A/N: So sorry for the delay... I couldn't bring myself to update for an unknown reason... I had this written a week ago, then I came back to it and absolutely hated what I had come up with so I rewrote it, and hated it again... Ugh. But I do think you'll like the outcome. At least I hope.
40. Ninety-seventh dawn
The pain subsided after almost an hour of total agony. She could not feel any part of her body yet, and could only hear the thrumming of her heart in her chest amidst the beating of her ear-drums.
She knew something was wrong with the baby. She had managed to hear some words in-between her spasms and screams, and knew Whale was talking about something not normal happening to her.
Slowly, carefully, as if she was afraid she'd burst into flames, she opened her eyes, the light of day hurting for a second before she could make two figures leaned over her, concern on their still slightly blurred faces.
"Robin?" her voice was faint, hoarse after so much screaming, but she knew he heard when she felt fingers close around her own.
"I'm here. I'm here..."
"We're all here, Regina, don't worry..."
She felt a surge of relief when she recognized the second voice. "Snow? Are you...is everyone-?"
"Everyone's as fine as can be expected. Don't worry."
Gradually, Regina's sight and senses came back to her, and she could make her surrounding more precisely.
She had been carried to a hospital room, and she was plugged to a machine that bleeped with the constant beating of her heart and of her daughter's. In a corner, Tinkerbell was asleep on a chair, her slender legs under her tiny form, head slumped onto her arm resting on the coffee table. Grace, by the window, was lulling Neal back to sleep while her fussed about, blue eyes settled on his godmother.
More surprising was the presence of Marian, who stood by the door, a small smile forming on her lips as she saw Regina look at her. She nodded in greeting, and Regina's brow furrowed.
Marian approached the bed carefully and took a place next to her husband, who ignored her presence and kept his fingers tightly wrapped around Regina's. "We don't know what started it, but..." she gestured lower on the bed, and when Regina followed her gaze, she gasped.
In her somewhat sitting position, she had not noticed yet her stomach. Her very swollen stomach. When it had been almost flat an hour prior... Her free hand came to rest on the swell as if it was something stranger from her body, and then, she felt a soft kick against her palm.
Her eyes snapped back to Marian. "What...what's this?"
"It seems your baby has decided to grow up faster than usual. You are about a month and a week away from delivery. If she doesn't do this again."
"But...I don't understand..."
The door had silently opened while they were talking, and Rumpelstiltskin appeared in the doorway, a smug grin on his face.
Regina sighed tiredly. "Do tell then, don't keep us uninformed just for the fun of it."
He chuckled. "Alright, dearie... Last time you asked me for help, I told you your daughter was channelling your magic to use hers." Regina nodded, remembering that conversation all-too-well. "The fact is, she was too little, too weak to produce her own. When Thea attacked, she seemed to sense the danger, and she protected you, and herself, from the witch. But as she did so, she exhausted you, drained your energy. It was dangerous for you, so she decided to grow up so she'd be more powerful..."
Regina shook her head. "Wait, are you telling me my daughter, who isn't born yet, thinks...has...logical thoughts?"
"Don't me smug, dearie. It had been proven foetuses have logical thoughts early on. More so when at least one parent is magical." He paused. "In fact, she drained your energy again to use it to grow, and now she has stopped, I can only guess two things. One: she is powerful enough to produce her own magic. Two: yours has come back."
Regina gasped, then lifted her hand from her stomach, brow furrowing as she tried to conjure a simple rose to her. In a soft glow of pink – since when her magic had turned pink? – it appeared in-between her fingers.
He was right.
"But...what does this mean?"
Rumpel rolled his eyes. "It means Kida was right. Your child can defeat the witch. Now, our mission is to protect you until you are tough enough to help." His gaze raised to Snow and to Tink, who had awaken. "We might need you."
Snow nodded. "Of course." she looked aside at Grace. "Grace can take care of Neal."
Rumpel nodded, looking one last time at Regina. "Don't do anything foolish."
She would have sneered at his sudden interest in her well-being, but he exited the room swiftly, quickly followed by Tink and Snow after both squeezed Regina's hand in their own for support.
Regina's gaze went to Robin, and she felt a sudden need to be alone with him. But how to tell the others?
