It was still dark outside when Regina was awoken to the sound of a little whimper next to her ear. She squinted her eyes in the dim room, lit only by the glow of the fire still burning for warmth, and found the source of the sound: the little wolf who'd curled up next to Red a few hours earlier was now back in her human form, and had apparently found her way out of her sleep dress, as she now stood naked beside Regina's bed, staring at her with wide eyes.
"What's wrong, Princess?" Regina asked, her voice husky from sleep, as she sat up.
Emma took a step back from the bed at Regina's sudden movement, but didn't take her eyes off of her. She whimpered again, bouncing her weight from one foot to the other, a look of urgency on her face.
Regina sighed. Even if the girl wouldn't - or couldn't - speak, she knew just enough about small children to recognize what that little dance was all about. "Oh," Regina said, nodding as she threw back the blankets and shifted to the edge of the bed, her feet quickly finding the hard floor. "Come along, then."
Regina smiled to herself as she started to make her way to the en suite bathroom, and the little girl actually followed. She wondered, however, if she'd woken her up because she was confused about where to go when she wasn't out in the woods, or if, at some point, she had lived in a home with other humans - or even werewolves - and the memories were still stored in her mind, somewhere.
Emma's confusion at the sight of the chamberpot silenced that little hope, as she stared at it like she'd never seen anything like that before in her life. Regina supposed she must not have then.
It took a fair bit of prompting, but Regina finally convinced Emma to sit on the pot, and though she praised her when she actually used it - as she was sure that's what you were supposed to do - Emma just cocked her head to the side and regarded Regina with a look of confusion, mixed with intrigue.
Regina sighed. "I wish I had a way to communicate with you, Princess. I wish I knew that you were understanding me."
If Emma understood, she gave no indication as she jumped back up on her feet, and changed back into her little white wolf, stretching her limbs and shaking her fur out. She pranced up to Regina like she wanted to play, hopping around and nipping at her feet.
In spite of herself, and the hour, Regina couldn't help but smile. "Do you have any idea how late it is?" Regina asked, raising an eyebrow as she crouched down closer to Emma's level. As if on instinct, Emma stopped jumping around and took several steps back, causing Regina to sigh again. "It's alright," Regina insisted, holding her hand out, palm up, to Emma.
Emma hesitated for a moment, before slowly approaching Regina's outstretched hand, assessing the threat level of the situation and apparently deciding there was none, as she stretched her neck forward slightly and nuzzled her warm cheek into Regina's palm.
"Oh, this is progress," Regina said, softly, a little surprised that the little wolf had made this move at all. Regina scratched her cheek a few times before moving her hand to stroke the soft, silky fur on Emma's head.
The little pup let out a contented sound deep in her throat, and her greenish-yellow eyes closed slightly, the sudden bout of energy seeming to dissipate back into sleepiness.
"I'm not surprised you're sleepy," Regina commented, as she slowly stood to head back into her bedchambers. "It's been a very long day. Look, Red's waiting for you."
Sure enough, Red was up and pacing the floor like a worried Mama wolf looking for her pup. Regina didn't know what it felt like in wolf form, but she knew several of Red's animalistic instincts took over, and Red's protectiveness was ingrained in every fibre of her being. "It's alright," Regina said, running her fingers through the fur on Red's head this time. "She's right here."
Regina stepped out of the way and let Emma sleepily trot back over to Red. She stood and watched them curl up together again on the rug on the floor, silently wishing she could be a part of that. Her bed felt lonely whenever Red wasn't in it, and it was exponentially more lonely when she knew Red was only a few feet away, instead of laying behind her, pressed up against her back, her long legs intertwined with Regina's and her strong arms wrapped around her middle.
Regina had never liked being held. It had always felt suffocating to her, and for several months, she'd pushed Red off any time she'd tried. Somehow, in her sleep, Red always seemed to find her way back to her Queen, wrapping her limbs around her in a way that Regina had to admit, didn't feel suffocating. It felt safe.
She couldn't exactly remember when she'd grown to like it, or when the last time she'd felt the need to push Red off of her. It had been months, she was sure. It had been such a natural progression that she'd grown so accustomed to it without really paying attention to the change.
