AUTHOR'S NOTE: This chapter is sort of a follow-up to the last chapter. Half of it will be Frakenwolf and the other half will be Sleeping Warrior, again, apologies for those who don't like this pairing, but as I said before I just liked the two of them together. In the chapter after this, Rumplestiltskin will have a chat with David and then he and Neal-Baelfire will begin their reconciliation. Moe French will also appear. In the chapter after that, we'll have Snow at the town meeting to decide what to do with the displaced residents and some more Outlaw Queen interaction. Then we'll get to the story of Tina and see August/Pinocchio. Also just a reminder, since the show never revealed Dr. Whale's first name, I choose the name Vincent for him.
Red exits the interrogation room with Chris Early in tow. She has spent the past hour interrogating the man, trying to come up with some clues as to the identities of the three other people that were helping King George, but to no avail. Chris did explain how they planned everything, but she hasn't learned anything useful.
She decides to give up and try talking to the guy they captured at the library. She is in the process of taking Chris back to his cell when the door opens and Michelle and Amelia walk in with two women, one of whom she recognizes as Martha Bess.
"Diana," Chris says in surprise.
"You!" the woman Red doesn't recognize screams. Before anyone can say another word, the woman, Diana, rushes at Chris and knocks him to the ground. "You stupid lousy bastard, I hate you! I wish you were dead!"
Michelle, Aurora, and Red all run toward her and pull her away from her husband. Once she is off him, Red leaves Michelle and Aurora to take care of the enraged woman.
"I take it she's his wife," Red says.
"Not for long!" Diana shouts, as Michelle and Aurora continue to hold onto her. "I'm filing for divorce first thing in the morning!"
"Where's their son?" Red asks.
"He's at the hospital," Aurora says.
"At the hospital?" Chris asks. "What happened?"
"He..." Michelle begins, but Diana cuts her off.
"I'll tell you what happened you son of a bitch!" Diana screams. "He pulled a gun on these two women when they came to arrest him! He actually shot at them! They returned fire and he was shot in the arm!"
"Is he okay?" Chris asks, going pale.
"The doctor says he will be okay," Diana shouts, "except for the fact that he attempted to kill two sheriff's deputies and will be spending the next few decades in prison!"
Chris has no response to this. "You can let me go now," Diana says, taking a deep breath. "I promise I won't attack him anymore."
Michelle and Aurora cautiously let her go. "I'm going to be heading back to the hospital now," Diana says. "I want to be there when Mortin gets out of surgery. I just wanted to tell my scumbag of a soon-to-be ex-husband what I think of him."
She turns and exits the sheriff's station.
"Is my son really going to prison?" Chris asks.
"He tried to murder me," Michelle says simply. "He'll most likely be tried as an adult for that. He's looking at some serious jail time."
Chris is silent as he absorbs this.
"What about Martha's son?" Red asks. "Where is he?"
"He appears to have no idea that they were planning on killing people and actually threw up when we told him that," Aurora says. "We dropped him off with his father."
"Frank is a good man," Martha says, "but he's not smart enough in the ways of the world. I fear with me in prison, Matt won't grow up to be ambitious enough."
"I think Frank will bring Matt up just fine," Michelle says. "After all, he's not the one heading to prison, is he?"
Martha opens her mouth to respond, but quickly closes it again as she realizes she has no real response to that.
"While we were at the hospital, dropping off Mortin, I spoke with Dr. Whale," Michelle says. "He says if you have a chance he would like to see you as soon as possible. It's a bit chaotic down there with them still treating all the people from the fires. David has been doing his best to keep people calm, but I think Dr. Whale thinks that if you were to go down there and give an update on what's been going on, it will make people feel better."
"Okay," Red says. "I'll head down there right away."
Red arrives at the hospital to find that it is indeed in a state of barely controlled chaos. She speaks to many people, reassuring them that all the people involved in the attack are dead or in jail and, that they are in the process of rounding up anyone else who may have helped them. Eventually Red manages to get to the nurses' station, and finds the head nurse, Susan Powell.
"Hello," Red greets her. "How are things holding up here? Have there been any fatalities yet?"
