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Searching for the Lyon

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Chapter one

“My lady, your parents are requesting your presence in the throne room.” 

Princess Emma White’s fingers stilled, and she had to stop herself from sighing audibly. It was not often that her parents summoned her outside of mealtimes and it also usually wasn’t for something interesting. 

Instead of sighing, she bowed her head slightly to show that she understood before she asked, “Pink or white?” 

The servant raised her eyebrows before her eyes fell onto the collection of flowers on the table. She opened her mouth to repeat that the king and queen wanted to see her but she quickly realised that it would be faster to just help her with this. It wasn’t as if Emma had a reason to ever rush so it made sense that she wouldn’t jump to follow an order. 

“Pink, Your Highness,” she replied. 

Emma tilted her head and bit her lip in concentration as she placed the flower in the middle of the arrangement she had been slowly creating all morning. 

“Perfect,” the princess said brightly and finally stepped away from the table. “They should start calling you Persephone.” 

The servant ducked her head to hide her blush but didn’t say anything as the princess finally began walking towards the hallway. 

The blonde ran her hand across the familiar stone and smiled. Even if it was likely to be something deeply uninteresting, it was always nice to have a break in her suffocating routine. 

However, her smile soon fell away when she arrived in the throne room to find her mother pacing back and forth and her father stood stock still with his arms crossed. 

Emma stepped forward and bowed her head slightly, “Mother, requested my presence?” 

Snow White stopped and opened her mouth to say exactly what she had practiced, but at the sight of her daughter’s unblemished face she just let out a sob and came over to envelop her in a crushing hug. 

The princess frowned and looked over her mother’s shoulder, expecting her father to give her a look that would suggest that there was an explanation for this, but he simply clenched his jaw and looked away. 

Did she do something? Were they angry with her? 

“I’m so sorry,” Snow said just loud enough to be heard. “I couldn’t let him die...I was told that I would never have children…” 

“What are you talking about, mother?” Emma asked. The unfamiliar burn of fear flamed in her stomach and she had no idea what to do about it. When she didn’t reply, the princess managed to worm out of her grasp and walk over to the king. “Father?” 

David forced himself to look up and swallowed hard, it had felt like this day would never come but of course it had to despite their best efforts. 

“Hades…” he began but trailed off. 

“Hades?” Emma repeated. 

Why would he bring up the goddess of the Underworld? 

“Please dear, call me Regina,” a smooth voice announced accompanied by another sob from Snow White. 

Emma felt herself being thrown behind her father’s back before she could even turn around to look at the immortal. 

“Please, take me instead,” Snow begged the woman who remained completely unchanged in the 21 years since she had last seen her. 

“That wasn’t the deal, Your Majesty,” Regina sneered. 

“What deal?” Emma asked, peering at the leather clad goddess from behind her father’s back, but he had thrown out his arm to stop her from trying to get closer. 

Regina quirked an eyebrow and looked between the two monarchs, before she let out a bellow of laughter, “You haven’t told her? You have kept your own daughter prisoner for two decades and haven’t even deigned to tell her why?” 

“They said that I was too young to understand,” Emma replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to talk with Hades. 

Regina took a step towards Emma, but the king drew his sword and held it up, “I won’t let you take her!” 

“Let me?” Regina repeated. Her laugh was even more incredulous this time as he became engulfed in a purple glow, completely frozen in place. 

“Dav-” Snow’s cry was also cut off as she became similarly inanimate. 

Emma looked between her parents for a moment, that burning fear was still there, but it was also mixed in with a certain amount of curiosity that she hadn’t felt in years. A twitch of her mother’s eyes told her that they could very much hear whatever was about to happen, but it was clear that they wouldn’t be able to protect her anymore, so she just took a step towards the goddess.   

“What deal?” she asked again. 

“It was simple, your father lived when he should have died, in exchange they promised me their first born. Instead of fulfilling that promise they enchanted this palace to keep me out, it couldn’t last forever.” She laughed and she took a step towards the blonde, inspecting her for a moment before she waved her hand and Snow and David were released. 

“After waiting 21 years I believe I am entitled to more than a soul. I think I’ll take you as my wife.” 

She allowed a moment for Charming to raise the sword as if he was going to launch it at her, before purple smoke engulfed herself and the blonde. 

The sword clattered to the floor and another sob filled the throne room. 

“Not very cheery is it?” Emma asked as she continued to follow Regina away from the River Styx. 

Regina scowled, not expecting to hear any sound, and looked over her shoulder to find the princess looking around with wonder in her eyes. Not the usual reaction for mortals to the land of the dead. 

“It couldn’t hurt to have some flowers.” 

“No sun, no flowers,” the brunette replied flatly. 

She could have just killed the girl in front of her parents and spent the rest of her immortal life knowing that they had finally got what they deserved, but there was a part of her that said that Emma didn’t deserve such a fate. 

At the same time though, why did her mind go straight to wife? It wasn’t as if this naive little princess could ever truly replace who she should be with. At the thought, she scrunched up her eyes for a split second before her face returned to a mask of indifference with just a hint of annoyance. 

However, Emma was completely oblivious to the goddess’s internal conflict as she continued to look around. “Why are those people aimlessly wondering around?” she asked. 

Regina’s step halted and Emma crashed into her back. 

The goddess spun around with a huff and said, “This childish wonder is beginning to wear thin.” 

Emma just blinked a coupe times. It was infuriating to Regina that she looked more confused than afraid. She wasn’t averting her gaze and her lip wasn’t quivering. In fact, was that a smile tugging at the corner of her lips? 

“It was just a question,” the princess replied while holding the other woman’s gaze. 

Regina held her gaze for a moment longer before she replied, “They are wondering because they are in the Fields of Asphodel. They are neither heroic enough for Elysium nor evil enough for the Fields of Punishment. They are simply the insignificant masses.” 

The blonde nodded slowly and watched a few of the pained expressions as she walked in no particular direction, whispering regrets and missed opportunities. 

“You don’t seem as though you want a wife,” Emma said, running slightly when she noticed Regina had started walking again. 

“And you’re oddly calm for a mortal who has been kidnapped by the ruler of the Underworld,” Regina replied, not even looking over her shoulder this time. 

The princess was silent for a moment, she had no idea why she was so calm. Logically, she knew that she should be afraid of Hades, but she was feeling something distinctly different that she couldn’t quite identify. 

Regina rolled her eyes when she didn’t say anything. She was unexpectedly disappointed that the princess didn’t have a quip to throw back. She clearly had not been exposed to fear before now. It was oddly refreshing. 

They continued in silence and the younger of the pair resumed her inspection of her new home, though she purposely averted her eyes away from the Fields of Punishment. 

Eventually, a large obsidian structure came into view and Emma’s eyes widened slightly. It looked almost exactly like the palace that she had never left, only the stone was pure black. However, a moment later, she discovered that it looked nothing like her former home on the inside. 

The walls were sparingly decorated, there seemed to be nothing personal in sight, but then again, what need would an immortal have for sentimentality? 

She continued to follow the goddess until they reached a throne room with much more obsidian. Regina strode straight to the throne and sat upon it and narrowed her eyes at Emma continued to look around curiously. She really wanted to know why this woman was so frustrating to her. 

She snapped her fingers and a trembling man appeared in a cloud of smoke. 

“H-Hades,” Graham, or Panic as he was more commonly known, bowed. 

“Show the princess to her bed chambers,” she commanded. 

“My own bed chambers?” 

“Is there an issue?” Regina asked. 

The blonde quickly shook her head and said, “I was wondering when…” 

“I see no reason to rest on ceremony, the moment I announced it, we were married, now leave me.” 

The princess frowned for a moment. That was not exactly how she had envisioned her wedding playing out, but then again, she also never imagined that she would be the wife of Hades. 

“What am I supposed to do?” she asked. 

“Anything you want, just not in here,” Regina sighed and purposely looked away in hopes that the blonde would take the very obvious hint. 

Graham shook a little, in his experience she was always a moment away from exploding, something he would rather avoid. 

He motioned for the blonde to follow him and she did so whilst saying absentmindedly in a whisper, “Anything that I want?” 


-Three days later-

“Your Majesty,” Graham said cautiously, his voice going up an octave as he stared out the window, when he didn’t receive a reply, he repeated, “Your Majesty.” 

“What is it?” Regina snapped, no longer as comfortable on her throne as she sat up slightly, the book that she had been languidly flicking through going temporarily forgotten. 

“Your bride is exploring the palace grounds,” he replied, just about managing not to stutter. 

The brunette rolled her eyes and snapped her book shut as she rose from her throne, “I still don’t see the issue.” 

Graham considered dropping the subject, but he had a feeling that Regina might finally send him to the Fields of Punishment if he didn’t speak up now. Even if she didn’t say it aloud, he knew that Emma wouldn’t still be alive if she didn’t want to keep her that way. Though, it was unclear why she would even bother to protect this mortal in the first place. 

“Aren’t those poisonous?” he asked, throwing a shaking finger towards the window. 

Regina huffed and walked over to the window to see Emma walking slowly through the courtyard surrounded by nightshade. 

“What is she doing?” she sighed. 

“Exploring, I think,” the servant replied and winced slightly when she hopped over a vine. 

Regina spent a moment watching as a thorn came too close for comfort before she turned away to go back to her throne, “What is your point?” she asked, beginning to flip through the book again. 

“I...I just thought that wouldn’t wish for her to die,” he said, with a hint of pleading in his voice. As much as the new addition to the Underworld stressed him out, he found that he kind of liked her, it was difficult to dislike someone who appeared to have never before experienced spite or malice. 

Regina looked up from her book and said, “Well then, I suppose she’ll need a guide.” 

Graham furrowed his brow and was about to ask what she meant; he had a feeling that he knew but there was always the hope that he had misunderstood. After all, his panicky disposition meant that he rarely left the palace. 

However, Regina didn’t bother replying and simply waved her hand to send the sniveling man to the courtyard. 

Graham blinked a few times, but quickly shouted, “Stop!” 

Emma turned in time to see the last tendrils of magic and smiled widely. There had been many times that she’d imagined herself as a great sorceress too powerful to be allowed out of the palace grounds. She couldn’t quite decide if her parents making a deal with Hades was a more fantastical reason or not. 

“What’s wrong?” she asked. 

The man had both of his hands stretched out as if he could compel her to stop risking her life. Eventually, he wordlessly walked over and pulled her away from the thorn that was inches from poisoning the princess. 

“It’s highly poisonous,” he said. 

Emma raised her eyebrows and looked over to the plant before she asked, “What is it called?” 

“Dreamshade,” Graham replied with a frown, not quite sure why it mattered. 

“I think I’ve read about that,” she said almost reverently, and her hand moved to touch it out of sheer curiosity. 

Graham slapped her hand down with an exasperated sigh and asked, “Have you ever read about not touching poison?” 

Emma shrugged and replied, “I’m just curious.” 

“Be curious without touching,” Panic shot back. 

The blonde just nodded and looked around for a moment before she said, “This place is just so beautiful.” 

“You think the Underworld is beautiful? You were just literally inches from death!” Graham said, gesturing wildly at all the thorns around them. 

“Not that part obviously, I just meant that it’s interesting. It’s fun” She giggled and twirled around once, again he pulled her back before she could be poisoned in her excitement. 

“You’re in the courtyard,” he replied sceptically. 

The blonde’s eyes widened, and she nodded, “You’re right, I can go further!” she said and began moving determinedly towards the exit. 

“Wait!” Graham shouted and after he finally caught up with her, he said, “The land of Hades is not a playground for childish mortals. It’s too dangerous, you would be much safer if you stayed in your bed chambers.” 

“Regina said that I can do whatever I want, I don’t want to be safe in my bed chambers,” Emma shot back. 

“Wow,” Graham mumbled, though she seemed to ignore his exasperation as they reached the gate, “You can’t go alone…” 

“So, you’ll accompany me?” she asked, adjusting her black tunic that she’d been excited to find in her chambers. 

Her parents always made her wear uncomfortable dresses despite the fact that none of the neighbouring royalty even knew that she existed. Apparently, she still had to learn how to be a proper princess. 

She was much more comfortable in the tunic, pants, and boots - especially for the adventures she was about to go on. 

“Yes,” Graham sighed, “Where first?” 

“I don’t know.” Emma frowned. 

“Just pick a direction.” 

The princess nodded and looked around, ultimately, she began walking in the opposite direction of the Fields of Punishment closely followed by her ‘guide’. 


-One week later- 

“No!” Graham shouted. 

Emma rolled her eyes. Her guide shouted a lot. 

She looked over her shoulder expectantly, though she couldn’t exactly complain considering the number of times he had warned her about dangerous things. She still didn’t like the fact that she needed someone constantly watching her. 

“That’s the River Lethe,” he explained, “One drop touches you and everything you know and remember will be erased.” 

“Thank you,” the blonde replied and began to walk rapidly towards the river. 

“What are you doing?” Graham squeaked and ran up behind her. 

“I’ve been warned, Graham.” she said without turning as she fell into a crouch to look at the river. 

“Don’t touch it!” 

“Tell me about it,” Emma replied without acknowledging the warning. 

The brunet sighed deeply, this happened at every sight of note, apparently a lot of what she had read had been deeply inaccurate. 

“This is one of the five rivers of the Underworld; the shades of the dead must drink its waters in order to be re-born. Those who wish to reach Elysium must do this three times.” 

“So, there are real heroes across this river?” she asked. 

“I suppose.” Graham shrugged. 

Emma shot up to her feet and jumped over the river in one swift motion. 

Graham let out a mangled sound that not even he could identify and then a sigh of relief when he saw her standing on the other side of the river. 

“Are you coming?” she called as she began to walk towards the land of the blessed. 


Graham walked into the throne room and fell against the wall with a huff. 

He had never had such an eventful week in his long existence, nor had he ever traveled so far across the dominion in which he lived. 

"Something wrong?" Regina asked from the throne that she was lounging on. It sounded as if she cared, but he had a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't him she was asking after. Even if she hadn't made any form of contact with the woman that she was betrothed to. 

"Emma found Elysium," he sighed. 


"She wants to go back tomorrow and meet some 'heroes'," Graham grumbled. Luckily, she had simply wandered around and had decided that it was a place she would like to be more rested to explore. 

"Why would she want that?" Regina asked with a grimace. 

Graham rose his eyebrow and decided not to comment on the fact that the woman seemed hurt by the thought that Emma wanted to spend time with heroes. 

"I believe that she idolises them, Your Majesty." 

Regina was silent for a moment, until she finally asked something that had been on her mind - even if she was trying to convince herself that she didn't think about Emma nearly as much as she did. 

"Has she yet to complain about being forced to live here?" 

The brunet man gave this some thought and then replied, "Honestly, it doesn't seem like you have forced her to do anything. She loves exploring." 

"But what will happen when she has no new things to discover?" Regina said almost to herself. 

Graham bit his lip, but he found that he was no longer able to hold his tongue, "If you wish to spend time with her, you need only ask her." 

Regina's head snapped up and Graham felt almost as if his entire body had been paralysed by her deathly gaze, "Whatever do you mean by that?" 

"Err...I just thought that perhaps you wish more from this Emma than simply keeping her in the Underworld. She doesn't seem as though she would be particularly adverse to building a relationship with you," he said after swallowing hard. 

Hades narrowed her eyes, and stood from the throne, "I did not take her as my wife to 'build a relationship', she is merely here so that she isn't with her insufferable parents. I couldn't care less what she does while she lives out her pathetic little life." 


"That mortal could never replace Persephone!" Regina's voice echoed, and Graham was surprised that he didn't instantly turn into a quivering mess. 

He nodded and attempted to move back while she stalked towards him only to realise that he was already standing against the wall. 

Regina looked the man up and down, before she rolled her eyes and swept her way out of the throne room, leaving Graham desperately trying to catch his lost breath. 


"Are you truly not afraid of anything?" Graham asked the blonde as she began to walk once again towards Elysium. 

Emma considered this for a moment, there had been that flash of what she thought was fear back at the palace, but it hadn’t exactly lasted long so she wasn’t sure that it could match what Graham would define as fear. 

She shrugged and replied, “I don’t believe I’ve ever truly experienced fear, so I’m not sure what I’m afraid of.” 

"You’ve never experienced fear?" he repeated, it certainly explained how relaxed she seemed around Regina. It also told him that she was perhaps too naive to be living in the Underworld. 

"There wasn't much that could have harmed me in a castle with constant posted guards," Emma shrugged. 

Graham nodded even though she wasn't looking at him, and asked, "You don't miss it at all?" 

The blonde bit her lip and looked stoically ahead, "I miss my parents," she said slowly, "But there isn't anything else in that world for me." 

"How would you know?" he shot back. 

Emma furrowed her brow for a moment, but then she just let out a laugh, "Good point, but it's hard to imagine that anything in the Enchanted Forest could be as spectacular this." 

Graham rolled his eyes and continued to follow her. Though this wasn't the first time he had experienced it, the feeling of passing into Elysium was still a rather strange one. The bleak colours of the Underworld seemed to shift to those of a summer's day. He understood that the area looked different to each of the inhabitants, but at the moment it just looked like a normal village. He imagined that it had something to do with Emma, obviously the area had somehow deemed her worthy to see what she wanted to. 

"Are you just going to start introducing yourself to people?" Graham sighed, "I don't think they would take well to having met the wife of Hades." 

“Please calm down." Emma replied. At the moment she was more interested in the surroundings than the people. The area had just looked like any other place in the underworld the day before. 

Though Graham knew that Regina would deny involvement, it was rather strange that it changed once the ruler of the Underworld found out just where Emma would be exploring on that day. 

Emma wandered over to the blacksmiths where a man was pounding heavily on a sword, he stopped and looked up at the curious woman with a quirked eyebrow. 

"Something wrong?" he asked, though it sounded better natured than she had expected from the hulking man. 

"What are the weapons for?" she asked rather childishly. 

He looked her up and down and replied, "For the tournament." 

The blonde's eyes widened in excitement and she turned to Graham with a huge smile on her face, "Tournament." 

"Excuse us," Graham said to the blacksmith and pulled Emma aside. “Every person in Elysium has already lived and therefore cannot die, you, however, are still a very fragile human who I am assuming would feel rather disconcerted when you are instantly transported to the Fields of Asphodel." 

"You have got to calm down," the blonde whispered back, "I meant we could watch." 

"Oh," he replied as his shoulders relaxed. 

"I would need to train before I could compete anyway," she called over her shoulder, already running off. 

Graham allowed his face to fall into his hands and let out the biggest sigh yet. 




Chapter Text

Chapter two

Emma practically skipped up the steps before she slid into an empty seat.

She didn’t even bother checking that Graham had followed as she turned her full attention to the fight happening on the sand below.

Graham dragged his feet a little and let out an exasperated sigh as he fell down next to her. At the very least, he could think of much more dangerous things that the princess could be doing than watching other people fight, but he was far too tired at this point to even enjoy the respite from his nerves.

Not that the respite would have lasted long anyway, as it took only five minutes until a brunette languidly walked up the steps and fell down next to him with a smirk.

Her smirk only deepened when Graham frowned at her and she crossed her arms as she leaned back, which Graham quickly copied so that Emma wouldn’t see her.

Unfortunately, this seemed to get the princess’s attention more than doing nothing would have and she raised an eyebrow at him.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he squeaked.

Before Emma could call out his lie, the newcomer laughed and leaned forward into Emma’s vision before she replied, “he’s trying to hide me.”

The blonde tilted her head, the young woman looked distinctly familiar, but she couldn’t quite place where she had seen those chocolate brown eyes before.

She laughed at her blank expression and said, “it’s nice to meet you too, mom.”

Emma’s eyes widened and she laughed.

Graham rolled his eyes and said, “you can’t really be surprised that she’s shocked, Dawn.”

Dawn shrugged and replied, “step-mother doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.”

“You’re Regina’s daughter?” Emma asked after the realisation rushed over her.

“Wow, the princess can talk,” the brunette shot back mockingly.

Emma just nodded and took a moment to inspect who she now realised was almost a carbon-copy of the ruler of the Underworld, though she looked infinitely younger, maybe a year or so younger than herself?

The most major difference between Regina and her daughter was that Dawn seemed capable of smiling easily.

“Why have I not met you before today?” Emma asked, deciding that it was best to skip past the fact that she had just been mocked by someone who appeared to be younger than her.

The brunette shrugged and replied, “you don’t spend much time at the palace.”

The princess nodded, though she felt a pang of guilt when she realised that she hadn’t spoken to the woman who had given her freedom. No matter how many stories she had read whereby Hades was the villain, Emma had a hard time connecting Regina with them. Surely the unfeeling ruler of Hades would have already set some kind of torture for her?

“I suppose I could stand to spend some time there,” Emma thought aloud.

Dawn frowned and sat forward so that she could inspect the expression on the blonde’s face. She expected to see some kind of reluctance on her features.

When she heard that her mother had taken a wife, she assumed that her mother had finally given up on finding her True Love, but she also thought that said mortal would be at least resentful that she was being forced to stay in the Underworld.

“Are you not afraid of my mother?”

“She’s not afraid of anything,” Graham muttered.

Dawn rolled her eyes at the demon and looked back over to Emma for her answer.

The princess just shrugged and asked, “why would I be?”

Dawn opened her mouth to say something else, but a loud cheering cut off any attempt and she looked back over to the fight.

Emma’s attention was now completely stolen as a gladiator fell to the ground, a sword was ran through his chest and the princess’s eyes widened.

Graham waved his hand dismissively when she looked over to him and he explained, “it’s just for show, they can’t die again.”

She sighed in relief and fell back and looked back over to Dawn to find that she was gone.

Emma drew her eyebrows together and considered how Dawn had called her ‘step-mother’.

“Are Regina and I really married?” she asked.

“Of course you are,” Graham replied distractedly as he rose from his seat in the hopes that he would be able to convince her to return to the palace for the day.

Emma didn’t move immediately as she stared vacantly for a moment.

It hadn’t occurred to her that she was actually married, and to a goddess no less.

She’d often imagined what her wedding would be like, but she had never once thought about what it would be like to actually be married.

She had no real idea what it entailed to be someone’s wife, and to make matters worse, she knew almost nothing about her wife.

However, another part of her mind couldn’t help but think about whether it would be possible for her to enter the tournament.


“Why do you care?” Dawn asked with a growing smirk as she watched her pacing mother.

Regina stopped and narrowed her eyes, “I know that you may have forgotten what it’s like to be be mortal, but Emma may be hurt and..”

“You would be sad?” the younger brunette shot back.

Regina huffed and fell down onto her throne. Her daughter’s offhand comment that Emma was interested in the Elysium tournament shouldn’t have made her so anxious. She shouldn’t care at all, right?

“Are you only here to mock me?” Hades asked.

Dawn tilted her head and said, “do I need a reason to visit my dear mother?” when Regina quirked an eyebrow, she stepped forward and said, “I wanted to meet your bride. I must say, I was impressed.”

Regina bit the inside of her cheek and tried to school her features, she didn’t want Dawn to know how happy she was that she liked Emma, after all, it didn’t matter.

“In that case, you may have wasted your time, she is my wife only in title.”

“And is that something that you wish to change?” the demi-goddess asked rather excitedly. It had been a long time since she had seen her mother not miserable, even if she was sure that the way her mouth turned down in a frown was only indication of a spark of hope rather than a full dedication to the cause.

“Why is everyone so obsessed with the princess? She is only here because her parents deserved to be punished…” Regina replied with a heavy sigh.

Dawn crossed her arms and looked at her mother expectantly.

Regina huffed and added, “even on the off-chance that may not be all, she is far too caught up in her adventures to think about such trivial matters.”

“Love is not trivial.”

“You have been spending too much time with that mortal, what’s his name...Derek?” Regina replied.

“You know his name is Devin...besides, we ended our relationship,” Dawn said with a wave of her hand, though she clasped her hands together a moment later.

Regina opened her mouth to say something, she knew that Devin meant a lot of her daughter and she also had the sudden urge to incinerate him.

Before the goddess could say anything though, Dawn explained, “his parents betrothed him to another and I’m not here to talk about it.”

Regina inspected her daughter for a moment and tried to ascertain whether or not she was upset, but the woman’s face remained impossibly neutral.

She decided that she would probably talk about it eventually and if she needed a distraction from it, she didn’t see any reason why she couldn’t give it to her, at least for now:

“Okay, suppose I do wish to spend time with the princess, how would that?”

A smile tugged at the corner of Dawn’s impassively tight lips and she said, “it’s simple, mother, you’re having dinner with your wife tonight.”


-A few hours later-

“She agreed to have dinner? Tonight?!” Regina bellowed, she had been sure that Emma would say ‘no’.

Graham winced and managed to stutter out, “I believe that she thinks you want to have dinner?”

The brunette sighed and fell onto her throne.

A divine goddess should not feel a strange flutter in her stomach at the thought of dining with a mortal, regardless of how beautiful said mortal was.

She’d barely spoken to her and during the interaction they did have, Regina had found her incredibly annoying.

Since then, though, she’d found herself thinking about that conversation.

She’d had so few interactions with someone who wasn’t afraid of her and it made the princess fascinating.

“What time?” she asked.

“Dawn asked her to be in the dining room in an hour,” Panic replied.

“And what do you suppose the Princess enjoys to eat?”

Graham bit his lip and said, “Dawn has organised everything, I believe you just have to be present.”

Regina just nodded, it seemed pointless asking why her daughter cared so much about her marriage so she just waved her hand and said, “very well, you may go.”

“Actually…” Graham began, but he snapped his mouth shut when she glared at him.

“Dawn also suggested that you should get Emma some flowers,” he forced out of his mouth, Dawn had been very clear about the need for flowers and he felt a strange need to help her with the plan even if he didn’t quite understand it.

“Why?” the goddess asked, actually sounding genuinely offended.

“Because, it’s romantic, mother.”

Regina rolled her eyes at her approaching daughter. She would have usually returned to Prince Devin at this point, she could only assume that she was using Emma’s presence as a distraction.

So instead of asking why she was still here, she asked, “and where do you suppose I get flowers?”

“You’re a goddess, I’m sure you’ll think of something whilst you get changed.”

Regina frowned and looked down at her black leather before she asked, “why would I change?”

“It’s...a little scary,” Graham supplied from behind the pillar he had been half using as a shield since Dawn had entered.

“You are afraid of everything,” Regina shot back and tried not to laugh when he twitched and pushed himself further behind the pillar.

“Emma has lived a sheltered life, I believe you could stand to be...gentler…” Dawn said.

Regina looked down and felt a pang in her stomach when she realised just how innocent the princess was and how it was entirely her fault that the Charmings had isolated their daughter. However, her expression remained impassive, there was no reason that she should care so much about a mortal who couldn’t even fathom the isolation she herself had lived through.

“Very well, I will change,” she sighed heavily and moved to slip out of the room with no further conversation.

“And get flowers,” Dawn called after her.

“And get flowers,” Regina repeated without looking over her shoulder.


Cutlery clattered through the silence and Emma peered over to Regina as she ate some soup.

It was strange to be spending time with Regina, especially now that she was actually considering the fact that the woman sat opposite her was actually her wife.

The goddess noticed the glances and she tried not to laugh at how adorable the princess looked. However, the urge fell away when she caught her thoughts, she was supposed to be the feared ruler of the Underworld, she couldn’t be finding the blonde little princess ‘adorable’.

Eventually, she decided that it would be better to break the silence so that this dinner wouldn’t last forever,

“Graham tells me that you are enjoying my dominion,” she said.

Emma instantly felt her cheeks grow red at the sound of the goddess’s voice, she’d almost forgotten how captivating she was.

When she realised that she was staring at her like a moron for a solid five seconds, she replied, “I have.”

“Most mortals would not find much enjoyment in the Underworld, and yet you appear to be relishing every moment,” Regina thought aloud.

Emma shrugged and replied, “this realm is interesting, it’s certainly better than the White Palace.”

They fell into silence again, but this time Emma noticed a small twitch in Regina’s jaw as she ate her meal, she smiled slightly and asked, “do you feel guilty?”

Regina narrowed her eyes and her hand stilled before lifting the spoon from the bowl, but she replied, “gods do not feel guilt.”

For a split second, Emma thought that she was feeling the fear that Graham felt all the time, but it quickly melted away. For some reason, she just knew that Regina wouldn’t hurt her.

“You feel guilty that my parents locked me away,” Emma pressed.

“That was your parents’ choice to believe they could make a fool of me. I could have simply allowed Snow White to lose her True Love…” Regina replied while refusing to look up at Emma.

“Then why did you offer him another chance?” Emma asked, apparently not afraid of the other woman’s clenched jaw.

The goddess bit the inside of her cheek, this was not technically something that a mortal should be aware of but what would be the harm at this point?

“Your father is on his third cycle of life, if he died due to a simple poisoning, he would have been denied access to Elysium, balance demands that I not simply return mortal lives without some kind of recompense,” she replied with a sigh.

Emma frowned at the idea that King David had lived two heroic lives, she was pretty sure he had never done anything without permission from Snow White so it was hard to imagine that he had lived without her.

“You afforded him another chance so that he wouldn’t waste his last life?”

Regina finally looked up from her soup and nodded.

Emma’s face split into a wide grin and she said, “thank you.”

The brunette returned with her own half-smile, though she wasn’t quite sure why she was being thanked considering everything that had happened for Emma following that deal.

The meal continued in silence until Emma swallowed her last gulp of soup and she stood from her chair and with a slight bow, said, “thank you for the lovely meal.”

Regina nodded again and as Emma turned away, her eyes widened when she realised she had forgotten something as she rose to her feet. In her panic, she summoned some roses, “for you,” she said rather pathetically as she thrust her arm out.

Emma turned around and looked at the black roses in the goddess’s hand and Regina cringed when she realised what colour they were.

However, instead of a questioning look, she received a genuine smile.

The blonde took them and raised them to her nose to smell them before she leaned over to place a kiss on Regina’s cheek.

“Thank you,” she said again and quickly walked out of the room, concerned that Hades might not be too happy with the sudden blurring of the lines.

However, Regina just stared at the retreating blonde and fell back down to her seat with a grin on her face, her hand itching to come up to touch the cheek she had kissed.


Dawn stretched as she walked through the courtyard and yawned.

She knew that she could have gone back to the Enchanted Forest by now, but she didn’t exactly have a boyfriend to get back to.

It was coincidental that she happened to have a reason to stay in the Underworld just when her relationship ended, a very happy coincidence.

She needed to be here to make sure that her mother and Emma actually started to interact with each other. She knew for a fact that Hades would be more than willing to spend years alone before she even considered talking to the Princess. Immortality didn’t exactly invite urgency.

Though she would never complain to her mother about her childhood, there were times when she felt like the dominion of Hades was her prison. Of course, unlike Emma’s parents, Regina had allowed her to visit other realms when she turned fourteen and she had been allowed to continue her adventures afterwards. She was sure the fact that she didn’t visit as often as she would like to was hard for Regina, especially since despite popular opinion, she was the only child that the goddess ever had.

She hated what mortals thought about her mother and Emma was the opportunity for Regina to stop believing those things about herself.

Dawn was suddenly brought out of her thoughts by the sound of someone making little grunting noises and she tried not to laugh at the ridiculous sight before her.

The princess held a wooden sword and swung it around haphazardly, almost as if the air around her deserved to be slain.

Dawn raised an eyebrow and turned to see Graham sat on the ground with his nose buried in a book.

The demi-goddess tapped the demon on the shoulder and asked, “what is she doing?”

Graham jumped but calmed down the moment he saw who it was that had interrupted him, “she said she wanted to learn to fight.”

She squinted back over to the blonde, who didn’t appear to notice the new arrival, and she replied, “she thinks that is fighting?”

Graham shrugged and tried to look down at his book as he replied, “I gave her the sword and left her to it, do you have any idea the last time I’ve had the chance to read?”

“You have the rest of eternity to read, you cannot seriously allow that sad sight to continue,” Dawn laughed while nudging the book with her foot.

Graham rolled his eyes and snapped the tome shut.

“What are you up to, blondie?” Dawn called.

Emma finally realised that it was no longer just her and Graham and she felt her cheeks burn. The idea that the brunette had seen her flailing around was rather embarrassing.

“I…” she trailed off and looked down at the wooden sword and then sighed before she added, “I was trying to learn how to use this.”

“It’s not exactly the type of thing that can be self-taught,” Dawn replied.

The blonde deflated slightly and replied, “well, I know that now.”

Graham wandered over, having had given up on his book, and asked, “why would you possibly need to ever know how to use a sword?”

He had a feeling he knew the answer, but he had been too excited to be allowed to spend a day at the palace to broach the subject.

Emma looked down at the ground. It made sense in her mind, but she had a feeling that if she said it out loud, she would realise just how stupid the idea was.

“I’ve been thinking about possibly…” she trailed off again, until Dawn looked at her expectantly and she took a deep breath and added, “I want to take part in the tournament, but I know Regina probably wouldn’t like that…”

“I think that is an excellent idea!” Dawn returned before Emma could attempt to detail why Hades would prohibit her from taking part, “but you’ll die if you go in flailing a wooden sword, you’ll definitely need training.”

Emma tilted her head and her mouth was pulled down by a frown, “what are you suggesting?” she said.

“You cannot be serious!” Graham almost shouted.

“Excuse us,” Dawn said almost sweetly and grabbed the front of the servant’s shirt to pull him out of earshot.

“What’s wrong?” she whispered to Panic.

“Your mother tasked me with protecting her wife. What do you think she will do to me when she discovers that Emma has enlisted in a tournament in which she is the only contestant capable of dying!” he replied and the brunette noticed that he was a moment away from hyperventilating.

“She said that Emma is free to do whatever she wants and she wants to do this,” Dawn hissed back.

Graham just shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest, not even bothering to voice his objections.

Dawn rolled her eyes deeply with a heavy sigh, before she replied, “fine, I’ll go and get permission from dear mommy before we start training.”


“Absolutely not!” Regina shouted, which echoed throughout the throne room.

Dawn rolled her eyes when she practically felt Graham’s sigh of relief from behind her and she walked closer to her mother.

“She looked really excited about it mother,” she tried, and actually smiled when she noticed a muscle in Hades’s jaw at the thought of her wife being excited.

“There is a fine line between excitement and idiocy, Dawn,” Regina sighed while deflating slightly.

“You did say she could do whatever she wants, she has grown up with nothing but flowers and books, did you really think that she wouldn’t want to do this?” Dawn shot back.

Regina closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, before she replied, “that is precisely why she is not prepared to take on something so dangerous.”

“She has all the time in the world to compete, I won’t let her enter until she is actually ready,” Dawn replied, “she’ll be fine.”

“And what if…” Regina trailed off and her eyes involuntarily fell down to her daughter’s clothed stomach where she knew there to be a deep scar that was only a couple years old.

Dawn followed her gaze and she felt a flash of phantom pain shoot through her stomach.

“I’m also fine, would you prefer I stayed mortal?” she asked.

Regina gritted her teeth at the memory of what her daughter had endured to be granted immortality.

“Is that why you’re encouraging this?” Hades asked through her gritted teeth, “you think she will somehow win immortality?”

“It worked for me,” Dawn replied rather cockily.

“Because I healed you in time to enjoy your immortality,” Regina deadpanned.

Dawn rolled her eyes and replied, “she simply wants to take part in the first round, that doesn’t mean that she’ll get to the final stage, let her have the adventure you promised her.”

Regina looked away from her daughter as she considered her options, somehow saying ‘no’ felt just as wrong as saying ‘yes’.

“Fine,” she forced out reluctantly, “but Graham must oversee your training to see that she isn’t hurt.”

Dawn crossed her arms and let out a satisfied hum as Graham audibly groaned behind her.

Chapter Text

Chapter three

Regina blew out a breath and her hands shook slightly as she placed the last of her belongings into a small bag while taking a moment to look around her room.

It wasn’t much considering she and her family had been at war for so long, but even the sparsely decorated chamber was much more appealing than where she was about to go.

Regina had long since accepted that her sister was a terrible person, but she had never thought her capable of banishing her own blood to the Underworld.

There was one shining light of hope, however, she knew that she would have Ruby by her side to make it through the rest of her immortal life in the land of the dead.

The goddess finally slung the bag over her shoulder and turned to meet her fiancée, but she soon found her path blocked.

Three robed creatures obstructed the entrance. Just by the low hissing sounds they were emitting, Regina knew instantly who they were, but she wasn’t particularly in the mood to place much stock in fate right now.

“What have I done to warrant a visit from the esteemed Fates?” she asked, her words dripping with sarcasm, though she made no attempt to get passed them.

“We are here to offer advice, Hades,” the tallest of the three hissed.

Regina bit the inside of her cheek at the mention of her new title. She had yet to be formally called ‘Hades’ and hearing it for the first time from the Fates wasn’t the greatest of feelings.

“You’re much too late for that,” Regina replied with a small growl.

They appeared to completely ignore her as the same Fate said, “we have been shown a vision of the future, you must not marry Persephone.”

Regina felt her throat constrict slightly at the thought of going to the Underworld alone, and the only reply she could think of sounded rather defensive as it left her mouth, “she agreed to come with me…she wishes to be with me.”

“She cannot be eternally happy with your domain, but bide your time and you will find another Persephone.”

“Another Persephone?” Regina asked with her eyes on the ground, she wanted to ask more but when she looked up, there was no one there.

“Mother, it’s time for breakfast, wake up!” Dawn’s voice called loudly through the chamber.

Regina shot up and sighed in relief when it became clear that it was a dream. She wasn’t somehow back in the most painful period of her life.

“Emma’s waiting, mother,” Dawn’s voice called.


Dawn looked between the two women she had called to breakfast and offered them each an awkward smile, which neither of them seemed to take any notice of.

Regina kept her eyes on the food she had been dissecting and the blonde across the table was practically vibrating with excitement.

She had woken up to a wrapped sword and a note telling her to prepare for training.

She was clearly very prepared to begin, but the occasional glance she shot to her wife told Dawn that training perhaps wasn’t the only thing on her mind right now.

“Have you ever been trained in swordplay, Princess?” Dawn asked, deciding that it was high time to break the oppressive silence.

The blonde swallowed some scrambled eggs rather comically, obviously not expecting anyone to speak directly to her. She then shook her head and replied, “I don’t believe that my parents thought I should know such a thing.”

“I suppose I will have a lot of work ahead of me, perhaps I should go and prepare while you finish eating?”

Before either woman could protest, the younger of the brunettes was already out of her chair and inclined her head towards her step-mother.

As she made her way out of the room, she covertly leaned into her mother and said, “try and talk to her.”

Regina’s eyes widened and she choked on the water that she had been attempting to drink, the sputtering sound was soon accompanied by the echo of Dawn’s laugh as she finally found her way out of the area.

The brunette cleared her throat and placed her glass back down, eventually she looked up to see a smirk on the blonde’s face. She sighed and rolled her eyes, “you are a child,” she grumbled.

That only caused Emma’s smile to grow broader and replied, “is a goddess unable to appreciate humour?”

“I suppose...the centuries may have robbed me of my more...good natured qualities,” Regina returned.

The princess shook her head and replied, “I don’t believe that.”

The goddess felt a smile tug at the corner of her lips as she detected the absolute certainty in her voice.

“There are not any who would agree with you,” Regina replied.

“Well, they don’t,” she returned with her cheeks rapidly turning red, she was now realising that this was their first unstilted conversation, and she had to admit that it was rather pleasant.

“So what you they know?” Regina asked.

Emma bit her lip and considered whether this would insult the goddess, but then again, she was fairly certain that Regina must be aware of the image of Hades that had been projected into the mortal world.

“In the stories you can be a little...scary,” she explained.

Regina raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow and asked, “I’m not in person?”

Emma shook her head and said, “not in the same way,’re just not as…” Words failed the princess and Regina couldn’t help the full smile that overtook her face at her indecision, even though she had yet to come with a word, she was sure that whatever she was considering would be positive.

“Thank you, dear,” she said to stop the younger woman’s word vomit.

Emma smiled over at her and they fell into a more comfortable silence as they each tried to finish their meals.

The princess placed the last  bite into her mouth and finally decided that she could use this opportunity to ask something that she had been thinking about for a while now, particularly after she found out that she and Regina were actually married.

“Can I ask you something?”

Regina looked up from her plate and replied, “of course you can.”

“What will happen in summer?” she asked after a moment of hesitation.

Regina frowned and replied, “I’m afraid I don’t understand the question.”

The blonde swallowed hard and decided to try a more direct approach, “what will happen to me when your real wife returns?”

The goddess shook her head and said, “you’re making less and less sense, dear.”

Emma noticed the way that Regina was violently gripping the edge of the table and wondered whether she had struck a chord, but it was too late to go back now and it felt like rather important information.

“When Persephone returns,” she clarified.

Regina blew out a breath, she would never understand why mortals felt the need to make up their own versions of the Divines’ lives.

“I only have one wife,” she replied.

“But…” Emma trailed off, somehow she just knew that the other woman was telling the truth, but she had been sure that bigamy was not above immortal gods.

“Persephone and I never wed,” Regina said through gritted teeth. She knew that it was important for Emma to know this, but it was still rather difficult to talk about and she wasn’t particularly willing to give too many details right now.

Emma nodded and looked down at her now empty plate, she was about to apologise for bringing up the subject, but any attempt was interrupted by the appearance of someone in one of the mirrors hung on the wall.

The blonde jumped at the sudden materialisation but Regina quickly took the opportunity to change the subject, “what is it, Sidney?” she asked.

Sidney looked between the two women.

He got the distinct feeling that he was encroaching upon an important discussion, but thankfully his master looked more grateful than angry.

“Hecate is in the throne room,” he replied after a moment.

Regina managed to hold back a sigh of relief and stood from her seat, “tell her I will be there in a moment.”

With his orders, Sidney disappeared and Regina looked over at Emma who seemed to be getting over her shock.

“I believe you have a training session to attend...Emma,” Hades said as she stood to leave as quickly as possible.

The blonde simply nodded and mirrored the other woman standing from her chair, she was desperately trying not to think about just how captivating her name sounded in Regina’s voice.


“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Regina’s voice echoed as she glided into the throne room to find a blonde lounging on her throne like she owned it.

Hecate propped her head up on her hand and watched as her friend walked in. “I feel as though I have been waiting an eternity,” she replied, “you know, there are not many who would keep Hecate waiting.”

“I’m not afraid of you Maleficent,” Regina shot back.

Hecate narrowed her eyes for a moment, before she pushed herself to her feet and walked over to her friend, “I’m here to ask you about the new wife you’ve told me so little about.”

Regina shook her head and resisted the urge to place her head in her hands, she really didn’t understand why everyone was so obsessed with this princess.

Instead, she replied, “there is not much to know, she is a mortal born to Snow White and Prince Charming.”

“You realised I have already spoken with your daughter, don’t you?” Mal asked with a distinct smirk as she crossed her arms over her chest.

Hades rolled her eyes deeply and admitted, “there is a slight...chance that I have developed something resembling feelings for her.”

“Then the Fates didn’t lie to you?” Hecate clapped her hands together in a rather uncharacteristic excitement.

“You know I have long since given up on that prophecy,” Regina said, adamantly refusing to maintain eye contact as she thought back to the moment she realised that she would be alone.

Mal shot her a look that said she didn’t believe her, before she said, “well she doesn’t need to be your soulmate to make you happy.”

Hades looked down and she felt her stomach twist at the thought that crossed her mind.

Even if it was an undeniable truth, it was something she had tried not to think too much about.

“It would be foolish to become involved with a mortal. A handful of decades of enjoyment will not make up for the centuries of misery.”

“So you plan to keep her here until the day she dies?”

 Regina still adamantly refused to make eye contact and walked over to sit on her throne. She hadn’t really thought about this from Emma’s point of view properly. Now that she thought it though, the princess could surely only be happy on her little adventure for a maximum of a decade or so. After that, she is likely to grow tired of the Underworld and will probably want to move onto somewhere else.

Maleficent inspected the other goddess for a few moments, before she reached into her pocket to pull out a small leather pouch. She threw it over to Regina who caught it in spite of her mind’s preoccupation with all of the ‘what ifs’.

She frowned and reached into the little canvas bag to pull out a seed between her finger and thumb which she brought up to her face.

Hecate gestured towards the bag and explained, “the other reason I’m here. It’s a wedding gift for this Emma White. These seeds will give the princess a way to return to the Underworld should she choose to venture out without you.”

Regina felt her throat constrict at the thought that Emma would leave without her, especially since that would most likely mean that she would be going to the Enchanted Forest to visit her parents.

However, she still managed to force out a reluctant ‘thank you’.


-Four hours later-

“Not bad princess,” Dawn said with a somewhat triumphant grin as she watched her step-mother hack away at the dummy she had set up in the courtyard.

Emma took a step back to catch her breath though she could feel herself puff out her chest slightly in triumph, she felt like she had been at this for an eternity and Dawn’s words were the first bit of positive reinforcement she had received from her teacher.

“But you know that most targets tend to move?” she asked.

The princess managed to hold back a groan, she knew that this would be difficult but it was the only serious effort she had put into something for perhaps the first time in her life. However, even if she was feeling truly exhausted for the first time in her memory, she still wasn’t ready to stop yet.

“I know,” she breathed and placed her hand on her knee as she allowed herself a moment to relax.

Dawn smirked at the childish look on the princess’s face and then drew her own Stygian sword.

She began to slowly thrust at the blonde who seemed to instantly understand what was happening as she began to dutifully dodge the attacks.

After a couple of moments of this, Dawn pulled back and mumbled, “impressive.”

Emma reached over to grab the water next to Graham was was sat cross-legged on the floor, desperately trying not to make nervous squeaks whenever the blade got too close to his charge.

Once the water moistened her throat, she decided this was a good time to ask a question that had been weighing on her mind for the last couple of hours.

“Why did you have to convince Regina to let me compete?” she asked.

Dawn allowed her sword to fall to her side and she shot Graham a dirty look and he instantly cowered.

“She doesn’t have many fond memories of the last time a mortal competed,” she replied evenly.

“Was it you?” Emma asked and Dawn nodded in confirmation, “why did you do it?”

The brunette considered lying since a promise of the possibility of immortality seemed like a dangerous thing to give a mortal. However, she figured that the truth would only serve to humanise her mother which could only be a good thing.

She looked over to Graham to check if he was about to interrupt her but he was being uncharacteristically silent. His eyes were widened slightly and she could only assume that he was reliving the nerves he felt during her stint in the tournament.

“My mother spent centuries in the Underworld with only this moron for company,” she began and pointed at Graham, who managed to let out an indignant scoff, “so one...night with a mortal and nine months later, I was born and she had a companion. But as a demi-goddess, I couldn’t be there for her forever. Every time I went to the Enchanted Forest, I could see just how worried she was that I would return as a spirit, so I competed in the tournament. I got to the last round and Artemis took notice and offered to allow me to become a huntress. She was very insulted when I refused. She demanded that I fight in the last round against her and if I won she promised me immortality. Graham panicked...obviously...and got my mother. I won but I still got injured and she got there just in time to save my life so I could be granted what Artemis promised me.”

Emma tilted her head and took a moment to process this, before she replied, “Regina allowed you to leave the Underworld whenever you wanted?”

Dawn raised an eyebrow in a very Regina-like fashion, of course that was the key point that Emma had gotten from that.

“Not at first, but for my fourteenth birthday she allowed me to travel to the Enchanted Forest. I moved there permanently for a while,” she explained, deciding not to bring up how she no longer had a place to live there at the moment, “but I still visit my mother as often as possible.”

Emma tried not to grimace. Even the daughter of Hades had more freedom than she ever had, but she was still finding it very difficult to be mad at them.

“Why the frown, princess?” Dawn asked.

“I miss them,” Emma replied, before she could consider whether she should be telling her step-daughter this. What if she told her mother and Regina was hurt?

“Your parents?” the brunette replied.

Emma nodded and explained, “I know I shouldn’t miss them. Considering everything that they did to ‘protect’ me, but they couldn’t have known that she isn’t like she is in mythology.”

“Of course you miss them,” Dawn returned, “no matter what they have done, they are still your parents.”

Emma smiled weakly and replied, “I suppose I just wish I could see them again.”

Dawn made a mental note to return to this later and replied with a nod, “lets focus on one thing at a time, princess. Try and swing at me.”

The blonde instantly complied, but she lost her balance slightly and swung off to the left.

Graham squealed and threw himself to the side as the sword wedged into the pillar he had been leaning against.

“What the hell?!” he shouted.

Dawn and Emma exchanged a look before they each burst out laughing.

Graham pushed himself back up onto his knees, and unwittingly gave a petulant pout when he said, “what is possibly so funny?”

“You’re immortal, you idiot,” Dawn replied through her laugh.

The man’s eyes went over to the sword and after a moment his shoulders slumped while his cheeks burned bright red, he quickly cleared his throat and mumbled “right” as he wiped the dust from his pants.  

Chapter Text

Chapter four

It was inevitable, that was the whole point of fate, but Regina still walked as slowly as possible through Olympus.

Initially, ignoring the Fates seemed like the most logical course of action. She could just go ahead with her plans to wed, but she knew that was no longer really an option since she was cursed with the knowledge that had been imparted upon her.

Persephone could not be happy in the Underworld and it was no longer something that Regina could pretend wasn’t true.

She couldn’t now think of living happily at the expense of Ruby who would undoubtedly begin to feel like a prisoner in the land of death, no matter how much she wanted to be with Regina.

As she internally agonised over the Fate’s unusually clear words, she couldn’t even bring herself to think about the idea of a ‘new Persephone’. After all, who on Olympus could replace Ruby?

“Regina?” a voice interrupted the woman’s thoughts, who hadn’t even noticed that she had arrived at her destination.

Said goddess looked up from the ground to see the woman she had been thinking about holding out her hand to prevent a collision.

Once she was sure that the goddess had stopped moving, Ruby took a step forward and placed her hand onto her shoulder before she asked, “is there something troubling you?”

The shorter brunette swallowed hard and inspected the genuine concern on her fiancée’s face. She was pretty sure that she would never get that from another person.

“You’re worrying me,” Ruby added when Regina didn’t say anything.

Regina sighed and moved back so that Ruby’s hand fell off her shoulder and she reached up to removed the ring she was offered following the defeat of the Titans.

She placed the ring in Persephone’s hand and pulled away as quickly as possible so that she wasn’t tempted to remain physically connected with her.

“I cannot marry you,” Regina explained.

Ruby frowned and opened her hand to inspect the ring, as if to check that this was some kind of joke. When she finally decided it was in fact the right ring, she asked, “why?”

That single word almost made Regina change her mind.

However, the tears in her lover’s eyes served as a reminder of the kind of misery that the Fates promised for the goddess of Nature in the Underworld.

“You must stay with your mother to fulfil your duties as Persephone. The Underworld is not where you belong,” Regina explained while actively trying to keep her own tears at bay.

Ruby swallowed hard and tried to think of a way to refute the very things he had been worrying about. Instead. She thought of a compromise, “perhaps we could visit each other? I do not need to be in the Underworld for the entire year…”

Hades smiled weakly at the sheer optimism, but replied, “it won’t work , this isn’t supposed to be, my love.”

Persephone looked down and whispered a reluctant, “I know.”

Silence reigned between the pair, before Regina used her finger to pull Ruby’s face up by her chin and she brushed their lips together, in a quick final kiss that she hoped said everything that she didn’t have the words for.

Anything more and she was liable to change her mind.

“Goodbye, Persephone,” she whispered with her face still close to hers.

“Goodbye Regina.”

Regina’s eyes slowly opened her eyes and she instantly scowled at being forced to remember the feeling of her lover’s lips against her own, something she had tried not to think about for some time now.

“I take it you wouldn’t recommend that one?”

The goddess’s eyebrows pinched together and she looked up to see her daughter pointing at the ground. She followed Dawn’s finger to the book sprawled out on the ground and it was in that moment that it hit her that she was presently sat in one of the plush chairs in the palace’s library and she had fallen asleep while reading whatever that book was (she honestly had no idea and didn’t particularly care to check).   

Regina shifted in her seat and reach down to pick up the leather bound tome so that she could place it on the side without bothering to look at it. Instead she turned her attention to her rather sweaty looking child and she said, “I assume that you did not come here for book recommendations?”

Dawn nodded and came over to perch on the arm of Regina’s chair, who sat forward to see that the other woman’s hair was incredibly messy. For Dawn to have not bathed straight after a training session, she figured that whatever this was about had to be important.

“What is it?” Regina asked.

“Emma told me something that I believe you should be aware of,” Dawn replied, though she bit her lip when she noticed her mother’s mouth turn down in a frown. She was clearly worried that it would be bad news. The goddess obviously had a deep-seated fear of rejection, but Dawn also knew that this piece of information was essential to the future stability of her relationship with her wife. She just decided to go ahead and say, “she misses her parents.”

Regina wasn’t sure if she was relieved or scared. On the one hand, Emma could have expressed a desire to leave the Underworld completely, on the other, visiting Snow and David left the legitimate chance that she would never come back.

Instead of voicing these worries, she reached into her pocket and pulled out the bag Hecate had left with her a few hours ago.

“Mal gave me a gift for Emma,” she explained as she handed the bag to her daughter.

The younger brunette furrowed her brow and looked closely at the seed she pulled out. It was a seed she recognised as one of the many she received for her fourteenth birthday.

She shot to her feet, almost bouncing excitedly.

“You can give the princess the seeds and she can visit her parents!”

“I can’t,” Regina replied in close to a whisper.

Dawn was taken back for a moment in which she tried to decide whether she had heard her correctly.

“Of course you can, you can enchant the seed so she has to come back like you did for me.”

“And what if she resents having to come back?” the older brunette asked without looking up.

“She loves it here, why wouldn’t she want to return?”

Regina grimaced and replied, “it would hardly be a punishment for her parents if I allowed her to visit them.”

Dawn rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in exasperation and said, “this is no longer about punishment, mother. You said that she could do whatever she wants.”

Regina clenched her jaw.

Dawn had obviously had a very basic understanding of her past and naturally couldn’t quite comprehend how long she had really lived before her birth. She couldn’t understand the apprehension she felt when it came to love. 

There was the distinct chance that the end of Dawn’s relationship with Devin meant she was more invested in this situation than she perhaps would have been.

“She is mortal, Dawn,” Regina said as if that answered every rebuttal the demi-goddess had

Dawn tilted her head and considered her mother’s words. She hadn’t been immortal for long enough to feel the pain of outliving a loved one, at least not to death.

“She doesn’t have to remain mortal,” Dawn insisted, as if achieving immortality was the easiest thing in the world.

Hades gripped the chair until her knuckles turned white, her daughter definitely did not understand the magnitude of what she was suggesting. 

“She had known me for just over a month, I believe that asking for a promise of forever may be too much.”

Dawn was about to reply, before someone cleared their throat at the door of the library.

Two pairs of chocolate orbs shot toward Panic, who was waiting for their attention.

Now that he had it, they each stared at him expectantly.

“What is it?” Regina asked while trying for a scowl, but she was just too thankful for the distraction.

“Emma made a request that I...refuse to guide her through,” he replied in a pitch that was higher than usual, clearly he was afraid that his refusal would mean nothing. 

Hades narrowed her eyes but decided to allow him the chance to explain himself before she pointed out how little his refusal meant to her.

Graham’s eyes moved over to Dawn, who he was much less afraid of, when she tilted her head at him, he finally opened his mouth to reply:

“She wishes to visit Tartarus...I cannot go...on such a foolish trip,” he managed to say, only about loud enough to be heard.

Dawn crossed her arms and smirked, if she was right about her mother’s feelings for Emma, then Graham had no reason to be afraid.

Regina waved her hand and said, “she cannot go to Tartarus. Especially with you.”

The demon frowned and exchanged a look with the smirking Dawn, he wasn’t quite sure why, but he argued, “you said that she could go wherever she wished to?”

“I think the Titan’s presence in Tartarus means that the restriction was implied,” Regina replied as she reached for the book she was going to pretend to want to read.

Graham decided to not push his luck and just turned to go and deliver the news to Emma.

“Are you sure you don’t care about her?” Dawn asked once she was sure Graham was gone.

Regina didn’t look up from her book, though she still had no idea what it was and she said, “go and bathe Dawn, you smell rancid.” 


Graham rolled his eyes when he hurried back to the courtyard and saw that Emma was still swinging the sword in spite of Dawn’s instruction that she should rest.

The blonde looked over her shoulder and she instantly knew what the look meant. Graham’s various looks of disapproval were becoming like a second language to Emma.

“I know I should rest, but I want to be able to keep up with Dawn,” she explained as her arm fell down to her side and she fully turned to Panic.

“She is very...competitive, I might suggest not rushing to beat her,” he advised.

Emma frowned as she ran over their training session in her mind. The demi-goddess seemed relaxed but she hadn’t exactly posed too much of a challenge.

“So you’re saying that I should try not to...insult her?” Emma asked.

Graham nodded, somewhat relieved that the princess had finally developed some semblance of self-preservation.

“She inherited her temper from her mother. It’s rather...short. But speaking of being cannot visit Tartarus.”

“You realise I was not being serious?” Emma asked with a slight chuckle, it was an off-hand comment and she hadn’t thought too much when Graham scurried away.

The demon visibly relaxed but Emma frowned and asked, “why am I not allowed?”

Graham considered lying, but he wasn’t quite sure why he would need to, so he replied, “Regina said that it is off-limits.”

For a split second, Emma’s mouth pulled down in a frown and Graham swallowed hard as his mind ran through what it could mean.

Ultimately, it was obvious that the thought of restrictions didn’t sit well with the blonde.

“It would certainly be fascinating, I suppose, but I have so many other places to visit,” she said in a deceptively mature manner.

Graham narrowed his eyes and watched Emma walk towards the entrance of the palace.


-Two weeks later-

Dawn narrowed her eyes as her step-mother continued to hack at the practice dummy.

The last two weeks had been another irritating affair.

She absolutely loved her mother, but spending two weeks in the Underworld was harder than she thought it would be.

She’d thought about going to the Enchanted Forest until she realised she would have no idea where to go.

And then there was discovering that Emma was somehow so naturally talented at the skills she had spent years refining.

She could practically feel the unwarranted anger brewing,

After all, she had yet to vent about what had been eating her internally.

“That’s enough,” she announced and realised she had been gripping the hilt of the sword at her hip that had been untouched for a long time.

Emma was not ready for a real bout of sparring after only two weeks of training.

“Perhaps you should try against a moving target?” she said and her hand fell away from her sword.

Emma nodded eagerly and Dawn walked up to her,

“Try and land a hit on me,” she instructed.

Emma drew her eyebrows together, there was something off with the way that Dawn had said those words.

The princess glanced over to Graham who gave her a look that said ‘I told you’. She could definitely see what he meant by Dawn’s occasional bad temper.

Emma had definitely noticed that something was wrong with her step-daughter but she figured that they didn’t have the kind of relationship in which they discussed emotional issues.

In fact, with all of the swordplay, they didn’t really have many extended conversations.

So instead of asking what brought on the clear annoyance, Emma just began making measured swings at the brunette.

For five minutes straight, Dawn dodged each attack with her hand behind her back and Emma was clearly becoming increasingly infuriated with the smirk on the brunette’s face.

“Come on princess, you can do better than that,” Dawn said while effortlessly avoiding another attack.

However, the slight distraction of talking did seem to cause a moment of weakness in the demi-goddess, as Emma feigned left and Dawn somehow fell for it.

She grunted as the wooden sword scraped across her face.

A rather high pitched gasp echoed throughout the courtyard, though it didn’t come from either of the women.

Graham had shot to his feet and stood shocked, though he wasn’t quite sure what he would do if this escalated. 

Dawn stared blankly at her step-mother and brought her fingers up to her cheek registering that there was blood on her fingers when she pulled them away. The wooden sword obviously couldn’t do any real damage, but it had been enough to break her skin.

Emma’s mouth went dry and she tried to discern her reaction. When no one said anything, she just allowed a question to fall out of her mouth, “but you’re immortal…?”

