Author's Note: It's been a very busy week for both of us, so this chapter did not get picked over and dressed up like the others. So all mistakes are ours and we apologize in advance.
"Where is what?" Emma interjected, lifting herself from the ground quickly. Her green eyes went wide as she watched Maleficent pick Regina up by her neck. She faintly noticed the glowing of her necklace, but all of her attention was on Regina. "You put her down right now!" Emma shouted angrily, already moving to make a run towards the woman holding her love by the neck.
Maleficent only threw her head back in laughter, keeping her hand on Regina's exposed neck. She quickly turned her head towards Emma, an amused smirk spreading her painted lips. "I suggest you back off, little girl. This is none of your concern."
Emma was about to protest, but something forced her airway shut. She stood there for a moment with her mouth hung open and gasping for air. Emma could feel Regina's eyes on her, but she saw nothing as she slumped back to the ground.
As Maleficent brought her attention back to Regina, she saw the scared look on the brunette's face as Regina stared at the blonde's huddled body. It wasn't just fear she saw there, but another look that she hadn't seen in Regina's eyes in far too long.
"Well, well, well. Would you look at that. The Siren Queen is in love again." Maleficent mocked, gaining Regina's attention quickly.
Regina narrowed her eyes and ignored the gasps she heard around them. It was apparently a surprise to most that someone like her could be in love. However, instead of acknowledging what Maleficent said, Regina changed the subject.
"What do you want, Maleficent?" Her voice was calm, but lined with venom. If possible, Regina's brown eyes narrowed further.
"Oh I think you know, Regina." Maleficent stated with a wiggle of her left hands fingers.
Regina's eyes cut to the wiggling fingers and she immediately noticed something missing. She looked at Emma once more before turning her spiteful gaze back to Maleficent. "I don't have your precious ring, my dear Maleficent. Now if you don't mind, would you kindly release your grip on Emma's throat. You're killing her."
It looked as if Maleficent was about to protest, but Regina heard a large gasp from beside them and she exhaled with relief. She wasn't sure what she would have done had Emma died. Regina only reigned in her anger to make sure Maleficent would release the hold on her neck. But until then, she needed to be patient with her old friend.
The blonde witch searched Regina's eyes. As she saw that her friend was in love, she also saw that she wasn't herself, and not just in the same way people change when they fall in love. There was something hollow. She tilted her head, and then she noticed that there was no pulse under her fingers, no quickening of heartbeat for Maleficent to grin wickedly at as she normally would. Regina was afraid, but not for herself. Before now, she never had a reason to be, not with her. Now, she faced death, and all she could do is let out a snarky statement about her little pet. "Your heart." She let Regina go as if her hand had been burned, and she stepped away.
"You've come all this way to choke the life out of me all for the concern of my heart? How sweet. Almost reminds me of old times." There was a small laugh there, and Emma's eyes flickered to Regina. Even if bitterly, Emma hadn't heard the other woman laugh since her heart had been stolen. She tried to search her mind for when Regina may have laughed even that night on her ship, but her addled mind was already filling up with a strange sea chantey she had heard once a long time ago when she was really young, long before even her family found her. The words Regina spoke made Emma wonder just what kind of friends the two had been, but judging the blonde witch's answering smirk, she was sure she didn't want to know.
Maleficent's face fell, which wiped away her smirk. "Where is your heart, Regina. You can't be in love without one."
"You don't say," Regina replied. "If you must know, it was taken."
"By your mother."
"Yes." Regina's look was dumbfounded. There really were only a good handful of people to blame for this crime, but it was doubtful anyone would point their fingers to Regina's own mother. "How did you know?"
Maleficent looked at Regina with pity now, before her eyebrows furrowed. Under other circumstances, it would have amused Regina to see such a colorful array of emotions pass the blonde witch's face. Still, there were words Maleficent was trying to find, and so Regina gave her that time. "I thought she was working for you when she came to my home."
"She came to you? When? Why?"
