Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me. No profit is being made
Emma rubbed her hands together and blew on them. It was freezing in her car. The Bug's heating system was temperamental and it was just her luck that tonight happened to be one of the non working nights. She glanced towards the mansion she was parked in front off. None of the lights were on, which wasn't surprising given the hour.
She tucked her hands beneath her armpits and sighed. It was going to be a cold and uncomfortable night without a working heater. At least the strange tugging in her chest had settled down though. She was going to have to have a chat with Regina about this whole champion business. She definitely had questions that needed answers.
Emma reached across to the other seat and traced over the hilt of her new sword. All the gems were dark, a stark reminder of what had happened earlier in the day. Both Nova, and Mother Superior had tried to refill the gems on her sword, but it seemed the Vorpal blade wasn't compatible with fairy magic. It had something to do with fairy magic being based on the dust the dwarves mined, as opposed to being an innate power source.
The only other option was of course Regina, but she currently didn't have the power to refill them. She barely had enough energy to remain upright from what Emma had seen, when she'd dropped her off at home. It would be the perfect time for an enemy to attack and that's why Emma was currently parked outside the mansion. She wasn't about to leave Henry and Regina unguarded. Not after what had nearly happened with the Jabberwocky. Her jaw unconsciously clenched as the memory of seeing that ball of flame bearing down on Henry and Regina played behind her eyes. If Regina's magic had failed…
Emma inhaled sharply and deliberately shoved away the memory. She opened the glove box and reluctantly took out a box of bullets. She really didn't like relying on her gun. Experience had taught her that it wasn't all that effective against magic or monsters. They were either too big or too fast, but without a power source to draw on, she currently had no choice. She tossed the box of bullets from hand to hand, before dropping it on the seat beside the sword. She could load the gun later, if the need arose.
Emma drummed her hands on the steering wheel a couple of times, before abruptly opening her door. The best way to keep warm after all, was to move around. She grabbed her sword, more out of habit than anything else, and got out of the car. She instantly regretted the decision when she felt the icy wind slice through her jacket. The car had been protecting her from that at least. With an aggravated sigh, Emma stomped along the sidewalk in front of the mansion. She popped the collar on her jacket and shoved her hands deep in her pockets, doing her best to ignore the tremors rattling through her frame. The exercise was bound to warm her up soon enough.
It was only as her senses brushed against the wards around the mansion, that she realised her mistake. She glanced quickly towards the house and sure enough, a light snapped on.
The last thing she intended to do was to disturb Regina. More lights snapped on and Emma groaned, disgusted with herself. She turned around and headed back to the gate. The wards bent around her as she pushed it open and strode up the footpath. She didn't even have to knock. Regina opened the door as she got to it.
Regina was barefoot and wearing a knee length blue silk robe that had obviously been knotted in a hurry. Her usually immaculate hair was falling haphazardly onto her face, and there were dark circles under her eyes. Not since the initial days after the curse had broken, had Emma seen the other woman look quite so dishevelled. Regina's colour was a whole lot better than earlier though. At least the ashen undertone to her skin was gone. Emma had definitely been worried when she'd had to leave to finish the cleanup at the docks.
"Ms. Swan, I hope you have a very good reason for skulking around my bushes". Regina irritably flicked her hair out of her eyes as she tilted her head back to look accusingly at Emma. There was now a distinct height difference between the two women.
"I'm really sorry, Regina." Emma shoved her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. "I got too close to your wards. I didn't mean to wake you".
"That still doesn't explain why you were out there in the first place".
Emma inspected the toe of her right boot as she scuffed it back and forth along the ground. "I was just in the neighbourhood, and thought I'd do a quick sweep of the area". She winced internally knowing the excuse was rather weak. Regina was going to rip it to shreds, but Emma wasn't about to admit that she'd been standing guard because she was worried.
She was surprised when silence greeted her answer. Emma cautiously looked up to see Regina just watching her tiredly.
Regina released a long suffering sigh. "Well now that I'm up, you may as well come in". She turned on her heel and walked towards the kitchen.
Emma stepped into the house and shut the front door, the locks automatically engaging behind her. She hung her sword on the coat rack Regina had placed in the foyer specifically for that purpose. The rack was made of stained dark wood and closely resembled the bare branches of a tree in winter. She thought about taking off her jacket as well, but then decided not to. The house was warm but Emma was still feeling a bit chilled from being out in the cold. She followed after Regina, and made her way into the kitchen.
