Chapter 1: a land with magic
The first one at her door is Emma, and it's as if it was taken straight from Regina's nightmare.
Emma stands in the doorway with a smirk, a sort of heavy, flustered, determined presence radiating off of her entire body. It makes Regina's skin itch. She knows part of that is the familiar tingle of the magic beneath the surface. Part of her is dying to use it, to touch into what she has been stripped of for twenty-eight years. It would be easy enough. The curse is broken, so why shouldn't she snap Emma's pretty little neck right here and now?
"Regina," Emma greets stiffly.
No 'your majesty'? No threat on her life? Fine. If the savior is being patient, she can be as well. "Emma." She does not say Ms. Swan, or Sheriff Swan. None of that matters anymore. None of the pleasantries or things dictated by this realm. They're in a mix now. A land that should be devoid of magic but is suddenly throbbing with it. A land of fairy tale and tragedy, side by side. A land where anything can happen.
Emma pushes by Regina, stepping into the home as if she has the right. Regina watches her strut by, and her eyes narrow. Her fingers twitch. She closes the door gently behind the both of them. She expects some sort of shudder or even a moment where Emma steels herself further. There is no reaction. Is Emma that confident that she does not fear Regina? Does not fear what great power the Evil Queen can truly possess?
"Henry -" and all power, all anything leaves Regina, blown out as the strong urge to sob and destroy flood her instead "- is fine. I thought you might want to know that."
Regina stares at her. This is what she came to say? That Henry is fine. Of course he's fine. He has Emma and an entire world of fairy tale citizens ready to welcome and love their new prince. The curse is broken. All traces of the spell(s) are gone. He's fine. She knew that. And yet, a part of her chest lightens at the words. She finds it easier to breathe but harder to hold back her tears.
She curses herself. She's done enough crying. She sobbed into his pillow for Gods' sake. No more tears. Only strength. She'll need that to take on her enemies. Her many, many enemies.
She straightens herself up and nods shortly. "Well, thank you for informing me. I'm sure he's not too pleased that you're away from his side. You should return to him." Regina makes move for the door. Emma stops her.
"Not so fast," Emma says. Regina turns back, and now Emma hesitates. Emma glances around the hall, up towards the stairs where Henry's room awaits, and then back towards Regina. She says, "Earlier, I said that I would kill you. And, I might have meant it at the time, but I don't now. So, um, for what it's worth, I'm not going to be seeking any retribution. Henry's back, and I'm pretty sure you've got enough problems on your plate without worrying about this world's vendettas."
Regina chuckles bitterly. "Of course." Gold was right. Each and every one of the citizens will want payback. They'll want her head on a spit and her heart chopped to pieces. What's left of it anyway. "Listen, I really must be preparing. I don't have time to waste -"
"I'm sorry," Emma blurts. Regina falls silent. Sorry? She's actually apologizing? What is it with this family and apologizing to her? Emma continues, quickly, "I've been acting like you want to hurt him, like you're trying to ruin Henry's life. I needed someone to be the problem, Regina. Someone who wasn't me, or my inability to do anything right. You were my scapegoat, and I never should have reacted the way that I did. I mean, it's obvious that you love Henry just as much as I do, and you don't get any of the credit. I'm not saying I like the idea of him being with you and only you but -"
Regina cuts her off. "I'll stop you there, Ms. Swan. That won't be an issue. Snow White and her prince charming would never allow their grandson to live in my home. That is, if they don't succeed in killing me first." Or I in killing them. No, she shakes that thought away. There will be no killing on her side. She's done with that life. She wants to be done with that life. That's why she's here. That's why she has fought tooth and nail to keep the curse in tact. She simply wants her happy ending. That is all.
Emma whispers something. Something soft with a reverent, detached look in her eye.
Out of habit, Regina snaps, "Oh, do speak up, Ms. Swan. I might be magical, but my ears aren't."
Emma glances up then and that same determination that Regina has seen in Snow's eyes is staring right at her. Emma declares, "I won't let them. Kill you. Not here. It's not happening."
"A-and why is that?" Regina asks, her eyes crinkling in distaste. She stuttered. She's a queen and a mayor. She doesn't stutter. Especially not over some half-assed declaration from a woman who has already served her purpose.
"Because, like it or not - and I don't - you're part of this town, and you're part of Henry's life. And this isn't a damn fairy tale. We don't kill the bad guy."
Regina adds, "Not unless we're in Texas."
Emma sighs, her frustration evident. "Well, we're not, and I just saved all of their lives so I'm pretty sure my opinion's got to count for something. No one's hurting you. We're going to talk this out and figure out what's the best thing for everyone."
That sounds diplomatic. Fair. Much more than Regina could have ever hoped. It won't work. She's certain of it, but she could always give it a try. At the very least, it will put her in a nice position to flee and allow her to see Henry one last time.