"No, the last time I checked there hadn't been a single fatality tonight," Susan says, "at least not if you don't count Albert Spencer and his band of kidnappers and would-be murderers."
"That's good," Red says, relieved.
"Also, most of the injuries we've treated have been minor," Susan continues. "With a few exceptions, they were all minor burns and some smoke inhalation. So far, the worst injury is Graham. He was hurt pretty badly in that explosion at the mines. He has a broken arm and a broken leg as well as several cracked ribs. Dr. Whale says he will require several months to heal, but he expects that he will make a full recovery."
"That's good," Red says.
"It's both good and bad," Susan says. "A lot of our patients will be able to go home tomorrow. Or rather, we will release a lot of them tomorrow. Most of the people here no longer have homes to go to."
"We're working on that problem," Red says, though the fact that the Evil Queen and the wife of the Dark One are currently leading the effort doesn't exactly inspire a lot of faith in her. She never met Isabella back in the Enchanted Forest, so she has no idea what she's really like. She can tell that Rumplestiltskin really loves her though, and anyone who can get through the darkness in his heart must be someone truly special. She pushes that thought out of her head for the moment. She has other things to worry about right now. "Where is Dr. Whale, by the way? He said he wanted to see me."
"He's up on the second floor resting in one of the unused offices," Susan says. "He just finished surgery on that kid who was shot and he needed a break."
"Why wouldn't he go to his office if he wanted to take a break?" Red asks, confused. "Is he trying to avoid people?"
"No," Susan answers. "He didn't go to his office, because that's where Mary is resting."
Red feels her throat tighten, she has completely forgotten about Emma in all this. "Is Emma okay?" she asks. "Was the baby harmed?"
"I'm not sure," Susan says. "I was taking care of Mary at the time Dr. Whale was treating her, and with all the chaos around here, I haven't had time to check on the condition of patients I'm not directly responsible for."
"Emma's fine," a familiar voice says. Red turns around to find Doc the Dwarf standing there. Red recalls that he's an obstetrician in this world, who's also called Doc. Why the curse would allow him to keep his real name, she has no idea. "I helped Dr. Whale with his examination and both Emma and the baby are fine. Emma will require some time to recover, but neither she nor the baby suffered any permanent harm."
Red visibly relaxes. "That's a relief," she says. "I take it Sn...Mary is equally relieved."
"Well, Neal and David are both relieved, but Mary is still asleep," Doc says. "The sedative Susan gave her is a bit strong, and they both agree she should rest after the day she's had. Things are going to be hard for her tomorrow, because at some point she's going have to make a public statement."
"Yeah," Red says. "Regina is planning to call a town meeting tomorrow. I just hope that Mary will be recovered enough to attend. Right now I should be heading off to see Dr. Whale."
After getting directions to the office Whale is currently in, Red heads off in search of the doctor. When she arrives at the office, she knocks lightly on the door, not wanting to wake him up if he's sleeping.
"Who is it?" Dr. Whale asks, and Red can hear the weariness in his voice.
"It's me," Red says. "The sheriff."
"Ruby," Dr. Whale says relief evident in his voice. The door swings open and before she can say or do anything, he pulls her inside and gives her a passionate kiss on the lips. She returns the kiss with equal passion, feeling her body respond to his kiss. "I was so worried about you. David told me you were okay, but with everything that's been happening tonight I kept worrying about you."
"I'm fine, Vincent," Red says, her mind racing. Somehow, in the craziness of the night, she has completely forgotten she is dating the doctor or rather that Ruby is dating him. Suddenly having two sets of memories is very confusing. She feels her mind race and she has no idea how to handle this situation. Vincent still has no clue that the curse exists, and she has no idea who he really is back in their world. She blushes as she recalls the several times they had sex. He is much more passionate in bed than any of her previous partners were and she'd found hidden depths to the man. In fact, she has been planning to tell him that she loves him during their next date.
That was Ruby, not me, she thinks, and the only other sexual partner I've ever had was Peter. All the others were fake, provided by the curse. Still, she is the same person at the core, only with different memories. Does that mean Dr. Whale is the same man?
What will happen if he doesn't feel the same way when the curse breaks? Red thinks. What will happen if he has another love that he forgot about and when the curse breaks, he goes back to her? Then she has the most terrifying thought of all. What will happen when he learns that I'm a werewolf?
