Well, my friends, we have sadly reached the end of The Princess and the Prisoner, as this will be the final chapter. Thank you all for your continued support and enthusiasm; as you can see, I found it rather inspiring as this is on the verge of being a nearly 500-page novel and written in less than 30 days. Whoosh! Thanks for the inspiration, everyone! It means more than you know!

I cried like a big baby when I wrote this chapter, so I hope that it manages to evoke the emotions for all of you as well. For this chapter, I implore you to use a soundtrack. The effect is thrilling. Try the Sam Yung piano version of "My Heart" by Paramore; only that version, though. Put it on repeat and let it carry you away. Enjoy! XO

Chapter Fifty-Five: I Will Carry You

Regina stood silently before the large floor-to-ceiling mirror in her bedchamber. Her breath was caught in her throat as she stared at her reflection, her nerves twittering, her heart fluttering, and her thoughts colliding sweetly with her emotions. Inside, beneath the flesh, she was a beautiful storm, while on the outside she was a stunning statue of regal composure. Her hair was pulled up into an elegant twist with few tendrils hanging about her face and a single small bloom pulled from a white orchid rested just above her right ear, tucked into her soft, chocolate strands. Her face was painted only lightly and natural, and her gown was a soft white, cascading around her poised figure. It fell in gentle waves around her feet, simple yet beautiful, cinching in at the waist and stopping just above her cleavage to leave her shoulders and arms bare.

The fallen queen took in her appearance and all that it represented—new beginnings, new commitment…marriage. The word rolled around inside her mind, a word she had always loathed, as the only marriage she had ever known had been to a lustful old man who had chosen her for her youth, her innocence, and his daughter's infatuation with her. That marriage had drained the life from her; it had seeped into her cracked and crumbled heart, into her very soul, and cruelly siphoned away what remaining purity and joy she may have had left. The memories still haunted her at times, the pain and the sorrow and the aching, bitter loneliness. It was a life she had never wished for and one that had only driven her further into the madness of her pain, twisting and coiling and manipulating until she saw only red, until she wanted only revenge and only escape. She had been tainted by her marriage, and she had truly believed she would never again submit herself to such a binding commitment.

But then, there was Emma. The golden-haired princess who had come into her life as only a child, whose tenderness and kindness had drifted into her like a warming breeze, a ballad of love and acceptance, a promise of resurrection and redemption. Emma was like an awakening, a sudden rush of oxygen through dead, deflated lungs. She was as a burning star in the tenebrous night sky, bright and promising; a falling streak of precious light—a fulfilled wish. She was a vibrant pulse singing beneath Regina's fingertips, spilling into the chambers of the fallen queen's own heart and breathing life over dying embers. She was the art of erasure, painting the shadows of Regina's past clear. She was a promise. She was the beginning.

The doors of Regina's bedchamber clicked quietly open, and only seconds later, Snow White timidly appeared in the reflective glass, just behind the fallen queen. They locked gazes through the reflection, both silently remembering Regina's first wedding and how Snow, a child then, had slipped in that day as well, a brilliant smile painting her features as she took in the sight of Regina in her wedding gown. This day, though, Regina's heart was full as well, because this day, she was finally to marry for love.

The fallen queen turned from the mirror but kept her silence. Snow took timid steps forward until they were but mere inches apart and reached for Regina's hands. She gave them willingly and they stood this way many long moments, hand-in-hand and surrounded by a delicate tension in the air. A single tear slipped from an emerald orb as the White Queen and the fallen queen gazed into one another, neither knowing what to say as it seemed their long and complex history danced in the very air around them.

Finally, Regina broke the silence, though her voice was naught more than a fragile whisper. "Thank you, Snow."

"What do you have to thank me for?" Snow whispered, breathing shakily through her tears.

"For Emma," Regina told her, her lips stretching with a beautiful smile as her eyes glistened in the sunlight streaming through the windows.

