I love this ship, and it is completely and utterly the fault of my best friend. This takes place during the time that Charming was stuck in the bad version of the future before Sabrina and Daphne ended up there as well. (This is also before Nottingham scarred Daphne, hence the reason it is never mentioned.)
THIS IS A LINE BREAK
In the inky dark that covered Ferryport Landing like a cloak, Prince William Charming caressed a tombstone the same way he had once caressed the face of its inhabitant. His rough fingers ran over its smooth face, reminiscent of round, white cheeks. He ran the pad of his thumb over the name carved into the rock and thought of all the times he had done the same to the lips as scarlet as blood that had sat so perfectly against her pale skin. He remembered the feeling of her hair, as black as pitch, and the sound of her voice; melodic and sweet, like the soul that had rested within her.
"She fought like the soldiers she taught us to be," promised a voice that did not startle or even mildly surprise the dark-haired prince. It was a voice he had grown accustomed to, one that he could find some comfort in, not that the speaker would ever know that.
"You should be sleeping," William said, the sound of his voice jarring in the silence of the night.
"No one in Ferryport Landing sleeps anymore," the intruder said smoothly. "No one but the dead."
The prince turned to stare at the girl – no, the woman – who stood behind him. He rose from his crouch and looked her in the eye. He was startled by her cold eyes, by her hard mouth, by her soul shattered by the war that had consumed her and her family for more than half of her life. Gone was the tiny child in twin braids who wore her smile like a birthmark and bit into the palm of her hand whenever excitement consumed her. Daphne Grimm was a child no longer.
"I feel like I should be used to your attitude, but I'm not," William remarked flatly. "How can you be so calm? You loved Snow. Nearly as much as I did. You should want to destroy whoever did this to her." The prince found himself angry, snarling, and not caring about Daphne's feelings nearly enough to stop.
"You assume I haven't already," Daphne said, and she turned to go before the look of surprise could register on William's face. "You should come back to camp," she warned as she walked away. "The Scarlet Hand is everywhere."
William stood his ground and watched the woman walk away, steady in a pair of thick combat boots that would have been as tall as her waist the last time he saw her. Her uncle's coat, which she wore with the authority of both a tool belt and a badge of honor, ruffled slightly in the breeze behind her. Its sleeves, rolled up to her elbows and secured with safety pins, betrayed her burden; to carry her late uncle's memory with the strength of a soldier, even if it was far too big for her narrow shoulders and skinny frame.
Finally, when she was almost out of view, William placed one foot in front of the other and followed.
He shadowed her through the path from the cemetery and all the way to the gates of the camp. A guard, some Everafter broken and scarred so desperately by war they were impossible to recognize, allowed them entry. The fort held an obstacle course, a small farm, a long mess tent, an infirmary, a hut meant for weapon storage, and rows of cabins each with names scribbled onto the doors in pen to specify who lived there.
He followed Daphne down the row, passing the cabin with her sister and brother-in-law's names written onto the wood in black ink. He followed her to the door of her own cabin, where "Daphne Grimm" was stenciled carefully. Underneath it in smaller handwriting read, "Captain of All Magically-Related Forces." Daphne unlocked the door and walked in. William wasn't sure entirely sure why, but he followed.
If the woman was surprised he had followed her, she didn't show it. He watched her unbuckle her boots and set them beside her bed; a mattress on the floor with a few rumpled sheets on top. He watched her reach into one of the dozens of pockets her uncle had so meticulously sewn into his coat and pull out a small stick with a glittering star on the end.
She waved it in a small circle and said quietly, "Gimme some light." William watched as the end of the wand began to glow, banishing the room's shadows to the corners and turning everything a warm shade of mahogany.
Bathed in the glow of the fairy godmother wand, he felt compelled to reach out, to touch the girl in front of him, to keep her safe and never let her venture out alone again. He felt the sudden urge to protect her – the same urge he had felt for Snow. He stepped up behind her, carefully, quietly, and helped her to remove Jacob's coat, which he folded gently over the back of a wooden chair resting against the wall.
