Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional. Any resemblances with reality are merely a coincidence.
A/N: So I've been working on this story for so many months now that I can't even remember. I finally think it's worth posting so I hope you all guys like it. Also, I would like to credit the person who made the image cover for the story (I forgot to mention it in tumblr). I found the image in google and retouched it but still. So, whoever made it: thank you for your beautiful job and I hope you don't mind me borrowing it for a little. Finally, If you'd like to leave me a review to let me know your thoughts on the story so far, I'd be thrilled, really haha. Enjoy!
"HOLD ON TIGHT!" Hook yells at the top of his lungs and turns the helm starboard abruptly.
He barely gives Emma time enough to react before the ship turns around ninety degrees all of a sudden and causes the people aboard to lose balance completely. She manages to grip a rope just in time but neither Mary Margaret nor Gold is that lucky. They both land ungracefully in a heap on the floor and have a hard time picking themselves up again with the ship being pulled so strongly toward the vortex of the portal.
That is where they are heading, straight into the lion's den to save Henry, her son… and Regina's.
Out of the corner of her eye, Emma catches sight of the former Evil Queen, who has her hands wrapped around a rope and holding on so tightly to it that her knuckles are turning white. She looks rather pale but Emma can't tell if it's due to the frantic swaying of the ship or something else entirely.
Regina must have sensed her fixed gaze on her because she turns her head to the side and their eyes lock for what seems to be a very long minute. Emma is downright expecting a disapproving look, since it's coming from the Mayor, so she frowns when she's greeted by another kind of look. One she does not have the time to identify because Hook breaks her out of her absorption with yet another yell, "Here we go, lads!"
Hook steers the wheel and grins excitedly at the prospect of returning to Neverland again. The ship heads straight to the portal and, once the bowsprit makes contact with the green swirling waters of the ocean, it begins its descent towards the unknown.
Emma has to shut her eyes closed a moment later because the whirling motion of the portal creates a whipping wind that lashes almost painfully against her face. She also discovers that the sound of the water combined with the sucking motion of the portal makes hearing almost impossible.
She's practically incapacitated without being able to see or hear, yet she doesn't need any of those two senses to know when something's gone wrong. And something has gone wrong because there's a sudden pull from below, as if a gigantic hand had just gripped the bottom of the ship and yanked it downwards abruptly. Then someone shouts something she cannot quite hear, which prompts her to crack an eye open to see what's going on. But when she does, all she sees is a searing white light exploding all around them, and then her whole world fades to black.
When Emma opens her eyes again she does so with a start.
She doesn't recognize her surroundings and that is enough to make the former bounty hunter spring to her feet in complete alert. She pays no mind to the pain in her abdomen or the fire raging in her throat.
Emma needs to find out where she is but, more importantly, where the rest of her family is.
Taking a look around, Emma notices she's standing on a beach and that she's trapped between the sea and a lush green forest at her back.
There's no sign of any other living soul in that beach and Emma's heart is beginning to beat faster in her chest, the thought of being alone in that strange place too much for her to bear.
She takes an involuntary step forward and realizes that her feet weight more than normal. Gazing down, Emma sees that she's drenched from head to toes.
Her green eyes travel back to the never-ending mass of water before her and she sees something that catches her attention.
The blonde dashes toward the shoreline with her heart hammering in her chest. She does not dare to break eye contact with what it would appear to be a dark haired head floating above the surface of the water.
She dashes toward the sea.
Her feet struggle to carry her through the crashing waves and, eventually, she has to dive in order to go on.
Emma braces as fast as she can, trying to not let the waves carry her away, but it proves to be a hard task with the waves growing larger and hitting harder against her face. She has to stop swimming every two seconds and stick her head out of the water to take big gulps of air.
She's tired and fighting against the tide is becoming almost impossible, but she is not about to give up. It's not in her nature to give up on the people she loves and she's not going to start today.
She dives just in time to dodge another wave and comes to the surface a second later, gasping for air and frantically kicking with her feet to keep on floating.
Emma searches around with her eyes for the person she'd seen from the shore and spots the black haired head resting against a wooden board just some meters away.
"Mary Margaret!" Emma lunges forward and swims until her hands come in contact with a solid surface. She wraps her left hand around one side of the board and uses her free one to brush the wet and errant dark locks away from Snow's face. "Mary-" Emma gasps both in surprise and in horror when she sees that it is not Mary Margaret but Regina who she's looking at and that the woman has a large and bad looking gash on her forehead.
