a/n: I've been working on a post-finale fic, but a whole ago someone prompted me with "Snow/Charming, first times" and I couldn't resist finally writing it! The title and lyrics come from Brandi Carlile's Heaven. And, to clear up any confusion, I'm not sure how the Once creators envision the fairy tale world, but I need some way to organize the world for my fics, thus I imagine there are several kingdoms that surround the enchanted forest, thus they are all characters from an enchanted forest, as the show tells us, but various royal families, with various princes and princesses, exist :)
And love is all that I need,
And I found it there in your heart.
Oh, it isn't too hard to see,
We're in heaven.
He thinks about the kiss with the lady in the lake.
It was impassioned, frenzied, his heart in his throat, her mouth hot against his, but it wasn't Snow, and he would rather forget it. Snow mentions the kiss in the woods when he tried to restore her memory. She laughs when she says it, when she talks about the time he attacked her with his lips.
"Some first kiss," she muses.
But he shakes his head. She was as cold as her name, and that fast, hard kiss, her lips still and startled under his, her body rigid, his hands trembling with desperation, that wasn't their first kiss, because that wasn't Snow, either. It was a woman who sold her heart to destroy her memories, unable to understand that the two were intertwined, and the kiss doesn't count. It wasn't their first.
Snow looks at him with bright, bemused eyes. "Fine, Charming. What was our first kiss?"
"It was when you kissed me with tears on your cheeks and trembling lips," he says, "because you felt something you didn't understand and were afraid to feel, yet you kissed me, because you never let fear stop you, my sweet, stubborn Snow, and you remembered who you were, who we were, and your kisses became like laughter, as happy and as bright and as beautiful as you yourself are."
Her smile is slow, and he thinks about honey spread over biscuits, slow and sweet enough to make his stomach ache, yet always able to tempt his own smile. "As charming as ever, aren't we?" she says, and she reaches out to trace his smile. He kisses her fingers, and she slips her hand around to cradle his head as she kisses him, another kiss among hundreds, and he remembers the very first.
A first kiss for the ages, he thinks, a moment to put into tales about true love.
He grins, and she bites his lap, as though she knows his thoughts.
"Don't be smug about it," she says, biting his lip. "What else do you remember?"
The first time they dance, her feet are bare, her hair is wild, and she laughs at his clumsy steps.
Around them, the dwarves are drunk, singing and swaying, trying to dance, sneezing through laughter, sleeping through rousing cheers to life and to love. The loudest drunk is Granny, telling war stories to the dwarves, and Red is pink in the cheeks, too, singing along with the dwarves.
Charming is startled when Snow pulls him to his feet, twirling herself with his arm.
"Don't you dance, Charming?" she says.
He shakes his head. "I've never learned."
A boy raised on a farm, herding sheep and trying to make his lonely mother smile, doesn't dance. But Snow doesn't know from where he came or who he was once upon a time, and she laughs at his hesitance. "Don't worry," she tells him, taking his hands. "I'm an excellent teacher." And she is drunk, too, he thinks, pale cheeks flushed, her body warm and soft as she presses up against him.
She tells him how to stand and how to hold his arm, moving his limps as though he were a doll.
He lets her, because the smile on her face befits her, and tomorrow they will set out to save their kingdoms, to end the war they didn't start, but tonight they are reunited, engaged, together, and she deserves to smile. But, laughing she stumbles over her own feet, and he sweeps her into his arms.
He feels steady on his feet, at least, holding her, as though this is how he is meant to stand.
She stares at him for a moment, and he waits for her witty comment as they sway from side to side.
But she reaches out to cup his cheek. She tilts her head. "I like your stubble," she says.
He laughs, and she kisses his cheek, and she is warm and soft and his.
And Dopey hoots when Snow kisses him on the mouth. It makes Snow snorts against his mouth, but she winds her arms around his neck and continues to kiss him, and he loses himself in the kiss.
It isn't like the dances held in ballrooms, princes dressed in their finest, ladies drenched with pearls, where dancing is an art, but it is their first dance, and every dance within castle walls that follows makes him remember the first, her drunken kiss, her pink cheeks, her pale feet splattered with mud.
The first time Charming sleeps beside Snow, they're at the cottage.
It's warm, and the thick, scratchy sheets are familiar, but they feel as though they're from another life, a life before he was James, a life before he met Snow, and someone a life before he met Snow doesn't seem real. The dwarves are scattered around the house, snoring wherever they happened to fall asleep, at the table and on the stairs and sprawled across the floor, but Snow tugged him to bed.
She burrows under the sheets, and he wraps an arm around her, pressing close.
