Author's Note: As promised. The next chapter. Hope it is to your liking. Thank you to all who read and reviewed the last chapter. It took me a very long time to write (three weeks or so) that battle and I'm glad that you found something to enjoy within it or hate. Or love to hate. However that may be. Thank you for all the compliments on the details. It means a lot!

2nd Author's Note: On my profile page there is a poll up for the 'naming' of Steven/Maleficent. I asked for people to submit their ideas for the couples name and put all of them up for people to vote on. So when you're done reading please take a moment to cast a vote. Oh and Swan Queen did not beat Faberry in the After Ellen tournament. But I've had so many people ask for a sequel for Magical Mishaps Happen I've said I'll write one. Just don't expect it to be posted as quickly as the original. ;-)

So without further ado, here is the next chapter only 27 hours later. ;-)

Chapter 23
'The Aftermath'

"Emma!" Red screamed as she elbowed and shoved her way into the center of the room where General Raul remained, his sword tip against the throat of the only living traitor.

"Where…" Red whispered, panicked. "Where would she take her?" Red demanded answers of the General in front of her, her voice a deep grumbling growl.

She would tear him limb from limb if he didn't speak the truth to her immediately.

"You should have let me kill the witch!" The traitor hacked back and spit at Raul's leg, his mouth bloody from where Raul had used the pommel of his sword to break the man's nose.

"Do not mistake me, traitor. I have killed men for merely looking at my Queen aggressively. You have raised a hand to her. You will find death only when I will it." The energy around Raul was strong, his anger radiating off him assuring the traitor his threats should be taken seriously. "You have betrayed your Queen, your fellow men, why?"

The traitor laughed maniacally, no answer forthcoming from him.

Red hated being ignored. She often was kept silenced by people who she considered friends. She was willing to take their disrespect because she knew them, but she would not take such disrespect from others.

She pushed her hand hard against the imposing General, his weight shifting at the shove. Her temper was already beyond her control, her emotions a roller coaster of fun with the full moon rising in the sky. Her skin itched as her cloak kept her from transforming.

"I asked you a question, General!"

The traitor tried to take this opportunity to escape. He pulled a blade from his boot but before he could move to cut his own throat Red had a firm grip on his wrist. She broke it with a snap, the dagger clattering to the floor as the traitor screamed in agony.

Raul was in shock as the traitor screamed his pain, clutching at his broken wrist with his good hand. Raul's eyes slowly looked to the woman who had easily snapped a man's bones, not even an ounce of effort showing in her actions. He truly took a gander at the woman growling at him like a snarling beast. The red cloak, defined features and high cheekbones; she was the face of Red's Wood, an ally to the Dark Forest. Judging by how easily she had snapped the traitor's bones she was not to be overlooked.

"Forgive my ignorance, my lady. The Queen has taken her savior to the capitol where she will be tended to properly by the best healers the Dark Kingdom has to offer."

Red's heart stopped, the capitol of the Dark Forest was still an unmapped territory. They—Snow and James—had the maps of what the area once looked like when Queen Lily had lived and reigned over the territory. However it was nothing like it had been before.

Regina had changed much of the terrain to keep the location of her capitol city and her palace hidden. Not even Blue Fairy could penetrate some of the barriers the Dark Queen had erected around a large expanse of land, too large for them to pinpoint her exact location. It was a smart tactic for a wanted woman.

Even if Red could get word to Snow and James it would take days, maybe weeks, to find Regina's palace.

Raul, sensing Red's growing distress quickly tried to appease the woman, "The woman shall be returned as soon as she has healed." He knew his Queen to be a fair ruler. Regina would treat the injured woman as an extension of herself.

Red stared at Raul, peering into his eyes. He seemed confused with her worry over Emma, 'the woman'. As if he hadn't the faintest clue that the 'savior' of his Queen was the future Queen of the White Kingdom.

"She is your family." Red nodded her head once, curtly. Suddenly he seemed to understand her worry, "She is in capable hands."

Red was thankful Raul was uninformed. The chaos that had captured and room would help keep this incident quiet. No one knew Emma was in the city save for Red, and now Regina. And Red knew how to get in touch with Regina.

If Regina was looking to kidnap the White Princess, her goddaughter, then the treaty Red had signed with Regina was null and void. Even with the magic lacing the contracts.

Emma was not only the heir of the White and Grassland Kingdoms but of Red's Wood as well. Red had no biological heir and had decreed on Emma's 16th birthday that should she never come to have an heir of her own, Red's Wood would be left to Emma. It was certainly the best birthday present any of the younger generation had received on their 16th birthdays.

Regina recognized Red's Wood as its own Kingdom rather than a territory like the other monarchs, and thus in Regina's opinion Emma would inherit the title of Queen of Red's Wood with Red's passing or succession.

Hopefully, in an effort to salvage the treaty with Red's Wood, Red could negotiate Emma's release and return before widespread knowledge of her disappearance became known. Surly Regina would not kill the woman, who'd saved her, would she?

Red didn't know anyone so heartless that they'd try and kill the person who'd just risked their own life to save theirs.

Raul bowed his head, "Excuse me, my Lady but my attentions are needed elsewhere." His eyes slid to the sobbing man at both of their feet.

Growling, Red left Raul to his prisoner. She had patients she needed to tend to and a negotiation to handle with Regina.


Regina appeared inside the war council room. Rickman and several of the Lieutenants and Captains that had stayed in the palace were present and staring into one of the larger mirrors watching the chaos in Raceen ebb. Sealy giving them front row seats to all he could, all anxious being the ones left behind.

The sound Regina's crackling magic and Emma's yowl of pain caused the men in the room to turn away from the images Sealy was showing them.

Sealy himself appeared in the visage of the mirror as he tried to see around the men who rushed to their Queen's aide.

"My Queen!"

"I need Gaius. Get me Gaius!" Regina demanded of her soldiers before the smoke had completely cleared from her transportation.

Two of the younger Captains sped from the room to search the palace for the royal healer. The old man was as ancient as this castle but was loyal and had eagerly returned to Regina's employ when she returned.

Gaius had been the healer to oversee Regina's birth although his higher station and reverence amongst the healing community made it an unusual service. Gaius was present during the birth of many great Kings, Queens, knights, mages, and witches. For Gaius to see to Regina's mother as she gave birth, a disinherited lady of court who chose love of a miller over her station, was peculiar.

"Here, let us get her settled." Travis, a second Lieutenant and his cousin Jackson went to help lift Emma off of the floor to prepare her for Gaius.

The two men had hardly even touched Emma's skin when they were forcefully removed, their feet still firm upon the ground even as their bodies slid away from the fallen woman and their Queen.