Fairy-Tale Land, One-Year Pre-Curse
Red is sitting outside on the balcony of the castle looking up at the full moon. Tonight is the ball celebrating Prince Charming (as Snow calls him) and Snow White's victory over King George and the Evil Queen, and their first wedding anniversary, well the first anniversary of their public wedding. They celebrated their real wedding anniversary several months ago, by finally taking their honeymoon. Technically, James is king now, but King Charming just doesn't have quite the same ring to it as Prince Charming.
"Hey Snow," Red says quietly.
"You know that's not fair," Snow says. "I can never move quietly enough to surprise you. And how are you able to tell it's me just by the sound of me feet?"
"It's not the sound you make," Red answers. "It's your scent."
"You know sometimes I envy you," Snow says. "Those enhanced senses of yours would have come in handy when I was on the run by myself."
"Well, the enhanced senses, strength, speed, and stamina are definitely bonuses," Red says, smiling. "I remember a time when all I wanted was to be rid of my wolf side, but now I wouldn't trade it for anything."
"Really?" Snow says. "Then why are you out here brooding?"
"You noticed that huh?" Red sighs. "It's a wolf thing. The mating instinct is strong around the time of the full moon and it's depressing watching other people laugh and kiss when I'm alone."
"Well then maybe it's time you got back into the dating game," Snow suggests.
"I tried," she says quietly, "but no one wants to go out with me."
"That's not true," Snow protests.
"It is," Red says. "I haven't had a date since Peter. At first, I blamed myself for his death and even after I accepted that his death wasn't entirely my fault because Granny never told me I was a werewolf, I still grieved for him. And then I was so busy with your quest to regain the kingdom and becoming a general that I didn't have time for dating."
"You've really done a great job with the army," Snow says, "especially integrating the women with the men."
"That was really challenging," Red agrees. "Gaining the acceptance of some of the soldiers was really hard. They had a bigger problem with me being a woman than a werewolf."
"I know," Snow says. "Charming told me that for the first few months many of the male soldiers from his part of the kingdom had problems obeying any commands you gave."
"Yeah," Red says. "It was an uphill battle, but as they fought side by side with the women and learned they were skilled fighters, their attitudes begun to change. I haven't had a serious complaint about sexual discrimination in the past month."
"You should be congratulated," Snow says. "I thought it would take years for things to run this smoothly."
"Well, it wasn't all my doing," Red says. "Lancelot and King James helped too."
"Don't sell yourself short," Snow says, "but I fear we've gotten off topic. What did you mean when you said no one wants to date you?"
"I tried asking several people to be my date for the ball tonight, but they all refused," Red says. "People may have accepted me as a general, but they're still wary of me. And no one really wants a werewolf as a girlfriend."
Snow opens her mouth to say something, but Red silences her before she can start talking. "Don't bother trying to deny it," she says. "I only really require the cloak during the full moon, but I still make people nervous when I don't wear it. I tried not wearing it around the soldiers a few times, and nearly everyone became nervous around me."
"Just give it time," Snow says. "Maybe you should start leaving your cloak off more often. Once people learn you're in control, they'll be less nervous around you."
"Perhaps you're right," Red says, "but even if that was true, it still won't help with getting dates. Maybe I should just give up on love. It may be my fate to be alone."
"Don't say that," Snow says. "I'd stopped believing in love myself. I believe the first thing I told Charming after he captured me was that there was no such thing as true love, that all royal marriages were business transactions and then I took that stupid potion. Listen, the point is you shouldn't give up on finding love. One day you'll find the person that you were meant to be with, probably when you least expect it."
"Maybe you're right," Red says. "Although I hope it doesn't involve me getting trapped in a net."
"I think you're probably safe in that regard," Snow says, "unless you've been robbing carriages without telling me."
Red laughs. "No, I haven't," she says, "but I could always get caught in a hunter's trap when I'm in wolf form. Then in the morning when the hunter comes to get his prize, he'll find a naked woman and we'll fall madly in love."
"Somehow I don't think that will be how you meet your true love," Snow laughs. "Now, do you want to head back to the party?"