In the warm, red light he saw her for who she was – for what had been done to her. He saw the raised, white scars that laced and criss-crossed on her arms like the webs of a spider. He saw bruises of sickly green and yellow and deep purple. He saw nicks and cuts that marred her smooth flesh, like cracks in a mirror. They appeared on her neck, too, twisted scars and bruises the size and shape of fingerprints, revealing an attempt someone had made to choke the life from her.
The woman pulled at her green shirt, freeing it from where she had tucked it into the waist of a pair of faded blue jeans. The untucked shirt fell to just above her knees and she reached under it to undo the silver button on her pants.
William felt sick watching her undress. Not because of any particular reservations on his part, but because the more clothing she removed, the more of herself she revealed, the more damaged she became. Her knees were both wrapped in bandages covered in rust-colored stains. Her shins and calves were like maps, the highways and roads paved with silvery scar tissue.
She dropped her pants onto the floor of her cabin and looked up, meeting eyes with William for the first time since she left the cemetery. She watched him. She watched him watch her. She watched him gaze at the flesh she had uncovered, his eyes lingering on the bruises on her throat, the scars on her forearms, the bloodied bandages on her knees. She watched him until he bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut, like he was willing away a bad dream.
"This is war," Daphne said, her voice steely and angry. "This," she growled, wrenching up her shirt to reveal a stomach laced with scars and bandages, "is their declaration." She dropped her shirt and sank heavily onto her mattress, breathing hard, emotion straining her voice. She raked both scarred hands through her hair and whispered to the floor, "And they signed it in Snow White's blood."
William's head was spinning. He reached out for something to steady himself with and found the wooden chair where he had set Jacob's coat. Woozy, he slid onto the seat and held his head in his hands. The room was quiet for a long time, but it wasn't a comfortable silence. It was heavy, smothering, and it felt like death.
"Billy?" Daphne finally whispered, and William felt tears, hot and stinging and betraying, run into his hands and down his wrists, because that's what she called him. It was the name Snow used. It was how she knew him. It was a childish name, a shortcut, casual, light-hearted, and it was Snow's, and it did not fit in this room, with this girl, with this time.
He raised his head and saw Daphne watching him from her bed. And he was stunned silent. Because in the reddish light of the wand, in the shadowy confines of the cabin, Daphne looked like Snow. His Snow. Yes, her eyes were brown, yes, her skin was ruddy, but the way her hair, now short and bobbed (like hers, like Snow's) framed her face, the way the shadows played with her bone structure, the shape of her lips and the way her eyebrows arched at him, he could stare at her and pretend, for just a moment, just one, that maybe…
He climbed from the chair and walked to her bed, where he dropped down beside her, because God she looked like Snow at that moment, and God how much he wanted to touch her, and so he looked her in the eyes (brown, not blue like Snow's, not Snow, not Snow, but so close) and he said, his voice almost less than a whisper, "I'm going to kiss you now."
And her nod was barely even perceptible, but there it was, there it was, and so Billy caressed her face and imagined the skin paler underneath his thumb, and he guided her closer and her brown eyes closed and he pretended they were blue under the lids, and when their lips finally touched, William's stomach twisted into knots and he needed her, he needed her, he needed her so badly and her arms were around his neck and she kissed him back like she needed him, too. He closed his eyes and stroked her hair while the other hand was balled up in her nightshirt, and he missed her so badly and now he's here, and it's almost her.
Her hair was short and smooth, and surprisingly soft for the world she lived in, and William found himself needing her, more of her, all of her. Every bit. And so he pulled away from her just enough for her to open her eyes a little, and they were brown, not blue, and he knew she wasn't Snow, he knew, he knew, but she was gone, Snow was gone, and she wasn't coming back, and Daphne was alive, and she was in his arms and breathing, breathing hard, and her cheeks were flushed, and William could feel her heart beating so hard in her chest, and he knew his was, too.
