|It's All in the Storytelling
Author: DiMick PM
Post-curse FTL. Regina interrupts a Charming family dinner, but it doesn't end up as Snow expects...Rated: Fiction K - English - Emma S. & The Evil Queen/Regina M. - Words: 1,712 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 25 - Published: 07-27-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8365122
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The evening is concluding as she enters, the food long gone, and the wine mostly drunk. A swirl of black smoke fills the room before disappearing and leaving a figure in its place. The guards around the walls step forward, drawing their swords, and frightened shouts of 'queen', and 'witch' fill the air. In the clamour, I hear only two people say her name.
"Regina!" I hear mine as it leaves my mouth, full of hatred and venom, sharp at the edges – a curse and condemnation, designed to hurt. The other is very different, and sounds like a warning, full of relief and care. I spin towards the source of the noise, my eyes only confirming what my ears had told me. Emma is standing, leaning across the table, hand grasping at the tablecloth for stability.
"How sweet," Regina says, "the royal family, all together for dinner." She smiles, but makes no move to attack, or move forward. Emma motions the guards to hold their ground, earning her a glare from her father and myself. "I forgot the wine, but I did bring a gift. Should you go down to the dungeon, I believe you'll find Rumpelstiltskin, safely in his old quarters. And while I remember – you should have this." She carelessly holds out a dagger to Emma, hilt first, smiling as it leaves her fingers. Watching, I see their hands brush together, and linger slightly before pulling away.
Emma looks at the weapon, confused. It means nothing to her, but even from this distance I can see its curving edges, and the outline of writing on its blade. I know what this is, but that does not stop my daughter from asking.
"Hold the dagger, dear," Regina says, opening her eyes wide as if in surprise, "and you hold the man. Rumpelstiltskin, and his power, are your disposal now."
She turns to leave, bestowing one last brightly brittle smile at Henry. She walks majestically down the hall, and I remember a time when I thought she was all a queen should be. She's almost at the door, framed in light, when Henry wrenches himself from my side, and runs to her.
"Why did you give this to us?" he asks. "Why not take that power yourself? You'd be almost unstoppable." He holds her skirt to stop her leaving, and she looks down at him, softly.
"I'm not a monster, Henry." She isn't finished, I can see she's about to speak again, excuse and explain away her crimes. The snorts and barks of laughter that erupt briefly around the room stop her, yet die away as she fixes a glare on each in turn. Emma, I notice, does not laugh. Regina straightens.
"Tell me, Snow," she says, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, "if I killed your Charming, would you be nice to me? If I crushed his heart, and laughed as he died in your arms, would you forgive me?" Her voice drops with every word, more and more dangerous as she makes her point. "If, as you still grieved, you were forced to marry a man you did not know, made to share his bed every night, even as your head and heart were full of your Prince, if then I fell in love, and was happy – I, who had taken your love and happiness away – what would you do then, Snow White?" She's moving forward, back into the room, towards me, Henry trailing at her skirt hems.
I can feel their eyes on me, digesting her words. She's seductive, Regina, persuasive. She'd have you siding against yourself, if you weren't careful. The silence stretches on, and I know that the entire assembled room is waiting for my answer.
"I wouldn't become evil like you, if that's what you're implying."
Regina sighs dramatically, and the rise and fall of her chest draws attention to her cleavage in a way I can only assume is intentional. Seductive. More than one pair of eyes are focused lower than her face, but Emma, I see, is still watching Regina's expression, biting her lip and twisting the dagger in her hands. Regina chuckles, low in her throat.
"Oh Snow. Still so stubbornly naive. If I killed your husband, or your child, and you took swift and bloody revenge, would you be evil? Or would you still be the poor, innocent, beautiful princess, the victim of a cruel tragedy, stripped of her happiness?" She pauses, and moves forward, her movements deliberate, predatory. She leans in close to where I stand, frozen and inactive, and brings her mouth close to my ear, as to tell a secret. She speaks, however, loud enough for everyone to hear. "Evil's not born, dear. It's not even made. You see, it's all in the storytelling."