There is blood oozing from the wound and it covers all the right side of Regina's unusually pale cheek. The water is keeping the wound open and the blood flowing freely.
Emma presses two fingers to Regina's neck and checks for a pulse. She sighs in relief when she realizes that the other woman is alive, albeit unconscious.
"Regina," Emma draws her attention back to the shore as she absently nudges the other woman by the shoulder. "Please, wake up." But Regina doesn't stir nor shows any sign of having heard her.
It dawns on Emma that she is going to have to carry her back to the shore, so she tries to calculate the distance between the shoreline and them.
It doesn't look good.
"Come on, Regina!" Emma grunts and tears the brunette away from the wooden board.
The moment she's freed, Regina's body begins to sink down so Emma drapes an arm below her chin and holds her head above the surface. She drags them both through the surf with whatever strength she has left and, when they are near enough to the shore, Emma lets the own waves spit them out.
Emma lands on her back with Regina's unconscious body splayed half on top of her. Her chest is heaving and she's desperately trying to catch her breath again.
When she recovers somewhat, Emma props herself up on her elbows and takes Regina by the shoulders to roll her over onto her back.
Emma checks the brunette for any other injuries, aside from the gash on her forehead. She notices that there are some bruises on her arms and on the right side of her neck but, other than that, the older woman seems to be fine.
The wound on her forehead hasn't ceased to bleed since she pulled Regina out of the water. If anything, it's bleeding more profusely now, and it's staining the right side of the brunette's cheek again.
She'll have to bandage it somehow.
Emma takes a look around, trying to determine if there is anything she can use as bandage, but all she sees is a vast ocean at her back, white sand at her feet and a lush green semi-tropical forest in front of her. There is absolutely nothing remotely close to civilization here, just wilderness.
And no bandages.
Emma looks down at her own drenched clothes. Well, it'll have to do.
She rips the fabric of her shirt and uses it first to clean Regina's cheek a little and then wraps it around the brunette's head. She ties the ends into a knot and, when she's done, Emma contemplates her handiwork. It's improvised and messy but it'll do.
Emma sits back on her heels and turns her head over her shoulder. Where on earth are they? Is this Neverland?
Suddenly, there's a groan and the body beneath her begins to stir.
Emma whips her head around again, eyes widening as she sees the brunette stirring. "Regina?"
Regina blinks up a few times, clearly disoriented. She shows no sign of having heard Emma call her name. Instead, she takes a hand to her forehead and groans in pain again.
"What the hell happened?" Regina growls, her voice deep and throaty. Her eyes switch from her now blood stained hand to Emma's green ones. She raises a questioning eyebrow to the blonde.
"You're hurt," Emma answers vaguely and Regina's eyebrow rises even higher. Emma feels the need to elaborate further. "It's nothing serious, though... I bandaged it already."
Emma slides her palms down her soaked jeans and stands up. Then, she outstretches her hand for Regina to take but the woman throws her a death glare. Emma takes the hint and drops her hand, smacking it loudly against her thigh.
"Thank you for stating the obvious, Sheriff." Regina replies and moves to get on her feet, but she moves so fast that her head spins dangerously and she sways on the spot.
Emma leaps forward and catches her before she can fall to the ground again.
"Where are we?" Regina drawls, her head resting momentarily on Emma's shoulder and her eyes closed, trying to make the blurry shapes in her vision become focused once more.
Emma sighs because the situation seems to be getting worse and worse by the second. "I was hoping you could tell me."
Regina blinks a few more times, until the two blurry horizons in her vision merge into one. Then, she pushes Emma away by the shoulders – as if the blonde hasn't just saved her from toppling head first to the ground - and takes a proper look around.
No. She doesn't recognize this place at all but, somehow, the thought doesn't disturb her as much as it does Emma.
Regina has been to different lands during her rule in Fairytale Land, so she's long past the fear of finding herself in a complete different place. Which is most certainly not the case for Emma who, until some months ago, didn't know anything else than the busy streets of a city.
"Well, we'll clearly not in Storybrooke anymore." Regina quips and takes a few steps forward, gazing suspiciously at the thick and lush forest that marks the limit between the beach and the vegetation.
It's a nice place, to be honest. The sea at their back is a clear and almost transparent blue, the sand below them is so white that it could very well be talc, and the trees standing tall just a few steps away from them are mostly palms and bushes.
If only they weren't on a quest to save their kidnapped son and, now, the rest of the crew as well, Emma would probably refuse to leave this place.
