"Regina, let me go." Daniel stumbled trying to speak through the excruciating pain.
"No. No. I won't lose you again." I looked into his eyes and tried to hold back tears. The man I love just told me to let him go. I lost him once to my mother all those years ago and he wanted me to let him go. "Daniel, Daniel come back to me." He struggled to hold on and speak. He tried to speak but the words wouldn't come.
"Love again." Daniel stumbled back and the next time he looked at me my Daniel was gone. A monster had come back. I had to stop him so I used magic and finally gave him rest. I let him go and fell to my knees.
I shot up in bed with sweat covering my temples. Why? Why had I just dreamt about him again? The same nightmare plagued me ever since that painful day. When I glanced over to the clock on my bedside table it read 3:20AM. I have the dream at the same time every night. Since I knew I couldn't sleep I quietly went downstairs and into the kitchen for some apple cider. Maybe that will help me sleep. So I wouldn't wake Henry I went into my office and cracked the door.
Sitting in my computer chair wasn't helping calm my nerves any so I went to my bookcase. I unlocked the secret compartment I kept behind one of the books and took out a ring. The ring Daniel proposed to me with. I held it to my lips as the memory of that night played behind my eyes. "Mom, why are you crying?" I jumped when I heard Henry's voice.
"H-Henry? What are you doing up?" I cleared my throat and whipped away the tears that rolled down my cheeks.
"I heard you crying and then you get up so I came to check on you. What's wrong?" He knew who Daniel was because of the book and because the curse had been broken but there's only so much you can learn from a book. He doesn't know the Daniel that I wept for. I sniffled and gave him a weak smile. He's so worried about me.
"I'm fine dear." I went to sit on the small couch on the opposite wall. "Do you want me to tuck you back in?" Henry came over and wrapped his arms around my neck. I hugged him back and cried. I couldn't hold it in any longer and never wanted to let him go. Henry was all that I had left in this world and since Swan, Snow, and Charming knew who they were I was so afraid they'd take him from me. Even before the curse was broken I could feel Henry slipping away from me ever since Swan decided to stay.
"Is this about Daniel?" I let out a chuckle.
"Such a smart boy." I leaned back to look at him. "Yes, it is about Daniel." I took in a deep breath to calm myself. "Do you want to know my side of the story? I know you know who Daniel was but there's only so much you can learn from a book."
"Yeah. I'd like to know." Henry climbed on my lap and I leaned back so we could both be comfortable. He laid his head on my shoulder as I spoke.
"Well one day this princess lived in a rather large castle and had horses she loved to ride. Loved it more than anything else because it made her feel free. Free from her mother, free from the stress of making everyone happy, and free from being a higher classed person. We had the money to hire a stable boy to take care of the horses and other parts of the property…." I told Henry about how Daniel saw me like a normal person and treated me like that when we weren't around others. I told him how much he loved me and how much I loved him. Telling Henry all this made me happy but sad knowing I'd never get to see my love again.
"So why did your dream make you cry? You said you only used magic twice; once with Daniel and once with David." Henry was starting to fall asleep again but I owed him an answer since Daniel…or whatever that was that looked like him…scared a horse causing it to throw Henry against the wall.
"Well, the Daniel you saw in the stable wasn't my Daniel. That was a monster Dr. Whale tried to create. My Daniel was still in there and fought to the surface to tell me to let him go and love again." I had to pause a moment because the lump in my throat was getting too big to keep talking. "I could tell he was in a great amount of pain so I had to use magic to finally let him have peace." Henry was quiet a moment. Trying to take everything in I guess.
"I'm sorry you had to do that Mom. But maybe you should take his advice. Try to find love again. I know you seem all tough and hard on the outside but I know you have a kind heart and can really love someone if you would just give yourself the chance." How old is Henry again? His words brought a smile to my face.
"Thank you Henry." I hugged him close. "I love you so much." I kissed him on the head. "Now, let's get you back in the bed. It's close to 4:30 and you have to get up at 7." I walked Henry back to his room and tucked him in. "Goodnight Henry. I love you."
