The world where our story takes place is a peculiar one. It is one where magic and technology mix. One where modern cars drive over moats and castles tower over malls. One where the middle ages mix with the 21st century.
But despite the unorthodox nature of our setting, a few things are still universal. Such as parties. Particularly, the Halloween Fest.
It was hailed as the party to go to.
Ghouls, witches, lycans, and all other varieties of magical creatures alike partook in the splendid festivities. Of course, humans were also invited, if they so desired. But it was a very controversial topic. Human right groups feared it, and the brave of heart lived for it.
After all, a party where all kinds of fantastical creatures could intermingle for one night certainly promised for excitement.
"Which is obviously why you're not going," her father stated.
"Oh come on," Emma bemoaned. "I just turned 25, I shouldn't even need your permission."
"Perhaps not," her mother sniffed. "But as the queen's daughter, you have a certain image to uphold."
"Of what? The makings of a spinstress?" Emma bit back venomously.
That got her parents to let out reproachful sounds, and to chorus "Emma!"
Not really in the mood to have this evolve into a full-fledged discussion, her father, David Nolan, Captain of the Guard of the Kingdom of Storybrooke, adopted the well-known pose he took against hardened criminals and repeated, "You're not going, Emma. That is final."
"Shouldn't we try and promote unity between creatures and humans?" Emma asked, dialing back on the vitriol. "Wasn't that your whole speech campaign on unity last week about that?"
"Absolutely. Except not with those- kind of creatures," her mother responded haughtily. Queen Mary Margaret Nolan, née Blanchard, was a simple and traditional woman. She loved magic and wonder, and she did want to promote unity between magical creatures -particularly fairies - as much as the next person, but only those that usually were associated with goodness and kindness. Monsters? Lock them up in the dungeon and throw away the key. "The party organizers are lawless creatures that want to take advantage of unsuspecting humans such as yourself and wreak havoc."
"Imagine what they would do if the daughter of the Queen and the Captain was in their sights," David added. "I've been preparing my guys for weeks on how to deal with this. And every year, no matter how much preparation we have, the next day is always hell. Kids turned into lycans, adults serenaded into witches' lairs. It's a night of horrors."
"Please Emma, don't go," her mother pleaded.
With a long-suffering sigh, Emma said, "Fine."
"But we are going, right?" Ruby asked.
"Duh, of course," Emma was quick to answer. "Do you still have that glamour?"
Ruby held up the pendant. "Got it right here. You got a willing participant?"
Emma nodded. "Remember Ashley? She would pay for a quiet night in. After her baby was born, she hasn't had a day to herself. So while Sean babysits, she gets to enjoy a cozy night as the Queen's daughter up in the palace."
They were sitting in Ruby's coffee store that she inherited from her grandmother, and then combined it with the neighbouring bookstore when she got engaged with the owner.
Lacey, said bookstore owner, approached them and raised an eyebrow, before brusquely asking in that thick accent of hers, "And how d'you think you'll fool anyone that you're not the Queen's daughter? You're a freaking poster-child of goodness. One look at you and every monster will be trying to get a piece of you...no offence Rubes."
Ruby waved her off. "None taken, and you do have a point."
Emma made a face. "That sounds like way too much reasoning and logic, so I'll just pretend I didn't hear you."
Lacey glared at her. "Arse."
Emma stuck her tongue out childishly. "But seriously. My leather jacket and hoodie combo will do wonders. It hasn't failed me in all the years I've used it. Plus I'll just get one of those two-bit glamours I'm sure a witch will be selling. And then boom, from Queen's daughter to blue-haired sphynx in three seconds flat. It's a foolproof plan, guys."
Lacey wasn't too sure about it. She had never gone to the Halloween Fest before, and if it wasn't for the fact she was engaged to a werewolf, she wouldn't be caught dead there. From the stories, she was completely expecting pandemonium, but Ruby assured them that it was all fun and games.
"You guys will have fun, I promise."
The day of the party, Mary Margaret had kept an eagle-eye out on Emma, and when she decided to go out, her mother charged her loyal dwarf, Leroy, to keep tabs on her.
Like any loyal guard with a short temper, he wasn't such a stickler for keeping her in sights at all times, so when Emma elected to visit the mall, and enter one of those enormous department stores, Leroy just grunted and sat down on the chair by the entrance, preferring to thumb through the paper rather than have to stand there beside rows upon rows of clothing racks.
Which was what Emma had counted on, meaning it would be the perfect opportunity to switch places with Ashley, and then take out her trusty jacket from her satchel before exiting through the side door.
She met up with Ruby and Lacey, and together they drove out to the Poisoned Apple. Despite the name, it was a popular hotel for any supernatural or fantastical being. It was at the border of the fantastical realm of Mist Haven, where nearly all magical creatures lived.
During the ride, Ruby wouldn't stop dishing out gossip and comments about the famous people that would be coming.
"I heard that Maleficent, the dragon queen herself, would be in attendance."
By the time Emma got out of the car, she was sure she knew more about who was coming to the party than her mother knew about her constituents.
Ruby gave her car keys to the headless valet, and proceeded to take Lacey and Emma by their respective arms and lead them towards the entrance. "My fiancee and my best friend, what better company could a lycan girl ask for?"
Emma let herself be led inside, making sure her beanie was in place before bringing her hood up and low over her face. After Ruby had told her story about a guy last year that had used a two-bit glamour and wound up with antlers perennially on his head, she quickly scrapped that idea. "Can you imagine? You go to see the doctor and boom, a nice rack right on your head," Ruby had commented.
So Emma pushed past the glamours that were being sold by the door and just kept her head down. But not for long; the marvelous wonders all around her had her gaping in wonder.
When she next turned to see Ruby, she saw her friend had removed her own glamour, and was now sporting yellow eyes and had grown taller and nimbler. All around, she saw her dad's men posted all around, armed to the teeth and decked out in tactical gear and armour. She just hoped none of them would recognize her.
Lacey had followed Emma's line of sight and snorted. "Are they expecting a riot?"
"Something like that," Emma muttered. And then she spotted her father talking to another guard, and Emma ducked away. "Meet later."
Ruby nodded, having already planned a rendezvous point if they were separated.
Emma perused the place, and how it gave the appearance of seeming half like a party, and half like the local carnival, with booths and stores to peruse.
She browsed around for a few minutes before crossing paths again with her friends at a small bar called The Witch's Brew.
"Well hello my pretties, what's your poison?" greeted a green-skinned woman in a pointy witch's hat.
"What's good here?" Lacey asked.
"And won't kill us," Emma added with a smirk.
The witch glared, and then narrowed her eyes at seeing Emma's face. "Hang on...aren't you the Queen's kid?"
Rather than panic, Emma had been well-prepared for this. So she adopted a highly dramatic tone and turned to her friends and complained, "Are you kidding me? As if it's not bad enough that I share a first name with that girl, now she looks like me? Unbelievable."
The witch nodded slowly. "So you're not the Queen's kid?"
Emma gave the witch a look. "First of all, would the Queen's kid be caught dead in here? Secondly, I am way better looking than that chick, and third: my ID."
She had come well-prepared, having bribed the guy at the DMV with some excellent jousting tickets in exchange for teaching her to use the card-making machine. So she whipped out the ID showing her name as Emma Swan, and that convinced the witch to drop it.
The witch took a good look at all three of them before declaring, "Very well...I would recommend Blood Lust for my lycan friend here, and for you humans...I suppose I could whip up a margarita or two."
Before Emma and Lacey could even respond to counter that presumptuous statement, the room began to grow loud with excitement.
Emma quickly whipped around the room to try and see who was the big shot coming in that had elicited such a reaction.
"It's the Queen!" Ruby gleefully stated.
Emma frowned. "What queen?"
"The Witch Queen," a dry voice responded from behind her, the green witch.
"The witches have a monarch?" Lacey asked, curious.
The green witch scoffed. "Of course we do, we're not lawless like the human queen paints us. She is the most powerful witch of us all. She is the one who makes this night possible."
