"Love is weakness", she's always been told. So what happens when the Mirror of Alternates turns up in Storybrooke?
What if there was a way to see what you're life would have been like if you had just made the other choice?
The odds and ends that fill Gold's pawn shop could rival the quantity of things in the chamber of Dangerous Things that Rumplestiltskin had in his Dark Castle. Regina waves her hand over the locked door; he still relies on flimsy locks to keep out intruders.
A strange urge had come over Regina as she walked away from the reunion at Granny's Diner. Instead of heading home to Mifflin Street, or to her office at the council chambers, her feet take her to the place her mother died. She's not there for reminiscing, or to seek revenge for a heart that is once more breaking.
After stepping inside, she stops, taking a moment to look around at the countless items, jewellery and knick-knacks that people have bartered away over the years in various deals with the Dark One. Her eyes are drawn to something taking pride of place in front of the register, a heavy duty mirror covered in a sheet, ominous black spikes around the edge, and on one side there is an indent in the shape of a hand, with a solitary spike in the centre of the palm.
A deep intake of breath and she's stepping forward, ripping the sheet from the mirror, revealing a grey whirling mist in the glass. She knows what this is, has read about it her various books on magic, the ancient runes talking of a magical looking mirror that shows one their alternate path in life. Regina remembers reading Harry Potter to Henry, they having started enjoying the first few books a little under a year before he ran away to Boston to find Emma. The Mirror of Erised made her think of it then, a mirror that could show a person their innermost desires, something Regina felt was more poetic than what the real mirror could do.
The magic books always spoke of the Ultimate Choice, the one decision that a person makes in their life that changes their direction. Regina always felt that was silly, with life being full of decisions, why is it only one that changes your life's course?
The door bell jingles behind her, but she doesn't turn to see who has followed her, their voices likely to give them away soon enough.
'Regina, what're you doing?' calls Snow from behind, 'what is that thing?'
Baby Neal gurgles in his mother's arms, and still without turning, she can discern that Snow is joined by her Charming husband, Emma, Henry, Hook the Pirate, Tinkerbelle, Gold and Belle, Robin and Marian. The last member of the party is an unwilling follower, but still Regina cannot turn. She will not turn, not even for her son.
Instead Gold's Scottish drawl is what she hears next in amongst the intake and exhalation of breath. 'I'd like to claim my innocence for this contraption's appearance in my shop. I felt Her Majesty break in, and followed the rest of you to investigate.'
Charming is next, 'Okay fine, but what is it?'
Unseen by the people behind her, Regina rolls her eyes and sighs. 'Well it's not your regular mirror.' She murmurs.
Gold lets out a snort in place of a laugh, and launches into a spiel that Regina already knows.
The mirror supposedly requires a blood sacrifice, that's the purpose of the macabre hand print on the right-hand side with its awful spike. Then after receiving the blood it searches back through that person's life until it finds the Ultimate Choice, the one decision that person has made in their life that altered their life's direction. From there the image in the mirror shows the viewer what their life would have been like had they made their other choice.
Tinkerbelle murmurs that the mythology is the same in Faerie history, the ancient sprites themselves having once been guardians of it.
Regina can almost feel the stares penetrating her back, but still she does not turn. Instead she finds herself inching closer to the ancient mirror.
'But if Gold doesn't have anything to do with it, why is it in his shop?' queries Emma, the ever-increasing pain in Regina's ass.
'Mom, what are you doing?' Henry finally speaks up when he notices Regina raising her right hand to the awful looking hand-shaped indent with its cruel point. Regina does not pause, or slow her hand's incline to the mirror, but she does finally turn when her fingers gain purchase in the cool metal space. Before straightening her palm and impaling her skin, she takes in the faces of those who followed her to the pawn shop.
