s stomach twisted and she swallowed back a surge of bile at the memory. She’d been a pirate for decades and the Dark One for far longer, but the sound of Snow White in orgasmic bliss had been enough to curl even her iron stomach. Glancing out at the crowd, Emma made her assessment.

“The pickings are slim, your Royalness. Half the people here you have already fleeced.” Snow cleared her throat and Emma rolled her eyes. “Helped,” she corrected with as much sarcasm as she could muster. Then she nodded towards the front of the room. “The Princess of Glowerhaven is your best bet.”

Snow looked towards a trio of women standing together talking. “Tell me about her.”

“After being rejected by Prince Eric for a pair of fins, she’s desperate to find love,” Emma said, “and her father is desperate to find a financially suitable match.”

“Hmmm, I’m sure I could make a few introductions,” Snow mused, “for the right price, of course. Ella’s son should be coming of age soon.” She sniffed. “What else?”

Emma shrugged. “Aurora still wants you to burn down the Forbidden Forest. Pretty sure she’d do anything you want to make that happen.”

“She really needs to let that go,” Snow said, grabbing one of the glasses of wine from the table. “I have no intention of reminding that dragon that there is life outside her cave.”

“Are you still sending her cured poppies every season?” Emma asked, knowing full well that Snow was doing her best to keep Maleficent doped out of her mind.

Snow ignored her. “And what about that prince visiting from Taino? What do we know about him?”

“Not a damn thing.” Emma had chosen to ignore the prince from Taino. She could only recall vague mentions of an ancient Taino Empire and had therefore decided the prince wasn’t important. Per Snow’s command, if a person wasn’t important, Emma didn’t have to talk to them. Ergo… “Never heard of him or his kingdom.”

Snow took a strategic sip of her wine, covering up the glare she turned towards the blonde. “You’re circumventing my command.”

Emma smiled over the rim of her own glass. “Again.” Sometimes, Emma really did commend Snow’s impeccable training. The political manners instilled in her while growing up served her well. Despite the anger rolling off her that Emma could easily feel, the glass didn’t even clink as the queen set it down on the table.

Snow smiled tightly and pretended to adjust a ribbon on Emma’s dress. “Do as you’ve been commanded, Dark One,” she spoke through her teeth, appearing happy to anyone watching, “Go over there, dance with that prince, find out who he is and how we can exploit him.”

The command pulled at her spine and Emma straightened. “Of course, your Majesty,” she said, her expression a reflection of Snow’s. The smile that stretched across her features as fake as their friendship.

She turned on her heel and spotted the prince in question easily. He was of slim build with sun kissed olive skin, dressed in a striking black uniform edged with silver. No one knew him, but he hadn’t gone for long without company the entire night. Currently, he stood on the edge of the crowd, observing the festivities with an interested eye. His traveling partner stood just behind him at his left shoulder, offering the occasional comment that only the prince was meant to hear.

As Emma approached the pair, their attention was drawn to her before she was even close. A startling sense of familiarity washed over Emma, and she tried focusing her attention. Her magic seemed to bounce right off the pair. The prince smirked as though he knew exactly what Emma was doing, which was impossible since no one even knew who she really was.

“Your Grace,” the prince bowed at the waist. The valet smirked a bit before belatedly bowing as well.

“Have we met before?” Emma asked bluntly, forgoing the niceties she was supposed to be displaying. They wouldn’t remember her anyway, and there was something off about the two. Their energy was fluid and even her Dark One powers couldn’t seem to pin them down.

“Perhaps.” The prince’s brown eyes darkened with mischief as he held out his hand, an invitation to dance.

The non-answer struck a chord and Emma found herself accepting the offered hand. As they stepped out into the swirling masses, she stumbled slightly as the prince pulled her into a tight embrace. Her temper spiked at the audacity. “I beg your-”

“Yes, you will indeed beg,” the prince whispered hotly into her ear. “I’ll have you begging all night, my Dark Swan.”

It was as if a lightning bolt struck her spine; Emma reared back, desperately wanting to look upon the prince’s face again. Somehow, the prince kept them dancing in time with the rest of the floor, but the dark eyes found Emma’s.

“R-regina?” She couldn’t believe it, but she knew those eyes now that a veil of sorts had been lifted. The corner of the prince’s mouth pulled upwards and Emma saw a small scar brushing his upper lip.

“Actually, it’s Captain Mills now,” the prince smirked, “or the Evil Queen of the Seas if you prefer.”

“Holy Mother of Merlin,” Emma swore, laughing as she gave the prince’s body a more thorough look. “Well, I’ve got to say, Captain, the years we’ve been apart have not been kind to you.” She could feel the magic of the glamour disguising her wife now that she knew what she was looking for; it wasn’t Regina’s magic. “How did you do this?”

“Ursula,” Regina answered simply. “She owed Hook a favor and he owed me one.”

Emma laughed at that and glanced over at the prince’s traveling partner. The man smirked and inclined his head slightly as she realized who he was. “But why?”

“Her magic is harder for you to detect, and I had to use some sort of disguise. I couldn’t very well stroll right in. Despite the years that have passed, Snow would undoubtedly recognize me.”

Emma couldn’t argue that. She had a million questions and she knew that meant Regina probably had twice as many. The music slowed to a stop and they bowed to each other. “Prince Henri, would you care for a tour of the gardens?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Arm in arm, they threaded their way through the crowd. Hook followed at a discreet distance. The prince nodded politely but continued walking despite several people attempting to speak to them. As they finally reached the entrance to the massive gardens, Emma guided them to the left.

“We need to keep walking for a bit, but we should be safe to converse quietly.” She moved them past a young couple that she happened to know were from feuding kingdoms. She cast a spell that encouraged them to move further into the shadows. “How did you find me?”

“I got your message from Gideon,” Regina said. “Then I also met a very interesting man called the Author.”

“You met the Author?” Emma hissed, almost forgetting to keep her voice down.

“Yes.” Regina tightened her hold on Emma’s arm. “His name is August, and he helped fill in quite a few holes in the story.” She stopped them. “How are you, really? Are you okay? August said that Snow couldn’t physically hurt you, but…”

“I’m fine, my Queen,” Emma assured, barely resisting the urge to stroke the unfamiliar cheek in front of her. She got them walking again. The rose bushes they stood amongst were only waist high, and she wanted a bit more concealment. “But I hope you have a plan because there’s not much I can help with. I’ve been forbidden from trying to ever take the dagger from Snow.”

“How in the hell did she get your dagger in the first place?” Regina growled.

“Apparently, there’s a key to the damn vault that no one bothered to tell me about.”

“A key?!” Regina’s hiss had a passing steward glance at them.