"Don't touch her." Regina growled at the two men, her eyes black as she remained upon her knees, Emma's cheek against her thigh.

She felt Emma's breath ghost across her pant legs, the warmth growing the longer Emma leaned against her.

Emma's right hand was tight against Regina's waist beneath her armor. The blonde's fingers were locked tightly upon the material of her shirt. Emma squeezed it with each breath she took in obvious pain.

Emma's body began to quiver and shake; cold with the amount of blood she had lost. The sight and feel of Emma's body slowly giving out put Regina's heart inside her throat with worry.

Rickman was slower than the two young lads, sensing just how dangerous their Queen was when she felt vulnerable or was frightened. Her body was coiled like that of a cobra before it sprung at unsuspecting prey.

Rickman's gaze slid to his Queen whose eyes were frantic and breathing ragged. Her color was as pale as the bleeding woman before them. There were dark circles heavily pronounced under Regina's eyes which were glassy. It wasn't sorrow that caused the haze to cover Regina's eyes but exhaustion. Her body was weak, run ragged with the heavy amount of magic she had used when she had so little left to give and still it coursed through her. The magic flowed through her veins around her muscles to her finger tips and her eyes.

As Rickman's eyes took in his Queen's appearance he saw movement beneath the surface of her skin. There were slithering slivers of black moving through Regina's veins, the color offsetting against the Queen's usually tan skin. He had never seen the Queen's magic move so violently through her system and he had been present for many of her magical feats.

"My Queen?" Rickman lowered himself to his knees a foot away from the injured woman the Queen protected valiantly. "May I attempt to staunch the blood flow?" He asked as his hands remained at his sides, awaiting her answer.

Regina tore her eyes away from the sight of the arrow shaft sticking out of Emma's back, the crimson liquid now pooling on the cool floor of her war room. She looked into Rickman's compassionate eyes and inclined her head, her movement stiff.

Rickman bowed his head low in thanks before he moved closer to the fallen blonde. He ripped off the sleeves of his shirt and rolled them into a ball. He held the material down against the wound the arrow caused, the blood seeping out around the shaft that remained.

Emma twitched at the pain her legs thrashing out, moving her up the bend of Regina's knee, her grip on Regina's shirt tightening as she shook with the pain.

"Eh…Regina." Emma moaned as she squeezed her eyes closed and pushed her forehead against Regina's bent leg. Her face was smudged with ash and soot with two strips of clean skin, the grime cleaned away by her tears.

Regina grit her teeth as Emma spoke her name in such agony. Her grip on Emma's arm tightened as she glared darkly at the man who had caused Emma more pain.

"I am sorry, miss." Richman apologized quickly, his eyes only leaving the soaking cloth of his former sleeves when hurried footsteps echoed in from the halls.

"Gaius will be here momentarily, Majesty." Sealy promised as he appeared in the mirror once more, his concern evident by the crease in his brow and edge to his voice.

Gaius, although older then Merlin himself, was light on his feet his. As he entered the room he arrived with his much younger apprentice at his side. His white hair still retained a natural curve to it even while it thinned upon his head. His face was wrinkled and worn with his age and wisdom.

"Oh my…" Gaius breathed in a shocked breath at the sight of Regina kneeling before a wounded warrior. "Boys," Gaius pointed to Travis and Jackson, snapping his fingers to get their attention. "Help me lift her. The boys behind me have a board. We must get her to my chambers." Gaius waved the men towards Emma clapping his hands to get them to move faster. "Anton, return to the rooms, prepare for surgery." The apprentice left with his orders.

Regina allowed Travis and Jackson to approach Emma, her eyes weary of the two men even with Gaius' instructions.

Regina's eyes narrowed with her suspicion as the magic around her hands fizzled against her palms, unable to do more than that with how weak she was.

Gaius' hand was gentle upon her back, pulling her attention away from the three men as they lifted Emma up into their arms evenly distributing her weight. One of the Captains Regina had sent looking for Gaius entered with a board wide and long enough to support Emma's full frame. Once upon the board the soldiers carried the weight on their shoulders and moved more swiftly out the doors.

"She will be taken care of. As will you, come." Gaius helped Regina to her feet and allowed him to lead her, her mind and reactions slow now that Gaius was present and would tend to Emma.


Maleficent raced through the open gates of Hoymel. The guards stationed there were slack jawed to see their Prince's beloved dismounting a conjured horse that ran off as soon as Maleficent dismounted. Her heart felt as if it were inside her throat, pounding against the tender flesh of her neck as she prepared herself to fight her way into Hoymel.

Disguised as Emma the men allowed her entry into the city, two of the six leaving to escort her to where Steven was being treated. Maleficent knew she was taking liberties. Arriving at Hoymel as Emma would undoubtedly cause many rifts in the peace that had almost settled over the two blondes. Outside of their personal rifts there were the outstanding treaties with the Forbidden Forest and Primrose to consider as well. Should it be known that Steven was her lover any traction that had been made with Phillip would be lost and peace forgotten.

Maleficent needed to be careful. She needed to remain disguised for as long as she was here, she could not take the chance of someone discovering her true identity. It would mean her death and possibly Steven's.

Emma would face the consequences of Maleficent's actions, actions she would commit over and over again if it meant the safety and health of her beloved.

Knowing Emma well enough, Maleficent knew this risk was one that Emma would have taken herself to save Steven. They were of like mind in this respect. They cared very deeply for the Primrose Prince.

She arrived in a flourish. The two guards led her into the city parting the crowds that were trying to escape and brought her on the quickest route to the King's tent. The head healers would be tending Steven within that tent.

Maleficent hardly glanced around the open courtyard full of injured men being tended to by other soldiers, healers, and peasants alike. Her eyes were upon the back of the soldier leading her to Steven. Time was of the essence and she needed to remain as calm as possible to keep her magic under control. Regina told her just this very afternoon that Emma was magically gifted but said knowledge was kept tightly guarded. Not even Steven knew of Emma's abilities.

Maleficent had suspected Emma had magic but that she was unaware of it. The way Emma's magic interacted with Regina whenever the two women fought verbally or physically (while training) was unmistakable. Their magic either twined together beautifully or thrashed violently depending on their emotions.

Suddenly Maleficent was lead towards a high pitched tent.

The tent flaps were opened for her and Desmond, dear foolish pompous Desmond who looked so very much like her beloved Steven, stood from his crouch upon the ground at the sight of her.

"Emma!" His surprise was mirrored in Phillip's features. The regal King turned away from where his son was being tended to see for himself if the White Princess was in fact present when he'd left strict instructions to keep her inside the palace gates.

