I decided this year to write three Christmas fics for Red Snowing: one in canon (or canon divergent), one in the EF and one that's a Modern AU. We're starting with canon divergent. It's moreso a rewrite of 3B with Christmas sprinkled in, the others will be more focused on Christmas. The plot of this got carried away from me.
Title inspiration: Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson
The library is lit by a single candle when Snow enters. She can barely make out the built-in bookcases, lined with some of their favorite books nor the rosebud wallpaper that lines the walls. A chandelier with the finest crystals remains unlit. The most Snow can see is her beautiful wife, sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs with a leatherbound book on her lap. 28 years in Storybrooke had spoiled them all and returning to a land without electricity had been an adjustment to say the least. Even so, there's something sexy about candlelight. The golden flame accents her wife's face as she absentmindedly flips through the pages.
Snow walks closer, the heavy oak door slamming shut when it falls from her grips. Ruby looks up, a ghost of a smile going across her face.
"You're up late," she whispers.
Snow shrugs. "Couldn't sleep." She drops into the matching chair besides Ruby and strains her eyes to take in the cover of the book.
Ruby holds it up. The cover has a tiny white swan imprinted on the cover, surrounded by bright flowers. "The Ugly Duckling."
Snow nods, her own smile disappearing. "I miss her too."
Emma's name is not one that's said often around the castle these days. It's not like when Snow was pregnant and the trio heartily prepared for their little one's arrival. They knew even if the curse hit, it wasn't the end. Snow would find a way to bring Emma back to them. Of course, life didn't go according to plan. The curse did hit and Snow was in labor during it. Because of that, they had been forced to send their newborn out into the world, alone. Even so, Emma had returned to them. No matter what life threw their way, they'd get their daughter back.
It seems less likely this time. Storybrooke no longer exists and Emma has no memories of them. They want to believe that this isn't how the story ends. Snow's had dreams of Emma and Henry appearing in the Enchanted Forest. They're all a family again. Other times, the throuple is transported back to Storybrooke, where the two have been waiting on them and Regina. Snow needs to believe that she hasn't seen her daughter or grandson for the last time. She knows they're safe. So long as Henry is with Emma, Regina would make sure of that.
Despite that, the woman who normally has so much hope, finds herself without it. She and Regina have looked into every way to get their children back, but outside casting the dark curse, there just isn't.
Regina talks about Henry often. She's miserable and Snow pities her. This is the first time she's lost Henry with no hope that he'll return. Neverland was different, they knew he'd come back. Even when she and Henry were estranged in Storybrooke, he was only 10 minutes away in the loft. It's different now. And despite Regina causing Snow so much pain, despite her knowing that she should consider it karma for all Regina did to their family…she can't. Because she's a mother and she knows the immense pain she feels.
It's just not the first time that Snow, David and Ruby have lost their child. They've had to give her up so many times for her own safety and by now, it's almost second nature. It hurts, but talking won't bring her back. They know some judge them for it. Aurora questions how she can keep a smile on her face despite her child being in another realm with no way back to her and Snow's answer is that she gets through it the way she always has: knowing that Emma is safe.
Even though they don't talk about her, Emma is still present in their castle. There's chocolates in the kitchen. A teddy bear found in the ruins of her nursery sits on a shelf in their bedroom. Ruby finds ways to make grilled cheese, even if it doesn't taste exactly the same. Then there's the Ugly Duckling book, the one that reminds them so much of her daughter. She was lost for so long and then found her family, strengthening her inner swan.
Ruby runs her fingers over the pages. "I always wanted to read her this story."
"I know you did," Snow says softly.
"There's just so much we missed, Snow. First steps, first smile…even if we find her again, we'll never get that back."
Snow plays with the fringe of her nightgown. "I know."
Snow's head snaps up, her heart pounding. Her hand instinctively goes over her own stomach, which Ruby instantly notices.
"I just realized last night," she whispers.
"Oh my God."
"That night…after the ball we threw to celebrate the castle being fixed…"
"Not like we were able to sneak condoms before the curse hit," Ruby jokes and Snow cracks the tiniest smile.