Dawn wiped her hand on her pants and said, “pain and death are not the same thing.”

“I’m sorry…” Emma began.

“Did I just hear an apology? You should never apologise to your opponent princess,” the teen replied, and grabbed the hilt of her sword, unsheathing it for the first time in quite a while. She then clicked her fingers and Emma’s arm fell at an unexpected weight.

She blinked and then lifted her arm back up to see that the sharp edge of her sword was now shining brightly and she realised that Dawn had turned her wooden sword into a real steel one. 

She shot Dawn a look that asked for an explanation and the brunette said, “you’re learning quicker than anticipated, you need a stronger sword if we’re really going to spar.”

Emma took a couple deep breaths and composed herself before taking up the stance she was taught in her first lesson, “I’m ready,” she announced.

“You better hope so, princess,” Dawn murmured and raised her own blade to the sound of another squeak from Graham.

Emma turned to eye him and frowned, she was sure that this was the most distressed she had ever seen him.

“Dawn,” he said in a strangled voice, “that is the deadliest piece of metal in existence, you can’t…”

“Shut up,” the brunette snapped.

“Durendal? It’s your sword…?” Emma trailed off and thought back to what she’d read. There was no mention of Hades’s daughter having the blade, but there was also no mention of Regina having only one child so she figured that it wasn’t all that accurate anyway.

“Immortality was not my only reward, blondie,” Dawn said dismissively and resumed her defensive stance.

Emma nodded to signal she was truly ready to start the duel.

The clash of swords filled the courtyard along with Graham’s squeaks every time Dawn lunged at Emma, though he visibly relaxed when she blocked the blows.

He was torn between cringing as he watched and running to tell Hades, but he couldn’t look away long enough to make a decision.

The longer they went on the messier Emma’s fighting became.

She looked nervous.

Graham was enraptured until Emma hesitated and he almost turned to run towards the palace, but his feet remained rooted in place.

Dawn swiped dangerously close to Emma’s face and the princess stumbled back. The brunette took the opportunity to grab Emma’s wrist, causing her to drop her sword, and she held Durendal close to the blonde’s neck who was obviously in physical pain as the metal somehow emitted agony even though it wasn’t digging into her neck. However, she pushed so that the sharp edge dug in slightly.

“That’s enough!” Regina’s voice boomed.

Graham’s eyes widened and he watched as the goddess stalked towards them.

He somehow suspected that this would be his fault so he cowered away.

Dawn didn’t move and Emma swallowed hard against the blade, until Dawn commanded, “step away from her now, Dawn.”

The teen stepped away and she drove her sword into the ground.

Regina looked over to Emma who looked physically fine other than the fact that she was still trying to catch her breath.

“I believe it is time for a break from training, wouldn’t you agree?”

Dawn opened her mouth, about to mention the fact that she didn’t have anywhere to go, but she decided that she just needed to not be in the courtyard anymore.

She just nodded and wordlessly walked towards the palace.

Regina stepped closer to Emma and squared her jaw when she saw the shining blood dripping from Emma’s throat, though it wasn’t nearly enough to be truly worried about. 

She turned to Graham and asked, “what happened?”

“Dawn snapped,” Graham muttered.

Regina’s eyes fell back onto Emma and she sighed. Over the past two weeks she had been spending a lot of time with the blonde, thought it was always platonic, she could no longer deny that the idea of Emma in pain was an unpleasant prospect.

“Are you okay, dear?” she asked.

Emma nodded, though she had a sneaking suspicion that she was beginning to understand what fear was, “I’m fine,” she assured.

Regina stepped closer and ran a finger across her wife’s neck and Emma closed her eyes against the sensation of a godly healing touch, but Regina moved her hand away almost as soon as she had placed it there.

“Perhaps you require a more...measured approach while my daughter takes her break?” Regina said, mostly to end the silence.

“Who will train me?” Emma asked with a furrowed brow.

“I will,” Regina replied, but at her wife’s doubtful expression, she added, “who do you think trained Dawn?”

Emma relaxed slightly. It would certainly be a nice change of pace, she really did like Dawn, but Graham’s warnings had proven to be true, what had just happened only cemented that for her.

“Thank you,” she finally said.

Regina turned around but seemed to think better of it as she said over her shoulder, “you should get some rest, I intend to keep a promise…”

Emma frowned and grabbed Regina’s shoulder to stop her from walking away.

Hades turned and the blonde managed to salvage some words after a moment of staring into the chocolate orbs, “what promise?” she asked.

Regina smiled weakly and considered changing her mind, but she had been thinking about this since her initial refusal.

Even if it apparently didn’t seem to bother her wife, it had still been weighing on her mind.

“When you first came here, I said you can do whatever you want. So your first lesson will be in Tartarus in the morning,” the brunette explained.

Graham blanched and Emma just nodded, very much still processing the goddess’s words, though she was already brimming with excitement.


Dawn paced back and forth and visibly flinched at the sound of her mother’s heels clicking against the floor of the throne room.

“What the hell was that?!” Regina’s voice bellowed through the obsidian room. 

The younger brunette turned around and clasped her hands together.

All of the anger that had coursed through her in the courtyard had dissipated, only to be replaced with a level of shame and apprehension at the thought that there was no way to avoid discussing her feelings. 

“I just got so angry that she could do everything so naturally…” she attempted.

Regina narrowed her eyes at her daughter who had clearly calmed down significantly. She knew for a fact that if that was truly the reason for her outburst, she would currently be ranting.

“Even if that were the case, that does not excuse attacking her with that sword,” Regina shot back through gritted teeth.

The demi-goddess swallowed hard, it was painfully obvious that her mother knew she was holding back. However, she still had the opportunity to keep the focus on Emma for a while longer.

“Why not, mother?” Dawn retorted, “if she is really going to compete, perhaps you shouldn’t be treating her as a child?”

“She is a child!” Hades replied before she could consider Dawn’s words.

“She’s older than me, you can’t keep coddling her if she is going to have the adventure she wants,” Dawn suggested and unclasped her hands.

Regina blew out a breath. She wanted to get to the bottom of what was really wrong with Dawn, but she knew that her daughter would just try to accuse her of deflecting, so she admitted, “I offered to take her to Tartarus.”

“So? You’re going to let her look at the entrance and leave? She needs to learn what it means to be truly afraid if she is going to learn to live outside of her parent’s protective bubble.”

“You’re suggesting that she be put in danger?” Regina asked indignantly.

“Why not?” Dawn shrugged.

“Because she’s mortal!” the older brunette shouted.

“I was mortal when you trained me,” Dawn retorted.

Regina faltered and tried, “that was were...eager to learn…”

The demi-goddess decided not to even dain that with an answer, since it was obvious that Emma was nothing if not committed.

“If you stop her from living to protect her from death, you are no better than her parents.”

“What am I supposed if she dies?” Regina asked rather shyly as she refused to keep eye contact with younger woman.

“I’m sure that Hades can easily offer protection in her domain,” Dawn suggested.

The goddess finally looked up and said, “are you suggesting that I fake danger?”

“She doesn’t need to know that it is safe, once she understands fear, she will be prepared when it is real.”

Regina felt her heart clench at the thought that Emma was going to feel real fear, though she knew that it was necessary, especially if she was going to give her Hecate’s present as she had been thinking about.

“I suppose that you make a good point, dear, but are you going to tell me the real reason for your outburst?” Regina asked.

“I’m sorry for that…” Dawn began but Regina held up her hand before she could claim that it was because of Emma’s natural talent.

“Dawn, tell me the truth. I believe I have given you enough space over the last two weeks,” Regina said evenly, in the maternal voice that most wouldn’t associate with the goddess of the Underworld.

Dawn bit the inside of her cheek and said, “the reason that Devin ended our relationship was not because he was betrothed to another...I told him the truth and he didn’t see a future with an immortal.”

Regina felt anger erupt in her stomach at the thought that some little prince would dare to hurt her daughter, however, it didn’t last long when she realised he had a point. A prince marrying an immortal demi-goddess wouldn’t exactly be the best move for his kingdom and it was a rather large commitment considering that they had only known each other for a few years.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, deciding there was no reason to voice the reasons for the break up that Dawn had probably already rationalised. She knew from experience that first love wasn’t the easiest thing to logic through losing. 

Dawn shrugged and replied, “I’ve been frustrated here for two weeks and I suppose I thought pushing you and Emma together would prove that love can exist between a mortal and an immortal. But that does not excuse my actions…”

Regina walked over and placed a comforting hand on the younger woman’s shoulder and used her other thumb to wipe away a stray tear that must have fallen during her explanation.

Dawn pulled herself closer for a hug and Regina instantly brought her arms around her,

“I can kill Derek for you if you want,” Regina whispered.

The demi-goddess laughed and shook her head against her mother’s shoulder before she audibly sniffed as she pushed herself back to look at Hades.

“That won’t be necessary, Devin acted in a perfectly understandable way, I suppose I just need some time.”

“Perhaps not all of that time should be in the Underworld? You’re of course always welcome here, but you didn’t need a boyfriend to visit the Enchanted Forest before you met Devin,” Regina said.

“Visit the Enchanted Forest alone?” Dawn asked with a frown until memories of the fresh air and the chirping birds invaded her mind.

It wasn’t only the prince that she missed about that place and she’d certainly travelled alone before.

“I should probably apologise to Emma before I go?” Dawn asked, almost hoping that her mother would say ‘no’. She hated admitting when she was wrong.

Regina just quirked an eyebrow and Dawn sighed heavily, knowing exactly what it meant.

“I’ll see you soon, mother,” she said and punctuated this with a kiss to the goddess’s cheek before she turned to make her way to her step-mother’s chambers.


Emma wasn’t really sure how long she had been staring at the ceiling, but she was pretty sure that she wouldn’t get much sleep.

The thought of visiting Tartarus was exhilarating, mostly because had no idea what to expect, though she was slightly concerned thinking about what it would be like to visit the prison of the Titans with no rest.

A knock at her chamber door caused her to sit up and swing her legs over the bed so that she could stand and walk over to the door.

The door was swung open to reveal a teenage brunette staring down at the floor with her arms crossed as she chewed at her bottom lip.

Dawn finally looked up and she sounded almost shocked when she said, “you’re awake, princess?”

Emma shrugged as she opened the door wider to invite the brunette in and she replied, “I couldn’t sleep.”

Dawn nodded and followed the other woman further into the room and watched as the blonde plopped down onto the bed.

She was really starting to get the sense that Emma was acting as un-princess-like as possible.

They remained in silence for a while as Dawn looked around the pristinely clean room. Granted, Emma didn’t have any sentimental items and she didn’t exactly spend the majority of her time in here.

“Could you not sleep either?” Emma asked, finally deciding that sitting in silence with another person was worse than staring at the ceiling.

Dawn shifted her weight while she shook her head and forced her eyes onto the blonde.

“I’ve actually been preparing for a visit to the Enchanted Forest,” the younger woman replied.

Emma’s eyes brightened slightly at the mention of the Enchanted Forest, but she just nodded and said, “well I hope you have a good time.”

“I certainly need the time away,” Dawn said, “which is precisely why I’m here, I owe you an apology.” Emma opened her mouth to argue that it was fine, but Dawn held up her hand to interrupt her and she continued, “I acted dishonourably earlier and I shouldn’t have taken my frustrations out on you.”

Before Emma could attempt to accept the apology, her eyes widened as the younger women’s hand moved to draw the sword she hadn’t noticed was at her hip.

“Calm down,” Dawn said with a little laugh as she pulled the blade fully from its sheath and handed it to the princess hilt first. “I believe my actions require more than mere words to be forgiven so I would be honoured if you would continue your training with Durendal. You can return it to me when you win the tournament.”

Emma stared at the metal. Vivid memories of the pain it caused when it wasn’t even touching her sprang to mind, but she had the distinct feeling that it wouldn’t do the same for its rightful master. 

The princess’s fingers ran over the intricate detail etched into the hilt and she let out a reverent breath at its sheer beauty, “thank you.”

Dawn nodded and gave the blade one last look before she moved to turn towards the exit of the chamber.

However, her step faltered when she felt a hand placed hesitantly on her shoulder and she turned back to the other woman who looked suddenly unsure.

“What is it princess?” Dawn asked.

Emma brought her lip into her mouth and considered her words before her hand fell away and she muttered, “nevermind, it’s not important.”

“Now is the time to ask for favours,” Dawn replied with a small laugh as she gestured towards Durendal as a reminder of why she was no longer her trainer.

Emma smiled back and said, “since you’re going to the Enchanted Forest, perhaps you could…”

“Ask after your parents?”

Emma took a moment to decide whether her concern for her parents was a problem for her step-daughter, but she saw no sign of judgement.

Dawn just nodded and said, “I will try and get you a full account by the time I return.”

Chapter Text

Chapter five

Regina paced the length of the throne room.

It didn't make a lot of sense for an immortal to be impatient, but she'd become increasingly so over the last two-hundred years.

Watching Persephone marry Athena hadn't made her anymore patient either. Ruby was so obviously in love with Belle while Regina couldn't even think about looking at another like that.

"How can the Fates be late?" she shouted, only to stop pacing when she saw Graham was not trembling behind the pillar. He must have scurried off at some point in the last hour or so since she had last asked where they were.

She narrowed her eyes at the empty space and considered summoning him so she could have someone to vent at, but her thoughts were interrupted by a distinct hissing sound.

"This may surprise you, Hades, but your whims are not our highest priorities."

Regina turned and narrowed her eyes at the three hooded creatures, all ideas reprimanding Graham were thrust from her mind.

"You lied to me!" she shouted instead.

"All we say is true, you simply lack the patience to see our prophecies through," the shortest Fate shot back.

"Is it not patient to attend my True Love's wedding whilst I am no closer to finding even a spark of affection?!" Regina shot back, though her feet faltered when she realised she was close to entering the disgusting creatures' personal space.

"Patience is a virtue," they said simultaneously which almost sent a shiver up Regina's spine at the pure creepiness of the sound.

"How is that fair? Ruby has Belle, my sister has the throne of Olympus. I have nothing and you expect me to wait for someone who doesn't even exist?" she said, with a rather petulant tremble to her words.

"She will exist," they said together again.

"When?" Regina shouted and a few stray tears of frustration, suddenly grateful that Panic wasn't here to see this.

The Fates were silent for a few agonising moments until the tallest replied, "a time will come when you will have the opportunity to ensure her birth, your Persephone will exist, we assure you."

Without another word, they turned on their heels and simply walked out.

Regina opened and closed her mouth a few times as she tried to think of another question, but her mind was completely blank as it worked on memorising their words.

She eventually realised they were already gone and she just went and fell onto the throne with a heavy sigh.

She felt completely alone and knew no more than she did two-hundred years ago.

Emma practically skipped as she walked beside Regina, who rolled her shoulders to try and rid them of their stiffness.

The princess looked just about ready to vibrate with excitement and Hades decided that there was no reason to inform her that she was planning a detour on their travels to Tartarus. Plus, she didn't want to explain why she wanted to talk to a certain god.

"I trust that you feel you've recovered from your arduous training session?" Regina said by way of getting the other woman's attention.

Emma's eyes snapped up to the brown orbs looking at her own green ones with her rapt attention. She hadn't considered that there was a chance that Hades would be the talkative type while on an adventure, especially since Graham only made squeaking sounds, shouted 'stop' and detailed the ways in which interesting things could kill her.

The blonde brushed her fingers across the tiny cut on her throat and she felt phantom pain shoot through her.

However, her hand fell away with a dismissive shrug, "it's honestly wasn't that bad."

Regina nodded as they walked in silence and Emma said, "can I ask you a question?"

Hades nodded again with no hesitation, Emma deserved answers even if Regina knew she was probably about to ask something personal.

"Did you love Dawn's father?"

Regina's mouth pulled down in a frown.

That wasn't what she was expecting since she had been mentally preparing herself to explain more about Persephone.

She'd honestly not even thought about Daniel since that night and Dawn didn't seem too worried about who he was, though she did appreciate Emma's hint of jealousy.

"Love and lust are not the same thing," Regina replied.

Emma's brow furrowed and she asked, "so Dawn wasn't planned?"

"A lonely night with a stable boy was not how I imagined my child being conceived, but it was certainly not an unwelcome surprise," Hades replied after a moment of consideration and Emma nodded in understanding, "now may I ask you a question?"

"That would only be fair I suppose," Emma said, though she had no idea what the goddess could possibly want to know about her.

"Have you ever exhibited any magical abilities?" Regina asked.

Emma tilted her head and thought back to some of the more unexplainable things that had happened in her childhood.

A flower outside the palace's boundary poofed straight into her outstretched hand, clothes changed colours.

When she was desperate for privacy, she'd convinced the guards posted outside her room to take an early break.

Since she had little frame of reference for what was 'normal' she'd never considered this before but these could be magical feats but now she had little doubt.

"I suppose, though they were more like parlour tricks...why do you ask?"

"I have been considering that you are the product of True Love. It stands to reason that you would be naturally imbued with incredibly potent light magic."

Emma frowned and stopped in her tracks so that she could stare at her hands before she turned them over to look at her palms.

Regina bit the inside of her cheek as she rounded on the other woman who was acting unfairly adorable once again.

"Such abilities are not discouraged in the tournament. Assuming that you are capable of more than mere 'parlour tricks'," she continued to explain.

Emma smiled broadly at the thought and finally looked up from her hands to take in the surroundings around her.

She noticed the River Lethe and she looked questioningly at Regina, she was pretty sure that this wasn't the right way.

"I need to make a slight detour but I assure you we will be back on track once my issue has been resolved," Regina explained.

Emma nodded and tried to look around to see if she could figure out where it was that Regina wanted to go.

Getting distracted by Elysium meant that she hadn't walked along the whole river and the entrance to an unfamiliar cave was undoubtedly the only option in sight for Regina's destination.

However, before she could ask what was in there something outside the cave caught her attention and her feet began to take her towards what she was missing from the Enchanted Forest.

"Flowers!" she announced before Regina could say anything to stop her.

The moment she touched the petals she fell to the ground asleep.

"Foolish princess," Regina muttered as she came over to check on the blonde. She waved her hand and a blanket covered the younger woman.

She had business to attend to and Emma did look as though she was rather lacking sleep, so it wouldn't hurt to leave her for a while.

Hades glanced at the princess to ensure her well-being one last time, before she walked over to the cave and entered the pitch black.

A fireball ignited in her hand and lighted the cave to reveal a sleeping man in the centre.

As the light crept over him, he blinked and sat up to look at the brunette through his slightly cracked open eyes.

"Hades?" he asked with grogginess clinging to the word.

"Hypnos,"she replied and glided further into the cave, "I have a request."

He audibly groaned while making a conscious effort to keep his eyes open, but he managed to mutter, "yes…?"

"My mind had been showing me...unpleasant memories in my sleep that I would rather not be forced to remember," she replied, "I want this to stop."

"I do not make it my business to manipulate the dreams of the Divine," he said, leaving no room for argument.

"Then why am I having these dreams?!" she bellowed.

"I assure you it is not my fault, you may consider dismissing whatever new influences have entered your domain," he replied.

Regina frowned.

It was clear who it was he was talking about, but it wasn't as clear whether the absence of painful memories in her sleep would be worth the absence of her new wife.

Hades was about to ask whether there was anything else she could do but a light snoring told her he had already fallen asleep.

She had the urge to kick him but she just rolled her eyes as she extinguished the flame and moved back towards the exit.

The sight of Emma sleeping peacefully with a smile on her face told her that the dreams were definitely worth it.

Emma watched her feet about ten minutes later as she followed Regina to Tartarus, while hoping that the blush had faded from her cheeks.

Once she had woken up from her sleep, she had felt incredibly well-rested and saw the face of an very worried looking goddess standing over her.

Regina then just laughed at the princess's embarrassment and helped her to her feet. Emma hadn't bothered to ask what had happened since she figured Regina was entitled to some level of privacy and she would likely find out eventually anyway if it was truly important.

The blonde finally looked up when she remembered what they were talking about before she got distracted by the flowers.

"Do you truly believe I am capable of magic?" Emma asked, making a conscious effort to step away from the edge of the River Lethe they were still walking along.

Regina looked over her shoulder with a quirked eyebrow as she slowed so that Emma could fall into step with her.

"It should be your birthright, does the prospect excite you?" the goddess asked, though she had a feeling that she already knew the answer to that question.

The blonde felt blush up her neck again and gave a rather sheepish nod, "it would be rather exciting…"

Regina stopped walking and Emma did the same to face her so that the goddess was looking straight at the rather enthused princess.

"Perhaps a small test is in order before you enter the darkest depths of hell?" the brunette suggested.

The other woman smiled widely and nodded.

Regina inspected her expression and noted that there was a complete lack of fear on the princess's face at the mention of Tartarus. There was no way that she would survive a fight without a grasp on the emotion she had apparently never fully felt before.

Emma's smile fell away into a frown when something occurred to her and she asked, "how do we test it?"

Regina brought her hand up, intentionally not showing any emotion on her face while a fireball ignited in her palm and she said, "copy."

Emma's smile returned as she took in the display of magic. She found it very hard to believe that it was something she could be capable of, though she knew that it was likely one of the easier spells.

She brought her hand up and scrunched her eyebrows together as she imagined a flame appearing in her palm.

She cracked her eyes open to check and then fully opened them as she shoulders slumped when she saw nothing was there.

Her hand fell down and she almost pouted with disappointment painted across her face as she looked pleadingly at her wife for an explanation.

Regina inspected the other woman's face, hoping that she looked like she was trying to figure out what had happened rather than focusing upon how adorable the pout looked.

Finally, she said, "each individual needs to know what emotion fuels their magic in order to control it. It can be the need to protect another, for revenge, you need to figure out what your motivation is."

"How am I supposed to figure out what that is for me?" Emma asked, still staring intently at the empty space. She couldn't imagine which emotion would cause fire to appear that.

"I suppose you need experience to discover what that would be," Regina replied with a shrug.

The princess began to nod slowly. She figured that a desire to have adventure wasn't particularly strong enough to incite magic that Hades would consider strong.

She began to walk forward without much hesitation.

"What are you doing?" Regina called.

"I'm going to get some experience," Emma replied with a rather giddy laugh as she pointed towards the direction of Tartarus and began to walk resolutely ahead so as to leave no room for argument.

Regina's eyes rolled at the other woman's back, though she was smiling fondly as her own feet moved to follow her wife into the darkest depths of hell.

Twenty minutes later, they had finally arrived and Emma stared at the looming obsidian gates in complete awe.

The patterns carved into the gates were so intricate that they were impossible to describe, but Emma still felt the desire to discover what each pattern meant and how they served to protect the world from the Titans.

"Are you sure you're ready?" Regina asked and Emma's eyes snapped to the woman who she hadn't even realised was standing in front of the entrance.

Judging by the way the goddess's mouth was turned down, Emma assumed that this wouldn't be the best time to start asking about what the symbols meant.

The blonde offered the older woman a half grin that she had no idea her wife loved so much, before she replied, "how else do you suppose I get life experience?"

Regina opened her mouth to point out how oxymoronic it was to start one's life in the Underworld before she closed it and forced herself to remember that she had promised no limits. It was for this reason that she stood aside and motioned for Emma to take a step towards her.

Beyond the gate was just darkness which didn't particularly give the princess the feeling that she should be afraid.

However, there was an incessant whispering somehow invading all of her senses and she had little doubt that these were from the souls of the the truly damned.

"Do we...just walk in?" Emma asked as she gestured towards the unfathomable darkness.

There was a slight stutter in the blonde's voice.

Regina was certain that she was on the cusp of understanding the emotion that her parents had spent so much time trying to shelter her from.

As much as Regina felt the urge to protect her from it as well, she knew that the princess did not wish to live in a bubble anymore and if she was going to pursue her adventures, she would need to know fear.

"Is that not what you wanted, dear?" Hades asked and Emma was sure that she sounded almost hopeful.

Emma bit her lip and clutched the handle of Durendal before she walked towards the entrance.

Regina stopped herself from voicing any objections and waved her hand to temporarily disable the barrier that stretched between the two sides of the gate in order to allow them access to Tartarus.

They crossed the border together and each felt a wave of pure darkness roll over them and neither could particularly see anything past a few steps ahead.

Emma swallowed hard as she took a few more steps into Tartarus, she wasn't quite sure what she had been expecting, maybe some great dungeon but it certainly wasn't just opaque darkness she had imagined.

She was now sure that there was a reason why mortals were confined to the land of the living, though she did feel a small sense of satisfaction at the thought of how her mother would react in this moment if she could see see what her precious little princess was about to do.

She gripped her sword and her feet stopped as the silence became oppressive.

Her back hit against the other woman's front and Emma felt her cheeks burn when Regina's hand curled around her shoulder,

However, she didn't have time to dwell on the butterflies in her stomach as a shift in the darkness caught her eye.

For a moment, she thought she was imagining but a loud squawking told her she wasn't, especially when she felt Hades tighten her grip on her shoulder.

A second later though, Regina moved her hand and stepped back to give the blonde space.

Emma frowned and looked over her shoulder and the brunette explained, "you wish to train, this will allow me to see what you need to learn."

The princess nodded and turned towards the threat.

In the black of Tartarus, it had finally started to take full form and Emma could just about make out a winged shape.

She couldn't identify any discerning details on the thing's leathery face, but she was pretty sure that she knew what it was, though she wasn't sure why there was only one.

Before she could come to any conclusions, however, the creature flew straight towards her and she rolled to one side and looked over to see the creature retracting its claws.

"What does this prove?" Emma called, while taking deep breaths, never taking her eyes off the monster.

"This is an experience, Emma," Regina replied, "though if you wish to experience anything ever again, I would suggest that you draw your sword."

Emma ran her tongue over her chapped lips and just about managed to free Durendal from its sheath with shaking hand and pointed it at the beast.

The Fury swooped again, and this time, Emma swung wildly which it easily avoided.

She wanted to move out of the way again but her legs tensed at the sight of the monster's stretched out claws. She closed her eyes expecting pain, but it never came so the blonde cracked her green eyes open again.

Emma almost jumped backwards when she saw that the creature was beating its wings in mid-air and she finally got a good look at her face.

The Fury's face looked like it was moments away from breaking down from age, apart from the glowing red eyes, she could have easily been an old hag who happened to have wings.

She also noticed that the creature was obviously trying to resist the desire to slash her targets's throat.

All of Emma's muscles relaxed when realisation crashed down upon her and she took a step back and looked straight over to Regina.

"The Furies are your minions, I was never in any danger was I?!" she said with her hands clenched.

Regina let out a sigh and waved her hand so that the Fury disappeared back into the darkness and she replied, "that's not exactly what I had planned."

"What was the point of that?!" the princess exploded. She was well aware that she had no right to yell at the centuries old woman, but she could also practically feel something unfamiliar pumping through her veins.

She hated the fact that she had been completely paralysed in fear, especially when it had been for nothing.

"I understand that you're angry, Emma," Regina tried to explain in a calming voice, "it is a common reaction to fear. I just wanted to test your survival instincts without the risk of real danger."

Emma huffed and felt the hilt of Durendal press against her palm as her hands clenched further.

It made logical sense that this anger was a reaction to fear, but it was so overwhelming and she wanted it to be over.

"What are you doing?" Regina called with a sigh as the blonde began running further into the darkness filled corridor.

"I'm sick of being treated like a child! Why can't anyone understand that I don't need to be protected!" echoed as the princess continued running.

"Perhaps I would be more inclined to not treat you like a child if you were not acting like one," Regina called back, exasperation clear in each word.

Before the goddess could even think about poofing herself to block her wife's path, she heard the distinctive sound of a gate squeaking into place and she cringed.

Purple smoke took her to the closed gate a moment later and the goddess's hands gripped the bars as she tried all she could to get them to move, but there was something blocking her abilities.

"Emma!" Regina shouted, hoping that her voice told the woman that this time she had no control over whatever was causing this.

Emma didn't even hear her wife's plea as she stood rooted into place staring into a new kind of darkness. She was not sure how, but this room was somehow more opaque than anything she had ever seen before.

This time she couldn't so much as see an outline of her attacker, though she felt a fresh wave of terror flow through her system, replacing her previous anger.

She took a couple deep breaths and moved her hand slightly, which caused her to realise that she no longer had Durendal in her hand.

A part of her was aware that all she had to do was bend down and pick up the blade up so that she could protect herself.

Try as she might, however, she couldn't tear her attention away from the whispering darkness.

"Foolish princess," it hissed,

The only thing that she could discern from the sound was that it was almost certainly a 'he' though she had no idea what this 'he' would look like should he suddenly become illuminated.

"Your were coddled by your parents and now by your wife, do you not see there must be a reason for this? Your dreams of adventure are those of an inexperienced child, you will soon realise that you are a coward who has not yet learned the value of running away. To Hades, your life will be over in a blink of an eye and to your parents you are already dead. Who do you think would truly care if you were to die right now?"

Tears trailed down and dampened Emma's cheeks as she began to shake more vigorously.

If she looked behind her right now she would see Regina desperately trying to get through the gate but her mind was too busy agreeing with the creature. All she wanted right now was for her parents to save her from this horrible place.

"Who are you?" Emma asked just above a whisper.

"You mortals know me as Phobos, but you should think of me as the fear you so refuse to appreciate," he said in an oddly calm voice considering what he claimed to be.

"P-Phobos," Emma repeated as if it would trigger her memory of anything that she read about him in the past, but her mind remained completely blank.

"Would it not be easier to simply lay down here in Tartarus and give up on your pointless adventure. Once your soul is granted death you will return to your precious Underworld and you will be free from ever feeling fear again."

Emma's gaze fell down to the ground.

Maybe Phobos was right? She could just sit down and wait to die and would never have to feel like this again.

She would never have to feel like this ever again.

She would become just another spirit in the Fields of Asphodel and never feel anything again.

"Emma! Please look at me!"

The blonde's eyes shot away from where she had just considered dying and she glanced over to the gate to see Regina looking back pleadingly.

"I'm sorry for treating you as a child, but now you have a chance to prove yourself. You are stronger than this demon, all you need is light," Regina announced with her hands gripping tightly around the gate's bars.

Emma's eyes widened when she realised that her wife was not being metaphorical.

What she had read about Phobos rushed back to her. The demon was literally the personification of fear but he only had power in the unknown of darkness.

She closed her eyes and took a couple deep breaths as she slowly opened her hand. Something else unfamiliar rushed through her veins and a fire ignited, lighting the whole room.

Phobos was somewhat humanoid, though even with the blazing light she couldn't see anything distinctive about the demon as he recoiled from the light and hissed loudly at her.

The princess reached down and picked up Durendal and then walked over to the creature whilst holding the flame high in her other hand.

She pointed the blade at Phobos and his hiss intensified and tried to pull his limp form away, though it didn't look as though he could support his whole weight.

"Open the gate," Emma commanded.

A second later, she heard the screeching of the gate lowering and considered bringing the sword down for what he had subjected her to. However, it occurred to her that he was probably immortal and the pain from Durendal was enough to get the demon to do what she wanted.

Instead, she sheathed her sword and turned on her heels and all but ran back towards Regina.

Before the goddess could say anything, Emma threw her arms around her neck as she buried her face into her shoulder.

"Thank you," the princess mumbled.

Regina gave herself a second to catch her breath before she awkwardly circled her arms around her wife's waist and summoned purple smoke to take them home.

Chapter Text

Chapter six

"Are you not hungry, dear?" Regina finally asked, cutting through the silence that had previously only been broken by the clattering of cutlery.

Emma had her head rested atop her closed fist as she used the fork in her other hand to move the food around her plate. It hadn't escaped her wife's attention that she had yet to actually place a single bite into her mouth.

At the sound of Regina's voice, the blonde looked up, appearing rather shocked to be reminded that she wasn't actually alone.

"I'm just tired," she replied and quickly placed a small piece of chicken in her mouth as if this would somehow prove her point.

Hades quirked an eyebrow and watched the other woman pretend to chew even though there was no possible way that there was anything left of that small bite.

"You are not a very good liar," Regina deadpanned.

Emma was about to protest, but her shoulders slumped and she nodded, "I was just thinking…" she admitted.

"About Tartarus?" Regina supplied.

"I...I thought I had at least experienced some form of fear but...It was not like anything I have ever felt before…"

"There are many who have achieved Elysium who would have been reduced to a cowardly child when faced with Phobos. You got away from him."

"I ran away," Emma mumbled and violently pierced a piece of meat with her fork.

"How would you have hurt an immortal demon if you had stayed? If fear could defeated, it would not exist," Regina said in a very reasoned voice that made Emma feel that the goddess must have prepared for this conversation.

"I could have at least tried to do something," Emma replied resolutely, though she couldn't think of a single legitimate reason why that would be the case.

"Why?" Regina asked, "being a hero is as much about surviving to fight another day as it is about winning every battle. There is a fine line between bravery and idiocy, Emma."

The blonde swallowed hard and said, "my father would not have run away."

She'd heard so many stories of the great King David and she couldn't help but wonder what he would have thought about her running into the safety of her wife's arms (regardless of who said wife was).

"No he would not have," Regina agreed, "because he wouldn't have had the strength to escape Phobos. You defeated fear in its purest form. It may not have been the lesson I had originally planned but it certainly proved that you are capable of more than even the most exceptional mortal."

Emma drew her eyebrows together and considered the other woman's words as silence fell over them again.

Regina watched her for a full thirty seconds while waiting for some kind of reaction, only to relax when Emma's mouth pulled up in a grin and the blonde finally made full eye contact with the goddess who had somehow managed to rationalise the whole harrowing experience in a way that actually made sense to her.

Staying to stab Phobos would have been pointless.

Even if she could have managed to hurt the immortal demon, it was unlikely that the pathetic creature revealed by the light would ever be able to leave Tartarus and incite the kind of pure fear she had felt in that moment.

"Perhaps you're right," the princess finally replied, "but maybe I should not compete in the coming tournament? I could wait for the next one?"

Regina tilted her head, she was sure that Emma would be far too excited to put off her fight for a moment longer than she had to. However, it quickly occurred to her that the young princess had perhaps made her first mature decision by not allowing her child-like wonder to cloud her recognition of the consequences.

It was for this reason that Hades just smiled and replied, "I think you may be right, dear."

The blonde mirrored her smiled and began to actually place more acceptably sized bites of her food into her mouth.

They finished their meals in a much more comfortable silence than previously.

Emma stretched while standing as Regina poofed the plates away.

Once the table was empty, Emma said, "would it be alright if we postpone tomorrow's training session?"

The goddess frowned and asked, "are you becoming complacent? I do hope that this talk did not inflate your ego…"

The princess let out a little laugh and shook her head before she explained, "I think a day away from adventure would do me some good. I have been here for over a month and have hardly spent any time inside the palace."

"There isn't much of interest here," Regina replied with bitterness laced in each of her words.

Emma watched her wife's expression intensely. She had long since gathered that Regina had a distinct disdain for her domain.

"Can you not leave the Underworld whenever you please?" she asked.

"I can travel to any realm at will," Regina replied, though she chose not to mention that she had long since found other places interesting, especially since Emma's eyes lit up with excitement and she could guess why.

"Realms?" Emma asked with a small squeak.

"Wonderland, Neverland, Camelot, earth…" Regina listed, "and many more than I could possibly mention at once…"

A huge smile spread across the blonde's face and the brunette was torn between exasperated sigh and mirroring the adorable expression.

"I thought that you wanted to stay in the palace…"

Emma's shoulders sagged as her own words came back to her and she said, "I do…"

"But?" Regina replied with a quirked eyebrow.

"There is no 'but'," Emma said somewhat defensively, "I can just spend the day in the library…"

Regina pretended to roll her eyes and she asked, "which realm would you like to go to first, dear?"

"Really?" Emma perked up.

The goddess nodded and said, "I'm sure that you would enjoy any of the realms, though I would suggest not beginning with earth."

"What is earth?"

Regina waved her hand and replied, "it is a land without magic forced to adopt some strange ways as a result. After the initial novelty of seeing their technology, you're more likely to find it boring than adventurous."

Emma inclined her head in understanding, though her interest was definitely piqued, she made a mental note to ask to go there at a later date.

For now, she had a list of places that she was actually more interested in.

"I choose...Wonderland," the princess said after some rather deep consideration.

"I suppose you read that book?" Regina sighed. Isaac really did have quite the habit of romanticising in his writing, she couldn't even begin to count the number of deaths caused by someone trying to emulate the adventure of 'fictional' characters.

"I had a fully stocked library," Emma said, though she chose not to mention that she didn't really have much else to do in the White Palace. There was no sense in making Regina feel guilty.

"You should know that not all adventures in Wonderland are like Alice's, things need to be changed to make a better story."

"Like what?"

"Well...the stories are largely aimed at children so the more dangerous aspects of the realm need to be toned down for the more innocent readers," Regina said.

Emma seemed to brush off the woman's explanation, though, as she asked, "is Alice still alive?"

Regina covertly blew out a breath.

To be fair to Emma, it was impossible to go from coddled princess to fully mature adult in a matter of weeks and she had made significant progress in taking a break from training.

"She is indeed," the brunette replied, "I believe at this moment she is currently trying to save her True Love from the Red Queen."

"Can't you help her?" Emma asked.

"I could…" Hades said, she was truly beginning to miss the awkward silence right now.

"Then you should! It's not fair that any one should have to struggle for love," the younger woman shot back, with an eagerness in her voice that suggested that she would like to be there when Hades helped Alice.

"Just like fear, pain is a part of life, can you think of any story you have read which would have been improved by the appearance of a goddess there to solve all of the characters' conflicts?"

Emma furrowed her brow and replied, "but it isn't a story and they're not characters…"

"I don't think you quite understand how long I have been alive, dear, I have witnessed the deaths of generations of mortals and it is the stories they leave behind which gives them a chance at immortality. Story-telling is how humans experience reality and the gods would do them a disservice if we prevented them from experiences simply to protect them from temporary suffering. If I was to bring Cyrus to Alice in this moment, their love story would be cut short and they wouldn't have that experience bonding them together forever."

Emma nodded slowly before her mouth turned down and she asked, "then why did you save my father?"

Regina paused for a moment and lightly tapped her fingers against the table.

Truthfully, it had been a spur of the moment decision, she wasn't quite sure to this day what it had been that drew her to help that particular mortal.

"It did not seem fair that a man should prove himself a hero in two lifetimes only to lose his chance at paradise due to circumstances out of his control," Regina replied, "of course, he wasted his chance when he decided to deceive a goddess."

"He was only defending his daughter," Emma shot back, "he had no way of knowing that I would love the Underworld."

Regina opened her mouth to argue that David was still wrong, but the second part registered in her mind and she repeated, "you love the Underworld?"

Emma felt a blush creep up her neck and nodded a little sheepishly as she admitted, "I have freedom...I…"

Regina just smiled down at the table and they fell into a kind of stilted silence, though neither of them seemed to mind.

The goddess hadn't actually considered that the princess was invested in their marriage beyond the adventure that it presented, but she'd said that with such sincerity that Hades felt a sensation erupt in her stomach that could only be described as butterflies.

Instead of commenting upon this, Regina waved her hand so that a dessert appeared at each end of the table, though the brunette didn't make any move to pick up a spoon.

Finally, Regina decided that it was time to go back to what they were originally talking about as she asked, "do you wish to go to Wonderland tomorrow?"

The princess looked up and Regina felt the now familiar butterflies flare again at the all too cute sight of the other woman with her mouth stuffed with chocolate cake.

Emma swallowed and allowed herself a moment to think about it. There was a certain tiredness in her muscles that told her that she wasn't likely to want to wake up early the next morning. It sounded oddly nice to just have a day to do nothing, though it was good to know that it wasn't all she was allowed to do.

"I believe I would benefit from a day of relaxation," Emma replied.

Regina nodded in understanding and said, "you can obviously read anything in the library."

The blonde smiled and fell back into silence as they moved their spoon to finish their dessert.

A sigh escaped Emma's lips as she snapped her book shut and reached over to grab the next one from the pile she had amassed from her first sweep around the extensive library.

It was refreshing after Tartarus to get lost in a book, especially since reminding herself that the characters she idealised were not perfect. As heroic as they were, she was fairly sure they wouldn't have been able to handle Phobos at all, let alone escape him (granted she had the help of a goddess).

A smile tugged at the corner of her lips when her mind registered which book she had picked up.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

It was one of the first books her mother had read to her and she'd lost count of the number of times she had become lost in its pages since then.

Its magic and wonder was what she dreamed of for so many years and she always imagined herself returning home just like Alice did from a place where literally anything could happen.

Her smile fell and she ran her fingers over the embossed letters of the book's cover.

There was a distinct chance that she would never see them again.

The next time she saw her father may be in paradise (assuming he could manage another heroic life with his remaining time) and her mother would probably be in the Fields of Asphodel.

Emma was fairly certain that she would be able to convince Regina to spare Snow from the Fields of Punishment, but with the hatred the goddess clearly held for the Charmings, it seemed unlikely that she would ever be persuaded to allow them both into Elysium.

"Books are often more interesting when you open them."

Emma's eyes shot up to the goddess leaning against the bookcase. She shifted in her seat, hoping that she wasn't blushing as hard as she was pretty sure that she was.

"I was just thinking," Emma said.

Regina just smiled at the mortal and her eyes fell down to the book clutched in her hands.

"Are you regretting your decision to forgo visiting Wonderland this morning?" Regina asked, grateful that she didn't have to explain that the only logical reason she was here was because she missed the blonde was curious whether she had actually spent hours in the library.

"Oh no...I've enjoyed today, it's just that...this is the first book my mother ever gave me. It just seems strange that I should have the chance to visit Wonderland decades later," Emma explained.

The jump in Emma's jaw at the mention of her mother didn't escape Regina's attention and she decided that it was time to admit something she had been stewing on since the previous day's dinner conversation.

"I must admit, I've come to understand how your parents may have believed that their actions were justified, though I certainly do not agree with their methods."

Emma's eyes widened and she took a moment to look at her wife in shock, she never thought she would hear Regina say something even slightly complimentary about her parents.

"Really?" was the only thing the princess could think to say.

"The need to protect a child is a basic truth of the human condition, especially in your parents' case. They believed they were unable to conceive. I can grant that perhaps they would never have considered that there was a chance that I would never take a defenceless child to the Underworld in their zeal to protect you. And, I did of course change my mind…" Regina trailed off.

Emma frowned at the uncertainty on the other woman's face and she launched into a reply before she even had a chance to think it through.

"I don't blame you for any of it. I understand that without your intervention I never would have been born at all. My parents should have attempted to make another deal the moment that they discovered that they were going to have a child."

"You have always been oddly calm about all of this," Regina muttered.

She had been looking for signs that her wife wasn't as happy as she claimed to be since she knew she would send her back the moment she got wind of Emma being unhappy.

The goddess had also heard the term 'Stockholm Syndrome' while travelling to earth and she'd initially thought that it could perhaps explain why Emma appeared so content in the Underworld.

However, there was an undeniable fact that Emma was uncontrollably excited from the moment she had arrived in this realm.

Her attempts at disinterest in the first week or so meant that Regina was fairly sure that Emma couldn't have formed any kind of dependency upon her and she certainly wasn't afraid of the goddess.

There was also the fact that Regina couldn't think of a single thing that she wouldn't give the princess should she ask for it.

Even if she wanted to leave and never come back, Regina knew that she would give her that no matter how much it would inevitably hurt.

Frankly the thought terrified the goddess.

The only other being she had ever felt she would do anything for, other than her daughter, was Ruby, but there was still a part of her that found the idea of a 'new Persephone' ridiculous, especially if this woman was supposedly the daughter of the two mortals she had spent decades despising.

Emma attempted a smile but it faltered.

Regina let out a little sigh and said, "you miss your parents, don't you?"

Emma's shoulders slumped and she replied, "I know that by taking your side, I shouldn't be thinking about them, but I know they had their reasons…"

"There is no need to take sides, dear," Regina said, "I am sorry if you were given that impression…"

The blonde looked at her wife and managed a full smile. She really did love the softer side of the goddess especially knowing that she wouldn't be showing this if anyone else was around.

"Yes I do miss them...I haven't even seen them…"

Regina nodded slowly and she didn't even have to think about her next move.

She knew that there was no way that she would deny the woman when she knew that there was a way that she could help her.

With a flick of her wrist, the way to help appeared in her hand and she stepped forward to give it to the princess.

"It's a looking glass, it will show you anything you wish to see, all you need to do is imagine it," Regina explained.

Emma turned the deceptively normal mirror over in her hand, trying to find anything remarkable about it.

A little burst of electricity flickered at her fingers and she knew that it must be magic.

"Thank you," she breathed.

Regina took a step back and said, "I'll give you some privacy, but please remember that if there is anything you want, you need only ask."

"I'll be sure to keep that in mind...err…"

Regina let out a little laugh and said, "you can call me Regina, dear."

Emma's smile broadened. It had never occurred to her that she had never needed to address her wife before, which was laughable considering all the time they had spent together at this point.

"Well thank you Regina, I'll be sure to keep that in mind."

Regina took a moment to simply look at her wife's genuine smile, before she turned on her heels and walked towards her throne room. She knew what would likely happen next and she wanted to be sure that Emma would be able to find her.

Once she was satisfied that she was alone, she brought the looking glass back up and took a few seconds to try and remember what her parents looked like.

The electricity sparked across her skin again but rather than looking at her own anxious face, the image morphed into the familiar sight of her parents standing in their throne room, though there appeared to be no one else there.

She swallowed hard and ran her finger over their faces, before she realised that their lips were moving and she forced herself to listen.

"...Over a month, David. It has been over a month since she was taken and we are no closer to finding a way to bring our daughter back. Do you really think that I am going to just calm down?" Snow White exclaimed.

"You know that I understand, Snow," the blond replied with a slight quiver in his voice as he brought a hand up to cup her cheek, "I am just as anxious to bring Emma back as you are, but we may need to start looking at other options…"

Snow pushed his hand away as she replied, "you expect to make a deal with Rumpelstiltskin? It is misguided deals that got us into this situation in the first place!"

"Blue has not offered any help and whatever he asks will be worth having our child returned to us...who knows what is happening to her?! She is being tortured for our mistakes, Snow and you can't expect us to have another sleepless night imagining what Hades is doing to her."

Snow brought her bottom lip into her mouth, clearly trying to hold back tears, "perhaps you're right…"

Emma shot to her feet and dropped the mirror which became blank the moment it lost contact with her skin.

The Dark One was a monster she had been warned about by the guards.

She would have thought he was just a myth to make children behave but her parents just confirmed he was real.

There was also the fact that her parents didn't exactly have the greatest track record when it came to keeping deals. She doubted that the infamous imp would have a soft side like her wife did.

Her eyes darted around the library as she considered her next move.

She could ask Regina to stop them or maybe send a message with Dawn?

However, it hit her that she could be the one to stop them!

Her hands shook slightly at the thought of returning to the palace that was once her prison though she had a feeling that they wouldn't be able to trap her again now that she knew the truth and knew where she would rather live.

She rushed out of the library and into the throne room without much thought to find Regina sat on the throne holding an unopened book, obviously too anxious to actually start reading as she waited. The moment Emma walked in, she placed the book aside and rose to her feet.

"I need to visit my parents," Emma announced with no hesitation.

"I'm assuming that you saw they were about to do something idiotic?" the brunette sighed.

Emma frowned when she noticed that there was a certain amount of hurt on her wife's face and she thought that she wanted her to stay almost made Emma change her mind.

As much as she loved her parents, they were far more difficult to be around than her wife.

"Well I won't be gone for too long, you did promise me a trip to Wonderland," Emma replied.

Regina let out a breath she'd been unwillingly holding and opened her palms so that Hecate's seeds appeared and she handed the bag to Emma.

"Eating one seed will take you anywhere you wish to go. Simply eat another if...when you want to come back here," Regina explained.

Emma nodded as she took the bag. She was really beginning to appreciate magic.

She took a seed out to inspect it, before she said, "I shall see you in a week then."

Regina's lips turned up, she had expected Emma to be gone a lot longer.

"I look forward to it, dear," she replied.

The princess was about to place the seed in her mouth but she thought better of it as she leaned forward to steal a chaste kiss from the goddess before she swallowed the seed.

The brunette's mouth hung open as she watched the younger woman disappear, not even wondering whether Emma could still see her as she placed her hand to her tingling lips, wondering whether that had actually happened.

Emma didn't see though as she was too focused on her body dematerialising to inspect Regina's reaction.

"It should only be a two-day journey," David announced.

Emma allowed herself a couple moments to catch her breath and adjust to the fact that she was now in a different throne room.

However, her facilities kicked in when her eyes fell onto two backs covered in travelling cloaks moving towards the doors.

She moved quickly to block the exit before Snow could reply to her husband.

Emma threw her arms out and said, "you don't need to go!"

Snow and David exchanged a look with their mouths gaped open.

A second later, Snow reached up with a shaking hand covered in a glove and placed it against her daughter's cheek as if this would prove that she was actually there.

"Emma?" she breathed almost reverently.

Emma just smiled and just surged forward to envelop her parents in a crushing hug.

Chapter Text

Chapter seven

Emma leaned against the dining table as she crossed her arms and looked at her parents expectantly, but Snow and David just continued to stare at her.

She’d led them away from the throne room and into the royal dining room so that she could make sure no guards would walk in, but it was becoming rather unsettling that neither of them had said anything, though she could understand that they needed some time to process everything.

Finally, Snow asked, “h-how are you here?” having decided that this had gone on too long to be considered some kind of joint hallucination.

“I told Regina that I was worried about both of you and she gave me a looking glass so that I could see you. When I heard that you were planning to visit Rumpelstiltskin, I asked Regina to send me here so I could stop you,” Emma explained.

Snow and David each stared blankly at their daughter before Snow repeated, “Regina?”

Emma stopped herself from rolling her eyes, her mother really did have a habit of picking up on the most insignificant details.

“As she said on my birthday, her true name is Regina,” Emma replied slowly, careful not to say ‘Hades’ since she felt that her mother was close to tears.

“It’s not important,” David interrupted before his wife could question why Emma was comfortable calling the goddess by her real name. 

The princess shot her father a grateful smile before she asked, “so what is important?”

David slipped his hand into Snow’s and gave it a quick squeeze before he replied, “I suppose we have been worrying about what Hades has been doing to torture you…”

Emma frowned, it was difficult to think about torture and her wife as synonymous, but she was sure that her developing feelings were not what her parents wanted to hear about.

“I have not been tortured at all, at first I just explored the Underworld…”

Snow felt her throat constrict at the thought of her baby wandering around the domain of Hades.

Without protection, who knows what could have happened to her, even if the goddess had no intention of harming her purposefully.

“Well you’re home now,” she said and removed her hand from her husband’s so that she could take a step towards Emma, but she faltered when the princess didn’t uncross her arms to allow herself to be hugged.

“I am returning in a week,” Emma replied.

Snow’s heart clenched, but a comforting thought crossed her mind and she just waved her hand, “a week will be enough time for Blue to stop whatever magic will force you to go back there.”

“So that I will be trapped here for another twenty-one years?” Emma shot back with more venom in her words than either parent had ever heard from her mouth.

“It would be for your safety,” David supplied when Snow shot him a look that said that she had no words.

Emma just shook her head, she really didn’t want to get into an argument about whether the Underworld was safe since she was pretty sure that neither royal would believe her.

“There is nothing forcing me to return to the Underworld,” she replied, deciding that it would be unwise to tell them about the seeds since they were liable to try and take them from her, “and I am more than willing to leave before the week has ended if I see any sign that you are attempting to keep me here again.”

Snow and David were stunned into silence by the sheer conviction they had never heard from her before.

Freedom had clearly changed her, they just didn’t think she would find that freedom in the Underworld.

The couple silently agreed that a change of topic was in order and that they could discuss this later in privacy.

For a few silent moments, the parents simply stared at the woman they had been so afraid that they would never see again. In the space of a few months, it appeared that she had changed drastically, and it pained both of them to think that the reason was because she was finally happy.

Snow made a split second decision to follow through with something she had imagined doing for a long time when she thought about no longer being in Hades’s debt.

“Perhaps while you’re here, a ball to celebrate your birthday would be in order? It would be the perfect opportunity to finally introduce you to other kingdoms?” the brunette said, somewhat timidly.

Emma smiled at the prospect.

It was a part of being royalty that she had never been able to experience since her parents feared that if she interacted with people from other kingdoms, she would have more of a desire to leave.

As a result, she was fairly sure that no one knew she existed.

“That sounds wonderful, mother,” Emma said with a sigh of relief, she had been sure that it would take a lot more to convince her parents that she would be better off in the Underworld, though she was fairly sure that this wouldn’t be the end of that conversation.

“You should go and change, sweetheart,” Snow announced after a moment, “I’ll have a meal prepared for us and we can talk more about your...adventure…”

The blonde nodded eagerly and pushed herself away from the table, wondering whether her old clothes collection actually had anything that she would want to wear.

Once Snow was sure that her daughter was out of earshot, she turned to her husband and said, “we must send word to the Blue Fairy immediately.”

“But Emma said…” David began, but he was cut off by the brunette.

“Hades has clearly infected her mind and sent her here to taunt us.”

“Snow,” the king let out an exasperated sigh, “is there a chance that Emma could simply be happy?”

“You cannot truly believe that it is our daughter’s destiny to be betrothed to a goddess! She is still a child and we have a duty to protect her.”

David closed his eyes as he thought this through before he just nodded in agreement, he could admit that this wasn’t the future he had planned for his child.

“Perhaps you’re right, I will send a messenger before we take dinner.”

What neither of them were aware of was the fact that the blonde princess stood just outside of the door and had heard every word they had uttered.

Emma rolled her eyes and clutched the pouch of seeds at her belt. She considered eating one in that moment to alleviate the risk of becoming a permanent resident of the White Palace again.

However, she forced herself to consider that her parents were simply afraid, it was only natural that they couldn’t understand her adoration for the Underworld or its ruler.

At the sound of footsteps, she moved towards her former chambers, though she resolved that she would need to find a way to convince her parents that she would be much happier with Regina.


Graham had never been so sure that he was in hell until now.

One of his patented squeaks escaped his mouth as Hades swung blindly at her target.

He just about raised his blade to block her attack, but he stumbled backwards as she swung again.

“Your majesty…” he tried, though his protests went unheard as she continued to use him as an immortal practice dummy.

He held his breath as he felt his foot hit a raised bit of tile and he knew what would happen next, though it didn’t prepare him for colliding with the pillar before he tumbled to the ground.

Graham’s sword clattered down with him, though Regina didn’t seem to notice as he brought his hands up to shield his face. She was about to make another swing before someone grabbed her arm and she blinked out of the fugue state she had found herself enter in her frustration.

“This seems rather cruel, mother,” Dawn announced and the older woman panted at her cowering servant who peeked through his fingers to see who his saviour was.

Regina rolled her eyes, but her sword still disappeared in a cloud of purple smoke, “he is immortal,” she replied flatly.

“He is barely able to function as it is,” the younger brunette argued and watched as her mother’s shoulders slumped in defeat. 

“Very well you may leave.”

Graham pushed himself to his feet and took a deep breath or two before he stumbled away, just about managing to muster a ‘thank you’ as he passed Dawn.

Dawn failed to hide a smirk before she turned her attention back to her mother with a quirked eyebrow.

“I thought that you should be in the Enchanted Forest,” Regina said.

“Well when I heard a tavern abuzz with the news of a ball for the mystery heir of the White Kingdom, it wasn’t difficult to guess what must have happened. I thought it only right to come and see how you are,” Dawn explained.

“I’m fine,” Regina shot back far too quickly to be even remotely believable.

“Is that why you were channelling your anger towards Graham?” Dawn asked and her eyes drifted to the spot he had been curled up on earlier. She was beginning to understand why he was so much more relaxed when Emma was here.

“And who do you think I would be angry at?”

“Emma...or more accurately, the idea of Emma, because she chose to leave,”

Regina opened her mouth before she closed it and shook her head then said, “I knew what would happen when I gave her the mirror, it is foolish of me…”

“Miss her?”

Regina clenched her jaw and looked away from her daughter, “I suppose that could be one way to put it.”

“It is normal to miss your wife, mom,” the younger brunette replied.

“She is hardly my wife,” Hades said with a frown, though the feeling of the kiss rushed through her mind, not for the first time in the last couple days since Emma left.

“She technically is, but if you are worried about the legitimacy of your relationship, you could take steps to help her see how much you value her,”

“And how would I go about such a thing?” Regina sighed and finally looked back at the younger immortal.

“Take her on a date,” Dawn replied with a shrug.

“You have spent too much time on earth, dear.”

“And you know that she would love it there, it has the benefit of not being hampered by courtship customs you couldn’t possibly fulfil whilst her parents hate you,” Dawn replied with a little chuckle.

“So you are suggesting that the ruler of the Underworld takes the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming to earth for a date?” Regina asked rather skeptically.

“Yes I am suggesting that you put your foolish pride aside and take Emma out so that she can understand how you feel about her. Once she does, you will see just how eager she is to be with you.”

Regina swallowed hard. The thought of Emma knowing how she felt was both exhilarating and terrifying, but there was still something else that would cling to her mind until Emma returned.

“...And what if her parents are able to convince her that she should not want to be with me? If she doesn’t return, I will not be able to even try and ask her to come back.”

Dawn smiled slightly at the older woman, as strange as it was to see her mother like this, she kind of liked it.

The uncertainty meant that there was a chance for something more than she had ever strived for.

“Would you feel better if I attended the ball to check on her? I’m fairly certain I will be able to find a way in even without Devin,” Dawn asked.

Regina let out a little sigh of relief and finally made complete eye contact with her fellow brunette as her muscles finally relaxed, “thank you,” she breathed.

Dawn smiled back before she furrowed her brow as something occurred to her and she asked, “you know, you could have simply checked on the princess in the looking glass instead of scaring Graham...even more than usual…?”

The goddess let out a little laugh and replied, “well I thought about that, but I imagined your reaction if you were to ever find out that I had been using it to check on you in the first few months you had been gone.”

Dawn grimaced at the thought and nodded as she said, “I can see why that would deter you.”

Regina smiled slightly at the reaction before she asked, “perhaps you could stay for dinner before you return to the Enchanted Forest?”

“Of course, mother,” she replied, deciding that there was no point in mentioning that this would be the first time that Emma wouldn’t be present at their meal in a few weeks.

After all, Regina already knew that she missed Emma. 


Emma drank deeply before she placed the empty glass on a passing servant’s tray who she shot an appreciative smile.

She again pulled at the incredibly uncomfortable bedazzled gown and let out a frustrated sigh. It felt like it had been a long time since she had worn anything with a skirt and she honestly couldn’t wait to get out of it as soon as possible.

First though, she would need to get through her birthday ball.

It had been two hours of greeting nobles who were shocked at her mere existence, while confirming her parents’ story that she had needed to confine herself to the palace due to a sickness that had only recently been cured by the Blue Fairy.

She knew that many would believe her insane if she told them the truth about Hades and her marital status. But she still didn’t like how quick Snow and David was to suggest the cover story.

“I don’t believe I have ever seen a princess so downtrodden at her own party.”

Emma’s eyes shot up from playing with her dress in a feeble attempt to improve her comfort and she tilted her head at a man standing before her. She had been sure that retreating to the corner would have given her a longer respite from the type of party she had always dreamed of having while she read alone as a child.

“I suppose, I did not expect this to be tedious,” Emma replied.

The man nodded slowly and said, “I could not agree more, but alas, it is the burden of the ruling class.”

Emma allowed herself a moment for her eyes to travel over him.

He was certainly attractive, but nothing compared to her wife. Of course, she wasn’t allowed to admit that she was married, so she figured that she could just entertain what almost certainly qualified as flirting.

“Well it seems to me that you have the luxury of being able to leave, I do not have the same opportunities.”

“I don’t really see how I have the option to leave a ball celebrating the birth of one so breath-taking,” he shot back with a smile that Emma was sure had wooed many women before her. 

