A/N: Well, not a snowy one-shot, but snow incorporated anyway! I felt bad leaving this fic unattended so long, so decided to add a little slice here rather than bake a whole new cake :) Hope you enjoy!
The blonde huffs as she trails after Snow; shooting a poisonous glance at the tittering maids that hurry past with pointed looks of pure disdain. Silent disdain however. They are in the presence of Royalty.
"You couldn't have just worn the clothes I put out for you?"
"I don't wear dresses..."
"And no one back home would have needed to know about it!"
The schoolteacher rolls her eyes amiably, slowing down her pace as the blonde winces slightly.
"Yeah, just a little stiff more than anything."
"Well, I could have always brought you some food to your room..."
"I think if I'd stayed in that room any longer I'd have gone crazy! And I'm interested to take a look around... you know... without the adrenalin rush of oncoming death."
Snow chuckles as she leads them into a large dining hall, pointing to a pair of seats at the end of a long, mahogany table at which plates and cutlery have been neatly laid out. Emma raises an eyebrow curiously as a drably clothed maid scurries out, seemingly from nowhere, and lays down twin bowls of fresh fruit and a peculiar looking broth. Deciding it can't be any worse than the Grass Nettle tonic, the blonde takes a sip eagerly, eyes widening as she realizes it's actually pretty good.
"So... how... how does this all work?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, like, who's in charge at the moment? People seem to be doing what you want and acting all... well.. servanty... but then this guy upstairs referred to Regina as a queen and... I don't..."
"It is a rather peculiar situation, yes. I'm not actually all too sure myself; your father and I ruled this land back when things were good, but as it has since been overtaken by Cora, I suppose it puts Regina in the rather unique position that she is also considered this land's royalty..."
"About Cora... what happened to her? I don't remember anything much after she made me... fly?"
The blonde frowns as she searches for the right word to describe the terrifying floating sensation bestowed upon her by the old Queen, spearing a strawberry violently onto her fork and nibbling at it as she studies her housemate inquisitively.
"She knocked you out... and then... Regina stopped her from hurting you any more than she already had."
"Regina was there?"
"She went up to find you after she appeared in the dungeon... as for what happened, I'm not entirely sure, I only know what little Regina told me, but... Cora..."
"She's dead. That's what the guard said."
Emma sighs, brow furrowing as she glares moodily down at her half-eaten breakfast. She isn't entirely sure what to do with this new information, her mind already saturated with the chaotic mess of emotion the past week has thrown at her.
"She didn't tell me..."
Snow frowns in confusion as she watches the blonde sigh melancholily. She is unsure why her housemate should be so distraught over the fact the older woman has negated to share her black news, but supposes Emma may be feeling victim to a small sense of guilt; presumably assuming- correctly- that Regina had acted on her behalf.
"Regina's not one to speak candidly about her feelings..."
"No... I know..."
They sit in uncomfortable silence as the maid hurries back over and begins clearing away their plates.
"I can do it-"
Emma trails off as the woman throws her an ill-disguised glance of curiosity before looking to Snow as if in request for an explanation as to the peculiar blonde.
"...I think I'd like to go get some fresh air."
"Are you sure that's a good idea? It's just started to snow and you're-"
"-fine... I'm fine. That nettle crap works way better than any pain killers back home. I just... I want to try and sort my head out... alone."
She smiles apologetically as Snow hovers in her seat, ready to follow her. The schoolteacher sighs, but sits back down, trying her best to hide her hurt at Emma's kind rejection.
"Well... ok... but don't go too far-"
She shrugs as green eyes glint dangerously, more than aware the blonde isn't a fan of advice- however well meaning- and holds her gaze carefully.
"The grounds are vast, and you have no idea where you're going. So far as I know, no one here offers us any threat, but it would be foolish to harbor no caution at all... just... don't wander off and get into trouble, ok?"
Emma's scowl softens and she offers Mary Margaret a much more genuine smile, nodding her head in acceptance of her housemate's request.
"You'll need a cloak."
The words have only left perfectly red lips for a moment before a second maid steps from the shadows, holding out a heavy winter cloak with her head graciously bowed.
Shaking out the soft material curiously, Emma slowly dons the heavy fabric; cautious of the pain in her side. She smooths out the soft leather which covers a lining of thick fur and raises an eyebrow at the schoolteacher who seems torn between appreciation and amusement.
"Where do I put my arms?"
"Wherever you like, it's a cloak, it's meant to cover you, not fit you."
The blonde fusses at the long fur that lines her neck distractedly, feeling swamped by the heavy layer and supposing she looks very odd indeed. As for wearing a cloak, this is a first, but back in the normal world- the sane world- she had tried to steer clear of whites and creams, fearing their soft, angelic hue may not just be misleading, but also cause her complexion to seem deathly pale.
Snow shrugs, stopping herself before she can say anything that will garner her a rolling of eyes or irritable huff. Instead she merely rises from her seat and walks over, straightening the high collar at the blonde's neck before offering her a warm smile.
