Regina had sat on her knees, defeated, on the hot, red, floor. She felt the flames launch for her, burn her skin, but she did not care. Everywhere she looked she saw… Her mother… The woman that had caused her so much pain. The woman she had become.
So, no, maybe she had not killed Henry`s true love. But she had tried to curse the woman he seemed to love the most right now. The pain of the memories, of the time where he had loved her without question, where he had brought her art-projects from school, or had made her drawings because he wanted to, cut through her like a cold steel dagger. She had tried to blame Snow for that too, for giving him the book that made him figure out she was the Evil Queen, but now, as she stared at the image of what represented evil for her, knowing it was her own reflection she saw, she knew she could only blame herself.
Once, she had chosen to be good. She remembered it, the fights with her mother over not wanting to learn Magic, and later, her power-struggle with Rumplestiltskin over taking the heart of a unicorn and crushing it. She had not wanted to do it. She had wanted to use her sorcery for good. But then, her disappointment over losing her last chance to get Daniel back had sent her over the edge. And she had chosen, again. She had chosen a path, because she had thought that being good did not bring her anything. It only broke her heart, over and over again. Made her weak with hope, over and over again. And it had seemed impossible for her to retrace her steps.
She had cried for the unknown girl whose heart she had taken and crushed that day, to show Rumple he should teach her instead of the pretty brunette. She had cried for all the hearts she had taken out, until one night, she hadn`t. It had felt as if her heart had turned to stone. Cold. Hard. Unyielding.
They said her heart was incapable of love.
Maybe that was it, the irony of things. Because the most painful was that she did love them. It was sad, maybe even close to pathetic.
The powerful queen, just yearning to be loved.
Didn`t everybody? But she had learned, early on, she was just unlovable. If even her own mother couldn`t love her, who could. Who would? No matter who she loved, they were cursed, they were doomed, it seemed. The love in her heart swirled and ached. The love for those who could not love her. Her mother. Her son. The mirror seemed to follow her thoughts, and a glimpse of Henry, cream covering his top lip, appeared. Regina smiled through the forming tears, and reached out to the image, which immediately started to resolve.
The last thing she saw before a tear trickled down her cheek was someone pulling her son close, tight against her chest. Protecting him.
She had thought of it when she`d been talking to Henry. When he had shown her the book that, when she had touched it, when she had finally believed, had given her back flashes of her memory.
She hadn`t heard from him in days and the mocking explanation she had come up with suddenly didn`t sound as ridiculous as it once had. He must have turned into wood completely. But maybe there was still a way to talk to him. Or maybe he had left her a clue to tell her how to break the curse.
Oh, if only she had listened to him when she`d had the chance!
The memory of him, showing her his leg, of them, standing in front of the tree forced itself up on her. She had felt it, she had felt the connection to the vibrant piece of wood, more alive than its neighbors, but she simply had refused to believe it.
Again that word. Believe. The word that was the most important one in her vocabulary today. She believed now. She believed now, but she was afraid she was too late.
As she knocked the door, it slowly opened. The old hinges seemed to cry out their protest, and the sound caused a shiver to run down Emma`s spine.
As she saw the man lay, motionless, on the bed, his wooden eyes open, staring at the ceiling, she felt a tear escape her eye. She sat down next to him, and took the wooden hand in hers. Swallowing away the remainder of her tears.
The sight of him scared her more than anything had so far. And that included the real, life-size fire-breathing dragon. She knew fear. She had always known fear. One could not grow up in the human foster-system without knowing fear. And lately, with Henry, she knew what it was like to fear for someone else. To want to fight for someone else. The unwelcome image of Regina, lying, motionless, in that bed, entered her mind accompanied by a heavy feeling in her heart. She feared for her son`s other mother as well, no matter how reluctant she was to admit it.
This was undeniably and unmistakably HER –Emma`s- fault.
Because the wooden man in the bed had believed in her. And she had proven him wrong.
He had believed in her.
She took the dagger out of the place where she had hid it, where it burned against the skin of her hip. She held it and stared, swallowing as she imagined performing the act that would free the people she was now responsible for.
Another tear found its way down her cheek, and found the wood before she had a chance to wipe it away.
She had failed him.
And she still did.
Because looking at the dagger that would mean his escape, she could not find it in her heart to believe in herself.
Once upon a time in The Enchanted Forest:
Rumplestiltskin`s hands played with a ruby-hilted dagger that never missed its target, while looking at the mirror, but he did not see his own reflection. Not because he was staring, or not paying attention, even though both those statements would have been correct. It was because the enchanted object showed so much more than just his face. It showed his inner thoughts.
Right now, the mirror showed the turmoil that was his mind. Visions, phrases, even the occasional smoky ‘poof’ of magic swirled around in the world on the other side of the object, which seemed to be so different than the world he was used to. He could will the mirror into showing him certain things. And once or twice he had seen Bealfire in this other world. He was not sure which vision had been worse. To see him grow hungry or to see him be fed with bread and happiness. He had stopped to look. He couldn`t bear it.
But for this occasion, he knew he needed the mirror. His own seeing abilities, combined with his magic, were usually quite strong. But, as the seer -who had given him her abilities as well as one of the prophecies that had changed his life- had proven, the future was a delicate matter. Hard to see, but even more difficult to unravel.
He knew that Regina`s fate lay in his hands, and for a moment he felt almost bad for ruining the young woman`s chance of happiness. Well, maybe he would have felt it, had he been able of such weakness. She seemed kind, and, despite her mother –or maybe simply because of her- open to love. But the prophecy that had been spoken to him had been clear. Cora`s firstborn would have to cast the curse that would bring him to the other realm, that would reunite him with his son.
And a kind and loving person would never cast such an incredibly dark curse.
He had to find a way to take, to keep love away from her life.
The spell he had created with the infatuation potion, the one he had cast on Cora`s daughter was quickly –too quickly- wearing off. Sometimes, when he returned to her sleeping form at night, she had already spent hours, puzzling what she saw in the stable boy. There was, also, that other little matter. But the blonde girl had already been taken care of.
Too many thoughts, too little time. But patience and precision was of the essence here. If he would strike too quickly, or overlooked one detail, all would have been for naught.
Yes, love had to be taken from her life. But not by him. At least not for as far as she knew. He needed her to trust him, later.
And suddenly, it all flowed together. Her gentleness. How to draw the king`s attention. How to make her turn away from goodness. Suddenly, Rumpelstiltskin knew.
The turmoil in the mirror started to slow… The image of a young girl, on a horse, frightened for her life, became visible.
He felt the corners of his mouth pull up, felt the twinkle in his eyes. It was brilliant.
He would use her own kindness against her.
He would make GOOD defeat her.
And he would make an Evil Queen out of her after all.