The princess stopped herself from rolling her eyes and continued to indulge the man, “I suppose if you have no choice but to stay, you may as well tell me your name.”

He instantly stood up straighter at the clear invitation to continue the conversation before he made a show of bowing as he grabbed her hand and said, “Prince Killian Jones of the North Netherlands.”

Emma watched him with a quirked eyebrow, though she didn’t pull her hand away from his. She was sure that if this had happened just over a month ago, she would have melted at his smile, but as she was now, she found that the whole display was just mildly amusing.

“Princess Emma White of the White Kingdom,” she replied rather unnecessarily, as he placed his lips lightly against her knuckles and rose back so that he was standing, releasing her hand as he did so.

“I’m well aware, your highness,” he chuckled before he added, “it was on the invitation.”

Emma chuckled too at this. Even if she didn’t find this conversation particularly riveting, she could admit that it was nice to talk to someone who didn’t incessantly ask her about herself.

A comfortable silence passed between them, before Killian perked up again as his next line seemed to hit him and she said, “perhaps if you truly find this affair so insufferable, my gift to you could be suggesting an elaborate escape?”

Emma smiled at the thought of an elaborate getaway, though her mind replaced Killian with Regina and she replied, “I’m afraid that I do not wish to appear ungrateful to my parents.”

“A grateful princess?” he asked, feigning genuine shock, “I never thought I would see the day, you truly are one of a kind Emma White.”

Emma nodded and said, “that’s very charming of you, Killian Jones.”

The prince’s smile was much broader than the blonde’s as he opened his mouth to ask for a dance, before Emma’s attention was stolen by someone walking towards them.

Killian furrowed his brow at the sight of the brunette he had been sure that he would never see again.

Emma didn’t miss his scowl as he said, “you’re as radiant as ever, though I must admit I am surprised to see you in Devin’s absence.”

His brother refused to tell him why he and the woman he was sure that he would marry broke things off before marriage was ever proposed, though Killian got the distinct feeling that it was somehow her fault.

“Hello Killian, I heard that Devin declined to attend and my curiosity about the mysterious White Kingdom’s hidden princess got the better of me,” Dawn replied, though she was aware that it didn’t 100% make sense but she also knew that Killian wouldn’t interrogate it too much while he was unwittingly wooing the wife of Hades.

Said wife of Hades was currently looking on with shock which was quickly morphing into relief at a reminder of what she now considered to be her true home.

“How rude of me,” Killian said as if he just remembered that there was someone else here, however, Emma did notice the way that he narrowed his eyes at the brunette, “Emma White please meet Dawn Colter.”

Emma had to stop herself frowning at the mention of the surname, it made sense that she would make one up while in  the Enchanted Forest.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Emma managed to get out without rousing too much suspicion.

Dawn smirked at the princess before she turned back to Killian and said in faux outrage, “where are your manners indeed, leaving two ladies in thirst.”

Killian opened his mouth to point out that she was hardly a lady, but a glance at Emma made him think better of this and he instead inclined his head and said, “of course, I will be right back.”

Once he was out of ear shot, Dawn turned back to the other woman with her patented smirk before she said, “hello princess.”

Emma blew out a breath and instead of replying, she moved forward and flung her arms around the demi-goddess to bring her into a tight hug.

Dawn stood rigid for a moment before it occurred to her that since she had left for the Enchanted Forest, she had in fact missed the princess.

Still, Dawn was the first to pull back and Emma looked at her with a sheepish expression as she took a step out of her personal space.

They had never formally agreed to any level of physical contact and Dawn wasn’t exactly the hugging type.

“I missed you too Emma,” Dawn said by way of getting her to relax.

The princess opened her mouth to ask about a certain brunette she had been thinking a lot about since she had been here, but she was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder and her eyes moved to see her frowning parents.

“Who is this, sweet heart?” Snow asked.

Dawn crossed her arms over her chest and didn’t bother to hide her smirk. Honestly, how could they be so protective over a twenty-one-year-old?

Emma’s mouth just hung open as she looked between her parents on one side and Dawn on the other. She couldn’t think of a single way to justify the hug that had no doubt caught their attention. Snow and David had basically been watching her like hawks, so she couldn’t  very well say that she had met Dawn anywhere other than the Underworld.

“Can I please have a conversation with my mother in peace?” Dawn said as she dramatically threw her hands in the air in exasperation.

Snow’s grip on Emma’s shoulder tightened and she had to stop herself from audibly yelping in pain.

She risked a look at the king and queen and as expected, their expressions were completely blank.

She shook her head and said, “step-mother, Dawn.”

“Same difference,” the younger woman shrugged.

“It is a very important distinction,” Emma insisted as she finally managed to wiggle her way out of her mother’s grip so that she was standing beside Dawn,

Snow bit down hard on her bottom lip as she turned to inspect Dawn further.

It now made sense why she was so familiar, she looked like a little younger version of Hades.

At the pure disgust, Dawn could guess that the queen had finally figured out who she was and she said,”It’s lovely to meet you too, grandmother.”

Emma ran her hand across her face and sighed deeply. As much as she had missed Dawn and her personality, it was painfully obvious that her parents were not appreciating it, especially if her father’s curled lips were anything to go by.

“Why are you here?” Snow asked in a low growl with her fists clenched at her sides.

“She is my guest, mother,” Emme piped up before Dawn could say whatever retort she had prepared.

Snow not so subtly sneered at the younger brunette, but before she could say anything a male voice cut her short as Killian said, “your majesties.”

The king and queen turned to look at the prince bowing while trying to balance three wine glasses between his hands.

If it wasn’t so tense, Emma might have laughed.

“Forgive the interruption...I brought your beautiful daughter the drink she asked for.”

Emma tilted her head and realised that there was a chance that he was talking to her parents with such respect in order to properly court her. The thought was quite hilarious.

Snow considered sending Killian away so that she could continue to try and send Dawn back wherever she came from, but she decided better of it. The whole point of this event was to introduce Emma to the world with the potentially added benefit of helping her to see how the White Kingdom was preferable to the Underworld.

Sending Dawn away would only create the opportunity for a rift, especially since her daughter was so obviously comfortable around this demi-goddess.

“Please enjoy your drinks,” Snow said with a tight smile, before she grabbed her husband’s arm and pulled him away not even bothering to acknowledge Dawn as she left.

Killian stood up straight once he was sure that the king and queen were gone.

“Are your parents always so…” Killian began, but his mind failed to come up with a word that wasn’t in some way offensive.

“Insufferable?” Dawn supplied.

Killian’s eyes widened and was about to apologise for the brunette’s words but stopped when Emma laughed.

“I think Dawn meant to say strange,” Emma said after a moment when she saw his shocked expression, “and yes, they can be.”

His face morphed into a cautious smile as he tried to figure out whether she meant insufferable or strange. He didn’t think that the first night of meeting Emma was the best time to question her weird relationship with her parents.

Emma was about to reach forward and accept the glass of wine, but she was distracted by the feeling of eyes on her back and she looked over her shoulder to see her parents staring at her while muttering to each other.

She dropped her arm before her hand reached the beverage and instead grabbed Dawn by the forearm and started pulling her away.

“Excuse me,” she called when she was already too far away for Killian to object, leaving him standing dumbfounded still holding two drinks.

Emma didn’t bother to look back at him as she continued pulling Dawn out of the ballroom.

When they were finally free of the gaggle and in the courtyard, Dawn pulled her arm free and inspected it for damage.

The blonde rolled her eyes and swatted her arm down as she took a quick look around the courtyard to see one guard who was out of earshot, and probably too exhausted to try and eavesdrop.

“I think my parents are up to something,” she finally said in a hurried whisper.

Dawn nodded with a somewhat uncharacteristically sympathetic look, she didn’t even bother to mention that she could have waited until Killian had left since she was fairly sure that he would take a while to take the clear hints of Emma’s disinterest. 

“What?” she asked.

“I overheard them discussing sending for the Blue Fairy, I’m sure she will be here any day now. I cannot live another lifetime in this palace!”

Dawn placed a hand on each of the princess’s arms to stop her hyperventilating and said, “you can leave the moment you see that hypocritical bitch, just make sure that you always have one of Hecate’s seeds with you and there will be no danger.”

Emma took a couple seconds to catch her breath before she nodded, “I haven’t been without one sience I arrived here,” she said and her hand went to the bodice of her dress where she had hidden it.

“Thank you,” the princess sighed and Dawn’s hands fell away from her arms.

Dawn just nodded, though she had to stop herself from smiling. She really wished that her mother could see this moment so that she could know how much happier Emma really was in the Underworld.

“Come on, princess, we should return to your party or it may never end.”

Chapter Text

Chapter eight 

Emma’s mouth hung open as she looked around.

It was kind of overwhelming and amazing at the same time. Apart from visiting Elysium, she was sure that her senses had never been so thoroughly utilised at the same moment.

Even though she would be able to see the palace if she looked over her shoulder, there was no doubt that the village was a completely different world.

It had been two days since her birthday ball when Dawn (who her parents had reluctantly allowed her stay in the palace) had pointed out that the princess no longer had any reason to remain confined to the palace.

So, with the precaution of a disguise (no one in the village knew what their princess looked like, but her clothes would certainly rouse suspicion), Emma had just boldly walked out of the palace with Dawn with the satisfaction that no one could stop her and that she had one of Hecate’s seeds safely in her pocket if they did try.

“Princess?” Dawn whispered to gain the dumbstruck woman’s attention.

Even in servant attire, they were starting to receive questioning looks from people wondering why they were standing in a busy road, with one of them staring in awe at what they undoubtedly considered to be incredibly mundane.

Emma tore her attention away and allowed herself to be led down the crowded street towards what she could only assume was a bustling market.

As they walked, Emma asked, “what do people do here?”

“Mostly work,” Dawn replied with a shrug, “they must earn money to live.”

Emma frowned and looked around to see people moving quickly, some carrying large boxes, others appeared to be in a rush to get somewhere. She had only ever seen servants and guards move that quickly in the palace.

“That doesn’t seem fair,” Emma said as her feet halted, though this time she consciously stepped aside so that they weren’t blocking the heavily trafficked path.

“There are a lot of unfair things. These people must work to pay their taxes to pay for their monarchs’ lifestyles, it’s simply how the class system operates…”

Emma finally allowed herself to look at the palace that overlooked the village. She had long considered it a prison but she couldn’t help but wonder how many people would consider it to be like Elysium.

“Stop that.”

The blonde felt herself pulled back so that she was again looking at Dawn who was staring back at her with a certain amount of exasperation in her eyes.

“Stop what?” Emma asked.

“Stop with that guilty look, it is just how the world works. These people pay their taxes in exchange for a number of protections from their monarchs. There is obviously the potential for corruption, but Snow White and Prince Charming hardly seem the type, do they?”

The blonde looked at the ground and nodded.

She figured that this was part of the growing up that she had been told she needed to do. She didn’t exactly know a great deal about economics or class systems or generally how the world worked, but she would need to be able to deal with the way things worked as long as they weren’t in some way inherently evil.

There was also the fact that she had definitely spied children playing and adults laughing as she and Dawn continued to walk, it wasn’t as though this village was being oppressed by their king and queen.

She could guess that there were people here who wished to be the child of the king and queen but the fact that she could imagine herself being very happy in this village perhaps suggested that people wanted what they didn’t have? After all, it was possible to covet another’s life while being very happy in your own.

She was beginning to think that if she could find happiness in the Underworld of all places than anything was possible.

However, her moments of contemplation about the human condition were halted when they finally walked into the crowded market place.

She was desperate to find out what each aroma was, what each seller had in stock and whether the deals they were shouting about were worth the money.

Dawn quirked an eyebrow at the princess whose eyes were flitting between the stalls. It was truly amazing how quickly she could go from contemplating philosophical issues to being excited at the chance of new experiences.

The blonde continued to look around, there was jewellery, clothes and food and she had no idea how she was supposed to choose.

Dawn shook her head and decided that the best way to avoid wasting time was to just pull the other woman to the nearest stall displaying an array of hand-crafted jewellery.

“Wow.” Emma breathed and her hand hovered over a selection of relatively simple bracelets, she could tell that none of them had any precious stones like all of the various pieces her parents had commissioned for her over the years.

Dawn watched in fascination as the princess stared intently at the wares.

The brunette’s eyes fell onto her step-mother’s bare ring finger and she tilted her head slightly as she thought back to Regina’s statement that Emma was not really her wife. She made a mental note to bring it up later before she looked up at the middle-aged vendor stating at the princess eagerly, it must have been a slow day.

“What’s Regina’s favourite colour?” Emma finally asked.

Dawn stopped contemplating the missing ring and smiled slightly when it occurred to her why her step-mother was asking, “purple,” she replied.

Emma nodded and plucked up the band encrusted with purple stones, they certainly didn’t look like real gems, but Dawn had the distinct feeling that there was no way that Regina could care less.

“How much is this?” Emma asked with a pleasant smile.

The woman looked genuinely surprised that someone was actually buying something for a second, and Dawn was just relieved that the princess didn’t believe she could just take the product.

“Two copper coins,” the vendor replied. 

Emma frowned and she realised that she didn’t actually have any money and her step-daughter was about to reach into her own pocket to supply it before the princess did something unexpected.

She released the clasp on the diamond bracelet that Dawn cursed herself for not noticing before, it could easily place their peasant status into serious doubt.

“Could we please trade?” Emma asked as she thrust the precious piece towards the woman as if it were worthless.

The woman took a moment to quirk an eyebrow at the princess before she turned her critical eye towards the bracelet.

Even if the diamonds were fake, it was certainly worth more than two copper coins and perhaps more than she could expect to make in a week.

“You would prefer to give this Regina a simple bracelet than one that could pass for diamonds?” the woman asked, she couldn’t think of a single reason why this would benefit the blonde.

Emma shrugged as she placed one of her many birthday presents into the vendor’s hands and she replied, “I believe that she would much more like the purple over the diamond.”

The trader looked from Emma who was waiting eagerly for a response to her announcement and then back down to what she had been given as she began mentally calculating how long it would take to get to the nearest appraiser.

Without sparing the princess another look, she just nodded to signal that the deal had been accepted.

Emma bowed her head slightly and said, “thank you,” before she slipped the bracelet into her pocket next to the seed.

The vendor didn’t respond and the disguised pair began making their way through the market again,

When she was sure that the jewellery vendor wouldn’t be able to hear them, Dawn asked, “are you insane? That bracelet contain flawless diamonds from the North Netherlands, do you have any idea how much that is worth?!”

“Judging by your tone, I’m guessing a lot?” Emma replied with a shrug.

“A lot is an understatement princess, that woman will be able to buy a sizeable estate and live out her life with paid staff if she sells that to the right person! You would barely get a whole loaf of bread with the piece you traded it for!”

“Well...good. She didn’t look very happy and now she will be and I got a present for Regina.”

They stopped at a clothing stall and as Emma looked at each garment, Dawn asked, “you don’t think my mother would like a valuable diamond bracelet?”

Emma stopped her perusal of the items and looked at the other woman, she couldn’t help feeling as though this was some kind of test.

“I hardly think that diamonds are valuable to a goddess. I’m sure she would much rather have a gift that means something?” Emma asked with sudden uncertainty in her voice.

“I’m impressed,” Dawn replied and Emma visibly relaxed, “but please don’t do all your trading with your priceless jewellery, you’ll destroy the economy.”

This made the princess frown and Dawn just chuckled.

“That would be a lesson for another day, princess.”


“Stop pacing,” David called across the throne room.

Snow stopped abruptly before she huffed and then came to stand directly in front of her husband.

She threw her hands up in exasperation, though it also helped to expend the extra energy coursing through her veins.

“You know that I feel the same as you do about that girl, but as long as Emma wants her here, we cannot send her away,” David replied to the unspoken complaint.

“We still could have sent her away,” Snow shot back though she refused to make eye contact since she knew she was being rather childish. It was easier to blame the daughter of Hades for everything wrong in their life rather than admitting that perhaps Emma preferred how things were now rather than when they were ‘protecting’ her.

“They do appear to be friends, you have always said that it pained you that we were forced to deny her friendship,” David bargained.

“That woman is not her friend David!” Snow shrieked, “she is a Demi-goddess who is technically our step-granddaughter you know that is not what I meant when I said that I wished for Emma to make friends! What happens if she is somehow more powerful than the Blue Fairy?”

David sighed deeply as he thought back to the message he had yet to relay to his wife. Every time he tried to blurt it out, he would think back to the way Emma had smiled with Dawn at the ball, he was most certain that he hadn’t seen her that happy in all her life. If the daughter could make her smile like that, he had to wonder what she looked like around Hades herself.

“It shouldn’t matter, the Blue Fairy is not coming,” he muttered only just about loud enough so that his wife could hear him.

Snow stepped away from him and spat out, “what?!”

David bit the inside of his cheek as the woman’s nostrils flared, he was sure that he had never seen her this angry and frankly he wasn’t sure whether he had the energy to argue with Snow for their daughter’s biggest opportunity at happiness.

He was still trying to reconcile the fact that Emma’s happy ending could be in the Underworld, which would be a lot easier if his wife would just relax for once. 

“She refused to defy a goddess twice, she is lucky to be alive, as are we…”

“You believe we were lucky to have our child taken from us?!” She shouted with her face scrunched up. “She is a child, David! Who knows what Hades had done to make her so...compliant!”

“Snow, please calm down,” David whispered when he noticed a couple of guards taking ‘covert’ looks from the doorway.

“No I will not calm down! We must find a way to bring Blue here tonight so that this whole ordeal can be over.”

David crossed his arms and was about to take the opportunity to state his argument, before a guard ran in and bowed as he kept his eyes purposefully away from the monarchs’ faces.

Snow took one last second for her anger to shoot at her husband before she turned to the guard and asked, “what is it?”

“As you instructed, your highness, I went to get the princess for dinner but she is not in her chambers, or the library or the stable…”

“And her...companion?” Snow asked.

The guard’s frown deepened before he replied, “I have not seen her either…”

Snow audibly huffed, but still said, “thank you, you may leave.”

The man seemed too excited for an out to further question as he scurried his way out of the throne room.

As soon as he was gone, David said, “there is no reason that she is not allowed to leave the palace, Snow.”

“She is only here until the end of the week and she is choosing to spend her time with the woman she can see whenever she wishes!”

“Then perhaps we should give her a reason to wish to be with us by not threatening her happiness,” David shot back.

Snow narrowed her eyes at the man, but the blond held her gaze steadily.

“If her happiness is with Hades, then I’m not sure I can do that, David,” she said and looked down at the ground so that David couldn't see her will beginning to wane. Honestly, it was killing her that Emma was so much happier without her.

David smiled sadly at the woman who looked close to tears. If he wasn’t sure that she would push him away, he would have gone to place a hand on her arm in an attempt to comfort her.

“We need to communicate with our daughter and find out what she really wants rather than telling her,” he said instead of moving over to the queen.

Snow didn’t look up and just said, “I have a headache, I believe I should retire to bed early. Please tell me when Emma returns.”

The king just sighed in response though she had already begun walking away without waiting for a reply from her husband.


Sometimes Regina wasn’t quite sure why she missed Olympus.

Being here no longer felt like home. It was more like some place she once wished she could return to but not only came to for necessary meetings with her family every couple hundred years or so.

Currently, it was the place to find Hecate since she’d found her friend’s abode empty.

Usually, she would have simply given up and returned to the Underworld rather than further seek out Mal in Olympus. Today though, she couldn’t handle returning to Graham’s company.

As she swept up the steps to find her friend, she could feel eyes on her as she did every time she came here.

It never ceased to surprise her that the people she had once called family had so quickly turned against her when her sister decided that she would become Hades. Plus those who were born in the centuries after seemed to think of her as a villain in much the same way that many mortals seemed to.

“Regina?” Someone asked behind her and she closed her eyes in frustration when she recognised the voice.

She turned around with a tight smile and said, “hello Persephone.”

Ruby returned with a similar smile as she inspected her ex-fiancé, she usually would have more time to mentally prepare for running into Hades since her visits to Olympus had almost all been planned.

“It’s been a long time…”

“Indeed it has,” Regina replied, very much wishing that she could simply walk away like she would have if this was Graham she was talking to.

However, Ruby was different. Over the years, the intensity of her feelings had lessened slowly, but it was a very slow process (and certainly slower than it had been for Ruby). However, she had to admit that when she looked at her today, she didn’t feel the same pit in her stomach that she had felt the last time they had seen each other. The only variable was that this was the first time that they were both married to other people.

Persephone rocked on her heels slightly and then said, “I’ve heard that you have taken a wife?”

Regina had forgotten how quickly news spread across Olympus, she just nodded.

“And she’s mortal?” Ruby asked.

Regina narrowed her eyes and said, “yes Emma is isn’t as though an immortal has never been with a mortal…”

“This is different,” the other immortal whispered back feverently, “you took a mortal from her home and forced her to marry you…”

“I didn’t…” Regina trailed off. It was true that was technically what’s happended, but it hadn’t felt like that whenever she was around Emma. “I don’t see how this is any of your business.”

“I had no idea that the Underworld had changed you so much, Gina.”

“Don’t call me that,” the goddess hissed back.

“Regina?” Another divine said from behind them and Hades turned around to be reminded of what she was actually here and she also finally realised that the two of them had been receiving stares as they discussed her new wife.

Regina looked at the ground, this was the first time that she wasn’t happy to run into Ruby. Even if it hurt when she saw her happy with another, she was always grateful to have had the opportunity to have talked with her. This time, however, she had just found the entire interaction awkward and infuriating.

How dare she even have an opinion on her actions?! She had lost that right when she had married Belle!

She didn’t even bother looking over her shoulder at her ex as she silently followed Hecate to a more private place away from the stares.

About five minutes later, she arrived in a somewhat secluded area and after making sure that no one was within ear-shot, Mal said, “you must truly be missing your wife to have come here…”

Regina shrugged and replied, “Graham was becoming insufferable.”

“Has he ever been...sufferable? Besides, I was under the impression that he only talks to you when it is absolutely necessary…” 

Regina just nodded rather than verbally confirming her assumption.

“And that is precisely the problem, isn’t it?” The other goddess realised, “you have become accustomed to having someone who enjoys your company.”

Regina really wanted to argue that she was wrong, though she decided that there was no point in lying to her friend. Hecate knew that there was no other reason that she would have voluntarily come to Olympus if she wasn’t unusually more lonely.

“I will admit thatI have grown accustomed to having company and with Emma and Dawn in the Enchanted Forest, I’m…”


Regina grimaced, though her silence told Mal that she agreed with her.

“She will be back soon, she asked me to go to Wonderland with her…” Regina said with an uncertain waver in her voice.

“So your issue is that you love your wife?” Hecate asked after she inspected her friend for a second.

“Not yet,” Regina replied truthfully, “though I do miss her and it somehow makes the boredom worse…”

“And she will be back in the Underworld in two days and then you will be able to finally come to terms with the fact that you are developing strong feelings for a mortal.”

“But what is the point?!” Regina exploded, “even if I will love her, she will have no choice but to leave me!”

“If she is the woman from the Fate’s prophecy…”

“Do you honestly believe that mentioning the Fates right now would be the best way to improve my mood?” Regina asked with a scowl.

“We both know that there is only one way to improve your mood,” Mal replied with a chuckle, not even flinching when her friend shot her a death glare, “I’m confident that you can make it through two days of her absence, though I can’t see how an altercation with your ex would help matters.”

“I would hardly call that an altercation,” Regina shot back, even if she couldn’t think of an alternative word for what happened with Ruby. 

“It certainly looked like one to your audience.”

Regina sighed and said, “I’m beginning to regret my decision to seek out your company.”

“Your options are very limited at the moment, Regina, I don’t believe that you are in any position to complain.”

“I’ll complain in two days then,” Regina replied, though she made no attempt to leave.


“I may not be as hungry as I first thought.”

Dawn just smirked at the blonde across the table, the princess had been all too eager to see the inside of the local tavern, but between the smoke, alcohol and food she had never smelled before, and the general rabble of the crowded pub, it was obvious that she was finding this to be much more overwhelming than the market.

Dawn followed to where Emma’s eyes had gone before she had cringed and claimed that she wasn’t hungry. A few men were openly staring at her and the Demi-goddess couldn’t help but wonder what they would do if they were to find out that she was their princess. 

“What happened to that fearlessness?” Dawn asked instead of announcing her step-mother’s title to the whole tavern.

Emma perked up slightly as she thought of something and she said, “I’m sure that they would be afraid if I mentioned my wife’s name.”

Dawn laughed and replied, “I’m sure you could defend yourself without broadcasting your wife’s name.”

Emma’s left thumb unconsciously came to her ring finger before she looked down and frowned at it. 

It would be much easier if she had a way to show everyone that she was already happily taken.

Her ruminations were interrupted by the arrival of a tall brunette coming over to them with the obligatory welcoming smile as she asked, “what can I get you two ladies?” 

Dawn took a moment to smirk at the confusion on her companion’s face, before she said, “why don’t you just surprise us…”

“Lily,” the woman supplied before she turned on her heels so that she could fill their orders.

“How do you know what you just ordered?” Emma said with her mouth gaped slightly open, the thought of not knowing exactly what her next meal would be was mildly unsettling to her.

“I think that this will be the most fun way for you to experience peasant life...what are you looking at?” 

Emma blinked out of the deep thought that she had drifted into before she looked back over to her step-daughter and said, “...she looks really familiar…”

“How is that even remotely possible?” The brunette asked and craned her neck to get a better look at the woman preparing their drinks at the bar.

Emma shook her head as she thought back to the ball and all of the servers but her mind came back blank. Plus, there was the fact that the waitress’s name was such a major reason why she had felt something sparking a memory in her mind.

Finally, realisation crashed down upon her and she whispered, “it can’t be…”

“What can’t be?” Dawn asked, now thrown by the serious expression on the princess’s face.

Before Emma could explain, the woman in question came back over holding two tankards of what Emma assumed was ale, which she placed down onto the table.

“Your soups will be arriving soon,” she added and was about to walk away until an unexplainable force seemed to pull her back and she looked straight at Emma and said, “I’m sorry, but you seem very familiar…”

Emma nodded and replied, “I believe that we may have met as children?”, rather than saying her name since she was somewhat uncertain as to whether it was worth blowing her cover in the event that it was not who she thought she was.

Lily frowned and looked over to Dawn to check whether she was also familiar before her eyes fell back onto Emma when she decided that she wasn’t.

Finally, she blanched and asked, “Princess Emma?”

Dawn’s mouth fell open.

However, she closed it when she noticed that they were now catching the attention of more than just the leering drunkards and she cleared her throat by way of pointing this out to the other two women. 

“We can talk in the backroom,” Lily offered when Emma cringed under the locals’ attention.

Emma stood to follow her with a grateful smile but Dawn hopped to her feet and grabbed the older woman’s arm to whisper, “care to explain, princess?”

Emma tilted her head at her step-daughter. Did she sound worried?

“She is the daughter of one of the palace’s former servants. My parents dismissed her mother...I never found out why…”

Dawn sighed and released the princess’s arm so that she could follow the waitress.

It made sense that Emma would want to find out what happened to her childhood friend but Dawn didn’t like the thought that she had more tying her to the Enchanted Forest than just her parents.

She resisted the unproductive urge to pull Emma out of the tavern and just followed her to the backroom in the hopes of hearing Lily’s story.

Chapter Text

Chapter nine

"Why is it that you are always sighing?"

Emma blinked and looked up from the words she had been staring at but not reading.

The ten-year-old was used to boredom, but she wasn't used to studying without her tutor present.

Her session had been cancelled when her tutor received word that her daughter had gone into labour, leaving Emma to continue her list of reading. Though it just made her think about the fact that the woman got to go down to the village full of people who didn't even know that they had a living princess.

Her eyes fell onto a brunette leaning against the bookshelf next to her desk in the library.

"I sigh because I'm bored, Lily," Emma replied as she turned her whole body to look at her friend more fully as she allowed the book to fall shut. "You cannot fathom how many times I have read this book," she added.

"Fathom?" Lily asked with a smirk.

Emma sighed deeply in faux exasperation before she replied, "I spend all of time reading, I know a lot of words."

"Well...who says that you're only allowed to read?" Lily asked.

"There could not possibly be anything in the palace that could excite me," Emma shrugged, though she did stand from her desk to put some distance between herself and the book.

"Perhaps there is something outside of the palace that could excite you?" Lily suggested as she pushed herself away from the bookshelf so that she could take a step closer to her friend, "I'm supposed to meet my mother soon in the village, you should come with me."

Emma smiled at the prospect, before her face fell and she shook her head, "my mother and father said that I cannot leave under any circumstances."

"But why?" Lily whined.

She had been frustrated increasingly the longer she watched Emma in forced introversion. At first, the generous pay in exchange for the discretion regarding the princess's existence had seemed like a rather simple ask. Though it was never explicitly stated, a part of that deal seemed to be that Lily would spend time with Emma since the king and queen were almost constantly pushing her to do so.

It had been awkward at first since it was obvious that Emma had no experience with interacting with children her own age.

It didn't take long for Lily to form a real friendship with the princess but it was only becoming harder to stick to the agreement to encourage Emma to have fun in the palace.

Emma was about to explain why she couldn't leave until it occurred to her that she had no idea why it was she had to spend her day in the library rather than exploring.

"I suppose I don't know why, but I assume that my parents must have a good reason for keeping me here…"

"You've never thought about it have you?" Lily asked when she registered the unevenness in her defense of her parents.

"I have to trust that my parents are doing this to give me my best chance. I think about crossing the boundary all the time…"

"You know that no one in the village knows that you exist, how is that in the interest of your best chance?" Lily shot back and threw out her arms in frustration.

Emma's shoulders slumped and her voice cracked when she replied, "I...I don't know…"

Lily shook her head and grabbed one of her friend's hands and began trying to pull her as she said, "there is so much more than this palace, come to the village with me…"

They didn't get more than a few steps before someone cleared their throat.

Emma's eyes shot up and she pulled her hand away from Lily's and she stuttered out, "Mrs Lucas…"

The older woman, who was affectionately known as 'Granny', narrowed her eyes at the ten-year-old brunette.

As Snow White's tutor when she was younger, she was one of the few who was trusted with the truth regarding why Emma was not allowed to leave the palace.

She continued to stare at Lily as she said, "I received word that my daughter was mistaken as to the true signs of labour. I thought that seeing as we both have some free time on our hands, princess, that you would benefit from our usual session."

Emma nodded a little too enthusiastically and went back over to her desk as Lily stayed rooted in her spot under the tutor's critical gaze.

The servant's daughter looked utterly terrified and Granny just shook her head at her before she could open her mouth to defend her actions. The child's mentality was simply too dangerous.

"Emma dear, begin your reading without me for a few minutes. I must go and inform your mother that I will not be departing today," she announced and when the blonde nodded from behind her book, the tutor turned to Lily and said, "I believe you should leave the princess in peace."

Lily nodded as she allowed herself to look back at her friend who shot her a smile that was full of apology, before she proceeded to follow Granny out of the room.

Once they were in the hallway, the girl said, "please don't tell the queen, she will fire my mother!"

Granny sighed as she grabbed the girl lightly by the arm to bring her to Snow and she said, "I'm afraid I have no choice, dear."

Lily finished her story and said, "and that's why your mother fired mine. She said that you having a friend wasn't worth the risk that you would be led astray."

Emma closed her eyes and let out a breath in the hopes that it would expel her frustration, but it didn't do anything. She knew that her parents had gone to some extreme measures to protect her but the thought that they would fire a mother and daughter and take away their home was a little difficult to swallow.

"Did they at least compensate your mother before you were sent away?" Emma asked as the glimpse of hope in her parents crossed her mind.

"I believe that your father wanted to but the queen was adamant that you would only be safe when we were gone. She seemed very shaken by the thought of what could have happened if you had come with me," Lily replied. She preferred not to think about that day since the fury the monarch was nothing in comparison to her mother's feeble attempts to hide her disappointment, though she was often unsuccessful in not thinking about it.

Emma felt Dawn place her hand on her shoulder which stopped her from going on a rant about her mother. Instead, she said, "there must be something I can do to help make it up to both of you…"

Lily shrugged and replied, "I survived."

Emma was about to protest that wasn't good enough but she furrowed her brow when it hit her that there was a strangeness to the way that Lily had said that, "what about your mother?" Emma asked.

Lily shifted from foot to foot and shoved her hands into her pockets. This was not something she liked talking about, especially when she thought about it in conjunction with her mother's disappointment she couldn't help thinking about on an almost daily basis.

"We attempted to move to my grandparents' village a few years ago, we were attacked by bandits…I couldn't have done anything to stop them."

"I'm so sorry," Emma breathed out before she stepped forward to place her arms around the waitress and pull her into a hug.

Lily allowed herself to be hugged and replied, "It wasn't your fault."

Emma pulled back and her arms fell down to her side.

She took a step away and shook her head as she replied, "You and your mother would have likely been working in the palace if my parents hadn't sent you away and you would have never encountered those bandits."

"Emma…" Dawn spoke up from behind her. She was concerned that the princess was currently planning something that she may regret.

"No Dawn, I am sick of always going along with what they want for me!" Emma said just below a shout, "they claim that they were trying to protect me, but it is not acceptable to put others in danger to do so!"

Dawn wanted to argue that she shouldn't be planning something that could create a rift between herself and her parents. As much as she personally didn't care about them, she could tell that they were important to the princess and this visit was supposed to be the start of them rebuilding their relationship.

However, Dawn just remained silent. If the king and queen were going to start seeing their daughter as an adult, then perhaps she would need to tell them how she really felt?

Emma turned back to Lily and said, "would you mind coming with me to the castle? I need to talk with my parents…"

Lily's eyes widened and she looked to the tavern full of patrons waiting to be served.

"When I'm done, I promise that you will not need to work another day," Emma reassured.

Lily looked over to Dawn as if she would tell her that this was some kind of elaborate prank but the other brunette's expression didn't tell her anything, she just nodded to tell her that the princess was being serious.

"Fine, I will come with you," she finally said.

"Where have you been?" Snow asked and practically ran to the woman entering the dining room.

She had been far too anxious to actually sleep so had lain in bed to wait until she was called to dinner to discover that Emma had yet to return,

As she had waited, she found herself agonising over the possibility that her husband could be right. An Emma who was not confined to the palace was certainly a happier Emma.

When the Princess had arrived at the door of the dining room to break the silence and it certainly helped that Dawn was not with her.

"I went to go and see the town," Emma replied as she stood stock still while her mother hugged her tightly.

Once the queen realised that Emma hadn't moved her arms, she let go and stepped back with a frown.

She looked over her shoulder at her husband who was also frowning, obviously also having had noticed how weird Emma was acting. Neither of them had ever seen her angry.

"Did something happen, dear?" Snow asked.

Emma took a step back so that she was out of her mother's proximity, and she replied, "you ruined Lily's life because she suggested that I leave the castle once."

"Lily?" Snow repeated, and racked her brain to try and remember if she had ever met anyone with that name.

As if on cue, a brunette woman reluctantly stepped into the room and refused to make eye contact with either monarch.

Snow stared at her and a sharp gasp from her husband seemed to trigger a memory she had long ago tried to repress.

"You fired her mother and did not compensate them," Emma explained.

"We reserve the right to dismiss anyone from our employ," Snow replied without much thought, though her voice did sound rather strained.

"You dismissed her mother based upon her ten-year-old daughter's mistake. You could have simply explained to her, or to me for that matter, why I was not allowed to leave, but instead you stripped her mother of her employment and left them with no money and no home, how could you have done that to them?!" Emma ranted on.

Snow was about to defend her decision, but David stepped up beside her and interrupted before she could make this worse:

"That was a mistake, please accept our most sincere apologises," he said as he bowed his head towards the brunette.

Lily's eyes widened, she had never imagined an acknowledgement, let alone an apology from the king, "Thank you, your majesty."

Emma looked between them and shook her head, ", that's not good enough. Lily lost her mother to bandits, she could very well still be here if she had not been removed from her post."

David placed his hand on Snow's back before she tried to come up with more excuses about why this was not their fault. The fact was that there was no excuse for the things they had done to keep their daughter safe.

Defying a goddess was always the wrong choice no matter their intentions, if it had been the right thing to do, then this wouldn't be the current state of their lives.

"I understand that there is nothing we could do to bring your mother back," the blond said, "but is there anything that we could do to make our apology carry more weight?"

Lily looked over to Emma who nodded by way of telling her that now was the time to ask for anything.

She took a deep breath, there was only one thing that she could think of.

"My mother...when she sent me away from the bandits...she told me that I was found as a baby...I have very few clues as to who my biological parents could be...and I lack the funds to find any more information…"

"And?" Snow asked with a sigh.

Emma scowled at her mother and said, "the way that you can compensate her is to provide her with the funds that she needs so that she no longer needs to work and has time to find her parents."

David again cut off his wife and said, "of course."

Lily stared blankly at the king, she had been almost certain that she would be denied, but it made sense that one's request would hold more weight when she had the princess with her.

Said princess nudged her and she quickly bowed her head deeply and said, "thank you, your majesty."

Emma shot a smile at her father, silently thanking him for being reasonable, before she turned on her heels and led Lily out of the room.

Emma closed the door behind them and Lily fell back against the wall as she tried to take in what had just happened.

She had always been taught that working was just another part of life and now she apparently would not need to do so again and she would now stand a chance of finding something that had been weighing on her mind.

Her biological mother could not replace what she had lost but now she had a chance to no longer feel so alone in the world.

"That was…" Lily trailed off when it occurred to her that there was simply no word strong enough, so she instead said, "Thank you."

"It was the least I could do, I had no idea that they would have done such a thing…" Emma replied and clenched her fists.

Lily nodded and said, "I didn't tell you that when the bandits attacked. I was arguing with my mother, I wanted to live on my own rather than moving to another village but she insisted that she did not want me to be alone. It took me years to realise that if she had moved without me, we would have barely seen each other considering how dangerous the route is."

"What is your point?" Emma asked.

"My point is that my last conversation with my mother was an argument because I couldn't understand that she was just trying to protect me. Not until she had a dagger against my throat."

Emma imagined what she would do if someone were to threaten Snow's life and she deflated as she let out a long sigh and replied, "You're saying that I shouldn't argue with my parents when they have devoted their lives to protecting me, even if they went the wrong way about doing so?"

The other woman nodded in confirmation.

Emma brought her bottom lip into her mouth as her back fell back against the closed door before she said, "well...I suppose I did not have the chance to eat…"

Lily nodded again, somewhat relieved that her words had gotten through to her. She was about to walk away to allow Emma the chance to go into the dining room.

However, she frowned when she realised that she had no idea where it was that she was supposed to be going.

Emma smiled at her uncertainty and said, "you can stay in my chambers until we can arrange for you to have your own room."

Lily returned the smiled when Emma motioned for a guard to lead her to the chambers and she followed without hesitation.

Once her friend was out of sight, Emma took a deep breath and turned towards the door.

"I can be civil," she mumbled, and pushed it open to enter the dining room.

Two days passed relatively quickly as Emma tried to help Lily find any information about her parents.

To be honest, they had spent the majority of their time getting the former barmaid situated in the palace since they didn't exactly have a lot of information to go on. Her adoptive mother hadn't exactly had the chance to tell her much with a knife against her throat.

Snow wasn't exactly over the moon at the fact that Emma was choosing to spend time with Dawn or Lily but she managed to hold her tongue.

This made it easier to spend time with her parents at lunch and dinner. Each conversation was strained and there were many long pauses since the three of them were actively avoiding certain topics, mainly the fact that she would be leaving very soon.

During breakfast that morning, neither of them had brought up the fact that they didn't know the next time they would be seeing her or the fact that she would be going back to the Underworld.

Instead, they had just each hugged her for an extra twenty seconds to what could be considered normal.

She was glad that they didn't try and object, though she did wish their silence didn't mean that they still objected to her chosen lifestyle. However, it did mean that perhaps the next time she came to the Enchanted Forest, they could maybe have a real conversation that didn't devolve into an argument.

Following breakfast when she had gone to her chambers to prepare for leaving, she realised that there was something important that she would have to do before she returned to her new home.

"You asked to see me, Emma?" Lily asked from the doorway, still somewhat timid since it took time to get used to the idea that she was no longer the type of person who had to hold down two jobs just to survive.

Emma looked at the woman and smiled at her tentatively, suddenly feeling guilty that she had even thought about not explaining everything before she left. She could only imagine how abandoned Lily would have felt if she had been fed whatever lie her parents would certainly have told her about why the princess had departed so quickly with no word.

While Emma thought about this, Lily felt her throat constrict as she stared at the blonde's serious expression, she knew that this was all too good to be true.

Of course royalty were not obligated to care about a lowly barmaid simply because she had been their daughter's friend for a few weeks over a decade ago.

"Please come in," Emma said when she noticed the panicked look on her friend's face and gestured towards the space on her bed next to her, hoping that it was comforting since she was pretty sure that Lily was thinking that Snow and David had changed their minds.

Lily took a second before she walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed next to Emma and placed her hands into her lap.

"There's something that I have to tell you Lily," the blonde said, "and I'm hoping that it won't change your opinion of me…"

Lily rung her hands and replied, "after all that you have done for me, there is not much that could lower my opinion of you."

"I know that I promised you that I would help to find your parents, but there's something that I failed to mention when I made that promise...the reason that my parents would not allow me to leave the palace was that they made a deal with...someone they wished to protect me from. The enchantment they placed on the palace to protect me lost its power when I turned twenty-one…"

Lily drew her eyebrows together. This was certainly not what she was expecting and she could admit that it was definitely more than a little curious, "what was the enchantment designed to protect against?"

"Hades," Emma replied after a moment of consideration whereby she wondered if there was a better way to admit the truth.

Lily shifted away slightly as she let out a nervous laugh and said, "you're joking?"

The princess bit the inside of her cheek. To be fair, Lily was still sat next to her, so she supposed this was going well so far, she just continued to explain:

"My father was going to die, so Hades made a deal with my mother to give him another chance in exchange for her first child. My mother believed herself incapable of having children so she agreed to the deal to save her True Love. They enlisted the Blue Fairy's help years later when they discovered they were expecting. She was only able to maintain the spell over the palace for twenty-one years…"

"So when you turned twenty-one there was nothing preventing Hades from claiming her prize?" Lily asked in a sigh, though her next question was certainly about how she could possibly still be here and not in the Underworld being tortured for the sins of her parents.

"It's not like that!" Emma shot back much to the surprise of the other woman, "Regina...she isn't like the stories we have been told…"

"Regina?" Lily repeated.

"Oh...her name is truly Regina, Hades is a sort of title," Emma explained though she was acutely aware that this wasn't doing much to make her sound sane.

Lily's forehead creased and she asked, "and how is she different?"

"On my birthday, she made me her wife. At first, it was certainly to spite my mother and father, but as time went on she has...softened. As far as I can tell, Regina is willing to do anything to make me happy, she gave me what I needed to visit the Enchanted Forest."

Lily just continued to stare at her friend.

If this was anyone else that she was talking to, then she would have probably written them off as batshit insane, but there was just something inherently trustworthy about Emma.

Despite this, she couldn't help the skeptical way that she asked, "you're married to a goddess?"

"I am," Emma replied, relieved that she seemed to believe her, "and I'm due to return to the Underworld any minute now...I did not want to tell you this so soon but I thought it was important that you understood the real reason I must leave...I also did not want to be dishonest with you…"

"You're leaving?" the former waitress asked in a somewhat small voice.

She couldn't help but think that without Emma around, there was nothing forcing the monarchs to keep their vow.

"This is no longer my home," Emma replied, "but you need not fear my absence. My father at least understands the importance of helping you."

"I'm not sure how I could possibly thank you," Lily replied, even if she had barely anything to go on regarding finding her parents, she had no doubt that the royal family were her best chance of getting some kind of lead.

"You truly do not need to thank me," Emma replied, "just promise me that you will continue to search until I return."

"I promise."

"Emma is gone, isn't she?" Snow whispered as she stared from from her balcony out onto the village at the bottom of the palace.

David smiled sadly at her back and he stopped a few steps away from her. That was precisely what he had come to tell her and it was exactly that tone of resignation that had made him reluctant to come and do so. However, he knew that he couldn't avoid his wife forever considering that they really only had each other when Emma left.

"We knew that this would happen, my love. This is why we made the announcement that she had left to explore."

Snow clenched her jaw and her eyes flitted past the village. In that moment, she couldn't help but wish that it was actually true since that would mean that her daughter would actually be in this realm. The Underworld felt like the most unreachable place that she could possibly be.

"Do you honestly believe that anyone is going to believe that ridiculous excuse?" the brunette asked and finally turned away from the view so that she could look at her husband.

"It's now common knowledge that she was not able to leave the palace, so why wouldn't she go out into the world when she came of age?" the king asked.

"If you had just allowed me to bring the Blue Fairy back we could have…"

David held up his hand and shook his head. He could understand that his wife was not particularly comfortable with what he had been slowly getting used to and without Emma here to reassure her that the woman was okay, he could see why she was again getting the urge to try everything they possibly could to reverse what had happened.

"She is not brave enough to defy a goddess twice, Snow, and I do not blame her. And even if we did find a way to keep Emma here, it would have been more than cruel. I worry about Emma just as much as you do but we need to understand that she is now an adult and we have no say in the way that she wishes to spend her life."

Snow's entire face tightened, though she didn't say anything since she could see how the man was right, the fact was that she didn't want him to be.

David added, "before last week, we didn't even know if she was alive. Now we can at least rest easy knowing that she is not in any real pain. Perhaps she will even visit us again soon since we didn't try to keep her here? We just need to ensure that she will actually want to."

"And how do you suggest that I do that?"

"We need to make sure that we fulfil the promise we made to her friend. We need to ensure that Lily is treated as royalty and that she is given anything that she asks for. There is no escaping that what we did was wrong and we need to do all we can to remedy it," he replied, very much hoping that his wife wasn't about to just walk away like she tended to do when they had any difficult conversations over the last week.

Snow finally let out a heavy sigh and said, "I know," and ran a hand across her face, "how could I have done such terrible things to a family?"

"We both bare the blame for what happened. We both made the decision to enchant the palace and keep Emma here."

"But I am the one who chose to accept Hades's deal, I am the one who doomed Emma to this fate."

"You made that deal under the impression that you couldn't have children," David said and stepped forward to pull Snow closer to him for the first time in a while, "I am thankful everyday that you accepted that offer. If you hadn't then Emma would have never had the chance to exist. We just have to believe that there is a plan for her and that she will find the happy ending that she is supposed to have."

Snow swallowed hard and said, "could you please ask a guard to invite Lily to dinner?

"Of course, my love," David replied and placed a kiss to her forehead.

Regina had no idea what she should be doing right now.

She was very aware that her wife would return soon and she had no idea whether she should be waiting for her.

She was intentionally not in the throne room since she had no doubt that Emma would be returning to the throne room.

She felt as though it would make her look more casual if she looked as though she was just reading in the library rather than eagerly awaiting a mortal to return, though she had yet to actually pick up any books.

"My lady."

Regina's eyes shot to the mirror opposite to her to see Sidney's floating face.

"What?" she shot back at her servant.

Pain didn't even flinch at her frustration since it was common knowledge that she had been even more irritable than usual.

"Your wife had returned, she is currently talking with Graham in the throne room, would you like me to tell him to bring her to you?"

Regina thought about picking up a book and attempting her casual image, but she realised how stupid she was being and she rose from her chair as she shook her head.

"There is no need, I am perfectly capable of walking to the throne room."

-Five minutes earlier-

Graham leaned his shoulder against the pillar and stared at the empty space.

In every second, he felt his anxiety rising at the thought that there was a chance that Emma could very well choose to stay with her parents.

He wasn't sure that he could handle what Regina's mood would be if Emma didn't come back.

However, he didn't have to wait much longer, as the very air became disturbed. The man remained still, before a smile spread across his face as a familiar blonde finally materialised.

Emma swallowed against the nausea in her stomach caused by crossing realms, but it quickly passed when she realised that she wasn't alone in the room as the demon unhitched himself from the pillar.

"Hello Graham," she said and offered him a small wave.

Instead of waving back, Graham just crossed the room and pulled her into a tight hug and said, "I'm so happy you're back," before he released her.

Emma laughed as the quick hug ended seemingly as Panic had realised what he had just done.

"Did you miss me, Graham?" she asked.

"I did, but there is someone who missed you far more," he replied but clamped his mouth shut when he realised that Regina may not want the princess to know how much she had been missing her.

Emma tried to hide a satisfied smile, she had already gathered that her wife cared for her, but it was nice to have it reaffirmed.

"How was your trip?" Graham asked to end the silence.

"It was...eventful, but it was certainly necessary, though I am glad to be home," she replied.

Graham let out a relieved sigh that may have been the best thing that he had ever heard.

He was about to ask what she meant by eventful, but he was stopped by the sound of heels hitting the floor and the pair turned to see the approaching goddess.

Emma's face split into the biggest smile yet.

All she could think to say was "hello," as her eyes fell down to the brunette's lips. In her spare moments, she thought a lot about what had been her first kiss. If she was more confident in the action, she would have done it again in that moment, but the more she thought about it, the more she thought she should have asked for permission. What if Hades didn't want to be kissed by a mortal?

The brunette glided so that she was standing in front of the princess and she allowed herself to stare for a few moments as she let herself confirm to herself that she was in fact there, until Emma asked:

"How have you been?"

"My dominion has been rather quiet without you, dear," the older woman replied.

Emma surged forward, wrapping her arms around the older woman who brought her a hand up to place a hand onto her wife's back.

"I missed you too, Regina."

Chapter Text

Chapter ten

"And why did your parents throw you a ball?" Regina asked with a raised eyebrow after she swallowed a sip of her wine and looked at her wife across the table who had been going over the last week's events.

Emma nodded and said, "they wanted to finally announce my existence to the kingdoms."

"I suppose it would be nice for people to know that the White Kingdom has an heir to the throne," Regina replied.

The princess furrowed her brow as she chewed the piece of chicken in her mouth, she shook her head and asked, "well...I'm not truly their heir. I'm married and I don't even live in their realm…"

Regina had to hold back a wide smile, even if she had never heard the other woman claim that they were not married, every time she alluded to the fact that she considered herself to actually be her wife, she couldn't help but feel a happiness that she hadn't felt in a long time.

"I suppose that your parents did not advertise either of those facts to the kingdoms?"

"I believe that the aim of the ball was to introduce me to the royalty of other kingdoms more than anything, though Dawn also made it about disturbing my parents…"

This time Regina couldn't hide her smile. She knew that Dawn had promised that she would go to the ball but she had no idea whether her daughter actually did, "Dawn was there?" she asked.

"She was," Emma replied, "and it did not take her long for her to tell my mother and father exactly how she knows me."

A small laugh escaped Regina's mouth as she imagined the royals' faces upon learning that they now had a step-granddaughter, and Emma went on to add:

"She also took me to the village and explained things to me."

"Perhaps next time that you visit your parents, you could actually try and spend time with them?"

Emma placed her fork down to pick up her glass of wine, from which she took a sip and then replied, "they made it difficult at first, but I think the next time I go back there, it will be easier to be in the same room as them…"

"And do you know when the next time will be?" Regina attempted to ask in a disinterested tone, but her lack of eye contact meant that it was a completely unsuccessful attempt at casual.

"My mother's birthday is in the coming months," Emma replied.

Regina relaxed ever-so-slightly as she nodded, it was certainly a relief to hear that Emma wasn't too eager to leave her alone again.

When the goddess didn't say anything. Emma asked something she had been hoping to ask since she had returned, "how was your week?"

Regina's forehead creased as she looked up from her plate as if that was the last thing she ever expected to be asked, before she replied, "it was completely uneventful, dear."

"Surely the whole week could not have been uneventful?" Emma said with a frown, though she was thinking back to how many weeks she'd had in her life that she would describe as uneventful. Then again, she was an isolated princess and not a goddess.

Regina shrugged and said, "weeks tend to go quickly for me."

For the first time in centuries, she was actually lying about that. When she had nothing to look forward to, weeks, months and years did tend to go quickly for her as she lounged around the palace. During the last week though, she spent a lot of time obsessing over whether Emma would actually want to return to her after she was reminded what it was like to live in the Enchanted Forest.

"I…" Emma began, but she stopped herself when she realised that there was absolutely no reason why she would need to apologise. She certainly felt bad to see that Regina clearly did not have a good time when she was alone and she definitely missed the brunette, but she also knew that it would not be Regina's intention to make her feel guilty for visiting her parents. It was for this reason that she decided that she could take the opportunity to change the subject, "well you promised to take me to Wonderland upon my return, perhaps that would be more eventful?" she asked.

Regina was so happy that the other woman didn't push the topic of her spending days doing nothing since she didn't particularly want to go into her centuries of loneliness and boredom.

"Tomorrow?" Regina asked.

"That sounds perfect," Emma replied as she stood from the dining table, "I suppose I should try and get an early night."

Regina nodded and replied, "of course, good night, dear."

The blonde was about to walk away, before her steps faltered and she reached into her pocket to pull out a bracelet and she turned back to the other woman, "I almost forgot, I brought you a gift…"

The princess thrust the bracelet towards her wife before she could change her mind and the goddess stared at it for a few moments, not even noticing the growing blush on the blonde's face.

It was certainly beautiful, but was immediately obvious that it was not made of any material that gifts from royalty usually would be. However, she couldn't really find herself caring.

"I know that it isn't some kind of priceless item, but I noticed that you wear this shade of purple more than any other colour so I thought that you would appreciate it," Emma explained, a crimson hue developing across her cheeks as she continued to ramble.

The brunette opened her mouth in shock for a few moments, before she said in disbelief, "you brought me a gift?"

"You allowed me to visit my parents…I wanted to show you how much it meant to me…" she replied, shifting awkwardly for a moment and Regina realised that she had yet to even move to take the bracelet.

Slowly, she raised her hand and took from the younger woman. It wasn't extravagant or grand, but somehow it was the most perfect gift that she had ever received.

"Thank you," she breathed, still trying to process what had just happened.

Emma smiled at her and said, "you have done so much for me…it was the least I could do really."

Regina nodded, her eyes still on the piece of jewellery as she tried to think of something that she could say in response, but nothing came to mind.

The blonde shifted from foot to foot with a blush still upon her face and she said, "I think that I should retire to bed, it has been a rather long day and it sounds as though tomorrow is going to be just as exhausting."

The brunette just nodded again and said, "of course, we'll leave for Wonderland the moment we both finish breakfast."

Emma bounced up and down on the balls of her feet and looked around.

The moment that she and her wife had materialised in this realm, her eyes had been assaulted by more colours than she even knew existed, though she had an inkling that there was a distinct chance that some of them belonged only to Wonderland.

Regina watched the princess with an amused smirk, until she realised that her hand was still on her forearm from poofing and her eyes widened slightly as she considered whether they had ever remained in contact for this long. The hug had certainly been wonderful, but she had felt as though it hadn't lasted nearly as long as she would have liked it to.

After a moment of looking around the sheer strangeness of Wonderland, Emma seemed to become aware of what Regina was looking at and quickly brought her hand away, with intense blush creeping up her neck. However, it hadn't escaped her notice that the older woman hadn't even tried to clear her throat or had shifted uncomfortably as if the contact had been unwelcome. In fact, she was pretty sure that the goddess looked a little disappointed when she moved out of her touch.

The pair stood in silence for a very awkward moment, before Regina asked, "so what exactly is it that you wish to explore?"

"You don't need a plan to explore," the blonde said with a chuckle and thrust her hand out to gesture around her as she added, "you just…you know…explore."

Regina laughed lightly and shook her head, gesturing in a random direction, "shall we then?"

Emma nodded and the pair began to walk in silence. The younger woman looked in wonder at everything they passed, whereas Regina's gaze was trained almost exclusively to her wife. She had seen everything that this realm had to offer, in fact, she had seen things that had long ago vanished from this world. However, the one thing that she hadn't seen was someone willing to walk beside her as she ventured forth aimlessly. All of the exploration that she had done in her first years as Hades had been by herself. She saw new things almost every day and she had thought for a brief period in time that perhaps being the Lord of the Underworld wasn't quite the punishment that she had imagined it to be.

It didn't take long, though, for her to realise that there was only so much in the universe that could occupy her attention. While she was exploring new lands, there was never one that she wanted to stay in for longer than a couple weeks at most, because she had no reason to.

At the end of every adventure, she would always have to return to the Underworld, with only Graham's nervous disposition to offer her some amusement. Though that had quickly begun to wear thin as well.

"Is there something wrong?"

Regina frowned and looked up to Emma's eyes, her feet stopping in their tracks. She hadn't realised that the blonde had been looking back at her for a couple minutes instead of taking in her surroundings and she actually looked rather worried.

"Yes, I'm fine dear, why do you ask?" she replied unconvincingly.

"You look as though you were deep in thought," Emma said, "like you were thinking about something painful…"

Regina opened her mouth but she quickly realised that she didn't know how to reply to such an expression of concern. Dawn was usually the only one to care about her well-being and Graham only cared so that she didn't get angry and lash out at him.

"I was just wondering how long it has been since I was last here…" she lied.

The princess frowned, still not convinced that she was telling the truth, "how long has it been?"

"I believe I might have travelled here for some fresh air five centuries ago…or was that Camelot?"

Emma tilted her head. A part of her wanted to press the matter, but she also figured that the older woman was entitled to some secrets. When someone had lived as long as Hades had, they were bound to have some things that they would rather keep quiet.

Before she could try and think of change of topic, she stopped when someone violently bumped into Regina's shoulder.

They both spun around to see a hunched man covered in a cloak, who was mumbling that he was sorry and she realised that she was so focused on her wife that she hadn't even noticed that he had probably been behind them. For a moment, she thought that she could be suspicious that they were being followed, but then it occurred to her that they had obviously been walking on a public road, so she just shook off her suspicions.

Emma looked over to Regina, who was critically inspecting the figure.

"No need for apology," the princess replied, smiling reassuringly, "we shouldn't have stopped in the middle of the road."

The man nodded animatedly, and began to walk away, but he stopped in his tracks when Regina said, "wait!"

He hesitated for a moment, considering whether he could run faster than them, but he quickly decided that continuing with his façade would be the best option and turned around, making sure to keep his head down.

"Yes?" he asked, his voice now sounded croakier than it had before.

Regina stalked towards him and narrowed her eyes at the apparently old, frail man.

"Did you not see us?" she asked.

Emma opened her mouth to interject, but the brunette held up her hand to signal her to be quiet. She wondered if the blonde would always be so trusting, it wasn't as if he was even doing that good of a job of pretending to be a helpless old man.

"I…" he began, swallowing hard. He had thought that he had just seen two women who would be easy to gain sympathy from and then quickly get away with whatever was in his hand. The colour drained from his face as he felt the cloth covering his features slip away so that he had a better view of the brunette woman holding out her hand.

Blowing out a breath of frustration he stood up straight and watched as the blonde's eyebrows shot up in surprise, obviously she was surprised to discover that she was wrong about the man's vulnerability.

"Bloody hell," he muttered, before he attempted to quickly turn on his heels in an effort to bolt, but he found that he could only move the top half of his body and looked down at his feet that were engulfed in a purple hue. "Why can't I just rob a normal person?"

"Give it back," Regina said in a deceptively calm tone as she stalked towards him with an outstretched hand.

Emma frowned and wondered how Regina had noticed that she had been pickpocketed when she hadn't even seen his hand move near her pocket. Though she knew that it would be hard to deny that the woman obviously had more experience than any single mortal had, even those who hadn't been isolated in a palace for twenty-one-years. A second later though, she registered the anger on the brunette's face and she was pretty sure that she wouldn't be so angry if it had just been a pouch of money.

"It's just a ring, love, is it really worth all of this?" he asked desperately, hoping that she wasn't about to snap his neck.

Regina huffed audibly and turned her hand over, allowing a ball of fire to form in her palm, "Give. It. Back," she growled.