Maleficent noted how pale Phillip was and the red rims surrounding father and son's eyes, the tight muscles of their jaws, and the white knuckles of their fists.

Desmond's hands were covered in blood. Dark spatterings of dried blood littered his armor and dirt stuck to his filthy fisted hands.

She felt ill.

The thrum of her heart in her throat made her want to gag, and she hadn't even seen Steven yet.

"What?!" Phillip raged, "How did you escape the castle grounds?"

Maleficent thought escape was an interesting word to use for a woman who was supposedly free to come and go as she pleased. What had happened within the Primrose palace for Emma to be restricted to its grounds?

Maleficent refused to answer the question; she had no answer to his injury. For all she knew Emma was still within the castle grounds fretting over Steven's fate and the fate of all involved.

Maleficent tried to walk around Phillip to get to Steven. The King grabbed a hold of her shoulders and held her back. To question her more, scold her, or protect her, Maleficent did not know.

Either way she did not care.

"Release me." She glared at the man with Emma's blue eyes. "I need to see him." Maleficent felt her lungs burn, suddenly unable to take in enough air. She was panicking. To be this close and to be kept away? No! No, she needed to see him.

"I need to see him. Release me!" She lifted her hands and pushed Phillip's off her shoulders but the effort made her even shorter of breath. She bent over to catch her breath and swallowed compulsively to keep down the bile.

"Emma…" The sound of Steven's raspy voice cut through the air and Maleficent's head rose at the sound.

Phillip and Desmond each turned towards the table where the healers were trying to patch up Steven's internal wounds. All those present shocked.

He was awake.

"Give me more valerian root!" The head healer demanded as Steven began to come to.

Steven began moaning in pain and Maleficent was given her first glimpse of her lover. The healer blocked most of her view but she was able to see Steven upon the table, the healers hands moving in and out of her lover's body covered in blood.

The healer was sweating and shaky and shouldn't be touching Steven. It was clear he had no idea what to do. He was only trying to fight off the inevitable.

Maleficent could hear his internal dialogue going over how to tell his King that he could do nothing more to save Steven. He was only making the boy suffer more.

Steven's moan of agony rose as he shifted on the table. The man suddenly desperate to see Emma, to tell her something important. He needed to tell her he was sorry, to tell Maleficent that he was sorry.

Maleficent heaved, once, twice, but had nothing to throw up. Phillip kept her from collapsing to the ground until she was capable of it herself.

She straightened herself and walked forward on wobbling legs. Phillip tried to stop her from moving forward but his grip on her forearm was loose, his eyes glazed and fixed on the sight of the hole in Steven's chest.

The healers were killing Steven. They had killed him. The hole was too large, the healer too clumsy, too inexperienced. She, she did not know she could heal her lover now.

As Maleficent neared the table she grimaced as the healer finally released a heavy sigh, unwilling to hurt Steven any more then he already had.

Maleficent was furious with the man, with herself. This man, this 'healer', had killed Steven before she had ever arrived. Opening him as he had, hurting him more then was necessary, this healer had killed Steven as much as the arrow had.

The healers features were drawn, a frown etched across his face as his eyes turned sadly to King Phillip.

The look of defeat about Phillip's best healer caused the King's anger to reach a head while Desmond shook his head from side to side, desolate as his sorrow swallowed him whole.

"My King, I…there is,"

"No. No!" Phillip grabbed the healer by his collar. "Save him!" He pointed a stern finger at his son, his eyes watering. He watched as Emma walked as if a new born colt to Steven's side, her hand shaking as she reached out and grabbed a hold of Steven's. Phillip watched her bring Steven's hand up to her lips and silent tears fall from her eyes. The grip he had on the healer's collar lessened as he tried to swallow back his own pain. His vision was blurry with his tears as he saw the love of a breaking woman before his eyes. A woman who prepared herself for the loss of her future in the arms of the man she loved.

"I'm here my love, I'm here." Maleficent whispered as she kissed the top of Steven's head, his skin already cool to the touch. She felt her breath hitch in her throat as Steven's eyes fluttered open trying to look at her. The valerian root was taking hold, he would fall asleep soon, his pain non-existent.

Maleficent wondered just how much the assistant had given Steven, forced into his mouth. Enough to stop the pain for the rest of his moments? Or had he given Steven enough to stop his heart and thus his suffering?

"Eh, Ehmma." A single tear fell from Steven's eye and it broke Maleficent's heart. "Teh-tell her…" I love her. I'm so sorry. I was stupid. Foolish. I love her so.

Her long unruly golden hair. How beautiful she looked under the moonlight by the fountain as I watched her from the shadows, unseen. Our first kiss in the gardens. Her laughter as I told her I loved her the first time, how angry she was and scared. She pushed me away and threatened my manhood and my life if I so much as looked at her like that again. But I couldn't help it. I was so far gone already.

Desmond. Desmond and I and how we'd play with wooden swords in the stables on the high rafters scaring mother to death as she grasped above her heart with both hands and gasped at the sight of us. Desmond and I laughing as we watched you practice with your father and the quarter master; making fun of you to appease my ego. My fear that your talent would be known and my place amongst the council lost to you. I was such a fool then. Thinking you were odd for a woman, misinformed of her place. Desmond telling me just how to please a woman, learning he had lane with many of the young women around the castle. How I fumbled atrociously my first time with Maleficent. So much in fact that you would laugh just as loud as Desmond had when I told him about my first time. Albeit I lied and said it was with a commoner from the capitol.

Chasing Penelope through the library making Emilie the librarian furious with us as Penelope laughed, her long brown hair flowing behind her as her eyes glowed with delight. Picking Penelope up from the ground where she'd fallen to bring her back to the castle, holding her close to my chest as her tears seeped into my clothes. Cupping her cheek and keeping her distracted as her arm was reset. Mother announcing that she was pregnant with Penelope, how happy she seemed. How scared Mother was as I went with her to see Maleficent at her Fortress. Watching as Mother begged Maleficent for help, to save Penelope who was so small in mother's arms.

Watching you sit in the quad with Regina and seeing how the Dark Queen stared lovingly at you while you spoke of Jamie and your adventures with Red. You turning to look at me from across the hall standing beside my family, smiling, waving me over.

My mother soothing my nightmares as a boy, the shadows moving about the room as she hummed in my ear and the sound of her heart against my ear soothed all my fears.

Seeing Maleficent play with Penelope, twirling her around and around as the flower petals and leaves from the trees flew through the air as they both laughed. Feeling my heart stop in my chest as it recognized what I could not: that Maleficent was where my heart belonged, with her I would find love and happiness. I was such a coward, an imbecile to push her away with my fears. I should have embraced her as my intended long ago. I love her with all that I am. I wish I could remain for her.

