For forthecoast, who prompted OUaT, Snow/Charming, basically after I asked her to. So here it is. I like this one. The prompt is "Will you meet me at midnight?" I think I really like playing with this pairing actually. Hope you all like it.
Will you meet me at midnight?
The first time he found himself in the woods again it was almost an accident.
He'd just had to get out of the castle for a while. That was all. His bride to be wasn't exactly companionable. She was far more interested in planning the wedding of the century than getting to know her groom.
James understood that it was important to her, but that didn't mean that he wanted to watch his future wife yell at various staff when the flowers weren't appropriate or if the musicians were deemed incompetent.
So he snuck out.
He knew it was late. He knew that the woods could be dangerous at this time of night, but he needed to take the risk.
He needed to do something for himself, not his country, not his adoptive father.
Even if that something was simply a solitary moonlit ride through the forest around the castle.
He came across her quite by chance.
She surprised him (and his horse) by dropping out of a tree beside him when he slowed to admire the moon through the trees.
"You're out late," Snow said with a smile, obviously amused that she'd startled him.
When his heart finally calmed enough to answer, James smiled at her. "I could say the same thing about you."
She shrugged. "I'm always out late."
He winced, realizing his mistake. "Are you alright?" he asked in concern. He worried about her sometimes, all alone in these woods.
Her eyes warmed. "I'm fine," she assured him. "I get by. Whereas you, what brings you out of your palace this evening."
"Sometimes palace living isn't all it's cracked up to be," he admitted. "Well, you know."
"Actually, I loved living in the palace," Snow told him
James resisted the urge to wince again. He felt like he was saying all of the wrong things. On the other hand, she was still standing next to him and she hadn't attacked, so maybe not. "You're right, it's mostly the wedding plans driving me to distraction," he said, trying to joke.
Snow smirked. "Your bride to be making life difficult?"
Loyalty and honour prevented him from answering that question truthfully. "It's more the decorating committee that I'm finding a little overwhelming. At least I don't have to deal with crepe and tulle out here."
That made her laugh, as James had hoped it would. Though he was fairly certain she'd seen right through his lie. She didn't mention it though. Why would she? It did no one any good to dwell on it. Whatever his heart might want, he had to marry, and he had to marry Midas' daughter.
Laughing, elf-like, princesses in exile were irrelevant.
No matter how much he enjoyed their company.
James shook himself. He'd promised himself an hour for himself. An hour where he didn't worry about whatever was going on in what would soon be his palace.
"So," he said with a grin. "Would you like to join me for a stroll through the woods? We can discuss anything you like that doesn't involve centrepieces or floral arrangements."
She laughed again. "Alright, Charming," she said playfully. "Although I'm not sure how I feel about you putting restrictions on conversation."
He smiled at the silly nickname. And he realized he'd talk about anything she wanted to. "Very well," he said gravely. "If the lady wishes to discuss the merits of iris versus lilies, far be it from to deny her."
Snow White smiled. "I've always preferred roses myself," she said softly. "But come on. Follow me and I'll show you the highlights of the forest. Maybe staring at some of the wonders of nature will put things back in perspective for you."
"It's certainly worth a try," he agreed, falling in step beside her.
Somehow, thanks to his new tour guide, James' one hour turned into over two.
During their second meeting she told him about her father.
This time he found her. (There was less dropping out of trees and scaring him half to death that way.)
He didn't know how he knew, but he knew she was around, so he put his rudimentary tracking skills to good use.
Snow seemed pleased to see him, if a little surprised. Still, she let him tag along as she went searching for edible mushrooms.
"So," he said companionably, as he held her basket. "What do you miss most about the palace life then? The personal chefs?"
Snow laughed, then her face turned serious. "I miss my father," she admitted, glancing at him.
Suddenly James was solemn. "I've heard he was an excellent man. A truly great king."
"Thank you. He was," Snow admitted. "He cared more about our country, our people than himself. He was wise and just, or at least he did his best to be. I feel like nothing was beneath his notice. He used to tell me how important it was to care for the people. After all, without a country behind him, even the greatest king was nothing. I miss him horribly. The only mistake he ever made was to marry the woman who betrayed him, who betrayed both of us."
"Is he the reason you stay in hiding then?" James asked curiously.
Snow looked up in surprise.
James shrugged. "He taught you to put your people above yourself. Surely open war with the Queen is in no one's best interests, except perhaps your own."
"I had hoped that with me gone she might be able to rule fairly; perhaps I was too optimistic," Snow said sadly.
"Or noble. If it's any consolation, even her machinations haven't been able to completely turn your people against you," Charming said tentatively. "Not all of them at least."
"It's small consolation," Snow admitted. "Even if duty can be lonely sometimes."
Charming grabbed her hand and squeezed it, feeling suddenly less alone. "I know it sounds trite, but I understand. Believe me, I understand. I lost my mother."
Snow frowned. "Yes, I heard about that," she said softly. "It wasn't long ago either, was it?"
Charming swallowed. "It still feels recent. I think it always will."
Snow watched him for a moment, sympathy written across her face. Then she slipped her arm into his. "Walk with me, James," she whispered.
It worried him how easy it was to fall in step beside her.
Their third meeting wasn't so serious.
James figured they both knew somehow that they needed it.
So they sat on a log eating nuts and tossing the shells at squirrels.
He may have even let himself get suckered into a game of tag.
Not that he put up too much of a fight.
Chasing her was fun.
It was their fourth meeting that he told her about his name.
"My name isn't James," he blurted out one day, as they were sitting together on a log.
