Henry picked his way through the charred remains of a patch of forest miles away from Storybrooke. Emma had forbidden him from checking out the magical fight while it occurred (instead forcing him to watch in awe and terror from the center of town with everyone else), but Emma was still Sheriff and had to keep the peace, so she was at work - which meant he was free to wonder off and check out the damage left by Rumpelstiltskin and the Evil Queen.
While he climbed over a charred and fallen tree, he wondered why they had been fighting. They were the bad guys. Weren't they on the same side?
As his feet hit the dirt with a soft thump, Henry heard a moan. He froze. Listening closely, he crept toward the sound. It sounded like a woman, and she sounded like she was in a lot of pain. He peeked around a tree. He wasn’t expecting to see the Evil Queen propped against the base of a tree, mud and blood smearing her face and clothes while she hugged an arm to her chest. She didn't look much like the Evil Queen: she wore nice clothes but none of the elegant gowns depicted in his book. Swallowing, he crept closer. A twig snapped under his foot, and the Evil Queen's head shot up to stare at him in surprise.
"Henry!" she said. There was a pause while she seemed to be torn between a multitude of emotions. "What are you doing here?" Her voice held obvious concern and anger. "You could be hurt. Where is Emma?"
"She's not here," he said. "Why? Worried she's going to finish you off?" As he spoke, he studied her injuries. Bruises stood out on her face, one on her right cheek and a darkening one around her left eye. Blood trickled down her face from an injury just under her hairline that he couldn't get a good look at. The way she clutched at her arm made him figure it was either broken or fractured, and he noticed that her breaths were shallow. Was there something wrong with her ribs? Why was she just sitting here? He frowned, trying to suppress his rising worry.
The Evil Queen didn't respond. Her head lolled back against the tree, and her eyes slipped closed. A sheen of sweat covered her skin. Henry crept closer, knelt beside her, and placed a hand against her side. She choked back a sob but didn't try to move away. He had been right: there was something wrong with her ribs.
Swallowing hard, he asked, "Can you move?"
She shook her head, her breaths coming in shallow gasps. He pulled his hand away.
"Why were you fighting Rumplestiltskin?" he asked.
"He..." She swallowed. Her breathing appeared to ease now that he had taken his hand away from her ribs. "I took someone from him a long time ago. Someone he loved."
"But he's evil," he said, shaking his head. "He can't love."
Henry met his mom's - no, the Evil Queen's - gaze. Startled, he saw tears brimming in her eyes. "Henry..." she said, "Everyone is capable of love."
He shifted uncomfortably, dropping his gaze to the ground. "You're lying." His voice lacked the conviction it had always held, and he clenched his hands into fists. He was right about this; he had to be. If he wasn't, if evil people could love, couldn't they be saved? Could his mom have been saved? Could he have saved her if he hadn't pushed her away? Had she been telling the truth in the hospital when she said that she loved him? To his embarrassment, his own tears dripped down his cheeks and fell onto his hands. A hand touched his shoulder. He tried to wipe away his tears before she noticed, but he knew he failed when she leaned forward, gasping in pain at the movement, to grip his arm and pull him towards her. She tugged him to lean against her side and wrapped an arm around him, holding him in place.
"Don't," he said, hating how weak his voice sounded. "You're hurt..."
The Evil Queen - his mom - shook her head and dropped a kiss on his forehead. "I'm fine." She held him closer for a moment, and even though he knew she tried to hide it, he heard her hiss in agony at the added pressure on her ribs. "You need to leave, Henry. Rumplestiltskin could be back at any moment."
Henry craned his neck to look up at his mother. "What about you?" He squeezed her hand. "Why don't you heal yourself?"
"I will," she said. "When I'm not so tired."
"No!" Panic twisted his insides, his heart hammering in his chest. "We need to get you help, Mom."
She smiled sadly, stroking his hair. He leaned into her hand. "Who will help me, Henry?" Her voice was gentle, but it did nothing to soften the blow of realization. He couldn't breathe; his mom was hurt, really hurt, and there was no one who could help her. All the things he had taken for granted - doctors and nurses and police officers - were gone, and they were left with people from another world, people who wanted his mother dead.
"We could get you out of Storybrooke," he said, wrapping her arm around his shoulders and standing up. He tried to pull her to her feet, but she cried out. He set her back down gently, whispering 'I'm sorry' over and over again. He swallowed hard past the thick lump in his throat. "I'll find someone. I promise. I'll get you help."
For one horrible moment, he thought she was going to shake her head. Then she cupped his cheek and smiled. "I know you will. I love you, Henry. I am so, so proud of you."
"I'm sorry, Mom," he whispered.
"It's okay," she said. "Now, hurry."
He nodded. "I'll get help. I'll be back. I promise."
"I know you will." She kissed his forehead. "Now go."
He ran, feet thudding against the forest floor, embracing the panic and fear that clutched his heart, pushing him forward. He had to be back soon, or she might not be there when he got back. A high pitched laugh made him stumble; he crashed to the ground, scrapping his hands on the twigs and needles littering the dirt.
