Chapter 10: The Storm

As usual, Snow was up absurdly early. She stood in the kitchen slowly stirring the pot of oatmeal; she'd made enough for two. As she spooned it into the bowls there was a knock on the door, opening it she found the person she'd been expecting. Snow smiled a warm welcome to him. "Charming."

He gave her a grin worthy of her nickname for him. "Princess."

She stepped back, opening the door wider to let him in. "Hungry?"

"Why else would I be here?" he teasingly asked, accepting her unspoken invitation.

She cocked an eyebrow. "Maybe I won't share my breakfast with you."

Chuckling, he ducked his head to press a chaste but lingering kiss to her lips; his fingers skimmed over her face worshipfully. "Good morning, Snow."

Snow slowly opened her eyes with a blissful smile on her face; her hands loosely grasping the front of his shirt. "Hmm, that's better." She gazed into his eyes. "Morning, James."

His hands skated gently up and down her arms, eyes roving over her features.

"What?" she asked softly.

"I just still can't believe that you're here," James admitted, his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him.

Her hands slid up his chest and looped around his neck; she rubbed her nose against his affectionately. "I'm right here, Charming." Her hand rose to cup his jaw, thumb tracing the scar on his chin. "I'm not going anywhere." She emphasized her words with a slow shake of her head.

He rested his forehead against hers. "Good to hear."

Snow ran her hands down his shoulders, gently tugging on his arms until she could grasp his hands in hers. "Come on." She entwined their fingers and pulled him over to the table. "You can tell me what drove you into hiding while we eat."

Heaving a weary sigh, James allowed her to direct him to the table and sat down.

Snow set the two bowls down, along with two cups of coffee, and any spices and additives either could desire to flavor their meals with. This done she settled into the seat next to him. "Now, what happened?"

James reached out to entwine their fingers, as he had the habit of doing to reassure himself that she wasn't going anywhere. He then proceeded to tell her everything he had discovered, starting with his meeting Rumplestiltskin on the road, through what his mother had told him. He'd been staring at their joined hands most of the time, his thumb rubbing back and forth over her knuckles. Snow remained silent the whole way through the narrative.

Rubbing a hand over his forehead, James pressed his lips into a thin line. "I feel like I've lost my identity. Like my whole life is a lie."

Snow's soft hand sliding over top of his to grip it drew his attention up to her.

Her eyes looked directly into his. "James, if you came across someone being attacked, what would you do?"

He raised an eyebrow. "I would help them," he told her, his tone implying that should be obvious.

"And if you met a stranger on the road who needed help?"

"I would aid them." James gazed at her questioningly.

She continued in her inquiries. "You still love your brother?" He nodded. "And your mother and father, even though you're angry with them for not telling you the truth?" He compressed his lips, but nodded again. Her head canted to the side, fingers stroking the back of his hand. "And do you still want forever with me?"

His expression became almost incredulous. "Snow–"

"Do I still have your heart?" she relentlessly continued.

His free hand rose to cup her cheek. "Of course, I still want forever with you. I couldn't take my heart back from you even if I wanted to."

A slightly teasing smile lit her face. "Well, that's certainly a good thing since I don't intend to ever give it back." She shifted her hands until they were holding his and brought his palm up to rest on her breastbone over her heart. "My heart is yours, too. I don't want it back, James." One of her hands reached out to cup his jaw, thumb tracing the scar in her habitual gesture. "So, how have you changed? How are you not who you were before discovering this? You would do nothing differently than you already have done, you feel no differently about your family, and you feel no differently about me than you did."

James went still, staring at her pensively. "My life has been a lie–"

"How?" she cut in.

"King George isn't my father."

Snow let her hand trail from his chin, down his arm to grasp his hand in both of hers again; lowering their linked hands to her lap. "Isn't he?" Her head canted to the side. "He raised you as his son, and he said that he loved you as such, didn't he?"

His nod was slow; his other hand drifted down to join their already linked hands, tangling their fingers together.

"So, what has really changed?" She looked down at their hands, continuing before he could say anything. "Yes, you have discovered a new aspect of your past, but it doesn't change who you essentially are." Snow leaned forward and pressed their foreheads together. "You're still the man I love."

His eyes snapped to hers. "Snow…"

"And nothing," she continued vehemently, as if he hadn't said anything, "is ever going to change that."

The aching look in his eyes took her breath away; he disentangled one of his hands and lifted it cup the back of her neck.

"Snow…" James rubbed his nose against hers. "Gods, I love you." With a groan he fastened his mouth on hers, kissing her deeply, pouring every ounce of passion and love he felt for her into it as the kiss deepened.

Snow responded with equal enthusiasm the instant their lips touched, her hands coming up to grasp his face between her palms.

When their lips parted she whispered, "I love you, James, so much."

James swallowed back the lump in his throat; his hand skimmed up her arm to curl his fingers around her bicep, the other drew a line from her neck, down her back, to wrap around her waist. Snow allowed her body to sway into his at the pressure from his arms, letting him cradle her against his chest. Her own arms slipped down from his neck to hug him around the middle.

Holding Snow was like holding peace incarnate. The rest of James' world could be going to hell, but here with her in his arms there was only safety and love. He buried his nose in her hair letting her scent wash over him.

"So I guess now is when I explain what happened in Riverdon?" he mumbled into the crown of her head.

"No," she easily countered, shifting so that she could lean more comfortably into him.

"No?" James pulled back, looking down at her with a raised eyebrow.

Snow tipped her head back to look up at him. "Not right now. I think we've had enough emotional upheaval for the morning." Her head tilted back down to resettle on his shoulder. "You're going to tell me tonight. But for now, I think we both need time to recover from this and…" she finally pulled back to sit up properly and look him in the eye, "I need to go to market after breakfast and you're going with me."

A wry half-grin quirked his lips as he reached a hand out to brush a lock of hair behind her ear. "Why is it you're always telling me what to do?"

Snow pecked him on the cheek and turned back to her oatmeal. "Because someone needs to. You can't have everyone doing as you say."

Blue eyes cast heavenward, James lifted his coffee. "You're assuming that anyone does as I tell them."