Rumpelstiltskin is in the dungeon, cursing and swearing his revenge on Regina, and three days later, and Emma's still sat staring at the dagger.
"Mom," Henry says, "will you read to me, before bed?" Emma looks at him, and down again at the dagger in her hands.
"Not tonight, kid," she replies. "I've had enough of storytelling, for a while." I see the understanding flicker across his face, and he is suddenly sombre. He leans up, presses a kiss to her cheek.
"I love you, Mom," he says, and runs off down the hall to bed. Her eyes follow him until he rounds the corner, and then her gaze is on me, direct and firm. She gestures to the knife, waving it in front of her.
"We need to do something about this," she says. "And I have an idea."
We take the knife out of the castle, using the darkness to hide our exit, and make our way into the woods. Leaving the path, we travel for hours until she stops, and looks around, the glade beginning to be lit by the new dawn rays.
"Here's good enough," she says. "No distinguishing features. Nothing to make it memorable, or stand out." I nod – there's no pool either, no reflective surface, and I know we are not being watched. Together, we dig. When the hole is deep enough, the knife is placed in the bottom, no covering or wrap to protect it, and the soil is filled back in. When the ground is once again level, we cover the newly turned soil with leaves and twigs from the surrounding forest floor, disguising our efforts as the mere scrabblings of animals. From her pocket, Emma takes an acorn, and pushes it into the ground.
"Grow, little tree," I say, "and let no-one find what we've hidden." Emma looks at me sideways, in that old judgmental way of hers. It might just be sentimentality, but in the enchanted forest, one can never make too sure.
Weeks go by, and the realm seems at peace. No reports of magic, or suspicious behavior, come in, and I try to forget all that's gone before, focusing on Emma, Henry, and the swelling bulge of my belly. We keep all the old the precautions – wards on the castle rooms, no mirrors, no apples – out of habit, rather than fear, and so at first I do not understand the significance of what I see. I walk in to Emma's rooms, and she is sat, lounging in an arm chair, one leg thrown carelessly over the side, staring pensively into a hand mirror.
"Emma!" I say, "You know mirrors are banned." She nods, smiles sheepishly, and puts the mirror, face down, on the floor under the chair.
"Just being vain, you know," she says, indicates her hair and shrugs, and I think no more on it. I forget, in fact, that she kept the mirror, close at hand, under that favourite chair. It's not until a servant, gossiping, reveals to me that she heard my daughter, locked in her room, talking to herself, that the incident returns to me. I wait, outside Emma's door, ear pressed to the wood like an eavesdropping child, until I hear her speak, and laugh, and then I enter. This time, she is not quick enough, and I catch a glimpse of a retreating face in the mirror, framed by dark hair and corsetry.
I storm across to her and wrench the gilded mirror from her hands, smashing its glass against the corner of a nearby desk. The threat gone, I lean heavily on the desk, out of breath, my heart racing. I do not need to look at Emma, to see the outraged expression, to hear the angry huff of breath, or the stamp of her feet as she swings them to the floor. When I turn around, she is sitting with her head in her hands, face obscured by a curtain of hair. Taking a deep breath to control myself, I stand in front of her, hands resting carefully on my stomach.
"What do you think you are doing, Emma?" I ask her. To my own ears, I sound scared, frightened, a little girl who fell off her horse. She seems to miss that inflection in my voice, and her face closes. She shifts in her chair, and looks at me.
"I was listening to both sides of the story." She looks at the smashed back of the mirror, and frowns at me. "It seems to be a rare thing, around here." I've seen that set expression before when Charming set his mind to something, felt it on my own face, and I know there's little arguing with it. I sigh, and ease myself onto the arm of the chair next to her.
"So," I say, trying to sound supportive and understanding, trying to sound like Mary Margaret, "tell me the other side of the story." She looks up at me, and the frown eases into a radiant smile. She leans forward, takes my hand in hers, and I hear the affection and excitement in her voice. My Storybrooke suspicions come back to hit me full force, and I know that it was only a matter of time before we had to have this conversation in some form or another.
"Well, for a start, she's not as evil as she likes to make out….."