The blonde's eyes widened and she quickly ran forward to grab the back of her wife's arm, instantly, the contact caused the flame to go out and Regina looked over her shoulder at the younger woman. Swallowing hard, she realised what she was about to do. She had never actually killed a mortal in her many years, despite what the stories said, it wasn't as if she wanted to punish herself by sending someone insufferable to her dominion earlier than they had to be there.

Taking a few deep breaths, she put out her hand and looked at the man menacingly.

"That ring is not worth what will be coming to you in the afterlife if you don't return it to me, Will Scarlet."

The Knave of Heart's mouth fell open and he quickly reached forward to deposit the piece of jewellery into her hand. He may not have any idea who these two women were, but he would have to be completely insane to not do as he was told. Even a man with no heart knew that this woman was to be feared, "my deepest apologies," he said desperately, bowing his head in hopes that sarcasm-free humility would help to prevent his death.

Regina clutched the ring tighter in her fist when she saw Emma staring intently at her hand, trying to figure out what was worth that response. Quickly, she shoved the ring into her pocket and waved her hand.

"I would run if I were you," she said as the magical restraints disappeared, quickly realising that she would have ruined Alice's chances of being with Cyrus if she had killed him before he went to get her from the asylum.

Will nodded quickly and stumbled away before he ran off in the opposite direction.

Once he was out of sight, Regina turned to Emma, who dropped her hand from her arm for the second time in a single hour and the older of the pair said, "I'm sorry that you had to see that, dear."

The princess shot her a reassuring smile and replied, "it's rather obvious that you could have done much worse…but why was the ring so important?"

Regina opened her mouth and considered telling her exactly why she had been so protective over the simple golden band that she had been carrying around for some time now, however no words came out and she just shook her head instead.

"We should continue with the exploration," she deflected and began walking forward.

Emma looked at her back for a moment, before she decided she could try and broach the topic later and so followed the goddess further into Wonderland.

Regina turned the ring over between her fingers, not even able to react with how deflated she currently felt.

"I know you're there," she said over her shoulder.

Graham tried to hide but he froze when he saw that there was nothing to obscure him from the goddess and he just squeaked instead as he stood stock still.

It had been a week since the union of Persephone and Athena. Regina seemed to have passed being pissed off after the Fates's lack of insights into her future, though he wasn't sure whether her current mood of melancholy was any better than the anger. He found it unnerving.

"I…I wanted to ask if you would be wanting dinner…" he said only just about loud enough to be heard, "you have not eaten all week…."

"I don't require food, Graham," she replied, though she never once turned away from the river to look at the demon.

The man swallowed hard and almost launched forward to grab her from the bank, but he thought better of it and instead just let out another squeak of worry.

As much as Regina scared the immortal to death, he didn't want her near the River Lethe.

"But…" he tried as he desperately attempted to think of an excuse as to why she shouldn't be sitting near the river that could rob one of their memories.

"If I thought that this was the solution, I would have done it a long time ago," she snapped, "now will you leave me before I devote my time to discovering a way to kill an immortal."

Graham's eyes widened and he nodded before he spun on his heels and began walking away as quickly as possible, though a part of his mind was screaming that he shouldn't leave her in this state.

Once she no longer felt his anxious energy, Regina looked back down to the hand. She may have given Ruby her engagement ring back, but that didn't mean that she hadn't kept the wedding band she'd had made.

The ring was made of the most precious materials that the goddess could find at the time, with the help of Marco (later known as Hephaestus, it seemed a shame to discard it just because her title derailed all of her plans.

Turning it over between her fingers again, she took a deep breath and tried desperately not to think about the fact that her first love was now wearing a different ring.

With a deep breath, she tried to replace the sound of the vows with what the Fates had said. It wasn't as though she had ever thought that she and Ruby would be getting back together, because she knew that she would never want to subject the woman to living in the Underworld. As awful as the experience had been, it had been kind of nice to see just how happy the brunette was with her new wife. The way that Belle looked at her as they were married echoed exactly how she had felt about her before everything had changed and she tried to convince herself that she could get past her jealousy since she knew that the woman she loved was happy. However, she also couldn't imagine that there would ever be a day when she didn't feel as though she had been robbed of something. Her life hadn't been fair and she couldn't help but think that as long as she held the title of Hades, she couldn't possibly find her 'new Persephone'.

Clenching her jaw out of anger, she stared at the ring she had kept for centuries and after a few moments she rose to her feet and brought it closer to her face.

She allowed herself a moment to kiss the metal before she relaxed her hand and let it fall into the river.


Emma intently rubbed two sticks together with her eyebrows knit together and blew out a breath of frustration.

Regina watched in amusement from her position on a log and said, "we do have the funds to sleep at a tavern…or we could return to the Underworld…"

The blonde looked up from her attempt to build a fire and shook her head adamantly, "I have never slept outside…"

"Most people would be happy about that fact," the brunette sighed, "but if you think that is essential to your adventure…" with that she rose to her feet and walked over to her. Emma furrowed her brow for a moment, but quickly realised what she wanted to do and leaned back to give her the space to do what she wanted to.

The goddess clicked her fingers and a small fire erupted between them.

The blonde admired the flames for a second before she looked up to her wife as she walked back over to the log, "I must admit that adventures are far easier with magic involved…"

Regina smirked at her again as the exhausted woman leaned back on her hands and took in a deep breath of the forest air. Today had been so ridiculously enjoyable and she was sure that it had everything to do with the fact that this was probably the longest she had ever spent with her wife and unlike every other night, they were still in proximity with one another. At this thought, she quickly looked down at the ground in hopes that the older woman wouldn't see the blush on her face.

The brunette watched her for a moment, before she said, "you should get some sleep, dear."

"Aren't you going to sleep?" Emma asked with a furrowed brow.

"Since you have never slept outside, you probably have never experienced the lack of safety that comes with it. If we both sleep at the same time, there is every chance that we will be seen as easy targets…"

Emma was about to nod, but she quickly frowned as a thought occurred to her, "you're immortal…they wouldn't be able to do anything to do you…"

Regina resisted the urge to close her eyes in frustration. Emma always seemed to be able to tell when she was lying or hiding something, but she didn't want to tell her the truth as to why she didn't want to sleep. The truth was that she didn't know what exactly the arrangement would be. Would they sleep close to one another? It wasn't as if she could sleep too far away from her wife since she wouldn't be able to protect her as quickly if something did happen.

The blonde watched the woman for a moment, clearly trying to come up with a reason to justify what she had said and after a second, the younger woman decided that she could just change the subject. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that the goddess cared about her, so she didn't really mind that the immortal had yet to really admit anything out loud.

"I'm not really tired yet…I'm hungry actually," she said.

Regina almost blew out a breath of relief, but she quickly stopped herself and replied, "of course."

With a wave of her hand, a rather large bowl of soup appeared in front of the princess, along with a goblet of water.

"Are you not going to join me?"

"Eating on the floor?" the brunette asked, looking down at the ground distastefully.

Emma rolled her eyes playfully and picked up the bowl of soup, walking over to the log to sit next to the goddess, "of course not, besides, I couldn't possibly eat all of this alone," she replied as she handed the food over to her wife.

The brunette allowed herself to smile for a moment, but she quickly realised that there was something she was meant to be doing and she waved her hand to make another spoon appear in her hand.

For about ten minutes, the pair sat in silence as they ate slowly.

However, it wasn't long until Emma found the silence oppressive and she wasn't really that hungry, so she decided that now would be as good a time as any to ask something that had been on her mind for quite a while.

"Could I ask you something?" she asked, placing the spoon down next to her.

Regina swallowed and, seeing that her wife was done eating, she made the bowl and utensils disappear.

"You can ask me anything, dear," she said even though she felt her throat constrict at the many things that she could possibly ask. So far, the blonde hadn't really asked any direct personal questions, but she knew that she wouldn't be able to lie if she ever did. Plus, if she was to make this relationship work, in the way that Dawn and Hecate seemed to believe it would, the young woman should really be able to know more about her since she basically already knew everything about her.

Emma bit her lip in concentration as she tried to figure out how to articulate what had been on her mind for a while and finally she decided to go with:

"As child, I was very interested in the mythology of the gods and goddesses. Now it seems as though everything I have read has been twisted in some way…"

"History is written by the victors," Regina sighed when she realised just what the younger woman was asking. "The reason that you may have noticed so many differences is because it was up to my siblings to pass onto mortals the information about the divine figures they were worshipping. They decided to vilify me and make themselves appear as the pinnacle of virtue. To them, it simply makes a better story."

Emma frowned as she thought back to the many stories she had read of Zeus and Poseidon. They did usually seem to be presented as the best of the gods, while those like Hades were meant to be intensely feared.

"Is part of that story the name Hades?" Emma asked.

Regina nodded slowly and replied, "I understand that mythology would suggest that it is actually our names, but that isn't exactly how it worked…Once we defeated our mother and reclaimed Olympus, the titles were distributed to ensure that humanity would have all it needs to function. My father told Zelena...Zeus, the roles he believed we were to play…"

"And he believed that you should be assigned to the Underworld?" Emma frowned, she couldn't imagine why any father would do such a thing to their child. She was so obviously unhappy with the lot she had received.

"According to my sister, yes. Our father gave up his immortality to ensure that mother could never raise again. Zelena claimed that she had the right to bestow the titles because she heard our father's last words…"

The blonde nodded slowly. She couldn't help but see why that version of events would be hidden from mortals. There was no question in her mind that Zeus must have done something to ensure that Regina ended up ruling the Underworld, but that did beg another question.

"You must know that she was lying…" she began, hoping that she wasn't saying something that her wife didn't already know.

Regina looked at the ground and sighed before she replied, "I discovered the truth many centuries later…"


"She told me," the brunette admitted, "when I was at my lowest, she told me that father had actually said that I should rule Olympus."

Emma opened her mouth to ask another question, but she couldn't quite think of a way to phrase it.

"I know you're wondering why it is that I am still Hades…" Regina said after a moment of silence, "the answer is simple. In a battle of the gods, I would not win. Hecate would be the only one who would be willing to fight by my side. Zelena would crush any resistance in seconds, which was exactly why she told me the truth. She knew that there was absolutely nothing that I could do…or would want to do…"

"Because of Persephone?"

The goddess took in a deep, calming breath. She had never told anyone so much about how she felt and she never thought that she would have the opportunity to speak with someone who would actually understand or would seemingly know her well enough to know what was bothering her.

"Persephone married Athena. Even if I could somehow claim the mantle of Zeus, I can't see how it would be much different to the way my life is now…"

"Your life doesn't have to revolve around romance…" Emma replied, though there was a slight catch in her voice.

Regina tilted her head for a second, but she just took a deep breath and said, "it may be very possible to live a mortal life happily without romance, but an immortal life is different. For those who haven't lived more than a handful of decades, it is impossible to even fathom the influence that loneliness can have on the soul…"

Emma nodded slowly, she knew that she wouldn't ever know what the woman felt. She could understand how it felt to be isolated, but she couldn't imagine remaining so for thousands of years, even if the first twenty-one years of her life felt like an eternity.

"Well…neither of us are lonely now…" the blonde said rather timidly.

Regina shifted uncomfortably where she sat and quickly thought better of mentioning the fact that one of them had an issue of mortality. That was something that she had to try and force herself not to think about whenever she was enjoying being around her wife. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't help but think back to how fast time seemed to move for her, even when she was completely and utterly bored. She didn't want to get invested in a relationship that was so obviously doomed, but if the week before had proved anything, it was that she was unable to be away from the woman. It was for that reason that she had decided to just enjoy being around her for as long as she could and think about the inevitable later.

"I know," she replied with a small smile when she noticed the younger woman shift closer to her. Both of them had a hand resting on the log and she could practically feel electricity surging across the space between their fingers.

The two of them fell into silence for a few moments.

Emma watched Regina and asked, "you said I could ask you anything?"

The goddess took in a deep breath and exhaled audibly, before she reached into her pocket and pulled out the ring that the thief had tried to steal earlier. She could tell that the blonde had been wondering about it all day since she had kept looking at her pocket.

The blonde stared at the simple golden band with a furrowed brow and asked, "is that Persephone's ring?"

"We were never married," Regina replied, "I never had the chance to give her the ring I had made for her…"

The princess nodded slowly and continued to stare at the ring, "so who is the ring for?"

Regina bit the inside of her cheek and silently berated herself for doing this now. She had been carrying around the ring for about a month, but every time she thought about giving it to the younger woman, she choked. The only reason that she had even brought it with her to Wonderland was because of the bracelet that had been around her wrist since she had been given to her the night before.

"Yesterday you said that you gave me the bracelet because it was the least you could do…when I first brought you to the Underworld, I didn't think for a moment that you would ever enjoy spending time with me, let alone be excited to travel to other realms with me…I believe that it is the least I can do to give you something…"

"A wedding ring?" Emma choked out as she slowly reached forward to take the band.

"We are…married…" Regina replied, sounding less and less sure of herself with each word.

The brunette watched her cautiously as she inspected her gift, her throat constricted and she tried to ascertain how she felt about it. Dawn had been trying to convince her that they should start acting more like they were actually married and she was sure that this was a pretty basic step in doing so.

After the shock passed, a smile spread across Emma's face and she brought her left hand up to place the gift on her finger, "thank you," she breathed, looking up to the other woman in awe.

Regina blew out a breath of relief, but furrowed her brow when she noticed the younger woman had brought up her other hand and had brought her fingers around her ring finger and closed her eyes adorably in concentration.

"What…" the goddess began, but before she could finish her thought the princess opened her eyes and smiled broadly.

"It worked," she almost squealed as she uncurled her fingers to reveal an identical ring to the one she was wearing. When she realised that Regina was looking at her completely dumbfounded, she explained, "I think I've figured out how my magic works…when I stood against Phoebus, I managed to do magic because I really, really wanted it to happen…"

"Well, that's…good," Regina replied, still staring at the ring she was holding out, "and you really wanted to replicate your ring?"

Emma nodded and pushed her hand forward, motioning for the older woman to take it, "married people wear matching rings."

Regina's mouth dropped open slightly, but she managed to recognise that Emma had brought up her other hand and was motioning for her to do something.

Blinking a few times, she brought up her own left hand and presented it to the younger woman. A second later, Emma slid the ring onto her finger and they stayed in that position for much longer than necessary.

Finally, Regina realised that they were just staring at one another and she allowed her hand to drop back to the log.

"Thank you," she said, not even bothering to try and hide the massive smile gracing her lips, "I must admit that I certainly wasn't expecting that when I thought about giving you that ring…"

"Well we are married," Emma replied with a laugh.

Chapter Text

Chapter eleven

Emma swung her sword only to stop so that she could frown down at the hilt as she inspected it further.

Everytime she picked up Durendal, she was shocked by just how perfectly weighted it was.

As much as she was unsettled by the amount of pain that the blade could impart upon its enemy without even touching them, she did love how it seemed almost impossible for the sword to miss its target no matter how little skill the bearer of it possessed.

She moved her wrist from side to side to just appreciate the balance, before she swung it again until she was pulled out of her appreciation by the approaching footsteps.

She turned and her arm fell limply to the side as she saw that the woman coming towards her was exactly who she hoped it would be.

"Good morning, dear," Regina said as her eyes squinted against the bright light of the rising sun. Eventually, her eyes adjusted to the morning and she smiled at the younger woman who had clearly been awake a lot longer than her.

"Good morning, Regina," Emma replied, "I didn't want to wake you earlier and I thought that you did not really need me to guard you…"

The brunette nodded, Emma hadn't actually gone that far from their little camp, so she wasn't exactly concerned when she woke up alone and saw that even Durendal was gone.

"And you thought that you would pass your time attacking the air?" she asked and leaned against the nearest tree.

Emma's eyes flicked down to Durendal and the back to her wife as she shrugged and replied, "I didn't think to take it with me to the Enchanted Forest and I didn't have the chance to steal a military sword away for practice during my visit, my parents were already too on edge to find out that I have been learning swordplay."

"I didn't imagine that you missed the sword when you brought it with you," Regina said with her eyebrows pinched together.

"I need to practice if I'm to enter the tournament…"

Regina actually had to bite her tongue so that she didn't reply that she didn't need to enter. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing to gain from entering a challenge where she would be the only one capable of death. The idea made acid churn in her stomach, but Regina had long ago vowed to herself that she would never tell Emma that she couldn't do something.

No matter what the princess wanted to experience, she knew that she would do everything that she could to make sure that she got to do it.

"And when exactly are you planning to partake?" Regina asked again. This time, she was almost certain that she looked casual while leaning against the tree, though Emma didn't seem to notice her attempts to look as disinterested as she possibly could.

The princess didn't notice as she finally sheathed Durendal and she looked at it as she frowned. She hadn't even thought about when she was planning to participate.

Nothing that had happened to change her desire to take part even if a lot had happened. However, she did feel like it was something that she would need to do before she got to move onto her next great adventure.

"How often is it held?"

"The next one is in two weeks," Regina supplied, resisting the urge to lie and say that they were held every year.

"Two weeks?" Emma repeated. While spending her days in the palace, she had lost track of the passing of time, but it wasn't particularly easy to track how time passed in the Underworld either.

"You are under no obligation to compete, dear, you have all of the time in the world."

Emma shook her head and her eyes fell away from Durendal at her waist, "the sooner I compete, the sooner I can return this to Dawn."

Regina held back a sigh and nodded, "I must admit, it does not really suit you."

The pair fell into silence for a few moments before the brunette clicked her fingers and allowed smoke to engulf the air around her until a simple sword appeared in her own hand.

"If you truly wish to get to compete as soon as possible, I suppose you should be training. Swinging at the air clearly is of no use to you," the older of the two said as she unhitched herself from the tree.

Emma nodded and quickly shifted her stance as Dawn had taught her to do and she held up Durendal which she had easily freed from its sheath, "I may be out of practice…"

The brunette smiled slightly, she knew there was no way that she would ever be able to see the blonde as threatening considering just how adorable she found her to be, but she was trying hard not to show that on her face. She didn't want her wife to ever think that she was trying to insult her.

"I believe that swordplay isn't your weakness, dear, but neither will it be the weakness of any of your opponents. However, you do have something that the others probably will not…"

Emma inclined her head and looked down at the hand that wasn't holding the sword. She knew that she meant her magic, but she wasn't exactly sure how she could weaponize her abilities.

"I don't know how…" she sighed.

"You have learnt how to control your magic shockingly quickly," Regina replied, resisting the urge to bring her left thumb over to rub over her new ring. She still couldn't quite believe that it was there but she had to admit that she was glad it was. When she had first thought about giving her wife a ring, she didn't think that she would be getting one in return, but feeling the weight of it on her hand made the beginnings of a smile tug at the corner of her lips every time she thought about it. "We have established that you can make something happen if you really want it to, so you will need to be able to do the same in the heat of battle…"

"So…I need to want to hurt someone?" the blonde frowned.

"Not necessarily, you just have to want to protect yourself…self-preservation would be a great motivator for most people."

Emma continued to frown as she thought back to her urge to hurt Phoebus. She could admit that she had thought about how much she could have pushed her blade slightly further. It wouldn't have hurt him, but it would have been pure catharsis for what he had put her through. The feeling of pure fear still haunted her when she was allowed a moment alone to think back to it. But in that circumstance, fighting back would have done nothing so she didn't know how she would react if she was in a situation in which her blade could actually slice through another's flesh.

Regina watched the struggle pass across the other woman's face for a moment and she said, "you do know that you will be physically incapable of causing pain to any person you will be pitted against? The whole occasion is for show; you will be the only combatant who will be capable of death."

Emma took a deep breath and nodded slowly but she still looked unsure, "Dawn was hurt when we were sparring and she is immortal…"

"Pain is bearable when you know that it will definitely end," the brunette replied, "an immortal can feel pain, but after sufficient time has passed, it becomes somewhat insignificant."

The blonde tilted her head and thought about this for a moment, but she was having a hard time imagining such an existence. Logically, an immortal had no reason to be afraid of a sword and most of those who achieved Elysium were probably never afraid of combat.

"So…you're saying that I shouldn't be afraid of attacking another person?"

"Have you ever heard a story of a hero whereby not one person was hurt? There is a difference between the villain who actively tries to hurt others and the hero who hurts those who are hurting others," the brunette replied as she held up her blade.

Emma brought up Durendal but neither of them made any attempt to move as the blonde said, "I suppose that makes sense…"

"A hero does not have to take another's life to win the day, but they do have to be willing to do something that will at least temporarily take down their opponent. For someone who is unwilling to deal deadly blows, magic will be the best offensive strategy."

As if to demonstrate, Regina waved her hand and Emma's eyes shot to the glowing purple that was surrounding her right hand. She desperately tried to move Durendal, but it failed. She was sure if anyone else had done this to her, she would be panicking far more, but she knew that Regina had no intention of hurting; plus, she knew that she was just trying to prove a point.

"Of course, restraining your opponent in the tournament would not be taken well by the judges, but the technique would be more than useful in other situations."

Emma's arms fell to her side as she nodded her understanding

"So, we should probably go back to the Underworld to train, right?"

Regina considered this for a moment, before she shook her head and replied, "I believe that are better realms to train in."

The blonde frowned for a moment and asked, "which realm?"


-Two days later-

Regina's arm fell down to her side as she said, "you need to focus, Emma."

The goddess used her free hand to offer the other woman help up from the ground.

Emma accepted her wife's hand and allowed herself to be pulled up onto her feet.

It made complete sense that training with the ruler of the Underworld wouldn't be a walk in the park, but she was becoming increasingly aware that she was no longer being treated as a precious, very breakable mortal.

She appreciated the sentiment, but the bruises still hurt a little.

"You say that as if I am not focusing," she huffed as she shifted from foot to foot and patted her pants to wipe the dirt away.

Regina no longer bothered to hide her smirk at how adorable she found woman. She was coming to the conclusion that there was no point in berating herself as she would have in the past for thinking in such a way about a mortal. Especially when said mortal was so cute.

Once Emma was satisfied with the cleanliness of her attire, Regina said, "this may not be the best method of training."

The princess nodded eagerly as she leaned down to pick up Durendal which Regina had so easily knocked out of her hand and she sheathed it. They had been doing this for a few hours so she wasn't going to argue with the chance for a break.

"What do you suppose is a better method?" she asked.

Regina looked around the forest. With the exception of the oddly shaped and coloured plants, the forest of Camelot was not really different to Wonderland.

"Perhaps we should be utilising the realm we are in? You know that I would not actually hurt you so there is no reason for you to become defensive…"

"You're saying that I need to be attacked to learn better?"

The brunette shrugged but before she could reply her eyes narrowed at the quiet sound of boots hitting the ground behind her.

The blonde noticed instantly that her wife's expression had a changed and she tilted her head questioningly since she hadn't heard a thing.

Instead of replying, the older woman brought up her blade and spun on her heels towards the tree behind her.

"Who's there?" she asked as threateningly as possible.

Emma's eyebrows shot up and her hand went to the hilt of her sword as she waited for a response.

"You've got some good instincts there, love," came from behind one of the trees.

The younger of the two women was about to draw her blade as a bandit stepped out into their sight. However, before she even pulled it an inch out of its sheath, she felt an arm circle her neck and the tip of a dagger being pressed into her back. Swallowing hard, she attempted to move but winced when the dagger sank slightly into her skin.

Regina's eyes shot over her shoulder and she practically growled when she saw the man holding Emma in a headlock. In that moment, she completely forgot about her plan to find a way to get to help the blonde develop some kind of defensive instinct. Instead, all that she could think about was how much she wanted to rip their throats out for daring to touch her wife.

Turning back to look at the man approaching her, she pursed her lips and said, "perhaps you're not quite as stealthy as you believe you are."

The man laughed loudly while his partner joined in and as he tightened his grip around the blonde.

"Give us all of your valuables or she dies," the bandit in front of Regina glowered, clearly sure that there was no way these two women would be able to get away.

"Tell him to let her go before I free your head from your body," she said while raising her hand. She was about to ignite a fireball that she imagined would be thrown at his face with no hesitation if he didn't motion for his partner to release her wife.

However, before the inferno formed above her palm, the two bandits spontaneously fell to the ground at the same time.

Regina blinked at the unconscious man for a few moments before she spun back around to face her wife with widened eyes.

Emma was looking down at her assailant with a confused frown. She was about to look over to Regina to ask if she had done that but her attention was caught by a man looking very concerned over by the opposite trees.

"Are you alright?" he asked as he walked over to Emma and Regina.

The older of the two women narrowed her eyes at him and wondered why it was that he looked so familiar.

Emma inspected the man for a moment. She didn't feel the same kind of familiarity that Regina did, but she did feel as though she should know who he was. He just had this kind of air of importance about him.

"Yes we are," the blonde finally replied, "and I suppose we should be thanking you?"

The man smiled slightly at the princess's clear confusion. He could understand that she didn't know exactly what had happened considering the position she had been in.

Bowing his head briefly, he said, "there is no need for any thanks. I would hardly be able to live with myself if I had just kept walking when I knew I had the ability to help."

Regina clenched her jaw at his words. She knew that she was being rather childish in that moment, but part of her wished that she had been the one to save Emma.

"And who exactly are we thanking?" she asked.

The man tilted his head at her hostility, wondering what he had done wrong for a moment. However, he quickly pushed past this and replied with a bowed head, "Merlin at your service, Hades."

"Merlin," Emma repeated, "as in Merlin and Arthur?"

The man laughed lightly and crossed his arms over his chest and said, "I suppose you know about the legend? Don't tell me how it ends, I haven't gotten there yet."

Emma looked over to her wife who looked just as confused as she felt. The princess had been shocked to learn that the fictional characters she'd read about existed in other realms, but she had never considered that someone could actually know about their fictionality in the Enchanted Forest.

"And how do you know who I am?" Regina asked, deciding that it was time to move passed this and find out what was now bothering her.

"I have read much about mythology in the same way your wife has apparently read much about me," Merlin replied, "your energy is unmistakable."

"And you believe that is the best use of your time?" Regina deadpanned.

"Are you suggesting that knowledge is not a worthy pursuit?" the magician asked with a tilted head and a slight smirk. When he woke up that morning, he hadn't considered that he was trading barbs with the goddess of the Underworld, but he couldn't deny that he was kind of enjoying it.

"Certainly not," Regina replied, "I am suggesting that it isn't the most efficient use of time to study the beliefs of another realm. I have never met a person outside of the Enchanted Forest who believes Hades to be anything more than a myth."

"It would be foolish to believe that Camelot is the only realm in existence, what would be the point of the power I hold if I am unable to sate my curiosity about the entirety of existence. Besides, it is a good thing that I was so curious so that I am able to offer you a welcome to Camelot worthy of a goddess and her wife," Merlin said and bowed his head a little to emphasise his final point.

Regina's eyes fell on the unconscious bandits who had given them a very different welcome and her lip curled up distastefully at them.

However, she also felt a surge of jealousy flare as she was reminded that she had been robbed at the chance to punish the people who would dare to threaten her wife, though she knew that it was somewhat foolish to be annoyed that someone else had saved Emma, especially since she hadn't long ago been telling Emma that she needed to be in danger to learn how to protect herself.

She turned her gaze back to Merlin and asked, "and why exactly were you randomly wandering the woods."

Emma frowned at the goddess.

As amazing as it was to actually meet Merlin of Arthurian fame, she couldn't help but worry more about why there appeared to be something bothering Hades. Though, she didn't once consider that it could be because she was apparently jealous since it didn't even cross her mind that there could be any reason to be.

As much as the princess never thought she would even have a chance to meet anyone outside of the White Palace, she couldn't imagine finding anyone more awe-inspiring than an actual goddess.

Merlin was about to reply to Regina's question, but his attempt was interrupted by the rather loud sound of metal scraping against metal as a fully armoured man emerged from the treeline and into the clearing.

"What are you doing, Merlin?" he asked while he strode over to the magician, apparently ignorant of how noisy his attire was.

Merlin offered the man a smile but the blond just scowled at him through his helmet.

"Forgive me, Prince Arthur," Merlin replied, though he didn't sound even a little apologetic, "I was assisting these two ladies in their time of need."

"We didn't require your assistance," Regina said without much thought, only to be nudged by Emma who shook her head at the older woman.

Arthur removed his helmet and turned his attention to the two women and then over to the unconscious bandits.

"You say you did not need assistance?" Arthur asked with a quirked eyebrow before his eyes travelled over to Emma without without much attempt to hide what he was doing.

Regina clenched her fists and was about to reply, but Merlin opened his mouth first:

"Your highness, I believe that it would be better not to antagonize this woman."

Arthur looked like he was trying not to openly laugh as he asked, "and why would that be, Merlin?"

Regina unclenched her fists. For a moment, her mind went through all of the ways that she could show him exactly why he should be scared. However, if she decided not to harm the Knave of Hearts, then it stood to reason that she should do the same for the prince before he had the chance to become King Arthur, even if he was currently pissing her off royally.

"I would take his word for it," Emma supplied, mostly because she was legitimately worried that her wife wanted to at least singe the once and future king, not that she would blame her for that desire right now based upon the pure smugness on his face.

Her hand slipped into Regina's stop her from clenching them again which seemed to relax her a great deal.

Arthur continued to stare at Emma until his face split into a wide smile as he inclined his head and said, "certainly my lady, it was not my intention to disrespect two women with such attractive visages."

Merlin cringed and took a moment to check Regina's reaction though he relaxed when he noticed Emma squeeze her hand which evidently stopped her from reacting unfavourably.

When no one reacted to his comment, Arthur added, "forgive my rudeness, please allow Merlin and I to escort both of you to our camp. We will be able to offer you a meal and further protection from the toils of Camelot...Not that you need the protection of course."

Regina's nostrils flared a little at his little dig, but she forced herself to hold back any retorts. With her hand still being held by Emma's, she could practically feel the blonde vibrating with excitement.

It seemed cruel to deny her the chance to meet the knights of Camelot just because she had taken an instant disliking to the prince.

The goddess shifted her hand to entwine her fingers with Emma's more comfortably and managed to say with very little sarcasm, "we would be much obliged...your highness."

Emma just smiled at her wife as they began to follow Arthur and Merlin (who was still looking rather apologetic).

She was really beginning to love the fact that there appeared to be nothing Regina wouldn't do for her, even when she was clearly irritated.

It was this kind of selflessness that made her sure that her parents were wrong about Hades.

Graham turned the page and leaned back in the most comfortable recliner in the library with a satisfied sigh.

Over the centuries it had become increasingly rare that Regina would leave the Underworld for extended periods of time, which meant that he rarely had the chance to completely relax.

It had been days since he'd had to interact with an irritated goddess or a curious princess.

It was a nice break but something he wasn't sure that he could keep up.

As much as interaction made him anxious he was beginning to feel a certain loneliness creep in the longer he spent in the castle with only books as his companion.

It also helped that he was gradually coming to the conclusion that he liked having Emma around, even if her current absence was a nice respite from the worry he had been feeling for almost his entire immortal life.

He was pretty sure that she was the first thing that he had resembling a friend and he could see him maybe eventually reaching the same status with Regina if Emma continued to make her happy.

His smile fell slightly at the thought that he may actually be missing having others around and he let the fifth book he had read in two days fall shut.

The demon was about to stand up and get another book that might better hold his interest, but his movement was cut short by the sound of someone calling out:


Graham's eyes widened and one hand clutched the arm of the comfy chair but he almost instantly relaxed when his mind registered that it wasn't someone who had no permission to be in Regina's palace.

Dawn appeared from around the book-case and quirked an eyebrow at Panic.

"Well I assume that my mother isn't here, you look far too relaxed."

"Your mother and Emma went to Wonderland," Graham explained as Dawn leaned against the book-case, "they left a few days ago, I can only assume that they have travelled to other realms by now."

Dawn smiled at the news.

Even if she had come here to talk to Regina, it was good to hear that her mother was assisting Emma in her adventures rather than attempting to deny her feelings.

Graham shifted in his seat and asked, "did you need something?"

Dawn shrugged and replied, "I did, but it can wait."

Graham nodded.

Usually, this would have been the end of the conversation for him; however, when he saw Dawn was about to push herself away to leave, he made a split second decision and offered, "I could help...if you would like?"

Dawn leaned back against the book-case and inspected Graham. She was fairly sure that as long as she had known him, the demon had never been the one to continue a conversation. However, it occurred to her that Graham would probably understand what was on her mind.

"You actually want to hear about my problems?" she asked.

Graham shrugged. The expression she currently had on her face would terrify him if it was Regina, but he'd never really been afraid of Dawn in the same way, especially now that she didn't have that sword.

"We don't know when Emma and Regina will return, it can't hurt to ask if it might save you some time."

Dawn narrowed her eyes slightly as she wondered whether this was a good idea.

She had never told anyone, but she had found Graham quite attractive a few years ago.

It was rather awkward to discuss what was bothering her with her first crush, but she decided that it would only be awkward if Graham knew how she had felt.

She was pretty sure that his nervous disposition would stop him from noticing something like that anyway.

She moistened her lips and said, "I was in a tavern talking to a very handsome blacksmith's apprentice and something hit me. I would never really be able to have a relationship with him long-term. Devin ended our relationship when he found out that I'm immortal and that would almost certainly happen with any man I got close to. If not, they would just grow old while I stay exactly as I am now and he would certainly find out the truth that way."

Dawn took a deep breath and looked at the demon expectantly for a response.

Graham stared back with his mouth slightly open for a few moments, until he finally forced words out, "how long has this been bothering you?"

"Probably not as long as it should have been," she replied with a sigh.

Graham nodded before he sat forward slightly in what he hoped was a supportive looking gesture.

"These are natural worries for someone who is newly immortal. I know that you still likely love Devin, but honestly could you see yourself wanting to be with him in one or two hundred years?"

Dawn looked down and sighed as she admitted, "I don't know."

She wasn't sure what she wanted her mother to say to help, but it occurred to her that Regina was currently likely trying to ignore worries of having feelings for her very mortal wife. Regina would hardly be able to be as objective about this as Graham was being.

"Perhaps flirting with apprentices so soon after the end of your relationship was not the most logical choice? From what I understand, a breakup can bring on existential questions even in more…'mortal circumstances'. You could...stay here for a while to allow yourself some space to reflect on your new feelings about your immortality?"

Dawn tilted her head and asked, "are you suggesting that I stay in the Underworld? Would that not encroach upon your peace?"

"I believe I may feel more at peace knowing there is another person here," he replied and when she smirked, he added, "in the event of an intruder looking to horribly maim me."

"Have you experienced many intruders in the Underworld?"

Graham sighed when no excuses came to mind and he said, "I would still feel better knowing that there is someone else around…"

"Are you bored by any chance, Graham?" Dawn laughed and finally pushed herself away from the book-case.

Graham nodded, seeing no point in denying her words, especially since his current goal was to get her to stay.

He used to being summoned for some task by Regina or assisting Emma with not unwittingly getting herself killed through her lack of knowledge of the Underworld.

As nice as it was to have some time to decompress, it was also nice to know that there were other people around to hold his attention when reading was no longer enjoyable.

"I suppose you could say that," he replied, "I believe we would both benefit from the company, wouldn't you agree?"

Dawn felt her mouth go a little dry at the suggestion that they spend time together, but that had to just be because of residual feelings from her first crush, right?

"Well, I suppose if you need protection from your imaginary intruders, it would only be right for me to go and collect my bag from the tavern."

With that, she disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Graham leaned back with a little smile before his eyebrows pinched together and it turned into more of a frown when he realised that he could feel a light fluttering in his stomach.

He didn't even want to entertain the possibility that he could have feelings for Hades' daughter.

It just wasn't worth the fireball.


Chapter Text

Chapter twelve

"He is not quite the king Arthur I've read about," Emma whispered to Regina whilst poking at the food that had been presented to them upon arrival to the palace.

Rather than being taken back to their camp for a meal, Arthur seemed content to just ask the two 'lovely ladies' to join them at the palace for dinner rather than finishing his impromptu hunting session.

The king had only rolled his eyes when they entered the dining room with his son and Emma had to assume that this was something that happened often. The king just seemed resigned to what was happening.

She had been rubbing her thumbs across her wedding band for some time now.

It appeared that the king had already noticed it on both her and Regina's fingers since he smirked the moment they sat down. It has rather quickly overtaken the resigned frown on his face.

She was waiting to see if Arthur would notice that they were both unavailable and impervious to his attempts at flirting.

Regina looked over to Arthur who was talking animatedly to an incredibly bored and exasperated Merlin about his accomplishments. It was obviously not for the wizard's benefit since it sounded as though Merlin had been there for the majority of them. It did not help Merlin's interest levels knowing that the prince had no chance with either woman he was trying to impress. It would be amusing if it wasn't so embarrassing.

"This is often the risk of travelling to other realms. It is safer to choose the time with the least chance of influencing major conflict. Unfortunately, it often means that the people of interest are not yet their best selves," Regina replied, "with the exception of the Enchanted Forest of course."

"Why is the Enchanted Forest an exception?" Emma asked with a frown.

"Time between the worlds of the gods and the Enchanted Forest is directly linked. When an hour passes in the Underworld, the same amount of time passes in the Enchanted Forest. It's part of why people of your realm believe in the Olympians. We're far less removed than we are for other realms."

"So, you can travel to any point of time for other realms?" Emma asked slowly, she supposed what she had been told made complete sense, but she did resolve to actually start reading more about magic rather than continuing to try and learn from her favourite fictional books.

"We can but if we were to change something by accident than we could jeopardise the happy endings of many people. For example, if the bandits were to have killed Merlin while he was trying to protect us, Arthur may never have had the chance to become king. He may be an insufferable womaniser at this point of his life, but eventually he will become the noble knight admired by the entire realm and beyond."

"So it is dangerous to travel to other realms?" Emma reiterated.

"There is always a level of risk," Regina granted, "but as long as we avoid any major changes, time has a way of making destiny happen."

Emma let out a small sigh of relief.

As much as she would love to watch Arthur find Excalibur, she was pretty sure that she could manage to get through this visit without inexplicably causing someone's death. Even with the restrictions, it was still more than she'd ever thought she would be allowed to experience anyway, so she wasn't in any position to complain.

Regina nudged Emma and she blinked a few times when it occurred to her that everyone at the table had fallen silent and were looking at her and her wife.

She swallowed a bite of her food and said, "sorry?"

The king smiled at her, he clearly wasn't too surprised that she had zoned out from his son's self-congratulations.

It was for this reason that he didn't seem to mind having to repeat himself, "I was just apologising for my son's lack of manners. It would appear that he has only just realised that he does not know either of your names."

A petulant expression passed over Arthur's face and Emma smirked as she said, "there is no need for apologises, we were honoured to be invited to your palace for dinner, your majesty."

"Even so, he could have asked your names," the king replied with a little laugh, "would you allow me to rectify this folly?"

"My name is Regina and this is Emma White," Regina replied.

"King Uther Pendragon," he said in response, "it is a pleasure to meet both of you, though I must admit that the surname White does not suit you somehow, Regina."

Arthur drew his eyebrows together before he turned back to inspect the two women more closely.

His eyes fell down to their matching rings and he visibly sighed in frustration.

Regina swallowed a large gulp of wine before she replied, "I married into the name."

Emma nodded in agreement, hoping that neither man would ask what her maiden name was since she was fairly sure that Regina had been alive longer than the concept of surnames.

"How long have you been married?" Arthur inquired. Now that he knew he did not have a chance with either woman, his aim was to continue to be as polite as possible to avoid another lecture from his father.

"A month or so," Emma replied, though her mind was still on the thought that her wife had basically just claimed that her name was 'Regina White'.

Arthur took a second to analyse their clothes. He decided that they were hardly of low social standing before he asked, "and you choose to spend your time in the forest?"

"We were simply practising our swordplay skills," Regina answered.

Both Uther and Arther frowned and Merlin just smirked into his drink.

Regina began to wish that she was still in the forest alone with her wife rather than sat here having this utterly pointless discussion.

Emma reached under the table to grab her wife's hand, she was beginning to realise that it was the best way to stop Regina from thinking about summoning a fireball. Or perhaps something worse, she did seem particularly irritated by Arthur.

"I led a rather sheltered life before we married," Emma supplied by way of explanation, "I asked Regina to show me more of Camelot and teach me how to handle a blade."

Arthur laughed and replied, "it is indeed fortunate that we found you in that case."

"And why would that be?" Regina asked and Emma squeezed her hand under the table again. She was sure that it wouldn't be for the last time during this meal.

"Who better to provide lessons in swordplay than the knights of Camelot?"

Regina clenched her jaw.

It was yet another opportunity that she couldn't very well deny her wife. There was also the fact that their training had not been going particularly well, so perhaps Arthur could actually help her while looking like a good Samaritan to his father. It seemed like a win-win situation much to Regina's chagrin.

"We would be honoured for the opportunity," Regina replied, deliberately addressing the king rather than the prince.

Uther tried not to smirk.

He, of course, knew what his son was doing, but in times of peace he saw no issue with giving the knights an eager student for a few days.

It would at least give them something to do.

"It is now past the appropriate time for training," the king said, "but please allow me to extend the offer of our bed chambers."

"Thank you," Emma breathed very much in disbelief.

"Of course, I will arrange for your chambers to be prepared as soon as possible," Uther replied as he waved his hand. Almost as if by magic, one of the servants standing stock still at the wall awaiting orders, left to go and complete the implicit command.

Emma's knee began to bounce slightly as she thought about the prospect of staying in the palace of Camelot.

In her excitement she didn't notice the colour drain from Regina's face as something occurred to the goddess.

One bed chamber meant one bed.

Dawn pulled back the string of her bow as she took in a deep breath and her mind began to clear.

There was just something so calming about practising archery on her own.

All she had to do was make sure that the arrow hit its target. She didn't have worry about losing her cool against her opponent in swordplay and the bow didn't care whether she was immortal or not.

Her desire for immortality had been born from her plan to get her mother to stop worrying that she would drop dead at any moment, but she clearly didn't think about what it would mean for herself.

The need to not think about it was precisely why she now stood in the courtyard with her bow and arrows for the last half an hour.

She was about to loose the arrow until her focus was broken by the sound of scuffing behind her.

She automatically twirled on her heels and her eyes flew open.

The demi-goddess almost released the projectile, however, her mind caught up just about fast enough to stop the oncoming assault.

Dawn blew out a very different kind of breath and relaxed the string so that the bow was just held limply at her waist and she raised her eyebrows at the cowering Graham.

"Why would you think it is a good idea to sneak up on me right now?!"

The demon peaked out from under his arms that were covering his face and he gulped in relief at seeing that she was no longer pointing an arrow at him.

"I...I…" he stuttered.

"Graham," Dawn said to cut him off, she was sure it was for the best since he rarely said anything coherent when he was in this state.

The sound of his name seemed to bring him out of his fear and he smiled gratefully, though also sheepishly, as he said, "sorry, I didn't know you were out here training."

Dawn placed her arrow back in her quiver and came over to lean against the pillar that Graham was near.

"I wouldn't exactly call it training," she replied, but before he could question what she meant, she asked, "were you by chance looking to invite me to dinner again?"

Graham nodded and replied, "I was...I believe that it is almost prepared and I assumed you were hungry?"

"I am starving," she assured him, "I'll meet you inside once I've put my bow away."

Before Graham could say anything in response, the demi-goddess had already started walking away and he simply watched her go for a moment.

It didn't take long to make it to the dining room and he stood unsurely for a few seconds while a couple servants bustled around him to place the meal on the table, though they were not moving as quickly as they would have if Regina was here.

Graham found himself drawn to the mirror on the wall.

Without much conscious thought, he started straightening the collar of his shirt and he ran his hand through his hair to make sure it was parted correctly.

"What are you doing?"

Panic stumbled back from the mirror, and not-so-gracefully fell back onto one of the chairs in the process.

He brought his hand up to his chest to place it over his now fast beating heart while he attempted to slow his breathing down,

"What the hell, Sidney?!" he managed to get out as he stared back at the unannounced face in the mirror with contempt.

"You didn't answer my question," Pain smirked, he would have crossed his arms over his chest if that was possible for him, but as it was, he had only his face to show his amusement.

Graham huffed and pushed himself up to his feet before he replied, "I was looking in the mirror under the impression that I would have some privacy."

"Have you considered which appendage Regina is most likely to cut off when she discovers you are attempting to court her daughter?" Sidney asked.

Graham cringed.

It was indeed something he had been thinking about since it had hit him that what he felt towards Dawn could potentially be a real crush.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Graham squeaked which caused the man in the mirror to laugh openly.

The laughing stopped though when the surface of the mirror suddenly went back to normal.

"You're very pretty, Graham, though I never took you for the vain type," he heard a female voice tease from behind him.

Blush instantly flashed across his cheeks and he counted to five in his mind, willing the signs of his embarrassment to go away, however, ineffectively before he turned around and offered Dawn a half grin.

"I thought there was something on my face," he lied, before he moved around the table to pull her chair for her.

Dawn quirked an eyebrow as she inspected his flawless face, but she still said, "thank you," as she sat down.

Graham nodded and then moved over to sit opposite her.

The pair of them fell into silence as their wine was poured and they each started their soup.

They remained like this until the servants replaced the starter with their main course.

Graham poked at the roasted chicken as he finally found the courage to ask what was bothering him, "what did you mean when you said that you wouldn't call it training?"

Dawn frowned and looked up from her plate, "what do you mean?"

"Outside...You were practising archery…."

The woman sighed and replied, "I was just taking some time to stop thinking…."

"Stop thinking about immortality?" he asked, Dawn nodded and speared her chicken, Graham added, "is there anything I can do to help you understand."

" you have any advice for living as an immortal?"

"I'm not entirely sure I am the best person to ask...I have spent my entire existence in the Underworld."

"That can't be true," Dawn said and blanched slightly at the thought.

"I was created at the same time as the Underworld itself. Your mother gave me every chance to leave, and I'm sure that she would still let me go if I so desired. But I'm not exactly in any position to just...leave," he explained.

"So you're almost as old as my mother and have never even seen the sun?" Dawn asked, she wasn't entirely sure how many years Regina had been alive, so she couldn't even begin to figure out a way to calculate Graham's age.

"I feel safe here," Graham replied with a shrug, "you were the first mortal I ever met, which is why I don't believe I would be the best choice to offer you advice."

Dawn pressed her lips together before she asked, "but if you were to ever fall for a mortal?"

"There is no reason to treasure every moment when it passes so quickly and you know you will definitely have more. That's why I think falling for a mortal can be disastrous…"

"So you believe that my mother is marriage is a disaster in the making?"

"Not necessarily, though the potential for it to end badly is increased exponentially. I just don't understand why they would risk that for…"

"True Love?"

"It would be very cruel for an immortal to find True Love with a mortal. Could you imagine living thousands of years knowing that you have had and lost your True Love?" Graham asked.

Dawn nodded thoughtfully and was very conscious of the possibility that she was blushing as she asked, "do you believe two immortals can share True Love?"

"I must confess that I do not know much about love personally, but yes I do...although the concept of happy endings is certainly complicated by the fact that immortals do not have endings," Graham replied, his mouth pulled down in a frown as he considered the question. Love in general was not exactly his area of expertise, so he wasn't too sure where these answers were coming from.

"If you believe all of this, why would you assist me in pushing Emma and my mother together?"

"I have seen Regina smile more in the last month than she has in the past ten thousand years. Even if tragedy is guaranteed, I think your mother may need this to once again believe in love," he replied.

"I suppose that makes sense," Dawn sighed, "my mother never warned me that this would be this complicated.

"In her defense, she did warn you not to compete in the tournament," Graham chuckled and finally brought up his knife and fork to begin cutting up his food.

Dawn dramatically rolled her eyes and also moved to begin eating.

As the demi-goddess began chewing.

She became preoccupied with the thought that Graham had never left the Underworld.

She was already thinking of places that she could take him.

Regina tapped her fingers against her stomach for a few moments until she closed her eyes.

A minute later, she growled in frustration and looked at the ceiling.

The goddess had fully intended to fall asleep before her wife returned from the library since she wouldn't have to worry about the sleeping arrangements that way.

She really did not want to address the state of their relationship today, it was supposed to be about Emma training with the knights of Camelot.

Plus there was a very good chance that Emma would just fall asleep while reading and she wouldn't need to worry about this at all.

She stared at the ceiling for a full ten minutes as her mind went through all of the possibilities of what could happen if Emma were to turn up.

Finally, her thoughts were halted by the sound of the heavy chamber door opening.

Regina was about to turn over and tell the servant off for interrupting her pathetic attempts at sleep, but the lashing died on her tongue when she saw the blonde of her thoughts standing completely still at the door.

The goddess jolted up and onto her feet which made Emma frown at her.

"What are you doing?" Emma asked, though her back still remained glued to the door as if her body wasn't quite sure what to do.

"I was moving to give you the space to sleep, dear," Regina replied and gestured to the empty bed.

"...Why?" she asked, though the princess dug her nails into her palms.

"I do not require sleep so it makes sense that you should get the bed, I can try and sleep on the floor…I suppose…"

Regina's eyes fell down to the stone, trying to discern just how dirty it currently was.

"But…" Emma trailed off. She couldn't just say that the thought of sharing a bed excited her or that the last hour or so in the library has been spent trying to psych herself up to face the possibility. As anxious as she was about it, she didn't want the opportunity taken away, "would that not look suspicious if...say a servant were to walk in they would surely tell the king and he would think we were trying to deceive him."

Regina bit the inside of her cheek.

It was painfully obvious that Emma wanted to share a bed and it did feel like a waste not to take the chance just because it scared her. After all, it wasn't long ago that she had been preaching the virtues of fear to her wife? She needed this fear to feel brave enough to actually do it.

"I suppose that makes sense," Regina said and slipped back into her previous position, though her body was far more tense than before.

Regina looked down at her lap and the beats of the passing seconds were almost palpable until Emma realised that she was the one who should be doing something right now.

She stepped forward but worried at her lip as she looked down at the clothes she was wearing.

The princess was pretty sure that she wasn't in any position to change her clothes, not that wearing night clothes would make this situation any less awkward.

Regina apparently thought the same since she was still in her tunic and pants.

Emma removed her boots and left them at the door.

However, when she made it halfway across the room, her hands seemed to make their own decisions as they reached up to remove her grey tunic so that she was left in her linen undershirt.

It was already going to be uncomfortable trying to sleep in leather pants so she figured that she might as well try to mitigate the chance that she would be overheated.

As her wife removed her tunic, Regina bit the inside of her cheek and attempted to appear completely disinterested when she lay down completely.

"Goodnight, dear," Regina said and turned around so that she couldn't see the other woman placing the folded tunic aside on the bedside table.

Emma took a moment to stare at the goddess's back, before she tore her attention away and scurried over to the bed.

"Goodnight, Regina," she replied as she slipped under the sheets.

The princess thanked anyone who was listening that the older woman couldn't see the blush on her cheeks, completely unaware that Regina was doing the same.

Despite the fact that they were sharing the same quilt, there was practically a sea of distance between them.

This wasn't helped by the fact that they each had their eyes wide open.

Both women were in for a long night.

-7 hours later-

Somehow, they both managed to fall asleep, though at what time they had no idea.

Regina's head lolled to the side, which brought her mind into consciousness.

She cracked her eyes open and took in a deep breath.

Even if the goddess didn't need sleep, it didn't mean that she wasn't groggy whenever she did (which was quite often since it was an excellent way to pass time).

However, she certainly wasn't used to waking up to an intense warmth on her side, which was exactly why her eyes shot open once her mind had gone through the previous night's events.

Her eyes widened comically when she registered that the source of the heat was Emma who had a koala-like grip on her and her head laid on her shoulder.

Regina closed her eyes and allowed the sensation to roll over her and she opened them again to watch the rise and fall of the princess's chest.

There was no doubt that Regina found Emma to be adorable when she was awake, but asleep was a whole other matter.

Regina was about to try and move, she didn't want to get too used to being in this position. However, this attempt was interrupted by the sound of the door opening.

Hades silently cursed whoever was coming in and forced her body to relax since she should look as comfortable as possible when in bed with her wife.

The young maid had entered froze in place as her eyes snapped up to Regina's chocolate orbs.

"I...I'm so sorry, I wasn't aware that this chamber was in use," she stuttered as she bowed her head and her grip tightened around the duster in her hand.

She was obviously used to being berated by royalty and their guests.

It was for this reason that Regina did her best not to look annoyed.

The brunette was about to tell her that it was fine and then dismiss her, but the woman gripping her waist began to stir.

Emma was clearly going through the same process as Regina had when she had woken up, but the princess had never had the chance to share so much as a room with another person at night, let alone a bed.

It was for this reason that she shot up and looked around the room as she tried to figure out what was going on.

Regina's heart clenched at the feelings of rejection but there was still a maid in the chamber staring at the pair with her mouth slightly open.

Hades looked between the two women and then asked Emma, "did you have another nightmare, dear?"

The blonde frowned and turned to look at the maid and she finally realised just how unusual her reaction was.

"Yes I did," she replied, before she looked over to the maid, "apologises if I startled you."

The maid shook her head and replied, "no, my lady, it was I who should be apologising. I was not aware that this room was occupied."

"We should be getting ready for the day," Regina interjected, seeing that Emma had no idea how to cut the tension, "we should be thanking you for waking us."

As if to prove her point, Regina slid out of the bed and onto her feet as Emma watched her go, slightly disappointed that her tired mind hadn't given her the chance to enjoy having her head on her shoulder.

"Would you be able to ask Prince Arthur what would be the best time to join him for training?" the ruler of the Underworld asked, she could see just how desperately this woman wanted to get out of the room.

The maid nodded and turned on her heels to leave as fast as she possibly could.

Once the door closed, the two remaining women stayed in silence for about ten seconds before Emma offered the brunette a smile and moved to the tunic she had discarded on the table the night before.

"I think I will go to the library and await Arthur's reply," Emma announced and moved over to her boots by the door.

Regina nodded and replied, "I will inform him of where you are."

Emma's hand went to the handle on the chamber door and said, "thank you…"

She hesitated as she tried to figure out exactly what else she should say to the woman she had just been using as a pillow, but nothing sprung to mind and she just opened the door and slipped out into the corridor.

When the door snapped shut, Regina waited a couple seconds before she fell back onto the bed and groaned into the pillow.

Chapter Text

Chapter thirteen

"This is a terrible idea! And completely unnecessary!"

Dawn propped her head upon her closed fist and continued to watch the terrified man before her. She had imagined something like this would happen when she had suggested a short trip to the Enchanted Forest, but she hadn't thought that it would be quite like this. Then again, she hadn't really thought that Graham would agree to this in the first place. Much to her surprise, it hadn't taken long once the initial fear had worn off enough for them to have an actual conversation about her simple suggestion, but it also hadn't taken long for him to start freaking out.

First it had been him taking everything in after she had first poofed them there. She had been expecting something resembling a mix of awe and fear, of course, since Graham had spent innumerable years in the dominion of Hades.

But this awe naturally morphed into anxiety for the demon who was scared of things that were even a little bit unknown.

The issue was that even the sun was an unknown to the man who had not been exaggerating when he said he had never left the Underworld.

"You have been a personal servant to Hades for so many years, are you seriously telling me that you can't get on a horse?" Dawn finally asked once she decided that it was cruel to just leave the man staring at the white stallion before him.

Graham just shook his head by way of reply and continued to stare at the beast before him, who was just casually grazing at the grass, ignorant of the fear he was inducing.

Quite frankly, Graham couldn't quite fathom why he had agreed to accompany Dawn to the Enchanted Forest in the first place. It wasn't as if the young woman needed someone to protect her, considering she would be quite capable of cutting down anyone who threatened her, but it had just been something about the way she had asked. She had looked so excited at the very prospect of having him go with her and he was sure that it was because she had found out that he had never left the Underworld in his entire, immortal, life. It was a fact that he was quite comfortable with but he could understand why she was find it strange and insist upon introducing him to what existence had to offer.

A few times over the years, he had thought about going out to explore other realms and Regina had explicitly stated that he would be allowed to leave whenever he pleased. However, the very thought of going somewhere unfamiliar terrified him more than it probably should have. Whenever he had his bouts of anxiety, he never once considered the fact that he was completely unable to die. It was just the prospect of pain that always made him so reluctant to do anything. But, when Dawn had asked him to go to the Enchanted Forest, he wasn't thinking about the many ways that he could potentially hurt himself, since he had been preoccupied with giving her what she wanted. He could tell that she didn't enjoy spending so much time in the Underworld, especially when her mother and step-mother were not present, so he had agreed to this trip without much thought.

He quickly regretted his decision, though. He should have given it much more thought than he had, in this clearing alone, he was sure there were hundreds of things on which he could hurt himself.

Not least by falling off a horse. In that circumstance, he would have to worry about the embarrassment as well as the physical agony.

Dawn blew out a breath and stood from the ground, which she had been cross-legged upon. She came up behind the slightly taller man and placed a hand on his shoulder. Graham looked over to her, not even registering the fact that he didn't flinch and he smiled in return to her offered grin.

"You don't have to get on the horse," she said, trying not to laugh as she allowed her hand to fall back to her side, "we can just go home if you want…"

Graham swallowed hard and looked around the clearing. For a moment, going back to the Underworld sounded like an excellent idea, but his surroundings gave him pause.

There may be hundreds of things that could hurt him, but these were also things that he had never gotten to experience in his self-imposed isolation in the land of the dead.

The colours, the fresh air, the sun. It may have been completely overwhelming when they had first arrived, but overwhelming didn't always have to be a bad thing. He just needed some time to adjust, especially if this meant that he would get to spend more time with Dawn.

"I'm very hungry so perhaps...we could…go for dinner before we leave…" he suggested after he finished his moment of contemplation. "You were raving about the food served in the taverns after your first trip here…"

Dawn tilted her head and tried to hold back a smile at the fact that he actually wanted to stay. She would be lying if she said that she wanted to go back to the Underworld right now, but she also didn't want to stay in the Enchanted Forest alone, especially now that she knew that there was someone in her life who knew what she was going through other than her mother.

"But how do you suppose we get to a tavern without a horse?"

"You could poof us to a town," Graham suggested, before a churn in his stomach reminded him just how nauseous the experience had made him, "…or we could just walk, it can't be that far, can it?"

Dawn quirked an eyebrow at the man, this time trying not to chuckle at the hopeful look on his face, "the nearest town is about three hours away by foot, if you're really that hungry…"

"Did I say 'very hungry'…I meant peckish," he quickly replied, which made Dawn to actually laugh out loud.

"I suppose a walk could do both of us some good," she reasoned, deciding not to bring attention to just how happy she was that he wanted to stay. In one swift movement, Dawn linked her arm with his (knowing that he would be less prone to anxiety that way) and waved her free hand to return the horse she had conjured to where it had come from.

The pair began to walk in a comfortable silence as Graham marvelled at everything around him and his younger companion smiled broadly as she watched the thousands-of-years-old demon actually enjoy himself.

Regina tapped her fingers frantically against the low wall that she had sat herself upon and worried at her lip intently.

The morning had gone by in a whirlwind as she and her wife were treated to breakfast by the king and it wasn't long until Arthur had invited Emma to the training ground. The blonde was currently stood in front of a practice dummy as she tried the different swings that the knight next to her had demonstrated.

Regina couldn't help but smile covertly at the look of concentration on the young woman's face. The goddess had never thought that it was possible for a mortal to be so cute.

However, a split second later, she cringed once again when the memories from earlier that morning flashed through her mind.

There had been about three seconds when she had woken up that day that she had thought that everything was perfect. It had just felt so right sleeping next to Princess Emma, but when they had both achieved complete consciousness, it had all gone downhill rather quickly.

Back when she still allowed herself to imagine what it would be like to be married to Persephone, she had thought just how perfect it would be to be allowed to hold Ruby in her arms every night. How everything would be perfect for the rest of eternity if the goddess of nature had only decided that she would be willing to do anything for the woman that she claimed to love.

"You do know that you don't have to stare?"