A few minutes later, though, the warmth is too much. She rolls out from under his grasp, the sheets tangling around her legs, and she snores lightly, the wine enough to keep her asleep despite the way she tosses. He doesn't really sleep. He thought she was lost to him, meant to spend eternity asleep in glass, cold and lost. But he found her, and she is with him, pale skin warm to touch.
He falls asleep at some point, and he wakes up to feel her curled against his back.
Her face is pressed between his shoulders, her arm curled around his wait, spooning him. A few minutes later, the pretty quiet is broken when Doc comes into the room to wake them, to pull open the curtains and to let the bright sunlight stream in. Snow curses under her breath and hides her face against Charming. He grins, amused that she doesn't like the morning, pleased to have the fact.
Any fact about her is a fact he wants to be his, a fact he came too close not to knowing.
Her arm tightens around his waist, and she sighs, sleepy. He closes his eyes to revel in it.
She slaps him across the face, and her eyes are cold enough to burn his flesh.
He swallows thickly. "Snow, please —" He is stunned. He thought that, whenever he found the courage to tell her the truth, the time to tell the story right, the moment when he could share his whole life with her, she would accept it. She would smile and squeeze his hand and understand.
"Don't," she breathes, starting to walk away, shaking her head. "Don't look at me like that."
He reaches for her.
"And don't touch me," she hisses, and she leaves him standing along in the darkness outside the castle. She rescued him from the king, risked her life to do it, yet as they escaped his clutches, the awful man spilled the secret, and Charming felt his heart splinter the moment he saw her expression, the betrayal, because he isn't Prince James; he is a shepherd, a pretender, a no one.
He feels eyes on his face, and he glances at Red. "Why you didn't tell us?" she asks, and her face is strangely blank in that way she possesses, her voice cool and neutral; it isn't obvious to those who don't know her, but Red doesn't let anyone see her thoughts unless she wishes for them to be seen.
"Because I — I didn't want this," he says, looking towards the woods into which Snow fled.
"James," Red says, and something exasperated seeps into her voice, "or whatever your name is, I hope you aren't the impression that Snow is upset with you because you weren't whom she thought."
He frowns. "Isn't she?"
"No, you stupid man," Red says, as though annoyed with his entire gender. "She is upset that you weren't who you said you were. She is upset that you lied. It might be understandable for you to keep your secret from me, or from the dwarves, or from anyone else, but not from the woman you love, the woman you want to wed. How can she wed you when she doesn't know your name?"
He feels shame settle in his gut. "She knows my names," he whispers. "She. . . ." And Red waits.
She doesn't wait for long. "Well, you need to think up some pretty words with which to apologize, because you'll need them. And I suggest you share any other scandalous secrets while you're at it."
She heads off to the woods, and he sighs, closing his eyes for a moment, before he follows. He finds Snow with Aurora, cooking pheasants over a small fire, and he nods and smiles at everyone in the camp, the people who helped to rescue him, the people who have no idea what happened.
He needs to talk to Snow, but he can't find a single moment to do it.
Philip hails him with maps for the upcoming battle, and he can't ignore that.
A few dwarves bring him dinner, and they want to tell him about the ways in which they helped with the plans that broke him from the castle, and he isn't rude enough to brush them aside. He sees Snow, a child on her lap, his brown hair thick and wild, and Snow murmurs something to him that makes the little boy laugh. Charming thinks about their children, and he hopes they will still exist.
They will, he thinks. He won't lose Snow, not for anything, no matter what.
Red is right. Snow doesn't care who he was. She cares that he lied.
He finds her beside the river, washing pheasant from her hands, and he moves to sit.
She doesn't look at him.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," he says. "I never found the right moment."
Her nostrils flare. "I'm sure it was very different to find the time to tell me your name," she snarls.
He stares at her. Doesn't she understanding? "Charming," he says. "My name is Charming."
Her lips are pursed. "It's not your real name," she says. "I don't know what you real name is."
The words are scornful, the tone terrible to his ears.
"It is my real name," he insists. "Snow, the life I led before you wasn't mine. It was never mine. I lived as a shepherd, and my life was about caring for my sick father and making sure my mother didn't succumb to sadness that I never understood. My life was about keeping the farm in our family, about assuring that we stayed fed, about dreaming for a life with true love, unable to do anything other than dream. It wasn't a life. And, suddenly, a new, strange life was thrust upon me."
She doesn't try to interrupt.
He can't stop the plea in his voice. He needs her to understand. "I was expected to be someone else, and I tried to do it, but I couldn't. I wasn't allowed to be a shepherd, but I couldn't be a prince, and no matter where I was or what anyone called me, I never belonged. But you appeared, a thorn in my side, and the moment you said it, said my name, it was my name, and I was where I belonged."
She looks at him, and he hopes she can see the truth in the words.
Her fingers are cold and wet from the river when she holds his face, but her lips are warm and dry.
