Authors Note: Gasp! Another non Captain Swan fic? What's wrong with me...
But, in my defense, Gremma was, like, the otp I would have died for before Killian came along. I was in denial over his death all the way up onto Season 2 (Still am sometimes *sigh*). So yes, I am a Captain Swan and Gremma shipper, and reserve every right to write about the both of them! (And don't even get me started on Irish Swan Trio).
Just come clarifications about this fic: It's an AU, there was never any curse, and Snow and Charming got to raise Emma (all other specifics are explained in the story). I'm using the more historical idea that girls married at a very young age during the times of monarchies and nobility so don't think I"m trying to be scandalous on purpose. And yes, Graham is meant to be older then Emma in this fic (But I am using the idea that him not having his heart allowed him not to age for sometime giving him a bit more youthful appearance. Just a bit).
I'm thinking this might be a 2 or 3 part story. Maybe even git a little M-rated at some point? Not sure yet but I'd love to her any suggestions.
As usual I own absolutely nothing.
And pretty please review and tell me what you think!
It was really a mistake that they even met at all.
Emma has heard stories of him of course, whether it be from people in town or her parents who were always quick to sing of his praises. He was always more like a character from some story rather than some living and breathing man that was capable of shaking her hand like anyone else. Not that they shook hands on their first meeting. It hadn't been even close to that kind of normal. She hadn't even known it was him.
It had been like any other normal day in the woods, the breeze cool and the trees providing perfect shade from the sun. It was just one of many of Emma's frequent escapes from life at the palace, the need to be alone and not the princess for five seconds too overwhelming to ignore. Her parents knew about it and understood and only asked she never stayed away for too long.
When Regina had still been the Evil Queen, they hadn't been so lenient. She could barely go to the bathroom along without some guard hovering by the doorway. But since her estranged step-grandmother met the famous outlaw Robin Hood, her ice cold heart began to beat with love again and her need for revenge and blood forgotten. (Of course family get togethers were still a little awkward and filled with their fair amount of tension and sarcasm).
So with peace now in the kingdom Emma could do as she pleased. Even the Dark One had disappeared some time ago, rumors spreading he had found a way to travel worlds. While she shouldn't complain-and she wasn't-Emma couldn't help but find life a tad…boring. Even the solace she usually found in the woods was beginning to wane. It was all becoming so…predictable. Uneventful. Balls were losing their splendor. Visits to foreign kingdoms becoming less exhilarating. There were no more caves or paths that she didn't know about, creatures she hadn't encountered, or seas she hadn't ventured across.
Granted, she was only twenty-two, fairly young if you asked Emma. And yet, she felt a little silly when her mind wandered to such pessimistic musings. But, alas, despite her youth she couldn't help but feel…old. And it was only due to the fact of her comparing herself to her mother and all her friends. Snow White and Prince Charming, everyone knew, met each other when they had been eighteen years old. They had fallen in love, gotten married, and fought against the Evil Queen to reclaim their kingdom and bring happiness back to the Enchanted Forest. Her Aunt Cinderella had met her Uncle Thomas when she been sixteen and the two managed to imprison the Dark One (granted, he managed to escape but it was still an adventure in Emma's book). Then there was her Aunt Aurora who had married at fifteen-fifteen-but Emma supposed she shouldn't be too bitter over that fact since right after the wedding day (literally right after) the wicked Maleficent cursed Aurora into a slumber that lasted two years until Philip (who she had also cursed) came and woke her with True Love's kiss. Then everyone of course knew of Queen Elsa of Arendale and her sister Princess Ana and the frosty adventure they had gone through (again at an age much younger then Emma).
Maybe it wasn't fair to compare herself to all the others. Emma, at least, tried to console herself with this thought. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. When she had met him it had been one of the latter days.