No matter the time of year Lochdubh's market was a busy, vibrant place where not only was shopping done but it was also where people congregated throughout the day, especially during the summer. Snow and James wove easily through the crowds, stopping and chatting with friends as they picked up items from the list Snow had compiled with Red and Ella. They drew perhaps a few more looks from locals than they usually would have since James was carrying her basket and Snow's hand was strung through his arm–a near-universal sign of a courting couple. Both were well known to most of the residents, so seeing the pair together in such a manner was guaranteed to draw some attention.

Snow tugged on his arm, pulling him with her to the bakery; like most vendors, the wares were set up outside the shop to escape the sweltering heat radiating from the inside. After a few moments of discussing the different options and prices with the baker, Snow bought two loaves and a baker's dozen of the sweet rolls.

"Why so many?" James inquired about the rolls as they wended their way through the crowd.

Snow cast a brief glance at a vendor's cart, but didn't see what she was looking for. "Because Geppetto invited us to have dinner with all of you tonight and Red, Ella and I told him that we would bring a few things."

"Ah." He nodded; a smirk playing at his lips, knowing that the three women had probably insisted on their doing something for the meal, even though they were the guests. James let the basket slide to the crook of his elbow so he could use his now free hand to reach over and adjust Snow's hand on his arm, bringing her closer to him, enjoying the increased contact. At the small prompt, she easily allowed herself to be drawn more to his side and then leaned into his shoulder closer still. James knew this peace and contentment could not last between them, even in the joy of being together again there was still an undercurrent of tension that they both felt. They knew that his confession about Riverdon was going to happen and while they could both acknowledge the necessity of it, that didn't mean they looked forward to what was going to be something so emotionally trying.

They had moved into the section of the market dedicated to fruits, vegetables and flowers. Snow gasped pointing in the direction of one vendor and pulled him with her.

Her fingers tentatively caressed the fiery petals of the stargazer lilies.

James' heart skipped a beat at the utter awe on her face as she stared at the flowers. "You like them?"

Her head snapped up before she bit her lip. "Stargazers are among my favorites, but they're one of the few plants that won't grow in Everland." She looked back at the blooms, allowing her fingers to trace the shape of the petals. "They're just so lovely and I see them so rarely."

James fished out the coin to pay for the flower, plucked one from the bucket and handed it to her with a flourished bow, made slightly awkward by the basket he carried.

Snow grinned, taking the flower from him with a small curtsey. "Why thank you, good sir," she said laughingly. Her eyes remained on him as she sniffed the flower. "Trying to buy your way into my good graces for later, Charming?" Snow inquired, expression teasing.

He chuckled, leading her away with a hand at the small of her back, and pressed his lips to her temple. "I know better, Princess," he muttered just softly enough for only her to hear.

She threaded her arm through his again, sticking the stem of the flower into the basket. "Good."

"My mother loves stargazer lilies as well," he told her. "She had a great many planted in the gardens; during the spring and summer it looks like it's on fire."

Her cheek pressed into his shoulder. "I would love to see that."


Both of their heads, along with most others in the area, snapped around at the shout.

One of the vendors had a small ginger-haired boy by the back of his collar, though obviously careful not to cause him pain, and was frowning quite irritably at the child. The boy stared up at the man with fear and bone-deep guilt.

The royals both moved forward in concern.

"Barney," Snow's sweet cadence had the fruit-seller looking up, "what's going on here?" Her eyes cut momentarily to the child but went back to the man.

"Snow, James, afternoon." He nodded before explaining. "Caught this little scamp stealing a peach off of my cart." Annoyance colored his tone and expression, but all in all he wasn't overly angry, obviously taking the would-be "thief's" age into account.

"I'm sorry!" the child's warbling voice had the three adults looking down at him. Tears had already collected in his eyes, one dripped over his eyelashes and slid down his cheek.

Snow crouched down beside the boy. "You know that stealing is wrong."

He nodded his head miserably. "I didn't want to, but I was just so hungry."

"Can you give him the peach back?" James inquired.

The boy's head dropped ashamedly, and he pointed at the ground where they all saw what apparently were the squished remains of said peach.

Snow looked up at the prince; neither of them able to leave this child in such a position.

James turned his attention to Barney, whose face had softened considerably at seeing the genuine guilt in the child's expression. The prince reached into his money bag, pulling out a few coins and handed them to their vendor friend. "That should cover the peach, and these," he plucked three more peaches from the cart and then turned a questioning look to Barney for confirmation.

The fruit vendor looked between the three faces before sighing and nodding indulgently. "Aye, that'll do it." He gestured for them all to go on.

Snow stood, keeping a hand on the boy's shoulders. "Come." She gently directed him with James to a small, nearly empty street out of the way of the market.

James set down the basket and then picked the boy up, bringing him to sit atop a sealed barrel beside a rain-catching one. He then stepped aside, letting Snow move to stand in front of the boy.

She had pulled a handkerchief from the satchel slung across her shoulder and dipped it in the water; gently taking one of the boy's hands in her own, she began to wipe the dirt off of it with the damp cloth. "What's your name?" her voice was soft, coaxing; exactly the tone that the shaken child needed to hear.

The boy's eyes nervously cut to James, who gave him an encouraging half-smile, before going back to Snow. His mouth moved soundlessly a couple of times before managing to whisper, "Pinocchio."

She smiled warmly at him, taking his other hand and cleaning it. "That's a wonderful name, Pinocchio. I'm Snow, and this is James." She tipped her head at the prince, who nodded to the boy.

"Hello." The child continued to watch the two adults with a slightly confused expression.

Once Snow finished wiping his hands she bent down to the basket, tucking the handkerchief in a corner away from the food, and retrieved the bundle of rolls.

Meanwhile James stepped forward, extending one of the peaches to Pinocchio. "You said you were hungry?"

The boy's eyes went wide and it was obvious that he wanted to take the peach, but he held back and looked down at his hands. "I don't have any money. And I don't want to steal again…"

"It isn't stealing," James reassured him. "I'm offering it to you; that's called sharing."

Pinocchio bit his lip, eyeing the man and peach warily, but slowly reached out and accepted the fruit.

Snow had straightened up and opened the bundle; she offered him one of the rolls. "Here."


Pinocchio's eyes were wide as saucers as he looked from the offering to her. Her smile was warm and welcoming, so he hesitantly accepted this gift as well. People had never been so kind to him before, they did tend to be nicer in this village than they had been anywhere else, but this was above and beyond what anyone had ever done for him before.

"Say, 'thank you,'" Jiminy's soft voice near his ear reminded him.