"My name is Charming," he murmurs, kissing her, "and what I am is yours."
It was their first fight.
She snorts, months later, when he says it, when he calls that their first fight. Absently, she strokes the little foot that presses against her belly, five tiny toes pressed out into the world, and her eyes are on Charming. "I wouldn't call that our first fight," she says, sounding amused at the very idea.
"And what would you call it?" he asks.
She shrugs. "It wasn't a proper fight. Only a misunderstanding."
"I see," he says. "It was our first misunderstanding."
She starts to smile at him, only to frown abruptly, exasperated.
"Kick my bladder one more time," she says, "I dare you." And she sighs, muttering something about "you cheeky little thing," and Charming leans forward to press a kiss to those five tiny toes.
The king sends his men into the woods after them the very night that Charming escapes.
They set fire to the woods, but they use magic to do it. The king uses magic, powerful magic, dark magic, and the smoke reaches into the sky to hide the stars as the fire spreads through the forest, spreads to the closest villages, and screaming and choking and wailing ring out into the darkness.
The fire touches the castle, too, and the king cannot control it.
It happens too quickly, a smoky, terrible blur, but Charming tries to save the king.
After all, his brother called this man his father, and no one deserves death.
But he cannot do it. The sun rises over barren trees and crumbled stones stained with soot, and the king is dead, but Charming doesn't realize it; he is too distant from the world. He is feverish, his hand twisted, his flesh cooked, his skin red, blistered, and he feels chilly as Snow pulls his head into her lap, as her tears slide over his cheeks. "It looks worse than it is," he says, trying to smile.
The magic prickles his skin, and he lurches awake, struggling against his captors.
"Don't fight it," a sweet, high voice tells him, chiding. "We're helping you, your highness."
He tries to voice his thoughts, but his mouth is too dry, his eyelids too heavy, and he feels soft, small fingers card through his hair. "Stay still, darling," she whispers, the endearment like a salve, and he relaxes against her. The magic is icy against his skin, but he blinks, and he sees Snow.
She laughs, her eyes bright.
He sits up, her hands on his arms to help him, and he flexes his hand, staring at the smooth, unblemished skin. He looks around. He is in the woods, sitting in a cot, one among dozens that hold others wounded in the fire. His eyes flicker to the sparkling fairy who hovers over his cot.
She saved him with magic.
"Thank you," he says. It's the first time anyone has ever used magic to help Charming.
She bows her head. "My pleasure, your highness," she says, flying away.
He looks at Snow.
And she nods, her eyes softer. "The king died," she says. "And the sixth kingdom became yours."
He stays in the woods that day, talking to the people that bow their heads to him, that call him the king, people who cry when he touches their hands, who wish him a long life, who are already to loyal to him. The responsibility is heavy on his shoulder, but he won't fail those who trust in him.
And he watches the bright, colorful fairies flitter among the cots and heal the wounded, washing away what dark magic did with blessed magic. "It isn't always bad, is it?" he asks Snow. "Magic."
She intertwines their fingers. "Magic isn't good or evil," she says, "what matters is the heart."
He feels ill at ease within these castle walls.
They are his walls, and this is his castle, but the silk sheets are as unfamiliar against his skin as they always were, and he feels trapped worried that at any moment the king will reappear, and Charming will be where he started, a shepherd made a prince and forced to wed against his will.
He is the king, though, and the woman he will wed is the woman he loves. He is not trapped.
But he panics for a moment when the door creaks open. A moment later, however, the bed shifts and Snow leans over him. "Come on," she murmurs. "I want you to have something." He starts to ask what, but she tugs on his hand, pulling him from the bed, and his feet are bare as she leads him from his chambers, down winding staircases that the kind told Charming only servants used.
They end up in the kitchens, cool and clean, empty save Charming and Snow.
"What is it?" he asks.
She makes him close his eyes, and he smile at her childish excitement. She presses something into his hands, a mug hot to the touch. He starts to open his eyes. "Don't!" she squeals, and she cups her hands around his and helps him raise the drink to his lips. "Be careful," she warns. "It's hot."
He isn't sure what he expects, but it isn't the sweet liquor that meets his tongue.
"It's chocolate!" Snow exclaims, too excited to stop herself.
He opens his eyes, startled at the realization. "I've never had chocolate," he confesses.
"I suspected you wouldn't have," Snow says. "Isn't it divine?" She sighs, slipping onto his lap, and he curls an arm around her waist. She sips from his mug, eyes bright. "Oh, I've missed chocolate."
He smiles. He was made a prince months ago, yet he never though about trying it, the delicacy for nobles, for princes. She presses the mug towards him, and he takes another sip, savors the sweet taste. But Snow laughs softly, and she leans forward. He waits for her kiss, only to have her pulls his upper lip into her mouth, sucking gently, licking away the chocolate and stealing his breath.
