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The Moth and the Flame

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It's been three days of feeling, old and new pain all swirled together, and she just wants it to stop, wants not to feel the terrible hurt from deep inside her soul. The anger is the easiest thing to feel, so familiar, this burning sensation that starts from low in the belly and ripples in waves towards her fingertips; her magic pulsing and beating, desperate to turn the anger into power and destroy a world that has done nothing but hurt her until she can no longer feel anything at all. But she knows she can't indulge it – save for smashing a few mirrors in a futile frenzy of rage – can't use the anger to numb everything all away. Because she has a son, a son who remembers her and loves her, and so she has to be better for him, has to be somebody deserving of his love.

And so the pain continues, the anger doesn't abate, and the only way she can find to numb it is in fitful sleep. But even then, she can't stop the dreams, blurry images of Daniel and Leopold and mother, of being strapped to a chair and tortured, of Henry hating her, Henry forgetting her, of all the pain from decades of her miserable existence combining in various shadowplays of surreal horror. On waking, she vaguely registers that Robin and Marian are barely in them, but doesn't have the strength of mind to really ponder what that means; besides, she's not sure she wants to know the answer. What she does know is that at the end of the dreams, it's always the same: visions of blonde curls and tendrils of blue magic intertwined with her own, set against the cackle of her mother laughing triumphantly, crowing that Regina is weak, she's always been weak, so very weak. Look at her, lying there in bed, completely defeated, unable – even now - to stop thinking of the very person who it seems is fated to destroy her again and again and again.

And as she wakes, gulping air, she laughs bitterly, for she knows, deep down, that she deserves it all, even this humiliation. She can never atone for what she's done, and, destiny having made it abundantly clear that she will never be forgiven, never be granted even the smallest happiness, the only thing she has left to do is revel in her own destruction. And so she scores deep gashes into her stomach, and back, using a penknife as she doesn't trust herself with her magic, and feels the pain bleed out of her all over the sheets as she sobs.

She's lost track of time, the minutes, hours and days bleeding into one another, but she knows that there have been knocks on her door, and, even though she's ignored them, because nobody will see her like this, she just knows that it's Emma. And perhaps this is the masochism again, but there's a small part of her that wants to open it, wants the Savior to see what she's caused, what she's done. And probably Emma would laugh, just like Cora – and she'd deserve that, just like she deserves all this pain - but perhaps – just perhaps Emma's face would crumple, and she'd gather Regina up in her arms and sob with her until they both fell asleep together on the bed. And then she hates herself more for such thoughts, hates Emma for inspiring them, hates her weakness. See, Emma? See what you've done to me? See?


On the fourth morning, she wakes up to find that the pain has broken, agony reduced to an aching in her limbs, a pain in her forehead, scabbing cuts over her body. She's slept, finally slept without dreaming, and it's pushed the feelings back into a dull, tired numbness. And so she wakes, and she gets up, and, seeing the destruction that she's wrought on herself and her house, starts to mechanically repair it. She doesn't use her magic, not wanting to risk finding again the anger that it feeds from, but numbly sweeps away the shards of glass, changes the sheets, places gauze and tape over her wounds - they sting, but there's nothing, luckily, that seems to need stitches – and by noon the house is immaculate again, and Regina is wrapped in her armor: black pantsuit, heels, painted on smirk. She's thrown the red dress she had been wearing into the trash; it hadn't suited her anyway, too soft, too pretty, and, besides, she'd bled all over it.

She leaves the house and steps into her Mercedes, her pride mandating that she face the town sooner rather than later. Feeling nothing, thinking nothing, she drives to the grocery store and walks in, picking out her typical selection of healthy items. She can sense the stares, hear the whispered comments of the other shoppers, but ignores them – in fact, they simply fortify her. She looks good, she knows that, and she won't be bowed, won't be pitied, won't allow herself to be humiliated. She pays for her shopping, all icy politeness and fake smiles, and returns to her car.

She debates where to go next. She contemplates going to the Charmings', arranging for Henry to come over for dinner in a couple of days, but the thought of Snow's patronising smile, of her and her brainless husband fawning over baby Neal in their perfect little happily ever after whilst saying how sorry they are for Regina, is repellent, and her facade is not strong enough yet to talk to Emma. She'll make herself text later.

And so she gets in her car and drives without thinking, until she finds herself at the harbor. She gets out, and stares at the boats, eventually sitting on a bench as she watches them bob gently up and down in the lapping waves. It's therapeutic, somehow, the air and the water and the solitude, and she barely hears the sound of footsteps approaching behind her before a figure sits down on the adjacent bench. And she barely needs to look, because of course it's her, invading Regina's peace, her hair blowing in the breeze as she sits there in that ghastly red pleather jacket, looking for all the world like a wounded puppy.


“No. Do not say anything, Miss Swan. I have no desire to talk to you” Her lips are pursed in a thin line, and she stares steadfastly ahead, refusing to catch Emma's eye, refusing for fear that she might reveal the weakness that she's barely tucked away.

And Emma obeys, but she doesn't go away, she simply sighs sadly and removes her gaze from Regina, staring out at the boats. And Regina knows that she should transport herself home immediately, that this is dangerous, but she can't quite bring herself to leave. And as the seconds pass, she's starting to feel something again, and the anger at Emma and herself is still there, and the sadness, but changed, as if Emma's presence has calmed it somehow, even though this situation is entirely Emma's fault. And then she realises what it is, that the dark magic swirling in her stomach is mingling with her new, light magic, and it feels...she's not sure what it feels, but there's hope in there, there's something comforting and sustaining.

And so they sit there in silence, both staring straight ahead and avoiding the other's gaze, but it's at least five minutes before Regina can finally summon the will to get up and walk to her car.

Once she leaves, she refuses to think at all about her meeting with Emma, pushing the new sensation back – with the accompanying anger and pain - into the numbness that allows her to function. She goes home, she makes herself dinner, runs the dishwasher, watches a documentary, loses herself in decades old routines. And when, as she undresses for bed, she finds that her cuts, under the gauze, are completely healed, her skin free of even the slightest scar, she refuses to think about what that could mean, but, even in her numb state, she cannot help the slight smile that illuminates her features as she falls into a dreamless sleep.