Her eyes then fell on Grace, the dark circles under her eyes, and she suddenly felt something horrible had arrived. "Grace... Has your father been...?"
The young girl looked at her and tears sprang to her eyes as she nodded.
Regina gasped and closed her eyes. Jefferson...and Elsa both... Thea knew what she was doing. Or almost did. "Grace... You have to awaken him."
"What?" Robin squeezed her hand. "Do you think-?"
She nodded. "I've used True Love kiss on Henry, as has Miss Swan. I know it also works for parents and children. Grace, go. Awaken Jefferson."
Grace stopped crying, eyes widening. "But...Neal-"
"I'll take care of the baby. Go." Marian walked to her and took Neal from her arms, and Grace exited the room without a look back. Then, the nurse turned to the couple and smiled softly. "I'd better find something to change him, he's all wet." And she exited the room too.
Robin's eyes were swift to go back to Regina's, and he smiled genuinely for perhaps the first time since Marian had come back. "How are you feeling?"
"Like a whale?" she chuckled at the irony, but soft fingers were distracting her thoughts. "I'm glad nothing happened to you and Roland."
"We were lucky. We arrived after the whole thing. She seemed more interested in freezing magical beings than us poor humans." he chuckled darkly, then his lips formed a thin line. "I'm sorry. For Jefferson. And Elsa."
"It's okay. Grace will uncurse her father and, if I'm right, which I am often, he'll uncurse Elsa."
Robin's blue eyes widened. "You believe Elsa and Jefferson are-?"
"True Loves? Oh yes." she chuckled. "How ironic this whole thing is... Jefferson is one of the most inconstant people I know, and ever since he met her...he sees only her. I'm impressed."
"What about her? Does she have the same feelings for him?"
"I believe she does. But let's not talk about them now. Not when I have you all for myself." Robin opened his mouth as if to speak, surprise on his face, but she raised her free hand and shook her head. "I am sorry for yesterday morning. I was so angry..."
"No, you don't. Now...now I almost lost you... You could have been cursed, or worse!" she felt tears tingle her eyes. "Now I...I understand we should not have wasted so much time fighting..."
Robin sighed. "We were...we needed it."
"Now I don't. But I need something else." She smirked. "Kiss me, outlaw."
He looked surprised for a second, then smirked too. "Whatever you wish, Your Majesty."
He leaned down and Regina tried to lean up, and when their lips met, there definitely was a gush of air around them, and a soft warmth in her stomach, as if their daughter felt their reunion and was happy about it. Regina wrapped her free arm around his neck and tried to deepen the kiss, to bring him closer, but he pulled away, chuckling.
"Not now, Regina... Now," he put his hand on her swollen belly, "now we take care of this little one here."
She smiled. "It's a girl."
"A girl?" his eyes widened, then his smile. He stooped low and placed his mouth just above her stomach. "Hello there, princess. Sorry I'm late for the proper introductions." he met Regina's eyes, and she could swear in that moment that she had never been so happy in her life.
Snow was relieved Regina was going to be alright, but, to be fair, she found it extremely strange that Rumpelstiltskin knew what this was about when apparently no one else did.
So when she followed him in the corridors alongside Tinkerbell, she couldn't help but stop him. "Wait!"
The wizard turned around slightly, eyebrow lifted. "What is it? We must hurry!"
"First, you're going to tell me how you knew all this about Regina's baby." She took a pace forward and tried to look as determined as she could. "Now!"
He smirked. "Demanding, are we not, dearie?" He looked to the end of the corridor, then nodded. "I knew because I've seen it before."
"Way before you were even born, dearie. There was a threat in the Enchanted Forest, when it was still a congregation of villages fighting against each other. There was a man in one of them, he could wield magic, although not powerful enough to defeat the threat. His wife, who was pregnant, then began having the same symptoms as Regina. She was doing magic but it wasn't hers, then the baby started growing too quick, and she gave birth six months too early."
Tink, behind Snow, gasped. "What happened to them?"
"They were all killed. Because the sorcerer facing them didn't wait for the baby to draw its first breath."
There was something in his tone that made Snow very uneasy. And as Rumpel made to leave the corridor, she understood. "The sorcerer...it was you, wasn't it?"
He stopped for a second but didn't answer, instead continued to walk away.
She had her answer.
