WARNING: This fic CANNOT be read without reading the first 31 chapters of the Hellboy fanfic Once Upon a Time first. So no one complain to me about not knowing what's going on or whatever if you haven't done that.

Author's Note: So here's the deal. I love my fanfic, Once Upon a Time. I love it. BUT. Where I'm at right now, I miss something—the expectation. The whole "will Dylan and Nuada get together" thing. Where we're at, we're more dealing with the whole "Will D&N stay together" thing instead.

Which is great. That's fine. But I started reading these novels by this chick named Abigail Reynolds, variations on Pride and Prejudice, and it really sparked my imagination. So did Alydia Rackham, who writes fanfiction for The Avengers. She's got 3 different Lokane (Loki/Jane) fics that are basically "What if Loki fell off the Bifrost and was wounded and met Jane?"/"What if Loki fell off the Bifrost and was seriously wounded and met Jane?"/"What if Loki fell off the Bifrost and got captured by the Chitauri and then met Jane sometime later?" All three of which hinge on "What if something different happened when Loki fell off the Bifrost."

What's my point? I was wondering if there was a way to recapture the feelings of Once during chapters 15-50, and I came up with the idea of doing a variation chap-fic. So that's what this is. It starts off in the middle of the faerie-metal-playground-in-the-snow scene in chapter 31, and it begs the question—what if Dylan's phone hadn't gone off when it did?

I hope you enjoy this Once Upon a Time variation. OH! And the chapters will hopefully be shorter than the normal Once chapters, for those of you who are gasping to death under the sheer volume of words in the original Once Upon a Time. I also intend to do another variation chap-fic, this one much darker (at least at the beginning) than either this or the original Once Upon a Time, about what would've happened if Dylan hadn't been told about Nuada's trial in chapter 10. Hope you enjoy that one, as well.

Hugs and love to you all!

- LA Knight

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Once Upon a Winter's Night

Chapter One
It Started Out as a Feeling

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"What's the matter—worried you'll fall?" Dylan asked, grinning at the Elven prince who refused (for whatever reason) to walk across a simple child's balance beam.

Nuada opened his mouth to inform her that no, he most certainly was not afraid of falling a mere six inches to the ground. Dylan ruthlessly cut him off with a wicked gleam in her eye and a wicked curve to her scarred mouth.

"I can go up with you if it'll make you feel better, Your Highness. No need to be scared."

The warrior prince scowled at the mortal who dared to challenge him. "Insolent chit." He stepped up onto the balance-bar and traversed it in a few quick steps. His boots clunked dully against the metal. He came back across the bar and stepped lightly onto the snow again. "Child's play."

Dylan actually clapped her hands in childlike delight, grinning even wider. "Bravo, Your Highness. You did it. Congratulations. And the universe did not implode because you stepped off your dignity for thirty seconds. Amazing. My turn again. Backwards this time."

"Why?" He demanded, exasperated. "Why do you act like such a child sometimes?"

"Lots of random reasons that aren't really relevant right now, but mostly? Because it's fun," Dylan replied, hopping back up onto the bar. She turned around and began to walk backwards along the narrow metal beam. She was a bit more careful this time around. "You know what fun is, don't you, Your Highness?"

"I have heard of it," he replied, putting scorn into the words.

She simply grinned at him again. Her grin faltered when her foot slipped on a thin patch of ice. Her arms windmilled and she squeaked in surprise as she lost her balance. Nuada darted forward caught her around the waist easily.

"Whoa," she gasped. Dylan's arms automatically slipped around his neck as she murmured a little breathlessly, "Thank you very much, Your Highness."

He gently set her on the ground. The snow crunched softly beneath her boots. "You're welcome," he murmured.

Nuada's eyes had been amber, but now they lightened to that beautiful and too-intense ivory again. A shiver traipsed down Dylan's spine as their eyes locked, warm ivory kissed by gold against silver-swept stardust blue. The Elven prince was very warm against her, despite the frigid bite to the winter night air. Dylan's arms tightened fractionally around his neck. His pale gold hair slid over her hands like cool spidersilk or starlight.

Dylan licked suddenly dry lips as she realized just how very close she was to her prince. Nuada's eyes slid from hers down to her mouth. She saw him swallow hard. Saw the pulse beating hard at the base of his neck. Her gaze darted back to his face, and she saw he was still staring at her mouth.

Oh, my. Her mouth went dry. She tried to say something. Anything. Couldn't, for some reason. Her knees suddenly felt weak. Her fingertips tingled and she wondered how long she could keep standing when her knees threatened to knock together.

"Are...are you hurt, Dylan?" The feral-eyed warrior asked softly. He didn't know why her name slipped off his tongue like the smooth whisper of silk in the darkness. Her hands were cool against the back of his suddenly hot neck. Moonlight gilded her pale skin and turned the tangle of dark hair to silk and shadows that smelled of sweet summer flowers.

When she murmured "no," her voice was softer than a falling snowflake.