"Why do you think?" Maleficent held up her hand again. "I couldn't figure it out, why she was there last night. At first I thought she was passing along a message from you. It had been too long since tea in Wonderland, dear," she said as an afterthought, her voice almost wistful now. "That is, until she attacked me. I was there when she taught you magic, dearie. I knew I couldn't defeat her, but she wasn't out to kill me. She just wanted my ring."
"I'm sorry," Regina said. She felt responsible for her mother's actions even if she couldn't figure out what she was doing, let alone why.
"And now she has both my ring and your heart. What I don't know is why," Maleficent said almost to herself now. "If your heart beats as two, then I could see it. So many spells require it to complete... but to have my ring as well?" She shook her head.
As Maleficent spoke mainly to herself, Emma wobbled her way over to Regina. She was trying to catch her breath still as she placed a hand on Regina's shoulder. Absentmindedly, Regina placed her arm around Emma's waist, which in turn helped to keep the blonde upright and standing. Emma leaned against Regina and let out a sigh of relief.
Regina swished her hand through the air, affectively silencing Maleficent. She quickly turned to glare at Regina, dramatically pointing to her mouth and raising an eyebrow. Regina laughed heartily, once again sending a jealous streak racing through Emma.
"I needed your attention, dear." Regina spoke before releasing the silencing spell on Maleficent.
"You could have just yelled my name." Maleficent said, clearing her throat for effect.
"Yes, well, as you can tell I am not much for yelling right now."
"Oh, she really did take your heart, didn't she?" Maleficent questioned, eyes flickering for a moment to the blonde hanging onto Regina. Her eyes scanned Emma's body, her tongue coming out to lick her lips appreciatively. "You have good taste, Regina. It's too bad your mother had such terrible timing. You could have had a nice little life with this one." She waved her hand at Emma, slipping a wink to her.
"Enough." Regina spat, her arm tightening around Emma a little tighter. She let silence stretch for a few minutes before continuing. "You said something about my heart beating as two. Explain that…please?" Regina raised her eyebrows and tilted her head the tiniest bit.
Maleficent smiled wickedly, taking a step towards Regina. Emma straightened up even further, ready to throw herself in front of her if needed. Maleficent rolled her eyes and stopped moving.
"Relax, dear. I'm not moving to strike. Calm down." Maleficent looked at Regina with a side smirk. "She's jumpy." She pointed out, chuckling soon after.
Regina made no move to laugh, only staring Maleficent down. "Explain." She said once more.
"Alright, alright. I'm explaining." Maleficent stated, sighing slightly. "What I meant by that was your heart is not only beating for one person, but two. Meaning that your heart is beating for you and for her. The same can be said about her heart as well." Maleficent stopped to point at Emma. "Perhaps we can take a look, hmm?" She turned to Emma, reaching towards her chest with a smirk.
Regina quickly raised her hand, stopping Maleficent in her tracks and freezing her. "Don't you dare touch her." She growled, giving the older blonde a sneer before releasing her.
"Wow, Regina. You've lost your fun streak. Apparently love makes you a downer." Maleficent stepped away from Emma, leaving her be as Regina commanded. However, that didn't stop her from standing closer to Regina.
Emma stared on with eyes wide. She had been sure her heart was about to be ripped from her chest. However, she instantly relaxed when Regina stopped her. The relaxing didn't last long as she watched Maleficent stand a little too close to Regina for her liking. Her jealousy flared even further, this time mixed with a bit of anger. Emma did not like Maleficent. She clearly had no idea what personal space was. Not to mention she had the ability to make Regina laugh and that seemed to bother her quite a bit.
"Regina?" Emma spoke up, placing a hand smoothly on Regina's cheek to make her turn towards her.
"Yes, my love?" Regina asked, turning her head to Emma as she felt her smooth hand against her cheek.
"Shouldn't we be sailing? We need to find your mother." Emma reminded, raising an eyebrow. To be truthful, she just wanted to get away from Maleficent.