"I'm happy, Ruby. I want this baby…these babies," she reaches over to grab her wife's hand. "I know what I said in Neverland and had things not gone down the way they did, I could see us trying…but after all this…"
"I know," Ruby says, giving her a sad look. "We barely have had time to mourn Emma." She lets out a bitter laugh, shaking her head and throwing her hands in the air. The book falls to the ground. "Mourn her, she's not even dead, but it feels like it."
"It's not fair," Snow says hoarsely, tears gathering in her eyes. "We should've been doing this as a family. The three of us should've been able to talk this through with Emma, be a family. She should get to be a big sister."
"She'll always be a big sister, even if she's not with us."
"The timing is just awful," Snow says. "We've barely been here 3 months. I wanted more kids, but not like this."
A pang of regret fills her stomach. She never would've said she wanted another baby in Neverland, had it not been the only way to save Neal. She had tried to talk to Emma about it, but she was obviously put off. There was supposed to be more time. After Neverland, it was their shot to work on their family. They were supposed to grow it together.
"What's going to happen if we have these babies and then Emma comes back?" Snow continues. "She's going to think we replaced her."
Ruby grasps her hand, their fingers lacing together. It's like two pieces of a puzzle connecting, though their third piece snores soundly in the room down the corridor. "Then we'll talk to her. We'll work it out, as a family."
Snow nods. Deep down, however, she wonders if they can really ever be a family again.
David is thrilled when they announce their pregnancies, but Snow and Ruby can tell there's something he's hiding. He admits his fears after he saves Rapunzel from her tower and they know they're not unfounded. None of them ever really got to be parents to Emma. How are they going to do it this time? Is it even fair that they get to do it without their oldest?
Despite the sadness, they try to find ways to be happy. The three decorate a nursery with two beautiful cribs for their children. They playfully debate the sexes. There's a ball thrown to celebrate the upcoming births. As the months go by, the three try to find peace and acceptance.
And then Zelena's threats hit. Her spell needs a newborn and she'll do anything to get her hands on one. Despite the trip with Regina to Glinda's realm, they know there's only one way to stop her threats: a curse must be enacted. David offers to sacrifice himself so Snow and Ruby can cast the curse. Despite his wives' objections, even Regina agrees…it's truly the only way.
There's tears, "I love you's" and everything in between before Snow crushes one of her true love's hearts into the pot. As they watch David collapse to the floor, Ruby pulls her wife into her arms. But Snow has a look of determination on her face as purple and green smoke billows from the cauldron.
"What I said is true," she whispers. "The three of us have shared a heart since we met…we can share one with David."
Regina looks at her with bloodshot eyes. "Snow," her voice is gentle, broken. "That's crazy."
"No, it's not. We can save him." She looks up at Ruby. "He's saved us more times than we can count. It's our turn now."
Ruby nods without much thought. "If we share our heart with him, it'll create a new one."
Snow pulls away from Ruby, taking the hand of her former enemy, turned friend. "Please, Regina," she pleads. "Help us save him."
Regina is quiet for a few moments, confliction sprinkled in her big brown eyes. Finally, she reaches into each of their chests and pulls out their hearts. There's some darkness, from the deaths of Cora and Peter…but they are vibrant enough to keep David light. Regina rips a half of Snow's and combines it with half of Ruby's. Spots fly before Snow's eyes and she drops to the ground.
When she comes to, she can hear David let out a gasp of air. She turns to him, confusion written in his eyes. She climbs on top of him, pressing a kiss to his lips before looking over at Ruby. She's just coming to as well. Snow places a hand over her chest, half her heart still beating inside of her. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see relief written across Regina's face. The woman who once wanted them dead, just saved their lives.
"Snow," David mutters. "What's going on?"
"We're going to be okay," Snow tells him. "We're going to get our daughter back."
And just like that, the smoke envelopes them, taking the four out of the Enchanted Forest for the second time.