“Now is not really the best time, my Queen.” Emma tugged on her to keep moving. “Now, don’t tell me what you’re planning, but know that you can’t count on me to help.”

Regina was still seething at the idiocy of having a key for a magical vault, but she set those thoughts aside for the moment. She had a plan, well, parts of a plan in mind, to free Emma. Nothing that Emma would approve of she was sure. “August's storybook shows that Snow keeps the dagger on her at all times,” Regina said quietly. “Is that true?”

Emma nodded. “She keeps it in a magical sheath strapped to her forearm. All she has to do is touch the hilt if she wants to command me to do something.”

They passed from the open gardens and thru an archway overgrown with foliage. Regina looked up at a massive white marble statue of the king and queen that was in the center of the square. She grimaced but then startled as Emma suddenly pushed her towards the dark corner past the entryway. Understanding the Dark One’s intent, Regina reached for Emma and pulled her close desperate to finally have her wife in her arms again. But Emma held her off.

“What?” Regina asked, seeing the pained expression. “Emma, what is it?”

“Please,” Emma said quietly, lifting one hand to smooth over the brunette’s cheek. “Let me see my wife.”

The glamour. Regina hesitated. It had taken a lot of magic on Ursula’s part to create an illusion that wouldn’t be sheared off by Emma’s protection spells and magic. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it back on.”

“We’ll be able to, don’t worry,” Emma reassured her. “It will no longer have to fight my magic and should be simple.”

Regina trusted her and with a ripple of magic the disguise peeled off of her from head to toe. She held Emma’s gaze as the blonde drank in her appearance. The longing and love she saw looking back at her made her breath catch in her chest. The slight gasp seemed to awaken Emma and she surged forward, wrapping Regina in her embrace and crashing their lips together. Regina’s arms wrapped around her wife in return, hands snaking up her back to tangle in blonde curls as her tongue sought the taste she’d been denied for almost three years.

They kissed until they were out of breath and forced to break apart. They didn’t move far, their foreheads resting together as the breaths they drew were their mingled exhales. Regina trailed her thumb back and forth over Emma’s cheek. Emma’s hands were restless, moving from Regina’s waist to her neck, stroking down her back, feeling her arms.

“You have…no idea,” Emma breathed, “how much I missed you. How often I thought of you.”

Regina chuckled breathlessly. “Of course, I know. I felt the same.” She kissed the corner of the blonde’s mouth. “I was so worried. I didn’t know where you were. I didn’t know if you were hurt. So much time passed and still I knew nothing. I have never been so scared.”

Emma broke their hold so she could pull Regina closer, hugging her tight as her chin slotted perfectly over the brunette’s shoulder. “I’m fine, I’m fine. You found me. I knew you would.”

“Well,” Regina pulled back slightly. As much as she enjoyed the contact, she wanted to see Emma. “You did tell me to. I mean, what was that? Telling me to ‘find you’ and then you disappear for almost three years. There were some nights,” she shook her head, “you have no idea how mad I was at you.”

Emma gave her a lopsided smile. “I sent you on a heroic quest and you didn’t find it even a little bit charming?”

“No!” Regina was emphatic in her response. Emma’s word choice made her remember a part of the book that August had told her about, some of the missing pages from the beginning. The truth behind Emma’s true parentage. “Emma, there’s something you should know-”

There was a discrete cough and the scuffing of boots as Hook strolled casually into the garden. Emma pulled away from the shadows of the corner, glancing back to see the face of Prince Henri instead of her beloved also stepping out. Seconds later, an older couple walked beneath the green archway. They smiled warmly at the trio and continued past.

“Probably looking for their own corner of the garden,” Hook remarked quietly. “By the way, Swan, I love the dress.”

“Shut up,” Emma snarled then grinned at the man. “We should probably head back.”

“I need a distraction to pull the guards and preferably the king away from the corridor leading to Snow’s chambers,” Regina said. Her plan was quite simple, ambush the queen in her own room. “Is that something you can manage?”

“The king won’t be a problem. Despite all the people Snow has had me influence over the years, she never once thought to command me to exclude the king.” She smirked. “That man would rather shag a sheep then fuck his wife thanks to me. Trust me, he won’t be in the queen’s chambers tonight.”

“And will the realm’s sheep be in danger?” Hook asked from behind them, trailing closer now that they’d had their reunion.

“Not tonight,” Emma said over her shoulder. “I’ll tell the guards that they shouldn’t patrol her corridor tonight. It won’t seem unusual. Whenever she wants to take a new lover, half the castle knows about it before she reaches her rooms.”

“That works to our favor,” Regina said.

“How?”

“Once we make it back inside, she’ll know you were talking to me. She’ll demand to know if I’m of any use to her.”

“Yeah,” Emma drawled.

“Tell her the truth,” Regina said, stopping their small procession near a fountain. “Tell her the Prince of Taino wants to meet with her in her bedchambers. You can assure her that I’m descended from royalty and that I’m an excellent lover.”

Hook coughed. Emma spluttered. “What? That’s your plan?”

Regina arched an eyebrow. “Are you suggesting I’m not an excellent lover?”

Hook cleared his throat and began walking back towards the ball.

Emma lowered her voice. “That’s not what I’m saying at all and you know it. This is not a good plan. Snow could just as easily have the guards sent to her chambers as she could decide to meet you.”

“She might think me audacious and bold, but she’ll be intrigued. She’ll meet with me.” Regina gave a little bow and turned towards the main hall. “And trust me, it won’t be anything she’ll expect.”

Chapter Text

Prince Henri of Taino was standing in front of the fireplace inside the Queen’s bedchambers when the doors to the room burst open. He looked up but didn’t lower his hands from the warmth of the flames.

“Well,” Snow drawled out in her sickly sweet voice, “I have to admit, when my girl told me you’d be waiting for me in my chambers, I didn’t believe her.”

Henri twitched slightly at the ‘my girl’ comment and glanced at Emma as she trailed in behind the queen. The prince waited silently for Snow to continue.

“After all,” Snow said, moving further into the room, “I didn’t think anyone would be that stupid.”

Henri turned slowly to face the queen. It was as he suspected; Snow was accompanied only by Emma. She was more intrigued than she was concerned by an audacious paramour. If she hadn’t been, she would’ve brought guards with her.

Snow eyed him then said lazily to Emma. “Disarm him.”

Emma twisted her wrist. The sword at the prince’s hips slid off and reappeared across the room; a dagger flew from his boot straight into Emma’s hand. She eyed the jewels on the hilt before casually tucking it into her belt. She’d warned Regina that Snow wasn’t completely stupid. Emma sincerely hoped Regina’s plan hadn’t centered on being able to stab the queen.

