Once upon a time there was a Swan. That Swan had been abandoned by her flock and was doomed to fly lost and alone for many years. One day that Swan found herself flying above a grand castle. The Swan was intrigued, for the castle was made of dark stone instead of the traditional light materials that other castles used.
The Swan flew closer to the castle and spotted a massive, meticulously tended garden. The Swan landed in the garden and quickly noticed she was not alone. A small woman wearing all black, and items around her neck that caught the sun and sparkled, sat on the bench unaware of her presence. The Swan simply stared at the women, having never been this close to a human before. The new sensation was thrilling, though the Swan grew more and more curious about this human. The Swan watched the woman stare sadly at an apple tree for what seemed like an eternity before the woman stood up and abruptly turned around finally seeing the Swan.
The woman's eyes narrowed and her voice sprang from her throat rather hoarsely, “what have we here?”
The Swan honked involuntarily and the noise startled not only the woman but also the Swan. Feeling afraid of the noise, that she herself made, she flew away.
The Swan flew and flew until her breath grew heavy, she decided to land in the first pond she came across. After landing, she took several moments to drink from the cool water, and to reflect on the events with the woman. The Swan tried to figure out why her body had made the noise and why she didn't actually feel any fear from the woman. She decided she would need to return and investigate this human further.
After several days of trying to remember where exactly the castle was the Swan flew over the castle and laughed a squeaky Swan laugh. Finally.
The Swan touched down in the garden and looked around for the woman, but she was nowhere to be found. The Swan decided to look around the rest of the garden and see if she could find other people. Perhaps the other people would also be as fascinating.
The Swan walked all around the main garden and out towards the main gates. Her webbed feet making little noise in the pristine grass. As she came across an older lady with grey hair and circles made of see-through glass on her nose she slowed her movements. Before she could even think to move the older woman looked at her and then looked away, going back to the task of gathering berries that she was currently undertaking.
The Swan quickly thought about the woman in the garden. Why couldn't her mind let the woman go, why did she feel the need to seek out this stranger and observe her more. The Swan decided to head another direction, away from the old lady and towards the sound of gruff yelling.
The Swan slowly approached a gathering of people. From her vantage point close to the ground she could see through the legs of the crowd, straight into a pit where two men with shiny sticks were hitting each other. The Swan did not understand this behaviour, and began to look at the faces of the people that were watching. She noticed many that seemed angry and sad. There were few that seemed to be exuding happiness and were yelling things loudly.
As she continued to look at the people one face caught her eyes, the woman. She sat in a chair in the middle above the pit, looking down upon everyone else. Her eyes seemed focused on the men hitting each other, but they also showed something else to the Swan, a feeling she knew well. Loneliness. The Swan thought perhaps that was why the woman would not leave her mind.
The Swan watched as the woman's eyes looked up and scanned the crowd. The woman’s eyes darted around several times before she stood up and pushed away a man wearing an outfit made of silver. The woman made her way down the platform and out of the Swan’s sight. The Swan let out a small noise and walked away from the scene.
Upon coming to a clearing the Swan took off in flight, circling around the castle before returning to the garden with the tree, she curled into herself and fell asleep. The Swan dreamt of the woman.
A few hours later the Swan was awoken by the sounds of someone entering the garden. The Swan stood very still until she saw that it was the woman.
“Hello again Swan.” the woman said as she approached the tree.
The Swan was able to control herself this time and made no noise, merely bowing her head in greeting.
“Such manners on a bird, if only I could teach the villagers to show me such respect.” the woman's tone was something unfamiliar to the Swan, almost like she was resigned in her words.
Slowly the woman sat down on the bench and plucked an apple from the nearby tree. The woman took out a small sharp stick and cut into the flesh of the apple. She took a bit and held it out to the Swan before tossing it gently on the ground in front of the Swan.
With nothing but bravery the Swan picked up the slice of apple and ate it. Enjoying it, but also still watching the woman. She saw that the woman was wearing different clothing today, but it was still of the same colour. The woman wore feathers around her neck and the Swan wondered what kind of bird it was that earned the privilege to ruffle against the soft olive skin of the woman.
After several more chunks of apples the woman was called away by the men in the shiny suits. The Swan watched the woman turn and look back at her as she left the garden, her eyes lacked the distinctive look of sadness that the Swan had seen before. She also thought about the time they spent together, sitting in silence eating apples and discovered she felt more connected to this human than to anyone else of any species she had ever met. The Swan wasn't exactly sure how she would do it, she was a Swan after all, but she knew it now had to be her mission to help the woman not feel lonely.