"Oh! Thank you." He gratefully looked between the two adults.

Snow's eyes widened a bit as she finally noticed the cricket perched on the boy's shoulder, slightly obscured from sight by the too-long fire red hair. She bent down so that she was eye-level with Jiminy. "Well, who might you be, sir?"

The cricket was surprised that she'd noticed him at all, he could count on one of Pinocchio's hands how many times that had happened, but the fact that she apparently knew that he'd spoken and was unsurprised by this was what truly shocked him.

He mastered himself enough to execute a tiny bow. "I'm Jiminy Cricket, at your service, mistress."

"He's my conscience," Pinocchio explained between bites of the roll.

James appeared rather thrown for a moment at the tiny voice coming from the insect, but quickly recovered.

Snow nodded her head. "Wonderful to meet you, Master Jiminy."

"Just Jiminy, please." Had he still been human he might have blushed the respectful tone she used. "How is it you're not surprised at my speaking? Few people know that we animals can."

"Snow is friends with the blue birds," James supplied, grinning teasingly at the woman as he handed her one of the other two peaches, keeping the last for himself. "Along with just about any other creature she comes across." He bit into the tender flesh of the fruit.

She rolled her eyes overdramatically at him. "I'm from Everland; growing up I had friends who taught me the secrets of the woods and the animals." She had pulled out another handkerchief and dabbed at the juice on her lips from the peach.

"Ah." Had he been human, Jiminy would have been nodding, but for all that he gained in becoming a cricket, he didn't miss such small gestures. Pinocchio lifted a piece of the fruit to him, which he accepted quite happily, a pleasant change from grass and other greens.

"Where are your parents?" James asked, looking at the child with concern.

Pinocchio dropped his gaze to his lap, picking a little at the skin of the peach with one finger as he shrugged. "I don't know."

The adults shared a look, before turning their attention to Jiminy.

"He was abandoned at an orphanage," the cricket sadly explained.

"Why aren't you still there?" Snow gently inquired, angling her head, trying to catch the boy's gaze.

"They weren't very nice there," he softly admitted.

Both of the adults' expressions became worried, James' darkening substantially.

Snow rested a hand on the boy's arm. "Did…did they hurt you, Pinocchio?"

He shook his head. "Not really, mostly just yelled, and it was really crowded and there wasn't a lot of food."

There was a grim, rigid set to James' jaw. "Where is this orphanage?"

"I don't remember." Pinocchio shrugged again.

"I found him near the border of Seaborn and he had been walking for a few days, so I'm not sure where it was either," Jiminy added. He was curious about the looks the couple shared; Pinocchio's situation seemed to bother them more than it would even most caring people. And James appeared almost personally offended by the idea of this orphanage mistreating their charges.

After a moment Snow turned back to Pinocchio and Jiminy with a warm smile. "Do you have a place to stay?"

The boy shook his head as he dropped the peach pit to the ground. "Not really."

Snow pulled out the damp handkerchief again and handed it to him to wipe his fingers and face off. "Well, I have a couple," James gave a strangled laugh, prompting a mild glare from her, "of spare beds that you could sleep in, for now at least."

Wide eyed, Pinocchio asked, "You're not going to make me go back to the orphanage?"

She reached up a hand and gently stroked it over the tangled, red curls. "No, we aren't. For now you can stay with us, at least until we find a good place for you to permanently live."

Pinocchio bit his lip. "I don't want to be trouble for you."

Already shaking her head before he was halfway through speaking, Snow told him, "It will not trouble us at all. Do you want to come with us?"

The child turned to his guardian and guide on his shoulder, who placed a reassuring "arm" on his cheek. "Whatever you choose, I will go with you."

After only a heartbeat of hesitation Pinocchio turned to the couple and nodded. "Yes, I want to go with you."

"Wonderful." Snow smiled at him brightly, straightening up, she helped him down from the barrel, taking his hand in hers once his feet were firmly on the ground.

James had picked the basket back up and began walking on the other side of Pinocchio; the two adults shortened their strides so that the child could easily keep up with them.

Pinocchio looked back and forth between the couple. "Are you married?"

He was instantly greeted by Jiminy's strangled protests of that question not being "appropriate" and the couple's warm laughter.

"It's all right," Snow finally managed to tell Jiminy; she turned her attention to Pinocchio. "No, we're not." She lifted her eyes to meet James'.

"Not yet," he amended.

"So you will be, some day?"

There was a wistfulness in Snow's expression. "That's the plan," her voice was softer, almost too soft for the boy and cricket to hear.

Something pained and worried flashed through James's eyes. "That's the plan," he agreed hoarsely.


"So, have you seen your princess and my prince today?"

Red felt a clash of pulse-racing excitement and smoldering annoyance at the sardonic tone behind her. She didn't allow herself to turn. "He came over this morning and they left together for the market."

Liam came to stand beside her where she was slicing the bread for lunch. "A princess who does her own shopping–"

Red spun at his mocking tone, eyes flashing angrily. "Yes! Snow enjoys going to market," she snapped, her fists planted on her hips. "Do you have a problem with that?" she asked testily.

A smirk curled his lips and he shook his head slowly. "Not at all, I'm just trying to get a feel for who she is and who you are." His voice was threaded with some amusement but for the most part level and nonjudgmental.

Her eyes narrowed at him assessingly. "You were testing me."

He leaned back against the counter with his arms crossed, looking at her straight on. "Do you have a problem with that?"

"I don't like being played with," she told him, her jaw set.

Unfolding his arms, Liam braced his hands on the edge of the counter behind him. "Well, making you happy isn't my job," he smirkingly countered. "My job is protecting my prince and friend. James is a good man who, when he loves, does so deeply and devotedly. He's in love with your princess and I need to know what she is like; I need to know that she is as she seems and isn't going to hurt him."

Red leaned her hip against the countertop, crossing her arms. "I could say the same thing about your prince. Snow has the best heart and loves just as wholly. I have every right to be questioning you just as much about him, but I'm not."

"You've also had more time to get to know him when he came to visit Everland in the spring," he pointed out simply. "I've only just met Snow White."

"I still didn't poke and prod at him and his friends," she told him sourly. "I waited and observed him."

"You didn't have the opportunity to speak to one of his friends at the time," Liam countered, gesturing at Red. "I do." He smirked again. "And can you honestly tell me you wouldn't have done the same if the opportunity had presented itself?"