Regina nodded, agreeing with her. "We should be, yes. But first we need to convince Maleficent to sail with us. After all, my mother does have her ring." She turned to Maleficent, giving the woman an evil little smile. Regina missed Emma's face turning pale at her words.
"Me? Sail with you? Not in this bucket of rot, and never in this lifetime."
"Mally," Regina said softly, using a tone and nickname long ago abandoned when talking to her friend. This alone made Maleficent tense up. Emma did as well. Regina felt the body next to her shift, and she felt bad for Emma, knowing that if she was in her place she would feel the same way. The truth was though, that Regina couldn't defeat her mother now, especially since her heart and will to fight was mostly gone. "Please." The plea said so much more than anyone but the two witches would ever know. It spoke of long days learning spells together, of the times they laughed and told jokes and made fun of the so called 'pure' royalty who were living their happily ever after. It spoke even of the nights, and there had been a few, they had shared that had been too intimate for mere friendship. Her one word reminded Maleficent that they had been through too much for her to turn her back on Regina.
"Damn it," Maleficent said. She turned around and called out to her ship. "Take everyone home- No," she said as an afterthought. She crooked her finger in a beckoning gesture, and there before Regina and Emma kneeled a small young woman. She coughed and slowly got to her feet. "Now you may go. And send Phillip my regards." With that she turned her back on the ship, and only when she heard it begin to sail away, she smirked. The young woman didn't move, and Emma more than anyone knew that it was because her spirit had been broken. "Just a keepsake," the blonde witch said, "something to look at and remember old conquests."
"Oh no, dear," Maleficent said, her tone almost in disgust at the thought of touching the girl. "I just need to keep a kingdom in line, that's all. So, where are we staying on this... ship?"
It was then that Mulan spoke up. Before, she had been fine with letting Regina handle this woman, since she knew so little about magic except for the lore of her lands, but now this ship was hers, and she needed to make sure this new woman knew that.
"You'll be staying in the same place as everyone else on this ship. Sleep where you can. I gave Emma and Regina the Captain's quarters, so that's off limits." Mulan called from the helm, a smirk dancing on her lips as Maleficent scowled up at her.
"Oh, lovely. I get to sleep with the common." Maleficent said in mock enthusiasm.
Regina let out a short laugh, shaking her head. "Forever a proud witch." She said.
"Til the day I die." Maleficent remarked, winking flirtatiously at Regina.
It was that wink that made Emma let go of Regina and turn away. She didn't want to stand there and watch the two of them flirt with each other. Emma could only imagine the history Maleficent and Regina had, but she was trying so very hard not to think about it. She could feel everyone's eyes on her as she walked away towards the cabin. She vaguely heard Regina call after her, but Emma continued on. Jealousy and rage swam through her veins, but she tried not to let it show on her face.
Mulan watched Emma for a moment before kicking herself into gear. She began to bark out orders and everyone moved in a scurry. "Weigh anchor! Hoist the mizzen! Hoist the colors! We have a ship to sail!"
As the shipmates went about the tasks to make the ship sail, Regina turned to Maleficent. "Thank you, Mally." It was just a whisper, but it took Maleficent by surprise.
"I don't like what this is doing to you. You're very different without your heart." There was a frown on Maleficent's face as she said this.
"I don't like it anymore than you do. The taking of my heart changed Emma as well." Regina sounded sad as she said Emma's name. "This is why we're going after my mother. We both need my heart back."
"I can see that." Maleficent said, looking towards the place Emma had been walking. The blonde was nowhere to be found now. "She's a jealous one, Regina. I do believe she does love you. How marvelous." Maleficent almost sounded sincere, but Regina knew her well enough to know better.
"I would feel the same were I in her position." Regina defended, eyes cutting to the door of the Captain's quarters. "I must go speak with her."
"And leave me here alone? I don't think so." Maleficent scowled at Regina.
"You will be just fine on this ship, Maleficent. If someone messes with you, which I doubt will happen, then use one of your spells. You have plenty." Regina grinned evilly at Maleficent before turning and making her way to the door Emma had disappeared into.