She smiles at him, her eyes close enough to make him dizzy as he holds her stare. He squeezes her hips, ready for another kiss, drunk on her, only to have her hum suddenly, happily, nuzzle her nose with his, and reach for the chocolate. "And this is special chocolate," she says. "I made it, and I add cinnamon to my chocolate. I suppose I should have you try chocolate without cinnamon, though."
He shakes his head. "No," he says, smiling. "I don't want it any other way."
They finish the chocolate together, and she follows him to his chambers rather than return to those the servants prepared for him. His belly is warm and full with the sweet drink, and he falls asleep with Snow curled against him, cinnamon chocolate on her breath as she snores against his chest.
The kingdom is his, and he rides to find his mother.
Snow comes with him; neither can bear to be parted from the other, especially not when the Evil Queen is still a threat. They are to be wed as soon as Charming can find his mother, and he will never let anything separate him from her. The forests and fields and farms are as he remembered.
His whole world is different, yet this world is exactly the same. Almost.
The house is abandoned, empty. He is stunned. What happened?
It must've been the king, except he would've found out about it. The king would've told Charming had he executed her, or imprisoned her. He would've held the threat over his head. But the king didn't, and he must've not have been able to do it. His mother must've found somewhere to hide.
"We can search for her at first light," Snow promises, squeezing his hand.
He starts the fire in the heart, and she searches through the cabinets for dishes. The barn is empty, the animals lost or stolen, but Snow bought food as they passed through town, and they eat at the little table. Snow can't stop looking around, and he starts to narrate his childhood, the chair where his mother used to sit when she knit, the stool where his father kept their Bible, the dried lavender that hangs from the rafters and has as long as he remembers. He used to try to jump to reach them.
He unhooks a bundle and presents it to Snow.
She shakes her head at him, but she takes the flowers. She likes to act as though she isn't, but Snow White is as sentimental as they come, and she enjoys lovely words and pretty flowers, too.
It's the first time he presents her with flowers, those dried lavenders, their pretty scent lost, their color faded, leaves flaking off, but she holds them with special care, and he loves her dearly for it.
He lays with Snow for the first time in his childhood bed.
They mattress is straw, the blankets scratchy wool, but Snow burrows happily under them, ready to face the cold when the fire in the hearth dies, and he curls up beside her. It is a narrow bed, and she is settled atop him. She stares at him for a moment, her chin propped up on her arms, resting on his chest, and he strokes her hair. "I love you," he says, because he can't say the words enough.
"I know," she replies, and he raises his eyebrows. She smirks. "And I love you, too, Charming."
She leans up to kiss him, and he supposes she meant for it to be a simple kiss.
He slips his hands into her hair, however, opening his mouth under hers, deepening the kiss. She shifts, spreading her legs to straddle his hips, holding his face in her hands as she kisses him. Her kisses are addictive, the most blessed magic, sweeter than chocolate, more beloved to him than anything, enough to make his poetic thoughts fade as hunger for more, more, more rears to life.
His hand slides along her neck, and he marvels at how soft the skin of her throat is.
He brushes the top of her shirt, a sensible cotton shift, and she breaks the kiss.
She shifts, moving to sit, her hands on his chest. She looks kissed, and possessive pride grips him.
"Charming," she breathes, almost smiling, "my devoted Charming."
He rests his hands on her hips. "Snow," he says, "my beautiful Snow."
She reaches up, pulling the strings on her shift, and she shrugs the cotton off her shoulders.
"Well, go on," she says, tilting her head at him. His hands tremble, and she laughs softly, unafraid, because she trusts him, because she loves him, and he unravels the wrap around her breasts, his knuckles burning every time they brush her skin. Her breasts are round and full, nipples as pink as her lips, and he looks up to see her eyes flutter closed as he takes her breasts into his hands, squeezing gently, and he rises, sliding his hands to her waist, moving her to lie underneath him.
He lowers his head to her breasts, kissing a line between them before he takes a nipple into her mouth, and she lets out a sharp, soft cry, but her hands curl into his hair, and he licks and kisses and sucks, encouraged at the sounds she makes, brushing his lips across to the other breast.
He raises his head at last, moving to take her mouth, and her hands tug on his own shift.
"We aren't wed," he whispers, hesitant, desperate for her, for everything, yet too honorable not to hesitate. Snow looks at him with glazed, dark eyes, face flushed, and she starts to shake her head.
"I couldn't possibly care less," she breathes, "and you're mine, aren't you?"
He breathes the word. "Always."
"And I'm yours, aren't I?"
He thinks his heart might be in his throat, and he nods.
Her fingers curl into his shift, and her smile is mischievous and sweet, is Snow White. "Prove it."