Oh Maleficent. I'm sorry my love. Please Emma, tell her I'm sorry. Tell her I love her. I tried so hard. It's just too painful. The pain is too much it, I wish for peace, for oblivion.

Maleficent dropped her forehead to Steven's as sobs wracked her body at the thoughts filtering through his mind, memories of his family and those he cared for deeply. Most of them reflecting the man he had become as the thoughts focused on his journey through life, and finding his way to her.

"Shh, my darling Prince." Maleficent brushed Steven's matted hair away from his eyes. "I know. I hear you. I love you so." Maleficent saw a moment of recognition in Steven's glazed eyes; his breath hitched as he looked into Emma's face, but saw her beneath.

Maleficent… Steven's tears fell in earnest now as he realized it was her who held his hand. I am sorry my love. Forgive me. I grow weak.

"There will be nothing to forgive. Fight the pain my darling Prince. I cannot live without you." Maleficent let her left hand hover over Steven's wound. She pushed her magic to her palm trying to force it to heal Steven's body, trying to will the wound to close itself. She saw it in her mind, saw the torn skin, and muscles, and vessels come together, heal themselves, and leave nothing but a faded scar on his chest.

The scar would be a bitter reminder of the day that in the years to come they could recall and tell their children. Children, she would have children if Steven wished it of her. A family with him. A future. She thought herself a hater of all little humans but knew what it felt like to care for a child thanks to Penelope's entrance into her life. She knew what it could be to love and be loved fully. To want a family to share that love with and it was all because of the young man before her.

Her magic was there at her palm, it swelled and itched against her skin but it did not mend the torn skin, muscles or vessels as she wished it to.

The wound was mortal.

Maleficent could not heal a mortal wound with her magic. A law of the Fates prohibited it, made it impossible even if one tried. The only magic capable of saving those on deaths door or souls being collected by Death herself was true loves magic.

Perhaps if she had made it sooner, been there before the healer butchered her lover's body she could have saved him.

She refused to give up.

Maleficent knew her love to be true and continued to force the magic at her palm to enter Steven, to heal him. She was desperate for the skin to heal and the pain to vanish, for Steven to hold her tight in his arms for the rest of her days. The more desperate she grew the stronger her magic pulsed against her hand and the more energy it took while it did nothing.

"I'm sorry. I am so sorry. I should have protected you. I should have come sooner." Her hand began to glow brightly, uncaring that Phillip, Desmond and many of the healers and his apprentices remained in the tent watching as she grieved over her dying lover.

"Please, please, please, Steven, stay with me. I cannot lose you. Please. Fight for me. I beg you, please…!" Maleficent begged as she cupped Steven's cheek and kept their faces close together. Her clothing began to soak through with the blood that had pool against the table and her lover's body as she leaned over him, sharing his shallow wheezing breath.

Steven looked to her, his eyes the same soulful blue-grey as his mother's. They spoke of promises he wished he could keep and forgiveness he now sought for breaking them.

I'm sorry.

"No. No!" Maleficent quivered as she saw Steven's memories flash before his unblinking eyes. Maleficent felt his pain as it became too much to bear.


Suddenly she felt Steven's peace and acceptance of death like a slap to the face.

Steven's breath hitched, his heart slowed beneath his chest and his heavy lidded eyes remained open the slightest bit as he welcomed the afterlife.

Maleficent felt it, felt Steven's last breath as his soul left his body passing through her. The touch was ethereal and made the hairs of her body stand erect, his very being making her feel loved even as sorrow coursed through her like a raging tide.

She dropped her cheek to his shoulder and cried against it, her nails biting into his flesh. She looked at the stubble growing upon his chin the lines of his jaw, the curve of his lips, and slope of his nose. Her eyes took in every last inch of his profile while trying to remember his proper smell. Not the smell of death and blood and sweat that was caked to his body.


Maleficent shook her head slowly from side to side as she leaned up enough to look into Steven's unseeing eyes.

"No." She whispered wiping away the last tear that caught itself in Steven's eyelashes. "No…"

The air in the tent was somber as the men bowed their heads, some offering prayers for the fallen Prince.

Maleficent swallowed thickly, unbelieving, as Phillip came up behind her and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. His chin quivered as he sniffled back his sobs and looked to his fallen son.

"He…he's gone." Phillip's voice cracked with his grief.

Maleficent snapped her gaze to Phillip, her heart disintegrating into particles of dust within her chest. She lashed out at Phillip, shoving her hardened fists into his chest.

"You did this. You stupid fool. You sent them to battle. To war for your pride. You bastard. You killed him. You sent him to his death. You sent him to his DEATH!" Maleficent erupted against Phillip, the King unable to grab a hold of her hands to stop her onslaught of pounding hits to his chest, or forearm or shoulders. Anything, she hit him anywhere, everywhere. "Damn you! DAMN YOU!" Maleficent screamed in bodily agony as she shoved Phillip away from her, away from Steven, the eyes of all watching in silent shock as the ground around them trembled with her release of magic.

Her eyes were wide as she stared at her hands, covered in Steven's blood. She mewled in pain as she threw herself back to Steven and rested her ear against his chest, begging his heart to start again.

Phillip sucked in gasps of breath, cringing internally with each delivery of Emma's pain. Her anguish to have lost the man she loved was his to bear the brunt of. He saw the magic Emma released and wondered if the woman was even aware of it, or if the magic was even hers at all. True love's magic was strong in her family, and his. It had saved her parents and had given him back Aurora. It was strong in both their lines, the gods of old blessing them with it. And still, Steven was dead.

His son was dead. Steven was dead.

Emma's love wasn't true enough to save Steven. Her love was real and her pain and anger were strong and powerful, but her love was not true. It had failed to save Stephen. But she was wrought with anguish and grief over the loss of a man she fooled herself into believing was her true love.

Her grief made her say things that she didn't mean, that she couldn't mean. Phillip wanted to blame the blonde for fooling herself, for fooling Steven into loving her. Had their love been true she could have saved him. She hadn't saved him and now he had lost a son.

If there was one to blame within this tent it was not him. It was the lass before him. Or the healer who'd failed. Or Desmond who'd been too slow. Or the man who'd shot that arrow at him. The Evil Queen herself for marching against him.

He would not admit that his son was dead because he'd picked a fight with Hades' whore over his ego and had lost.


Regina paced like a caged lion outside Gaius' chambers. The healer had thrown everyone save for Rickman and his apprentice Anton out. He hadn't wanted Regina hovering or causing trouble while he tried to save Emma's life. Regina had acquiesced to his request, fearing her own reactions to the sight of Emma's surgery if she remained.

