Chapter 1: A World Gone Wrong
David sat up with a start. It took him a minute for him to remember where he was and what was going on. He was supposed to tell Snow about Rumpelstiltskin and then she would kiss him and he would wake up. But she hadn’t kissed him…
David struggled to remember what had happened after Snow had faded away. The fire had come back fully after she’d disappeared and he’d been searching for a way to climb back out before he was burned. He had no doubt that Snow would come back for him; she’d promised him she would and he had complete faith in her. In the meantime, however, he had more immediate concerns. Unlike Henry, he couldn’t wake from his dream state.
Except now – somehow – he was awake.
David was pulled from his thoughts by the exclamation, which was accompanied by a fierce hug. Still dazed, he didn’t even realize who it was hugging him until she had her arms around him.
“Regina?” he asked, jerking back. What he saw confused him greatly.
The former mayor’s makeup was slightly smudged by tears, her breathing was still hitched by the after-effects of crying and her eyes searched his with concern and a warmth he’d only ever seen when she looked at Henry.
“David, what’s wrong? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” She grasped his arm gently, turning it over to look for burn marks.
Unable to find words, he watched her actions in a daze. Something was up. Regina was acting strangely and he didn’t like it. She was up to something.
Henry suddenly stepped into his line of sight. “David? Did you see Snow?”
“Uhh, yeah. Yeah.” Back to something familiar, David found his voice once again. “I told her about the ink and where she could find it. She and Emma should be able to find it and defeat Cora.”
“Awesome!” Henry smiled brightly. Face growing serious, he said, “I was really worried. You didn’t wake up for a long time. We thought something bad had happened.”
David reached out and put his hand on Henry’s arm, smiling. “You don’t have to worry anymore.” Looking between Henry and Regina, he asked the question that had been at the front of his mind since opening his eyes. “How did I wake up? Snow couldn’t kiss me there; we passed right through each other.”
Regina and Henry gave each other confused looks before Regina turned back to David. “Snow? What does she have to do with waking you up? David, are you feeling okay?”
Trying desperately to figure out what was going on, but noticing how upset both she and Henry were starting to look, he quickly smiled and nodded his head. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little disoriented, I guess.”
They both seemed to relax at this and Regina smiled. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
“So how did I wake up?” David asked again, determined to get an answer.
“Just like we talked about.” Regina smiled warmly at him. “Should I remind you?”
The last thing David expected was for her to lean forward and press her lips against his in a passionate kiss. Jumping up off the bed, David took a step away from her. “Regina, what the hell?!”
The expression of hurt that came over her face baffled him. What the hell was going on?! His sworn enemy had just kissed him, and now she was looking at him as if his reaction was unexpected and hurtful? His confusion at the situation only deepened.
“David,” Regina said softly. She stood up and took a step forward, reaching out to place a hand on his arm, but he took another step back. She stopped her movement immediately, dropping her arm back to her side. “What is it?”
“You!” He looked at Henry to see what his reaction to all of this was, but Henry was looking at him as if he was the one acting strangely. Dropping his voice to a dangerous tone, he turned his attention back to Regina. “I don’t know what you’ve done, but whatever it is, you can fix it now! You promised Henry you wouldn’t use magic anymore, but you’re obviously up to something. Henry might be under one of your spells and oblivious to what’s going on, but I’m not!” He leaned into Regina’s space, bending over her intimidatingly. “What did you do?!”
As she took a scared step backward, Regina surprised him once more when he caught sight of a fresh tear making its way down her cheek. “David,” she said in a pained whisper. “What are you talking about? What’s going on?”
“What’s going on indeed?” Mr. Gold said, stepping into the room. “I heard shouting. David, it’s nice to see you awake,” he added. “Now, would someone care to fill me in?” He looked around at everyone, waiting for an answer.
Henry was the one to give it and finally, David had his answer as well. “Mom broke the curse with true love’s kiss, just like they talked about, and it worked, but something’s wrong. He’s different.”
In his shock, David nearly had to sit down. Something was wrong alright, but it wasn’t him.
“Something’s wrong,” Henry said, fear evident in his voice. He tore his eyes from the still-prone form of David to look at his mom, repeating his question. “Something’s wrong, isn’t it?”
“I…” Regina didn’t want to scare him, but she didn’t want to give him false hope, either. “I don’t know, Henry.”
“You’re lying!” His face suddenly twisted in anger. “He’s been like this for three hours! If Snow was able to break the curse, she would have done it by now and he’d be awake. You knew it wouldn’t work; you pretended to help, but you knew he wouldn’t be able to wake up. You did this on purpose!” He stepped forward, anger fading into hurt. “Why? Why did you do it?”
Regina leaned down to meet his eyes. “Sweetheart, I promise you; I didn’t do anything. I made the sleeping curse exactly as the recipe dictated.”
Henry looked over her shoulder at Gold and saw him nod, confirming what his mom was saying. He turned around, returning to his watchful position over David. “Then what’s wrong?” he asked quietly. “Why won’t he wake up?”
Regina stepped up behind him, placing her hands on his shoulders in an attempt to comfort him. “I don’t know, Henry, but we’ll try to figure it out, okay?”
Henry didn’t take his eyes off of David. “Promise?”
Chapter 2: Searching for a Foothold
Regina watched Henry from where she was sitting. He’d fallen asleep sitting on the floor next to David’s bed with his head propped against it. It had been several more hours and David had shown no signs of waking.
She stood and stretched. It seemed that nothing would be happening anytime soon and Henry didn't look comfortable in his current position. It wouldn't do any good for him to exhaust himself.
“Henry,” she shook his shoulder gently. “Henry.”
Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at her. Remembering where he was, he looked quickly at David and his face fell when he saw that nothing had changed. “How come he’s still asleep?” he asked, pulling himself to his feet.
Regina simply shook her head sadly with a slight shrug of her shoulders. It had occurred to her that perhaps Snow hadn’t been able to kiss him. It was a dream world after all; their physical forms weren’t really there. She couldn’t believe none of them had thought of that. They’d all been too anxious to get the message through to the other side. Not wanting to scare Henry, she kept that realization to herself. “We’ll figure something out, Henry, but it’s late. You should sleep first.”
Henry frowned at her. “I don’t want to sleep. Not until David’s awake and Emma and Snow are back.”
Regina sighed heavily. She, too, was tired. It had been a long day and the threat of Cora coming to Storybrooke weighed heavily on her, draining her energy. Not having the strength or will to argue, she tried from another angle. “What if Snow and Emma need your help? What if Snow goes back to ask us something and you’re not there?” She hated using this against him; hated the fact that for Henry, sleep meant ending up in that terrible place.
“I…I didn’t think about that…” Henry trailed off at the end, losing himself in his thoughts. “Okay,” he decided, and looked up at Regina. “But since David isn’t here, I’ll have to go home with you.” The statement almost sounded like a question.
Knowing that he was wondering if this had been her plan all along – to ensure David wouldn’t wake up so that Henry would be forced to live with her again – Regina was careful not to appear too emotional on the subject. She nodded slowly. “I suppose that’s true, yes. If you don’t mind, of course.”
He searched her eyes for a moment, but didn’t find any reason not to trust her. He nodded. “And then in the morning, we can try to figure out a way to wake him up?”
“Yes.” She didn’t add that there would be nothing to try. Once the curse was cast, the only way to break it was true love’s kiss, and apparently, that wasn’t going to happen this time. All kinds of terrible realizations occurred to her surrounding David’s sleeping state and Snow and Emma’s return home, but she pushed them to the back of her mind. She would deal with all of that tomorrow.
“I’ve told you several times; that’s not how it happened.” David sighed in exasperation. They’d been talking for almost an hour and nothing had become any clearer. If anything, they were all more confused and frustrated than they’d been when they’d started.
Regina slumped her shoulders in defeat – something David didn’t think he’d ever seen her do. She seemed to be affected by this whole ordeal more than anyone else – something he was still trying to wrap his head around.
“I just don’t understand how this could have happened,” she exclaimed. “I followed the directions for the sleeping curse to the letter. It shouldn’t have had any effect on you – aside from putting you to sleep of course.”
“You really think this world makes more sense?!” David snapped. “A world where you can wake me with true love’s kiss? Honestly, Regina! Don’t you see how absurd this all is? That I would leave Snow for you, my sworn enemy, a woman I hate. You really think I would ever choose you over her?!”
Even though it was what he was feeling, he regretted the words instantly. Regina seemed to fold in on herself and her eyes filled with tears. A moment later, she was somehow able to draw herself up and find her voice. “Excuse me,” she said and the exited the room quickly.
Gold looked at David with a neutral expression. “I’m impressed. You managed to call her out on all her fears and insecurities in one pass.”
Worse was the expression of horror on Henry’s face. “How could you say that to her? You promised her you wouldn’t hurt her like that!”
David took a deep breath. He knew he was going to have to put a hold on figuring out what was going on for the time being. They weren’t going to be able to get anywhere under the current circumstances. He was going to have to do something to fix it.
“Henry, will you be alright here with Mr. Gold for a few minutes?”
Giving Gold a warning look, David followed in the direction Regina had gone. Once outside the shop, it wasn’t hard to figure out where she’d gone. Though she was nowhere in sight, the sound of muffled crying could be heard quite clearly. He turned the corner into the small alleyway and was met by a heartbreaking sight; it didn’t matter that it was the former Evil Queen.
Regina had her back pressed against the side of the building and she’d sunk to the ground. One hand was pressed firmly against her mouth to hold in her sobs while her free arm wrapped tightly around her middle, trying to control the shaking caused by her tears.
Catching sight of David, she stood up quickly, not wanting to be seen in such a vulnerable state. She hated that he’d caught her in such a weak moment. Especially since he’d been the one to cause it, and because she’d been so sure he wouldn’t follow her.
“Regina—” David started softly.
“No!” She ran a hand roughly over her face, wiping away her tears. “You’ve already made it clear that you want nothing to do with me.” She took a shaky breath and then straightened her shoulders. Her voice became the one he recognized – cold and dismissive. “You should go back in with Henry and Gold. I’m sure you’re eager to fix this problem.”
The way her voice cracked on the last word, he couldn’t help but reach out a hand and run it comfortingly down her arm. He expected her to jerk away from the contact, but instead, she stepped into him, wrapping her arms around him and leaning her head against his chest.
He stood there rigidly for a moment, not sure how to react to this new Regina until she quietly asked, “Can you just hold me for a minute and pretend like nothing’s changed? Just for a minute?”
And so he wrapped his arms around her, trying to imagine how he would comfort her if she were someone he loved. He seemed to get it right, because she closed her eyes and her breathing evened out.
After a moment, she reluctantly pulled away from him. “Henry will be waiting for us.” She walked back to the entrance, leaving David standing there, lost in thought.
Chapter 3: We're Both Lost
“So they definitely received the message?” Regina clarified. Now that all attention had been turned to the portal that would be opening soon between worlds, David was feeling much more comfortable. This was a topic that was familiar to him. Regina was also acting more like what he was used to; business-like, efficient, and no-nonsense. Also, she didn’t seem entirely happy with the thought of helping bring two people she considered to be her enemies back home.
“Yes. I told her that the ink was in Gold’s cell. She and Emma are going to get it.”
Regina sighed in relief. “Good. They’ll have a much better chance of stopping Cora with it. We’ll still have to be on guard when the portal’s been opened, in case it’s Cora.”
“It won’t be,” David said confidently.
“Don’t be so sure,” Gold said. “Cora is extremely powerful. If Snow and Emma aren’t careful, she could easily overtake them.”
David looked at him harshly. “I know my wife and daughter. They’ll be the ones to come through.”
No one missed Regina’s flinch when he called Snow his wife.
“Soon-to-be ex-wife, you mean,” Gold corrected him. “
What are you talking about?” David asked frowning.
“Well, you and dear Snow were on the brink of a legal divorce when the curse broke. You may have changed your mind for a minute there, but the way things have been going for the last several weeks, I assumed you’d decided to go through with it once Snow returned. Assuming she returned of course.”
“Why would I divorce Snow?” He knew he didn’t really need to ask. The answer had been there in front of him since he woke up. He just still hadn’t brought himself to believe it.
It was confirmed, however, when Gold waved his hand at Regina. “The new love of your life, of course.” He watched David’s reaction with interest, truly curious as to what had caused this lapse in memory. “Well,” he cleared his throat. “There’s not much else to be done until the portal opens. I’d suggest we all get some sleep. It won’t be long now. I’ll lock up behind you.”
There was no question that he was asking them to leave. Regina lightly steered Henry toward the door, scowling at Gold on her way past.
“You’re welcome, dearie,” he replied sweetly, referring to his help in the whole situation.
She didn’t say thank you as she brushed past him. David followed until the three of them were several steps outside the shop.
They all stood there awkwardly for a moment until Regina cleared her throat. “We should probably talk. See what you remember.”
“Right,” David nodded. “Compare notes.” He looked around for his truck. It wasn’t where he’d parked it. “We can start with where my truck is.”
This shouldn’t have been a source of any sadness, and yet, the question caused Regina’s face to fall. “It’s back at the house.”
And there it was – a loaded statement if he’d ever heard one. It brought so many implications with it.
“So I…” David couldn’t bring himself to finish the question.
“Live with us?” David nodded silently and she sighed. “Yes.”
“Well, then,” he shifted his feet uncomfortably. “I suppose that’s where we should go to talk.”
Wordlessly, Regina started for her car, Henry following close behind. Sensing how painful this all was for his mom, he caught up to her quickly, slipping his hand into hers.
David watched awkwardly as Regina smiled down at him gratefully. It was odd to see them like this. Before he’d gone under the sleeping curse, Henry had only just begun talking to her again.
Climbing into the passenger seat, David was careful to keep his eyes directed out the windows. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Regina. The whole situation was absurd. Him and Regina together as a couple? No, absolutely not; never. Aside from the times she’d burst into his and Snow’s lives to threaten them, or when she’d kidnapped him and held him prisoner, he hadn’t had any dealings with the woman. Well, there were the more recent memories of David Nolan’s time with her. While friendlier, they’d been overpowered by the remembrance of their true lives and the realization that the friendship had only been another attempted manipulation.
He could feel her eyes on him when she glanced over a few times at traffic lights and stop signs. Thankfully, the drive was short. They all filed silently into the house, Regina turning on lights as they stepped inside.
It became immediately apparent that David did in fact live in this house. A pair of his shoes was set neatly by the door along with an extra set of Henry’s sneakers, one of his jackets was hanging on the rack and there was a framed photo of him and Henry eating ice cream at Granny’s on the small table in the entryway.
“That was last week,” Regina said softly, smiling down at the photo after she’d noticed him looking at it.
It wasn’t a photo he had any memory of. It wasn’t that he’d forgotten; he knew the moment had never happened.
Despite the fact that he’d just spent several hours under the sleeping curse, David suddenly felt extremely tired. “I uhh, I’m kind of tired. Would you mind if we talked in the morning?”
Regina looked up at him in surprise, a slight frown on her face. “Of…of course,” she stammered.
There were a few moments of silence before he asked. “Do I still have a place of my own or should I sleep on the couch?”
“Right!” Regina nodded, and David wondered if he’d imagined the tears she blinked back. “You moved yourself in here completely, but you don’t have to sleep on the couch. There’s a guest room you can use.”
David tried not to think about how he apparently normally spent his nights in this house.
Regina bit her lip. “I’ll show you.” She turned quickly to lead the way up the stairs and he followed her after kicking off his shoes.
“That’s Henry’s room,” she said gesturing to the first door, “the bathroom you can share with him,” she said at the second. Across the hall, she motioned to the third door. “That’s…my room,” she said quietly, voice catching slightly. It was obvious she’d been about to say our room. She finally stopped at the next door, pushing it open and flicking the light on. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Regina had disappeared behind her closed bedroom door before he even stepped inside the guest room. Taking in the surroundings, he found himself slightly surprised by how comfortable and homey everything appeared to be. The room was decorated in warm creamy hues, much like the rest of the house, but the furniture was more inviting. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he found it pleasantly soft and he could feel himself growing more tired.
There was a quiet knock on the door, and David was relieved when it was Henry who pushed it open. “Mom said I should give you these.” He walked inside carrying neatly folded pajamas. David swallowed heavily when he noticed that they were definitely his pajamas. Ways to claim this situation was somehow unreal were slipping away from him quickly.
He muttered a thank you before Henry turned to leave. Hand on the doorknob, Henry stopped to say, “I know when the curse broke, you hated mom again, but things have changed. Even if you feel like that again, just…please don’t be mean to her again.”
Henry looked so heartbroken when he spoke that David had to agree. “I won’t.”
Nodding, Henry shut the door behind him.
David had been sleeping for a few hours when he opened his eyes, looking around in confusion. It took him a minute to remember where he was. After the memories of the bizarre day had returned, he wondered what had awakened him; according to the clock on the nightstand, it was still the middle of the night.
Then he heard it. Soft crying from the room next door; Regina’s room. Slipping out from under the blankets, David padded silently down the hall to stand in front of the door. He wasn’t sure what had brought him to do so; perhaps he just couldn’t stand the sound of crying. He paused with his hand over the door handle, wondering if he should just pretend he’d never heard the cries.
When there was a particularly shuddering whimper heard from the other side, he knew he couldn’t lie in bed listening to it all night. He pushed the door open as quietly as possible, already wondering what he was going to say to her. Not wanting Henry to wake up as well, David closed the door behind him. “Regina?” he called softly.
The only response was the continued sound of crying. He could see her huddled on the bed now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness. She was turned away from him, wrapped around a pillow, still crying softly. Approaching the bed, he tried again. “Regina?”
She jumped, turning her head to look at him. When she saw him, she sat up quickly, letting go of the pillow and wiping her eyes. “David. What are you doing up? Did you need something?”
He was embarrassed now for coming in and catching her like this for the second time in twenty-four hours. “Umm. No, sorry. I just…I heard you crying and I—”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you up.” There was no bitterness in her tone; only sadness.
He sighed and surprised Regina by sitting down heavily on the edge of the bed. “No, I’m sorry. I haven’t reacted well to this whole situation. It’s just – you have to imagine how bizarre this is for me. When I went to sleep, we…I…” he gestured between the two of them.
“You hated me,” she finished tonelessly.
“No,” Charming said quickly, remembering Henry’s words. “I mean, we weren’t on the friendliest of terms, but I didn’t hate you.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Even if you weren’t a terrible liar, you already told me earlier that you hated me.”
“I’m not a terrible liar!” he exclaimed.
“Maybe not, but I know you too well. I can tell when you’re lying.” She smiled for a moment before she remembered the circumstances.
“Regina…” David shook his head. “Maybe I did hate you. Back there. But you are quite apparently not the Regina I remember.” He actually gave a small chuckle, imagining what the other Regina would say if he told her they shared a bedroom, let alone a house.
“What’s funny?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said, sobering. “I don’t hate you.” He tried to think of something convincing. “Would I have come in here if I did?”
She bit her lip again, and he hesitantly placed a hand over one of hers. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
That sent her over the edge. He was caught off guard when she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him. “I’m not.” He could feel her tears soaking through his thin t-shirt and cursed himself for saying the wrong thing. The last thing he’d wanted to do was make things worse. He carefully wrapped his arms around the now shaking Regina, wondering how on earth he was going to figure this whole situation out.
“I miss you, David,” she cried quietly, voice muffled against his chest.
After several minutes, she finally pulled back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that again. It’s just…you’re back, but you’re not.” She ran a hand tiredly through her hair. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. I should let you get some sleep.”
Taking in the sight of this Regina that was the same, but somehow so different, David wasn’t sure what compelled him to ask what he did. “Would you like me to stay until you fall asleep?”
Regina looked up at him, surprised by his offer. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
Regina moved over slowly, almost as if she was afraid that any sudden movements would scare him off. He pulled back the blankets and laid flat on his back, crossing his arms over his stomach and closing his eyes.
“Thank you,” Regina whispered from beside him.
Yes, he would only stay until she was asleep.
Chapter 4: A Fresh Start
The warmth felt good. He didn’t open his eyes for a few moments, not ready for it to be morning yet. He pulled the warm body in closer, moving his other arm over to join hands around her waist, marveling at how perfectly they fit together. It was different…
His eyes shot open and his heart raced as he realized just who it was in his arms. ‘Calm down, David,’ he told himself. There was no reason to upset Regina as well. He just needed to think rationally. What had happened last night? He calmed considerably when he remembered that last night had been innocent. He’d offered to stay because of how upset Regina had been and must have fallen asleep. It could easily explain the compromising position they were in now. Regina had her arm around him, head on his chest, and one leg draped over one of his. He now had both arms linked around her. He slowly tried to extract himself but Regina simply tightened her grip around him, sighing in her, sleep. It was obvious he wouldn’t be getting out of this situation easily.
For a moment, he just watched her. She looked so different when she was asleep. More peaceful, younger. The lines from her constant frowning where gone. He’d never been this close before and he couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. Yes, he’d noticed before how striking her features were, but he’d never been able to appreciate them. He’d been too busy trying to find a way to defeat her.
“Regina,” he said quietly, deciding it was time to get up. “Regina?”
“Hmmmm?” she rubbed her hand over his chest a few times before settling it on top next to her head.
“Regina – it’s time to get up.”
“Why? It’s early, David,” she told him without opening her eyes. Her voice was still gravelly from sleep.
“It’s morning,” he told her, not quite sure what to say.
She opened her eyes slowly, leaning her head back to smile at him, still blinking sleepily. “Good morning.”
He only had a moment before she realized what was happening, but wow-what a moment! He couldn’t help it. The way the sunlight filtered in and made her make-up-free skin glow, the way her smile lit up her face in a way that he’d never seen it before. She wasn’t beautiful – she was gorgeous.
But she’d quickly remembered this wasn’t her David and she sat up quickly, smile fading. “I…uh- I thought you were only staying until I fell asleep?”
David was extremely grateful that she’d sat up when she had. If her head had still been on his chest, she would have heard his heart suddenly beat much faster. How could he be feeling this way about Regina Mills? Suddenly remembering that she’d asked him a question, he looked back at her, pulling himself into a sitting position as well. “I was going to. I guess I must have fallen asleep.”
“Hmm.” Regina stood, reaching for a dark silk robe that matched her nightgown. She really was breathtaking and he had a hard time not staring. “Would you like some breakfast while we talk? I can start some eggs.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “That would be nice. Thank you.”
She gave him a small smile before disappearing.
David took a little time to look around before heading down. Sure enough, his clothes were in the closet, his razor and shaving cream were in the bathroom and his slippers were placed neatly beside the bed. There was no question he lived here. It was still all very strange, but he didn’t hate the idea like he had the night before. That scared him. He splashed some cold water on his face before going downstairs.
The house smelled amazing and he stepped into the kitchen to find Regina in the middle of preparing a very delicious looking breakfast. She looked up and smiled at him as she pushed the eggs around the pan and he took a seat on a stool nearby. It didn’t take long for her to finish and put everything neatly onto two plates.
“Henry won’t be up for a few hours,” she told him. “I’ll make him something when he gets up.”
David took the plates from her. She tried to protest, but he said, “You made breakfast; let me at least carry it to the table.”
“Why, thank you, kind sir,” she smiled warmly again at him. He could get used to seeing her smile like that. They sat down – Regina on one side of the table and David at the head – and started eating.
“Oh my god,” David said after the first bite. “Regina, these are amazing! How do you make something as basic as eggs taste so phenomenal?”
Regina laughed. “You’ve always enjoyed my cooking.”
David was silent for the next few bites, savoring the flavor before he decided to speak. “So you and I…how did it start? And how long ago? Gold mentioned us being together before the curse was broken?”
Regina was relieved to hear the change in tone from yesterday. He was curious rather than angry. It made her more relaxed as well.
“Do you remember the night my car broke down?” She paused to take a sip of orange juice. “You insisted on driving me and my groceries home and ended up staying for dinner?”
David nodded. “Yes.”
“That night was when it started.”
Shaking his head slowly, David looked puzzled. “You tried to kiss me, but I pulled away. Besides – even if we had kissed – I thought it was all a part of some plot to steal me away from Snow.” He looked at her raised eyebrows. “Well, you know what I mean; I thought that was the only reason you did it.”
She studied him thoughtfully. “So you do remember that night; you just remember it differently.”
“How did it happen differently?” David asked.
“Well, for starters,” Regina smiled. “You most certainly let me kiss you. Oh, sure, you were hesitant at first, but after just a small taste, I don’t think either of us had any objections.”
She smirked a bit at the memory and he couldn’t help but chuckle. “That good, huh?”
“Oh, David. Our kisses are always that good. “She gave him a devious smile and he shifted in his seat a bit.
“So you weren’t solely on a mission to take me from Snow?”
“Oh, no – I was,” Regina said, and the deviousness disappeared. Now she was just smiling as she gazed at him. “At first; but after that kiss – well – I accidentally fell in love with you.”
He smiled, gazing back at her. “Accidentally?”
She looked down, straightening the edges of her cloth napkin. “I found the whole thing as absurd as you in the beginning. Prince Charming and the Evil Queen as a couple? I’d be crazy to think that was ever a possibility.”
“So what changed your mind?” David asked, leaning forward in his chair.