Emma's eyes widened. Oh she'd heard about her. But her mother never mentioned she was such a powerful witch. Just a royal pain in her behind, and ugly as hell.
The witch queen walked up the steps to the podium, and Emma saw a truly garish sight. Boils and warts covered a face that was wrinkled and clammy, and had probably never been a pretty sight to begin with. The witch's nose was curved and ended in a sharp point. Frizzy gray hair stuck out and gave the witch a demented look. Completing that were dark eyes that seemed to perceive everything and everyone.
The witch cleared her throat and began to speak, and Emma had to really control herself in order to not cringe at the throaty and haggard voice.
"Welcome everyone, to this year's Halloween Fest. I see plenty of old and new faces alike. I invite you all to mingle with the humans as well, lest they feel forgotten and our good human friends from the Storybrooke Guards feel threatened." Quite a few chortles were heard before the witch continued, "Speaking of, don't mind those Guards you see here decked out in their shiny military gear. They have assured me they are here merely for observation and protection, and from what I can tell, they probably don't know how to work half of the equipment they're carrying."
Now the chortles grew into full out laughter and Emma had to join in it, silently seeking out her dad and seeing him beet faced and trembling in fury.
"And with that, I formally welcome you all to tonight's festivities!"
The crowd broke out in applause and Emma joined in. Despite her looks, the Witch Queen was quite a figure. Emma could see why they all revered her.
"A rousing speech, yes, but can you please tell me what you weaklings be having?" the green witch drawled.
Lacey and Emma pored over the drinks that didn't include eyeballs or newts, and ended up going with the margaritas, much to their chagrin, as they had been hoping they could prove the witch wrong.
She served them with a self-satisfied smirk, and were heading to a table in order to enjoy their drinks, when another lycan approached Ruby, and muttered something, pointing at Lacey and Emma.
"Thanks Quinn, I got it from here," Ruby said, and then she quickly glanced towards the center of the room, where the guards were fussing over something. "Apparently the Captain and his men are hassling any creatures near humans, and asking them for ID, so he was trying to warn me."
Emma frowned. "Well, I guess that's my cue to hide. Didn't think he would be such a spoilsport."
Lacey and Ruby knew exactly who Emma was talking about. Lacey looked sympathetically at her friend. "We'll text you once they calm down?"
"Yeah, time to hide in the shadows and generally not get to enjoy the party," Emma groaned.
Ruby tried to sound hopeful as she said, "Well on the bright side, the party goes all night long, and the guards usually only stay here for a few hours?"
"They better," Emma murmured as she ducked out of the way, sticking close to the walls. They were lined with thick curtains, and Emma just tried to blend in.
At one point, the curtains were a bit parted, and Emma saw a darkened hallway leading away from the party. She went further inside, turning on her cellphone's flashlight to light her way. The sounds of the party dwindled, but soft music beckoned her forward, down long curving hallways and winding steps, until she was met with a wondrous room, filled with potions and books and plenty of bright coloured stained glass windows.
"I dare say you are a bit lost," a rich female voice spoke from the shadows.
Emma jumped and tried to locate the source. At not finding her, Emma spoke out, "Sorry, just trying to get away from the party for a bit."
"From the party, or your father, the Captain?" the hidden woman asked, her voice shifting, like she was walking around the perimeter of the room, inspecting Emma from all sides.
"M-my dad?" Emma repeated, voice squeaking the slightest bit. The fear in her voice made her lying ability weak. "I'm not the Captain's daughter. My name is Emma Swan."
The voice let out a chuckle. "Certainly. You are Emma Nolan, with a very convincing, but quite fake, ID."
Emma felt butterflies in her stomach, but they weren't really from fear, she found the voice quite pleasing to listen. "Are you going to expose me?"
The voice sounded amused as she said, "While it would cause me great pleasure to reveal that Queen Mary Margaret's spawn has decided to break the tradition and come to the party, I will hold my tongue if you tell the truth with my next question."
Emma swallowed thickly and nodded. "What's the question?"
"There's no need to be afraid." The voice sounded from right behind her, making Emma jump around in fright. There was no one there, and the woman sounded amused as she started, "I am certain the Queen and the Captain would rather shake hands with me than to let you attend this party. Combine that with the fact you snuck away while your father roams the hall begs the question: Why come at all?"
"My best friend is a lycan. And she would always tell me about the party, but if you're a human, you have to be 25 to be able to attend. I turned 25 last week, and figured I would see for myself if all the horror stories about your kind were true," Emma explained truthfully. "Suffice it to say that I obviously figured correct, my mother's crazy stories are just that - stories."
"Well, happy belated birthday, little swan," the voice said. "And I am happy to hear that prejudice isn't inherited. But I am curious...your parents allowed you to befriend a lycan? Seems awfully against their views."
"They don't know she's lycan. They just know her as my old college roommate," Emma readily supplied.
"You are full of surprises."
There was a pregnant silence before the voice continued, "Now, I believe your father and his men are leaving, so you can go back down and enjoy the rest of the party."
Emma let out a sigh of relief at hearing that. "Thanks. Are you not coming too?"
"Oh no. I don't fit in. I dare say that I am not really made for these festivities."
Emma scoffed. "I doubt it. I'm human and I definitely don't fit in, but you are clearly a magical creature so you'd fit right in."
"I believe your mother prefers to call us monsters, correct?" the voice seemingly changed subjects.
"I don't really like that name," Emma glowered. "Even if it is reclaimed and whatnot. Makes it sound like you're all nightmarish creatures."
"And I'm not?" the voice said, sounding different now, more raspy and haggard, coming from Emma's immediate right.
Emma involuntarily let out a jump at hearing the voice so close, only to find herself facing the Witch Queen. "You," Emma breathed.
"Yes, me. Now, run along. You have a party to enjoy," the witch said, turning away.
"Come with me," Emma insisted, holding out her hand toward the witch's retreating back.
"Didn't you hear me? I don't fit in. Your reaction is proof enough for me," the witch insisted, pausing and turning around to face her for a minute before continuing to walk towards her books.
Emma huffed. "My reaction was because you startled me with your proximity, not because of your looks. Besides, you organized all of this, you should participate as much as the next person."
The witch paused and turned around, regarding Emma closely. For a second, Emma thought she would say yes, but then she shook her head. "I appreciate the persistence, but I am quite alright here, little swan. I can see everything from my balcony over there."
Emma followed the direction the witch's bony finger pointed to, and Emma saw a balcony that overlooked the grand hall of the hotel, where the party was.
"Well, if you change your mind, you'll know where to find me," Emma smiled, turning back to face the witch.
The witch cracked a smile, rotten and crooked teeth showing. "Thank you dear. Now, do you remember how to get back?"
Emma glanced at the hallway that she came from, and barely recalled the winding hallways. "Not really," she sheepishly admitted.
With a flick of her hand, the hallway was alight with soft purple light coming from the torches on the walls. "They will take you back to the party."
"Thank you," Emma said, and then tacked on a "Your majesty," just in case there was a protocol, as there were for her mother. She then wondered if she had to bow.
The witch chuckled. "Oh you needn't bother with fancy titles."
Emma nodded in understanding, and she turned as if to leave, but then frowned and looked back to the witch "Then what should I call you?"
The witch looked puzzled to say the least, and her eyes kept looking at Emma so curiously, she wanted to ask the Witch Queen if she had something on her face. "You can call me Regina."
Emma smiled. "Regina. It's a nice name."
Regina bowed her head. "As is yours. But I much prefer Emma Swan to Emma Nolan."
"Me too," Emma grinned. Then she figured it was time to take her leave, and was almost past the door when she got another question. She turned back around and called out, "Regina?"
"Yes, little swan?" the witch asked, tending to a cauldron now.
"Were you playing a trick, or did your voice sound different when I came in?"
The witch turned around to face Emma, and winked. "I'll leave that for you to figure out."
