Chapter 4: For Forever

How he managed to still be up at dawn after the late night, James wasn't sure, but he was. He hoped that Hannah would be in a kindly mood to let him eat breakfast in the kitchen, since he had no desire to wait the still several hours until the rest of the nobles were awake and served breakfast.

When he turned down the hall for the staircase he saw a very familiar form ahead; he quickened his steps.

She heard him and turned around.

"Princess," he greeted as he reached her.

"Charming," she returned.

"James," he corrected.

"Charming," she sang back teasingly.

He rolled his eyes at her insistence at calling him that, and didn't bother to try and correct her again. They started down the stairs side-by-side.

"We're quite a pair," she remarked wryly.

He raised an inquiring eyebrow.

"Up ridiculously late two nights in a row, with a third to come, and up by sunrise anyway."

He chuckled softly. "I suppose all the better for me since I might be able to sleep in the carriage on the way home tomorrow."

She frowned. "I'd forgotten that you were leaving tomorrow."

James smirked. "Worried about missing me, Princess?"

She shot him a half-hearted glare. "Actually, looking forward to my life getting back to normal," she informed him tartly.

This had him grinning and shaking his head.

"What about you, Charming? Looking forward to getting back to your life?" She cut her eyes to him.

He shrugged. "It'll be nice to go home; Thomas promised that by the time I returned he would have a new strategy to beat me at chess."

She canted her head to the side curiously. "You play?"

"Mm hmm," he nodded. "It helps me think sometimes."

"Well, we'll have to play some time," she decreed.

He laughed lightly. "So we will be seeing each other again?"

"Perhaps," she smirked.

He held the door to the kitchen open for her, saying mockingly, "'Perhaps'."

She gave a soft laugh.

Hannah looked up from where she was cutting up some fruit; somehow she didn't look surprised to see the prince in her kitchen with her princess. She set a platter of fruit on the table in front of where they were sitting along with a still steaming loaf of bread, honey and two mugs of coffee.

"Put slices of the Queen's honey crisps in there, Princess," she said, nodding to the platter.

James watched as Snow grimaced.

"Thank you Hannah, but I really don't feel like apples." Nor did she look inclined.

The cook spun back toward her, eyes narrowed. "What's this about? You love apples, especially the Queen's."

Snow shrugged, looking rather uncomfortable as she chose a slice of a pear instead. "I don't know. It started a few weeks ago; I just haven't been able to tolerate the thought of eating an apple."

James raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like a rather sudden turnabout."

She wrinkled her nose, looking rather annoyed. "It is." She cleared her expression and looked back at Hannah. "Where's Henry? He's usually here this time of morning."

James had been surprised when he found out how much Snow liked Lord Henry, given how much she detested her stepmother. Once he met the man, though, he had easily understood her affection for him; he was a good, kind soul who loved both his daughter and step-granddaughter.

The cook pursed her lips, busying herself with preparing breakfast. "I believe he's down in the village."

Comprehension dawned on the princess's face; she nodded.

The prince, meanwhile, felt like he was missing something; he turned to Snow to ask, but she was shaking her head and giving him a "not now" look. He kept his mouth shut but returned her look with one of "later, then?" She grimaced but nodded.

"You two off to the village?" Hannah inquired.

"Snow said that we're attending the final celebration for the spring festival tonight," James informed her.

Hannah raised her eyebrows in slight surprise. "Really? Well, you both have fun; it's certainly a night for the young."

James cocked an eyebrow at the princess who just gave him a secretive grin as she took a sip of her coffee.

A blue bird flew in through one of the open windows and landed on the table next to Snow.

"Don't you be letting that creature near my breakfast, Snow White," the cook warned her sternly, shaking a wooden spoon in the direction of the bird.

"Hannah," she said in a pleading tone, "she's been running errands for me."

"It's spring; there are already seeds and nuts fit enough for that thing," she scowled.

"Just a small piece of bread," she wheedled.

The older woman pursed her lips but gave a jerky nod. "Only a very small one."

Snow broke of a tiny piece of bread and fed it to the bright animal; she glanced at the cook who, scowling, nodded in approval before turning to the stove. Once her back was turned the princess broke off a larger piece and placed it in front of the bird, who chirped its thanks, clamped it in her beak and flew off.

Snow looked up to see James smirking at her; she pressed a finger to her lips, begging his silence. He raised an eyebrow challengingly. She narrowed her eyes in return, questioning visible. He smirked, popping a grape into his mouth and holding eye contact with her, deciding to let her stew over what he could possibly want in return for his silence this time.

"So," he began amicably, "you're friends with birds?"

Hannah scoffed, not turning from her work at the stove and saying nothing further.

The princess rolled her eyes at the older woman. "Certain blue birds, yes." She took a bite of a honey glazed slice of bread. "They're very loyal, intelligent creatures," she informed him.

He gave her a half smile. "I'll keep that in mind."


They bid Hannah good bye as they headed out the door. Once they had gotten a respectable distance from the kitchen Charming turned to her and asked the question she knew was coming.

"What was that about Lord Henry?"

She took a deep breath. "It was about the fact that he was in the village…all night," she looked at him meaningfully.

His eyebrows shot up. "I take it he wasn't alone."

Snow shook her head. It was a matter that was kept fairly quiet; the number of people who actually knew was surprisingly few.

Charming looked out ahead of them thoughtfully. "Does your stepmother know?"

"No," she stated firmly; her tone clearly communicating that the woman was to never be made aware of it either. "Myself, Hannah and two, maybe three others know."

"The Queen wouldn't take it well?"

Snow snorted. "Regina never takes anything well."

He cocked an eyebrow, but said nothing to her tone. "I take it from her reaction that Hannah doesn't approve?"

She rolled her eyes. "Hannah thinks it's scandalous. Of course, Hannah thinks a great many things are scandalous." She looked at him drolly. "She's actually quite easily scandalized."