Regina blinked out of her reverie and jumped slightly as she looked up. Her hand twitched to ignite a fireball, but she quickly stopped when she registered just who had interrupted her thoughts.

"Are you following me?" she sighed, though her tone lacked any real exasperation.

Mal chuckled and shook her head as she dropped down to sit next to her friend.

"Are you implying that there is no reason for the goddess of sorcery to be in Camelot?" she quipped.

"At this moment, the only reason that I can see for you to be here is that you decided to encroach upon my personal life once again," Regina said with a huff, and turned her gaze back to Emma.

Hecate looked back over to the blonde again and raised her eyebrows, "if only the mortals knew that Hades spent her time staring at her beautiful wife, they probably would not be quite as afraid of you…"

"Is there actually a reason that you're here?" Regina asked, just about managing to resist the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose.

"I'm here to offer a piece of advice, dear," Mal replied, "after our conversation on Olympus I thought that you would strive to actually spend time with your wife. The extent to which you missed her was close to physical pain, why are you watching her spend time with others?"

"She is training for a tournament…would you deny her the opportunity to train with the knights of Camelot?"

"She is learning nothing that you or Dawn would not be capable of teaching her. Do you not think that your time would not be better spent getting to know more about one another? You could be in the Underworld at this very moment growing closer rather than thinking about just how awkward your morning was."

"You're here to give me love advice?" Regina laughed incredulously, though also somewhat bitterly.

"I don't really think that suggesting spending more personal time with your wife is exactly groundbreaking advice, it sounds more like common sense to me," Mal replied.

Regina opened her mouth to say something, but she was cut off by the sound of someone jogging over to them. She looked up to see Emma smiling broadly at her and she tilted her head questioningly.

"Did you see? I disarmed Lancelot," she said quickly, not even noticing the person next to her wife.

Regina's eyebrows shot up and she glanced over to the man that had been training Emma. She hadn't really thought to question just who he was, but she now recognised the man frowning down at his blade, as if he couldn't believe that the princess had just thrown his sword to the ground.

"That's…amazing," she finally replied.

Emma's smile broadened and she was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet before her initial excitement wore off and she finally registered the other woman who had been watching them in amusement.

"My apologises for interrupting…" she started, but Hecate held up a hand with a smirk. She could certainly see why her friend found this woman so adorable.

"It's perfectly fine, dear, it is not my place to stop conversation conversation between spouses."

Regina shook her head, reminding herself that she couldn't exactly just tell Mal to stop enjoying this so much.

Emma tilted her head and shot a look over to Regina, silently asking who this woman was. It wasn't as though she had ever known the immortal to spontaneously make friends.

Mal looked between the pair and waited for either of them to say something and quirked an eyebrow at the older of the two. Regina wasn't exactly the silent type, except for when she was trying to avoid interacting with Ruby.

When she decided that the silence had stretched on for far too long, she leaned forward slightly and said, "you must be Princess Emma White, it's a pleasure to meet you, I'm Mal."

The blonde woman nodded slowly and managed a smile despite her confusion, as Mal extended her hand for the young woman to shake.

It quickly became apparent that the princess was none the wiser and Mal added, "perhaps you would know me better as Hecate?"

Emma's eyes widened and her mouth dropped open slightly, "Hecate," she repeated slowly. Upon having it confirmed that Hades was a real person, she of course knew that all of the other gods and goddesses must also be real, but it had never really occurred to her that she might meet any of them.

Regina shot her friend a look that said 'stop freaking out my wife' before she said, "I believe Lancelot is waiting a for a rematch, dear."

Emma blinked out of her shock and looked over to her shoulder to the man who was looking at her expectantly, obviously wondering who the unfamiliar woman with them was.

The princess nodded and looked back over to Hecate, "it was lovely to meet you," she said with a quick nod.

Mal smiled at her, but quickly raised her hand before the younger woman could turn on her heels, "before you go, dear, I believe that I owe you a wedding gift."

Before Regina could open her mouth to say that wouldn't be necessary, Hecate waved her hand and a relatively thin leather-bound book appeared between her fingers.

"I can see that you have great potential for the mystical arts and I believe that this should be of great assistance in beginning your studies," the magical goddess explained, "there's no need to remain Camelot."

Emma furrowed her brow, but still reached forward to take the book, which she promptly ran her hand over, "thank you," she said, her words dripping with awe at the skilful display of magic.

"I believe you should get back to the knight, you wouldn't want to miss the opportunity," Mal replied.

Emma nodded and handed the book to Regina before she quickly said 'thank you' again and actually turned on her heels to make her way back over to Lancelot.

Hades watched her wife go, before she looked back over to Mal with narrowed eyes.

"What?" the other goddess laughed.

"A wedding gift?"

Mal shrugged with a smirk, "seemed as good of an excuse as any to give her the book. With that book there is no reason that the two of you can't return to the Underworld and continue her studies there. You can go on your adventures when the two of you can share a bed without cringing."

Regina's eyes widened for a moment before her expression returned to a frown and she asked, "you used your powers to watch me sleep?"

"That would be an invasion of privacy," Mal replied with a smirk, "I merely used them to see whether the two of you sharing a bed would be a catastrophe and it seemed that I was correct to check."

The brunette rolled her eyes deeply and looked down to the book in her hands, "what exactly is so special about this?"

"I have tailored it to her type of magic, it should accelerate her learning more than anything you will find in any other realm."

"So you believe that she will agree to return to the Underworld just because you have given her a book?" Regina asked doubtfully.

"I believe that she would return any time you ask her to," Hecate replied as she rose from her seat, "she would probably do anything you ask of her just as you would do for her."

The brunette was about to argue but Mal was already waving her hand to take her back to Olympus, "enjoy the rest of your little vacation," she laughed just before she fully disappeared.

Regina huffed when her friend was finally gone and shook her head.

It was truly beginning to irritate her just how much people were interfering with her marriage.

Chapter Text

Chapter fourteen

"This is delicious!" Graham exclaimed as he tore another bite away from the chimera that had been served to him.

Dawn shook her head, he may have been afraid of many things, but it did not appear that he was too frightened of appearing uncouth. She could understand though. She was sure that she had reacted the same way when she had first tried to food outside of the Underworld. As much as she loved going there just to visit her mother, she had to admit that the food was somehow bland when compared to the offerings of the other realms. There was no spice in the land of the dead apparently.

"You really need to slow down or you will definitely throw up when we go back," she said semi-seriously.

Graham faltered for a moment at the thought of poofing, but then the taste of the meat hit his tongue once again and he decided that a little bit of nausea would definitely be worth it.

Dawn rolled her eyes with a grin tugging at the corner of her lips as he continued to devour the meat and she reached forward to bring up her tankard of beer to her lips.

"I never thought they would let her out of the castle, let alone allow her to explore on her own."

The demi-goddess furrowed her brow at the sound of the gossiping women behind her. She was not usually one to listen in on conversations, but she was fairly certain that there were not many people that they could be talking about and she had thought she had seen one of them before when she had entered the tavern. At the time she had quickly pushed it aside since she had to try and temper Graham's nerves, he wasn't too used to being around this many people.

Now though, he seemed more than comfortable so her attention naturally shifted to her surroundings.

"I can't imagine how they managed to hide an heir for twenty-one years, people were starting to panic, you know," the woman's companion laughed into her drink, "we had no idea if they ever even planned to have a child and now we find out that the princess is already of age."

"In body maybe," the woman who worked in the palace laughed, "but I find it hard to believe that my little Persephone is truly grown in mind."

At the sound of the name, Dawn choked on her beer and placed the tankard down hard as she tried not to sputter too hard onto the table.

Graham frowned at her, looking very much concerned, but she quickly held up a hand to tell him that she was fine.

"Are you okay, dear?" the woman behind her asked and Dawn instantly realised why she had recognised her. She had met the princess's tutor during her stay in the palace and now she was slightly embarrassed that she hadn't recognised Granny considering Emma had actually introduced her to the woman.

In the same moment, Eugenia Lucas seemed to realise that she too had met the other woman and her eyebrows knit together. She was sure that she had never seen a royal's companion in a tavern before, especially with a man that was clearly not connected to royalty in anyway.

Dawn cringed when she realised her folly, but she decided that she didn't really have much to worry about. Perhaps if she and Devin were still together she would have, but as it was, the gossiping woman couldn't do much damage with the knowledge that she was travelling with Graham.

"Mrs Lucas," she greeted as she shot Graham a look that said she would explain later, "how strange it is to run into you here."

The tutor nodded her agreement, choosing not to comment, though Dawn was sure that she would be telling someone soon. The woman was clearly a gossip. It must have killed her to have to hide the existence of a princess that only a select few knew about.

Silence passed between them, while Graham looked between to pair to try and figure out what he was missing, but he mostly just wanted to know the same thing as Dawn did.

"We really must be going," Dawn announced as she elbowed Graham, who promptly rose from his seat while wiping some food from his face.

Granny nodded, still with the glimmer of suspicion in her eyes and Dawn decided that there was no way out of this situation so she might as well ask what she wanted to know.

"Why do you call Princess Emma Persephone?" she asked brazenly.

The older woman's frown deepened, but she seemed to decide that there was no harm in telling her since she already knew that she was one of Emma's friends.

"She has always taken great pleasure in working with flowers, it seemed fitting," she replied with suspicion dripping through all of her words, "why do you ask?"

Dawn simply shrugged and offered her a smile as she tried to keep the excitement down in her stomach.

"Just curious," she said, "it was a pleasure seeing you again."

With that, she grabbed Graham by the arm and pulled him out of the tavern in five seconds flat. She was suddenly grateful that she had paid upfront for everything they had ordered.

"Did you hear that?!" she exclaimed excitedly once they came to a stop outside.

Graham opened and closed his mouth a few times as he considered what the woman had just told them. He knew exactly where Dawn's mind was going right now but he didn't want to be the one to tell her that it could simply be a coincidence.

"You think…that proves that Emma is the one?" he asked slowly.

Dawn nodded vigorously and Graham bit the inside of his cheek. As much as he believed that Emma could easily make Regina happy, the fact remained that the young princess would not be able to be with the goddess for the rest of eternity.

In her whirlwind of excitement, Dawn failed to see the doubt evident in her companion's face and she reached forward to grab his arm.

"We need to get back," she announced.

"Why so urgently?" Graham asked as he tried to pull his arm away, he suddenly felt a wave of nausea at the implication of poofing.

"Well, we need all the time we can get if we're going to try and make some plants grow in the Underworld."

Emma was sure that she should be able to sleep after the exhausting day that she'd had.

After she had disarmed Lancelot, he had stopped going easy on her and she was sure that she had more than one bruise for every new thing that he taught her.

Despite this though, she still couldn't stop the massive grin that adorned her face when she thought about the training. It wasn't so long ago that she would have spent the day sat in the White Palace's library reading the Le Morte d'Arthur.

With a quiet sigh, she realised that was precisely the reason that she couldn't sleep.

Her head lolled to the side and she couldn't stop herself from smiling at the sight before her.

It also wasn't too long ago that she would never have imagined that she would ever meet a goddess, let alone be sitting next to a sleeping one and thinking about just how adorable the woman looked.

She had been more than surprised to find that Regina had already gone to sleep before she had arrived in the room, though she imagined that it was because she didn't want to deal with the awkwardness that was the previous night.

Emma spent a few more moments staring at the goddess of the Underworld, before she decided that it was kind of creepy that she was just watching her wife sleeping. So, her head lolled to the other side so that she was looking at the table by the side of the bed. Upon its surface laid the leather-bound book that Hecate had gifted to her earlier.

In all of her eagerness to continue her sword training, she hadn't really thought much about the book since she had asked Regina to look after it.

She looked over her shoulder to make sure that she wouldn't disrupt the older woman as she reached over to bring the book towards herself. She smiled down at the cover. She hadn't noticed in the daylight, but 'Emma White' was inscribed on the cover in gold.

A shift at her side brought her attention away from it for a moment and she looked back over to Regina to see that the woman was stirring slightly.

The blonde cringed and got out of the bed as sneakily as she possibly could. After pulling on her boots, she made her way over to the door and followed the now familiar path towards the library.

It wasn't long before she found herself sat cross-legged at the foot of one of the shelves and she placed the book onto her lap.

Slowly, she lifted the cover of it so that she could turn to the first page and a frown instantly overtook her face when she was presented with a blank page.

Her fingers quickly moved to turn to the next page and then the next until she finally just picked up the book and flicked through every page. There didn't seem to be a single bit of ink anywhere in the book and she blew out a breath of disappointment and fell back against the bookcase with slumped shoulders.

"You have to tell it what you want to know," someone said behind her and Emma jumped where sat so that her head collided with the shelf.

"Ow," she called as she brought her hand up to cover the spot in which she hit it.

Merlin's eyes widened and he fell into a kneeling position in front of the princess, "my apologises, I didn't mean to surprise you."

He raised his hand questioningly and Emma frowned for a moment before she nodded her consent and he reached forward to place it over the injury. Without even a word, his hand began to glow and the blonde allowed her eyes to close as the magic sent a soothing jolt throughout all of her nerves.

The magician pulled his hand away once he was satisfied that the spell had done its job, he leaned back so that he was sitting in front of her, though not quite as close as he had just been to her.

"My apologises again, I just couldn't bear the thought of you giving up on that perfectly good book," he chuckled lightly as he gestured towards the tome in question.

Emma frowned down at the pages and replied, "but it's blank…"

"And if you hadn't been asked a question, your mind would also be blank of answers," Merlin shot back with a grin when the women seemed to only become more confused. "What is it that you were planning to learn from this book?"

Emma's eyebrows knit together as she considered this for a couple of moments. What she knew about magic could probably fill less than a page of paper. All she knew was that her magic was governed by her emotions, but if she couldn't control her emotions then she would never be able to control her magic. But she had no idea how she would even begin to start understanding something that she had only recently been made aware that she even possessed.

Sure she had been able to make the ring appear when she really wanted it to, but that was hardly a sustainable model for using magic in all other areas. Surely her mind would be slightly distracted if she was trying to make something happen in the heat of battle?

After a brief pause, she looked back up to Merlin and replied, "everything."

Merlin laughed at just how excited the young princess looked and he held out his hand so that she could hand him the book.

"I'm afraid that a single night will not be enough time for everything. Magic is complex and unique to each person. It gives its user exactly what they want and what they need and it always comes with a price."

"A price?" Emma repeated, suddenly looking somewhat afraid.

"No spell can be cast without some kind of consequence, for the simplest of spells the price will be very imperceptible. But if you use your magic for something more significant, the price will be equal to your intent. Should you use your gift to harm another, then harm will most definitely come to you in ways that you could not possibly expect."

"And if I use magic for good?" the blonde asked, now more nervous about the prospect of magic.

"Then you will be rewarded in some way, I believe the concept is called Karma in other realms."

The blonde nodded her understanding, she had come across that term in her reading.

Merlin smiled at the woman, hoping that he looked somewhat reassuring. He had lost count of the years that had passed since he had first learned magic, but he was still painfully aware of how he had felt when he had learned about all of the restrictions that were placed on the art.

Being ultimately powerful didn't mean that one had the right to do whatever they pleased.

"Perhaps you could try a simple spell with no repercussions?" Merlin suggested after the silence became longer than could be considered comfortable.


The sorcerer thought about this for a moment, before he grinned and whispered something to the book.

It didn't take long for writing to appear on the page and he turned it over to show the princess.

"I trust you understand Elfish?"

The blonde took the book from him and nodded, "I studied the language in my free-time at the palace…"

"Strange hobby for a princess," Merlin chuckled.

Emma shrugged, "it was interesting…" She trailed off and looked down at the book once more and a smile started tugging at the corner of her lips when she read just what he wanted her to do.

"These are spells to create a gift?" she asked.

"Well, it seems quite unlikely to me that there could be any prices to pay for creating a gift for your wife," he replied, "and this will give you a chance to learn how to follow a spell rather than relying only on your instincts."

The blonde nodded and returned to reading the words, before she looked back up at him and asked, "could…could you show me how to follow a spell?"

Regina groaned as sunlight invaded her peaceful sleep and her forehead scrunched as if the action would stop her from having to wake up. If anything she didn't want to have to repeat the awkwardness of the other morning, even if she could admit in her mind that there had been a brief moment before they had both achieved full consciousness when all was perfect and uninhibited by the reasons that they shouldn't be sharing a bed.

It took a moment for her still tired mind to process the fact that she was alone in the bed. Though this was something that she was very much used to, she was still aware that she shouldn't actually be alone while they were in Camelot.

After all, they had appearances to keep up.

However, she soon had her answer as to the reason for the princess's disappearance when she noticed that there was a certain book missing from the bedside table. Though she had no idea why that would have taken the young woman away all night since she had yet to show her how to actually use the enchanted book.

Regina shook this off and swung her legs around the side of the bed so that she could begin to get ready, but she was interrupted by the sound of the heavy door opening and closing.

The brunette expected to see another maid when she looked up and she prepared a method to dismiss her, but any words died on her lips when she saw a very tired looking blonde smiling at her timidly.

Regina's eyes fell down to the book she clutched and she instantly knew that she had been right about what the woman had spent her night doing.

"I trust you discovered the books secret and didn't spend hours staring at blank pages?" Hades asked with a a little yawn.

"Merlin gave me something of an introduction to magic," Emma replied as she made her way across the room. "I'm sorry for leaving you alone, but I couldn't resist exploring an enchanted book given to me by the goddess of sorcery."

"I understand, dear," Regina chuckled.

Emma smiled in response and then rocked awkwardly on her heels as a silence between them began. Finally, she decided to move the conversation along:

"Merlin showed me how to use the book and allowed me to practice a spell…" as she explained, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a necklace. It was a simple chain with a purple pendant that matched the colour of the bracelet she had brought her wife in the Enchanted Forest.

The goddess blinked a few times, just as she did the last time that she had received a gift from the blonde. In all of her time, she was sure that she had never wanted anything other than freedom from the Underworld, but being given jewellery by a mortal still somehow made her heart swell. And this was the third time that it had happened.

The princess moved around the bed so that she could sit next to her wife and she placed the necklace into her hand.

"I know that the shape isn't exactly perfect, but I think it turned out fairly well…" Emma said as she waited for Regina's reaction.

"It is perfect," the goddess corrected her as she smiled at the carving of the White Family crest upon the surface of the pendant. She was sure that it would piss off Snow White if she knew that her daughter had given the symbol so freely to the goddess of the Underworld, but it wasn't that which was making Regina smile. It was the fact that Emma actually wanted her to wear a necklace with her family crest upon it.

"I just thought that it could serve as a reminder that whenever I visit the Enchanted Forest, I will always return to the Underworld…to home…"

Regina opened and closed her mouth a few times as she tried to think of something that she could say to show the princess just how much that meant to her, but no words came to mind.

So without much thought, the brunette whispered an incantation so that a similar necklace (though this one was obsidian) materialised in her own hand and she handed it over to the blonde.

Emma furrowed her brow for a moment as she inspected the pendant, but she quickly recognised the crest of Hades that she had seen many times in the Underworld.

Emma didn't need any explanation as to why she had just created a similar necklace and it was as if her mind had completely repressed all of her Regina-related nerves in that moment.

She leaned in as an invitation, giving the goddess a chance to stand from the bed if she wasn't prepared for this, but it seemed that she too was taken in by the moment as she met her half way and their lips connected.

At first, the kiss was tentative, far more akin to the innocent peck that Emma had stolen before she had left for the Enchanted Forest. However, it wasn't long before the blonde raised her hand to cup Regina's cheek and somehow pull their lips impossibly closer as they moved against each other with increasing passion.

They eventually parted, though they still remained closer than they had before.

Emma let out a small laugh as her smile reached her eyes and Regina couldn't help but mirror that expression. In that one perfect moment, she had forgotten that the blonde was mortal and that there would eventually be a time when she would have to live without her.

"I was thinking…" Emma began once the comfortable silence had run its course, "perhaps we should return to the Underworld soon?"

Regina quirked an eyebrow at the blonde curiously. The princess had been so excited to visit other realms and she found it hard to believe that one kiss would make her want to stop her adventure so soon.

"I believe it would be best to pace our realm-hopping before we run out of new places," Emma replied in response to Regina's unasked question. Though, she didn't say out loud that the real reason that she wanted to return home was because it would be easier to define their confused relationship without all of the distractions.

Regina nodded in understanding, even though she was still finding it hard to think straight after that kiss. Her mind was still somehow processing every movement that had happened between them and that it had felt so right.

"Perhaps we should remain in Camelot for a while longer?" she suggested after her mind allowed her to think of something else other than her wife's soft lips, "it would be quite rude to our hosts to just disappear and it would be foolish to pass up the chance to study magic with Merlin for at least a few days."

The princess nodded by way of reply, mostly because she didn't want to show the immortal that she was slightly disappointed. However, she did understand that the woman had spent thousands of years alone, so one spontaneous kiss would hardly be enough to make her completely comfortable with a mortal that she had known for just over a month.

Despite this though, the fact that they were still closer to each other than they would have been in the past ignited a fire of hope.

"Get some sleep, dear," Regina announced as she reluctantly rose from the bed, as much as she didn't want it to be, the moment was over and all of her doubts were beginning to creep back in. "You look exhausted."

Emma hummed in agreement as she fell back against the bed, almost instantly closing her eyes.

"'night, Gina," she mumbled.

Regina shook her head with a small laugh as she leaned over to pull the blanket over the princess.

Chapter Text

Chapter fifteen

"Many thanks for your hospitality, your majesty," Regina said with a bowed head, "but I'm afraid that my wife and I will be departing in the next few days for home."

King Uther gave Regina a smile and nodded, "I suppose that my son did rather hijack your honeymoon."

The brunette resisted the urge to verbally agree with him.

As much as she knew that Emma had been enjoying training with the knights and receiving some lessons from Merlin, she had kind of wished that Arthur had never found them in that clearing. There were far too many distractions in the royal palace which meant that she got to spend less time with her wife. She wasn't quite sure what she had been hoping for from their adventures, but having Emma pay attention to other people wasn't exactly what she had wanted. Despite this, though, she was well aware of the fact that the blonde needed to experience life more fully now. If she forced her to stay strictly in her company for the rest of her life, then the princess would have simply moved from one prison to another. Plus, seeing the smile that she wore when she experienced something new was well worth the pangs of jealousy she felt when Emma paid attention to other people.

"My apologies for my wife's absence, she wanted to explore the town," Regina replied, rather than commenting upon how correct his previous statement had been.

Uther nodded, "I always appreciate when travellers enjoy my kingdom, there is no need for apologies, though I believe that you would much rather be with your wife at this moment rather than discussing your travelling arrangements with me."

Regina nodded, not even bothering to hide her smile.

She had agreed to meet Emma as soon as she had finished talking to Uther and they were going to find a quiet place to have a picnic. Neither of them had actually said it, but they both knew that they would be talking about their relationship. As much as that thought made Regina unbelievably uncomfortable, it would mean that they would finally have an opportunity to talk candidly about everything, most specifically that kiss that they had shared a few days before. Ever since that had happened, they had been more awkward around each other than ever before and Regina wanted nothing more than to actually discuss what it meant so that they could stop tip-toeing around each other. After all, she could no longer deny that the blonde felt something for her.

"Thank you, your majesty," she said and he gave a nod to confirm that she was free to leave whenever she was ready.

The goddess turned on her heels and made her way out of the throne room. She didn't remember Uther being quite as kind in the stories as he was in that moment, but they were in peace times so he didn't exactly have any reason to act any way other than polite. Plus, there was the fact he didn't have any reason to keep her and Emma from leaving. It was Arthur who had invited them to stay when he had thought that he would have a chance with one of them and they hadn't really seen the young prince since he had found out that they were together. He was probably off somewhere finding a woman who he did have a chance with and his father was simply making good on the promise of hospitality that his son had made.

Regina walked quickly towards the town at the foot of the castle. She had promised Emma that she would be able to find her and that they would be able to find somewhere to have their picnic. From what she knew of the blonde, she assumed that she was either looking at the items in a blacksmith or she had probably made a new friend. Regina found that she didn't really have to worry about the young woman as much anymore since she had been able to kick the asses of the Knights of the future Round Table; plus, if she were really in trouble, her magic would probably activate automatically. However, that didn't change the fact that Hades was still anxious to find her wife so that they could have the talk that they had been needing to have for a while now. She was sick of all of the doubts and worries she'd been having since she had met Emma and she needed to know if the princess felt the same way about her that she did. It wouldn't be an immediate fix for their awkwardness, but it would at least be a step in the right direction and it would mean that she wouldn't have to spend all of her time worrying that the girl would find someone new (and mortal) the next time that she went off to visit the Enchanted Forest on her own.

In her rush, she decided to take a short cut down an alleyway between houses. She had planned to quickly walk towards the blacksmith on the other side to follow her first hunch, when she felt a hand grasp her shoulder and she was pushed against the wall.

For a few seconds, her mind didn't quite catch up to what was happening.

The man who had her pinned against the wall smelt of lager and was leering at her with his filthy teeth showing.

"You're too beautiful to be walking alone down a dark alley," he slurred.

In that moment, Regina realised exactly what he thought that he was going to get from her and she almost felt sorry for him. It was fairly unlucky to think you were going to get what you want from a woman, only for that woman to be the goddess of the Underworld. Then again, she supposed that the disgusting man deserved no sympathy at all.

The brunette was about to extend the fingers on both of her hands to ignite a fire ball in each palm but she was cut short by the sound of metal cracking against the man's head.

Regina's shoulders were released and she blinked a few times as she watched him fall to the ground in a prone heap.

When she tore her eyes away from him, she looked up to her Saviour and smiled instantly at the very much concerned blonde.

Emma must have seen what was happening from the Blacksmith (which meant that Regina had been right about where she was, very much a point of pride for the brunette). She was currently frowning down at the hilt of her sword to see if she had gotten anything on it when she had whacked the man around the back of the head.

"You didn't need to do that, dear," Regina sighed as she knelt down to inspect the man. Though she would have gladly seen scum like him dead by her hand, she didn't want Emma to have just taken a life for her. The young woman might have experienced more than she had in her entire life in the past weeks, but that didn't mean that manslaughter was one of the things that she needed to experience.

Regina blew out a breath of relief when she felt a very strong pulse under her two fingers and she saw no evidence that the blow hadn't even broken the skin on the back of his head. He was just out cold. She made a note to tell a guard where to find him so that he wouldn't be able to try anything on a woman or girl who couldn't protect themselves and then she pushed herself up to her feet.

"You didn't really look like you had it under control," Emma shot back with a slight smirk. When she had seen what was happening, she hadn't been worried for a single moment. Even if Regina was able to die, she was sure that it was very unlikely that anyone would actually be able to lay a hand on her considering all of the ways that she knew how to kill someone.

The young woman had decided to intervene more for his sake than Regina's. Even if she didn't think that he deserved any mercy for what he was planning to do, she didn't quite think that anyone actually deserved to be incinerated by the goddess of the Underworld.

Regina rolled her eyes as Emma sheathed the sword and shook her head, though she was smiling slightly too. She couldn't deny that there was a certain level of pride at the thought that Emma had gone from essentially being a sheltered child to a woman who was able to protect even a centuries old goddess.

Emma grabbed her hand and said, "come on, I'm starving."

Dawn's eyebrows pinched together as she watched yet another leaf wilt.

It was progress from the seeds dying the moment they touched the soil but it still wasn't what she was going for.

She was really beginning to understand why it was that the Underworld meant the end of Persephone and Hades' relationship.

She just hoped that this would not bode badly for the new Persephone.

The demi-goddess fell from her knees and into a cross-legged position so that she could pull her mother's spell book into her lap and began to furiously leaf through the pages for another potential spell to bring life to just one square of the Underworld.

"Perhaps a break is in order?"

An unbidden smile graced Dawn's face before she schooled her features so that she could look over her shoulder.

As she'd hoped, the voice belonged to Graham who was holding two tankards that undoubtedly contained beer, or at least Dawn was hoping that was what in them since it was precisely what she needed right now.

Without a word, she jumped to her feet and allowed the book to fall onto the small pile of dead leaves.

She took the drink from him and drank half of it in one gulp.

Graham watched her drink with a quirked eyebrow and a slight smirk.

"I take it this isn't going well?" he asked.

"I can see why my mother wouldn't want to bring Persephone here," Dawn replied before taking another gulp. When Graham made no attempt to reply, she added almost pleadingly, "how am I supposed to do this?"

"Well…" Graham began and looked down at the dead leaves and then back to Dawn, "technically, you did get something to grow. There is a patch of soil in the Underworld where a seed won't instantly die, I would say that is progress. Emma can figure out the rest herself when she begins tending to the garden."

"So…you're saying that I should give Emma the gift of dirt?" Dawn asked as she turned to look at said dirt. It was certainly a different colour to the surrounding soil. It was the lush fields of the Enchanted Forest, but it also wasn't the desolate mud of the Underworld.

Her mouth quirked up in a smile making something here would certainly be evidence that Emma could be the new Persephone that Regina was destined to meet.

"Could you help me build a fence?" she asked, turning to look at the demon with a wider smile.

Graham nodded and was about to ask what material she wanted to use for the new project, but he was interrupted when he saw Dawn frown intensely rather suddenly.

He followed her gaze to see what could have caused the reaction.

In an instant, his anxiety spiked and he had to actively stop himself from jumping behind Dawn.

Dawn, on the other hand, was more confused about the arrival of the red-headed woman walking towards them.

No mortal should be able to walk into the Underworld and if they somehow did, there was no way that they would look as calm as this woman did.

Graham knew exactly who this woman was, especially because he was painfully aware of the mood that Regina was in after seeing her.

The goddess looked Dawn up and down with a smile, though it was hardly the smile of a loving aunt, "you must be my dear niece, I'm sure we would have met before now if she wasn't so insistent that you aren't to visit Olympus."

Dawn suddenly understood Graham's anxiety when it crashed upon her who this woman was.

"Zeus I take it?" Dawn asked and rolled her eyes when she heard Graham make a small squeak next to her.

Obviously, he didn't think that was the correct way to address the ruler of the Olympians, but she wasn't particularly inclined to give her respect.

From the little that Regina had told her about her sister over her life, this woman didn't deserve any respect.

"Please dear, family have the right to call me Zelena."

"Would that have been true if I was still mortal?" Dawn asked with narrowed eyes. She could understand to some degree why Zelena wouldn't care about her mortal niece but she wasn't in the mood to give her aunt a break right now.

"Is it my fault that your mother did not take the opportunity to introduce you to me?" Zelena asked with a smirk. She was rather enjoying the thought of how infuriated her sister would be right now if she could see her talking to her precious daughter.

"Should I assume you do not have permission from my mother to be here?" Dawn shot back.

Graham wanted desperately to say 'what the hell are you thinking?!' but Dawn was ignoring his nervous energy as she continued to look at her aunt with a smug expression.

She knew that if anyone knew how to kill an immortal, it would be Zeus, but the thought of how much hurt this goddess had caused her mother made her want to punch her, meaning that words were probably the safest option.

Zelena tilted her head, she decided she rather liked this girl, she was very amusing. Like a child pretending to be an adult.

"I do suppose that you have a point there," she replied with a laugh, before she turned to Graham who flinched under her gaze, "I'm here to request an audience with your mistress."

Graham bit the inside of his cheek hard. He had almost forgot that he was technically Regina's manservant since she hadn't treated him that way after she started getting closer to Emma.

He opened his mouth and somehow managed to make sounds that were close to words, "she…s-she's…not here…"

"Well it is…nice to hear that my sister has stopped moping around the palace since her forced marriage…"

Dawn felt Graham nudge her before she could open her mouth to say something along the lines of 'bitch'.

She hated how the Olympians thought Hades to be a monster. They wouldn't believe that if they could see how happy Emma was when she was around Regina.

"I assume you aren't here to check on my mother's emotional state?" Dawn asked, and dug her nails into her palm in which she was itching to form a fireball which she knew couldn't possibly hurt Zelena.

"I came to congratulate her on her recent nuptials, is that so malicious that I should be interrogated by a child?"

"I suppose not," Dawn finally said through gritted teeth, she wanted to say something else in response but she had the feeling that Graham was currently dangerously close to a panic attack.

Zelena let out a derisive huff, before she turned to Graham.

Being here was making her stomach twist and she was rather eager to leave as soon as possible.

With a flick of her wrist, an envelope appeared in her hand and she took a step closer to Graham.

She grabbed his hand and forced it to turn over and open the palm by staring at him until he did it with a little whimper.

Zelena placed the envelope in his hand and wiped her own on her pants as if touching him could somehow make her catch demon.

"Give that to Hades when she returns,"

Graham nodded unevenly since he didn't trust himself to make actual words.

She half smirked at him and half sneered before she turned to look at Dawn again and said, "I look forward to meeting you again, dear." With that she disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Graham doubled over and placed his hands on his knees with a loud exhale as relief flooded his body.

Dawn stared for a moment at the place where Zelena had just stood before she walked over to check on Graham.

Emma and Regina had been sure to inform the guard of the unconscious man before they went off to the edge of the forest to find a quiet spot.

Neither of them wanted to be interrupted by someone trying to rob them again.

Regina clicked her fingers and a blanket with a wicker basket appeared upon the small plot they had silently agreed would be best.

"There should be a few sandwiches and fruit in that basket," Regina explained as she motioned for Emma to take a seat by it.

Emma's face lit up at the display of magic as she moved to sit cross-legged by the basket.

Regina sat down next to Emma (though not too close) and the moment she did, two goblets of wine appeared in her hands and she offered one of them to her wife.

This awkward silence between them seemed amplified this time.

They both knew the purpose of this picnic even if they had never agreed verbally that they would be discussing their very confusing relationship.

Emma reached into the basket and handed Regina a sandwich and she offered her a smile as they each began to eat in silence.

Regina was acutely aware that things had been somewhat easier since their kiss but there were so many doubts in her mind that was stopping her from simply asking what it meant.

She couldn't put aside the thought that maybe it was unfair to ask a relatively young mortal to be with her fully. She was the first being that she had met outside of the White Palace. What if Emma's feelings were simply out of convenience rather than her actually having feelings for the goddess?

What if the mortal began to resent her as she grew older and her immortal wife remained the exact same age?


The goddess's eyes shot up from the sandwich she had been slowly eating and she saw the blonde staring at her, she had clearly become tired of the silence and decided to take the initiative to break it.

Regina swallowed hard to moisten her throat, and she placed the food down to the blanket so that she could offer the blonde her full attention.

"Sorry dear, I was lost in thought," she explained, before Emma could ask what exactly she was thinking about (since she was sure that they would terrify the poor woman) she asked, "have you been enjoying your time in Camelot?"

"It's been amazing," Emma replied as she allowed a smile to cross her lips despite that this wasn't the most burning topic that she wanted to discuss right now. "I'm fairly sure I have seen Excalibur still in the stone during a hunting session with Lancelot. I've met almost all of the men who will be the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur isn't exactly what I would expect based on the legends, but learning from Merlin has been amazing and there's…spending time with you…"

Regina blushed at the words though she didn't make any attempt to reply. She never really knew what to say in response to the compliment.

"Perhaps…we should talk about…what…happened?" Emma suggested.

"Yes…perhaps we should," Regina replied, though she notably didn't say exactly what happened. She had come to the conclusion that she would allow Emma to lead the conversation so that she could gauge how she felt about it.

"The kiss…" Emma began, "I just want you to know that it was definitely something that I wanted. No matter how sleep deprived I may have been, I have wanted to kiss you since I left for the Enchanted Forest…"

Regina was speechless.

Hearing that Emma definitely had feelings for her ignited something that she hadn't felt since she had attended the wedding of Persephone and Athena.


Emma carefully inspected the silent woman's face and when she decided that there was an absence of shock and disgust that she had been afraid of seeing.

It was for this reason that she leaned forward.

At first, Regina closed her eyes when she felt soft lips brush against her own, however, a moment later, her eyes shot open and she leaned backwards.

The princess frowned deeply, had she been wrong about the lack of disgust a moment ago?

Regina felt a pang in her stomach at her wife's frown when it occurred to her why exactly she was frowning.

She reached forward to place her hand on top of the other woman's so that she could squeeze it in a way that she hoped was reassuring.

"When…you kissed me…it occurred to me that I have missed an important part of taking a princess of as my bride…"

"Courtship?" Emma asked with a less deep frown that Regina found so ridiculously adorable.

Regina nodded and replied, "I don't believe that I will ever get the chance to gain approval from your parents, so the process may already be flawed, But we have much to learn about each other if we are ever going to be truly married."

Regina waited with bated breath for Emma's reaction, afraid that she might start laughing.

The princess just grinned though.

She knew that courtship was part of being royalty and she found it was rather exhilarating that she could get the chance.

She may have missed her chance to have a wedding ceremony, but at least she could have part of it.

Emma leaned forward again, but this time, her lips brushed against the older woman's cheek before she pulled back to pick up her goblet as she said, "I can't wait to see what you've planned, Regina."

Chapter Text

Chapter sixteen

"Stop that," Graham said as he pulled up the book to cover his face.

"Stop what?"

The demon groaned and placed the book into his lap since he was pretty sure that there was very little chance that he would be able to read with the interruption sat in front of his chair on the floor.

Dawn was looking at him hopefully, though he was pretty sure that she was far more interested in the envelope that was tucked safely in his pocket.

After Zelena left, Dawn had spent a few hours trying to find her mother in Wonderland, but the feasibility of that plan soon became apparent to her since she knew that Regina tended to keep a low profile when she left the Underworld.

There was also the fact that they were not necessarily in Wonderland anymore. By the time she managed to search every realm (particularly the ones without magic) a few decades would probably pass.

They didn't even know what tournament Emma was planning to compete in, so they could be gone for who knows how long during which Dawn was convinced that she could actually combust.

She had been through all of these excuses many times with Graham, but he staunchly disagreed that she should be allowed to read the letter without Regina present.

Graham was convinced that Regina would be most unhappy if they read something that they shouldn't in the letter.

"Stop looking at me like that," he replied, "I'm not giving you the note."

"You know, it might start a war if mom does not reply in a timely manner," Dawn suggested.

Graham rolled his eyes, he knew exactly what she was doing and he was determined that her dramatics were not going to work.

"Zeus most likely knew that your mother wouldn't be here, she probably just wants to arrange a meeting with her sister."

Dawn drew her mouth into a thin line, she hated how logical the demon could be when he wasn't afraid.

The demi-goddess was about to throw another argument at him, but she felt a jolt up her spine which caused her to shoot up to her feet with a huge grin on her face.

It was the sensation of familiar magic returning to the Underworld.

"They're back," she announced and took off towards the throne room.

Graham sighed and pushed the book off his lap.

The return of Regina would inevitably mean that there would be an increase in anxiety for him, but as long as Emma was with her he was pretty sure that it would never come close to what he had felt when confronted with Zeus.

His hand fell to his pocket to make sure that the note was there before he stood so that he could fall into step with Dawn.

As the demi-goddess had promised, there was a blonde and a brunette stood in the throne room.

Regina asked Emma if she wanted dinner and the princess politely declined the offer.

Regina nodded in understanding and turned to see that there were people at the entrance.

Her mouth pulled down in a frown at the sight of her daughter. She had been sure that she would be in the Enchanted Forest right now and she certainly didn't think that she would be spending time with Graham. Indeed, she noticed that they appeared to be standing closer together than they had ever before.

Before she could consider what it meant, Dawn ran forward to throw her arms around the older brunette and bring her into a crushing hug.

Emma grinned at the scene and offered Graham a little wave.

The demon returned the wave though his eyes were slightly widened.

He didn't like the look on the goddess's face when she saw him and Dawn.

Clearly, their imaginary relationship would not be getting approval anytime soon.

When Dawn finally released her mother, Regina let out a breath of faux-relief and said, "we were not gone that long, dear…and not that I am not happy to see you, but why aren't you in the Enchanted Forest?"

"We can talk about that later..Graham has something that he needs to give to you."

Graham narrowed his eyes at Dawn and she just smirked at him.

Regina raised her eyebrows as she looked between the pair and then over to her wife who simply shrugged.

It was rather obvious that the dynamic between the two of them had changed but as Dawn had said, it was something that they could talk about later. Especially since there appeared to be more pressing matters that required their attention.

It was for this reason that Regina decided to put aside her many questions for later when she when Dawn could talk one-to-one and she looked at Graham expectantly.

Graham shifted his weight for a few seconds of indecision, though he really knew that he had absolutely no choice.

He took the envelope out of his pocket and strode over to hand it to Hades.

Regina frowned since she didn't exactly get post in the Underworld and her eyes fell down to the carefully written words: 'To my dearest sister.'

Regina's nostrils flared a little at the words. A letter from Olympus was never good, the last thing she had gotten from her so-called 'family' was an invitation to Persephone and Athena's wedding.

"What is this?" she asked slowly, crumpling the paper a little.

Emma peered over the goddess's shoulder. She instantly knew why Regina was angry.

"Zeus visited two days ago," Dawn explained when it became clear that Graham couldn't reply, "she asked Graham to give you that note when we told her that you were not here…"

The paper crumpled slightly more in Regina's hand.

She was sure that her sister found her dominion utterly disgusting.

"Zelena was here? Without my permission?!"

The paper stopped crumpling as Emma placed her hand onto her elbow which stilled the goddess's hand.

Meanwhile, Dawn opened and closed her mouth a few times as she tried to figure out what to say.

She had known that her mother wouldn't be happy to hear that Zeus had been here in her absence, she hadn't expected such a clear display of anger.

Of course, she didn't know the real reason why Regina held such hatred for her sister, nor the degree to which this resentment had grown over the centuries.

Finally, Dawn settled on something to say to reassure the older brunette: "I'm fine, mother."

Regina very nearly set the paper alight as she imagined what her sister could have done to her daughter.

However, she felt her arm squeezed by her wife and the moment she turned to look at the green eyes, her anger lowered significantly.

She held out the envelope to the younger woman since setting it on fire was empirically a bad idea.

The princess didn't hesitate in opening the letter, her hand shaking slightly since she was about to read something written by Zeus, even if she knew that Zelena wasn't supposed to hold the title.

Her eyes scanned over the words with Graham and Dawn waiting with bated breath while Regina looked at her nails, trying to look as disinterested as possible.

"We've been invited to dinner on Olympus," Emma announced, desperately hoping that she didn't look too excited.

Regina's eyes shot up from her nails and she asked, "we?"

Emma nodded and read out, "'I would like to take this opportunity to invite you and your bride to dinner at my home."

"Mortals cannot go to Olympus," Dawn argued.

Regina ran her hand across her face and said, "they can with Zeus's express permission."

Zelena was definitely up to something since she had never shown any interest in meeting her niece.

"We have to accept the invitation!" Emma said.

Regina shook her head and replied, "we most certainly do not."

Emma wanted to argue that they couldn't be rude to Zeus, but she couldn't think of a way to say this without making it sound as if it was because she didn't want to miss the chance to visit Olympus.

"I should go and prepare for today's meal," Regina announced and walked away to prevent any further attempts at an argument.

Emma's mouth hung open slightly at the woman's back as she walked away.

A loud yawn bounced off the walls off the marble throne room, accompanied by the sound of the fabric of Zelena's pants rubbing against the throne as she shifted to drape her legs over the side of it.

In the fifty years since she had lied about her father's wishes for his childrens' roles in the universe, Zelena had gotten everything that she wanted.

Her subjects respected her while her sister rotted quietly in the Underworld, and why shouldn't it be that way?!

After all, Zelena had done just as much in their fight against their mother, so why should she have to suffer while her sister took the throne that she didn't have any more claim to.

If the situation was reversed, Zelena was pretty sure that Regina would have done exactly the same thing, especially for the chance to stay with her precious Persephone.

Her somewhat relaxing self-reflection was interrupted by a presence.

Zelena sighed as loudly as she possibly could and closed her eyes as she said, "do you not have some fish to tame, Poseidon?"

She heard an equally loud sigh in response and the red-headed goddess opened her eyes and finally shifted her legs back to the floor and actually gave the approaching man her attention, though it was accompanied by a smirk.

"You know very well why I am here, sister," Neal replied with narrowed eyes as he gripped his trident tighter in an attempt to disperse his frustrations.

Zelena waved her hand and said, "and you know very that I truly do not care for your bickering with Athena."

"It should be a simple choice for you. I am your brother," Neal shot back.

"This is not my choice, I did not ask for a patron to be assigned, simply follow the king's request," Zelena replied with a shrug.

"You and I both know that Athena is far better equipped to win any test. If you were to visit Cecrops and tell him that you wish him to choose me…"

Zelena let out a little snort.

She loved it when others pleaded with her.

"I am under no obligation to assist you in your pointless disputes."

"And what is it that you are actually under obligation to do? As far as I can tell, you lounge while the rest of us work," Neal said through gritted teeth. It certainly wasn't what he had planned to say to his sister, but he had thought she would at least consider helping him, especially since she clearly knew about the situation.

Zelena worked her jaw for a moment and the tell-tale signs of a lightening bolt as sparks lighted around her finger tips.

However, the arrival of three figures at the entrance prevented the attempted incineration of an immortal.

Zeus let out a heavy breath through her nose and said, "you are dismissed, Poseidon."

Neal looked over his shoulder and shuddered slightly at the sight before him.

He wanted to turn around and tell his sister that he had been here first but that was rather childish, no matter how much he resented the fact that his sister apparently had the right to more power than him.

Still though, he bowed his head slightly towards Zelena and then to the three Fates before he made his way out of the throne room.

Once her brother was definitely out of earshot, Zelena's eyes snapped towards the source of the faint hissing.

"I do not remember extending an invitation to the esteemed Fates," she said as a certain amount of anxiety began to build in the pit of her stomach. It was never a comfortable experience being in the presence of the only three beings who knew about her deception.

"We have come with your best interests in mind, Hades," the tallest of the three announced.

"Zeus," Zelena shot back instantly.

"We are not obligated to address you by your stolen title," the same Fate replied.

"A fact that you seem intent upon reminding me of at every possible moment. Which begs the question of why you have concealed my secret?" Zeus asked, her hands digging into the arms of the throne.

"You have always been fated to steal your title," the Fate to the left replied, closely followed by the hissing of the one on the right:

"But have always been fated to lose it, Hades."

Zelena bit the inside of her cheek.

The Fates were absolutely loyal to Zeus, so she knew that if she told them to leave then they would.

But it also meant that they wouldn't have come here for nothing, so she shouldn't waste the opportunity to gain more information.

The future was apparently on Regina's side, but being told more about it might give Zelena the chance to avoid what they claimed was inevitable.

"Tell me what it is that you came to say," Zelena said.

"Hades will find a new Persephone. They will ascend together out of the Underworld," the three women said at the same time and instantly turned on their heels to leave now that they had imparted the information.

"Wait!" Zelena shouted as she jumped out of her seat.

The Fates stopped, but didn't turn around as they waited for her to ask the question they knew she was going to ask.

"How do I prevent it?" Zelena asked with desperation dripping through every word.

"Regina cannot reclaim her title without her new Persephone," they replied and continued walking away.

Zelena fell back onto her throne and stared blankly into space.

The moment that Hades 'ascended' the Fates' allegiance would shift and she would be left alone in the Underworld for the rest of her immortal life.

That was something that she would never allow to happen.

"Dinner isn't for hours, mother," Dawn announced from her position leaned against the chamber door that had been carelessly left open.

Regina closed her eyes in frustration, she had been sure that she would be allowed at least some time to think everything over.

She stopped pacing since that wouldn't aid in the claims that she was preparing for dinner.

The goddess couldn't think of a single thing that she could do to look busy, so she just went over and sat on her bed, deciding that she might as well accept that this conversation was going to happen no matter how long she tried to delay it.

Her sister was a topic that put a bitter taste in her mouth, but she knew that her daughter was unlikely to drop it since she didn't know the full extent of what Zelena had done to her like Emma did.

She would tell her but she was legitimately concerned that the Demi-goddess would march to Olympus and demand that Zelena return the title that she had stolen and Regina honestly didn't have the energy to try and stop her.

Regina sat on her bed and looked at the younger brunette expectantly.

Dawn pushed herself away from the door and walked over so that she could take a seat next to her mother.

They sat in silence for a few seconds before Dawn said, "I understand that you and Zeus have some…bad blood…"

Regina scoffed and looked down to her lap, but she looked up when her daughter placed her hand atop of hers. It served as a reminder the good thing that had come out of Zeus's deception.

If Regina herself had become Zeus she would have been unlikely to find comfort in the arms of a stable boy.

"You know that you can't deny Emma the chance to go to Olympus, mother," Dawn said softly.

"Olympus is no place for a mortal," Hades replied.

"She will have the protection of one of the three most powerful gods. I hardly think that Zelena would attempt something that could start an all out war."

Regina used her free hand to rub against her forehead. As logical as Dawn's argument was, there was still the fact that she didn't want to see her family.

Every century or so was more than enough for her,

"You also cannot deny an invitation to dine with all of the Olympians. They're easily offended," Dawn added.

Regina closed her eyes, it was yet another logical argument.

Denying an invitation was the kind of petty things that mythology was made of. Some of her family were certainly petty enough (or bored enough) that they would latch onto something so pathetic.

"I…I suppose you're right," Regina finally said after she thought all of this through. "But she wasn't exactly interested in my engagement to Ruby so I just want to know what it is that she is planning…"

Dawn nodded.

She really wished that she could tell her mother that not going was actually a viable option.

Zelena had taken everything away from her sister and she knew that there was no way that Regina could handle losing Emma to their ongoing feud.

"You could use this opportunity to try and acertain what it is that she is planning," the younger brunette suggested.

Regina bit the inside of her cheek.

To be fair, Zelena could easily just attack Emma the next time she went to visit her parents. At least she could figure this out before that happened, hopefully.

Hades simply nodded to show that she agreed but didn't say anything.

She just brought her hand over to cover her daughter's hoping to show her that she agreed with her because she didn't want to admit aloud that she would soon be on Olympus again with Emma.

Emma scrunched her eyes and twisted her body around a few times.

She decided that the new position was no less uncomfortable and her eyes opened as she just sat up.

Her open eyes were met with darkness and she held up her hand to ignite a small ball of light in the palm of her hand.

She could simply stay up all night reading as she had many times before but her tired eyes told her that wasn't really a viable option.

Emma was so sure that she was physically tired, but the more she tried to give into that exhaustion, the further away sleep seemed to get.

It was rather frustrating since she'd had absolutely no issues sleeping in this bed before and nothing was different this time.

The blonde took a moment to survey the room just to make sure that nothing had changed in her absence, before she closed her hand around the light so that she could fall back against the bed.

It was in that moment that something occurred to her.

She had not slept alone since the night before Wonderland.

The reason sleep was evading her mind was that it had grown used to another body next to her own while in bed.

Emma bit her lip as the simplest solution flashed into her brain.

She could try and lay there until her body was forced to succumb to sleep but she was pretty sure that it could take days of sleep deprivation before that happened.

She was also fairly sure that sharing a bed at this point couldn't be part of Regina's courtship plans, but then again, the majority of courtships didn't involve marriage on the day they met and astronomical changes of parental approval, so she supposed that it could hardly hurt at this point.

For a few more minutes, Emma tried to sleep in the hopes that she wouldn't need to bother her wife, but when she turned her body over again, she was now acutely aware of the fact that she didn't hit another person's body and she opened her eyes with a deep frown.

She didn't want to be drop dead tired when she visited Olympus the next day.

Even if Emma understood why Regina would be reluctant to go, she knew that the invitation had never really been optional.

Refusing dinner would likely have some strange and unpredictable consequences, which was undoubtedly the only reason that Regina had agreed to go at all.

Meeting Regina's family was definitely part of the reason that she couldn't drift off.

At this point, she'd already met two more Divines than any mortal had the right to, so she found that she wasn't perhaps as nervous about that part as she should have been, but that was only by a small margin.

An audible sigh escaped her lips as she rather dramatically threw off her blanket.

For a split second, the princess's bare feet curled against the harsh obsidian floor, but that didn't deter her from moving towards the door and then into the hallway.

She didn't even think about it as she raised her hand to form another little ball of light to guide her towards the chamber she had never actually been.

Once she was stood in front of the door, the princess faltered.

It wasn't that she was afraid to knock (far from it in fact), she just didn't want her wife to think that she was a child who couldn't sleep alone.

Plus, it would be rather rude to interrupt the older woman's slumber.

Memories of the torturous silence she felt while waiting for sleep to take her spurred the blonde to raise her fist and rap it three times in quick succession.

She held her breath as she waited for a response.

She don't have to wait long until she faintly heard something that sounded like 'come in' filter through the gap in the door.

She let out the breath as she pushed the chamber door open.

Emma expected to enter a pitch black room, so she squinted a little at the light emanating from a multitude of candles floating in mid-air.

The light in her hand extinguished as the blonde's eyes adjusted to the unexpected light and her gaze was immediately taken over to the bed.

Instead of finding a goddess there who looked as though she had been woken from a peaceful sleep. Regina was laid out atop the duvet with a book opened on her lap, though Emma could see that she had hardly passed the first page or so.

Regina raised her eyebrow at the princess who was a mix between tired and confused.

The knock had made her think that perhaps Dawn had finally decided to come and speak with her about the state of her broken relationship with Prince Devin.

However, seeing Emma instead wasn't in any way disappointing just not something she had saw coming.

"Emma?" She asked, sitting up slightly and moving the book away from her lap and onto the bedside table.

"Is something wrong, dear?"

The princess took a moment to look around the room. Other than a few books piled around, there wasn't anything distinguishing about the space even though the goddess had apparently occupied it for thousands of years.

However, Emma quickly realised that Regina was still looking at her waiting for a reply and she turned her gaze back to the goddess with a slight hue playing across her cheeks.

"This…is going to seem strange…" Emma began, suddenly wishing that she had actually formulated what she was going to say before she had knocked at the door.

Regina tilted her head as the younger woman struggled to stutter out her words.

She had a feeling that she knew what this was about. Lately, she seemed to sleep peacefully when she was next to the blonde, so she simply decided not to sleep.

In that moment, it occurred to her that if her wife was having the same problem, she wouldn't be able to decide not to sleep.

Without any need for further words, Regina smiled at the anxious princess and stood so that she could fold her duvet away from the pillow.

"You look exhausted, dear," Regina announced before she gestured towards the empty side of the bed and slipped into her own.

Emma's feet faltered as her tired mind caught up with the fact that her wife understood exactly what was happening to her.

She finally moved over to slip under the covers with ease and let out a breath of relief.

Regina smiled at the woman for a moment, before she brought the duvet over the both of them and waved her hand to snuff out all of the candles.

Emma let out a breath of relief as her head fell down to Regina's shoulder.

She closed her eyes as the goddess placed her hand on her back.

When Regina pulled her closer, Emma finally drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter seventeen

Regina's eyes remained glued to the marble floor.

She could practically feel stares aimed at her as she moved, Hades did not have the energy to shoot back a filthy look like she normally would.

Finally, she made it to her destination which was the absolute last place she wanted to be after watching Persephone's marriage a few days ago.

"You summoned me," Regina deadpanned, glancing up at the red-head lounging on her throne. She really did wonder sometimes whether her sister did anything else.

Zelena didn't bother to hide her smile as she looked up at her older sister. She had never seen the brunette look so miserable, and she loved it.

"I only hoped to check in your wellbeing, it could not have been easy to see Ruby marry another," she said, which would have sounded oddly sincere if it wasn't for the smile.

"You could have visited me in the Underworld rather than inviting me here?" Regina shot back, though a real sneer evaded her in that moment.

Zelena scrunched her nose up in disgust and Regina rolled her eyes deeply.

Zeus's hatred of the Underworld was well-documented, though Regina had begun to think that it was beyond trying to simply antagonise her sister.

"Should I assume that you called me here to insult me?" Regina asked with absolutely no bite in her voice.

Zelena placed her hand over her heart and said, "not at all. I asked you here to see how you were, wouldn't want any innocent souls damned because you're feeling sad."

Regina clenched her jaw and replied lowly, "I am fine."

Zelena swung her legs around so that she could lean forward as she pressed, "so the Underworld isn't making your depression worse?"

Regina really wished that she could just walk away.

As it was, she had a certain amount of responsibility as one of the Olympians. Angering Zeus could have unknown consequences which would just end up hurting mortals.

Since Regina didn't say anything, Zeus continued, "the very thought of spending even a moment in that wretched place is enough to drive one into despair. When father informed me that I would become Hades, I felt physically sick."

Regina's desire to leave suddenly left her, to be replaced with a feeling that she couldn't even begin to describe.

Was it shock? Anger? Confusion? Resignation?

The Underworld was certainly a horrible place to exist in, but at least she had been living under the impression that it was where she was supposed to be.

If she was actually supposed to be Zeus then it would change everything.

"You…" Regina began but trailed off when it occurred to her that there was nothing could possibly say.

"If it was you that had been present in father's last moments, you know you would have done the same thing," Zelena explained, "no one should be forced to accept the title of Hades."

Regina could understand taking the opportunity to not be Hades, but the fact was that she never had that opportunity.

"So you called me here to tell me that I should have been Zeus?" Regina asked, though her voice didn't hold any fire, how could it when she felt so hollow?

"Surely you would be Zeus if you were supposed to be?" Zelena asked.

She had never planned to tell her sister of her deception, but she just couldn't resist in this moment. There was no way that this broken mess of a goddess could take back the mantle that should have been hers.

It was honestly a miracle that Regina had even one friend in Hecate and Zelena hardly believed that one alliance would be enough to win a war.

Regina thought that she should want to yell and scream.

She should want to attack her sister with everything she had, but the fact was that she didn't have much in that moment.

It wasn't as though getting the title back would give her what she had lost, Ruby loved Belle and she wouldn't simply leave Athena to be with Zeus.

Assuming that she could somehow muster the resources to win against Zelena, she would only be switching one lonely throne for another.

Zelena grinned as she watched the brunette clench and unclench her fists.

The red-head stood from the throne and began to walk towards the exit.

As she went, she patted Regina on the shoulder and said, "I have other matters to attend to. I believe that it's time you return to your own personal paradise."

Regina scrunched her eyebrows together and she slowly opened her eyes.

She did not enjoy being reminded of that day since it forced her to remember how she had just stood there after Zelena left and did nothing.

The knowledge that she was meant to be Zeus should have ignited a deep desire within her to get what she deserved, but she just did not have the desire.

When it came to that subject since that day, she had been more apathetic than vengeful.

After all, what did a title matter when she had no one?

At the thought, her mind seemed to register a weight on top of her arm and she opened her eyes to find a mess of blonde hair next to her.

Regina experimentally moved her arm, which caused the other woman to turn over so that she could burrow into her shoulder.

Emma remained in this position for a few moments, before she seemed to realise that there was no point trying to go back to sleep with Regina staring at her and she opened her eyes to look back to the chocolate orbs, though she didn't make any attempt to move away from her shoulder.

"Good morning," Emma said through a yawn, and Regina smiled as she motioned for her wife to move so that she could sit up.

The pair stared at each other for longer than could be considered normal, before it occurred to Regina that they couldn't do it all day.

They had dinner plans.

There was very little chance that Zelena simply wanted to meet Emma and Regina would sooner wipe the princess's memory of divinity rather than allow her to be caught up in a feud that she didn't even know about just over a month ago.

"Is something wrong?" Emma asked as Regina frowned deeply.

"I'm fine, dear," Regina assured, "I just have some preparations to make for dinner. I believe that Dawn had something that she wanted to show you this morning…"

Emma really doubted that Regina needed hours to prepare for dinner, but based on what she knew about Zelena and Regina's relationship, the event was bound to be something that would incite Graham-level anxiety in the other woman.

If Regina wanted some space then she could give it to her since she was giving her the chance to go to Olympus even though it was clearly the last thing that she wanted to do.

The blonde smiled and nodded, pushing down the urge to ask further about the frown. This wasn't the time to prod further about thousands and thousands of years of rivalry.

"I'll go and find her, I'll see you later?"