"Sure," Red says.
"So what exactly happened tonight?" Vincent asks, snapping Red out of her recollections. "Who was behind tonight's attacks and what were they trying to accomplish?"
Red feels relief at his question since it gives her time to sort out her jumbled thoughts.
"It was Albert Spencer," she answers. "He was angry at Sn…Mary for booting him out of office. He wanted to kill her and all her allies, and then put himself back in office."
Red went into a detailed description of everything that happened tonight, starting with how the thugs ambushed her, Michelle, and Amelia at the gym and ending when Michelle and Amelia returned to the sheriff's station after the shoot-out with Mortin Early. She is careful, however, to leave out any mention of magic or the curse.
As she talks, she keeps thinking about what to do. She has no idea how to handle this relationship. The cursed part of her knows she is in love with the cursed part of the doctor. As she thinks about this, she realizes that even though she has false memories, at the core, she is still herself and most of the other people in town, whom she knew in the Enchanted Forest, retained their core personalities. So would that hold true for the doctor?
Should I continue with this relationship or not, Red thinks, should I tell him the truth or would he think I was crazy? What if I break up with him and he starts dating someone else before the curse breaks? A sharp pain went through her heart at this thought.
As she finishes speaking, she looks up at Vincent to find that his face has gone white with horror.
"Albert sent thugs to rape you?" he asks.
"Yes," Red says, trying to suppress the memory of the fear she felt. She had never felt that terrified in her entire life, either her real one or her fake one. "But I'm fine."
"I can't believe Albert thought he would get away with this," Vincent says. "How could he ever have thought the people would accept him back as mayor by killing all the people in town who opposed him? I'm normally not a violent man, but if you hadn't killed him, I would have done it myself. I half wish I could bring him back to life, just so I could kill him again."
"Well you're not alone in feeling that way," Red says. "Both Mary and Mr. Gold would have liked to kill him, and after tonight, I doubt that there will be many tears shed over him."
"Are you sure you're okay?" Vincent asks. "I mean being tied up by armed thugs couldn't have been easy on you."
"I was terrified at the time," Red admits, "but I haven't had much time to dwell on it."
Vincent is quiet for a moment. "I was really worried about you tonight," he says. "When Susan first came in, she said that she heard that you had managed to fight off the people sent to take you out. I didn't have a lot of time to dwell on that, since Mary came in with Emma immediately after and we've had so many patients, but in the back of my mind, I kept worrying about you. I knew that you would be at the center of whatever was going down and that you might not live through it."
"I'm touched that you were worried about me," Red says, "but I'm pretty tough. I'm not that easy to take out."
"I know," Vincent replies, then becomes quiet. "I love you."
Red feels something inside her break at those words. With her real memories restored, she remembers all the lonely nights wondering if she would ever hear them. She still worries about what will happen when the curse breaks, but as Snow once told her, if a person truly loves you, they'll accept all of you. She decides not to let her fears rule her.
"I love you, too," she says. Then she pushes him up against the wall and begins to kiss him while simultaneously beginning to tear off his clothes.
"Ruby, I need to get back to work," Vincent protests, half-heartedly.
"Is anyone currently in danger of dying?" she asks.
"No, all of the most serious injuries have been treated," he answers.
"Then they can do without you for an hour or two," Red says. She begins to grind against him, pleased as she feels his body respond. In a way, this is the first time she's having sex with him, since she's just recovered her memories and now, reconnected to her wolf side, she has enhanced senses and strength. This is evident in how much easier it is for her to keep the doctor pinned to the wall. She can also smell his desire for her. That is the most embarrassing part of being a werewolf, one that she kept to herself, the ability to smell sexual attraction. Now that someone directs it at her, she feels the wolf inside of her respond with primal desire. "If you thought the sex we had before was good, wait until I'm finished with you tonight."
Once Red leaves the station, Aurora escorts Michelle back into the sheriff's office where Michelle proceeds to tell her everything that Phil told her. Then, Aurora proceeds to tell her that it's true, explaining everything about the curse, who they really are, and their time in the Enchanted Forest. Then, she waits apprehensively for Michelle to respond
"So you're telling me I'm really Mulan," Michelle asks, "the same Mulan from that Disney movie? And you're Sleeping Beauty?"