With that in mind, Regina lets a small grin slip onto her face. Emma almost starts to return it. Then, Regina says, "For once, you're actually sounding like the sheriff."
Emma responds with a sarcastic laugh before turning to face the door. She says, "Saving the damned is kind of what I do I guess. Just keep your phone up and be ready for when I call. And don't kill anyone while I'm gone." Regina huffs, but Emma gives her a look that defuses her anger. That's a joke. Hm. Ha, it's not bad. For Emma.
Regina watches the blonde leave. Lets her get all the way to the door before calling out, "Emma." She turns. "Henry sometimes has nightmares. Bad ones. If he does, just hold him. Sometimes he likes when you sing to him. Any song will do, but none of that heavy metal nonsense. That's the work of nightmares already. And, he needs to have a blanket on him when he goes to sleep. He might argue. He might say he'll overheat or that he doesn't need it, but he does. He always gets cold feet in the middle of the night. He'll get a cold if he doesn't cover them. It's happened every time. And about dessert-"
"Regina!" Emma says. Regina stops, curses herself again. She's fretting. Smothering. This is exactly what drove Henry from her. She just couldn't leave well enough alone. She had to fix what her mother did wrong and she came down too harshly and he hated her. Hates her. Everyone hates her.
"I-I just want him to be comfortable." She wants him to be happy. If he's happy, then at least she's done one thing right in his life.
Emma's silent a moment. She probably doesn't know how to respond to that, to the simple admission. Lightly, she says, "He will be. I'll call you." Then she's gone. The door closes behind her with such finality that it leaves Regina breathless. The queen leans against the nearest wall for support, her eyes drifting closed as she does so.
It's not until she hears the voice of her trusty mirror that she realizes she's been asleep. She startles at the sound of him, and her heart nearly breaks when she sees his face back behind the barely repaired glass. He seems almost happy. Probably because he's not rotting away in a holding cell for kidnapping any longer. Kidnapping.
Sidney speaks up, "I have a message from Snow White." Regina stiffens. Channels her inner strength.
"And that is?"
"'The meeting will be at dawn. At Granny's. Come unarmed and we shall do the same. Lift one magic finger, and we will be forced to assume the worst. This reprieve is for Emma, not for you.'"
As if that needed stating. Regina sighs, tells him, "I'll be there with bells on." It's a figure of speech, but she can't help but consider it. She does miss her royal wardrobe. Perhaps a revival of that is in order.
Chapter 2: the meeting
I'm interested in seeing where this goes, and I'm glad that there are people out there willing to go on this ride with me. We've got an entire summer to get through before our show returns. Hopefully, this makes it a little easier to swallow. Also, this chapter is seen through Emma's eyes so the names aren't as solid and stationary as they will be in chapters that are focused more on Regina. If it annoys you, let me know with a review. (Or if it doesn't, really, I just like reviews. They make me feel like you guys actually want to stick it out with me here.)
Regina literally walks into Granny's with bells on. Granted the annoying little baubles are littered across the back of a dramatic looking cape, but they're still bells. And that's not even the real start of it. The normally formal and button up-ed mayor of Storybrooke looks like the embodiment of evil with a dress that hugs so tightly to her waist and torso that Emma can practically see every breath the brunette takes. The midnight blue fabric also makes it seem as if Regina's just another part of the night that managed to slip into the diner before dawn made the whole world too bright for her.
Also, seriously, who plans a meeting for dawn? Why not say a time? Like say five minutes past ass crack?
Just thinking of how early it is makes Emma yawn. Her jaw stretches out as her body begs for the opportunity to do the same. She starts to, but the sheer amount of tension in the room convinces her not to move. No one else is except for Regina who saunters through with this little smirk on her face.
Emma's sitting beside Mary Margaret - er, Snow - and David's on the other side. It's a long table smack in the center of the diner. Snow's at the head on one end, and Regina takes the head on the other with a large flourish. Emma wonders faintly just how many years it took to get down sitting with such elegance and dominance in a dress that tight and ridiculous.
Once Regina's seated, there's a slight movement of chairs where a few of the folk scoot a bit further away from her spot. Emma tries to pinpoint who it was exactly. It wasn't Granny, that old lady has this determined bad ass sort of look on her face like she's ready to jump on over and slice and dice anyone who causes problems. Not Ruby either. Even with the big red hood, she's as defiant as ever. Not Leroy, or Mother Superior, and definitely not Snow and David. James. Charming. Whatever she winds up calling him. That only leaves Archie, which isn't really much of a surprise at all. He must be a pushover even when he think he's a cricket.