Her eyes met his and she said, “You.” She smiled again. “You just couldn’t leave it alone. You kept coming around to take me to dinner, to spend time with me. You made me feel comfortable around you and I started to let my guard down. I told you things I’d never told anyone before and you made me feel safe. For the first time in a long time, I had someone on my side.”
David was mesmerized as she spoke. He found himself wanting to hear the stories she’d entrusted to him; wanting her to open up again. This Regina was wonderful, beautiful, warm, and very much someone he wanted to get to know.
“Of course, then the curse broke and you remembered who you were – who I was.” Her eyes filled with sadness. “That was a rough couple of weeks.”
It was as if she was telling him a story about someone else – in a way, she was – and he wanted to know more. He ached to imagine what she’d gone through having someone finally gain her trust and promise to never hurt her, only for him to come through and crush it; and after going through the curse breaking. It must have been horrible for her.
She cleared her throat. “After a while, we were fine again. We’ve just been nervous about telling Snow and Emma when they get back. I mean – you and Snow weren’t really together anymore when she fell through the portal, but we weren’t either, and we know it’s going to be a rather awkward reunion.” She looked down, hiding her expression. “I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore. You can be together again.”
David reached a hand out to cover one of hers. “I’m sorry about how I’ve reacted to this whole situation. I wasn’t thinking about how you felt, and I should have been. This hasn’t been fair at all and I’m so sorry.”
Regina turned his hand over so that she was holding it. “It’s not your fault.”
“It is,” he said firmly. “I had no right to say the things that I did. They were horrible no matter what the situation was.”
Squeezing his hand, she smiled at him. “I don’t deserve you.” It came out with much more sadness than she’d wanted it to.
He couldn’t take it. For the first time, he’d seen Regina as a person, not just the Evil Queen. A vulnerable person who’d obviously had her heart broken more than once. He was starting to see why he’d want to be with her, to know more about her. He liked this side of her. He stood up and opened his arms. “Come on,” he said when she stared at him. She hesitated a moment longer before stepping into him and closing her eyes.
“Don’t say things like that,” he said. “They’re not true.” He saw her open her mouth to argue so he cut her off. “Nope. Not allowed. And you shouldn’t listen to anyone who says any differently.”
“But, you—” she started.
“I was being stupid,” he said. “A stupid David who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and you definitely shouldn’t listen to him.”
She leaned back, opening her eyes and raising a questioning eyebrow. “Wouldn’t that mean that I shouldn’t listen to you now?”
“This is wise David talking now,” he told her and she laughed. God – what was happening to him? That laugh was the most beautiful laugh he’d ever heard. Somehow, in just this short amount of time, he’d completely changed his mind about Regina Mills. Most likely having something to do with how open she was allowing herself to be with him.
She stopped laughing and froze when he moved his head in closer. She dropped her eyes to his lips and her breath quickened.
Heart racing, he finally closed the distance. Their lips moved slowly at first, but then he deepened the kiss. Regina had been right; it was that good.
Regina moaned softly as he pulled her flush against him, his hands around her waist. She moved her arms up around his neck, trying to pull herself closer.
“Mom? Where are you?” Henry’s voice filtered in from the kitchen.
Reluctantly, they pulled apart, both breathing heavily. Regina rested her forehead against David’s chest and sighed.
“In the dining room,” she called, and finally pulled herself away from David.
Henry popped his head through the door. “Something smells really good! Did I miss breakfast?” He noticed the two empty plates lying on the table and frowned, stepping fully into the room.
“No honey,” she told him. “I was just waiting until you were up to cook yours so that it wouldn’t get cold.”
He grinned. “Thanks.”
“You’re up early,” she commented.
“I didn’t sleep very well,” Henry told her sheepishly.
She walked over to him and he let her pull him against her. “It wasn’t more nightmares, was it?” she asked, frowning. She ran a hand through his hair, smoothing out the wild fly-aways left from sleep.
“No. I was just worried about Emma and Snow. And you,” he added quietly.
“Oh, sweetheart. Emma and Snow will be fine, I’m sure. And you don’t have to worry about me; I’m fine, too.”
Henry glanced back and forth between her and David, noticing they were both smiling. He even caught them glancing at one another. Turning to David excitedly, he asked, “You remember everything?”
“No,” David told him sadly, but then smiled again. “But your mom and I have worked some things out.” He saw Regina grin and bite her lip before Henry turned back to her.
“Good,” Henry smiled. “So after breakfast, can we start talking about what happened to David’s memories so we can work on getting them back? And about what we’re going to do to help Emma and Snow get through the portal?”
Regina patted his back, pushing him toward the table. “That sounds reasonable. You wait here and I’ll get it started.”
David followed Regina into the kitchen. As soon as the door had shut behind them, David pulled Regina around to face him and crushed his lips to hers.
She squealed and then laughed into his mouth.
When they stopped to breathe, David said, “I could get used to this.”
She pulled him back to her, hands on either side of his face. “Mmm,” she mumbled between kisses. “You’d better.” She let it continue for a few seconds before speaking further. “But, David?”
He kissed her again. “Yes?”
She laughed. “I have,” he kissed her, “to make,” she tried again, and laughed when he cut her off with another kiss, “Henry’s breakfast!” she finished.
“Fine,” he said, pulling back. “One more for good measure?”
She shook her head, but smiled and leaned in.
He made the most of it, enjoying it more than he’d ever thought possible.
She grinned at him as she stepped away and he watched as she started cracking eggs into the pan. He knew he was in trouble now.
Chapter 5: No One Knows
“So you remember the month before the curse broke, but you don’t remember dating mom?” Henry asked David. He and Regina sat on the couch opposite his.
“No. Like I told her, the events I remember are different.”
“But what about the actual curse breaking?” Henry studied him. “In your memories, did I still die and Emma woke me with true love’s kiss?”
Regina’s face paled and she put a hand on his shoulder. Henry scooted over and leaned into her. “Sorry, mom. Don’t worry, I’m right here – I’m fine.”
She rubbed his back, still looking lost in the memories.
“Well?” Henry continued to look at David, who shook his head, having forgotten there was a question for him to answer.
“Uh, yeah. That’s what I remember.”
“What about right after? Did you still find Snow and me and Emma?”
“Yes,” David smiled at the memory of their reunion.
“How about how you guys saved mom from that wraith?”
David noticed Regina study her palm, opening and closing her hand a few times. Henry was too busy watching David to notice. “Yeah, that happened too, kiddo.”
Henry now looked down in determination. “That’s when we all promised we’d get them back. That’s when you and mom started to get along again. Mom promised you that she was going to help find a way to bring them back.” He smiled. “And we did find one.”
David glanced at Regina and was caught off guard when she was looking directly at him.
“What do you remember differently?” she asked.
“Right then; you just made a face. That’s not what you remembered.”
“Well, no…” David was finding this whole memory comparison to be a lot more uncomfortable then he’d imagined.
“So – how do you remember it?” Henry pressed.
“Differently,” David said simply, not wanting to upset anyone. “We should probably just leave it at that.”
Regina looked down at her lap, but Henry leaned forward. “Okay, so how about after that? Did you come to visit me and mom a lot to talk about opening portals? Did you guys go to talk to Rumpelstiltskin? I guess you didn’t move in, so where did you live?”
David shook his head at the barrage of questions and was grateful when Regina interrupted.
“You should start getting ready for school, Henry. We can finish talking later.”
Henry looked like he wanted to object, but instead he looked at David, saying, “What if you and mom pick me up from school and we go have ice cream at Granny’s while we finish talking?”
David looked at Regina, who nodded. “Sure,” David said to Henry. “That sounds like a good idea.”
‘Great!” Henry said, and then raced up the stairs, taking two at a time.
“Slow down, Henry!” Regina called. “You’ll hurt yourself.”
When the sound of his bedroom door shutting upstairs was heard, Regina stood and took a couple of steps away. She stayed there for a minute and David was about to ask if she was alright when she turned around suddenly. He couldn’t quite read her expression.
“After Mary Margaret and Emma fell through the portal…the way you remember it…you were going to kill me weren’t you?”
It was the truth, but it still caught him off guard to hear her say it. How had she guessed?
She nodded. “That’s what I thought.” After a breath, she asked, “And Henry; he doesn’t live with me in your memories.” It was a statement, not a question.
“I told you, David,” Regina said. “I know you too well. It was all over your face.”
David stood, “Regina…” He hated the look of loss on her face.
“I mean, god, David!” She threw her hands in the air. “The way you remember things, we were back to hating each other as much as we did in the Enchanted Forest. That…” she shook her head and crossed her arms protectively over her chest. “If that’s how you feel about me, how could you kiss me like you did this morning? How can you even stand being in the same room as me?” The tears in her eyes were back, but she was holding them in.
“I don’t know,” David told her honestly. “You were so different from the way I remember you.”
“You mean broken,” she said, and there was bitterness back in her tone.
“No,” he sighed. “You never let anyone see anything other than your anger and hatred. But you let me see more of you.” Shaking his head, he almost laughed. “This is such a mess. Look, I don’t know what happened to me, to this world. I don’t know why things are different, but they are, and the way I feel about you is different, too.”
She watched cautiously as he closed the distance between them. She stiffened at first when he reached out to brush a hand across her cheek. Then she saw the way his expression softened and his eyes filled with wonder. “What?” she asked him.
“You,” he said. “I’ve never been able to see this side of you, but I like it. I like it a lot, and I can’t help thinking how lucky I am to be able to see it.”
She gave him a small smile.
“I’m not sure what made me kiss you this morning,” he told her. “But I know that something changed in me when I did. I felt something I’ve never felt before, not even with Snow.” He looked down, surprised he was telling her all of this, but unable to stop. “It’s confusing as hell, but I’m gonna have to figure it out, because…” he found her eyes again. “I never thought I’d feel like this. I didn’t even know this feeling existed, I just…Now that I’ve had it, I know that it’s something I need. I don’t…” he sighed. “I’m not making very much sense, am I?”
“Actually,” she told him, “you are. You don’t remember, but this is almost the same conversation we had when we first started dating.”
“In that case, what did I say next?” he asked, chuckling. “Because I’m floundering a bit here.”
“You didn’t get a chance to say anything,” she told him.
“Really? And why is that?” he smiled, suspecting he knew exactly why.
“Because I did this…” She leaned forward, kissing him more softly than the last time. She pulled away only a short time later, a hesitant expression on her face. “Is that okay?”
He gently took her face in both hands and lowered his mouth to hers again. When he pulled back, he looked into her eyes. “We’re gonna have to figure out what happened to me, or to this world, or whatever,” he said. “But the one thing I know right now is that that is okay. It’s the one thing happening to me right now that’s okay.” Gathering her up in his arms, he was amazed again by how right it felt.
“We’ll figure it out together,” she said, closing her eyes.
He kept his open, plagued with new troubling thoughts. If there was nothing wrong with the world around him, that meant it was all in his head and he worried he would never be able to separate the memories he had from reality. Worse was the thought that it wasn’t him at all. If none of this was real, then what was really going on? What would he say to Snow, to Emma – to Regina? What would he do?
David closed his eyes as well and rested his cheek against the top of Regina’s head. Knowing he wasn’t crazy would be a good thing, but with Regina in his arms like this – he wasn’t sure what he wanted the truth to be.
Chapter 6: A Hand to Hold and Guide Me Through
Henry was reluctant to get out of the car once they’d parked in front of the school. “What if Mary Margaret and Emma come through the portal while I’m at school?” he asked, not for the first time that morning.
“Sweetheart, I’ve told you,” Regina said soothingly. “Gold really doesn’t think it will be today. Most likely it won’t happen until tomorrow.”
“Yeah, but what if he’s wrong and they do come through today?” he argued.
“How about I promise you that if I hear anything about them coming through early, I will come and get you?” Regina proposed.
Henry considered that for a moment. “Promise?” he finally asked.
“Alright.” He slipped a strap of his backpack over his shoulder. “Bye, David. Bye, mom,” he said, sliding over to open the door.
“No goodbye-kiss?” Regina asked in mock offense.
Henry rolled his eyes, but smiled and leaned up between the front seats, kissing her cheek. “Love you,” he told her.
“Love you, too.” She smiled at him in the rearview mirror.
“Bye, kiddo,” David said.
Henry waved after pushing the door shut and ran up the steps, joining a few fellow classmates.
David sat back in his seat and looked at Regina as she pulled out of the school. “How will Gold know when it’s time for the portal to open?”
“Magic,” Regina said simply. “Everything is connected. He’ll be able to feel the shift.”
“And you won’t?” he asked curiously.
“Maybe,” she said thoughtfully, “but Rumpelstiltskin is much more powerful than I am.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say that.” David gave her a look.
“If anyone else asks,” she smiled and David laughed when she finished, “I’ll deny it.” Growing more serious, she said, “He was my teacher.”
David looked shocked. “You learned magic from Rumpelstiltskin?”
She frowned and glanced over at him. “I keep forgetting that you don’t remember any of this.”
They were silent for a few minutes as they drove back to the house. Finally, Regina broke the silence and asked, “David…Now that Henry’s in school, would you mind if we finished talking about the differences in your memories?”
“Are you sure you want to?” David looked at her carefully. It would be painful for her to hear.
“Yes.” She sighed. “I should know. It might help us figure out what’s going on. And this way, we can get it all out there before you talk to Henry. I think we should put a filter on what he hears.”
“Agreed,” David said. “Alright. We can talk at the house, but—” he turned toward her, holding up a finger, “You have to tell me things, too. Fill in the gaps, tell me things I don’t know, tell me about yourself.”
She smiled sadly at him. “Are you sure you want to?”
“I wanted to before, didn’t I?” he asked.
“Yes.” And then so quietly, David almost didn’t hear, she added, “When you loved me.”
She didn’t look at him when she said it. She was being very careful to keep her eyes on the road. He wasn’t sure what to do. He couldn’t tell her he loved her, but he couldn’t tell her that he’d maybe started to, either. It would only reinforce the fact that he wasn’t the same David she’d fallen in love with. No comforting words came to him, but he knew he couldn’t just leave it. In place of words, he reached a hand across the middle and placed it lightly on her arm. Without taking her eyes off the road, she took her hand off the steering wheel and moved her arm.
At first, David thought that she wanted to get away from his touch, but then she was lacing her fingers through his and she gave his hand a soft squeeze. He returned the gesture and she moved their hands to rest between the two of them. She didn’t let go and neither did he.
When they arrived back at the house, they finally dropped their hands to get out of the car. David immediately missed the contact. He followed behind Regina, watching her put her key into the door. He was nervous about their upcoming chat. He didn’t want to hurt her any more than he already had. It was a strange concept – he’d spent so many years trying to do exactly that. However, the whole idea of it was only strange on the surface. He was starting to see how easy it would be to fall in love with her once he’d had a peek at the real Regina. It had only been one day and he already felt something stirring inside him. Not love – not yet – but something close. He wanted to be near her, to hold her, kiss her, and make her smile and laugh. She was so beautiful when she smiled. He wanted to know her story – what had happened in her life to turn her down such a dark path. He knew bits and pieces, but had never heard the whole story, and never from her. Before this, he hadn’t really cared. The woman was evil – nothing could excuse the horrible acts she’d committed. But now he’d seen that all of that evil hid the warm-hearted soul underneath. It was a twisted defense mechanism, but apparently one she’d felt was necessary to protect her from whatever had happened. He still knew that her behavior in the Enchanted Forest and everything she’d done couldn’t be explained away, but he could maybe start to understand what had driven her to it. Besides – he’d started to realize that she wasn’t trying to excuse what she’d done. Regret weighed heavily on her shoulders and she was trying to redeem herself. He couldn’t help but think of the Regina from his memories – whether or not she actually existed. That Regina had been trying to redeem herself as well, for Henry. It seemed that love was what had recovered her softer side. He thought sadly about what an uphill battle it must feel like; Henry was the only person she loved and he didn’t give her much in return. David knew Henry loved her – he could tell even though the boy tried to hide it – but he hardly showed Regina any affection.
This Regina was much warmer and seemed to be much further along on the redemption path. But here, she had Henry’s love in spades – and apparently his own as well. He wondered how Regina had managed to fix things with her son. Especially because of the relationship between himself and Regina; he couldn’t see Henry being a fan of that at all. Henry had always been so adamant that Prince Charming and Snow were the highest example of true love and had been extremely determined to see them reunited.
He was going to have a lot to ask Regina.
“David, are you alright?” Regina’s soft voice suddenly broke into his thoughts and he realized that he was standing in the entryway with the front door still open behind him.
“Fine, sorry…lots to think about.”
She nodded. “Would you like something to drink while we talk? I was thinking alcohol.”
“That sounds appropriate.” He smiled and she chuckled, moving off in the direction of the kitchen. Looking over her shoulder, she called, “You can make yourself comfortable on the couch. I’ll bring it to you.”
He shut the door, shivering from the cold air he’d exposed the house to; all the heat in the entryway had been sucked out. He slipped his shoes off, hung his coat up, and made his way into the living room.
Shortly after he’d settled himself back into the cushions, Regina came into the room carrying two glasses filled with amber liquid. She handed one to him before tucking a leg under her so she could sit sideways next to him.
He tipped the glass slowly, not sure what to expect. “Apple cider?” he asked after a sip, pleasantly surprised by the flavor.
“It’s delicious. You can barely taste the alcohol, though. I can see where it gets its reputation for catching people off guard.”
“Ahhh – you mean how I lure people in and then get them drunk without them realizing so that I can pull all of their secrets out of them?”
David choked on the cider.
Regina laughed. “You told me about the rumors the first time you had a glass. Although I don’t know that you can still call them rumors if they’re true.”
“That’s really what you were doing?” he asked incredulously. He couldn’t believe she was admitting it to him.
She leaned forward a bit, raising an eyebrow. “How’d you think I was able to blackmail so many people into doing what I wanted over the years?”
“Using your wit and charm?” He couldn’t help but smile at her when she laughed.
“That’s what you said the first time I told you.”
Their smiles faded as they remembered where this conversation was going and why they’d wanted the alcohol in the first place.
Regina stared into her glass for a few seconds, took a sip and then cleared her throat, looking at him. “Why don’t you start before the curse was broken? Tell me the main events that you remember. Try not to leave anything out.”
“Okay.” David sighed, thinking back to that month. “Mary Margaret was still angry with me for what had happened when she’d been arrested for murder. I tried to apologize, but she wouldn’t have it. She called off the relationship for good, so I was going to leave town.”
“You were going to try to cross the border?” Regina asked.
“Yes. I was nearly there, too. I was coming up on the Storybrooke sign when the curse was broken.” He shook his head. “Good thing, too. I get the distinct impression nothing good could have come from attempting to leave town.” He looked at her pointedly and she glanced down.
“No – no, it couldn’t.”
“So, of course, I remembered everything. I came back to town, found Snow, and then together we found Emma and Henry. Archie informed all of us that a mob was on their way to your house, so we came to stop that and then put you in a cell.”
“Mmmhmm.” Regina kept her eyes down as he continued. It had been hard enough going through all of it with David when she’d lived it. Hearing him recite it back to her was painful.
“You were marked, a wraith came after you, and in the process of saving you, Emma and Mary Margaret were pulled into our land through Jefferson’s hat.”
Regina didn’t miss the spark of anger in his eyes when she glanced at him, but he wasn’t looking at her. He was staring at the glass in his hands.
“We, uhh…fought, and then Henry came home with me. I went to both you and Gold for help, but it was clear that we were going to have to find another way to bring the two of them home. You kind of, umm, temporarily reverted to the Evil Queen and kidnapped Henry from the town meeting—”
“I what?” Regina interrupted.
David looked up at her uncomfortably. “You came into town hall and used magic to take Henry. I wasn’t there at the time – I don’t know exactly what happened – but I had to come to your house to get him back.”
Regina shook her head disbelievingly. “I used magic?” She swallowed, and he could see the fear in her eyes. “Did I…did I hurt him?”
“No! No,” David was quick to tell her. “You would never do that. You love him. In fact, when I came to get him, I was expecting a fight, but you let him go. You gave him a whole speech that I was rather impressed by.”
“And then you took him.” It was more of a statement then a question, and Regina’s eyes had returned to staring downward. Even if these memories weren’t true, Regina knew to David, they were, and that made it more real for her.
“Yes. We didn’t have much communication for a while. I think you were trying to give Henry some space. You called me once to warn me that Henry had found your vault and was in danger, but I didn’t see you again until…there was an incident…with Dr. Whale.” David didn’t know how much of Daniel’s return had translated into this reality and didn’t want to unnecessarily hurt Regina. Unfortunately, the sound of Regina’s uneven breathing beside him clued him in; she had most definitely experienced that horrible day.
“Daniel,” she whispered.
“Yes,” he said again, softly. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know you protected Henry.”
“I killed him.” Regina’s voice cracked and tears started down her cheeks.
David had known this much. Daniel hadn’t been seen or heard from again and David had known that Regina had done what she’d had to in the end. What came next, however, he hadn’t expected.
“He was there…it was him. I got through to him and I had him back, but he was in so much pain!” Regina cried. “He wanted me to…to…” She swallowed back a sob to continue. “And then he was gone again and I had to.” Anything else she was going to say was lost when she completely dissolved into tears.
David sat in shock for a few seconds. The pure horror of what had occurred settled into him. The reason Regina hadn’t been heard from for several days. Why she’d locked herself in her house and not come out. She hadn’t even tried to call Henry.
David set his glass down and then reached for Regina’s, gently pulling it out of her hands and setting it next to his own. Then he gripped her arms and pulled her into him. He knew that there could be no comforting words in this situation; nothing could make something like this right. Instead, he rubbed her back and held her tightly as she cried.
When she finally started to speak again, she hadn’t removed her arms from around him and her head was still against his chest. “I don’t know how I would’ve survived that without you,” she told him, and it hurt. It hurt because he knew that she had. She’d survived it without anyone and he felt terrible. “You stayed with me after that,” she continued. “It wasn’t much longer before you moved in permanently.” Her voice was still a little shaky, but she’d mostly recovered from her tears. “The town had an absolute fit,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
David could see a small smile beginning to spread on her face from his position and he chuckled. He tried to picture what everyone would have to say about him moving in with Regina. His chuckle turned into a full-out laugh.
Regina laughed, too. “Yeah, that took a while to get over. I think some of them will never get used to the idea, but most of them have finally accepted it.” She reluctantly pulled herself up, wiping her face dry. “So what came next?”
He studied her. “Are you sure you want to keep going?”
She gave him a hard look.
“Alright, then.” He put his hands up in surrender. The attitude he recognized was back, but it almost made him smile. It seemed different now that he’d seen another side to her. “Red found out that she was becoming a wolf again, Henry started having his nightmares, and I started having you watch him when I couldn’t be home. You asked Gold to help with the nightmares and he made Henry that necklace that allowed him to control his dreams.” Regina nodded, so he kept going. “That’s how he was able to start talking to Aurora and he found out about Emma and Mary Margaret. And Cora.” He saw the fear flash in her eyes. “We worked with Gold so that we could help them defeat her, but it was too dangerous to keep sending Henry back to that room, so I volunteered to go under the sleeping curse. Being in that room is the last thing I remember before I woke up.”
Regina was looking at him, but from the expression on her face and the far-off look in her eyes, David could tell she was thinking hard about something. “I just don’t understand,” she finally said and her focus snapped back to him. “Everything between the two sets of memories is the same except for our relationship and things that were affected by it. “ Her eyes looked back and forth between his, as if searching for an answer there. “Why?”
He shook his head. “I wish I knew. All I can tell you is that my memories feel real. It isn’t like I’m remembering a dream – they’re crystal clear and sharp. I have absolutely no recollection of anything different.”
Regina sat in deep thought for a moment, and then shook her head. “I’m going to have to talk to Gold to see if we can figure this out. Later, though. I think I’m going to go lie down for a while. I’m feeling pretty tired.”
She moved to get up, but he caught the tell-tale wateriness in her eyes and he pulled her back down. “Hey,” he said softly. “Talk to me. I know this can’t be easy for you. Tell me what you’re feeling. We’re in this together, remember?”
She looked up at him and took a shaky breath. “You keep doing that,” she said. She was frustrated, but there was no edge to her voice.
“What?” he asked.
“Being him.” She sighed. At his confused look, she went on. “You don’t remember our relationship at all, but the way you act, the things you say – it’s like you do. It’s so easy to forget that you’re not the same David. It’s confusing the hell out of me.” She rubbed a hand against her thigh uneasily. “You want to know how I feel?” she asked and David nodded. “I feel lost. The one person I go to for comfort is the one person I can’t have. I want to be able to kiss you, I want you to hold me and tell me that everything’s going to be alright; I want you to remember that you love me, that we’ve worked through all of the pain and hatred that existed between us before.” She looked at him, fighting to keep her strength. “I just want something familiar to hold onto before I drown.”
He hesitated for a second, not sure if his actions would be welcome, but then decided he had to try. He reached for her hand again and said, “You can hold on to me. I know that I don’t remember anything, but I’ve already changed since I’ve been awake. It’s like I said this morning – I’m not really sure what to do either. I’m just as lost as you are. But I’m starting to feel how much I could love you. You make it so easy.” He hadn’t wanted to say it before, but it seemed almost necessary now. “We’ll figure out what happened to me, but no matter what it turns out to be, my feelings have already changed.” He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb and he thought it was a good sign that she didn’t pull away. “I know it’s confusing for both of us, but maybe,” he bent his head down so that she would meet his eyes. “Maybe you can still let me be the one to comfort you? Everything is such a disaster right now except when I’m holding you. It all just makes more sense and seems more manageable when I’m with you. Even though I don’t remember us, I want to. I want all of those things, too.” He searched her eyes, but couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “I guess what I’m asking is the same thing you asked me this morning. Is that okay?”
