There was a bedtime routine I loved to do with my son whenever he wanted it. Through the years he had been raised as one would expect from his parentage. However, that didn’t stop me from introducing him to films I had found in the century I was alone in Germany, ones I fell in love with. There was one in particular he admired above the rest, due to, as he described it, “a cool story of a knight rescuing a pretty girl and fighting an awesome dragon.” He would grab the old tape from his then growing collection and thrust it in my hands before getting comfortable on his bed, waiting for me to join him.
This started when he was two, and even now at eight he still enjoyed it, even though he had begun to ask for it less and less. It broke my heart knowing he was still steadily growing, but it let me value the moments he would still ask his Mommy to join him for the movie, to sing the parts of Aurora. These would be mornings where his father had still not come back. I don’t think Drago had ever let his father know he still enjoyed these moments as well. Despite the fact he held half his blood, Drago knew his father was dangerous. And scary. Not that Pitch would do more than flick him on the nose when the boy was mischievous or just give him a look. He said it was effective parenting to not let your child know you wouldn’t actually hurt them. I would just roll my eyes and let him do as he wished.
“You brushed you teeth, right?” I said, pulling down his sheets while he looked through his movies to decide what to watch for the morning.
“Yep, did everything I was supposed to.” I saw him hesitantly reach out for a familiar cover, looking at the case tilted towards him for a moment. He nodded and took it from the shelf, facing me with a small smile.
I tilted my head to his small TV setup. “You know how it works.” I listened to him fast forwarding the tape while I pulled down the other side of his sheets to lie on. It was an effective solution to when I had to leave after he fell asleep. He grabbed his large, black stuffed bear and hopped into bed, leaning against my side while the movie started. He would ask small questions and I would answer to the best of my ability. He would comment on why he thought Maleficent was bad, but not as bad as everyone made her seem. I always smiled at his observations as he learned more through the days. When he learned it was a great disgrace to not be invited to view the royal baby in the 1300s, even if you were an enemy of the crown, he stood up for the woman, saying her anger was justified and that the King and Queen deserved it.
From the mouths of babes.
He scrunched his nose at the screen, a nose he had inherited from me. His face was thoughtful. “She’s like Dad in a way.”
I frowned and looked at the screen. “How so?”
“The others pushed him away. Didn’t accept the fact he did things differently. Like, so what if he’s scary? He’s still someone. He isn’t evil all the time.”
I smiled and ruffled his hair. “I suppose not.”
“And wouldn’t the fairies know how to do stuff without magic by now? They were doing this longer than I’ve been alive.”
“We don’t talk about plot holes. We enjoy the movie.”
He fell quiet again, but the silence didn’t last long as he giggled.
I smirked. “What’s so funny, buster?”
“I imagined Dad as a dragon. It would be funny.”
“Oh no, don’t let him hear that, you’ll give him ideas! He’s a nightmare enough as a man.” I poked his side and he twitched and giggled. “Besides, do you know what sort of damage he would do trying to navigate the halls?” I tickled him again. “It would be like setting Onyx, Hessian, and Bellini loose all at once, chasing Vlad.” I frowned again. “I can’t think of what makes them chase that old ‘bat.” I shrugged and started tickling him more, making him wiggle.
“Mom!” he cackled. “Quit it!”
“Not until you’ve rid yourself of that dreadful image! You know how he goes digging in our heads for fun.”
He kicked at me with his bare feet, but I felt nothing. “Alright, alright! It’s gone! I swear!”
I stopped suddenly and faked gasped with the movie. “Why, it’s my dream prince!” I hefted him in my arms, glad his weight was light, and took him to the center of his room, putting him down. I bowed. “Your highness!”
“Mom,” he whined. “I’m getting too-“
“You’re never too old to dance with your mother. Don’t make me feel my age. Besides, you like it, don’t lie.”
He rolled his eyes and smiled. “Ok.” He did always like this part, even when he was a toddler. The whole thing was engraved in our memories.
I had to thank the hundred years of seclusion for giving me a decent singing voice to entertain my son. “You know I’m really not supposed to talk to strangers. But we’ve met before.” I bent down and took his hands in mine as we spun. “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam. And I know it’s true, that visions are seldom all they seem. But if I know you, I know what you’ll do. You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream.”
He giggled with me as we danced along with the steps to the film. “You’re so weird, Mom.”
“Yeah, but you love it.” I kept my eyes closed, enjoying the music. I opened them in confusion as he stepped away, a bit of fear in his eyes. At the same time, much stronger hands led me into the rest of the steps of the song. My heart stopped, but the fear in Drago’s eyes melted. “We weren’t expecting you home so soon, Oogie.”
