Rating: T

Emma/Graham (mentions of Snow/James, Thomas/Ella and the barest hint at Henry/Alexandra)

Summary: Forcing him to live with her in the castle would be like caging a wild animal just to watch it wither and die. And so instead she sets him free.

Warnings: A little romancing, nothing too bad though. One little swears I think…

Status of Fic: Completed, post-curse AU one shot.

Author's Note: I wanted to write something for New Years…but this came out instead.

Disclaimer: I do not pretend to own anything OUaT-ish. Just borrowing!


The Call of the Wild

Forcing him to live with her in the castle would be like caging a wild animal just to watch it wither and die. He did try at first, and he would stay if she but asked it of him; he'd do anything, anything to make her smile. But she's not selfish enough to imprison him within stone walls and vaulted ceilings, within the pomp and ceremony and propriety that she is now prisoner to.

She sees the fear in his eyes as he watches the lords and ladies of court in their finery.

And so instead she sets him free.


Her father is furious, because no daughter of his is going to be used like some tavern wench! He'll not stand by while he leaves to wander the forests, free, with her left behind for him to return to whenever he feels like it. What if he has a woman in every port?

Her mother is not angry, because there's still something of the modern woman in her, but she is concerned. For her daughter's happiness. Resentment, is a powerful thing, but it is destructive, she says. She worries that it might take hold, that Emma might fall beneath it's spell.

Her son is sad, because he is the nearest thing he's ever had to a father, even before broken curses and long lost mothers.

None of them understand. None of them see that if you love something, you let it go. She would never be able to forgive herself if she didn't…he spent a whole other life captive to an Evil Queen. And she'll be damned before she chains him like Regina did.


His first return is after a month -a long, long month to her- and she sees the change in him immediately.

His eyes are wild and bright; he is alive. His very being shining. He thrives like she does (it seems she has her mother's gifts for ruling and her father's for commanding soldiers).

He is beautiful and breathtaking for her to behold when she first sees him again, waiting to greet him -pleased smirk curling the corners of her lips, just slightly- beside the stables.

And though his manner is rougher than before he left, though he's hardly spoken to another man or woman for the whole four weeks he's been away, he is still hers. His hands are still gentle when he touches her, his eyes still shy and disbelieving that she could ever want him, as she leads him up, up into the stable lofts and lays him down amidst the straw and hay and earthy smells.


He stays a week before the call of the wild takes him again one breezy Wednesday afternoon. She's been busy all morning sitting in on her father's council meetings and her mother's diplomatic talks and watching Henry learn to ride his pony.

She returns to her chambers, muttering about stuffy royal dinners and cursing the skirts of the dresses she's expected to wear while attending them…and she stops mid-sentence when she chances to glance up at him.

He's on the balcony, windows thrown wide, his nose to the wind like his brother-wolf catching the scent of something. And she understands.

'Go,' she tells him, even as she fists her hands in the material of his tunic and holds him close, desperately tight. 'The sooner you go, the sooner you come back…'

His eyes are doleful. Full of apology and regret. If he could change for her he would, she knows it, because if she could change for him, she wouldn't hesitate. But they are who they are, and must live the way they each live.


Henry cries this time that he leaves and she stays up with him that night to comfort him, shedding tears herself.

'I thought that he might stay…' Henry tells her, murmurs it into her shoulder (soaked from both of their tears). He's limp in her arms now, having cried himself out truly.

'You know he can't, Kid,' she replies. 'But he'll come back to us soon.'


Not soon enough for her.

She starts to feel nervous, less sure of her own words when three months pass this time before his feet find themselves walking the path to the castle gates again.

A whole season gone and Autumn is trudging on wearily towards winter.

He's leaner, more ragged and weather-worn this time, and after so long of not seeing his face she worries that he's not getting enough to eat. But those worries fall -for the moment- to the wayside as she hitches her skirts and runs down to meeting him, causing scandalised whispers in her wake.

His kiss is still the same though. Hands still gentle, and yet definite as they press to her lower back and spread between her shoulder blades, holding her to him. It makes her smile, wide, until she can't keep kissing him and smiling at the same time and she pulls away.

His own smile is positively wolfish, watching her with hungry eyes and the nerves that had settled in her belly at the thought that he might not come twist and coil and transform themselves into something much more akin to desire.