"Love you too Mom." When I was about to switch off the lights he stopped me. "Would you sleep with me tonight? I want to make sure you don't have another bad dream."
"Of course I will." I switched off the lights and crawled in beside Henry. I rested my arm over him like any protective mother. Henry snuggled into me and fell asleep quickly.
The next day at work I couldn't focus like I normally did. What Henry said kept going through my head. Maybe I should try to find love again. But who? Who could I possibly actually want in this town? Just then I heard a familiar knock on the door. "Come in Miss. Swan." I put down the paperwork I was sorting through when she came in. How may I help you today?"
"I need to know if the paperwork went through to fix the stable and the land around it. The storm last week really did a number on it." The stable. "And the horses there need a better roof to be under versus the shack they have now." I just stared blankly at her a few minutes. "Regina. Earth to Miss. Big Bad Madame Mayor. Hello?"
"I suggest you retract your hand before poking me in the head to get my attention." Miss. Swan withdrew her hand and just rested it on her hip. "To answer your question, no the paperwork hasn't come back so I may have to pay for it out of my pocket. Before, though, I'll need to go see just how bad the damage is." I stood and went to get my coat.
"What are you doing?" Miss. Swan watched every move I made.
"Getting my coat to go see how bad the stable is. Are you coming or not?" I walked out with Miss. Swan in tow. We drove up to the stables in the sheriff's car. When the stable came in sight the memories came flooding back. I remembered the tree where Daniel and I would meet, and had secret picnics, and sneaking kisses in the stable while we took care of the horses. Where we raced on horses and forgot about everything but each other. It was in shambles. The stable was destroyed.
"Are you alright?" Miss. Swan brought the car to a stop and I could feel myself tremble. "Regina." When she placed her hand on my arm I jumped.
"What?" I tried to hold back the tears. I will not cry again! I refuse!
"You're crying. Here, take this." Miss. Swan took a handkerchief from the glove box and handed it to me. "Is it because of Daniel and your past?" I froze. What does she know? How much does she know? I glared over at her.
"No. That's not the reason." I got out of the car and started to walk away. A moment later I heard a car door shut and Miss. Swan jogging up beside me.
"Look, you don't have to talk about it but if this is going to be too much for you…"
"I'm fine. I'll deal with it. Now be quiet." I didn't mean to snap at her like that it just happens. We walked in silence and my pace slowed the closer we got. My precious stable boy was gone and now my precious stable. The one place I felt I could be myself and be free from all the bullshit in my life. I used Miss. Swan's handkerchief but felt my knees start to buckle.
"Regina!" I never hit the ground. Two strong arms caught me. Like with Henry, I couldn't hold it in anymore. I cried on Miss. Swan's shoulder and she held me close. We kneeled there for what was probably five minutes before I could gather myself.
"If you tell anyone, I will kill you." I sniffled and tried to clear my throat. I stood and straightened my clothes. When I felt I could, I walked closer and finally into the stable. There were two horses under the half-fallen roof.
"I won't. Do you ride?" I was in what seemed like a happy trance petting the horse and remembering how happy they made me.
"Yes, but I've not ridden in ages. 28 years to be exact. When I rode I felt free. Free from everything that held me back and down." I don't know what made me realize I was speaking but I snapped out of it and pulled back. I stood there not saying a word. I've said too much. I've showed too much emotion for one day.
"Here." Miss. Swan pulled a red apple from a bag I didn't realize she had. "Take it. It's from the tree in your backyard." I took the apple and looked it over. What she said finally registered.
"When were you in my backyard?" I looked at her with a cocked eyebrow.
"I wasn't. Henry was. He gave me some apples I swear." She raised her hands in defeat and the look on her face made me chuckle. She lowered her hands slowly and sighed. "There's the Regina I know. There's the Regina who doesn't want me anywhere near her apple tree. It's almost like it's forbidden fruit."