Snow stalked lazily across the room, eyeing the prince as he turned to keep her in front of him. She stopped and put her hands on her hips. “How did you get in here?”

Prince Henri smiled. “Oh, I’ve been here many times before. I know all the secret passages this castle has to offer.”

Emma’s green eyes widened as any amusement Snow’s expression had held disappeared. Her eyes darkened with real anger. “What are you talking about?”

Henri gestured to the cabinet in the front corner of the room. “I walked straight up from the kitchens through the passage hidden behind that wardrobe.”

“No one knows about that passage but my family,” Snow snarled, the whimsical note in her voice gone. “Who are you?”

Just like it had in the gardens, the magical glamour began to ripple and melt away until only Regina stood in front of Snow White. She didn’t smile. “Hello, Snow.”

“Regina.” The name came out of Snow’s mouth sounding like a swear. Color rushed into the queen’s cheeks and her gloves creaked as her hands tightened into fists. “You’re alive.”

Regina tilted her chin upwards, dropping her more relaxed stance to adopt a regal bearing that had been drilled into her for years. “It’s been a long time, Snow.”

“It’s Your Majesty,” Snow snapped. Her lips actually pulled back slightly as she bared her teeth and fought to keep her fury under control. “You’ve got an awful lot of nerve showing yourself here of all places.”

“I didn’t kill your father, Snow,” Regina said plainly. “I was kidnapped by the pirates that attacked us that night.” It was the truth, but she didn’t dare look at Emma.

Snow’s dark green gaze trailed over Regina’s attire, taking in the knee-high boots, tight leather pants, and black fitted vest. Her lip curled in disgust. “And then you became a pirate yourself?” she sneered. “Disgusting.”

“No more disgusting than your habits as queen,” Regina replied. She’d read August’s book. Snow’s methods of claiming kingdoms for her own included starving out residents, razing entire villages to the ground if anyone questioned her rule, and mass executions anytime her dungeons became too full. The kingdoms she couldn’t overpower with brute strength, kingdoms like Arrendelle, she subverted into trade using insights and tricks from the Dark One. “You’re a monster, Snow. Just like your father and just like your husband.”

“Monster?!” Snow repeated incredulous. “Monster.” She pulled the Dark One’s dagger slowly from her sleeve and held it up for Regina to see. “Let me show you what a real monster is, Mother.”

Regina snorted. “The Dark One isn’t a monster; the person who controls the Dark One is the monster. You’re simply proving my point.” She glanced at Emma who did look mad enough to kill her of her own accord. “And I should’ve known you’d use the Dark One for your dirty work. You always were a spoiled little brat, too much of a princess to get her own hands dirty.”

“You think I won’t kill you myself?” Snow snarled.

“I know you won’t,” Regina taunted. “And there’s something else you should know.”

“What?”

Regina smirked, bracing her feet, readying for Snow’s attack. “I may not have killed your father, but I thanked the woman that did. She freed me from hell and sent your father to take my place.” She paused and knew she’d have to add just a tiny bit more to send Snow over the edge. “She told me how he begged for mercy, on his knees, crying-”

“Bitch!”

Snow lunged forward, dagger held high poised to strike, but Regina had spent the past decade fighting as a pirate. She easily knocked the blow aside, jammed an elbow into Snow’s middle, and then slammed her knee up as Snow doubled over, shattering the queen’s nose. Snow cried out as blood gushed down her face, stumbling backwards. Regina pursued her, planting a booted foot into her chest, kicking her backwards until she fell against the foot of the bed. The Dark One’s dagger fell from Snow’s grasp. Regina lunged for it.

And froze in place.

Emma’s arm was raised, casting magic at Regina. “I told you, I can’t help with any plan to steal the dagger,” she said through gritted teeth. “I’m sorry.”

Snow laughed and pushed herself up to her feet. She leaned over gingerly and picked up the dagger. “So,” she said, grabbing hold of Regina’s chin with bloodied fingers, “you two know each other.” She looked at Emma. “Is this the pirate you fell in love with?”

Emma didn’t bother answering; her entire body trembling as she fought against commands preventing her from hurting Snow.

“How sweet,” Snow said, trailing the dagger’s blade across Regina’s frozen cheek and down to her neck. “It would be so easy to slice you open and let you bleed out like the traitor you are.”

“Please,” Emma whispered the word, surprising everyone in the room, “don’t.”

Pure joy erupted across Snow’s face as she laughed. “Finally,” she breathed, “the Dark One has learned her place.” She flipped the dagger around in her grip and slammed her fist against Regina’s jaw dropping her to the floor.

Dazed, released from the magic holding her, Regina barely had time to recover before Snow grabbed her by the hair, forcing her up to her knees. The dagger slid under her chin as she was forced to look up at Emma.

Snow was giddy with power. “Do it, again, Dark One.”

Emma had taken two steps towards Regina when she fell before she’d been stopped. Now her hands were in fists at her sides. “Do what?”

“Beg.” Snow said, sliding the dagger against soft flesh. “Beg me not to hurt your precious pirate.”

“Don’t!” Regina snapped before being jerked back against Snow.

Emma met Regina’s burning dark gaze of defiance and loved her for it, but she dropped to her knees. “Please. Don’t hurt her.”

Snow squealed in delight, openly laughing as she let go of Regina and shoved her towards Emma. “Oh, I’m not going to hurt her.” She held up the dagger, pointed it towards Emma, and said, “You are.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“I am giving you a command, Dark One.”

Emma and Regina were both back on their feet, watching the queen warily.

Snow held the dagger up. “Kill her.”

“Don’t do this,” Emma tried.

Snow smiled triumphantly. “Kill Regina.”

Emma bared her teeth at Snow then turned towards Regina and gave her a rather sheepish expression. “I am so sorry about this.”

“Emma,” Regina held up her hands as she backed away. She wished she at least had her sword not that it would do much against Emma. “Don’t do this. You can fight her commands.”

“Really can’t,” Emma said. She threw out a hand and pinned Regina against the wall with magic. She closed the distance between them until it was her own hand pinning the brunette. “But I also can’t kill you, so there is that.”

“What?” Regina and Snow both asked.

With a sigh, Emma withdrew Regina’s dagger from her belt, hesitated briefly, and then sunk the blade deep into Regina’s chest.

Regina gasped in pain and shock, her knees buckled and she sank to the floor. Emma dropped to her knees with her, cradling Regina’s head against her shoulder, keeping her upright. She whispered, “I am so sorry. I know that really hurts like a bitch.”

Regina raised her head to lock incredulous eyes with Emma. She was still grasping her chest in pain, but it didn’t feel anything like she thought it would. She certainly didn’t feel like she was dying. “W-what’s happening?”