"Well, I think that movie is loosely based on you, but almost all of the details are wrong," Aurora says, "and the curse Maleficent used on me wasn't a sleeping curse, but something far more sinister."
"Maleficent," Michelle says. "She was that dragon in the mines?"
"Yes," Aurora says. "You nearly killed her, but the curse came before you could finish the job."
Michelle is silent for a moment. "If you had told me all this before today, I would have said you were crazy," she says. "I mean, my entire life is a lie and not just my life, but also the lives of everyone in this town? I was never a soldier in the army and I never won the Congressional Medal of Honor?"
"You were a soldier in an army, just not the American one," Aurora replies, "and you were highly decorated."
"I should call you crazy and have your head examined," Michelle says, with a shake of her head, "but I can almost recall what you're telling me. I need to remember. How do I get my memory back?"
"I don't think you can yet," Aurora answers sadly. "I regained my memories because Maleficent used a one person version of the curse on me to torment me. The only other people who regained their memories did so because Emma Swan, the prophesied savior, used her powers to bring them back and from what Red told me it's very dangerous for her to use that power while pregnant. Albert forced her to use her power to restore his memories and that's what put her in the hospital tonight."
"I see," Michelle says. Then she registers the rest of Aurora's statement. "Emma's pregnant?" she gasps in shock. "When did you find out and why didn't you tell me?"
"I just found out tonight," Aurora says. "I overheard Regina talking about it while at the library."
"I see," Michelle says. "Well there's no way I would ever want her risking herself for me. I just hope she and the baby are okay."
"Me too," Aurora says.
"So your real name is Aurora?" Michelle asks. "Should I start calling you that now?"
"Well in public you should stick with Amelia," she replies, "but in private, I suppose I'd prefer Aurora, but you can stick with Amelia if you prefer."
"Aurora," Michelle says. "Aurora. Aurora."
Amelia watches as her girlfriend says her name several times with different tones. "What's wrong?" she finally asks.
"I'm just not sure I can get used to calling you Aurora," Michelle answers. "The only memories I have of you are the ones as Amelia, and you've told me all of those except for the ones from the past year are fake. I don't even know how we started dating back in our own world."
"Well, why don't I tell you?" Aurora says. "It happened on our voyage from your kingdom back to mine, after my training was complete."
Fairy-Tale Land, Four and a Half Months Pre-Curse
Aurora lay on the bed in her cabin, trying to fall asleep, to no avail. It was two weeks ago that they left Mulan's village. The village is deep inland and it is a week's journey to reach the port. From there they boarded a merchant vessel that belonged to a friend of Mulan's father. Once they reach the kingdom of Prince Eric, it will be another four-day journey back to her kingdom.
My kingdom, she thinks, feeling more and more anxious. For the past couple of months, Mulan's kept her constantly busy, training her almost continuously. When she was too exhausted to continue with her physical exercises, Mulan would give her other lessons such as how to treat wounds, how to build a fire, which plants have medicinal value, and other important instruction like this. At the end of the day, she was so exhausted she would usually fall into a dreamless slumber.
Now that she has nothing to distract her, however, she can't help worrying about her parents. Are they dead? Do they believe she turned traitor? That is the thought that hurts her the most, her parents thinking that she willingly joined Maleficent's side. She will kill Maleficent and free her people if it is the last thing she ever does.
Giving up on sleep, Aurora decides to go for a walk. She gets up, puts on her robe, and heads up on deck. While she is walking, she wonders what Maleficent is up to right now. She wonders if she is still searching for her. By now, she must assume that she fled the kingdom and ran far away. She knows that this can only be to her and Mulan's advantage. As far as Maleficent knows, she has won and no one is opposing her. She reaches the deck to find Mulan standing near the rail, gazing out at the sea.
She looks beautiful in the moonlight, Aurora thinks, then immediately tries to suppress the thought. Throughout her life, she sometimes found herself attracted to women. The opinion on the matter of same-sex couples was a question of much debate throughout history. Right now, the prevailing opinion is that true love is love, regardless of the form it takes. In her kingdom, and most of the surrounding kingdoms, marriage between people of the same sex is legal, but she knows in others it is forbidden. She also knows that many of the nobles in her own kingdom disapprove of it and have made efforts to get the king and queen to outlaw it.