"Watch it Miss. Swan. I'm rather sure getting hit in the head with an apple hurts." Hmm. My forbidden fruit huh? I could feel an evil grin come across my face. I turned and held it out for the horse. My heart swelled with happiness when he started to eat it out of my hand. There wasn't a word said, just silence. I felt at peace for once. As the horse finished the apple Miss. Swan walked off. "Where are you going?" She didn't answer; just opened a door to a room we keep the horse feed in.
"Prove it." Miss. Swan walked back with two leads. "Prove to me you can ride." When she tossed me one I caught it and looked at her skeptically. What is she trying to do? "Or do I have to prove you wrong?" Oh she's going to make it a challenge. I see how she is.
"Fine. You're on." I didn't want her to see how excited I was. Daniel and I always raced horses and I always won. We both climbed on the horses and were off. We jumped the fences and other obstacles that weren't destroyed from the storm. Riding again made me the happiest I've been in years. We did the course and rode for a good fifteen or twenty minutes before stopping and going back to the stable.
"Okay, you win. You beat me." Miss. Swan smiled and got off the horse. It was nice out so she let the horse roam while we were there. "Do you need help getting down?" She walked over to my horse and held out her hand.
"No, I just want to sit up here a little longer." Honestly, I didn't want to get down period. I was sad we were done ridding. "When I was younger I'd spend hours up here. Even if I wasn't ridding I'd still come up here with a book and sit under that tree." Miss. Swan listened and held onto every word I said. I wasn't sure why I was being so sharing with her. I've never been one to talk about my past. Not even with Henry. The whole time I spoke I just looked off in the distance. "I hate that this land got destroyed." Just then my phone rang and it was Henry. "Hello, how are you dear?" I jumped off the horse and leaned against the stable. "Yes I'll be home soon. Just finishing up something now. Alright, I'll see you soon." I slid my phone back in my pocket. "Shall we go? I need to get home; it's about time to cook dinner."
When we got back to my office Miss. Swan locked the car doors before I could get out. "I won't say a word. Everything you said to me up there will stay between us. But I expect a rematch when I get used to ridding again." I chuckled as she unlocked the door.
"Miss. Swan I don't have time for childish games." I got out and before I closed the door I turned to look back at her. "Thank you. Thank you for what you did back there." As I walked back into my office I couldn't help but think how much fun that was. I haven't had that much fun in over two decades.
It was Sunday so the office was closed and I figured I'd get some gardening done while Henry was with Miss. Swan having ice cream. It was their Sunday routine now. I didn't like it much but I didn't put up a fuss because of what she did for me yesterday. When I heard Henry open the front door I walked inside with a basket of apples. "Hey Mom. How's your day been?" He came up and hugged me.
"It's been good. Did you have fun?" I placed the basket of apples on the counter to cut later.
"Yeah it was fun. What are you going to make with all the apples?"
"Not sure yet. Would you like to give some more to Miss. Swan?" He froze and turned white.
"I..uh.." I chuckled at the panicked look on my son's face.
"No worries. But just ask next time and I'll give you a few so you can have a snack." Henry relaxed when he saw I wasn't mad. Oh that boy. Henry went upstairs to do his school work so I started to cut some of the apples. Maybe when he gets older I can teach him to ride. Thinking about my horses made me remember yesterday and the happiness I felt. That led to thinking about how Miss. Swan was there for me even though I've been anything but nice to her ever since she came here.
'I know you seem all tough and hard on the outside but I know you have a kind heart and can really love someone if you would just give yourself the chance.' I stopped pealing the apple I had and set the knife down. No. I'm over thinking things.
After I dropped Henry off at school, for the fieldtrip, and got to work I started on paper work. As the hours passed I realized that it had been quiet. No interruptions by anyone. Sydney came in but that was a planned meeting. I had a phone conference like I do every Monday so nothing seemed different but I had an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach. When my phone rang I jumped. "Hello Miss. Swan, how may I help you?" Why does she want me to come up to the stable? "Why what's wrong?" Damn it she won't tell me a straight answer. "Fine. I'll be there soon."