Snow clears her throat, and all eyes go to her. Emma's as well. It's interesting to watch the little changes in Snow especially. She's more confident, more affectionate, more everything really. She won't be separated from David for more than a few minutes. Even now, one of her hands is firmly clasped in his on the edge of the table.
She says, "Now that we're all here, let's begin. We all know Regina's crimes, but what we need to decide is how to handle them."
Leroy pipes in, "I say string her up, sister." His gaze drifts to Regina, his frown mixing perfectly with the low scowl forming on her face. "Burn her and her stupid apple tree."
Emma opens her mouth to object, but Snow beats her to it. "Grumpy! Death has never been the answer. You were the one who told me that. We're standing by it. There must be a peaceful way to punish Regina for what she's done."
The rest of the table nods, though Granny's seems a bit begrudging. Emma finds that she can't look at the woman after that. She's not even considering looking at Leroy. Maybe his name should be Choppy, or Killy, or something a bit more fitting to his obviously vengeful and homicidal nature. Emma winds up looking at Mother Superior, who apparently is the Blue Fairy.
Blue suggests, "The hood that was made for Red was quite difficult magically, but a similar sort of item could be created to block the Queen's magic."
Then, finally, Regina speaks. Shouts more like it. "My magic?" Her gaze flies wildly across the table, and Emma imagines her hands are probably sparking just out of view. "Need I remind you that if I have magic so does Rumpelstiltskin? There's no way that you can stop him without me."
Snow points out, "We imprisoned him once and can do it again."
Regina shakes her head, her eyes lowering. "He won't be tricked a second time." The lighter way she says it, the almost reverent tone to her voice, makes it seem like she almost regrets that. Regrets tricking him and belittling him so many times that this has happened. Or maybe she's just angry that she's not in control and he could get the leg up on her even without his magic back. Either way, Emma's inclined to believe her. Evil people never underestimate each other. They're too paranoid not to.
Meanwhile, the good guys like David are full of hope and bravado. His voice is full of it when he says, "You have doubted us for too long. Now, you must trust us, especially if you want us to spare your life." He pauses a moment as if waiting for an objection. Regina merely purses her lips. She's practically submissive. It's crazy, almost awkward; Emma can't even take a second to appreciate how far Regina's fallen in such a short amount of time. It really doesn't take long for people to fall into old patterns.
David - and Emma really should think of him as Charming at least since this is definitely not the same guy who accused Mary Margaret of killing Kathryn so - Charming gives every single person a little look in the eye, a moment to prepare themselves for what he's about to say. He hesitates when his gaze meets her. And there's a lot in that glance that Emma can pick out. There's sadness, regret, pain, and those she knows are just from looking at her. He had the same look when Emma went to say that they needed a meeting to discuss how to handle Regina. He'd looked crushed and conflicted the entire short discussion. A petty part of Emma's happy about it, about how beat up he feels over missing her life and being practically useless in Storybrooke. Of course, neither of those things are his fault. They're Regina's. And Gold's. And hers too since she couldn't own up to her destiny. But in her defense, who would believe something like this? Who can look into the eyes of a man that seems like he's their age and call him 'Dad'? Call her best friend 'Mom'? That's not easy stuff to deal with, and Emma's always been a person who gets away from even the lightest of emotional stuff. So it's not really much of a surprise that once she does pick out those things in Charming's gaze, she turns her attention to Regina. It's better. She gets to watch the way the queen mayor's face drops as Charming begins.
"You separated us from who we love and stripped us of what makes us who we are for twenty eight years. Not to mention what you did to poor Abigail-"
Regina interjects, "Rumpelstiltskin did that-"
"Under your orders," he adds. She falls silent. "You shall now see what it's like to be under someone else's control. First, there will be an election for mayor. You are allowed to run, but I think we all know that you will not be elected into office ever again. Second, you can only see Henry if he wants to see you and for an hour at the most. Third, you will be at the whim of the citizens. On Mondays, you will spend the day with Snow. Tuesdays, with me. Wednesdays are with the dwarfs. Thursdays, the fairies. Fridays, you shall attend the town meetings and remain silent. Saturdays-"
"-are with me," Emma says. Everyone turns to her, and she dares them silently to challenge her. Dares them but prays that they won't. She can't exactly argue why she deserves a day. She doesn't even know why she wants one. Maybe just because the look on Regina's face is somewhere between 'shoot me now' and 'I'll smite you all'. Or maybe it's the guilt. Guilt that she feels for the person who tried to poison her, and most likely really did kill Graham. Wait, why does Emma want a day again?
"Fine. And Sundays, you may have to do as you please so long as you do not break any of the limitations we are placing on you."
Regina mumbles, "An entire day to myself, how generous." The faces of the table say that it's more than that. Regina sighs and says, louder, "I want to keep my home. Also, any and all people, animals, or sprites who attempt to harm my property or myself are to be handled with the full authority of the law."