"Are you certain?" The arm that he'd caught her with tightened around her waist without conscious thought. Her breath caught and she made a soft, intriguing little sound in her throat. He suddenly remembered how soft her lips had felt beneath his fingertips. Soft as rose petals...

"Yes," Dylan whispered after a moment. "I'm sure."

And then she did something she'd never have thought herself reckless enough to try. She took one of the hands clasped behind the Elven warrior's neck and laid it gently against his cheek. The tremor that went through him at her touch was slight...but they both felt it. Her heart kicked into a gallop that threatened to strangle her. It was suddenly very hard to breathe.

Nuada's free hand came up to brush back her hair. The path left by his caressing fingertips along her temple and cheek tingled.

Dylan's thumb brushed against the edge of the scar carved deep across his cheekbone. His skin was so warm. He was so very warm. She suddenly wondered if his mouth was just as warm. "Nuada...Nuada, I...we should...I..."

Tell him, a little voice in her head urged. Say it out loud. Tell him the truth. Say "I love you." Tell him.

"Dylan."

Nuada's voice was soft as the night wind gently rustling the ice-coated trees. That beautiful gaze flickered between her eyes and her mouth. Dylan's brain stuttered to a halt. Was he...would Nuada...was he going to...

Those calloused fingertips grazed her cheek again. Something golden and delicious flooded her veins as Nuada's thumb swept back and forth across the delicate edge of her cheekbone, as if mesmerized by the feel of her skin. Dylan swallowed and wondered if she were going to faint.

Nuada couldn't take his eyes off her mouth. It beckoned him, enticed him. Scant inches separated his mouth from hers—inches he could close with no effort at all. And she looked suddenly so beautiful standing there in the snow and the moonlight, her eyes like new stars. Every muscle in his body tensed. His fingers slipped along her cheek to tangle in the thick, luxurious darkness of her hair. He met her eyes for a brief moment.

Dylan wanted to let her eyes slide closed, but she didn't dare as Nuada leaned in toward her and everything in her went still. The wild scent of the forest, that feral scent that always clung to him, flooded her senses, leaving her dizzy with it, dizzy with his warmth and warrior's strength and his nearness. His grip on her tightened until she was pressed hard against the solid wall of his chest. She felt his heartbeat pounding through her own body and oh, he was so very warm against her, even through her coat. Dylan could feel the warmth of his breath caressing her lips.

Oh, my gosh. Don't be stupid, don't be stupid. This is not what I think it is. It's not, it can't be. But...oh...please, please, please...She closed her eyes. Tried not to hope. Tried not to imagine where this would, just maybe possibly hopefully, end: with his mouth pressed against hers.

Swift brush of Nuada's lips, warm velvet against her own. She made a quiet, gasping sound of startled pleasure that turned his blood to molten gold. His lips whispered across her bottom lip, teasing, before fitting more firmly against her so soft mouth. He tasted her breath, peppermint and gingerbread and innocence. He tightened his grip on her as if to prevent escape, but she didn't resist. Only melted into him, her body going soft and pliant in his arms. She was so warm. So sweet. He'd never known a human could be so sweet.

A human...

Instantly, awareness of what he was doing crashed down on him, and he jerked back from her, pushing her to arms' length and holding her in place to keep her from trying to move back into his arms. Gods, what was he doing? What was the matter with him? He'd gone mad. Kissing a human? He'd surely gone mad. Oh, and he could taste her still, and that taste beckoned him to sample it again. Not just a brief caress of lips this time, not just the maddening teasing of her lips ghosting against his, but a true tasting, a deep drinking of all she had to offer him-

No! He shook his head as if to clear it. Snarled vicious, self-deprecating oaths under his breath as he strove to shove away the sudden—dare he say it?—desire like a knot of red-hot wire in his belly. He would not lust after a human. Danu's mercy, he would never, never!

Dylan stared at him, confusion warring with shame and sharp, bitter disappointment in the pit of her stomach. For just a brief instant, his mouth on hers had been Heaven. His arms around her had been all that kept her anchored to the world as delight and disbelieving joy had flooded her veins like golden light. He'd kissed her. Nuada Silverlance, her Elven prince, had kissed her. But now...now...

He didn't want her. He was angry she'd kissed him. Disgusted that he'd kissed her back, even if it was only for a second. But why? Why kiss her at all, then, if he didn't want her? Uncertain, she reached up and touched only the very tips of two fingers to the back of his hand, where he rested it on her shoulder. "Nuada—"

He wrenched away from her touch. Stepped back. "Do not touch me!"

"I didn't mean...I...I'm sorry," Dylan whispered. Something thick and hot threatened to choke her. "I don't know what I was thinking, I...please don't be angry."

"Do not be angry?" He demanded, incredulous ire thrumming through the words. "Do you have any idea what you've done? What I have done?"

