Author's Note: I've never written a story in this kind of a format before. It was a bit of a challenge, but I rather like the way it came out. I hope you're able to enjoy it as well. Constructive Criticism is always welcomed.

Disclaimer: I have never and probably will never own rights to Once Upon a Time, its characters or plot. I simply borrow them for temporary amusement...and to survive the intermittent period between seasons.


Dendrochronology

The building of history using tree-ring dating.

0~0~0

Apple ~ Spring

He'd first met her under the blossoming buds of the apple tree. So young, so beautiful, so full of magic and vitality. She was a vision. He'd thought she must be one of the fabled wood nymphs – her hair golden sunlight shading vibrant emerald eyes that were set above lips as pink as the blossoms bursting forth behind her. Her limbs were long, fair, slender and strong.

She thought him a water sprite – eyes as bright and clear as a lake reflecting the sky, hair as dark as the shadows beneath a seashell, body as strong and sure as the rushing rivers when the snow melts.

He smelled of sea salt and adventure, she of blossoms and the wild.

Love bloomed.

Willow ~ Summer

As the tender petals gave way to animated, verdant leaves so too did their love grow.

It grew stronger and steadier as the season lengthened. Their courtship was exclusive and so, of course, the talk of the land. Everyone twittered and chirped about the love between the princess and her sailor.

Their engagement came as no surprise to anyone.

He promised her forever under the shelter of a willow's branches, soaked through to their skins by the warm summer rain, and enveloped in a vibrant green world all their own.

Ash ~ Autumn

He'd said his goodbyes to her under an ash tree, its leaves such a riot of colors that every branch appeared to be in flame.

Like the slow creeping chill leaching into the land so too had the melancholy begun to seep into their veins as his departure neared ever closer.

Partings between the two had never been easy, his trade stealing him away from her as consistently as the tides ebb and flow, but this one would be longer than either wanted to stand for.

He promised to hasten to her side with his mission complete.

They spent every spare breath with each other.

Every moment was precious; never knowing for sure exactly when they would get to share the next.

Holly ~ Winter

It was a long, harsh and dark winter. The winds had teeth that could strip a man bare within moments from exposure. The snow was deep. Heavy crystals of ice coated every surface that wasn't already buried deep in the piles of thick white powder.

He'd reach out for her at night, and wake with a plummeting feeling in his stomach – she wasn't there.

She was forced to tell her parents when she could no longer hide her secret. Her father had been upset, her mother disappointed. Not at the news, but that their daughter had thought to hide such an important secret from them. But as the sprigs of holly brought light and color inside the stone walls, so too had they celebrated the solstice with joy and a thrill of expectation, all transgressions of the past year forgiven in anticipation of the new.

The laughter and merriment, however, could not completely dispel the lingering melancholy hidden in her eyes. Every soft touch of her fingers against the rounding of her stomach brought bittersweet memories and an ache where her heart beat so forlornly in her chest.

Cherry ~ Spring

New life entered the world as the delicate white blossoms of the cherry trees burst forth, scattering their petals like warm snow upon the dark, soft ground.

They had sent messengers, but there was no word.

The ship and crew had not been seen or heard. A terrible storm had swept in, the vessel and all the souls on board had vanished without a trace.

She neither wept nor grieved. A small part of her tucked away inside had refused to believe he was gone. Though the tears she shed when she held their child in her arms were not from joy alone.

Oak ~ Summer

Their child grew strong under the powerful shade of an oak tree. Her home, once so solid and comforting now felt suffocating and confining.

Hair grew in dark and thick as summer foliage – hair as dark as her mother's, as dark as his had been. Eager eyes, so open and curious watched everything with an enraptured gaze that changed colors like the waters of a crystal blue lagoon reflecting the lush green growth around it.

His eyes. Her eyes.

As mixed together and physically inseparable as the princess and her sailor had once been, a harmonious combination of sea, sky and land. Two hearts beating as one now manifest in the body and soul of the life they had created together.

Her parents watched in worry. While the child had brought untold joy in the lives of their little family there were ever-present shadows in their daughter's eyes.