Several times nobles had approached her as well. She never could understand why they hated people in love with members of the same sex so much. The anger of people like Maleficent and Regina, at least, makes some sense to her. Maleficent is jealous that Aurora and her mother had the love and admiration of their people, and Regina hates Snow for some wrong Snow committed as a child, but these people's hatreds weren't born of jealously or past wrongs. It baffles her.
One day, a particularly vehement noble vowed that if her mother and father didn't reverse the law, he would see their reign ended. This shocked her. His telling the king and queen that he was planning to commit treason over something that really didn't affect him at all, was unbelievable. Her parents were lenient with him, merely reminding him what the penalties for treason were before throwing him out of the castle.
After that day, she went to one of the maids, who was married to another woman and started asking her questions. Aurora wanted to try to understand what made these people hate so much. The woman merely smiled and said she didn't know either. Aurora then asked her several questions about her life like how she first knew she felt attracted to her wife. She wanted to know was she only attracted to that one woman, was she only attracted to women, or was she attracted to both men and women.
When she finished talking, the maid looked at her kindly and gently, which instantly alarmed her. "Oh no, I'm not asking this because I'm feeling like that myself," she'd explained quickly. "I'm just curious."
Aurora could tell that the maid didn't believe her and told her that she herself had only been attracted to other women, but she also knew people that were attracted to people of both sexes. Aurora thanked her for the information and then left. After her conversation, she was able to determine that she fell into the latter category, which was something of a relief to her. It wasn't that she ever felt her attraction to women was wrong, but as a princess, she was also responsible for choosing a suitable partner. She knew that if she chose a woman for her partner that would be a complication.
Then she met Philip. She loved him with all her heart and was devastated when she thought he betrayed her, but just before they left Mulan's village, she had received a letter from Philip, explaining his actions. Shortly after his parents released him from the dungeon, after they confirmed his identity, he had discovered the true state of his kingdom.
Her kingdom and Philip's were always closely allied, and when hers fell and cut off all trade, his kingdom fell into disarray. Forty percent of their economy depended on trade between the two kingdoms, and Maleficent stopped all trade when she took over. His kingdom was nearly bankrupt.
Then, he explained he had a friend who was a seer. Philip never told anyone about his abilities, because seers were rare and people were always trying to imprison them, so they could use their powers for their own gain. His friend was able to hide his abilities because his powers weren't very strong. He explained that his friend only had two or three visions a year, and they were always of big events. He explained that the night before he broke up with her, his friend came to him, saying Maleficent would soon demand that his parents return Aurora to her custody and in exchange, she would restore trade between the kingdoms.
His friend told him that his parents would have no choice but to accept. Everyone all but considered Aurora a traitor and an ally of Maleficent. If his parents refused the deal, Maleficent would use it as a pretext to invade and their kingdom was in no shape to fight such an invasion. They would have to choose between returning one fallen princess and letting thousands of their citizens die. Philip explained the seer told him that the only chance to prevent both the invasion and save Aurora's live would be to make her hate him. The seer said that this would set off a chain of events that would allow her to escape in a way that Maleficent wouldn't blame on him or his parents. It would also give her the resolve to become strong enough to stand up against Maleficent. He couldn't foresee what the outcome of the battle would be, but he knew that she had a good chance of beating the evil witch.
Philip went on to apologize for how circumstances had forced him to treat her, and everything that had happened. He wrote that they didn't have a future anymore, but she would always hold a special place in his heart. He hoped that one day after she won back her kingdom, they could at least be friends again. The last thing Philip wrote was that the seer said Aurora would find a new love in an unexpected place and that while Aurora would be afraid of it, she should embrace it.
After reading it, she didn't know how to feel, but after having two weeks to mull it over, she realizes that what he did must have been incredibly hard and she no longer feels angry toward him. She also realizes that she no longer loves him either. She knows the two of them had once been happy, and if not for Maleficent, they would have had a wonderful life together, but too much has happened since then, for them to ever get back what they had.
"Aurora," Mulan says, having noticed she is there. "You look lost in thought."