When Emma returned to the party, she was puzzled to say the least.
"There you are!" Lacey said when she spotted her. "Where the hell were you? We called you a gajillion times."
Emma fished her phone out of her pocket and saw that indeed there were twenty missed calls from both of her friends, plus plenty of frantic texts.
"Where were you?" Ruby asked.
"Would you believe me if I told you I met the Witch Queen?" Emma said, making sure they weren't overheard.
Lacey and Ruby gaped, the latter's fangs glistening.
"No way! How was she?" Ruby asked.
Emma shrugged. "Mysterious."
"Was she scary?" Lacey fired the next question.
"Not at all," Emma said. "She was pretty nice."
Both of her friends looked puzzled to say the least. "Nice? You sure you met the actual Witch Queen?"
"Yeah?" Emma frowned. "Why? Is she not supposed to be nice? I mean, I know she hates my parents, but I thought that was a special position they held."
Ruby made a so-so gesture. "She's a recluse, and with her looks, no one likes being in the same space as her for too long. Plus like everyone says, she's a really powerful witch. She dabbles in all kinds of magic, including dark magic. That doesn't exactly instill the idea she's a social creature."
Emma began to walk around the hall. "I don't know, I think she's interesting."
They left the subject at that, and decided to try their hands at the many games.
"Come one, come all!" a game operator was yelling out. "Step right up and show off your magical skills by hitting the bell!"
They saw a traditional high striker game, but of course, geared towards magical creatures. At the sides of the vertical scale were levels indicating which creatures had which magical levels, with witches being the highest level.
"Oh this one is fun!" Ruby commented, pulling them closer to the game.
She gave the operator some coins and hoisted the mallet onto her shoulders with ease, before striking down onto the base of the tower, getting the puck to rise up a moderate height, smack dab in the middle of the level area labeled Lycans.
"Don't fret, my lycan friend. Werewolves have their strength elsewhere," the operator said with a smile. Then he set his sights onto Emma and Ruby. "How about you ladies?"
"We're human," Lacey interjected.
The operator shrugged, pointing to the base where Humans was etched onto the lowest level. "Don't care. It makes for good entertainment."
Emma fished some coins out of her pocket and handed them to the operator. "I'll take a crack at it."
The operator took the coins with a smile and a flourish, he pointed to the hammer. "Don't break it," he teased.
Emma grabbed the hammer and picked it up, finding it lighter than expected, considering how she had seen Ruby struggling to pick it up earlier. She easily hoisted it up to her shoulders, to a number of surprised gasps. Even the operator looked stunned.
Then, Emma grabbed the hammer well with both her hands, and swung it down.
The puck flew high up and clanged against the bell, making it ring loud and clear, but the strength of Emma's hit was so great, it toppled the bell right off and made the puck keep going and jam right onto the ceiling.
When the bell clanged on the floor, Emma flinched and slowly turned towards the operator, and shyly said, "Sorry?"
The operator was gaping, and he took a few seconds to get his bearings again before muttering, "Kid, I think someone lied to you about your heritage."
Emma frowned. "It's not a fluke?"
The operator spluttered. "Hell no! Get your actual human friend here, see if she can even lift the hammer."
Lacey mutely stepped up to the plate and tried to grab the hammer Emma was holding - it didn't budge.
"What-" Emma floundered, looking lost and confused.
High above, in a private balcony, Regina watched the scene in fascination. "This changes everything."
Ruby put a comforting arm around her friend and tried to pull her away. "Come on Em."
But before anyone could move, a loud whoop was heard, and a band of young warlocks surrounded them.
"She's coming with us," one of them exclaimed, grabbing her wrist.
"We think not!" A group of beautiful young women - sirens - chorused, using their magic to send the warlocks tumbling back.
Emma gulped, feeling Ruby tighten her grip. "Leave her alone," she growled.
"A lone lycan is hardly a match against us all," a vampire hissed, pointing to the rest of her enclave, poised and ready to strike.
"She's not alone," Quinn, the lycan from earlier, exclaimed, flanked by more lycans.
The voices were clamoring, and Emma wanted to just escape. What was the big deal?
"Silence!" a voice thundered, quieting everyone. It was Regina, coming down the steps slowly and with purpose. "What the hell is the meaning of this?"
The operator piped up, "She's a witch. A pretty powerful one too."
"I can see that," Regina rasped, stealing a glance to the ceiling and then to Emma, and Emma could have sworn the witch's dark eyes shone a soft purple that instantly calmed her. "I meant-"
The witch queen's words were cut short with the cops bursting in, the Captain at the helm.
"What the hell is going in here?" David called out, looking all around the room.
Regina moved so that, with her long cape, she was blocking Emma from view.
"Nothing that concerns you, Captain Nolan," Regina stated.
David narrowed his eyes. "I will be the judge of that. Move out of the way."
Regina scoffed. "I don't have to listen to you. You are not my Captain."
"If the person you are hiding behind you is a human, then you are not allowed to block the way."
Regina cackled, a throaty and flinch-inducing laugh. "She is not a human."
David huffed. "Stand aside, witch."
Regina didn't move. "I would have thought you would have more respect for royalty, Captain."
Crossing his arms, David smirked. "You are not my Queen."
Knowing that she was going to get busted either way, Emma pushed past Regina, to stand beside the witch. Glaring defiantly at her slack-jawed dad, Emma said, "Happy?"
"You are coming with me," David muttered, reaching forward to grab her by her arm, and pulling her towards him.
She let herself be led out of the fest, past her father's colleagues who were also shocked at seeing her there.
David led them to his squad car, and opened the front passenger door. "You have a lot of explaining to do."
Not one to stay quiet, Emma said, "So do you guys."
"You snuck out of the house, and deceived us!" David exclaimed.
They had gotten to the house after an awkwardly silent ride. After updating Mary Margaret on the situation, and kindly showing Ashley the way out, they had sat down, while Emma glowered by the doorway, standing.
"You could have made us a laughingstock if people had connected the dots," Mary Margaret added. "I mean, for all we know, some people may have already figured it out!"
When Emma didn't say anything at first, David prodded her. "Don't you have anything to say for yourself?"
"I'm curious," Emma began. "Am I adopted?"
Mary Margaret and David blinked. "Wha-"
"There was a high striker game in the party, you could test out your magical skills. I tried it out for shits and giggles, and wouldn't you know it?" Emma paused to glare at her parents in turn. "I broke the freaking thing because I have that much magic within me. So again I ask, am I adopted?"
After a minute, Mary Margaret said, "In a way, yes."
"And you didn't think to tell me this until now?!" Emma thundered.
"We had no idea you had magic!" David countered. "We found you, by mere chance, on the side of the road, and we took you in. Why would we want to burden you with that knowledge?"
"Because it's my right to know! It's my heritage!"
Mary Margaret had picked up her phone while David spoke, and by the time Emma had said heritage, Mary Margaret had finished her call and tutted. "Nonsense Emma. Your heritage isn't being left there like old garbage, it's being part of the Nolan family."
Suddenly, with a puff of blue smoke, a fairy appeared.
Well, Emma considered Blue to be many things, but a fairy was not one of them.
"You called?" Blue inquired.
Mary Margaret brought Blue up to speed. Once she finished, she asked, "I thought you had checked Emma and didn't find any magical traces within her."
Blue shifted in her spot, a bit awkwardly. "That's not exactly what I had said. I had stunted Emma's magical signature. Clearly the energy in that...party was so strong, it undid whatever bind I had done."
Emma was flabbergasted. "What the hell?!"
"Why didn't you tell us?" David asked.
"I didn't think it was pertinent to your knowledge to know your daughter is a witch," Blue responded, not even meeting David's eyes, finding her nails much more interesting.
Emma snorted and glanced at her parents. Her need to stick it to them far outweighed the fact she was a witch "Not so great to have things kept from you, huh?"
Mary Margaret gave Emma a pointed look. "Just like that, it was undone?"
Blue sniffed. "I can sense the Witch Queen's signature all over her."