Emma knew she didn't need a man to be happy. Of course she knew that. What did make her upset, though, was her loneliness. Not only did she not have a love, but neither did she have any friends. Her parent's friends-her extended family-of course loved her and she them but they were all older and couldn't provide the mutual companionship-understanding-she needed. There were her "cousins" of course, other princes and princesses but they were all so far apart and visits so infrequent that Emma was, more often than not, alone. Pinocchio, who she had thought would always be her best friend, left the castle at the age of fifteen (she had been eleven) to travel the land with his father. The only relationship they had now was reduced to the sporadic letter. Her parents, of course, had a solution to her ailment: get married. But everyone Emma knew-everyone-had True Love so there was no way she would settle for less. There had been no sparks with would be suitors or the occasional flirts in town. No one to make her blush or her heart beat faster. There had just been….no one.
Emma had squeezed herself into the crook of a tree, sighing and moping, and daydreaming of a life full of love and friendship, when the wolf had came upon her.
Her father was rather fond of dogs and had a whole pack in the castle, so she knew when a canine was being playful or not. So when the wolf, with fur as white as snow and eyes as red as blood, had pounced on her-quit literally pounced on her-Emma had gasped with surprise rather than fear. It was playful leap, not a vicious one, his relaxed form and lolling tongue immediately giving it away. After her initial surprise Emma let out a laugh-both at herself and at the wolf-and gently placed her hands on his furry neck.
"Why hello there," She greeted with a smile and began to smooth her palms up and down his surprisingly soft coat. "Aren't you the friendly one?"
"He usually isn't this way towards strangers," A lilting voice said quietly.
Emma, again, jolted with shock. Not only had the wolf managed to startle her but now some stranger-by the sound of it, a man. Fantastic. She must be more off today then she realized. Not even squirrels could usually creep up on her without her knowing it.
Before Emma rose to see just who she was dealing with (she was very much submerged into the trunk of the tree that nature had sunk deep into the ground), she first subtly checked the dagger strapped to her thigh. Her bow and arrow she had already taken off and laid to the side so they'd be no help now. Her father was Prince Charming, though, and her mother Snow White. She could handle herself in a fight with a rock if need be.
"Brother" The voice said again and the wolf promptly jumped off her body and retreated toward who Emma assumed was his master.
Gathering her nerves and sucking in an breath of air, Emma rose up from her position and put on an air of indifference.
It was a man. Curly brown hair, dark brown eyes, and stubble Emma wasn't use to seeing since most men of nobility liked to remain clean shaven. He was older then her, by the looks of it, but by how much, Emma could not tell. It was odd, actually, considering Emma was very good at reading people but this man….there was something off. Something mysterious. She couldn't quite place her finger on it and it was that more than anything else which was annoying her.
In her scrutiny of him Emma hadn't noticed just how much time had passed of her just starring.
The man gave a small smile of amusement. "Hello" He said in the same quiet tone he had been using.
"Hel…lo" She replied back, just as softly.
He tipped his head to the side, assessing her with just as much curiosity that Emma was giving him. "Not very safe for a Princess such as yourself to be out here alone in the woods."
So, he knew who she was. Not exactly a good sign but not bad either…yet. "I'm not your average Princess," Emma decided to give as a reply. Not denial and also not fear.
His smile seemed to deepen, if only but a little. "No, I suppose you're not."
"How do you know who I am?"
The question prompted a bit of uncertainty to finally enter his features. "It's not important. I'm sorry my brother bothered you in your solitude. We'll be going now."
The sight of him turning away from her, taking away the warmth of his eyes and smile, made a sudden and unexplainable fear grip at Emma's heart. "Wait," She took a step forward, her feet acting on their own accord. "Who are you?"
He stopped moving but didn't torn to face her either, the question seemingly not warranting enough respect to do so. "No one of importance"
The way he said it was so…so sad. Like it hurt him to utter the words, to even ponder the thought, yet he felt obligated to do so. Even worse, he truly believed it. Which made it all the more tragic.