Leroy deflates at that as Snow nods.
"Blue Fairy, if you can draw up the contract-"
"One more thing," Regina says, "Jefferson. I know that he caused an issue for Snow recently, but he will not be punished for that. He is to have his mansion and his daughter in peace."
Emma's eyes widen. "Paige."
Instantly, and with her first glance towards Emma all day, Regina corrects, "Grace." They hold each other's gaze a bit longer. The little girl's picture pops up in Emma's mind from the storybook. She remembers the way the Queen manipulated the Mad Hatter and trapped him in Wonderland, doomed to spend the rest of his life away from his daughter. "He's to get exactly what he wants, ask him. If he would like a new start, with both of their memories erased and rebuilt, do so. That's all I ask. I will agree to your terms."
Charming and Snow share a look before giving a final nod. They look to Blue who waves a wand and lowers it with a paper contract and quill attached. The two items float across the table to rest gently in front of Regina. The woman doesn't hesitate in grabbing the pen and signing her name to the parchment. The moment she lifts her hand, the document rolls up and flies swiftly back to Charming. He takes that and rises, bringing Snow up with him. The rest of the table does the same.
Belatedly, Emma stands. She glances between everyone, waiting for someone to speak, for something to happen. But no one seems to have the words to say. How does a person end a meeting like this? 'Thanks for signing over your freedom. Now let's go back to bed.' That's not exactly the way it happens in the Disney movies. That's just crap. Really, really bad crap. But at least it's Sunday. Regina gets to spend one whole day to herself before all of this craziness sets in, and maybe, just maybe, Emma can spend that day finally relaxing.
"So is the meeting over?" she finally asks. The words seem to knock everyone out of their trances. Granny and Ruby start to usher people out, claiming something about needing to fix all of the tables up again before opening in a few hours. Leroy wobbles his angry ass on out the door with a bottle of something he didn't pay for tucked under his arm. Archie gives some sort of light rant about the possible problems with the agreement. Blue sort of just seems to disappear. And then the only ones left are Emma, her parents, and the Evil Queen. Honestly, the silence from the beginning has nothing on this.
Snow and Regina stare at each other, all deep and dark and full of years of resentment on both sides.
Snow says, "I will never forgive you for what you've done. You took away everything from me. From all of us. And I almost wish that I was willing to lose it all over again just to see you feel that pain. Though, knowing that you won't be watching your child grow up either makes it all a little bit better. Good day, Regina."
Snow offers but one small smirk before leaving the diner. Charming follows behind her without a word. Regina stays perfectly still until after they're gone. The door's barely closed when the furthest booth away from Regina catches on fire. Emma starts to talk, to chastise, to panic, but then another booth does the same. And the bar quivers and the lights flicker and all the while Regina's face stays as perfectly calm and softly tormented as it has been for the entire arraignment.
Then, as quickly as it began, it stops. The charred furniture goes out. The marble settles. The darkness takes over. The only light in the entire room comes from the early morning light drifting in through the windows, bouncing off of Emma's hair and the damn bells on Regina's black cape.
Chapter 3: sunday
How's your hiatus going? Mine is awkwardly devoid of our queen. It's okay though since the chapter is about her reacting to what happened in the last one. Maybe skim that to catch up after the break?
Regina opens her front door with a wave of her right hand. The deep wood crashes against the wall nearly as hard as she wishes the rest of the town would. She hates them. She honestly does. She should have burned down that stupid diner just as she started to. She should have let it crumble with their righteous, prideful, smug little faces still trapped inside of it. That would have been a perfect cherry on top of this sundae of awfulness. Although, had she killed them all, Henry would most definitely never even look at her again. She chuckles bitterly. She's thinking as if he's going to do so now. He hates her. He's hated her for a while, and the proof that she really is the Evil Queen won't help with that at all. The only good to come out of this grand reveal is that now she has her little servant back.
Sidney's face appears back in the mirror the second after the door slams. His face is pulled into a tight frown, and the animated nature of his true form makes it look as if steam is literally rising off of his body. It's oddly comforting that he looks almost as livid as she feels.
He roars, "Those animals! Who put them in charge of anything? They don't have the right to treat you this way. My stars, you, Regina, are a Queen, not a servant."
Her gaze droops as she responds lowly, "Not anything." Not mayor, not a mother, not even a friend when her only friends have either been killed or reminded of just how awful she can be. She twists her cape off of her shoulders and tosses it over the mirror, effectively muffling whatever else Sidney has to say. She's not in the mood for his flattery at the moment. He's only saying what she's been thinking the entire way home anyway.