Mary Margaret gasped. Then she quickly asked Blue, "Any chance that you can re-stunt her powers?"
"What?" Emma exclaimed.
"Or remove them?" David asked.
"Whoa, hold up!"
Ignoring Emma, Blue looked at the Nolan couple. "Her magic is now freely flowing in her body. Re-stunting her powers would prove to not be wholly successful. Removing her powers would be the more feasible solution."
"Guys, come on, stop this!" Emma's growing panic fell on deaf ears.
"How soon can you do it?" David asked.
"What the hell? Did I become invisible? Stop this!" Emma yelled.
Blue's expressionless glance towards Emma was the only indication that she was still a solid presence in the room.
"I can do it immediately, but we do need prep work, and I have to warn you, it will hurt."
"STOP!" Emma yelled, eyes watering.
Her parents looked at her and they looked guilty, sad, and remorseful. "We're sorry Emma," her mother said. "It's for the best."
"The best!?" Emma practically shrieked. "This is a part of me! You can't just remove it!"
"Emma, you are not a witch," Mary Margaret said tearfully.
David was meanwhile asking, "Could she be under some sort of influence? Perhaps the witch queen has her in a hold?"
Blue nodded. "My thoughts exactly."
Before Emma could react, she was engulfed in dark blue smoke, and when it cleared, she was in a dank and cold room. There were bars on the doors and the window.
She was in a dungeon cell.
Emma was currently curled up into a ball against the driest corner she could find. She had wrapped her arms around her legs and was trying to hold her tears at bay. This was a nightmare, surely. Her parents wouldn't willingly lock her up. Any minute now, her parents would come bursting down the dark hallway in tears, begging for her forgiveness. But no one came.
No one, except for a black rat.
She let out a yelp once she saw the vermin crawl through the window grate. She tried to back herself further into the corner, but the rat still made its was down the wall, and stopped a few feet away from her. In a puff of deep purple smoke, Emma saw the rat become the Witch Queen.
"You!" Emma hissed, fear morphing into anger. "What the hell did you do to me!?"
The witch frowned. "I did nothing."
"Then how the hell did you know where to look?" Emma harshly bit back.
In a terse voice, Regina said, "Contrary to what your idiotic parents would like to believe, many of the monsters they despise can be found within the walls of their castle. I got notice of what had happened through that."
Emma's angry facade melted. "So what are you doing here?" she asked in a much softer voice.
"I'm here to rescue you," Regina said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
And Emma wasn't sure if it was the terrible lighting, or maybe the hunger was starting to chip away at her sanity, but she could have sworn that the witch looked somewhat different. She still had that horrible appearance, hunched and covered in warts and boils, but her teeth no longer looked rotten, and her wispy gray hair looked less matted.
"You are?" Emma asked, flabbergasted.
Regina nodded, holding out a hand to help her up. "Come on little swan, let's get you out of here."
At first, Emma wasn't too sure if this was the wisest idea. The old witch looked frail enough that she might not be able to help Emma up, but she still placed her hand in the other witch's hand, and she was surprised by the smoothness she felt there. It didn't correspond to the rough calloused hand she saw.
Even more notable was the strength that helped pull her up. She was about to say something but then she heard her parents boom, "Get away from her!"
Emma kept her hand clasped with the witch's, and frowned. "Now you guys come?"
Regina cackled. "Oh my, quite the contempt I see here."
David kept glaring at Regina, while Mary Margaret pleaded with her daughter. "Please Emma, there is so much you don't understand, just come with us, and everything will be fine."
"I doubt that," Regina said with a smirk.
"Are you still going to remove my powers like Blue said?" Emma asked.
Beside her, Regina made a noise that Emma chose to ignore. She had to know the answer, everything would depend on that.
David answered for her. "Of course, she's preparing everything as we speak and-"
"Then no, I'm going with Regina," Emma decided.
Her parents frowned. "Who the hell is Regina?"
"That would be me," Regina said with a satisfied smile. "And if I wasn't so sure your daughter would disapprove of it, I would turn you both into frogs right now. How dare you want to remove her powers!?"
Mary Margaret looked indignant. "She's not a witch! Those powers are -"
"A part of her!" Regina countered.
Emma had had enough of this. "And something else, I am proud to be a witch."
"But Emma-" Mary Margaret tried.
"No, I am done with you both," Emma resolutely said. Then she turned to Regina and asked, "You can get us out of here?"
Regina nodded once. "With pleasure."
The last thing Emma saw before the clouds engulfed her were her parents gripping the prison bars with fear, trying to get through to her.
When the clouds cleared, they were in the room she had first spoken with Regina. The cauldron was still bubbling, and the room still had a homely feel to it.
Emma let out a sigh of relief, but inadvertently, was still clasping Regina's hand.
Until Regina cleared her throat and said, "I'd like my hand back, little swan."
Emma let go of Regina's hand with a sheepish smile. "Sorry."
Regina took her hand back and walked over to a desk with an open book, and without looking at her, said, "It's quite alright. Now, you are free to go."
"What?" Emma asked. When Regina turned her head to glance at her, Emma added, "That's it? Just like that, I'm free to go?"
Frowning, Regina now turned her whole body to face Emma, and her voice grew tense as she continued, "What were you expecting? For me to lock you up in my own dungeon?"
"No-" Emma tried to counter.
"Then?" Regina thundered. "I am not the monster your parents make me out to be, no matter how convincing they might be."
"I don't think you're a monster!" Emma exclaimed. "And I'm not expecting you to lock me up. You said you came to rescue me, and I believe that. Not that you were taking me out of the frying pan and into the fire."
That got Regina to dial back on her anger. "What did you mean then?"
"I meant like, could you train me in magic?" Emma asked. "I was thinking that maybe I could be your apprentice, in exchange for you letting me stay in the hotel."
Regina looked impressed and surprised all at once. "You've clearly given it a lot of thought."
"Well, you rescuing me was a surprise, but I was originally thinking that I would come and demand you to train me."
Regina looked amused. "Demand? With what leverage?"
Now Emma looked sheepish as she said, "I was under the impression that you had activated my powers, so you'd have to train me."
"A woman with a plan, quite intriguing. But alas, I am not in the mood to train anyone, so you'll have to find yourself some other place. Run along now," Regina ended dismissively, already back to poring over her book.
"What is your damage?" Emma asked, not budging from her spot.
"Excuse you?" Regina responded, indignant, turning on her heel again to face the blonde.
"You heard me. I don't get you. You act all reclusive but you go out of your way to intervene everyone at the party from grabbing a piece of me, and to rescue me from my parents' castle. Then, when I ask you to train me, you turn me away."
Regina let out a cackle, and Emma was so furious she didn't even notice how Regina's voice sounded less grating, and more melodious. "Oh you are a persistent one. I am feared for a reason dear, and it's not because of my friendly disposition."
Emma huffed. "I can see that. If you won't teach me, who will?"
"What do I look like? Witching yellow pages? Go out and find someone."
Not wanting to let Regina have the last word, Emma let out a growl of frustration, and said, "You are insufferable."
"I am well aware of that, little swan," Regina retorted.
"Stop calling me that! I am neither little nor a swan."
"Very well, if you say so. Now will you leave?" Regina insisted, pointing to the door behind Emma.
And so Emma left, leaving Regina quite disappointed. She had figured Emma would be different.
"You know, if you weren't so hard-headed, you would see that she's quite formidable, and would probably be quite a pupil for you," a voice said.
Regina rolled her eyes at her sister's words. "I know that, but I can't just let her think it's so easy. And were you listening in the entire time?"
Zelena stepped out of the shadows where she had been hiding. "You mean if I had let you two have some privacy, then yes. But don't change the subject. Your pride and your image as the most feared and revered witch in the entire lands would remain intact if you took her under your wing. Besides, I think she's chipping away at your glamour."
Regina hummed. She had noticed that too. "So you think I should do it?"