He kisses her, plunging his tongue into her mouth, and she is breathless, laughing softly as he tugs off his shift. They fumble with their clothes in the small bed, her elbow knocking into his chest, her arm twisted under his for a moment, tantalizing touches sending jolts through him, their kisses rushed and happy. He settles between her thighs at last, though, stroking her hair.
He doesn't say anything, but she smiles, because nothing needs to be said.
And his eyes hold hers as he pushes into her.
She gasps, arching slightly, lip trembling, her nails digging into the skin of his arms.
"Oh, Charming," she whispers, the words shaky. And she shifts slightly, her knees curling up to frame his hips, and he starts to move, sliding in and out. Her legs wrap around him, as though to steady herself, and she pushes her hips forward to meet his, making him groan at the change. He hasn't ever felt like this, hasn't ever lost himself like this, hasn't ever loved like this.
Hers are the only eyes that will ever hold his.
He comes inside her, and his forehead falls to her shoulder.
Her chest rises and falls against his.
"Charming," she whispers, her arms winding around his shoulders, "you're mine."
She says it with relish. He kisses the top of her beast. "And you're mine," he whispers.
They are together twice more before they succumb to sleep, and the third time is the charm.
She falls apart around him as he thrusts into her, stomach clenching, body trembling, and she cries his name, arching off the bed. He can't stop touching her afterward, toying with her hair, running his hands over collarbone, stroking the soft skin of her stomach, reveling in his ability to touch her.
He slept in this bed as a child, consumed with dreams about the life he would lead.
He dreamed about adventures, about becoming a hero, and his dreams changed as he aged; the adventures didn't matter as much as the true love that would be his closest friend in the world. He smiles to himself as he realizes that his life is better than his childhood dreams could've imagined.
He puts his mouth between her legs for the first time the next morning.
And she bakes for him for the first time, sweet, flaky morning cakes.
The outside world awaits them, but his world is humming to herself as she twirls around the kitchen, and he would not be parted from her for all the gold and all the glory in every world.
They don't find his mother.
She finds them.
A hand reaches out from the crowded town streets as they pass the egg stand that the chicken farmer owns, and Snow gasps, alarmed, as the hand takes hers. But he follows her gaze, and he sees the woman, his mother, more grey in her hair than he remembered, her eyes terrified yet hopeful, and he watches her gaze flicker from the ring to Snow to him, and she breaths in sharply.
"Mother," he whispers. "This is Snow White."
His mother starts to smile, clasping Snow's hand. "The ring fits you," she says.
Snow nods, and she laughs tearfully as his mother hugs her.
And the first time the woman he loves meets the woman who raised him is perfect.
The first time that he smells perfume on Snow, it is at his coronation ball.
He feels like a peacock, stuffed into fine clothes, washed and powered like a babe being readied for baptism, and the eyes around him are unrelenting. But Snow slips her arm through his, and she looks stunning, her hair curled and coiled atop her head, pearls strung through the locks, and the dark jade silk gown with beaded pearls, tailored especially for her, is striking against her pale skin.
She smiles. "Don't be nervous," she murmurs.
"I'm not," he replies.
She nods, her expression meant to appease a petulant child.
But she doesn't understand. She fits into this world. She dances with grace that only those born in a castle can possess, wears fine clothes with ease, smiles and laughs and never cowers from the eyes that follow her, from the soft murmurs about the bandit princess cast from her own kingdom.
He feels like a coward, but she presses close to him, and he smells her perfume.
"A king should not fear judgmental gossips," she whispers.
He rubs the silk over her hip. "I was made a king through deception," he replies.
She tilts her head, looking up at him. "No," she says, "you are a king because you are humble and honorable, the most king, most courageous man in twelve kingdoms, and kings are not born; they are made, made from men who are humble and honorable, men who steal the hearts of princesses."
Her lips twitch despite the solemn way she speaks.
"Have I stolen the heart of a princess?" he asks.
She nods. "Don't feel bad," she says, dismissive. "I extracted my revenge when I stole yours."
He smiles, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Keep it."
His heart is pounding when the bishop places the crown on his head, but he looks at Snow, at her smile, and he realizes that the emotion in her eyes is pride, and pride holds her posture and colors her cheeks and shapes her smile, pride in him. And, for the first time, Charming feels like the king.
"What about the first time I bested you with a sword?" Snow asks.
He looks over at her. "And when was that?"
"To be honest, I'm not sure," she replies, "I've bested you so many times, it's hard to recall the first, isn't it?" She sighs dramatically, and he shakes his head at her. "Ooh, I remember. It was outside the forge when the blacksmith presented you with your new sword. A new sword for a new king."
Snow raises a practice sword, poking his arm. "Come on," she teases. "Don't be scared."
