“We could have stayed in bed.”
“You could have,” she replied and patted her belly. “We needed to eat.”
“We could have eaten in bed.”
“I wanted something other than boiled mackerel.”
“I learned how to cook other stuff, sort of, so we could have, in fact, stayed in bed.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “We could have but we didn’t. Move on.”
He pulled the chain from around his neck and held it out to her.
She shook her head. “Talk first.”
“Fine.” He snatched back the necklace then mumbled quietly. “But we could have stayed in bed.”
The chill in the air retreated at sunrise and Regina shed the blanket she had grabbed last night. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling had given way to sitting under her apple tree staring at the night sky.
Last night the past haunted her. Believing in the possibility of redemption was easier than the pursuit of it. Every step she had taken, every decision she had made changed her, created who she was now and she couldn’t regret it, fully. Refused to do so but the wake of destruction behind her was bound to continually disrupt their lives.
A bright and beautiful day was dawning but it would surely be an utter disaster.
Leaving the blanket behind Regina transported herself back to her room. Her eyes felt gritty and dry from the long sleepless night. Splashing water on her face only helped a bit. Happy endings were for stories, happy beginnings were just the start of the next one and for a soul as black as hers the road to redemption was filled with pot holes from past horrors.
Leaving her on her own last night had been a terrible mistake.
But it wasn’t the end of the world. No, not the end of the world. Robin and Roland would be waiting for her today and Henry would walk her down the aisle to the bower Snow White had built for her. Her sister and Emma would stand at her side and Regina would finally make promises to a man she loved.
The knock on the door came as the beautiful day fully dawned.
“Come in, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“You have made me leave a perfectly lovely bed.”
“And we will not be returning to it or the countless number of pleasurable activities we can enjoy in it any time soon.”
“Yes.” She rolled her hand for him to go on. “And.”
“And now you have the audacity to sit across from me?” His voice rose at the end of his complaint.
“Yeah, I do.” She worked hard to contain her amusement at the utter disgust of his expression. “Wow, the last time I saw that face was when Regina told us about her and the Dark One’s chemistry.”
“How can you bring up such an appalling notion?” His eyes closed as he fell back into his chair. “I think I may faint.”
“Stop being a drama queen.”
Snow walked around the cart, checking its contents and the wheels. Yesterday she had dragged Charming out to the forest with her to prepare for today’s wedding. This last load was flowers and garlands to be set out this morning for the afternoon wedding. She was pleased with how the wildflowers and roses looked bundled together.
“You know, your majesty, you put an awful lot into this wedding.”
Snow wrinkled her nose at Leroy’s frowning face and picked up a flower that had fallen to the ground.
“Come on, sister. You told us just enough that we know trouble’s coming.” He tossed a look over his shoulder. “I don’t like sitting around waiting for it.”
“Geez, Leroy, tell me how you really feel.”
“I’m just sayin’. Now’s not the time to be fussing with some wedding.” Grumpy pulled his hat from his head and fiddled with the brim. “We should be on high alert. Maybe making a run for it.”
Snow glared at the dwarf, a beloved friend but that hadn’t blinded her to his irritating quirks.
“We aren’t in immediate danger.” She waved his concerns away. “And there were too many times we went from one crisis to the next. Trouble is out there and we’re ready for it.” The skeptical look on Leroy’s face made Snow roll her eyes. “Fine, we will be ready.”
“Whatever you say, your majesty.”
“A little respect would be nice. I had to pull strings just to get you and your brothers invited,” Snow groused at his retreating back. “We need this.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Charming placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re up early.”
“I want everything to be perfect.” She looked up at her husband.
“Then it will be.”
Snow’s eyes narrowed.
“I have complete faith in you?”
“That shouldn’t be a question.”
“It wasn’t?” David took her hand in his. “Mostly. We’ve had three months of quiet. Whatever is going on isn’t going to happen suddenly.”
“You don’t know that.” Her hand gripped his tightly, her knuckles whitening. “You don’t.”
He squeezed her hand back. “I hope.”
“I know, just sometimes…”
He pulled her toward the castle doors. “We’re together, we know who we are, what our history is…”
“Mostly.” She cut him off.
He nodded and pushed the doors open. “…and it might not be someone out to get us this time. Think of all the people who were caught in consequences of our story. It’s our turn.”
“I know.” Snow crossed in front of him. “I know I shouldn’t let Grumpy get to me.”
“What we should have done was let him stay on the island.”
“It was just a thought.”
A sigh escaped her and she pulled him along by his arm. “Let’s go get ready for the wedding.”
“I was kidding.”
“Sure you were.”
Killian stopped pacing around the middlemist meadow and stole a glance at Emma as she picked flowers.
It was a pretty picture to be treated to after all their time apart. They had covered the facts of the matter but a distance grew between them. Killian wished they had remained in bed.
“You should just ask and get it over with.”
At her words he realized that while he had been staring at her, he hadn’t seen her. Killian focused beyond the pretty picture his princess presented. She wore a calm mask that was just as bad as the cold wall she put between them yesterday. Her every movement slow and deliberate.
Crossing to her, he crouched down and slid the flower she just plucked from her hand. Lifting it to his nose he inhaled the sweet scent then held it to hers for a sniff. Her mask dropped a bit and a small smile lifted one side of her mouth. Emma looked into his eyes as she inhaled the fragrance of the flower.
“I’m supposed to get it over with.” Killian bopped her on the nose with the bud. “What about you?”
“I wasn’t the one pacing.” She grabbed the flower from him and placed it in the basket with a shrug.