Emma wanted to reach forward, place her hand on his shoulder and turn him around. She wanted to embrace him and make him believe that, yes, he was important. Maybe she didn't know him but that didn't change anything. Everyone was important, no matter what.
But before she could do a thing he was gone.
Emma didn't mention the chance encounter to her parents. To anyone really. It had been strange, practically uneventful, yet it had unexplainably titled Emma's world on its axis. She couldn't explain it at all. She knew nothing about the mysterious man and yet her mind wandered to him in every free moment.
He had looked at her with fondness, with curiosity. He knew her somehow, she felt it deep in her bones, yet how remained to be unseen.
Emma's visits into the forest became more frequent after that. She wouldn't admit it to herself but she knew, deep down, it was so she could possibly run into him again. But she never did.
At least not for two months.
Emma had near given up hope. The whole quest was stupid to begin with and her frustration at herself and the situation had reached its peak. It was already dark out, a little too dark and a little too late, and she hadn't been paying attention.
The upturned root had come out of nowhere.
Then her face was in the dirt. Her tights were ripping at the knees. And her ankle was really not supposed to be twisting that way.
"Damn it all," Emma cried out into the quiet night. What a mess. Dirty, wounded, and to top it all off crying. Only because it hurt so damn much, not because she was upset (okay, maybe she was a little upset).
And trying to get up proved to be a very bad idea.
Her ankle twisted even more and her scream became even louder. No way she could walk like this. Now what was she going to do?
"I think you may have broken it."
Emma thought she might have been hallucinating, too much pain and tears could do that to you. But no, it was him. Appearing again out of nowhere with not the slightest hint of sound. He was on the ground near her foot, examining the source of all her pain.
His fingers gently probed at her skin but not gently enough.
Emma hissed in pain and he immediately withdrew his hand. "Yes, it's broken."
"Pretty much figured that out, thanks." She snapped, the words heavy with sarcasm and anger.
He smiled in amusement. "You know I'm the only one out here this late to help right now, I'd be a little nicer."
"My parents would have sent people eventually,"
"Eventually," The main pointed out. "Which means you would have spent how long here waiting and withering in agony."
Emma scoffed. "I wouldn't call it agony."
His finger poked her out of nowhere and a gasp of pain burst from her mouth before she could stop it.
"Alright, alright," She wheezed. "I guess I could use your help."
"And I guess that's how cordial I can expect you to be. Come on now," His arms were then under her body, soft but firm and urging her up.
"The castle is too far away," Emma protested weakly. Damn, the ankle hurt even more now that she was up on her feet (Or foot she should say).
He was a stronger then she had expected, lifting her body up like it weighed no more than a feather. And for a brief moment, when he had put her upright and their bodies pressed intimately together, Emma forgot about the throbbing pain coming from her foot. They were so…close. Even at balls when she had danced with so many other men it had never been this…close. She felt him everywhere. His broad chest, firm muscles, burning warmth, and the smell! It was intoxicating.
Emma's mouth slacked open, overwhelmed in every sense of the word, and had she had her feet more firmly placed in reality she would have noticed that he was noticing her. Like an open book, he saw the effect he was having on her and grew…hesitant. He couldn't let her go because she couldn't stand on her own yet he didn't want to encourage her any further with their closeness.
"Emma," He said, a clear warning.
Maybe she should have been embarrassed. Had it been anyone else, maybe she would have. But for some reason, because it was him, she wasn't. "That's not fair," She whispered, her face unconsciously hovering closer to his. "You know my name but I don't know yours."
His frown grew deeper yet he didn't stop her movement or make any of his own. "Graham" He replied, not even thinking about it. "At least, it was the name I was given."
Emma's brow furrowed. "What an odd thing to say."
Graham shook his head. "It's…not important. We need to get you somewhere to rest so I can tend to that wound. We can send word to your parents that you're safe for the night."
A laugh bubbled up her throat. "You think my parents will be happy to hear I'm spending the night, wounded, with a strange man in the woods?"