Dogwood ~ Autumn

Something in the air was stirring.

Many would simply call it the changing of season, the transition from warm, inviting summer to the cold, repelling winter, but as she stood under the reddened leaves of the dogwood she knew it was something else.

She felt it was something else.

The flame enshrouded world lit a flame in her heart, sent it fluttering like the wind through the branches and leaves above her head. A restless energy suffused her very being, made her anxious.

Her parents exchanged wondering glances. Their daughter paced relentlessly, eyes always directed out the window, searching the horizon or down where the land met the sea. They too grew anxious but not worried. They had experienced much in their lives and seen more. Far be it for them to question the mysteries of the unknown, especially when it came to the most powerful magic of all.

It had once led them to each other.

Blue Spruce ~ Winter

The great blue spruce was set, the family gathered around as the fire leaped behind the iron grate.

She hadn't been able to sleep, her limbs all but tingling with an impatient expectancy , her heart tugging more fervently than ever to gaze out every window – to keep silent vigil of the sea. She wondered how much longer she would be expected to endure this building anticipation before it made her scream.

This feeling of waiting – of standing on the edge of the earth itself – was enough to drive a person mad. The child in her arms sensed it too. Usually happy, dancing eyes were quiet and searching.

The little family of four turned as one when doors swung open hard enough to bounce off the stone walls. The intruder could offer no apology for his actions, only nod in silence, eyes wide with disbelief and an almost fearful awe.

She was on her feet in an instant, depositing her child in her mother's waiting arms with a tender kiss upon the soft, smooth forehead before she was dashing past the startled intruder. So intent was she upon her destination that she missed the dumbfounded eyes that followed her race through the halls.

She halted in the grand foyer, her rush brought up short by the sight that met her just inside the large, carved wooden doors. She paused, her body thrumming with energy, pulled as taut as a bowstring, perched on her feet to take flight.

Emerald met cerulean.

Arms opened wide, bodies staggered slightly from the sudden force of impact before encircling the other, locked in an embrace more comforting and healing than the warmest of summer days. Blood rushed, tears spilled over, hearts beat as one while fervent kisses and fluttering hands flitted over the other.

They only parted briefly when her parents arrived to join the reunion and celebration.

She held their child shyly as she watched her mother hug him tightly and her father embraced him comradely, utterances of relief on both their lips.

When his eyes sought her once more his gaze riveted on the child in her arms. She could only nod quietly at his questioning gaze, a fist of something hot and potent caught in her chest.

Shaking arms reached out to fragilely hold the little body of her child.

His child. Their child.

Serious blue eyes regarded each other silently.

Small fingers reached out to rest softly on his cheek. Tiny lips lifted into a smile as eyes shifted from blue to green. Laughter bubbled forth as eyes settled into that enchanting fusion of the two.

Tears too long held under a tight grip loosened and fell as quietly and unstoppable as snowflakes falling beyond the glass windowpanes.

Wisteria ~ Spring

Spring came early that year. Whispers in the kingdom spread stories that magic had a hand in it. That the reunion of the princess and her once-lost sailor had awoken the very land from its frozen slumber with their love.

Flowers bloomed, heavy and fragrant. Rain enriched the fertile soil.

Life sprang forth with all its usual reckless abandon, unwilling to waste even a single moment of the precious time that had been gifted to it.

So too did they exchange their vows under the full bloom of a wisteria tree by the sea, amethyst blossoms suspended above them like tears of radiant joy wept by the heavens themselves.

Magnolia ~ Summer

The last tree to bloom for the season was an ancient magnolia that grew tucked away deep inside the old forest. Villagers swore its blossoms refused to open until the very day the newly wedded couple announced the expectation of their newest child.

All living things grew strong, happy and vital that summer whether it was the stumbling first steps of the child with the mesmerizing eyes, the new life growing by the day inside the shelter of the princess's arms, the love shared between her and her no-longer-lost sailor, or the green of the land.

Life thrived in the long growing season, knowing all too keenly how ephemeral and precious it could be.

Everything had its season.