His heart pounded as he waited for an answer. The silence was deafening and he started to worry that he’d crossed some sort of line, but then a slow smile crept onto her face.
“Really?” Even whispered, her voice cracked on the word.
Reassured that she was going to be okay with this, he allowed a wide, warm smile. “Really.”
She laughed as a few more tears escaped. “Then I think it’s okay.” She didn’t wait another second before she was in his arms. There was definitely nothing slow about their kiss this time. It was passionate, desperate, but still incredible.
“Besides,” David said when he pulled back, breathing heavily. “I think I’m kind of obsessed with kissing you.”
“Mmm.” Regina pushed her hands up under his shirt and ran them up his chest, feeling his heart beat wildly before she pulled the shirt up over his head and tossed it to the floor. “Is that a fact?”
“It is,” he informed her, lying back, and she laughed as he pulled her down on top of him.
Chapter 7: Maybe, Maybe Not
Regina sat in the chair next to the bed where David slept; if you could call it sleeping. There was no rise and fall of his chest, no soft sounds of breathing, not even the tiniest movement or flicker of his eyelids to show he was dreaming, that he was anything. She could see how easily someone could confuse the sleeping curse for death. If she hadn’t created the sleeping curse herself, she would have worried that he was in fact dead.
“Come on, David,” she said softly. “Wake up. Henry needs you to wake up.”
“I don’t think he can hear you, dearie.”
The voice caused her to jump and she looked up in irritation. “Did you need something, Rumpelstiltskin?” she snapped.
“This is my shop. Do I have to need something to go where I please in it?”
She sighed quietly and shifted slightly in her seat, returning her gaze to David. She wasn’t in the mood to play games. She wasn’t in the mood for any conversation at all really.
There was silence, but then Gold cleared his throat. “How’s he doing?”
Regina didn’t take her eyes off of David as she spoke. “He’s the exact same.” She put a hand up to pinch the bridge of her nose.
“He asked for this,” Gold said thoughtfully. There wasn’t any malice in his tone. In fact, she thought she heard reassurance in there.
Regina raised an eyebrow questioningly, finally looking at him.
“I mean, you should stop blaming yourself.”
“I’m not—” she started, but he cut her off.
“You can’t lie to me, dearie. I’m the one who taught you all of your tricks.”
She didn’t say anything. She hated that he knew her so well. She had been feeling guilty; because of Henry. As much as she wanted him all to herself, she knew that he’d never be happy without his family. David had been the last remaining member of that family. She should never have allowed him to do this.
As if reading her thoughts, Gold said, “You wouldn’t have been able to change his mind. When it comes to Snow White and her Charming prince, nothing can separate them.”
Regina crossed her arms over her chest, uncomfortable that he could know so well what she was thinking and irritated by the thoughts of Snow White. That,” she said venomously, “is something I know all too well.”
Henry chose that moment to burst into the room. Even Gold jumped slightly, not having heard the bell on the front door. He slipped out behind Henry.
“Is he awake yet?” Henry asked hopefully, bouncing over to stand next to David. His face fell when he saw him in the exact same position as before.
Regina answered him anyway. “Not yet. Why don’t you read to him again? I bet he would like that.” She stood, offering him the chair, but he only looked at her.
“Do you really think so?” he asked skeptically.
“Well, it worked when he was in a coma, didn’t it?”
Henry brightened up at that thought. “That’s true! When Mary Margaret read to him, he started to wake up!” It only took a second for his face to fall again. “But he wasn’t under a sleeping curse then and Mary Margaret is his true love.”
“Yes, but he loves you, too,” Regina told him, moving to stand behind him and placing a hand gently on his shoulder.
“It won’t be enough,” Henry said, studying the floor.
“Well it never hurts to try.” She didn’t want to see him lose hope. “Besides – no matter what, I’m sure he enjoys hearing the stories.”
Henry smiled again. “You’re right. Thanks, mom.” He bent down to the floor, opening up his backpack and pulling the book out.
“Alright,” Regina told him. “I’ll be up front with Mr. Gold for a few minutes if you need me.”
Henry nodded, but was now engulfed in finding the perfect story. He didn’t even look up.
Pulling open the curtain, she stepped through to see Gold waiting for her. “You know you’re going to have to prepare for it to be Cora who comes through?”
She gave an irritated huff. “We’ve talked about this already.”
“Yes,” Gold said, tilting his head. “But I think you should hear my reasoning.
Regina hadn’t been lying when she’d told David she was tired. They’d eventually moved up to the bedroom and Regina was again curled against him, head resting on his chest as she slept soundly. This time, however, he, too, was completely at ease. He’d fallen asleep for a while as well and he didn’t think he’d slept that well in a long, long time.
Now, however, it was lunch time, and he was starting to feel how hungry he was. He knew Regina would be hungry as well; she’d barely eaten anything at breakfast.
He rubbed Regina’s back softly to wake her. “Regina,” he said quietly.
Waking up much more quickly this time, Regina hummed and opened her eyes. She smiled at him and then moved up to close her mouth around his. “Hello,” she said against his lips as she pulled back.
“Hi,” He shifted her so she was on top of him and he held her tightly against him. They kissed lazily for several minutes before Regina rested her head below his chin, nuzzling his neck.
“Are we going to get up?” she finally asked. “I assume you had plans when you woke me up?”
“Well, hmmm,” David said. “Now that you mention it, there was a reason; I just seem to have forgotten it.” She laughed. “And anyway,” he continued, “I think this right here is reason enough to wake up.” He tilted her head back up so that he could kiss her again. This time, his stomach interrupted with a soft growl.
“Ah-ha!” Regina exclaimed. She broke their kiss and pulled her head up to look at him. “I think we’ve just figured out the real reason you woke up.”
“Oh, yes.” He smiled. “The hunger.”
She laughed at him. “It may be lunch time, but you shouldn’t be that hungry.”
“It’s your fault,” David informed her.
“How’s that?” she asked, raising an eyebrow, but still smiling. “I made you a perfectly decent-sized breakfast.”
“That may be true,” he said, “but you also helped me work it all off rather quickly.”
She grinned at him. “I did, didn’t I?”
“Mmmhmm,” was all David could do to reply, because her lips were back on his. His hands slid up her back and he moved to kiss along her jawline when his stomach growled again, a little louder this time.
Regina laughed and dropped her forehead to his shoulder. “There’s no ignoring that.” She rolled off him and sat up, pulling on her robe. She shrieked in surprise when David hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her back down to a sitting position and kissed her neck. “Who said you could get up?” he asked between kisses. The kisses turned to playful nibbles and Regina tilted her head, shrugging her shoulders up to protect herself as she squirmed and laughed. “David! David, that tickles!”
He finally stopped, but didn’t release her. Instead, he pulled her back so that she was leaning into him and wrapped his arms around her stomach. She laced her fingers through his and closed her eyes when she felt him place a kiss to the top of her head. “Can’t we just stay like this forever?” he asked.
“Well – I could see about whipping up another curse where time is frozen,” she chuckled, “but I think you might have some trouble convincing the rest of the town.”
He laughed. “You’re probably right about that.”
She turned in his arms and kissed him. “That’s going to have to last you a little while, because you may be hungry, but I’m starving!” She darted off the bed and toward the door, laughing, before he could catch her again.
Chapter 8: Revelations
By the time they’d finished eating, school was almost out. “Mind if we walk?” David asked.
“Any particular reason you feel like walking?” Regina leaned against the counter, keys in hand.
“Not really. I just feel like walking with you.” He gave her his most charming smile.
“Well that’s not fair,” she cried, returning the smile. “But I suppose the weather isn’t terrible.”
“It might be one of our last decent days,” David tossed out. “Come on. It’ll be fun…”
She laughed at the singsong in his voice. “Alright, fine,” she gave in. “We’d better leave now, though. It’ll take longer to get there. I’ll go get dressed.”
“Ohhh,” David whined. “Do you have to?” He stepped in, giving her what ended up being a quick kiss as she pulled back.
“I don’t think the town – or Henry, for that matter – would appreciate me walking down the sidewalk in nothing but a robe.” She started up the stairs with David trailing behind her.
“I don’t know,” David chuckled. “They might find it amusing to see a new side to their queen.”
Regina scoffed. “More like a nude side to their queen. Besides,” she smiled deviously and turned around, somehow still managing to look graceful as she backed up the stairs. “Do you really want to share me with all of them?” She started to undo the knot at her waist. She laughed when David stumbled on a stair, nearly falling over. She turned back to face the front and smirked when she heard David huff out a sigh.
“Well, when you put it that way,” he said, “do you have any turtlenecks?”
This, he decided, was one of the best moments of his life. Walking down the sidewalk, David had Regina pulled against him, an arm around her shoulders, her arm around his waist. It was slightly chilly out, but they didn’t mind.
“You were right,” Regina told him, leaning her head against him. “This is nice.”
“I’m glad we’re out here.” He sighed happily. “I can’t believe so much has happened in the twenty-four hours since I’ve been awake; I can’t believe how long I’ve lived without knowing how great it feels to love you.”
She stopped walking abruptly and pulled away from him, facing him. She looked shocked, and he suddenly realized what had just slipped out.
“Did you mean it?” she asked.
Did he? He thought about everything she’d done over the years, but it no longer brought feelings of anger. She wasn’t that person anymore, and he couldn’t connect the two. He tried, even, to recall the tempered Regina that he’d most recently left behind; the one that had put him under the sleeping curse. She was much closer to this Regina, though still very different. Now when he looked at her, he saw her gorgeous smile, the vulnerability that clouded her features when she told him her fears, the sparkle and warmth in her eyes when she looked at him; he could hear the sound of her laugh as they joked during lunch and the playful tone of her voice when she teased him.
“I did,” he finally answered. “Maybe it’s crazy, but I’m already completely in love with you.” He grinned happily at her and pulled her in for a kiss which she eagerly returned, bringing her hands up around his neck to pull him closer.
“Get a room!”
The couple pulled apart quickly to find they had a small audience. Red, Granny, and a few of the dwarves were making their way down the path. It was Grumpy who had spoken and he had a mixture of disgust and amusement on his face. The rest of them just looked irritated and angry.
Regina dropped her head uncharacteristically, cheeks burning.
Red looked at David. “What are you guys doing out here?” It was posed as an innocent question, but David could hear the annoyance in her tone. He knew she meant, why were they out in public together? As if it was the most horrible offense.
He ignored it and reached for Regina’s hand. “We’re on our way to pick up Henry from school,” he told the group. “In fact, we’d probably better get going or he’ll wonder where we are.”
Regina’s fingers wove through his as she grasped his hand tightly. He looked down at her curiously, surprised by her unusual silence; especially in the face of any sort of confrontation – not that he wanted one.
Everyone’s eyes touched on their joined hands before Granny spoke quickly, “Of course. Wouldn’t want to keep young Henry waiting.” Her voice was gruff and her tone clipped.
“Come on, Regina,” David said, giving her hand a light tug. “We have to get Henry.”
She gave him a quick nod, following him past the small crowd as they parted.
David knew they were still being watched, but he didn’t care. He returned his arm to its original spot around Regina’s shoulders. He felt her tense, but when she realized he wasn’t going to let go, she relaxed into him, finally placing her arm carefully around his waist again.
Once they were at least out of earshot, David placed a gentle kiss to the side of Regina’s head. “Are you alright?” he asked.
Regina stayed quiet. Finally, she said, “Us being public…It’s still fairly new. People knew we were together before, but now that the curse is broken, there’s a lot more judgment. We don’t come out a lot.”
“Is everyone always like that?” he asked.
“They’re generally unpleasant, yes, but we don’t normally put our relationship on display like that, either.”
“We’ve managed to keep our hands off of each other in public?” David lightly joked.
She smiled. “Mostly.”
“It’s not like you,” David said more seriously. The way Regina had backed down and looked embarrassed – he couldn’t curb his curiosity.
Regina gave him a questioning look, not sure what he meant by the statement.
“Letting people get to you like that,” he elaborated. “The Regina I know would be telling them off, putting them in their place.”
She let out a weak laugh. “Yes.” Then, she stopped suddenly and turned to face him. “This might be difficult for me to explain, but I’ll put it into words as best I can.” She looked up at the sky as if searching for answers there before tilting her head back down to meet his eyes. “After my mother killed Daniel, I closed myself off. I buried myself underneath layers and layers of defenses. Magic, power, control – I started to feel like that’s all that I had left. Anger and pain became the only emotions I allowed myself to feel. When I brought everyone here, I thought of it as a kind of fresh start. I didn’t have to be the Evil Queen anymore. I still didn’t allow anyone to get close, but I didn’t have to be as purely evil as I had been. It was lonely – I was miserable. That’s why I adopted Henry. Things were immediately different with him. He was so tiny, and I was the person completely responsible for that little life. I did my best to be a good mother, but all of those years without any sort of happiness; I didn’t give Henry all that he deserved. Luckily, I have a second chance with him now. When you came into my life, I couldn’t understand what you saw in me. For the first time in a very long time, I remembered how to fully, deeply love. You made me feel so wonderful, but I spent a lot of time feeling guilty and afraid. I felt like I didn’t deserve you and I was terrified that the curse would break and you would realize what a horrible mistake you’d made. And then it did, and you did. Somehow, though – miraculously – I got a second chance with you, too. Since then, I’ve been on edge, feeling like I’m walking on thin ice, and any minute I’m going to fall through. I haven’t ever told you this before, but I’m afraid of doing something to ruin what we have, like I did before. I’m afraid that I’ll blink and it will be over. I’ve been trying really hard to be a better person, not just for Henry, but for us. Because I want to be the kind of person you can love. I love you so much and I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose all of the emotions I can suddenly feel again, because of you. You’ve become my life, and if you left, I might go back to being who I was before.” She looked just as scared at the thought of losing him as she had at the possibility of Cora coming through the portal. “And I don’t ever want that.”
“Hey,” David said, catching one of her hands in his. “You don’t have to worry about that.” Hearing Regina tell him her fears and how much she loved him only made him love her more, and he marveled at how strong this love felt; stronger than anything he’d ever felt before. He felt guilty about how strong it was when he thought of Snow, but he pushed it aside for the moment. Regina was here, right in front of him, and she needed reassurance. “Don’t think that I would ever leave you. Look at the last two days; I woke up with an entirely different set of memories. I hated you, and the thought of being in a relationship with you was something I couldn’t understand.” He moved forward quickly, knowing that this part of his speech would only make her feel worse. “For me, our relationship grew in one day. I woke up this morning unsure of how to feel about you, and now, I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life. It’s still too early to understand those feelings completely; there’s still so much I have to discover about you. But I can’t wait. I want to know everything about you. The thought of not having you in my life now is unimaginable. That’s after one day with you! So stop feeling like you have to be so careful. You’re already someone that I love. Just don’t change.” He pulled her hand so that she was against him again and placed his arms firmly around her waist, hugging her to him and leaning down to kiss her.
“I love you,” Regina said softly between kisses.
“I love you, too,” he said without hesitation.
She sighed happily, resting her head against his chest and nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw Archie only a few feet away, approaching from the direction they’d come.
He smiled. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I would’ve said something, but I didn’t want to interrupt.”
David and Regina looked sheepish, but Archie had the grace to ignore it and change the subject. “On your way to pick up Henry?” he asked.
“Yeah,” David said. “How about you?”
“Just heading to the office,” he said pleasantly. “Would you mind terribly if we walked together?”
“Not at all,” Regina told him. She and David pulled apart. With company, this time they made do with holding hands.
“How’s Henry been?” Archie asked. “I miss catching up with him.”
“He’s been great,” Regina told him. “I think he misses talking to you, too. You should come to dinner sometime.”
“I’d like that.” Archie looked at their joined hands and said, “You two look like you’re doing well.”
David lifted their joined hands to kiss the back of Regina’s and she smiled. “We are.”
Archie nodded. “You both deserve some happiness. You’ve been killing yourselves searching for a way to bring Emma and Mary Margaret back. Have you made any progress?”
“Actually,” Regina glanced up at David as she spoke, “we made a sort of breakthrough yesterday. In fact, we’re expecting Emma and Mary Margaret’s return tomorrow.”
Archie did a double-take. “What? How?”
“We were able to communicate with them and we know that they have everything they need to open a portal back to this world. Or at least, they’ll have what they need soon.”
“That’s great! I bet Henry’s thrilled!”
Regina nodded, smiling. “He’s quite happy, yes.”
They finally reached the front of the school and Archie waved. “I have to get to the office, but tell Henry hello for me, and make sure to call me about that dinner.”
“We will,” Regina promised, returning the wave.
David noticed her immediate lifting of spirits as they leaned against the railing outside the entrance to the school. She pressed back into his side, snuggling into him to warm up.
“So, you and Archie obviously know each other much better than I remember,” David said casually. “Inviting him over for dinner?”
Regina nodded. “He was one of the only people who didn’t hate me after the curse was broken. I’m still not sure why; I suppose it has something to do with the whole conscience thing. Whatever it was, he made sure that I knew his door was always open if I wanted to talk, and eventually, I took him up on the offer. He helped me work through a lot of issues after Daniel died, and I went to him a lot when I felt I was close to breaking down and using magic again.”
“Really?” David was surprised to hear that she’d willingly submitted herself to therapy. It didn’t seem like something that she’d agree to. Then again, she’d been surprising him left and right and he was finding he really didn’t know much about her at all.
“Mmmhmm.” Their conversation was interrupted by the bell ringing and students rushing out of the school, running and jumping excitedly now that the school day was over. Some of the other parents had started gathering and they’d give Regina and David the occasional dirty look. Regina seemed not to notice this time; her eyes were on the front door, waiting for Henry to appear.
Finally, the brown-haired boy came bouncing down the steps and grinned when he saw them. “Mom! David!”
Regina straightened just in time for Henry to run into her, nearly knocking her backwards with a hug.
“Whoa!” Regina laughed. “What’s this all about?”
“I’m just so excited!” Henry told her. “I was sitting in class today thinking about how Emma and Mary Margaret will be back tomorrow, and every time I looked at our substitute teacher, I thought about how Mary Margaret can be my teacher again soon! I mean, Mr. K is nice and all, but everyone really misses Ms. Blanchard.”
“Alright, kid,” David said, steering him toward the sidewalk. “Time for some ice cream.”
“Where’s the car?” Henry said, looking around.
“We walked,” David told him. “Thought we’d stretch our legs a bit.”
With Henry taking the lead, David reached his hand out to Regina once more and she took it, matching his stride.
“Are you still gonna tell me about some of your memories?” Henry asked, turning around. He caught sight of the two of them and added, “Wait. You remember now?”
David chuckled. “No, I still don’t remember, and yes, I’m still going to tell you about my other memories.” Henry was already bouncing around excitedly and David wondered how wise their decision to give him ice cream had been.
“But, you and mom are holding hands.” Henry narrowed his eyes and cocked his head sideways, still walking backwards. “And I saw you together when I came out of school.”
“That’s true,” David smiled. “And that’s because,” he grinned mischievously, “I find your mom simply irresistible.” He spun Regina around and dipped her, giving her the cliché romantic kiss.
She shrieked, caught off guard by the action, but then returned the kiss as he brought her back up, pulling away only after a good few seconds.
Henry laughed, but said, “Gross.” They all started walking again.
“Henry, turn around,” Regina told him. “You’re going to trip on something.”
“You’re just saying that because you want to kiss David again.”
“Maybe,” Regina smiled at him. “But I also really don’t want you tripping.
Henry huffed out an exaggerated sigh and spun back around. “Fine.”
Regina wasted no time in pressing her lips to David’s. It was a difficult task while walking, so they both paused momentarily, Regina pulling herself closer to David as their mouths moved against each other.
“Seriously?!” They both looked up and laughed to find Henry, arms crossed, watching them with frustration. “We’re supposed to be getting ice cream.”
“Alright, alright,” Regina said. “We’re sorry.”
“Uh-huh.” Henry smiled and shook his head with a raised eyebrow. “Sure you are. Now, come on! I’m hungry and I really feel like some mint chocolate chip!”
“Right behind you, kid,” David told him. “Promise.”
Henry finally turned around and David returned his arm innocently to Regina’s shoulder. He leaned down to whisper. “I won’t need any ice cream; that was my treat for the day.”
“I heard that!” Henry said in pretend annoyance, not even bothering to turn around this time.
Regina smiled up at David before leaning into his side. “I’m still getting a scoop of chocolate.”
Chapter 9: Something's Wrong
Regina stood against the tree, still breathing heavily after her efforts to remove the fatal barrier from between the worlds. She’d succeeded; a bittersweet victory. Her son was happy, but at the return of the people she blamed for her unhappiness. She’d risked her life, everything, because she’d seen the desperation in Henry’s eyes and could hear it in his voice. He’d begged her to trust him. She wanted to prove herself to him more than anything else in the world. That ultimately is what led her to put her life on the line without even a second thought.
But she was thinking about it now. It had become quickly and agonizingly obvious that it made no difference to Henry. The end result had, sure, but her actual sacrifice had meant very little. He’d completely forgotten her existence, bypassing her to get to Snow and Emma; Emma who Henry had just called mom. For one brief second, Regina had wondered if he was actually calling out for her, but had quickly realized upon turning around that the title now belonged to someone else.
Emma’s sincere gratitude in bringing them back caught her a little off guard. A small amount of hope and warmth returned to her when Henry gave her a bright smile, but it was dulled by the fact that he was cuddled into Emma’s side.
In something of a daze, Regina trailed behind as they made their way to Gold’s shop. When they’d reached the inside, there was a thick tension in the air as Snow sat next to her cursed husband on the bed. Regina moved silently, unnoticed, to the back of the room, averting her gaze. The happy family reunion had turned her stomach and she wasn’t sure she could stand watching true loves kiss. Especially not of her one sworn enemy; the reason she’d never have her own.
Several moments passed and Regina thought it was odd. Surely Snow would have wasted no time in kissing her husband awake, and yet there was no rush of magic in the air, no exclamations of joy and relief. There was only a tense silence. Regina finally brought her eyes up to see Snow kissing James desperately.
“No! No, no, no!” Snow had tears spilling down her cheeks as she waited again, and again nothing happened. “Why isn’t it working? Why isn’t he waking up?” She looked around at everyone, searching their faces for answers until her eyes fell on Regina standing awkwardly at the back of the room behind the crowd. “What did you do?” she asked venomously, rising to her feet.
Everyone turned, most of them only realizing Regina’s presence for the first time. Their looks of surprise, however, were quickly transformed to looks of anger and distrust.
Regina wasn’t ready for the sudden attention, and she certainly didn’t know how to respond. She was as confused as everyone else as to why the kiss hadn’t worked on James’; more so, if possible. She really had followed the recipe to the letter, and there should be no reason why it wasn’t working. She’d warned David going in that this was dangerous, but he’d been so sure that it would work. Hell, she’d been sure, too, but she was the one stuck here to take the blame for the whole situation. ‘Dammit, David!’ she cursed silently. She could handle the treacherous looks on everyone’s faces along with their harsh accusations; it would be unpleasant, but it wasn’t anything she wasn’t used to. What she couldn’t handle was the look of pure betrayal on Henry’s face as he stepped toward her. “You lied to me. You promised you didn’t do anything to that potion.” He wiped violently at tears that had started to fall.
Feeling suddenly intrusive on what had become a sad family reunion, the dwarfs began to file out, Ruby following slowly behind them until she caught Snow’s eye and saw her shake her head slightly; a silent plea for her to remain behind. She stopped in her tracks and turned to face the scene again.
“You said that he would wake up when Snow kissed him!” Henry tearfully accused.
Regina’s eyes filled with sadness and she bent carefully in front of Henry. “And he was supposed to. Henry, I didn’t do anything to that potion. We knew it would be dangerous—”
“I thought you’d changed.” The sudden hollowness to his voice was heartbreaking and it was plain for everyone to see how deeply this was affecting him. “I really wanted you to be better. I thought when you saved Emma and Snow that you were, but you were just pretending.” The next question was only one word, but it was like an arrow to Regina’s heart. “Why?” That simple word told her that he didn’t believe her; he didn’t even have hope that he could believe her anymore. The light in his eyes, that little spark that told her she still had a chance to prove herself to him, was gone.
She sank to her knees so that she was looking up at him slightly, tears now falling freely down her face. She was desperate for him to understand and believe that what she said was the truth, but she could think of nothing to say. She’d lied to him too many times and was afraid that, now, she’d lost her chance. “Henry,” she whispered, reaching out to touch his arm, but he jerked away from her.
“Don’t touch me!” he yelled and then ran.
As Regina sank the rest of the way to the floor wordlessly, Snow went to chase after Henry. She was stopped by a hand on her arm.
Looking up, Snow was surprised to see Emma holding her back and shaking her head. Her daughter looked at Red. “Ruby, could you go and keep Henry company for a little while?”
Red tore her eyes from the strange sight of the heartless queen collapsed on the floor and looked between her two friends. Emma was looking at her pleadingly while Snow watched Emma with confusion. Finally, she nodded. “Sure.”
