Mal stretched and yawned against the blanket on the grass. She'd been re-reading Jane Eyre, one of the first books for one of the courses she was teaching in her new job. It wasn't like she needed to re-read it, or find write any more notes about it. She could probably read the whole thing from memory if she wanted. But since the book was new she wanted to read through it once before class; mainly so it didn't look like she was just working from a book she'd never touched. Books should look well loved if they are; it's part of their character. She also had her earphones in, listening to The Belle Brigade 'I Didn't Mean It'. She bopped her head to the song, tapping her feet. A shadow fell across her, making her jump. She yanked out her earphones and sat up.
"Phillip, you scared me!"
"Evil qween!" He giggled and then ran off towards the front garden. Mal jumped up and followed. When she came round the front of the house she found Aurora standing there, grinning.
"Hey." Mal ran her hands through her incredibly long chocolate brown hair and grinned. "So the Prince has come to play?"
"If that's alright?" Aurora asked.
"As long as he doesn't kill the Evil Queen permanently."
"Don't worry, I'll protect you." Aurora chuckled and winked. Mal bit her lip automatically. That woman!
"Don't forget, I have all the powers of hell to protect me." She responded, watching as Phillip 'practised' with his sword.
"Are they more effective than my early bed time threats?" Aurora teased.
"Considering I've seen you trying to get him to bed, I would have to argue yes." Mal laughed and shoved her hands in her pockets. "So when does this game begin? Do we have time to string some fairy lights before hand?"
"I think so. Prince Phillip has a lot of practising to do, haven't you?"
"Yes!" Phillip squealed.
"And where is his noble steed?" Mal asked.
"I didn't want to assume it was okay to bring him. He tends to dig."
"Ah... yes well... best left until he learns not to then." Mal laughed. "I'm very protective of my garden; it's an Evil Queen's right to have somewhere she can stop being feared."
"Well I'm glad you've found a place." Aurora smiled. "So... do you have fairy lights?"
"I used to have an apartment full of them. They're just inside." Mal opened the door and picked up the cardboard box she had filled with lights before she moved from the city. She headed back outside. "There are plugs in the summer house; I thought we could string them near there?"
They headed in to the back of the garden with Phillip following, swinging his sword.
Aurora helped Mal to hang the lights through the trees at the back of her garden and around the small summer house that sat under them.
"I can't wait to see how they look tonight!" Aurora smiled as she hung the last of them.
"Inviting yourself over?" Mal teased. She was standing at the bottom of the step stool Aurora stood on, supporting it with her foot.
"Relax." Mal smiled. "You're welcome any time."
Aurora's responding smile was so dazzling that Mal had to look away. She'd been careful to keep her eyes averted from the girl as she climbed anyway, but the woman looking down at her, so delighted at her invitation, had her brain slightly frazzled.
"Okay I'm done!" Aurora took a wobbling step down and Mal automatically reached out to steady her. Aurora took her hand and jumped down the last two steps. "Thanks."
Mal smiled and let go quickly. Aurora's hand had made her skin tingle and she felt her heart rate pick up. She hated her reaction.
"So, I guess I'd better become the Evil Queen now." She put her hands in her pockets again, and looked over at Phillip.
"Oh... yes." Aurora called Phillip over. "Phillip, Miss Mal is ready to be the Evil Queen. Behave won't you? And be careful with that sword."
"Yes, no more bruises." Mal laughed.
"You got bruised?" Aurora frowned.
"Just a little." Mal hurried to say. "Nothing to worry about." Aurora continued to frown. "Look, it's almost gone." Mal lifted her top to display the small bruise fading from her stomach. "See?" She glanced up just in time to see Aurora raise and quickly drop her hand as though she had been going to touch her stomach and thought better of it.
"Uhm... okay." Aurora "Well just be careful."
"Yes mum." Mal teased. Aurora stuck her tongue out and grinned.
"You play Rora?" Phillip asked, pulling at his sister's skirt.
"Well who would I be?" She asked.
"You be the pwincess!" He insisted. Aurora glanced at Mal who smirked at her with raised eyebrows.
"I already told you I'm not a Princess, Phillip."
"Oh but I'm sure you could be just for Prince Phillip." Mal teased. Phillip nodded and Aurora glared half heartedly at Mal.
"Yaaay!" Phillip giggled. "Kay so Rora gets kid... kid..."
"Kidnapped?" Aurora interrupted.
"...yes. By Evil Qween. An den I muss save her!" Phillip giggled.
"Alright then, well, save me Prince Phillip!"Aurora said dramatically and Mal had to stifle a laugh. Phillip frowned, his little lip caught in his teeth.
"No. I has to climb the tower!"
"Tower...?" Mal asked, still laughing. Aurora nudged her gently in the side which only made her laugh more.
"Tower!" Phillip pointed at the top of the house.