"Perhaps not," she conceded, eyes narrowing dangerously. "But do it again, to any of us, and you will regret it dearly."

He tipped his head in sardonic acknowledgement. "I'll keep that in mind."

Voices approaching Geppetto's kitchen door drew their attention.

Snow and James walking through the entrance was no surprise, but the little boy with them, however, was.

Red cast her eyes to the general again, telling him lowly, "You said you wanted to learn more about her? Well, you're about to." She turned back to the trio, one hand planted on her hip and a slightly amused smile on her face. "Taking in strays again, Snow?"

The princess gave her friend a glare, but there was no real anger behind it; she brought the boy to stand in front of her, placing her hands on his shoulders. "Red, this is Pinocchio." Snow looked down at the child. "Pinocchio, this is my friend Red, and James' friend Liam."

"Hi." He gave a small grin to the two adults.

Red crouched down to eye level with the child. "Hello." She held out her hand to him. "It's nice to meet you, Pinocchio."

He shook her hand. "Nice to meet you, Red."

The child was charming, and Red couldn't help grinning at the dimpled smile he gave her.

He looked at his shoulder. "This is Jiminy Cricket, my conscience."

Red turned her gaze to where he was looking and gaped; standing on his shoulder was a vest-clad cricket. "Oh!" Blinking a couple of times she managed to recover and gave the insect a smile. "How nice to meet you, Master Jiminy."

"Just Jiminy, if you please, Mistress Red."

"Red is fine." She slowly straightened up, looking at Snow with widened, questioning eyes.

The princess just grinned widely back at her.

James set the basket down on the table. "Where are Geppetto and Ella?"

"Geppetto's working." Liam moved over to join his prince. "Ella…" he glanced questioningly at Red.

"We needed milk," she began to unpack the basket, "Ella went next door to see if the milliner had some to spare. She should be back any minute now."

"I was thinking that Pinocchio could stay with us while we're here."

Red lifted her head to meet her friend's gaze, raising an eyebrow. "That's fine with me."

"Redell, Liam," they all turned as Geppetto stepped through the door from the shop, "are Principessa and Principe – Oh!" He smiled happily at seeing the royals. "I was wondering if you both were here…" his voice trailed off when he noticed Pinocchio, eyes softening. "Well, who is this?"


Most of the young people's eyes darted from Geppetto to Pinocchio and back again. This was something they hadn't counted on, but the gears in their minds instantly began turning.

Snow began the introductions. "Geppetto, this is Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket." She gestured to the child's shoulder.

The woodworker's eyebrows rose on his forehead as he noticed the cricket. "It is a pleasure to meet you both."

"They have nowhere to go, so I invited them to stay with us, at least while we're here."

Geppetto's brow furrowed worriedly as he looked back down at Pinocchio. "Where is your home?"

He shrugged. "We don't have one."

The older man muttered under his breath in Italian. "Have you any other clothing?"

A negative shake of the head.

Looking up at Snow he said, "Principessa, the smithy's youngest son has been growing a great deal lately, would you mind going to see if they have any outgrown clothing that our Pinocchio here could have?"

"Of course." She nodded her head.

Red cleared her throat, it sounded suspiciously like she was trying to cover a laugh. "We have some time before lunch, I would prefer it if he bathed before sitting down at the table."

"A fine idea, Redell," Geppetto agreed instantly; he turned to the two younger men. "Principe, Liam, come with me, please, we shall get a bath ready."

Liam kept his head down to hide the smirk on his face.

James rubbed a hand over the mouth, trying to force away the grin that was pulling at his lips. "Right away, Geppetto."

"And I shall also see if any of the clothing from my toys will fit you, Master Jiminy," the craftsman added as he exited the room.

The general followed directly behind the woodworker, but James moved over to Pinocchio to place a hand on his unoccupied shoulder, and, before leading the boy off, leaned in close to Snow's ear. "How so observant a man can be completely oblivious to what we're all so obviously doing is beyond me."

A strangled giggle escaped Snow's throat.


From there things were rather a whirlwind for Pinocchio and Jiminy. The child wasn't exactly thrilled with being plopped into the bath, as most little boys aren't, but soon he found himself actually enjoying it; it had been far too long since he'd had a proper bath and Geppetto gave him a couple of small wooden boats to play with. The three men left a cup of hot water for Jiminy to do with as he saw fit for his own bathing. After that they were both fitted with fresh, clean clothing, and what few items of their own clothes that could be salvaged were set to soak in hot water by Ella, who had become quite the expert at doing the wash.

When she was introduced to Pinocchio and Jiminy, Ella was just as delighted and charmed by them as the others were.

Snow had patiently sat down and run a comb through Pinocchio's tangled hair; after getting the boy's permission she took a pair of scissors to the too-long locks and trimmed them to a proper length.

For Jiminy, he was rather glad that humans couldn't read insect expressions that easily because the shock he felt at the introduction to Geppetto had nearly caused him to collapse. After so many years of searching he'd finally found the child he and his parents had wronged so many, many years ago. Geppetto was one of the main reasons he had begun to mentor to Pinocchio; he'd seen so much of the kind-hearted dark-haired boy in the ginger-haired one. They both looked at the world with the same wide-eyed wonder.

The cricket felt even guiltier because he was the one who was supposed to help Geppetto, but instead the now older man was helping him…again. He could only hope that in staying here he'd somehow be able to aid the man in some way and fulfill his purpose. Jiminy ran an arm over the buttons on the tiny jacket that Geppetto had altered slightly to accommodate his four arms and wings; he looked up at the still-oh-so-kind man. "Thank you so much."

The wizened face crinkled into a smile. "Quite my pleasure. If you need more or prefer something different I can make more."

Had he been human still, Jiminy would have broken down sobbing. "You are far too kind. These are perfect," he managed to choke out.

Lunch was a larger spread than either boy or cricket had had in far too long, and the human adults kept pressing more on them. Finally, for the first time in Pinocchio's short life, he'd truly eaten his fill, and then some, and actually had to refuse to eat more food when offered. The food wasn't fancy, but Jiminy had not had such good food in all his life, not even as a human, when his parents had always taken the choicer portions of their food for themselves.