He raises his sword, resting his other hand in his pocket. She looks annoyed at the gesture, and he laughs. "I was trained relentlessly for days on end after I defeated that dragon," he says. "After all, King George couldn't let anyone discover his ruse." He starts to circle her, his sword held aloft.
"I trained myself over years as a child," she says. "I could wield a sword when I was ten."
He nods. "I have natural talent."
"For being rather irritating, I agree," she says.
And he laughs. "I hope your sword is sharper than your wit," he says, and he blocks the first blow from her sword. She is quick, flittering around him like the birds that adore her, and he starts to sweat as he is forced to block blow after blow. He gains the advantage for a moment, and he is about to force her to her knees, only for her to block his next blow with such strength that he stumbled away from her, and she was relentless until he found himself on his knees, ready to yield.
They stare at each other for a moment, and she breaks out suddenly into delighted laughter.
He rises to her feet, clasps her face, and kissing her grinning lips.
"I am better with a sword than you," she taunts.
He chuckles. "And you aren't the littlest bit childish about it," he replies.
Snow recites the story with a flourish, and he leans over to kiss her. He likes that she is as quick as she is, that she is strong enough to force a knight to his knees. She isn't a woman who would wait to be rescued. No, she is a woman who would fight, and his adoration for her is as fierce as she is.
She writes the words in beautiful cursive, the loops pretty and practiced. Snow White. He stares at them, memorizes the shapes, tries to copy her letters. She guides his hand, and they fill the parchment with her name in her neat script and his shaky scrawl. But she finds fresh parchment, and she writes another word. Another name. He stares at the strange letters. She smiles.
Prince Charming, she tells him.
He tries to copy his name, and she helps him. A few minutes later, she takes the quill, and she writes a single word. He practices it. Learns it. And, finally, she takes the quill, and she strings together the short sentence. "Read it," she tells him, and he can see her voice put to parchment.
"Snow White loves Prince Charming," he reads.
It's the first time he's ever read something, and she smiles.
"She can make any threat she wants," he tells her, "but I will not let her hurt my wife."
And Snow pulls her head from her hands to look at him where he kneels before her, his hands on her knees, his eyes waiting to hold hers. "I'm your wife," she says. It's the first time, he realizes, that he's said it. Called her his wife. But they were wed that morning, and Snow White is his wife.
"I love my wife," he says.
She holds his face, thumbs brushing his cheeks. "I love my husband."
The first time they sit for a painting together, husband and wife, King and Queen in the Sixth Kingdom, he thinks he might lose his mind. Snow sits with simple ease, as though this were not the least bit uncomfortable, her shoulders squared, her face calm, and he feels his frustration flare.
"I cannot wait until we have children," Snow says, lips barely moving as she speaks.
He is startled, turning to stare at her.
The painter clears his throat, and Charming looks forward, plastering on his smile.
"It will be a nightmare to have family paintings done," Snow continues, voice light. "Our children will squirm and whine and ask me why they must sit still when their father doesn't. A nightmare."
And he thinks about it, their children.
"A wild little boy," she says, "a tiny little charmer from the moment he learns to talk."
He grins. "And his willful sister," he adds, "with mischievous eyes and dark hair."
"Oh, no," Snow says, "she'll have pretty yellow curls. Or, no, I know how it will be. A little girl with yellow hair and a little girl with black hair, and they'll cause trouble wherever they go, but no one will hold them accountable, because they will bat their eyes and charm everyone they meet."
He chuckles. "And how many children will we have?" he asks. "Only those three, or more?"
"More, certainly," she replies. "I intend to have my own little hoard of charming children."
They view the painting that evening, and Charming is stunned. It captures Snow perfectly, her pale cheeks flushed pink, her eyes bright, a smirk playing on her lips, and he sits beside her, his head turned to hers, adoration tempering the amusement in his eyes as he gazes at her. It isn't like the other paintings that line the halls, and Charming is positive that King George would not approve.
"It's perfect," Snow tells the painter, and Charming nods, wrapping an arm around her waist.
He can't wait to see the painting with their charming children.
"I cannot let my people suffer any longer," Eric insists.
Charming sighs. "The only way to stop the Evil Queen is to wage war," he says. "Are you truly prepared for that? Because no matter how many kingdoms are involved, your people will suffer."
"My people are ready to fight," Eric says. "And how can yours not be? The Evil Queen stole the throne from Snow. The seventh kingdom should rightfully belong to your wife, yet she was cast from her own kingdom, and the Evil Queen is determined to kill her and anyone in the sixth kingdom who would try to stop her. It is your wife and your people that the Queen would kill."
Charming moves to sit. "I understand, Eric. I am not oblivious, but the Evil Queen possess dark magic, and I fear what might happen should we run to war before we understand how to fight —"
The doors to the study are thrown open. "Charming!" Snow shouts.
