A/N I know better than to start another fic at such a busy time of year, but then, I never was very smart ;) It won't be a long fic, maybe 4 or 5 chapters, but I wanted more Snow/Emma time. Much like the characters, I'm not sure what to call anyone anymore, so I might alternate between Snow and Mary Margaret.

Much like the third chapter of my other fic, One Right Move, this fills in a gap, this time between the end of 2x03 and when Snow/Emma/Mulan/Aurora first meet Hook in 2x05, but it has nothing to do with any current storyline.

I hope you enjoy it!

With You Beside Me – Chapter 1

"Quiet." Mulan held up a hand and stopped walking. Her keen eyes pierced the gloom of the forest, searching for the danger she knew was near. The danger was not of a magical origin, of that much she could ascertain. But, there was something.

She could feel it.

Snow stopped directly behind her, putting out a hand automatically to feel for Emma. When her fingers felt the leather of her daughter's jacket, she grasped a handful and tugged gently, pulling Emma slightly behind herself. She knew it would irk the grown woman to be treated in such a way, but right now, she didn't care.

The forest had eyes. And ears.

Snow heard Aurora quietly bring up the rear, as she usually did.

"What is it?" Aurora breathed, barely audible above the rustling of leaves somewhere far above them.

Mulan turned her head slightly.

"Bandits roam these woods. Filthy scavengers who prey on the weak and vulnerable. Another one of the effects of the Dark Curse, turning good men into the darkest versions of themselves."

"We just went up against Cora. Surely that qualifies us to take on a few bandits," Emma said.

Mulan turned fully to meet Emma's gaze. This blonde woman was turning out to be far more resourceful and plucky than she'd originally thought. But that didn't mean she didn't occasionally suffer from a serious case of arrogance.

"True as that may be, if we're caught, we may have to engage in a confrontation." Her eyes narrowed. "I hope you weren't lying when you said you fought a dragon. You may need to call on such skills again."

She felt a surge of satisfaction at the wariness in Emma's eyes.

"Now, we should continue, but be as..."

A whine split the silence. Something travelled through the air toward them at great speed.

"Arrow!" Snow cried, pushing Emma down and dropping beside her. Mulan and Aurora both ducked as the arrow whistled toward them and slammed into a tree above their heads.

Mulan jumped to her feet.

"Too late. They've found us! Weapons ready. Be on your guard!" She barked out orders as she drew her sword.

She ran into a clearing ahead, followed by the others. Weapons drawn and at the ready, the four formed a circle of protection with their backs to each other. Another arrow zipped by and embedded itself into a tree.

"Warning shots," Snow murmured to Emma.

"How many are there?" Emma asked, wide-eyed, holding her sword awkwardly.

Snow shook her head.

"It should be a small group," Mulan replied, her eyes towards the trees. "They don't usually move around in groups of more than..."

A man appeared in front of her, his sword gleaming. The dull light of the forest made his face appear dark, shadowed. He strode forward and Mulan moved to meet him. Their swords clashed once, twice, three times.

Before the others could move to help her, two more men emerged from the darkness with weapons raised. One of them spotted Aurora and sneered.

"Well, what do we have here?" he asked, grinning ghoulishly. "A nice little treat for later." He took a few steps toward her before being blocked by a sword.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Emma said as menacingly as she could muster. She heard Mary Margaret turn away to deal with the other bandit and felt a little at a loss. With her gun, she could have held him back confidently, but with three feet of sharp steel? She hoped he was as clumsy as he was ugly.

The man tore his attention away from Aurora to focus on her.

"That wasn't wise, lassie," he snarled and raised his sword, bringing it down toward her. Emma brought her own sword up and almost reeled when they collided with a sharp screeching of metal. The sword she carried wasn't as heavy as she had anticipated, yet it was heavy enough. She pushed against her opponent's sword enough to withdraw and gain a good stance for his next attack.

The sounds of the battles around her seemed to fade into the background. She hoped everyone was managing.

Before Emma could think of a way to attack, he came at her again, this time low...no, high...no low again. It was as if they were playing, but the angry metal reminded her they were not. He moved faster now, his thrusts stronger, her parries barely keeping him at bay. The handle of the sword rubbed at the skin of her hand as she tried desperately to keep her grip. He sensed her weakness and grinned, before slicing his sword sideways through the air and knocking her sword from her hand all too easily.

Breathing heavily, Emma stared at him as he advanced on her. She glanced around, looking for a weapon to defend herself, but there was nothing but the grass and dirt beneath her feet.

"Seriously?" she whispered, taking a step back.

He suddenly rushed at her and Emma squeezed her eyes shut, bracing for the metal that would surely impale her.

She heard him groan and drop at her feet and her eyes flew open to stare at the arrow in his back. Her head shot up to see Mary Margaret standing in her line of sight, bow held up against her shoulder. Emma's eyebrows raised nearly to her hairline and her mouth opened soundlessly.

And then she heard a whistle. A whine of something flying through the air. And she saw Mary Margaret's mouth open to scream.

"No!"

The jolt threw Emma backwards, but she was able to stay on her feet. She stumbled seemingly in slow motion, as if on three legs instead of two, fighting against the feeling of something dreadful having happened. Her shoulder burned.

"Emma!" she heard Aurora call behind her and turned, bent on helping the unarmed woman. But, her head...The trees seemed to swim before her eyes and Emma put out a hand to grab something for support. She grasped nothing but thin air and pitched forward, unaware that their roles had now reversed and that it was the shawl-wrapped, sleeping princess who was actually saving her.