Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine.
A/N: A quick set of vignettes inspired by the reveal in Tallahassee about the nightmares. Spoilers for that episode, but dear god, if you haven't seen it already, what have you been doing all week? Most of this is speculation for the sake of creating beautiful moments; I'm sure the writers have something else in mind for those flame nightmares.
This piece wasn't beta'd, so any mistakes you see are all mine. I just wanted to post it before the next episode airs tomorrow.
Let the sun rise, let the birds sing.
Let there be light, let there be morning.
I don't know how I made it til now,
Let there be light, let there be morning.
-Let There Be Morning, The Perishers
Her cries pierce the still night air as she bolts upright, the blood-red images still seared on her retinas. Every night for the past week has been the same. The same curtains, the same eyes, the same blood-red color of death. In an instant, Charming is at her side.
"It's okay, it's okay," he repeats as she dissolves into tears. He wraps his arms around her quaking body and pulls her toward him. No matter how many times he says it, and she wants so badly to believe him, she wonders if she'll ever feel safe at night again.
She can feel him moving and knows what he's doing even with her face buried in his neck. She hears the familiar sound of the match catching fire and the room is suddenly bathed in candlelight. She doesn't pull back, and he doesn't push her. They both know that she will sit up when she's ready.
It's become like this every night, sometimes more than once.
Her sobs eventually quiet and her body grows still. She feels him press his lips to her temple, can feel his warm breath on her skin. Her breathing is still ragged, and without speaking he takes her hand and squeezes it. Snow nods, matching her breathing to his.
She pulls back once her breath has evened. He's searching her face, and his eyes show only concern. He's said more than once that he can physically feel her pain when she cries.
"The same one?" he whispers.
Snow sighs. "Always."
He races downstairs as soon he hears him scream. His grandson is sitting up in what was Emma's bed, his eyes wide with terror.
He listens as Henry recounts the nightmare that's only too familiar to him. As he reaches for the matches, for a moment, he sees Snow.
But the moment fades and he sees only Henry.
In the candlelight, Charming can see the beads of sweat on Henry's forehead. He reaches out and tousles the boy's hair, resting his hand on his shoulder. He can still feel Henry shaking and pulls him to his chest.
"It's okay," he whispers as he rubs Henry's back. "It's okay. Just breathe. Come on now, match your breathing to mine. Slow and even. It'll be okay."
He continues rubbing Henry's back as his breathing slowly becomes more even. Once Henry has grown still, he sits back up.
"Thanks," Henry mutters, looking at his hands.
Charming tilts Henry's chin so he's meeting the boy's eyes. "Nothing to be ashamed of." He can tell Henry doesn't believe him, so he adds, "It's just an aftermath of the curse. Snow used to have the same nightmares all the time."
"She did?" Henry asks.
"Every night," he answers, nodding. "For a long time."
"But do the dreams go away?" Henry asks nervously. "She doesn't still have them right?"
"Right," Charming agrees. "They'll go away."
Henry considers this and then lies back down. Charming pulls the covers back up to his chin and smiles when Henry closes his eyes. He's halfway to the door when Henry stops him.
He turns. "Henry?"
Henry's voice is small when he asks, "Did you ever sit with her until she fell asleep again?"
Charming smiles. "Always."
When she looks at Aurora, she sees a younger version of herself.
The nightmare is exactly the same, always has been. Snow listens carefully, trying to ignore her own memories of the nightmares. It makes her miss him too much. As Aurora says, he truly lives up to his name.
She sits down and Aurora rests her head on her knee. Snow runs her fingers through the younger woman's hair, remembering how Charming used to do the same to her. She can still feel Aurora trembling.
"This time," she begins softly, "this time, you won't have the nightmare."
"You don't know that," Aurora mutters.
"Oh, but I do," Snow replies earnestly. "I do, I do. Think warm thoughts. It'll be okay."
"That's never going to work."
"It's the only thing that worked for me," Snow counters. "It's what Charming used to say as he waited for me to fall back asleep. 'Think warm thoughts,' he would say. 'Think of me.'"
"What was his name?" Snow asks.
"Your true love. Your 'Charming.' Someone had to break that curse," Snow adds when Aurora continues to look confused.
"Philip," Aurora answers finally. "But he's dead."
Snow shakes her head. "Think of him alive. He loved you so much. Let that warmth fill you up inside." She feels Aurora relax against her leg. "Think warm thoughts."
Think of me.
When the nightmare awakes her for the first time in years, she finds her face is wet. Snow opens her eyes slowly, taking in her surroundings, hoping she has not cried out and woken anyone else. To her relief, Aurora is still asleep beside her. Mulan she knows is standing watch somewhere. When Snow rolls to her left, she sees Emma.
"Are you okay?" Emma whispers.
Snow sits up and hastily wipes her eyes. "Yes."
But Emma doesn't move. "Seemed like a pretty scary dream." Snow raises her eyebrows and Emma continues, "You were tossing and turning for almost a minute before you woke up."
"Oh," is all Snow can say.
"Do you…want to talk about it?"
Snow can see how hard it is for Emma to ask the question and it warms her heart that her daughter is trying. She has been worried that the bond they had as roommates was damaged when the curse was broken. Emma even reaches out and takes Snow's hand.
"You're shivering," Emma says, concern filling her voice.
Snow rubs her free hand over her arm. "Right," she mutters. She feels the beginnings of shame. She truly thought these nightmares had ended years – decades, she realizes grimly – ago.
Emma scoots closer to her and before Snow realizes what is happening, Emma has pulled her into a hug. Snow rests her head on her daughter's shoulder.
"Thank you," she whispers.
"Of course," Emma says. She pulls back. "You sure you don't want to talk about it?"
Snow shakes her head. "It's okay. I've had this dream before." Emma continues to look uncertain, so Snow admits, "The last time was a long time ago."
"Maybe it's because you're back in this world now," Emma suggests.
"Maybe," Snow answers, though she knows why. She doesn't feel the need to torment Emma with the nightmares as well.
"I'll stay awake for awhile," Emma offers.
"You don't have to do that," Snow says softly.
"I want to," Emma says, smiling. "It's what I always wanted my mother to do for me."
Snow smiles back. "Always, huh?"
A/N: Hope you enjoyed! Please consider making my day and leaving me a review.