Zelena was ready to smack her sister upside the head, but settled for just rolling her eyes. "Yes! Now go to her."
And so Regina produced a locator spell, but then grew worried. "She's in trouble."
Emma had thankfully been able to find her way out easily enough, but then she found herself facing a horde of vampires near a shaded alcove as she exited the hotel premises.
"Well there, look who we have here," a vampire said, her teeth glistening as she showed her toothy smile.
"Can I help you with something?" Emma asked with more confidence than she felt.
Another vampire piped up, "We remember you from last night, the girl who broke the machine."
Emma rolled her eyes. "Look, I have had a really long night, so why don't you guys just leave me alone?"
The original vampire that spoke to her clicked her tongue. "I think not. You see, we need your magical source, and you will give it to us."
Before Emma could react, two vampires had grabbed her by the arms, and while Emma valiantly tried to wriggle free, they were too strong and powerful.
Then, she sensed something within her, it was the same thing she felt when she had been at the party last night, and she channeled it. Next thing she knew, she had scattered the vampires in all directions, and she was no longer being held by the two brutes.
However, rather than frightening the vampires off, it just made them angrier, and they started to get up, their red eyes trained on her.
Emma gulped. Now what?
"Begone, all of you." it was Regina, holding a bright orb of light in her hand.
The vampires hissed at the sight of the orb, and promptly began to scatter away, all except the leader of the group, who exclaimed, "This isn't over yet, witches!"
Regina cackled and promptly flung the orb of light in the vampire's direction, but she disappeared before the orb hit her. Instead, the tree turned a vivid silver.
Emma whipped around to face Regina. "Why did you come? I had it under control."
"Oh I'm sure you did, little swan, and yet I expedited the process," Regina countered with a grin.
Emma noticed that Regina looked younger, her skin smoother if that was possible, with less warts marring her skin. It made her stop whatever counter-point she was about to make, and instead she asked, "Do you have a glamour on?"
Regina looked impressed. "For someone raised in the environment you were in, I wouldn't have expected you to know so much about the magical world."
Emma shrugged. "Lycan friend, remember?"
"Ah yes," Regina noted with a hum.
"So, glamour?" Emma asked.
Regina held up the pendant hanging from her neck. It was made of pure silver, and it had been molded into an apple tree. It wasn't much bigger than her thumb, but it was powerful.
Emma glanced at the glamour with intrigue. "Then, your appearance has been changing. I first thought I was going crazy."
Regina chuckled. "You most definitely aren't. It's an advanced glamour, it warps my appearance differently for everyone."
"But why?" Emma asked.
"Because I had realized people were either taking advantage of me or not taking me seriously with my appearance. So, I rectified that by becoming a ghastly old hag. It has done the trick and gotten me right where I want to be."
"How about your loved ones? Do they also see you like this?"
Regina shook her head with a soft smile. "Not much in terms of my loved ones. Just my sister Zelena, whom I believe you met yesterday night. And she sees me as I truly am."
Emma hummed. "Then how come you keep appearing differently for me?"
"Your actions are causing this," Regina explained simply. When she saw Emma was about to ask more, she swiftly added, "I would discourage you from trying to know more. Once you know the secret of how the glamour works, it will stop peeling back the magic."
Emma nodded in understanding. "I see. Well, thank you for helping me."
"I thought you had it under control?" Regina countered, voice full of mirth.
"I did, you just...expedited the process," Emma responded, wondering how to leave without making it awkward.
Regina took a deep breath before saying, "I had originally come after you to say that I might have been a bit harsh earlier, and that perhaps you would make a good apprentice, if you're still interested?"
Emma was dumbfounded. "Uh- yes! Of course! I'd love to."
"Excellent, then let's get going."
The next few months would prove that Emma was a formidable witch. Her quick grasp of magic, and the strength behind her casting was impressive, even for Regina.
Teacher and pupil had gotten closer during that time, and Emma had worn down most of Regina's glamour, to the point the former could safely say she knew the real woman behind the glamour. That closeness had also revealed to Emma that she had a crush on her teacher, but she didn't want to risk losing her because her feelings were not reciprocated, so she kept quiet.
When Emma wasn't training, she would help out the staff in the hotel, or head into town in order to meet up with Lacey and Ruby.
The only problem was her parents. They, along with all their guards, tried to capture her at every chance they had. Of course, Regina had placed wards around the hotel, so no one under Emma's parents' employ could set foot into the hotel grounds.
Which meant that it often led to sequences when a guard caught whiff of Emma in the city.
Like now, on a nice spring Saturday, Emma was running from a trio of soldiers intent on catching her.
"Halt!" thundered one soldier.
Emma just grinned and kept running. Granted, she would much rather have preferred to teleport out of there, but her parents had gotten wiser after her first escapes, and had now placed a barrier preventing any magical use within the city, courtesy of Blue.
But, like any spell, it usually had a loophole, and Emma whipped out a vial from her coat pocket, and after taking a sharp turn into an alleyway, she threw the vial into the ground, and jumped into the portal it created, landing none too gracefully in the middle of the hotel lobby.
As she quickly got up, flashing sheepish smiles to all the patrons looking at her peculiarly, she felt victorious enough that she had gotten away.
"Miss Emma! Are you alright?" one of the headless valets asked.
"Just fine Andy," Emma responded, flashing a thumbs-up at him as she got up.
The valet seemed at a loss, but let her be. She was already halfway across the lobby anyway.
While walking down the serpentine halls of the hotel, she greeted the staff she knew, before heading into Regina's Lab of Doom, as she had affectionately nicknamed it. Before she got there, Emma crossed paths with an irate Regina, who stalked up to her, grabbed her arm, and pushed her towards an alcove.
"What the hell was that?" Regina hissed. Gone were the warts and the wrinkles, leaving smooth skin and fiery eyes accented with dark mascara that made her glare all the more intense.
"What was what?" Emma responded, meeting Regina's glare head on.
"You practically barrelled into the lobby as you teleported here. Were you running away from your parents' guards?" Regina asked, worry lacing her voice.
"Yeah. They were waiting for me...they basically know I try to visit Ruby and Lacey," Emma explained. "a few asshole guards accosted me and tried to capture me. I used a vial of the teleporter spell and voila."
"Then why the hell did you go? What if the vial hadn't worked?"
Emma frowned at Regina's words. "Because I knew that they hadn't put up any wards against potions. Besides, I wanted to visit my friends!"
"At the risk of your own life? Of Ruby's? Last I checked, they don't know Ruby's a lycan. Your antics and escaping acts are making your parents tighten the control and use of magic. If they decide to further block magic, what happens when people find out that half of the kingdom has monsters hidden and living their lives under their own noses?"
"I-" Emma wanted to fight back, argue that she had a right to visit her friends, but Regina was right. "You're right...I just hate not being able to visit my friends."
Regina sighed, moving her hands to rest on Emma's shoulders. "I know. It's hard to hide, to have to bend to their rules, but you can't let this escalate. For the good of all magical creatures everywhere. Monsters or not."
Emma nodded and smiled softly. "I'll see about getting them to visit me out here."
"Yes, because even despite all of that, I'd hate to see you get captured."
"Oh don't worry," Emma nonchalantly countered. "They won't get my magic."
"It's not your magic I'm worried about."
Emma frowned. "Then what?"
Regina bit her lip, hesitant to speak, and alas she never got to voice it as another headless valet came rushing, yelling, "Your Majesty! Your Majesty!"
Immediately Regina composed herself, moving back to a respectable distance, and Emma was missing their proximity a lot, particularly because she was sure that Regina was about to say something important to her.
"What is it Hernan?" Regina asked.
"The humans, they're at the edge of the property. They're demanding to speak to you...and Miss Emma." The valet was wringing his hands as he spoke, clearly nervous at the situation that had appeared.
Regina huffed. "Tell the staff to make sure the guests are all accounted for and safe. Get all of the non-essential personnel to get into a room, and make sure the rest of you are ready for whatever the Storybrooke morons have planned, understood?"