He laid down and she followed suit, kissing him and burying her hands in his hair while she did, and he wanted her, he needed her, he needed her like he needed water, like he needed air, like he needed Snow.
He moved to change their position, to have her under him, her head against the thin pillows she had on the makeshift bed, and suddenly she cried out in pain against his kiss and he pulled away in shock.
He had caused her knees to scrape hard against each other and the mattress. The bandages were shifted, revealing dying skin and the angry red tendons and ligaments of her destroyed joints that had gotten so bad they could have only been held together with magic. He jumped back in fear of hurting her again, and at the shock of his fantasy, shattered like a broken mirror.
This girl, lonely and broken, was not his Snow. He was disgusted that he had even tried to fool himself into thinking any different. This woman under him was not even his Daphne Grimm.
He thought of his own Daphne, the one he knew, seven, with two childish braids in her hair and a smile that seemed to have been permanently affixed to her face. The little girl who gave him hugs when he did something to make her proud, and who kissed his nose in front of everyone simply because she wanted to. A beautiful child who saw the good in everyone, even when there was no good to be seen.
He looked down into the face of an adult Daphne Grimm, one scarred in every possible way, shattered like a looking glass and stitched back together with nothing but anger and a little magic. This girl would not embrace him because he made a good decision. She would not put her little hands on either side of his face and press her cupid's bow mouth to his nose.
William climbed off of her hastily and helped her to sit up. He clambered over to Jake's coat, disgusted with what he did, what he tried to fool himself into believing. He found a small jar of a healing salve in one of the many pockets and rushed back over to the woman on the mattress. She took the jar from him and unwound the bandages from her knees to apply the ointment. The prince stood again, desperate to busy himself and clear his mind of the taste of Daphne Grimm.
He found a spool of bandages on a small table in the room and unwound it a bit, returning to Daphne's side. He sat at her feet and ripped a strip of bandage off, and began the tedious job of taping Daphne's knee back together after she finished applying the ointment.
He glanced up at her and found her watching his hands as he wound the bandage carefully around her knee. She seemed to study the movements of his hands, entranced with how they tugged and taped. William watched her face in wonder, because this was Daphne, wasn't it? This was almost his Daphne, small and uncertain and curious. William supposed this was the same look Daphne would have given Sabrina as a child as she watched her sister apply a Band-Aid to a little scrape.
For the first time William saw the precocious child inside the tough adult shell, and it was too hard to see. Too hard to accept that this really was Daphne.
Without a word, William put down the bandage, moved to the side of the bed beside Daphne, and hugged her the way she had always hugged him. For a while, she remained still in his arms, and William could feel the scars beneath her shirt. He could feel how broken she was, and he could almost feel a tangible lack of innocence in the girl.
He felt his emotions boiling just beneath the surface as his fingers bumped over the scars that most certainly told stories all over her back, and in his mind's eye he pictured his Daphne Grimm, with her wide, unending smile and constant happiness, and seeing that happy face and feeling those horrid scars…
"I'm sorry," he whispered against her. "I'm so sorry."
And suddenly she was holding him, too. With one hand she stroked his hair and whispered as he cried silently against his shoulder. Because who could do this? Who could steal the happiness from Daphne Grimm, of all people? The hope? Who could have taken her light? Who wasn't there to save her when her innocence was shattered like so many pieces of a broken mirror? Who wasn't there to protect her when she needed them? Who stole the child and replaced her with this broken shell?
He clung to the cloth of her shirt as if when he let go this last human part of Daphne, the part whispering "It's okay," the part stroking his hair, would fall away into nothing.
"I'll kill them," he finally murmured against her neck. "I'll kill whoever did this to you."
The room was silent for a long moment before Daphne whispered, "You assume I haven't already."
William tightened his grip on the Grimm girl and cried again. She was too far gone, shattered and scattered like so many pieces of a magic mirror, and no amount of love could bring her back.