He watched her closely. "You aren't though."

She shook her head, looking down at her hands. "He and the woman have both been widowed for a long time and they are both very discreet. Somehow, years ago, just after I found out, I got up the nerve and actually asked him about it." She still couldn't believe her own gall years later. "He told me that it was a…" she thought for a moment remembering his words, "'habit' that sat well with them both."

He raised an eyebrow. "That doesn't sound like love to me."

"It's not," she confirmed. "They have…affection for each other; are fond of each other. But as he explained love isn't what they are really seeking in their situation. What they want is friendship and companionship; someone when, as he put it, the nights get too long." She gave him a small smile. "He explained it to me that they already had their true loves and nothing will ever take that place, all they seek is someone to occasionally ease the loneliness and who understands how they feel." She maneuvered herself in front of him and turned to face him, coming to a stop and prompting him to do the same. "They are both good people, late in their years; the situation makes them both happy."


James was intrigued by the stubborn set of her jaw and defense of the couple, both of whom obviously mattered a great deal to her. He had no intention of asking who the woman was in the situation, but it was highly likely he could figure it out with little trouble. It was none of his business and he would never divulge any of this, it would damage the reputations of both people, as both he and Snow were aware and she was tacitly begging him not to do either such harm. He looked her in the eye. "I will say nothing to anyone of this."

She let out a breath. "Thank you." She turned back around and they continued on their way.


Ruth stood at the window, watching her son and the princess walking side-by-side toward the village.

George had been grumbling how this trip had been a waste; James hadn't said one word about possibly courting Princess Snow White, who showed absolutely no inclination toward marriage at all. There had been the rumor about the pair that had briefly circulated but it was quickly squashed when the truth was revealed. He complained that James didn't seem to be showing any interest in the princess in the direction of marriage. Ruth remained silent but thoroughly disagreed. With a mother's practiced eye she had been observing her son over the last few days with Snow White. What many had missed was the way that when one smiled, the other immediately followed. James, who most of the time avoided the women of court, sought the princess out and actively engaged her in conversation. Snow White, who had discreetly rejected the company of most courtiers, lit up when the prince approached her. When they spoke they kept a respectable distance, but there was an intimacy between them even in a crowded room.

Ruth watched as James reached out to give Snow White a hand over a low stone wall; the princess hesitated but took it, neither immediately released the contact.

The corners of the queen's lips curled up as another image imposed itself over the pair. A little dark-haired girl in britches skipping along beside a taller boy with wheat colored hair through a field, each bearing a wooden sword, laughing and occasionally turning to mock fight each other.

Ruth smiled a knowing, half smile.


"So don't your father and stepmother expect you to bid the departing nobility good bye?" Charming inquired.

Snow shrugged. "My father doesn't mind much one way or the other. As far as Regina goes," she pursed her lips, "I have a rather strong desire to annoy her today."

The prince found himself laughing, "I thought you didn't want to push your stepmother too far because she'd tear into you again?"

The princess rolled her eyes. "If she does I'll deal with it. It's really little more than an annoyance." She turned her head to look at him. "What about your parents? Don't you worry about what they'll think of you constantly heading off to parts unknown with me?"

He rolled his eyes. "That's actually fairly normal for me back home," he said drolly. "Heading off with little word to them about my plans for the day," he elaborated.

She canted her head to the side. "Doesn't that bother them?"

He ran his thumb over the pommel of his sword. "My mother, no. My father…more than it used to."

Snow frowned slightly and opened her mouth to question him about his answer.

"Prince James! Princess Snow White!"

They both turned at the tiny voice that cried out excitedly.

Marta was running toward them; she latched onto the prince's hand once she reached him. The child was grinning so widely at both of them that it looked like her face would split from it. "I've got a new baby brother!" she told them joyously. "And Momma's ok!" she added with just as much happiness. Her adoring eyes turned solely to Snow, "Just like you promised!"

Snow crouched down, brushing a gentle hand through the girl's tousled curls. "I'm glad that she's doing well. Are you and your brother and sister helping out at home?"

"Uh huh!" she nodded her head vigorously. "Doc said Momma's gonna need our help for a while so we're doing all the chores we can!"

The princess smiled at the child warmly. "I know that you are all a great help to her."


James watched Marta draw herself up proudly at the praise.

The little girl looked between the two royals. "Are you both coming to the party?"

"That's the plan," he assured the child, who began hopping up and down in place, still clinging to his hand.

"Will you play with us, Prince James?" she looked up at him pleadingly.

Snow had stood up and was looking at him with a raised eyebrow, amusement dancing in her eyes. "Well, Charming?" she teasingly challenged him.

He managed to suppress the urge to roll his eyes and smirk; instead he turned and gave the child a warm smile. "I would be most happy to play with you, Marta."

"Yay!" the little girl jumped up and down and began to pull at his hand to drag him off.

"Until later, Charming," Snow called tauntingly.

He looked at her over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow; she smirked back before heading toward Granny's.


"You brought him with you?"

Snow was helping put together flower garlands; most of the preparation for the festivities that night was complete, except for the flowers and other additional decorations. "He was curious about why the village held its final night of the spring festival the night after the equinox so I thought he would like to see it, especially since he's leaving tomorrow."

Red raised her eyebrow at her friend. "If this was simply because he was curious you could have just told him."

"Well, he may never return to our kingdom and this might be his only chance, so why not make it memorable?" she commented lightly, ignoring what her friend was clearly hinting at.

"'Memorable', huh?" Red commented slyly.

Snow squeezed her eyes shut, mentally castigating herself for not choosing her words more carefully with Red, since the younger woman just loved twisting things around any chance she got. She grabbed a handful of flowers and tossed them at the other woman who just laughed, swatting the blossoms away.

"That's not what those are for you know," Red told her in a mock chiding voice.