"You will," Regina agreed, glad that Emma wasn't asking whatever question was clearly on the tip of her tongue.

They both sat motionless as they each tried to figure out what it was that they should be doing now.

Since they were already flouting courtship rules by sharing a bed, there wasn't exactly any kind of handbook for this situation.

Emma finally decided what the best course of action would be and she leaned up to place a quick kiss on the older woman's cheek before she turned over so that she could stand from the bed on which she had perhaps had the best night's sleep of her life.

Regina's frown began to turn upwards as she watched the princess walk away, and a somewhat contented sigh left her lips as she leaned back against the pillow.

"This is amazing," Emma announced as she ran her hand across the patch of dirt Dawn had presented to her, "how did you do this?"

Dawn uncrossed her arms and crouched down so that she was on the same level as the blonde inspecting her wedding gift. Her original plan was to show both her and Regina at the same time, but it wasn't too surprising to discover that her mother was off brooding about the dinner she did not want to go to.

However, she was quite happy about this development since Regina would be more likely to believe in the whole 'new Persephone' thing if she was presented with a thriving garden.

"I sort of threw every spell I could at it, it will be up to you to see if anything will actually grow here. If not, I guess that your gift will be the fence."

Emma chuckled and rubbed the dirt between her thumb and forefinger, it was definitely different to the rest of the Underworld. It was promising.

Dawn asked, "so…how was your training?"

Emma smiled as the question brought back memories and she replied, "we went to Wonderland and Camelot…"

The blonde felt her cheeks burn as she tried to think of the best part to mention first. Though she would be forever in awe of the fact that she had gotten to learn swordplay from Lancelot and that Merlin had personally trained her in magic, she found that there were parts of the trip that were far more memorable.

Dawn raised an eyebrow at the woman and smirked slightly at the expression on her face. With all of the previous day, she hadn't had the chance to ask how things had gone, but now she was sure that they must have gone rather well.

"You went to Camelot?" she asked.

Emma nodded and replied, "Regina said that it would be the best place to learn swordplay…Arthur and Merlin 'saved' us from bandits. We were then invited for dinner as special guests of King Uther."

"Of course you were, interesting things always happen to mom when she goes to other realms. But why do I get the feeling that there is something you're not telling me princess?"

Emma brought her bottom lip into her mouth hoping that it would somehow temper the blush ascending up her neck.

Finally, Emma replied, "your mother asked if she could court me."

Dawn laughed again at the reluctant way her step-mother had said that as if she would have a problem with the idea that her mother was actually willing to court someone.

"You're already married and sharing a bed and my mother thinks that now would be a good time to start the courtship process?"

"How do you know that we shared a bed?!"

"The mirrors talk, princess."

"Sidney," Emma hissed, making a mental note to tell Regina that she should take the mirror down in what she hoped was now their bed chamber.

Dawn laughed at the look of indignation on the older woman's face.

"Have you been spending all the time we were away with Graham?" Emma asked a few seconds later.

Dawn's smirk fell into a sort of bashful smile before she nodded.

"Does that blush mean what I think it means?"

Dawn swallowed to moisten her suddenly dry throat. It was a reaction she only really gave in response to her first crush, especially since he was less anxious as of late.

The brunette looked down at the ground and shrugged, "I'm not…exactly sure…"

"Perhaps you could speak to your mother about this?"

"I'm legitimately afraid that she might murder Graham if she knew that there was even a possibility," Dawn replied with genuine concern dripping through her words, "I don't want her to know until…I know…you know?"

"I'm sure Regina wouldn't murder him," Emma said, but at Dawn's skeptical look, she added, "his immortality certainly helps his chances."

"I suppose, but could you try and keep my mother distracted with the courtship to give me some time to figure this all out?""

"I'm sure I can manage that," Emma replied with a little laugh and Dawn scrunched her nose up in a sort of faux-disgust.

"You're going to be late, mother," Dawn called as she walked straight through the doors to Hades's chamber without bothering to knock.

Regina just rolled her eyes without turning around and continued on her current mission.

The goddess picked up a dress and inspected it for a few moments as she said, "I will be ready soon."

Dawn raised her eyebrows and waited for Regina to throw the dress rather dramatically back down to the bed.

"Are you seriously concerned about what to wear?" Dawn asked, considering the multitude of dresses and pants and tunic combinations, the demi-goddess could almost believe that her mother wasn't overstating when she said that she needed time to prepare for dinner!

Regina ran her hand over the leather gown she had been wearing the day she had met Emma. Though it may not have been a conscious decision at the time, she now realised that she had picked the gown that would be the most intimidating to Snow White and Prince Charming.

This time, she couldn't just pick the most intimidating outfit since Zelena would hardly be scared of a dress.

"I'm not worried about it," Regina mumbled making no attempt to look at her daughter.

Dawn walked over so that she could sit on the only portion of the bed which was not covered.

"You know, Emma doesn't know what to wear, she's unsure of the expected attire on Olympus."

Regina was silent for a second before she tentatively asked, "do you…happen to know what she is planning to wear?"

Dawn quirked an eyebrow and said, "as far as I know, she has settled on a purple tunic."

Her mother nodded and her eyes scanned over to the pants, it would make sense if they wore the same kind of clothing as each other, right?

"What exactly is it that you are worried about, mother?" Dawn asked, as she tried to figure out whether she had ever seen her mother look nervous.

Regina blew out a long breath through her nose.

"Emma…has never treated me as if I'm…" she began, but trailed off when she realised that she had no idea how she actually wanted to finish that sentence.

"…Hades?" Dawn supplied.

Regina turned around and fell down heavily onto the gown she had been looking at a moment ago and nodded slowly.

"Every single person on Olympus will treat me as the ruler of the Underworld, they all think of me as a villain."

Much to Regina's surprise, Dawn laughed and replied, "and you're convinced that they will somehow make Emma believe that. The princess agreed to allow you to court her and she had the resources to leave whenever she pleases. I truly do not believe that there is anything that anyone could say to change the fact that she loves you."

Regina's eyes widened and she finally looked at her daughter fully.

Dawn chuckled at the look on the woman's face and shook her head.

It was oddly great to see the goddess look more like a teenage girl than the ruler of the Underworld.

"You are due to leave in fifteen minutes, mother, just choose something to wear. I'm sure your dear wife will love whatever it is," the demi-goddess laughed as she stood from the bed, making sure to put more emphasis on the word 'love' than was necessary.

Regina sighed for what felt like the millionth time and watched her daughter leave the room.

Once the door shut behind the young woman, she turned her eyes back to the clothes that she wasn't sat on.

This time, she had a grin pulling at the corner of her lips as she leaned forward and picked up a red tunic that she knew would compliment Emma's purple one nicely.

There were no words.

At least none in any mortal language that came to Emma's mind as she looked around.

Over the last month or so, she had been to a lot of places: the Underworld, Wonderland, Camelot, and at least in the latter two, she could think of words to describe the sights (less so Wonderland perhaps).

However, Olympus was another matter entirely.

There was one thing that made the place infinitely worse than any other the princess had visited over the last few weeks though.

As they walked up towards the palace overlooking the whole of Olympus, Regina stared adamantly at the ground to avoid the many dirty looks she was receiving from passersby.

Usually, Regina was accustomed to receiving at least a handful of stares, but walking next to the mortal they believed she had taken captive was making matters worse.

Of course, they did not know that this so-called 'captive' felt freer when she was with Regina than at any other point in her life.

Emma's awe at being where mortals were not supposed to be was significantly dampened at her wife's frown.

She would gladly return to the Underworld for dinner right now to see the goddess smile, but that wasn't really an option.

It was for this reason that Emma reached over to entwine her fingers in the older woman's own.

Regina's eyes widened slightly at the unexpected contact, though when she looked away from the ground and over to Emma, she wasn't too surprised to find a reassuring smile, which she managed to return, hoping that it showed the depths of her gratitude in that moment.

However, her smile was soon wiped away when she heard an unfortunately familiar voice behind them:


Emma frowned as Regina's hand slipped out of hers and the pair came to a stand still so that they could turn towards the owner of the voice.

Regina managed to force a smile at the two brunettes stood before her, though they were the absolute last Divines that she wanted to see in that moment (or any moment for that matter).

Emma had a feeling that the one who had said Regina's name must be Persephone, but during the revelation that her wife was supposed to be Zeus, Emma had failed to enquire who it was that Ruby had married.

Regina's muscles tensed as Emma brought their hands together again, though she made no attempt to move her hand away again.

She really needed the contact.

Similarly, Belle's hand was laid upon her wife's elbow as the taller woman's eyes shifted between the pair and their connected fingers.

She had expected she would see Regina and her bride today, but she hadn't expected Emma to be quite so comfortable with Hades.

It really dashed the idea that Regina was some kind of villain who had forced a mortal into marriage because her parents broke a deal on the day of her birth.

Judging by how close the blonde stood next to her wife, she could only assume that the princess actually cared about the immortal's feelings and comfort.

"This must…" Persephone began, but trailed off when she realised that she had no earthly idea what the mortal's name was.

"Emma White," the princess replied and squeezed Regina's hand again for good measure.

It was honestly hard to believe that Regina had ever been comfortable enough around this woman to want to marry her.

"And who might you be?" Emma asked, smirking slightly at the look on Ruby's face, clearly she did not like brazen questions from a mortal.

Persephone was about to open her mouth to say something, but her wife brought up her other hand to rest atop the one already on her elbow.

It was a clear warning to watch her tongue.

"Allow me to introduce Persephone, and I am Athena," Belle supplied, though Emma narrowed her eyes slightly as it occurred to her that the goddess hadn't told her their true names.

The princess turned her gaze to her oddly quiet wife who she was pretty sure was biting the inside of her cheek in an attempt to stop herself from saying whatever was going through her mind at the sight of her ex.

The princess decided to take the initiative and began taking steps away from the pair of women as she pulled a willing Regina along with her.

"As…lovely as this has been, we really must be going," Emma announced and left no room for arguments as she continued to pull Regina with her.

Regina allowed herself to look over her shoulder at the two goddesses who were whispering to each other (no doubt Belle was trying to reassure Ruby), but Hades quickly turned her attention back to her wife.

"That was…thank you," Regina sighed and squeezed her now relaxed hand against Emma's.

Emma nodded, deciding that there would be no use complaining about how she didn't see how Regina and Persephone could have been together.

The rapidly improving maturity part of her mind could see that she was just jealous of someone who had the chance to know Regina for so long and a little anger that the goddess would break her heart because of Zelena's deception.

It was for this reason that the blonde instead said as they approached the palace entrance, "are you sure you're ready for this?"

Regina blew out a breath and her eyes remained trained on the palace as she said, "I suppose I am as ready as I will ever be."

Chapter Text

Chapter eighteen

For someone who was undoubtedly planning some nefarious scheme, Zelena looked oddly relaxed as she stared intently at her nails.

Like almost every other time he was in his sister's presence, Neal rolled his eyes while crossing the domed dining room which went largely unused.

Once he was sure he was close enough to be heard, he asked "where are the others?"

Zelena's eyes snapped up from her nails and she smirked as she replied, "nobody wanted to have dinner with Regina."

Poseidon shook his head and slipped into the seat next to his sister.

There was no point commenting upon the fact that there was no Olympian who would deny an invitation from Zeus.

If it was actually an option, he certainly wouldn't be here waiting to eat with his sister and her new wife.

"In that case, why am I here?" he asked.

"I thought that Emma White should have the chance to meet her wife's closest siblings, Neal," Zelena replied as if it should be obvious. As if it hadn't been two centuries since Regina had last seen them.

Neal just bit his lip and was about to reach over to grab the chalice set out on the table so that he could avoid having to ask further questions.

However, his attempt to get a drink was interrupted by the arrival of the guests of honour entering the hall hand-in-hand. The sight of his brunette sister smiling threw Neal slightly, but Zelena seemed unperturbed.

"Regina," Zelena announced and stood with a massive smile spread across her face. Unlike Emma, she was hardly trying to hide her excitement.

Regina's smil fell instantly at the sound of the red-head's voice.

Her hand slipped out of Emma's since she hardly thought that holding hands with her wife would exude the perception of power she was going for, which Emma seemed to understand judging by the lack of a frown on her face at being robbed of a chance of holding hands.

When Zelena became sure that Regina wouldn't be saying anything, she asked, "are you going to stand there for the rest of eternity?"

Emma watched as her wife's jaw clenched and decided to taking the first step in moving forward.

As much as she was in absolute awe of the fact that she was currently stood in a room with the three most powerful gods in existence, she was also acutely aware that one of them clearly needed some emotional support.

The princess began walking towards the unnecessarily long table, followed closely by Regina who took the cue to mean that she shouldn't stand there quietly staring at the siblings that she hadn't seen in so long.

"I was under the impression that there would be more present by now," Regina announced, not mentioning that this turn of events really threw off her plan to sit next to the least objectionable Olympian, perhaps deigning to spare Zelena a 'hello'.

"Unfortunately they were unable to make it, but that's no reason to delay," Zelena replied.

Regina really wanted to roll her eyes at the clear lie, but her attention was stolen by Emma slipping into the seat next to Neal.

Now, Emma sitting next to Zeus was absolutely the last thing she would have wanted, but herself sitting there instead was very much a close second.

However, it would be an insult to leave the seat next to Zeus empty as much as she would prefer to spend the meal next to Emma, so she dutifully took the seat she didn't want.

After all, this whole damn dinner was about duty when it came down to it.

Now that the two visitors had taken their places, Zelena sat back down on hers at the head at the table and she focused all of her attention on Regina as she said, "it has been far too long, sister."

Regina quite literally bit her tongue so that she didn't say 'not long enough' after a second, she said instead, "that is precisely why I was so surprised to return to a dinner invitation."

Zelena smirked and allowed her eyes to travel over to Emma.

The princess was currently inspecting the food that had been there upon their arrival, the blonde didn't seem like she would be opening her mouth to speak any time soon.

It flew in the face of what she had heard of the woman's bravery, but she supposed that she could understand a mortal being intimidated in this situation.

"There is no conspiracy here, Regina, I simply thought it was high time that your wife at least met some of your family members," Zelena replied, and then picked up her chalice to swallow some of the golden liquid within it.

Emma's eyes fell down to her own chalice.

The entire table had been set impeccably with every available inch of its surface covered in either food or the strange golden liquid that the blonde was more than curious about.

Zelena really had put in more effort than Emma thought she would have to keep up the perception that she had actually invited all of the other Olympians.

Finally, Emma decided that she could try the curious drink, which would have the added bonus of wetting her dry throat so that she could maybe actually try to contribute to the conversation.

However, as she moved her hand to pick it up, she felt herself prevented by a vice-like grip on her forearm that bordered on being painful.

Regina opened her mouth to protest the fact that her brother appeared to be hurting her wife, but no words came out of her mouth as he reached over to grab the chalice away from her and then dropped it. All the while, he didn't take his narrowed eyes off Zelena.

"Mortals cannot drink ambrosia, Zelena," he said through gritted teeth, seemingly having decided that there was no reason to have just said the warning directly to Emma.

Regina huffed and looked at her sister in a mix of exasperation and anger.

Zeus's face twisted in anger as well, at least for a split second, but she soon schooled her features and waved her hand so that a glass with red liquid appeared in front of Emma's plate.

"I sometimes forget how fragile humans are. I believe you may find that drink more to your liking…dear."

Emma was frozen for a second as she took in the fact that she was literally moments away from what she could assume was a very painful death.

However, she soon decided that there would be no use in dwelling on the apparent 'accident' and she tentatively picked up the wine and took a couple short swigs.

As she did so, Neal cleared his throat and Zelena rolled her eyes as she waved her hand again and Emma's food changed to soup to replace the nectar that has been there a moment ago.

Regina clutched the edge of the table.

She really wanted to attack Zelena.

Though Zeus looked similarly displeased.

No doubt she was planning to take her frustrations out on Neal for ruining what could have been a simple solution to her problems.

Emma placed her chalice down and shot Regina a look that said 'I'm fine' before she picked up a spoon so that she could begin what they were actually here for.

The three divines seemed to take the hint and each picked up their own eating utensils so that they could start on their nectar that Emma ached to try.

Regina felt warmth spread through her whole being as the substance hit her tongue.

It has been a long time since she'd had the chance to eat the food specifically made for the gods. No matter how good it was, it wasn't really worth making the trip to Olympus for. The chance of running into people was always far too high for her comfort.

The feeling certainly helped with the blinding rage she felt from being in Zelena's presence.

About ten minutes passed as the four of them ate in silence.

This wasn't exactly what Zelena had planned, but there was no natural way to bring up the subject that she wanted.

Originally, she had been sure that Neal would help her with this, but judging by the way he was adamantly refusing to make eye contact with any woman present, he had obviously disengaged.

Finally, Zelena just decided that she might as well get the ball rolling and asked, "are you enjoying living in the Underworld?"

Emma swallowed a mouthful of her soup and looked at Zelena with a little fear behind her eyes.

She obviously hadn't expected to be spoken to directly by either Neal or Zelena since it had become increasingly clear that neither god was particularly fond of having to talk to a mortal.

It was something she had noticed when she had first met Regina and she honestly understood why.

Emma couldn't even begin to comprehend how long these three gods had lived so she could see why they would disregard a 21-year-old princess at first.

Of course, things had changed when Regina had actually started making an effort to get to know her, which was something that she couldn't really see happening with either Zelena or Neal.

After her surprise induced fear passed, Emma replied, "the Underworld is beautiful."

Zelena grimaced and Neal frowned despite his attempts at indifference.

Even Regina looked up with raised eyebrows.

She could see Emma responding like that upon first coming to the Underworld since it was literally the first place she had seen other than the White Palace and its grounds.

Now though, she had seen Wonderland, Camelot…and Olympus, surely the enchantment she felt in the land of the dead had faded by now?

However, when she looked at her wife, she could see that she definitely believed in her words. She truly did love the place that so many mortals spend their lives afraid of.

"Should I assume that dull grey is your favourite colour?" Zelena asked.

"The Underworld may be dark, but it's far more interesting than anything I have seen in Olympus so far," Emma shot back before she could question where this courage came from, though she would later realise that she wouldn't have wanted to miss the chance to defend Hades no matter how afraid she was.

Regina would have been proud if she wasn't aware of some of the punishments that Zelena ordered in response to insubordination. She just hoped that she would show some restraint in this instance.

"I'm sure that the wandering spirits provide endless entertainment."

"Zelena," Neal hissed, but the goddess just held up her hand to her brother and looked at the princess expectantly.

"Asphodel is only part of the Underworld," Emma replied, "if Olympus is the pinnacle of existence, it's strange that Elysium is in the Underworld, don't you think?"

Zelena chuckled, though Regina wasn't sure whether she found the sound relieving or concerning.

"I see why you like her Regina, she has more confidence than any mortal I have ever met," Zelena said, "though, if memory serves, the tournament is the only thing of interest in Elysium. Honestly, what is the fun in the dead fighting to the death?"

"I will be competing in the next tournament," Emma announced as if it would somehow prove her sister-in-law wrong.

"How fascinating," Zeus replied, with a triumphant smile overtaking her face.

Emma was instantly unsettled by the sight and looked over to Regina for some assistance.

Regina just pushed her chair away from the table and stood.

She couldn't take anymore of this.

"I believe we should be going," Hades announced, not bothered by the fact that Zelena didn't seem to particularly care.

Emma, on the other hand, looked between the two Divines for any sign of objection but found none.

The blonde didn't have time to pretend to be grateful for the soup and wine before Regina had come around the table and the pair of them disappeared in a cloud of purple smoke.

Once they were gone, Zelena leaned back in her chair and let out a contented sigh.

"Well that was a disaster," Neal said and threw his fork onto the table.

"On the contrary, dear brother," Zelena replied, "in spite of all of your 'help', I learned exactly what I needed to know."

"It helps you to know that Regina's bride truly loves the Underworld?" Poseidon asked with squinted eyes, deciding to ignore the possibility that he had royally pissed her off.

Zelena shook her head and clicked her fingers.

A moment later, a figure came zooming into the room looking a little flustered.

Thankfully, it seemed that Zelena was in far too good a mood to admonish him for taking too long to arrive (as she usually would).

"What can I do for you, your highness?" Hermes asked, with a pronounced, bordering on exaggerated, bow towards the red-head.

"I need you to inform Ares that I have a task for him," Zeus replied, Neal closed his eyes in frustration, but said nothing.

-Two weeks later-

"Focus princess," Dawn groaned.

Emma blinked and brought her hand up to her cheek that her step-daughter had managed to slice.

Blocking such an attack was something she had learned early in her training, so she could understand the brunette's frustration.

Training seemed to be all she had been doing with either Regina or Dawn since her return to Olympus.

It wasn't like her statement to Zelena that she would participate in the next tournament was some kind of binding contract, but she couldn't see herself backing out now.

For one, she didn't want Zelena to see her as the cowardly mortal and she also couldn't help but crave to have the tournament behind her at this point so that she could look towards the future.

Dawn watched the blonde stare at the little blood on her hand for a moment until she dropped her stance and threw her blade to the ground.

"Perhaps a break is in order?" Dawn asked and Emma's eyes shot up from her finger as she realised that her tired mind registered that she had been staring too long.

She was about to apologise and take a fighting stance so that she could continue sparring, but felt a twinge in her arms when she tried to raise them.

"Well it couldn't hurt to take some time to…regroup," Emma said, with a distinct smile tugging at the corner of her lips as she sheathed Durendal.

Dawn laughed at the princess's smile and said, "sweet dreams, princess."

"I'll see you later," Emma replied and all but ran from the courtyard and towards the palace.

The demi-goddess rolled her shoulders which also twinged in slight pain from the hours of training.

Her original plan for the day was to spar for a while longer, so she wasn't quite sure what to do with erself.

She hadn't returned to the Enchanted Forest since the day with Graham and she hadn't felt particularly inclined to.

Finally, Dawn decided that she would go and find Graham and spend Emma's nap time with him.

It would give her more chance to try and discern exactly what her feelings for him meant.

She pulled the blade out of the ground by the hilt so that she could go and return it to the armoury before she went to find Graham.

However, the sound of crunching ground behind her made the young woman whip around and point the tip of the blade at the source.

The unfamiliar man held up his hands in surrender with no hesitation, though his neutral expression he was not particularly afraid of the young immortal.

He raised his hand to effortlessly push the sword away from his face and he murmured, "you truly are the spitting image of your mother."

Dawn wanted to raise the sword back up to his face, but there appeared to be no point since he clearly was not afraid of her. She instead relaxed her arm and allowed the sword to fall back down to the ground.

"Who are you?" she asked, hoping that she sounded somewhat intimidating.

"My name is Neal, but you perhaps know me better as Poseidon," he replied, making no attempts to shake her hand.

Dawn's jaw tightened.

Before her mother's marriage, the only other god she had met was Hecate and now in the space of two weeks, she had met her aunt and her uncle. She could only assume that it had nothing to do with being their niece and everything to do with Emma.

"Should I assume that Zelena has grown tired of delivering her own messages?" Dawn asked.

"You should assume that Zelena has lost her mind," Neal replied, resisting the urge to retaliate at the young woman's insinuation.

He was here to help Regina and striking down her snarky little daughter wouldn't exactly help in that pursuit.

Dawn narrowed her eyes at him.

Zelena certainly gave an air of always being up to something, but thinking she was mad seemed like a little much.

"She has plans of killing the only person who threatens her positions."

"Are you talking about Emma?" she asked, knowing full well that he was.

It seemed a stretch to think that Regina's 'new Persephone' would be capable of toppling centuries of tradition but the look on his face told another story.

"Zelena has been made aware that Emma White will be participating in the Elysium tournament. Lets just say that no matter how much the princess has trained, she cannot be prepared for a fight against Ares."

Dawn was about to ask the god to elaborate but her attempt was interrupted by a pair of footsteps which somehow sounded angry.

"What the hell is going on?" Regina called once she was close enough to be heard.

Neal brought his bottom lips into his mouth so that he didn't visibly clench his fist.

Talking to Regina hadn't been part of his plan since she was far less likely to listen to him than Dawn was.

"I had some spare time," Neal replied, "I thought I might as well at last meet my niece in person.."

Regina looked over her daughter, which served the dual purpose of making sure that there were no physical marks on her and to see whether she could discern if he was telling the truth.

Dawn nodded and said, "he was simply introducing himself when you arrived, mother."

As much as she hated to lie to her mother, she could only assume that the god of the sea had his reasons for not coming to Regina with this news.

He obviously had more experience with Olympian strife than she had, and considering the cataclysmic possibilities of such strife, Dawn figured she could give herself some time to figure it all out before she told her mother why he was really here.

"Meeting your wife made me realise that I have been neglectful in my…familial obligations to you, sister," Neal added.

Dawn couldn't help but think that he didn't sound particularly sincere. Was it physically impossible for Regina's siblings to be nice to her?

Regina really did not believe him in the slightest, but she also couldn't think what he could be planning.

"It is common courtesy to at least speak with the ruler of a domain before assuming you may freely roam," Regina said steely, not trying to hide the fact that she was moving to stand in front of her daughter.

"I will keep that in mind," Neal shot back, deciding that it would be unproductive to say that he would rather minimise his time in the Underworld.

They may never be as close as they could have been if Regina had become Zeus, but that didn't mean he had to taunt his sister in the same way that the woman he believed to be the true Zeus did.

"I suppose on that note I must be going," Poseidon announced with no further pretense as he disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

The moment he was gone, Regina turned back to her daughter, doing a quick check over her.

"I'm fine," Dawn said, not mentioning that she was an adult since she was sure that wouldn't help her mother's mood.

"Am I supposed to believe he was only here to meet you?" Regina asked.

"If he had another motive, he did not mention it," Dawn lied, already anxious to go and discuss this with Graham to see what he thought.

Hades narrowed her eyes as she tried to decide whether she was being lied to, but she eventually just said, "very well."

Dawn smiled, hoping it didn't look too strained as she hooked her arm through the older woman's and began leading them towards the palace.

"I have been thinking," Dawn said, "I believe the princess could use a break from all this training, so perhaps you could begin your courtship plans early?"

Chapter Text

Chapter nineteen

Emma wasn't quite sure what it was that she was wearing.

She'd woken from a nap to find a pile of clothes with a note telling her to get dressed and meet Regina in the throne room when she was ready.

The note mentioned that she was wearing something called a hoodie and jeans though she really couldn't see the point of pants with holes on the knee.

She reached down to tie up the white Converse on her feet and stood from the bed.

For a second, the princcess pulled at the material before she began making her way towards the throne room, since it became apparent that touching the clothing wouldn't answer any of the questions she had about them. As she went, she continued staring down at the shoes which were so strange but so comfortable.

Finally, she made it to the throne room and her attention was stolen from her own clothes when she saw that Regina was wearing similar attire, though hers was a plain sweater instead of a hoodie and her jeans appeared to be fully intact.

Regina looked away from her daughter and over to her wife and a smile instantly spread across her face.

"Could you please explain to me what this is?" Emma asked and tugged at the hoodie again.

"Did Dawn not explain?" Regina replied and looked over to her daughter who just shrugged.

Honestly, she just wanted them to go so that she could go and talk to Graham about Neal. She was surprised that she even managed to write a legible note.

Regina narrowed her eyes slightly.

Dawn had been off since earlier and she really wanted to grill her further but Dawn had a tendency to get defensive at the suggestion that she wasn't an adult.

"Dawn suggested a break from training, she thought it could be interesting to visit the land without magic for a few hours and that is the type of clothing they wear in that realm," Regina explained turning away from Dawn, deciding that she could deal with that later.

"Land without magic?" Emma asked, "what will we do there?"

"Anything you wish, Emma," Regina replied as always.

"I assume something is wrong?" Graham asked.

Dawn stopped pacing and looked at the man she had stormed up to and taken the book right out of his hand (mid-sentence no less).

The brunette fell into the seat next to Panic and threw his book aside with a deep sigh.

Graham leaned over and placed his hand on her knee.

Despite everything, Dawn actually smiled at the contact, however, now wasn't the time to dwell on her growing feelings for her mother's personal servant, now was the time to focus on what her uncle told her.

Graham removed his hand and looked at the demi-goddess expectantly.

"Poseidon came to speak with me earlier…"

Graham visibly swallowed hard.

Even if he was doing better with his fear lately, you didn't have to be the most anxious person to be afraid of one of the big three Olympians.

"W-what did he want?" Graham stuttered.

It was now Dawn's turn to place her hand over Graham's and waited for him to take a couple calming breaths.

Once she was sure that he could handle it, Dawn said, "he came with a warning, supposedly Zeus is planning Emma's death during the tournament by having Ares enter."

Graham blew out the breath he had been holding and said, "assuming that he was telling the truth, the most simple solution is that Emma must not compete."

"You know that Emma cannot be deterred, she will probably be excited to learn that Ares is competing…" the demi-goddess shot back and Graham sighed as he sunk slightly in the chair, Dawn was unfortunately correct.

The possibility that Emma could die felt all too real.

She had only been in his life for a couple months, but he somehow couldn't imagine his life without the princess in it.

A happy Hades meant a happy Underworld which meant a relaxed Graham.

"Then we should tell your mother," Graham said, perking up a little at the idea.

"So that she and Zelena can both declare war?" Dawn asked and the man gripped the side of the chair.

It was true that losing Emma could send Regina over the edge, which could result in abject devastation, possibly for every mortal in existence.

"We have to do something, Dawn!" he exclaimed.

Dawn nodded slowly as she thought through an idea that had sparked while Graham had been talking.

She leaned forward and replied, "we could just let her die."

Everything was bright and loud.

If Emma didn't know that this was a land without magic, she would have assumed that the sensory overload was a curse designed to punish the people of New York City.

However, people were rushing past her and Regina with no concern for their surroundings, so perhaps they were not bothered by the light and sound as Emma currently was?

She was brought out of the moment she spent trying to adjust when a man smashed violently into her shoulder and she fell into Regina who promptly caught her,

Emma watched the man with wide eyes as he continued walking with a rectangular device glued to the side of his face.

He looked over his shoulder and scowled at the princess and she heard something like 'tourists' before he continued walking towards the destination that Emma could only assume he was desperate to get to.

Emma would have been more infuriated by him if it hadn't resulted in Regina holding her closely by the waist.

"This land is…" Emma began, but she trailed off as she looked around.

Even if she did understand everything she was looking at, she was fairly sure that she wouldn't be able to think of a word to describe to all of it.

Regina just smiled, she loved how cute the blonde? looked when she was both awed and confused and nodded in understanding.

"It can be overwhelming," she replied and took a step back so that she could take her wife's hand.

It would be a nightmare if she lost the other woman in New York City, where she didn't so much as know what a car was.

"I might be able to suggest a quieter place where you can decide where to go?"

Emma nodded eagerly and allowed herself to be pulled along by Regina.

The young woman looked at everything that she possibly could and smiled when she realised that absolutely no one cared who she was.

It didn't matter that her wife was Hades either. In this land, they were just two normal women who were allowed to enjoy their time together, something she would never get in the Enchanted Forest.

Finally, Regina brought Emma to one of the smaller buildings and the younger of the pair furrowed her brow as she inspected what appeared to be a list of items written on a chalk board.

She didn't know what a 'hot cocoa' was, but she did know that she wanted to try it.

"What is this?" she asked as Regina pushed the door open and led Emma into the building.

"This is a coffee shop, it is an establishment where the people of this realm purchase hot beverages…and write screenplays," Hades replied in a whisper so as not to attract too much attention.

Emma's frown deepened, but just shook her head. She'd resigned herself at this point to the fact that there was no chance she could possibly learn everything about this place in one day. No magic certainly made everything different.

Plus, she was rather distracted by the fact that Regina had yet to release her hand in spite of the fact that they clearly reached their destination.

"What can I get you?" the man behind the counter asked, far too chipper compared to every other person they had encountered thus far.

Regina finally removed her hand from her wife's and looked at the menu.

She knew she wanted black coffee since that was what she got every time she came to this land, but the question was what to get the princess who probably would want to try everything on the menu since it wasn't very likely that she knew what much of it actually was.

It was for this reason that she decided not to ask the princess what she wanted for now, she could always ask for something else if she didn't like what Regina chose for her.

"Could we please have a regular black coffee and a hot cocoa with cinnamon?"

The guy nodded along and it wasn't long until Regina paid and carried the two mugs over to the most secluded booth in the corner.

Emma followed, sparing glances at a few people scattered around the shop.

There were a few people typing furiously at devices with strange glowing apples, whilst others had those rectangular talking devices and were tapping lazily at whatever was on the screen.

The princess longed to know how every piece of technology in this room worked, so she was pretty sure that she would be convincing Regina to come back here once they had more time.

Emma stopped looking around when she and Regina slid into the booth and brought her attention to the hot cocoa.

She wasn't too surprised that Regina had guessed what she wanted, though she was somewhat confused by the addition of cinnamon.

She brought the drink up to her lips and took a deep sip and her eyes widened at the flavours playing across her tongue.

"Wow," she breathed.

Regina smiled into her own drink, before she asked, "have you thought about what you would like to do, dear?"

Emma's first instinct was to say that she wanted to explore, but that didn't feel like a good courtship activity and she could imagine it wouldn't be the best course of action in New York City.

"What do people typically do here for courtship?" Emma asked.

The goddess's cheeks coloured slightly before she replied, "in this world it is not known a courtship. I believe it is called 'dating'."

"And what does dating entail?"

Hades considered the question for a moment, she only had secondary information when it came to the answer, though she figured she had a pretty good grasp on the concept.

"From what I've gathered, it typically starts with having coffee together…"

"Which is precisely what we are doing now?" the blonde asked.

"I suppose it is…" Regina replied and she wasn't sure why she was still blushing considering that she had been in far more intimate moments since they had met, "I assume that this isn't the only thing you would like to do today?"

"So how would a date usually proceed after having coffee?"

"Well…I suppose one person surprises the other with some kind of activity they would both enjoy," Regina explained.

"That makes sense. Then you should surprise me with an activity? I have no idea how anything works in this place…" Emma asked.

"I…suppose that makes sense," Regina sighed as her mind went through all of the possibilities, but she blew out a breath when she felt a hand over hers and she looked over to the blonde who was smiling at her nervous wife.

"There is no reason to worry Regina, I'm sure you will choose the perfect date."

As it turned out, they did spend a couple hours exploring the city.

They walked hand-in-hand as Regina explained all of the significant sites of interest, but without a deeper knowledge of this realm, the landmarks were not exactly as awe-inspiring as they could have been.

Around Central Park, a thought occurred to the goddess.

The princess was clearly enamoured with the technology she had witnessed thus far, but taking her to the movies probably wouldn't be the best decision since it would take time to explain how to appreciate how fiction functioned on the screen.

Ultimately, she decided to go with something that required less explanation, which is why the couple were currently on a ferry to Coney Island.

Hades smiled at the blonde who was leaning over the railing, staring at the water treading underneath the boat.

Traveling by boat was yet another new experience for Emma, and she found it just as exhilarating as the other new experiences.

Regina walked over to lean her back against the railing and Emma turned to do the same, deliberating moving closer to the older woman.

Another new thing that she was learning was that it was far colder to travel by water.

A beat of silence passed between the pair, Emma checked that there was no one listening before she said, "this realm is truly beautiful."

"I believe that there are many here who would prefer the Enchanted Forest," Regina replied with a little scoff.

"And why would that be?"

"To them, it is a land of fantasy, they find hope in the love of Snow White and Prince Charming."

The blonde pushed herself from the railing fully so that she could look at her wife with her eyebrows now raised, "they know of my parents?" she asked.

"More like they know of a version of them who defeated the Evil Queen with True Love's Kiss."

"The Evil Queen? That cannot actually be her name…"

"Fairytales in this land tend to be rather reductive. I'm sure that there are many in the Enchanted Forest who would have no problem calling a wicked monarch 'The Evil Queen'," Regina said, her mouth pulling down in a deep frown.

Emma watched the woman's eyes drift over to the water, obviously thinking about some people in particular.

The goddess turned her attention away from the water when she felt fingertips brush against her own, showing the younger woman more vulnerability in her chocolate orbs than she had to anyone other than Persephone.

"My parents may believe that you're evil but they also believed that it would be wise to imprison me in my own home for 21 years. I wouldn't be so quick to place much stock in their judgment."

Regina smiled and asked, "was that your way of calling them idiots?"

Emma let out a laugh and fully entwined her fingers with her wife's before she replied, "I did not say those words exactly…"

The goddess was about to say 'thank you' for the reassurance, but the attempt was interrupted by a horn and both women turned to see that they had reached their destination.

Emma wasn't sure what it was that she was looking at, but she already knew that she loved it.

The lights were not quite as overwhelming as they had been in the city, but they were definitely more colourful.

She could faintly hear shouts of joy coming from the island and she could already see a collection of children running around gleefully on the sand.

A call sounded out indicating that they should now disembark and Emma kept her hand firmly in Regina's as they crossed over to the island.

Every fiber of the princess's being was itching to go and find out exactly what Coney Island was.

"What is this place?" she breathed once they were on the sand and away from anyone that would give them curious looks.

Hades couldn't help the wide grin on her face, she was pretty sure that the young woman before her had not been this excited in either Camelot or Wonderland, she may have finally outdone herself.

"This is one of the New York neighbourhoods, dear," Regina replied, "only this one becomes a site for entertainment for the people during the summer."

Emma nodded slowly.

Regina had tried to explain how all of the neighbourhoods worked and she was pretty sure that she had retained at least some of it.

However, her interest in geography was quickly stolen as she turned to look at the giant metal structures.

"That is Luna Park," the brunette supplied before the other woman could ask, "it is an amusement park, the people of this realm pay to ride the structures for enjoyment."

Instead of asking any further questions, Emma simply grabbed Regina's hand and pulled her towards the park.


Emma poked the thing in her hand and a frown took over her face as she realised that didn't help her identify it at all.

There was no way this was something that existed in nature.

"What is this called again?" she asked.

Regina looked over to the woman with a raised eyebrow as she was distracted from picking the next booth to go to.

"It's a corndog, dear," the goddess replied.

Emma nodded, though her question wasn't really answered. She decided that the best way to get an answer was to just go for it, which was why she took a large bite.

"It's disgusting," the princess announced, "I love it," she added and took a larger bite this time.

Regina laughed as Emma slipped her hand back into hers and they continued to walk while Emma finished her 'meal'.

They had been on the island for a couple hours and had been on a few rides, which Emma seemed to love even if she had no earthly idea how they worked.

Regina felt her hand tug back and realised that Emma had stopped moving and she turned to see what had caught the younger woman's attention.

"Is there something wrong?" she asked, before she followed the blonde's eye-line over to the booth and a smile tugged at the corner of her lips.

It was a ring-toss booth that had stolen Emma's attention probably because of the ten or so giant teddy-bears hanging above a load of smaller ones.

A moment later, Emma felt herself being pulled over to the booth.

Emma's eyebrows were pinched together as they came to a stop in front of the booth. Before she could ask what it was, Regina was pulling out a few dollars, much to the joy of the man behind the booth smiling at his newest customers.

"One dollar gives you three throws," he said with an obviously fake excitement which Emma thought sounded awfully cheap, "you could be in with the chance of winning one of these wonderful bears for the lovely lady."

Regina silently handed him a dollar and accepted three rings in return.

The goddess looked over shoulder at her wife and smiled at the interest on her face before she turned back to toss the first ring.

Despite the rigged odds, the ring found its target, which caused the smug expression on the man's face turned to one of disbelief.

This expression remained as she threw the next two rings.

"I believe this means I won?" she asked as the rings swung around a few times for good measure.

The man stared at the rings for a few seconds while trying to figure out whether it was actually possible.

He ultimately decided that it wouldn't be worth accusing this woman of cheating, she looked like the type to tear him a new one.

"Amazing," he shouted, returning to his carnival persona, while silently hoping that this couple wouldn't be claiming all of his large prizes, "which one would you like?"

Regina tuned her eyes back to Emma and motioned toward the larger prizes to silently tell her which ones she could pick from.

The princess could tell they were all animals, but there were a few that she didn't recognise.

She pointed at the cutest looking one and the guy brought it down and placed it into Emma's arms with a smile on his face that was looking more forced than it had a moment ago.

Regina thanked him and began to walk away with her wife following her.

On instinct, Emma tucked Regina's prize under her arm and took the older woman's hand.

Once the blonde was sure that no one was listening, she asked, "what is this?"

"It's a panda, dear," Regina replied.

Again, Emma didn't understand the answer when it came to this earth, but she had another question which was far more pressing than that, "was that another part of a date?"

"I suppose it was," Regina replied with a shrug, though her smile betrayed the fact that she had recognised her attempt at romance.

Emma nodded and allowed her gaze to go to her surroundings.

She really did not want this day to end. It had been one of the best in her life so far.

At the same time, she only had a couple days until the tournament.

She could just tell Regina that she wanted to stay here longer and not compete at all, but she didn't want to do that after she told Zelena that she would be.

Personally, she blamed her mother for how stubborn she was.

"So…how do these dates usually end?" she asked, hoping that Regina would get the hint that she was sending out.

The smile on the other woman's face fell a little when it hit her that they would have to go back to the Underworld.

Her eyes fell onto the tallest ride in the park. She could use that to make the most out of their remaining time for the day.

"I'll show you," she announced and started pulling the blonde towards the Ferris Wheel.

The pair were only in line for about ten minutes until they were sat in a carriage with the panda between them.

Emma visibly tensed as the wheel began to rise upwards.

She could see the whole island as the reached the top and she made a quick checklist of the things she hadn't got a chance to see.

As her muscles relaxed, she decided that they would definitely be coming back here soon.

She tore her eyes away from the sight and looked over to the woman sat on the other side of the panda and her heart fluttered a little when she realised that Regina had been staring at her the whole time.

Apparently, they had both been admiring the view.

"Today was amazing," Emma said, "dating seems to be more enjoyable than courtship."

Regina hummed in agreement.

The pair sat in a comfortable silence and simply enjoyed being together with no chance of interruption.

Emma noticed the carriage below had a couple kissing, completely oblivious to the outside world. It didn't take the princess more than a second to scoot closer to the goddess, getting as close as she could with a panda between them.

Before Regina could ask her what she was doing, she leaned over to place a chaste kiss to her lips and leaned back so that she could see her reaction.

The goddess spent a second in shock before it occurred to her that Emma was finally starting to understand the concept of dating.

She reclaimed her wife's lips in a more fierce kiss and decided that she would simply allow herself to enjoy this in a realm where it didn't matter that they were a princess and a goddess.

Dating really was better than courtship.

Chapter Text

A.N. Sorry about the long wait!

I've finally planned the last portion of this fic so hopefully will be able to finish soon :)

Chapter twenty

The strange family ate in silence.

The demi-goddess was too afraid to speak since she couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't reveal how desperately she wanted the princess to withdraw from the tournament.

Hades was similarly reluctant to speak since she wanted to do what she swore she would never do and forbid her wife from taking part in something she wanted to do. Though Regina didn't open her mouth, especially since she was still oblivious as to what her brother had said to her daughter.

The princess, on the other hand, was just trying to focus on keeping her porridge down.

Even with a couple days of more training, her mind was mostly still in New York, back on that Ferris wheel where she was allowed to kiss her wife without anything else weighing on her mind.

Even if she took one thing off her plate by not competing, there would still be other things she would have to deal with.

The fact that her parents hated their daughter-in-law, the fact that she could be called upon to be the ruler of the White Kingdom when she would quite literally rather do anything else. And finally, the fact that she was married to someone who would outlive her.

Regina seemed happy now, but would her death be similar to Persephone's abandonment?

Emma blinked when she realised that she had placed an empty spoon into her mouth and realised just how much her mind had wandered.

She placed the utensil down and looked over to Regina with a weak smile, which the goddess returned.

Dawn hopefully watched the interaction, maybe they would finally say something, she had already achieved her first task of the day when Emma had drank the water she had specifically 'prepared' for her.

The silence continued, though for a couple more seconds and the Demi-goddess finally decided that she couldn't take the silence anymore.

"How are you feeling, princess?" Dawn asked, though her voice lacked its usual edge.

Emma's eyebrows pinched together and she tried to pinpoint what the correct emotion was.

Was there a word for something between giddy and anxious?

"Nervous, but I'll be fine," she replied.

Dawn nodded, even if she was hoping for a longer answer. She spared a glance at her mother who was remaining conspicuously silent with a tightened jaw, which she was sure no food had passed.

Dawn couldn't help but think that Hades would not be quite as successful at holding her tongue if she knew that the god of war was likely preparing for a trip to Elysium right now.

"If you've finished your breakfast, Emma, I could help you prepare?" Dawn asked.

Emma frowned as she considered whether her step daughter had ever called her by her name before.

However, she decided not to comment on it and just nodded.

"That would be nice, thank you, Dawn," the princess replied and stood from the table, as she passed Regina, she placed a chaste kiss to her lips and lingered for a moment so that they could share another strained smile.

Regina continued to smile until her wife and daughter had left the room.

The affection had noticeably ramped up between them since returning from New York. It wasn't as if the couple held hands and made out at every opportunity, but neither of them were really afraid to show how they felt about each other, even if they had yet to say it aloud.

The goddess just hoped that she wouldn't lose her chance to say it verbally because of a pointless tournament.

Then again, she should have known the risks of falling in love with a Charming.


The chanting was intoxicating.

It brought Emma right back to her first week in the Underworld.

It was when the princess had little interest in getting to know her new wife.

It was truly shocking how much she had learned in three short months. Certainly more than she had learned in her twenty-one years in the White Palace.

She certainly would not have been able to easily take down three competitors who had been deemed heroic enough for Elysium when she first laid her eyes on the tournament.

While training with a goddess and her Demi-goddess daughter, it became too easy to underestimate how naturally talented she was in swordplay.

Emma smiled as the fourth spirit fell to the ground and disappeared (she had been assured that he would re-appear in the stands momentarily) and she took the reprieve to glance up to the three seats she had been trying to look at as often as possible.

Each time she looked, she found that Regina was chewing at her bottom lip increasingly and also looking over to Zelena and Neal at regular intervals.

Neal's expression was unreadable, but Zelena didn't bother trying to hide her smugness as she clapped slowly.

"Truly incredible," a disembodied voice announced, "the new competitor really does stand a chance of taking the championship!"

Applause erupted following the announcement, but Emma still somehow managed to hear the scrapping metal which signified the arrival of a new opponent.

She wasn't exactly sure what she should expect in the final round, but she eagerly turned towards the opening gate to find out.

Her smile fell, though, at the sight of a lightly armoured blond man sauntering over to her.

The princess had never seen him in her life, but she had been in the presence of enough divine beings to know that he was almost certainly a god, which was only compounded by the fact that he appeared to be solid flesh instead of the corneal she had grown used to facing so far.

Emma looked over to Regina who had her eyebrows drawn tightly together while her daughter had a hand gripped on her elbow and whispered something in her ear.

The princess had to assume that it was the only thing stopping Hades from standing up and protesting verbally.

Emma licked her dry lips before she began walking over to the man who was limply dragging his sword along at his side while making it to the centre of the arena.

Emma felt her hand involuntarily around the hilt of the sword.

She understood that many gods saw her as some mortal princess, but she figured that winning the last few rounds should command at least a small amount of respect.

"Ladies and gentleman," the commentator called with surprise clear in his voice, "we are truly honoured by the presence of the one and only god of war, Ares!"

The crowd erupted into applause and any notion that she deserved a small amount of respect from this man left Emma's mind and she just hoped that she wasn't paling visibly.

Even with her inhuman levels of optimism, defeating the god of war felt like a stretch with only two months of training.

The man tilted his head whilst he inspected the princess while not even attempting to raise his blade.

"I wonder which of your parents would die from shock first if they were to see you competing in this flagrant display of narcism?" He asked.

Emma swallowed hard and said, "what do you know of my parents?"

"Monarchs are rather lucrative sources of war and destruction, the smallest of slights and thousands charge into battle in the names of Queen Snow White and King David," he sneered, but seemed to regain his composure as he said, "oh but where are my manners, your highness! Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is James. It's only proper to introduce oneself before you run your companion through, don't you agree?"

Emma knew that he was mocking her, but she couldn't think of a strong enough retort.

It was only natural that Ares would be far more natural at putting his opponent off than she was.

Emma allowed herself a moment to catch Regina's eye with a rather unconvincing smile, before she turned back to Ares and raised her blade with more conviction than she currently felt.

"And there's that unwarranted courage I've heard so much about," the god said with a laugh and rather languished lifted his sword, though he was holding it with one hand instead of Emma's two.

Emma swung Durendal at first, but Ares east dodged and spun around to slice at her. She managed to move aside but a sharp pain shot up her left arm as Ares' sword sliced her arm.

Emma hissed and released Durendal with her left hand so that she was only holding it with one.

James jogged on the spot for a couple seconds as he regained his footing but he was still smiling.

"I suppose you are a cut above most mortals, they would be dead by now," he said.

Emma clenched her left fist against the pain her arm and her lip formed a thin line.

It took all of her will not to make any retort and she just waited in a defensive stance.

Finally, Ares lunged forward and she managed to parry the strike and made a quick step so that she was behind him during his slight moment of hesitation.

Without much thought, Emma sliced at his shoulder and the god fell to his knee with a sharper hiss than the one that Emma had let out a moment ago.

The princess's mouth hung open for a moment at the sight, she could practically feel Durendal vibrating in her hand, almost as if it were celebrating the pain it had caused.

James clenched his jaw and brought his hand up to rest on his bleeding shoulder and let out a rather childish huff at the sight of golden blood on his fingers.

Emma couldn't help but laugh at the look of utter disbelief on his face, it. Was good to know that she wasn't nearly as pathetic and weak as he thought she was.

Her laugh was cut short, however, when Ares was on his feet in a flash and Durendal flew out of her hand before she even had a chance to see his disarming technique.

She had no time to react before James rammed the tip of his sword through Emma's stomach.

She let a breath out as he pushed it further so that it thrust out the other side.

She was only still standing because James was using his free arm to hold her up so that he could whisper into her ear, "just like every other mortal."

With that, he wrenched the sword out of her gut and he pushed her down to the ground.

Emma's eyes wanted to close but she had to keep them open for a few moments longer, there was someone she wanted to see before she died.

While the princess fought against this, the spirits filed out of the stands after the commentator announced that Ares was the winner.

None of them seemed to notice that Emma wasn't disappearing and reappearing.

Emma finally closed her eyes as blood began running down the side of her mouth, however, she managed to crack her eyes open when she felt a hand on her cheek and she managed to smile at the goddess kneeling down beside her.

"R-Regina," she coughed.

Hades shook her head and whispered, "don't speak."

Regina was desperately trying to think of something she could do.

She was a goddess, dammit, there must be something that she could do!

However, she knew that if she allowed Emma's soul to remain in her body, she would need to substitute another to retain balance.

Emma White would never accept her life being saved at the expense of another mortal.

"I love…" Emma began, but her mouth was incapable of forming the final word as she at last lost consciousness and her head lolled to the side.

Regina shook her head as if this would make it go away.

She wanted to scream, but the impulsiveness was cut short by the sound of slow clapping behind her.

Neal trailed behind Zelena as she walked over to stand next to Ares while Dawn silently narrowed her eyes at her aunt.

"Truly impressive," Zelena called, "Neal bet that she would not last a minute, I said thirty seconds. I suppose your little wife proved us both wrong."

Fireballs ignited in Regina's hands and she slowly rose to her feet with tears on her face.

Screams rang through the warfare but she couldn't really process any of them.

Her mind was too focused on moving through the battlefield, cutting down enemies whose faces she forgot the moment that life left their bodies.

Lightening continued to strike the ground around her and a warrior swung at the princess, which she was able to turn away from with ease.

Their swords clashed, ringing over the crackling fires and claps of thunder.

Emma pushed him out of the lock and sidestepped his attack. They traded a few blows before the warrior missed and Emma struck him in the chest.

He fell to his knees and a slow clapping reached Emma's ears and her mind managed to process the sound.

"You really are a cut above the rest," Ares's voice boomed and Emma spun around to face him. The thunder stopped. Crackling fires died to plumes of smoke and they were all that was left on the battlefield when James raised his sword and said, "but never when it matters."

Emma was about to enter a defensive stance but her hand shot up to her stomach when a familiar pain bloomed through it.

Her leather tunic darkened from the wet wound.

In a blink, Ares was on her, forcing Emma to straighten up in time to block his attack.

He leaned closer to her with a smug grin and said, "you will never see your wife again."

Emma pushed him off, the flaring anger was enough to block the pain in her abdomen.

Emma let loose a garage of blows and her anger mounted with every missed strike.

Her anger was not enough to prevent the man from his victory as her sword flew from her hands and out of each.

Ares did not hesitate to finish her.

He knocked her feet from under her and proceeded to shadow over her prone body.

The god's elbow drew back and the sword was aimed at her heart.

Emma threw out her hand as if it would actually do something and closed her eyes.

There was no way out of this. Neither her parents nor her wife would be able to help her right now.

A bright light burst from her palm and sent Ares flying backwards.

Confusion flooded her system and she saw him landing in the dirt.

To the princess's disappointment, he recovered quickly enough to get to his feet, hand never loosening around the hilt of his sword.

Emma also pushed herself up so that she could search for Durendal, which was nowhere in the immediate area.

Instead, she looked down at her right and then her left hand.

They were still glowing white.

Emma turned her hands towards Ares as he thrust his sword towards her.

A shockwave of light discharged from her hands.

The magic hit him as if a wall of ice was freezing him in place, before he exploded into shards of light.

Time seemed to speed up and Ares's sword clattered down to the ground through the god's remains.

The moment she was sure that he was gone, the pain returned ten-fold to her stomach.

Her hand shot down to the wound and it came away drenched with blood.

"There is no need to worry, child, you are not destined to die," a male voice announced from behind her.

The princess straightened up with her hand still cradling her stomach and she turned around to face him.

She had never seen him before in her life but she was almost certain of who he was.

She had met enough gods to understand power, but there was just something different about being in the presence of a titan.

It was warm and cold, daunting and comforting.

The fear of the power he clearly possessed fought with the feeling of knowing that she was mostly safe before him.

It was only solidified when he smiled so easily at her.

"You're Regina's father…" Emma said as more of a statement than a question.

"You can call me Henry," he replied.

Emma nodded, not at all surprised that titans also had names.

There was a more pertinent question to ask anyway: "you said I'm not dead?"

"You have a greater destiny than to be another victim of Ares's blade," Henry practically scoffed at the thought, "you will awake soon but I wanted to take this opportunity to speak with my daughter-in-law."

Emma wanted to probe for more information about her 'destiny' but she figured he would be unlikely to tell her anything she was also momentarily flushing at the thought he was indeed her father-in-law. He was the first in-law who seemed to be not utterly disinterested in her existence.

She bowed her head slightly and asked, "what is it that you would like to speak with me about?"

"The natural balance of the universe," Henry replied with his hands clasped behind his back, "the cosmos longs for Regina to take her place on Olympus."

"But Zelena had been Zeus for thousands of years…" Emma retorted even though she really wanted to ask what made her so capable of inciting cosmic change.

"And for thousands of years mortals have been suffering unnecessarily. Zelena does not recognise the value of human life in the same way that Regina does. She is not fit for the throne."

Emma frowned. She could certainly believe that he was telling the truth, but there was one major problem with what he was proposing.

"Regina no longer has any desire to become Zeus," Emma pointed out.

"That is certainly true, but now she has had a mortal wife to remind her of the duty she has to humanity," the titan explained.

"What would make you feel so certain that I would be capable of making this happen?" Emma asked.

"Because, Hera, it is why you were born."

With that, he stepped forward and placed his hand over the wound, Emma closed her eyes as his power healed it, but didn't notice her blood turn from red to gold as the scene began to fade away.

"Truly impressive," Zelena called, "Neal bet that she wouldn't last a minute, I bet thirty seconds. I suppose she proved us both wrong."

Regina shot to her feet and fireballs ignited in both of her hands.

Dawn's eyes shifted over to Graham who looked perhaps the most terrified that she had never seen him, but her attention returned to Emma's prone body on the ground. She really wished that she could announce that time was of the essence.

Meanwhile, Zelena laughed at her sister and didn't even bother to enter into a defensive stance.

"Come now, sister, she was destined to die anyway, you should be thanking me for speeding up the princess and saving further heartbreak," Zeus said.

Regina thrust both of her hands forward to throw each fireball at her sister, but the other goddess lazily waved her hand to disperse the flames before they even came close to her and she did it while bearing that infuriating smirk that had not left her face since Ares took the field.

It did fall away a split second later, however, when a bolt of lightning grazed her cheek before she could react.

She blinked as she stumbled back and then brought her fingers up to feel the area stinging with electricity, she could already feel that the rough skin was going to become a scar.

She should be angry but she was afraid.

A part of her knew that Regina had the power of Zeus within her otherwise their father wouldn't have chosen her for the role, but it was difficult to reconcile her miserable sister with one who would have the ability to mark another immortal.

She licked her lips and looked over her shoulder to see Neal looking with widened eyes; Ares, on the other hand, looked only mildly interested.

Zelena schooled her features and her hand fell away from her face as she looked back over to Regina whose nostrils were flared as she waved for her sister to retort.

Zeus, though, didn't want to start a fight that she wasn't sure that she could win.

However, she was sure that once the princess's death sank in, then Regina would go back to being the pathetic mess she became following her banishment to the Underworld.

"I will leave you to mourn," Zelena sneered, "let us not take so long to get back together."

With that, Zeus flicked her wrist to engulf herself, Poseidon on Ares in a cloud of smoke.

Regina stepped forward as if she was planning to go after them, but she was stopped by Dawn grabbing her forearm rather forcefully.

"We really do not have time for that now, mother," the demi-goddess said.

Regina forced herself to look at her bloodstained wife's body and all of the anger that she felt vanished to be replaced with emptiness that she couldn't quite explain.

Perhaps it was the realisation that she had spent so much of her time with Emma worrying about losing her that she hadn't allowed herself to truly enjoy the time that she did have.

Hades found that she was completely unable to form words and just nodded while black smoke came around the four of them to return them to the palace.

They reappeared a moment later and the princess's chamber, with said princess laid out on the bed that she hadn't slept on in a while.

Regina let out a deep breath as she stepped closer to the woman and tried to resist touching her, she wasn't sure that she could handle feeling how cold her skin was bound to be.

Instead, she tried to figure out what she should practically be doing next.

Surely, Emma's parents would like her body back for burial rites? They would also need to announce the untimely end of Princess Emma White to the kingdom who only recently found out that she existed? It probably wouldn't be great for the politics of the kingdom.

However, before she could attempt to push her emotions down so that she could figure out exactly how she could explain this to Snow White and Prince Charming, she felt Dawn's hand brush her own and she realised that her daughter had been trying to speak to her.

"What did you say?" She asked, her voice more noticeably shaken than she would have liked.

"You need to kiss Emma," Dawn repeated, and when Regina opened her mouth to protest, Dawn held up her hand to stop her so that she could explain, "Neal warned me that Ares would be competing so I convinced the Blue Fairy to give me a potion in exchange for being forgiven for her deception. I put it into Emma's drink at breakfast. The moment her heart stopped, her body would be preserved for exactly one hour. True Love's Kiss is the only thing that will return life to her body. I've already healed her wounds, you just need to…"

"True Love's Kiss," Regina repeated.

She could almost believe that the universe would be cruel enough to make her True Love a mortal, but Emma hardly deserved to have Hades as hers. At the same time, she could hardly deny the love she had developed for the princess in the couple short months was already greater than what she ever felt for Ruby.

"Please, mother, you have to at least try," Dawn said with a twinge of begging.

Regina shook her head, she knew she was stalling, but she didn't know what she would do if it didn't work.

"You knew that Ares would be competing and didn't think to tell me?!"

Dawn just rolled her eyes.

She wasn't surprised that her mother was trying to deflect, but they really didn't have time for this right now.