Snow looks at herself in the mirror, taking in the baby bump that was definitely not there when Regina cast the curse to override Pan's. Ruby stands beside her. She's rubbing her own large stomach.
"What happened?" Snow whispers for about the fiftieth time since they woke up in Storybrooke.
"I don't know," has been Ruby's go to answer.
"Emma." Snow says, looking up at her wife. "We need to find Emma."
They're standing in her room. It's been nearly 6 hours since they woke up, unsure of what was going on or where anyone is. The three had gone upstairs, hoping their daughter and grandson would be waiting for them, but came up short. After making some calls, they realized that everyone was there and just as confused as they were. Regina said they would figure it out together, along with finding a way back to their kids. Snow still feels like there's something more there. She seems as confused as them, but it wouldn't be the first time she cursed them.
David is downstairs making them something to eat. The food surprisingly hasn't gone bad, nothing has been touched since they left. Emma's bed is unmade and there was the tape they had watched in the VCR from the night they returned from Neverland.
Snow turns to look at her wife. "Do you think…Regina? She wouldn't, would she? She was finally becoming a hero."
"Unless she did something during the time we were gone. Which was what…"
"Has to be at least 9 months. I mean, look at us. I'm bigger than I was with Emma."
As if on cue, she hears her daughter's voice. A rush of warm relief fills her heart as she turns to Ruby, clutching her hand.
She's found her way home.
The two rush downstairs, just in time to hear Emma say, "But if you don't remember how do you know it's been a year?"
"Emma!" Snow exclaims.
She looks exactly the same. Long blonde hair, her dark red leather jacket. Her eyes widen in the same adorable way they always do and her mouth drops open. Snow knows her daughter can see her and Ruby's bumps, but she doesn't care. She throws her arms around her, cherishing the feeling of her daughter's chin hitting your shoulder.
"You're here," she breathes.
Snow pulls away after a few moments, allowing Ruby to hug her next. When they've pulled apart, David puts an arm around each of his wives. Snow can't shake the smile on her face as she takes in her daughter, grabbing hold of her glove covered hands. God, she can't remember time without her…but something in her screams how much she missed her.
"As you can see," David says. "A lot's happened."
"We just don't know what," Snow adds, breathlessly. "The whole year is gone."
Emma looks at each of her parents in turn. "Who would've done this?"
"We don't know," Ruby says. "We've called Regina and she wants to have a meeting."
"Regina. Do you think…"
"We don't know. But she is our first suspect."
"Where's Henry?" David asks.
"He's um…he's in the car," Emma bites her lip. "But there's something you guys should know." Snow tilts her head. "He doesn't remember anything."
Frowns fall cross the throuple's lips. "But…you do," David's words come out more like a question than a statement.
"Hook…he showed up in New York with a memory potion, but there was only enough for me."
Snow's frown increases. "So, he…"
"He thinks I raised him, that we lived in Boston until a year ago when we moved to New York. That's where we ended up after Regina counteracted Pan's curse. He doesn't remember Regina…or any of you."
A meeting with Regina confirms what Snow thought in the back of her mind, she had nothing to do with this. As she points out, why would she want to live in a world where her son didn't remember her? Hook is of no assistance either. According to him, he took off not long after they returned to the Enchanted Forest and only went looking for Emma because he got a note telling him to. No one in town has their memories from the past year and they're all left wondering: what possibly happened?
Henry has grown up so much in the past year and none of them can even show how much they missed him. Emma came up with a cover story that she knew Snow from prison. He looks right through them and it breaks their hearts, no one more than Regina.
While trying to figure out the mess, they work on getting ready for the babies. Whether they can remember how they got pregnant or not, they're coming what seems to be any day now. Cribs are purchased, clothes are tucked away. Granny even starts on two baby blankets for her new great-grandchildren.
Despite Snow, Ruby and David's constant attempts to talk to Emma about any of this, she always finds an excuse to avoid it. She's staying at Granny's with Henry so he doesn't become suspicious and the second they try to talk about the changes in their family, she's gone. The little information she does give is that she almost got engaged back in New York but her boyfriend turned out to be a flying monkey. When they try to pry on that, Emma wants to focus on finding the Wicked Witch.