Now, however, curling up on her side alone in her cold bed, she missed Red's warm body in a way she'd never felt before. Any time Red didn't share her bed, it was because she was off on some sort of mission that took her away from the palace, and Regina spent more time than worrying for her safety than she did missing her arms around her.
Regina blinked in the dim light, before rolling over to face the other way, away from the two wolves already fast asleep on the floor.
Something was going to have to change her, she'd already decided. She couldn't just accept losing her bedmate, though she couldn't very well just force the pup to sleep on her own in a strange place - not after all she'd been through.
Regina was going to have to think of something else.
When morning came, Regina awoke to the sound of a shrill howling. This wasn't the sound of a wolf however, and when she rolled over to see what the commotion was, she was greeted by the sight of Red and Emma back in their human forms, and Red seemed quite intent on forcing Emma back into her night gown. Emma, on the other hand, was quite insistent that she wanted no part of that.
"We'll have to have a seamstress come in," Regina commented, offhandedly, as she rose from her bed. "So she can have some clothes of her own."
Red turned and raised an eyebrow. "You think she's gonna stand still for that?"
Regina looked at the little girl. She'd stopped fighting and was staring at Regina, one arm in her night gown and the other still out.
"Well, I didn't say today," Regina replied, stepping over to the little girl and pulled her bare arm through the other sleeve. "Can you take her down for breakfast? I have some things to attend to this morning."
Red nodded as she stood, and held her hand out for the little girl to take. Regina watched as they stared at each other for a moment, and guessed that they were speaking telepathically again. Once they were gone, Regina set about getting herself changed, so that she could get down to business.
After breakfast, I'll show you around the palace grounds, Little One.
Emma clung fast to Red's hand as they walked. The halls had been nearly empty when they'd made the trek for a late dinner the night before, but now that morning had arrived, the palace was bustling with servants and staff going about their daily jobs. Everyone seemed a little on edge, and Red knew that the news of the slaughtered wolves had made its way around by now. Several of the Queen's staff were werewolves as well, so Red forced herself to put on a brave face as she walked, knowing that they would be looking for her for support.
A little voice broke through Red's consciousness, and though she hadn't heard it much, she was beginning to recognize it as belonging to the little one beside her.
We will see her later, Little One. Just you and me right now.
Emma nodded, before looking up at Red, quizzically. She wolf?
Red smiled and shook her head. No, she's not a wolf, Little One. But she's good to wolves, and you're safe here. She's not going to let anyone hurt you, and neither will I.
Emma seemed to think on that as they entered the dining room. She was silent until a plate of food was placed in front of her, and she looked up at Red for a cue on how to eat it.
Just eat it, Little One, Red said. She wasn't overly concerned with how the child ate just yet, more that she did. She was sure there would be time for everything once the child was settled.
Red stared at the girl for a moment. She seemed to old to be speaking in two-word sentences, but really, Red was amazed that she could communicate at all. Surely, she must have spent time with werewolves before being adopted into the family of wolves. Perhaps she really did have a family and a name at one time.
That's what the Queen has been calling you, because we don't know your name. Do you have a name?
Emma stared blankly, without answering.
A name, Little One, something people call you. My name is Red. The Queen's name is Regina. What's your name?
Emma didn't answer, and opted to turn her attention to the food in front of her instead, reaching her hand right into the bowl of oatmeal and berries before her. Red was glad that the cook had opted to give her a cooler bowl so she didn't burn herself, but she'd absolutely have to get her cleaned up before they saw the Queen again.
After breakfast, Red took Emma to Snow's old bedroom. The child seemed to relax, and Red guessed it was because there were no other people in that wing of the palace, as it had been boarded up for years.
The hallways were dim and dusty, but Emma didn't seem to mind. Once they reached Snow's old room, Red began tearing through large crates of clothing, looking for things that might fit the child.
How about this? Red held up a pair of tan pants and a plain white cotton tunic. The vast majority of Snow's old clothing were ornate dresses with lacy frills and crinoline, and Red was sure Emma would not be fond of the feeling of any of those things against her skin.
Emma showed no visible reaction to the clothing, but this time, she at least didn't fight Red off as she got her dressed.
Once she was dressed, Red walked her all around the palace grounds, showing her the stables and explaining who people were. Emma was interested in the horses, though she had no interest in any of the people they passed.