Emma apologized again then jerked the knife out of Regina’s chest making her grunt in pain. There was no blood on the blade. Emma dropped it in front of Regina. “I really was going to tell you about this one day. Forgive me?” She glanced down at the knife then got to her feet and faced Snow. “You see, I can’t kill Regina, because I kind of made her immortal.”

“You can do that?” Snow asked.

“You did what?” Regina shouted as she staggered to her feet, sagging against the wall as she kept her left hand pressed to her chest.

Emma grimaced and held up a finger to Snow. “Wait one.” She turned back to Regina. “It was a long time ago. It was right after that time the Lost Boys hit you with Dreamshade, and you were really sick. I thought you were going to die…and I…panicked.”

Regina frowned as she tried to remember. She’d been sick for days with fever, going in and out of consciousness, until one day the fever had finally broken. She hadn’t been sick a single day since. Fury rolled over her as she remembered when it happened. “That was seven years ago!”

“Dark One-”

Emma winced. “You know I’m not good with time.”

“I’ve been immortal for SEVEN years and you never told me!”

“It never seemed like a good time.”

“Dark One, I demand your attention.”

“You wait your turn, bitch!” Regina snapped at Snow.

Snow gasped. “Dark One, I command you to silence her.”

Emma groaned as she stole Regina’s voice. She faced Snow. “Are you trying to make me a divorced woman? Cause that,” she gestured at her wife’s furious face, “is what will get a Dark One kicked out of her bedroom for eternity.”

“Stop. Speaking.”

Emma’s jaw snapped close; she refused to acknowledge the smug expression on Regina’s face.

Snow exhaled a long breath and rolled her shoulders as she took in the two now silent women before her. Her former step-mother was still slumped against the wall for support and Snow felt her hatred for the woman blaze anew. “Well, I suppose if I can’t kill you, I can always torture you for all time.” She turned her cold gaze on Emma and held up the dagger again. “Dark One, make me immortal.”

Emma held out her hand expectantly but kept her mouth closed as ordered.

Snow glared at her, then exhaled long standing frustration. “You may speak.”

Emma chose to interpret that command as being meant for everyone in the room and secretly gave Regina her voice back. She again held her hand out to Snow. “In order to make you immortal, I need control of the dagger.”

Snow barked out a laugh. “You don’t actually expect me to believe that, do you?” She rolled her eyes. “Tell the truth.”

“The truth is,” Emma said with a bitter note entering her voice at the command, “that in order to give or take immortality, I need to use the dagger.”

“That’s never going to happen,” Snow said, eyeing Emma as she ran a fingertip along the blade. “I will never hand over the dagger to you.”

Emma shrugged. “Then I can’t help you live forever.”

Snow eyed her shrewdly. “What was that about taking immortality?”

Emma glanced worriedly at Regina but tried to play dumb. “What?”

A grin began to curl the corner of Snow’s mouth. “You said, you needed the dagger to give or take immortality.” She turned towards Regina, tapping the blade against her palm. “What happens if I stab my dear, sweet step-mother with the dagger?”

Regina’s eyes widened in fear and Emma hesitated in her answer.

“Tell the truth, Dark One!” Snow snapped over her shoulder.

“She’ll die,” Emma answered.

Snow grinned like the cat that ate the canary as she advanced on Regina. “Your head is going to look lovely in my trophy room.”

Regina stumbled back a step, her right side sliding against the wall. “Emma.”

“I’m sorry,” Emma said, fighting against commands she’d been given. “I can’t interfere.”

“Enough playing around.” Snow flipped the dagger around in her hand and raised it towards Regina. “I’ve waited too long for this moment.”

As she stabbed downwards, Regina pushed off from the wall. The hand she’d held clutched to her chest caught Snow by the wrist, halting the dagger’s descent. “You’re going to have a wait a little longer,” Regina growled, before using her right hand to drive her dagger, the dagger Emma had stabbed in her chest and then dropped on the floor, straight into Snow’s heart.

The White Queen gasped, her mouth opening and closing like a fish as Regina twisted the blade deeper. The Dark One dagger slipped from Snow’s fingers as the Pirate Queen drove her backwards, jerking the blade free as Snow fell to the bed. Blood flowed freely from the wound, staining her white ball gown with dark crimson.

Regina watched her former step-daughter struggle for breath, hands flailing at the wound before finally dropping to her sides. Regina exhaled and turned to see Emma crouched down beside her dagger, staring at it longingly. “Emma?”

“She forbid me to touch it.”

Regina glanced back at the bed. “She’s dead.”

“Not yet. Almost.”

Regina crouched down beside Emma, not sure if she could touch the dagger either. “Why did it work this time and not before?”

“You were trying to kill her this time not steal the dagger. It’s all about intent.” Emma couldn’t bear to look away from the dagger as she traced a finger over it without actually touching it.

“I can only hope that one day you’ll look at me the same way you look at this.” Regina picked up the dagger. “I release you from any commands given to you by Snow White.”

Emma sucked in a breath like she’d been held under water for too long. She immediately shot out a hand towards the dying queen. The body on the bed spasmed under the Dark One’s magic and a pathetic squelch of pain issued from Snow’s mouth. Emma stalked towards her, glittery iridescent scales raced down her arms and up the sides of her neck. Regina flinched when she heard the first bone snap. She busied herself with collecting her sword and magicing the blood off her hands as the Dark One took her revenge and withheld death.

Regina gave her a few minutes. Then, “Emma.” When solid black eyes glared in her direction, she held out the dagger, making it clear she was not trying to command her. “We need to be going before the guards consider patrolling the queen’s corridor.”

Emma twisted her hand and the sound of wet, ragged coughing accompanied whatever new punishment she had added. “I will kill them all.”

Regina nodded. “Okay, well as fun as that sounds, I’m going to go.” She handed Emma the dagger, pleased to see the black eyes fading to green as Emma’s brow furrowed in confusion. “I’ll be waiting for you in our quarters on the ship when you’re finished.” She walked towards the door. “Personally, I think Snow has kept us apart far too long already, but if you want to stay-”

There was a sharp crack and Regina knew Snow was finally dead. Emma strode towards Regina, the scales glittering as they faded. The blonde offered her arm. “My Queen.”

Chapter Text

“Seriously?!” Emma shouted as they rode out of the castle on horseback, racing for the coast. “That was your plan? Brute force?”

“My plan was to get the dagger!” Regina shouted back, spurring her horse past Emma’s. “I wasn’t expecting you to stop me!”

“I told you not to count on me!”

“And I didn’t!”

“You could’ve gotten yourself killed!”

“Oh, really, Dark One? I could’ve gotten killed? I thought I was immortal!”

It had been the wrong argument to make and Emma had known it as soon as the words were out of her mouth. “You didn’t know that at the time.”