It doesn't take them long to figure out who it is. Snow didn't recognize her, but the woman came up with a story about how it was a big kingdom, surely, she didn't know everyone. She feels stupid for not pressing further. Neal dies to save his father so he can tell them all about the Wicked Witch being Zelena.
When David and Emma return to the apartment, Snow sees her daughter's face. She's been crying.
"Neal's dead," she whispers.
Snow's heard this before, but she knows from the look on her daughter's face that it's not like last time. Neal didn't fall through a portal and get saved by Mulan. He's gone for good this time. Her daughter's first love, her grandson's father, sacrificed himself to save everyone.
She holds her daughter in her arms, Emma's chin falling on her shoulder once more. In Neverland, she told David and Ruby that she didn't know how to comfort her own daughter. Right now, she's trying to figure it out.
Belle studying every book she can find reveals Zelena's plan. She wants to kidnap one of the Charming babies to complete her time travel spell. Regina, Emma and Belle are working on a way to stop her, but it's not easy. She's powerful. Like Regina, she once trained with Rumpelstiltskin and she's got him locked away as her pet. Every step they take, she's two ahead.
As if all of that was not enough, David comes home one night with some troubling news.
"Emma says once all of this is over, she wants to go back to New York."
Ruby looks up from her book. "What?"
"She says that they had a normal life there, they were happy."
"She almost married a flying monkey."
"Outside that…I guess it was happy."
Snow purses her lips. "But this is their home, it's where her family is."
"Maybe she won't really leave," David says. "Maybe she's just upset."
"Regina is not going to lose Henry again," Ruby points out. "She's doing all she can to help him get his memories back."
"Emma could still leave, even if he wants to stay behind."
"Emma wouldn't go anywhere without Henry," Snow says, but the confidence in her voice is wavering. "Would she?"
Snow gets her answer the following day when they scavenge the bedroom part of the loft for the book. It had once lived in Mary Margaret's closet for 28 years, only coming out when they needed it. When Emma finds the box it was once in, she can't locate it. Snow only has to look for two seconds for it to appear. Regina leaves the loft, determined to finally figure out how to get the rest of her son's memories.
"You couldn't find the book," Snow muses.
"It was really hidden in there."
"That or you didn't want to find it." Emma looks up at her, her mouth open. "Emma…you don't plan on sticking around, do you?"
Emma looks from Snow to her other two parents. "I…" She sighs. "I don't know."
"Do you want Henry to get his memories back?" David asks.
"If it'll break the curse, then yes, of course I want him to get them back. It's just…we were happy in New York."
"I don't doubt that. But you were happy here once too."
"You forgot who we were," Snow adds. "Your family is here."
"For a year, Henry and I were a family," Emma protests. "It was all we knew. There were no curses or Wicked Witches or Pan trying to take him from me."
"I get it, I do," Ruby says, her voice soft. "But it wasn't real, any of it."
"It sure felt like it," Emma says, her voice hard.
"I don't doubt that, pup," the nickname falls easily off Ruby's lips. "But Henry's real life is here, in Storybrooke. He has another mom that loves him to pieces and from what Regina's said, she's not going to let him go again."
Emma is quiet for a moment. "I know she's not," her voice breaks a little. "And I love Henry, I love him more than anything…but I know he's meant to be with her. I gave him up for a reason."
"And he brought you home for one," Snow tells her.
"It's different. Storybrooke is all Henry really knows. It's his home. I…I never had a home." The words sting the three of them. "And now, you three can have a new life with these kids."
"That's not what we're trying to do, Emma." Tears prick Snow's eyes. "These babies were a happy surprise but we want you here with us for all of it. We want to be a family."
"I think it's just too late." Emma pushes herself off the bed. "I need to go check on Henry."
Snow doesn't allow herself to cry until the door to the loft shuts. David and Ruby sink on either side of her, each taking a hand. They've fought so hard for this family and it could easily disappear.
"How do we make her stay?" David asks.