By lunch, Red hadn't heard any word from Regina as to what she should do with the child now, so once they had eaten, she took Emma by the hand and set off in search of the Queen.
Regina stared at the vial in her hand. It had taken her all morning to get the formulation correct, and now she had finally succeeded and was inspecting the pale amber liquid when she heard the heavy door open behind her.
"My Queen," Red greeted, with a small nod as she entered the room, her tiny blonde shadow in tow. "What… are you doing?"
Regina swallowed as she turned, and held up the vial for Red to see. "It's a… lycanthropy potion."
"Regina!" Red gasped.
"It's temporary," Regina insisted, pre-emptively warding off whatever reasons Red was about to give her as to why this was a terrible idea. "It will only last a day or so. I just… I want to be able to talk to her."
Red sighed. "How does it work? Are you going to… change?"
Regina shrugged. "Hard to say. It's not a well-known spell. It took me nearly all morning to even find it. But it should allow me to communicate at the very least."
"It's going to let you tap into the collective lupine consciousness?"
"It should." Regina nodded. "Wish me luck."
Before Red could say another word, Regina drank the potion. It was bitter, but she choked it down anyway. She'd drunk much more vile potions in her life, and this wasn't without good reason.
The moment she swallowed it, she felt a warmth start to radiate outward from her chest. Regina took a deep breath, immediately noticing how much stronger the smells in the room were. She swore she could pick up the scent of herbs and oils on the shelves on the other side of the room, as if her sense of smell had suddenly been dramatically heightened.
She didn't have time to process that, however, as a more pervasive sensation came over her. She felt sharp pains in her joints and bones, as if her body were being stretched and contorted out of it's shape. Moments later, she found herself much lower to the ground, down on all fours, nearly eye level with the little blonde who stared back at her in miraculous wonder.
She guessed it must have worked then.
Regina blinked a couple times, getting used to new eyes that seemed to see things differently. The colours around her were diminished, almost as though she were seeing in black and white, but everything seemed impossibly clear as well. She found herself picking up on the slightest movements - the slightest squeeze of Red's fingers, gripping the little girl's hand just a bit tighter - that would have otherwise gone completely unnoticed.
Regina also noted that she could hear everything. She could hear Red's breathing as well as the little girl's, and she could hear people walking through the hallways of her palace, though she was sure they must be dozens of yards away.
In a word, it was intense.
In spite of herself, Regina let out out a low, rumbling growl. The little girl in front of her ducked behind Red's legs at the sound, and Regina felt Red's hand on her head.
It was Red's voice in her head, and Regina was suddenly acutely aware of how shallow her own breathing had become and how fast her heart was pounding in her chest.
Regina wasn't sure if she was actually speaking out to Red, or just thinking it in her own head, but in any event, Red dropped to her knees before her, meeting her at eye level.
It's alright. Calm down, and focus on your human form. You have to will yourself to change back.
Regina closed her eyes. She supposed it couldn't really be all that different than controlling her magic. She focused, and moments later she felt herself transforming again. It was an odd and uncomfortable feeling, like she was losing circulation throughout her whole body at once, but in an instant, it was over.
Alright. Maybe that was a bad idea.
Red smirked. Oh, I don't think so.
Because it worked.
Regina gasped as she realized they weren't speaking out loud. It had worked, and she has managed to tap, somewhat, into the lupine consciousness. She couldn't hear their thoughts they way Red had described it to her before, but she could definitely hear Red's voice in her own head, and Red could clearly hear hers.
Regina smiled as she crouched down again, bringing herself down to eye-level with the little girl still half hiding behind Red's legs, but whose green eyes were wide with curiosity now, not fear.
Hello, there, Princess.
Regina waited with anticipation, and after several moments she was about to give up hope as the child stayed silent, until she heard the unmistakeable sound of a little girl's voice resounding in her head.
To be continued…. In the next chapter, Red and Regina will learn more about Emma's past, and how she ended up where she is now. I hope you enjoyed and I'll try to get the next update out a little quicker this time! Thanks for reading!
Also, if anyone is interested, you can find me on Tumblr as rowark-sq … feel free to send me prompts or just come say 'hi' and be my friend! Until next time...