Emma leaned up against the counter and watched the other woman stalk over to the coffee machine. Regina switched it on and then stood up on tiptoes to retrieve two mugs from the cupboard over her head.
Emma let her eyes wander over soft curves, and trail down toned legs. It was unusual to see Regina out of her power suits and heels. She seemed more human somehow, with her sleep tousled hair and bare feet. There was barely a flicker of power around Regina, but Emma still felt drawn to her. The attraction was just as strong, even without the pull of Regina's magic overlaying her senses.
"Enjoying the view?"
"As a matter of fact, I am", Emma was tired of ignoring the pull that existed between them. Of course she got that magic was playing a part in the strong physical attraction between them, but she didn't think that that's all it was. Not after what had nearly happened today.
Regina turned to face her, surprise flashing over her features at Emma's blunt honesty.
"You know, I find it interesting that you barely have enough power to light a candle". Emma moved forward, closing the gap between them. She gently took the mugs from unresisting hands and put them down beside the coffee machine "In fact, to be honest you look like crap". Dark eyes widened in outrage, as Regina attempted to shift away from her.
Emma placed her hands on the counter on either side of Regina, effectively trapping the other woman. "And yet you're still the most beautiful fucking woman I've ever met, Regina".
"Ms. Swan," Regina said warningly as she gripped the edge of the counter behind her, and leaned back away from Emma. "I believe we've already covered this subject".
"No, we did nothing of the sort". Emma took a breath, the sweet scent of Regina's moisturiser tickling her nose. She shifted closer, just short of making contact with soft curves. She smirked when she noticed Regina biting her lip.
"As I recall, you're the one who decided for the both of us. I didn't get a say in the matter".
Regina's eyes narrowed and she pushed off the counter. She grabbed the lapels of Emma's jacket and tugged, pressing their bodies flush against each other. "Is that so"?
Emma suppressed a groan at the feeling of soft curves pressing firmly against her own. Regina felt and smelt so damn good. Her gaze flicked to the full lips only inches away from her own, before returning to meet inscrutable dark eyes. "Yup", she stared challengingly at the other woman.
Regina tilted her head and smiled.
From one instant to the next, the tugging in her chest exploded back into being in an overwhelming cascade of emotions. Emma sucked in a gasping breath and staggered back a couple of steps. She clutched at her chest, as she struggled to comprehend worry/fear/DESIRE, that were all knotted together into a jumble of feelings. The emotions were familiar but they were definitely not hers.
"What the hell is going on?" Emma's eyes were wide as she stared at Regina.
"That Ms. Swan", Regina continued to smile that bright cold smile. "Is one of the many reasons why I must continue to insist that you work on your self control".
The foreign emotions abruptly cut off, and Emma slumped in relief. It was disconcerting to feel someone else's emotions like that. She rubbed absently at her chest. Her hand froze mid motion as a thought occurred to her. If she could feel Regina's emotions, did that mean Regina was able to do the same with hers?
"Yes, Ms. Swan, it goes both ways".
Emma immediately backed up to the opposite end of the counter. "You can read my mind?" She didn't even care that her voice was an octave higher than normal as she stared in horror at the other woman.
Regina looked faintly amused at her reaction, but her expression sobered rapidly. "No, I can't read your mind".
Emma's shoulders sagged in relief.
"But I can certainly read the emotions you are broadcasting like a radio station".
"What"? Emma immediately pressed both her hands over her chest, in a vain attempt to create a physical barrier to hold in her emotions. The thought of someone else knowing her innermost feelings was terrifying. She felt nauseous and the urge to run was becoming almost overwhelming.
"You need to calm down, Emma". Warm hands suddenly covered her own.
"Deep breaths". Regina took a breath and pressed firmly against Emma's hands, encouraging her to breathe with her.
Emma concentrated on the dark eyes inches away from her own and slowly breathed in and out, in sync with Regina. A soft thumb gently stroked back and forth over the backs of her fingers.
"Take all the things you are feeling, the fear, the panic, and roll them into a big ball."
Emma shut her eyes and focused on sorting out her emotions into one big ball..
"Now think of a big empty box, and take the ball and put it into that box."
Emma shoved the heavy ball of feelings into the box.
"Imagine a lid, made out of the same metal that bank vaults are made of. Absolutely nothing's going to get though it."