It was dark in the cabin, but Regina's eyes quickly adjusted to it. The first place she looked was the bed. It was empty, no beautiful blonde to be found there. Regina sighed and turned, a flash of red catching her eyes. As she looked up, Regina saw Emma sitting in the ornate chair that was pushed back from the desk, sitting near the large window of the ship.
"Emma?" Regina called, moving towards the blonde slowly. She was only met with silence. "Emma. I am sorry." Regina continued to surprise herself with words she had never thought to say before losing her heart. Regina, Queen of the Sirens, did not apologize or say please….until now. Silence continued to reign on, so Regina moved around the desk and over to Emma, moving a piece of blonde hair from Emma's face with her fingers.
Emma did not move, nor did she look up at Regina. She was sulking and acting like a child, she knew that, but she was far less than okay with what had gone on between Regina and Maleficent on the deck. Emma desperately wanted to instantly move towards the hand that swept back her hair, but she willed herself not to move.
"Please speak to me, Emma. I cannot stand this silence." Regina's voice was strained, sounding as if she was holding back tears.
The blonde was silent for just a minute or two longer before she finally cast her green eyes up to Regina's beautiful face. "I don't like the way she touches you. Or the way she stands too close to you." Emma said, clenching her jaw together tightly afterwards.
The tiniest of smiles appeared on Regina's lips. Emma really was jealous. "That is just the way Maleficent is, dear. She does it to everyone."
"You are not just everyone." Emma argued, her hands clenching tightly to the arms of the chair. "You are… You are… My love, Regina." She confessed, cheeks reddening with embarrassment. This was not like Emma. "I don't want her to touch you. At all. And the way she touches you tells me there is a very large history there. One I'm sure I don't need to know about." Emma sucked in a deep breath, closing her eyes as she looked away from Regina. "I am jealous of her." The words spilled out of Emma's mouth before she could stop them and when they did, she felt angered toward herself and the blonde witch who now occupied the ship.
"My past is just the past, Emma. Surely there are others in your life before all of this," Regina said reasonably, though her chest swelled in anger at the thought of it. And it was just then that Regina understood it all. Regina draped herself over Emma when the woman didn't respond. "We lived in the same village so long ago. We were the only girls with any sort of nobility, and since my mother didn't want me to be anything but royalty, she wouldn't allow me to play with any other children, especially boys. Maleficent was always somewhat cruel, but I could always tell that deep down she was just like me, under pressures from her own family to be better in the only way that girls like us could: through the marriage to a wealthy or noble man. When my mother met this strange... 'man' isn't a word I would use for him, but it is the only one that can vaguely compare, she began to learn magic, and then I did too. My mother wanted me to have power, through royalty or magic. I taught Maleficent a few of the things I knew, and when she was caught using magic, my mother began to teach her too.
"We grew older, and more powerful, she and I. It got to a point in our lives where we were the only ones who could even be considered equals. I always thought that if I couldn't get the upper hand over someone, I didn't want to be beneath them, so being equal with Maleficent suited me just fine. I... I suppose at one time I considered myself a little bit in love with her. I don't know if it was true or the games of children, but as my mother became more consumed with the magic, Mally was all I had. Even in her darkest and most powerful moments, my mother couldn't go against us both at the same time, and so it was the two of us against the world..."
"Why aren't you still that close?" Emma asked through a tight throat. She was glad that Regina was sitting on her now. It calmed her a bit, but she felt silent tears on her face. She predicted this story wasn't going to end well. After all, Regina was the Siren Queen for a reason, and there had to have been many things that took her down such a road.
Regina ached, but she couldn't say it out loud. She searched herself for the words, but none came. There was a knock on the wood of the door to the room.
"This is your captain. I have Belle and the witch with me. We need to discuss navigation."
"Come in, captain," Emma called, "Just as long as I don't have to get up."
