A/N: Hello there readers! Well well, I have quite the announcement to make today. First: this is the longest chapter to date, if I am not mistaken, and it was also BY FAAAAR the hardest to write. So I do hope you like it, before it's action-packed and also full of love, because I need love in my life.
Second: I realised that, after this, there won't be much to be said anymore... So I think it reasonable to say that this story will most probably only last three more chapters...so, around 45 chapters. I'm as sad as can be that this is coming to an end, truly...really sad...
Third: this is my shout-out to all those craaaazy readers who are still putting alerts on this so close to the end. You amaze me.
Fourth: I heard from my dearie friends out there that there was much talk about this story on the net. You are making me blush. Seriously. I never intended to have this much response to such a pesky little fic, and now I am feeling like J.K. Rowling. Duh. I love you.
Fifth: as some are doing it among my friends, I am doing it too: this chapter is for Colleen, Ilaria and Jacky, because our Twitter conversations crack me up everyime, and I love each and every one of you (even if Jacky has still not read ONE LINE of this, when she does, she'll realise how wrong she was to postpone it. :p ).
There, I'm finished. Enjoyed this chapter!
42. Ninety-eighth sunset
The moments following Thea's last attack in date were full of tension as Regina watched Belle and Elsa take care of Robin's wound. His head colliding with the wall had suffered a blow and he sported a small cut on the side, but the librarian was quick in tending to it, and soon, the archer was put onto the bed opposite Regina, and a nameless nurse was checking his pulse.
"How is he?"
Her fingers were still playing on her swollen stomach, as if there was the slightest hope of protection that could come from there should the witch attack again.
The nurse sent her a reassuring smile and nodded. "He's been knocked out but he'll be fine. Call me when he wakes up. He might be a little dizzy." Regina nodded and the nurse exited the room.
Not a second later, a green fury – or fairy, which word was more appropriate – was storming inside and crushing Regina's feet as she jumped onto the bed and sat there.
"Oops, sorry Regina." she moved to the side a bit, releasing Regina's appendages. "How are you?"
"How do you think I am? A murderous witch is trying to kill me and my baby!"
"Yes, I knew that question was stupid... Well, guess what?" Regina made a face, and Tink sighed. "Okay, you're not in the mood, I get it. Well, Milo...that is, Kida's brother, he's been cursed, right?" Regina didn't even nod. She had been there, after all. "Well, it appears he is conscious. He can still communicate. Through here," she pointed at her head, "that's crazy, right?"
"Wait, didn't you hate the guy because he said you felt funny?"
Elsa chuckled from her perch on a chair and gained a glare from the fairy, so she raised her hands in peace-making. "I haven't said anything!"
Tink rolled her eyes. "Alright, I said I didn't like him much, but...he's not that bad..." She cleared her throat. "Actually, he may have said that we could try luring Thea away."
"Luring her away? How?" Elsa stood and came to stand by the bed.
"There are a few of us who can conjure glamour spells. If we cast one on, say...you, for instance," she pointed at Elsa, "you can leave the hospital in a diversion while Regina stays safely here. Lure her away."
"And what, wait for her to kill Elsa while I wait here a month and a week for my little saviour to be born? Thanks, but no thanks, Tinkerbell. I won't let my friends get killed for me. I had enough trouble getting those friends in the first place..."
"Actually, it was not that a stupid idea..." Elsa raised a hand to silence the objection Regina was going to utter. "We could lure her away...but not far... To another part of the hospital. Have Miss Swan cast a protecting charm around both places. Her light magic may not be enough to kill Thea, but it is enough to at least slow her down. Plus, now I have my magic back...and I can control it, I can try and harm her, or freeze her in ice...slow her down even more."
Tink smiled in agreement, while Regina pondered that plan for a little while.
Then her eyes fell on Robin's form on the bed across, and she sighed, nodding. "Alright. But I want Henry and Roland here with me. Not alone in some sordid place."
Elsa nodded. "I'll go fetch Snow." And she exited the room.
Tink looked down at Regina with a grin that seemed all too improper for the situation. "Have I told you it was about time you and Pretty Boy over there made up? I was tired to tell Blue she was a stupid cold-hearted bitch..."