Emma could see the gleaming silver metal of the lid. It was reassuringly solid.
"Now shut the lid on the box".
The lid on the box slammed shut in her head and Emma's eyes snapped open.
"Well done, Ms. Swan", Regina said softly. She let go of Emma's hands and stepped away, putting some distance between them.
"Regina, what the hell?" Emma bent over slightly, trying to get her heart rate back under control. A calming warmth spread through her chest, chasing away the last bits of panic and fear.
Regina sighed. "I did warn you that there would be consequences to being my champion."
Emma shot her an incredulous look. "Oh right, so I should totally have been prepared for the fact that we can now feel each other's emotions"?
"From what I can tell, not all emotions, just the ones we feel very strongly." Regina walked back over to the coffee machine and busied herself at it. "Thinks like anger, fear and panic".
"That makes it so much better", Emma said sarcastically. She straightened up to her full height and focused her gaze on the other woman. Regina seemed remarkably unruffled about their situation, which was odd, given how intensely private she was. "How are you so calm about this?"
Regina pushed a button on the coffee machine and it started brewing. "I had to deliberately project at you in order to share what I was feeling." She turned sideways and leant her hip against the counter. "It's only really strong emotions that will be involuntarily transmitted. Once you have mastered it, the technique I just showed you should be enough to keep even that under control for the most part".
The soft hiss and burble of the coffee machine cut off and Regina turned back to it. She grabbed the second mug and placed it under the machine.
"For the most part?" Emma frowned, not liking the implication. She ignored the deliberately projected part for now, since that didn't sound like anything she would be interested in doing.
"Extremely strong emotions are still likely to get through initially, before you can put a lid on them so to speak".
"Right." Emma shoved her hands into her pockets. "So how do I go about mastering the technique?"
"That's going to take practise." Regina turned around, holding two mugs of steaming coffee in her hands. "You just keep doing it until it becomes second nature. Just remember, it's only very strong emotions like anger and fear that are going to get through, so work on your self control and it shouldn't be a problem".
"Self control. Of course. We're back to that again." Emma rolled her eyes and took one of the mugs from Regina.
Regina held her gaze. "I'm not saying that just to annoy you, Ms. Swan. Things are already complicated enough between us, without having to deal with a champion bond. All I'm asking is that you take this seriously, if not for my sake, then for Henry's. He's the one that's likely to suffer the most if things get out of control between us."
Emma blew out a breath. Regina was right. The champion thing was adding a whole new level of complicated to their relationship. They couldn't afford to mess things up between them. She needed to stop making this about her, and think about the other people involved.
"Ok fine, I will work on my control." Emma ruthlessly stomped down on the twinge of hurt that welled up, as she saw Regina's shoulders sag with relief. She took a sip of her coffee and eyed the other woman over the rim of the mug. "So what else is involved in this whole champion business?"
"It varies for each pair." Regina flicked her hair back. "There are some basics that hold true for all, like knowing when the other is in trouble, but each champion bond is unique in its attributes. We're just going to have to take things as they come".
Emma's eyes narrowed. That answer was rather conveniently vague. "Well for someone who didn't know what to expect, you sure knew how to handle the whole emotional sharing thing".
Regina went very still. "That's because in order to wield magic effectively, you have to be able to control your emotions," she answered quietly, a flash of old pain flickering over her face. "Be glad Ms. Swan, that you did not have to pay the price I did for knowledge of that technique".
Emma winced as she could almost see the other woman's defensive walls come up. From the little Regina had shared about her past, Emma knew that learning magic had not been a pleasant experience for her. For the second time that evening, Emma found herself apologising. "I'm sorry Regina. I'm just a bit thrown about the whole emotion sharing business".
Regina nodded stiffly but didn't look at Emma, choosing to focus on her coffee instead.
Emma took a large gulp out of her own mug and decided a change of subject was probably a good idea. "We didn't find any sign of Jefferson. I even had Red try to track him from the docks, but his trail just poofs into nothing."
"That's hardly surprising given that he is a portal jumper". Regina headed out of the kitchen. "Summoning the Jabberwocky would have been a substantial drain on him though, so we might get a reprieve in magical creature attacks".
Emma trailed after her into the lounge, her gaze unconsciously drifting over long smooth legs. "So you think he's going to lay low for a bit then?"
"It's likely, yes." Regina sat down primly on one of the cream leather armchairs. She narrowed her eyes at Emma when she noticed the direction of her gaze
Emma smiled sheepishly in apology and slumped onto the matching leather sofa.
