“I hate you!” Henry’s high-pitched voice rang across the Storybrooke street where he stood, feet braced well apart, small hands tightly fisted at his sides. “I wish you were dead instead of Archie!” he screamed at the woman standing on the opposite side of the street.
Regina Mills took a step back, every last trace of color draining from her face. She stared at her adopted son, shaking her head helplessly as she backed up a step. “Henry, I didn’t—”
Still frozen next to the bench where she’d sat with Henry to break the news about Archie, Emma Swan could only stare in horror. She’d barely told him that Archie was dead when Henry suddenly glanced over his shoulder, perhaps a sixth sense after so much conflict with his adopted mother, and taken off, screaming in fury.
Looking like hell, Regina had stumbled from her car and stood in the middle of the street, facing her son and shaking her head in denial.
Oh hell. No way her highness would remain that passive for long, particularly not with Henry out of control and howling his rage at her. Regina’s temper was too explosive. She’d been called the Evil Queen for a reason. Emma was under no illusions that Henry was likely to be spared her fury.
“I should have let them kill you after my real mother broke the curse!” her son continued to rage. “Then Archie would still be alive!”
Regina put a hand up in what would normally be a calming gesture, but with her, it could easily turned to a fistful of fire she could fling at will. “Henry, I swear, I didn’t—”
“LIAR!!” Henry yelled. He was nearly halfway to her.
And then Emma shook off the paralysis and broke into a run, drawing her service weapon as she moved. She was already taking aim when she saw Regina start to raise her left hand.
Knowing how the bitch worked, a fireball would be next.
Emma didn’t pause to debate. As she skidded into position in front of Henry, putting herself between her son and danger, she simply opened fire. Three shots, in a tight grouping, aimed at the center of the largest mass. Just the way she’d been taught.
The queen’s reflexes were freakish. She could catch arrows in flight. But bullets are a lot faster than arrows.
More destructive too.
Regina twisted and arched to the side in a dodging motion, moving fast enough that the bullets missed her heart. At the same time, her left hand came up, muscle memory driving her to try and block the attack.
Instead, her hand jerked twice. Blood and flakes of bone spattered her and the ground around her even as something fluttered from badly damaged fingers. The third shot punched her shoulder, jerking her upper body back and to the side so hard she stumbled. Her balance wavered badly, but she caught herself somehow and remained on her feet.
“See!” Henry shouted from behind his birth mother. “Emma won’t let you hurt anyone else!”
Expecting rage, Emma was caught by surprise when her enemy looked up and just shook her head dazedly, her expression twisted by pain that could have been purely physical or more than that. She peered at her damaged hand for a moment, then her gaze swung back to Henry.
Emma was taking aim again, recentering her weapon when Regina flicked her uninjured hand in a loose motion and was swallowed by purple smoke almost instantly.
Henry darted around Emma before she could stop him and hurtled forward, punching at the dissipating fog as if he could somehow stop his adopted mother from fleeing and force her to face justice. “NO!” he screamed and toppled to his knees. His head fell forward into his hands. “It’s my fault,” Henry choked between ragged, sobbing breaths. “It’s all my fault.”
“Henry, no, what are you—”
“After the curse broke and again after you and Mary Margaret fell through the portal, I stopped everyone from killing her. I shouldn’t have,” he sobbed. “I just thought .... but if I hadn’t, Archie would still be alive—”
“Henry, no,” Emma broke in, kneeling down to pull him to her. “You showed mercy and kindness—”
“She didn’t deserve them and I knew that, but I just...I wanted her to change so bad...”
She pulled his head into the curve of her shoulder, holding on tightly. “You didn’t do anything wrong, kid,” Emma whispered desperately.
“The only person responsible for Regina’s evil is Regina.”
He shuddered in her arms, shaking with the force of his emotions. “I should have let them kill her,” he repeated brokenly. “We’d all be better off if she was dead.”
