A/N: Sorry for the late update - again. I truly believe no one can HATE the heat as much as I do. This friggin' weather makes me want to bury myself in a freezer and never come out. Which means my brain has melted these last days and has only solidified again recently...
Anywho, thanks again for the support and to all the new followers that keep coming - and really I find it so strange.
38. Ninety-seventh sunset
In their hurry to get to the hospital, and to Leroy, Snow and Regina didn't take the car, merely hurried up the road with their eyes darting up to the rooftops.
Regina could see the forms of Atlanteans watching over them, and a feeling of uneasiness took over her as she realised they were armed and much more numerous than what they were used to.
When they reached the hospital, Regina put a hand on Snow's arm, stopping her from down right running inside to check on her friend.
Snow's concerned green eyes met her brown ones.
Regina tried a little smile that felt very fake. "Go inside. I'm going to try and find Kida."
Snow didn't answer, merely nodded before hurrying inside.
Regina faced the street once more, wondering how and where she'd find the Atlantean princess, when two figures fell from a roof, dropping to the ground as if they had been cats, or vampires.
Kida and Milo ran to her, faces painted with stripes of white and blue, their spears in their hands.
Regina greeted them gravely. "You heard my call?"
Milo smirked and nodded, but as usual, didn't utter a word.
His sister glanced upwards and into the skies. "Thea has found some artefact at your friend's shop. We fear she can use it to quicken the pace of her curse over this town."
Regina's blood froze and her own eyes stared at the bubble of water above their heads, and it was shivering as if entering reality even more, as if at any given moment, it could engulf the town and drown everyone in it.
"Rumpelstiltskin is not my friend, but if she has stolen something from him, then yes, we are definitely in danger."
Kida nodded gravely. "I've asked two of my people to go and fetch your friend Jefferson and his daughter is their house in the forest. It is not safe anymore."
Regina tilted her head to the side. "What do you mean?"
"The small man that has been injured was in the woods when she attacked. She...well...we think she was trying out that item she stole."
"What did it do?"
"It froze him." Kida's lips formed a tight line. "He's become some sort of...statue."
Regina let out a deep sigh, her thoughts going to Leroy, who, to her knowledge, didn't have a True Love to uncurse him. "I know what she's stolen then." She paused. "A wand. Rumpel keeps several at his shop. The trouble is to know which one it was."
"What do you think, dearie?"
All three heads turned to see Rumpel and Belle hurry up the road, the librarian glancing up every second or so in fright.
Regina gasped. "You kept the Dark Fairy's wand?"
He made a face but didn't answer her, instead turning to the Atlanteans. "That wand is the most powerful in our realm. It can do a lot of damage. And if Thea wants to froze each and every of those who can harm her, then...it is not good for us."
Kida's brow furrowed. "Is there no way to destroy that wand?"
"Yes there is. But it's dangerous and straining." He looked over at Regina, then back at the princess. "The Dark Fairy was a fairy who, as her name entails, was using dark magic to do her bidding. Dark magic has a counterpart, that is much more powerful. Light magic."
"As I understand it, not many among you can wield that...light magic."
Regina sighed, her eyes falling to her hands. "Two of us. Emma Swan and I. But my magic isn't working at the moment, and if Rumpel says it's straining to the point of being dangerous, then I doubt Miss Swan would want to drain her life-energy out of herself... Even if to save us all."
"It's rather a question of her parents stopping her. You're forgetting that our Saviour wants to sacrifice herself on a regular basis..." Rumpel smirked, apparently finding things much more entertaining that they really were.
Regina rolled her eyes. "Yes, I know."
The door to the hospital slid open, and an unassured voice called her name.
Regina whirled around and her eyes widened when she saw Marian go out of the main hall and walk to her, her brown eyes – so similar to Roland's it somehow hurt – going to her companions and their peculiar appearance.
"Marian? What is it?"
The nurse met her eyes again, and an awkward moment passed. It was the first time they saw each other since she had left Robin.
Marian looked down at her feet then, taking a good deep breath to steady herself, glanced back up at the Queen. "Grumpy was not the only one to be harmed." She paused. "You might want to come with me."
Regina's blood froze again, and she glanced over her shoulder at Kida and Rumpel who were still deep in conversation, and she decided they could be left alone for a little while.
Marian was hurrying down the corridors, obviously worried and grave at what was happening.
When they reached their destination, a silent room whose door was closed, Marian turned around and met Regina's eyes again. "Is it true what Miss Snow said? That this witch was willing to kill us all?"
Regina sighed and nodded. "I'm afraid it is."
Marian nodded back gravely. "Then we must take Roland to safety."
Regina started at the use of 'we' but understood the sudden trust Marian was putting in her for the safety of her son and Regina's...closest thing to a second son.