Snow just picked up another handful and tossed it at her again.

Things just degenerated from there into an all-out flower-throwing-fight, which ended after a few moments when Granny came hobbling up to them scolding them for acting like little children, rather than the women they were, and ruining a large number of the flowers. They were then sent off, like scolded little girls, to pick more flowers.

"It's all your fault," Red teasingly hissed at the princess.

"You know, even though you're taller than me I can still dump you in the river," the princess muttered back, her eyes shining with humor.

"Not without me pulling you in after me!" the younger woman countered.

"We both know I'm faster and more agile than you," Snow returned.

As they headed toward one of the flower-strewn fields still bantering back and forth good naturedly, Snow watched the final preparations going on around the village. One form in particular caught her eye. He'd removed his leather jacket and scabbard, rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt and was helping the men move around benches and tables, apparently taking a break from playing with the children.

Her heart tripped in her chest at the sight of him so relaxed and laughing with some of the other men, who apparently were quickly coming to accept him.

He looked up, seeming to sense her gaze; his eyes locked with hers and the breath was stolen from her lungs at his intent look.

"Oh, yes, definitely only interested in making sure his stay here is 'memorable'."

Snow hit her friend with the basket she was carrying, glaring at the younger woman who was nearly bent over double laughing.


James was having a hard time tearing his eyes from Snow's retreating form.

"I'm told I still give my Michelle that look."

The prince turned his head to look at Daniel, the tailor, who was observing him with a wry smile. Most of the villagers were a great deal more comfortable with him today, Daniel and his family the most of all. The tailor had thanked him over and over for helping with his children, the poor man still felt guilty about falling apart so badly. James reassured him that he'd been happy to help and there was no thanks needed. The prince was pretty sure that it was Daniel and his family's acceptance, along with Snow's, Granny's and Red's that had broken the ice with the rest of the villagers. It wasn't quite like being with his brother, men and friends back home but the men of the village were quickly learning he was like their princess in his attitudes and allowances of informalities.

James gave a short laugh as he sat astride a bench. "I don't know that the princess would appreciate the comparison," he commented wryly.

Daniel sat down on the bench with his back to the table; he took a swig from the skin of water he was holding before offering it to the prince who accepted. "The princess comes to things in her own time," the man stated.

The prince was ever amazed with how familiar these people were with their princess. He'd heard several stories over the afternoon about young Snow growing up, running around with Red, the pair causing trouble everywhere they went, and putting smiles on the faces of everyone as they did so.

James placed the stopper back on the skin before handing it back to the tailor. "She has her dreams and plans, who am I to disrupt them?"

Daniel gave him a quietly knowing smile. "I've heard Granny say, 'The heart has reasons of which reason knows not…'"

The prince gave him a wry smile. "Never was a greater truth spoken."

"Give it time, your majesty," the other man advised. "Just give it time."

James looked in the direction that the princess had gone; regretfully thinking that time wasn't really a luxury that he had.


Snow and Red stopped on their way back at the tailor's house to check on Michelle and the baby.

The room was decorated with flower garlands, and all over the room jars, vases, cups and probably every vessel in the house was filled with bouquets of flowers.

The still tired woman smiled at the flora. "Daniel and the children were pretty insistent on bringing the festival to me since I cannot attend." She turned to them. "I told them that they could go but they said they just want to help out and then spend the evening with me and the baby."

"They love you," Snow stated simply from her position in a chair next to the bed. Red was pouring each of them a cup of tea.

Michelle accepted the cup handed to her. She was blinking rapidly. "I just…"

The two younger women glanced at each other in worry.

"Just what?" Snow prompted gently.

The mother looked up at the pair. "I can't have more children. What if Daniel is so disappointed…" she trailed off as a tear slipped down her cheek.

Red leaned over, covering one of the woman's hands. "Not going to happen," she stated with absolute assuredness. "Daniel loves you so much; always has."

"Michelle," Snow began gently, "when I told him that you and the baby were going to be all right, I have never seen a man so overjoyed and relieved. And even after Doc told him about you not being able to bear children again he didn't care." She swallowed, feeling a longing ache in her chest at what she was about to say, "The way he looks at you…" she shook her head. "If a man ever looked at me like that…"

Red had ducked her head, hiding the sly smile on her face, remembering quite vividly looks a certain prince had been casting the princess's way.

Tears were streaming down Michelle's cheeks as she smiled gratefully at Snow's words. "Thank you," she whispered.

"I speak only the truth," the princess assured her.

Before any of them could say more they heard the door to the house open.

"Michelle!" Daniel's voice carried into the room and grew louder with his approach. "The children made you a gift –" He entered the room and drew up short upon seeing his wife's face; the wide smile immediately converted to intense worry. "Love, what's wrong?" He rushed to her side. "Are you all right? Is it the baby? Should I call Doc?" He fired off the question so quickly that no one could get a word in and was already rising to head out the door, but his wife caught his sleeve.

"I'm fine, love," she assured him as he turned back to her.

He looked at her dubiously; he reached up to her face, gently wiping away the dampness. "You're crying, Michelle."

She brought her hand up to grip his, smiling at him, eyes shining. "I'm just being emotional, beloved. It happens for women, especially so soon after birthing. Remember?" there was a hint of teasing in the last word.

Daniel's lips quirked upward. "I remember," he assured her.

Snow and Red had discreetly risen and begun to clean up the tea.

"What did the children make?" Michelle inquired looking down at his hands.

"Oh!" he looked at the object in one of his hands and held it up for her. "They made you a flower crown," he was grinning brightly again.

Michelle laughed, gently running a finger over the childishly made object, looking at it as if it was a priceless work of art. "How sweet of them."

Her husband lifted it and placed it atop her long brown waves. "Beautiful."

Michelle squeezed his hand. "Thank you." She looked over his shoulder searchingly. "Where are they?"