"We can't," Ruby says. "She has to make that choice on her own."
"But will she?"
It's question none of them can answer.
The curse breaks when Regina kisses Henry's forehead. Memories of their lost year come flooding back. Taking back the kingdom with Regina. Finding out they were pregnant. The pain and utter turmoil the three of them alongside Regina went through every day that they were not with their children. Zelena threatening the lives of their babies. Snow and Ruby splitting their hearts to save their husband.
Zelena gets away, but they know she won't be gone for long. They can figure this out, they've defeated bigger monsters before.
Time just isn't on their side. Only one day after Henry regains his memories, Snow and Ruby go into labor. They're put into a room with two beds, David standing in the middle of his wives. Robin and the Merry Men stand guard in the lobby, while Regina protects the hall outside their room. Emma has gone to stop the witch once and for all.
Whale handles Snow while Doc is with Ruby. The babies are coming faster than they would like and immense pain rips throughout Snow. Despite it all, she thinks of her other baby, the one that's out there fighting for the lives of this one. Emma shouldn't have to keep fighting villains. She should get a normal life.
Snow just has to hope she'll choose to find one in Storybrooke.
Snow delivers their son first, with David screaming out with glee that it's a boy. In the midst of her own labor, Ruby manages a smile, watching as David and Snow wrap up their newborn son. Snow looks down at him, love and joy gathering in her heart.
Ruby lets out a scream and a few more guided pushes later, Doc is announcing "It's a girl."
They have a second daughter now. Two girls, one boy. They're parents of three.
The joy is short lived. Not long after David helps Ruby wrap up their little girl, Zelena bursts through the room. The three are frozen in place as Zelena poofs the two babies into her arms.
"Which one of you will help me with my curse? How can I ever choose? So innocent, so pure," she coos, looking from one to the other. "And now, mine."
With a cloud of green smoke, she vanishes. The curse over them breaks and Snow looks at her now empty arms. Memories of Emma being carried away only moments after her birth swirl through her head. This wasn't supposed to happen, not again. These babies were supposed to be safe.
A sound of agony masked as a sob escapes her lips. Pain from losing more babies combined with that of labor is too much for her to bear. She lets out her emotions for the first time since the second curse. Is it karma for the dark deeds she's done? Is she paying for the sins of her parents? Why is this their fate? Why must they always lose each other.
She can't even look over at Ruby, who is crying herself. David rips off his gown and storms to the door, sword in hand.
"I'm getting them back," he says. "We are not losing two more children."
And Snow, despite it all, wants to believe him.
Ruby and Snow lay silently in their beds for the next hour. Whale moved them closer to one another so they could hold hands. Still, no words escape. They don't need them. This day has been hard enough. The two can't whisper about how much physical pain they're in, it won't make it go away. Reassuring each other that the babies are going to be fine could potentially be a lie. Worry for Emma courses through Snow's veins. She needs her babies back, all three of them.
The door is pushed open but Snow doesn't look up. Nurses have been in and out to check over both of them and they've barely acknowledged their presence. Then David's voice breaks through.
"Do you want to meet our kids?"
Ruby and Snow look up. Snow's heart quickens at the sight of not just the two babies, but Emma as well. She's holding one of the yellow bundles, beaming at her mothers.
"Are they okay?" Ruby chokes out.
"They're perfect," David says. "They're fighters, just like their big sister."
David carries the boy to Snow, placing him in her arms. She presses a kiss to his forehead, letting out a content sigh. Snow watches as Emma hands the girl to Ruby, kissing her cheek.
"Zelena is defeated," Emma says. "Regina is taking her to a cell as we speak. She says when she figures out how, she's exiling her back to Oz."
"She's the one that saved the babies," David adds. "She used light magic to take down Zelena."
Snow grins, looking back down at her son. She knew that there was good in Regina.
"I'm sorry," Emma says, causing both Ruby and Snow to look up again. "I'm sorry I couldn't save them in time."
"Hey," Ruby takes her hand. "It's okay."