"Funny," Emma says. She can't believe the woman's sass is still intact after almost drowning. One would almost expect the rest of the world to act more seriously but, then again, we're talking about Regina. The rules don't commonly apply to her. "Did we make it? Is this Neverland?"
Regina turns on her heels to look at Emma. The expression of annoyance the blonde had just been wearing a second ago is now replaced by a look of such hope that the former Evil Queen feels almost bad for shattering when she dryly answers, "No."
As foreseen, Emma's face falls and her shoulders slump. She's beginning to grow restless and Regina's perfectly put together stance is not helping at all.
Regina takes a step closer to the blonde, until she's practically breathing in her face. "I don't know where we are, Miss Swan."
Emma's heart stops beating for a few seconds and all the color seems to drain from her face, "What?"
"You heard me, dear."
A million thoughts battle for dominance in Emma's head, trying to make themselves be heard. They seem to weight a ton because she starts to feel light headed. Yes, they are heavy thoughts. Very, very heavy…
"Miss Swan!" Emma shakes her head, coming to. "Are you even listening?" Regina asks, her cheeks flushed in anger. Leave it to Emma Swan to tune out while she is talking. "I swear you are like a child sometimes," Regina runs a hand through her wet brown locks and lets out a puff of air, trying to calm herself.
"Sorry," Emma mumbles, tracing a random path with her foot on the sand.
"Yes, well. Try not to zone out again while I'm speaking. As I was saying, I don't think this place is Neverland but there is only one way to find out."
"Which is what?"
"By entering the forest," Regina replies, her voice enigmatically low. At Emma's quizzical look, she decides to add, "It shall be easy to prove if this is Neverland or not."
"Well, dear. If you enter that forest and you get tackled by a bunch of filthy savages in the form of children, then you're in Neverland."
It seems, Emma realizes, that they only time she and Regina can get things done without bickering for hours like an old married couple, is when their son is in danger or Storybrooke is about to be blown off the map. Thankfully – or not, really – this time is one of those two occasions. So, when Emma suggests entering the woods and moving up to higher ground, Regina simply nods her head and follows her close behind.
It's almost an hour later that they reach the peak of a hill, the highest they could find.
"David!" Emma calls at the top of her lungs for the hundredth time. She's been looking for her family all the way uphill, but no one had answered back so far. "Mary Margaret!"
Emma waits for an answer, her eyes travelling back and forth desperately, but is met with only silence. She sighs and drops her hands in defeat, smacking them loudly against her nearly dried jeans. Then, she looks up at the sky and notices that it's already dusk. Night will fall upon them soon and they still have no ship, no Henry and no shelter.
Regina won't like spending the night out in the open like some wilding.
Where is Regina, anyway? Emma looks around for the brunette and finds her standing in what looks to be a cliff, just some meters away from where she is.
Emma walks up to join the older woman and notices that it is in fact a cliff, one that overlooks the sea and a beautiful beach with large stones guarding the shoreline. What she also notices is that Regina seems tense and that she hasn't even acknowledged her presence yet.
Maybe she's a fool for worrying – after all, Emma doesn't think Regina would give it a second thought if it was the other way around – but the look on the brunette's face and the way her eyes are fixed on the shore below makes Emma's stomach twirl and she has the sudden need to say something.
"What are you looking at?" Emma asks, moving over to stand beside the brunette and following Regina's line of sight.
Her own green orbs land on the calm and deserted beach so many meters below the cliff and she wonders what is it about that place that has the normally stoic brunette looking suddenly so pale.
"There," Regina points to the beach with her finger.
Emma narrows her eyes and tries to focus on finding something odd or that looks out of place, anything at all, so that she can understand why it seems like she's missing the big elephant in the room.
But she doesn't find anything.
It's just a beach, a plain old beach with large stones and dark sea waves bathing its shores.
Suddenly, Emma's heart leaps in her chest as she trains her eyes more intensely on the dark waves dying upon the shoreline. She finally realizes that the beach they are overlooking is not part of the island they're currently on.
It's another place entirely.
Emma turns to Regina, her eyes widening in sudden fear. "What is that place?"
"That, dear," Regina begins without averting her eyes from the beach, "is Neverland."
"Neverland…" Well, Emma thinks, at least they found the goddamn place. Now it's just a matter of making their way down to that beach because, unless Regina can do some of her hocus pocus and fly them safely to the shore, jumping off the cliff is not a plausible alternative.
She chances a look at the setting sun and ponders on what to do next. It's getting dark already and, by the look of it, getting down to that shore is going to be a long trek downhill.