“Seven years, Emma! Seven!” Regina shouted over her shoulder.

Emma couldn’t help it; she laughed. “I know you’re mad about that, but I’m just happy you’re still alive.”

Regina grinned into the night. Now that the shock of finding out she was immortal was fading, she really couldn’t be too upset about it. Not that she’d ever tell Emma that. “I’m glad you’re happy; remember that when you see who we now owe a favor to.”

“Who?” Emma asked as the rocky coast came into view. She could see three ships waiting in the water past the rocks. Three. She immediately recognized The Darkness and felt a tug in her heart at seeing her home for the first time in almost three years. The Jolly Roger was expected as well, but the third ship. Emma pulled up on her mount, hooves digging into the loose dirt of the path as he stopped. “Is that…you got Mulan to support you?”

Regina smiled as she turned her horse back to Emma’s. The Asian ship was easy to spot with its angular fanned sails. “Yep, the Two Hares. I told her the situation and she offered her assistance.” She checked her horse against Emma’s. “I did have a backup plan, you know.”

“In case brute force didn’t work, you had, what?” Emma gestured towards the ships. “More brute force?”

“Well, that and magic,” Regina said with a wink then nudged her horse forward. “Come on.”

They rode single file down a narrow trail skirting the hill down towards the coast. Emma kept watching the ships. She had an irrational fear they would disappear before they got onboard. “What did Mulan want in exchange for her services?”

“Apparently, she’s got history with Queen Aurora. She wants to talk to her without an audience.”

“You mean she wants to kidnap her,” Emma clarified.

Regina grinned over her shoulder. “Surely, Dark One, you aren’t opposed to kidnapping royals?”

"The last one turned out all right, I suppose." Emma laughed as her mind immediately started sorting through the possibilities. “Well, as luck would have it, there should be a royal funeral soon. After that, Aurora will be traveling back to her kingdom. Shouldn’t be too difficult to ambush her along the way.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Regina admitted. “While I was dancing with her tonight, she even told me the route they prefer to travel.”

Emma scowled at the idea of Regina dancing with anyone else. “While we’re on the subject…”

“Which subject would that be?”

“Oh, disrupting kingdoms, causing mayhem, that sort of thing.” Regina laughed and Emma felt her heart swell at the sound. “How do you feel about dragons?”

Regina turned in her saddle. “Maleficent?”

Emma nodded. “We need to get her off the drops. Maybe convince her to do some real dragon-ing for us.”

“I don’t think that’s a word, dear,” Regina said. “But if there’s something we can do for her…she was kind to me during my years with Leopold. I’d like to return the favor.”

Emma’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. She knew very well that Maleficent in her prime had been quite the seductress. “Kind how?”

“She spoke to me,” Regina said simply. She offered a sad sort of smile and Emma felt her jealousy shrivel up. “Not many people did back then.”

Emma swore to herself right then and there that she would find a way to restore Maleficent to her regal glory.

As they reached the beach, Hook emerged from the shadows. “Ladies,” he greeted with a small bow. Once they dismounted, he waved towards the ships. “Mulan is waiting for us.”

With a gesture, Regina swept all of them up into purple smoke and deposited them on the deck of the Two Hares. Several men started, reaching for their swords until they saw who it was.

“The city bells have started ringing,” Mulan stated in her usual no nonsense manner as she strode down the steps to the deck. She blatantly eyed Emma from head to toe. “Welcome back, Dark One.”

Emma's outfit had changed as soon as she’d regained full control of her powers. She knew she and Regina were a striking pair in their almost matching black leathers. She nodded at Mulan. “Thanks for the help.” She took in all three captains. “What’s the plan?”

“Sail out of the cove as fast as we can,” Regina said.

Hook and Mulan exchanged a look. Hook rubbed a finger behind his ear. “Well, not exactly.”

“What do you mean not exactly?” Regina asked.

“We’re going to plunder the town,” Mulan stated. “Hit both ports simultaneously and cause even more chaos.”

“We just murdered the queen,” Emma said. “Now might not be the best time.”

“It’s the perfect time,” Hook argued. “King James is not the sharpest sword in the armory. He’s lost his queen and his greatest weapon.” He gestured at Emma. “He’s got guests to keep safe and a town being ransacked. I wager he’ll lock down his castle and let the town fend for itself.”

“We do not expect you to stay,” Mulan addressed Regina. “Our actions will, however, provide plenty of distraction for your departure.”

Regina couldn’t argue that. She also couldn’t tell two pirate captains what they could and could not do. With reluctance, she nodded. “Very well, but I would caution not to linger.”

Hook grinned. “Aye, love. We’re going to have our way with the city and be on our way before the sun rises. Mulan, I’m ready to weigh anchor when you are. Dark One, if you’d be so kind as to send me to my ship.”

“Thank you, Killian,” Emma said, meaning it. “We are in your debt.”

He smirked. “I like the sounds of that.”

“You would,” Regina flicked her wrist and sent him away. “We were square with him, now we’re in his debt?” She shook her head at the blonde before turning to Mulan. “We’ll sail towards Aurora’s kingdom. Three days after the royal funeral will be the opportune time to arrange that meeting you wanted.”

The slightest smile graced Mulan’s features and there was a dark twinkle in her eyes. “I will see you then.” She nodded to Emma. “Dark One.”

“Mulan.” Emma nodded back.

“Ready?” Regina asked.

The blonde smiled and took her wife’s hand. “Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

It was early morning when Emma made her way out to the deck. The sky was slate grey with no rays of sunshine spoiling the morning calm. She tucked a black rolled cigarillo between her lips and smirked at the small act of defiance. Regina still hated it when she smoked. Mostly because she had picked up the habit, too, but only partook when Emma did.

It had been years since the death of Snow White, and the chaos that had followed her demise was finally beginning to calm. King James had proven to be more brawn than brain and every kingdom Snow had acquired managed to secede from his reign. His father, King George, had been killed by one of James’ many bastard sons and was now ruling over George’s kingdom. It was rumored the bastard king had two bastard brothers supporting him, and they had designs on taking over James’ kingdom as well. They were currently the only two kingdoms still fighting. Everyone else in the Enchanted Forest was staying well out of it.

Except for Maleficent. She enjoyed her occasional fly-overs of James’ army, raining down dragon fire across the disputed lands, scorching anything and everything that happened to be in her path. Her efforts were making his kingdom even more worthless than it already was. Maleficent had chosen to support the boys since her land bordered theirs; she’d much rather deal with the sons as neighbors than James. They were inexperienced in ruling and Maleficent would have no problem manipulating them into doing whatever she wanted. If the Dark One had been labeled the patron saint of bastards and dragons for her hand in all the madness, Emma was okay with that. 