"But you brought me back here to save them…"
"Emma, we brought you back here so we could be a family," David places a hand on her back. "We love you. Always have, always will."
Emma's gaze goes to the babies, biting her bottom lip. Snow gestures for her to come over and she does.
"We wanted this, we wanted the three of you. Not just them, you too, Emma. I remember now, everything from the missing year. We weren't a family, not without you."
A single tear falls down Emma's face and Snow reaches up to wipe it.
"Please don't leave," she whispers.
Emma looks down at her, her green eyes filled with heartache. "I don't want to keep running."
"Then don't," David says, softly.
"Come home," Ruby makes out in spite of her own tears.
Emma looks around the room, taking in her little siblings and her parents.
"I'll think about it."
And it's the most Snow can ask for.
Snow holds her babies, giggling at how they stare at the lights on the tree with wide eyes. Ever since they decorated for the holidays, the 3-month olds have been in complete Heaven. Everything is so shiny and bright for them. Neal is partial to the Christmas tree while Charlotte has her eyes on the Menorah. Their home is a hodgepodge of decorations for both holidays. Their house is interfaith and it can lead to some crazy times, but they wouldn't have it any other way.
Hanukah wrapped the night before and Christmas will be coming within the next week. Presents for the family are already piled under the tree. They've made plans for the holiday: Christmas Eve will be spent at Regina's. She and Robin are throwing a party. Henry is so excited for their first holiday as a family. Christmas morning will be just the Charming family opening presents and letting the babies play with the wrapping paper. At night, they'll go to Granny's for the potluck.
Snow turns to the fireplace, where six stockings already hang, each embroidered with a name. They bought the house not long after the babies' birth. While the loft had been their first home, they knew they were swiftly outgrowing it. The farmhouse was perfect, the babies would each have their own room someday. Snow had an office for grading. Ruby could run through the fields every full moon. David had made the biggest change, leaving his profession as sheriff behind to become a farmer.
"Mom." Snow turns to find Emma standing there. "Dad's almost done with the cookies, if you want to help decorate."
Snow smiles. "I'd love that, sweetheart."
Emma made the choice to stay in Storybrooke just a few days after Charlotte and Neal were born. They had a beautiful naming ceremony for the two of them and included Emma in the festivities. Given the chance, she would've had one when she was born. Their daughter looked at the three of them with such joy as they announced the names.
"We're proud to present our children…Emma Ruth, Neal David and Charlotte Eva," David proclaimed, lifting his frosty glass of beer.
That night at the loft, Emma made them all happy when she said she was staying in Storybrooke. And a few weeks later when they got the house, she agreed to move in with them. They had missed out on too much time with each other. She said she'd get her own place in time, but Snow secretly hoped they could all live together forever. It was unrealistic, but she'd give herself that for the time being.
Snow follows Emma into the kitchen. Ruby grins at her and takes Neal from her arms, David retrieving Charlotte. Emma swipes a freshly baked gingerbread from the tray, taking a big bite of it.
"We're supposed to decorate them first, Em," David points out and she just rolls her eyes, handing him one.
Snow laughs, shaking her head. "Come on guys, we need to save some for the Christmas tree lighting."
"This town has way too many events," Emma says. "We just had a banquet for the first of Christmas…"
"Advent is very important," Ruby interrupts.
"Then we had all the Hannukah celebrations. Now, there's the Christmas tree lighting tonight, the festival next week."
Ruby adjusts her grip on her son. "Don't be such a scrooge, pup."
"Plus, it's our first Christmas together," David points out, fixing Charlotte's pacifier. "It's important we do all of it together."
Snow's eyes drift to a picture on the fridge. Mary Margaret and Emma stood around a tiny, Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree in the loft. It had been their first together, but they were separated from Ruby and David, not even knowing who they were. Last year, they spent it in the Enchanted Forest, Ruby and Snow newly pregnant. Even with both of her spouses, it still wasn't a real Christmas without Emma.
Now, there they were. A family of six, with more extended members that completed it. It was their first Christmas with no curses or villains.
And all Snow could hope for was many more to come.