Emma saw Ruby come out of the diner moving fast, her eyes wild as she searched the area for any sign of another attack. Granny stood in the diner doorway, crossbow in hand, clearly covering her granddaughter. They had obviously seen at least some of the confrontation and understood how dangerous the situation was.
Emma held up a hand to keep the other woman back, then settled it on Henry’s shoulder and leaned back so she could look him in the eye. “As much as I want to stay here with you—”
“You have to go after the Evil Queen,” he said, his voice unsteady. He looked away for a moment, straightening his shoulders and firming his resolve before he turned his gaze back to her. “You can’t let her hurt anyone else, Emma,” he said very softly, the shakiness gone. “You have to kill her this time.”
Sick to her stomach at the weight on her son’s shoulders and enraged at the pain his adopted mother had inflicted, Emma could only nod. He was right. Regina had to go down before she could do any more damage, particularly to Henry. A hard swallow broke up some of the tightness in her throat until she thought she could speak. Holding tight to her son’s shoulder, she pushed to her feet, her tone deadly serious as she addressed Ruby. “Get him to the jail. It’s more defensible.” Emma tossed Ruby the keys. “Then call my parents and anybody else you can think of. You’ll need an army if she comes for him.” Then she looked down at her son, silently promising him it would be over soon.
“Emma?” Ruby whispered, her tone questioning.
“If she shows up, call me, try to keep her off you until I get there, but do whatever it takes to keep her from getting Henry...and if you have a chance to take her out, do it,” Emma gritted out. “No more quarter. She has to be stopped...permanently.”
Color drained from the waitress’ face, but she nodded. “She won’t get him.”
Crouching down, Emma barely resisted the urge to drag Henry into her arms, pile into the bug and run for it. Only the thought of the smoking ruin Regina would make of the town held her back. “You stay with Ruby and Granny,” she told him. “Do what they tell you.”
He nodded, staring at her with an expression of such absolute faith that it almost hurt to look at it. Never in her entire life had she been remotely worthy of being looked at with so much belief, not when she’d let everyone she could think of down.
She wouldn’t fail. Not again. Not him.
Once she was through, Henry would never have to be afraid again.
The mansion on Mifflin was quiet when Emma pulled up out front, nothing moving, no sign of trouble, the grass and trees green and well trimmed. It was a picture of normalcy totally at odds with the harsh reality that evil dwelled in this place.
Emma checked her weapon, then shoved a couple of spare magazines in her back pocket.
It wouldn’t do to run out of ammo in a fight with the Evil Queen. She took a deep breath to settle herself and push off any uncertainty that she was up to this.
Okay, so Regina had magic, but Emma had her own magic, more powerful by all accounts, even if she was untutored in its use. Plus she had furious rage and raw desperation to protect the one person in all the universe that she unreservedly loved.
Henry needed this, she reminded herself. He needed to feel safe, and she needed him to be safe. Time to man up and do what was needed no matter how much it terrified her.
She trotted up the front walk, slowing as she drew nearer and saw that the front door stood open several inches.
Every sense screamed trap as she carefully edged forward, leading with the barrel of her weapon, ready to fire at anything that moved. The door swung easily, the hinges utterly silent.
Heart thundering, Emma was a little surprised to find the foyer of the mansion quiet and empty of life.
Regina had been there though. Fat drops of thickening blood stained the floor, while reddish brown handprints marred the white paint on the walls at regular intervals, as though Regina had needed to pause and lean frequently.
Given that she’d been shot, perhaps she had.
Emma hoped so because the worse off Regina was, the better for everyone else in town.
Meanwhile, there was still the final touch, a chair sitting dead center of the foyer. White, expensive, probably an antique, or at least a magical approximation of one. Several notebooks—photo albums by the look of it—were stacked on the seat, and on top of those, standing upright, leaned up against the chairback so it couldn’t be missed, was a manila envelope with Emma’s name written across the front. The handwriting was Regina’s, though it was a shaky version of her normal graceful script
Brown fingerprints were easily visible on cream paper.
Still tracking her surroundings with her weapon, Emma grabbed for the envelope one handed.