Every scream that echoed through the closed doors tore at Regina and set her skin on edge. She had promised Gaius she would not enter until given permission. She never would have given her word if she had understood just how frustrating it was to remain outside, helpless.

Captain Travis had returned with a sitting chair for her but she had far too much nervous energy coursing through her veins to sit still. Emma was on the other side of these double doors screaming in pain as Gaius tried to save her life.

She could not lose Emma. Not now.

The woman was head strong, opinionated, and foolish. She was also beautiful, and kind, and funny, and Regina cared for her. She cared very deeply for Emma. The depth of her feelings for the Princess scared her.

Those feelings she had for the Princess merely grew stronger and dug deeper into her heart the more time she spent with the bounty hunter.

Emma was infuriating; annoying in ways that Regina wouldn't have been able to fathom until meeting the young woman. She was so full of life and hope. The vision of the future Emma shared with her was beautiful. Emma's desire to see the Kingdoms changed for the better for both men and women of all types (magical and mortal) was refreshing.

Regina never expected Emma to be the woman she was. The Princess was born into a world that couldn't appreciate her, not in the ways she should be appreciated. And still Emma fought for the world that didn't accept her.

Regina believed whole heartedly that Emma was born before her rightful time. Or perhaps she was born right when she was meant to be. Emma could change things for the better. She had that power and the drive and commitment to see it happen.

The blonde was a Princess, spoiled, but she wasn't tainted by such spoils. She was fair and her code of justice and direction of her moral compass were true. She reveled against the biased treatment she received and the fake platitudes of suitors who only wished to capture her heart so they could retain her Kingdom and power.

Those men were fools to seek Emma out only for the political power she could give them. Yet she knew how Emma felt about those power hungry men, what it made her feel like to be desired only for her influence not her personality and the person she was. So she'd used it against Emma in a vain attempt to push her away. That made Regina the biggest fool of them all.

The pseudo suitors could steal the power over the Kingdom as King from Emma but they could never steal the affection of the people. The people of the White Kingdom adored Emma. The villagers and peasants of all Kingdoms Emma traveled through as 'Green' respected her.

The influence of the people and their adoration for their future Queen would most likely keep whomever won the Princess' heart from taking the Kingdom as their own—like Leopold had. If the views of the many did not keep the power within Emma's hands, Emma was powerful in her own rights in ways not many knew or could understand. Her magic would protect her, her people and her vision for the future.

To think that the woman lying pale and bleeding in the other room was capable of magic, powerful untamed magic astounded Regina. She wished to know more, longed to hear the stories Emma surely had about her powers.

What had Snow and James thought when they learned their daughter was a witch? Whom had they sought council from first? Blue Fairy? Merryweather, Fauna, Flora? Or had they sought out the Oracle herself?

Regina wondered what had taken hold first. When had Emma's magic made itself known? During a tantrum? When she was scared or happy? How had Snow and James kept it such a well-guarded secret?

These were questions Emma needed to answer or her curiosity would drive her mad. For the sake of her own sanity she needed Emma to become well enough to share the answers and the tales they surely came attached with.

Thinking of the White monarchs Regina sighed, what would Snow and James think now if they knew their daughter was inside the Dark Castle fighting for her life? Regina suspected they would try and storm the gates. They always did have a tendency to leap first and ask questions later. Regina could only imagine how much stronger that tendency would be when it concerned their child. Maleficent's Fortress had been stormed when Emma had willingly gone looking for the witch.

Regina rubbed angrily at her forehead as she continued to pace. A migraine pounded against her head, the pressure building until she could hardly stand the sound of her boots clicking against the floor.

"My Queen?"

Regina turned to see Sealy's reflection in the window across the wide hall from her. "Yes?"

"The Queen of Red's Wood would like a word with you. She has been rather vocal of her demands." Sealy hadn't realized it at first too focused on trying to keep an eye on his Queen's Princess. But Red's call for Regina while standing in front of a mirror had finally pulled him away to speak with the impassioned werewolf.

Regina glared at Sealy for his interruption. She had far too much going on to take a 'social call'; she also didn't have the magic to sustain any extended conversation. "Sealy, I haven't the magic to…"

"Allow me to be your voice, my Queen?"

Regina inclined her head, agreeing. "Allow her to see me."

"By your command, my Queen." He showed his Queen, Red, the woman was pacing back and forth in front of a full length mirror. She was wearing her cloak, her hair was unkempt and there were stains on her shirt.

Sealy was hardly visible in the reflection as he allowed the two women to see through the looking glass at the other.

"You!" Red rushed towards the mirror as soon as she noticed Regina's reflection in it. She grabbed either side of it as if it were Regina herself. "You are in breach of the treaty! You have abducted my heir."

"Your heir?" Regina questioned, truly perplexed.

Red ignored Regina's coy play of confusion. "Return her before I am forced to declare war against you alongside the White Kingdom."

Regina's eyes widened, she had known Red was traveling to Raceen, she had not known the werewolf was aware of Emma's presence at the besieged city. "Eh…" Regina cleared her throat, "The White Princess is your heir?"

Red bore her teeth as she hissed, "Yes."

"She was injured while saving me. I trust you know this?"

Red dropped her head once in answer. "Return her. Allow me to see to her wounds."

Regina frowned, "I am afraid I cannot."

"Then you leave me no choice! This is an act of aggression, our contract null and void."

Regina grit her teeth as her nails dug into her palm. She was trying to remain diplomatic. Her alliance with Red wasn't one she'd wish to lose. "She is in critical condition and is already being seen to. I simply cannot do as you ask of me."

"You are deliberately keeping her from—"

"I am allowing her to be tended to! If I were to do as you asked she would die. She is weak, injured."

Red snarled, "You would see her die!"

Regina's eyes flashed dangerously. "I allow you to speak to me in this manner because I understand your fear has fueled your inner beast. Do not mistake my allowance for weakness."

Red growled at Regina's reflection and pushed away from the mirror. She ran her hands through her hair and tugged at it firmly. The witch was right. Her wolf was latching onto the extreme emotions coursing through her and magnifying it.

"She saved my life." Regina swallowed down her emotions. "I wish only for her to be healed, healthy."

Red softened, her body relaxing, "Then I ask you to allow me to come to you. To see to her care myself." Regina sighed, dropping her head sadly, "You have the power to transport hundreds. The men have been speaking of it. Retrieve me from Raceen and bring me to Emma. Please, she is my goddaughter." Tears pricked at Red's eyes, "I need to see her."

"I am afraid I cannot." Regina was truly apologetic as she refused Red's request.

"Why not?"

"My magic is depleted."

"Damn it," Red swiped at the air, "Don't play me for a fool!"