Humor lit Daniel's expression. "They had to go off to slay a dragon."

"A dragon?" his wife laughingly inquired.

"Yes." His eyes cut to the princess who was at the moment bending over to pick up her basket. "I believe it is known as Prince James."

Snow let out a choked sound and Red's jaw dropped as they both turned to the couple before looking back at each other. They bid a hasty farewell to Daniel and "Feel better soon"s to Michelle before they hurried out of the house.

The two friends made their way quickly through the roads to the central part of town, and there on the green a large group of small children was "battling" Prince Charming, pretending to be a dragon.

Charming was "roar"ing and pretending to swoop over the children who squealed with laughter. Adults watching from the sides were laughing and cheering on the children.

Snow's heart skipped a beat as he "swooped" down and scooped up little Sophie, who shrieked with laughter, clinging to his neck. He declared that he was going to carry her off to "hide her in a cave forever and ever!" To which the little girl cried "No, no, no!" in between laughing and calling to the other children for help. The group decided to all rush him at once, some going for his legs while others pulled at his waist and arm. Charming gave faux cries of dismay as he slowly allowed himself to be pulled to a lagging stop, then to the ground, carefully turning his body so that he landed on his back with Sophie safely sitting on his chest once he was lying down amid the cheering children and applauding adults.

The children were begging for him to play again as he was sitting up; Sophie slid to his lap and sat there grinning up at him sweetly.

"I think your parents are waiting for you all," he nodded to where several of the adults were calling for their children to come home to get ready for the celebration. The children groaned but thanked the prince before running to their respective parents, leaving the three tailor's children, who were sitting around Charming; Mikhail started asking questions about knights, dragons, battles, training and other things; he and his sisters listening avidly to the prince's answers.

Snow watched the scene, her heart racing. He was amazing with children; completely at ease. The man who had fought so skillfully and efficiently against the men on the road, held a child with such care and gentleness. He looked on them with warmth and tenderness, answering their question with patience. She could so easily see him with his own children. A vision flashed for a moment into her mind; a little girl with long blond curls sat on his lap, she had his smile…and Snow's eyes.

Daniel called his children from a couple of yards behind Snow and Red; the little group looked up. Charming immediately noticed the two women; his eyes locked on the princess, going wide with surprise. He hadn't expected to see her right then which in her mind was fair because she hadn't expected to be caught watching him, particularly with the expression that had to be on her face.

His attention was drawn away as the children bid him good bye; Sophie leaned up and pressed a kiss to his cheek which seemed to surprise him momentarily but he quickly was smiling at the child as she thanked him and scampered off after her sister and brother to their father.

Snow was staring down at her feet, slightly embarrassed that he had seen her watching him; she lifted her eyes a little to see him staring at her intently.

"Hmm…" a voice muttered next to her. "He loves and is good – no wait, make that great – with children, and they are drawn to him…now who does that remind me of?"

Snow rolled her eyes and began pushing her best friend in the direction of Granny's. "You read way too many of those romantic novels from Gaspard's library."

The younger woman snickered. "Just keep telling yourself that, Snow."

Snow tried to ignore not only her friend's prodding but a sly little voice in her head that was agreeing with Red. Snow did love children; dreamed of having several of her own, and something she found especially attractive in a man was if he felt the same way about children and was good with them. She glanced over her shoulder to see that Charming had stood and was moving to help with the last of the preparations, but had turned to look at her as well. Her heart tripped in her chest at the look in his eyes.

Oh, boy.


The party was finally getting started as the sun was sinking behind the mountains. Laughter and conversation were flowing freely, along with the food and alcohol. The people with instruments were tuning up and a space had been left open for the dancing that was to soon start.

All day James had been inquiring about the purpose of the party being that night, but all he had been met with were mysterious smiles and taunts of, "You'll see." Even the children had clammed up quick as you please when he asked and just grinned at him broadly.

The smithy handed him a pint, clinking their glasses together in a "cheers". Some of the other men teased him about being "slayed" earlier, which he laughed off. His mind inevitably went to the look he had seen on Snow's face, so unguarded, longing. He thought back to the same longing that had been in her expression as she mentioned dying a spinster and possibly adopting a child. James had seen the way children flocked to Snow; looking up at her with trusting eyes and adoring expressions. He'd seen how she spoke softly to them, her innate goodness and gentleness shining through; they trusted that in her, were drawn to it. She wasn't born to be a spinster, she was a natural mother.

He pushed those thoughts away; it was a dangerous path to tread.

The mish-mash band began playing; he watched as people flooded the dancing area starting right into what he recognized as a common folk dance, laughter frequently rang out over the notes, emphasizing the joyous atmosphere.

The prince sat down astride one of the benches at a table, setting his drink on the surface, watching the dancers whirling around. A small object on the table caught his eye, drawing his attention. A vase of flowers, one of many on the tables, in it was a bouquet of the most common flower decorating the celebration. A tiny flower that was white, save for the very center which was a blood red. He reached out to remove a sprig of the flowers from the vase and confirmed what he had thought he was seeing. The flowers were glowing. They were emitting the smallest amount of light. He glanced around the area to see the same flowers in all the decorations doing the same and the soft glow that was now starting to highlight the surrounding greenery and fields.

"I see you've finally discovered the secret of Lacrimae Lunaris."

He turned at the familiar voice; his heart stuttered in his chest at the sight before him. Snow was still in the same flowing white dress she had been wearing all day, but she had shed her cape and some of the white flowers had been woven into her dark hair. She looked like an angel or a fairy, absolutely breathtaking.

He swallowed thickly, trying to master his reaction to her, and looked down at the flowers in his hand, focusing on them. "My Latin is rusty at best, and more likely closer to abysmal. But if I had to try my hand at a translation I'd say…'tears of the moon'?" He finally looked up, no the effect hadn't been lessened in the slightest, as heat continued to pool in his gut, but at least he felt he could speak to her without making a complete idiot of himself.

