Applejack

Even after it became clear that there was more to Henry's book than just puerile stories or ever-present hope and eternal love, I never thought about my own happy ending. I guess I was too busy weakening the curse for everyone else. It was always about how to reunite Ava and Nicholas with their father, how to make my parents remember what they've been through, how to awaken Archie's long lost conscience. Except for the parts about my birth and disappearance that Henry had basically shoved into my face, I never asked about my fairytale life or my future. It wasn't written there. Books don't generally tell you what happens after the hero's succeeded on their quest for the greater good. So all Henry and I knew was that I would open the door for everyone else's happily ever after.

The question is, if it were there, would I have peeked? And if so, would I have stayed? Would I have helped? Would I have played my part?

"She must forget."

I'm going to have to say no, which is the reason why in my chapter, there was nothing but a single blank, sickly yellowish page and a feather outlining the magical formula 'the end'. I was but a piece of the puzzle, needed to restore order among the letters, but prevented from seeing my own - if that's what they call it these days. Now that my assistance is no longer required, the page has started to draw itself in front of my eyes.

No, I would have run to Europe to learn the secrets of Irish beer, terrified that my fate would find me sooner or later. I would never have been in a single relationship and I would have kept drowning my guilt over all things lost in scotch and wine. Not too fine, because I wouldn't have had the money for anything older than a miserable year or two, but good enough to serve its purpose instead of me. Like me, I suppose. I wouldn't have cared about the wine's feelings either.

"What the hell do you mean 'forget'? Forget what?" I yell, shaking with what could be both anger and cold, but I don't take the time to determine which it is because I'm terrified. Here I am, soaked to the bone, cradling the one who everyone wanted me to believe was my mortal enemy. She's bleeding and her blood is soaking my jeans and the snow under my feet the same way a drop of red would spread within a glass of clear water, only two-dimensionally. I can smell the bitter, irony scent and it reminds me of the Eiffel Tower that I never got to see for some reason. Then the mental image crumbles to an unorganized mess of bars, and so does my long-sought order.

"Love is a very powerful force. I can save her if I use yours, but there will be consequences." Nova the fairy's newfound wings flutter to the quiet humming of her heartbeat. I can hear it, like a hummingbird's. Rapid. Heavy. Resonating in my own chest. Her face is a mask of concern, which only makes it easier for me to figure out how dire the situation is, even though I know that's the last thing she wants me to see. She can't help it. It's just who she was. "She must forget you. You can do so if you wish to save her, but she will have to forget everything you've been through. And if she ever remembers…" she pauses, trying desperately to think of another way to phrase what I already know is coming. "She will die." Her voice breaks as if she's just fulfilled the sad duty of informing me of my own death, and in a way she has.

If I could think straight, I would realize it's not my mother's fault. The bow was given to her by Rumplestiltskin to protect me in a time of need. "It will find its mark this time," he said. Unbeknownst to her, its target had been marked years before. She thought she was protecting me when she fired the arrow at his head as he sauntered towards me with his cursed dagger - slowly enough to give her all the time in the world to shoot - but the arrow had changed its course.

All I know at the moment - and all I need to know - is that he's dead and she's soon to follow because of Snow White. Shadow overcomes my senses and my fists clench around the silver spirals on the waist of my queen's robe. Ironically enough, it's her who pulls me out of the dark.

"Please, learn some manners — and stop talking about me like — I am already — dead," she spits on my lap. Literally, she's spitting blood as she speaks, and that causes me much more pain than any of her snappy remarks ever have.

"Regina—"

"Let me die," she says in what I could almost describe and the first and last plea I've ever heard from her if it weren't for her bruising grip on my wrist. Convincing myself it's meant to domineer, I brush off all thoughts of the pain that might be causing uncontrollable spasms.

"I'd rather lose — to Rumpelstiltskin — than live a life without your hideous jackets to burn in it," she chokes and while her mouth isn't smiling, her eyes manage to persuade me into a teary-eyed chuckle in memory of the good old times. "I'm not — afraid of the darkness — Emma."

My heart cannot possibly sink any lower without it crashing to the ground. It's pulling me down with its weight, to her, and I fear the pressure is enough to break my spine, as ridiculous as it may sound, because this is the first time she's called me by my first name and I know this is the most affectionate gesture I can get from her, so I take it. Because I remember when I was Miss Swan ("I will destroy you"), then I was Deputy ("I will settle on tolerating you") and later Sheriff ("I find you bearable"), then dear ("I trust you") and then just Swan ("I need you").

Of course she's not afraid of the darkness; she spent half her life hiding in it. "But I am," I whisper.

Eyes locking with mine, she finds the truth she seeks.

"Emma, don't — you dare —"

Her words are silenced by my kiss. One last time I abuse the privilege she's given me to feel her and the love I've awaken and set ablaze in her heart; the one thing I've accomplished that matters to me.

She forgets that and more.

"Have we met before?" she asks innocently months after. "I know it's silly, but there is somewhat of an odd familiarity to you."

I needed to clear my head, so I took Applejack - my bay mare - out for a morning ride in the woods. What a fateful coincidence it is that we should bump into each other here, both searching. With her long braided hair and dress blue like the cloudless sky, it's hard to believe this woman was once the harbinger of darkness. Hard to believe this was the woman I loved.

I tug at the reins, forcing Applejack - much to her dismay, as expressed by her obvious, audible protests (must have a crush on her steed, that poor horse) - to turn around. My mind instantly goes to the time when she led me to her bedroom, my mouth on hers, her hands pinning me down, her eyes smiling down at me. Her arms wrapped around my back, her lips on my bare neck. Her. All that she was the night we broke the curse. All synonyms for happiness, one could say.

I have to remind myself none of this ever happened and none of it ever will. Wondering if I could even love her in this life, I gulp and hope with all my might that my voice doesn't break until I gallop away.

"No, Your Highness. We haven't."