Afterward Pinocchio had been quite happy to help with the dishes when Snow had requested it of him, and had giggled when she'd then turned and sassily told James to help them and ordered the same of Liam. Back at the orphanage the chore had been just that, a chore, but with this group the boy had found himself laughing and smiling and hardly noticing as he dried the dishes and put them where he was told to. He was actually surprised when Snow declared them "finished." That done they all headed outside, most of them bringing some chore or job to be done with them. Liam had to run to the blacksmith to have a buckle on his horse's bridle fixed. James was drafted into helping Snow peel potatoes for dinner while Red shelled the peas. Ella had brought a dress she was making and sat with the sky blue material pooled in her lap while pulling the needle and thread steadily through it. Geppetto had gone back to the project he was working on before lunch.

Pinocchio stood on the porch, Jiminy back on his usual perch at his shoulder. The child wasn't sure what to do, but his attention kept being drawn to the woodworker, transfixed at the sight of his skilled hands turning the lumps of wood into ornate creations. With tentative steps he made his way over to Geppetto.

The man looked up at his approach and smiled warmly. "Pinocchio." He set his chisel and mallet down for a moment. "Is there something you needed?"

The boy's head tipped to the side. "What are you making?"

The calloused hand brushed over the piece. "This is to be a rocking horse for one of the potters' children."

Pinocchio bit his lip.

Jiminy, knowing his young charge all too well, leaned into the child's ear to say quietly enough that only he would hear, "If you want to, it cannot hurt to ask, Pinocchio."

The boy glanced at him and, at the cricket's modified encouraging nod, took a deep breath, turning back to Geppetto. "Can I help?"

The man's bright eyes light up. "Of course! I would be happy of the help." He gestured with a hand for Pinocchio to move closer to the work bench which the boy did eagerly. The master craftsman began explaining what each of the tools were.

Jiminy hopped off of the child's shoulder, landing on the table, and watched the pair for a few moments, seeing the gentle patience Geppetto showed Pinocchio in teaching him about his trade. He gave the cricket equivalent of a smile before jumping down from the table and hopping over to the four other members of their group; Snow brushed a few peels from beside her on the bench so that he had space to land there. He had pulled his umbrella from where he kept it strapped to his back and leaned on it out of habit, watching the quartet assesingly.

"Geppetto is very good with Pinocchio."

James was the first one to answer. "He loves children."

Snow gave Jiminy a sad smile. "He and his wife wanted them very much, but were unable to have any." She turned back to peeling.

"Hmm," he nodded, still watching them all.

There were several moments of silence.

"So how long do you suppose it will be before he realizes what you're trying to do?" he inquired archly.

Four semi-guilty gazes lifted to meet his.

Red was the first to recover and smirked wryly. "We're kinda hoping it'll be either too long after it could possibly matter or that if he does figure it out that it'll be so soon that it won't bother him."

Ella twisted the thread around her finger, preparing to knot it off. "I haven't known Geppetto more than a day, but I have not seen him this animated the entire time." She nodded in the direction of the aforementioned man and his new student.

James tossed a potato he had just finished peeling into the tub with the others. "His wife's death hit him hard; he was never quite the same afterward." He picked up another and continued working.

Jiminy absorbed all that they told him, eager for any and all information they could give him about the man he had wished so desperately to help. "His life has been hard?"

Snow's smile was bittersweet. "Geppetto has known heartache and loss, but he has never complained. For the most part he's held onto joy; he loves his work," her eyes sparkled brightly, "especially making things for children. He makes and donates toys to orphanages, and anonymously gives some to children of needy families, particularly during the holidays when they would get no such presents otherwise."

As they spoke Geppetto was gently guiding Pinocchio's small hands through the process of sanding the wood, praising the child for a job well done.

Watching his two "charges" Jiminy began to wonder privately if perhaps this had been what was meant to be from the moment that he made the wish. Breathless hope welling in him, he continued to observe the man and child; seeing the first beginnings of a promising bond forming between them. Perhaps Jiminy had to originally lose Geppetto in order to find the boy meant to be his son and then bring them together… He would not say anything about this to Pinocchio, not wanting to disturb the burgeoning relationship between the pair, or possibly get the child's hopes up if they ended up not coming to fruition.

But that didn't mean that Jiminy wasn't going to let those hopes blossom in his own heart…


After dinner Liam took Pinocchio out on the porch with Red and Jiminy to stargaze. Geppetto had to put the finishing touches on a bedframe for the butcher's wedding gift to his daughter, he'd promised to deliver it by morning. James, Snow and Ella cleaned the dishes and kitchen; when that was done Ella decided to duck out of sight and leave the couple alone.

They stood in the kitchen, a pregnant silence reining between them as they each contemplated their respective cups of tea.

James swirled his drink in the cup. "No putting it off any more."

"No." Snow was staring down at her mug on the counter, turning it slowly.

The stayed like that for a few moments longer.

She traced one long, delicate finger around the rim of her cup. "Why, James?"

The catch in her voice tore at his heart; his hands clenched around the mug.

"I thought…" Her voice trailed off; she had to take a deep breath before continuing. "I thought that you were going to propose to me."

"I was," he told her hoarsely.

She lifted her eyes to his; the hurt in them slammed him in the gut. "Then why didn't you?"

James clenched his jaw, setting down the cup and bracing his hands on the counter. "I went to your father to ask his permission, his blessing…" It felt like a hand was squeezing his heart. "He refused."

Her hands went numb, falling away from her cup, while the world spun around her disorientingly. "What?"

His lips were pressed into a thin line. "He refused to allow me to marry you."

Snow suddenly realized that she hadn't taken a breath in several moments and she desperately sucked air into her lungs. "Why?" she managed to gasp out.

She could see the pain etched into his profile. "Because he knew about Midas' wishes for Abigail and I. Because he didn't want you endangered by that situation. Because," the pain in his expression was now injected into his tone, "he didn't think you could be happy living in the public eye that would come with being my wife. That I couldn't make you happy…and…because he didn't believe that I love you." How was he still breathing after finally saying the words that tore through him like knives? he wondered to himself.

A tear slid silently down her cheek as she finally looked away from him.

The ringing absence of noise in the room pressed in on their ears, breath hard to come by in the heavy strain.

Snow's hands curled into small fists. "Why didn't you tell me?"

His eyes gazed into the inky blackness out the window. "Because I was so angry and hurt that I was afraid of hurting you with harsh words against your father, when he was just trying to protect you."