Pitch chuckled and looked to Drago as he turned me around for a proper posture. “I’m sorry, my boy, I’m stealing this dance.”
Drago bowed in return and backed away. “I know when to share.”
His fluid motions never failed to amaze me as he led me through steps I wasn’t even aware he knew. “How long were you there for?”
“Long enough. Come now, have a bit of fun.”
I rolled my eyes but smiled. If he was in a good mood, it meant the night had gone very well. Drago laughed and clapped. “You never cease to surprise me.”
“Eternity is a long time. We have to try to keep things interesting in ways we would never expect.” He spun me before pulling me back into a sway. “Otherwise we’ll need another hundred years apart, and I’d rather not have to figure out visiting rights for the boy for that long.”
I laughed. “Keep doing things like this, and eternity won’t be long enough, Oogie.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Princess.”
I stuck my tongue between my teeth. “Queen last I checked.”
“I did give you that promotion, didn’t I?”
He cackled. “Such language.”
“Oh I’ll be more colorful later on.”
He crossed my arms over my chest as the song faded and the movie continued on, pressing against my back as he still held my hands. “I look forward to it.”
I looked to Drago, seeing him frown. “What’s wrong, Drago?”
“I’m still the prince, right?”
I laughed and nodded as my shoulder was used as a headrest. “Yes, you still play the role of a prince. And you get to rescue a damsel in distress from the forces of evil.” I frowned. “Or forces of good in our situation?”
“You fight forces,” Pitch offered, seeming to decide the posture was indeed comfortable. “Rescue damsels. Do manly things in between. It’s all in the manual.”
I elbowed his ribs. “Here’s the first thing you can fight.”
To my surprise, the boy’s eyes lit up. He raced around us and dove into the shadows leading under his bed. He returned not a moment later with a wooden sword and shield. “Have at thee, evil villain! I shall win fair lady’s heart!”
I couldn’t repress the smile on my face as Pitch perfectly played the role of both father and villain. “Ye will never succeed! Thy princess is mine.” He let me go and made a harmless sword from the shadows. He stepped in front of me.
“You shall fall this day!”
I stepped back and watched in amusement as they clashed “swords” around his room. I knew for a fact Pitch was letting his son win. He wouldn’t have been alive and done half the things he did if a sword was not an extension of his arm. My smile only broadened at that fact. They danced around each other, parrying and blocking, throwing teasing words here and there. All the while their damsel became more interested in the movie again. I resumed my place on the bed, glancing at their play every now and again.
After awhile they called a truce and Drago crawled in next to me again, reaching for his bear before laying his head on my lap again. To my surprise, Pitch slipped in on my other side. Drago looked up at him. “Does this make me girly? Liking this movie?”
“You’re allowed to like what you wish,” he answered. “I don’t see why it would make you appear more feminine.” He leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms. “Besides, isn’t the queen of this the most evil villain they’ve come up with?”
“One of them,” I answered, taking the opportunity to rest on his arm. “Enjoy what you want to enjoy, Drago. No one is judging you.”
“I liked seeing you two dance,” he answered, throwing me for a loop. He looked up at us with his pale gold eyes. “I like it when you’re nice to each other. It means we’re not a completely evil family.”
Perceptive as always. I looked as my shoulder was nudged. “Should give him what he enjoys, Hana.”
I took his hand as he offered it, sliding off the bed. My nightdress billowed as I was spun and I laughed. “As if I have a choice.”
“I won’t bite. Much.”
Drago laughed from the bed as we moved to a waltz in our heads, helped by the movie still playing. The boy’s request was a strange one, or so it seemed at first. When I thought about it, I realized we weren’t a conventional family. We acted nothing like many of the mortals we had shown him. There were no “Hi honey, how was your day” or “Darling, can you take out the trash” comments being thrown about. We rarely said we loved each other, and even rarer did we show it around others. He usually had to be either extremely intoxicated or comfortable. It was usually the first. The truth was, we didn’t need it. We weren’t a cutesy couple with a white picket fence, a stable marriage, and two perfect children, with a pet dog snoozing in a sun spot in the living room. In front of others, we were usually neutral to each other. Nothing needed to be said or done in those situations. We’re practical. No sense getting worked up over another living person to the point you might as well have a harlequin romance written about your life.
No, there was no fawning, the sweet nothings were uncommon, endearments that he actually meant almost never happened. I had the pet name for him, but he had nothing for me. The closest he had to one was my real name, my mortal name, just as I used his from time to time if I was extremely angry with him, or I wanted him to go faster and harder.
I chuckled and dropped my gaze to his chest. “We don’t do this often enough for me to remember you know how to do this.”