“Not talking about things was something we weren’t going to do. Anymore.”
She turned and reached out to place her palm on his cheek. “That’s not what I’m doing.” Her palm slid down till her fingernails scratched along the scruff of his beard. “I just don’t have anything I want to ask.” Her hand cupped his jaw and held him still as she considered.
“You, however, know the questions plaguing my mind?”
Emma nudged him back and he let himself fall onto the ground. “Yeah I do. We had peace for while when you asked me about, well, the thing you asked me. I didn’t say no but I made the “face”.” She left her hands hanging in the air after she did the air quotes. “Whatever that is.”
“You have always had an expressive face for a woman with such high walls.” Killian teased her, shrugging without concern at her nose scrunch of distaste. “At least to me.”
She waved a hand. “Whatever. The point is, after that...”
“After that I started the game.” He leaned back on his hands and kicked his legs out in front of him.
“We,” she corrected.
Killian saluted her. “We. Over more months of peace and quiet.”
“Quiet? That beer stein thing wasn’t quiet.”
“But hardly a real problem.”
“You didn’t think so when my mom got her hands on it.”
“Honestly, your parents should never drink. Which reminds me, what happened with your father and the dwarves at the tavern?” The question escaped him quickly and when he caught his wife’s glare he barely contained his flinch. “Annnddd nothing to do with anything.”
Emma’s hand drifted down to the basket of flowers she collected to shift through them. “Nothing to do with the question you want to ask me.”
“I asked if we could remain in bed and see where that got me.” Killian closed his eyes and let himself fall onto his back, hitting the ground with a thump. “Well if you know my question, then I know your answers.”
He nodded. “Word for word.” Killian heard the rustle of her clothes and a change in the air as Emma moved closer. He opened his eyes to find her leaning over him, her face close to his. “Come closer love.” Shaking her head, Emma’s eyes traced the features of his face while he reclined below her with a raised brow and his best “I’m irresistible” smirk.
Killian watched her stop an eye rolling response, only to be captured by her glance down and away, her lashes fluttering before her eyes lifted back up to his. It wiped the smirk from his face and trapped the breath in his chest. His eyes closing as his lips puckered and he lifted up for her kiss.
He tasted nothing but air.
Emma sat with her arms crossed. “You’re really sure you know my answers?”
He didn’t answer. He just sat up with his lips still pursed for a kiss, waiting.
“Then I’ll ask and you answer.” He smiled in response but she had a condition. “No extra time to think.”
Killian held out his hand and Emma shook it. “We have an accord love.”
Belle smiled as she poured another spot of tea then offered the pot to Milah.
Since returning, she and Neal had taken their morning meal at the castle. It was safe enough as Rumple was an early riser who rarely lingered at the table. The company of mother and son had been a treat Belle hoped would continue whenever they were here.
Milah gave the offered pot a suspicious look but mumbled a thank you and yawned.
As little time as they had spent together, Belle remained sure that the woman viewed her with a great deal of suspicion. She had no clue how she had made such an impression but from everything she observed, Milah found her strange. As it caused her a great deal of mirth, Belle made sure to be extra attentive and courteous.
“Toast?” Belle asked holding out a platter and smiling when she received a grunt in reply. “Is there anything you need for this afternoon’s wedding?”
Milah shook her head and exchanged a look with Neal, both ill at ease with the topic. “Fact is I don’t think I should be going.”
“Mom.” Neal floundered and turned to Belle for help.
“You need to be there.”
“I’ll end up throwing things or something equally as bad.”
Belle let the two bicker back and forth as she considered what was best. Throwing things would be bad but there was no time like the present to start being a member of the family. Plus, Rumple and Regina, not to mention Emma, could handle anything thrown their way, magically speaking. She sipped her tea and concluded there was only one real concern.
Belle posed the question quietly. “Will it hurt you?” It cut through mother and son’s bickering.
“Will what hurt?” Her response was short and barbed. “The point is…”
Belle rolled her eyes and Milah stopped whatever nonsense she was spouting. “Emma has never hidden behind anyone and, even without magic, she’s always been a force to reckon with.” She lifted her cup to her lips. “The question is can you emotionally handle the wedding. And it’s something both of you should think about. It is no place for a fit of jealousy.”
Neal stared down the table and his mother glared.
Belle ignored them and stood to pull Gideon from his chair. “Killian will be there with Emma.”
The room echoed with the sound of porcelain cracking. Neal pulled the cup from Milah’s hand and set it gently on the table.
“We get that,” Neal added, sitting back in his chair. “It’ll be a little weird but –“
“But nothing Bae,” Milah stopped him. “I’m a danger so I will not be going.”
“Three of the most powerful people in this realm will be at the wedding. From what I’ve been told your anger might be have a magical component but you yourself aren’t capable of causing something truly catastrophic.”
“I thought a wedding wasn’t the place for a fit?” Milah crossed her arms and pushed herself away from the table. “Throwing things makes quite the scene.”
Neal examined the cracked cup. “So we’ll make sure your hands stay free. Belle’s the smartest person I know and she’s right. Is this going to hurt you? Seeing them?”
“No, it’s not like that.” Shrugging, Milah smiled softly at her son. “You know it’s not like that, not for me or for you.”
Gideon squirmed in Belle’s arms. “Excellent. We’ll leave just after lunch then.”
Neal made a face. “We’re all going together?”
A single brow lifted as Belle turned to leave. “Two carriages.” She could feel their stares on her back and waited past the doorway where they couldn’t see her.
“That woman is frightening.”
“She always struck me as determined and smart.”
“That’s what I said.”