Hernan scampered off, and Regina turned back to Emma. "I would tell you to go and join the personnel, but I don't suppose you'd listen, would you?"
Emma shook her head. "Not a chance. But before we go, what were you going to tell me?"
It was a valiant effort, but the moment had passed, as Regina shook her head. "Later. Now, let's go deal with your parents."
Hernan had vastly understated the amount of humans at the edge of the Poisoned Apple property. It seemed as though Mary Margaret and David had gotten their entire army to back them up.
When Emma and Regina stepped out of the hotel, there was the briefest collective flinch as they all saw Regina's glamoured self.
"Well, I don't recall inviting anyone, much less Storybrooke's army, for dinner. Care to explain yourselves?"
Mary Margaret didn't waste a second before thundering, "Give me back my daughter!"
Regina blinked and tilted her head. "I'm not holding her hostage. She can come and go as she pleases."
"That's a lie!" roared David, gripping his sword tightly, ready to strike. "You've turned her against us!"
Emma had decided that she'd had enough. Without a word, she began to stalk forward towards the army.
"Emma, wait!" Regina hissed, careful about her movements, knowing there were many eyes on them. When Emma paused and looked at her, Regina said, "Please...be careful."
With the faintest of smiles, Emma nodded. "I will."
Once Emma was at the very edge of the property, practically a few feet away from her parents, she said, "I'm here because I want to be. Because I'm accepted for who I am. A witch."
"She has poisoned your mind!" Blue exclaimed. "Please, come over here and we will fix everything."
Emma stood her ground. "No."
The army began to advance, and Emma instinctively took a step back.
But Regina's barrier held the front row back, causing her to cackle. "Try again. You can't break through."
But Mary Margaret and David didn't seem fazed. The latter said, "I believe you blocked anyone with the emblem of our kingdom, correct? You know of our tradition to get the crest tattooed when we finish with initiation."
The first line of soldiers parted ways, where now dozens of soldiers did manage to march over the threshold.
"These recruits have yet to get their tattoos," David finished. "GO!"
Suddenly the soldiers charged forward, and Emma panicked.
Holding her hands out, she called forth her magic to create any kind of barrier or shield.
A beam of blue light pulsed from her hands and threw that wave of soldiers back. But they just kept on rushing forward.
By that point, Regina was by her side, ready to grab Emma and whisk them back to the hotel.
But a lone guard had another idea, crying, "Die witch!" right before he thrust his sword onto Regina's side.
"Regina!" Emma yelled, turning to the woman beside her as the soldier pulled his sword out and stumbled back self-satisfactorily.
"I'll be fine," Regina breathed as she fell to her knees, clearly not fine. Regina was losing a lot of blood.
"STOP!" Emma's voice boomed and all the soldiers stopped, confused. She turned to her parents and asked, "If I go with you, will you leave Regina and the Poisoned Apple alone?"
Her parents nodded. "Of course," her mother added, "we're not monsters."
And Emma felt the bile rising in her throat as she heard those words. The double connotation was not lost on her. "Then tell your men to stand down and back off. Now."
They did as Emma asked, and Regina watched in trepidation.
"Emma, please-" Regina said, her voice broken and ragged. She had one hand trying to heal her own wound, and with her free hand, she used to latch on to Emma's. When Emma's eyes met Regina's, she continued, "You don't have to do this. Don't leave, please."
Emma kneeled to place her other hand over Regina's, adding her magic to the healing process, if only briefly. "It's the only way they'll leave you alone. I'll be fine."
"No-" Regina could only watch in abject horror as Emma let her go and stood up, walking towards those..."Monsters! You're all monsters!" she spat.
Suddenly Regina snapped, and she hurled a ball of fire. But Blue was well-prepared, creating a double coating around Regina's shield, thereby protecting them from the fire.
She saw as Emma's parents hugged her stiffly and whispered comforting words to her.
As Blue weaved some magic around Emma, while still keeping a vigilant eye on Regina.
As the army began to walk back to the kingdom.
As Emma accompanied her parents.
As Emma gave her one last look.
As Regina was left alone.
Politics in this world were tricky. The monarchy still existed, but they could be voted out.
And that was Emma's plan. Formed en route back to the castle.
She would present herself as a candidate and throw her parents out.
But first, she had to get away from Blue and her attempts to reform her magic.
Once they had once again arrived in Storybrooke, Emma, her parents, and Blue, congregated inside the castle's War Room.
"It's dangerous!" the fairy insisted.
"And I have a good handle on it!" Emma retorted, eyes narrowed. She felt her magic beginning to flare up, but used all of her willpower to keep it in check. The last thing she needed was to prove Blue right just like that. Thankfully, she managed to keep it all tamped down.
Blue tutted. "It's dark magic, and it could have disastrous consequences."
Emma rounded to her parents. "It's simple. If you want me to stay, you'll get Blue to back off."
And her parents did. "Blue, if she says she's got it, perhaps we should trust her on it."
For a second, Emma actually wanted to believe that her parents had turned a new leaf. But the singular thought of that moment that her parents had locked her up after Halloween, thinking her to be a monster made her remember the shattering reality.
"Very well, but I'd advise you to keep an eye out-" Blue never got the chance to finish before a guard burst inside.
"Your Majesties! The-the Witch Queen has made a decree."
Emma's heart sank. It had been less than an hour since they had left. What was Regina up to?
"What is it?" David asked the guard.
"No humans are allowed into Mist Haven," the guard decreed.
Mary Margaret spluttered. "But...she can't do that!"
Emma raised an eyebrow. "As queen, I'm pretty sure she can."
Her mother gave her a passing glare, before she squared her shoulders and said, "Very well, then we will retaliate."
"No," Emma stated, figuring she knew where this was going.
"We can't allow this, Emma!" Mary Margaret said.
"So what, you'll outlaw monsters?"
"If need be, yes!"
"Even if that means your own daughter?"
David intervened by saying, "We wouldn't do that."
"But you would lock me up?" Emma uttered.
"We made a mistake. We panicked when we found out you had powers, but we will figure something out," Mary Margaret reassured her.
Then it dawned on Emma. "You're still planning on removing my powers."
No one answered, and then Emma looked to Blue. "You already did something to me, didn't you?"
Still, everyone kept quiet.
"Answer me!" Emma thundered, calling her magic to her hands.
But what came to the surface were merely a few wisps of smoke, where fire would have generally blossomed.
"Emma, please calm down," Mary Margaret pleaded.
Shaking, Emma retorted, "Not until someone tells me what exactly you guys did to me."
"Tell her, Blue," David said.
Blue decided to study her fingernails before admitting, "While your parents hugged you, I began weaving some magical dampeners. Your magic is slowly seeping out. Once it is fully out, I will begin the process to make it permanent."
Emma felt like she had been punched. "Stop it!"
"No. As I said, your magic is dangerous, and there's no reason for you to get corrupted."
"I am not corrupted!" Emma was getting tired of this old argument. "But I can see that Regina had the right idea."
Just as Emma began to turn around and leave, Blue called out, "You won't be able to get back in!"
Emma glared at Blue. "Watch me."
"You're mostly human now dear, by the time you get to the border, you'll be fully human. I doubt the patrols that witch set up will allow you through."
Someone cleared their throat, and everyone turned to the guard that was still standing there. "Actually...the Witch Queen has erected a spell. Any human that even gets close will be burnt alive. She said so herself. Well, screeched is more like it."
Blue looked satisfied. "I believe that makes my point even clearer. You're stuck here now."
But Emma wasn't going to give up so easily.
"Remind me again why you left?" Ruby asked. They were in Ruby and Lacey's house, seated in the living room while Lacey prepped some food for them.
"Because they were going to kill Regina. I couldn't let that happen to her," Emma explained.
"Because you love her."
Emma spluttered. "I don't...okay maybe I have a thing for her, but nonetheless, she's my friend!"
Ruby nodded slowly. From her side of the room, Lacey said, "So what's the plan? You can't go back."