She left awkwardly, not sure what she was going to say to him, but understanding that the three women needed a moment alone.
“Emma?” Snow asked once Red had disappeared.
“She’s telling the truth,” Emma said simply, waving a hand in Regina’s direction.
Regina looked up at them through glassy eyes and disheveled hair. She ran a hand through it quickly, smoothing it out and futilely trying to rid her face of the evidence that she’d been crying. She pulled herself to her feet and stood proudly. If there was one thing she wouldn’t do, it was continue to appear weak in front of Snow White.
“It’s true?” Snow asked weakly. “You really didn’t do anything to the sleeping curse?”
Regina cleared her throat roughly and said, “It’s true.”
“I don’t understand.” Snow collapsed onto the bed and looked down, shaking her head. “You put him under the curse so that he could see me again and didn’t do anything to hurt him; you saved us when we came through.” She looked up to meet Regina’s eyes. “Why the sudden change of heart?”
“I did it for Henry,” Regina told her without breaking eye contact.
The two stared at each other silently. Snow’s stare was analytical, searching for hints of a woman that had been missing for decades while Regina’s was sharp and devoid of any expression that could give away what she was thinking.
It was an intense exchange and it was making Emma extremely nervous. “Sooo,” she broke in. “What about David? If you didn’t do anything to the sleeping curse and he’s not waking up, what do we do?”
That snapped Snow out of her daze. “Yes. There must be something we can try.”
“True love’s kiss is the only thing that can break the sleeping curse,” Regina said. She shook her head, a solemn expression on her face. “That is how it has always been. I suppose we could ask Gold if he knows of anything else that might work, but I don’t know that he’ll have much more to give you.”
Snow nodded and stood. “Then we’ll ask him.”
David swayed slightly on his feet and gripped the counter behind him for support while closing his eyes. They’d made it home from ice cream a few minutes ago and were standing in the kitchen with glasses of water.
“David?” Regina asked worriedly. “David, what’s wrong?” She moved to stand next to him and placed a hand on his arm.
“I’m not sure,” he told her. “I just got really dizzy. I feel kind of funny.”
She placed a hand to his forehead and felt that it was much warmer than it should be. “David, you’re burning up. You should lie down.”
“No, it’s more than that. I…I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t feel sick, but it doesn’t feel good. It’s strange.”
“Do you think it might have something to do with the change in your memories?”
“I’m not sure.” David renewed his grip on the counter and grimaced when a new wave of…whatever it was…washed over him.
“That’s it,” Regina said, lifting one of his arms and placing it around her shoulder. “Come on, you’re need to lie down.” She felt David stand upright and place a bit of his weight on her as she guided him toward the living room. “Henry,” she called back. “Could you please call Mr. Gold and tell him that we need his assistance. Tell him it’s an emergency.”
Henry, looking quite scared, grabbed the phone and searched through the numbers, fumbling with the buttons in his anxious state. Finally he found the right one and hit the call button. He watched his mom disappear through the door with David as he listened to the phone ring.
“Regina,” Gold drawled. “What can I do for you today?”
“It’s Henry,” Henry told him quickly. “And we need you to come over. There’s something wrong with David. He and mom think it might have something to do with his memories.”
“Tell them I’m on my way.”
Regina was smoothing back David’s hair, trying her best to comfort him as he grew more and more uncomfortable. She was alarmed when she moved a hand to his neck and felt his pulse racing against her fingers.
David suddenly moaned and twisted, grimacing again. Visible beads of sweat broke out on his skin and Regina started to panic.
Henry raced into the room. “Gold’s on his way.” He caught sight of David and paled. “Mom, is he going to be okay?”
Regina barely managed to nod her head and find her voice. “He’ll be fine, but you should go upstairs and work on your homework.”
Henry hesitated for a moment, but then finally nodded and left them sitting there.
Regina turned back to David when she heard another pained moan. “You’re going to be okay, David,” she told him, running her hand through his hair continuously. “You’ll be okay.” She bent down and lightly kissed his forehead, closing her eyes for a second before pulling back. “We’re going to figure this out, because I love you, and I need you with me.”
“I love you, too,” he told her, reaching for her free hand. He could feel it shaking slightly in his so he brought it to his lips and kissed her knuckles softly. “I’ll be fine. I’m already starting to feel a little better.”
“You are?” she asked, not quite believing him.
“I actually am.” And then, she could see it. As quickly as the sudden rush of illness had come on, its signs were fading. There were no beads of sweat on his forehead, and he was no longer grimacing in pain. She felt for his pulse again and was relieved to feel it slowing to its normal rate. “What happened?” David asked her, watching her fuss over him.
“I don’t know,” she said shakily. “But Mr. Gold will be here soon, and I intend to find out.”
Chapter 10: Walking the Wire
Henry had his face pressed up against the window in the entryway, keeping an eye out for Mr. Gold. David had been feeling better by the minute, but Henry was still anxious. After what felt like hours, but in reality was probably only a few minutes, Gold appeared at the front of the walk up to the house. Henry swung the door open before Gold even had a chance to knock, waving him in hurriedly. "He's on the couch with mom," Henry told him as he walked past.
Gold gave him a reassuring smile. "He'll be alright," he told him. The memory loss, the sudden illness...Gold thought he might have an idea as to what was going on, but he needed to ask David a few questions before he could be sure. What Gold didn't expect to see when he entered the living room was David sitting upright; back resting against the couch with Regina nestled into his side. She had her arms around his waist with her head resting on his shoulder and he had his arms around her, his head on top of hers. They both had their eyes closed and Gold was almost sorry to interrupt the peaceful moment. His surprise at their position, however, won out. "Well, well. Would you look at that? You've got your memories back after all."
Regina and David's eyes both snapped open as they removed their arms from each other and sat up a bit. "That was quick," Regina said. There was an odd mixture of irritation and relief in her voice.
"Henry let me in," Gold told her, knowing the reason she was upset; she didn't like to appear vulnerable to anyone, especially not him, and walking in unannounced had exposed her.
Regina gave him a sharp nod. "We're hoping you'll be able to help."
At that, Gold frowned. "I thought I'd already figured the problem, but if David is starting to remember-"
"He's not," Regina cut in. "In fact, he still has memories of the past few months, they're just different memories."
"I'm sorry," Gold said, sounding slightly annoyed. "I’d assumed..." he gestured between the two of them. Though they'd removed their arms from each other, they were still sitting quite close to each, shoulders and legs touching. The last time he'd seen the two of them together, it had been an encounter full of hateful words and tears. This was not something he'd been anticipating at all. It intrigued him. David still had the same memories as he had that first day, but he was right back with Regina as if nothing had ever happened. Indeed, if not seen with one’s own eyes, one would never be able to tell.
"Well, you assumed wrong," David said rather harshly. He didn't like the way Gold was studying them. As if in defiance to any thoughts Gold might be having, he reached for Regina's hand, lacing his fingers through hers and placing them so they rested against their legs. "So, do you think you can help or not?"
Gold watched as David stroked the side of Regina's hand with his thumb affectionately. While the handholding had been an obviously intentional move, this was subconscious and Gold's idea suddenly seemed even more plausible. "I believe I can," he said finally. "Though I'm not sure you're going to like it." The two of them frowned at him. "I have a series of questions I'd like to ask you, if that's alright?"
David nodded gruffly and motioned for Gold to take a seat across from them.
Gold nodded his thanks before lowering himself onto the couch. He glanced over to the doorway and said, "Some of these questions might be ones you wouldn't want to answer in front of the boy."
Regina leaned forward and noticed Henry for the first time, peeking around the door frame, watching the scene nervously. He jumped slightly when she met his eyes and stepped into the doorway fully, knowing there was no point in hiding now that he’d been caught.
“Come here, Henry,” Regina said softly, beckoning him over with her free hand. He came immediately and stood in front of her quietly, gaze directed at his feet. “Hey,” she said again softly. David let her hand go and she reached up to lift Henry’s chin. “He’ll be okay. Don’t worry, when it comes to things like this, I’m an expert. Evil Queen, remember?”
Henry gave her a soft smile and nodded.
“Alright, then. Why don’t you go upstairs and work on your homework for a while? That way we’ll have time for a board game after dinner, what do you say?”
“Okay.” He reached down and gave her a hug, then moved over and did the same to David.
“Don’t worry, buddy, I’ll be fine,” David said, rubbing his back.
Henry reluctantly pulled away. He took a minute to look at Mr. Gold who gave him a small smile and nodded his head. Finally, Henry disappeared and his footsteps could be heard on the stairs.
“Right, then,” Gold said. “Should we get started?”
David nodded. “I’m ready.”
Gold leaned forward in his chair slightly. “So, you said you possessed memories of everything that’s happened over the last few months, but those memories differ from, say, Regina’s?”
“And what about them is different exactly? Is there something specific?”
David looked at Regina who gave him the tiniest of nods, letting him know she didn’t mind him saying. “Yes. Everything in them is the same except for my relationship with Regina.”
“Ahhh.” Gold studied him for a moment. “So, in this…reality, I suppose you could call it…you have a romantic relationship with Regina, whereas, in the other, you don’t.”
“I recall you saying that the plan before you went under the sleeping curse was to have Snow wake you with true love’s kiss.”
“Yes.” David felt like a broken record, but he also didn’t feel much like telling Gold more than he needed to.
“And what is it that you remember happening after you talked to Snow?”
“She tried to kiss me, but went right through me instead. She started to wake up, and right before she faded away entirely, we promised we’d find a way back to each other,” he summed up. “After that, I was alone in the flames and then…well, I’m not sure exactly. I woke up with Regina leaning over me.”
“Hmmm.” Gold blinked slowly, nodding his head as if agreeing with something. “Before you woke up in this world, what would one of the worst regrets you could imagine be?”
“Uhh,” David wasn’t sure exactly how to answer the question. He could think of several unpleasant things, but he didn’t see what any of them had to do with the current situation.
“Would it perhaps have been cheating on Snow?” Gold asked with a raised eyebrow.
David narrowed his eyes in thought. “That was something I was thinking about a lot, yes. Before the curse ended, I’d cheated on Snow and it was still bothering me. It was because of who I was under the curse; because I didn’t remember who I was. I still felt guilty, though. I would never do that to her.”
“And yet…” Gold motioned between him and Regina. The couple shifted uncomfortably, but didn’t say anything. “Would you say that the idea of being with Regina was on your mind as well?”
“Well…” James glanced nervously at Regina before nodding. “Yes.” He looked back at Gold. “At least, in a way. It was after I…learned…about Daniel.” He didn’t want to say anything more in case Gold didn’t know about that terrible day. He looked back at Regina with sympathy, wishing he didn’t need to bring it up. “I was wondering who…I was thinking about what it would be like…” He was searching for the least hurtful way to phrase it, but Regina finished it for him anyway.
“You were wondering what kind of person would fall in love with me; what it would be like to be in love with such a horrible person,” she said sadly.
“Regina…” He held her hand more tightly, looking deeply into her eyes.
“It’s alright, David. I understand.” She turned an intense gaze on Gold. “I assume you have some purpose in asking these questions?”
“I do. In fact, I only have one question left, though I do believe I already know what’s happening.”
“What is it?” David asked, impatient to have all of this out of the way.
“Are you in love with Regina?”
David looked at Regina and couldn’t help the warm smile that accompanied the feelings he had when he did. She smiled back, and for a second, he forgot about everything but her. It made him feel so completely at peace and full of joy. The exchange only lasted a few short moments before he pushed it all down and turned back to Gold with a neutral expression. “I am.”
“That would explain it,” Gold said. “I’m curious, though. It’s been less than forty-eight hours. How did you manage to fall in love with her so quickly?”
David still wondered the same thing himself, though he didn’t question it at all. “I’ve answered your questions. What do you think is happening to me?”
“It’s not so much what is happening to you as what isn’t happening to you.”
David let out an irritated breath, but Regina was the one to speak. “We’re not in the mood for your games, so just tell us; what’s causing this?”
He stared coldly at Regina. “Fine,” he drawled at her. Then, turning to look at David, he finally said, “You never woke up.”
There was absolute silence for just part of a second before Regina and Daniel simultaneously asked, “What?”
“You heard me,” Gold told them both. “I believe you’re still under the sleeping curse.”
“How…how would that be possible?” David asked skeptically. “I woke up. Regina woke me up. I’ve been awake for almost two days, walking, talking, trying to get Emma and Snow back from our world. This isn’t the red room. I would know if I were still sleeping.”
“Not necessarily,” Gold said. “The red room is not the only part of the sleeping curse. You said yourself; you were thinking about how terrible it would be to cheat on Snow and to be in a relationship with Regina, yet you’ve done exactly that. It’s the double insult to Snow – being with her one true enemy. If I’m not mistaken, that could end up being a rather large regret.”
David stared at him, opening and closing his mouth, not sure what to say. He looked to Regina to find some reassurance. Maybe she could tell him how ridiculous this all was. But she didn’t. She was staring at him in shock; not looking ready to accept the idea, but definitely not denying it either.
“No,” David said simply. “Snow’s told me about what it’s like being under the sleeping curse. Dreams formed of her own regrets; that’s what she said you told her would happen,” he said to Regina. “She said it was horrible, but this isn’t. This is nothing like that. I’m happy here.”
“Maybe now,” Gold interrupted, “But what about tomorrow? When your daughter and wife come through the portal, how do you think they’ll react when they find out that you’re in love with Regina?”
David shook his head violently. “No. No, this doesn’t explain it. We called you here because I wasn’t feeling well, I—”
“What, you…felt dizzy? Felt like something in you had turned inside out? Maybe a slight pulling sensation?” Gold listed the symptoms that David hadn’t been able to describe one after the other. “Perhaps you even had a moment where you felt like you were no longer here, but you weren’t anywhere else, either?” He smirked when David’s face paled.
“How did you know?”
“Unlike Regina here, I have quite a lot of experience with the sleeping curse, though I’ve not heard these particular feelings described more than a very select number of times. Understandable under the circumstances.”
“And what circumstances would those be?” David asked tightly.
“True love’s kiss, of course,” Gold said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “It sounds like your dear Snow beat you home. What you’ve described to me…she gave you a kiss, but nothing happened. At least, nothing happened on her end. It very much had an effect on you, just not the one she was looking for.”
“What are you talking about?” David asked, growing more and more impatient by the second.
“It’s simple,” Gold told him. “The kiss didn’t work because Snow is no longer your true love. Regina is.”
Chapter 11: The Way Home
“What?” David nearly whispered the word. There were so many different thoughts swirling in his head and he was having a difficult time sorting them all out. How was it possible for Regina to have become his true love in so short a time? He loved her, there was no doubt about that, but wasn’t true love something that took time? How could he have gone from hating her to her being his true love in two days? He felt shocked, happy, guilty and anxious all at the same time. Weighing even more heavily on his mind was how to get back. If what Gold said was true – and it seemed that it just might be – then he was stuck here until he was woken with true love’s kiss. Meaning that Regina would have to kiss him; the Regina who hated him, who worked against him at every opportunity except when it was beneficial to both of them. They may have been working more together recently, but it was a reluctant partnership and one that seemed borne of necessity. Henry was the only uniting factor.
“I’m never going to wake up,” David said quietly, the terrible realization suddenly hitting home.
“Of course you will,” Regina said, her voice strangled by emotion. She cleared her throat and sat up straighter, drawing more strength from inside. “You will,” she said more firmly and looked at Gold. “What can we do?”
“Dearie, I don’t think you understand,” Gold said mockingly. “David here seems to have reached the conclusion; I’m surprised that he beat you to it. Then again, the way you feel, perhaps it’s not as surprising that you wouldn’t think of it.”
Regina inhaled sharply. “We hate each other where you came from,” she said to David. It hit her hard and she dropped his hand.
“Now you’re starting to understand,” Gold said. “And you can hardly expect true love’s kiss to occur when his true love is his enemy.”
David felt hollow. To find out that the last two days was nothing but a dream made up in his own mind made him feel sick. He hadn’t even noticed that none of it was real. It wasn’t that it had been unpleasant – the opposite of that – it was that none of it made any difference. If he didn’t find his way back, this world didn’t seem so terrible, but knowing that none of it was real would torment him endlessly. If he did find his way back, he would have lost so much. He’d have to explain to Snow why it was Regina’s kiss that woke him and not her own. He’d have to explain to Regina. Regina. That thought hurt as well. He loved her so entirely now and what if she wasn’t real either? Of course Regina was real, but what if this Regina didn’t exist? The gentle, loving Regina that laughed with him and showed a vulnerable side that he’d never seen before. It occurred to him that going back, he might lose a second true love and that was the most painful thought of all.
“There’s nothing we can do?” Regina asked, bringing David out of his thoughts.
“Well…” Gold considered this thoughtfully. “I suppose there is something…”
“What is it?!” Regina snapped irritably.
“What?” David fully refocused on the conversation, feeling he’d missed something.
“Well, you’re still under the sleeping curse, aren’t you? And those who’ve been put under the sleeping curse once before can find their way back. I imagine your lovely wife will be finding some way to check in on you; to see you again and try to find a way to wake you.”
“You mean the red room?” David asked, and Gold nodded. “But…if I’m still under the sleeping curse, how am I supposed to find her?
“Well, you don’t need to be in the red room for that, dearie. You just need to let her find you.”
“That doesn’t sound difficult,” David said.
“Well, no, that part isn’t,” Gold hissed. “It’s telling her what you need to tell her to wake up that’s going to be the difficult part.”
David’s heart sank.
“And then there’s the question of whether or not she’ll relay that information to the…proper parties,” he said with a sneer as he looked at Regina.
“She will,” David said confidently. “As much as it will hurt her,” David said sadly, “she’ll do the right thing.”
“Oh, it’s not just going to hurt her,” Gold told him. “It’s going to break her little heart, and I think we all know what a broken heart can lead to,” he said, his gaze once again falling on Regina.
David stood suddenly. “Thank you for your help, Gold. We’re done here.” His voice left no room for argument.
“Very well.” Gold stood up and nodded at both of them before turning to leave. “I do hope you find you find your way out,” he added at the doorway.
They waited until they heard the door open and close again, and then still a few moments after that just to make sure he was truly gone.
“It’s true, isn’t it?” David finally asked, breaking the silence. “I’m still under the sleeping curse.”
Regina stood as well and leaned into him, letting out a sigh as he brought his arms up to wrap around her. “It makes sense,” she said quietly. “But I don’t want it to,” she whispered and turned her head into his chest.
“I don’t either,” he told her. He laid a gentle kiss to the top of her head. “I wish it wasn’t true.”
“I wonder what’s going to happen when you wake up. Will Henry and I still exist here alone?”
“No,” David said firmly. Of course, he didn’t know what would happen, and Regina knew this as well, but she found comfort in him saying it anyway. “I take you with me,” David continued. “I’m going to find a way for us all to be together, Regina, no matter what. I’m certainly not going to let a silly little sleeping curse get in my way.”
She let out a weak chuckle. “Your determination is not nearly as irritating when it’s directed at keeping us together.” Sobering again, she said, “But I won’t love you.”
“Maybe not at first,” David said, “But if you’ll recall, yesterday morning, I didn’t love you either and now look. You’ll come around.”
“I hope so,” Regina breathed. “I don’t think I could keep going without you in my life.”
“Well lucky for you,” David said, “I can be very persuasive.” He tilted her head up and brought his lips to hers.
Regina hummed, enjoying the kiss before she pulled back to speak. “David…” she looked down, frowning slightly and when she looked back up, he could see that she was holding back tears, “If you wake up from this, when you wake up from this…whatever happens, whoever you choose, just—”
He silenced her with another kiss. “Regina,” he said when he came up for air, “your kiss is the only one that will wake me. You’re my true love, and for a reason. I choose you.”
She gave him a small smile, but it was still troubled. “David, I’m just trying to say that if anything changes,” she held up a hand when he started to interrupt, “for whatever reason. If you do end up with Snow, just…be gentle with me okay? Not that I’ll know that I loved you, it’s just, before I fell in love with you, I was lonely. No friends, no family except a son that hated me. I could barely stand it, and I—”
“I understand,” David said gently, not wanting her to have to continue. “I won’t let you be alone.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
He pulled her closer into him and rubbed her back. “Now,” he said, “how about we forget about all of this for a while?”
She nodded and pulled back, a glint in her eye. “I can think of a way to distract ourselves.”
“Oh, really?” he asked raising an eyebrow.
She nodded and the kiss that followed got his heart racing.
“But Henry’s upstairs,” he managed to say when he could gather his thoughts again.
“Henry!” Regina called loudly. She smiled deviously at David when he looked at her in confusion. “You can’t expect us to play a board game together if he’s upstairs, can you?”
“A board game?”
“Yes, I said I knew of something that could distract us. Why? What did you think I meant?” She smirked at him.
“Ohoho,” he chuckled. “You are pure evil.”
“So they tell me,” she said and laughed when he shook his head.
“You owe me,” he said shaking a finger at her.
“Well, dear,” she said as they heard Henry’s approaching footsteps, “How did you think we were going to distract ourselves tonight?”
She finished the sentence just before Henry turned the corner into the room, leaving David standing there, thoughts freshly jumbled.
Chapter 12: Past, Present, Future
Regina hadn’t been asleep for more than an hour. It had been difficult for her to quiet her thoughts enough to sleep. The day’s events; putting David under a sleeping curse, bringing Emma and Snow home, trying to understand why Snow’s kiss hadn’t woken David – had taken their toll on her. It shouldn’t bother her as much as it did, but damn it! She was trying to redeem herself and with that came these foreign feelings of concern. She felt responsible for David in a way – utterly ridiculous, because his current condition was absolutely not her fault.
It had taken her an hour to escape the back room of Mr. Gold's shop. Snow had begged her to come up with a solution, but she had no idea what to tell her. Stepping out of the shop, she'd come face to face with an angry crowd of dwarfs. They all blamed her for David's current state and they wanted to make sure she knew it. No matter that Henry was standing witness to all of this. Though she supposed it didn't matter; after what had happened, it seemed unlikely that short of setting the town on fire, there wasn't much Regina could do to lessen Henry's opinion of her.
That’s how Regina had found herself with nothing to do but go home and sleep and was now being startled awake by someone pounding on her front door. She sat up in bed, gasping for breath and trying to regain her senses. As her head cleared slightly, she glanced at the clock to see that it was 1:14. Far too early for any visit that could be considered remotely good. She climbed out of bed and pulled aside the curtain of her bedroom window, trying to get a glance at who might be at her front door at this time of night. She was shocked to see Snow White. It wasn't really the woman's presence that surprised her; it was the fact that she was alone.
Regina let out a heavy sigh. As the pounding continued, it became clear that Snow had no intention of stopping, not until Regina answered the door. Annoyed by the incessant noise, she made her way quickly down the stairs, running a hand through her hair in an attempt to smooth the chaos that had been caused by sleep. She flung the door open to catch a surprised, but determined Snow with her hand up mid-knock.
"What on earth are you doing?" Regina demanded. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
Snow's surprise that Regina had simply opened the door to her faded quickly as the determination completely took its place. "You weren't answering your phone."
Regina shook her head, closing her eyes. "Of course I wasn't answering my phone. It's one o'clock in the morning."
"I was thinking," Snow said, stepping past Regina into the entryway, not even noticing the open-mouthed gape she received for the action. "When Emma and I were in our world, Mulan had a sleeping powder that allowed me to sleep deeply enough to reach...that place." Snow shivered at the thought of the horrible room with flames. Regina was still standing next to the wide open door in disbelief. With somewhat of a huff, she slammed the door shut, realizing that Snow was not going to notice the inappropriateness of what she'd just done.
Indeed, Snow blazed forward. "I couldn't go back when I woke up because there was no sleeping powder. But I'm here now! I was thinking, maybe we could have Dr. Whale put me under some kind of medically-induced coma or something; anything that could get me back there. I can find James again and maybe he can help us figure out what's wrong! There has to be something!"
Regina said nothing, simply staring at her.
"Regina?" Snow asked, finally noticing Regina standing there tiredly in her pajamas, hair a mess, looking at her in complete bafflement.
"I'm trying to understand why you came to me," Regina said finally, shaking her head again. "This sounds like something you'd want to discuss with Dr. Whale."
Snow blinked. "I...I suppose."
"So why come to me?"
"Because..." Snow suddenly floundered for an answer. "You...you were the one to put him under the sleeping curse."
"Yes, but I've already told you - I did everything expected of the sleeping curse. Whatever happened to change the outcome had nothing to do with me. I have no idea what caused it and I can't help you."
"But what if James knows what's wrong and I can't fix it? What if it has something to do with magic?"
Regina pushed her lips together in a thin line. "So you don't want me using magic except when it benefits you." It was unmistakably a statement, not a question. "I don't think you understand the effects of using magic on a person. Either you want me to use it, or you don't. You can't have it both ways. I can't keep doing this - not without consequences."
Snow turned her head downwards and to the side, considering what had been said. She hadn't actually thought about what magic did to a person. She'd only ever thought of it as something a person did - not something that could do something back. She took a few long breaths, hoping to calm herself, but the fear of losing Charming had a furious grip on her heart, and no matter what Regina said, she couldn't allow that fear to become a reality. Finally looking up, she cursed herself when the next word came out a choked whisper. "Please?" It was desperation, pure and simple, and the fact that she was here in the house of her enemy, trying to use it to gain her help made her feel physically ill.