Since she won't tell me what's wrong it's making me nervous. What if something happened and it's totally destroyed? With that thought my foot got much heavier. I looked down at the speedometer and it said 85 mph. If she writes me a ticket for speeding so be it. When I approached the stable it was covered in big black tarps. Oh God…it's gone. I felt the car slow fast. There stood Miss. Swan with her hands on her hips. For some reason she looked like she had been working hard. Her tight dark jeans were covered in mud and her black tank top was covered in dirt.
"I'm sure I should write you a speeding ticket about now." I got out of the car and walked towards her. The smell of wood shavings and paint filled my nose.
"What is it Miss. Swan? And when it comes to a speeding ticket, you won't do it." She shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes. It irritated me but I was more worried about what was behind those tarps. "So, what's under the tarps?"
"Close your eyes." I frowned and crossed my arms.
"No." Miss. Swan stepped closer and I could smell the dirt and sweat.
"Do it. Close your eyes." She paused. "Close them or I won't take down the tarps." I'm too worried to stand here and argue though I'd never admit to it. I closed my eyes and could feel her come closer. She looked around my face to see if I was looking. "Can you see anything?"
"Miss. Swan." I was stern and got my irritation across.
"Okay. Okay." I heard her walk away and the crunch of tarps as they fell. "Keep them closed." I had my arms crossed and was tapping my foot. Patience is not one of my strong points. When all the tarps were down I heard Miss. Swan come back. "Open them."
Without hesitation I opened my eyes and when they focused on the stable it had been completely rebuilt and repainted. It looked just like it did all those years ago. I was speechless and could feel a lump grow in my throat. Shock didn't describe what I was feeling. I could feel tears start to burn and roll down my face. Damn it she's seen me cry twice in three days. Why? "M..my st…stable." I couldn't speak.
"Well, well, well. The mighty Regina Mills is speechless." I glared at the blonde. "You seemed so hurt that the stable was in such rough shape that after I dropped you off the other night I came back and started to work. Then yesterday Henry helped me a little and once I dropped him off I came back up here to keep working and haven't left since. Nor have I slept more than eight hours maybe? And here, you may need this again." She handed me another handkerchief to dry my face.
"W..why did you…" I looked at Miss. Swan tearing myself away from the stable.
"I wanted to make you happy. I saw a part of you yesterday that I doubt many people have ever seen." She fell quiet. What's this feeling in my chest? Why'd she do all this work? I've never been really nice to her yet she did all of this. "And I wanted you to be happy and have a place to come escape from everything again. I know you can't have Daniel back but maybe you can find happiness here." Miss. Swan looked at the ground with her hands behind her back kicking a rock around. "And maybe love again."
"What did you say?" Love again. That's what Daniel said but I didn't tell her about my dream and I'm sure Henry didn't tell her. How did she? I took a quick step towards her and she looked up.
"Nothing. Never mind. Forget it." She never took her eyes off me and she didn't move a muscle. What is this weird attraction that I'm feeling? I stared into green eyes and glanced down at Miss. Swan's lips. What am I about to do? I leaned in closer but when our lips were a whisper away a horse came and sneezed. It scared us both and we jumped back. I looked at Miss. Swan confused, anxious, and something else I couldn't place. We just stared at each other awkwardly a few minutes. "I have to go." Miss. Swan brushed by me quickly and went to her car. I turned and wanted to stop her but didn't know what to say.
On the way back to the office all I thought about was Miss. Swan and what about happened. Why did I almost kiss her? Why was she being so nice to me? We've always had our arguments but do I really hate her? I mean we will always be connected because of Henry. I can't think about this right now.
That night I laid awake thinking about Daniel, the stable, Emma, and what they both said yet they've never met each other. Love again; those two words that changed me. Why did I suddenly feel an attraction towards her? Was that a sign? I need to sort this out with her but it's the middle of the night now. It was about four before I fell asleep. I know Emma's routine so I can catch her sometime.
The next morning I woke up with my mind racing even though I was exhausted. Once I dropped Henry off at school I went by Granny's to pick up a big cup of coffee. I think Emma comes to Granny's before she opens the Sheriff's office each day. When I walked in, the murmur of people talking lowered. "What can I get for you Madame Mayor?" Oh that condescending tone Granny always uses with me. If my mind wasn't preoccupied it would piss me off.
