Slumber My Darling

Summary: "Charming, my husband. Used to wake me when I cried out...he'd light a candle."

A/N: So despite the absolutely busy mess which is my life right now, this little piece would not leave me alone until I gave it voice. To any readers of 'A Kingdom Won', I am terribly sorry for my absolute failure to update. I am hoping my life calms down enough soon to give that story the attention it deserves but in the meantime I hope you will accept this humble offering.

The title comes from the Alison Krauss song of the same name, a beautifully haunting lullaby which I had on repeat while writing this...please go youtube it if you have time.

Disclaimer: OUAT and all of its characters belong to ABC...all I own is a serious case of obsession over the new season (which is even the better than the last so far!)...

Charming shifted uncomfortably, the small bed creaking under his weight. While it was a much improved sleeping place from the cold dungeon floor he'd spent a restless night upon, wracked with worry over his beloved's fate, the bed Grumpy had so gallantly offered him left much to be desired. It was simply not made for someone of his stature but the dwarves had been so eager to show their appreciation for his determination and action in saving Snow, that it would have been unspeakably rude to decline the offer to take one of their beds for the night.

Another restless turn found his eyes drifting across the darkened room, landing upon the moonlit figure sleeping only a few feet away. Snow lay curled on her side, one hand clutching at the knitted blanket pulled tight around her form. Upon said hand, a stray shaft of moonlight glinted off the pale green stone adorning her finger and an unbidden smile crossed Charming's lips at the sight. He could still scarcely believe that she had agreed to be his, to allow him to stay with her for all of their days. It was more than he could have possibly dreamed and despite the myriad of obstacles still placed firmly in their path, he knew with a belief borne from unyielding faith that their love could conquer anything.

The events of the past few days had reinforced that beyond all doubt. Not only had he found her and awoken her with a single kiss, but in the hours after he had knelt before her in loving supplication they had sat upon that same lake's shores and confessed everything they had both held close to their hearts; her childhood naivety and its deadly consequences, his forced deception and the truth of his identity; the lengths each had accomplished in their quest to be re-united. All was laid bare and all was forgiven with quiet words and heartfelt kisses, a testament to the strength of a love which had been so forcefully challenged in its infancy.

It was with that new-found sense of intimacy that they had finally rejoined their friends, accepting congratulatory hugs and agreeing that for now, rest and recuperation usurped the plans swirling in their heads. It was that decision which had led to his night time berth in Grumpy's bed, the dwarves' cottage offering a temporary safe haven they could not refuse. A small part of him wished he'd been able to find his rest upon the far more expansive space afforded by the bed crafted for Snow, but he had been unwilling to take such a liberty as sharing her bed before they had said their vows. Their relationship so far may have strayed far from the path of the conventional, but there were some boundaries he would not matter how much the sliver of disappointment in his fiancée's eyes had begged him to reconsider.

A small whimper drew him out of his drowsy musings, the sound piercing in its despair. Brow furrowed, he tried to discern its source before a second, louder cry had him bolting upwards. Across the room, he could see that the once peaceful form of his beloved was now curled in agony, steadily increasing cries of terror issuing from between trembling lips.


Her name escaped him in gasp as he hurled himself upwards with such force that he crossed the few feet separating them before he had even drawn his next breath, eyes wildly searching to see if there was any outside force lurking in the shadows which could be responsible for her distress. Finding none, he sank to his knees by her bedside and reached out a hand to stroke along her tear-stained cheek, voice firm but pleading.

"Snow...wake up. It's just a need to wake up," he beseeched, her torment reflected in his voice as she continued to tremble before an enemy only she could see, "Please're safe, I'm here."

Behind him, he could hear the shuffling of nervous feet as the dwarves gathered, woken by Snow's fretful cries.

A beat passed, then another before with an anguished shout Snow's eyes finally flew open, the hazel orbs swimming with tears and full of unseen terror. Shaking badly, her gaze whipped around with frantic speed before focusing on his own, confusion and dread fading into desperate relief as she flung her arms around his neck and buried her head against his tunic-clad chest with a grateful sob.

"Sshh," he whispered, manoeuvring to take her fully into his embrace, hands stroking soothingly along the silky fabric of her night dress, "It's alright, it was just a dream."

Her shoulders continued to shake as he whispered nonsensical words of love and comfort, his heart aching at her obvious distress.

Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and he looked over to see the dwarves' slowly departing back to their beds. Grumpy nodded once in his direction, no words needed to convey the message clearly written in his eyes...take care of her. Charming inclined his head in acknowledgment, grateful that the brave creatures who had cared for Snow when he could not had enough faith in the sincerity of his emotions to entrust that he would allow no further harm to befall her, even if that harm was of her own mind's creation. As the last of them melted back into the darkness of the cottage, gifting Charming and Snow with the most amount of privacy they could in the confined space, the knot in Charming's chest loosened slightly as he felt his beloved slowly relax in his arms, breath slowing from the frantic gasps of her awakening to a more even rhythm.

"Snow?" he questioned softly, bringing one hand up to tenderly stroke along the length of her ebony hair, fingers careful not to become entangled in the slightly dishevelled locks.

A quiet exhalation of breath ghosted across his chest before she slowly raised her head to once again lock eyes with his. The terror which had marked her gaze so clearly before had faded away, but a troubling uncertainty remained. He had seen many an emotion in her eyes in the time since they'd met (anger, bemusement, sadness, but the vulnerability now shining in their depths was almost more than he could bare. If there was one thing he ardently admired about his intended above all else, it was her strength. To see that so depleted was heart-breaking...even as he silently realised that her willingness to allow him to see so deeply within her soul spoke of a trust in him he vowed he would never break.

"I..." she started in response to the unasked question in his eyes, "I was trapped...there was fire...I couldn't..."

Her words faded away, unable to give voice to the horrors which had flickered beneath her closed eyes. Charming didn't push her for any further answers, unwilling to make her relive aloud whatever had frightened her so. Instead, he settled for a gentle kiss to her forehead, lips lingering against her skin as he whispered,

"It doesn't matter, you're safe now."

"With you," she responded softly, no hint of doubt in her fervent words.

"With me," he echoed, before a spark of memory flitted through his brain, "And if I'm not enough to keep the nightmares away..."

He pulled back and peered searchingly into the shadowed recesses looming outside the moonlit bed. Grinning softly as his gaze alighted on exactly what he was looking for, he momentarily rose from his knees to reach over Snow's head to pluck the object of his desire from its cradle and bring it gently back into his fiancée's curiousity filled line of sight, "...then this shall be."

"A candle?" she asked, confusion colouring her features.

"When I was a mere boy, after my father passed I suffered from terrible dreams," he started to explain as his hands groped along the small wooden dresser in search of a match, "And every time I awoke shaking with fear, my mother would..."

He paused momentarily as his questing fingers brushed against a small box of matches in the slightly opened top drawer, his hand deftly extracting his prize and striking one alight to touch to the black-tipped wick. The candle burst into flame, its flickering light casting dancing shadows across Snow's lovingly enthralled face.

"My mother would light a candle and place it by my bedside," he continued, his actions echoing his words, "She told me that it would capture the nightmares and keep me safe from their reach."

"Did it work?" she questioned, her voice yearningly hopeful as she stared at the gleaming circle of light.

"I believe it did...and the comfort of my mother's words has lingered far longer in my memory than any of the dreams which prompted them."

He turned back to Snow to see her gazing upon him with a look of wistful contemplation, a subtle sense of loss lurking faintly behind.

"She sounds like a wonderful person."

"She is...and one day, you shall be able to see for yourself," he smiled mildly, lifting her hand to place a kiss against the ring in a gesture of promise. In truth, he could not wait to introduce the two of them. His mother had been his only family for so long and he so fervently wished for her to meet his beloved Snow since he knew without doubt that she would love her as much as he did...not only for the happiness she had brought him but for Snow herself...for the strong, kind and brilliant woman she was.

"But before that day comes, we need our rest," he stated softly, hands gently guiding Snow back down to the bed until her head came to rest upon the pillow. With careful hands he tucked her fallen blanket back around her now prone form, all the while her eyes followed his every move with increasing wariness until she could apparently take no more and one hand shot out to still his arm.

"Will you stay with me?"

Determination shone bright upon her face, but it was the lingering hint of vulnerability which halted any thought of denying her request. Propriety be damned...his Snow needed him and he was utterly unable to take any course of action which would remove him from her side.

"There is nowhere else in the entire realm I would rather be," he said firmly, slipping underneath the blanket Snow had lifted in nervous invitation. A moment of indecision passed between them as he settled his own head against the pillow before with a resolved glint in her eye, Snow lay her head against his chest and curled a hand into the fabric of his tunic. Her whole body relaxed against his as he wrapped an arm around her waist, head bowing slightly to brush small kisses against her hairline.

"Thank you," she murmured, pressing her lips together to gently kiss the covered skin above his steadily beating heart.

"Sleep my love," he whispered tenderly in response, "Sleep, and I shall keep you safe."

"Forever?" Snow sleepily asked as slumber once more drew her into its embrace.

"Eternally," Charming promised, keeping vigil over his beloved beneath the flickering glow of a single candle.