"Why hello, dearie," said Rumplestiltskin's voice from somewhere behind him. "Feeling a bit under the weather, are we?"
Henry pushed himself to his feet and tore back through the forest towards his mother.
"You're lucky," Rumplestiltskin said, "that I don't have a habit of hurting children, or I would string that lovely boy of yours from a tree by his intestines for what you did to Belle. Still, I'll see to it that you never see your boy again."
Henry skidded to a halt, glancing around. Voices seemed to carry through the forest. How far had he run? Was he heading back the right way? Rumplestiltskin and his mother's voices reached his ears, but the voices were lowered, and he couldn't make out the words over his ragged breaths. He spotted the tree he had climbed over earlier. He took off again, scrambled over the tree and fell to the ground on the other side. Leaping to his feet, he listened again, but the voices were gone. He hesitated, staring at the tree he had crept around earlier.
The forest was silent. One by one, the sound of birds came back. Henry looked to his left and studied that large area of charred and fallen trees. He turned his head to the right, watching the line of trees that had burn marks along the bases but which were still alive. Glancing up, he saw a bird flutter from one branch of the tree in front of him to the other. "Get help," he said, hoping against hope, but the bird ignored him. Magic had been brought to this land, but the animals were still just animals.
Tears flowed down his cheeks, and his shoulders trembled. Still, he forced himself forward. Even knowing what he would find, a sob ripped from his throat at the sight of his mother slumped over on the ground. She didn't look any different than from when he left, and for a moment, he allowed himself to believe that she was just sleeping. But then he remembered that magic didn't have to leave marks to kill. He dropped to his hands and knees, crawled forward and placed her head in his lap.
"I'm sorry, Mom," he whispered. "I'm so sorry." He hunched over her, wiping the blood from her face, and waited for someone to find him.
. . .
By the time Emma found him, he could see the stars through the branches above him. She sat beside him and pulled him into her arms, careful not to jostle Regina's body too much. Henry buried his face in her shoulder. "This is my fault."
"There's nothing you could have done."
But Henry had had a lot of time to think. If only he hadn't pushed her away. If only he had loved her like she loved him. If only he hadn't brought Emma here with the intention of bringing his mother down. If only he had tried to save her instead of trying to destroy her. She would still be alive. He wondered if this was what real heroes felt all the time.
"Give her to me, Henry," Emma said gently. "I can carry her."
Reluctantly, Henry let Emma take his mother's body. Emma adjusted her grip and stood. His mother's head rested against Emma's shoulder. Swallowing hard, Henry walked beside Emma through the forest, trying not to look at the limp body she held. He wasn't sure how long it took them to reach the edge of the woods, maybe half an hour, maybe an hour. An ambulance waited by the side of the road, and there were other cars and people milling around. A shout rang through the crowd, and then Snow White rushed toward him with Prince Charming on her heels, and they scooped him into their arms.
"Henry, are you okay?" Snow White pulled back to look him in the eyes. Her mascara smeared down her face. Henry's throat closed, remembering the night he came home with Emma, and Regina ran down the walkway, eyes red and watery, makeup smeared. Snow White's gaze turned to Emma, and she gasped. "What happened?" Henry dropped his head, fixing his eyes firmly on his shoes.
"Rumplestiltskin," said Emma's voice from right behind him. "She's...gone."
Henry didn't look up, not wanting to see the expression on Snow White's face. "It's my fault," he whispered, half-hoping no one heard him, but fingers brushed the side of his face tenderly.
"How is this your fault?" Snow White asked. "Regina..." She trailed off. Henry knew she wanted to say that Regina had brought this on herself.
"Snow," Emma said, her voice low, "leave it."
Snow White rocked back on her heels, and Prince Charming wrapped an arm around Henry's shoulders. "Come on, Henry," he said, "let's get you home." Henry chanced a glance up at his face. Tears shimmered in his eyes; he, at least, seemed to understand what Henry felt. Wrapping his arms around Prince Charming's waist, Henry buried his face in his side.
"It's not fair," he said, the lump in his throat making it hard to speak. "It's not fair."
"I know, Henry," Prince Charming said. He rubbed Henry's back in soothing circles. Henry waited for him to say something more, something to reassure him that it would get better, get easier, that one day it wouldn't hurt, but no assurances came. He pulled out of Charming's grasp, spun around to face Emma, and stood on his tip toes to whisper in his mother's ear, "I love you, Mom." Then he pressed a kiss to the side of her head.
Wind and light rushed through the area. Henry leapt back with a startled cry, and Emma almost dropped his mother. Everything settled and the night returned to normal. Emma stood still, staring at Regina in shock.
"Henry," she said in a straggled voice.
He followed her gaze, noticing a gentle rise and fall of Regina's chest. "Mom?" he whispered. He stood on his toes to better see her face.
Her eyes fluttered open. "Henry... You did it." And then her eyes closed.