"It occurred to me that this would be the best way to protect Emma. If Zeus was to believe her dead, she would no longer need to plan ways to kill her. Your reaction was key to this being successful."

Regina set her jaw.

As much as the thought that she had been left out of this decision angered her, it was true that Zelena knew her well enough to pick on whether or not her reactions were believable. All Regina wanted was to shout, mostly because she just wanted Emma dead.

She wanted the chance to hear her utter 'I love you', but she couldn't help but think that what Dawn was offering her was a very slim chance.

However, shouting would be a waste of that slim chance so instead, she took a step towards the bed, before she could change her mind and leaned down to connect her lips to her wife's which were unsettling cold.

She straightened up and looked at the princess only half expectantly.

For a second, nothing happened and Regina's heart sank, of course the sweet, innocent Emma could not possibly be destined to be with the ruler of the Underworld.

She was about to turn to her daughter who was still staring at her step mother, but the action was cut short by the sound of someone taking a deep, gasping breath.

Emma's eyes shot open and she pushed herself up onto her elbows. Her chest heaved and she looked around the room.

The moment her eyes fell onto Regina, she felt calm run through her system and she fell back down to the bed with a loud sigh.

"You saved me," the princess mumbled and her eyes began to close, though this time she was falling asleep with a smile tugging at the corner of her lips.

When Dawn had warned her of the plan, she knew that there was no way that Regina wouldn't be her True Love.

Chapter Text

Chapter twenty-one

In the two days since the tournament, Emma had mostly been relaxing in the Underworld.

Her wounds may have been healed from fatal to a point where she could be brought back through True Love's Kiss, but they still hurt.

Regina wouldn't want to start travelling until she was sure that her wife would be safe from incurring and father harm and as much as the princess did not enjoy being restricted to a palace again, she did enjoy having Regina to take care of her.

It was surprising to find an upside to almost dying, but who was she to argue with how much more tightly Regina had hugged her in the last couple days?

However, after forty-eight hours, she felt more than ready to get out and start exploring again.

She may not have won the tournament but she was more than ready to put that whole thing behind her.

Emma was under no illusions that she would have ever stood a chance against Ares and she'd already proved to herself that she was capable enough to win the tournament she had been so infatuated with when she first came to the Underworld.

Now, she was much more infatuated with something (or someone) else and was revelling in the chance to full focus on that someone.

There was something that she needed to take care of first before she started that complete focus though.

It was for this reason that the princess was striding through the palace whilst Regina made arrangements for them to return to the Wonderland (they wanted to revisit now that they had their priorities straight).

Emma made it to the library and gripped the sheathed sword between her hands as she moved between the shelves until she found the most comfortable chair in the massive room.

As expected, she found Graham sat there holding a book with Dawn perched on the arm pointing at something on the page he had been undoubtedly trying to read until the Demi-goddess came into to distract him.

Even if the pair had yet to admit that they had feelings for each other, it was rather cute that they were both obviously trying to spend as much time together as possible anyway. Emma had to wonder whether she and Regina once appeared as lovesick as the pair who were currently smiling goofily at one another at something that was probably only funny to them.

It was also telling that the usually cautious demon didn't notice that someone other than Dawn was looking at him until the princess cleared her throat.

Both of them snapped their heads towards the source.

Dawn held her breath for am moment until she saw that it was Emma.

She was in no way ready for her mother to find out about whatever this was between her daughter and personal servant (not that Graham had been treated like a servant lately).

Regina would probably be okay with it after some initial shock, but Dawn was not prepared to have to answer any questions that the goddess would almost certainly have. After all, it would only be fair that Regina would be allowed to pry into her love life at this point, right?

Dawn visibly let out a breath and stood from the arm of the chair and Emma was sure that she noticed a slight downturn in Graham's mouth at the move.

"Nice to see mom finally released you from your bed rest, princess," Dawn said.

"I don't think she wanted to, it took a lot of convincing," Emma replied.

Dawn scrunched up her nose and grimaced.

"No not like that…" Emma began, but stopped when she saw there was also a hint of a smirk on her step-daughter's face.

"I know, princess," Dawn laughed and her eyes fell down to the item Emma was clutching between her hands.

As much as she loved Durendal, she hadn't once considered that she should ask for it back.

Graham leaned forward and scowled at the blade, it was just a reminder o the constant anxiety he felt while Emma was training. It also wasn't too pleasant to think about the pain that Dawn had gone through to get it herself.

In all honestly, he wished that he could live in an Underworld with no weapons.

Emma thrust her hands forward, grateful for the chance to change the subject from how she had 'convinced' her wife.

"Regina asked if I wanted to go to Wonderland again and it occurred to me that I don't need this anymore…"

Dawn nodded slowly and took the offered blade, unsheathing it to inspect its dark edges.

It was as sharp and polished as ever, not that she doubted that her step-mother had been looking after it.

She ran her finger along the edge to make sure that it didn't radiate any pain to her. Once she was satisfied that Durendal once again recognised her as its master, she turned her attention back to Emma.

"So you're not planning to join the tournament again. You could probably win if Ares isn't competing, you know?" Dawn asked.

Emma was sure that she detected a hopeful lilt to the woman's voice and she was pretty sure that she knew why.

Even if no one wanted to mention it, Emma was the only living mortal in the Underworld and after Ares stabbed her, that mortality became all too real.

Emma smiled at the younger woman and shook her head as she replied, "it probably wouldn't be a good idea. It wouldn't be worth attracting Zelena's attention. Besides, I would like to try exploring without having to carry a sword."

Dawn sighed and nodded, it made too much sense to argue. Plus, there were too many stories of mortals trying to escape death only to meet a sticky end in the process.

It would be foolish for Emma to risk Zelena finding out she was alive on the off-chance that she could become immortal.

It could be a very fatal waste of time.

"Well in that case, I hope you enjoy Wonderland, Princess."

Emma took a moment to appreciate just how much the demi-goddess clearly wanted to continue the tournament argument and that Graham was wearing a similar expression.

It was so good to have people who cared enough to worry but not try to impose their will upon her freedoms to keep her safe.

"Thank you, Dawn," Emma replied and added, "I'll see you soon, Graham."

The demon waved and Emma was about to turn around to go back to Regina but was stopped when Dawn pulled her back into a hug which the princess returned without hesitation.

Neither of them had to say anything to know why she was hugging her.

Once Dawn released her, Emma smiled at the demi-goddess for a few seconds longer and finally turned on her heels to find her wife.

Dawn sat back down on the arm of the chair and inspected Durendal while Graham smirked at her.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" She asked, not looking up from her sword.

"It's weird to see you being so…emotional," he replied.

Dawn rolled her eyes but a smirk came over her own face when a thought occurred to her.

"You know, if Zelena finds out that Emma is alive you should be ready for a fight, I could train you!"

Graham's eyes widened when Dawn offered him Durendal and he shook his head vigorously.

"Please Graham, I would feel better if I knew you could swing this without falling over."

If anyone asked, Dawn would deny that she pouted, but Graham relaxesd significantly at the sight and sighed rather dramatically as he replied:

"Fine, I'll let you train me, but not with that sword!"

-Two months later-

"I don't understand why Queen Elizabeth does not wear her Crown Jewels," Emma said and leaned slightly closer to inspect the priceless items protected by glass.

"She does, dear," Regina replied, taking a step closer so that she could place her hand on the small of her wife's back, "but she also displays them for her subjects to view when she is not using them. It's a celebration of history for some and a tourist trap for the rest of the world."

Emma stood up straighter and leaned into Regina's touch before she asked, "but would she not need them all of them?"

"The queen in this country is more of a figurehead than a true monarch. She is integral to the national identity but the country is managed by an elected government," Regina explained.

Emma frowned. She couldn't help but think about how boring being royalty with none of the responsibilities would be and the bar was already set pretty low based on her experiences in the White Palaces.

"Elected government?" Emma repeated, "the people choose who rules them?"

"In incense, yes," Regina replied, "the politics are much more complicated than that though…"

Emma nodded, knowing that Regina had trailed off because she knew how little interest she would have in British politics.

Instead of pressing the issue, Emma slipped her hand into Regina's and began pulling her towards the exit.

After about half an hour, the pair finally walked out of the Tower of London, still holding hands. Emma's bag now holding an additional three or four books so that she could learn more about the British monarchy.

Emma pulled Regina to a stop and said, "we should return home, I need to prepare to leave tomorrow."

Regina audibly groaned and Emma laughed in response before she placed her other hand into Regina's and quickly pecked her lips against her wife's which caused the other woman to smile instead.

Even though the goddess had yet to mention that Emma had nearly told her that she loved her, they continued their courtship (though the process now resembled 'dating' far more than before their first visit to New York City).

The biggest concern was that Zelena would discover the deception, but Regina had decided to put that aside in favour of being perhaps the happiest she had been in her immortal life.

Apparently, Zeus was too afraid to return after the lightening incident anyway, Hades just had to hope that she believed the matter was closed and didn't bother to look into it again.

The greatest solace was that Regina still had the image of Zelena's expression the moment the bolt struck her face.

Right now, Regina had a greater worry than whether or not she would be seeing her sister again though.

Temporarily placated by the kiss, Regina allowed her magic to bring them back to their chamber in the Underworld, safe in the knowledge that her glamour spell would stop any tourists from seeing proof of divinity.

Emme unlinked their hands and said in reply to Regina's groan, "you know, you could come with me, my plan will work."

"You mean your ridiculous plan?" Regina asked, with an edge to her voice she couldn't avoid when it came to this subject.

Emma rolled her eyes and went over to sit on the edge of their bed.

"They will never know," Emma said and Regina turned to look at her wife with as much disbelief as she could muster, "I would much rather not attend my mother's birthday ball, but I made a promise and it will be nice to see my parents after so long…"

"You are aware that your parents hate me with their entire beings?" Regina shot back.

"You're being very dramatic, Regina," Emma said and Regina sighed before she came over to take a seat next to there other woman so that she could easily look at her with an unimpressed expression.

The princess rolled her eyes and said, "yes, they absolutely hate you, which is why they would have no idea that you're there. You only need to pretend to be Dawn for a few days and they will have no idea that you were ever in the palace."

"I find it very hard to believe that either of your parents would be very happy to see Dawn," Regina replied, she loved Dawn with all her heart, but she couldn't imagine that the young woman would have pulled any punches, not even around royalty.

"They were not particularly…fond of her, but they allowed her to remain the palace, which is all we need."

Regina blew out a breath through her nose and Emma lay her hand onto the older woman's knee.

"If you are truly against staying at my parents' palace, I will go alone. But I always prefer you to be with me," Emma said looking at Regina with what could only be described as 'puppy dog' eyes.

The goddess made the mistake of making eye contact and silently cursed how damn green those orbs were, they were almost more so when the princess wanted something.

"I suppose there is not much they could do to me anyway," Regina said reluctantly and Emma smiled as she leaned her head against the other woman's shoulder.

Regina's hand came round to pull Emma closer by her waist and Hades added, "we should prepare to leave I suppose."

Emma just mumbled into her shoulder, "we can in five minutes."

The ball was abuzz with sound while Snow White weaved her way through the crowd.

She thanked the odd person who wished her a 'happy birthday' without really looking at them long enough to figure out who they were, she was far too focused on searching for one person who she had yet to see.

Someone she wasn't entirely sure would actually show up.

Despite her daughter's verbal agreement that she would be attending the event, Snow wasn't sure whether she would actually show up and she couldn't just go to the Underworld to ask her, no matter how much she wished that she could.

There was also the chance that she couldn't tell what the date was in the land of Hades, or that she simply didn't care anymore.

Based on Emma's last visit, the princess definitely preferred the Underworld and she didn't really want to think about what her relationship with Hades could have evolved into the past five months since she had gotten married.

Her racing thoughts were halted and all tension fell away from her muscles when she finally spotted Lily talking with a very familiar blonde.

It was all the confirmation that she needed that Emma didn't absolutely hate her, even if it hurt a little that her daughter had gone straight to Lily rather than seeking her out.

The queen chose to just walk over to the princess rather than dwelling on her thoughts any further. She really needed to focus on the positives right now.

Emma looked away from her friend and actually smiled at her mother, before she stepped forward and brought her arms around her.

Snow just about held back a tear as she returned the hug, especially when she pulled away more quickly than she would have liked.

"Happy Birthday, mother," Emma said.

The queen nodded and replied, "thank you, sweetheart, I was not certain I would see you today."

"I wouldn't miss your birthday, mother," Emma said absently and pulled out a box containing a necklace engraved with the White Family crest which she handed over to the older woman.

Snow opened the box and breathed out, "thank you." She honestly had no idea how her daughter could have gotten such an item, but she had a strong desire to know as little about the princess's adventures with the ruler of the Underworld.

Emma was about to say 'you're welcome' but was interrupted by the return of a woman holding three glasses and she tensed slightly when 'Dawn' stepped up next to Snow White.

Regina clenched her jaw when she saw exactly who Emma was talking to, but she made a conscious effort not to show any other emotion while she handed a drink first to Emma and then to Lily.

She'd only offered to get the drinks to give Emma a few moments to catch up with her friend, but she hadn't counted on returning to a far more awkward situation than the one she had left.

Emma took a deep drink of the wine before she said to the queen, "you remember Dawn, mother?"

Snow bit the inside of her cheek so that she didn't openly scowl.

It was partly because she had hoped to have at least one day when Emma was with her away from everything Underworld-related. There was also something off about the demi-goddess that she couldn't quite put her finger on.

Emma's hand had lingered longer than could be considered normal when her step-daughter had handed the drink over and Dawn was lacking the same kind of smirk as last time. Based on what she knew about her, she would have thought that Dawn would have said something disrespectful by now.

"Of course," Snow replied with a tight smile, "it's…a pleasure to see you again, Dawn."

"Likewise," the other woman replied in a very un-Dawn-like fashion.

Emma looked between her mother and wife while taking another deep drink of her wine.

It was obvious that Snow could tell that something was off and Emma had thought there was no way that either of her parents would have caught on, let alone so quickly.

It was for this reason that she decided to swiftly change the subject, "where is father?" she asked.

WIth an excuse to look away from 'Dawn' and back over to her daughter, Snow said, "I believe that he is speaking with Prince Eric, I will go and let him know that you are here."

Emma made no objection as her mother walked away and she turned back to her wife with a raised eyebrow.

"What?" Regina asked with an exasperated sigh.

"She is definitely suspicious…" the princess replied.

"You may be giving your mother far too much credit," the disguised goddess deadpanned.

"Regina," Emma sighed.

"Regina?" Lily repeated with widened eyes.

Emma was about to close her own in frustration.

Even if she had planned to introduce her wife to her friend, she was still annoyed how easily they seemed to blow Regina's cover.

This trip may not go as smoothly as she had hoped it would.

Lily continued to look at the brunette woman as if she might explode at any moment.

Emma glanced around to make sure that no one was listening in, before she whispered, "this is not actually Dawn."

"Regina," Lily said again, "which means that you're Hades…goddess of the Underworld…you're an actual goddess…"

"Lily," Emma cut in before she could ramble anything else.

Lily nodded and glanced over to Emma and then back over to Regina before she thrust out her hand and said, "it's a pleasure to meet you…your high…your maj…err..."

Regina tried not to look too amused and accepted the handshake before she replied, "Regina is fine dear, though I would suggest 'Dawn' for now."

Lily nodded for longer than was necessary and released the goddess's hand before she looked over to Emma with her eyes still wide.

Emma just shot her friend a smirk but it fell away when she turned her gaze back to Regina and said, "you need to act more like Dawn."

Regina let out a little huff but still nodded.

The princess did a quick look over her shoulder to make sure that neither of her parents were returning the gaze, before she grabbed her wife's glamoured arm and pulled her over to the mess of nobility already gliding around the dance floor.

"Dance with me," she said with little room for debate.

Regina looked over to Lily who appeared to still be processing what she had just discovered.

Dancing together wouldn't exactly help with them pretending to be step mother and step daughter, but at the same time, she didn't think that she could resist the chance to dance with her wife.

It was for this reason that Regina moved her hand onto her waist and allowed Emma to interlock her fingers at the back of her neck, though they both seemed to make a conscious effort not to pull each other any closer as they usually would have been able to and they swayed slowly.

Neither of them noticed that Snow was watching from across the room with narrowed eyes whilst David was just frowning with his eyebrows pinched together.

He was just in the process of telling his wife that he was sure there was nothing untoward going on, but the sight certainly gave him pause and left him with a much weaker argument.

Chapter Text

Chapter twenty-two

Graham sat down cross-legged on the grass and his mouth quirked up in a smile as he ran his fingers through the blades of green.

To no one's surprise, Dawn's wedding gift had thrived under Emma's green thumb and had even expanded beyond the boundaries of the fence.

It had quickly become Graham's favourite place in the Underworld.

"This may be the most relaxed I have ever seen you."

The demon's eyes snapped away from a flower he had been inspecting and his smile widened at the sight of Dawn holding the glass of wine she had offered to get for him after he successfully disarmed her during their sword play training.

He pushed himself up a little to accept the glass from her and she didn't wait for an invitation as she sat down opposite him, holding her own beverage, though she wasn't quite as interested in the greenery and she looked at him expectantly for a reply.

"Emma is alive, Regina is happy and we haven't heard from Zeus in months, what is there to be afraid of?" he asked and did a small toasting motion with his glass before he took a drink. He chose not to include the training because it had been going surprisingly well in the last couple months, it turned out he could achieve quite a lot when he wasn't hiding behind a pillar.

Dawn just let out a laugh and blushed a little.

If she was debating her attraction before, she was almost certain now. He would probably never be the type to lead an army into battle, but he no longer was the type to hide whilst others fought, especially now that knew how to actually hold a blade.

"So my mother's happiness is the key to treating your anxiety?" the demi-goddess asked and brought her own glass up to her mouth in the hopes that it would hide her blush.

"You've only known her for twenty years," Graham replied, even though he had in fact seen the slight hue on her cheeks.

"I'm sure that she couldn't have been that bad," Dawn said.

"Her mood has mellowed significantly since you were born…"

"And now?" Dawn asked.

"She is the happiest I have ever seen her, I don't think there are many who would be willing to attack her sister for…" Graham replied and ran his hand across the grass again before he added, "I've never seen a single change to this domain since I first appeared here, other than you and Emma of course."

Dawn nodded and replied, "the garden really is beautiful, isn't it?"

Graham reached over to pick the closest flower, which was a daisy, and handed it over to the demi-goddess.

"It really is," he replied, though his eyes stayed trained on his companion.

Dawn couldn't hide her blush this time and she looked down to the daisy.

When she said that he looked relaxed, she didn't think that it would extend to the kind of confidence he would need for this.

Especially when it came to Hades' daughter.

To be fair, this had been something he had been thinking over for a couple months. He knew he had feelings for her, which was only compounded the more that he found that he enjoyed her company and he discovered that he genuinely loved having her as a friend.

The only concern now was that if he acted on his feelings, he could lose that friendship and Dawn would feel far less comfortable being in the Underworld when Hades was not around.

"My mother is not the only one that Emma has changed for the better, you know?" Dawn said and finally looked away from the flower and over to the demon's eyes.

"It is not only Emma I have to thank for that," he replied and shifted slightly closer. He'd had alcohol, confidence and the absence of Regina going for him right now, so why not go for what he had been thinking of?

However, he forgot to factor into his plan that there would be doubts running through his mind.

Would Dawn want to kiss him?

If she didn't, then he could lose his closest friend, what if she told her mother and he was punished?

Dawn noticed how his eyebrows scrunched together and she actually laughed out loud at him.

Of course he couldn't manage to be smooth for long, it was strangely adorable.

Especially since he had just answered her question as to whether he liked her back or not.

She moved past the flutter in her stomach and leaned forward to place a soft kiss to the man's lips and then back up to inspect his face.

His eyes were wide, his cheeks crimson and he was clearly breathing deeply as he processed whether or not that had actually happened.

Instead of sputtering in fear, though, he managed to smile and his eyes closed as he let out a long breath in an attempt to calm his beating heart.

"I assume that was what you wanted?" Dawn asked.

Graham opened his eyes and nodded before he placed his glass on the ground so that he could use the hand to cup the side of her face and pull her into a much longer kiss.

His hand remained on her cheek when they parted this time, but he frowned when something occurred to him, "your mother may throw me into Tartarus…"

Dawn made a point of letting out a deep, exasperated sigh and she asked, "could we please not discuss my mother right now?"

The demon just nodded enthusiastically and allowed himself to be pulled in for another kiss.

Emma let out a relieved sigh as she pulled her dress away from her body.

As much as she wanted to turn up to her mother's ball in her usual tunic (the clothes of the world without magic were definitely out of the question) she knew it would hardly be 'proper'.

Now that she was no longer in a crowd of nobles though, she pulled on a t-shirt and then her new favourite piece of clothing known as sweat pants, both of which she had grown accustomed to since New York City.

Regina (or Dawn?) appeared from the other room dressed in her own night attire and Emma said, "I think that all went rather well, don't you?"

As she said this, they each made their way to their respective sides of the bed and began to climb underneath the duvet covers.

"Rather well?" Regina repeated with a raised eyebrow, "your mother was suspicious the moment she laid eyes on me and I'm sure that was not helped when you asked if I could share a chamber with you."

The princess just shrugged and said, "she hasn't burst in here to confront us, my father must have talked her down."

"And that is your standard for success?" Regina replied.

Emma shrugged again, and said, "you can go whenever you want to…but I promised my mother I would stay for a few more nights."

The goddess inspected the younger woman's expression, she was obviously trying to hide the look of disappointment that she was feeling.

"I don't want to leave," Regina finally said and put her arm out so that the princess could slot into her side like she did every other night, but unlike every other night, Emma hesitated.

Regina pushed herself up slightly so that she could look at the other woman's face fully, "what's wrong dear?" she asked.

Emma chewed her bottom lip and replied, "it's just…I have no desire to share a bed with Dawn…"

Regina frowned and looked down at her body, she'd actually forgotten that she was in a different form.

"And what if someone were to discover that I'm not who I claim to be?"

"The staff will wait until the chamber is vacant to perform their duties, and my parents have never once entered my chamber before breakfast," Emma replied.

Regina raised her eyebrow to hide that her mind was racing with images of Snow or David expressing their disgust at the sight of their precious princess Emma White cuddled up with Hades.

However, said princess had more than proved that she could no longer be controlled by her parents, so Regina clicked her fingers to dismiss the glamour.

Honestly, she would be more worried if her wife had been eager to share a bed with her daughter.

As soon as the image of Dawn transformed into Regina, Emma fell down into her arms and placed a kiss to her cheek.

Regina pulled her closer and dropped a kiss to her forehead, after which they lay in comfortable silence.

That was until Emma whispered, "thank you."

"Whatever for?" Regina asked.

Emma's chin came up so it was resting on her other woman's shoulder so that she could see her face as she replied, "for accompanying me, I know you have no desire to be here…"

"Of course I do," Regina said, feeling her cheeks burning crimson as she added, "you're here."

Emma's breath hitched, sometimes it was hard to believe that the ruler of the Underworld could be so romantic.

If it wasn't such an intimate moment, she wished that her mother could have seen it so she would know that her daughter-in-law was not the evil monster she conjured in her mind almost constantly.

However, any thoughts of her mother left her mind as she captured her wife's lips in a lingering kiss, before she pulled back a little so that words could leave her mouth before she could stop them, "I love you."

Regina's eyes flew open and she stared at the younger woman.

The words brought her back to that day, to the blood stained sand when Emma had just failed to utter them.

Now that she'd heard the princess say them fully, she couldn't be more grateful that she'd got them out when she could actually breathe.

"I love you too," Regina replied, as she cupped her cheek in her plam as if it would prove how she was feeling.

This time, Emma smiled into their kiss and their lips moved against each others for several minutes of passion.

Emma pushed her leg over Regina so that she was straddling her waist and began peppering kisses down the goddess's neck.

Regina's head involuntarily threw back to give the lips better access and it wasn't long until they found her pulse point and Regina's eyes fluttered shut.

Her hand came up to the princess's waist to hold her in place and a moan was about to leave Regina's lips until her mind caught up with what was happening and her eyes flew open.

"Emma," she breathed, hating herself a little as she pulled herself up to take the access to the pulse point away, though she still held her waist.

Emma took a couple deep breaths before she asked, "what's wrong?"

She was suddenly very aware of the fact that she could have been doing it wrong.

Regina quickly pecked the other woman's lips, which caused the her frown to fall away before she replied, "I believe if we go any further, any attempt to court would be moot."

Emma's sigh racked her whole body as she rolled off the goddess so that she was next to her again, she allowed herself from a couple seconds to stop herself from spouting some argument about why they should go further, before she said, "I supposed this wouldn't be the best place for…that, either."

Regina laughed as Emma cuddled back up to her and she started trailing her fingers through the blonde locks.

"I'm sure your parents would try to find a way to murder me if they were to discover it."

Emma nuzzled closer to the other woman and mumbled, "mentioning my parents has really helped the mood to pass."

"That was my intention, dear."

Hades felt the princess hum against her shoulder and she was almost certain that she was beginning to close her eyes.

"Goodnight," she whispered, dropping another kiss to her head.

"Night," Emma just about got out between a yawn.

"Interesting choice of disguise."

Regina raised her eyes to the sky with a deep sigh, before she turned to find Mal leaning against a tree.

With a couple quick glances to make sure they were alone, Regina allowed the glamour to fall away.

"I don't think the king and queen would have been nearly as hospitable if I had arrived looking like this," Regina deadpanned and took a step closer to the tree.

"I didn't realise you were afraid of them."

Regina scoffed.

The only situation in which Snow White and Prince Charming could cause her harm would be if they somehow managed to convince Emma to remain in the Enchanted Forest, which she was becoming increasingly sure was impossible, even if she always had at least a small nagging doubt in the back of her mind.

"Do you really believe that I called you here to discuss the Charmings?" Regina asked.

Hecate's smile fell and her eyes involuntarily move over to one of the palace's windows, a window for a room that she knew as currently occupied.

"I cannot hide Lily's parentage from Emma for much longer, she asked me to help this morning," Regina explained.

Mal's eyes shot back to Regina and she snapped, "Are you choosing a mortal over your oldest friend?"

Regina felt a muscle jump in her jaw, but chose not to respond to the tone.

Being her oldest friend meant that she knew when Mal was just lashing out.

After all, she wouldn't have helped to mask Emma's whereabouts from Zelena for the last two months if she didn't really care about Regina's happiness.

"If that were the case, Lily would already know the truth," Regina shot back, "but honestly Mal, what is the harm in her knowing she is your daughter?"

Hecate remained silent for a few moments before she replied, "my daughter is not immortal like Dawn, Regina, I have no reason to become attached."

"If you were not attached, those bandits would still be alive," Regina argued.

"How did you…"

"Do you expect me to believe that a child could kill so many men?" Hades cut her off.

"So you do pay attention to the lost souls?" Hecate asked, finally looking away from the ground with a smirk, though it was rather unconvincing.

"Stop deflecting, Mal."

Hecate narrowed her eyes, but Regina held her gaze.

She could just leave, but she knew that Regina would only make good on her word and go and tell Emma the truth.

"She seemed happy enough believing that the woman who raised her was her mother, I saw no reason to disappoint her."

"She is dedicating her life to finding you, I fail to see where the disappointment would come in…"

Mal shot her friend a withering look and pushed herself away from the tree so that she could stalk towards the other woman.

"I'm not sure if you've been aware of this during your little courtship, Hades, but the world is on the brink of great change. Your sister will eventually learn that Emma is alive, I cannot keep her from the scent forever, and then you must know that everything will change."

"So you're trying to protect her from our world, is that it?" Regina asked, ignoring the lurching in her stomach at the though of Zelena once again laying her homocidal gaze upon her wife.

"She is living in a palace under the protection of its princess, there is no reason for her to know what she is really capable of while she is safe."

"Mal," Regina sighed, "the fact that she is desperately looking for you is every reason."

"Feel free to tell her the truth, Regina, but as far as she is concerned, I am the uncaring goddess that they all think we are."

"Mal…" Regina tried again, "growing attached to a mortal is not the worst thing…"

Mal shook her head and turned around.

She replied over her shoulder, "you won't say that when your princess is gone" and disappeared on the final word leaving no room for debate.

Regina stared at the empty space for a second or two as she clenched and unclenched her fists a few times to release the tension.

Finally, she just turned on her heels and decided to go and fulfil the sudden urge to go and see her wife.

Reluctantly, she transformed back into Dawn as she went.

Unbeknownst to Regina, though, the moment that Mal arrived back at Olympus, she came face-to-face with Zeus.

"Hello Hecate," Zelena said, "mind if we have a quick chat?"

Chapter Text

Chapter twenty-three

"I find it hard to believe you have never ridden a horse before," Emma said as she popped a grape into her mouth.

Regina glanced over to the deep black horse grazing next to their picnic blanket. It only triggered memories of holding on more tightly to Emma's waist as the wind whipped past her.

Overall, she had to admit that she enjoyed the experience, though she wasn't sure how much of that was actually related to the horse.

There was also the fact that the creature had aided greatly in taking them just out of the bounds of the White Palace so that the goddess got to enjoy a picnic with her wife while in her own form.

"Horses were always Neal's thing," Regina replied as she began to look through the basket for a sandwich.

Emma nodded slowly, it was sometimes jarring to consider that it was really Regina's family that literally created everything, but it was also incredibly cool.

"He actually created horses from sea foam?" The princess asked.

Regina hummed in agreement as she chewed her sandwich for a few moments and swallowed before she replied, "he did always like to show off."

Emma laughed and leaned closer to Regina, "it's not that impressive anyway," she said.

"Well he did save your life on Olympus so I suppose he's not all bad," Regina mumbled and clenched one fist at the thought of what she would currently be doing if Emma had consumed any of the nectar or ambrosia that Zelena had so carefully set out for her.

The princess noticed the sudden tension and reached down to pick up the clenched fist.

Regina instantly relaxed the hand and interlaced their fingers.

"Still, he's really smug, even though he's clearly afraid of Zelena," Emma pointed out.

Regina smiled at the younger woman. It was a very rare occasion where a mortal would think more highly of Hades than of the gods and goddesses of Olympus, but then again, she was currently sat with one of the few mortals who had actually met more than one divine being.

"You're right, he is very smug," Regina said with a small snort and Emma laughed again at the joy the words seemed to bring her wife.

The couple were silent for a moment while Regina stared at the sandwich in her hand, before she said, "I have to tell you something…"

"You can tell me anything," Emma replied instantly.

Regina held the princess's gaze for a moment before she decided that she really meant it.

The feeling couldn't be described.

"I know who Lily's mother is," Regina said, "I wanted to tell you earlier, but she's my oldest friend and I needed to speak with her first."

"Hecate," Emma said, with her eyes slightly but she relaxed a moment later when she realised that it made sense.

Even with the resources of royalty, there was always very little available evidence to be found and that made complete sense if the person they were trying to find was an immortal.

"You spoke with Mal about Lily?"

"Yes, but…she is pretending not to care about her," Regina replied with a sigh.

Emma drew her eyebrows together and asked, "why would she do that?"

Regina paused for a moment as she considered her response. This conversation had too much relevance to her relationship with her mortal wife for comfort, but she knew that Emma did not like having her feelings managed for her. She wasn't a child and she certainly didn't need to be protected.

"Before Dawn won the tournament…I often wondered if loving her was worth it. I could not imagine going on after her time came. Mal does not wish to become attached," Regina explained.

Emma nodded slowly, though she did bite the inside of her cheek.

She could indeed see the relevance to her marriage, but they were not discussing that.

They had only just had their first shared 'I love you' the night before so she figured that they should have a few days before they started worrying about what would happen decades from now.

This needed to be about Lily and Hecate right now and she'd spent enough time trying to not worry about the future since the tournament so she figured that she could manage it over the course of this conversation.

"Mal doesn't want to meet Lily?" Emma asked with a sigh, there wasn't much she could do to force a goddess to do something that she didn't want to do, but Emma knew that it would crush her friend to learn that her mother had zero interest in her.

As much as the princess was usually at odds with her parents since her birthday, but there was no circumstances under which she never wanted to see them.

Regina was silent for a moment before she said, "Dawn is the only child I have ever had despite popular opinion, but…Lily is not Hecate's first child…mortal child. I have lived for many centuries and only known Dawn for a couple decades but I can't imagine living without her. Mal had always warned against becoming attached to mortals…clearly I didn't listen…"

Emma nodded and made a point of squeezing her wife's hand before she replied, "so you think that she does care about Lily?"

"Well, she was the one who saved her from those bandits. She's always watching over her, but I highly doubt it will be easy to change her mind about actually meeting her," Regina explained.

"So…do you think there's a chance that Lily could at least meet her once?"

"I suppose…it's not impossible," Regina replied, "but Mal is very stubborn and…"

Emma completely disregarded the second part and leaned forward to place a kiss to Regina's lips before she jumped to her feet and announced, "that's amazing! I need to go and talk to Li…"

The princess stopped abruptly when she turned to find someone standing a metre or so away from the picnic blanket.

Someone standing with her eyes widened.

Emma swallowed hard and futiley took a step to the side so that she was standing in front of Regina.

The goddess just rolled her eyes and pushed herself to her feet so that she could take a step closer to stand next to her wife.

At the motion, Emma had to stop herself from sighing too loudly. She really wished that standing in front of Regina would have done the trick.

She had really though Regina would have gotten through a few days as Dawn, but now that Snow White had seen them, and had seen them kiss no less.

"Mother…" Emma began but the queen held up her hand to cut her off.

The queen narrowed her eyes at Regina and took a step closer to the goddess she had never expected to see again.

Regina got the sudden urge to poof herself and Emma to the Underworld.

It wasn't that she was afraid of her mother-in-law, it was more that she never wanted to have this conversation.

"What have you done to my daughter?!"

Regina opened her mouth but shut it when it occurred to her that there was nothing she could say that Regina would believe.

It was for this reason that she didn't complain when Emma took a step infant of her so that she could reply, "nothing mother, you already knew that we're married."

Snow took a couple deep breaths and looked down to see that her daughter's fingers with entangled with the goddess's.

It was quite literally her worst nightmare come true.

It wasn't that she expected to see when she decided to go for a walk. If she had turned back just five minutes ago she wouldn't have been subjected to the casual kiss. It was obviously something the couple were used to doing.

There was also the fact that it now dawned on her that it wasn't as suspicious as to why her daughter wanted to share her chamber with her companion.

"You are not married!" Snow shot back, very tempted to stamp her foot childishly.

Seeing the literal goddess of the Underworld with her child somehow made it more real.

She did not want this to be real!

Emma squeezed Regina's fingers with her own, she now also wanted to poof back home, but she knew that there was no way that she could leave things like this.

She loved her parents, but if there was a choice that needed to be made here, right now she knew she wouldn't choose the people who had isolated her for twenty-one years.

She didn't think she should have to choose though.

This was the opportunity to actually try to reconcile.

Even if it wasn't something she ever expected to happen in her lifetime, it would be nice to actually spend time with her parents and wife at the same time.

It was for this reason that she just said, "Regina is my True Love, mother!"

This seemed to take away every ounce of Snow's anger as she unclenched her balled fists and looked between the pair.

"W..what…how do you know?

The queen wanted to argue that there was no way that could be the truth.

How could the princess of the White Kingdom share the same kind of love that Snow White and Prince Charming had with the ruler of the Underworld?

On the other hand, it wasn't for that same ruler of the Underworld, then Emma wouldn't exist. In some twisted way, it all seemed to make sense in some weird way.

If Regina had somehow done all of this to get back at her for the years of deception then it felt weird that Hades had not said a single word. The last time she had seen the goddess, she hardly seemed the type to keep her mouth shut. Especially while her plan was coming together. She was almost being respectful and it was almost too much for Snow.

She just wanted the goddess to say something snarky and confirm that she was exactly who she thought she was.

The queen tore her gaze away from who was technically her daughter-in-law and over to her actual daughter for an explanation.

"Two months ago…I was hurt," Emma replied, deciding that going into too much detail would only cause her mother significant distress. Who knew what she would do if she learned that her daughter had seemingly fought Ares for no reason? "Regina kissed me and I was healed, she saved my life, mother."

Snow clenched her jaw.

She wanted more details, but at the same time, she absolutely didn't.

A part of her didn't want to believe it.

There was the possibility that Emma was mistaken.

Situations where True Love saves one's life is usually accompanied by one party being unconscious.

At the same time, it was true, there were no more arguments that could end what she had convinced herself would be over at any point.

In that moment, she realised that the only thing that had been getting her through the last few months was that Emma would get bored of the novelty of being free after so long at the White Palace.

If that wasn't true, than she would have to readjust her expectations.

That would mean that she would have to do something she really didn't want to do, something she had never thought would happen.

Snow bit the inside of her cheek and said, "would…you H…R-Regina care to join us for dinner…the two of you could share the full story of this True Love's kiss with my husband and I."

Regina quirked an eyebrow. She was sure that she had never seen someone so tortured by a sentence. The words appeared to have caused her actual physical pain (particularly because she appeared to be digging her nails into her palm).

Emma elbowed Regina when she was silent for too long and the goddess reluctantly said, "of course we'll join you…" and she trailed off when she realised that she had literally no idea how to address her mother-in-law.

The princess noticed the hesitation and supplied, "we'll both be glad to join you, mother."

Snow just forced a smile, but it looked more like a grimace.

Graham let out a slow breath and closed his eyes as instructed.

With his eyes still closed, he asked, "am I doing it right?"

He could practically feel Dawn roll her eyes at the question but he was too busy pulling the bow string back to worry about it.

No matter how many times he had seen the Demi-goddess practice archery, he had never actually considered just how much strength it actually took to nock an arrow.

"You're fine, just shoot the arrow," Dawn replied next to the demon.

"How am I supposed to aim with my eyes closed?" Graham asked.

"You just need to relax, don't worry about getting the target on your first shot. You just need enough power to get it across the distance," Dawn replied.

Graham took another deep breath and tried to relax, but the more he thought about it, the more tense her muscles became.

This fell away a moment later when he felt a hand placed on his shoulder.

He released the arrow and cracked one eye open to see that it had fell limply halfway between himself and the target.

Graham sighed deeply and his shoulders slumped.

"That's not fair, you distracted me," he said, gesturing towards the fallen arrow.

"Oh yes, that was completely my fault," Dawn replied with a laugh and took a step closer to him. She laid her flat palm onto his chest to feel his raised heart heart, though it was hard to tell it was because of how close she was or because he was still worrying about relaxing.

"You managed to relax with the sword, what's wrong with the bow?" She asked and hummed him appreciation as he used his free hand to place on her lower back. If he could do that without worry, there was no reason he couldn't relax with a bow in his hand.

At leas, there was no reason related to what was currently happening.

Even if he had been happier than he had ever been before since his first kiss with Dawn, he couldn't get past the nagging feeling at the back if his mind.

He bit the inside of his cheek as he considered whether he should pop the happy little bubble that he had been in. He soon decided that if Dawn wanted to be in a relationship with him, she would have to get used to his worry.

"Don't think it's dangerous for Emma and Regina to travel to the Enchanted Forest? What if Zeus finds out the truth? I know Hecate's spell is powerful but we already know it's not possible to hide from a goddess forever…"

Dawn moved her palm to her chest and up to the back of his neck so that she could pull him slightly closer.

"The Blue Fairy kept Emma trapped for over two decades and Mal is much stronger than her, right?" Dawn replied. She decided not to mention that s part of her hoped Zeus would find out the truth about Emma. It would be the push that her mother needed to fight back against her sister. It just didn't feel as though Emma's fake death was the end of this story.

If it was, that would mean accepting that her step-mother would one day have a very real death.

As much as she didn't want to think about it, Dawn wasn't sure whether her mother would ever recover from that kind of loss.

Graham nodded slowly, though he looked just as convinced about Dawn's statement as she felt.

"I just…I have this feeling that everything is about to go away, you know? Like no one should be this happy in the Underworld," Graham said and laced their fingers together.

Dawn let out a breath and smiled, "even though you're being very doom and gloom, you're somehow still very sweet."

The demi-goddess punctuated her statement with a quick kiss to his lips before she stepped out of his space.

"If everything is about to go horribly wrong, you should know how to shoot an arrow," Dawn announced, determined to go back to her plan of seeing what would happen with a little sprinkle of denial in there for good measure.

"Do I really need to close my eyes again? It makes me jumpy," Graham mumbled as he reached back to grab and then nock another arrow.

Dawn rolled her eyes and replied, "just focus on getting the arrow within the vicinity of the target."

Graham stared at the target intently before he loosed the arrow and it dug into the ground about a metre away from the straw.

"Well that was…progress," Dawn announced and was about to take a step forward to correct his form, however, the movement was interrupted by another voice.

"Come now, Dawn, give the demon more credit than that, for a few hours trainings it's quite impressive."

Both Dawn and Graham stared at each other with widened eyes as if they were hoping the other would tell them they were hearing things, but they each turned to the source a couple seconds later.

Zelena stood a few metres away with her arms crossed over her chest. She was smirking like the last time she had appeared in the Underworld but her face looked significantly paler, almost gaunt. If Dawn didn't know she was literally Zeus, she would say that she looked tired.

The prominent scar on her cheek didn't help with the look.

Dawn had to bite down hard on the inside of her cheek to stop herself from saying the first thing that came to mind (along the lines of 'can you please just leave us alone') and after a couple seconds passed, Dawn said, "hello…your highness."

Zelena laughed as she took a couple steps forward, and replied, "well that seemed to cause you physical pain, dear. Should I assume your mother is off on a grief fuelled to another realm?"

Dawn exchanged a look with Graham that had quite clear meaning 'don't raise to the bait'.

He silently made a good point, to be fair.

Dawn was desperate to announce that her mother was the happiest she had ever been, how the 'great and terrible' Hades would never be so petty as to harm someone Zelena loved just so that she could prevent sister from being happy.

As far as Dawn was concerned, that was the only reason her aunt was doing any of this and quite frankly, it was pissing her off.

She somehow managed to reply, "my mother is not here."

"Ah, what a shame, I was really hoping to check on her wellbeing."

Dawn nodded, very much stopping herself from rolling her eyes at how obviously insincere the ruler of Olympus was.

"I would be happy to pass a message to Hades upon her return, your highness," Graham said, seeing that Dawn had probably ran out of polite things to say to her aunt.

"Oh no, that won't be necessary," Zelena replied without looking at Graham, "I was just going to see whether regina would join me for dinner, but I suppose we shouldn't pass up this opportunity for a newly immortal demi-goddess to see Olympus. Would you care to join me Dawn?"

Said newly immortal demi-goddess felt her throat go dry. She'd always wanted to see Olympus but now there wasn't anything she wouldn't do to get out of it.

"That…is very nice of you, but I'm afraid I'm…too busy to leave the Underworld today," Dawn replied.

Zelena laughed again.

It was a sound that neither Dawn nor Graham wanted to ever hear again.

"You misunderstand, dear niece, bt then it is probably my fault for asking so nicely. You will be joining me on Olympus."

With that, Zeus stepped forward to grab Dawn's upper arm and the usually confident daughter of Hades stood petrified.

"Your mother is far too busy frolicking with her little princess anyway so you're hardly in a position to pass up an invitation for more…civilised dinner company."

Zelena finally looked at Graham at the end of her statement.

"Emma isn't…she's…" Dawn began but Zelena gripped her arm more tightly and she clamped her mouth shut.

"Don't bother. Hecate has been sufficiently…persuaded to reveal your clever little plan to keep the princess alive. You should be satisfied with yourself, even if it only lasted a couple months."

Zelena didn't even look up at the sound of the sound of a bow string being pulled back but she held up her hand to catch the flying arrow.

She quirked an eyebrow and glanced at the demon before she turned her niece and said, "perhaps your training was going better than expected."

Dawn stared at Graham, her expression a mix between being impressed and utterly terrified. Things must be bad when Panic shoots an arrow at Zeus.

Smoke gathered around the goddess and demi-goddess before Graham could launch forward in a last ditch effort to grab Dawn away from her aunt.

Graham fell down to the barren ground and a shaky breath left his lungs.

He pushed himself up, leaving the bow behind as he sprinted towards the palace,

His brain hardly forming coherent thoughts as he burst into Dawn's chambers and grabbed the obsidian sheath propped up at the end of the bed.

With no hesitation, he pulled out Durendal, fully prepared to run into battle, until he realised he didn't know how to leave the Underworld by himself.

King David was frankly tired of watching his wife pace across their chamber, this time though, she seemed to have a good reason to be nervous.

He wasn't sure how he felt about the news that Hades was in their palace. It certainly gave more meaning to the dance he had witnessed between Emma and 'Dawn'.

Emma may have spent the last months traveling realms and having so many adventures that she needed to be saved by her True Love, but she was still his little girl.

Even if said wife had been a perfectly normal, non-immortal woman, it would still be very strange to think about the fact that the princess had found her True Love.

As it was, Regina was the goddess of the Underworld which meant that the whole 'if you hurt my daughter I will hurt you' speech wouldn't really work in this situation but he should have had the chance to make that speech before the marriage.

It was definitely all very strange and not what he had imagined when Snow had announced her miraculous pregnancy to him all those years ago.

However, he was of the opinion that there was nothing that would change things now.

Emma was happier than she had been in a long time, since she was old enough too know what boredom was.

True Love's Kiss made it an indisputable fact that having Emma in his life meant having Regina there too. He had very little doubt that the outcome of the dinner would determine how much of their daughter they got to see in the future.

As weird as it all was, David was fairly confident he could be at least civil with his daughter-in-law over dinner, especially if it would make his daughter happy.

Snow, on the other hand, didn't have much self-control.

"This is utterly ridiculous, she must have done something to her…" Snow mumbled as she paced, though the words felt hollow as they left her mouth and her steps faltered. With a deep, shaking breath, she turned to look at her husband.

"I know what you're going to say David, an immortal goddess would not care enough to torture us like this…"

"And?" David asked.

"And…Emma looks happier than she has ever looked in her whole life, but…"

The king held up his hands and stood to cut her off.

"There is no 'but', Snow. I completely agree that this is not what I would have imagined this would be how things turned out, that my daughter-in-law would be Hades but this is how things are and its obvious that there's no way to change it now. You must know that if it came to a choice, Emma has much more reason to choose her True Love," as he spoke, the king stepped towards his wife and placed his hand on her shoulder and she allowed herself to be brought closer.

The pair were silent for a moment before Snow let out a shaky breath, and asked, "if Emma is married to a goddess…it is very unlikely that she will become queen…"

"I understand your concern, but I believe that she was never supposed to be the queen of this kingdom. Lets face it, she was never really supposed to be born."

"So, you're saying that we should be thanking Regina?" Snow White scoffed.

"Perhaps not verbally, but maybe you could keep that in mind during dinner?"

Snow sighed deeply and replied, "I supposed it won't hurt to try."

David smiled weakly at the woman who looked like she was very close to pouting. He got the feeling that it would hurt her just a little, but he had to hold onto his hope that she would be able to work through the pain.

Chapter Text

Chapter twenty-four

"That sounds incredibly awkward," Lily replied with a small laugh as she continued to flip through the tome on the desk in front of her.

It was another book of birth records provided by the king, it didn't help that she had no idea whether she was born in the White Kingdom, when exactly she was born and what her name would have been registered under.

All she could hope was that something would jump out at her.

"It was…awful," Emma replied, cringing a little at the thought that her mother was likely still on a tirade about what she saw, "I believe we're in for the most awkward dinner of either of our lives."

"Are you including the dinner on Olympus on that list?" Lily asked as she continued to search through the lines and lines of useless words.

"That was more terrifying than awkward," Emma replied and finally came over to take a seat opposite the other woman. The princess spent so much time over her lifetime at this very desk studying and also trying to get lost in some fantasy world to distract her from her confinement.

Frankly, it was hard to believe that she was now sat at it freaking out that she would be having dinner with her parents and her wife, who happened to be Hades (or Zeus, depending on your perspective, but now was not the time) while also trying to figure out how to tell her friend that her mother was an immortal. An immortal who wanted nothing to do with her.

In her excitement at finding out the truth, she hadn't truly considered how she could put a positive spin on the situation. It wasn't as if she could just bug Mal until she agreed to talk to her daughter (or more likely, try to convince Regina to bug Mal).

"I'm sure your parents will be fine, surely the king and queen know how to be civil during a meal, even if it is with Regina," Lily replied.

Emma took a deep breath and said, "speaking of Regina…we discussed your search…"

Lily's eyes shot up from the book and searched her friend's face to see if she meant what she thought she meant.

Was it possible that she was about to get the answers she had been searching for?

It stood to reason that a goddess had the answer but she never considered that would be the source that ended her search.

There was also the fact that Emma looked so concerned which meant that a pit formed in her stomach instantly.

The former bar-maid swallowed hard and said, "and what did Regina say?"

"I know who your mother is, Lily," Emma replied, trying to sound as clear as possible. There really couldn't be any misunderstandings here.

Lily let out a shaky breath and leaned back so that she could grip the edge of the table.

A part of her was glad that Emma hadn't rushed into the library and told her straight out, her nerves definitely needed the build up. But it still felt like she had been punched in the gut.

Emma waited for the other woman to respond while biting the inside of her cheek.

Finally Lily asked, "What's her name?"

"Maleficient," Emma replied and when Lily drew her eyebrows together she added, "she's also known as Hecate."

Lily's eyes went wide and she released the table, "are you saying that I'm a Demi-goddess?"

Emma just nodded because she had literally no idea what else she could say.

"So she gave me to a…a mortal? Is that the whole story?" Lily asked. There were no words to describe how unsatisfying that revelation was. Not that she knew what she would have done when she found out the truth if it had been more elaborate.

She had considered the possibilities that her mother had somehow lost her and they would have the opportunity for a tearful reunion. That her mother had passed away when she was young and she would get to know who to mourn. That she was struggling and had given her away to give her daughter her best chance.

Finding out that it was an immortal who gave her life did not feel like any kind of closure.

"Regina raised Dawn, why couldn't Hec…she do that for me!" Lily exploded and shot to her feet with her fists clenched.

Emma looked at the tears on her friend's face and stood so that she could walk around the table to stand next to her friend.

The princess placed her hand on her hyperventilating friend's shoulder.

No matter how much she had been through, she couldn't understand what a revelation like this would feel like but she could still try to help.

"I can't pretend to understand what Hecate thought, but I do now that it was her who saved you from the bandits…" Emma said, "I believe that's more than most immortals would do for their children."

Lily let out a shaky breath.

It was kind of comforting to think that the immortal at least cared enough to know whether she was alive or dead.

But it wasn't that comforting feeling she had hoped to feel when she found out the truth. There was no closure.

"Thank you for telling me, Emma," Lily said with a sigh and her eyes fell down to the book that was now redundant, "I suppose I can now return to the tavern…"

"Don't be silly, Lily," Emma said and pulled her a little closer, hoping that this would make her realise she wasn't alone here, "you can stay here under my protection for as long as you want to…besides, you still don't know who your father is."

Emma wasn't sure whether to bring up that fact but it was painfully obvious that she needed something else to focus on.

The princess was really starting to understand what Regina meant when she said immortals couldn't just come into a mortal's story because of how unsatisfying it would be.

It was written all over Lily's face.

No matter what, Hecate couldn't be the kind of mother she dreamed of.

It was hardly the same situation that Regina and Dawn had.

However, there was still a mortal in the equation that Lily had seemed largely unconcerned about previously.

Her father was something Lily had mentioned once, but since her adoptive mother never mentioned her father, she had felt like he was less important, or maybe when she found her mother, it would all fall into place.

Lily started nodding vigorously.

"You're absolutely right, thank you Emma!"

"Of course," the princess replied, "I may not always be in the palace, but I'll always be here for you."

Lily let out a deep breath and finally hugged her friend back.

The pair hugged for a few more seconds before Lily leaned back and asked, "Hecate is sorcery, right?"

Emma laughed at the hint of excitement on her friend's face and replied, "do you want me to see if I can teach you a spell? I have a book that Merlin showed me how to use."

She decided that it wouldn't help if she told her who had given her the book as a wedding present.

Lily's mouth hung open slightly and she replied, "well I need to hear about how you met Merlin first."

"It sounds like she took it better than expected," Regina said while Emma did her best not to grimace at the simple white gown that she had opted to wear. She figured that the appearance may help her parents (particularly her mother) deal a little better with the whole situation.

Judging by the look on her wife's face, Regina could tell that Emma was currently wondering whether it was worth it.

Emma gave one last smooth down to the gown and finally stopped staring at it as if it were the enemy as she looked up at her wife who was still wearing the same tunic and pants combination she had on at their picnic.

Her legs were stretched out across the bed and her head and leaning against the headboard as she watched the princess fuss over her attire.

It was a far cry from the black leather that Emma had first seen her in on her birthday, but she still wasn't trying to appear as innocent as possible.

Not that Emma particularly cared.

She was pretty sure that whatever Regina was wearing, her parents would just see Hades anyway.

There was no outfit in the multi-verse that would make them see what she did.

Emma allowed herself a moment to stare at her wife, thinking about just how different she was from just a few months ago.

When Regina drew her eyebrows together at the gaze, but before she could ask the princess what she was thinking, Emma forced her mind to focus on the present and she came over to sit on the edge of the bed, instinctively placing her hand on Regina's leg.

"Lily did take it...better than I thought she would, but she was disappointed. I think looking for her father gave her hope though," Emma replied, before he turned to look at her wife and added, "you wouldn't happen to know who he is would you?"

"Mal never mentioned," Regina replied and leaned forward a little to take Emma's hand that was on her leg, the princess took the queue and shifted so that she was lay next to the older woman. "Besides, I don't think Lily was too satisfied with learning of her mother's identity from a goddess," Regina added.

Emma sighed and placed her head onto Regina's shoulder as she adjusted her dress again. She was truly beginning to hate it.

A silence passed between the couple as Emma considered if Regina could force Hecate to speak with Lily, but it didn't seem like the best option. Their friendship had become tenuous as it was.

She couldn't imagine that anyone was aware of what the best option would be right now.

"Are you nervous?" Emma finally asked to broke the silence.

Judging by the heavy sigh, the goddess was well aware what the subject had changed to.

"About having dinner with your parents?" She scoffed but when Emma lifted her head from her shoulder to look at her with a raised eyebrow, the goddess added, "yes I am nervous."

Emma actually smiled at this and she reached down to intertwine their fingers.

She stared at their joined hands as she replied, "it will definitely be awkward, but you have nothing to worry about, Regina, there is nothing they can say to make me not love you. They can't change that you're my True Love."

Regina's head lolled to the side so that she could look directly at the green orbs and she smiled as she replied, "I know that, Emma, it's just...I would much rather have dinner literally anywhere else...:

"If it helps, the food is excellent," Emma replied.

Regina just shook her head, though she was still smiling.

Sometimes it was ridiculous how adorable the princess could be.

"It really depends on how excellent," Regina replied, "it would need to be truly amazing to cancel out your mother's hatred."

Emma was silent for a moment before she said, "my mother can learn to...tolerate you...and I would go as far as to say my father could even learn to like you..."

"I suppose 'tolerate' and 'like' are better than how you have been treated by my family," Regina sighed and Emma let out a laugh and allowed her head to fall back against her wife's shoulder.

"Dawn has been...nice to me most of the time," Emma replied, choosing not to mention the time her step-daughter cut with a sword.

Regina just hummed in agreement.

The pair fell into silence again seemingly agreeing that they would remain in this position for a while longer until they forced themselves to actually get ready for their meal.

Mulan tightened the strap on her quiver and continued walking up towards the highest point on Olympus.

She would much rather be sat at a campfire with her huntresses right now, planning how and what to hunt, but she was instead doing her least favourite thing in the universe.

Much like the rest of the Divines, she did not enjoy being summoned by Zelena, not least because it was never for benevolent reasons, but there was unfortunately no way that she could ignore the deceptively sweetly written invitation.

It was for this reason that Artemis stepped into the throne room.

"Ah, Artemis, thank you for coming so quickly," Zelena called from her throne.

Mulan plastered on a grin and tightened her grip around the strap of her quiver.

"It's…not a problem, your majesty," Artemis forced out and refused to make eye contact with the other goddess. It was beyond stressful considering that there was so much that could go wrong during this interaction. The smallest slight (that others probably wouldn't even register an insult) would result in her immortal life changing for the rest of eternity. It was imperative to do and say the right thing, but that didn't mean that she had to be happy about it.

"How can I be of assistance?" She asked.

Zelena pushed herself from the throne and with what looked to be a genuinely excited smile glided over to the huntress.

"It won't take long, dear, I just need one small favour," Zelena replied.

Mulan's knuckles turned white and she finally looked at the ruler of Olympus as she replied, "of course, anything you need."

Zelena clicked her fingers and a moment later, Ares walked in guiding a young woman over to the pair already occupying the room.

Mulan drew her eyebrows together as she inspected the very familiar girl.

A moment later, it hit her that it wasn't that long ago that she had tried to recruit her to the huntresses.

She remembered actually feeling a lot of respect for her even though she refused.

There weren't many mortals so dedicated to becoming immortal who would pass up the opportunity to join the hunt.

The archer released the quiver strap and said, "Dawn?"

The Demi-goddess looked away from the marble floor and up to the goddess.

Of the two hours she had been on Olympus all 120 minutes had sucked.

Zelena had sat her down at the dining table she had always dreamed of eating at.

Of course, now she knew that her aunt was an awful person and the last person she would want to have a meal with.

Not that she was so much as offered a glass of water in the time she was sat down.

All she got was Ares standing over her, making sure that she didn't just stand and leave.

The sight of Artemis almost gave her hope.

She may be the most clear reminder of the time she almost died, but she also represented the immortality that she had managed to earn.

However, back then, Mulan had just been an immortal looking for some entertainment and she couldn't look more different now.

She looked afraid.

The differential factor here was obviously the presence of Zeus.

Dawn tried to struggle, but Ares tightened his grip on her arm and she audibly hissed.

"Excellent, you remember my dear niece I presume?" Zelena continued as if this were a perfectly normal conservation and one of the parties was not currently a hostage.

Artemis cleared her throat and looked away from the Demi-goddess before she replied, "of course, Dawn put on quite the performance, is Regina also here?"

Zelena narrowed her eyes. There was a lilt of fear in Mulan's voice and she hated that so many Olympians also feared her sister.

Didn't they understand that she was Zeus!

"No, I believe that she's preparing to have dinner with her in-laws, she's much too preoccupied to concern herself with Olympus these days," Zelena replied, her frown giving way to a sickly sweet smile.

Mulan really felt like she was missing something here.

She had of course heard that Regina had taken a mortal wife but she had been under the impression that she had only gotten married to spite the aforementioned in-laws.

Why would she be preparing to have dinner with them? Perhaps more pertinently, why would they want to have dinner with Hades?

Instead of questioning that further, Mulan just cleared her throat and said, "so how is it that I can help, your majesty?"

Dawn tried to open her mouth to interrupt whatever her aunt was about to say, but Ares clamped down on her arm harder and she had to grit her teeth against the pain.

Against her better judgement, Mulan glanced over at the demi-goddess. She was clearly trying her best to get out of this situation which meant that Regina had absolutely no idea that Dawn was here.

If Regina's reaction after her daughter had been hurt during the tournament was anything to go by, it was not something that Mulan wanted to be part of again.

But it wasn't Regina in this room right now.

As if to prove this, Zelena loudly cleared her throat and Mulan jumped a little.

Evidently, she did not like not having all the attention.

Artemis's eyes shot back over to Zeus who returned the look with pure smugness.

"It's quite simple, really dear, I just need you to take away what was given," Zelena said and gestured towards Dawn who had given up on struggling at this point and was scowling at her aunt.

Artemis was about to point out that she had never given Dawn anything, but it hit her before the words could leave her mouth.

"Your highness, I cannot…" Mulan began, but was cut off when Zelena held her hand up.