The intense gaze Snow held her with made Regina intensely uncomfortable, but she couldn't bring herself to break the contact. She stared into her eyes and saw the pain there that threatened her sanity. She saw that she was barely hanging on. And so, as much as they had behind them in the past, Regina found herself nodding. "Alright."
Snow let out a shaky breath of relief. "Thank you," she whispered. She stepped forward and for a panic-stricken moment, Regina thought she was going to hug her. Instead, Snow looked back into her eyes, trying to relay what she was feeling. "Regina - thank you."
Regina swiftly nodded her head, wanting nothing more than for this uncomfortable moment to be over. "I'll talk to you tomorrow." It took a great effort not to add, 'now get the hell out'. Fortunately, Snow seemed to take the hint anyway and nodded before hurrying to the door. She didn't look back as she pulled it open and closed again behind her.
Regina stood silently in her entryway for a moment, not sure how to process what had just happened. "What am I doing?" she asked herself in irritation. She abruptly shook her head at herself and started back up the stairs. The middle of the night was certainly not the best time to begin pondering these kinds of questions. That was what mornings were for.
David thought for sure that Regina was asleep. He couldn't tell from his position. With her head on his chest, he could only see the top of her head. She'd been silent for so long, he'd simply assumed that she'd drifted off. He stopped the continuous circles he was gently tracing on her back and closed his eyes, ready to get some sleep himself.
It was then that Regina spoke. "I wish that I could remember all of this."
David jumped slightly and Regina turned her head up to look at him. "Sorry," she apologized. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"I just thought that you'd fallen asleep," he told her.
She shook her head gently against his chest before laying it back down. "I couldn't if I wanted to."
David was silent for a minute. "I've been wondering..." he started. “You know something about magic."
When she lifted her head again to raise her eyebrow at him, he chuckled lightly. "Yeah, okay, you know a lot about magic."
She laid her head down again, satisfied with the amendment of his statement.
"It's just...if this is all a dream caused by the sleeping curse, then..." he trailed off and sighed. “This sounds ridiculous to say aloud if it's true."
Regina finally pulled herself to a sitting position and scooted back to lean against the headboard. She looked down at him. "What is it, David?"
He pulled himself up onto his elbows and looked at the wall in front of him. "Is this all really just in my head? Talking to you right now - is it just like talking to myself? Is any part of this real at all, or is it all completely fabricated - some elaborate dream that I've concocted for myself."
Regina gave him a small smile. "You're not talking to yourself. Well, not really. You're not talking to me, either, obviously, but you're not talking to yourself." She sighed. "This is hard to explain, partly because I don't fully understand it myself." She played with her fingers in her lap trying to think of the best way to put it. "The way I understand it, with the sleeping curse, your mind initiates the reality you put yourself into, but after that, the curse takes over. You're no longer in control; at least, not fully."
David sat up and leaned back so that he was next to her. "Okay, but what about the rest of it?"
"What do you mean?" Regina asked.
"I mean, you." He shook his head at her confused look. "I'm not doing very well at explaining this, am I? The way you are...your memories; are they yours, or are they something that my mind - or the curse - created." At Regina's offended expression, he quickly said, "I didn't mean-"
"It's alright," she said.
"No, it sounded terrible. I'm just trying-"
She placed a hand on his arm and rubbed it gently. "I understand David. I know what you were trying to say. There's no way to guarantee that it's true, but they are actually my memories. Or, they should be. The curse extrapolates information from everyone and everything around it. It takes what it needs to create a believable and realistic reality."
"So when I get back, you'll be the exact same person, but without the memories of our relationship?"
"Yes," she said sadly. She leaned heavily against him, sliding down slightly to tuck herself into his side.
"I know one way to find out if that’s true, and it just might go a little way toward getting you to trust me when I get back."
"Oh?" she asked with interest.
"Tell me about yourself. Things I wouldn't know unless you told me."
Regina smiled, wrapping her arms around him and settling comfortably into his arms. "Hmmm - the life and times of Regina Mills: Evil Queen of the Enchanted Forest. You think knowing my innermost secrets will get me to trust you?" she asked skeptically.
He rubbed her back, knowing that even though her tone was joking, she was mostly serious. "You're not the Evil Queen anymore. And they don't have to be your innermost secrets. In fact, why don't you tell me something from before you became Queen? Just a happy memory."
Regina hummed in thought. "Well, when I was young, my mother had me in ‘lady lessons’, as she called them. I'd get so fed up with sitting up straight, using my silverware correctly, remembering the 'proper' and 'lady-like' things to say to people at dinner parties; I'd run off in the afternoons to my secret spot."
"A secret spot?" David asked with interest.
"Mmmhmm. Really, it was just a spot in the woods that I'd picked out and staked claim on. It was somewhere I felt I could hide from my mother - she never ventured into the forest unless she was on business. Anyway, there was one tree that had a hollowed out spot, sort of hidden from view. I'd keep a few special trinkets there, just little things I wanted to keep away from my mother. Also, pants and a shirt I stole from the laundry line one day. I think they belonged to one of the help's sons."
David raised an eyebrow at this. "And why, might I ask, were you stealing clothing from young boys?"
She playfully pushed him with one of her hands and he chuckled. "I didn't take them to steal something, I took them because I needed something to climb in."
"Well now I'm even more curious," David said, smiling.
"It was all of those ridiculous lessons. I'd get to a point where I couldn't take them anymore, so I'd escape to my hide-out, change into the pants and climb the trees. I could get as dirt-covered and unladylike as I wanted."
David laughed. "I can't picture you climbing trees."
"Yes, well, it's not something I make a habit of doing these days. I could climb them, wash up in the nearby lake and then go back home in my dress with no one the wiser.”
“And this is how you spent your days? Climbing trees? I would never have guessed,” he teased her.
“I was quite the tomboy growing up. Not that that was anything my mother ever knew. I just didn’t like being limited by gender; riding horses, climbing trees, wearing something other than a dress.” She smiled and tapped her fingers against his chest. “What else can I tell you? I love horses – everyone knows that – but I spent almost all of my teen years in the barn. Whenever I didn’t have my lessons and mother wasn’t breathing down my neck, I’d be out there with either my father or…or Daniel,” she said sadly, but then she smiled again. “Those were happy times.”
He watched her face. “You haven’t had it easy since then, have you?”
She laughed, and the threads of darkness were once again present. “Oh, David, I never really had it easy. But I’d have to say the last few months – that’s been the closest thing to easy I’ve ever had. You’ve made me happier than I’ve felt in a very long time and at a time in my life when I was no longer under anyone’s thumb. My whole life, I was always controlled by someone; my mother, the king, Rumpelstiltskin…”
“That’s why you went through with the curse?” David asked. “To regain some of that control?”
She nodded silently.
“Let’s try to get some sleep,” David said after a while, pulling them both back down.
Once they were settled, Regina said. “I’ve finally found my happiness, and now it’s not real.”
“It will be,” David said firmly. “And that’s a promise.”
“It’d better be,” Regina said sleepily.
Chapter 13: The Other Side
Most of the morning went by in silence. Regina was quiet at breakfast, glancing at David between sips of coffee – neither she nor David felt much like eating. This had not gone unnoticed by Henry. He’d asked several questions about what was going on and if everything was okay. They’d assured him that it was fine; everything had been resolved. Neither of them saw any point in letting Henry in on the knowledge that his world was a fiction created by David’s mind and the sleeping curse. They’d dropped him off at school once more, again promising to come get him when there were any signs of Emma and Mary Margaret returning.
Regina set her car keys down in the tray by the door and kicked off her high heels. “I’m getting something to drink,” she said. “Want anything?”
David shook his head. He had a lot on his mind and as much as he wanted to continue shoving those thoughts down and ignoring them, he couldn’t escape them forever. They needed to be dealt with. “Actually,” he said, “I think I’m going to go take a shower.”
Regina nodded, ignoring the fact that he’d already had one this morning. She knew he was dealing with a lot. More than she was and she seemed to barely be coping. She turned to head toward the kitchen but was stopped by David’s voice.
She turned just in time for him to place his hands on both sides of her face and kiss her lovingly.
“I love you,” he said when he pulled back.
“I love you, too.”
And then he was disappearing up the stairs.
Regina could hear the shower running as she took a sip of her cider. It was a comforting sound – something familiar and normal. She tried to pretend that today was just another normal day and that David was upstairs getting ready for work. She tried to pretend that she hadn’t recently found out her whole existence was a fake.
She lifted the glass, ready to down the rest of its contents when the doorbell rang. She set the glass down carefully, moving slowly toward the entryway. Who could be coming here this time of day? Everyone had kept their distance since the breaking of the curse and, more recently, because the relationship that had developed between her and David made everyone uncomfortable. It could be Rumpelstiltskin, coming to tell them that it was time – a portal was opening – but surely he would have just called. There was no reason for him to tell her in person; they’d agreed to meet at the location of the portal when it was time; a precaution, as they still couldn’t guarantee that it would be Emma and May Margaret coming through.
Finally reaching the door, she pulled it open cautiously, staying mostly behind it and using the door as a shield.
“Mary Margaret?” she asked in shock, stepping back. This had been the last person she was expecting to see.
Without invitation, Mary Margaret swept past her into the house, looking around desperately. “Where is he? Is he here?”
“You mean David?” Regina was still in shock. Why hadn’t Gold contacted her to let her know that Snow was back? Unless he didn’t know himself…
“Yes, David!” Snow snapped. “I arrived back here and then I couldn’t find him. It took forever to get people to stop welcoming me home and start answering my questions. I was just a little concerned,” she said, voice rising in pitch, “when they all started looking at me with sympathy. I thought maybe something had happened, and then Red finally told me that he was here. What did you do to him?”
Regina opened her mouth to say something, but then the sound of a door opening was heard from upstairs and they both remained silent as footsteps were heard.
“Regina,” David called down. “How about I make us some lunch? It’d be nice to eat together, and I—” his voice trailed off as he’d started down the stairs and come into view of the entryway. His eyes locked on Snow and he stopped dead in his tracks.
Regina looked between the two, wishing more than anything that she wasn’t present right now.
“Snow,” David breathed. “You’re here.” He started down the steps hesitantly as if not believing his eyes. A slow smile started on his face.
“And you’re here,” Snow said, trying to understand the current situation. “In Regina’s house.” She studied him, beginning to frown. “Your hair’s wet.”
“I just got out of the shower,” David said. He cringed, immediately realizing how bad this was looking. Not that Snow could get the wrong idea – it was exactly what it looked like. This was just not exactly how he’d planned on telling her. “When did you get back?” he asked, finally reaching the bottom of the stairs.
“Yesterday,” Snow said sadly. “I got back yesterday.”
David and Regina looked at each other in confusion.
“Yesterday?” David asked. “But how is that possible? We would have known. Why didn’t you come as soon as you arrived?”
“Because, David,” Snow said slowly. “I did come. You were – are – asleep. I came as soon as I could.”
David still looked confused but Regina, realizing what was going on, quietly said. “David, this isn’t the Snow from the Enchanted Forest. This is the Snow from the other side.”
Realization dawned on David’s face and it was Snow’s turn to look confused. “You know?” she asked, “About still being under the sleeping curse?”
“We figured it out yesterday – with Gold’s help,” he added with distaste. “When you tried to wake me up, we knew something was wrong.”
“You mean you felt me trying to wake you up?” Snow asked hopefully. This sounded like good news, or at least, progress in the right direction.”
“Well, sort of.” David looked to Regina for help but she was looking at him wide-eyed, obviously in no more of a position to explain anything than he was.
“What do you mean?” Snow asked. “Do you know why it didn’t work? Please tell me you have some ideas. Regina and Gold keep telling me that there's no reason you shouldn't wake up. Regina swore that she didn't do anything to alter the curse. Not that I believe her," she muttered, glancing in Regina's direction.
"She didn't," David said assuredly. "There was nothing wrong with the way the curse was created. We, uh...we've actually figured out why I'm not waking up."
Snow let out a breath of relief, hand over her heart. "Thank goodness. It's something we can fix, then?"
"Well, um, yes," David said uncomfortably. He looked at Regina.
Noticing the uncomfortable exchange, Snow asked. "What? What is it? What's wrong?"
"I should leave you two alone," Regina said awkwardly. "You can use the living room to talk if you want. I'll be upstairs." She moved toward the stairs, but before she could start up, David put a hand on her arm.
"Regina," he said softly, looking into her eyes. He wanted to do more, but with Snow standing there, his actions were limited.
"I know," she told him, giving him a weak smile.
He let his hand run down her arm as she took the steps, removing it just before their hands brushed against each other. He knew that even this action was too intimate a display for the situation.
Snow already had her eyebrows raised. The soft words and glances exchanged between the two were far more telling than either of them realized.
"David?" Snow said, drawing out his name, and forming it into a question. "What's going on?" She tilted her head to the side as she looked at him, trying to get ahead of whatever he might be about to tell her.
"We should go sit down," David said, trying to stay calm.
Hearing Regina close her bedroom door above, Snow shook her head. "No...no, I don't think so. I want you to tell me now. What's going on?" She was starting to sound a little angry and David flinched.
"It's...hard to explain," David attempted weakly.
"Nuh-uh," Snow shook her head. "I did not have Whale put me under a medically induced coma to see you again just to have you tell me that it's 'hard to explain'. Start. Talking. Is something going on between you and Regina?"
He was stuck. David realized that there was no good way to do this. No matter how he put it, Snow was going to be devastated. He watched her and felt a deep sorrow. This was the woman he'd loved unconditionally for so many years. They'd been through so much together; deaths of loved ones, friends, wars, over-turnings of kingdoms, the curse. They'd had a child together, made the hardest decision of their lives together when they put her in the wardrobe. They'd been reunited after twenty-eight years of being under the curse. He felt more incredibly guilty now than he ever had before. All of that had been measured against two days with Regina, and somehow, unbelievably, it had lost. His love for Regina extended deeper into him than all of those experiences and it made him feel sick. It wasn't fair to Snow, he knew that. Snow didn't deserve this - she deserved so much better. But so did Regina. Regina deserved happiness as well and because of this inexplicable connection that he now had with her, he knew that it was Regina who needed him more. More importantly - it was Regina he wanted. He couldn't feel that way and stay with Snow. It wouldn't be fair to Snow, it wouldn't be fair to him and it wouldn't be fair to Regina. All of that aside, if he didn't tell Snow the truth, he would never wake up. He'd be stuck under the sleeping curse forever.
"David! Is something going on between you and Regina?" Snow put more emphasis on each word this time. His silence hadn't given her any comfort that she might be wrong in her assumption.
"Yes." He had to tell her, so he may as well not prolong the painful conversation. "Snow," he said, and his voice held so much sadness it took the air out of her lungs. "I'm sorry," he continued. "I'm so, so sorry."
"I think..." Snow started, looking down at the ground. "I think maybe you were right. We should sit down." She walked briskly past him to the living room, not even glancing behind her to see if he had followed her.
David let her go ahead a bit, just far enough that he could let out a heavy breath so that she couldn't hear and shake his head in an attempt to ready himself for what was to come. This could very well be one of the most difficult things he'd ever had to do. Finally he began the short walk to the living room.
Snow was already perched on the edge of the couch, not looking at him until he was seated across from her. She opened her mouth, inhaled, closed her mouth again, and then finally asked, "What exactly is going on between you and Regina?"
Deciding the only way that he could do this would be to continue the direct and honest approach to this conversation, David said, "We're in love."
Snow bent forward at the waist, struggling to breathe. When she regained a bit of control, without moving from her position or looking up, she asked, "How? You've only been under the sleeping curse for a few days."
"I know," David said. "I want to be able to explain it to you, but I can't. I don't really understand it, but I love her."
Snow looked up, anger in her expression. "She must have done something - added something to the curse. Something that would make you feel this way about her. It's probably another one of her attempts to separate us."
David was silent for a minute. A part of him wanted this to be true. If this were only a result of some kind of love spell, it could be broken and he could be back to wanting to be with Snow. They could go back to the way things were and he wouldn't have to hurt her. But it was only a very small part of him that wanted that. The rest of him knew that it wasn't true and was glad of it. What he felt with Regina was amazing and he wouldn't want to trade that feeling for anything in the world. So, finally, after a long pause, he said, "No. I don't think it is, Snow. When I first woke up here, I hated her. I felt the same way that I always have. But the Regina here had already been in love with me for months. She was hurt by the way I treated her and the things that I said. I saw a whole other side to her and I couldn't keep hurting her, so I started to change the way I was acting. Before I knew it, I was seeing her in a new light, and I liked it. It didn't take long after that for that to grow into stronger feelings. I started to care deeply for her and before I knew it, I was in love. I can't tell you exactly how it happened, but I can tell you that it's real. There is no faking what I feel for her and it wasn't anything she did. She made the sleeping curse exactly the way she should."
Snow's lip quivered, but she fought back the heartache and said, "David, this isn't the way the sleeping curse is supposed to be. Can't you see that?” She was pleading with him now. “The sleeping curse puts you in a world where everything around you is formed by your largest regrets. It's not a place where you fall in love."
"Except, if in the process of falling in love, you're hurting the people you love the most," he pointed out quietly. "That's my largest regret."
There was a tense silence and David saw a tear making a trail down Snow's cheek. She was beginning to crack and it made his heart ache. He still loved her; that love had simply changed. He wanted to be able to comfort her as he had countless times in the past, but knew that it could never be the same. This time it was he that was causing that unbearable pain and any form of consolation from him would only make things worse.
"David," she whispered. "Just...come back. Wake up. We'll figure this out, there has to be an answer. You can come home and we can all be together again, as a family."
David shook his head sadly. "I don't think we can this time, Snow. Things have changed. I can come back, I want to come back, but I don't think we can be together anymore. It would be a lie, and you deserve so much more than that. You deserve better than anything I can give you."
"No!" she cried, more tears slipping out. "You and I belong together. We've always found each other, because we're meant to be. We're each other's true loves. Just...tell me how to wake you up and I will. I'll do anything."
David looked at her with an expression of incredible sorrow. "That's just it, Snow. You can't wake me because we're not each other's true love's anymore."
"What?" Snow looked up at him, eyes shining with tears and cheeks reddened by her distress. "What do you mean?"
"We figured it out yesterday with Mr. Gold," David sighed. "If I'm going to wake up, I still need true love's kiss, but...I need it from Regina."
Snow looked as if she'd been slapped. "Wh-what?" she screeched. She shook her head violently, covering her mouth with her hand. "No. No, no, no. You're wrong. All of you got it wrong. That's not possible," she choked out between sobs. "It's only been two days. She can't be your true love." She shook her head again. "She's my step-mother. She's tried to kill both of us, multiple times! She can't be your true love, James. She can't! It's impossible. I refuse to accept it."
"Then I'm stuck here forever," David said sadly.
Snow stood suddenly, exiting the room. Regina, having come downstairs to retrieve her forgotten drink cursed her timing as she nearly slammed directly into the sobbing Snow. Snow knocked against her shoulder as she ran past and Regina stared after her as she ran to the bathroom. Sounds of retching were heard shortly after and Regina poked her head around the door frame of the living room to see David with his head in his hands, palms pressed firmly against his forehead. He'd told Snow and it was going about as well as Regina expected it to. She looked at David sitting there and thought about what he'd just done for her. He'd told the love of his life that she was no longer his true love. That he was now in love with her, Regina, the Evil Queen. She was flooded with warmth and an all-consuming love for the man sitting distressed before her. And for the first time in decades, she felt sympathy for Snow White. The thought of losing this man the way Snow just had was unbearable. The retching finally stopped and only sobbing could be heard. She moved slowly to the bathroom, knowing she couldn't do much to help, but unable to continue listening to that terrible sound. She found Snow curled on the bathroom floor in a pathetic heap.
"Snow," she said quietly. She hoped it would break the woman out of her tragic state a bit. And it worked.
"I have to go," Snow said suddenly. She sat up and wiped her eyes. She pulled herself to her feet in an attempt to look more dignified, despite the position she'd just been found in. "Dr. Whale will be waking me up soon."
At a loss for words, Regina simply nodded.
“I’ll make sure he wakes up,” Snow said, fresh tears in her eyes. “You can tell him that.”
Again, Regina could only nod. She waited for the sound of the front door shutting behind Snow to move. With several quick strides, she was back to the living room, seating herself next to David.
“She’s gone, isn’t she?” He asked it without looking up. He knew it was Regina. Snow would not have sat so that they touched. She wouldn’t have sat next to him at all. And he wouldn’t have felt the strength, love, and support he felt from Regina’s presence now.
Regina moved a hand to rest on his back and nodded even though he couldn’t see the motion. “She’s going to make sure you wake up.” She didn’t say anything more. She wanted to comfort him, but anything she could say would be inappropriate. He’d done this for her and for himself and for Snow, and she knew that, so she sat there silently.
David knew the reason for her silence, and he felt a rush of love at her thoughtfulness and understanding. He turned suddenly, facing her and looking into her eyes. “I love you,” he told her.
“I love you, too.”
He leaned in and rested his forehead against hers. He knew he didn’t have much time left with this Regina and he wanted to soak in every second of it. He wanted to memorize her because he knew – on the other side – she was there, trapped inside the Regina he’d always known, and it was now his mission to let her out.
Snow ran blindly through the streets toward the forest, barely noticing the townspeople staring as she passed by. Running was the only way she could drown out her thoughts, and she wanted to forget them. She wanted to forget them forever.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been running, but she’d finally made it into the trees. She blazed forward, blurring her thoughts, intentionally not concentrating on any one thing for more than a sliver of a second. In her state, she didn’t notice the rock lying in the path she’d chosen until she was already falling.
She hit the ground in a heap and allowed herself to lay there. A dark hysterical laughter mixed in with her sobs. She’d fallen over a rock while running from Regina after witnessing something she wished she never had. Regina had pulled her up and brushed her off, comforting her and explaining true love. The second time, she’d again been running from Regina, but this time, she’d brushed herself off and rather than words of comfort, Regina offered death. How fitting, then, that she’d again fallen while running from Regina, only this time there was no Regina to confront – and as if the universe thought it were poetic that this last time, it should again be about true love. A complete circle. Only this time, it would be Snow’s turn to lose something.
She wondered darkly for a moment if it wasn’t more painful this way; to have James still there, alive, to remind her of what she’d lost. She’d lost him because he’d chosen it, not because they’d been ripped cruelly from each other.
And then, she realized, this truly was fitting. Regina had lost everything at her hands. In that grim instant, she could forget that she’d only been a child trying to do what she thought was best. She’d lost her way for the moment, and she could finally see a glimpse of why everything that proceeded had gone the way it had. Regina had ceased to care. About anything. It had happened, slowly and over time, but Snow could see it now.
It was in that moment that she saw what she had to do. As painful as it was, she could never allow herself to fall into the darkness that had consumed Regina. If after several decades of misery, there was a chance for Regina to become herself again, what right did Snow have to stop it?
The edges of her vision began to blur and she suddenly grew dizzy. She had a few seconds to wonder deliriously if it was because of the loss or because she was being pulled from this horrible nightmare to the next. Her last thought was of which she wanted to be true.
Chapter 14: I Wish I Were Dreaming
"You asked me to come, Ms. Swan and now I'm here. I still don't understand why." Regina stood irritably outside of Mary Margaret's hospital room. Emma had called her twenty minutes earlier saying something about an emergency call from the Sheriff's station and could she please come as quickly as possible. Nothing more had been explained.
"You were my only option. Dr. Whale is bringing Mary Margaret out of her coma soon, but I have this emergency call to deal with. Someone needs to be here when she wakes up."
"And you didn't think to call anyone else?" Regina asked with annoyance.
Emma sighed. "I did, actually. Ruby's tied up at the diner, Granny's with her, I couldn't get ahold of Mother Superior, and Leroy and his gang are apparently out at the mines. I couldn't get ahold of any of them."
"You can't have Dr. Whale delay waking her up until you're back?"
"He thinks that it's better not to leave her for longer than necessary. Since there's nothing physically wrong with her, he doesn't like keeping her under. He almost didn't agree to do it in the first place. It took some...convincing...on Mary Margaret's part."
Regina raised an eyebrow. She actually had to say she was a little impressed. She knew that by 'convincing', Emma meant Snow had threatened the doctor into doing what she wanted. Impressive, but also irritating. It seemed the woman still possessed the ability to make people do whatever she wanted them to.
"Please, Regina?" Emma asked after it had been silent for a while. "He wants to wake her up, but I don't want her to wake up alone. Especially not with him," she added as an afterthought.
"Well, I can't blame you there," Regina said. "Alright, fine. Just...try and be quick about it, Sheriff."
"Thank you," Emma said sincerely. "I'll try my best."
She was out the door swiftly, off to resolve whatever issue one of the townspeople was having now. After a moment's hesitation, Regina walked the few steps to the entrance of the room and placed herself just inside the door.
The room was empty except for Mary Margaret lying on the bed in the middle. Regina cautiously moved forward. She looked as if she were simply sleeping peacefully. Regina wondered momentarily if this was how she'd looked under the sleeping curse just before James had woken her up.
She jumped when Dr. Whale's voice suddenly came from behind her. "Regina?"
"Dr. Whale," she addressed him coldly.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Emma had to leave. She asked me to be here when Snow wakes up."