"Mom?" Henry said. "Mom!"
"We need to hurry." Emma held Regina closer, mindful then of her injuries. She turned to face the crowd gathered around the ambulance. "We need help!" At first no one moved, and Regina's words rang in the back of Henry's ear. "Who would help me?" she'd said.
"You heard her," Prince Charming shouted. "Move!"
All at once, the crowd swarmed forward. They took Regina from Emma's arms and loaded her into the ambulance. Henry leapt into the back, Emma on his heels, before anyone could protest. The glare Emma shot everyone in the vicinity had them moving double time. The doors closed behind them.
"Is she going to be okay?" Henry asked, gripping Emma's hand.
"I don't know, Henry." Emma bit her lip. "She's really hurt, Kid."
Again he waited for the assurance he felt sure would come but none did.
. . .
Groggily, Henry opened his eyes. His head rested on Prince Charming's lap with the rest of his body stretched out over two seats and his feet resting in Snow White's lap. He wondered when she had gotten there. When he had fallen asleep, he had been leaned against Prince Charming's shoulder, and Emma had been hovering around the hospital room down the corridor, watching the doctors and Regina through the glass. Snow White had been elsewhere. He hadn't bothered to ask where.
Taking care not to wake Prince Charming and Snow White, who were both asleep as well, Henry rolled off their laps onto the floor and stood. A spasm of fear gripped him as he stared down the hallway to find Emma nowhere in sight. He hurried to the room Regina was in and pressed his face against the glass. Emma sat in a hard plastic chair, hand placed over Regina's, and he watched for a moment, wondering at the haggard expression on Emma's face. His eyes widened when she leaned forward, brushed hair from Regina's forehead, fingers lingering, and then rose from the chair.
Henry entered the room, deciding not to comment on what he had witnessed, and climbed into the chair Emma had vacated and studied Regina. Her breathes were deep and even, her heart beat steady. The beeps from the machine comforted him. "Do you know what happened?"
"I think Rumplestiltskin put her under a sleep spell," Emma said. "Like the one she tried to put on me." Like the one that killed you went unsaid, but Henry knew that's what she meant. "He must have figured that no one would love her enough to be able to break the curse."
Henry suppressed a shudder, thinking that Rumplestiltskin had almost been right. He loved Regina, no matter how much he had pushed her away, no matter how much he had convinced himself he hated her, but if he hadn't found her in those woods, he wasn't sure he would have been able to break the curse.
"Do you..." He paused. "Do you think I could have helped her...if I hadn't tried pushing her away?" His vision blurred.
Emma laid a hand on his shoulder. "You did help her. She loved you more than the curse. As soon as she knew you were in danger, she told me everything."
"But I could have done more," Henry said, gripping the arm rests. "I could have - "
Emma knelt down in front of him, placed both hands on his shoulders and waited until he looked her in the eye. "What I think is that you're ten years old, and that it's not your responsibility to take care of your mother. I know she would agree."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure," said Regina's voice. Emma and Henry's gaze snapped to her. Regina’s eyes slipped closed. Taking a deep breath, she pried them open and smiled at him tiredly. It looked like it took a lot of effort, but she lifted her arms in invitation. "Come here."
"But your ribs." Henry frowned.
Regina shook her head. "I can handle it."
Carefully, Henry hugged her, trying not to lean against her too hard. "I love you, Mom."
"I know." She kissed the top of his head. "I love you too." She turned her attention to Emma. "Has he slept?"
"He was curled up in the chairs earlier, but I can take him home now. I wasn't going to make him leave before you woke up." Emma glanced at the clock. Startled, Henry saw it was four in the morning.
"I don't want to go," Henry said. "What if something happens?"
"Nothing's going to happen," Emma said. "Regina's fine now."
"But what if someone tries to hurt her - "
"Henry." Regina's voice was gentle but firm. "If it will make you feel better, Emma will stay here." He saw her shoot a look at Emma to see if that was okay, and Emma nodded. "Your...grandparents...can take you home. I'll be fine."
"I don't want to go home without you." Henry pouted, knowing this always worked. "I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway. I'd be too worried. I'd sneak out and come back to see you." Regina sighed, and he knew he'd won.
"Okay. But you're going to sleep in that empty bed over there for at least a few hours, okay?"
Henry grinned. The command was given in that familiar, mothering tone he hadn't realized he'd missed so much. "Okay." He scrambled into the bed, thankful it was right next to Regina's. "Emma, you promise you won't let anyone hurt my mom?"
"I promise, Kid," Emma said. She placed a gentle hand on Regina's shoulder, and Henry watched Regina stare at Emma for a moment in surprise. "I won't let anyone hurt her." She picked up the chair, strode around to the other side of Regina's bed, and settled down between them. She rested her hand on the bed, finger tips grazing Regina's.
Henry believed her. He lay down on his side, facing Regina's bed, and stretched out. "Good night, Mom. Good night, Emma."
"Good night, Henry," they said.
He allowed himself to relax, slipping back into sleep.