The Swan made herself at home in the woman's garden, finding a small pond not far from the tree. She tried to stay near the tree as much as possible as to not miss when the woman came to visit. The woman came to the garden every day, and every day they sat and ate apples together, the woman slowly starting to talk more to the Swan about things. The Swan tried her best to show that she was an attentive participant in the conversation without being able to talk, she worked on her honking when the woman was not around and began to develop volume control of her noise. The woman gasped the first time the Swan quietly honked as she lowered her head during the conversation. The woman's lips curling slightly into a smile. The Swan caught the change and her heart sped up. The Swan tried to get physically closer to the woman as their days together multiplied until one day the Swan sat right next to the woman, and as they talked the woman touched the Swan. The sparks from that initial touch invaded the Swan’s dreams for days.
One day, the Swan woke to the sun and wandered to the tree. She saw the woman already at the garden, she had water leaking down her face and seemed upset. The Swan felt her heart constrict, seeing the woman in pain hurt her as well. She felt almost like she was being pulled as she walked towards the woman. She walked straight up to the woman and nudged the woman's arm with her head. The woman jumped slightly but when she saw that it was the Swan she visibly relaxed, her hand coming out to meet the Swan’s head.
“My only friend is a Swan, my mother would be proud.” the woman was almost laughing as the water leaked down her face. The motion of petting the Swan seemed to help calm and relax her, and after a while the tears stopped and the woman seemed to hurt just a bit less. The woman eventually tired of petting the Swan and just let her hand rest on the Swan’s head, the Swan nuzzled into the woman's hand and side.
The Swan found herself nuzzled into the woman many times over the next several weeks, seeking to comfort the woman every time she was near. The woman seemed to look not quite so lonely lately, and the Swan definitely felt pride and took credit for that fact.
As the months stretched on and the air grew chillier the Swan worried about the coming cold, she knew she would have to leave the garden and find a warmer place. Fortunately for the Swan the woman seemed to know the cold was coming, and when the Swan travelled to the tree one day the woman greeted her excitedly and waved her hands in the air, making the air around the garden significantly warmer. The Swan’s heart beat so hard and so loud at that moment she wondered if it would burst through her chest. She could do nothing but think of the woman. She wished that she was human, so that she might be able to fully express her feelings for the woman, but alas, she was just a swan.
As they sat in the warm space enjoying each other's company one afternoon their connection was burst by men in the shiny suits appearing near the entrance of the garden. The woman seemed angry and the Swan could feel the power emanating from her. The men started towards the woman with their pointy sticks, but the woman was able to fight them off, until several more showed up to help. The men had the woman cornered when the Swan flew out from behind the woman and attacked the men. The men were so taken back by the shock of the attack that several of them lay bleeding on the floor before they knew what was happening. The rest of the men decided to retreat knowing the combination of the woman and the Swan was too strong.
The woman looked at the Swan, her Saviour, with a look that the Swan had never seen before but could only call love. The woman hugged the Swan and moved to kiss the top of the Swan's head. The moment her lips touched the Swan a wave of light pulsed out and she pulled back. The woman looked down to see that wrapped in her arms was not a bird, but a woman with flowing blonde curls who was not wearing a stitch of clothing.
The blonde gazed up adoringly at the woman, the only word that could come from her mouth, a very timid, “Hi”.
The woman looked down at the adorable sight and couldn't help but feel her lips curl into a smile as she spoke, “You realise what this means right, Miss...?” her eyebrow arched as the last word became a question.
“Swan. It's, um, Emma Swan. And I'm not exactly sure what just happened.” the former Swan said with an underlying voice of amusement.
“Miss Swan. It appears as though you were cursed by someone with a very devious sense of humour, and it seems that we have broken that curse.” the woman smirked her way through the sentence, keeping her eyes glued to the blonde’s.
“I thought the only way to break a curse was..” her voice trailed off and her eyes went wide as she realised what the situation meant.
The woman simply turned a corner of her mouth up in response to the statement.
“I still don't know your name.” Emma said as she grinned.
“Regina.” the woman, nay, Regina said.
“Regina” Emma whispered as she pulled Regina towards her and kissed her passionately.
“And they lived happily ever after.” Emma sighed as she closed the book and placed it on the table. She looked at the sleeping baby in her arms and smiled. Ever so gently she stood up and placed the tiny infant into her crib. Her eyes then looked up and found Regina standing in the doorway looking at her with nothing but love.
“How many times will our daughter have to hear that story?” the amusement in her voice shining through.
Emma chuckled as she ushered Regina into the hallway and closed the door to the nursery. She turned and kissed Regina, wrapping her arms around her lower back. “You can read her the story next time if you want”.
Regina rolled her eyes and smiled as she kissed her Swan, leading them into their bedroom.