“I like to keep it special.” He tilted me a bit, his hand to the small of my back. “Besides, haven’t we done this dance before?”
I frowned. “When?” His grin made me realize what he meant. “Don’t you even—“
“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.”
He spun me, keeping my back to him as I started laughing at his not horrible attempt. I heard Drago’s giggle join mine. “You’re hopeless.”
“Who am I do deny the wishes of a prince? Even the darkest of creatures have to keep to promises and wishes, especially those of children.”
We both looked down as a small hand tugged our clothes. We shifted to take those in our hands, letting the boy join in. I honestly couldn’t stand the public displays of affection, but at home, they were valued for how rare they were. The moments the Boogeyman would be so charming were infrequent enough that I wouldn’t trade the dreams the memories gave me for anything. He squeezed my hand and we exchanged a knowing grin. We never had to say a thing. Our subtle actions were just enough to make each day unique.
He swept his son up on to his hip, swaying around the room with his young prince reciting the movie here and there. I spent the time straightening out his room, smiling at the strange arrangement. The room flickered with the light of the fireplace, casting shadows on the far stone walls. As I put his toys away, I watched the pair as his father’s pace fell to a slow rock, and the child had gone quiet.
“It makes me wonder…” I muttered, closing the bin for the toys.
“What sort of father you were as a human.” I turned to face him. “If you’re this compassionate as the physical manifestation of fear and darkness, what were you like as a soldier, Kozmotis?”
He smiled and scoffed. “Just about the same I bet.” He glanced up at me. “Flesh and blood mean everything. To those who deserve to be protected, that is.”
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms, an amused smirk on my face. I watched as he transferred Drago to the bed, pulling his sheets up to his chin. “So you really don’t mind he enjoys this stuff still?”
“Why would I? It’s not harming anyone.” He got up and turned the TV off. “So long as he keeps to the shadows, I wouldn’t care if he paraded around in a dress.” He put a hand on my waist and used his other to hold mine, pulling me into another silent waltz as we sank into the shadows to our own room for the day.
I put my head to his chest, hearing his heart and taking in his scent from scaring humans all night. “Are you sure you’re evil incarnate?”
Shadows slipped from his form behind him, several pairs of eyes opening within it. An inhuman hiss escaped from the darkness. “Pretty sure.”
I chuckled as the darkness returned to his body. “I suppose the strongest of creatures still has a weakness.”
“Which not many know. Not many need to know.”
I pulled away and walked on the balls of my feet to bed, my hands clasped behind my back. I bit my lip and looked back at him. “Which makes it all the more intimate to know. And it’s nice, knowing we share a weakness.” I slipped under the sheets as he went to his side and stripped down. “I couldn’t live without my family either.” We both got comfortable for the day, giggling as I felt something slithery run over my stripped socks. “Not tonight,” I said with a hum. “My eyelids are getting heavy as it is.”
“Have it your way. Though there are other ways…”
I didn’t even dwell on it as I drifted off for the day. He joined me in my dream, leading me through a waltz in the dark halls of what remained of the audience chamber in the lair. Even with the silence and the sanctity of our room now that Drago was old enough to not barge in unannounced, this was where we were truly alone. There were no judgments, no boundaries, no one else. Everything that was said and done in the dream plane was ours and ours alone. And I cherished the fact that the experiences could never be forgotten.
I moved my hands under his arms to hold on to his shoulders. He slowed his pace while I closed my eyes and leaned on his chest. His hands rested on my hips and I felt a chuckle reverberate through him, made even creepier by the echo of the dream plane.
I didn’t bother looking at him. I was too content with the swaying circles he was leading us through. “And what do you find so amusing, Oogie?”
“The fact that we were able to produce someone like Drago. A dance is such an innocent request of a child.”
“He doesn’t have the sweetest of parents, you know. Wanting us to act normal every once in awhile isn’t too outrageous.”
“I suppose not.” I opened my eyes as he tilted my chin. “So, Princess Aurora, what is that song you sang once upon a dream?”
A breath of a laugh escaped my nose. “I’m not singing anymore. Besides, that’s a Drago privilege, not a Pitch one.”
“Ooh, then what privileges do I get?” His grin turned wicked and I felt a slither of shadows run down my back. “Pleasurable ones, I hope.”
I met his sinful grin. “Mm, down boy. Not yet. I’m enjoying this.”
I wasn’t expecting him to withdraw the tendril. I was expecting it to go further. Instead he pulled it back into his body and resumed the dance. “Whatever my Queen desires.”
I chuckled as he let me relax against him again. We would always be a strange family to everyone else, but for us, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Once upon a dream indeed…