"I couldn't sleep, so I decided to take a walk," Aurora says. "This long journey has given me time to think about a lot of things."
"I understand," Mulan says. "When I was in the army, we sometimes had to march for weeks to get to our next battle site. It gave the soldiers, myself included, plenty of time to mull things over."
"Oh," Aurora says. "What did you think about?"
"I thought about home," Mulan says. "Wondering if I would ever see my father again, and what he would say when I did return. When I got permission to join the army, I didn't tell him face to face, only left a note saying what I planned to do. He never did approve of my interest in what he considered men's activities, and I feared he would hate me for running off like I did."
"But I never got that impression when I talked to your father," Aurora says. "He seemed very proud of you and boasted about you accomplishments in the army."
"Yes," Mulan says. "When I finally got home, my father was waiting for me. We had a long talk and he apologized for not listening to what I wanted. He told me I was right to leave a note for him because if I had talked to him, he would have done everything in his power to stop me. But upon seeing what I had accomplished, he told me he would have been wrong."
"I'm glad everything worked out," Aurora says, then pauses, curious. "You know for all the time we've spent together, you haven't really told me much about your personal life. Were you ever in love?"
A pained look passes over Mulan's face for a moment. "I was in love with someone once," she says. "We dated each other for nearly a year. I thought my partner was happy, but one day she unexpectedly broke up with me. I was devastated, I didn't know what I had done wrong, but eventually I realized she was the one who couldn't deal with the situation. She couldn't accept who she really was and married the man her parents picked out for her."
"You said her?" Aurora asks, surprised.
"Yes," Mulan says, and then pauses. "That doesn't bother you, does it?"
"No," Aurora says quietly. "I've never been bothered by that."
"That's good," Mulan says. "I was so afraid of what my father would say when I told him, but he told me he always suspected, and didn't care."
"Your father's a good man," Aurora says. "So has there been anyone else you've been interested in?"
Mulan turns away, quickly.
"There is someone you're interested in," Aurora says. "Who is it?"
"No one," Mulan says.
"You're lying to me," Aurora says. "Come on you can tell me who it is. I promise I won't tell anyone."
"It's you," Mulan says.
"What?" Aurora asks completely floored. "You're interested in me?"
"Yes," Mulan says. "When I first met you, I could barely stand you. I know you've been through a lot, but the way you treated me on our journey back to Philip's kingdom just rubbed me the wrong way."
Aurora blushes, embarrassed at the thought. "I'm sorry about that," she says. "It's just that..."
"I know, you already told me," Mulan says. "You didn't think women could be warriors. It wasn't your fault your parents raised you that way. It just kept reminding me of all the hardships I went through in the army when men kept telling me to go home and cook, as they felt women should or when they actually thought the only use I had was to cook them meals. It took a lot of hard work to get them to accept me."
"I can only imagine," Aurora says.
"But the point is, most of them did eventually accept me," Mulan says. "And I eventually learned to ignore the comments of the ones who didn't. I knew what I was capable of, even if they didn't. I don't know why you were able to get under my skin so easily."
"Maybe because I was a woman," Aurora says. "And you expected women, at least, to treat you better."
"That was part of it," Mulan says, "but when I was fighting off those thugs, and you realized I wasn't lying, I realized what was bugging me. It was the thought of how many women thought as you did. How they thought they could never be as brave or as capable as a man is.
"But I fear I've gotten off topic," Mulan continues. "I'll admit now that on our journey to my village, I had my doubts about training you. From what Philip told me you spent your entire life as a sheltered, pampered princess, who never had to do a day's physical labor. I feared you would complain constantly about the training regimen I gave you.
"But as I watched you train, I realized there was a fire in you," Mulan says, "a fierce determination that surpassed even mine."
"That determination was only because of what Maleficent did to me," Aurora says bitterly.
"No," Mulan says. "The fierce determination and passion in your heart were always there. Maleficent's torture of you just awakened them. I saw how concerned you were about your people and how hard you were willing to work to save them. The only complaints you ever gave me were not about how hard I was working you, but about how you feared you weren't making enough progress."
"Yes, I remember the conversation about my having a really good temperament for a highborn," Aurora says. Now, it is Mulan's turn to blush.