"Right, but Ruby can," Emma said. "I was hoping that she could cross over and talk to Regina."
"Talk? To the Witch Queen?" Ruby shot up at hearing that, trepidation all over her face. "I love you Em, but...you did hear that she's gone mad, right?"
Indeed, Emma had heard harrowing tales that the Witch Queen had become the stuff of nightmares. After erecting the magical barrier to keep all humans out, she had apparently gone and burnt a tree to a crisp. Now, no one had seen the Queen for days, but she still made her presence known with frigid temperatures.
"Yeah, and that's why I need to talk to Regina...I need to explain to her what happened."
Lacey walked over to them, wiping her hands on a towel. "You didn't at the time?"
Emma grimaced. "She was injured. I just flew by the seat of my pants. I told her that it was the only way I'd get them to leave her alone, and that is true. I didn't think she'd go mad. For all we know, this is just her keeping up appearances. Everyone thought she was an old hag..."
"And I'm still not entirely unconvinced you're not blind as a bat," Ruby countered. At Emma's deadpan glare, she added, "Look, you know I'd go to bat for you, but right now, you have no way to get to the Poisoned Apple, and I'm not exactly going to poke the angry, potentially postal, hag on the off-chance she's actually sane, and willing to listen why you left."
Lacey placed her hand on Ruby's shoulder. "I think you should go. Plus, you said you wanted to visit your pack."
Ruby nodded. "I'm just worried about the return trip."
Emma bit her lip, wishing she had a vial of the teleportation potion. "I wish I could help. Otherwise I'd go with you."
"Don't worry, we'll figure this out."
Using Emma's inside knowledge of where guards would be posted, Ruby made her way into Mist Haven.
It was different now, the Witch Queen had literally parted the land, and made a singular foot bridge the only way in or out of Mist Haven from Storybrooke.
Ruby had transformed into a lycan before approaching the bridge.
"Halt! Stop right there!" Just as expected, there were human guards keeping an eye out on the bridge.
Ruby sped up as fast as her long legs could carry her, hearing the guards get their guns.
She knew they had silver bullets, and she didn't want to find out how badly they would hurt her.
As soon as she crossed the threshold, she felt the difference. Mist Haven looked bleak and forlorn, very different than the vibrant land she remembered.
She had felt a faint zap when she crossed the barrier, and imagined that a human would feel something infinitely worse.
She made her way to the Poisoned Apple, where she was greeted by a headless valet.
"Afternoon! Are you checking in?"
"No, I need an audience with the Queen."
The valet visibly gulped and shivered. "I'm afraid that's not possible miss."
"Why?" Ruby demanded.
Another voice responded, "Because she's not taking visitors at this time."
Ruby whipped around to look at the new speaker, and saw a familiar woman with green skin. "You...you were at the Halloween party last year."
"Indeed I was. And you are?"
"Ruby. Emma's friend?" Ruby responded.
Not exactly the reaction Ruby had been expecting, but she wasn't about to give in so easily. "Look, I know that what happened last week was harrowing, but Emma had her reasons."
The witch scoffed. "I'm certain. Is this why she sent you instead of coming herself?"
Ruby sighed. "Emma's powers are gone. She's human. And the barrier prevents her from coming through."
Still not entirely convinced, the witch fixed her with a glare. "I'll inform her. You may leave."
"But-" Ruby began, but she knew it was a moot point. She had been dismissed, and all she could hope is that the message actually got to the Queen, and that she forgave Emma. So she snapped her jaw shut and nodded, before scampering off.
"You think it's a trap?"
Regina sighed. She didn't know what to think. She just paced the room. The room that Emma had affectionately nicknamed 'The Lab of Doom'. Regina chastised herself - she was trying to avoid thinking about Emma.
"For all we know, she was merely following her idiotic parents' orders, and this was all part of an elaborate plan to discredit you and to expose you."
"She would have to be a hell of an actor for that," Regina said.
Zelena looked over at her sister. "Yes, or just get you head over heels enough to not pay attention."
"We're going in circles. We could continue to discuss this for the next decade, only she could tell the truth."
"Or feed you more lies," Zelena countered.
Regina huffed in frustration. She had been quicker to anger recently, which helped to sell the image that she had become unhinged. "Since when did you become the cynic?"
"Since you showed up stabbed and looking half dead because of her."
"I'm not much happier with how things ended between us. She left, and I-"
"Still want to go talk to her, don't you?" Zelena knew her sister all too well. "Because you still have feelings for her."
Unfortunately, as hard as she tried, Regina wasn't able to distance herself of her love for Emma. She was supposed to be the most respected - and now also the most feared - witch in all the lands. Emma had come in and barrelled right through her glamour and her persona, and showed her what love felt like. Until she left.
And then Regina felt betrayal. She felt like Emma had been the one that had stabbed her. Regina wanted to go because she wanted to demand an explanation. And that's exactly what she was going to do. So she marched over to the door, deciding that she would get the answers she needed.
"Whoa whoa, I love the gumption, but I will remind you that you are a persona non grata over in Storybrooke. How are you planning on getting to her?"
By way of answering, Regina transformed into a crow.
"Always so dramatic." Zelena rolled her eyes and walked over to the window, and brought her hands up to the clasp. Before she opened it though, she said, "Just make sure to get out as soon as you see trouble. Promise?"
Regina's caw was enough for Zelena, so she opened the window, and her sister flew off.
Emma was in bed, scrolling through her phone, when a crow loudly cawed at her windowsill.
She startled and nearly sent her phone flying, cursing herself for leaving the window open. "Damn birds."
Approaching the window, she was surprised the crow didn't fly off.
"Leave, begone, fly!" Emma tried. She waved her hand, but the crow just jumped to the side and kept steady on her ledge. "Seriously? I appreciate the aesthetic attempt, but I'm not a witch anymore. You should try Mist Haven."
The crow flew into her room, and Emma groaned. "You've got to be kidding me."
Before her very eyes, the crow landed on her bed, and purple smoke engulfed it. The next moment, Regina was standing beside her bed, her face a mask of apathy, sporting a black dress that somehow made her look sexy and scary all at once.
But Emma didn't care. She saw Regina, and her face immediately brightened, and she just launched herself to hug the other woman. "Oh thank gods you're okay! I was so worried."
When Regina didn't return the hug, Emma frowned and broke away. "Regina?"
"You left." Her voice was raspy from lack of use, but she didn't bother to clear her throat. "How could you have done that?"
Emma looked repentant. "I know, and I regret it. I just- I needed to save you."
Regina's brows furrowed in anger. "I don't need you to save me. I have taken care of myself for years, and don't need your chivalrous and reckless self to swoop in and save me."
"And yet you still did it?" Regina didn't want to raise her voice in case anyone overheard and came in to check, but she could feel her anger bubbling up inside.
"Yes, you were bleeding pretty badly. I knew they wouldn't stop." Emma bit her lip. "It was the only way I thought would allow them to leave you alone."
"By leaving? How could you think they wouldn't take advantage of that?" Regina asked. "Not to mention, I could have gotten us out of there and to safety."
"I knew that. I was expecting it. But you were bleeding and I didn't want you to keep fighting."
"That's for me to decide, don't you think?" Regina hissed.
Emma sighed. "Look, you want to keep acting all tough and cool, thinking you had it all under control, be my guest. But I saw you Regina. You were at death's door, and in that moment, anything was better than seeing you being hurt. So I did the only thing I thought I could. They wanted me. You were thrust in the middle because of me. So I left. And I wanted nothing more than to find a way back to you, but you put up the barrier, and my powers-" Emma couldn't even finish that sentence. "Point is, despite it all, I couldn't bear seeing you get hurt because my parents were so hellbent in getting me back, so I would rather endure them than seeing you bleeding out more."
Regina could feel the sincerity in Emma's words. Emma was genuinely demonstrating her predicament for Regina to understand that it wasn't some large ploy against her, and she couldn't find it in her heart to keep being angry at someone who so selflessly put herself in harm's way for her. "You would risk all of that for me?"