She grinned at him sitting down on the bench beside him. "Your Latin is a bit better than you think, Charming. You're entirely right." She nodded to the flowers he was holding. "Those are 'Tears of the Moon'."

He held up the sprig. "I take it these are reason for the celebration being tonight?"

She nodded. "Indeed they are; this is the first day and night that they are in bloom and what most people here consider the true start of the growing season."

He looked at the flora contemplatively. "I don't think I'd call them 'Tears of the Moon'."

"Ah!" she said, holding up a finger. "That's only because you don't know the story behind them," humor threaded her voice.

He canted his head to the side, eyebrows raised. "Well, please, Princess, enlighten me."

She held her head high. "It is the legend of how my kingdom came to exist."


"Mm hmm," she nodded. "A story told to every child here from birth." She drew one leg up under her, shifting so that she was facing him and resettled herself.

James brought his foot from the outside of the bench on top of it, his knee raised. He rested his arm on it and nodded for Snow to continue, indicating that he was listening.

She clasped her hands loosely in her lap. "It is said that the moon goddess had a lover."

"Why is it always gods and goddesses?" he teasingly interrupted.

"Because it just is," she informed him primly. "Now hush."

He grinned at her, nodding.

"He was another god; it is not known which he was but it is said that they were truly and deeply in love." Her eyes cut to his with a warning look; he snapped his mouth audibly shut, his eyes dancing with mirth at being caught before he could make a comment. He enjoyed the hint of amusement that lurked in her eyes. "For reasons not known, a mischievous being – he's usually told to be a spirit, imp or other god – decided to play with the couple's affections. He placed a spell on the god and fooled him into sleeping with another woman. The Moon, not knowing of the spell, was heartbroken upon catching her beloved with the woman; in revenge she slept with a mortal man. Her lover was furious and his ire was increased when she realized she was pregnant."


Her eyes went to him again, waiting for a comment, but instead saw him watching her with a curious look on his face that she couldn't quite read; he nodded for her to continue. "It is said that the wrath of her lover was great and cost many mortal lives. The Moon's own pain made her lash out at him further. The other gods and goddesses were so disturbed by the whole situation that they forced the pair to separate, never to be together again.

"When the time came for the Moon to give birth, she had to come to our world, for her child would be mortal, like the father. She was struggling through the birth under a tree in the forest of an uninhabited land when a gypsy couple came across her. The couple did not know she was a goddess just thought that she was a poor, young woman in need and came to her aid, helping her deliver her baby into the world; a little girl that she named Ever." Snow watched comprehension lighting in his eyes.

"Over the days that it took for the Moon to recover, she got to know the couple who had been so kind to her. They were later in their years but not old enough yet to be grandparents; they had never been able to have children of their own. The Moon knew she could not bring her child with her and that she wouldn't be able to raise the girl, so she begged the couple to take her and raise her as their own. They dearly wanted children but they could see that the young woman they were helping loved her child deeply and they kept refusing, trying to convince her to keep her baby and that they could help her if she needed. Finally the day before the Moon would be able to return to her position they finally accepted guardianship of Ever, promising to love and care for her as their own.

"The next day, with her strength fully restored the Moon revealed herself to them, much to their shock. She then granted them rule over the land they were in, creating for them a kingdom of great beauty and wealth, found in its mountains and soil."

Charming was nodding. "Your mining and farming."

She nodded in return. "Indeed."

He held the blossoms up. "And the flowers?"

She tilted her head to the side. "It is said that they are the tears that the moon shed; white in her joy at the birth of her daughter, but red at the center from her heartrending pain of losing both her child and love. They start blooming on the first day that is longer than night and continue all summer; their presence and glow at night are a reminder of the moon's promise to the first king and queen."

They both watched as he twirled the flower's stem between his fingers.

He looked up at her over the tops of the blossoms, a teasing smile pulling at one corner of his lips. "And you tell your children this story?"

Snow rolled her eyes. "An abridged version," she amended.

He chuckled, and stared down at the flowers thoughtfully, a wistfulness touching his eyes.

She canted her head to the side. "What are you thinking about?"

He shrugged. "Just that my brother wouldn't have enjoyed that story very much," he looked up at her, a wry smile on his face. "No epic battles," he elaborated.

She raised and amused eyebrow. "Prince Thomas prefers battle stories?"

He looked down, a distance entering his eyes that had the amusement dimming in hers. "No, Thomas would have probably enjoyed it as well as he does any such story."

She frowned, confused; she was about to inquire further when she realized that he was going to elaborate but was deciding how to. She closed her mouth and waited, not realizing how well and easily she was reading him.


James took a deep breath. "Did you know I had a twin brother?" He looked up at her to see surprise flash across her face; then she frowned thoughtfully, trying to remember.

"I think…I vaguely recall hearing such a thing…" She frowned harder, obviously scowering her memory; suddenly her eyebrows flew up and her eyes snapped to his comprehension dawning in her eyes. "Three years ago. Word came that the heir of Seaborn had been killed, but it wasn't talked about as much because he had a brother who was able to step in as heir and there was no debate over secession."

James looked down; his mother's wracking sobs, his father's grief-lined face and Thomas's bewildered, pain-filled expression flashed before his mind's eye. "His name was David. We were identical twins; he was elder by twenty minutes." She was watching him with compassion. "We were both trained to fight and rule, but David was the hero and the better fighter." He looked down. "He was Father's favorite." He felt no bitterness over any of these facts. Their father loved him in his own way, but David had been the first born, his heir, and James had believed that things were as they should be. He took a deep breath. "It was a small border skirmish, nothing serious. He thought that the man was dead; the fighting was over…"


Snow watched the pain contort his expression; she reached out and gently laid a hand on top of his, ignoring the warmth that rushed up from her fingers; just trying to convey some comfort to him.