Emma released a puff of smoke as the sky began to turn to shades of pink and orange, the sun finally announcing its presence. The day crew was beginning to appear on deck, slowly waking and beginning their daily routines. Emma glanced up at the wheel but wasn’t quite ready to take it over yet. She was in no hurry. They had nothing before them but another day of open sea.

The Dark One itched at the lack of stimulus. Maybe she’d pop over to Mulan’s ship for a day or two; the Asian warrior and her first mate were always good for a distraction. Mulan had had her private meeting with Aurora. With Emma and Regina’s help, she’d kidnapped the royal for a few months; they had a good time together, rekindling their secret relationship from the past, but ultimately they realized that they had both changed over the years. Mulan accepted a “ransom” for Aurora and the queen went home to her prince. Three months later, Mulan had found her current first mate serving drinks in a tavern. She was a werewolf that went by the name of Ruby.

Emma grinned just thinking about the pair. Whereas Mulan was quiet and serious, Ruby was a tornado of outgoing energy. The pirate captain had tried being logical and demure, and the werewolf had run right through those walls with declarations of love at first sight and statements like ‘screw fate’. Oddly enough, Regina had become fast friends with Ruby.

“What has you grinning this early in the morning?”

Emma didn’t turn as arms slid around her waist from behind and a chin tucked itself on top of her shoulder. She continued grinning. “Good morning.”

“Hmmm,” came the hummed reply as her wife lazily nuzzled behind her ear. “Your thinking was so loud I could hear it from our quarters.” Regina snagged the cigarillo as she slipped around the blonde and leaned back against the railing. “What’s on your mind, Dark One?”

Emma watched appreciatively as the brunette took a long drag of the rich tobacco, her lips puckered seductively around the cigarillo. Those same lips that had done such wonderful things to her last night. Deep brown eyes looking up at her from beneath dark lashes as the tip of a pink tongue poked between luscious red lips, lips that curled around her-

Smoke hit Emma in the face and she refocused in time to see Regina’s painted mouth curl into a smile. “Focus, dear.”

“Oh, I was focused,” Emma laughed, shaking off the memory in favor of tasting the real thing. She widened her stance to pin Regina between her body and the railing. Regina flicked the last of the cigarillo overboard and wrapped her arms up behind the blonde’s head, pulling her down for a heated kiss.

After a minute, and a grumbled harrumph from Leroy, they pulled apart. Regina reached up and wiped away some of her lipstick from Emma’s mouth. The green eyes that patiently watched her still looked troubled. Regina held her face. “What is it?”

“Nothing bad,” Emma assured her, catching a palm and kissing it.

“But?” Regina pressed.

“But…” Emma let out a frustrated sigh. “Don't you think things have gotten a little…mundane, lately?”

“CAPTAIN!!” Leroy shouted across the deck. “LOOK!!”

Regina closed her eyes. “If we’re about to be swallowed by a whale, I blame you.”

Emma patted her shoulder, looking past her. “It’s okay; it’s just a portal…”

Just a portal, she says,” Regina muttered.

“In the sky.”

“What?” Regina whirled around, looking where Leroy was pointing. “Since when do portals look like that?”

A decent distance off the starboard bow, a fiery ring was blazing several feet above the water. As they watched, a single figure fell out of the ring, splashing down into the ocean.

“Leroy,” Emma commanded, heading for the wheel, “bring her about. Let’s go fish whoever that is out of the drink.”

“Aye, captain.”

Twenty minutes later, the crew of The Darkness was pulling a young man, coughing and spitting up water, onto the deck. Emma grabbed hold of a rope and swung down from the upper deck to land directly in front of him. Standing off to the side, Regina rolled her eyes at her wife’s dramatics, but smirked as she’d certainly gained the attention of the semi-drowned rat.

He stared at her boots and then dragged his eyes all the way up, pushing himself up to a sitting position as he did so. “Are you-?” Another coughing fit racked his chest and some of the crew crowding around him chuckled.

“He must be a land lover, Captain,” Gus said, good naturedly. “Doesn’t know what to do with the sea in his lungs.”

The young man glared up at them but the look was ruined by his watering eyes and running sinuses. Regina reconsidered her assessment. He was still a bit of a boy, couldn’t be more than fifteen or sixteen. The age of a man in their world, but if the portal was any indication, life in his realm was a bit easier on the young.

Emma stood with her hands on her hips, towering over the boy. He looked familiar. “Who are you, kid? What are you doing out here?”

“I came to find,” he cleared his throat again, “Emma Swan.”

“You’ve found her.” Emma drew her sword and leveled it at the boy’s neck. His eyes widened to the size of saucers as he pressed himself back against the railing. “Now, I’ll ask you again, who are you?”

“That’s enough, Emma,” Regina said, choosing to move forward and join the crowd. “Put your sword away. You’re scaring him.”

“Good,” Emma said, winking as she sheathed her sword. “We still-”

“Mom?!”

Emma and Regina both whipped their heads around as the young man scrambled to his feet. Several of the crew crowded forward, putting themselves between the stranger and their captains. A knife and a pistol were drawn and leveled at him.

“Whoa! Hey!” He quickly held up his hands. “I come in peace!”

“You want us to throw him overboard, Captain?” Leroy asked.

“No! No, no, please, don’t!” the young man wasn’t quite begging, but he was close.

“All right, that’s enough,” Regina snapped. “Everybody get back to work,” she said. “The captain and I can handle one teenage boy.”

There was a fair bit of grumbling and the boy may have gotten accidentally shoved a couple of times as the crew sulked away. Emma crossed her arms over her chest, letting Regina take the lead as she watched the boy closely. Even with the threats against him, he’d barely taken his eyes off Regina.

When everyone had finally cleared out, he swallowed and offered Regina an uncertain smile. “You look…wow. I mean, amazing!” He glanced at the blonde captain who only cocked her head to the side and he felt his ears burn. “Beautiful. Regal even in your…pirate…costume?”

Regina arched an eyebrow at him and he closed his mouth with an audible click, gaze locking firmly on the deck. She glanced at Emma. “He hasn’t been in the sun that long. Maybe he did swallow too much sea water.”

Emma shrugged. Something about the boy struck a chord deep within her that she didn’t quite recognize. In this particular instance, she also felt a bit of empathy for him. “He’s not the first person to get tongue tied around you.”

Regina smirked at her. “He won’t be the last,” she promised.

Now the boy grimaced a bit and shook his head. “That is so weird.”

“You’re weird,” Emma stated, hardening her tone again. The longer they stood there, the more uncomfortable she felt about his familiarity. She wanted answers. “What kind of a wizard falls out of a portal into the middle of the ocean?”