"Mmm. Well, I'm about to wake her now." Even after speaking, he simply stood there, staring at Regina.
"Well..." Regina said. "Get on with it, then."
Snapping at him didn't faze him, but he did nod and walk toward the bed.
Regina didn't watch Whale; she walked to the window instead and stared out into the trees outside. No matter what she tried to do, it seemed she'd always be dragged into this family's mess. She supposed it was unavoidable if she wanted to keep Henry in her life. She frowned. More like, if the Charmings’ permitted her to continue seeing her own son.
"I have other patients I need to attend to," Whale said, anxious to leave the queen's company. "She should be waking up slowly now. She'll be confused and disoriented for a while but there shouldn't be any other problems. If there are, have a nurse page me."
Regina nodded, but didn't say anything in response. Once Whale was gone, she pulled up a chair and sat next to the bed, eyes on Snow. It didn't get past her how strange this situation was. After all of the years of fighting, trying to kill one another and cause each other pain, here she was sitting at Snow's bedside, waiting for her to wake up from a coma. She could see the starts of Snow stirring.
At first, it was just like any other person waking up. Some movement, a few mumbled words. Then it changed. Snow began whimpering, her face creasing into a frown. She turned her head, squeezing her eyes shut more tightly and her whimpering grew louder. Regina sat up a bit, unsure if she should call Dr. Whale. It looked like Snow was in pain.
Right before standing to fetch the nearest nurse, Snow muttered her first coherent word. "James."
Regina stopped her movements. This seemed to have something to do with what had gone on in the dream world, not any physical problems Snow might be having. She wondered, however, what could have caused that much agony. Regina's stomach suddenly tightened with horrible thoughts. If something had happened to James, Henry would be crushed. And he'd most likely blame her. She leaned forward.
Snow's eyes relaxed, but she still didn't open them. "James."
"Snow," Regina said again, a little more forcefully this time.
Whimpering left behind, Snow progressed to a full-blown wail. "Nooo. James." She began to cry, even as she appeared to still be sleeping.
Regina glanced out the window to see if anyone was watching. There wasn't anyone in sight for quite a distance, so Regina moved forward. She didn't want her actions to be misinterpreted as something malicious. She gripped one of Snow's arms in her hands, giving it a gentle shake. "Snow, open your eyes. Come on. Wake up."
Snow obeyed, but her eyes didn't focus on anything. She opened them slowly, blinking heavily and looking around aimlessly. She continued to cry and started shaking her head. "James. James." She went from a wail to a whisper and her pain was haunting. Regina wasn't sure what to do.
"Snow, what is it? What happened? Did you find out why David didn't wake up from the sleeping curse?"
Snow finally rolled her head over to look at Regina. For a moment, she just laid there, tears streaming down her face. Finally, some flicker of recognition crossed over her features.
"Yes, Snow, it's me."
"Why'd you take him from me?" Snow asked dazedly. She still seemed extremely tired and was fading in and out on her level of awareness.
"He asked me to put him under the sleeping curse," Regina told her, assuming Snow was once again blaming her for David not waking up.
"No," Snow wailed in frustration. She was trying to form the right words, but it was so exhausting and her thoughts kept swimming around. It was difficult to catch them.
"No?" Regina could tell Snow was trying very hard to focus. "Here, why don't you sit up a bit? It might help." Knowing Snow would be incapable of raising herself up at this point, Regina hesitantly sat on the side of the bed. She reached down, using one arm to lift Snow's shoulders slightly and the other to tuck the pillows behind her so that she could lean back against them and be slightly elevated.
The contact seemed to renew Snow's grief, and Regina almost worried that she'd caused physical harm.
"Why are you being nice after what you did?" Snow was starting to sound a bit clearer, though it was obvious she was still a little confused. She looked around her, having an easier time taking in her surroundings. "Why am I in the hospital? What happened?"
Before Regina could answer her, Snow continued. "I fell. I must have hit my head." She reached up, but felt nothing.
"Snow, don't you remember? You're here because you asked Dr. Whale to put you in a medically-induced coma. You were going to try to find a way to wake David."
Snow suddenly jumped, as if she'd been shocked by electricity. "This is real?" she asked, though it sounded more like a statement to Regina.
Answering anyway, Regina said, "Yes, it's real. What happened? Did you find David?"
"I did." The sudden flatness to her voice actually managed to concern Regina. She'd rarely heard the girl use this tone and it indicated nothing good.
Snow dragged her eyes up to meet Regina's. "I can't wake him up, but you can."
Regina was caught off guard by the sudden ice in her voice, but shook her head. "Snow, I'm sorry that this has happened, but I've told you again and again - there's nothing I can do. It's out of my hands now."
"You don't understand," Snow told her. "I can't wake him because I'm not his true love anymore. The kiss won't work."
"What do you mean you're not his true love anymore?" Regina asked, shocked.
"He fell in love with someone else in the world the curse created for him."
Regina stood silent, considering this statement. She supposed it could be true. While whoever he'd fallen in love with was not an actual person, the idea of them was real, and David's love for them would certainly be real as well. It would follow, then, that the love between him and Snow could be superseded by this new love. Still, it hardly seemed possible. The sleeping curse created a world formed of a person's regrets; it hardly seemed an ideal place to fall in love. Besides..."But it's only been two days," she said to Snow.
"I know!" Snow said angrily. "I don't understand!" She started to slip back into her own world, shaking her head and looking on the verge of tears again.
"You saw him, then? He told you this himself?" Regina wanted to try to get the information out of her before she fell apart. It seemed more and more likely every second as Snow grew more distraught.
"Yes!" Snow snapped.
"Alright..." Regina didn't bother to hide the irritation in her voice. She thought she was being remarkably kind and patient, especially considering who she was talking to. "So is this a person who lives here in Storybrooke? Someone who could perhaps help us wake him?"
"Yes." This time it was a weak whisper. Snow was all over the place. She didn't know how to feel. She'd lost the ability to think, to reason, almost to breath. She didn't have much strength left in her and she was feeling a powerful urge to just sleep. She was so, so tired.
This was like pulling teeth. Regina understood - Snow was upset - but wouldn't it be easier to just spit it out and get it over with? "Who is it?" Regina prompted, growing impatient.
Snow let out a sob and turned herself over so that her back was to Regina. The word that came out was so quiet and so muffled by crying, that Regina almost didn't hear it.
Chapter 15: There Has To Be A Reason
Regina stared at Snow's back. She hadn't heard her correctly. That had to be it. Snow couldn't have said what she thought she’d heard. It was too ludicrous. "What did you say?"
Snow let out a shaky breath, sitting up slightly to look at Regina and said more loudly. "He's in love with you." She laughed darkly. "It must feel so good. You've taken someone I love from me again! Just how many times do you plan on doing this, Regina, before you consider us even? Oh, but I forgot. You said we'd never be even." Her tone was venomous, and it seemed to suck the last bit of energy she had from her, because she collapsed back to the bed and curled up in a ball, back once again to Regina. Her shoulders were visibly shaking from her crying.
Regina couldn't say anything. She couldn't move, she couldn't think - none of this made sense! She'd almost think Snow was playing some sort of cruel joke on her, but the level of pain evident proved that that wasn't a possibility. Snow had never been one to play tricks of that nature anyway. David - James - Prince Charming - was in love with her? Absolutely impossible. He'd gone to a world filled with his own regrets; people weren't supposed to fall in love like this. People weren't supposed to fall in love with their arch-enemies under any circumstance. Something had to have gone wrong with the curse. She'd assured Snow that it wasn't possible, but now she was second guessing herself. There was no other logical explanation. It had been two days. People didn't fall in love in just two days, either; especially not when they had a history like Prince Charming and Snow White. She gagged at the idea that she was actually championing the hateful couple she'd spent so many years trying to break apart, but how could she do otherwise in this situation.
That brought to mind her most recent attempt to separate the two from each other. She'd attempted to seduce David, but it hadn't worked. He'd insisted he didn't feel anything like that for her. Had that somehow had an effect on this absurd turn of events?
No, she thought. It's not true. It's not possible. Snow either misunderstood or I did something wrong. She immediately discarded the thought that it was Snow's gross misinterpretation of the situation. Snow had said that David told him herself. And Snow - being the sickeningly optimistic person that she was - would have fought the idea tooth and nail until it was proved beyond a doubt.
Regina felt sick. She felt dizzy. This was wrong. Everything about this was wrong. She hated that she couldn't figure out what had happened. Standing up suddenly, she realized what she was going to have to do; go through her work with a fine-tooth comb. There had to have been some point in the spell where she'd done something wrong. A slight variance in the amount of ingredients she'd used. Perhaps she'd missed a small step? She'd been so sure that she was being meticulous with every detail, but that had to be what it was.
Without looking back at the still-crying Snow, she strode down the hallway to the nearest nurse she could find. "Excuse me."
The woman jumped, stepping back from the Queen. Regina was still feared by most of the townspeople. At least they left her alone for the most part.
"I was just in Mary Margaret's room," Regina said, gesturing back down the hallway to the room she'd left. "She's just woken up, and I'd been requested to stay with her, but I have to leave. Something's come up. Would you page Dr. Whale for me and let him know that I'm leaving?"
The nurse stared at her and looked down the hallway at the room, concern clear in her expression.
"Oh, for god's sake," Regina said exasperatedly. "I didn't do anything to her. Her daughter asked me to stay with her. The Sheriff," Regina prompted sarcastically. These people were exhausting. Didn't they realize that if she'd wanted to harm them, she would have done it already? Well - if she'd wanted to seriously harm them; she couldn't say she was totally free of violent thoughts. These people were just so damned ignorant of so many things and she sometimes wanted to strangle some sense into them.
Eyes still narrowed in suspicion, the nurse nodded. "I'll page him for you."
"Thank you," Regina managed to get out, but it didn't sound at all sincere. She didn't care. She didn't wait for the woman to say anything more before making a swift exit, eager to figure out what she'd done wrong with the curse.
Several exhausting hours later, there was nothing. She'd gone over every detail. She'd followed the instructions down to every last drop. Whatever was going on, it had nothing to do with the way she'd made her curse. There had to be some other explanation.
Regina was so deep in thought that she jumped when her phone rang loudly in the silent house. Cursing the noise, she snatched up the offending device and bit out a "yes?"
"What did you do to her?"
Regina pulled the phone away from her ear at the screeching voice on the other end.
"Ms. Swan," she said, when there was silence.
"What. Did. You. Do?"
"I didn't do anything," Regina said honestly. She wondered what state Snow was in now?
"Bullshit. She's comatose."
Regina frowned. "What do you mean? She was awake when I left. You can ask the nurse - with how concerned she seemed at my presence, I'm sure she went to check on Snow immediately after I left."
"No, Regina. I don't mean she's comatose like she's in a coma; I mean she's comatose like she won't fucking move or speak. She's curled up in a ball staring into space and no one can get her to say anything. The only movement is when she blinks. I only just got here, but Dr. Whale informed me that she's been this way for the last few hours. So I'll ask again. What. Happened?"
"She found a way to bring David home," Regina told her. She knew she was being annoyingly vague, but she didn't feel like disclosing the information Snow had given her before apparently lapsing into a non-responsive state.
"Really?" Emma said with obvious irritation. "She's like this because she found a way to bring her husband home? That a load of crap, Regina. What really happened?"
"It's the truth," Regina insisted. She sighed heavily. "Ms. Swan -" She lowered her voice so that Emma would hear the sincerity of her words. "She really did find out how to bring your father back. Circumstances just aren't...ideal." She frowned, thinking they were actually far worse than 'not ideal'. They were downright upsetting. And again, confusing. So confusing. Hearing the silence on the other end of the line and knowing that Emma was waiting for her to say something more, Regina sighed. "It's not really my place to tell you."
"Oh, because that's concerned you so much in the past," Emma sarcastically remarked.
"It does this time," Regina snapped back. This whole situation was extremely unsettling, and she didn't really know how to react to it. One thing she did know for sure, however, was that there was no way in hell she was going to be the one to tell Emma why Mary Margaret couldn't wake David.
Emma was silent for a minute, absorbing everything. She'd never heard Regina sound so...sympathetic? No, that wasn't quite the right word, but she wasn't brushing the situation off. She was taking it very seriously. Emma had heard that Regina had been trying to change her ways while she and Mary Margaret were stuck in the Enchanted Forest - it was part of the reason she'd asked her to stay while Emma couldn't be at the hospital - but she'd yet to hear or see it for herself. Until now. It was strange.
"What do I do?" Emma finally asked, quietly. She was way out of her depth in this new world she was living in. Fairytale characters, other worlds, portals, magic, parents. Mary Margaret was completely catatonic over something she'd learned in a dream world that she'd traveled to because she couldn't wake her husband from the sleeping curse with true love's kiss. Just thinking about it was making her head hurt. There were some days she wished she'd never left her flat in Boston. This was one of those days. She wasn't cut out to handle things like this. Being thrust into this existence and being told that she was the Savior was occasionally too much to swallow.
"Just stay with her for now," Regina said, holding a hand up to her head. She could feel a migraine beginning to form. "She should come out of it eventually. If she doesn't...I'll see what I can do."
Silence. Regina was just about to hang up when Emma spoke up again.
"Thank you. Really, I mean it."
Regina nodded, though she knew Emma wouldn't see it. "Call me if she doesn't come out of it."
"I will." The line went dead.
Feeling even more lost than Emma, Regina felt like she needed to sit down. So she sat, right there on the floor in her entryway.
What was she going to do?
Chapter 16: The Kiss
Regina had somehow found her way to the back room of Gold's shop. By some miracle, Gold wasn't there. She'd used a rather questionable means to let herself through the back door, but she didn't care. She hadn't made up her mind yet, but she certainly didn't need an audience if she decided to try.
She lowered herself slowly into the chair next to the prince, watching his face carefully as if waiting for him to wake up on his own. She wished that would happen. How had it come to this? This was a person she'd hated for decades. He'd married the person she'd wanted dead more than anyone else in the world. She'd captured him, manipulated him, hurt him. She still couldn't bring herself to believe Snow's words.
She jumped at the unexpected word, putting a hand to her heart.
"Henry!" she cried, looking up to see him standing in the doorway, out of breath.
"Did you do anything yet?" he asked, walking to her slowly and seeing David still asleep on the bed.
"No," she answered. She looked at him in confusion, wondering how he knew she was there.
"Snow told Emma what happened. I umm...I was sort of listening in."
"Henry," Regina scolded, but couldn't bring herself to sound angry. She actually felt more like smiling when she heard that she apparently wasn't the only one Henry spied on.
"Is it true?" Henry asked. "Can you really wake him up?"
Regina looked down at her hands and shook her head. "I don't know, Henry. I don't think so."
"Snow thinks you can."
"I know, but it wouldn't make any sense, Henry. We're enemies. We always have been."
Henry looked down at his toes as he shifted his feet uncomfortably. "But maybe you're not anymore."
"Henry, come here," Regina said, reaching a hand out toward him.
After a small moment of hesitation, Henry stepped forward and took it.
She grasped his hand and pulled him closer, taking his other hand as well. "Henry," she said, looking him in the eye, "If I do this...if I try to wake him up, will you be upset?"
"You mean if he doesn't wake up?"
"Well, that, too, but I was actually thinking more about if it worked and he did wake up."
"Snow White and Prince Charming belong together," he said, and Regina found herself nodding along, "but...maybe if you wake him up, people will just be happy that he's awake?"
Regina rubbed her thumbs affectionately over the backs of Henry's hands. "I think we both know that wouldn't be the case."
Henry nodded. "Would you be upset?"
"At what, Henry?"
"If it worked? If it was true and he woke up?"
Regina wasn't sure how to answer that. She'd hated Charming in their land; despised him. Then they'd come here and for such a very short time, she'd been friends with David Nolan. Yes, it had been pretend, but she'd found herself understanding what everyone saw in the irritating man. His qualities weren't all that irritating when they were directed at her and not solely her sworn enemy. She could even see where he'd received the nickname Charming. But, she still hadn't allowed herself to get too close. They were still enemies after all, even if he didn't remember. Then the curse had broken, and she'd gone right back to hating him. Just as he'd gone right back to hating her. They'd threatened again to kill each other and they both knew the only thing keeping them from following through was Henry. Over the past month, their relationship had shifted slightly to one of begrudging acceptance. They'd both realized that they'd have to be civil with one another for Henry's sake. That's what made this whole idea so absurd. Two days later, and David was supposedly in love with her. It irritated her. More than that, though, it scared her. She was downright terrified. What if it was true? What was she supposed to do with that? Everyone in town would hate her even more than they already did and would blame her for what had happened. All the time she'd spent working toward redemption would mean very little if it turned out to be true. Not that it meant that much anyway.
"I don't know, Henry," she said again when she finally answered the question. "I just don't think it will work."
"I won't be upset with you," Henry said after a moment's thought. "Not if it doesn't work and not if it does." He paused. "I'd only be upset if you didn't try."
She gave him a tearful smile and squeezed his hands before dropping them. "Alright, Henry. I'll try."
"Promise?" he asked.
He turned to go, but spun around once more. "Hey, mom? I'm sorry I blamed you. I know it's not your fault." Then he reached out and wrapped his arms around her, leaning into her. "I love you."
She slowly brought her hands up around him, but then fiercely pulled him closer into her, rubbing his back. She kissed the side of his head. "I love you, too, my wonderful boy."
When she finally let him go, he stepped back and smiled before leaving her alone with David.
She wasn't sure how long she'd been sitting there, watching him. It could have been minutes, hours, days. She really had no idea. She was still completely lost.
Finally, she decided she'd go crazy if she put it off any longer. She didn't want to know what was going to happen, but she couldn't just sit here thinking about it forever.
Very slowly, she moved herself to sit on the edge of the bed, heart pounding as she looked down at the sleeping prince. This was it. She didn't know what she wanted to happen. If he didn't wake up, she would be relieved, but only in the way that she wouldn't have to deal with whatever Snow thought was between them in the other world. She couldn't wish that on Henry. Though he wouldn't be upset with her, it would devastate him and they might not ever have a chance of waking David up.
If it did work, however...if it did work, what then? How do you deal with a man you hate loving you? She'd dealt with Sydney for decades, but that was different. He'd never hated her back. And Sydney was a much different man than David.
Shaking herself from the thoughts she'd once again allowed herself to slip into, she began to slowly lower her face toward David's. It was time to get this over with.
She paused, her lips hovering over his, terrified of what might happen. Then, with one last shaky breath, she pushed her lips against his, giving him a quick, but gentle kiss.
She straightened tensely, waiting to see what would happen.
It took a minute, but then the familiar rush of magic crackled through the air, the visible wave of light and wind spreading across the room and knocking her back slightly. As it washed over her, she felt a sudden warm tingle filling her and she let out an involuntary laugh at the brief moment of pure joy she felt. David sat up, inhaling sharply before he looked at her to see the last trace of her smile before it faded away.
"Hi," he said smiling.
"Hi." Hi? Had she really just said hi? She stared at him, waiting for him to say something more. She would break the awkward silence, but she had no idea what to say.
"You woke me up." He was beaming at her and she was having a hard time not turning away. The gaze made her uncomfortable.
"I did," she said with very little emotion. Inside, she was fighting the urge to run. This confirmed what Snow had said. Her kiss had woken David and he was smiling at her. He loved her.
With her conflicted feelings, she'd forgotten to put up her usual mask and her shock and fear were now showing clearly on her face.
"Hey," David said gently, reaching out and covering one of her hands with his own.
She jumped at the contact and pulled her hand back.
"I know how confusing this must be," David continued, undeterred by the action.
"Do you?" Regina snapped.
She was furious when he chuckled. "How do you think I felt when I woke up in the dream world, thinking it was the real one and finding you standing over me telling me we'd been in love for several months?"
"I initiated it?" She asked incredulously. Well, not her, but the Regina that had been created by the curse. There was a realistic Regina walking around in the other world claiming to love David Nolan? "Do you know how crazy this sounds?"
"I know exactly how crazy it sounds. Believe me, I spent most of the first night fighting the idea with everything I had."
"And yet, somehow, I'm now you're true love," Regina pointed out. "It's been two days, David!"
"I know!" he said in exasperation. "Everyone keeps saying that. I said it myself. I don't understand, really, what happened, but you let me in, and it was so easy to fall in love with you. With the real you."
"The real me?" Regina said, offended by his statement. "As opposed to the fake me I am now."
David sighed. "Regina, you know what I mean. You put up this wall. You pretend to be cold and unfeeling, but you're the opposite of that. You're funny, loving, compassionate. You have a beautiful smile and an infectious laugh. You block out other people because you're afraid of being hurt, and rightfully so. But when you let me in, I couldn't resist. I love you, Regina Mills, and nothing is going to change that."
Regina stood from her seat on the bed, uncomfortable with their closeness and went back to the chair. She sank into it again, unable to remain standing under the pressure of all the thoughts swirling through her head. She didn't know whether to be extremely angry at him for how personal he was being, surprised by his kind words or disgusted by his love for her. Or maybe just the tiniest bit flattered and warmed.
David sat up fully and swung his legs over the side of the bed so he could face her. He watched her patiently, knowing not to push things. She needed some time to process everything.
Finally, she said, "You didn't fall in love with me, David. You fell in love with a silly idea of me. The woman you described – she doesn't exist."
"Not on the surface, maybe," David said. "But she's in there. She's just been buried for so many years that she's afraid to come out."
"How do you know that we're the same person?" Regina asked defensively. "You were under the sleeping curse."
"Yes, but the magic of the curse created you based off of you in the real world."
"But how do you know that for sure?"
"You had a secret hiding place in the woods where you kept a change of clothes so that you could climb trees without anyone knowing. You used to go there when your mother got too strict about your 'lady lessons'."
Regina inhaled sharply. "How...how do you know that?"
David smiled warmly. "That Regina told me. Judging by your reaction, it's true. She told me that so that I would know you were the same person. Listen, I know this is a lot to swallow. I've been through this. I can give you some time; I just want you to give it serious thought. Don't dismiss us because of how unrealistic it seems or because of how you've felt about me in the past. There is one thing I can promise you; if you decide to give us a chance – and I really hope you do – we're amazing together."
Regina stared at him. She tried to picture them in a relationship – a good, healthy relationship based off of love, not manipulation. The frightening thing was that she almost could. If she allowed herself to forget about their pasts, she could see herself being happy with a man like David. But she couldn't just forget about their pasts like that. She'd chosen a dark path in life. It wasn't something that could just be reversed on a whim. She was doing it – slowly, granted – but she was, for Henry. What David was asking required her to expose the most vulnerable parts of herself. To open herself up to that kind of love again…she wasn't sure she could do it. Her love for Henry had so often come back to hurt her, but with him, it was worth it. He was her son. How did she know David didn't just want to use this to trick her?
True love's kiss wasn't a trick.
"How did you come around so easily? I know you said I was open with you," she said quickly when he gave her a tired look and opened his mouth to repeat himself. "But that can't be the only reason."
David tilted his head in thought and a smile crept over his face.
"What?" Regina asked curiously.
"Well, the kissing certainly didn't hurt. In fact, it was pretty fantastic. Something you can't believe until you experience it."
Regina opened her mouth a bit, shocked. Then she closed it again and raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? I just kissed you and I don't recall anything life-altering about it."
"Yes, well I wasn't there to kiss back." He grinned at her and she actually had to fight a smile.
"Want to try?" he asked playfully. "You've already kissed me once today."
Regina couldn't believe she was considering this. "I suppose that's true," she said, wanting to smack herself for saying it. What was she doing? But really, she could kiss him, prove there was nothing there in this world and then move on with her life. Where was the harm?
David stood and reached a hand down to her. "Then what are we waiting for?"
She looked at his hand for a moment before finally taking it and allowing him to pull her to her feet.
Her breath quickened at their sudden closeness and she couldn't help it – her eyes dropped to his lips.
"Are you ready?" David asked.
She wanted to snap at him for asking dumb questions or drawing this out longer than it needed to be, but she found she'd lost the ability to speak, so instead she swallowed and nodded.
Not hesitating another moment, David pressed his lips to hers. At first it was desperate, filled with a need to be kissing her again, but he immediately slowed it down. He wanted to enjoy it and make it last in case this was the last time he'd ever be able to kiss her.
Regina saw it as her chance to prove that this was all a terrible misunderstanding. He would go back to Snow White and hating her again and everything would be back to the way it should be.
All of that disappeared in an instant as she felt his mouth moving against hers. Against her will, her eyes fluttered closed and she melted into the kiss. Her arms, which had been hanging loosely at her sides, found their way up to wrap around David's neck, pulling him in closer as he did the same with his arms around her waist.
She surprised herself when a soft moan escaped her, but then she only deepened the kiss. In this moment, she didn't care about who she was kissing or why, or anything else in the world, for that matter. She only cared that this was the most amazing thing she'd ever felt and she never wanted it to stop.
Chapter 17: What Now
In this moment, she didn't care about who she was kissing or why, or anything else in the world, for that matter. She only cared that this was the most amazing thing she'd ever felt and she never wanted it to stop.
"That's that, then."
Regina and David startled apart, turning hastily to see a wide-eyed Emma watching them from the doorway.
Regina subconsciously put her fingertips to her lips, still reeling from the mind-blowing kiss.
"Emma..." David said uncomfortably.