Snow returned her smile, squeezing Regina's hands affectionately. "Perhaps," she said, "it was always meant to be this way. You lost your first love because of me, Regina, and the guilt of Daniel's death has stayed with me all these years. It seems only fitting that the debt I owe you be paid not with bloodshed but with new love; that your True Love be born through me. Perhaps, now, we can truly start anew, truly be the family I once wished us to be."

Regina's eyes stung fiercely with the effort to keep her tears at bay as Snow's words flooded into her and filled her with hope, a hope that promised her freedom from the weight of hatred and the weight of pain. She pulled the White Queen into a gentle embrace, her nose nestling in cascading raven locks, and whispered, "I would like that, Snow."

They simply stood that way, holding one another for several long moments, before Snow finally pulled from the embrace and smiled brightly at the fallen queen. "Now," she said, "we have a wedding to attend."

Regina let out a shaky breath and nodded. "Indeed we do," she said as she fell into step behind the White Queen, leaving her bedchamber to make her way to the meadow; to Emma.

Tears streamed openly from Red's eyes as she took in the stunning sight of her child. Emma stood in the center of Red's bedchamber waiting for her mother to say something, anything. Her gown sat beautifully atop her fair flesh, a simple dress as she had wanted nothing over the top. The two thin straps reached from her chest and over her shoulders and connected in a braided cord between her shoulder blades. The material was a pearly white and rather light in its weight. The fountain skirt of the gown contrasted nicely to her thin waist and was full yet not billowing as it fell simply to her feet. Her long, golden locks cascaded around her shoulders in perfect princess curls with tiny white flowers woven into several of the strands. She was a radiant bride.

"Oh Emma," Red whispered through her tears. "You are beautiful, my child." Emma's heart sang in her chest. Her happiness was beyond words, beyond expression. Her entire being was swollen with the feeling, aching deliciously with the tender yet powerful vibrations of her joy. This day, she would be bound eternally to her Soul Mate in marriage and she was simply overflowing with her bliss. Regina was a revelation in her heart, a melody in her very cells, and she wanted only to dance in the rhythm, drown in it, forever.

"Thank you, Mother," she said quietly, though her smile was so bright and so brilliant that it could have rivaled the sun. Red stepped closer to the princess and that was when Emma noticed the small wooden box in the wolf's hands.

"I have something for you," Red told her, swiping away her tears as she made to open the small box. The wolf reached into the box and pulled a necklace from within, a slim white-gold chain with a single, small ruby dangling from it.

"Many years ago, I met my mother," Red told her, "and soon after, I was forced to slay her in order to protect your mother, Snow. Snow was my family and I would have given my life to protect her as she was the first to ever accept and protect me despite knowing what I was and the terrible things I had done. Shortly after the day we buried my mother, Snow gave me this necklace. To this day, I am unsure of how or where she obtained it. She must have traded much for it. She clasped it around my neck and told me that it represented us, the white chain for Snow and the ruby for Red. She told me that it represented unconditional love and friendship, that it represented family. She and I…we were family, and she will always be my family, Emma, as will you. You are my godchild and my child. You are my friend and my confidant. You are my comfort, my heart. You are the truest family I have ever known, and my love for you is unconditional. This necklace has meant more to me than words can say and has brought me much joy in my life, and if it pleases you, Emma, I wish you to wear it this day, the most joyful day of your life."

Emma's tears fell fast and steady down her fair cheeks as she choked back a sob and nodded her head, reaching up with gentle hands to lift her golden locks and allow her mother to clasp the necklace around her neck. Once the chain was neatly in place with the small ruby nestled softly against the princess's chest, Red cupped her hands around Emma's cheeks and leaned forward to press a tender kiss to the blonde's forehead. "I love you, my child," she whispered before pulling her pup into an affectionate embrace.

Emma squeezed the wolf as tightly as possible, hoping to convey all that whirled and wrestled within her. She would not be here were it not for Red. The woman had been her strength and her comfort, her solace and her only joy for many years. Emma's heart was full for her—the wolf who had taken her in, the woman who had changed her life for the better. "I love you, Mother," she whispered in return and pressed her lips to Red's cheek.

