Regina stared up at the night sky, trying to lose herself in its beauty. Every instinct screamed that she should be moving, making ready for war, but she held herself perfectly still, arms loosely folded across her chest, body deceptively relaxed looking, her breathing consciously slowed. Anything else would be a mistake, at least for the moment, she sternly reminded herself. She needed to be in control, calm, subtle. Let the Savior be the first one to reveal her hand. Only then would she know what tricks the bitch had up her sleeve so she could make plans and strike.
Meanwhile, she needed to ease off with Henry. She knew that. But it was hard when he was so angry and hurling accusations at every turn and she didn’t even know why things went wrong. So he wasn’t her biological child, she’d never given a damn, and had loved him as much as she could love a baby she’d given birth to. Yet somehow, ever since he found out he was adopted, she’d become a villain to him. Meanwhile the woman who’d thrown him away without a care or second thought — who’d made a point of wanting no future news or contact with the child she’d tossed out like so much garbage — was the hero.
How had that happened and where the hell was the justice in it? She felt her temper start to rise and clamped down on it, the only sign of the inner rage the way her hands dug into her upper arms until she was leaving deep indentations in flesh.
She was still standing there when she heard the soft sound of the back door opening and closing again.
Henry. Regina could feel his glowering stare and the disapproval radiating off of him like physical blows. How was it he was so able to mimic her mother’s disapproval when he’d never even met her? She remembered that same inescapable fury being directed her way throughout her childhood. Nothing she’d done had ever muted it or altered it in the least and no amount of appeasement was ever enough. It was as though her very existence created it. That same sense of inevitability washed over her, and she fought the resulting wave of resentment.
A soft sigh escaped her lips, but she didn’t otherwise move.
“You’re gonna fail,” Henry told her, not quite shouting, but close to it. “Emma’s gonna break the curse and fix everything now that she’s here.”
Shifting to clasp her hands together at the small of her back, Regina did a slow pivot, one eyebrow climbing high on her forehead as she studied her son. He stood braced on the balls of his feet as if ready to run or perhaps attack, she mused as she noted how his eyes blazed and his chin was thrust pugnaciously forward. “Going to,” Regina corrected at last, then added at his blank look, “Don’t say, ‘Gonna.’ The proper phrase is ‘going to.’”
He blinked in confusion, and for a brief moment the rage fell away and she recognized the child she’d raised, then the walls slammed back into place and a sneer twisted his small mouth. “Emma is going to stop you,” he shot back, adding extra emphasis to the corrected phrase. “And she is going to make sure that good wins and evil loses.”
Feeling a headache growing behind her eyes, Regina barely tamped down the urge to try and massage it away. It wouldn’t do to show any weakness that Henry might forward to Miss Swan, no matter how small it might be. The woman was there to end her after all, and it seemed as though Henry would happily help any way he could.
A mental image of her body hanging from the town hall belfry, while the locals admired their handiwork, flashed in her head. She thought about asking him if that would finally make him happy, but contained the impulse, though it was less a desire to hide her weaknesses than fear of the answer. Some days he looked at her as though he truly would prefer her dead.
Henry continued to glare, utterly unafraid, foolishly so were she all the things he accused her of.
She almost smiled at that. Whatever her sins, whatever accusations he chose to hurl, he’d never feared her, didn’t really even seem to know such a thing was possible. Meeting her son’s hard gaze, she frowned ever so slightly as it struck her how very small he was and just how fearless. Too much so. To go off alone the way he had... She fought a shudder of horror as she considered what could have happened. Despite what he thought, there were very real monsters in this world, just as in the old, even if they weren’t as easily spotted. She stepped closer, inwardly flinching at the way he shied from her, no fear in his gaze, but plenty of hostility. “Henry,” she tried to keep her voice soft, but knew she’d failed by the way his eyes blazed in response. Feeling her own temper threatening to ramp up, she held a hand up in a calming motion as she hunted for the right words to make him listen. “Please,” she said very softly when she finally spoke, her voice right on the edge of cracking painfully. “No more stunts like the latest one, no more running away on your own—”
“Like you care,” he sneered. “You ju—”
“You could have been killed!” she roared, too many hours of fear and stress finally shattering her determination not to lose her temper.
Startled, he reared back, and for a brief second, uncertainty flickered in his gaze.
Unable to stop herself, Regina followed him, invading his space as she hissed, “There are people in the world who’s greatest joy is harming children in ways that...” The words faded into her horror and she reached out in an automatic effort to reassure herself he was fine. Her fingers just barely brushed silky hair before he jerked his head to the side and jumped back.
They both froze for a moment, Henry glaring, Regina frustrated and uncertain how to deal with it.
“Look at me, Henry,” she ordered at last, distantly aware that she sounded more like the queen talking to one of her lackeys, than a mother chastising her son for doing something stupid.
His gaze swung away and he stiffened, silently rejecting her.
Desperate to make him understand and acknowledge that he’d endangered himself, she curved her hand under his chin and drew his head up in spite of the resistence that knotted his muscles. “Look. At. Me,” she repeated when his eyes remained firmly focused elsewhere, her own fear and resentment threatening to get the better of her. “Dammit, Henry,” she ground out. “You’re ten. If someone had decided to hurt you ... take you away ... you aren’t big enough or strong enough to stop them...” A hard tremor rattled her from head to toe and she closed her eyes to block out her son’s angry glare as a thick, unwanted wave of memories washed over her. For a moment, she could almost hear disdainful words and feel hard hands and the gut-clenching fear that went with knowing she had no choices left. She didn't ever want that for him.
