SwanQueen, AU, Slightly OOC. Rated M for language and future adult situations. No beta, so all mistakes are my own (see Author's Note below). No curse. Takes place in Fairy Tale Land seventeen years after the birth of Emma. Emma Swan, an orphan forced into servitude after being found guilty of petty theft, finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the Evil Queen.
Sunny days usually caused grief for Emma, or as much of a sour mood as she would allow creeping into her usual demeanor. Sunny days meant good omens for most, an unforeseen lightness that brightened spirits and made way for jovial plans. Everything Emma wished for on a day like today. Normally those rules didn't apply to this particular girl, but as Emma watched the sun beat against one of the small windows of the servants' quarters, her thoughts were genuinely pleasant. Sun meant outdoor work and on a day like this Emma was grateful for that. Celebrating her birthday in the stables by herself was better than being stuck with all the other servants in the kitchens.
Generally her life at the Dark Palace was as bleak as it got for a young girl without noble lineage. Lacking any sort of structure or parental guidance Emma had wandered the streets since she was a little girl. Being alone was all the blonde had known. Her first memory that came to mind was the feeling of rain pounding down on the ground as the palace guards dragged her inside the dreary fortress. They were draped in dark colored armor and without mercy, as Emma was condemned to lifelong servitude for picking pockets in a village nearby the blackened fortress. All things considered Emma Swan was lucky to still have her life. Seventeen and miserable was better than eight and dead.
For the majority of her time at the castle she had ignored the nagging personalities and forced unity of the crowded quarters. None of the fellow servants were in her good graces since they had constantly broken her concentration and peaceful bliss of enjoying any moment by herself. Emma stole a glance towards the rear corner of the room at the very pair that held her current contempt. To the outside world they were a loving couple that would have appeared to be untouched by age, but to the astute teenager she noticed the subtle changes that had appeared over time. Gray threaten to break through the man's naturally dark hair and the woman tried to hide the new lines developing around her eyes. They had probably slowed down considerably with the arrival of their youngest child, Richard.
The younger boy sat between them, restlessly jittering on the small hay stacked bed after only a few moments of remaining still as his parents enjoyed the morning break. He had inherited his father's looks, but also had his own sense of boundless youthful energy and curiosity. Emma assumed he was at least five years old by now and caused constant chaos in the married couples lives without proper supervision. While the older servants worked diligently to keep up with the Queen's demands, the younger children roamed wild until they were old enough to assist. Right now Jonathon, the moody looking older brother had a soft spot for the cheeky looking Richard when he was in a good enough mood. Emma outwardly feigned indifference to the boy while secretly jealous of the family.
Jonathan currently had his fat cheek pressed against a window as his breath fogged up the glass. He was staring blankly out of his window as people rushed by. If it wasn't for his strong gaze directed towards the soldiers marching by Emma would have assumed the older brother was a complete moron. He still held onto some of his childhood weight, but his arms looked like that of a gorilla. With the lack of common sense and his borderline anger issues he resembled a brute animal rather than civilized human being. Puberty caused Emma and the Fletcher's son to grow apart. All of these thoughts rushed through Emma's mind as she tried to distract herself from what she was really feeling. As someone who had no real family to instruct her growing up, she made it her mission to be good at reading people.
Emma clenched her jaw as the younger boy Richard caught her gaze. His smile irked her more than she had thought it would. In a childish attempt to avoid her rush of memories her stare remained steady as the rest of the world scurried out of their beds to begin their day of service. The game of chicken ended when Richard's mother tore the boy away from the little staring contest. The Fletcher's wife shot Emma a reprimanding look before returning her attention to her family. Another makeshift mother figure trying to put the blonde haired teen in her place. It was like all the mother and father figures that thought they could 'fix' the aloof Emma. Why couldn't she stay where she felt comfortable and not be forced to interact with the outside world? Society wanted nothing to do with the little lost boys and misfits of the world and Emma felt the same way towards conventional society. Unfortunately being an orphan was low on the totem pole when it came to freedom of choice. Emma cast a quick look down at her white shirt, well-worn saddle pants and rugged laced up boots and sighed at her own appearance.
The sound of scuffling feet caused Emma to break away from her clothes. The little boy was saved from any further stare downs from the moody seventeen year old. Emma couldn't be mad at him for all of this. The boy simply did as he was told, no questions asked, in a wonderful fantasy life that his parents tried to keep him in. Richard had explained to her once that he was special and there was no way the Evil Queen could ever force him to work when he got older. When she was a younger girl she got rid of those delusions rather quickly. Trying to explain that to the other children was like talking to a wall. Emma hated Richard the least though out of all the other family members she had the misfortune of staring down.