Snow and her prince charming have no right to dictate how Regina should live her life. Even after Snow took Daniel away, Regina allowed the pesky little thing to do whatever she pleased. Of course Regina was hoping that Snow would hang herself with the rope offered, but still, the fact that she gave it is what's important. Regina doesn't understand it. The heroes are always the ones who strip the villains of everything, who tear apart the small good in lives already so wrought with wrong and darkness. Though, no one ever cares to argue with their rulings because the heroes are supposedly the voices of reason. They can do no wrong, whereas that is all Regina can do in their eyes. It's sickening. Disgusting. She knew this would happen too. She had told Emma that they would keep her from Henry as much as they could. She knew it, and yet she had hoped...
"Hope does breed eternal misery," she whispers to herself with another bitter grin. Hope, love, all of these emotions so highly preached by children and royalty alike are the main things that turn people into the monsters they face every day. This world they live in currently, Storybrooke, is so horrible not because of what Regina has done to them, but because of what love has done to them. What feeling has done. One moment, there's love and happiness, and then nine years later, she's walking up the stairs alone in a house too big for one.
She could fill it with help. Maids and butlers and chefs could scuttle around, fixing this and that, bowing to her, opening her doors. But then again, she could just as easily flick her wrist and do all of that. She doesn't need other people. She gets showy when she gets upstairs just to prove it. She sends her door open and has it close softly behind her. She even breaks out the dramatic smokey transition to change out of her royal dress into something much more relaxed. She might as well use as much of her magic before her powers are taken from her. Again.
"Hmm, better make it last, dearie. It'll be gone by morning."
The voice sends a chill down Regina's spine. Only unlike before, this chill makes her skin burn hot. It forces every bit of rage and contempt out into the pads of her fingertips. She whips around to look at him, holding herself back only slightly from blasting his smug little face through her bedroom window.
He cackles in that incessant, high pitched way of his. It certainly didn't take long for that trait to return. She could have done without that. Or just him in general.
She says, "You have some nerve appearing here, especially after the stunt you just pulled."
His eyes darken considerably. "Oh, like the one you pulled? Taking Belle and locking her away in our world and this one?"
He found Belle? Well, that explains his audacity. True love certainly does make a person bolder, more outgoing, more foolish. As they've proven, love is weakness. And Rumpelstiltskin never did enjoy weaknesses much. It was as much a favor to him as a treat for her, especially once she got Belle's father on board.
Regina tells him, "Her father put her in the tower, just as I said he did. Of course, she never jumped from it, but my spin on the ending was just so much better."
Rumpel's face now darkens, twitches. She can feel his magic start to swell. He asks, demands, "And her prison here?"
She turns from him, straightening up the pillow she took from Henry's room as she responds, "The psych ward was hardly a prison. No conjugal visits."
He doesn't appreciate the quip. He steps in threateningly, his hands glowing deeply. He stresses each word of his question. "What else did you do?"
She raises an eyebrow curiously. "Do?" What else matters? It's his great love and everyone else's. That's her crime. That's her happy ending.
He barks, "Who else is here? Who?"
And then she gets it. She gets the halted way he controls his magic, the light sheen of his old gray skin crinkling at his hairline, the hatred mixing with the slightest bit of hope in his eyes. He wants her to have done more. To his son. Baelfire.
Even she's not that bad.
She tells him, "There's no one else."
"Don't lie to me! Don't lie!" He jumps as he speaks, getting closer to her and louder.
She moves closer as well. She opens herself up just enough to show that she's not going for the attack. She's telling the truth. "Your son isn't here. He got out much too long ago to get roped into this curse, no matter how much you wanted him to."
Their gazes meet. His is panicked, shifty, broken. He truly is Rumpelstiltskin now, the same jittery, paranoid mess that became her best ally and most serious competitor. He lost his humanity when he lost his son. As much as he regained it over these past twenty-eight years, losing Bae again could have the same effect. Losing the hope.
"No," he whispers.
"NO! You're lying to me. He has to be here. You had to have him here."
He shakes his head. "If Bae isn't in the town, he's out there. I'll get him back. Belle and I'll get him. We'll go and scour the Earth, leaving brim and hellfire in our wake if we have to until we find him. I'm getting my son back!" His eyes flit to hers, and he cackles. "I am. But you won't. Will you, dearie? Magical contract says you get one hour a day with your boy. That'll never be enough. That'll drive you mad. Mad as me. They'll lock you away the same way they did me. Then, with you gone, I'll have nothing standing in my way from taking over everything. This whole world'll be mine. Starting with Storybrooke. And anyone who stands in my way, be they big or..." and his eyes drift to the pillow she just straightened before returning to hers, "small, will be killed! And you can't stop me."
Regina flings her wrist to the side and as it floats through the air, Rumpelstiltskin does the same. He lands high up against the door to the bedroom, with his limbs sprayed and his head squished against him like the rodent he is. She tightens her hand into a fist and he writhes in his invisible binds.