"Should we try the Paige angle again?" The sofa was incredibly comfortable and Emma had to concentrate to make sure she didn't relax bonelessly into it, like her tired body was demanding.
Regina shook her head. "Let's save that as a last resort. I think there's too big a risk that it might trigger an even more violent response from him". She pursued her lips. "Speaking of which, how did you find out about the portal he used to summon the Jabberwocky so quickly?"
Emma set her cup down on the coffee table, her face scrunching up as she remembered her enforced trip through the hat. "Actually funny story. I got back to my apartment to find Jefferson waiting for me. He managed to catch me by surprise and before I knew it he zapped me into the hat. I ended up at the docks with a front row seat to the Jabberwocky summoning."
Regina frowned. "How did he get past the wards on your apartment?"
"Yeah about that". Emma scratched the side of her face. "I might have accidentally drained all the magic from them". Every time she touched the door at her apartment, she unconsciously absorbed a bit of the magic in the wards, and eventually they ended up totally drained. It was probably something to do with the fact that it was Regina's magic. She just couldn't help herself.
Regina shut her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"I was meaning to tell you, but with all the stuff that's been happening recently it just sorta slipped my mind". Emma smiled awkwardly. The fairies had originally warded the apartment, but once Regina had agreed to sharing custody of Henry, she insisted on doing it herself. She'd made it clear that she didn't trust the safety of her son to fairy magic. The practise hadn't changed even after Henry no longer spent nights with Emma.
"It's not that big of a deal anyway. It's not like Henry's been spending any time at my apartment recently, so I haven't compromised his safety." She picked up her coffee and took another big gulp. There was a sudden spike of anger in her chest that was distinctly not hers. The feeling faded away almost as quickly as it had appeared.
Regina carefully placed her mug down on the coffee table and rose to her feet. "I am going to bed, Ms. Swan." Her tone could have been responsible for freezing the Arctic sea, it was that icy. "I believe you can see yourself out". She was gone from the room before Emma even had time to blink.
"What the hell just happened?" Emma slowly lowered her mug as she stared after the other woman. She slumped back into the seat, going over the last few minutes in her head as she tried to figure out what she'd done wrong. Perhaps it was just the stress of the day finally getting to Regina.
Emma stood up with a groan, and stretched tired muscles, before picking up Regina's mug. She definitely wasn't looking forward to going back out into the cold night. At least the hot coffee would help with warding off the chill for a bit. She flicked off the lounge light and walked back to the kitchen, where she carefully washed and dried both mugs.
Emma headed to the foyer to collect her sword and was surprised to see a soft blue blanket folded over the banister next to the coat rack. She ran her fingers over the fabric and glanced up the stairs, before collecting both items. She switched off the lights and left the mansion, making sure the door was locked behind her.
As Emma settled in for a long night in her freezing car, a soft warmth spread through her chest that had nothing to do with hot coffee or the snug blue blanket she was wrapped in.
Emma strode hurriedly through the corridors of the town hall. She had been called in for another emergency council session. It had been a week since the Jabberwocky encounter and there had been no further magical creature attacks, and frustratingly also no sign of Jefferson. She and most of the sheriffs department had been out scouring the town for him, but they'd had no luck. She'd taken Regina's advice and steered clear of Paige, but Emma knew it was only a matter of time before he started causing trouble again. That kind of crazy didn't just stop.
She rubbed tiredly at her eyes. It had been a long and exhausting week, compounded by the fact that she hadn't been sleeping well. She was restless and constantly tossed and turned, unable to settle into a comfortable position. When she did manage to fall sleep, more from sheer exhaustion than anything else, she found herself sleeping on her side that faced the Mills mansion. It was like her body was automatically trying to adjust to where Regina was. She wondered if she should bring it up with Regina. It seemed like it could be another one of those pesky champion side effects. They hadn't really had much time to talk at all, after that first night. The double shifts that she had been pulling trying to find Jefferson, meant that she rarely got home before midnight. The only contact they'd had this week, were brief conversations at the door when Emma dropped Henry off after school. She was surprised by how much she missed having dinner with Regina and the kid.