“I’m not a wizard,” he said straightening. He set his shoulders. “My name is Henry.” He looked at Regina. “And I’m your son.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Emma scrubbed a hand over her face. “Okay, let me see if I’ve got this straight.” She pointed at Henry. “You’re from a different realm; a realm where a version of her,” she pointed at Regina, “cast a curse to bring everyone from the Enchanted Forest to a land without magic.”

Henry nodded. “She did it to save us.”

“From the Black Fairy who was planning to kill everyone,” Emma finished for him. She glanced at Regina who had been oddly quiet during the whole explanation.

Regina caught her questioning look and shrugged. “It is possible. Curses like that do exist but they require great sacrifice on the part of the caster.”

“My Mom sacrificed herself in order to cast it,” Henry said, getting to his feet, “and if you don’t help me-”

Regina gently laid a hand on his shoulder and he retook his seat. “What do you mean she sacrificed herself?”

“My Mom’s life is powering the curse. It wasn’t supposed to last as long as it has, and if it isn’t broken soon…she’ll die.”

Emma’s eyes darkened; she didn’t like the idea of any version of Regina in any universe dying. “How was the curse supposed to be broken?”

“Only a Savior, a product of True Love, can break the curse.” He looked pointedly at Emma. “We had one. A baby that had just been born within the kingdom. Once she grew to adulthood, she’d be able to break the curse. But we were betrayed.”

“Betrayed?” Regina asked. “How?”

“The Blue Fairy, a trusted confidant, appeared to the baby’s parents claiming that my Mom had failed in casting the curse. Blue told them that the Black Fairy was on her way and that the only way to save the baby, hell, the entire kingdom, was to send the baby through a portal to another realm.”

“Emma.” Regina reached out and touched the blonde’s arm. After they’d killed Snow White and helped Mulan kidnap Aurora, Regina had introduced Emma to August. Emma had finally learned from the Author that in another realm her parents had been Snow White and Prince Charming. Emma had scoffed at the idea, but Regina had found Emma later trying to recreate the pages in the book that August had torn out.

August’s explanation and version of events surrounding Emma’s arrival in this realm were a bit different than Henry’s. August had known Emma’s true parentage and that she had been pushed through a portal in an effort to save her from a dark curse, but he certainly hadn’t mentioned anything about fairies and betrayals. Nor Regina casting a curse.

Emma didn’t take Regina’s offered hand, but she did stand close enough so that their sides were touching. “So this baby got sent to another realm, and this other Regina cast the curse unknowingly.”

“No, she knew,” Henry admitted. “In order to save the kingdom, Regina, my mom, cast the curse regardless. It was the only way to defeat the Black Fairy. And even though it was prophesized, the Savior hasn’t shown up.” He locked his gaze on Emma. “So, I came looking for her.”

Emma didn’t back down from the stare of a boy. “Too bad all you found was me.”

Henry rushed to his feet, moving closer to Emma despite Regina’s efforts to stop him. “You’re the baby that was pushed through the portal. The portal wouldn’t have brought me here if you weren’t.”

“I’m no one’s Savior, kid,” Emma said.

“Why? Because you’re the Dark One? You can be both,” he said, snorting at their look of surprise. “Yeah, I did my research. You are the product of true love. And you’re the only that can save my Mom.”

Emma growled in her chest and paced away from him before she hit him. She patted her pockets for a cigarillo but knew Regina, her Regina, would kill her if she lit up in their quarters. She glared at her wife for good measure. “You’re being awfully quiet about all this.”

Regina lifted her head and looked between the blonde and the boy. She shrugged. “I guess I just don’t see what the problem is.”

Emma blinked. “You believe him?”

“You don’t?” Regina asked, arching an eyebrow. She knew damn well Emma believed him or else she would’ve already called him out for lying. What she couldn’t figure out was why Emma was trying so hard not to believe him.

Frustrated, Emma threw up her hands. “The timing alone makes this impossible.”

“Timing?” Regina and Henry exchanged a look.

Emma saw it. “Yes, timing. In standard years, I’m closing in on fifty years, yet you were what, fourteen, fifteen when the curse was cast?”

“Sixteen.”

“And the curse was supposed to be broken when I turned twenty-eight, right? That’s what you said.” She didn’t bother waiting for his agreement. “If you were already a teenager when I was born and the curse was cast, then why haven’t you aged?”

“Because we were asleep until the twenty-eighth year, but now we're awake and frozen until the curse is broken. Mom's power is the only thing keeping the magic from collapsing.”

Regina frowned. "What happens if the magic collapses?"

The boy shrugged. "We're not entirely sure.  We might all forget who we are; we might die."

"Or you might simply go on living your lives but without magic," Emma snapped, thinking it the most likely outcome.

"All magic comes with a price." Henry glared at Emma. “My Mom isn't going to risk everyone's lives on a possibility. She'll keep the magic going until it kills her. Or until a Savior breaks the curse." He took a breath. "Are you really going to let my Mom die because you don’t like the timing?”

No, she wasn't, but that didn't mean she was going to let some boy think he'd persuaded her. She opened her mouth to shut him down but was stopped when Regina spoke up.

“Emma, you’ve always said time moves differently across realms,” Regina interjected, “and even more so when curses are involved.”

Emma had known her argument was weak, but she hadn’t expected Regina to argue against her. She flicked her gaze from her wife to the boy. “Kid, give us the room for a minute.”

“No, we don’t-” Henry disappeared in a swirl of purple smoke.

Emma smirked at her wife. “Tell me you threw him in the ocean.”

“Not quite, dear,” Regina said. “He’s up on deck.” She pushed off the desk she’d been leaning against. “Now, do you want to tell me what this is all about?”

The blonde glowered at her. “I don’t like it.”

“Don’t like what?” Regina asked. “A boy falling out of the sky and claiming you are some long lost savior who is the last hope for his dying mother and the inhabitants of an entire cursed kingdom. A kingdom that just happens to house your long-lost parents whom you’ve always believed abandoned you?”

Emma leaned back, her forehead creasing as though she’s just gotten punched. “Well. Yeah, that…that just about covers my concerns.”

“Not to mention the fact that his dying mother is apparently me,” Regina added.

“She’s not you,” Emma growled.

“A version of me,” Regina said, correcting herself for Emma’s benefit. “A version of me that I know you aren’t going to just let die.” She tightened her hands around Emma’s before she could pull away. “Why are you fighting this?”

“Why do you believe him?”

Regina knew it was a deflection but she answered, “I…feel a connection to him. He may not be my son, but I see myself in him. He’s familiar in so many ways, and he acts like me.”

“Yeah, he does,” Emma muttered. “He’s definitely got your sass and stubborn streak.”