She asks, taunts, "Oh, can't I? How dare you threaten Henry! If you hurt one hair on his head-"
"What?" Rumpel asks. He has to choke out the words, but the venom and the menace are still there. "What will you do? You're losing your magic. You're being babysat by dwarfs. You're nothing."
She clenches her fist and a few of his bones break. He grunts at the pain, but he just turns it into another one of those awful laughs of his. Blood starts to drip from his mouth. It pools at his teeth. His eyes glow before he spits it at her. She stops it with her other hand. Then she steps forward.
"It doesn't matter what they do to me. I will never stop fighting you. And just like here, I will win."
"You're never going to win, dearie. Never have and never will." He sucks a bit more blood back into his mouth. "Now, if you'll let me go, I've got a few other people to visit today."
No. No. No! Regina fights to hold onto him. She's got him. She has him at her mercy. This isn't fair. This can't be happening. But it is. She feels it weakening, her grip on him. He starts to lower down the wall slowly. With each inch down he drifts, his grin gets larger and larger. He's been waiting to do that. He let her get him. He let her so that he could prove that he holds all of the power. That manipulative son of a bitch! That toad! That bastard! In a last bout of rage, Regina releases her magic, dropping him back onto the ground unceremoniously.
He glares at her from the ground, but then that anger disappears. It goes cold, like the rest of him. He gives a sort of nod and says, "You're gonna regret that, your majesty." And with a snap of his fingers, he's gone.
The rest of her Sunday is nowhere near as eventful. She spends hours simply destroying and fixing things. Over and over again. She destroys the entire second floor around noon only to put it back together when a knock sounds on the door. She heads down to it, wondering just who's come to attack her this time. It is far too early for Rumpelstiltskin to be making good on his threat. James has said all he'd had to say. The Blue Fairy couldn't possibly have finished the cloak so soon. That only leaves Emma or Snow, and Snow is most likely too busy making up for lost time with her prince. It must be Emma then, she thinks while turning the handle. It's not.
Grace looks up at Regina with her bright child's eyes and tiny, cute smile. She has a rabbit in her arms, the same one that Jefferson made for her when Regina refused to sell him the fancy one. Of course Grace doesn't seem to mind. Why should she? She has everything she ever wanted. Which begs the question of why she is here, with Regina, instead of scampering through the forest with her father or living in the mansion or whatever it is that the two had decided to do when given the opportunity.
"Hello," Regina says when the child doesn't speak.
Grace grins further. "Hello. My Papa told me what you did for us. I wanted to say thank you. I know that you've done bad things, but that doesn't make you a bad person. You gave him back to me after all."
Oh, child, I was the one to take him away in the first place. Regina starts to say just that when she catches glimpse of the small box beside the girl. The top of the cardboard container is gone so the shining sun glints easily off of the two glass cups and tea kettle. She brings her gaze up from the set to Grace who beams. Is she doing what Regina thinks she is? Is this -
"A tea party." Regina's gaze whips down to where Jefferson has appeared at the gate. He has a teacup in his hand and a shrunken down version of his hat around his neck. He walks up the path to her home, explaining, "Grace has always wanted one with the queen. I said she could ask."
Regina blinks, stares. "W-why? You hate me."
He shrugs. His eyes stray to Grace and back to Regina. He says, "You probably need at least one person who isn't out to skin you alive."
Regina's mind flashes to Emma and the way the blonde seemed to defend her. Emma doesn't want to skin her. In fact, Emma almost seems guilty. Guilt is a very powerful motivator. It doesn't explain why Jefferson is on her side though. Why would he want to help her? She doesn't understand. Still, she grins and steps back to let them into her home.
Grace looks around with rapt attention. Her box seems a little big for her arms, but she doesn't seem to mind. She truly is a carefree child. Regina tells Grace about the abundance of tea she has in the kitchen, and that's all it takes to send the little girl scampering away. Once Grace is gone, Regina has to ask, "Why would someone as justly paranoid as you ever let me near Grace?"
Jefferson looks away, sighs. "Come on, Regina, we both know this isn't the first time you've looked after her."
Right. Her face pulls downward as old guilt wells inside of her. He shouldn't bring that up. She buried it long ago. Buried all of that. She made amends. She gave Grace the life she always deserved and helped to bring their family back together. She shouldn't have to feel this way, not again.
She's not sure how to respond, but luckily Grace reappears with a teabag and the conversation is put on hold. As grateful as Regina is, she can't help but wonder how long until that particular conversation - and a lot of other awkward fairytale related ones - are brought back to the surface. More importantly, if this is how her free day went, how is her day with Snow White going to go tomorrow?