He is alarmed for a moment, but her face shines with excitement, and she runs to him.
She smells like the sea, her feet bare and splattered with sand, her hair windswept, sea shells braided into the dark curls, and Princess Ariel hovers behind Snow, a smile playing on her lips.
"What is it?" Charming asks.
And Snow grabs his arm, placing his hand on her expanding stomach.
He smiles, puzzled, only to feet the jolt. He feels it; for the first time, he feels their baby move. He laughs, breathless, and looks at Snow to see her eyes gleaming with unshed tears. "That's our baby, Charming." She covers his hand with hers and tilts her up to kiss him. Her lips are chapped and smiling, and he kneels, presses soft kisses to her belly, feels the child move under his lips.
The first fight is awful.
As soon as they have left the dungeons, he sends away the guards, and he turns on her. "What was that?" he exclaims. "How could you tell that vile creature her name? A name is how he exerts power over people, Snow! Our child was safe from him as long as he did not know her name!"
He isn't an angry man, yet he is almost inarticulate with fury over what she did.
"We made a deal, Charming," she replies, eyes flashing. "His price was the name; we owed it."
Charming shakes his head. "We owed him nothing, Snow! He is our prisoner, and —"
"And he is dark and cruel and powerful, prisoner or not," Snow cuts in, "and he adheres to a single rule. A deal cannot be broken, and those who try to break one will suffer dearly for it. After what happened to Thomas, how can you possibly be foolish enough to risk breaking our deal with him?"
He shakes his head. "I understand that you've dealt with him before, purchasing potions to forget your heart, learning how to murder other people, but that does not mean you understand him. It does not mean that you can trust him. And how can you tell him what you intend to name our daughter before you manage to tell me?" The healers assured them that the child would be a son; after all, she carries the child low and craves salty food, two clear signs that the baby is a boy.
Snow crosses her arms over her chest. "Is that why you're upset?" she asks, irritated. "I wasn't sure the child was a girl, but I suspected it, and I've always thought Emma to be a beautiful name."
"We can't name the child Emma," he replies.
She gapes at him. "Why not?"
"Because you told Rumplestiltskin we would!"
"And you would make me a liar?" she exclaims.
He runs shaking hands through his hair. "Why is it impossible," he starts, fighting not to shout at Snow, "for you to understand that he will be able to hurt our child as long as he knows our name?"
She stares, opening and closing her mouth for moment. "Well," she says, lip curling, "it's nice to know that you do, in fact, care when someone threatens to hurt our child. I was starting to worry."
Her words are cold and cruel. "What is that supposed to mean?" he demands, incredulous.
"It means exactly what I said," she snaps. "It means that for months you have assured me not to be afraid, have told me I was silly to worry over my stepmother —" And he tries to protest, because he never said that, but she raises her voice, and she seems suddenly to tower over him. "— have made me feel ashamed that I didn't trust you enough to protect our child, ashamed that I cannot be as happy as you are because I am unable to forget the awful curse that my stepmother threatened!"
She breathes in sharply, glaring fiercely at him, and lets out a shaky breath.
"I never meant to make you feel like that," he says, stricken.
She presses her lips together for a moment. "But you did," she tells him. "And now you want to make me into a terrible mother because I wanted to speak with Rumplestiltskin to find a way to save Emma, because I made a deal with him to protect our daughter, because I refused to break the deal and risk losing you the way that Ella lost Thomas?" She shakes her head. "I hate you for that."
"I am as scared for Emma as you are," he breathes, his anger shaping into something else, sinking in his stomach, making him feel nauseated with guilt. "Snow, I fear this curse as much as you do."
She raises her eyebrows at him, and her eyes are wet. "Well, you could've fooled me."
"I am afraid," he says, reaching to take her hand, "but you must know that every time I tell you not to fear —" She jerks away from her grasp, and his heart clenches, "— I tell you not to fear, Snow, because I will die before I let anything happen to your or to our child, and I beg you to believe it."
Her face contorts, tears slipping free. "Don't," she says, teeth gritted. "Don't you dare say that."
She shakes her head. "Don't!" she hisses. "I don't want to hear it, can't you understand? I don't want my husband to die for me, Charming. I want you to live with me. I want you to help me raise our daughter, and I want you to grow old with me. Don't swear to me that you would die. Don't."
Her tears are slipping free, but she pays no mind, staring at him with broken eyes.
"I'm sorry," he whispers, and she turns her face from him, swiping her tears. "I'm sorry, Snow."
"I had the entire world," she says. "I had a father who adored me, a stepmother who was my very best friend, a castle with beautiful toys and books and delicious food, and — and everything in the world, only to lose — to lose everything, to lose the people I love most, left completely, utterly alone. But you came, you found me, and we're going to have a child, and I'm happy, Charming, I'm happy, and I'm terrified, because I can't lose everything. I can't be alone. And I'm so afraid, I'm —"
His own tears catch in his throat.