“I would’ve said my intelligence and determination.”

Emma grunted.

“Now, are you going to tell me the real problem?”

Emma sighed. “Fine, I’ll go,” then she added, “but you should stay here.”

Regina blinked at the sudden reversal. “What?”

The blonde shrugged and pulled her hands away. “No reason for you to go. I mean, do you really want to see a version of you that’s sick and dying?”

“I think history shows that you have a more difficult time seeing me like that than I do.” The brunette frowned as Emma turned her back on her. “What is going on?”

“What? Nothing.” Emma didn’t look at her as she rummaged around for a glass and a bottle of wine.

“Then look at me when you lie,” Regina snapped, no longer amused.

Emma looked up. Green eyes caught dark brown and the blonde swallowed back the flippant remark she’d been about to make. It was a rare occasion that she’d managed to make her wife as furious as she seemed now. A thousand ways to avoid Regina flitted through her mind before she dropped heavily onto the chair at the table. She sighed and admitted, “I’ve been to Henry’s realm before.”

“Explain.” The word was crisp and cold leaving no room for obfuscation. Regina was done and would settle for nothing less than straight answers.

Emma gestured for Regina to take the other seat at the table and she poured her queen a glass of wine. For herself, she magicked up a smaller glass and a bottle of whiskey from the hold. “Remember when I told you I’d met a lot of different versions of you, across time and universes?”

“Yes.” Regina wrapped her hand around her goblet.

“Remember how I said I fell in love with all of them?” Regina arched an eyebrow. Emma cleared her throat. “I’m pretty sure, Henry’s Regina is one of those queens I met before I met you.”

Regina inhaled deeply, eyes locked on Emma. “And?”

“And I…loved her,” Emma admitted, bracing herself as she waited for a reaction.

Her pirate queen didn’t immediately react. Instead, she lifted the wine glass to her lips and drank deeply from it. When she set down the empty glass, her tongue darted out to catch an errant drop of the dark red wine on her lips before she asked, “Physically?”

The Dark One felt the lightest trace of fear racing up her spine. “Uh-huh.”

“I see.” With a flick of her hand, Regina magicked her own tumbler onto the table and gestured for Emma to pour her a whiskey. “Did you see her before the curse or after?”

“Uhm, both,” Emma said. “I first met her years before she cast the curse, and then I stumbled across her again in the town she’d created. I didn’t sleep with her the second time though.”

“Why not?”

“Do you really want to talk-”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” Emma said, flinching slightly. “Uhm, the second time I saw her, like I said, I kind of stumbled across her town accidentally. I could tell it used to be from a magical world. Then I saw her. She was the mayor; she had a son, well she had Henry. I didn’t stick around; I don’t think she even saw me.”

“Why not?”

“By then, I’d already met you,” Emma tried a smile. It wasn’t returned but her wife’s gaze softened. “I think the second sighting happened during our first year, during the deal.”

Regina rolled the whiskey glass between her hands before tipping it up and knocking it back in one go. “When you slept with her, how many years was it before she cast the curse?”

Emma frowned; she barely even tried to do the calculation. “I have no idea.”

“Think, Emma!” Regina slammed the glass down against the table. She exhaled heavily. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is all just coming as a bit of a shock, and I don’t think you’re quite grasping the entirety of the situation.”

“All right,” Emma drawled, leaning back in her chair.

“Let me phrase this a different way,” Regina said, clipping her words. “Was Henry around when you slept with her?”

Emma frowned as she tried to remember. She’d introduced herself to the young queen. They’d spent the day and night together. There’d been no mention of a child. Emma had asked about a king but there wasn’t one. Regina ruled alone and admitted that at times it was a very lonely existence. She’d even expressed to Emma that if a partner wasn’t in her future, she wished she could, at least, have a child of her own.

Emma shot to her feet as the memory sunk in. “You think I…you think he’s…oh shit!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“So, you’re really not mad?”

Regina smirked. “You slept with a version of me before you ever met me. How could I be mad about that?”

Emma trusted her wife; she was just a little bit wary of her wife’s feelings on this particular subject. “I’m pretty sure if you thought about it, you could find a way to be mad.”

“I’m not mad,” Regina assured her, taking her hand in her own. “I do reserve the right to be jealous though.”

Emma frowned as they both watched Henry, standing near the rails, looking out over the water. “You really think he’s mine?”

“I’m positive. He has your magic.” At Emma’s dubious look, she nodded. “I felt it immediately but doubted myself. Once you said you had been to his realm, it all made sense.” She hesitated a moment before saying, “I’m surprised you didn’t know.”

“I didn’t,” Emma swore. “If I had, I’d have never left her.”

“I know,” Regina said, and she did know. Considering what Emma had known about her beginning for so many years, Regina knew the blonde would have never left her child. And where would that have left her? She would have died by her own hand in the summer palace. She shuddered and Emma squeezed her hand as if she knew exactly what Regina was thinking. Regina squeezed back. “Have you told him yet?”

“No. Figured I should, you know, talk to her first.”

Regina had to admit she was impressed with the sensible action. Emma was usually more the barge in and figure out the consequences later. “Good idea.”

“I’ve learned a few things from you over the years.” She winked then sighed, “You know what else this means, don’t you?”

Regina did know. “You’ll meet your parents.”

The Dark One grunted. “Parents that look a helluva lot like people that kept me imprisoned and at their beck and call for almost three years. Do you have any idea how hard that’s going to be?” She shuddered. “I’ve seen the two of them have sex; I’ve seen people who look like my parents having sex.”

Regina looked at her aghast. “You saw them…”

“Yes, okay,” Emma said. “Snow thought it was an amusing punishment.”

Regina was revolted. “And to think I saved that child’s life.”

“As if meeting my parents wasn’t going to be awkward enough.”

“How do you think I feel?” Regina said, amusement starting to bubble in her belly. “I’ll be meeting the in-laws for the first time and having to tell them that in recent years I killed one of them.”

“This could go down in history as the worst family reunion ever,” Emma said, smirking.

“Maybe we should find August and bring him with us.”

They both started laughing, drawing Henry’s attention. He frowned at them and gestured impatiently towards the sea.

“He is way too serious,” Emma said, waving him off for another moment. “He gets that from your side.”

Regina gave her a warm smile. “He’s just worried about his mother.”

“That’s one thing I can understand,” Emma said, she offered Regina her hand. “What do you say? Are you ready to go meet the Madam Mayor version of yourself?”

Regina clasped the offered hand. “You ready to start another adventure?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Not really, no,” Regina laughed.

“Then let’s go.”

In a swirl of grey smoke, the Queen and her Pirate, as well as a sixteen-year-old boy from another realm, disappeared from the deck of the ship.