"Oh." Aurora replied, looking anxiously at Mal.
"Well then, to the tower Princess!" Mal said. Aurora stared at her for a split second and then laughed. "You'd better come quick Prince Phillip. The dragon does not keep her victims long!"
Mal led Aurora in to the house. Once inside they looked out of the window to see Phillip talking to himself and acting as though he were fighting his way through an army. Aurora giggled and looked at Mal.
"Thank you, for allowing this. He seems so happy. I don't always have time to play with him with the house to take care of."
"I have never been someone who... children never liked me. People never like me really." Mal said, looking out at the boy. "It was oddly refreshing to have him take to me so quickly."
"You are very likeable." Aurora replied and Mal glanced at her. "Those people were idiots."
"I can't argue with the last point, but the first makes me wonder whether you have had a blow to the head. Perhaps with Phillip's sword?" She smirked playfully.
"You keep pretending you aren't who I see."
"That's because I can't see who you do." Mal admitted. Aurora frowned and opened her mouth to answer, but they both spotted Phillip approaching. "Come on Princess. It is time for your imprisonment and my battle to the death."
Aurora hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, but Mal smiled at her in encouragement, and they made it to the top of the stairs. On the landing Mal turned.
"So... what possible reason could I have for imprisoning the Princess?"
"Perhaps I did something wrong."
"But isn't the point of Princesses that they are perfect?"
"Well then maybe I shouldn't be a Princess, because I am far from that." Aurora replied, looking down.
Mal opened her mouth and closed it. Aurora looked down at her feet and fidgeted.
"You are far too young to be so severe on yourself." Mal reached out her hand but hesitated just before her fingers would have touched her arm. Aurora looked up and Mal began to draw her hand away. Aurora stepped forward, following the hand and Mal had a strange desire to both run away, and step closer.
"No one is perfect." Aurora replied, inches away.
"Aurora..." Mal began, but then there were footsteps on the stairs and Aurora stepped back. Mal realised she hadn't been breathing, and inhaled deeply. By the time Phillip made it up the stairs she was prepared to be the Evil Queen again.
"Well well... Prince Phillip. What a pleasant surprise." She saw Aurora glance at her with a fascinated look on her face as Phillip brandished his sword.
"Leh her go!" Phillip said, in the most demanding voice a five year old can have.
"Cos I say so." Phillip frowned.
"I will not give her up without a fight." Mal said fiercely, more fiercely than she had intended.
"I fight you then!" He lunged forward and Mal had to sidestep to avoid the weapon. She stepped in to Aurora who steadied her, and then before she could even glance at her she felt the sword thwack her leg.
"Ah!" She cried.
"Phillip!" Aurora cried and clutched Mal tightly. "Mal are you okay?"
"It takes more than a sword to kill the Evil Queen." She muttered through clenched teeth. The kid had a surprising strength.
"I got your leg!" Phillip celebrated.
"Well done Prince, I am defeated." Mal replied. Aurora frowned.
"Phillip go downstairs!" Aurora said. "We'll be down in a minute."
Phillip frowned but went, swinging his sword all the time.
"I'm fine." Mal said, rubbing her leg and standing up straight. Aurora's hands remained where they had supported her.
"I should've known he wouldn't be careful." She fretted.
"Aurora, I am fine." Mal smiled. "I've definitely had worse."
"I am so sorry."
"Don't apologise to me." Mal grasped Aurora's hand where it was on her arm and smiled at her. "I am fine Rory dear." Aurora put her other hand on Mal's face and the older woman stilled. "Aurora..."
"AURORA!" They both started and leapt apart. The voice had come from downstairs and they both recognised it immediately. "Aurora, where are you?"
"I have to go." Aurora whispered and then hurried downstairs. Mal took a breath, still feeling the closeness of Aurora. Her hand on her face, dangerously close to her lips...
She headed downstairs.
"I expected dinner when I got back and instead you're-" Stephan paused when Mal appeared at the bottom of the stairs, a scowl on her face.
"Mr Thayer. I'd thank you not to shout in my house to which, I might add, you have entered without permission."
"My child is here Ms Moore, and I think that would be reason enough."
"Phillip is here with Aurora. He is safe."
"I expect my home to be in order Ms Moore. I expect dinner on the table when I come home."
"Well then my apologies Mr Thayer. I had not realised that you could not supply your own dinner." Aurora's eyes widened but Mal paid them no mind; she would not back down to this ignorant man. Stephan's face went purple.
"How dare you- I..."
"Please remove yourself from my property Mr Thayer."
Stephan looked as though he would go for her, but Aurora stepped forward.
"Come Phillip. Let's get your dad some food." She cast Mal a last glance with something like fear in her eyes and then left. Stephan smirked and then followed them out, leaving Mal alone and thinking that she might just have lost the new friends she had barely just gotten to know.