"You'd be surprised," Graham murmured like it was some inside joke. It kind of sounded like one actually. "Now come with me,"
Emma winced and whimpered all the way to the cave Graham brought her to. He got immensely concerned with each sound she made and kept trying to pick her up but she would have none of it. She was already acting weird enough with his arms supporting her; she couldn't trust herself with them carrying her, cradling him to his chest.
They did finally make it though and Emma was thoroughly exhausted when they did. Mentally and physically. And the pain was definitely not helping.
The cave wasn't much but it was obviously was where Graham was lodging at the moment. There was a fire pit and two large furry pelts beside it, looking so warm and soft and inviting Emma nearly ran to them before she realized she couldn't.
Thankfully Graham guessed exactly what she needed and gently laid her down on the one pelt of murky brown fur. Wordlessly, he went to work on making her a splint, healing and bandaging her wound to the best of his abilities. It was a pretty good job. She had seen healers at the castle work on similar cases and this looked just as good if not better.
"You're tired," Graham said once he was done. He was right. "Get some rest, I'll make sure the message is delivered to your parents."
"This is your bed though," Emma protested, but her body was already sagging into the warmth.
Graham chuckled but didn't reply, just got up and left the cave.
Emma frowned at the abrupt, and unexplained, departure. She placed her head down on the fur but willed her eyes to remain open until he returned. He did, after an agonizing five minutes, and frowned when he saw her still awake.
"It's cold," She replied a bit childishly. It was cold. It was in the middle of winter. She had actually been lucky on more than one count that Graham had come upon her in her time of need. Not only would she have been in pain waiting for someone else to find her, but she would have been freezing as well.
Graham strode over to her a grabbed the other pelt, this one grey and black in color, and draped it over her body.
"Still cold," Emma sighed.
"Emma" He chided, giving her a very unimpressed look.
Apparently ever bit of shame had left her body. "Some body warmth wouldn't hurt. Besides, where were you supposed to sleep anyway?"
"I'm not going to-"
"Not even with me asking so nicely?"
"You're not asking, you're ordering."
"Well I am the Princess."
A sigh blew past his lips. "I should stay awake, keep watch-"
"For what? You know as well as I do these woods are harmless."
"Will come in the morning, I'm safely assuming. That doesn't really solve the problem of right here and now."
It was like she cast a spell. The simple word, uttered so sweetly next to his name, seemed to do him in. His shoulders sagged, his stubbornness waned, and he took off his coat with a defeated sigh. Defeated, maybe, upset? That remained to be unseen.
Emma did her best to hide her smile as he walked over to her, stepping over her body to place himself between she and the rock wall of the cave. Of course, he didn't try to place himself beneath the grey and black pelt or let the smallest brush of their bodies happen.
Emma rolled her eyes.
"You're doing a justice to your kingdom not letting their Princess freeze to death," She said aloud. "But you actually have to help her, you know, not freeze to death."
She heard him huff. "You're the demanding one aren't you?"
"Some men like an assertive woman."
To that he made no reply. He only slid under the pelt and, without anymore preamble, encircled his arms around her waist.
It was so warm so quick. Emma hummed in contentment, pressing her back more firmly against his chest. Their bodies seemed to move on their own accord at that point, moving to fit together like pieces of a puzzle that had been long forgotten. His knees bent and pushed at the backs of her legs, twisting them together so that Emma didn't know where she began and Graham ended. Her backside slipped snuggly into his lap, the grip of his arms grew tighter, and his face slid next to hers till their cheeks were pressed together.
The tremble that ripped through Emma's body couldn't be stopped.
"Sleep Emma," Graham whispered, their breaths mingling together.
It was the last thing she wanted to do, but she was helpless against the exhaustion that immediately pulled her under.
"Emma, Emma honey, wake up."
The first thing she was aware of was the lack of warmth that had been pressed up against her all night. Which meant Graham was gone. Which made her very unhappy.