She's glad suddenly that her parents are away visiting Prince Thomas and Princess Ella, trusting her to oversee the kingdom. She's glad that they've taken Henry with them to spend some time with little Alexandra. Because she's intent upon keeping him to herself for a good many hours.

And she does.


He's gone again before they return and her mother needs only takes one single look at her daughter's face to know that he's been there whilst they were away.

Henry and her father are not enlightened about this fact, and Snow White seeks Emma out, alone, specifically to caution her.

She's Princess of the realm after all, one day to be Queen when Snow and James pass on and thus she has…certain expectations placed upon her. There is a certain way that she must conduct herself. She's not in Storybrooke anymore.

And though Emma is tight-lipped. Though she bristles at being told how to lead her own life, she knows that she must be indeed cautious from now on, to save her parents and Henry from shame and dishonour or whatever.

At least until they figure out what they are and what they're going to do, she and him.


Its Spring before he comes back again, slipping into the castle in the dead of night without knowledge.

She's sleeping; for the first time in so many nights, because politics really gives her a migraine and her father wants her to start entertaining neighbouring dignitaries now that the snows have cleared.

He sheds his furs in silence, washes the dirt and sweat and wilderness from his skin and slips in between the soft, perfumed silk sheets, beside her.

It shocks her to find the bed occupied when she turns. The fear jolts through her heart like an arrow, sharp and painful, but she opens her arms to him immediately, letting him draw her close and whisper into her hair that he's 'sorry for alarming her', he didn't mean to cause her fright.

She promises herself that she will shout at him in the morning. What if people saw? What if her father knew? What if the guards had thought him an assassin or something equally devious and captured him? But she doesn't have the heart to right then, she needs him too much, desperately. Its an ache, between her legs and within her chest, and only he can relieve both, always and only him.

She tells him as much and he chuckles deep in his chest, a rumble that shivers through her skin where she is pressed up against him. And she sets about wiping the smugness from his face with tongue and teeth and a journey across his skin, down, down, down.


He's not so smug afterwards, but she is.


The morning sky is as tempestuous as she is.

She's not slept, her mind a-whirl with all manner of thoughts and worries. Of what's expected of her, of what's expected of her parents, of what she wants for Henry growing up…

She purposely leaves for breakfast before he's returned from his own morning hunt with his wolf-brother and then she's occupied by her royal duties. She does so because she wants to put off their looming argument for as long as she can, for an argument it will be, she knows they both have tempers on them and will say things that they do not mean in the heat of the moment.

She succeeds for a few days, but she feels his eyes on her, watching, waiting, heavy upon her back as he lingers in the shadows and when he accosts her in the gardens one evening after dinner she knows that she cannot put it off any longer.

'You can't just arrive back here unannounced,' she tells him and his frown is one of confusion only at first.

'Why not? I come to see you.'

And his words, so truthful and innocent, both break her heart and firm it, her walls rebuilding, shields raised again.

'Because,' she continues. 'Things are different here than in Storybrooke.' She uses her mother's words and hates herself for it. 'I'm a Princess, not some casual hook-up for whenever you feel the urge…'

He looks wounded. As if she's smacked him across his face, eyebrows quirking, features so clear and easily read. She's hurt him, she knows it. Perhaps beyond repair and forgiveness and he takes a step back from her; all his instincts telling him to run and be an animal again. It must be a simpler life than that of royalty…

'I'll leave you then, my Lady.' He answers finally. The title stings her more coming from his lips when she's always only been Emma to him.

He does leave, with a bow and without a backwards glance.


Henry doesn't understand why he left so soon. Doesn't understand that he might not be back ever again. Doesn't understand why Emma is so low. He thinks she's missing Graham and reminds her, cheerfully and on numerous occasions, that the Huntsman will always come back to them sooner or later as she had told him months ago the night that he had cried.

It takes her spirit to lower depths, but she doesn't want him to know and so agrees with him. Lies and agrees.

Her mother does understand, though, but Emma doesn't want to talk about it however much Snow tries to strike up a conversation. She avoids her when she can, and blatantly ignores talk other than that about the kingdom, or Henry, when she cannot.

It is her father who comes to her rescue this time, suggesting she needs a change of scenery. Its high time she makes a trip with him to visit old allies in the South. There's to be a great ball held there and it's a chance they can't afford to miss to make new alliances.