"You're biggest cup of coffee would be fantastic." I sat at the bar and waited. When I glanced out the door I saw the Sheriff's car pull up. When Emma saw that I was in the diner she turned around and drove off. She's avoiding me. I turned back and Granny brought a large take out cup of coffee. "Thank you. How much do I owe you?" Was it so shocking that I said 'thank you'? Granny just stared a moment.
"$5.45." I dug through my purse and pulled out a ten.
"Keep the change." With that, I went out the door and went to work. As I left I could feel everyone watching me. So if Miss. Swan is avoiding me how to get her in the same room to talk to her? This question plagued me all day. Knowing Henry had a key to the house I took fifteen minutes off early and headed by the Sheriff's office. If she was going to avoid me I'd just have to trap her. I casually walked into the office and saw her hard at work. "Miss. Swan."
"Shit!" I must have scared her because she jumped in her chair. "Hi, uh..how can I help you Regina?" She was nervous around me so I walked with caution.
"We need to talk." I walked towards her slowly. She was anxious and wanted to run. When she tried to escape, I cut her off. We played this little game for a few minutes and by then I had her between me and the cell bars. In a flash I handcuffed her to one of the bars. She tried to get away but soon realized she was stuck. "You've been avoiding me Miss. Swan." I went and sat on the nearest desk. When I crossed my long legs I could see a hunger grow in her. So she is attracted to me.
"What makes you think that," she looked at the cuffs and then back to me. "And why do you carry a set of handcuffs?" I chuckled darkly.
"That, Miss. Swan, is for me to know." I wasn't sure whether it was hunger or irritation that I saw growing in Emma's eyes. "Now, why have you been avoiding me? And don't say you haven't because I saw you at Granny's this morning." Emma shrugged in defeat.
"I ran because I was embarrassed." She looked away and tried to get in a comfortable position but couldn't find one.
"Why were you embarrassed?" I frowned my brow.
"Are you seriously asking me that? After what happened yesterday; or almost happened." She looked down at her feet. "Look," Emma took in a deep breath and released it before talking again. "I…have feelings for you…and not just because we share a son. It's complicated. I'll take it you're not going to release me until I make a full confession?"
"Correct. Continue." I listened carefully as she spoke. She was good at lying but for some reason not to me.
"Of course not." She gave a heavy sigh before continuing. "When I first dropped Henry back off at your door that night something changed when I saw you. Then the next day, even though you were being a total bitch, I couldn't help but notice how attractive you are with your long legs, curvy body, chocolate brown eyes, and now long, dark hair. And each time you spoke your husky voice sent shivers down my spine." I always knew she was a little attracted to me but not this much. "I've always been attracted to strong, independent women who carry themselves well. I've seen over the past few months I've been here that you are mainly a bitch but you do have a nice tender side to you. Henry wasn't the only reason I decided to stay in Storybrooke, Regina. You were a reason too."
There was a silence between us. This really was a confession that I wasn't expecting to get. Obviously she does like me but do I like her that much and if I do…where do we go from here? "Emma." She looked up at me with fear in her eyes. I wasn't sure what to say so I walked over and un-cuffed her. We stared into each others' eyes a moment before Emma leaned in first. As soon as we were about to kiss, someone tried opening the door.
"Damn it to Hell." Emma pulled back and looked in the direction of the door.
"I locked it and made sure even if someone had a key they couldn't get in." Miss. Swan looked back at me and laughed.
"You really were going to keep me locked up in here until we talked weren't you?" I gave her one of my award winning smiles.
"I'm a determined woman and I get what I want." With that, I leaned in and kissed Miss. Swan. It shocked her at first but soon enough she laced her fingers in my hair and deepened the kiss. I had never kissed a woman before but it was softer than a man's kiss and I enjoyed it more. Daniel was right; I could find love again. And maybe I have but never knew it. Thank you Daniel for giving me the chance to love again.