He shook her hand off and spat, “You’re wrong.” He shook his head wildly, denying what she was trying to tell him. “Good always wins—”
“No. It. Doesn’t,” she snarled back. He would have run, but she made a fast grab, fingers digging into his shoulder as she refused to let him flee. She remembered a girl on her knees holding a dying boy, and on her knees again in front of a sneering king. That child had been good, but that hadn’t changed Daniel’s death or freed her from Leopold’s demands. “Good is ground under the heel of raw power every damn day.”
“NO!” Henry screamed and knocked her hand off with his full strength. “Emma won’t fail and you won’t win!”
She blinked in confusion.
“You may think you’re strong enough to beat her, but you aren’t!” he continued to rail at her. “She’s the Savior and she’s stronger than you’ll ever be.”
Still struggling to parse his words, she made no effort to stop him when he spun and bolted back into the house. It took her an extra beat to understand that he thought she’d somehow been threatening that interloper rather than thinking of her own weaknesses. It was so ludicrous she almost laughed. Well, that answered the vague thought she’d had about trying to tell Henry some measure of the truth about her past or explain her motivations. She wasn’t sure she would survive having him taunt her about Daniel or defend Snow White, or God forbid lecture about what a great man Leopold had been. Nor could she risk having him run right to Miss Swan to unload every secret he could get his hands on for her to use in the upcoming war.
Because she was under no illusions. A war was coming and her son was on the other side.
Regina shuddered as that thought slammed into her with the force of actual blows. Sharp nails dug into her palms and her knees threatened to buckle. The bitch had come for her baby boy and she had no idea how to fight it because every path she saw threatened to take him further away than he already was.
A sob caught in Regina’s throat and she wrapped her arms around her midsection. “No,” she hissed, forcing the sound past the tightness in her throat. “They won’t win. Not this time.” There was too much at stake. She wasn’t going to lose any more people she loved to Snow White or her scheming brat.
* * * * * *
Mouth set in a thin line Henry stood at the window in his dark bedroom, silently watching his mom — no, the Evil Queen, he reminded himself, ignoring any queasiness brought on by that thought. She wasn’t his real mother anyway. She was just his adopted mother, and they weren’t real parents. He’d seen it over and over in the book. Step parents — and they were almost like adopted ones — were always evil, always lying about their motives and trying to hurt their stepchildren. Even when they seemed like they loved those children, it was just an act, a way to trick people and hide what they really were. But he knew now and he wouldn’t be fooled like he had been when he still thought she was his mom, before he understood the weirdness in Storybrooke, when he still thought she loved him.
He first noticed something was wrong when he was seven and starting the second grade, while all the kids he’d known the year before were still in the first. Then he was entering the third and those same kids were all still in the first and his second grade class was still there too. And what was more, nobody seemed to notice the problem with that.
For while, he’d been sure it was Mr. Gold doing it. He was scary intense and even Henry’s mom — no, the Evil Queen — had been, if not exactly scared, then very wary of him.
But that was when Henry still thought his mom was his mom, before he knew the truth. That had come one day at Granny’s.
Henry blinked. He could never quite remember how it happened. He’d been sipping a hot chocolate and paging through his book, hunting for answers, then Gold had been standing beside him, talking, his voice all soft and almost soothing. Sometimes Henry thought maybe that was how snakes were supposed to hypnotize people. At first it hadn’t been anything Henry paid much attention to, just the usual adult babble that he’d learned to block out because most of the adults in Storybrooke didn’t even know as much as he did. Then suddenly he became aware that Gold was talking about the day Regina brought Henry home and how good he, Gold, felt about helping arrange that adoption since it had worked out so well and Henry got such a good home.
Henry couldn’t remember much after that except running home as hard as he could, legs pumping, so winded by the time he rushed into the house that he could barely find the breath to demand if it was true from his mother.
He’d seen the answer in her eyes, and in that moment he suddenly understood that it was her. All the weirdness, the things that didn’t make sense, she was behind every last bit of it. She wasn’t really his mom. She’d lied to him over and over, let him think she really loved him and none of it was true.
Still struggling to understand he’d remembered the illustrations in the book, the ones that suddenly seemed to look so much like her. In that moment, he knew who she was, what she was.
And his heart broke.
But now he stood watching her out in the garden, well aware of what she was and the games she played. He knew she didn’t love him, that all the times that seemed good and fun were nothing but lies used to manipulate his emotions. She was a monster, and he had to remember that.
Because it would be so easy to forget when he could see the panic in her body language. Even now when he knew how dangerous she was, there was a part of him that wanted to run to her and chase away the demons like she had done for him when he was a child.
Then she stopped, pressing the heels of her hands into her eye sockets and scrubbing like she was trying rid herself of tears. All but collapsing into the bench next to her apple tree, she drew her legs up and folded her arms together on top of her knees, then hid her face.
Even from that distance, Henry could see the way she shook.
He shook his head and backed up a step, his heart suddenly thudding in his chest. It was a trick. It had to be. She somehow knew he was there and was just acting for his benefit.
Because Evil Queens don’t cry, not for real anyway.