"I cannot be a mother," she whispers, "I'm too scared, Charming. I'm terrified."
He reaches out, brushing the hair from her face, and she lets him. "I'm scared, too," he insists, "but, Snow, we will teach our daughter not to let fear stop her. We will teach our daughter how to stand and to fight, how to live and to love, no matter how scared she is." Her tears slip over his fingers.
She holds his wrist, turning to kiss his palm.
"What about my stepmother?" she asks. "How will we protect Emma from her?"
He shakes his head. "I don't know. But we will. Or, maybe, she will protect us. Isn't that what Rumplestiltskin said? And, you know, it makes sense." He smiles. "Think about it. Do you remember when you told me that magic isn't inherently good or evil? It is the heart that wields the magic that matters, you said. And you were right. A dark heart creates dark magic, and your stepmother possess an absolutely black heart, a truly dark heart that wields dark, powerful magic."
"I think she might not have any heart at all," Snow murmurs.
He wipes away the tear that slips down her cheek. "Regardless," he says, "a pure heart is more powerful than a dark heart, a pure heart like the tiny little heart that beats inside the tiny little baby that sleeps inside your belly, Snow. Our baby. A curse is a powerful thing, but a blessing is more powerful, and Emma is a blessing, Snow. A little perfect person that we made. Our little girl."
Her lip trembles, fresh tears in her eyes. "How do you always know what to say?" she asks.
He surges forward to wrap his arms around her, and she sinks against him. He turns to kiss her cheek, cradling her in his arms. Between them, the baby kicks. Their baby. Their daughter. Emma.
A baby created from their love, the only thing powerful enough to break the most evil curse.
He clutches Snow closer, afraid to let her go.
He holds her hips as she moves over him, and her nails scrape over his chest, slick with sweat, to find purchase on her shoulders, and she sinks onto him, takes him inside her, and her lips part.
They move together, meeting each other, skin slapping skin.
Her hair falls around her shoulders, dark and lovely, and he surges up, changing the angle, kissing her as she gasps, and his hands rove over her soft, sweaty flesh. She breathes his name, and he bends to kiss her breasts, swollen and sensitive, and her hands fist into his hair as she whimpers.
They come together, and he kisses the tears off her cheeks.
It's the first time she's ever cried while they were laying together.
"Don't be afraid to be happy," he whispers, stroking her hair.
She presses her nose into his neck, wet eyelashes tickling his jaw. "I love you," she breathes.
Afterward, lying in bed, the world softer around the edges, she asks.
"Do you remember the first time we kissed?"
She rubs the little foot sticking out from her belly as she speaks.
He tilts his head. "I do," he says, and he describes it, and she looks at him with bright, bemused eyes when he insists that the first kiss was in the woods when true love made her remember him.
She bites his lip playfully as he kisses her. "What else do you remember?" she asks.
"I remember every first we've ever shared," he tells her.
She turns her head, slipping her hand under her cheek. "Remind me."
The first time he holds his daughter, he pretends not to hear his wife sob.
He needs to reach the wardrobe. He needs to make sure Emma is safe. She is quiet in his arms, as though she trusts him, and he finds strength in it, cutting down the knights that try to stop him, the knights who would hurt his girl. He kneels before the wardrobe, holding his sweet, tiny daughter.
She is truly tiny, and she is helpless, and she is beautiful. She blinks, her eyes bright and innocent.
His heart lurches, and for the briefest moment he can't do it. He can't be parted with her.
But he places her in the wardrobe. It was the first time he held her, and it won't be the last.
He needs it not to be the last.
As the knights attack him, as their swords pierce him, as the world spins beneath him, he wishes with all his might for it. He hasn't ever wanted anything as much as he wants this. No matter what happens, please, he thinks, hopes, prays, please, don't let the first time he holds her be the last, too.
He thinks about the kiss with the lady in the lake.
He thought he was about to die when she pulled him under the water; he thought, defeated, that he would drown, and he would never have kissed Snow White. It was the thought that he might find her, that he might kiss her, a true kiss, that made him fight the creature, that made him fight to live.
He thinks about the first kiss that they shared, the real kiss.
And, strangely, he thinks about the first time she said his name.
The world is black around the edges, but he saw the empty wardrobe. Emma escaped. And he blinks, remembering the first time he taunted Snow, the first time Snow teased him, the first time she said, propping her chin on the ropes in the net that ensnared her, "well, aren't you charming?"
Hanging from a net, she laughs at him, and, for the first time, he truly isn't afraid to die.
Nothing could change what you mean to me.
Oh, there's lots that I could say,
But just hold me now,
Cause our love will light the way.