The first time she meets him, she’s only just learning magic from her mother. He’s – odd, to say the least. Nothing like anyone else in the lands. His clothes are outlandish, and he has something around his neck, and when she asks about it, all he says is “Bowties are cool.” Whatever that means.
He holds a hand out to her, standing in the doorway of the blue box he appeared in and asks her to run with him.
“All of time and space at our fingertips,” she closes her eyes. “The stars, the moons, the planets.” She smiles. “Anywhere you want to go, any when you want to go.”
Her eyes flutter open, and he’s still standing there, expectant. Just as she is about to put her hand in his, her mother calls for her from in the house and the seventeen-year-old girl snatches her hand back, scared. He closes his empty hand and smiles sadly at her.
“Another time then.”
She forgets about the strange encounter as the years go by, though sometimes she catches sight of a certain shade of blue and pauses for a second, or catches herself sketching a gangly figure in an odd suit. By now, she has gotten used to disappointment, first in her relationship with her mother, who always expected so much more, and then in love. She aches for her love, and she dreams of revenge.
So when she is so close, so close to ending Snow’s happiness, so close to snatching her happily-ever-after the way hers was taken from her, of course that’s when she meets the strange man from her youth again.
“Regina,” he breathes. “What have you done to yourself?”
She lifts her chin imperiously. “I’ve done nothing anyone doesn’t deserve.”
He shakes his head sadly. “Come with me,” he holds out his hand to her the way he did so many years ago. “Leave it all behind,” he takes a step towards her, and she sees the world, and so many other worlds, in his eyes. “Run with me.”
And she is tempted. Oh, is she tempted. To run, from the pain and the hurt, from the people that have grown to hate her for her actions, from her life, from everything. But her desire for revenge, for vengeance, is stronger than anything else. It has consumed her, and she is happy to let the flames burn anything and everything in its’ path.
The strange man sees this on her face before she says anything, reads her easier than anyone ever has. It frightens her a little. And it exhilarates her. Still, she takes a step back.
“Not today, Doctor,” she turns to leave and whispers again, “not today.”
The third and final time she sees him is many years later. She looks the same, and Regina is not surprised that he does as well. She knows defeat is coming. Emma’s move to Storybrooke has changed everything. Henry’s fancies are right, of course, but she has to pretend or all she has tried to rebuild, her life, a family, will crumble around her. Yet the tighter she tries to grip her happiness, the more it slips from her grasp.
She is by her apple tree when she hears it, a sound she has only heard twice before in her life. It’s not a sound one forgets, odd as it is, and always accompanied by him, the Doctor with ancient eyes promising adventures spanning galaxies. She turns, catches sight of the blue box materializing, and waits.
The Doctor trips out of the box, and a giggle escapes Regina before she can stop it. She hasn’t laughed like this since she was a child, carefree and innocent. He looks up, and a wide grin spreads across his face.
She places her apples onto the ground and straightens up, wiping her hands on her dress as she walks over to him. He sees and reads everything written on her face. Her actions, her reasons, her regret and her loneliness, and he takes her hand.
Softly, he whispers, “Ready to run?”
“Doctor,” she is equally as quiet, “I’ve done so much, why would you want me to come with you.”
“Oh, Regina,” she startles when he presses a kiss onto her forehead. A tear trickles down her cheek at the gesture. She is shocked. She had never expected to feel again. Especially nothing like love, freely given. In her chest, her heart pounds, and she breathes easier than she has done in what seems like forever. “We’ll run until you want to stop.”
She smiles, “And see the stars?”
“And see everything.”
When she casts a look back at the house, the large mansion she has been living in but that has never felt like home, she sees Henry, with Emma. Instead of annoyance or anger, she feels content. Nodding at Emma once, whose eyes widen with comprehension, she turns back to the Doctor.
Hand-in-hand, the Doctor and the formerly Evil Queen step into the blue box and disappear.