Just before dawn Milah had grabbed a lantern and set out to a bluff with her supplies to capture dawn. The sight had been as beautiful as any morning she had welcomed at sea and she gave herself to it. The swipes of her brush were swift and uninhibited.
Walking back to Bae’s cottage, the canvas taunted her with every step. It was too bright, too swirly, too emotional. She wanted to slam it against the nearest rock, destroying the frame and any evidence of the beautiful dawn. Every time her hand clenched around the piece with destruction in mind, she’d see beyond her own mental chaos to the beauty of it. The conflict continued all the way to the front door and inside the cottage where Milah placed it on her easel, turning her back on it.
Milah’s head whipped around to catch Bae’s greeting and she grimaced. The paint wasn’t dry enough to cover it. “Good morning.”
“Good afternoon.” He corrected her. “It’s not my fault time passes when you’re having fun.”
“Who said anything about fun,” she shot back. “I’ve been painting, over on the bluffs to the north.”
Bae looked over at the easel. “Yeah that doesn’t look fun.”
“It’s an appalling mess of paint which barely looks like anything.”
“Looks like it would go for a few million dollars if we could fake its age.” Bae held up his hands. “Kidding, kind of. It’s amazing Mom. Like something a French impressionist or modern artist would do.”
Milah scoffed at his words and pumped water into the basin to wash her hands. “I don’t paint like that.”
“Apparently you do.” Bae stared at the painting. “Not quite the photo-quality stuff you’ve been doing. What’d you do? Paint your feelings?” He received no answer other than the clatter of furious scrubbing. Bae rested his back against the basin’s counter, leaning to the side to look at her face. “You did, didn’t you?”
Milah dropped brushes into the sink and walked away from him, ending up right in front of the problem she didn’t wish to face. Chaos and paint and anger and love and beauty all swirled together in the dawn of morning. She wanted to hate it. Milah felt Bae next to her and sighed when he wrapped an arm around her shoulders in a half hug. “I don’t paint with feelings. It’s an intellectual pursuit.”
Bae shrugged. “I saw your drawings on the Jolly Roger once, they seem a kind of emotionally driven.”
“Those were the ones I never sold and were just for me. The things I cared about.” She glanced at him from the side. “The things I left behind. Some feeling but mostly, practice sketches.”
“It’s one hell of a painting.”
“Thank you,” she said primly. “I think.”
Bae nudged her side. “It’s time to go.”
Milah ducked past the painting and into her room to grab a satchel. Stuffing a shawl and other odds and ends into it she called out. “Cutting it a little close aren’t we? I mean, unless the Jolly Roger is taking us there?” She was slinging the bag across her body when she came out of her room. Bae stood waiting at the closed door with his hand resting on a decorative knob on the door frame. “So?”
Bae grinned. “The dwarves installed this while we were in Storybrooke and I don’t know when but someone got it up and running.”
Milah tilted her head to the side and raised a brow. She hoped he would ignore the way her hands twisted the strap of her satchel.
Bae didn’t. “Do I need to check the bag for weapons?”
“Not even a dagger for dinner.”
“Thanks Mom.” Bae grinned. “Watch this.” He pulled the knob out from the frame with an audible click and spun it all the way around before pushing it back in and swinging the front door open.
Milah stared at the scene beyond the doorway. Belle was coming down stairs in a round stone room with Gideon in her arms and there was an open door with sunlight pouring through.
“Is it real?” She waved at Belle.
“Very.” Bae took her hand and tugged her through the doorway. “It’s not always open but this is how we get to Emma’s island. When we’re invited.”
She closed the door, running her hand over a similar decorative knob of wood. Pulling it out with a click, she copied Bae’s spin and pushed it in before opening the door again. Milah pulled her satchel over her head, dropping it in the closet before her.
“Excellent,” Rumple rolled the words off his tongue. “You’re here on time and you’ve locked up behind you. Let’s go.”
Bae rolled his eyes at his father and stole his little brother from Belle to head out into the sunlight. Belle and Rumple followed behind.