She nodded once more. "I think everyone must be taken to safety. But to be honest, Roland is one of the few who are lucky enough not to worry." Marian sent her a confused glance and she explained herself. "Thea is freezing people. Cursing them. To undo the curse, one would need a kiss. True Love's kiss. Roland, as we both know, doesn't lack someone who loves him and he loves back."
Marian's eyes lit a little at the prospect that her son would somehow be safer than others, then she sighed, her hand going to the door handle. "I warn you. We found her like this and there is nothing we could do."
She opened the door and Regina's eyes immediately welled up with tears.
Elsa was lying on a bed, her blue eyes opened onto nothing, her lips opened as in a silent call for help perhaps, her left hand outstretched over her eyes as if trying to protect herself, her right hand balled up in a fist.
It reminded Regina of a scene in a film she had seen with Henry so long ago, when he was still head-down swallowed up in 500-pages-long books about a young wizard wearing glasses and named Harry – which was short for Henry, her son soon told her.
The gravity of the situation did not pass unnoticed.
Thea had attacked one of the few who could stop her, because while Regina knew Elsa could not wield light magic – her own powers were too far from what they knew – she was one of the most powerful beings currently in the realm. And freezing her was one right move when you wished to incapacitate someone who could not die.
Marian stood at the foot of the bed, her arms crossed, shaking her head lightly as Regina stood, frozen, in the doorway, her heart constricting at the sight of yet another of her friends harmed.
"Does she? Have a True Love?"
Regina sniffed tears away, hope once again flowing through her veins as she gasped and nodded. "Yes, I think she does." She whirled around, for one crazy second wishing Jefferson would appear right then, then her eyes went back to her frozen friend. "I'm going to go find him."
Marian nodded. "I think it'd be wiser for everyone who has a True Love to remain safely here. Or at least one half of the...pairs. To make sure someone can wake them up if they are struck."
Regina didn't have time to tell her that was a wonderful idea. She was already exiting the room at a steady pace.
She was met with Snow half-way. The princess's green eyes were full of worry, and her hands engulfed Regina's as soon as she was close enough. "You heard?"
Regina nodded, eyes darting around the hall, looking for a tall man that wasn't there. "Elsa too. I was looking for Jefferson."
Snow's eyes widened a bit. "You think Jefferson could be her True Love?"
Regina nodded, then her eyes locked with Snow's again. For the first time in a looooong while, she was actually worrying, not for her, that had started a while back, but for her family. "Where's Charming?"
"Here's taken Neal to Emma's to fetch her and Henry. And Killian, of course. In fact, we've called all our friends to gather here. We think it'd be safer."
Regina sighed. "Unfortunately, if my dear sister was able to break all our protection spells before, I doubt they could stop or even slow down a witch that wields the Dark Fairy's wand..."
"Don't be so pessimistic, Regina. We can't be."
The Queen nodded, then pushed past her step-daughter. "I'm going to look out for Jeff. Stay here."
Snow nodded. "Be safe."
Rumpel had come inside the hospital with his wife, and both were in deep conversation with Granny and Ruby, who was regularly glaring in Whale's direction from where he spoke with Marian.
Kida and Milo, who were still standing at the entrance of the building, had been joined by Tinkerbell and Blue.
"Have you seen Jefferson?"
Kida turned around and shook her head lightly. "Not yet."
Regina sighed, and she turned to Tink, who met her gaze with a raised eyebrow. "Elsa's been cursed too."
Tink gasped. "No!"
Blue, at her side, kept her indifferent stance. "I'm afraid we'll find others have been cursed during this day. Unbeknownst to us all."
Regina gritted her teeth. "Thank you for the nice words, Blue."
The fairy sent her a small glare but remained silent.
The wait began to be unbearable.
While Charming and the rest of his family arrived safely at the hospital after a little while – Henry refusing to leave Regina's side until his grand-father pretended Snow needed help with Neal – many other didn't arrive at all or arrived in a frozen state.
Thomas for instance. Cinderella's prince had arrived carried by his co-workers, his wife and daughter still missing.
The more time passed, and the more Regina feared for Jefferson's life. Not to mention Grace. She dared not imagine the young girl frozen and the look on Henry's face when he found out...
It was little before sunset that a truck arrived, parking roughly in front of the hospital. When its doors flung open and two Atlanteans got out, soon followed by Hansel, Gretel, their father Michael, then Grace, that Regina knew she had been right to worry.
Grace, crying, walked to her. "We had almost reached Granny's..."
Tink let out a pained squeal and took the girl in her arms while one of the Atlanteans walked up to Kida, Michael and the other helping out the frozen body of Jefferson out of the truck.
He was frozen in a defensive stance, and Regina understood at once he had been protecting Grace by taking the blow.
She sighed, tears prickling in her eyes, and she gestured everyone to go inside.
Just at the same moment as a form appeared in a whirl of white mist.
Kida and Milo held their spears high, and a sick laugh echoed around the street.
Regina gritted her teeth.
Thea had come.
Next chapter: Showdown at the hospital