She goes.

And she can't shake the feeling that their journey through the forest is being observed by familiar eyes.


She summers in the South, remaining even after her father returns home.

Warmer climes and a demanding diary make her feel better for a time, help her to suppress memories and longings and regrets.

She finds the Princes and Princesses of their allies diverting, if only because their antics, their proper conduct and speech and mannerisms amuse her. She'll never be one of them, not truly. She's not cut from the same cloth. She's got too much of her mother's fight, flames fanned by her father's determination and a little wildness learned from him.

She dances more than she's ever cared to before in her life.

She laughs and drinks and listens to the royal gossip with a smile fixed and false upon her features and she can't help but wish, desperately, to be outside underneath that full moon, submerge herself in nature because it reminds her of the Huntsman.

She thinks she hears a wolf howling, but perhaps it is just the wind…and then there's a Prince in front of her, offering her a hand and asking her to demonstrate that dance again, the one she called the 'Macarena' and she says, 'Sure, why not?'


When she returns home, Summer is still in full swing.

She finds two things waiting for her upon her arrival and brings one bombshell back with her.

Firstly, she discovers that he came to visit whilst she was away. Henry's bursting with excitement to tell her, about how he taught him how to shoot a bow and arrow properly and how they went hunting and fishing and riding and…He wavers when he sees her face fall, but she regains her composure, swallows down the feeling of betrayal (because he came while he knew she was away, she's sure he knew) and asks to hear all about it.

The second thing is a message from the South that was sent via hawk (no wonder it beat her back then). From King David stating that his son, Garrett, wished to make known his intentions towards the crowned Princess. That he wishes -if its agreeable to King James, of course- to court her.

That stuns her. She gave no impression to any of the Princes down South that she had any interest in them at all. But still, her father is elated! This could bring together their country, bridge the North-South divide that everyone says is not there, although everyone knows that it is. Snow White scolds him though, telling him to think back on his own first engagement, that its Emma's choice, and while he sobers, she can still sense how happy it has made him.

Its this that makes it hard for her to admit the secret that she has returned home knowing. She's had an inkling before she'd left, but now she's certain.

She tells her mother first, who has suspected all along from the looks of the small smile upon her lips.

'Don't worry, Sweetheart,' Snow tells her, brushing back her hair like the mother that she had always longed for growing up. 'I'll break it to your father.'

And Emma is glad of this, because she can't bear to see the disappointment she knows will be in the King's face.


She doesn't know, but his next visit does not happen because he catches a glimpse of her from the tree line as she and Henry picnic in the long grass one day of early Autumn.

He smiles to watch as they chat between themselves, pointing out clouds that remind them of things back in Storybrooke and he almost goes to them, he's determined to mend things…but then she's on her feet and the swell of child within her belly, stretching her garments tight, knocks the air straight from his lungs.

He's on his knees without realising that they've buckled beneath his weight, heart racing like the galloping of hooves within his ribcage.

He thinks she's moved on and his tears are testament to the fact that he never will.

But she's unaware of this. He's gone by the time she turns, sensing familiar eyes upon her back. Long gone.


Autumn fades and falls like a dying leaf into the grip of winter. And it's a harsh one. The kingdom struggles and she worries about him, out there, alone in the cold.

She's made such a mess of things and all because of what? Because she was worried about what people would think of her? She's been there before, when she got pregnant with Henry.

The people love Henry, the people love her parents, and apparently they even love her, the fallen Princess…again. She should've known that they would not judge them because of her. She should've known to listen to her heart.

But alas, hindsight always was a bitch, grinning down at her like she knew some kind of secret that Emma did not.


Weeks pass and still Winter refuses to relinquish her grasp.

Unable to settle, Emma spends the nights pacing the floor of her chambers. She worries for him, out there in the harshest cold on record and perhaps it is her worry for him that triggers the whole ordeal off in the small hours of a moonless night.

Next thing she knows her waters have broken and the contractions are coming fast and furious and she's cursing, swearing so fiercely that the nursemaid looks scandalised, Doc concerned and her mother positively pale.

Princess Abigail (or Abbie as Emma insists she be known) is born dangerously early, while the snows are still blanketing the kingdom and Winter is still gripping them all fiercely.