He looked down at her grasp, and then reached for her hand with his other one and turned it over in both of his, studying her palm; tracing the lines. "Mother and Father were devastated; the whole kingdom went into mourning for David, their future king and hero."


James focused on her hand, taking in the details of it; it helped dull the pain a bit while talking about his brother and how his life and Thomas's had been turned upside down in the aftermath. "I was declared the new heir to the Seaborn throne." He ran her fingers between his, marveling at their long delicacy. "I was originally to inherit the throne of a small kingdom that had been annexed to our throne several generations ago, but it now goes to Thomas." He took a deep breath. "I think in some ways this has been hardest for him because he wasn't to inherit at all, and he was happy with that actually. He hadn't wanted to be a king; now he's making up for years of lessons that I sat through and I'm working to learn what is needed to take over after our father."

His hands closed over hers convulsively; her other hand came up to cover both of his. He looked up, meeting her eyes, finding understanding, acceptance. He swallowed hard; words that he had never spoken, to anyone, were straining to break free; some part of him knowing that he wouldn't judge him. He tangled their hands together, fingers impossibly intertwined, needing a physical reassurance that she wasn't going anywhere. He stared down at their hands. "I was angry with David, still am sometimes," he finally admitted hoarsely. "For dying and leaving our family like that. For forcing Thomas and I into things we didn't want." He gathered his courage a looked up at Snow again. No judgment, no disgust, just resounding understanding and pain.


Anger was something Snow could understand. Especially anger at a lost loved one. She looked away, toward the forest. "When…" she broke off, biting her lip. "My mother wasn't able to have more children after me." She looked down at their hands, her thumb began to trace over a scar on his knuckle, one of many that littered his hands from years of training. "After trying many times they decided to be satisfied with just me." She swallowed. "Then when I was seven she became pregnant again…" She looked up at him, a bittersweet smile twisting her lips; he gazed at her watchfully. She looked back down again. "She carried the baby, but it came early and there were many complications." Her voice cracked on the last word; her throat was working and she was blinking hard.

James untangled one of each of their hands, she immediately was missing the contact, to pass to her his glass; she accepted it wordlessly and took a few swallows before setting it down again.

She tucked a long lock behind her ear. "The baby was stillborn and Doc said that my mother could not have any more children."


James sucked in a breath, seeing strong parallels between that birth and the one they had attended only two nights ago. He remembered the raw pain in Snow's eyes as she had looked at him the next morning, pleading for him to make her believe that it would end all right, because obviously it hadn't for her mother. He caught up her free hand which was picking at the fabric of her dress.

She took a bracing breath before continuing. "My mother was in poor health to begin with after the birth; she just…seemed to give up." She turned her hand in his to trace a scar on the back of his hand from a youthful run-in at the smithy. "My father was shattered. I was angry. I didn't understand why she hadn't fought harder; why Father and I weren't enough. And then I felt guilty for being angry at her." Her brow furrowed slightly in memory. "Then one day a woman – I can't remember who she was but I remember her feeling safe and familiar at least – told me that it was all right to be angry, and that it was part of grieving. We just can't hold onto the anger or it would poison the memory of the loved one." Finally Snow looked up at him. "It took time and others helping me accept that anger I carried before I was able to let it go. I still will feel it on a rare occasion, but for the most part I just miss her and smile at the good memories." The corners of her lips curled up.

He released her hands, pulling away. "It's been three years."

One of her hands managed to tighten around his, keeping him from releasing all contact and drawing his gaze back to her. "It takes as long as it takes, and sometimes you'll feel it more than others. I went years without being angry but then I started becoming an adult and I was angry at her again for not being there to help me; that was almost a decade later."

He took a deep breath, letting one corner of his mouth lift. "A decade is a long time."

She smirked at him. "So I'm human," she softly joked.

Thank the gods for that, a small voice whispered in a corner of his mind. He chuckled, looking down at the flower on the table and picking it up in his free hand. He then reached over and tucked it behind her ear. "Hear tell from the children around here, you might well be the Moon Goddess herself," he teased.

And impish grin spread across her face. "Maybe I am. You never know, Charming."

They both were softly laughing; somehow, even when speaking of something so sobering as death, they couldn't seem to stop teasing and joking for too long.

"There you two are!"

They looked up at the boisterous voice that was hurrying toward them. Red eyed them both. "You both look far too serious for being at a party."

"My apologies, Misstress Red. I shall endeavor to be lighthearted and merry," James smirked.

Snow giggled at his teasing of her friend.

The younger woman rolled her eyes at the prince and in that moment he really knew that she had truly accepted him. "Charming…right."

Snow attempted – poorly – to maintain a façade of innocence as James shot her a half-hearted glare.

Red latched on to Snow's hand. "Come on, they're going to be playing the Flacon de Neige."

James raised an eyebrow. "Dare I ask what that is?"

"It's a dance we have here in this kingdom," Snow explained, not yet allowing herself to be pulled off. "It's not something generally done outside of Everland."

"It's really complicated," Red stated; she stopped tugging on her friend's arm. "We all learn it from childhood." A smirk creased her face. "It's not quite like any other dance."

Snow tilted her head to the side. "Would you like to try it?"

He turned his glass on the table. "I'm not the best dancer to begin with; I'll probably get in the way."

The princess nodded and finally allowed Red to pull her off in the direction of the dance area.

It only took a few moments into the dance before James's hand was clenched around his pint and he was gritting his teeth hard enough that he was surprised they didn't crack. "Flacon de Neige" was an obscenely complicated, strange mesh of a court dance and a folk dance with strong romantic tones and scandalous enough that he could hardly imagine how it was even danced in public. The prince had a burning desire to punch Snow's partner, though they weren't touching half and much or getting nearly as close as some other couples.