It wasn’t sealed and she shook the papers inside up enough that she could see the first several lines of text. Interspersing quick, suspicious glances around the room with speed reading, she got enough of the gist of it to shake her head in confusion.
Legal papers. The top layer gave Emma full custody of Henry and came complete with sticky notes—one giving the name of a bank clerk who would notarize them, no questions asked, for a small, under-the-table fee, the second was a lecture on how Emma might not think these things were important, but Henry was smart and when he was college age, the outside world would need more than a claim that his grandmother was Snow White. It would almost have been funny were it not for the bloody fingerprints on the page’s corners. Below that were bank documents, paperwork for a living trust in Henry’s name with Emma set as the successor trustee, and an introductory letter from a law firm upstate that had been informed of the situation—though Emma suspected they were short on the details—and was prepared to deal with things. A quick ruffling of the papers revealed a few more legal documents, a safe number, the deed to the house. Everything needed to take over the queen’s business and see to Henry’s future.
No way in hell would Regina...
Suddenly Emma spun, bringing the gun to bear as it occurred to her that it would be the perfect bait to draw her attention in order to spring a trap. Heart slamming in her chest, eyes wide, she did a slow pivot, checking each door and archway with extra care as she braced herself for the expected attack.
Only it never came. Nothing jumped out of the shadows, appeared from magic smoke or even just walked through the door.
There was only dead silence.
Emma felt sweat gather between her shoulder blades to trickle down over tightly knotted muscle, the weight of her weapon seeming to increase with every moment she held it at the ready and nothing happened. Tossing the papers back down, she moved on, hurriedly checking the house, though instinct told her it would be empty.
Whatever game Regina was playing, it was too subtle for Emma to easily divine the rules. All she knew for certain was the bitch was a killer, absolute poison and it was time to make sure she couldn’t hurt anyone else.
Needing to be certain Regina wasn’t hidden away in another room, she made quick work of going over the house and by the time she finished, was utterly unsurprised to find nothing else of any interest. Regina had been here, but she hadn’t stayed. Returning to the foyer, she paused long enough to flip open the top album from the stack on the chair.
It was a photo album full of images of Henry as a child. A moment’s effort and some clumsy fumbling confirmed the other two albums were much the same. Emma shook her head, uncertain why. Maybe a way of roiling her emotions and getting her off track, or perhaps just a headgame to make sure she understood who had spent all those years with Henry. Hell, maybe it was some kind of magical fakery, given that the kid was grinning happily in all the pictures and she’d never seen him smile that way for his adopted mother.
No, whatever this was, it wasn’t what it looked like, which was unconditional surrender, because, injured or not, no way in hell did the Evil Queen give up what she considered her property, namely Henry. No, this was just one more act of mind-fuckery by a class-A bitch, who’d turned screwing with people’s heads into high art.
Letting the rage carry her forward, Emma snapped the albums closed and grabbed the manila envelope, quickly folding it to shove it inside her jacket. Maybe Regina’s little mindgame could be turned against her somehow. If nothing else, Henry deserved to know she was willing to just give him away for a strategic advantage, like he was nothing.
That decided, Emma took off. If the bitch wasn’t here, Emma could only think of one other rock she might slither under.
Her little home away from home where the dead things played.
The family tomb, which would double quite nicely as a goddamned fortress.
Emma rolled the bug to a halt a short distance from the front of Mills family crypt. It looked quiet, but she was under no illusions that meant anything. Weapon in hand, she slid out of the bug, already hunting the surrounding graveyard for any sign of a threat.
Nothing obvious, but who knew what traps there might be that weren’t so obvious. Still, she made it to the front of the crypt and slipped inside without incident. She was almost starting to think she was wrong, that Regina hadn’t run here.
Then she saw the bloody handprint on the wall.
Then the way the sarcophagus that covered the entrance to her lair was several inches out of place.
Emma’s pulse slammed into overdrive and she gritted her teeth against the fear-driven impulse to run like hell. Forcing the panic down, she tightened her hold on her weapon. She’d already hurt the murderous bitch, she reminded herself, hurt her and bested her. She could do it again.