Snow and Charming are concerned, always has been when it comes to Regina; before the curse they were concerned because of her, but now they appeared to be concerned for her. Emma and her Pirate are wary, clearly their time in the past having awakened them to the true dangers of magic and magical artefacts. Gold is looking past her into the mirror, his gaze naught but confusion and Belle grips him by the arm, her eyes on her new husband and her brow furrows as she tries to regain his attention. Henry is looking right at her though, his eyes imploring and if it weren't Charming's hand around his shoulders, something which Regina is oddly grateful for knowing she could not soothe her son's fears, nor could she handle his embrace.
Robin and Marian, and surprisingly little Roland, tucked into the skirts of his newly returned mother, those are the only faces she cannot bear to look at, and so avoids them altogether.
She returns her eyes to her son, the light of her life and at one point, the only thing that kept her going during their year in the Enchanted Forest. As she takes in his face, his form, the subtle differences that occurred in their year apart, she notices for the first time just how tall he has gotten, how his brow is starting to look like that of his father. She knows that someday she'll have to tell her son some of the memories Baelfire shared with her over the year in the Enchanted Forest, how he'd cornered her one evening around the campfire and demanded to know what his son was like. How he shared that he had started to teach Henry sword-fighting, taking over from his grandfather in his training. Regina in return had shared her memories of Henry's first few years of life, his temper tantrums, favourite foods and all the special firsts in a child's life.
Though Regina knows Henry is not her son biologically, she likes to think she can see some of her in him, the way he gives a stink eye, the way he chews his food, the way he raises his brow in disbelief. It's as she looks at her son that she presses her palm to the spike that his brow once more raises in disbelief.
The only indication that the spike impaling her palm causes any pain is a slight tremor in her eyes, and she knows Henry picked up on it before she turns back to the mirror, the grey swirling mist imbibed with a red tint now, her blood, her life, her history is being deciphered by this strange magic mirror, and as she draws her hand away from it, the red overtakes the grey and the image in the mirror clears.
Regina can see flashes of her life playing out, the mirror working in reverse. First there is her sitting on the bench, just before Zelena took her Sleeping Curse imbibed hairpin, her hand raised to the tip.
The image changes, she's taking the heart out of the hole she had dug and pushing it back into her chest, her heart twisting into an expression of the utmost agony.
Next she's reversing her curse, farewelling Henry; then she's knocked unconscious by Pan who's using her son's body as a cover, she's in Neverland, ripping her son's heart out of Pan, she's tearing down the vines that hold her, Emma and Snow down, but Regina is not drowning in regret. She's torturing mermaids, making deals, insulting one vicious half-fish woman; she's boarding the Pirate's ship. She's crying as she feels the trigger draining her energy, she's telling Emma to let her die as Regina, she's taunting Greg as he presses the electrocuting button, upping the voltage with each round.
She holds Snow's heart, revelling in that one dark spot before pushing it back into the crying woman's chest. She's holding her mother's body in Gold's shop, mere feet from where she currently stands, she's taking the toxic heart from Snow, she's holding the servant woman's heart in the town's clock tower, she's reuniting with her mother. She's taking her curse off the well, welcoming Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke, and she's sobbing, nearly collapsing as she kills Daniel.
The images speed up, flitting through seemingly inconsequential moments in her life. Regina can hear quiet voices behind her, but does not care enough to pay attention. Little moments flick by, and Regina takes a moment to think about the Harry Potter novel, what the old teacher had said about the mirror, how wizards had wasted away in front of it, and she feels a small stab of regret for having done what she's done, but then the images slow.
She's in her kitchen in Mifflin Street, Emma behind her telling Regina that she still wants the occasional visiting access to Henry, Regina pulling out the apple turnover and handing it to the blonde woman. She's smirking at Mary Margaret as the woman cries behind prison bars; she's crushing the Huntsman's heart. The mirror speeds up once more as the twenty-eight year curse pass, slowing almost to a halt as she basks in the glory of her success, crowing over the woman who had once been her step-daughter and her near-dead husband, slows even more when she rips out the heart of her father and uses it to cast the curse in the first place.