"You should have accepted looking like a fool for one dance and just partnered with her."

James turned at the voice.

Lord Henry was sitting down beside him. The older man nodded at the dancers. "At least then she wouldn't be constantly looking over here at you and you wouldn't be giving poor young Charles a look that could kill."

The prince looked down, embarrassed at being caught in the throes of jealousy that he had no right to feel. "I would have been in the way of the other dancers."

"And she would have laughed and teased you about it, but at least you would be the one out there with her, letting her attempt to give you a crash course in it rather than sitting over here seething," Henry pointed out. He leaned over confidentially. "Green is not a good look for you, Prince James."

James rubbed the back of his neck. "I have no right to feel that."

The old man waved that off. "Women have a way of spinning you around and turning the world on its head. My Jane did just that to me."

He looked at Henry curiously, eager for a distraction from "young Charles" who was dancing far too close to Snow for his taste. "I have never heard anything of your wife."

Henry smiled at him, a misty gleam in his eyes. "Jane was a beautiful woman; turned heads every time she walked into a room. Had a sharp tongue too," he added ruefully, "which she applied liberally as she saw fit. She had little patience for fools." He gave the prince a self-deprecating smile. "I was no looker, even back then, but one thing I never did was back down from her, and I was no fool. When she was in a temper most people gave her wide berth, but I didn't step away; I just weathered the storm and was there still when she was done." A slightly smug smile crossed his face. "She and I were engaged less than three months after we met." He eyes became distant and sad. "The day I lost her…" he shook his head. "My heart was never whole again and I suppose never will be." A smile spread across his face again. "But the time that we had together…I will never trade that ever."

James sat listening to the man speak of his true love thoughtfully. He looked back to the dancers, his eyes immediately pairing with Snow's, who gave him a look that could only be termed as "come hither" as the song ended. His gut clenched. She kept her eyes on him as she headed off to the side.

Henry chuckled softly. "I believe you're being called."

The prince smirked at the older man, tossed back the last of his drink and stood. "Thank you," he told the man sincerely.

The older man just waved him off. "Go. You're both young, but you don't have forever."

James nodded and followed in the direction she had been going. He caught sight of her through the crowd; her eyes danced with laughter telling him to "come find me" as she ducked between people out of sight.

He grinned.

Let the game begin.


Snow weaved in and out of the other revelers, tables, trees and buildings; dodging the prince. The shot of Happy's homebrew before going out on the dance floor had made her a bit more daring than usual, even for her. But even liquid courage didn't explain her enticing Charming into a covert game of hide-and-go-seek. Her heart was racing as she darted around one of the buildings; she pressed her back against it and looked back around the corner to see if he was following. He was nowhere in sight; relief battled with disappointment. What on earth was she doing? a rational corner of her brain inquired. She squeezed her eyes shut. She was playing with fire; she knew it. But she had always liked playing with fire as a child, and the thrill that she felt at the moment put the one she used to get to shame. Not only was there a heady adrenaline rush, but heat was coursing through her veins. She wanted him to fulfill the promise he made when they first met; she wanted him to find her, even though that would be a very…dangerous thing.

She walked along the building; shaded from the light of the fires, torches and lanterns it was nearly pitch black. She let her hand run along the side of the house so that she would know for sure when she came to the end. Her fingers slipped over the edge of the siding.

She was yanked by her wrist into the alcove of a doorway and pulled against a strong chest. Before she could cry out she was hit by the heady scent of leather, pine and horse that sent her heart pounding.

"I told you I'd find you," he said laughingly into her ear. "You can't hide from me."

Laughter was bubbling out of her as she tried to free herself from his grasp. "Oh, really, Charming?"

He held on to her tighter, chuckling. "Wherever you are, Princess, I will find you."

One of his hands brushed her side and she gave a yelp of laughter; she immediately froze, praying he wouldn't figure out –

He was tickling her sides and she was squirming, pushing at his chest, trying to get away from him; all the while laughing herself breathless.

"Stop!" she cried.

"Oh ho! The princess is ticklish!" he crowed.

She shrieked with laughter, still struggling to get away. "S-stop, please!"

"Not happening, Princess." He was laughing nearly as hard as she was.

"James, stop!" she begged.

He immediately froze.

It took her a heartbeat longer to realize just what she had said. She'd used his name. In the four days they'd known each other she'd never directly called him by his given name. She looked up at him. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness and the moonlight was filtering into the alcove; she could see him gazing intently down at her, and could feel the heat in his stare. Her heart hammered in her chest, her breath coming in gasps. His breath fanned over her face. She backed up to the wall; he met her step for step, and once her back was pressed against the surface he moved even closer so that there was hardly any space between them at all.

He bent his head, their lips inches apart, both panting, his hands caressing her waist.

She had never wanted to kiss a man before. Curiosity at the age of thirteen had claimed her first kiss between her and a friend; they had both agreed that they hoped the real thing between them and their significant other wasn't that awkward.

Her hands were gripping his corded shoulders, hazel eyes darting from his blue ones down to his lips. "This is insane," she whispered.

"It is," he huskily agreed, his head still moving closer.

One of her hands slid up to the back of his neck, urging him closer. "It's going way too fast." She wasn't sure who she was trying to convince.

"Does it matter?" he asked, his lips a hairsbreadth from hers.

She let out a whimper and rose on her toes to close that last bit of space between them.

She had heard people talk about the world being rocked under their feet, but that didn't even cover what she felt at the moment. She had no idea how to describe how she felt; only that she needed him closer.

He groaned and soon removed all distance that had remained between them, one hand sliding around to press against the small of her back to keep her that close, not that she had any intention of moving away.

Her right arm wound around his neck, pulling herself closer still.

His tongue ran across her lips and she gasped at the feeling; then it was in her mouth and…she should have found it disgusting but…that was about the farthest thought or feeling from her mind. She began to return the kiss in kind and he moaned. 'I did that!' she thought wonderingly.


