I’m jumping on the bandwagon and writing a post-finale story. This chapter is a lot of Regina and Henry, but the story will continue down the path of exploring how Regina and Robin are coping with Marian's return and will almost certainly end up as outlaw queen. If Henry seems ooc compared to canon it is because I have a hard time believing that a kid his age has barely struggled at all with the insane changes in his life in the past few years.
The title is taken from a line of the 2010 adaptation of Robin Hood: “Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.”
I would love any feedback you have, and let me know if you’re interested in reading more of the story.
It’s too much. A lifetime of hate and loss and injustice swirling back towards the surface and threatening to explode out of her. Regina feels ready to hurt the person nearest to her, the person who has already stolen so much. Emma can sense this, and she’s eying Regina with fear, wise enough not to say much in her own defense.
Regina sees Henry then. He’s watching her and Emma cautiously, looking so fearful that the newfound peace between his family will once again turn to hate. It’s enough to break through Regina’s urge to rage against everything that seems to be conspiring against her. Because Henry had believed in her, had thought her a hero, had loved her enough to break a curse with true love’s kiss.
Regina will not let him down. She will not make him watch his mothers fight again. She will be better for her son. So she turns and leaves the dinner before she does something that will change the way Henry has finally begun to see her again, as his mother, his hero.
She stumbles from the dinner, and out in the cool spring air Regina feels herself begin to crumble. Everything feels like too much, and she wishes for the oblivion of Zelena’s curse, of never having existed. She walks as fast as she can, tears blurring her vision so she can hardly see the sidewalk.
“Mom!” She hears his footfalls as he runs towards her.
Regina wipes furiously at her cheeks, not wanting her son to see her like this.
She turns in time to see Henry running at her, his arms engulfing her a second later. He presses his face into her neck and just hold on to her tightly. He seems at a loss for what to say, or maybe he understands that there is nothing he can say to make it better. There is nothing that could do more than his arms around her showing her that she is loved, that she isn’t alone, that she still has a reason. He hugs her so tightly, and she kisses his head and rubs circles on his back, and she wants to remind him that she is the parent here. Henry might want to be her knight in shining armor, but she is his mother and she will not let him see her fall apart, she won’t burden him with that.
Regina hears the door to the diner open, and she knows who will be standing there. Because Robin is too good of a man to not check on her, because he feels that he owes it to her. But she can’t bear to look at him now. She stays with Henry in her arms, breathing in the scent of her son, until she hears the door to the diner open and shut again. It sounds like an ending. It sounds like everything she’s always known.
Regina pulls back to look at Henry, cradles his face in her hands and manages a watery smile. “Go back inside dear. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Are you going home?”
“Don’t worry Henry,” Regina says, her heart heavy. “I won’t hurt anyone.”
“No, Mom. I didn’t mean that.”
“It’s ok Henry,” Regina reassures her son, because who wouldn’t worry about what she might do.
He reaches out and takes her hand. “Let’s go home.”
“That’s very sweet, but I’ll be ok.” Part of her wants to go home alone so that she can sob and scream and smash everything in sight. And yet she is so afraid of what will come pouring out of her the moment she is alone.
“Is it all right if I come with you?” Henry tries again.
“Of course,” Regina says. She wants to tell him that he never needs to ask, that it’s his home. But she isn’t certain that he still considers it as such. So she takes this gift, even if it is pity or fear, and she lets her son hold her hand and walk her home.
Regina wonders whether Henry stays because he’s afraid of what she’ll do if he leaves her alone. She wonders if Henry has taken it upon himself to protect the town from the Evil Queen. Then one afternoon, a few days after Marian returned and Henry followed Regina home, Regina finds her son sitting in the basement, a pile of his old toys and arts and crafts projects and blankets dumped out of storage boxes and strewn all around him.
“What are you doing down here?” Regina asks sitting down on the floor beside Henry and smiling at all the treasures from his childhood. Her hand skims over the old cardboard of a diorama, a wistful smile on her lips.
“You kept everything,” Henry says, looking up from the book report in his lap that his mother had spent hours helping him write.
“Of course I did.”
“I still remember Emma telling me that they got lost in the move from Boston.”
Regina’s heart aches at the memory of the year she spent without him and the months where he didn’t know who she was. But he knows her now, she reminds herself, fighting back tears of relief. “I wanted you to have as many memories of your childhood as possible. I couldn’t reproduce the physical reminders, but I wanted you to have the happy moments with you.”
“But I didn’t remember any of it. Not like it happened. You spent hours helping me with this stupid book report,” Henry says, his throat feeling suddenly thick with tears. “You helped me make that diorama after I ripped the first one up because I insisted that it wasn’t good enough. You were the one who taught me to read and told me bedtime stories.” He’s crying and he feels ridiculous for it because he is 14 years old - he’s practically a man now - but everything suddenly feels like too much, and maybe it’s felt like too much for so long, but he hasn’t let himself say these words out loud. “You let me sleep in your bed when I had nightmares. You were always there for me.”
He sounds far too grateful. Regina had tried her hardest when Henry was small to make certain that he never doubted her love, that he never felt it was something he had to earn or something that he could ever lose. “Of course I was Henry. I’m your mother.”
“I was wrong. I thought you didn’t love me, but I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
“You needn’t ever apologize,” Regina tells him, squeezing his knee tightly. “I’m sorry for every second that you didn’t know how very much I always have and always will love you.”