Emma let out a small chuckle. "And more."
"Do you go the distance for all your friends?" Regina asked.
"Sure, but I also it's more than that. Last week, I had gone to visit Lacey and Ruby because I needed their help with something."
"And what would that be?"
"How I could ask you out."
That made Regina pause. She had not been expecting that. "Ask me out?"
"You- You-" All of Regina's previous thoughts had vanished. In fact, her brain was short-circuiting.
"I know, hard to believe, but you're pretty likeable, your majesty," Emma riposted. "And your glamour didn't stand a chance against me. So yeah, once I got to know the real you, I was smitten, and I think you feel the same way."
Regina stepped up to Emma, and brought her hands to Emma's shoulders. "Please tell me this isn't a trick."
Without another word, Emma cupped Regina's face in her hands brought their lips together, relishing in their little kiss. "No tricks. I would never do that. I genuinely like you Regina, and I hope you do too."
With a few nods, Regina let out a laugh. "Yes, very much. I just felt so confused and hurt when you left. I know what you told me that day, but I couldn't understand why you would have done that."
"Love makes people do stupid things," Emma joked.
Regina playfully rolled her eyes and scoffed. "I can tell. But before anything, we need to get you out of here."
And Emma wanted nothing more than that. "What about my magic?"
That was a problem. "I'd teleport us back, so you don't have to worry about the barrier. As for your magic, do you still feel it?"
Emma shook her head. "It's been weaker every day, but by now, I don't feel it at all. She said she put a dampener."
"Ah, makes sense. Similar to the stunt you had before, but this is temporary, probably so she can later remove your powers without hurting you too much."
"So they'll come back," Emma
"Yes. Thankfully enough. Now, have your parents brought down the magic blocker?"
Regina gestured to her stomach. "I'm still recovering, so the least amount of action would be wisest. So if I can teleport us out of here from this room, then that would save us a lot of grief."
Emma made a dramatic pose. "So you can just whisk me away to have your way with me."
Regina smirked. "That I can do."
Next thing Emma knew, Regina had wrapped an around Emma's waist and purple smoke engulfed them, depositing them back in the Poisoned Apple. They were very thankful that Emma's parents were trusting and gullible enough that they lifted all the magical blockers after Emma's capture, allowing them to get away without much of an issue.
Zelena let out a yelp at their arrival. "I will bloody attach a bell on you one of these days."
And then she spotted Emma. "You were telling the truth then."
"Despite the fact that it could have gone terribly wrong and she could be in an infinitely worse position right now because of her recklessness," Regina added.
"But it did work," Emma reminded her.
"Still reckless," Regina insisted.
"Look, if it makes you worry so much, I'll be more careful."
Regina harrumphed. "I don't worry."
"Regina, it's okay for you to worry."
There were a few seconds of silence before Regina admitted, "Very well, I worry about you. Satisfied?"
Emma grinned victoriously. "Immensely."
Regina rolled her eyes, and turned to hide the blossoming smile on her face.
Zelena made a gagging sound. "I need to get back to my work. You lot make me nauseous."
After she left, Regina chuckled. "She's just being dramatic. Now, I should probably see if I can come up with a potion to restore your magic faster, and you should probably head to your room and get some rest, unless you need me for anything else?"
"Actually, there is, yeah."
"How about getting dinner together tomorrow night? Just you and me," Emma asked.
Regina blinked. "Dinner?"
"Yeah, I figured that we can still do couple-y things you know?" Emma willed her brain to not mess this up by rambling too much. Sure, Regina liked her, but she didn't want to freak the other woman out. There were still a multitude of things that could go wrong.
"I would love to," Regina said, kissing Emma on the cheek.
Emma beamed. "Great! Eight?"
"It's a date."
"You are aware that Emma's been an outright mess today?" Zelena was asking as her sister chose an outfit for her dinner with Emma.
Apparently, Emma had crashed into at least 3 valets, and scared half the maids as she tried to regain control of her magic once more by teleporting. But she hadn't managed to quite get it going again. If possible, she was even worse than when she first started out.
"Why? She couldn't possibly be that nervous," Regina responded, discarding yet another option.
Zelena rolled her eyes. "Right, because she totally doesn't feel completely out of her league and the reality that you said yes has sunk in."
Regina found an ensemble that suited her and scoffed. "That's preposterous, why would Emma feel that way? She is fearless and always speaks her own mind. I'm certain one date isn't going to make her cave."
"Because she's probably terrified of you rejecting her. You are known as the most feared witch in the lands."
"But Emma knows me, she's practically barrelled down my glamour," Regina spluttered as she changed. "And I've already said yes. What more could she want?"
As way of answering, Zelena walked over to her sister, and undid the necklace that held her pendant. "That. Want to show her that you trust her? Let her spend an evening with the real Regina."
And so, that's how Emma first saw how Regina truly looked like. Granted, while Emma had seen Regina practically unglamoured, this was an entirely different experience. She looked softer, less guarded, her deep brown eyes pulling Emma in.
"Hi," Emma greeted, taking in Regina's red blouse with a generous neckline. "You look gorgeous."
Regina smiled, and demurely said, "As do you."
She wasn't a fan of Emma's many tacky leather jackets, so seeing her wear a nice blue silk blouse was a pleasant change. Until she recalled she owned one exactly like it. "Did you raid my closet?"
Emma at least had the decency to look apologetic. "Not exactly. I used a duplicating spell because I own nothing that screams fancy and impressive."
"Is that so? And why did you feel the need to impress me?" Regina asked.
But Emma just smiled and said, "Because you told me once that you were hard to impress. Now, shall we?"
It would turn out to be a singular experience getting a table at one of the hotel's restaurants when no one knew that one of them was the Witch Queen.
"Sorry Miss Emma, we've been quite busy these past few days, plenty of people leaving Storybrooke you know, I don't have enough space for you and your friend."
Emma cursed, not wanting to look like an idiot. She had no idea she needed reservations, and she wasn't making a good impression thus far.
Regina placed a hand on Emma's arm. "It's okay, we can grab a bite somewhere else."
Emma acquiesced, and let Regina lead them out into the gardens, arms linked.
Not really liking the tense silence between them, Regina asked, "So, duplicating spell huh? You got your magic back?"
"Kinda. It's been all over the place. This was the only decent spell I managed to get. Teleporting resulted in me landing in weird places, and I won't even get started on the rest of my magic."
Regina chuckled. "One week shouldn't have made your magic so erratic. And you were a quick study in the beginning. Are you nervous?"
Emma stiffened. "What do you mean?"
"Nerves generally have a negative effect on magic. As it's harder to concentrate, it's harder to gather your magic and cast a spell. So, what's making you nervous?"
After debating whether or not to say it, Emma admitted, "Us."
Regina stopped walking and turned to look at Emma. "And why would you be nervous about us?"
"Because I didn't think you'd say yes, especially after everything you went through this week. And now I'm so nervous that I'll mess up and you'll regret it and-"
Emma's tirade was interrupted by Regina's searing kiss. It was enough to leave Emma breathless and stunned once they parted.
"Listen to me. I like you Emma, a lot. What hurt me so much from last week is that I thought I had given my heart to the wrong person. But after what you told me yesterday, I know you are genuine and that you care for me. I want this with you. So please, forget about the Witch Queen, or trying to impress me because you think I'm better than you or whatever else you might think. You have me, the real me. So don't overthink it, okay?"
"Okay." Emma took a deep breath, and next thing they knew, she had materialized a picnic basket to her hand. "So, how about a night-time picnic?"
Regina beamed. "I'd want nothing more. If you're not afraid of the monsters that might lurk in the shadows."
Emma let out a soft laugh. "I'm pretty sure I can take them on."
"Of course, my brave little swan."
And as they headed to the garden and settled down, neither of them knew of the rebellion they would be spearheading, or of how much things would change in so little time.