"Yeah, that's....whatever," Emma said, putting her hands up. "I just came to check on you, but you're awake, you're fine, and I'm just going to go now." She turned around and took one step before spinning violently back around. "You know what - no, I'm not. What the hell, David? What's with the whole in love with Regina thing? What happened to Mary Margaret? You're supposed to be each other's true loves." She shook her head and muttered, mostly to herself, "You're supposed to be my parents." Then, more loudly she said, "Man, things in this town can never be easy, can they? You people like to make everything as complicated as possible." She took another step into the room. "And you," she said, pointing at Regina. "A few hours ago, you were freaking out about this whole thing almost more than I was, and now you're okay making out with him? Just like that?" She shook her head in disgust, once again remembering this was her father she was talking about. "You know what? Never mind – never mind, I don't want to know. This is not something I want to understand right now. I hope you two know what you're doing." She was gone as quickly as she'd come without David or Regina ever having been able to get a word in edgewise.
"She's right," Regina said, quickly taking a step back from David. "I should have just woken you up and left. This was a mistake. I think I should go."
She tried to turn away from him, but he grabbed her by the arm and twisted her back around, pulling her to him once more. Giving her a quick, gentle kiss that effectively silenced her, he pulled back and said, "It's not a mistake - I love you. It seems difficult now, I know, but that's only because we're still at the very beginning. We have a lot of difficulties ahead, but believe me when I say that it will be worth it. What we can have between us would be worth it a million times over. I know you're scared of this, and you're probably scared that it's just a trick and that I'll hurt you, but Regina-" He placed his hands on her shoulders, running his hands gently down the tops of her arms. "I really do love you, and I promise you that I will never do anything to hurt you."
The honesty in his expression and in his voice caught her off guard. It was strange to see these emotions on the prince's face when she was so used to seeing only hatred from him; since the breaking of the curse at least. She could see the kindness now that had only ever belonged to David Nolan - never Prince James - not when it came to her. She cursed herself when she felt tears coming to her eyes. Appearing vulnerable was the last thing she wanted to do right now, but she was so confused. And kissing David felt so right. Having him claim that he loved her felt even better, but she wasn't ready to admit that. How could she be? This was her enemy standing in front of her. "Why did you have to fall in love with me?" she asked suddenly, her voice cracking slightly.
"Because you let me in. I'd never seen a side of you other than the Evil Queen, the ruthless Mayor, the woman who wanted to ruin my life and kill Snow, but you showed one to me in there. I finally saw who you really are underneath all of that, and I saw that it was all just a defense mechanism you put in place to keep yourself from being hurt again. It was your way of taking control. You are such an easy person to love - you just bury all of that underneath that cold facade of yours. But it's too late to pretend like it's not there now. I've seen it, and I won't give up until it's uncovered again."
Regina tried to look angry, but a tear slipped out instead. She hated that he was so persistent and good. It would all be so much easier if he hadn't seen what was underneath. Before she knew what was happening, David was pulling her in again, this time simply hugging her close. He wrapped his arms around her firmly, moving one hand up to rub her back.
At first she was tense, arms at her sides, not sure how to react. The love she felt radiating off of him and from his embrace however started to win. She brought her arms up, wrapping them around his waist. Finally, she leaned fully into the embrace, resting her head on David's shoulder and closing her eyes. "How is this happening?" she whispered, finally allowing the tears to come. She was quite sure she'd never done anything to deserve this man's love and the way that she had it now, unflinchingly and so strongly, she couldn't believe it. She never would have believed if it wasn't right here in front of her. How strange it was to have been thinking about how much she disliked this man such a short time ago, and now here she was, safely enclosed in his arms, secretly wishing he'd never let go.
Chapter 18: The Next Step
"We should probably get out of the shop," David said after a few minutes. He hadn't wanted to break the silence. It seemed like Regina just needed some comfort, but their current location wasn't exactly ideal. "You never know when Gold will be the one to walk through that door, and I don’t know about you, but I'm too tired to deal with that right now."
Regina smiled a little and pulled back. "I think I'm always too tired to deal with Gold," she joked. She picked up her coat where it had been resting next to her on the chair and pulled it on. When she straightened to look at him, she'd grown serious again. "I think we should talk, David." She told him. She wanted - needed - to understand more about what had happened while David was under the sleeping curse.
David nodded. "I agree. There's a lot to talk about. Your house?"
She agreed and pulled open the door, grabbing her keys out of her pocket as she did so. She was grateful that David being under the sleeping curse had been limited knowledge. It meant that she wouldn't receive any unusual stares if anyone were to walk by and see her about town with David in tow.
In her desire to stay unnoticed, she'd parked rather far away from the shop. The last thing she needed was for Gold to see her car and come prying about what she was doing sitting at Charming's bedside.
Regina jumped when she suddenly felt a hand close around hers. She looked down to see fingers intertwining comfortably with hers and allowed her eyes to follow the arm back up to look at David's face. He was looking forward as he walked, not seeming to notice that his actions were anything but normal. He glanced at her, and when he caught her staring, he looked down at their joined hands as well.
"Oh," he said. "I'm sorry, I didn't even..." he started to pull his hand out of hers, knowing that the action probably made her extremely uncomfortable. If she'd been wary of a hug inside where no one could see, he could only imagine what holding her hand in public would mean. She didn't love him like he did her. This was still new to her and, while he couldn't stand to be away from her in any way, he knew if he rushed into it, he might scare her off for good.
Before he'd managed to pull away completely, however, she stopped him by squeezing his hand. "I do want to try this. This...whatever it is you say we have. Just give me a little bit of time." She gave his hand one last squeeze before removing hers from its grasp. He gave her a warm smile, which she returned, more willingly this time. This was something she felt she could get used to. Easily, it seemed. However ludicrous it appeared from the outside, it was apparent that she and the prince had a lot working for them where she would have thought it would be the opposite.
Regina kept her gaze on the sidewalk as they made the rest of the journey to her car. She wasn't able to completely hide the smile that was tugging on the corners of her mouth and it was starting to draw the attention of passers-by.
Back at the house, David started down the path first, making it all the way to the front door and reaching into his pocket before realizing he didn't have a key. Noticing this action, Regina raised an eyebrow. Just how much had taken place in the two days that David had been under the sleeping curse?
He shrugged. "I forgot I didn’t have a key."
"You lived with me?"
"Apparently," David smiled. "According to the other you, I moved in not too long after the curse broke."
"Our relationship progressed that quickly?"
"Not exactly..." David smiled. "How about you let us in and I'll tell you what I know?"
Without saying anything, Regina fished out her keys and unlocked the door, stepping inside and out of the way.
David shrugged his jacket off, hanging it up, and took a few steps up into the house. "Want me to make you a drink?" he asked, turning back to face her.
Regina was speechless. She kept waiting for David to yell 'tricked you!' and go back to trying to kill her; to act more like the Prince James that she knew.
She swallowed and shook her head. "As much as I want one, I think it would probably be best that I keep a clear head for this." She kept studying him, waiting.
He seemed to read her thoughts and know exactly what she was thinking. Holding a hand out to her, he said. "Come on. Let's talk."
She only hesitated for a moment before stepping up and taking his hand. He led her into the living room where he pulled her down next to him on the couch, never letting go of her hand. She watched tensely as he played with her fingers and stared at their hands. She didn't really know what to say so she cleared her throat in an attempt to draw his attention back to their impending conversation.
It worked. "Hey," he said casually as he looked up at her and smiled. It was so odd. He was nothing like the Charming from two days ago, just before she'd mixed up the curse. She'd never seen him so casual; probably because before, he'd always been on edge around her - not that she could blame him. They were mortal enemies. They'd only just reached a shaky ground with each other with David starting to call her whenever something happened involving Henry.
"Hi." There was that lame ‘hi’ again. What was going on with her? She'd never acted like this around him before. She'd always been her same collected self, and now she couldn't even manage to think up a statement more complex than ‘hi’. Then again, she'd never kissed him before. This whole entire situation was off-kilter. Still not able to think up anything else to say, she went right back to staring at him.
"This is kind of awkward," David said, chuckling lightly. "I have no idea what to say."
Regina gave him a small smile and shook her head. "Well, what did you say before? When you thought you were awake the first time?"
"Actually,” David said, now frowning, “I was horrible to you; accusing you, blaming you, saying terrible things.”
"So, you're usual self?" Regina asked, humor gone.
"Yeah," David said quietly. "But it didn't last long."
"That’s what I don’t understand,” Regina told him. “What changed your mind? Why now? Why this time?”
"Because this time, you loved me and trusted me enough to tell me how much it hurt." He felt a physical ache thinking back to everything he'd said or done to Regina over the years; how many times he'd caused her emotional pain beyond what he could ever have understood. She'd never shown that it had any effect on her at all. Her wall had been firmly in place and he'd always assumed it rolled right off her.
He'd been wrong.
Regina shifted uncomfortably, trying to imagine appearing vulnerable in front of David. She was glad she hadn't been there for that. She wondered how long it had taken David to come around. She wondered just how broken she must have appeared to get him to that point.
She moved to stand up, suddenly feeling the need to distance herself from him. He'd apparently seen way more of her than she'd ever wanted anyone to.
But David didn't let her get far before he pulled her back down, seeming once again to read her thoughts. "You told me that it took some time for you to get used to the idea of us. Apparently, I was the one who came around constantly, bothering you until you gave us a shot."
Regina narrowed her eyes. "Yes, you said before that you'd moved in after the curse. I'm having a hard time believing that while you were so busy hating me and taking my son from me, in some alternate universe, you were harassing me for a date."
"That's not how it went, Regina," David said, tired from the days insane events. He sighed. "We spent hours comparing events; places, days, times, people involved - every detail. Everything was exactly the same except for our relationship. In there, it was the day I drove you and your groceries home and you cooked me lasagna. When you tried to kiss me, I let you and that eventually led to a relationship."
David could see how skeptical Regina seemed about the whole idea. Even after she'd admitted to wanting to give it a try outside of Gold's shop, she seemed to be thinking all of this was some sort of trick again. She'd still been dazedly happy and confused after their kiss. He knew it because it was exactly how he had felt in the dream world after kissing her. "There is something strong between us, Regina. I think you know that now. You've felt it. We can't just ignore it." He was pleading with her now, but he didn't care. "Just...trust me," he said quietly, leaning forward slowly. "Please?" he whispered and then closed the gap between them, bringing his mouth to meet hers.
She almost pulled away. She started to lean back from the kiss, but the last second, she didn't. She remembered that kiss back in the shop and she wanted to feel that way again, even if she was worried it might all just be a game. How funny that it had apparently started out with her game, but that the ball had changed courts. Whether or not this was real was now up to David.
When his lips closed over hers, her eyes shut again and she leaned forward instead. It was even better than she'd remembered. It was easy to forget all of her doubt and fear when he was kissing her. There was such a strong sense of love coming from him in that moment. She shifted her position so that she could move closer to him and he helped her by pulling her most of the way into his lap.
They kept at it until they had to pull away for air. Regina sat, breathing heavily, looking into David's eyes. The way they sparkled when he looked at her, how his face seemed to light up – it was baffling. But it was undeniable now. She laid her head against David's chest and closed her eyes. "Things are about to get complicated, aren't they?" she asked quietly.
"Oh yes." He brought a hand up to brush the hair back from her face and kissed her head. "But wonderfully so."
She jumped and sat up when the doorbell rang through the house. "Well that was quick," she said, putting her feet on the ground and standing. "It seems it's already begun."
David shook his head. "Nobody knows about us yet – except for Snow and Emma, of course. Something tells me they wouldn't be eager to spread it around town so quickly."
She glanced at the door and began making her way to it when the bell rang again. "Well, whoever it is, I'd better answer it. They seem rather eager."
David pulled himself up as well and moved to lean in the doorway so that he could watch. He didn't like the idea of unexpected visitors in the middle of the afternoon – especially not when it came to Regina.
Catching sight of David standing guard, Regina gave him a slight smile, warmed by the thought that he wanted to protect her. She didn't admit that she, too, was wary of who her guest might be.
Chapter 19: We Can Do This
Regina kept the door between herself and whoever might be on the other side. She pulled it open wider and stepped out when she saw who it was.
“Henry?” she asked with disbelief. When David had still been asleep, the boy had been angry with her, but now, this would be his second willing visit to her today.
“Hey, mom,” he said casually. He stepped into the house, shrugging off his backpack and looking around. “Is David here?”
Before Regina could answer, David did it for her by stepping into Henry’s view. He didn’t get a chance to say anything either before Henry had launched himself at him, hugging him tightly around the waist.
“You’re awake,” he said, smiling, his eyes shut tightly. “Emma said you were, but I didn’t want to believe it until I saw it myself.”
“Does she know you’re here?” David asked with a bit of concern. He knew Henry’s tendency to sneak out often created a lot of trouble with whoever was in charge of him.
“Yeah,” Henry said, stepping back. “She’s the one who dropped me off.”
“She dropped you off?” Regina asked with disbelief, leaning to peek out the window next to the door. She didn’t see Emma’s car out front.
“She’s already gone,” Henry told her, seeing what she was doing. “She was thinking maybe I could stay here for the night?” He smiled at her hopefully.
Regina wasn’t sure what to think. She wanted to smile and hug him and say yes, but it all seemed too good to be true. Henry wouldn’t want to stay with her for the same reasons he hadn’t wanted to stay with her while Emma and Mary Margaret were trapped in the other world; the same reasons he’d taken so easily to calling Emma his mom after such a short time. Knowing she couldn’t very well voice these thoughts to her young son, she asked instead, “Emma? Emma thought you should stay here for the night?”
Henry nodded, not seeming to notice how odd this statement seemed. “They didn’t want me at the loft tonight. Ms. Bla- I mean, grandma – she was really upset. Emma brought her home from the hospital, but she wouldn’t really talk to anybody. She wanted to be alone, but Emma wouldn’t let her. She said I shouldn’t be there, though, so she dropped me off here.”
“And you’re okay with that?” Regina asked him. She didn’t want to acknowledge the rest of what had been said. The thought of a relationship with David seemed impossible enough without thinking about the state of depression his current wife was in, no matter who she was – especially because of who she was.
Henry nodded, frowning slightly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I just thought…I know that you said you wouldn’t be angry if it worked, but—”
“Mom, it’s okay,” Henry said, cutting her off. He watched as David moved to stand next to Regina. Looking between the two of them, he shook his head slightly. “It’s gonna be weird, but if it makes you happy, then I’m okay with it.”
Regina nodded and looked at David. This did seem like something that could make her happy, but she was still afraid to explore that possibility. David certainly appeared to be sincere, and she knew for certain that he would never put Snow White through this agony just to deceive her, but that almost made it worse. He was willing to throw away his life with Snow White for her. Daniel and her father had been the only people to sacrifice anything for her and look how it had turned out for them. Loving her was dangerous.
Looking up at David, she caught him smiling down at her again and she was unable to keep herself from returning it.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll grab the guest room tonight,” David said. “I don’t really have a place to stay.”
That was certainly true, Regina thought. He’d shared a house with Kathryn, but that wasn’t exactly an option anymore, and Snow’s small apartment was now definitely out of the question. The idea made her nervous.
David noticed the awkward silence. “Of course,” he amended quickly, “I can always take a room at Granny’s.”
“No,” Regina said. “That’s alright. The guest room will be fine.” She smiled at him again to assure him she was okay with the idea.
Henry looked at her oddly, unused to seeing the easy smile directed at anyone other than himself. He’d been hurt to see how sad his grandma was, but he’d known it wasn’t his mom’s fault. All she’d done was put David under the sleeping curse after he’d asked her to. She hadn’t had anything to do with David falling in love with her, or with him not being able to wake up. He knew that now. He didn’t exactly like the thought of Prince Charming being with anyone other than Snow White, but he saw the way that David looked at his mom and he thought, maybe it was his mom’s turn to have someone look at her like that.
Henry couldn’t really remember a time when his mom had dated anyone. She’d tried to see Graham in secret from time to time – Henry wasn’t stupid – but nobody had ever made her happy. He could see when she smiled at David that this was different. It was really weird to see her looking at him that way, but whatever he’d said to her before Henry had arrived must have gotten through to her in some way. The good guys always say that everyone deserves a second chance. Why shouldn’t his mom get one, too? That’s why Henry had decided that, no matter how uncomfortable the idea made him, he’d go along with his mom and David being together.
“So I guess this means the three of us get to hang out tonight?” David asked, grinning at Henry.
“Yeah,” Henry smiled. “Hey, mom? Can we watch a movie later?”
“I don’t see why not,” Regina told him, smiling. “As long as you get all of your homework done first.”
“Already done,” Henry said. “I had to do something while everyone left me alone during all the action. I’m almost eleven – I’m the one who figured out the curse – but no one ever lets me be part of the good stuff.”
Regina smiled and smoothed out his hair, relishing the fact that when she pulled him into her for a hug, he didn’t resist. “That’s just because we love you and want you safe, dear. And believe me, it’s not that fun.” She held him tightly, wishing that things could always be this easy between them. Maybe it could. She’d been working so hard on trying to change, and – as evidenced by David still standing close enough for their shoulders to touch and the loving expression he wore on his face – there was no saying that change wasn’t taking place.
After kissing the top of Henry’s head, she finally pulled away from him. “Why don’t you put your things upstairs and I’ll get started on some dinner for all of us.”
“Lasagna?” Henry asked hopefully. It was his favorite.
David grinned and looked at her sideways. “Yes, Regina. How about some of your magic lasagna?”
Regina looked at him twice. He was referencing their first dinner together, and if she wasn’t mistaken, flirting with her right in front of her ten year old son.
“Alright,” she said. “Lasagna it is.”
“Yes!” Henry cheered, throwing his arms in the air. He grabbed his backpack and raced up the stairs.
“Careful!” Regina called after him, smiling and shaking her head. She sighed and kept her gaze on the stairs even after Henry had disappeared. It was nice to have her son back home. It felt right and it created the illusion that everything was normal again.
Well, almost everything. She was reminded that some things were still strange as David clasped her hand in his. “I’m sure that once things settle down, Henry can move back in in a more permanent way.”
Regina looked at him incredulously. “She’s his mother, as all of you have pointed out time and time again. Emma will want him to stay with her and I’m sure Henry will feel the same.”
“First of all, Emma may have given birth to him, but you’re his mother, too. Ten years, Regina. Nothing can change the fact that you raised him and he’s your son. I know that Henry feels that way, too. He’s said it to me on occasion – he just doesn’t know how to express it to you. Second, I think that Emma is a reasonable person. She’ll want to be able to visit Henry often, of course, but I think we’ll find that she’ll understand wanting to have Henry continue to be raised in the house he’s lived in since birth.”
Regina looked at the ground, self-conscious about the tears that had formed and were threatening to escape. She nearly jumped when David kissed her forehead, but then he gently tugged on her hand. “Now come on,” he said, pulling her toward the kitchen. “Let’s get that delicious lasagna started.”
Regina smiled as the menu screen played on the television. Henry had insisted they wait for David to start the movie despite the fact that David told them to go ahead. While they were waiting, Henry had scooted into the couch, making himself comfortable. He'd leaned into Regina and she'd happily wrapped an arm around him, settling back into the cushions herself. It had been too long since Henry had allowed her to spend time with him like this. She couldn't even remember the last time they'd watched a movie together - though she'd come to realize a lot of that was her fault. She'd been too strict and controlling, holding onto him so tightly that he'd pulled away. She still shuddered to think how much like her mother she'd become without even realizing it. But those days were gone. She'd put that behind her along with her magic; even if it meant letting Henry go – the most painful thing she’d ever done. It seemed now that maybe it had been the best thing to do after all. He was here now, willingly and happily, which was more than she'd thought possible just a few days ago.
David interrupted her thoughts, entering with a bowl of popcorn in his hands. He plopped comfortably onto the couch next to Regina, the sudden dip in the cushions causing Regina's body to shift so that she was leaning slightly into David. She tensed, but with Henry leaning against her, there wasn't a whole lot she could do about it. David didn't seem to notice her dilemma.
Henry eagerly hit the play button, anxious to start the movie.
After a few minutes of not being able to focus on anything but how she'd get out of this position, Regina finally realized that it wasn't going to happen. Not while the movie was still playing, at least. She finally relaxed into him and found - just like with all previous contact - it was unexpectedly pleasant. She eventually gave in and let her head rest on his shoulder - if she was going to give them a chance, she may as well put some effort into it. She smiled a bit when David's arm moved to rest around her shoulders.
She wasn’t even sure what the movie was about; she was too busy soaking up the feeling of having Henry cuddled against her while David did the same with her. At some point his fingers had started tracing soft circles on her arm and she’d sighed contentedly. Yes, their relationship was a scary thought, but a few more nights like this and he would have her completely convinced. A family – a normal family – is all she’d ever wanted in her life. Sitting here curled up with her son and a man that apparently loved her more than anything else, it didn’t seem so impossible anymore.
When the movie ended, Henry yawned and turned everything off, standing and stretching his arms above his head, dancing on tip toe for a minute, yawning more loudly this time. Regina smiled at him as he finished and turned to look at her. “Will you come tuck me in?”
“Of course,” Regina said happily. “I’ll give you a few minutes to put on your pajamas and brush your teeth and then I’ll be up.”
With one last look between David and his mom, he bounced off.
After a few minutes of silence, Regina spoke up. “This really doesn’t seem strange to you?”
David noticed that she hadn’t shifted off of him yet and smiled. “Of course it does, but I think the love I feel overpowers it. Even before I loved you, when the other you was telling me about us, I felt the strong attachment.”
Regina nodded her head against his shoulder. “I feel it, too.” She stayed quiet a moment, then asked. “Why do you think we never noticed before?”
“Mmm,” David said, thinking. “I think we were so distracted with hating each other that we never took the time to see anything else.”
Regina nodded again, thoughtfully. “Well,” she said, reluctantly sitting up, “I suppose I should get upstairs.” She smiled. “I have to go tuck my son in.”
David stood with her and followed her up the stairs. They both paused in the hallway outside Henry’s door. Not knowing quite what to do, Regina gave him a small smile and said, “Goodnight, David.”
David closed the distance between them and kissed her softly, lingering for a minute before pulling back. “Goodnight, Regina.”
She watched him walk to the guestroom and pull the door shut behind him before turning to enter Henry’s room, her smile never fading.
The next morning, Regina opened her eyes slowly before remembering the events from the day before. Good things like that didn't happen to her; that fact had been proved to her painfully, time and time again. It was too good to be true - it had to have been a dream. The thought scared her and she hurried out of bed, tossing on her robe. She made her way quickly to Henry's room, opening the door as quietly as possible and poking her head in. She sighed in relief when she saw Henry's sleeping form huddled under the covers. It hadn't been a dream - he was really here.
But that must mean...
She turned and padded down to the guest room, stopping just outside the door. She wasn't sure how she'd feel about what she found inside, but she was starting to realize that she hoped he was in there. She reached out and placed her hand on the doorknob, pausing to take a deep breath. Finally, she pushed the door open and let out the breath when she saw him on the bed turned away from her. She leaned heavily against the door frame, suddenly feeling much weaker. She hadn't known just how much she'd wanted him to be there until she saw him. With her head resting on the door frame, she squeezed her eyes shut to hold back tears that were threatening to fall and took a shuddering breath. Not wanting to wake him, she finally drew herself up and pulled the door shut behind her. Deciding a distraction was in order, she headed down the stairs to start on breakfast.
David awoke to the sound of footsteps in the hallway; they weren't loud, but he'd been sleeping lightly. Judging by the sounds of the door opening down the hall, he assumed it was Regina going to check on Henry. A short while later, he heard the soft footsteps approaching his room. He thought about turning to face the door and greeting her when she opened it, but he didn't want to scare her.
The door opened and he lay there, unsure of whether or not to make it known that he was awake. He made up his mind when he heard her take a shaky breath. She sounded on the verge of tears and he knew she wouldn't want to face him right this second. Instead, he waited for her to close the door before getting up.
He took his time pulling on a clean shirt to wear with his pajama bottoms. He wanted to talk to her and make sure she was okay, but he also wanted her to have time to recover a bit first. While the Regina who'd known him for a while felt comfortable showing him her vulnerable side, he knew the Regina downstairs wouldn't be as willing.
A few minutes later, David made his way downstairs to find Regina at the stove in her pajamas and robe, cooking eggs.
"Hey," he said softly, not wanting to scare her.
She still jumped slightly and then turned to look at him. She gave him a tired smile as she pulled the pan off the burner. She then focused her attention back on the food as she dished the eggs onto a plate.
David used the opportunity to step up behind her and wrap his arms around her from behind.
Her immediate reaction was to try to pull away, but she held herself back from doing so and instead, allowed his arms to stay where they were. She felt his head rest on her shoulder as she finished with the eggs and set the pan down.
When he spoke, she could feel his breath on her neck. "I was awake this morning," he said simply.
She stilled her movements and stood there stiffly. After several beats of silence, she finally found her voice. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"Would you have wanted me to?"
She thought about it. "No."
"Why didn't you say anything?" he asked her. "You could have woken me up."
"I was trying not to," she said quietly.
"What were you doing?" he asked. His tone wasn't judgmental in any way. He was simply curious and she felt no pressure to answer.
How did he do that? He made her feel so incredibly safe, when just a month ago, he'd been threatening her life. She found herself wanting to tell him.