Regina rolled her eyes. "You never told her that..."
Tink shrugged. "If I had Milo's abilities, I would have..."
The corridors were empty as the Frozen Queen hurried through the maze of them and towards what was signed 'Main Hall'. Her heart was telling her Snow White would be there, organizing their last stand with her husband. And with any luck, she'd also find Jefferson there.
The fact that the Hatter had awoken her using True Love's Kiss was still a little puzzling for Elsa, but she felt strangely happy knowing he was her destiny. If such a word ever held a signification before. Her sole regret was that Anna would never meet the wonderfully contradicting man who had stolen her heart...
As she had guessed, the Charmings were organizing the small group of people willing to fight, consisting in the remaining dwarves, Granny, Emma and her pirate, Rumpelstiltskin, and the girl everyone called Red and whom Elsa had not had the chance to properly meet yet.
Snow, upon seeing her, hurried at her side, brow furrowed in worry. "Has something happened?"
Elsa shook her head. "Not quite. We might have an idea to lure Thea away from Regina for a while. Even slow her down for a moment."
Snow nodded gravely. "Tell me what you need."
"I need your daughter." Emma's eyes snapped at her at that and the princess walked to them, silently asking what she had to do. "We need you to cast a magical barriers on two different places of the hospital. Using your light magic."
Emma nodded. "Why two?"
Snow's lips stretched into a wicked grin Elsa had never seen on her before. It struck her at that moment how alike Regina and her were sometimes. "You are using a decoy."
Elsa nodded. "My ice can slow her down. Even perhaps harm her."
Snow nodded frantically. "Emma will go with you. Rumpel also. We need all the magical beings focussed on protecting Regina."
The Dark One smirked. "I didn't know I was under your orders, dearie."
Snow pointed an angry finger into his chest. "For the moment, you are, and if you'd rather get yourself cursed or killed by the crazy witch outside, be my guest! Unfortunately for me, you are my grandson's only remaining link with his father, so I have to suffer your existence a while longer! Now, will you go, or do I have to send Killian after you?"
Hook raised the appendage that gave him his moniker, a smirk on his lips. "You called, Your Highness?"
Rumpel glared at the pirate, then sighed, leaning on his cane. "Lead the way, Miss Swan."
Emma nodded then looked at Elsa in expectation. She raised a hand. "You go choose a room as far from Regina as possible. She wants Henry and Roland near her."
The Saviour and Dark One hurried away through an adjacent corridor, and Snow came by Elsa's side. "I'd be better knowing Neal was safe too. I'm coming with you. Besides, Jefferson is at the nursery right now. He wanted to check on Grace before...hell was set loose. In case..."
Elsa nodded gravely. She understood his motives all too well. And then the two women were off.
The nursery's door was blocked when they arrived, and Snow had to prove it was indeed her before a heavy desk was pushed from the way and the door opened, revealing Whale.
"What's happening? Is she gone?"
Snow sighed and pushed past him and inside, followed by Elsa whose eyes darted around the several rooms in search for a specific soul. "I'm afraid not. I've come to fetch my son. And Regina wants hers close. In case. Roland also."
"Roland is with his mother."
Snow's eyes went to the room too and she nodded. "I'll go talk to her. Thank you, Viktor."
The medic's eyes widened a bit at the kindness in her voice, something he was not used to have directed his way, and he pushed the desk back into place as the two women entered the rooms further.
While Snow found Marian and Roland on a bed where the nurse was reading him a story, Elsa walked her way around until she found Jefferson, Grace and Henry sat at a table, all with grim faces and hands crossed before them as if in a prayer.
Grace was the first to notice her. Elsa's heart leaped in her throat as she saw the girl's smile, one she happily returned.
Jefferson stood as he saw her, and soon, his strong arms were wrapped around her in a quiet embrace, her head going to his shoulder, her hands squeezing the life out of him. "You're safe..."
"We are. How's Regina?"
Elsa's eyes locked with his, so he understood the gravity of the situation. "We've had an idea. A dangerous one. But she wants Henry close." She eyed the boy over Jefferson's shoulder. "Do you mind going to your mother's? She needs comforting."
Henry sprang to his feet. "I'm coming!"