A short, half-strangled mirthless laugh escaped her throat. "I did get hurt, James." Incredulity colored her tone.

He forced himself to meet the resounding pain in her eyes; his lips parted to respond.

"Snow, Red and Ella are ready to leave–" Liam had strode through the door but came to a dead stop, his voice immediately breaking off at the atmosphere that was rife with tension.

Snow looked away from James, pasting a small, fragile smile on her face. "Thank you Liam, are Pinocchio and Jiminy ready as well?"

The general's narrowed; assessing eyes darted between the couple. "Pinocchio fell asleep on the porch. Geppetto said that they could stay here; that he had a spare child's bed Pinocchio could use."

Both royals' attention was suddenly snapped to him, their gazes almost piercing. They glanced back at each other for a moment.

James could still see the raw hurt in Snow's eyes, but he could also tell that she was thinking the same thing as him.

Her eyes skated away from him back to Liam, giving him a smile again. "Thank you, I'll go talk with Geppetto before I leave."

As she moved to walk past him, James reached out to grasp her arm. "Snow –"

She jerked back, eyes averted from him, twisting her body to avoid his touch and raising her hands in front of her, palms facing outward, a glaringly obvious movement that screamed for him not to touch her.

James' hand dropped to his side like a stone.

She continued her way across the room and through the door toward the bedrooms.

Liam turned to his prince; James was again facing the counter with his hands braced against it, shoulders hunched.

"What was that about?" The general scowled.

With a sigh James straightened up and gathered both cups. "Nothing you need to worry about."

Liam's eyes narrowed. "Was that about whatever drove you here? Could she not handle–"

"No," the prince exasperatedly corrected him and then chuckled mirthlessly. "No, that she didn't care about beyond how it made me feel; she accepted it better than I did." He moved over to the sink.

Brow furrowed in concern and confusion, Liam crossed his arms. "Then what was it?"

"I made a mistake." He dunked the cups in the basin. "A very stupid one that hurt her."


James walked around the counter and gave Liam a look as he passed him. "Not anything that is your business." He continued heading to the door. "This is something Snow and I have to work out."


"Geppetto, you really don't have to," Snow's soft concerned voice told the woodworker as she watched him finish tucking in the sleeping child.

The older man gave her a fond smile over his shoulder. "I know, but I want to."

Her fingers stroked over the intricate carvings on the bedframe, slightly dusty from being stored away for so many years until just a few minutes ago. "I know what this bed means to you – what it meant to Alessandra." Geppetto's wife's warm eyes sparkled at her from distant memory.

He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her cheek. "Mio amore would have felt the same way as I. A child needs a bed and I have one." He smiled warmly down at Pinocchio's sleeping form and brushed a gentle hand over the ginger curls. "Alessandra would have liked him very much."

A bittersweet smile curled Snow's lips, one finger absently tracing a grinning gnome carved into one of the bed posts. Geppetto made the bed for his and Alessandra's first and only child, who had been stillborn. "She had a heart as big as yours."

Geppetto reached over and squeezed her hand. "You are kind, Principessa."

A wryness lit her eyes. "How is it kind to speak the truth?"

He chuckled, leading her out of the room, careful to leave the door open a crack so that Jiminy would be able to get in when he wanted to and in case the child became scared in the night. He wrapped a fatherly arm around her shoulders. He decided to drop that line of conversation, knowing he would never win. "As it is, this will give Pinocchio and I a chance to get to know each other, like you all want." He looked down at Snow, eyes sparkling in amusement.

She gave him a slightly sheepish smile. "We wondered when you would notice."

"You were less than subtle, Principessa."

Her head rested on his shoulder. "We just want you to be happy, Geppetto."

He kissed the crown of her head. "You all have good hearts."


Over the next two days James discovered a whole new meaning to the phrase "a living hell." After his confession, Snow had gone home with her two friends without another word. The next day he'd expected her to snap, glare, and possibly yell at him. But she hadn't. Since that night she'd not said one word to him, hadn't even looked at him. She didn't acknowledge his very existence. She was ignoring him entirely. Oh, yes, this was his hell.

He was splitting firewood behind Geppetto's house, Pinocchio scurrying in after he cleaved a log to gather the pieces and bring them to the pile. After an hour of this in the heat, Snow materialized out the door to the kitchen carrying two sweating glasses of water; she smiled warmly down at the boy.

"How would you like some water, Pinocchio?" She crouched down beside him offering one of the two cool drinks.

"Yes, please." He nodded his head vigorously, accepting the glass from her. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." She stoked a fond hand over the child's head before straightening up and setting the second glass on the near-by table, obviously intended for James, and heading back to the door.

"Thank you," James called after her.

She didn't so much as spare him a glance before disappearing inside.

Heaving a weary frustrated sigh, he let his head fall forward.

"Why didn't Snow talk to you?"

James looked up at Pinocchio's innocent question; he gave a wry chuckle moving over to the glass on the table and lifting it. "Because I upset her, and we're having a fight." He took a refreshing, long drink of the water.

The child's brow furrowed in confusion. "Don't you have to talk to have a fight?"

A mirthless chuckle tumbled from the prince's lips. "Apparently not."

Pinocchio's expression became even more baffled. "But it you don't talk, how do you work out the problem and stop fighting?"

'From the mouths of babes…' James mused silently. "That's a good question, Pinocchio."


Snow had to focus hard on her breathing, trying desperately to slow her racing pulse. She was standing near the window, close enough to where she could see James, but at such an angle that he couldn't see her. After satisfying his thirst he returned to splitting the logs. Snow was still very angry and annoyed with him, but that didn't stop her from loving him…or being attracted to him. Her Prince Charming was devastatingly handsome, he wreaked havoc on her heart rate and breathing under any circumstances; the fact that because it was so hot he had pulled his shirt off while working was of no help at all. Gods, it was completely unfair that even as sweaty and dirty as he was from doing chores in the summer heat – or perhaps in part due to that – and as mad as she was at him, that she still desired him so desperately.

"You know, I have to wonder what on earth has you so angry at him that you won't even acknowledge his existence when he's around, but then gaze at him longingly when he can't see you doing so."

Snow quickly tore her eyes from James' form and looked down at the sandwiches that she, Red and Ella were making for lunch. She didn't know what she could say in response to Red's sardonic comment, so Snow decided to say nothing at all.