"And do not raise your voice to me!" Regina growled menacingly, her voice echoing down the otherwise empty hallway.

Red whimpered, her wolf recognizing Regina's power even if Red could not.

Regina calmed her racing heart, "I will see that you are retrieved as soon as I have rested. I will not keep you from her. I merely ask that you keep this to yourself."

"Why?" Red grew suspicious immediately.

"I have already fought one battle today. Good men and women were lost. Innocent men and women that needed not die. I do not wish to lose the lives of anymore innocents. I do not intend to keep the Princess here any longer then she needs to heal. It is my understanding that she was not meant to be present at the battle."

Red knew Regina wasn't asking for anything unreasonable. Red was slow with spreading knowledge of Emma's involvement in the battle. The repercussions of Emma's involvement would be far reaching and Regina's fear of starting another battle, if not war, wasn't unfounded. Red had already threatened to march on the Queen's castle with the White Kingdom and she wasn't even Emma's mother. James would declare war within a hearts beat, Snow not far behind him.

"No, she snuck into the battle." Red sighed heavily as she shifted her weight from foot to foot. "You give me your word that you will do all you can for her?"

"I do." Regina crossed her finger over her chest twice.

Red looked to the ground, that was all she could do. "I will await your arrival."

"You will remain in Raceen?"

"Yes," Red nodded, "There are still many who need to be tended to. Supplies are beginning to arrive from Mirdilay, the supplies from Red's Wood should be here by morning. The White Kingdom's at the end of the week."

Regina was surprised to hear the White Kingdom was sending aid. Snow hadn't mentioned sending any assistance to her when she had convened her impromptu meeting with the royals. "Thank you, for assisting my people."

Red snapped her head up to look into the mirror and stare into Regina's eyes. She had never expected the Queen to offer her thanks or hear just how deeply she spoke such thanks with. "Always. Protecting the innocent is better than terrorizing them."

Regina wondered if the comment was a dig at her past or guilt the werewolf harbored for her actions against the innocent. "Yes, it is."

"Tell Princess Emma that I will be there soon, that I…" Red seemed unsure of herself for a moment before she forged on, "That I love her, please."

Regina bowed her head, "I will."

Red disappeared from Regina's glass, the image of Sealy's head floating within the mirror now prominent. "Thank you, Sealy."

"My pleasure, my Queen." Sealy smiled softly at his Queen.

"Your Majesty?" Regina turned back to the doors to Gaius' rooms, Anton standing before the open door. "Gaius will see you now."

Regina shared a worried glance with Sealy before she straightened her armor, her shoulders, and stalked into the healers room, intent on seeing Emma and hearing her condition.


"Your Highness?" No reply. "Your Highness." The healer sighed.

The healer attempted to speak with the White Princess. They had allowed her to grieve over the body of her beloved for the last hour. They did not know whether removing her would be for the best. They needed to tend to his body for transport.

The Royal caravan wished to return to the capitol where the King would inform his queen of Steven's death in battle. Steven's death was kept secret from the soldiers, the healers sworn to secrecy, Phillip was afraid word would spread faster than he could return with the tragic news.

"Leave her be." Desmond's voice was broken, his throat sore. His father had left to bring his guards together, to get a wagon to carry Steven and Emma in. Desmond could not pull himself together enough to leave the tent. He wished he knew how to explain what he felt inside. His heart was broken, his soul torn as a part of himself no longer existed.

"My Prince, she must move to allow the healers to tend to his royal highness." Dylan gently informed his friend as he stood just off to the side, looking over the royals that remained in the tent. King Phillip had called for him, he and two of the King's highly trusted Generals were three of the only soldiers who knew of Steven's true fate. The rest of the soldiers that had stayed believed their Prince was recovering.

Desmond spun on his friend, slapping his comforting hand away, "You will not question me, Captain." His eyes were cold, his anger contained only by the smallest of threads. "You have no authority over me, over her, soldier." He distanced himself from his friendship with Dylan by refraining from saying his name. Dylan was always his voice of reason, his truest friend, but today he was only an annoyance, a stifling reminder of what once was and could now never be again. "Leave her to mourn."

"My Prince…"

Desmond snarled, "Work around her."

Dylan bowed his head, "As you wish, your highness." Dylan ordered the healers to work around Emma as they prepared Steven for transport.

Maleficent heard the commotion around her but she refused to move from Steven's side. Sure that if she stayed beside him long enough his heart would start once again. That her magic would heal him and if that didn't work she hoped the Fates would see just how truly she loved her Prince and give him back to her.

Her tears had long ago made her eyes red and swollen, her muscles stiff from her awkward position.

"I'm sorry my love." Maleficent whispered into Steven's ear, leaning over to kiss his cold lips, her hand cupping his cheek. He had been cleaned of blood and grime, but his pallor was the grey of death.

As Maleficent leaned away from Steven she felt something cross through her abdomen. Something beautiful, ethereal, alive, it was gone as soon as it had touched her. But behind her Desmond felt the same soothing peace, his heart aching with the touch of it. The ethereal touch continued to spread out to those all around the camp, all too unaware or preoccupied to know what it was they were feeling.

Dylan turned and peered at Emma's slumped form over his dead Prince curiously before he left the tent.

Maleficent's eyes fell to Steven as if expecting his eyes to open, but she saw nothing. She frowned and rested her head in her hands as she sat beside her Prince.

Unbeknown to her the skin around her beloved's wound began to heal, his skin slowly warming as his body prepared for his heart to beat once again. True love's magic and Maleficent's own slowly seeping into Steven's body through Maleficent's constant touch of the man.


Gaius stood off to the side as Regina moved into the room. The Dark Queen moved immediately to Emma's beside. She touched Emma's hand, but only for a moment. Her actions were timid, unsure. Gaius did not know if Regina feared hurting the blonde or waking her up, perhaps even both? She seemed torn as she stared at the pale blonde. Gaius waited as his beloved Queen inspected the sleeping hunter. When Regina was assured of Emma's health she joined him, her eyes never far from the wounded Princess.

"Allow me to tend you, my Queen." Gaius spoke first, stopping Regina's inquiry about Emma, for now.

"I'm fine." Regina tried to protest, but the old man tutted at her, grabbed her hand and led her to a stool not far from Emma's new resting place.

Regina sighed, unable to muster up further protests. She would allow Gaius to do as he pleased. She owed Gaius her life. Although Gaius had been unable to save her mother due to an infection she contracted during childbirth it was his presence that heralded a great change in Regina's life. Her grandfather had attempted to take Regina from her father, expecting great things of the bastard child since Gaius had only ever seen to the birth of future royalty.