Elsa nodded, her eyes going back to Jefferson. "I wish you'd stay here. Safely hidden away from her..."
"I swore I'd never leave your side in moments of danger ever again... So I'm not doing it now." He turned to his daughter. "You stay here."
Grace's mouth popped into an O. "No! You can't leave me here! I won't know what's happening!"
"You stay here and you protect the little ones. Grace, please..." He let go of Elsa and took his daughter's hands in his as tears sprang from her eyes. "I swear everything's going to be fine..."
"What if she kills you for good this time?"
"Then I'll die protecting the most precious thing of all... You." He kissed her forehead lovingly, then turned away, taking Elsa's hand in his as he pulled her away and back into the first room.
Snow was already waiting for them, Neal asleep in her arms, Marian and Roland next to her. As Elsa formed a silent question, the nurse answered simply. "Where he is going, I am going to."
The Frozen Queen nodded. "Your presence might be needed anyway."
Whale moved the desk again, but before Marian got out into the corridor, he caught her hand, worry written all over his face. She nodded and spoke quiet and ushered words to him before leaving.
Elsa and Jefferson shared a surprised glance, before Henry answered their curiosity with a dark chuckle. "Grace and I saw them kiss. It was gross."
Snow didn't even bat an eyelash at the revelation.
When Elsa returned with her little company, Regina's heart missed a beat. Henry wasted no time in reaching her, his eyes widening at the sight of her grown belly but no question leaving his lips. He surely had been told what had happened.
He hugged his mother tight, whispering soothing words in her ear. "We'll get her, Mom, don't worry..." He then sat by her side, while Tink remained at the foot of the bed.
The Queen's eyes went to Snow, who was putting Baby Neal down onto a makeshift cot by Robin's bed. He had still not awoken, and it started to make her feel restless.
She then saw Marian and Roland, the nurse's eyes going to her husband's still form and the silent question she asked as her brown eyes met Regina's. "Thea's sent him tumbling onto the wall. He's be unconscious for almost half-an-hour now..."
Marian nodded and walked to his bed to check his vitals, Roland silently weeping as he climbed onto his father's bed and grabbed his hand.
Then Snow sighed. "Well, this is it. Elsa, Jefferson and I are leaving for the other side of the hospital. Emma and Rumpel are casting the barriers as we speak. Rumpel will come here protect you. We thought it'd be less obvious if Emma and I were protecting the decoy..."
Regina nodded, a lump forming in her throat. Snow understood her fear and came to hug her briefly. "It'll be alright..."
Tink tried a smiled that seemed a little false. "I'm here to kick the hell out of her anyway, so what could possibly happen?"
Regina didn't share her false enthusiasm, and as Elsa also came to hug her, she couldn't help but shed a tear. "Be careful."
Jefferson briefly squeezed her hand, and then all three were gone. Silence fell onto the room. A silence not even Neal's quiet cooing could soothe.
Robin groaned and opened one eye then two about ten minutes later. The wait had started to be excruciatingly long, and the distraction was a welcomed one.
Regina sat straighter as soon as he made a noise, and Marian sprang to her feet to check on him while Roland still squeezed the life out of him.
"What...what happened?" He looked at his wife for a second then his blue eyes widened and snapped to the other side of the room. "Regina!"
She tried a small smile. "I'm here, I'm here... Snow made her go away using the last crystal arrow she had."
His hand outstretched from his bed and she reached for it, tears forming into her eyes. "I'm so sorry you have to live this...because of me," her eyes went to all the other people in the room, "all of you..."
Tink snorted. "Stop saying nonsense. I'd be there even if a blasted witch didn't want to kill you."
"I would rather be here and help someone I know than stay hidden and helping no one..." Marian smile softly. "Besides, where my son goes, there I go too..."
Regina nodded her thanks, then looked to the side and met Henry's grey eyes. He was tense, she could see it in the jutting of his jaw, but the small smile he gave her was genuine. "I'm so proud of you, Mom..."
"I'm proud of you too, darling..." Her free hand closed around his until a small form jumped onto her bed and startled her.
"Gina, if the bad witch comes to hurt you again, I have my bow!" Roland opened his jacket and she saw the small wooden bow he always seemed to carry around in a perfect imitation of his father.