Artemis drew her mouth into a thin line and clutched the strap of her quiver again, her knuckles turning instantly white this time.

She resisted the desire to take a step backwards as Zeus glided into her personal space. Zelena already knew that she was afraid of her, so she saw no reason to give her more evidence to confirm that further.

At the very least, she could try to maintain her image in Dawn's eyes, if it wasn't already destroyed.

"On the contrary, Artemis, you can. What was given can always be taken away," Zelena said just below a whisper and then threw her arm out to point at Dawn, "especially when it was given to a mortal. Trust me, I would not be wasting your time if I could remove the gift you deigned to bestow upon her. Now do as you are told or I will take away what I deigned to give to you."

"You cannot take my huntresses…" she said, finally looking up at Zelena with determined eyes.

"Yes I can," Zelena replied, grabbing the quiver strap to pull the other goddess closer which forced her to release the breath she had been holding as the ruler of Olympus whispered close to her face, "you would be ever so lonely, wouldn't you Artemis?"

"I'll do it," Mulan said, looking as if she had to physically force her mouth to form those three words.

Zelena let the strap go and patted her shoulder as she moved back.

"Excellent," Zelena said again, and then turned on her heels to go towards the exit of the room, calling to Ares as she went, "once she's mortal, take her to spent her days with the others."

Zelena didn't look back as James nodded though she did smile as Artemis moved towards Dawn who was now breathing very hard.

Zeus didn't need to wait to make sure the archer did what she was told so she decided to go to her next 'appointment'.

It wasn't long until she was nearing her quarters wearing her grin, but this fell away when she was unfortunately faced with a road block.

"Zelena," Neal said.

The red-head had to stop herself from rolling her eyes at the look of outrage on his face.

Usually it was a sight she was only treated to when she had done something he considered to be 'unfair' and since there was really on one project she was focused on right now, she could easily assume what he was here about.

"Poseidon," she replied, "this isn't the time for a chat."

Before she could try to walk further, Neal held out his arm to block her path.

Sparks lighted at her fingertips but her brother didn't flinch as he would have a few months ago. Since that damn tournament. It didn't help that they weren't as strong as they had been in the past.

She had ordered him to not tell a soul where the scar on her cheek had come form, but that didn't change the fact that he had seen Regina throw a lightening bolt.

His face remained unmoved and she just clenched her fists and tilted her head at the man.

"I hear that you brought a demi-goddess to Olympus," Neal said, "would I be wrong to assume that you went to the Underworld without permission and took Dawn?"

"Should one really need permission to enter the Underworld?" Zelena shot back, but Neal let out a loud breath through his nose and the goddess added, "I invited Dawn to dinner, is it so wrong to want to show my niece Olympus?"

"Regina has already lost her wife, must you also threaten her daughter?" Neal asked.

"If her wife were dead, her daughter would not have been in the Underworld alone," Zelena replied and pushed past her brother as the information caused him to falter, "if you'll excuse me I have more important matters to attend to."

Neal watched her continue towards her quarters as he tried to process the fact that the princess he had watched lay limply could possibly be alive.

Other than the fact that Zelena hated Regina, he had no idea why it was that Zeus was so intent upon defeating Hades. As far as she was concerned it was just a petty grudge with no basis.

He would usually have just walked away at this point.

He may have nothing against Regina, but they weren't exactly close, whatever happened to his sister hardly affected his life.

Despite this, he found his feet leading him towards where Zelena had walked away to a moment before.

He wasn't exactly sure what it was he wanted to say but that wasn't going to stop him this time.

Zelena deserved to be confronted and he'd had enough of pretending that wasn't the case.

However, a loud hissing sound gave him pause before he could slam the door open and demand to be heard.

He slid to the side and pressed his back to the wall and held his breath as he tried his best to make out what his sister was saying to the Three Fates.

For the first time, it occurred to him that Zelena had spent a lot of time over the centuries demanding audiences with the three women most avoided at all costs.

Neal drew his eyebrows together as the words filtered through the door.

"The future cannot be changed, Hades."

Neal drew his eyebrows together.

Was Regina also in there? No, It wouldn't make any sense!

In that moment, he'd almost burst into the room to demand to know what kind of conspiracy they were planning (though he couldn't think of what they would want to take away from him).

However, before he could move an inch he heard a voice that was distinctly Zelena, a much less controlled version but definitely Zelena's voice, shout "how many times do I have to tell you not to call me Hades?!"

"We will not call you by your stolen title, Hades," was the hissing reply and a second later something ceramic clearly smashed against the wall.

"I do not need your foolish riddles anymore, Regina cannot claim my title if I take away her wife and her daughter!"

"Zeus will prevail as long as Hera is at her side," a Fate said, obviously unaffected by Zelena's outburst of anger.

"Who is Hera?!" Zelena asked, her voice actually breaking a little but Neal couldn't tell if it was caused by anger or fear.

"You know the answer to that, Hades," was the reply this time, which was accompanied by the sound of more breaking ceramic.

"You're all useless," Zelena hissed and Neal just about pushed himself away from the wall and around the corner, out of sight before Zelena called back, "I can break Regina without your help!"

Poseidon didn't pay much attention to those words as he thought over what was just unintentionally revealed to him.

Stolen title?

The revelation should have shattered everything that he believed, but it somehow made so much sense!

He couldn't think of a single Olympian (with the exception of Ares perhaps) who would disagree that Zelena was ill-suited as their leader.

It certainly explained why Zelena had apparently made it her mission to make everyone despise their sister.

He knew better than anyone that Regina had done nothing to deserve the way that she had been treated but he could before hide behind the idea that it was what their father intended for her.

But now that he really thought about it, the fact that it had been Regina to lead the Olympians against the Titans surely justified her being crowned as Zeus? She had defeated Kronos, after all.

The god of the sea closed his eyes and took a couple deep breaths as he reluctantly decided that he needed to find out where Regina currently was.

He could ask Dawn but that would likely mean dealing with Ares, but there was a certain demon he could ask.

Neal sighed deeply and blue smoke engulfed him to take him to the Underworld.

Chapter Text

Chapter twenty-five

Dawn had forgotten what it felt like to be afraid of death.

The last time she had felt this depth of terror was when Mulan's blade plunged through her stomach, but even then, she had the slight reassurance that her mother wasn't far away.

Now, as Ares led her down a corridor, she didn't have that safety blanket anymore. The demi-goddess was also aware of the tiredness in her muscles and her quickened breathing in a way that she hadn't been in a long time.

"Not quite so loud now, are we?" Ares asked as he twisted her arm a little.

Dawn scrunched her eyes up for a moment against the flash of pain. Maybe she should have just shut up back in the dining room? But then again, she was still immortal back when she was berating the war god at every opportunity.

Ares laughed loudly at the lack of response before he waved his hand to open one of the gates along the corridor.

When they stepped through, Dawn was sure that this had to be the Underworld.

It was dark and dingy the only sound was some far off dripping water in one of the many dungeon cells.

But Dawn had explored the Underworld four times over in her life and the only prison she ever saw was Tartarus.

This definitely wasn't as bad as that, but it still didn't belong on Olympus.

She didn't get much more time to consider it as Ares pushed her forward into one of the cells.

"Enjoy your stay," he announced as she stumbled into the cell and fell down onto her face, "I'm sure that Zeus will remember to come and get you once the princess is good and dead."

Dawn actually bit her tongue as her stinging palms rested against the cold obsidian and when James finally walked away, she raised her hand to her to lip to see that it was in fact bleeding.

She was trying to remember how much blood was too much but her attention was torn away from trying to figure it out by a hand placed on her shoulder and she also became vaguely aware of a crackling fire in the middle of the cell.

The softness of the touch made her instantly think it was her mother, but when she pushed herself up she was disappointed to find a stranger's face scrunched up in genuine concern.

"Wow, you look just like her," the woman said, her concern melting away as she discerned that there was no real damage caused by the god of war.

Dawn was about to ask who she was and what she was talking about but a scoff drew her eyes over to the corner of the cell.

She tensed and the stranger allowed her hand to fall away from Dawn's back.

The source of the scoff was very much familiar and the sight filled Dawn with pure rage that she now had no real right to feel towards a goddess.

"Hecate has already been sufficiently persuaded to reveal your clever little plan to keep the princess alive."

Dawn shot to her feet, all her new found fear momentarily melting away.

"How could you?!" She shouted.

Hecate's head lolled to the side, apparently unaffected by the raised volume.

The sight made Dawn falter slightly, she had never seen her mother's friend look so defeated.

She was one of the strongest sorceresses in the universe, which really begged the question of what exactly Zelena did to her?

"Your mother asked me to defy the ruler of Olympus to protect her little princess and you're angry with me? Did you really think the protection would last forever?" Maleficient asked with another scoff.

"I never thought you would be so easily captured, " Dawn shot back.

"Rather ironic complaint coming from yourself, don't you think?"

Dawn was about to shoot a retort at the goddess but she was interrupted by the stranger.

"This is not the time to argue amongst ourselves, you shouldn't allow Hades to divide us."

"What?" Dawn asked whipping her head around to her, she had completely forgotten that she was even here, "my mother is not the cause of any of this."

The woman frowned and said, "I know that Dawn, I was referring to your aunt."

The demi-goddess looked over to Hecate to see if she knew what she was talking about, but the sorceress appeared very disinterested in this whole conversation, probably because she'd already had it.

"Perhaps this would make more sense if I introduced myself, my name is Marian, and I am Hestia," she said, extending her hand towards Dawn but the younger woman just raised an eyebrow at the hand.

"Sorry, of course you don't know who I am, that is by Zelena's design. She couldn't risk that I reveal her deception," Marian sighed.

"What are you talking about?!"

"This is her long-winded way of telling you that your mother should be Zeus," Hecate interjected.

Once again, Dawn was speechless.

Emma White was paying abnormally close attention as she cut her steak.

It was the same attention that she'd paid to each spoonful of soup during the first course of what felt like an eternity, but which had probably only been 25 minutes of her time so far.

It gave her mind something to do since no one in the room had said anything other than 'thank you' to the servants who brought the food and refreshed their drinks.

Emma was beginning to understand why Regina was nervous about this meal.

Snow was only opening her mouth to eat and drink, which was fine because Emma never expected her to be the one who start a riveting dialogue, so she wasn't too disappointed in her.

The same couldn't be said for her father.

Every so often it looked like he was about to say something, but always thought better of it and just continued eating.

Did he really think Regina would care if he didn't say the right thing?

Of course, the only things they knew to be true about the goddess was that she went from saving David's life to taking their daughter to now apparently being her True Love. They hadn't been privy to all the moments in-between that proved the change was genuine.

The princess glanced up from her thoroughly sliced steak and over to Regina who was slowly chewing her own food.

The goddess was also guilty of being silent but Emma never thought she would to launch into a conversation with the people who disliked her so strongly.

As if to prove Emma's point, Snow White gripped her knife strongly when Emma glanced at her wife again.

Why did she keep looking to see if the immortal was okay?

It wasn't like she had even known her for that long!

Plus, her daughter was far too young to be in love, let alone with Hades!

She had promised her husband that she would at least try to make nice, but the sight of them sat together like everything was perfectly normal, was just too much for the queen. Her daughter should be with some other royal, not with the goddess of the Underworld and seeing them together did nothing to change Snow's mind on that.

David's eyes were drawn over to the way that his wife was now roughly cutting her meat, she appeared to be very close to breaking the plate.

At this point in his life, David was well-attuned to the anger she was about to release so he placed his hand onto her forearm, which seemed to diffuse her, at least for now.

Perhaps it wouldn't be the worst idea to say something before Snow tried to cut something else with that knife?

He had spent the meal trying to think of something to say to Regina, but all he could think of was to ask what life was like before mortals existed. He probably would have gone for it as well if he didn't also remember all of the stories that he'd heard about the fights between immortals throughout mythology.

If only a handful of them were true, he knew that she probably didn't want to discuss her family.

It was for this reason that he instead directed his question towards his daughter, he was pretty sure that he could come up with a topic that wouldn't insult her.

"Emma, you mentioned that you've visited Camelot. Did you meet King Arthur?" he asked. It was mostly because some kind of conversation was clearly necessary if they were going to get out of this experience unscathed, but also because he was obviously a little excited by the topic.

Emma looked away from her wife, looking a little shocked to actually hear a sound that wasn't made by the cutlery, but a second later, her mind processed the question and she said, "yes, but he wasn't yet king…"

"What was he like?" David asked eagerly.

Emma drew her eyebrows together as she tried to think of the right words to describe Prince Arthur. They hadn't really seen much of him once he found out that they were both unavailable, but she could see the roots of the legend were there.

"He was…young," she finally settled on.

"He was a misogynistic pig," Regina scoffed before taking another bite.

"That too," Emma agreed with a little chuckle, but when Snow's contemptuous eyes shot up to Regina (honestly, did she expect the guest she invited to remain silent for the whole meal?) Emma hastily added, "I also met Lancelot and Merlin though, they were almost exactly how they're described in the legends…"

The princess then launched into the full tale of everything that she had been taught first by Merlin and then by the men who would become the Knights of the Round Table. Her father was, of course, very interested in every aspect of swordplay that she had learned and was on the verge of asking her to show him some of their techniques, but Emma let out a little hiss when her knife sliced a little through her finger.

As she spoke, she had been absently cutting up the remaining pieces of steak and after so many minutes of paying attention to nothing but the meat and the knife, actually speaking and looking at her father had obviously been too much of a distraction.

She dropped the knife and was about to look down at the little wound, while David opened his mouth to ask if she was okay. Even Snow's face softened a little as she looked over to her daughter.

At the same time, Regina was about to offer to heal it, but before either of them could lay eyes upon the blood, they were interrupted.

"A dinner with the in-laws, Gina? Very domestic."

Both Regina and Emma instantly forgot about the small injury and their eyes shot to behind Snow and David. The couple jumped to their feet the moment that they confirmed who it was that was crashing the occasion.

Snow and David exchanged a look of pure confusion before they turned around to see a smirking red-head.

David's first thought was how did she get passed the guards and into this room without making a sound, but then it hit him that if Regina was shooting her a look of pure contempt than this woman must at least be an immortal. His mind went through a few gods and goddesses who he'd read about that wasn't a fan of Hades, but that really didn't narrow it down at all.

On the other side of the table, Emma was considering whether it was worth the risk to poof her parents away from the scene. She was getting pretty good at it lately, but she wouldn't stake her parents' lives on her skill just yet. The question was, was Zelena seriously petty enough to hurt Regina's in-laws?

There was also the factor that one of them would say something stupid to her, Zelena didn't have her wife's restraint when it came to mortals.

Regina seemed to have a similar thought since she stepped forward, notably in front of Emma, and tried to get her sister's attention away from the king and queen who she was currently looking at like they were vaguely interesting insects.

"Why are you here?" she asked through gritted teeth. Hades wasn't quite sure if she was afraid or pissed that her sister was here. She obviously somehow knew that Emma was alive and she really thought that she would have longer before Zeus started her inexplicable crusade against her wife again.

They were not prepared like they had been for the tournament.

Zelena tilted her head and turned to look at her sister and replied, "you are being exceedingly rude, Regina, do you not think it proper to introduce me before we move onto the threats?"

Regina just narrowed her eyes and said nothing.

The red-head laughed, she really did enjoy pissing off the other goddess and it had become so much easier since she had gotten married.

"Clearly my sister wants me to introduce myself," Zelena announced after a moment of admiring Regina's annoyance, and she turned to the monarchs so that she could add, "my name is Zeus."

"Your name is Zelena," Emma interjected and Regina shot her an exasperated look over her shoulder, to which the princess just shrugged.

Zelena slowly turned to Emma with narrowed eyes and the princess looked back, unmoving.

Did Regina tell her about the title? That must mean that Regina truly wanted to be Zeus right? She could just see them discussing exactly how she planned to take the throne.

Regina placed her hand onto Emma's forearm to pull her back just a little, breaking the gaze between the pair.

Why wouldn't her wife antagonise her sister? It wasn't like the difference between the name and the title meant anything to Snow and David, so she'd obviously just corrected her out of pure spite.

"Semantics," Zelena replied, forcing her smirk back onto her face, though she was now wondering whether Emma wanted Regina to take her throne, it would be the perfect opportunity to leave the wretched Underworld after all, she couldn't imagine someone not jumping on that opportunity, "my title is Zeus."

Emma opened her mouth to announce that wasn't quite true either but Regina shot her a look that said that wasn't a good idea. Her sister was clearly slipping, after all, there was no reason for her to care whether or not Snow White and Prince Charming knew that she was Zeus.

"Why are you here?" Regina asked again, releasing Emma's arm and moving a little to the side so that her body was completely in front of hers. The chance that she would make another snide comment was too high so she figured that being body shield was probably her best option in this situation.

"No need for the hostility, Gina," Zelena replied, finally walking further into the room and Emma felt herself relax just a little with each step that she took away from her parents, but that tension returned at what she added, "I have some news about your daughter, so I persuaded Hecate to lift that pesky little protection spell."

Electricity began flying around Regina's fingers as anger coursed through her system and Emma jumped back just a little at the shock.

Regina didn't seem to notice this, though, as she demanded, "what have you done to Dawn?!"

"I haven't done anything. It was Mulan who removed her unwarranted gift, but it does help with my plans. It's quite simple, there are two mortals you care about and I'm asking you to choose, allow me to take Emma and I will tell you where your daughter is. If you chose your wife, then you can see Dawn again in Asphodel."

Regina closed her eyes and took a couple breaths.

This was ridiculous. Why did Zelena care so much about the people she loved?!

She'd already taken the throne! Why couldn't she accept that she just didn't care about Olympus?!

"This is pointless, Zelena, just release Dawn and…"

Zelena held up her hand and said, "I don't think you quite understand the purpose of an ultimatum, Regina. This choice is simple, you have known the princess for months. Would you really give up eternity with your daughter for her?"

Regina glanced over at Emma.

For only a second, she considered what the answer to that question would be (not that it was a choice that she would ever actually make).

It was true that she'd only known Emma for mere months out of thousands of years of life, but the fact was that she could no longer imagine her life without her. It wasn't like she could just go back to being the ruler of the Underworld knowing that her True Love had been taken away from her.

She'd already done that once (at least when she thought that Ruby was her True Love) and it definitely was not something that she wanted to go back to. However, when she had been at her lowest, it had been having Dawn that had helped her.

Was it really so unreasonable to have two people that you couldn't live without? It wasn't like she'd asked for much else throughout her immortal life.

However, there was no way that she would be able to convince Zelena that she was being ridiculous in this moment, not when Emma's parents were also in the line of fire here.

There was another option though, if she had more time to talk Zelena off the edge, then maybe they could go back to their domains (and hopefully never see each other again).

With a resigned sigh, she opened her eyes and said, "you can take me and leave both of them alone."

Snow, who had been uncharacteristically silent up until this point, looked up at Regina directly for perhaps the first time ever.

She had no idea what was going on in the slightest, but it was very obvious that Regina was making some kind of sacrifice.

Zelena just smirked harder at the response that she was expecting, her sister was always willing to be a martyr. Trapping immortals may work for lesser gods, but it certainly wouldn't work for one of the big three.

"I could have done that after mother's death if it would actually work. It's much easier to just kill your mortal wife," she said as if this were the most natural conversation between siblings.

David shot to his feet and grabbed the hilt of the sword that he always had at his side, but his hand fell away almost instantly when he started choking.

Snow also shot to her feet, but this was to try and help her husband, which was a fruitless endeavour since there wasn't anything physically constricting his airway.

Zelena didn't even look around as she continued to look only at Regina waiting for a response from her sister as to which mortal she was willing to lose.

"Stop!" Emma shouted, trying to move towards Zelena, but Regina held out her arm on instinct while David coiled over with his hand at his neck

"As far as I'm aware, this man should have died decades ago, it will be no great loss," Zelena said.

Emma pushed Zelena's arm down and tried to launch herself forward, she had no idea what it was that she was planning to do but she knew that she couldn't hide behind her wife while her sister-in-law tried to kill her father.

Before she could get anywhere near Zeus, though, Hades grabbed her hand. She would later realise that it was the best thing that Regina could have done in that moment, but right now, she turned to look at her wife with a look mixed between disbelief and panic.

She knew that Regina would have already fought back against Zelena (she could still feel the small shocks on her hands), but there was something holding her back.


She would never ask Regina to give up her daughter for her, but all of this was not something that she could rationalise while her father was unable to breathe.

"I don't want your throne, Zelena!" Regina shouted, gripping Emma's hand tighter so that she didn't try to attack the goddess.

"You could change your mind in a year from now, a hundred years even a thousand, I can't risk that happening, Regina," Zelena replied with her arms crossed over her chest.

"I'll go with you!" Emma announced before Regina could try to reason with her further. It was clearly pointless, especially where her father was so close to death.

Regina's eyes widened and she gripped Emma's hand more tightly, but Emma turned to her and said, "please Regina, you have to let me go."

Regina stared into the green eyes, taking deep breaths as she worked through all of the things that she could do, but every scenario ended with both Dawn and David in the Underworld. Finally, she looked directly at her sister and said pleadingly, "you don't have to do this Zelena."

Zelena raised her eyebrows as David fell forward onto the table with Snow trying to keep him upright.

When Zeus didn't say anything, Emma used her free hand to reach over and remove Regina's from her arm. She knew that she wanted to keep holding on, then there was nothing stopping from doing so, but she obviously didn't want to be the one to let go.

Emma hoped that her face conveyed to Regina just how much she loved her before she stepped back and turned towards Zelena.

The red-head instantly waved her hand and David let out a loud, heaving breath with his wife's hand on his back. She was looking back and forth between him and Emma. She clearly wanted to do something to help her daughter, but what could Snow White do against Zeus? It wasn't like she was able to keep her away from Hades long-term.

"Awww, how very sweet," Zelena drawled and walked over to grab Emma's hand to poof away.

Regina stepped forward as if she was going to stop her, but Emma looked over her shoulder and shook her head, silently telling her that she shouldn't try to intervene.

Hades reluctantly clenched her fist to stop the fireball from igniting in her palm.

However, before Zelena could poof them away, something seemed to catch her attention and she let out a little gasp when she looked down to Emma's hand.

For the first time, the princess looked down to inspect the cut that she had completely forgotten about.

Emma was about to ask exactly what the problem was until she noticed for the first time that the blood was not red.

Zelena did not hesitate to grab the steak knife and slice straight through Emma's palm.

Emma hissed and flames actually ignited in Regina's electrified hands.

Zelena didn't even look up at the threat though as she stared at the ichor on Emma's palm and Regina closed her hand around the flames when she stepped forward and finally saw what had given Zelena pause.

The blood of the gods definitely wasn't there the last time that she had seen her bleed.

Zelena dropped her hand and demanded, "who did this? Who made you immortal?!"

Snow and David (who was slowly regaining his ability to breath steadily) looked on with wide eyes, the goddess was very close to stamping her foot.

Emma stared at the blood more closely and a memory flashed through her mind. It wasn't even a memory that she was fully aware that she had in her mind, but she was sure that it actually happened.

Regina's father standing in front her.

"Henry," she muttered.

Zelena dropped her arm and took a step back, taking deep breaths.

Her father was involved in this?

Did he really still care who held the mantle of Zeus?!

Did he really still favour Regina after all of these centuries?!

Suddenly, any semblance of a plan disappeared.

If she took Emma now, Regina would have all the time in the world to get her back and she would then be more incentivised than ever to try and take her place on Olympus.

Instead of going on a tirade about how unfair everything was, she just decided that she would need to change things around, she just needed to get out of here and then figure things out as she went.

The important part was to know where Regina was, Emma may be immortal but it was still Regina who posed the real threat to her.

"Change of plans, Gina, I'll let your little wife stay with her parents if you come with me and then I'll release your daughter," Zelena announced, her voice wavering a little. It didn't make complete sense, but there was no room for sense with the Fates's words tumbling around in her head. Especially now that she was pretty sure that she knew who Hera was.

Regina barely registered her sister's words as she allowed herself another moment to look at the ichor on her wife's palm.

It made her consider how long she had spent worrying about Emma's mortality. She would be elated if there wasn't another mortal that she had to worry about. However, Regina managed to bring her wits about her long enough for her to mutter a quick spell so that a purple haze held Emma in place.

Emma would be more than willing to sacrifice herself for her wife, but it was another thing entirely to allow said wife to do the same for her.

Regina stepped around Emma (who would have opened her mouth and announced, "I will go with you."

David and Snow would probably have tried to intervene if they were able to process the fact that their daughter was somehow immortal and the Olympian drama that they had no idea existed.

Regina took one last look at her wife but finally stepped towards her sister to allow her to grab her arm and poof them away. She did so with more haste than when Emma stepped towards her.

The moment the two Divines were gone, the shimmer around Emma disappeared and she fell forward, gripping the table for balance.

All three Whites stared at the space where Regina had just stood.

If she had any earthly idea where Zelena was planning to take her (not that Zelena appeared to have any idea) she would have poofed after them without any hesitation.

As it was, this wasn't really an option and she turned to her parents.

The idea of her wife being in Zelena's custody made her feel sick, but the fact was that Regina was an immortal goddess and her father had been deprived of oxygen for a significant amount of time.

If her options were between processing the fact that she was now immortal or to check if her father was okay, she would go for the latter.

David appeared to be breathing well again, but his hand was still at his obviously painful throat.

Before the princess could ask if there was anything she could do, someone said, "Emma?"

She turned to find a wide-eyed Graham brandishing Durendal with Neal next to him gripping his trident. He was wearing a look between concern and resignation.

Without much thought about what she was about to do, Emma crossed the space between them and slapped Poseidon across the face.

Chapter Text

Chapter twenty-six

"Spread the word that all are welcome to the celebration," Zelena announced as she paced back and forth in front of her throne, the throne that was finally hers, "and tell them that whoever brings the most delicious dish will be granted one wish."

The servant bowed deeply and turned on his heels to go back out onto the main part of Olympus, he had a lot of people and animals to pass the message onto.

Meanwhile, Zelena stopped pacing and took a moment to just look around the throne room.

It was finally over, after years of battles, the Titanomchomy was over.

With her mother in Tartarus, the world at last belonged to the Olympians and with Regina's reluctant acceptance of the title of 'Hades', Zelena was content that she had achieved everything that she wanted.

Which was exactly what she was thinking as she fell down onto Zeus's throne for the first time.

Her hands ran over the golden arms of the ornate chair with a satisfied grin.

However, there was still one little wrinkle to her plans.

Unfortunately that wrinkle was currently walking into the room.

Zelena's smile fell and she said, "Hestia, I don't recall summoning you."

"You do not have the authority to summon anyone to this room, Hades," the oldest of the Olympians replied.

Zelena narrowed her eyes and pushed herself up from the throne so that she could go over and stand in front of her. She was trying her best to look intimidating, and it was infuriating that it obviously wasn't working.

In fact, Marian had drawn herself up a little.

"Why are you here?" Zelena asked lowly.

"The bolt is no longer on Othrys, how could you possibly have moved it? Where is it?"

"How is it any of your concern where it is?" Zelena shot back.

"I decided it would be easiest way to demonstrate to Regina that she had been robbed," Hestia replied.

Zelena's nostrils flared and she asked, "did you tell her?"

"I planned to but we both know she wouldn't believe me without proof," Marian replied, anger clear in her voice, "you know there is a reason that father chose Regina, you are hardly equipped for this role for the rest of time."

"Regina is in no way better than me!" Zelena shouted, her tone more childish than she perhaps intended it to be.

"Then why can't you touch her bolt?" Hestia replied, somehow standing her ground in spite of the fact that she didn't have much in her arsenal to oppose Zelena. The woman may not be Zeus, but she was hardly weak.

"That is really none of your business, Hestia, you know, you could retire wherever it is that you want your abode to be and you will never have to discuss this again?"

The quid pro quo didn't escape Marian's notice.

There was certainly many who would jump at the chance to choose their part of existence and would happily sell out Regina to do so, but she wasn't one of those Olympians.

Hestia shook her head and replied, "father made sacrifices for humanity, his belief for what the world to be won't be achieved with you on that throne," Hestia replied in a deceptively calm voice, because she was really beginning to regret coming in here at all. It was obvious that it was not a good idea to convince Zelena to do the right thing, she was beginning to think that was an impossible feat.

"Have you considered that father was wrong?" Zelena asked.

"He wasn't wrong," Hestia replied instantly, "you shouldn't be here, Zelena."

Zelena had the strong urge to slap her but a thought occurred to her and a smile overcame her face.

"Seeing as you are not concerned with your abode, I can think of a perfect little…cell where you can operate from. It's not as though you need much space to manage…the hearth is it?" Zelena replied rather smugly.

Hestia drew her mouth into a thin line.

Zelena gave her the title so she knew exactly what it entailed, she just couldn't allow the imitation technique to work on her.

"You can hide me away from the world all you want Hades, but the world will right itself eventually," Hestia said firmly.

"You won't be there to see it," Zelena hissed as smoke billowed around to transport Hestia to her new home, and just to add insult to injury, Zeus added, "and I had the cyclopes take the bolt to the Hesperides where it will stay for the rest of time."

The sound of the slap rang through the dining room and Neal just scowled, he was truly unimpressed.

He wasn't really sure what he was expecting after he recruited the demon to help him get to Regina, but a slap wasn't really on the list.

More accurately, he'd planned to ask Graham where to go and get out of the Underworld as quickly as possible, but Graham had given up his frantic search for Emma's seeds and demanded to come with him.

Poseidon had just conceded, it couldn't hurt to have more bodies opposing Zelena.

The god of the sea took a step back so that he could properly survey the room.

He counted two very confused/shocked mortals and a very angry princess in addition to the demon stood next to him.

Was it too much to hope that Regina's absence wasn't as conspicuous as he thought? Maybe she had just opted not to come to dinner?

It wasn't too unreasonable to think that Emma would slap him on sight? After all, the last time she saw him was when he thought she had died.

Emma was about to launch forward to slap him again, but Neal grabbed her arm.

"You do realise I've saved your life? More than once?" Neal asked, and when she continued struggling he added, "so you can stop trying to assault me?"

Emma finally stopped struggling and pushed herself back and out of his grasp.

She then paced back and forth a few times to disperse the excess energy before she turned to glance at her parents, taking extra time to make sure that her father was definitely okay.

The danger of Zelena had passed, but she still wasn't a fan of having her parents in the same room with an Olympian who wasn't Regina.

They both looked like they had a million questions, but now wasn't the time.

Neal wouldn't be here if it wasn't urgent and Graham definitely wouldn't be holding Durendal (which was now limp at his side) if it wasn't extremely important.

Emma ran her hand over her face and turned back to the new arrivals.

"What happened, Emma?" Graham asked, taking a step towards her.

The princess held up her hand, which had since healed to only a tiny gash but she still had clear signs of Ichor on her palm.

Both Graham and Poseidon leaned forward to inspect it, Neal frowned and Graham gasped.

"Zelena told Regina she had to choose between Dawn and I so I volunteered to go with her, but when she saw this, Zelena took Regina instead. I'm not really sure that she even knew what her plan is…" Emma explained.

Graham continued to stare at her palm.

If they had discovered this only a week ago, it would have been the best news he could have possibly received.

It would have dashed his major worry about the future, other than Regina finding out that he had kissed Dawn, of course.

As it was, though, the fact that they didn't know where Regina currently was perhaps more terrifying than the inevitable fireball.

He had really been relying on Regina to save Dawn.

"You're immortal," Graham sighed.

Emma nodded.

"How?" Poseidon demanded.

"I have no idea," Emma said dismissively, "where did she take Regina?"

"How would I know?" Neal asked incredulously, somewhat childishly in fact.

"She told you that Ares would compete in the tournament?" Graham replied and didn't shrink away when Neal narrowed his eyes at her. He even noticeably gripped Durendal's hilt.

Finally, Neal rolled his eyes, deciding that the demon wasn't worth it and turned to give his response to his sister-in-law.

"I happened to be in the room at the time, she doesn't exactly confide every insane thought with me. I only just discovered that Regina should have been Zeus," Neal admitted, and the three immortals ignored Snow's gasp.

Graham's head swivelled around with wide eyes, though, which only widened more when he saw no hint of surprise on Emma's face.

"Seriously?" he asked, though the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. Zelena was awfully crazy for her father to have chosen her to be Zeus when Regina was comparatively much calmer.

If Regina knew this, why would she had spent so many centuries isolating herself in the Underworld? Why didn't she tell him?!

Emma nodded and said, "she told me in Wonderland but she also told me that she doesn't care about the title, so would Zelena…"

"Because Zelena cannot fathom that someone would not covet her title. Even if Regina doesn't want it now, in Zelena's head, she is bound to change her mind. She had always been paranoid, I suppose now I know why," Neal admitted, he gripped his trident harder, he couldn't believe that he had been so complacent for so long, allowed Zelena the time to accrue so many allies.

"So what can we do?" Emma asked, her fingers were digging into her palms at this point. Zelena may not be able to kill her wife, but she could still hurt her.

Neal shrugged and Graham asked, "maybe…we can figure out exactly how Zelena took the title?…it couldn't have been easy…"

Emma nodded and looked at Neal expectantly.

"How would I possibly know?" he asked with an exasperated huff.

The princess looked over to Graham and they each rolled their eyes, the god of the sea was apparently intent upon being as petulant as possible and it was annoying.

"We could ask someone who was there," Emma deadpanned.

Neal's mouth formed an 'o' shape as he realised that there was an implied question instead of an accusation and he said, "well, obviously Zelena and father were there…"

"And where is your father now?" Emma asked. He may have confused her immensely in their last encounter but he still felt like the best option when the other was Zelena.

"If was still around this would have been resolved long before you were born, princess," Neal bit back, but when Emma narrowed her eyes at him, he added, "we do know exactly where my mother is on the other hand."

For the first time during the conversation, Graham let out a terrified squeak so Emma could guess who it was that Neal was referring to.

"Kronos?" she asked with a very tired sigh, she'd barely got through the first gate of Tartarus and that was when she'd had Regina with her. However, if it was the only chance that was available, she knew that this was going to happen.

"We knew her as Cora, but yes," Neal replied in a resigned voice.

Emma ran her hand over her face and nodded, before she looked down and realised she was still wearing the ridiculous white dress.

She could hardly face Kronos in this!

With a wave of her hand, white smoke spiralled around her and the dress was replaced with a simple purple tunic and pants combination with boots.

It was much more appropriate attire for returning to Tartarus.

"Let's go then," Emma announced, hoping that her voice didn't show any of the fear she felt. It wasn't like the fear mattered, nothing would stop her from going.

Neal nodded but Graham looked past Emma with hesitation on his face.

Emma frowned for a moment before it hit her that there were two other people in the room.

Two people who had been uncharacteristically quiet since Zelena had appeared.

Honestly, Emma was suddenly relieved that they hadn't spoken out in the presence of Zelena or Neal.

She bit her lip and finally turned around to look at them standing in front of the remains of their meals.

With a deep breath, she strode over to them and said lowly, "I know this all sounds terrifying but I have no choice so you shouldn't try and stop me…"

Before the princess could finish her sentence, Snow launched forward to engulf her in a hug, though Emma could feel her trembling a little.

After a moment of shock, Emma brought her hand up to place onto her shoulder and she allowed herself a second or two to just enjoy the hug from her mother.

However, the urgency of the situation crashed back down upon her and she leaned back so that Snow got the hint to release her.

The queen brought her hands up to her daughter's face and gave her a watery smile.

She didn't fully understand what was going on but there was one thing that became clear to her when they they each offered to sacrifice themselves to an obviously insane goddess.

It certainly suggested True Love.

With her child's face in her hands she said, "bring Regina back and we can try this dinner again."

A smile spread across Emma's face and despite the situation, she nodded enthusiastically.

When Snow stepped back, Emma turned to her father.

He finally appear to have fully recovered from his choking spat and he stepped forward.

Emma could tell he wasn't sure what to say but there was obvious pride in his eyes.

Instead of a heartfelt (verbal) announcement of his pride though, he drew his sword and handed it to his daughter hilt first.

Emma took it with slightly widened eyes.

"You can show me what you learned from Lancelot when you return that," he said a little hoarsely.

The princess nodded again, she didn't have time to consider how long she used to spend wishing she was allowed to play with the blade. It was practically a lifetime ago now.

Instead, she looked between her parents and said, "I look forward to it…I love you both…"

Snow and David both smiled at her and she forced herself to turn back to Neal and Graham.

Poseidon was obviously bored by the interaction while the demon appeared to be touched. He'd heard enough about the monarchs to know how much this meant to Emma.

However, Emma was determined to think about how she'd just got the acceptance that she wasn't the helpless princess that they'd taught her to be later.

She had way bigger issues right now, so she turned to demon and the god.

It was time to return to Tartarus.

"Regina was the one who truly defeated mother, she was the one who father raised for years to save us, but when it came time for father to pass down titles, he trusted Zelena to tell Regina that she would be Zeus. Of course Zelena took the opportunity to avoid an eternity in the Underworld."

Dawn nodded along while she stared at the burning hearth in from of her.

The revelation that she was actually rightfully the daughter of Zeus should have changed everything that she knew about her mother and even herself. But she wasn't really sure how she felt about it all.

In all honesty, she hardly knew anything about Regina's life before she was born, sure there was the odd tid-bit about someone she had met or known, but she'd certainly never spoken about her grandparents or the war that brought down Kronos.

She'd never considered the idea that it was possible that there was some deep familial secrets beyond the past relationship between Persephone and Hades.

"So…is this why Zelena is so…insane…?" Dawn asked taking one of the rocks from the hearth in her hand, it wasn't burning hot but it was helpful for warming her up a little.

"Zelena has always been a little insane, being Zeus only made it worse," Hecate announced from behind her.

Dawn didn't turn around, she was still slightly angered by the sorceress's face. She was the reason that she was here, after all.

"And you've been here all this time?" Dawn asked.

Hestia nodded, poking a stick at the burning hearth and replied, "Zelena was all too happy to give my seat to that drunkard."

"Dionysus?" Dawn asked.

Marian huffed but didn't deny Dawn's answer.

"But how would you know that?" the demi-goddess asked.

"The hearth is more than just a fire, it was once the centre of the home," Hestia replied and waved her hand over the flames to reveal the image of a maid stirring a pot of what appeared to be soup with another woman chopping vegetables next to her.

Dawn's eyebrows shot up when she realised she recognised these women, they had both served her during her stay at the White Palace.

"Did you know that Princess Emma was married?"

"I had no idea, but the queen seems to despise this woman whoever she is. It looks like it will be a long meal. This will be a long dinner for all of them…"

The image disappeared and Hestia let out a heavy sigh, "of course, you are the first mortal to know that I exist so the hearth is hardly the place of domestic worship your grandfather intended it to be. My abilities have become quite limited in this cell just as Zelena wanted. I suppose the rest of my family believed I disappeared as father did. I was hardly ever one to seek out their company while I had my freedom. Perhaps things would have gone differently if I'd had at least one ally?" Hestia explained.

Dawn could practically feel Hecate roll her eyes behind her. The resignation was really starting to get annoying. What had Zelena done to the powerful sorceress that Dawn used to look up to?

Instead of focusing on this though, Dawn sat froward and said, "I know now, I can tell my mother the truth and she can take her title back."

Hestia shook her head and Dawn frowned.

"Your aunt made a point of having a hearth burning while she told your mother the truth. She has known for a long time, Dawn. Zelena wanted to show me just how broken Regina had become in my absence, probably hoping to take away my last hope that things would change," Hestia admitted.

"She knew?" Dawn asked, visibly deflating at the revelation, "for how long?"

"Since long before you were born. If she cared, none of us would be locked in here," Hestia replied.

"You've given up?" Dawn asked.

"I've only been in here for a handful of days and it is already worse than Tartarus, do you really blame her for giving up?" Mal interjected.

Marian turned her eyes down to the flames and poked at them again.

Shame was written all over the action.

"But things can change now," Dawn insisted.

"The people Regina loves most in the world are mortal, do you really think she will care what Zelena is planning when you both die?" Hecate asked.

Dawn finally looked at her with narrowed eyes hoping that her expression said 'stop helping' but before she could think of something vaguely encouraging to say to Hestia, they were interrupted by the sound of the gate sliding open.

Three sets of eyes shot to Ares who strode in and easily pulled Dawn to her feet rather roughly.

The demi-goddess looked between Hecate and Hestia but neither immortal moved to help her, there was a little twitch in Marian's jaw, but that was hardly helpful while the god of war was holding her so tightly.

"Good news," James announced, "Zeus is a woman of her word so you're free to go."

The glee in his voice certainly suggested that Zelena had done something nefarious, but she knew there was no point in questioning Ares. She just clutched the piece of hearth more tightly in her hand.

She made a conscious effort to say nothing no matter how much she wanted to. If this was before she'd seen Mulan, she definitely would have some choice words for the god.

Right now, she needed to focus on getting to her mother.

The plan was to berate her for never mentioning the earth shattering secret and then move on to find out what her aunt had done to Emma (and hope that it wasn't too late for a rescue).

It was for this reason that she allowed Ares to push her over the threshold of the cell, dropping the now cool rock at what she hoped was the right moment.

Ares didn't seem to notice though as he continued to push her forward.

For the first time, Dawn realised that there must have been something blocking her magic in that cell since she felt it all flooding back at the same time.

However, before she could think about using it, she felt something plunge straight into her gut.

She stumbled backwards, vaguely recognising that both Hecate and Hestia were on their feet inside the cell.

"Zelena said I had to release you, she didn't say anything about unharmed," Ares explained, looking a little bored now that he'd finally done what he'd been thinking of doing..

"But…why?" Dawn asked, hissing a little when her hand came into contact with the hilt of the dagger that was currently in her gut.

Ares shrugged and said, "I did not enjoy being humiliated by a princess in the tournament and I believe you played a part in that."

Dawn didn't have a chance to mention that it was ridiculous since he'd still won, because red smoke appeared to return her to the Underworld.

Chapter Text

Chapter twenty-seven

The smoke cleared from Regina's vision.

After some initial disorientation, she managed to lift her head to survey her surroundings as wind whipped at her face while she turned it from side to side from one set of ruins to another.

In spite of the seething anger running through her very being, she still managed to feel confusion.

Finally, she moved her gaze to the person who brought her here, to this…mountaintop? The air was certainly thin enough.

Zelena stood a few feet ahead of her, obviously in the process of regaining her footing after stumbling over an outcropping, but, under Regina's gaze, she smoothed out her top and drew herself up with a small cough to clear her throat.

Regina narrowed her eyes at the other goddess but she looked past the pathetic sight.

A particular set of ruins had caught her attention and she was now sure that she knew where they were.

In the centre of the remnants of stone stood a throne that was once ornate as it was platinum. After innumerable years, its surface had finally given into tarnish, but it was still all too familiar, most likely because of the portion of the back that had been sliced clean off.

Regina remembered the exact scythe swing that caused it because it had narrowly missed her head.

Her eyes slowly moved over what was left of the throne room and looked at her sister, "really, Zelena? You brought us to Mount Othrys."

Zeus appeared to be trying her hardest to smirk but it just wasn't the same as the million other punch-able expressions Regina had seen on that face. How was it that she was the one struggling here when she had literally tried to kidnap her wife, taken her daughter's immortality and then threatened her life and was now forcing her to relive the battle with the Titans?

"I thought…it would be appropriate. You can live the rest of time at the site of your 'great victory'," Zelena said, this time managing a sneer.

Regina took a step forward and shouted, "you're insane, Zelena! How many times do I have to tell you that I don't care about your ridiculous title?!"

Zelena took a step back but held up her hand and said, "ah, ah, Gina, don't forget that your daughter's life depends upon your compliance."

Regina had to pry her fingers away from her palm to unclench her fists and took a couple deep breaths which did nothing to actually calm her down.

It said a lot about her sister that she was wishing that she was still enduring the most awkward meal of her life right now.

At least she would be holding Emma's hand rather than bickering with her crazy sister in the ruins of their mother's palace.

She felt static dancing around her fingertips, begging to be released.

But instead of allowing the electricity to do what it wanted, she tried the verbal tact again, "I do not want to be Zeus, what do I have to do to convince you that I am telling the truth?!"

"You did want it once and you could change your mind at any time. How do you expect me to rest easy knowing that you and your newly immortal princess are plotting my downfall? I cannot live in your wretched Underworld!"

Regina's nostrils flared, but it wasn't because Zelena had insulted her home.

She was perhaps the most qualified person in existence to understand Zelena's fear of becoming Hades. Her months of happiness with Emma didn't erase thousands of years of misery.

That was where her sympathy ended though.

If there was some hypothetical universe where Zelena had someone she actually cared about, Regina would have never dreamed of threatening their safety.

No, the reason that her nostrils flared was because Zelena had brought up Emma, so naturally actual lightening cracked around her hands and she tried her best to centre herself. If Zelena didn't have her newly mortal daughter in custody then Regina definitely wouldn't have tried to hold herself back anymore.

"Do you have any real plan, Zelena?" Regina asked and there was actual pain in her voice from having to hold back the electricity trying to escape her.

Zelena swallowed hard and looked over her shoulder, her eyes frantically shifted around from each pile of rubble.

Her mind hadn't gotten passed 'Mount Othrys' when she summoned the smoke to transport them away from the White Palace and Regina had to physically bite her tongue during this hesitation.

The only thing that she could think to say involved the word 'insane' and that clearly wouldn't help.

Finally, Zelena seemed to make up her mind as she clicked her fingers and golden chains fell down either side of the arms of the throne, now fused with the platinum.

Zelena then turned to grin at her sister, seemingly regaining her confidence, but Regina still looked back, wholly unimpressed.

"Am I supposed to know what that means?" Regina asked and gestured towards the throne.

"Just go and take a seat, Gina," Zelena replied.

Regina shook her head and said, "I won't do anything until I know that Dawn is safe."

Zelena clenched her jaw, considering whether she had any leverage right now, she couldn't just kill Dawn now without Regina being free to release lightening at her and that was certainly not what she wanted.

While still staring at Regina, she clicked her fingers again and this time, a man appeared between the sisters.

His head whipped between them, but he managed to say, "Zeus…how can I be of service?"

Hermes (or August) was definitely suspicious but he had no earthly idea what Zeus and Hades would be doing on this mountain. It didn't matter anyway, if his past experiences had taught him anything, it was better to just deliver whatever message the queen of the Olympians had in mind without asking any of the million questions running through his head.

"Send word to Ares immediately to release the prisoner," Zelena said, still not taking her eyes away from Regina.

"The prisoner?" Hermes repeated and shrank a little when Regina turned to look at him.

"He will know what I mean, now go!" Zelena said through gritted teeth, why was it that every god was also intimidated by Regina?!

Hermes bowed his head and disappeared a moment later so Zelena gestured towards the throne, though her teeth were still gritted as Hades took a step towards it.

With each movement, Regina imagined throwing Zelena off the mountain and then bringing Ares up here to do the same.

However, halfway across, Zelena called, "wait!" so Regina turned with pursed lips and just waited for her sister to spout her next crazy thought.

Zelena stepped towards Regina, her smirk definitely growing as she waved her hand towards her.

Regina rolled her eyes as smoke billowed around her own body and she looked down when it was all gone.

Regina wasn't sure what she was expecting, but Zelena changing her clothes wasn't at the top of the list.

But it all made sense when she realised that the golden surface of the plate armour was familiar for the same reason that her mother's throne was.

In fact, the day she'd last seen that throne was also the last time that she had worn this attire.

Fur covered her shoulders with a golden cape falling down her back.

For further confirmation that this was what she thought it was, her hand came up to run across the intricately designed headpiece covering her forehead.

It bore the symbol that now belonged to Zelena: an eagle.

Admittedly, it was all a little over the top, even at the time, but the cyclopes had assured her that it was necessary for defeating the titans.

Looking back, she was pretty sure that it was just because they thought it looked cool.

The only thing that was missing was the sword.

Regina's hand fell away from the head piece and didn't bother to say anything, she was sure that it made sense to Zelena.

Maybe it would be satisfying for her to see the 'would-be' Zeus taken down in her armour? Of course, Zelena probably couldn't imagine that Regina had not once thought about this armour since the day she'd worn it. She'd had more important things on her mind.

Saying any of this wouldn't make a difference, so Hades just continued towards the throne and as she got closer, she recognised the workmanship on the chains as that of Hephaestus, though she did wonder whether Marco was aware of what it was that Zeus was using them for. Would he have even asked?

Then again, would he even care if he did know? Would any of the Olympians care?

She decided that the answer to these questions didn't really matter anymore and just fell onto the throne and looked at Zelena expectantly.

Zelena sauntered across the ruins and picked up the chains to clasp them around each of Regina's wrists.

Judging by how infuriatingly slow she was going, she had to be enjoying it way too much.

"So this is your plan? To leave me chained here?" Regina asked.

Zelena's smile fell for a moment.

It occurred to her that Regina would only have incentive to not find a way out of the chains for the length of Dawn's lifespan.

The smile came back a moment later though, when she told herself that she had at least a handful of decades to figure that out, she had something else that she could focus on right now.

"It's only part of the plan," Zelena announced and pushed herself away from the throne, "you remember Prometheus?"

"You mean the only titan who helped us?" Regina asked, the accusation in her voice made it very clear that she knew exactly what his fate was.

Zelena glanced over her shoulder to see that the sun's position confirmed that Prometheus was probably just finishing up his agonised screams while the vulture flew away.

"He defied me," Zelena replied.

"Because he gave mortals the fire they needed to survive? How terrible of him," Regina replied.

Zelena bit her bottom lip hard, she didn't have to justify to Regina why it was that she had decreed that the humans didn't deserve fire, the reason shouldn't have mattered anyway, Prometheus should have done as he was told!

"That is beside the point," Zelena said lowly.

Regina lifted her arms so that the chains went taut for emphasis and she asked, "you actually have a point?"

Zelena let out a huff of laughter and stepped aside as the creature she summoned appeared across the way.

The moment Regina's saw the eagle, she rolled her eyes.

Zelena really did love her symbolism, didn't she?

"So what? The eagle is going to eat my liver once a day because I…What?"

"Because you…" Zelena began but trailed off when she couldn't think of exactly which words would best verbalise what Regina had done to her. Finally, she decided that she knew what she did and was just acting unimpressed to hide her fear of the agony she was about to endure, so Zelena just said, "not your liver, your heart."

Regina actually sat up straighter and swallowed hard as she finally registered that the eagle's beck was reinforced, presumably to get through the armour.

Zelena savoured the image before she said, "I do hope you enjoy your…stay, Gina."

With that. Zeus summoned smoke to take her to Olympus and when it cleared, the eagle screeched and took flight.

Emma really thought that Tartarus would be a little easier the second time around, but it felt way worse than last time.

She wasn't really sure if it was because the air felt heavier the deeper she went or because Regina wasn't with her.

Poseidon was trailing behind her a few steps, which was comforting insofar as it meant that she wasn't completely alone, but it didn't really go much further than that.

As much as she understood why Graham was unable to enter these depths of the Underworld, she was still pretty sure that she would have found his presence more reassuring than her stoic brother-in-law. He probably would have said at least a word to her in the last half an hour, which would have been preferable to facing all of the disturbing images that Tartarus had to offer in silence.

Each gate revealed another damned soul.

If her books were correct, the man cursing at a boulder was King Sisyphus, the one desperately reaching for a plate of steak had to be Tantalus, the man with scars on his back was Arke. It went on and on like this for what felt like an eternity and recognising what got them here didn't exactly help Emma.

Luckily, the prisoners' shock at seeing Poseidon seemed to be enough to stop them from launching any escape plans in the time that it took them to get to the next gate.

Given the chance, each and everyone of these souls would certainly jump at the chance to attack the wife of Hades, but immortality was doing wonders for the fear that she'd only recently started to really understand.

It was a little invigorating actually, in spite of her current situation.

There were truly no limits anymore to what she could explore.

Well, unless you counted an insane sister-in-law who had taken the woman she loved captive as a limit?

Emma was trying very hard to convince herself that the situation was simple.

Talk to Kronos and find out how to save Regina and then save Regina.

Of course, it was only simple if she assumed that the stories about the queen of the Titans were as exaggerated as those about Hades. What were the chances that Zelena spent thousands of years vilifying her sister and her mother?

It was a flimsy hope, admittedly, but it was all she had as she walked through Tartarus with only a sword and an annoyingly broody god of the sea behind her.

The only way that she managed to hold onto this flimsy hope was by periodically imagining Regina's exasperation at her brother if she were here.

Finally, another gate closed behind them and Emma's steps faltered as her eyes fell upon one that was more colossal than the rest.

It hardly suggested that what was behind it had been unfairly imprisoned.

It was taller, darker, stronger and just...creepier, but Emma still had no doubt that she had to go through it.

Her green eye slid over to see that Neal was standing next to her for the first time during this journey and he clutched the trident more tightly as his eyes ran over the gate.

The pair remained in silence for a few moments (moments that seemed longer in Tartarus) before Posedian seemed to make a decision and tore his eyes away from the gate and he said, "this is where Zelena will send me when she finds out I helped you."

Emma's gaze was now fully torn away from the gate holding back Mother Time and she rounded on her brother-in-law, incredulity oozing through her stare.

He probably wanted some reassurance that she wouldn't allow anything to happen to him, some hope speech that they would get Regina back and everything would be how it was supposed to be.

Instead, she just launched into the rant that had been brewing since the day she visited Olympus and it turned into a huge disappointment after years of dreaming about it.

"I used to spend my time reading and a lot of it was about gods and heroes, but you people are nothing like those stories! The Olympians are more petty and more underhanded than in all of the myths! Regina is the only one who isn't a disappointment, the rest of you are putting mortals at risk over the sake of a title, Henry was right about all of you!"

Neal was about to cross his arms and refute her words (and mention that it was unfair to bring his father into this) but he deflated when he realised that she hadn't actually said anything that he disagreed with.

Very reluctantly, he admitted, "you're right. You know...I never hated Regina. During the war, we were actually close...well closer than we are now at least. My point is that I was as shocked as everyone when she was assigned Hades, but I assumed that father had a plan. If I had known the truth…"

Neal trailed off and gave himself a moment to think about how much easier it would have been to stop Zelena at the beginning.

How different things would have been, if nothing else, it probably would have been fairer.

Finally, he decided that it didn't matter what he would have done, and he said, "my point is that it was wrong to shun Regina just because Zelena orchestrated it. Just because she was so insecure about keeping her title…"

Emma sighed, this sounded like the petty stuff she was talking about, but if he wanted reassurance, then she figured that she could give him something if it would move this along, so she replied, "'re here now, that counts for...something…"

With that, the princess turned away from the god and began walking towards the gate, but when she didn't hear any movements behind her, she spun around to see Neal was still rooted in place.

With an exasperated sigh, Emma asked, "What are you doing?"

"I can't go with you, you will need to speak with Kronos alone," Neal replied, refusing to make eye contact with her.

"Are you afraid of your mother?" Emma asked just a little mockingly.

She expected some excuse, like that he should stand guard in this empty area for her protection, but instead Neal looked straight at her and replied, "Yes Emma, I am afraid of my mother."

Emma would have laughed at him if his response wasn't such a bad sign for what she was about to do.

She gritted her teeth and said, "fine, just wait here."

Neal didn't protest and placed his trident into the ground and watched the princess grip her father's sword as she walked towards the door holding back Kronos.

Graham swung Durendal back and forth as he paced up and down the entrance to Tartarus.

Emma had understood why he couldn't go in but he was still frustrated with himself.

All he wanted to do was help to get Dawn (and now Regina) back safely so that things could go back to how he was suspecting that they were always supposed to be.

The major wrinkle though was Dawn being mortal.

It incited a whole new level of anxiety in the demon.

Of course, Regina's daughter had been mortal before, it wasn't actually that long ago really, but things were so much different back then.

That was back when he could say that he'd never left the Underworld, back when he spent his days terrified that Regina would be in a bad mood (he remembered vividly been more scared than ever when Hades had found out that Dawn was competing in the tournament).

But it was also before Graham realised how he felt about the demi-goddess, how much he enjoyed being in her presence, how comfortable she made him.

It wasn't that he would have been unaffected if Dawn had died at that point, it was more just that it was something that he had known would happen eventually. Perhaps that was why he had been less willing to act on his feelings at that point? Obviously other than the crippling anxiety at the idea of Regina finding out that he had been interested in her daughter since she had turned 20 (something he would gladly face right now if it meant that he could have Dawn back right now).

He's eyes moved up to the cavernous 'sky' of the Underworld and he let out a frustrated breath before he sheathed Durendal and decided that waiting here was doing him no good. Surely it would take time to get to the centre of Tartarus and convince Kronos to tell them what they should do?

There had to be something that he could do in the meantime that would be useful!

Given that their goal was to save Regina and Dawn and they had no idea where they were, nothing came to mind for what he could be doing now, in fact, he could only think of a single task that actually needed to be done.

The training area had been left a mess when he ran to find the seeds in the palace with equipment left there and the arrow he had shot at Zeus was certainly still on the ground. It definitely wasn't important, but he figured that it would be nice for Dawn to come back and find it clear.

At the very least, it would keep his hands busy while he waited and then he could perhaps try a few practice swings with Durendal. Granted, he was still hoping that he wouldn't need the sword at all.

He was barely aware of his route as he walked away from the entrance to Tartarus and strode towards the palace of Hades.

The dark structure loomed over him and his steps stopped in the courtyard so that he could survey the area.

He hadn't really registered how messy it was before he ran away the last time that he was here, but there were various bows strewn on the floor and the targets still had all of the demonstrative arrows that Dawn shot at them embedded into the straw, but it wasn't these arrows that caught his attention and made every muscle in his body tense.

He crossed the distance and reached down to pick up the fallen projectile that lay apart from everything else.

As he held its tip up to his eyes, he tried to figure out how he should feel about it.

His default was that he should be scared. Scared that he had given Zelena a reason to remember who he was, it made it far more likely that the ruler of the Olympians could just randomly decide that she wanted to hurt him. Could she find a way to also remove a demon's immortality?

But that wasn't the first thing that came to mind.

All he could imagine was what position they would be in right now if he actually managed to hurt Zelena with the arrow.

Would it have been enough to get away and warn Regina?

Without Dawn in her custody and with the revelation that Emma was now immortal, surely Regina could have used the opportunity to end Zelena's baseless tirade?

But even if she hadn't caught the arrow and it had pierced her skin, surely she would have still taken Dawn to Olympus, with the only difference being that she would have been less amused by his attempt to stop her?

The thought that there was literally nothing that he could have done was perhaps more terrifying than any fear that he had experienced in the past. All of the anxiety he had felt before now had been all theoretical but this all felt all too real. For the first time, the resolution of this was going to have a tangible effect on the rest of his existence.

He blew out a breath through his nose and turned to return to the bows, the arrow could go back into the quiver so that he could make sure that everything was clear before they got Dawn back.

However, before he could take a step forward, he heard a small hiss and whipped around with the arrow held over his head. It probably wasn't the most intimidating look in the world, but at least he had a weapon in his hand. His grip around the wood loosened though the moment he saw who had made that sound.

As the arrow fell back to the ground, red smoke just finished disappearing around Dawn who was currently laying on her back, clutching her abdomen.

He slid onto his knees next to her with widened eyes and instantly placed his hand under her neck to support her and also to pull her into him while his other hand hovered over hers. He took in deep breaths when he registered that her hand was failing to hold back gushing blood.

The blood looked a little tinged with something he couldn't quite identify but his mind refused to try and figure it out as he turned back to look at her face.

Her eyes were heavily lidded, but she was definitely looking at him.

"What happened?" he whispered shakily.

Dawn opened her mouth to reply but nothing came out and she finally gave into whatever was pulling her towards unconsciousness.

Her head lolled but Graham held it up before he slid his other hand under her knees and lifted her from the ground.

"You're going to be fine," he said next to her ear.

He had no idea if it was true, but he knew that he didn't know what he would do if he was wrong.

A.N. reviews are very much appreciated XD