Mulan entered just as Maleficent gave a look of disgust to the woman who lead the way inside. She didn't like being referred to as simply the witch. Unless there was some sort of title to it. The Wicked Witch, something like that. She was above all of them, and she relished the moment she would be able to show them all that again. As she looked around the room, which seemed quite small even for captain's quarters, Maleficent asked, "Remind me again why we couldn't use MY ship?"
Mulan gave her a look that warned her to stay silent, and then beckoned to Belle. The young woman spread out maps and a book, along with her compass. She looked to Emma and Regina with a small smile of nervousness before she began to speak. "I've mapped out a few courses for you, but it's your choice which one to take." Belle began, all eyes watching her and then turning to the map.
"But where exactly are we going?" Emma asked, her arms holding Regina tightly around the waist. She had a protective hold on her while Maleficent was in the room. However, she kept her eyes on the map and tried to focus.
"I would be the one with that information." Maleficent spoke up, moving herself closer to the desk everyone was huddled around. She faked a smile down to Emma, gaining a glare from Regina for it. Maleficent ignored it and continued on. "Cora used my ring right away, turning herself into a dragon. The old hag started to fly Northeast."
"Northeast," the darker witch murmured. "Then that means she isn't going home." Regina raised an eyebrow, beginning to wonder just exactly what her mother was up to. She shifted in Emma's arms to make herself more comfortable, her eyes wandering over the maps and the lines Belle had drawn out.
"Oh, no, I don't think she's going home. She's got a plan and I want to know what my ring has to do with that. Besides turning herself into a dragon." Maleficent sneered. She had always hated that woman.
"More importantly, what does she want with Regina's heart and where the hell is she going with it?" Emma questioned, her green eyes flickering up to Regina's face for a moment. She wanted to get Regina's heart back so very badly, but it seemed they had quite a lot to figure out before she could even get close to doing so.
"Northeast is practically barren of human beings. There is nothing there," Regina said.
Maleficent's eyebrow rose as she gave her friend a look. "Are you certain?" When Regina met her eyes, there was half of a conversation, but even then the darker woman seemed confused.
"Yes," Regina said, but her voice betrayed this fact.
"Your mother took your heart, not your intelligence. There is something there, and you know that better than anyone. There is only one bit of land in that direction. What lives there?" Maleficent asked.
"Fairy folk. Elves and the like." Regina didn't know what her friend was getting at, but her patience was wearing thin, and she still had an emotional conversation to finish with Emma.
"And what do 'elves and the like' protect?"
"If you know something just-"
"Magic," Belle spoke up then, which forced both witches to look at her. "They protect magic," she said again.
Maleficent put her hands together, her voice a bitter sort of honey. "Give a girl a treat." she said.
"Watch yourself," Mulan warned.
Maleficent ignored it, but went on, "Yes, magic. More importantly, magic portals."
"But my mother already knows how to travel the portals without going there," Regina said.
Regina didn't need long to think about this. "The rabbit hole to Wonderland."
"She may be after Jefferson."
"Who?" Mulan asked.
"Jefferson is the hat maker of Wonderland, and in possession of a magical item as well."
"But is she after just any magical items she could get her hands on?" the captain asked.
"No, she has plenty of those. Jefferson's hat is special, as is Maleficents ring," Regina replied.
"Why does she need Jefferson's hat?" Maleficent asked.
"You said it yourself, my friend. Magic. If what you say about my heart is true, that it could be used in a spell, then it must require a lot of magic. There is nothing more powerful than Jefferson's hat."
"What does it do?" Emma asked. Regina looked back at her. The two shared a small smile before Regina addressed Maleficent and the captain. This alone made things better, and it amazed Emma to know that a smile from Regina could heal her so much.
"It is another creator of portals. But to different lands, lands we couldn't even dream of."
Belle immediately perked up. This was all sounding like a story she read about. "This sounds familiar," the young woman said. Her eyes told the others in the room that her mind was elsewhere, most likely on a bookshelf somewhere. "There are tales- Oh, I wish I could remember! Captain, permission to leave?" she said.