It was only Queen Lily's intervention that had protected Regina from her mother's father and brought Lily into her life. Gaius had called on the older woman to protect Regina, and to teach her in their ways. He predicted a great future for her, even before the Oracle had.

Regina saw him once after Calla's and Daniel's death and they hadn't parted amicably. She had thrown him out and threatened him, far too consumed with her own anger and need for vengeance to listen to his words of wisdom. So it surprised Regina that he had come to her castle with his students looking to accept Regina's apology and mend their relationship.

"Now, tell me child. How did the White Princess find herself in need of my care?" Gaius asked as he put herbs into a mortar and grabbed up his pestle.

Regina wondered briefly how Gaius knew Emma was the White Princess before she scolded herself, of course he knew. "The foolish girl put herself between me and an assassin's arrow."

Gaius peered at Regina questioningly, "And this angers you?" He put the mortar and pestle down, the pestle still gently grinding the herbs into a power as he bent over and grabbed clean bandages and laid them out on the table beside the instruments, wrapping his hand around the pestle to continue grinding the herbs himself.

"Of course I am angry! She acted impetuously."

He intended to put the salve he was creating into the bandages and wrap them around Regina's wrists, arms and on her neck. The brunette had several gashes, scrapes and bruises in those three areas that he planned to mend.

Gaius hummed as he turned to face Regina, wet cloth bathed in alcohol in his hand. He picked up the Queen's hand and began to disinfect the wounds. Regina hissed and squeezed her eyes closed at the sting.

Gaius blew on the wet wounds before turning to his table to grab up the salve. He poured it over the bandages, "Some would call her actions brave, selfless."

Regina scowled at Gaius' back as he fiddled with his herbs and spread them over the bandages he'd laid out. "Selfless? She acted selfishly! Without thought or concern for what the consequences of her actions would be." Regina stared intently at the slumbering blonde, the feeling of her heart lodged somewhere in her throat ever present.

What if she had lost Emma because the girl had been reckless with her own life? Things had changed between herself and the White Princess. They had been changing since the moment they met. It was like meeting part of your destiny in the most unexpected of ways. Puzzle pieces that had been missing in Regina's life finally began falling into place or just within reach now that Emma was in her life. She just had taken quiet a long time in figuring out where those new pieces belonged. As she'd felt Emma's blood run against her skin she felt a dark magic the kinds of which she'd never felt before course through her body like a raging river. It filled her every pore and gave her strength and stamina that she'd lacked only moments before.

Gaius remained silent as Regina drunk in the sight of Emma's even breathing. He took the chance to clean Regina's other wounds as she was distracted.

"It seems she knew exactly what the consequences of her actions would be." The old man held Regina's glare, he'd stared down far too many enraged women, powerful magical women, in his lifetime to be afraid of Regina.

"No. No she did not." Regina groaned as Gaius wrapped a bandage around her wrist tightly the touch of the salve against her raw flesh soothing. "What if she had died?" Regina felt her stomach revolt at even the thought.

"What if she had?" Gaius asked, peering up at Regina through his eyelashes, hoping if he pressed the Dark Queen could finally come to the heart of the matter, the true reason why she was so angry with Emma.

Gaius' fingers tingled as the smallest of magic sparks popped around Regina's hand, the witch's anger fueling the expulsion of her magic even as she had very little energy or stores left of it.

"It would mean war. The White Kingdom would blame me for her actions; say I sacrificed her life to save my own. They would never stop, they would follow me to whatever world I was forced to run to, to hide in. Even then I would not leave my people again, not during war. They would have my head and I would…" Regina suddenly stumbled, needing to swallow to clear her throat as her eyes slid to their corners, Emma in her peripheral vision. "I would let them have my head. It would be my fault. She would have died so I could live and I." Regina grimaced in pain, but not from Gaius' treatment but the thought of Emma's death. "I could never forgive myself."

Regina bit the inside of her cheek and angrily swiped away the two tears that fell.

"Ah, so it is your heart that would break if she died. Not your ego." Gaius turned away from the Queen so she could not see how big a smirk he had upon his lips at her flabbergasted expression.

"I said no such thing." Regina sputtered as she stared at the old medicine man's back.

"Oh, but you did." Gaius chided as he wrapped Regina's other hand and wrist. "You are not angry that she saved you. You are angry because she was hurt doing so, that she could have been killed and you would be lost without her."

"How dar—"


Regina's head snapped to the side at the sound of her broken name escaping Emma's lips. She jumped down from her seat and raced to the blonde's bedside, unknowingly taking up Emma's hand in her own and holding it tightly against her heart.

Gaius grinned as he began putting away his herbs, quick to leave the two women alone.


"We are ready, your Highnesses." Dylan announced as he came into the King's tent.

Desmond and Phillip were talking together to the side while Emma remained at Steven's side. She was no longer draped over the deceased Prince's body and had been given a cloak to wear. The night was growing longer as morning approached. The wagon was ready, it would hide those inside from view as they traveled back to the Primrose castle.

Phillip squeezed Desmond's forearm as both men went to Emma. Desmond wrapped an arm around the Princess' shoulders and held her against his side while Phillip, the healers, and his two Generals went to lift Steven.

Maleficent followed after the men as they carried Steven's body into the back of the wagon. Desmond beside her. She was grateful for Desmond's support. She would have killed Phillip if he dared touch her again.

There were soldiers crowding around to get a look at their wounded Prince. They had covered Steven's body with a thick white sheet up to his shoulders to keep the illusion that he was merely resting.

Desmond helped Maleficent into the back of the wagon and she took up her place by Steven's side once again. She took a hold of his hand and kept it between both of her own. Her body felt heavy as they began traveling to the Primrose castle where word of Steven's death would be announced after Aurora had been told. She couldn't even be bothered to worry about her continued presence in the wagon as Emma and what would be said when there were suddenly two White Princesses mourning Steven's loss. She would face any consequences she needed to. She would not leave her Prince behind.

As they traveled Maleficent noticed something odd about Steven's hand. His skin was becoming warm to the touch. And it was as if her eyes deceived her, was his color returning to him?

"Desmond." The Prince looked away from the closed flaps of the wagon to meet Emma's curious gaze. "Desmond, is he…is his color improving?" Maleficent asked as she touched Steven's cheeks, eyes widening around the swollen edges as she felt a discernible heat coming from her lover's body.

Desmond stood from his position and moved into the back of the wagon, his father had chosen to ride upon his steed outside the wagon leaving them alone. Now he wished his father had joined them as it appeared both their eyes deceived them.

"That is impossible." Desmond breathed in awe.

"Assist me!" Maleficent demanded as she tried to pull the sheet the doctors had wrapped tightly around Steven away from him, she needed to see his wound.