Chapter 4: monday
And so the tale continues. When we last saw our fallen queen, she was having tea with the Mad Hatter and preparing for the next day when she would come face to face with Snow White. Now, the time has come for the two to speak alone for the first time in twenty-eight years.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It takes most of the strength in Regina's body to knock on the door. The hollow sound of her fist against the wood reminds her of what her life has become. What it is sure to become. It's Monday, the first of many days that Regina has to spend with the people she cursed. She understands the punishment. By forcing her to be around her subjects, she's supposed to learn about them and grow guilty for what she's done. Regina gets that much. She simply doesn't understand why she must start every week with Snow White.
Snow certainly hadn't had a difficult life in Storybrooke. Regina's standing in front of the beautiful loft that she so graciously gave the girl. Snow lived there for twenty-eight years never wanting for anything but a bit of happiness. She had a job. She had colleagues. She had the respect of the town. She wasn't locked away in a cellar or living on the streets. Snow has no reason for complaint. Well, hardly none. Snow did have to miss the majority of her child's life and live with an emptiness inside of her that could never fully be filled. It's actually much like the way Regina lived her life in their old world. That life broke Regina; has it done the same to Snow?
The door swings open, revealing not the humble queen but her king. James glowers down at Regina, his blue eyes colder than she can ever remember them. His jaw is tight and tense, much like the rest of his body. Internally, she sighs. She had honestly liked David Nolan. Not because he was stripped away from Snow, but because he found the light in simple situations, because his eyes sparkled when he walked around, because he reminded her of Daniel. Well, now, he's gone, and the shepherd has taken his place.
"Regina," James greets curtly. Yes, he definitely is the shepherd. His upbringing forces him to be polite, to offer respect even to those he does not wish to. She smirks.
"Charming," she returns. His face tenses further. He doesn't like when others call him that. She knows it too. She knows a lot more than any of them ever gave her credit for.
He steps away from the door and gestures for her to follow him. She has a moment before the door closes, one last glimpse to the outside before resigning herself to her fate. Once it clicks shut, she turns her attention to the loft. It's not much different than it was before the curse was broken. Most likely, that was because the place fit Snow well, at least it fit the Snow she used to be before Regina launched her attack. Snow had been so trusting then, so open. Regina looks around in remembrance, but James must see something else in that act for he straightens to his full height and stands firm before her.
He informs her, "Emma and Henry are not here so you might as well stop looking."
She also might as well send a jolt of lightning up his rear end. He is not in charge of her. He does not get to tell her how to feel or what to do. "I will do as I please, especially where it concerns my son."
"If you wish," he says, "However, if you break our contact, you will be locked away just as we did with Rumpelstiltskin."
Oh, the very name sets Regina ablaze. It courses through to her finger tips, lighting the pads ever so softly with a purple growing glow. Why is she treated as if she is the worst of their enemies? Rumpelstiltskin has tricked each and every one of them, yet he runs free!
"And what are you doing about Rumpelstiltskin, hmm? Because he was at my door just last night threatening me and promising to destroy all I hold near." The glow softens, but the rage in her eyes burns brighter. He threatened her son. Henry is all that matters now. Nothing can happen to him. If Regina can't stop it, then it is their job as the new crowned royalty to do something. She asks, "What are you going to do about that? Or is the protective treatment only reserved for your dear precious family?"
James grunts low in his throat. He tells her, "You deserve any punishment you receive."
Typical. She asks, "Does Henry?" And James falls silent. Again, she implores him with her eyes. "Henry is all I hold near enough to hurt me. Rumpelstiltskin knows that. He practically said that he would start with Henry. What will you do to protect him?"
To that, James has no answer. He seems stricken by the thought, stunned into silence. He disgusts her. He acts as if he can lead the world, and he has nothing to say to her now. Pathetic.
"We will do whatever it takes to protect Henry," Snow announces. Regina turns her body towards the sound. Snow stands a bit away with her head held high and her hands held tight like that of a true royal. "We have the means to do so and the resources. But today is not about Henry. It is about us, Regina." And then Snow turns to address her husband. "We'll be out all day. Back before night fall I imagine."
James nods and moves to kiss his beloved goodbye. Regina glares. They've shifted so quickly into their own world. He is their grandchild. They should care. They should not wait until a day has passed to act. Act now. She wants to scream at them. Hit them. Shake them until they understand the urgency to trap that monster right where he belongs. She opens her mouth to speak, but Snow's gaze stops her. Regina follows the line of sight down to her own glowing fingers. She calms them quickly and stares back at Snow. Will the girl say something? Will she pull the cloak out? Regina raises an eyebrow in question.
Snow merely says, "We have much to see. Let's go."