Milah blinked at the brightness of the sun from the doorway. Once her eyes adjusted the garden came into focus and the murmur of the wind brought the sound of voices closer. In the distance there were more towers of varying heights, stone walls linking them but it was the garden or field or whatever that held her attention. Granted they seemed to be as far away from everything else as possible but the paths in front of her seemed to lead into a never-ending garden. She couldn’t stop trying to measure the space.
“Come on, dearie,” Rumple trilled from a bend in the path. “It’s a small island but there’s plenty of twists and turns to take an unwary soul off course.”
With a roll of her eyes, Milah followed the Dark One and his bookworm deeper into the garden.
“I blame you.”
David’s shoulders hunched at his wife’s words and he flinched at the metal clang of sword hitting sword.
Regina’s icy tones came from somewhere behind him. “I blame you as well.” She ignored Robin’s attempt to hide his mirth with a cough and poked the king in the side. “How did this seem like a good idea?”
David rolled his shoulders back and concentrated on the bout. “I’d like to see either one of you stop Emma from doing what Emma wants to do.”
Killian knocked her thrust away, spun and caught her from behind with a grin.
Regina rolled her eyes. “I don’t know how you can stand to watch them flirt like this.”
“I wouldn’t call it flirting really,” Snow said, directing her comment to Regina. The two women remained quiet trying to catch the whispered words of the two sparring and sharing a look when the pirate grunted and Emma spun away from his hold.
“I don’t think that move will work on the any true villain love.” Killian grinned wider.
“It just had to work on you,” she shot back with a smirk. Licking his lips, he quickly adjusted his grip on the cutlass and went on the attack.
David did his best to ignore the two women standing on either side of him. It was a sparring match no matter what they thought, even with Regina now fanning herself. “Its not like they haven’t been doing this when we aren’t here,” he grumbled.
Snow didn’t even hesitate or think about his precious baby girl complex. “Oh I don’t think this is the kind ‘sparring’ they’ve been doing without us.”
“We could call it wrestling,” Regina suggested and Robin no longer hid his laughter.
“I’m standing here too you know,” Henry spoke up from his seat on the sidelines of the match. “If you don’t care about Grandpa’s feelings maybe we could all work on not scaring me for life?”
David felt himself relax, knowing his wife and stepmother-in-law would back off for Henry’s sake. Regina left to go join Henry, gracefully lowering herself onto the ground next to him and wrapping an arm around him.
Snow patted his lower back and leaned up to press a kiss to his cheek. “I’m going to go help Zelena wrangle the kids before I give in and shoot Killian.”
Turning to watch her walk away, he caught Robin passing off Roland to Snow and reached out a hand when the forest lord joined him. “Congratulations, again.”
“Thanks mate.” Robin nodded his head at the two fighters once again locked close together, sword pushing against sword. “Have they been like this for a while now?”
David sighed and rolled his eyes at the stubborn pair. “Yeah, and I know they’re flirting. I just prefer to ignore it.”
Robin glanced between the king and the match before shrugging. “I suppose I can understand.” Killian groan interrupted his thought and both men grimaced at his pain. “How much longer are they going to…” Robin gestured to the practice bout where Killian was kneeling and holding his side as Emma grinned smugly at him.
A small smile at his daughter gaining the upper hand graced the king’s face but disappeared as he looked over at Robin. “We’re waiting on Belle and Neal and so on.” He watched the pirate swiftly get to his feet, returning his wife’s grin, and beginning a new attack. He felt the thief nudge his side and turned his head to looking across the practice field.
A greeting was about to leave his lips when David caught Milah coming down the path behind Neal and his family. Her eyes traveled restlessly around the clearing before they found Killian and a small smile appeared on her face. It seemed she would be able to handle this meeting. David greeted Gold when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
Regina stood abruptly and sent Henry scrambling to his feet. David’s gaze moved back to Milah who was staring at his daughter. They all froze for a moment, waiting and hoping that this woman who carried such hate would unclench her hands.
Only the sparring match between husband and wife continued, the clash of thrusting and parrying swords and quick breathing filling the clearing of the practice field. Emma and Killian ended up losing their swords and she lifted her fists ready to continue the fight.
Killian rolled his eyes at her. “Really, love.” He shifted his weight to one side and stood with his hands at his hips. “This fight is over and it’s a tie.”
Emma lowered her hands with a laugh. That’s when she heard everyone shouting at once.