When they reached the main hall, Rumpel was already deep in conversation with David and it didn't seem to be wise to confront him with his story anyway. So Snow and Tink exchanged a quick glance and walked to the group.
She put her hand on Emma's arm and her daughter met her gaze with a concerned one. "It's not good."
"It will be. Where's Kida?"
Emma shrugged. "Last time I saw her she was walking her brother's body to a room."
Snow nodded. "We might need her. Or one of her men. Their crystals are the only thing that can harm Thea."
Killian, beside Emma, cleared his throat. "That may be a problem because most of the Atlanteans are...not in ship-shape." he pointed to a corner of the hall, and Snow gasped as she saw many bodies, frozen in their combat position, surrounded by a group of nurses.
"When you went with Regina, she...came back. And I only had the time to raise a protecting spell. She had already cursed all of them."
Snow squeezed her daughter's arm then took a quick decision. "We have to gather their arrows. For my bow. And perhaps Robin's, if he is up to it."
"I can shoot too, your highness."
She whirled around and was met with the imposing figure of Little John, and smiled. "Thank you. John."
She didn't wait for her husband to have finished his conversation with the wizard and took the matter in her own hands. John, Emma and Killian followed her as she walked towards the fallen Atlanteans, on a mission.
It was close to waking from a dream where you were sleeping. As if two layers of your being were asleep, numb and...on pause.
He didn't quite remember what had happened apart from the fact that someone had been sent to bring him and Grace to the hospital where something was happening. And then, he remembered being suddenly so very cold, and nothing afterwards.
But now, he could almost feel a warmth erupting from where his cheek must have been. A warmth that spread and transformed into a fire, blazing under his skin, into his blood, waking every fibre of his body until he could do nothing else than open his eyes and take a long gulp of air.
He was in the hospital, he could see that as plain as day. He had been carried to a two-beds rooms and the light was almost blinding as he tried to sit down.
Beside him, there was movement, then he heard the voice of the sole being that he would gladly give his life for. "Papa?"
He searched for her voice, and then here she was, grinning, tracks of tears on her cheeks. He gasped and reached for his Grace, and then she was safely tucked in his arms, and he was breathing in her flowery scent, so close to her mother's.
"You're alright...you're alright..."
Grace entangled herself from him and smiled. "They took good care of me."
Her smile faded. "No...she...she-"
"Oh no, as she been hurt?" He sat down straighter, ready to leave the room if need be.
Grace put a soothing hand on his arm, and shook her head. "Not quite. It's complicated... She...she'd better explain this herself. But before that...there's someone you need to see..."
He was ready to ask, but she rounded his bed and went to the separating curtain that hid the second bed from his view, and as she pushed it to the side, he gasped.
She was lying on the bed, her eyes opened onto nothing, and he felt suddenly so cold.
Without thinking, he flung his legs over the side of the bed and stood, feeling a bit dizzy but who cared, and went to stand by her.
Grace sighed. "She was one of the first to be found. Or so Miss Tinkerbell said."
Jefferson sighed, fingers going to the Frozen Queen's cheek, that felt ever cold to his touch. "Elsa..." he leaned down, feeling sick to his stomach. Not her, please, not her...
"Papa..." he met Grace's eyes over Elsa's form, "you can try it. True Love's kiss."
He shook his head. "It wouldn't work... She does not feel that way for me..."
"Try it anyway. It couldn't hurt." She was smirking knowingly, and reminded him so much of himself that he could only do as she asked.
He leaned ever so slightly down and hovered over Elsa's lips. "Come back to me, Elsa of Arendale."
When their lips touched, there was a burst of light and magic that seemed to erupt from their very hearts, and after a long second of waiting, Elsa was kissing him back slowly, a hand going to his cheek. A cold, but so soft hand.
He pulled back and admired her blue eyes as she looked at him, a smile on her lips. She was so beautiful it hurt.
"I told you it'd work!"
Both adults looked to the side and, upon seeing Grace with a goofy grin on her face, had both the grace to blush.
Then Elsa gasped, her eyes darting to her fingers, tasting the skin there as if she was in a different body.
When her eyes met Jefferson's again, he felt strange. As if he had never seen her so happy.
"I'm mortal again!"
Next chapter: Thea strikes back