They clung tightly to one another, reveling in the warmth shared between them, before Red pulled gently from their embrace and smiled at the princess, holding out a hand for her. "Come now," she said, "let us not keep Regina waiting."

Emma laughed with her joy and placed her hand in her mother's, Red pulling her from the room and leading her to her love.

The sun shone brightly atop the rolling green of the meadow as Emma and Red strolled through the swaying grasses, the princess's dazzling emerald eyes focused on the chocolate locks and stunning white gown of a woman in the distance. Regina stood in the meadow before a beaming Snow White while Blue stood to Regina's right, all of them waiting for the princess to arrive.

Regina, sensing Emma's sudden presence, turned her head and her breath instantly hitched in her throat, her cells blazing into glorious life as she took in the halo of golden curls glowing beneath the sunlight and the sparkling eyes that danced as they watched her from a distance, moving ever nearer. She could help not the smile that painted her supple lips as she absorbed the image and committed it to eternal memory, Emma's flowing white gown blowing slightly in the breeze as the blonde smiled shyly at her. She had never seen anything as beautiful, had never felt anything as right.

Emma clutched Red's hand fiercely, needing the support to steady her steps as the sight of her beloved sank into her and melted her from the inside out, her knees trembling and threatening to buckle beneath her. Regina was a portrait of perfection, a glowing goddess in a sunlit field of green, and Emma was ever in awe of her beauty. Tears tangled in her lashes as her heart beat out the rhythm of her wonder and of her joy. Nothing had ever touched her so, had ever moved her so profoundly, as this moment, as this image, as this day.

And finally, they met, Emma now standing before Snow in the space directly across from Regina and with Red just to her left. Her gaze latched onto Regina's, both glistening with their tears as they simultaneously reached forth their hands and laced their fingers together, their bodies always seeking one another in the spaces that lingered between them. Electricity sparked as their fingertips gently collided, whispering atop each other. The magic that was their undying love colored the air in dancing wisps of purple between their grazing palms. It was a truly beautiful sight.

Snow took in the two brides, tears already streaming down her cheeks, before she drew in a steadying breath and prepared to speak. Both Emma and Regina had requested nothing formal, had asked that the White Queen speak only from her heart, and so that was exactly what Snow intended to do. She cleared her throat gently before quickly wiping away her tears as she began to speak.

"When I was a child, I met a beautiful young woman," she began, her voice cracking a bit as the memories rushed back to her. "and she taught me of love. The words she spoke to me, even then, forever altered my life. They shaped my hopes, and they decorated my dreams. She told me that love, True Love, is magic, and she was right, as that same woman stands before me now with that very magic dancing beautifully on her fingertips."

Regina's teary eyes glanced to Snow upon hearing those words and the two women shared a tender look of understanding and of respect, before the fallen queen turned back from the emerald eyes of her past and gazed again into those of her future. Emma smiled sweetly at her as Snow continued. "True Love is a precious rarity, a binding connection between open and willing hearts. It is a wonder to be adored, a miracle to be cherished. Today, you both will make this pledge, to be bound together in marriage sanctioned by the magic of True Love and the rare power of destined Soul Mates. Today, you share your hearts with us and with each other through spoken vows of promise and commitment." Snow, voice cracking again with her tears, then turned to the princess and said, "Emma, you may now speak your vows."

Emma pulled her right hand free and held it, palm up, in the small space between her and Regina. A swirl of purple appeared before dissipating to reveal a shining white-gold band. She smiled through flowing tears as she then slipped the band onto Regina's finger before clutching onto the witch's hand once more. "Regina," she began, her heart fluttering wildly in her chest and her voice trembling, "this life can be cruel. It has shown you much sorrow and much pain, and while I cannot vow to shield you from the trials this life may bring, I can vow that you shall never again weather those trials alone. You shall never bear another burden on your own. I will share your obstacles. I will share your pain, and if you grow weary, I will carry you. I will protect you. I will share with you all that I am, my laughter as well as my tears. I will build a life with you, a beautiful life, and I will adore you. I will cherish you, and above all, I will love you. I will love you without condition and without fail. Regina, this ring is a symbol of eternity, as our souls were born of a magic that exists beyond time and space, beyond reason or measure, and that is what I vow to you this day. I vow to love you beyond time, beyond space, beyond reason, and beyond measure. I am eternally yours."