Scattered around Emma's bed were a few beat up looking leather bound books filled with her aimless drawings. The powers that be in the universe had held Emma back from learning how to read or write properly, like many of the other poor folk in the kingdom. She could identify a few words she had picked up from over the years, but not enough to be classified as literate. That privilege was reserved for the noble families who could afford tutors. One day though she would finally get out of this God forsaken land and start a life of her own, without having to follow anyone else's rules.
Growing up most people were too afraid to associate with Emma's social status as a bastard child. She was viewed as a social pariah to both the servants and the guardsmen. For the most part she was either ignored or put down. The only person who seemed to take pity on her was the older man who worked down at the stables with her. Trouble was his sympathy didn't stretch very far. He was strict with her; constantly reminding her how important their work was for the Kingdom, which baffled Emma seeing as they merely took care of the horses.
This was Emma's personal form of Hell. Before taking a vow of silence towards almost all adult figures she had made a personal promise to herself. No longer would she ruffle feathers through physical means and meaningless childhood threats. The rebellious stage of her teenage life was over now she decided. If the Kingdom was going to force her to be viewed as a second-class citizen she was going to give them a hard time in her own personal way. Emma would show them how much better she was than them by cleaning herself up and become what they always would hate, a success story. Then when they least expect it, she could make her getaway right from underneath their noses.
As a trio of teenage girls entered Emma's view she stared down the group. They may have varied in appearances, but they were all the same to the shrewd girl; girls trying to awkwardly deal with the strange transition between young girls and women. Some overcompensated by feverishly belittling others just so they could hide their own insecurities. What good did it do them when everyone here was forced to serve? They covered up by attaching themselves to boys and stepping over each other to reach the top of the social pyramid established in the servants' quarter. Emma didn't feel the need for any of that in her life and she refused to play the little games. She needed no assistance and she sure as hell wasn't going to bend a knee to the will of others that were clearly as unfortunate as her.
As someone approached her bed Emma was quick to draw her attention to the figure in front of her. With a controlled disposition, Emma Swan looked up at the person who interrupted her judgmental musings. A stocky man, clearly no longer in the prime of his youth, gave Emma's leg a quick jostle before leering over her. There was no kindness in the Butcher's eyes as he did his best to look through Emma. "Get up Swan," he spat out, "Don't think you can waste your precious time while everyone else has to work." Her gaze was steeled as she stared down the Butcher. Though Swan was her official surname, it was more or less a moniker used to identify her as a Bastard child. Swan, Rivers, Woods, all names given to children who were abandoned or disowned by their parents. The blonde had no love for anyone who used it as a means to further belittle her station.
Without further prompt the teenager rose from her bed and made herself scarce from the Butcher's sight. She didn't need to justify him with a response. Heavy steps echoed through the corridors as Emma stormed her way to the private stables. Ignoring the unpleasant looks from the passing guards, Emma pushed open the heavy wooden doors. For years she had made the same passage from her bed to the stables, her presence no longer question by the guards who were familiar with the blonde by now. The stables were hardly ever used but the maintenance was expected to be all above board. The Evil Queen valued the few horses housed there or at least that was what the Stable Master, Robert Parker, had told her. Not once had Emma seen anyone other than Parker and herself in the confines.
"You're late," a gruff voice called out. A man, slightly older than sixty, slammed down his hay rake as he cast Emma a reprimanding look. Parker's frame was once a strong able body, tanned by long hours out in the sun and by years of hard labor. Now all that remained was a man beaten down by the world, cold blue eyes void of the idealism they once had, a body covered with minor scars. He looked exactly how Emma felt most days. Parker reached towards his back pocket and tossed the younger girl a pair of working gloves. "Your friend has been acting up again. Better make sure he's alright."
Catching the gloves, Emma stretched the worn leather material over her hands. "Hello Emma, how are you today? Oh just fine Parker, just another lovely day here in the Kingdom about to shovel horseshit. Happy Birthday to me" she called out sarcastically. While making her way to the back of the stable Emma turned on her heel and continued to walk backwards as she called out to Parker. "Oh wait, royal horseshit," she grinned at her superior. "Even better."