She blinked an eye open to see her mother looking down at her with concern. "Mother?"
"Finally! Emma we were so worried about you."
The pelt was ripped off her body and the harsh cold air was on her body in an instant. "Mother!"
"I just want to see your ankle," Snow said, her eyes and hands already focused on the body part in question. "He bandaged it very well. I didn't expect anything less."
Why did that sound like she knew Graham?
"Come, let me help you up. Your father is outside waiting for us."
The ankle still hurt like hell and her mother had a bit more difficulty assisting her than Graham did, but the two managed well enough and made it outside. Her father was there waiting, holding the reins to his and Snow's horses, and talking to Graham with a smile on his face. Talking to Graham with more of a familiarity then he should have. Talking to Graham like he was a friend.
"Emma," David said when his eyes landed on her. "We were so worried about you."
He immediately took her from Snow, bearing the weight of her body with much more ease. When his arm slipped around her waist he placed a lingering kiss to her temple.
"I had to stop your father from riding out into the night he was so worried," Snow informed with a chuckle. "Perhaps I would have let him had I thought you weren't in good hands."
Graham ducked his head modestly.
Snow placed a gently hand to his shoulder. "Old friend, you have done so much for our family yet you never let us return the favor."
Wait, old friend?
"And I never will," Graham said quite seriously. "There's never any need to."
"Come back to the castle with us, at least" David implored. "Stay with us for a while. You'll be attended to-"
"That's not necessary. Appreciated, but not necessary."
Snow sighed. "Huntsman-"
"Huntsman!" Emma exclaimed. Then everything clicked into place. How had she not noticed before? The wolf. The familiarity with her. Knowing who she was, who her parents were. Why they allowed her to stay the night with him. How they had talked to each other now. This was the Huntsman, the man who spared her mother's life and hadn't taken her heart to the Evil Queen. The man who helped her father escape Regina's castle. The man who, quite literally, lost his heart for the sake of her family. "You're the…Huntsman."
Graham met her eyes sadly-apologetically.
"That's right," Her father said, oblivious to the weight the situation currently took on. "The two of you never formally met."
"We've talked about you so much," Snow laughed softly. "We felt like Emma already knew you."
I do know you Emma thought. But how true was that? Besides the stories she did barely know the man standing before her. Yet, when she was with him, she felt like she had known him for her whole life. It was unexplainable.
"I thought you would have introduced yourself by now," David said, still good naturedly yet there was a sneaking suspicion to his tone. It was odd, after all, Graham wouldn't have told her his connection to her family.
"The moment never arose," Emma said before Graham could even ponder a response. "I was in a lot of pain last night and I-I practically past out."
David squeezed her reassuringly. "Of course. Now come, let's get you home so you can be safe and warm in your own bed. Huntsman, are you sure you won't come back with us?"
He was going to say no again, Emma could see the word about to fall from the tip of his tongue, and every fiber in her body screamed at her to stop it before it happened.
"Please do," She said, a bit desperately. Her parents noticed the tone with raised eyebrows. "It's just…" Emma bit her lip. "You did so much for me and-and I would really like-I mean, appreciate it, if you would-would come back with us. If only for a little."
Nervousness blossomed in her chest. She didn't know what she would do if he said no. She couldn't even entertain the idea for a second. He had to say yes. She couldn't not see him again. For him to disappear somewhere into the woods for another two months-maybe even longer this time.
"Are you giving me an order Princess?"
Her lips curved into the smile the moment the teasing tone hit her ears. He hadn't said it yet, but she already knew his answer.
"Well lucky for you some men like an assertive woman."
Neither of them paid attention to her parents and their questioning looks. Neither of them paid attention to how absurd this relationship was rapidly becoming. All they paid attention to was each other, his warm brown eyes and her vibrant green ones locked onto to each other and gleaming with a hope of something new and something exciting.
And finally, after so long, Emma felt the emptiness that had been eating away at her beginning to be filled up with something new.