She opened her mouth. Found she had no words to answer him, so she closed her mouth again and mutely shook her head. His image blurred before her eyes. Panic shot through her—was he going to glamour himself invisible and leave her? It was only when something icy trickled down her cheek that she realized her vision had gone blurry because her eyes had filled up with tears. She swiped away the one tear that had managed to escape.

He saw that tear glinting in the starlight. That single tear could drown him in self-loathing, confusion, desire, incredulity, disgust. All but the desire was aimed like a hundred knives at his own heart. Had he forgotten the plight of his people? Had he forgotten that the children of men were his enemies? Had he forgotten—

The sound of Dylan's control breaking enough to allow one muffled sob to escape brought his attention back to the mortal he'd kissed, who was currently standing in the snow, hugging herself, shivering, as another tear coursed down her cheek.

Nuada swore under his breath. "Don't," Nuada muttered. She made a small sound he'd heard Nuala make often enough—the sound of a woman struggling to hold back tears. "I am not angry with you. I am merely...it's not your fault. It was an error in my own judgment. It will not happen again. Dry your tears before they freeze."

Using the hem of her sweater sleeve, which poked out from the sleeve of her coat, she did as he said. "I'm sorry, Your Highness."

Your Highness. Why did those words on her lips send icy tendrils tightening around his chest? His eyes tracked a rogue tear spilling down her cheek. Did Dylan even know she was still crying? "As I said," he said coolly, looking away, "it is not your fault. I have been in close quarters with you for some time and...and perhaps some...spark of attraction has grown between us. You may be human, but you are a woman. I suppose it was...inevitable, no matter how revolting or ludicrous the idea."

"Ludicrous?" Dylan echoed, eyeing him with shocked hurt in her rainswept gaze. "Why is it ludicrous?" Why is it revolting? She wanted to demand, but didn't dare. She wasn't sure she could ask the question without breaking down sobbing again. Revolting…He thought she was revolting?

He stared at her. "You are a human," he said, as if speaking to a particularly dull child. "A commoner. I am Elf-kind and a prince."

"Well...well, I know that, but...but you said you were fond of me." She stepped back from him, the snow crunching softly beneath her feet. A small fleck of crystalline whiteness dropped down from the silver wisps of cloud in the night sky to land on her cheek. It melted almost immediately after touching Dylan's pale skin. A tiny droplet of water slipped over the curve of her cheekbone, mimicking a teardrop. "You said that if you had to choose between me and Mïng Xiân, you'd pick me."

Nuada shook his head. "That is not the same thing, Dylan."

"Well, why isn't it?"

"That was regarding politics and marriage, not attraction or emotional involvement."

"Emotional involvement?" It felt like her heart was attempting to crawl into her throat and strangle the words trying to escape her. She swallowed hard and said, "You just kissed me. I would hope there's some kind of emotional involvement!"

"I am fond of you, yes, but I could never..."

"Never what?" Dylan demanded in a tremulous voice. There was a long silence as snowflakes began to whisper down, soft as white ashes, from the sky. Nuada stared at her, almost as if he'd never seen her before. A slow ember of something—understanding? Dread? Regret?—kindled in the depths of his gaze. Dylan clenched her fists in the pockets of her coat until the knuckles ached from the tension. "Never what?" She repeated.

His voice was devoid of any warmth when he replied, "I could never love you. Never. I may be fond of you, but you are...you must see how ridiculous such a thing would be. It would be like falling in love with my horse."

Stung, the hurt sharp as a poisoned knife as it slid between her ribs to pierce her heart, Dylan could only gape at him for a stretch of silence before she managed to whisper, "Your horse? You're comparing me to your horse? Just so you know, O Prince of Elves, the fact that you would ever say that to me makes you the world's biggest jerk. What makes it so impossible for you to be in love with a human? If you can be fond of one, if you can be attracted to one, then why can't you—"

"Humans do not know how to love," Nuada said sharply, cutting her off. Why was this so difficult for her to comprehend? And since when did she take the part of the children of Adam in conversations about mankind versus the Fair Folk? And how dare she insult him? He ignored the guilt pricking behind his breastbone and continued, "Humans cannot love—"

"That isn't true!" She snapped. "I love."

Nuada sighed, then growled, "Dylan—"

"I love you!" She blurted out. He jolted. Stared at her. At the way her mouth trembled and her eyes glistened with a sheen of fresh tears she refused to allow to fall. She sniffled once before closing her eyes and taking a shuddering breath. Blowing it out, she met his eyes again. "I've been in love with you for a long time and I'm human." Dylan bit her lip so hard it sent pain sparking through the flesh. She drew another shaky breath. "And you're a total jerk, Your Highness. Excuse me."

Before he could say anything, before he'd even had a chance to recover, Dylan brushed past him. Nuada turned, her name on his lips, but she picked up her pace and strode as quickly as she could out of the clearing and into the winter-bare trees of the Park, leaving him alone in the snow.

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Author's Note: so...that's the beginning of this variation. I'm not sure where it will go. We'll see. Love you guys! Huggles!