He hugs her tightly, and it feels different now that he’s nearly as big as she is, but he just wants to be her little boy again. He just wants his mom to take care of him, because he spent so long not letting her do that. And then they’d lost a whole year. And he was nine years old the last time he trusted Regina like this, the last time things felt uncomplicated and she was just his mom. Before he found out that she hadn’t given birth to him, and he had started to doubt so much.
Regina rubs circles on Henry’s back. And he lets himself cry. Because he had been happy in New York, but she hadn’t been there and every happy memory he thought he had of Emma had really been of Regina. And he had loved Emma for those memories, even though he had spent the two years prior to New York convincing himself that those memories of Regina loving him were all a lie.
She’s in so much pain herself now, Henry knows, and yet she puts it aside the moment he needs her. Regina’s hands are warm and soothing and she rocks him gently jwhile they sit together, and he knows that she’s his mom. And Emma might be his mom too, but the woman holding him is the woman who held him as a baby and soothed his tears and chased away his nightmares and changed his diapers. She’s the woman who still looks at him like he is her entire world.
He snuffles back the tears eventually, because he’s too old to be crying like this. But Regina still holds his cheeks between her hands and wipes away his tears the same way she did when he was small. She smiles at him and he knows. He knows. He has a mother who loves him more than anything, who has loved him from the moment she first held him, who would do anything for him. He has a mother who will never stop loving him no matter how hard he pushes or how far he runs.
“Don’t ever leave me again,” Henry whispers.
“Oh Henry. I’m not going anywhere ever again. Sending you out of Storybrooke with Emma was the only way to save you.”
“You can’t do it again. Promise me. You can’t leave me”
“I promise you Henry. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I don’t want to forget you.”
“Shh, Henry. I won’t let you forget. It’s ok now, my little prince. You’re home.” She takes him back into her arms, and he lets her hold him. Here in the house that he grew up in, with the mother that had raised him, Henry finally lets himself stop trying to be everyone’s hero. He lets himself be a boy who need his mom.
Regina kisses her son good night and with so much love in her heart, she finally walks out into the darkness of her back yard to face something that she has allowed herself to run from for too long.
“You’re not nearly as good as you think you are,” she calls out into the night.
There’s rustling in her apple tree for a moment before Robin jumps down and crosses the yard to meet her on the porch. “You knew I was here?”
“Of course I knew. You’ve been here every night.”
“I didn’t want to impose if you didn’t wish to see me. I hope you’ll forgive me, but I needed to know that you were all right.”
“I’m perfectly fine,” Regina replies, her spine stiff and her tone even. She tries to remember how to keep herself closed off from this man in whom who only a few days earlier she felt so safe to confide long buried feelings.
He nods and doesn’t push. Of course not, Regina thinks, because he knows her. Knows when not to push her, knows when she isn’t ready to talk. A few days ago he would have held her or kissed her to simply let her know that he was there and that she was cared for.
Regina reminds herself that she can’t want that from him. Robin has his wife, the woman he would gladly walk through hell for, and Regina no longer has any claim to him.
The light from Regina’s house illuminates her face just enough for Robin to see how weary she looks, and he wants so badly to chase the sadness from her eyes. He thinks of kissing her each time she had been sad, each time she had missed her son, kissing her and kissing her, until she smiled just a bit and remembered that she wasn’t alone, that she was cherished.
Robin wants so badly to give that to her now. But he’s a man of honor and he can’t. So he stares at her in the darkness for a long moment, trying to memorize every inch of her face. He wishes that he could touch her, and he hates himself so much for that desire.
Robin can’t utter the truths that roll around in his head now that he is finally face to face with Regina again. Instead he tells her another truth just as heart breaking. “Roland has begged for a bedtime story from you every night.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“I doubt that Marian would want the Evil Queen near her son.”
Robin sighs and thinks of the past four nights since Marian returned. He thinks of how she has tried so hard to connect with Roland. He thinks of his little boy struggling to become comfortable with a woman he knows only from stories. “Roland knows more about Marian because you told him that his mother was watching over him than he knows from actually meeting her.”
“She’s his mother,” Regina says and she can’t help but feel her heart break for Marian, because Regina knows what it’s like to have her son look through her.
“She’s a stranger to him,” Robin says, because he hasn’t said this to anyone and watching his son struggle as he has the past few days has been killing him. “They’re both trying, but Roland has only had one woman tell him bed time stories Regina, and all he knows is that you are the woman who has been tucking him in at night and making him feel safe. He just misses you.”
“I miss him too,” Regina says. She had grown to love that little boy so much in the Enchanted Forest. She owed so much to the child who had made her smile when she was at her very lowest, certain she would never see Henry again. From the moment the curse broke and Roland had regained his memories, he had been glued to Regina’s side again.
“I hope that you’ll consider spending some time with him. If it’s too hard to see me, I won’t force myself on you. But please don’t forget that there is a little boy who misses his Gina.”
Regina smiles and remembers how Roland had begun calling her his Gina in the Enchanted Forest. How he would come to her bed chambers every night asking for a story.
“Talk to your wife Robin. If it’s all right with both of you, I would be happy to see Roland.”
They stand in darkness for long moments staring at each other before Regina turns and walks back inside leaving Robin alone on the porch of a house that he had imagined only a few days ago could become his home.