Snow looked up in surprise. "What?" she asked.
"My name isn't James," he repeated.
"And I'm assuming you're not about to tell me that it really is Charming," she joked.
He shook his head. "No. It's David."
She frowned in confusion. "Then why did you tell me that..."
"James was my twin brother. Rumplestiltskin procured him, I guess you'd say, for the King and Queen. They needed an heir, my parents were poor. I didn't even know he existed until a few weeks ago, when he died. And I was brought in to take his place," David explained, pleased to finally be able to use his own name with someone, even if it was only for an hour a week.
"Are you serious?" Snow asked, clearly shocked.
David nodded. "I think it's part of the reason I'm having so much trouble adjusting to life at Midas' palace. Up until three weeks ago I was herding sheep. It's a big secret of course. Who knows what Midas would do if he found out, and my father's desperate to save the country."
Snow put a hand on his forearm. "I'm sorry David." There was nothing else to say.
He glanced over. "Thank you."
"Why tell me then?" Snow White asked gently.
David shrugged. "You're an outlaw, who're you going to tell?"
She smiled wryly, "Who indeed?"
"Plus I trust you," he added awkwardly. He did trust her. He probably shouldn't, at least not with this, but he did.
"Despite the fact that I robbed you and hit you in the head with a rock on our first meeting?" Snow wondered, trying to lighten the mood.
"And saved my life on our second," David agreed.
"Hmm. You saved mine too," Snow pointed out.
David ignored that. He'd never regret saving her. It had been the right thing to do, no matter what she'd done. He met her eyes, "I guess I felt like I needed to tell someone. And I thought you might understand what it's like to lose the only life you knew."
Snow stared at him a moment, then she smiled. "Guess we're both outlaws then."
After that he stopped keeping track of the meetings.
Neither of them were keeping track any more.
They both knew they weren't about to stop.
Meeting each other somehow became a routine.
It didn't even matter who found who.
They always made their way to each other.
At first the time wasn't set.
It was whenever David felt too restless cooped up in the Castle, when he needed to be out in the woods, with her.
Neither of them really wanted to formalize a time, didn't want to admit how important their meetings were becoming. As long as they were random, it was fine.
But they started to converge on a time anyway, though both refused to admit it.
Because with each passing week their meeting time would get closer and closer to midnight.
Sometimes earlier, and sometimes later, but always near it.
And that was particularly dangerous.
Meetings at midnight were serious. They were life-changing, the stuff of destiny. Things happened at midnight, important things. Spells were lifted, or set. People fulfilled quests or failed. Maybe it was simply the delivery of a message. Whatever it was, midnight changed things, and people.
And that was what the two of them were approaching, without admitting it.
They even had their own special place to meet, the bridge over the river.
Charming would have felt guiltier about it all had he thought his bride to be would even care.
As it was, it just felt right.
"You're my best friend, you know?" he said suddenly, sitting beside her on the bridge, watching the river flow beneath hem.
"You're my only friend," she countered.
He smiled. "If I can only have one, I'm glad it's you."
Snow bit her lip, trying to decide whether or not to ask the question. "What does your wife think you're doing every night?"
Charming shrugged, "I doubt she even notices I'm gone."
Snow cleared her throat, "So why..."
"Are you going to try and tell me that there's nothing you wouldn't sacrifice for the good of your country, your people?" David asked.
Snow looked down. "My sacrifice didn't succeed, remember."
He took her hand. "But you still tried to make it."
She looked down at their hands. "I should leave these woods," she told him.
David felt his heart stop.
"It would be safer," she explained. "Much safer. I should leave, but I can't."
He squeezed her fingers as tightly as he dared. "I'd find you," he told her softly.
"For how long?" she asked hoarsely.
He didn't have an answer for her. He wasn't free to give the one he wanted to.
Later, as he was mounting his horse, she uncharacteristically called after him.
He turned immediately.
"Would you meet me at midnight?" she asked, heart racing.
He started. She'd never asked, neither of them had. "Of course," he promised.
She nodded once. He barely saw it in the dim light, before disappearing into the woods.
He watched her go. As usual, unable to keep his eyes off of her.
Their last meeting, she met him with a determined look on her face.
"Things have to change," she told him.
His heart sunk. He'd always known it was coming...
"I have to fight," she continued. "I have to try. I can't hide anymore. When it was just my life, when I thought it would help my people... I thought I could give it up. I was happy to give it up. But it's not just me," she said her voice low. "It goes so far beyond me. I can't ignore it anymore; I can't hide, and hope it goes away. I've thought about it long and hard. I have to fight for the happy endings."
"I thought happy endings didn't exist anymore," he said, heart racing.
She met his eyes. "So did I. But if there's even the slightest chance left, I have to try, don't I?"
David hardly dared answer. "Yes."
Suddenly she smiled, "I thought so. I have to go."
"So soon?" he asked, trying to ignore the ache in his chest.
Snow nodded, and David could tell she liked the idea about as much as she did. "I have plans to carry out."
"If there's anything I can do..." he offered tentatively.
"I know," she whispered. "I don't know when we'll meet again."
"I'll find you. If ever you need anything, I'll find you," he promised almost desperately.
Suddenly she was smiling softly. "I was counting on that."
Then, to his great shock Snow reached up and kissed him firmly on the lips.
"Goodbye Charming," she whispered.
With that she whisked out of sight again.
Charming watched her go, praying that it wouldn't be the last time he saw her.
Praying that there'd be other midnight meetings.
Praying that she could find a way to save their happy ending.