"You keep ignoring people when they say or do things you don't like you're going to have no one to talk to," the younger dark-haired woman wryly told her, ignoring Ella's soft protests at her not to bother Snow.

The princess rolled her eyes, glancing at the woman she loved like a sister. "I'm not ignoring you."

"All right," Red said glibly, settling one hand on her hip. "Then what the hell is going on? Why are you meting out this punishment on Prince Charming there?" She waved her free hand in James' direction.

"Red," Ella finally hissed, "that's not really our business."

"Well, I'm sick of them both moping over each other when they aren't seething over each other," the taller woman snapped back at the blonde, before turning to Snow again. "Look, if you don't want to talk to us about it, fine. But sort whatever this issue is out, because the rest of us are getting tired of the drama."


When Ella called them in to wash up for lunch James waved Pinocchio to go in the kitchen, heading for the hall with the bedrooms himself; knowing that if he turned up at the table as sweaty and dirty as he was Red would likely ream him up and down. After washing his face and hands, running a towel over his damp skin and changing into a fresh shirt he finally felt presentable enough not to incur the fiery woman's wrath.

He headed down the hall to the kitchen; glancing in the open linen closet door as he was passing stopped him dead in his tracks. Snow was inside standing on her tip-toes trying to reach what looked to be a tablecloth on a shelf above her head and having very slow progress at it. James glanced up and down the passage way; seeing no one he silently stepped into the room. It wasn't until the door clicked shut behind him that Snow realized that she wasn't alone anymore and turned. Her eyes went wide upon seeing him and she froze.

"Snow," he greeted her mildly, as if she hadn't been ignoring him for nearly three days.

She was immobile for several moments before spinning from him and hurriedly tugging down the tablecloth, knocking other linens to the floor in the process. She quickly shoved the ones she didn't want onto lower shelves before darting toward the door, not looking at him.

James' arm shot out to brace against the shelf next to him, barring her way, and with him standing directly in front of the door as it was, Snow was trapped where she stood.

Her lips were pressed into a thin line; glaring at the doorframe over his arm.

"We need to talk," he told her in a level voice.

Her eyes snapped to his, flashing with anger. "Oh, so you get to decide when we talk and when we don't?"

He narrowed his eyes, his own temper flaring. "That's not what I said."

"Well, that certainly is how it seems!" Her hands fisted in the material of the tablecloth.


Snow was taking longer than necessary to get the tablecloth so Red headed to the linen closet to see what was keeping her. Frowning upon seeing the door closed she put her hand on the handle, but stopped.

Leaning her head closer she confirmed the fact that raised voices were drifting out from the inside of the closet…two to be exact. Even though they were muffled it wasn't hard to figure out who the voices belonged to. She backed away from the door and returned to the kitchen.

Ella and Liam were in the room gathering lunch together to take outside where they were going to eat at a table Geppetto had, set up.

Her blond friend looked up at her entrance. "Where's the tablecloth?"

Red began helping them. "We don't need it."

The other two went still.

Liam scoffed. "'We don't need it?'" He moved to stand right beside her, crowding her. "That's not what you've said before. In fact you always insist on a covering for the tabletop."

"We'll survive this once," she countered drolly, attempting to walk around him.

He moved to block her, eyeing her shrewdly. "Why didn't you get the tablecloth?"

Red glared at him, and then canted her head to the side in a rather sarcastic gesture. "Well, gee, it might have something to do with the fact that Snow and James were finally having it out in the linen closet?"

Liam leaned back a bit, glancing at Ella, whose eyebrows were lifted in surprise and relief; he looked back at the dark-haired woman standing before him. "They're talking?"

"More like shouting, but yes, words and some communication seem to be involved." Her tone was sardonic but there was a definite hint of relief.

They were all silent for a few moments.

When Ella finally broke it, her words were fairly…understated. "I suppose we should make them each a plate."


"You up and leave without a word to me, and then you barge in here and declare that we're going to talk. Certainly seems like you're the one making the decisions!" Snow's fingers were viciously twisting the tablecloth still in her hands.

James planted his hands on his hips, meeting her glare head on. "I was going to have to leave in only a few hours as it was; I was furious, I had no time to calm down so that I could speak with you rationally."

"Then you should have spoken with me irrationally!" She shook her head incredulously. "You left me with nothing more than a kiss on the hand, James!" Her voice was rife with scorn and annoyance.

"I didn't want to say something about your father in the heat of the moment that I would regret and that could hurt you in some way!"

"You should have said it anyway!" She threw the tablecloth onto the small table in the center of the room. "Better that than spending all that time wondering when or if I'd ever see you again! Wondering if you still wanted me! If you loved me!"

"Snow, I'm sorry; I can't tell you how sorry I am that I hurt you!" he told her plaintively, his heart tearing at the knowledge of how deeply he'd injured her. Without even thinking he had been reaching out to her, trying to comfort her, but she backed farther away, out of his reach; so he let them drop forlornly to his sides.

"I know you are, James," she told him passionately. "But sorry doesn't fix this!"

His heart dropped in his chest and he couldn't draw a breath…what was she saying?

"I can't marry a man who makes decisions that affect us both without even consulting me."

Was his heart still beating?

Her eyes gazed up at him pleadingly. "I love you, James, so much that I can't breathe at the idea of not being with you. But I need you to promise me that you will never do something like that again!"

James sucked in a breath with the realization that she wasn't giving up on them; that she still wanted him, still wanted them. "I promise," he immediately told her.

"I mean it, James." She wasn't able to keep her lip from trembling slightly. "I don't care if you think what you have to say will hurt me, because likely you not saying it will hurt me more."

Stepping closer to her, hands shaking violently with relief, he reached up to cradle her face between his palms, looking her straight in the eye. "Snow, I give you my word that I will never hold back like that again. That I will be honest with you always."

Her eyes fell shut with a relieved sigh. "Thank you," she whispered, a single tear escaping from under her eyelid to trickle down her cheek.

That lone tear killed James; a lump lodged in his throat and it was a struggle for him to swallow past it. He pressed his lips to her cheek, trying to remove all evidence of the saltwater droplet; following its trail to the corner of her eye. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He repeated it over and over against her skin, begging her forgiveness.

Her hands came up to fist in the front of his shirt. "I forgive you," Snow choked out; she opened her eyes to meet his gaze. "Do you forgive me for ignoring you?" Her voice shook slightly.