Approaching the only pen occupied in the back of the stable Emma unlatched the closed gate and slipped in. "Hey buddy." The blonde slowly held her hand up to the aging steed. His eyes were glossed over with a milky film. The horse's lack of sight helped in furthering the distrust the animal had towards visitors. Emma slowly eased a glove hand over the top of the horse's head, gently letting her fingers rub from his ears down between his eyes and back. "Parker wasn't giving you trouble now was he?" For reasons unknown Emma was one of the only people the aging horse seemed to be comfortable around. Others spooked the old horse into a frenzy when they tried to approach him.
"You're not going to give me any trouble today are you Rocinante?" The mare gave a tiny huff as if trying to respond to Emma. She had long accepted the fact that she was crazy on some level to converse with an animal, but she had found the one-way exchange therapeutic. Parker took pity on her from time to time, going so far as to actually enjoy a conversation with the orphan, but it wasn't enough for Emma. She could trust that whatever she said to the horses to get off her chest couldn't be used against her in the future. People had a nasty habit of hurting her when she let her guard down.
Emma actually managed a tiny smile as Rocinante calmed down. "I didn't think so." She rewarded the horse by continuing to pet behind his ears. "That's a good boy." Emma lifted her hand off of Rocinante knowing that her work wasn't going to finish itself. Last thing she needed on her birthday was a disgruntled Parker breathing down her neck.
Day in and day out Emma tended to the unoccupied pens near Rocinante, clearing out the hay from the beginning of the week and pitching in fresh hay as though some younger stallions were going to fill in around the old mare. Rocinante did not play well with others and had long been able to have an area all to himself. Clearly the steed had some special place in the Kingdom in order to get such treatment. 'Rocinante has a better life than I do,' she thought bitterly, pitching more hay over her shoulder. Emma couldn't be mad at an animal. She could however be mad at the people responsible for giving her such a shitty life. Both of her parents, if they were even still alive somewhere, had dumped this on her. Emma found herself mentally cursing the two of them on a daily basis when times got rough.
Sweat gathered on Emma's forehead as the morning hours passed on and she continued to work. Exhausted, Emma threw down her pitch, peeling off the gloves saving her hands from callusing up. She'd have to thank Parker for the small gesture when the day was out. Making way back to Rocinante's pen Emma hoped to catch a quick break before Parker made his rounds in the back area to check up on the progress. Unfortunately she wasn't as alone as she thought she would be.
A woman Emma had never come across before was comfortably situated near the finicky horse, whispering words Emma couldn't quite catch. Her brunette hair was pulled back, braided in a hairstyle suited more for someone Emma's age rather than what she assumed the woman really was. The stranger was dressed in neatly tailored riding gear, far more expansive than anything Emma had come across before in her life. Her deep red riding coat was trimmed to perfection, finished off with golden clasps and polished with care. The black leather pants and riding boots left little room for imagination as Emma dragged her eyes down the woman's form. "Who are you?" Emma demanded.
The brunette turned her attention away from Rocinante upon hearing Emma's voice. "I could ask you the same." This woman's voice was cold, devoid of even the negative emotion people typically had when they talked to Emma and her fixed glare had Emma paralyzed firmly where she stood. The woman stared directly at the teenager, dark eyes examining her as if she was on trial. A shiver ran down Emma's spine as the woman finally locked eyes with her own. Most people did there best to look past Emma as though she wasn't there, but this woman was staring right at her. Arching a brow, the woman finally spoke again. "I normally don't have the need to repeat myself. Do you not answer questions ask by your betters?"
On instinct Emma felt the need to defend herself. "You never technically asked a question. I did-" Emma's confidence faltered as the older woman took a step closer towards her.
Something flashed in her eyes that made Emma wish she could fold in on herself. "What did you just say?" her voice harsh as she closed the distance between them. As regal as the woman had looked seconds ago, Emma's self preservation flared at the look of anger she had seen. Something more akin to fear held Emma in her spot.
Both women whipped their heads towards Parker's distant voice. Broken from the trance the rider had over her, Emma took the chance to run, leaving the dangerous noblewoman with Rocinante. The more space she put between herself and the stranger, the more Emma silently thanked Parker for unknowingly saving her.
AN: So it has been many years since I have dabbled in writing fiction, but here I am again. Please excuse any grammatical mistakes. I write quickly and proof read myself as best as I can, so there will no doubt be some mistakes here or there by this novice writer. We're all human. I am new to the whole OUAT fandom and there is something about the SwanQueen dynamic that intrigues me to write once again. There is no particularly loyalty to any ship (real or fan based) for me, so you won't find any bashing here of any rival ships. I have the next few chapters (and a board idea of the overall story) planned out. Also I try not to write long babbling Author's Notes, but I felt the need to just sort of tack this on here at the end. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I enjoy writing/developing it.