Their first stop, surprisingly, is not to get the cloak from the Blue Fairy. They head the opposite direction of where the nuns are kept. Snow doesn't speak at all as they walk. She keeps her focus forward. Regina attempts to do the same. She watches the people they pass by. Most people stop once they recognize her. They stare at her with a hatred so deep that she worries they'll leave marks on her skin. It wouldn't make a difference if they did. No one admires her anymore. No one has to pretend to either. It hasn't been said, but she's fairly certain she's been removed from office as mayor of Storybrooke.
Will she have to move? She does lives in Mayor's Mansion. Though, the title of the home is her doing and not spelled out the rules of the town. She should be able to keep it. Plus, it's more torturous that way. She can return home from a job of cleaning toilets for the dwarfs to a reminder of what she should be doing. She can be haunted by the ghosts of her past. Or she could never leave it. Simply stay inside and avoid the work and the stares and the school -
"The school?" Regina blurts as she finally understands where they're headed. The large building is a bit off in the distance, but they are undoubtedly moving closer to the school.
Snow stills in her step and looks back to Regina. "Yes. Is something wrong?"
Regina nearly answers that everything is wrong before she decides to be less petty and more honest. She has nothing to lose. "I am in no mood to be around the children of all those who hate me, especially not when Henry is among them."
Snow seems taken aback by her honesty. She clears her throat and informs her, "The children have been given the day off to reunite with their families. In a way, I suppose we're doing the same. Come on. Keep walking."
The last time Regina remembers being in this classroom is when she accused Snow of giving Henry her credit card. That whole experience had seemed like the beginning of some dark fairytale, where the urge to destroy her sprang up from her enemies' unconscious minds and they did all they could to destroy her. Instead, it was her son's conscious need to avoid her. When did he learn to hate me so much? Regina wonders. And where? From the book? From Rumpelstiltskin? Or from herself?
Snow's voice interrupts her thoughts. "I shouldn't have said what I said about you not seeing Henry grow up, or wanting to kill you."
Regina's mind flashes back to Snow's last words at the contract signing. ("I will never forgive you for what you've done.") Regina asks, "Are you sorry?"
Snow shakes her head. "No." She opens the window in the classroom. A white bird flies in, nuzzling against Snow's fingers and chirping happily. Regina knows for a fact that this is something birds did even with Mary Margaret. Still, she can feel Snow's reverence and relief across the room. These birds are her link to their world, to peace. With a sigh, Snow nudges the bird away. Lets it go. Regina doubts she could do the same.
Still looking out, Snow says, "I wish it could all be that simple. Just fly home and live freely." She glances back. "But we cannot fly home. We cannot leave Storybrooke."
Regina perks up slightly. They're still trapped? "Have you tried?"
"One of the fairies volunteered to try it and crossed the sign only to be tossed back. She's in the hospital now."
Regina nearly grins. Seems she's not the only one trapped against her will. Even with magic and memories, they're all still victim to the curse. "How fascinating, but why are you mentioning this to me? I have no control over what this curse does."
Snow says, "I know. I just wanted to remind you that not all of you hard work is undone."
"Nor is yours, dear," and Regina's tone turns slightly bitter as she thinks of all the things Snow still has. "The world still loves you. James still worships at your feet. You have your precious daughter, and now you even have a grandson to dote upon and smother the way you no doubt would have with Emma. Congratulations."
She expects her comment to rile up the other girl. She wouldn't admit it, but she misses Snow's spark. Emma has it. Though, arguing with the blonde is always different than arguing with Snow. Blood does not define anything in that way. In most ways. Snow remains calm, reflective even.
She asks, "Why did you adopt Henry? Why my grandson?" She stutters over the word. It can't be easy to say, not when she doesn't feel any different or look any older.
"I never knew his parentage, only that he would be mine. None of the rest mattered to me when it came to him."
"I don't doubt it." Regina scoffs. Snow continues, "I mean it. And not because of the false memories, but because of my actual ones. You were amazing to me in the beginning."
She remembers their dances, days where the entire ballroom would be decorated for the two of them in their finest gowns and every doll and servant in the palace. She recalls hours spent in the library, reading about anything or anyone that they could get their hands on. There was a time when they were inseparable.
"That was a long time ago. A lot has changed," Regina says.
To that, Snow says, "For you perhaps."
Regina bites down another sigh. Just because she had her memory does not mean that she's matured or learned anything during this time. She's been in stasis the same as they have, not only physically but spiritually. In a way, Regina still feels like she's in that stable, staring at the un-beating heart of the man she loved. Fleetingly, Regina wonders if she was a worse mother to Snow than Cora was to her. Was exile worse than being caged by magic? Was separating true love but erasing their memory worse than watching the chances of it crumble to dust before your eyes? Were they equal - Cora and Regina - or was Regina much, much worse?
How did you like the chapter? I personally am not the largest fan, but I'm trying to work through my writer's block by writing so I'm powering through. Hmm, what did you all like or not like about this?