Desmond helped hold up Steven's weight so Maleficent could un-swaddle the Prince. She yanked open the shirt they had put him in, ripping it down the middle in her haste. Her hands moved to where the arrow had pierced through his skin and the healer had cut into him hours before.

Her eyes took in the sight of closed skin.

There was nothing.

Nothing but an enflamed scar.

Maleficent shot her eyes to Desmond, needing some kind of assurance that she had not lost her sanity when she lost Steven.

The shock upon Desmond's face was clear and they stared at each other for several long moments before staring back down at Steven's body.


"Magic, I…I felt something pass through me when I kissed him before the healers saw to him." Maleficent whispered. "I'd thought it was true love's kiss but when he didn't wake I…" She'd thought her love untrue her past crimes making her unworthy of her happiness.

Desmond would believe it; he had seen the magic form around the two lovers. He had thought it failed them, that their love was not true. But now as he stared down at his brother and watched Emma lean forward and kiss him again and again and with the last kiss she breathed air into his mouth before moving away. A miracle happened.

He watched as Steven's chest now full with Emma's air began to respire on its own. Steven was breathing again. On his own. His brother's lungs filled with air and his heart beat beneath his chest while his eyes rotated under his eyelids and the man groaned.

Desmond cheered, unable to keep himself quiet as he watched Emma kneel upon the wooden bed of the wagon so she was eye level with her Prince. She cupped his cheek and turned his head towards her as she spoke.

"That's it my Prince, open your eyes. Come back to me. Please." Maleficent held firmly onto Steven's hand, holding it against her chest so he could feel her heartbeat as his evened out.

"Blah…blondie?" Maleficent sobbed at the sound of Steven's voice.

"Stop the carriage!" Desmond popped his head outside the carriage and called for an all stop. "Father!" Desmond looked around the mounted men for Phillip.

"What is it? What's happened?" Phillip asked as he rode to the back of the wagon and saw Desmond's tear stained face looking out at him. The men who were unaware of Steven's fate feared the worst at Desmond's cries, while those who already knew of the Prince's passing became incensed with curiosity.

"He lives, father." Desmond's voice cracked with the news. "He lives." Phillip's eyes widened in disbelief as he dismounted his horse before moving up into the wagon. The sight before him stopped his heart.

Steven was awake and cupping Emma's face as he brushed away her tears, smiling dreamily at her.

"Ha, how?" Phillip asked his legs nearly giving out.

"True love…" Desmond whispered as he stood beside his father watching the two lovers embrace. "She saved him."

Phillip's lips parted as he sobbed once, his chest tight with the sudden joyous ache that filled his heart. His son was alive.


Emma couldn't open her eyes. It was as if they were glued shut. They were heavy and everything was so loud. The sound of her own blood rushing through her ears began to give her a headache. She couldn't make her body do what she wanted. She tried to lift her hand up but a warm hand held it and lifted it up for her. The last she remembered she'd been brought into a healer's room and he did everything in his power to heal her. It hurt gods had it hurt.

Her body was heavier than her eyelids and most of it were numb. But the parts that weren't stung as if they'd been numb moments before but feeling was rushing back to it.

"I'm here." Regina whispered, almost afraid that Emma was still asleep and anything louder than a whisper would wake her.

The blonde's eyes remained closed, but she shifted upon the bed, groaning at the pain in her side.

"Don't move. You must let the stitches set."


Regina felt tears prick at the back of her eyes, "Yes, well, you stepped in front of an arrow, Lady Swan."

"Hah-highness to you." Regina smiled, glad that even in Emma's weakened state she still maintained her witty responses. The blonde sighed heavily suddenly before speaking, "Haf-tah sa-ay-ves ya-uuu." Emma murmured, her eyes still closed though her head fell to the side closest to Regina as if she could see her.

Regina rolled her eyes, "You had to do no such thing."

Emma groaned, her hips rising off the table as she felt pain course through her back down to her toes. She squeezed Regina's hand tighter, and tried to blink her eyes open. Slowly they fluttered open, though remained heavily lidded. A lopsided smile blossomed against Emma's face as she saw Regina's eyes.

The Princess cleared her throat, "'zourse eyhe did."

Regina reeled at Emma's avowal. "You are not my Savior, your Highness."

Emma's smile conformed into a smirk suddenly, "Now I am." Emma hadn't thought of anything but reaching Regina. The fear that had encased her heart, her very soul as she saw the assassins attack the unarmed and defenseless queen had spurred her bruised and battered body on. She'd had a debt to fill and a woman she cared for to save. Nothing would have stopped her from stopping that arrow. Not even her fear of death.

Regina's mouth dropped a bit at how pleased Emma seemed with the knowledge that she had been Regina's savoir.

"I was perfectly capable of handling myself." Regina sniffed and turned her nose up and away from Emma, insulted.

Emma frowned as she squeezed Regina's hand, forcing the brunette to look into her eyes again. "I…" Emma wet her lips with her tongue. Trying to speak properly this time without a slur. She needed Regina to understand why she'd done what she did. "Owed you, ah-uh debt."

Regina felt her heart cringe in agony at that statement. Emma owed her a debt. The only reason the blonde had been brave, and selfless as Gaius said, was for selfish reasons just as Regina had said. Emma owned her a debt and now it was repaid.

"Consider it fulfilled." Regina tried to release Emma's hand and move away from her bedside but Emma kept a firm grip on her hand. "Release me."

"No." Emma spoke softly as she maintained her hold on Regina's hand.

Regina glared at Emma's hand, "I wish to be released, Princess."

"Stay." Emma begged, her eyes watering as she prepared to beg the woman to stay with her. Regina opened her mouth to refuse when Emma's next word stopped her short, "Scared."

Swallowing thickly, Regina cleared her throat and stepped back up next to the bed.

"I'll stay." She brushed a few strands of Emma's matted down hair away from her face and cupped the blonde's cheek. "After all, it's my turn to have you."

Emma turned into the warmth of Regina's palm instantly, her eyes falling closed as she did.

They did not reopen, but Regina wasn't startled or worried. She watched carefully as Emma's chest rose and fell evenly as she slept. Regina's heart slowed and returned to her chest, where it belonged. The tension in her body slowly disappearing as she sat at Emma's bedside. The longer the Princess went without moaning in pain the surer the Queen was that she would be fine.

Regina promised she would stay and keep watch over Emma until morning. She knew Emma would wake and the effects of the drugs would have waned overnight. Whatever had prompted Emma to ask for her to stay would be forgotten and Emma would ask her to leave.

Until then, she would stay; content to watch over her Savoir until she was told to go.

Even then, maybe she would stay.

End Chapter 23

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