"I'm sorry," she apologizes. "I didn't mean anything by that..."
"Don't worry about it," Aurora says. "The truth is most of the nobles I know would probably have quit after the first day."
"The point is I fell in love with you because you were passionate, determined, and kind," Mulan says.
"You love me?" Aurora asks, and then notices Mulan's look of panic as she realizes what she has just said.
"I didn't mean to say that," she says. "I know you don't feel the same way and I promise..."
Mulan's words suddenly stop when Aurora gently kisses her on the mouth. Mulan is stunned for a moment, before Aurora deepens the kiss. Then Mulan begins to return the kiss with equal passion. They continue like this for a minute, before breaking apart.
"That was incredible," Aurora says.
"Yes it was," Mulan says, "but I thought you weren't..."
"What?" Aurora asks. "That I didn't like women in that way? The truth is I was attracted to both women and men, but I never allowed myself to think about my attraction to other women because choosing another woman for my partner would have been a complication to my rule. Then I fell in love with Philip, so I didn't have to worry about those feelings anymore.
"What you said about that other woman you were in love with, denying who she was to please her parents that hit me really hard," Aurora continues. "I did love Philip, but the truth is there were a couple of women I knew of that I was attracted to who would have been interested in pursuing a relationship with me, however, I feared the reaction of my parents and the kingdom."
"Aurora," Mulan begins. "If dating another woman would have been a complication before, imagine how bad it will be now. Your reputation is already shattered, and this could alienate some of the people you hope to gain as allies."
"I don't care. I won't live a lie anymore. Maleficent forced me to live a lie for nearly four years. I realize gaining allies won't be easy, and even if we do manage to kill..." Aurora begins, and then trails off. "No let me rephrase that. When we manage to kill Maleficent, it will still be a hard road to gain the trust of the people back. But I'll do it by showing them who I really am, not the image of what I think a princess should be."
Mulan is silent as she processes what Aurora said.
"I'm not sure if I'm in love with you yet, I spent years trying to deny the part of myself that is attracted to women," Aurora says, "but I do know what I feel for you is more than friendship and I want to explore it if you're willing."
Mulan smiles sadly. "I'm willing," she says, "but with the situation we're about to get into this is hardly the best time to be concentrating on romance."
"Well, we have a week left before we reach land," Aurora says. "It's not a lot of time, but it's enough to get to know each other better. Come on, let's head back to my cabin and we can get started."
"If I concentrate hard, I can almost remember that, but the memory slips from my mind, the second I think I've grasped it," Michelle says with a sad shake of her head. "So what did we do when we got back to the cabin? Did we sleep together that first night?"
"No, we just talked that night," Aurora says, and then blushes. "Actually, we also kissed a lot, but we only had sex once before the curse hit. It was the..."
The sound of someone screaming interrupts her. Michelle and Aurora quickly draw their guns and rush out into the holding area. There they find Martha screaming inside her cell. They'd put her in the same cell as Chris and Phil, having decided it was better than putting her with an attempted rapist.
Said rapist is the cause of her screaming. He is attacking the prisoner from the library, trying to choke him to death.
"Let him go," Aurora says, as Michelle unlocks the door. Michelle pulls the thug off the other man, and slams him against the cell bars. The man tries to free himself from her hold, but Michelle holds him firm as Aurora helps the other man out of the cell. Once she has him out, Michelle punches the thug, sending him to the ground unconscious. She then exits the cell and locks it behind her.
"Are you okay?" Aurora asks the man.
"I told you not to put me in the same cell as him," the man says, as he tries to regain his breath, "but I'm fine."
"It looks like we'll have to postpone the rest of our conversation for another time," Michelle says. "For now, I suppose we should continue our interrogations, unless you want to head for the hospital."
"No," the man says. "I'll be all right."
"Are you up to being questioned right now?" Aurora asks. "Or do you want to rest?"
"And do you want a lawyer?" Michelle asks.
"I'll answer your questions," the man says. "And I waive my right to a lawyer, considering the one I normally use is dead. I accepted the fact that if we failed, I'd be going to prison for life, so there's no point in me trying to hide anything."
They take the man to the interview room to continue their long night.