She could do anything for Henry. He was her son and soon, no one else would have a claim on him and he could start forgetting he’d ever called anyone else ‘Mom’, forget there had ever been a time they weren’t together.
She pushed the sarcophagus aside. Perfectly balanced in spite of the massive weight of granite and marble, it slid easily and silently. There was light in the room below, not bright, but enough to see by, and brighter than where Emma stood. She had the advantage, even if it was likely it would only be momentary.
Seeing a hint of movement, Emma made a quick decision. She dropped down through the open hatch, moving fast, boots only hitting every third stair as she scanned the room, hunting for a target.
She found one.
Across the room, low and against the wall, under a smear of blood that dragged its way down cut granite.
The queen. Sitting up on the floor, arms draped over her upthrust knees, head leaned back against the wall, eyes closed.
Emma centered her sights and her finger tightened.
Then brown eyes snapped open and she froze.
A dark eyebrow tipped upward, a hint of a smirk curving full lips as Regina drawled, “Miss Swan.” She angled her head ever so slightly to the side, seeming to contemplate Emma. “Come to finish the job, have you?”
It was then that a dozen other details struck Emma. Regina’s left shoulder was a bloody mess, her left hand shattered, maybe destroyed. There had to be an exit wound in her back, judging by the bloody smear on the wall. It matched up too perfectly with her placement not to have been left there when she slid down into her current position. There was also blood on her lips and more than a few spatters on her blouse. Regina’s eyes were glazed, while her skin was papery pale, like the blood had stopped running beneath the surface.
Probably none of the injuries were fatal, but the aggregate of them coupled with no treatment...
“Yes...dying,” Regina confirmed the thought suddenly running through Emma’s head. As if to punctuate the words, a harsh cough rattled through her and more blood dotted her lips.
Emma didn’t know what to think or how to respond. Logic told her it was just one more trick, but instinct said it was all too true. Regina shifted ever so slightly, readjusting herself, and Emma tensed, taking fresh aim just in case.
“You needn’t worry.” Regina tipped her head back and closed her eyes again. “This won’t last much longer.” As if to punctuate the comment, the floor trembled gently and there was low rumble somewhere in the distance.
Emma’s eyes snapped upward, her expression nervous as the rumbles continued. “What the hell are you up to?”
“Still dying,” Regina sighed, then blinked her eyes open and peered at Emma.
“And this?” Emma snarled, grabbing the envelope from inside her jacket with one hand and waving it.
The former queen raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to be Henry’s sole parent now. That gives you the legal rights and monetary security to do whatever’s needed.”
“You really expect me to believe you’d surrender this way?”
“No matter what I do, I’ve lost.” Regina’s head bobbled as though it was getting harder to keep it upright. “And no matter what you believe, I love my son. That’s the primary thing left I can do to secure his future.”
A harder rumble shook the crypt, sending thin clouds of dust down on their heads.
“And what the hell is that?” Emma demanded, no longer able to ignore the quakes.
“One other thing.” Regina’s soft laugh had an pained, beaten quality to it. She tipped her head back, eyes fluttering closed. “You need to leave now,” she sighed.
“Regina!” Emma growled, surging forward, though she had no idea what she intended to do.
Dark eyes snapped open. “No.” Regina waved a hand and Emma slammed into some kind of barrier.
The blonde fell back a step. “What the hell are you doing?” she demanded, pushing at the blockade, then running her palms along it in search of an edge or a weakness.
A hint of a smile touched crimson lips. “I think you know the answer to that, Miss Swan.”
More quakes shook the place while the walls around them seemed to grumble and growl.
Emma shook her head, denying the obvious. Tipping her head back, she noted microfractures in the ceiling, then did a slow pivot, listening to the sounds moving all around them. “You’re gonna bring this place down on your head,” she said at last and did a slow pivot to glare at the other woman.
Summoning a last reserve of strength, Regina straightened and glared right back at Emma. “There are things here I won’t risk falling into other hands,” she intoned grimly.