"Just you wait, I'll bet once we get home you'll be scouring the stores for something similar!"
Emma laughs, glancing down at herself in amusement before tossing her long curls amiably.
"I somehow doubt that..."
"It will be a closed casket; there are none in this land that my mother would consider a true companion, save for myself, and I have already seen the body. You are to dress her in the same gown she wore when she married my father..."
"Your Majesty... that gown is white, and I am unsure if-"
"-Silence. You will dress her in that gown and no other. She shall be laid to rest as she was at her best, not at her worst. Let there be a ceremony in two days time, here, at the palace-"
"- But, My Queen, what if Snow White-"
"-She will allow it. It is how this must be done."
"Are you sure, Your Highness?"
"You dare question me?!... Yes. I am sure. Snow will allow it... her daughter will make it so if she should resist."
"The blonde? She hardly seems like-"
"... She is not familiar with our ways... that much has been obvious."
"No. And you are not familiar with hers. Snow will do as Emma wills of her if it has to come to that... It shall be held here in the grounds and be a formal affair. We are honoring the passing of royalty... any goodness my mother once possessed should have been mourned years ago."
"...And should the people ask for a cause of death, Your Majesty?"
"Then they shall be told the truth. She died of a broken heart."
"What about the flowers-"
"Whatever the Royal Guard deems fit... now go... I grow tired of these questions."
Regina waves her hand in a distracted fashion, watching the young man hurry back into the safety of the small look-out building beside which they had been standing.
Those helmets really are ridiculous now I come to think of it...
She muses briefly what the young blonde will have made of them when first approached by any of her men, before pushing away the thought irritably. She wonders distastefully why her mind should suddenly be plagued so by the irksome Sheriff.
Rather thoughts of that idiotic little nuisance than of the woman destroyed to save her...
"It was a case of what was right... Emma had nothing to do with it."
She mutters irritably as she makes her way slowly over to one of the stone benches that surround the topiary garden before her. She takes a a seat, paying the fat, white flakes of softly falling snow little mind. Her expression is hard, thoughtful, and her lips form a thin line of discontent.
She is unsure what it is that she is supposed to be feeling; despite the cause of death mirroring her father's passing, the emotions are entirely different. She supposes she feels an odd sense of remorse, but not as much as she had perhaps anticipated. What she feels, if it can be called feeling, is something much closer to relief. Love. But relief.
"Love is weakness, Regina, you know that..."
Oh, doesn't she just.
She thinks back to what both Snow and Emma had mentioned; about discussing her son with her mother. The thought fills her with a cold sense of dread that makes her bones ache.
"I couldn't let her live... not if I want Henry back..."
The notion of wanting Henry 'back' is a peculiar one. She can't quite remember the exact point in time at which he was taken from her. Not physically anyway. As for deducing at what point he had become Emma's and not solely her own... well, she doesn't know. She is wise enough to imagine such hateful facts occurred long before the blonde leaned in to kiss him.
Shaking such thoughts away, she simply sits, and watches the heavy dusting of snow settle slowly over the inane animals carved within the hedges like virginally pure frosting, moving every now and then only to shake the flakes from her dark hair.
Emma slows her already cautious pace nervously as she spots a figure up ahead. So far, her wandering around the impressive- disturbingly so- palace grounds has been completely uneventful. Closer to the main entrance she had encountered several men going about their chores, headed in the direction of what she assumes were stables judging by the gear they had carried. Since then, she has been left mercifully alone.
Frowning, and wishing not for the first time she had her glasses with her- her contacts having been discarded after the second day in the enchanted forest, no longer fit for use, and becoming painful- she takes a hesitant couple of steps closer. Noticing that whoever sits ahead appears to have their back to her, she becomes slightly more bold and stalks curiously onwards, until she recognizes the rich chocolate locks and graceful posture belonging to the woman sitting out alone in the snow.
Regina frowns, wandering who on earth would be brave enough- foolish enough- to dare take a seat beside her. Glaring over, she lets out a sigh and regards the blonde with a touch of amusement.
"Christ, what happened to you!?"
She eyes the pale cloak the younger woman wears pointedly, her mind instinctively dismissing the idea that the blonde looks rather lovely indeed; with her pale curls falling over the cream leather and fur; at some point removed from the intricate french plait she had worn earlier. Almost regal.
"Fetching, isn't it?"
Emma grins sarcastically before averting her attention to the painstakingly crafted vegetative art form before her.
"Fuck me, but that's impressive! God knows why you'd want something like that, but still!"
"You're feeling slightly better then, dear?"
The Queen muses cattily as she bites back a smirk at the Sheriff's mannerisms. She would be curious to know what the local color make of the young woman beside her.
"Yeah, a lot... thanks... that nettle stuff tasted like crap but it works."
Regina joins the blonde in staring directly ahead, a little unnerved to have Emma quite so close and so casual now that the adrenalin fueled by her worry at the younger woman's health has dissipated.