Red's distant voice was like being dashed with ice cold water. They broke apart gasping, still clinging to each other; Snow honestly didn't think her legs would hold her up if she tried to walk at the moment.


"Snow, where are you?"

James swallowed thickly, slowly and reluctantly releasing her, though that was the absolute last thing he wanted to do. It had not been his intention to go so far, though exactly what he had intended he wasn't sure. She wavered slightly; he gripped her upper arms to keep her steady – or was it to steady himself?

"Snow?" Red called again.

"You'd better go to her." He knew his desire was thick in his voice.

Her eyes were still dilated; he saw her throat work as she swallowed. She nodded, but seemed as reluctant as he to let go.

James gritted his teeth and forced his hands to drop from her arms. "Snow…" he said desperately.

She let her arms haltingly fall from his shoulders. She kept her eyes locked with his, the longing in hers mirroring his. Finally, before she could change her mind, she turned and hurried away, calling out to Red that she was coming.

James leaned back against the wall and slid down it groaning.


Hours later, once the festivities had begun to finally wind down they walked back to the castle. The walk was devoid of their usual banter; charged with the kiss between them earlier.

They stepped through the kitchen door; Snow immediately moved to begin making hot chocolate.

"Would you like some?" she asked, not looking at him.

"Yes," he answered simply. He dropped his jacket onto one of the chairs and moved over to the cabinet where the mugs were and pulled down two. He then went to the ice chest and pulled out the milk and whipped cream, setting them beside the cinnamon and cocoa she had set on the counter.

He moved to the far side of the island, putting the barrier between them. However it only worked physically, his mind wandered quite freely.

He could see them in the kitchens in his castle. Snow was laughing and teasing him as they made hot cocoa late one night, his mother's ring sparkling on her finger. He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, resting his hands atop her swollen stomach. Her own covered his and she grinned up at him, joy and love shining in her eyes.

James blinked the image away. It was a very seductive and dangerous delusion. It was everything he now knew he wanted, and might never have. And that fact ripped his heart from his chest.

Snow came around beside him and set his cocoa down in front of him. He waited until her hand was well clear of the drink before allowing his own to close over it. It was dangerous enough to have her next to him; to touch her would be too much for his self-control.

They drank their hot chocolate in silence for several moments.

She set her mug down, tracing the rim with a fingertip. "Thank you," she said softly.

It was risky but he looked over at her. "For what?"

Her eyes moved up to his. "For caring for my people."

He looked back down, watching her delicate hands fidget with her mug. "I'm honored that they allowed me into their lives."

His eyes glanced toward her to see her staring down at her hands which were turning the mug nervously.

"I – what happened…" Snow stumbled over her words and was steadily turning the mug faster.

James settled his hand over her mug, stopping her movement.

Her head turned to his, meeting his gaze.

"I'm leaving tomorrow," he stated evenly. "And neither of us wants only one night."

Snow swallowed; she shook her head slowly. She looked down again, biting her lip. "This is happening so quickly," she whispered.

He wrapped both of his hands around his mug. "Nothing more has to happen."

She turned to him.

He took a deep breath. "We can give it time and," it killed him to say it, "space. See what happens."

A pained look flashed across Snow's face, but she nodded. "That's…probably best," she said faintly. She sounded like she was trying to convince herself, but wasn't doing the best job.

She took a sip from her mug and began to turn to move around the island to the sink; he caught her hand. She looked up at him, meeting his intense gaze.

"I'm going to work to win your heart, Snow," he told her, or maybe he was warning her. He saw her suck in a breath. "I want you and I want forever."

Her lips parted; she stared at him with a mystified look. She stepped closer to him and reached up to gently cup his jaw in her hand, her thumb running along the cut she had put there.

James's eyelids slid shut and he couldn't help leaning into the touch, so soothing and reassuring. Her lips pressed softly to his cheek; he slowly opened his eyes again to look at her.

There was a softness in her eyes and she smiled at him. "Good night, James."

A hopeful ache ran through him. He gave her a half-smile. "Good night, Snow."


King George, Queen Ruth and Prince James were bidding their hosts "good bye" and thanking them for their hospitality.

Unlike the day before when the other nobility had left the princess was present, smiling demurely at the departing monarchs; the very image of the perfect princess.

The prince and princess were each other's last good bye; Ruth watched their interactions discreetly but with great interest.

They kept more than a respectable distance between them, but when she looked at their eyes; her son was gazing at the princess with an intensity that she had never seen in him, one that was matched by that in Snow White's eyes. The looks they shared felt nearly indecent to look upon; the air fraught with tension.

"I suppose this is good bye, Princess," he commented softly.

"Good bye, Prince Charming," Snow White said, her voice threaded with teasing.

James smirked. "I told you, it's James."

The princess looked upward in mock thought. "Nah," she shook her head, looking back at him. "I still like 'Charming' better." She gave a soft laugh.

Ruth's son grinned at her, sharing in what was apparently a private joke between them, and cementing her opinion about the pair.

James took Snow's hand, his eyes always on hers, and kissed the knuckles. "See you, Princess," he said quietly.

"Until then," the young woman returned.

He allowed her hand to fall from his and headed over to the carriage and his parents.

Ruth looked one last time back at the young princess to see her smiling quietly at James, who was watching through the window of the carriage. The mother smiled. Yes, her son was on the road to true love.


So, since we still don't know Charming's real name in FTL, for now, I'm going to call him James and his brother is going to be David (it appeals to my twisted sense of humor on many levels to do this.) In the next couple of chapters there will be few direct Snow/Charming interactions, but you will be seeing a lot of familiar faces and I'm going to try my hand at writing a few characters that we know but haven't seen on the show yet. I hope that you all liked it! Thank you so much for reading!

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