Emma shook her head in disgust. “Still keeping your secrets.”
Even as badly as she was injured, Regina bristled. “More keeping my mother’s secrets from hurting anyone else,” she shot back, then sagged against the wall at her back, the brief bout of anger enough to sap most of her remaining strength. “You need to leave now,” she exhaled heavily, dark eyes sliding closed as she waved a dismissive hand at the blonde.
Emma just stared for a moment, the reality that the other woman wasn’t just injured, she was fading. Despite her initial intention to end her, it suddenly seemed all wrong. “This is suicide,” she said very softly, her tone chiding.
A wry smile touched bloody lips. “Disappointed you don’t get to put the final nail in the coffin?”
A flinch rattled through Emma, the accusation striking closer to home than she would have liked. “I’m not the one who started this.”
“Given who has the bullet holes, I’m inclined to disagree,” Regina mumbled, her voice growing weaker with every word.
The crypt shook around them bringing more dust down on their heads and reminding Emma that time was growing short. “Whatever,” she growled, slamming a fist into the barrier still between them. “Right now, we need to get out of here.” She struck it again, startled to feel a bit of give this time. “Which means you need to let this barrier down.”
“No, dear,” Regina drawled, slumping further down.
Shoving harder, Emma felt her hand sink deeper into the barrier. “Don’t do this,” she begged. “Let me get you to a hospital. Henry—”
“Will be relieved,” Regina cut her off, straightening ever so slightly. “You heard him.” Her voice choked off for a moment and she shook her head. “He hates me...think I’m...” She trailed to a halt, swallowing hard before she continued. “He thinks I’m exactly what I am,” she admitted, her tone wry. She looked up and speared Emma with a hard look. “But I did not kill Archie.” She laughed very softly. She coughed and a fresh spatter of blood colored her lips. “Doesn’t really matter now.”
The former queen sagged further, sinking down the wall, and Emma suddenly noticed how ragged her breathing had become. “Regina—”
“No one will be able to use the things hidden here,” Regina whispered.
The hardest tremor yet shook the floor, nearly toppling Emma off her feet.
“You need to leave, Miss Swan—” Regina gasped through soft pants.
The barrier faded. “Regina—” Emma managed two steps.
“—now.” All it took was the tiniest of waves from Regina’s uninjured hand.
Emma reappeared outside the crypt, purple smoke still fading around her. The ground shook again, the force enough to topple her to her knees. More tremors rolled through the cemetery as she fought the confusion and shock that came with the sudden relocation. Suddenly, she shook off the daze, scrambled for her feet and took off running.
She only made it a few feet before the hardest quake yet tore through the graveyard, rending it asunder in a rolling roar of sound and fury. Dust rose in a giant cloud that swept outward from the crypt.
Or rather, from where the crypt once stood. Emma realized in a rush of nausea. She was seeing sky where she should have seen the distinctive, sharp edge of the crypt’s roofline.
She staggered a step or two, then toppled to her knees, hands hanging limp at her sides even as the shaking began to die away. Minutes passed while the dust continued to settle around her and soft tremors and the sounds of rock settling echoed and slowly faded away.
The crypt was completely gone and in its place stood a forest of upthrust granite and shattered rock utterly devoid of any life. Not even a weed remained. It was as though some alien landscape had been dropped in the middle of the cemetery.
Every move achingly slow, Emma pushed to her feet. There was an impulse to call the fire and rescue services, but as she stared at the scene, she knew it would be pointless. Nothing could have survived what she was looking at, and clearly nothing was intended to. Regina had promised no one would use the things stored in her vault. This had been her way of making sure of it.
As she stumbled forward, she half expected some kind of epitaph on one of the huge crags of rock standing like makeshift gravestones, but there was nothing, just cracked granite slabs. She did a slow pivot in expectation of some level of excitement from the town in the wake of the earthquake, but all was quiet. It was as though Regina’s spell had limited it to a small bubble around the crypt.