"Uh... Mary Margaret told me about... what happened..."
"Yeah... with Cora, I mean..."
"Yes, well... I imagine you're not too broken up about it, Miss Swan, in fact, I dare say you should feel a sense of relief..."
"Maybe... but it's not me I'm concerned about..."
The brunette blinks, momentarily at a loss of what to think before her lips form a hard, unfriendly line and she turns to the blonde irritably.
"Then I suggest you save such wasted emotions, Miss Swan. I do not need, nor want, your concern."
Emma shies away visibly, but proceeds to simply shrug her shoulders beneath their heavy shroud and go back to studying the ever whitening scenery. After what seems like an age, the Queen glances at her slyly from the corner of her eye and sighs.
"You should get back inside; the grass nettle numbs your pain receptors, but you're still healing..."
"I do not need, nor want, your concern, Regina."
The brunette rolls her eyes, but finds the younger woman's tone to be more a dutiful tribute to their turbulent relationship than actual petulance.
"Be that as it may, I imagine you'll think otherwise when it wears off and you're sat here in the freezing cold."
She brushes some of the heavy flakes from the blonde's long hair, mouth twitching as Emma flinches ever so slightly as she raises her hand.
"The relationship between me and my mother was a complicated one, Miss Swan, as I am sure you can imagine. While I mourn her passing, I wish to do so in my own way, and without unwanted solace from yourself... As long as she had lived, I would now fear for Henry. It was not an easy choice, but it was a simple one."
Regina blinks, regarding the Sheriff curiously as the younger woman simply nods and carries on watching the snow settle. She is somewhat surprised at Emma's easy acceptance and respect for her request, and finds herself, not for the first time, warming slightly to the blonde.
Hastily battling such thoughts aside, the Queen rises and clears her throat, casting her eyes to the gray skies and watching the infinite flakes in their descent.
"I'm growing cold. I think I'll head back to the Castle to warm up..."
She says nothing more and doesn't have to. The Sheriff pushes herself up from the bench, staggering slightly, and simply waits expectantly to follow. Sighing, and looking down at her feet as she begins walking, the brunette remains silent as Emma falls easily in step next to her.
"Regina, can I ask you something?"
"Yes, I imagine you could manage if you put your mind to it..."
"How did you get here?"
"To this world?"
The Queen nods briskly, making it clear that this is the only branch of the blonde's ambiguous wording she plans to discuss.
"An old method; a combination of what I knew of magic."
"I thought you could no longer use magic?"
"I used it the night with the Wraith, didn't I?"
"Yes... but I thought...I-"
"You thought wrong, it merely took me a while to get the hat to work... Magic is still difficult to access and control in Storybrooke... it is different... but it exists in a certain form..."
"Like when I kissed Henry?"
"So what form did you use then? Could it get us back?"
"... That is a good question, Miss Swan, but one which we shall discuss with your moth- Mary Margaret present as well. It is, after all, something she will need to be a part of."
"Sure... well, why not get her now?"
"I wish to change, now that I have found access to garments more in line with my stature, and you need to rest."
"Ah, well then I need a rest from you!"
Dark eyes glitter impishly, and the brunette suppresses a surprised gasp as the blonde kicks some of the freshly fallen snow at their feet at her. She can't recall anyone ever having done something quite so childish or quite so dangerous in her presence before. Her first instinct is to smite the Sheriff where she stands. Instead, she reaches up above them slyly and flicks an overhanging branch, sending a flurry of icy dust down onto the younger woman.
"An eye for an eye, Miss Swan..."
"...Makes the whole world blind, Madame Mayor."
Regina raises an eyebrow as they close in on the impressive stone of the castle. Reaching the large guarded doors, she turns to the blonde and regards her levelly.
"As much as I detest the thought of a sit down dinner with either of you, it is perhaps the most appropriate setting in which to discuss the matters at hand. You can find me on the fourth floor, in the green doored suite. Take the main stairs, not the servant stairway, or you'll never find it. I'll leave it to you to organize things with Snow. Come and tell me at what time you would like to proceed with dinner."
"... I guess."
"I doubt I'm much more enthusiastic than you are about sitting down to dinner!"
"Well, if you feel you don't need my help, then I'd be more than happy to-"
"-It's not you, it's the thought of the three of us trying to carry out a civil conversation!"
The brunette smirks; she is inwardly surprised at how hastily the Sheriff has rushed to explain her feelings are not those of animosity. Dark lips forming a salacious smile, she cocks her head, before nodding the younger woman adieu.
"I promise to be on my best behaviour, dear, and you best get a move on unless you wish to eat anything quick to prepare... I dare not imagine what morsels you and Snow have been surviving off the past few days, but let's just say, if you don't get your affairs in order, we will most likely be suffering through a bowl of some sort of stew... and not one concocted of beef either."
Her smile widens into a full blown grin as she watches Emma hastily take her leave and hurry down the vast hallway as fast as her aching limbs will permit her to go.