Emma wants to go after Henry right now, every cell in her body is screaming for her to get a move on, but the rational part in her is telling her otherwise.
She used to be a bounty hunter, in what seems to be like a million years ago, so she knows by experience that chasing someone under the veil of darkness in an unfamiliar place is never the best course of action.
Especially if there are trolls - and whatnot - lurking about in the woods.
"C'mon, Regina," Emma turns around and begins her way back to where they came from, but Regina's voice halts her in mid stride.
"Where are you going?"
The brunette has her arms crossed, whether to warm herself or to further show her displeasure at her and the situation they're currently in, Emma doesn't know.
"It's getting dark," Emma says, pointing with her head to the horizon, where the sun has already set.
Regina unfolds her arms and takes a few steps closer to the blonde. "We need to find Henry."
"And we will, but in the morning."
It doesn't take a genius to notice that, out of the two of them, Emma is being the rational one. In her desperation to find Henry, Regina is missing the larger picture… terribly.
"No," she says, shaking her head and squaring her shoulders, which would normally make her utterly terrifying but now just makes her look like a stubborn child. "If you want to go and sleep while my son is in danger then you're welcome to it, Sheriff, but I'm going after him."
Emma sighs in aggravation. Of course Regina isn't going to make it any easier on her. "Regina… don't be foolish. Henry needs both his mothers and believe me, if you go after him right now, you will most probably trip with a rock in the dark and break your neck. And no matter how much I would like to see that sometimes, I don't think Henry would appreciate it if you died on my watch."
Regina snorts and suddenly moves into Emma's personal space, clearly sizing her up. "Oh, so now you're in charge?"
"Yeah," Emma takes a step forward, breaths almost touching, not letting Regina get the upper hand. "Apparently I am, since I'm the only one thinking clearly right now."
"Ok, sheriff." Regina begins with a lopsided smirk on her features, "Since apparently you're the brains now, what do you suggest we do?"
Emma takes a moment to ponder on their options. "Well, since it's already dark and we don't know where we are, I suggest we prepare for the night and, first thing in the morning, we'll go after him."
For a whole of five minutes, Regina stays eerie silent. She just stares at Emma with her features perfectly schooled, making it literally impossible for the blonde to make out what's going on in that brain of hers.
Emma is at the point where she doesn't think Regina will answer when, finally, she does, "Very well," is all the brunette says, voice devoid of all emotion.
Emma's mouth falls agape. She was not certainly waiting for the older woman to agree with her proposal, at least not at her first try. She was convinced she'd have to either pull forth some very convincing arguments to reach an agreement, or knock the brunette unconscious in order to get her to sleep. So she's incredibly surprised when Regina seems to come to reason without putting up a fight first.
"Ok, great." Emma says, sitting down on the floor without any more preambles. When she sees that the other woman is still standing above her with no indications that she's going to move any time soon, Emma pats the patch of grass next to her and says, "Unless you're some sort of human-bat that can sleep while standing, I suggest you lie down on the floor."
"Don't try me, Sheriff," Regina says in a menacing tone but she complies nonetheless.
The brunette sits uneasily on the grass, as far away from Emma as she can without falling off the cliff. Regina lies down on her left side, her back facing Emma.
"Goodnight, Regina." Emma says but the brunette doesn't reply. She shakes her head incredulously and turns around too, both women facing opposite sides.
Emma is thankful that they, at least, ended up on a semi-tropical island because, otherwise, sleeping out in the open would certainly prove to be a very difficult task without any kind of blanket or body warmth. And, with Regina as her only companion, she is sure that it's going to be a whole lot easier to skin a pack of wolves to use their skin as blankets than to get the brunette to scoot closer to her.
Emma shuts her eyes closed and wishes for the morning to arrive soon.
When Regina opens her eyes, she finds that the first vestiges of light are beginning to appear on the horizon. The sun is not up yet but the sky is turning a beautiful shade of pink already. It's a wonderful sight, if she has to be honest, and she has the sudden impulse to comment it with the blonde but, when she turns around, Regina realizes that she's alone.
Emma is gone.
Regina's throat constricts in pure anger and her eyes turn into slits. It is so Emma Swan to flee when things like this happen. She should have known that Emma would leave her behind and search for Henry without her. She should have done the same, she should have waited until the blonde was asleep and go after Henry herself.
She had been an idiot to trust the Sherriff but, then again, when wasn't she a credulous fool? Every time Regina had trusted someone else with something important, they had betrayed her in the worst possible way. Snow, Jefferson, Whale, Rumple, and the list went on and on. And, now, she'd have to add Emma Swan's name to that list.