And maybe she had. Emma shook her head slowly, finally turning to make her way back to the bug. It was dusty, but otherwise undamaged and she drove back to her parents’ apartment in a haze, numb in the aftermath.
She was just fitting the key in the lock when the door was suddenly flung open and Henry barreled into her, clinging desperately to her waist.
“She didn’t do it, she didn’t,” he told her, his voice muffled against her side. “My mom didn’t kill Archie. We’ve gotta find her so she knows she can come home.”
Emma tipped her chin up to see the psychologist and former cricket standing on the opposite side of the room.
He ducked his head in acknowledgment. “Regina did nothing to me,” he said, his voice a little shaky, but decisive. “It was her mother, Cora. She set her own daughter up...pretended to be her so she could use us to break her completely.” He shook his head. “Then she could sweep in and take control the way she always has. She tortured Regina as a child...used her... She bragged about it...how she broke her down.” Another head shake as he muttered one word under his breath, “Monstrous.”
“Please, Emma,” Henry broke in desperately. “She really did keep her word, but she’s hurt, and we gotta find her and make sure she’s okay.”
“Henry,” Emma exhaled, shaking her head slowly. Her mouth worked for a moment, but no sound came. When she finally did manage to speak, her voice was harsh and creaky. “We can’t.” She wanted to run, run and not stop because she’d done this, pushed it and pushed it until the other woman broke. And now she’d won.
And it was all for nothing.
He was staring at her in confusion, as though it was her responsibility to make everything right. “But my mom, she didn’t do it. I know you’re mad at her, but she’s hurt and we gotta help her.”
“We can’t,” Emma whispered, wavering gently on her feet.
“It’s too late, Henry.” Then her knees buckled and she hit the floor with bruising force. “It’s too damn late.”
He didn’t understand. “But—”
“She’s gone.” And then her head fell into her hands as the reality of what she’d done washed over her. “She’s gone, Henry...she’s...her crypt...she was in it...and it’s gone...and she was in it...” She shook her head back and forth as if to deny the obvious, unable to quite believe someone so alive could really be gone.
Henry was just staring at her, face set in an expression of denial and hope.
“I’m so sorry.” Emma suddenly realized she was crying. Why, she didn’t really know except her son had lost his mother today, and maybe she’d lost something too. “Henry, she’s gone. She’s dead.”
“No!” he exploded and backed up a step. “She didn’t do it. She was innocent—”
“Henry,” Archie said very gently as he stepped forward and settled a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“No!” Henry shook off the light touch and backed away from the adults. “She wasn’t lying.” His voice cracked and scratched painfully, and fat tears slid from his eyes.
“Henry—” Archie repeated, his tone even softer, one hand outstretched.
“NO! She can’t be dead...” Henry dodged backward another couple of steps. “She finally...she did what she said she would.” He stumbled back another step and toppled, sitting down hard. “I-I told her I hated her, that I wanted her dead.”
Dropping to one knee, Archie wrapped an arm around the boy. “She knew you didn’t really mean it,” he tried to assure him.
“But I did mean it,” Henry sobbed. “I thought she’d lied, killed you...betrayed everything she’d promised.” He drew in a huge, gulping gasp of air. “I saw the look on her face.” He shoved Archie away.
* * * * * * *
Starts with Regina working at a riding school she owns. She's been out of Storybrooke for ten years or so. She's working with handicapped kids, teaching them to ride when a cab drives up and Henry gets out, only somehow he's still the age he was when she left (no clues yet as to how that was).
She just stares as he looks like a child, but talks to the cabby like an adult and his eyes are older than he appears.
He's been on Neverland. Without Regina there to protect him, Pan held him on Never land and he spent years there. He's found a way to escape, but Pan will be after him. He has magic now, which is how he realized Regina was alive, but Pan will be coming for him and he needs her help.
Regina hugs him holds on.
Which sets up the mystery, how has she survived and what happened to Henry? Also, how can they win a fight with Pan.
Storybrooke: Emma is sheriff, blah, blah.