There was not a single dry eye around as each woman wept upon hearing Emma's words, the sincerity and the promise embedded so beautifully within them. Regina's body shuddered as she cried with her joy and with the promises her beloved had only just made. Emma had given her more than she ever dreamed possible and it shocked her through and through to realize that this was only the beginning.

Both Snow and Red sniffled repeatedly and the White Queen had to clear her throat several times before she was able to voice her next words. She turned to the fallen queen and said, "Regina, you may now speak your vows."

Regina lifted her hand as Emma had done and her fingers trembled as purple smoke dissipated to reveal a matching ring to her own. She slid the band onto the princess's finger and took a shaky breath before gazing into those eyes again and speaking her vows. "Emma, your love is a wonder in my heart. It is a melody in my soul, and I am filled with its rhythm. Your love spilled into me, a light in my darkness, and woke me from slumber. You breathed new life into me after decades of only sorrow and only pain, and you changed me. You saved me. You taught me to love again, to love you. I cannot vow that I will never falter, that I will never fail, or that I will not, at times, slip once more into the shadows of my past, but I can vow that I will always come back to you. I will be strong for you. I will protect you. I will heal you as you have healed me. I will share with you, all that I am, my joys and my sorrows, my pleasure and my pain. I will provide for you. I will love you, Emma. I will treasure you with every breath, with every beat of my heart, and when this life comes to an end, I will follow you into whatever awaits, and there, I will love you still. I am forever yours."

Red and Blue were both now openly sobbing, hands held to their mouths to quiet their joyful cries as Regina and Emma gazed into one another, both visibly trembling. Snow wiped furiously at her streaming tears in an attempt to keep her composure as she bent to the ground and pulled a short, white, braided rope from a small satchel resting atop the grass. She then reached forward and loosely wrapped the cord around Emma's and Regina's joined hands as the two smiled at her and at one another. Snow then placed her own hand atop theirs and spoke raggedly again.

"This braided cord represents the intertwining of souls bound by True Love. It represents the commitment you are making this day, the commitment to be bound in marriage. Regina, if you will repeat after me please," Snow said, smiling at the fallen queen. "Emma, I bind myself to you in marriage, that we may be as one now and always."

"Emma," Regina repeated shakily, "I bind myself to you in marriage, that we may be as one now and always."

"Now, Emma," Snow said, nodding to the princess, "repeat after me. Regina, I bind myself to you in marriage, that we may be as one now and always."

"Regina," Emma mimicked, her voice a ragged whisper as she swallowed the sob itching in her throat, "I bind myself to you in marriage, that we may be as one now and always."

Each of the women in the meadow smiled brightly as Snow released their hands and stepped back an inch, saying, "Emma, Regina, I love you both dearly, and I am overcome with joy as I am able to share this day with you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this precious celebration, and it is with great pleasure that I royally sanction this ceremony and this commitment. By the power vested in me as reigning queen of this kingdom, I now pronounce you officially married. You may kiss."

Emma simply could not help herself. Laughter bubbled up beautifully from her throat to dance with her tears as she stroked gentle fingers over Regina's tear-tracked cheeks. Their eyes shone and sparkled beneath the glorious sun as they gazed into one another only a moment before their lips met softly, devouring the space between them. They held each other, lips pressed sweetly together as their family clapped and cried joyfully around them. Magic sparkled on their fingertips, danced along their brushing lips as they stood beneath sun amidst rolling waves of brilliant green. The wind blew gently through them as confessions sang along their soulful bond—words of love, of hope, of promise. Their love was a quiet, yet powerful symphony, precious and rare, as it whispered its melody in the beat of their hearts, a melody that beautifully touched those around them before growing to encompass the meadow and envelop the world.