Doc worries about her, that she might not live, she is so small, but Emma knows that Abbie is a fighter. Just like Snow and James. Like Henry. Like her, but most of all, like him.

She has his hair, curly and soft brown and she hopes his eyes too, although for now they hold only the milk blue that all infants come into the world possessing.

Henry is enchanted with her.

'I'm your big brother!' he tells her, touching her cheek with a trembling finger and breathless smile. 'I'm going to protect you from everything! I'm going to teach you to ride and to shoot arrows and how to fight with a sword! And I'm going to tell you stories. All our stories. About our grand parents and Storybrooke, about Mom and about your Dad too.'

And Emma's heart breaks and swells all in the same moment.

She cries when she thinks no one is watching her, silently. Brushing tears as they each trickle a path down her cheeks. Again and again and again.

'It'll be alright,' her father tells her, an arm about her shoulder suddenly and she finds herself curling into his embrace, seeking the comfort that Henry, and now Abbie, seek from her. She cries until his shirt is soaked, but the King doesn't care, he just keeps telling her, 'It'll be alright.'


It takes her a good long time to actually begin to believe him, but she does, eventually when Abbie gives her first smile.

It steals Emma's breath for a moment, because it's his smile, exactly.

And its infectious.

Pretty soon she's beaming like a mad-women herself, telling Abbie what a good, beautiful, wonderful girl she is and the baby gabbles back, reaching up to fist her tiny hands in her mother's hair.


It's the end of Spring (the snows only just having melted away) when Henry tells her that he's going out for a quick ride in the forest before dinner.

'Alright,' she tells him. 'But don't go too far.' But Henry's already away and moving, racing to saddle his pony and be off.

She doesn't know what he's planning, Henry doesn't even know really. This was so much easier when all he had to do was steal a credit card and buy a bus ticket…

But he makes do, and before long he's found him anyway.

Henry's grin is triumphant.

He's off his pony before he's even stopped trotting and he's hugging Graham as tightly as he can manage and this shocks the Huntsman somewhat, has him staggering over from the sheer force of the boy's embrace.

'What on earth are you doing out here?' he queries, even as he ruffles the boys hair, smile hovering on his own lips. His wolf-brother waits and watches patient and stoic upon the crest of a nearby rise.

'Looking for you, d'uh!' Henry counters, and then he's pulling on Graham's hand, urging him back to his feet. 'C'mon! We've got to get you back to the castle, like, yesterday! You missed it all. My Mom's pretty pissed at you for that.'

'Henry, your mother is…annoyed at me for many reasons. I don't think my coming back to the castle will be quite…appreciated…'

'Trust me, Sheriff,' Henry cuts him off, using that old name for him, his Storybrooke title, grinning again and Graham can't shake the feeling that he's planning something. 'And don't worry, she's pretty pissed at herself too.'

What, he does not know and cannot hazard a guess, but he does trust him though, and he follows. Fearing that he will come back to find her gone. Fearing to come back and find her still there.


The castle is in uproar by the time they reach it, dusk falling. A mass of people running here and there that makes him nervous. He's been in the wild so long now its overwhelming to see such an amount of men and women and-

'Henry, Jesus! There you are!'

And then she's there before him and she's exactly as he remembered. Hair golden and curling down across her shoulders, eyes wide and wild with the last remains of panic, mixed with the relief at seeing Henry safe and then she looks directly at him and he can feel himself buckle beneath her gaze.

His mouth runs dry, he's got nothing, no words to express how sorry he feels for not returning, for not fighting for her the way the hero of a fairytale should.

He hangs his head, for he knows he's no hero, no knight in shining armour. Like the one that she obviously married…

But then she's surprising him again. Her arms are about his neck and her fists are in his hair and her lips crush against his so hard that he can feel teeth and bruises and taste the bitter metallic tang of blood as her tongue curls against his. And gods help him but he's kissing her back and holding on to her so tight that neither of them can breath, all the while preparing himself to be cut down dead by her Prince-husband and child's father.

He can't bring himself to feel sorry for it, if this is the end. She should be his.

'I love you, Graham, and I'm sorry. For everything.' She whispers against the skin of his throat and he still can't speak, so she continues to do so for him, disentangling herself from his arms, swiping furiously at her eyes at emotion that later she will swear blind was not tears.

'Do you want to meet your daughter?'


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