"I wanted to see if it had been a dream," she finally told him quietly.
The answer made him hesitate. Were her tears this morning because she was happy that it hadn't been, or because it was upsetting?
He started to pull back slightly so he could turn her to face him, but she placed her arms over his, holding him in place and lacing her fingers through his. "I wanted it to be real," she explained. "More than I'd realized. In that split second when I was pushing the door open, I was so afraid that—” her voice had become a whisper and he cut her off.
"But it was real," he affirmed. "And I was there, just as I plan to be from this point forward."
Regina couldn't say anything, so she held his arms more tightly against her. She leaned her head back into his chest and closed her eyes. "I still can't believe this is happening," she said finally.
Rather than answering her, David leaned his head down to kiss her cheek. She turned into it, meeting his lips with her own. She finally let go of his arms so that he could turn her to face him. They didn't even break apart as she swiveled in his arms. She looped her arms around his neck as he slipped his hands under her robe, wrapping his arms around her waist. She stood on tip toe to get closer as he pulled her against him.
Regina and David were once again startled apart, this time turning to find Henry standing in the doorway, rubbing his eyes tiredly with the back of his hand. He looked both confused and uncomfortable.
"Sorry," he mumbled, and turned to leave again.
"No, Henry - wait," Regina said. "The eggs are done and the hash browns are almost ready. Why don't you sit down and start eating while I pop in some toast? I can even make some bacon or sausage if you'd like."
"Are you sure?" he asked hesitantly, looking back and forth between Regina and David.
"Yes, sweetheart. I want to have breakfast with you. Come in - sit down."
Henry gave her a timid smile and walked over to the table, pulling out a chair.
"What would you like with your eggs?" Regina asked him.
"Can I just have an English muffin instead of toast?" he asked.
"Of course." She turned to start dipping a plate, but when she caught sight of the affectionate smile on David's face, she had to pause for a moment. She placed a hand gently on his cheek and gave him a quick, light kiss before going back to what she was doing.
The normalcy of the moment both excited and scared her, but she smiled widely as she filled Henry's plate.
Oh yes - she could definitely get used to this.
Chapter 20: Our Happy Ending
Two Months Later...
It had now been a month since David had officially moved into Regina's house. He'd stayed in the guest room the first week, being very careful of boundaries with Regina - but she'd asked him to stay. It had been a gradual, but natural transition into him sharing her bedroom. While he stayed there every night and spent all of his time off with Regina, it took a few more weeks for her to ask him to stay permanently - still an incredibly fast transition for their relationship. But they both agreed it felt right.
It had only taken about a week for the Regina David knew and loved to appear. He'd gradually worked his way over the wall she kept in place.
Regina was much happier for it. Every day, she found herself more trusting that David was here to stay. He made her feel safe and loved, and surprisingly, he had the ability to make her laugh - really laugh. He took the opportunity to do so as often as possible.
The new couple spent most of the first few weeks holed up in the house just talking. The town (as expected) had an extremely adverse reaction to the idea of the two of them having a relationship. They already hated Regina because of who she was and what she’d done, but finding out that she'd stolen Snow White's Prince Charming made it even worse. Regina hadn't thought that it was possible for anyone to hate her more than they already did. It didn't help that almost all of them solely blamed Regina for the relationship. They thought that maybe she had him under some sort of spell, or that she'd tricked him in some way. A lot of them thought that this was all part of some elaborate plan she had to bring about more destruction somehow. Only a select few blamed David - most of them being the closest friends of Snow White.
David was angry a lot in public, which was a side of him that Regina was completely unused to seeing. He snapped at people he'd once been friendly with and glared at people who passed by with any kind of judgment on their faces. He was extremely defensive of Regina, which both irritated her and felt nice. It was something to get used to.
Eventually, they were able to go out more often. People saw the way the couple interacted and even the people most against the relationship couldn't deny that these two appeared to be made for each other. Their conversations and laughter came easily. They often could be seen walking down the main street hand in hand, smiling and laughing, most of the time with Henry bouncing around them telling them about his day. It had become a daily routine that they picked him up from school and walked him to Granny's, where they'd have an after-school snack and spend some time together before taking him to Emma's.
Henry had taken a while to come around to the idea and become comfortable with it. He'd been accepting of it from the start, of course, but it took a little while for the idea not to bother him.
Snow and Emma were the most difficult obstacles, as anticipated. Snow didn't seem like she would ever stop hating them for what they'd done, and no one blamed her. Her husband had fallen in love with her mortal enemy, her step-mother, a woman who'd wanted her dead for decades. Against all expectation, however, she'd gradually stopped glaring and spitting hateful words. As much as it hurt, even she could see how happy they made each other. She, unlike everyone else in town, had seen this Regina before. Not since she was a child, but she'd never forgotten that woman or stopped missing her. David brought out the Regina who'd saved her life, picked her up off the ground, dusting her off and telling her about true love. It was more painful than she could imagine realizing that that love now existed with the man she'd thought was hers, but the tiny flame of love she'd always carried for Regina couldn't allow her to completely hate the woman, even now; especially now that she was the Regina that had loved her back. She still avoided seeing them whenever possible, but when she did happen to run into them, the encounters were far from hostile.
Emma had been confused, then angry, then finally, appeared indifferent. David didn't blame her. He was her father after all, as confusing as that in itself was for Emma. She'd gone her whole life without parents, only to find out that they were fairytale characters about the same age as she was. That would have been hard enough to get used to, except that, shortly after finding out that her parents were the inseparable Snow White and Prince Charming, they'd done just that; separated. And not just because they'd grown apart. Because Prince Charming had fallen in love with the Evil Queen. As much as Emma tried to ignore the fact that everyone in this town had an alternate, fairytale identity, she couldn't overcome this particular hurdle. It had been easier to see Regina as the Evil Queen since the curse had been broken. The way she treated people, her attitude, everything about her had shifted to queen-mode. She hadn't been pleasant before, but it had been entirely different once everyone remembered. Seeing her with the man that was her father was frustrating. And she shouldn't be sharing a step-mother with her own mother. It was just wrong. Then again, there were many other things about the whole Storybrooke situation that were far more disturbing. And in any case, Regina was much younger than any stepmother should be. (Emma often wondered in the back of her mind how someone so young had ended up married to the king with a daughter not much younger than his new wife. No one had ever bothered to tell her the story.) Still, she'd only just found her parents, and as awkward as it was, she wanted to get to know them. She couldn't let something like relationship status get in the way of coming to know her father. And so, gradually, Emma had stopped avoiding him and begrudgingly tolerated the relationship he had with her former rival.
This more than anything else is what had made it easier for the rest of the town. If Snow White and Emma could overcome their hatred of the pair, surely the rest of them could, too? David was extremely grateful for this. It's what had allowed them to start venturing out into the town more. Without that acceptance, it would have been much harder for Regina to spend time with her son.
Today, exactly one month since David had moved his things into Regina's house, the small, odd family was sitting in a booth at Granny's. Henry had been quiet, sipping a milkshake with an unusual distractedness.
Regina and David, sitting across from him, exchanged curious and worried glances before turning back to watch him.
"Henry?" Regina finally asked quietly. "Is everything alright?"
Henry looked up, appearing startled by her question. "Um, yeah. It's fine. Why?"
"Well," she glanced again at David. "You just seem a little distracted today. Is there something bothering you?"
"No," Henry said. He picked up a few french fries, munching silently.
Regina opened her mouth to ask more when the bell on the door sounded and in walked Emma and Mary Margaret.
Regina and David were both surprised when, rather than looking suddenly uncomfortable about their presence, the pair searched the diner before laying their eyes on them and headed directly over. They were even more surprised when Henry gave a sigh of relief and said, "Finally! You're late."
"Sorry, kid," Emma said sheepishly. "Last minute thing at the station I had to take care of." She waved her hand at him until he slid out of the booth, allowing her to slide in first. She shook her arms out of her coat as Henry climbed in next to her again and Mary Margaret sat awkwardly at the end next to him.
Emma looked up at Regina across from her and said, "You know, I miss you being the Mayor. People expect me to deal with all of their problems now. I don't know how you did it."
"Well I had a few years to practice," Regina said dazedly. What was happening? She looked at Henry who only smiled at her, offering no explanations.
Emma chuckled wryly. "Yeah, I suppose that's true." More seriously, she said, "Still, you were good at it. Most of the time," she added with an eye roll.
Mary Margaret, who'd been staring intently at a water spot on the table, glanced up to look at Regina.
There was a tense moment of silence, broken by the sound of Henry slurping the last of his milkshake through the straw.
"Was there something you needed to talk to us about?" David finally asked. It sounded curious, not mean. He still loved Snow, just not in the way he had before. And yes, things had been extremely tense with Emma, but she'd come around. It was just, they'd never openly sought a conversation the way they were doing now. There must be something important happening. It made him curious - not to mention a little on edge. What would bring Snow to the same table as he and Regina?
Regina seemed to be having the same thoughts, as her slightly shocked expression began to morph into one of concern. "Is something wrong?" she asked. Had something happened in town? Someone else they knew had crossed the town line? Gold was causing trouble? The portal had been closed for over a month now, but could it somehow have been opened again? Had someone come through? She sat up rigidly straight as she thought suddenly of her mother.
"Cora?" she asked weakly. Surely they wouldn't have been so casual in their conversation to begin with if this involved the woman they'd tried so hard to keep out?
Snow shook her head violently, understanding where Regina's thoughts had gone. "No, no. Nothing like that. The portal is still safely sealed," she assured her.
Regina let out a breath of relief and felt David's hand grasp hers under the table. Even the thought of her mother was still enough to terrify her. He gave her hand a light squeeze in support, rubbing the back of it with his thumb.
"Actually..." Henry said nervously, “they’re here to talk about me."
Regina looked between Henry, Emma and Snow, trying to decipher what was going on, but their expressions weren't giving anything away. They didn't look unhappy, but they didn't look particularly happy either. Henry's gaze had shifted self-consciously to the tabletop.
"It's about his living arrangements," Emma said.
Regina's stomach clenched. This was it. They were going to take her son away from her permanently. They wanted to make it official. It had been hard not having Henry in the house this past month. Yes, he'd been allowed to stay overnight from time to time, but that was the extent of it. David's optimism had proven false. She'd always had some small amount of hope that they might change their mind about her and allow her to spend more than just afternoons with her son, but now that hope was quickly fading. It was even more painful than she'd imagined it would be. Even worse was the seeming indifference about the topic in Henry's expression. That is, until he looked up at her and saw her expression.
The pain had become clear on Regina's face and her eyes were shining with unshed tears. She looked like she was about to fall apart.
"Mom!" Henry said, suddenly looking horrified. "What's the matter?"
Regina couldn't speak for fear that she really would fall apart.
Emma and Snow noticed the look as well and Snow quickly spoke up. "We're not taking him, Regina."
Regina turned her wide eyes on Snow, slow to comprehend what had been said. Mostly because she couldn't bring herself to believe what she'd heard.
"No," Emma said firmly. "We wouldn't do that."
"Then what..." Regina cleared her throat, trying to rid it of the shaky emotions. "What are you going to do?"
"Well, actually," Emma started picking at a dried spot of ketchup on the table. "Henry's asked if it would be alright to move in with you again. Permanently."
Regina blinked at her and looked at Henry who was looking at her hopefully. It seems he'd been afraid to ask her himself. He still seemed nervous about what was going on.
Not wanting to build up her hopes only to have them torn down, Regina looked again at Emma. "And you're okay with this?"
Emma nodded, but it was Snow who spoke. "We actually thought it might be a good idea." She smiled down at Henry, quickly adding, "Not that we don't love having him." She turned back to Regina. "My apartment is small, not meant for a child to grow up in. Emma has to work a lot, especially since the curse has been broken, and Henry and I already spend all day together at the school. Besides," she added more quietly. "He should be with his mother."
Emma didn't even wince. It seemed that she and Snow had already had a discussion about this. They had, in fact, and while there was no question that Emma was also Henry's mom, Regina had been his mother his entire life. She'd raised him from birth and they couldn't ignore that fact. As quickly as Emma had come to know and love her son, and as much as Henry now needed both his mothers in his life, they knew that it was Regina who should have custody of him. She was the one who knew how to cook his favorite meals, exactly what to say when he was having a bad day and how to make his nightmares go away. Henry had tried to hide it while living with them, but they could tell that he wasn't truly happy. The way that he'd stare at his plate at dinner and was quiet during breakfast; how he'd eventually stopped asking them to come in and say goodnight. They were his family and they loved him, as he did them, but there was one major issue. They weren't Regina.
Snow had brought this conversation up at one point, no longer able to stand the tense silences. It was clear that Henry wasn't happy, he was just too polite to say so. At first, Snow and Emma had discussed it amongst themselves, but then they'd brought Henry into the conversation. They'd made the decision that Henry should move back home. He and Emma could still spend a lot of time together and hang out on the weekends, but he should spend the majority of his time in the house he grew up in, with the daily routine he'd known his whole life and the mother who’d raised him. Henry had simply been afraid to ask Regina. Snow and Emma knew that she'd welcome him home with open arms. The only thing she'd fought for since the breaking of the curse was Henry. He was the most important thing in her life. They understood, though, that Henry was still a child. He still had a hard time thinking about things that weren't black and white. He had a nagging fear that because of the way he'd treated his mom ever since finding that book, how he hadn't trusted her, she maybe wouldn't want him living with her. He might remind her of all the painful things that had happened because of him.
Regina was still staring back and forth between the three people on the opposite side of the table.
"Mom?" Henry asked nervously. "Is that okay?"
She gave a little choked sound, fighting back tears. "Henry, of course it's okay. I would love for you to move back in with me. Are you sure this is what you want?" She still was afraid that it was too good to be true.
"Yeah," Henry said, as if it were obvious. "I miss you and my room, and I think it would be cool to live with David," he added a little sheepishly. "We've never had a guy in the house."
Regina smiled warmly at him. "No, we haven't, have we?" She couldn't believe this was happening. "You can move back whenever you'd like Henry. It's your home. You never needed permission."
David smiled as well. He'd spent a lot of time with Henry while Snow and Emma were trapped in the Enchanted Forest, and he'd missed him since he'd been living with Regina. Having missed his own child growing up, he'd rather enjoyed having a second chance with Henry.
"It's settled then," Emma said. "How about tomorrow? Henry doesn't have a lot of things at the apartment, so it shouldn't take too long to move it back to the house." She was sad that Henry would be leaving, but she knew that he wouldn't want to wait. He'd done enough waiting. And it wasn't like she was never going to see him again; he'd just be living a few blocks away. "Does that sound okay to you Henry?"
Henry nodded eagerly, practically bouncing in his seat. "I'm so excited!" he said loudly, drawing a few looks from other customers in the diner. "I have a surprise for you, too!" He said happily to Regina. Now that he knew she wanted him back and that he would soon be living at home again, he'd gone right back to his normal self. Talkative, excited, engaged in the conversation.
Regina smiled at seeing her son re-emerge. "I can't wait," she told him happily. She was just happy to have her son back – especially after the fear that he would be taken away forever.
Red chose that moment to sidle up to the table, notepad in hand and a curious expression on her face. She hadn't expected to see Emma and her best friend occupying the same booth as Regina and David. She wasn't the only one who'd noticed, either. They were receiving several strange looks from the other customers. Snow White and the Evil Queen at the same table? Red's curiosity was starting to get to her. "Can I get you guys anything?" she asked Emma and Snow.
Snow shook her head. "Actually, I think I'd better get going. I have some papers to grade."
Henry pouted. "Please stay, Snow. Please? You just got here."
Everyone's eyes shifted to Regina. They all knew the real reason Snow was anxious to leave.
To all of their surprise, Regina gave a small nod. "You should stay."
No one looked more shocked than Snow, although even Regina seemed surprised by what she'd said.
"Al...Alright," Snow stammered. "I guess I’ll have a grilled cheese."
Red snapped out of her open-mouthed stare and jotted the order down quickly, tearing her eyes from Regina to look at Emma.
"Burger and fries. Oh and a chocolate shake." She eyed the pie case across the diner. "Do you have any cherry pie?"
Red nodded, an amused smile on her face.
"A slice of that, too."
"Emma!' Snow said, looking incredulously at her daughter.
"What?" Emma asked innocently. "I haven't had anything to eat all day long. Being the only person in the sheriff's department is a busy job."
"I'm sure there's room in the budget for some help," Regina commented casually, taking a sip of her water.
Emma glanced at her, surprised that Regina had said anything. "That may be true, but without anyone actually running the budget, it's kind of tough to get ahold of any of it."
Regina actually looked concerned at the news. "No one's in charge of the budget?"
Emma shook her head, glancing around the table, looking as if this shouldn't be news to anyone. "Has everyone but me failed to notice that there's really no one in charge in this town? Seriously?"
"Well, we've..." Snow trailed off in thought.
"Yeah," Emma said. "God, it's no wonder no one understands why I'm so stressed out. I've been pulling double duty trying to solve issues that are normally the mayor's purview. You guys asked Regina to step down, but you didn't have anyone to take her position." She reached across the table to pick a fry off of David's plate and frowned when he slapped her hand away.
"Get your own," he said, putting his hands over his plate.
Emma looked pointedly at Red who was still standing there, listening to the conversation. "Right!" she said, spinning around to fill the new orders.
Emma crossed her arms on the table and looked back at Regina. "Seriously, though - this town needs help. Would you be willing to consider coming back?"
Snow gaped at her daughter openly. Even David looked surprised. Henry just looked around innocently, watching all of their reactions.
"I suppose I could," Regina said. "But don't you think everyone would be against it?"
Emma shrugged. "You've run this town for twenty-eight years and let's face it, you weren't the most pleasant person, but you got the job done."
Regina raised an eyebrow.
"You were actually a pretty decent mayor," Emma continued, ignoring the look, "and I think that people - if given the facts about the direction this town is taking without a proper system in place - could be convinced to let you back into the position."
"You don't think they'd want to elect someone a little more...well-liked? At least someone they didn’t outwardly hate?" Regina finished, not being able to think of a delicate way to put it.
Emma sighed. "You've been changing. You're not as creepy-controlling as you were before and you still have all of the political knowledge required for the job. You'd have to train anyone else who might step up for the role, and I don't think anybody's going to be willing to do that at this point. Maybe a year down the road, but not now. I know there'd be a lot of resistance, but ultimately, I think it would be best for the town if you were the mayor again."
Henry turned, a fry halfway to his mouth, to look at his mom again.
The surprises just kept coming today, Regina thought. Who'd have expected when she sat down in the diner today that she'd be asked if Henry could move back in with her and if she'd consider resuming her position as mayor of Storybrooke?
"I actually think that would be best," Snow said quietly, looking back at Regina. "You know what you're doing, and we really do need someone in the position."
Regina stared at them both for another minute and then nodded. "Alright. If you can convince the town not to string me up, I'd step into the position again."
"Cool," Emma said simply. Shifting topics completely, she turned to look at Henry. "So I heard from a certain someone that grades had been passed out today at school."
Henry gave an exasperated sigh. "Having your grandma as a teacher sucks sometimes," he said and the adults chuckled.
"Come on, Henry," Snow said. "They were good grades."
"Yeah, but I got a B on one of my tests," he said, slumping back into the booth.
David laughed. "You're mad about a B? Buddy, that's great. When I was your age, I almost never got a B." A confused look came over his face. "Or David never did? Or at least I think... I don't know. It might be the coma... or the fact that I didn't actually grow up here." He looked into the air, pondering how that worked. He looked at Regina. "Actually, how is that? I don't really remember my past here, but I have a general feeling about things."
A corner of Regina's mouth went up in a partial smile. "Well, having the curse create a full and detailed set of memories for everyone would have been rather complicated, so yes, everyone's memories are sort of hazy. Yours I imagine would be quite a different story because of the amnesia. Actually, I'm not sure myself how your memories would work."
"So I'm special?" David asked, grinning at her.
"Mmm," Regina said, chuckling. "Don't go getting a big head or anything."
Snow let out an audible breath of relief when Red suddenly appeared with a tray of food, setting a plate down in front of her. "Thank god," she muttered.
They went back to talking about Henry's projects in class and his new friendships with a few of his classmates.
Regina was watching Snow eat her grilled cheese, when she suddenly looked up, meeting her eyes.
David, Emma and Henry didn't notice, as they were all now in an argument about the rules of dodgeball.
They stared at each other for a moment, before Regina offered a small timid smile. It was an olive branch; a door to perhaps working on their complicated pasts at some point in the future. It was a way to tell her that there was no longer the pure animosity that had existed between them before.
Snow smiled back. Yes, it hurt - as it would for a long time to come - but things were also going to improve. They both knew that now.
“That’s the last of it,” Henry said, setting down a small box of a few random items.
“That’s all you had at Emma’s?” David asked him. They’d only brought up a few small boxes, mostly containing clothes.
“Yeah, well, everything I have is here,” he said, looking at Regina, “in my room.”
She smiled and pulled him in for a hug. “I’m so glad you’re back, sweetheart. I’ve missed you.”
Henry giggled and hugged her back. “We’ve seen each other almost every day.” Then, squeezing her more tightly, he said, “But I know what you mean. I missed you, too.”
She was grateful when he didn’t pull back for several seconds. When he finally did, she smiled down at him. “I made your favorite again for dinner tonight and I bought some mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert. I thought we should celebrate.”
“Yes!” Henry cheered. “You’re the best, mom.”
The words warmed her completely. She thought statements like that had disappeared with his younger childhood. It had been years since he’d said anything of the sort to her. “Alright, well, you finish putting away your things and I’ll go check on dinner.”
Regina and David both started for the door when Henry said, “Oh, hey wait. I want to give you your surprise.”
Regina had forgotten there was a surprise and had to admit that she was curious. “Alright,” she said, smiling.
Henry unzipped his backpack and Regina wasn’t sure what to think when he pulled out the book that had started it all, ‘Once Upon A Time’ scrawled elegantly across the cover. She looked questioningly at David, wondering if he might have some idea of what this meant.
Holding the book out to his mom, Henry saw the clear confusion on her face and said, “Just open it.”
She did, flipping through all of the pages that told the stories of the people of Storybrooke; their lives in the Enchanted Forest. She tried not to wince as she passed several images of herself dressed as the Evil Queen. She was about to ask why he’d given it to her when she saw it. Right toward the end of the book, the pages were different. They were new. Still typed out in the regular font and format as the rest of the book was the story of Queen Regina and Prince Charming, accompanied by pictures of her and David printed onto the page. They were images taken over the last month and she marveled at what a difference this month had been on her. She ran her fingers gently over the images of her own smiling face next to David’s, barely recognizing herself. She looked happier than she’d remembered being in years.
“How did you…” Regina breathed.
“August and Emma helped me. I thought that the book needed a happy ending.”
Sure enough, the last page contained a picture that Archie had taken of the three of them a few weeks ago at the diner. Henry was squished happily between Regina and David, all of whom were laughing. Underneath, the words said, “And so, the queen had finally found her happy ending and they all lived happily ever after. The End.” She wiped a tear that had fallen as David placed his hands on her shoulders, looking over to see the book for himself. Regina leaned her head sideways to nuzzle one of his hands, closing her eyes and drawing in a contented breath.
“Thank you, Henry,” she said, stepping forward and leaning down in front of him. “I love it.” She pulled him in for another hug, rocking him gently as she did so. “You are the most amazing boy in all the lands and I love you more than anything.”
Henry buried his head in her neck, breathing in the familiar scent of his mother’s perfume. He was glad to be home.
After dinner had been cleared and Henry had been tucked in for the night, Regina and David lay together on the couch, Regina’s legs in his lap as he gently rubbed her feet. “This feels right, doesn’t it?” Regina asked happily.
“It does,” David said, nodding in agreement.
“You were right,” Regina said, closing her eyes and relaxing into the pillows behind her. “Emma let Henry come home. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect Snow to agree, either.” She opened her eyes and gazed at him as he continued his foot massage. After losing herself temporarily in her thoughts, she arrived back at the beginning. “How do you think you ended up in the particular dream you did when you were under the sleeping curse?”
“What do you mean?” David asked without looking up.
“When you fell in love with me, you were supposed to be living out your biggest regrets,” she pointed out.
“Are you asking me if kissing you was supposed to be my biggest regret?” David asked, smiling at her.
“Actually,” she said, shaking a finger in contemplation, “I’ve been thinking about that.”
“Oh you have, have you?” he asked. This was going to be good.
“And just what, may I ask, have you come up with?”
“I’ve decided it’s not the kissing that was your biggest regret, it was the lack of kissing.”
“What?” David really was confused now.
She grinned. “That time – while the curse was still in place – I tried to kiss you, but you pulled away. I think maybe that was your biggest regret.”
“You know what…” David said, pausing. Suddenly, he grasped her legs and she squeaked in surprise as he pulled her closer to him. “I think you might be right.” He brought his lips to hers and she melted into him, swinging a leg over to straddle his lap.
“Mmmm,” she mumbled into his mouth. “I thought so.”
When they finally pulled apart for air, she rested her head against his chest, snuggling into him. “This really is my happy ending,” she said softly. “I couldn’t imagine a better one.”
“Me, either,” David said, running a hand through her hair before wrapping his arms around her and holding her close. “I love you, Regina.”
“I love you, too.”