"Thank you, Roland... Much appreciated."
The younger boy then placed his head on the swell of her belly as he had done only a few days prior. "Is she okay?"
"She is, don't worry."
He smiled widely then. "Good!" And moved back to his father who was looking at him with wide eyes full of pride. And to Regina's surprise, Marian kissed the top of her son's head with a smile and a small 'Well done, my love'.
One the other side of the room, Neal started crying.
There was a flash of light coming from the corridor and Tinkerbell sprang to her feet in a defensive pose. There was a commotion outside, and all held their breaths, praying it wasn't Thea. They could hear Rumpel shouting, but could not make the words, until something heavy slumped against the door, and there was silence.
Neal stopped crying. Marian grabbed a dagger she had hidden somewhere in her nursing robe and put Roland behind her. Henry stood and placed himself in front of his mother despite her trying to move him out of the way. And Robin grabbed her hand tighter, gritting his teeth in painful expectation.
The door bolted open and Rumpel's head fell onto the ground, his form frozen. Henry let out a cry, but Regina didn't worry. If he was only cursed, Belle's kiss would suffice to revive him. And if Belle had been cursed too, then...Henry would be his last chance.
A black mist started to fill the room as a tall figure entered. Thea's magic had been so altered by the wand's power that she was barely recognisable. Her eyes were as black as night, as were her long, now flowing hair that reached well under her knees, and the smirk she wore on her lips was no more of a woman certain of her right mind but of a mad witch lusting for blood.
"Well well... You truly believed I would fall for the decoy thing, when your precious archer lies here still? How stupid do you think I am, Regina Mills?"
Regina shuddered under the sudden but expected rise of magic coming for her infant inside her, and she tried to conceal it as best as she could not to give her away.
But Thea had understood, and with a wave of her hand, Regina was frozen. Well, not quite frozen like the other, but...unable to move, her whole being impeded to do anything...her baby's magic no longer rising inside of her.
Robin cried out and squeezed her hand tighter. "What have you done?"
"Quiet, or I will have to kill you too..." Thea's eyes moved to Tinkerbell, whose face was contorted as if she was trying to summon a hard spell. Regina understood she too had been frozen into place. Then she looked at Marian with utter disinterest, and finally, her gaze fell on Neal.
Neal who had stopped crying and was staring at the witch, not in fear, but with something close to curiosity in his blue eyes.
Thea gasped. "There's another! There's another child!" She looked at Regina again. "Well, this one, you won't be able to save!"
She moved quickly to the other side of the room and towards the infant, and Marian jumped into the way with a loud'No!' before Thea sent her flying towards the wall where she slumped down, not quite knocked out but unable to stand and protect Neal again.
Thea grabbed his by his shirt and lifted him so his little face was aligned with hers, and she chuckled darkly, her chuckle quickly turning into an evil laugh. "Well, if this was supposed to stop me, you were all very mistaken!" She raised her other hand where the wand was no longer shining, a black dagger having instead taken its place. She raised her arm as if to strike, and Marian, in a last attempt to protect Snow's child, sprang to her feet, not fast enough though.
Regina's eyes processed the rest as in slow motion.
Thea's arm had started to lower to strike Neal in the chest when he raised his tiny hand to touch her face. And as soon as their skins connected, a strong and blinding blue hue erupted from his fingers, and Thea cried out in pain, then rightly screamed in agony.
She let Neal fall towards the floor, but Marian placed her body between him and the cold tiles to catch him, and the group could do nothing more than watch as the terrible witch firstly lost her black colour, reverting to her white eyes and original clothes, then grabbed her face as if she had been burnt, her skin bubbling as if touched by acid before she dispersed into smoke into the air, her screams echoing into the air.
As soon as Thea was gone, Regina and Tinkerbell were free to move again. The fairy ran to Marian and took Neal from her before helping her to her feet, where she ran to Roland who was sobbing. Henry went to his little uncle, still a bit stunned at what had just happened.
And Robin managed to stand and to come to Regina, who was panting, her hand to her belly.
"Are you alright?"
She met his eyes with a shake of her head. "I'm in labour."
Next chapter: Our little princess comes into the world!