Emma pushed open the conference room doors, unsurprised to see that she was pretty much the last one there. "Sorry I'm late. Got held up by a couple of Lost Boys". She slid into the empty seat beside Regina. The other woman didn't even so much as glance in her direction, but Emma felt a surge of irritation and impatience flare briefly in her chest. Regina had taken to deliberately projecting at her, when she felt the need to emphasise a point. It was usually very annoying, but today Emma also caught the undertone of relief that accompanied the other two emotions. She suppressed a grin. Somebody had obviously been worried about her whereabouts.
"No problem Emma", Snow flashed her quick smile, before turning her attention to the rest of the room. "Now that we're all here, we can get started. Mother Superior, the floor is yours".
"Thank you Madame Mayor", the nun inclined her head respectfully. "There is a matter of grave importance that we need to attend to." She opened her hand and placed a silver medallion on the table.
Emma leaned forward and squinted at the medallion. It was engraved with a picture of a group of cloaked horseman. Emma flinched as the picture actually moved, the horses galloping across the face of the medallion. The shapes of the riders seemed to change as well, blurring between bestial and human.
"That's the calling card of the Wild Hunt", Granny's voice was shocked.
Mother Superior nodded in acknowledgment. "I'm not surprised you recognise it Lady Lucas, given your family history."
Regina scoffed. "The Wild Hunt is just a fable meant to scare little children."
Emma took the opportunity to study the woman beside her. Regina had seemingly returned to her usual completely put together self. Every strand of her perfect hair was in its correct place. She could also feel the familiar tingle of her magic now back at full strength, flowing over her senses. It was only as she looked closer, that she could see the underlying tiredness beneath the carefully applied makeup. Emma frowned as she wondered if Regina was having trouble sleeping as well.
"I can assure you, Your Majesty, that it isn't a myth". Mother Superior's voice drew Emma's gaze away from Regina. "Several centuries ago, the Dark One brokered a deal with Queen Titania, where she agreed to no longer call down the Wild Hunt in our land. As the years passed, their existence faded into the mists of obscurity, relegated to just fables and myths."
"Titania, the legendary High Queen of the Fae, Mistress of the Wild Hunt. That's certainly a pretty tale, but that's all it is, a story," Regina directed one of her fake smiles at the nun. "I would prefer some actual proof if you don't mind."
"Lady Lucas and her family are living proof of the Wild Hunt's existence".
"What do you mean?" Regina asked sceptically.
"Prior to the deal made with the Dark One, the Wild Hunt would ride every time the full moon coincided with the thinning of the veil between worlds. Queen Titania would select one person from our land to be her consort and when the night ended she would rip their heart from their chest and consume it whole."
"Nasty". Emma scrunched up her face in disgust. The people of fairy tale land certainly seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with hearts.
"Beside the selection of a consort, any unclaimed person caught outside on that night, was considered fair game to the Wild Hunt."
"Fair game?" Snow tilted her head and frowned. "What happened to them?"
Mother Superior looked uncomfortable. "They were caught in the spell of the Wild Hunt and usually lay with whomever took them. The children born from these couplings were unusual. They had the ability to transform into wolves at will. People referred to them as children of the Moon". She nodded meaningfully at Granny and Red.
"I certainly don't have the ability to transform into a wolf at will", Red said tightly.
Mother Superior looked at her with pity. "That's because your bloodline has been diluted. With each successive generation away from the original child of the Moon, the bloodline became weaker, until eventually your family lost the ability to control the change".
"Spare us the false sympathy, fairy", Regina said coldly. "And just tell us why we are here today".
Mother Superior gestured towards the medallion. "Queen Titania always sends warning to the world the Wild Hunt will next ride in. They will be here on the night of the next full moon, the day this world calls Halloween".
Emma's eyes widened in shock. "Halloween is in two days. That doesn't leave us with much time."
Snow's mouth set into a grim line. "We'd better get started then".
This was meant to be a Halloween special, but four and a half thousand words later, here we are. I wrote and rewrote this so many times, especially the scene in the kitchen. I'm still not a hundred percent happy with it, but you get to a stage where you just have to stop. The next part should have a bit more action, and let's just say that Titania looks like Charlize Theron from Snow White and the Huntsman in my head. It's gonna be EQ vs EQ. What could they possibly be fighting over? ;)
To the reviewer who asked what Deus ex Machina meant. It means 'God from the machine". It refers to a plot device that an author introduces to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem. Basically Snow's ring is the deus ex machina in this story.
Thank you again for all the wonderful reviews, follows and favourites. I am really blown away by you guys.