Startled, Mulan nodded. "I'll return shortly." She gave a partial salute and left.
The rest of the women remained silent until Belle returned. She looked around and her face went red.
"So?" Regina asked after another silence.
"I knew I heard something similar before. In this book, there is a tale about the time of the ancients. They placed their magic in objects and were said to travel to many lands." Belle flipped through the yellowed pages of this book carefully, as if handling the wings of a butterfly.
"I know of which you speak, but they are just stories."
"Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that her mother doesn't believe them to be true."
"There's more," Maleficent said after a quick study of the girl. Belle nodded.
Flipping slowly through her book, the young woman said, "This book says that the portals- as that is what we are dealing with- went to a land without magic, a place called Asgard where gods dwell, a world run by four children and a talking lion, and even the stars. Were the item- if it is indeed this hat- to be found and used properly, it doesn't state that there is need for a spell, at least, not like that. However, I remember seeing..." Belle's eyes landed on a page before she continued to speak, "This tale here, about one man's quest to open a portal that had been guarded by the grandest magic. One of the ancients wondered if it was time to open this portal, but every being that attempted it failed because they were not pure enough to enter."
Emma leaned forward so that her chest was pressed against Regina's back now. "I know this tale! It's a good story. I forget what was supposed to be there, though."
Surprisingly, it was Regina who answered before Belle could. "The eternal waters." She wanted to echo Maleficent's words and remind them all that it was just a myth, but she wondered if it really was. After all, Wonderland itself had been only been a part of legend, yet both of them had been found in Regina's lifetime alone.
"Yes," Belle replied. "The proper name is here, but from my studies, it is roughly translated to 'The Fountain of Youth'."
Mulan seemed to be the first to understand the implication of all that was said so far. "Your mother doesn't sound like a woman who could even come near a portal that requires purity to enter into it."
"No, she isn't," Maleficent replied, "but love is the purest thing in this world. The heart of a witch in love and enough magic could fool anything into believing you're pure if the right spell is involved."
Regina didn't say anything to the pointed look Maleficent was casting her way. If she was in love at all, it was because of the spell that was on both her and Emma. Any further spell casting would surely fail. What she never would say out loud, unless she supposed, if Emma looked at her the right way and asked her, is that the spell she had cast what felt like so many years ago on her ship was meant for Emma alone, and it was only supposed to paralyze the woman for a short period of time. Somehow it surrounded them both and made them both... wrong somehow. She couldn't have truly been in love with Emma, and to say this much, as she already had previously, may as well have been a lie.
"So we lay in a course to the Northeast to go after Cora."
"No offence Captain, but Cora was in dragon form, which means that she will arrive there by sunrise tomorrow. In even the finest vessel, it would take us a fortnight, and that is only if we do not fall into the traps of the sea and are equipped with the finest sailors-"
"Which we will be," Emma huffed out, offended despite the other woman's disclaimer, thus cutting off Maleficent's words.
"Also," the blonde witch stressed as she continued on, "her skin alone and the magic of the ring will protect her from just about everything. She will have gotten to Jefferson AND the Fountain of Youth before we can get out of this region."
"What all will we be expected to encounter along the way?"
"Honestly, that depends on the route you take."
Here, Belle shifted her book back to the table and rearranged everything so that the maps were visible again. She ran her finger over the markings and said, "Well, if we take the quickest route, we would need to go straight through here, and here." Her finger ran a path between two squiggled marks on the map.
"That will take us past Ursula's waters, and further on, the village of The Dark One," Regina said with a frown, and even Maleficent was concerned.
"Ursula, the sea witch?"
"The very same."
"And the dark One who steals children away and makes deals one can never escape from?" Mulan asked. She had heard the stories of her crew speak of this being.
"Yes," Regina said.
Mulan was about to suggest Belle find another way, when Emma's voice spoke up. "Sounds like fun. You don't suppose either of them would have a supply-a rum, do you?"