"Yes," he managed to gasp, pressing his forehead against hers, his lips quirking into a sad facsimile of his usual half-smile. "Just as long as you promise to never do that again; the last couple of days have been hell incarnate."

A strangled sob escaped her throat as she nodded her head slowly against his. "I promise."

His hands had drifted down to encircle her waist. "Thank you."

Her hands slid up to entwine behind his neck, pulling herself up so that her lips were near his ear. "I'm right here, Charming." She was trying to tease him a bit, but the warble in her voice from the tears made it sound more like she was trying to reassure the both of them. Her arms wound more fully around his shoulders, bringing her body flush against his. "I'm not going anywhere." Her tone all but begged, Don't let me go anywhere.

James' arms locked around her, not allowing a breath of space between them; absorbing the feeling of her pressed against him, reveling in the knowledge that she was back in his arms and wasn't going to leave him. The fingers of one hand wound through the long locks trailing down her back, rubbing a curl between his thumb and forefinger. Her face was buried in the joint of his neck and shoulder, the tears that were still falling wet his skin.

He turned his head so that his lips brushed her ear. "I love you, Snow, no matter what happens, never doubt that."

She sniffed and nodded; after a moment pulling her head back so that she could look at him with a watery smile. "I love you too, Charming."

James brought his hands up to wipe at the tracks on her cheeks. "Please don't cry, Snow," he begged her, though his own face held the evidence of the tears he himself had shed.

"What, Prince Charming doesn't know how to deal with a crying woman?" she teased, a few stray tears slipping from the corners of her eyes.

He groaned. "It's more that I can't stand to see you hurting, especially when I'm the cause of it."

A laugh, hardly more than a sigh, escaped her lips; her mouth curled up in an affectionate smile while she gazed at him. Snow rose on her toes, bringing his head down to hers and pressed their lips together.

James was frozen for a moment but soon slanted his mouth over hers, kissing her back as fiercely as she was him. His hands drifted from her face to her back, enveloping her in the curve of his body and holding her there with no intention of letting go any time soon.

"James," she mumbled against his lips, her fingers sliding through his short hair.

One of his hands had risen to cup the back of her neck, his thumb caressing behind her ear. "Hmm?"

Snow gasped, her thoughts momentarily scattering; it took a bit of effort to recollect them. "Um," she pushed herself up farther on her toes, trying to press closer to him still. "Hmm… You do realize we're…oh!" He was now kissing that same spot behind her ear and it was taking quite a bit of concentration for her to finish the thought. "We're stuck in here…"

It took a couple of moments for that to really penetrate his mind; when it did he pulled back and looked at her in confusion. "What?"

Her eyes were still heavy-lidded but her lips were twitching in amusement. "That door latches from the other side."

James' head whipped around to look at the door and indeed found that there was no latch on their side, nor were there hinges. His head fell back with a groan.

Snow burst into laughter, burying her face in his chest and clinging to him as her knees were near giving out in her mirth.


They had moved to sit side-by-side with their backs against the wall near the door, waiting for someone to walk by.

James had taken one of her hands and was rubbing his thumb over her knuckles; Snow was leaning into his side, head resting on his shoulder.

"Since we have the time to talk," he began dryly, drawing a less-than-lady-like snort from her, before his tone became serious, "what do you want to do about your father's refusal?"

Snow sighed, turning her face to press her cheek into his arm. "It hurts that he doesn't trust my judgment really."

James bent his head to kiss the top of hers. "He just loves you and doesn't want to see you possibly hurt."

"Hmm," she reluctantly agreed, pressing her lips together. "I guess after you sort things out with your family we'll have to then start trying to convince him that we really are in love and want to get married."

"As simple as that, huh?" he asked wryly.

She gently hit him in the shoulder. "Don't be so pessimistic."

His fingers tightened around hers. "He's already refused once, Snow… What if he refuses again?"

Lifting her head, she rested her chin on his shoulder. "Then we'll just have to ignore him and get married anyway."

A frown marred his expression. "I'm being serious, Snow."

"And so am I," she countered easily, looking him dead in the eye.

His eyes narrowed slightly. "You'd go against your father, society, tradition, everything to marry me?"

She shifted until she was on her knees and nearly eye to eye with him; she cupped his cheek with her free hand. "James, there's very little I wouldn't do to be with you." She shook her head. "I love my father very much, but he isn't the one marrying you, I am." Her thumb traced the scar on his chin. "I love you with all my heart and I will marry you, no matter what he says." She canted her head to the side. "Wouldn't you do the same for me?"

A grin creased his face as he leaned in and pressed his mouth to hers. "In a heartbeat," he promised against her lips.

"Good," she murmured back in kind.

The kiss was slow and thorough.

Snow let out a surprised squeal, muffled by James' mouth being still pressed to hers, when he abruptly pulled her off balance and sent her sprawling into his lap. He laughed into the still-engaged kiss, holding her cradled in his arms and enjoying having her there. Snow swatted his chest laughing against his lips as well with amused outrage.

The amusement soon faded from the moment as it turned amorous once more.

At her prompting movements, James helped Snow lever to her knees and then straddle his waist.

"Hey, are you two still alive in there?"

They froze at the heavy knocks on the door and Liam's voice coming from the other side.

At that moment James felt that he could quite cheerfully maim his best friend; he stifled a groan in Snow's shoulder while she muffled the fit of giggles that overtook her in his.

"Yes, we're fine!" he called out, the pair beginning to disentangle themselves. "But we're trapped in the closet, the door only latches on the outside; will you open it?" They got to their feet and moved toward the door.

"Well I don't know–" Liam cut off when James slammed his fist against the door. "Geez! All right! One'd think you'd be in a better mood than that after being alone with your woman for so long!"

"Not long enough," James muttered under his breath softly enough that only Snow heard.

Liam cast the princess an odd look as she stumbled out of the closet choking on laughter.


Fate's child watched as the threads his mother picked along slowly began to wend their way around the snag in the pattern.


I hope you guys liked it! What did you think of my versions of Pinocchio and Jiminy so far? Pinocchio is one of the two Disney movies I like the LEAST, but I've been enjoying what they've shown us on OUaT so far! I hope that the fight between Snow and Charming felt all right to you guys! Next chapter is started and already there's a LOT of Snowing! XD Pleas let me know what you think! Thank you so much for reading!

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