Regina springs to her feet and takes in the forest in front of her. Maybe if she is fast enough she can catch up with the blonde, maybe even outrun her.
The brunette sighs and mentally reprimands herself for always falling in the same stupid trap. She walks toward the shrubbery and, she's about to cross the straight line that the trees make, when a voice stops her abruptly.
"Where are you going?"
It's Emma Swan's voice.
Regina turns on her heels and looks at the blonde woman in confusion.
What is she doing here? Isn't she supposed to be half way downhill by now?
Regina looks back at the forest and then at the younger woman again.
"You thought I'd gone after Henry without you," It's not a question, it's a statement, and Regina suddenly feels very exposed and stupid. "Geez, Regina." Emma runs a hand through her tousled blonde locks and moves closer to her. "I knew you'd want to go after him before sunrise, so I thought I'd look for something to eat since you most probably wouldn't even care to acknowledge the fact that you haven't eaten in more than a day," Emma lifts her hands to show the brunette the bananas she's holding in her arms. "Here, eat." Emma angrily throws Regina a banana and walks past her, heading into the forest.
Regina catches the fruit as she can and stares blankly at the empty place Emma left behind. What the hell did just happen?
"I'm… Emma, I'm…" Regina mumbles under her breath, again and again, eyes downcast and struggling with her mind to get the words past her lips.
It's not like she hasn't apologized to the woman before because she can perfectly recall a time when she did, clear and loud. It's what happened after that apology that taunts Regina's mind.
For one like her, apologies are a display of weakness; the wanting of forgiveness just another way of giving in to the will of another. Asking for forgiveness and waiting to be forgiven is a game in which Regina is not used to be a player, let alone a winner.
But she now knows, if the last few months in Storybrooke have taught her anything, that sometimes it's necessary to give in… to trust. To trust that in her display of weakness she will not be submitted or hurt for it.
In other words, she has to trust that the blonde woman will not hurt her again once she says the words and admits her faults.
"Emma," Regina calls, this time louder. She's looking at where she steps, so she doesn't see that the other woman has come to a halt in front of her. Regina bumps into her and she staggers back a few steps, somehow managing not to lose her balance. "What the hell do you think…" but she trails off when she notices the look in Emma's eyes. "What?"
Emma points with her head to the vast sea extending in front of them. From where she's standing, Regina can also see a faint purplish glimmer in the air.
The brunette narrows her eyes and moves closer to the edge of the island, trying to decipher what the purplish glimmer is.
They have finally managed to find the lowest terrain in the island that is the closest to the visible shores of Neverland. What they were not expecting to find is that, on top of the sea separating the two lands, there is a purplish veil that clearly divides one land from the other.
The division is a clear straight line, so incredibly clear that you can easily tell where the blue transparent waters from this island end and where the dark sea of Neverland begins.
"No," Regina whispers feeling her heart sinking in her chest, "That can't be possible."
"That's magic, isn't it?" Emma asks, logically the last to put two and two together when magic is concerned, but rapidly catching up.
"Yes," Regina forces through gritted teeth, glaring at the purplish veil.
"And why does it look like a magic wall… wall of magic… whatever?"
Regina turns her head to look at her. She gives Emma a look so hard and unforgiving that Emma feels like she's facing the Mayor all over again.
"Because, Sheriff, that's precisely what it is," Regina spits. "A wall," she gestures with her hand to the veil, "A wall that acts as a division from this land and the next."
Emma takes a moment to let the new information sink in before replying. "Okay… so that takes building a boat and sailing off to Neverland off the 'to do' list, right?"
Regina reassumes her glaring at the veil. "Indeed, it does."
"But you can still puff us out of here, right?" Emma asks, for some reason feeling a tad more anxious than she did before.
Regina suddenly turns to look at Emma. Gone is the steely look from her eyes. What Emma sees swirling in those brown orbs now looks a lot like…
The brunette doesn't utter a word, though. She flicks her wrist in a way that Emma has seen her do before and, then, extends her palm out to the sky.
Emma doesn't know what to expect but she's sure that, whatever Regina tried to do, didn't work.
Regina furrows her eyebrows as she stares at her open palm.
She tries again.
Once more nothing happens.
She tries to cast the simplest of spells.
Regina looks up from her stretched out hand to Emma's green eyes. The brunette's expression says it all.
Emma's eyes widen as realization hits her square in the face, "There's no magic here."