From behind Regina, Gold's voice pipes up, 'some texts say that the more significant a decision, those closer it is to one's Ultimate Decision, so the mirror slows that moment down.'
Then come Regina's years as the Evil Queen, and surprisingly these years are amongst the fastest to speed by in a blur that leaves her almost dizzy. Regina does not regret that though, though she does now regret all the pain and suffering she caused, no matter what she yelled at the gathered crowd that had gathered to watch her execution at the end of her reign as the Evil Queen.
Also surprisingly is the moment in which the Genie uses the last wish to be with Regina always, it slows down, just in time for Regina to send a dove to her father, requesting something in which she could use to end her pain.
The images then continue at a steady pace, her lessons with Rumplestiltskin. Then comes the abuse from the King, her miserable marriage to a man old enough to be her father, his hands cruel and unrelenting as he grips a young Regina by the neck, enough strength in his gnarled fingers to still leave bruises on her fair skin. With young ones in the room, Regina hopes that these memories are as bad as this mirror will show, for she doesn't wish to scar her son by having him witness other atrocities that occurred during her marriage, especially the countless times Leopold welcomed himself to her chambers, both literally and figuratively.
Regina is out of luck though, and when it becomes clear to her that this mirror is insistent on reliving even the worst of memories, she spins and tells Emma and Marian to get their children out, and to get them out now. Belle follows them out at the urging of her husband. Rumplestiltskin knows though, knows what occurred during her marriage to the old King, Snow and Charming must have some idea what they're about to witness because their concerned expressions have twisted into horrified looks and Regina still doesn't dare look the man prophesied as her Soul Mate.
Tinkerbelle gasps and Regina returns her gaze to the mirror, just in time to see her screaming, clawing, gnashing her teeth as she fights to get away from the unwanted embrace of her husband.
The image whites out, and then clears to a moment in Regina's life she remembers well. The images play forwards now, and Regina knows that what she is witnessing now in the mirror is the one decision in her life that would have let her down a different path.
She's angry, frustrated, trapped in this awful castle with nothing to amuse her, she cannot leave for the spell her mother placed is still in effect. She can only escape by magical means, and Rumplestiltskin has not yet taught her how to transport herself magically. Her husband is luckily gone, off with his sickening spoilt daughter to attend some insignificant ball the next kingdom over. Regina is trapped in the castle like a bird in a cage and she so desperately wants out.
She slams her fists into the metal barrier, once, then twice, and on the third time it gives way.
Regina falls, plummets down to the ground and Regina cannot bear to save herself. Better to die than to deal with any more of this agony. No Daniel, a husband that does not love her nor intends to ever try, her father lost to her, her mother in another realm, Rumplestiltskin telling her that anger and hatred are the only way forward. Regina can feel herself getting lost in amongst her grief, the pain, the simmering anger that Rumple tries so hard to make her express.
Suddenly she isn't falling, she's suspended, Tinkerbelle's magic keeping her afloat before safely dropping her to the ground.
She and the fairy talk, the sprite getting Pixie Dust to show Regina her second chance, the bar in which her Soul Mate is drinking at.
Regina knows now what her Ultimate Decision was, she's glad Henry isn't here to see it, glad Emma is gone, she wishes that Robin weren't here to see it too, though judging by the deep breaths she can hear him take, he knows exactly what's about to happen.
She goes in.
The mirror then speeds up the life which Regina could have led, showing little more than smiles from her and Robin, a touch of hands, a kiss, more kisses. They're passionate, hungry and full of want. The mirror stutters, the image breaks and the story splits into two. Two nearly identical situations, but as the scenes speed up again, Regina focuses on the left side of the mirror that has them both running from Leopold's soldiers, posters claiming a kidnapped wife and Queen, deadly forced used to try to reclaim the young woman on the run with the thief.
It's on the left hand side of the mirror that Regina sees an oddly familiar scene. In the castle where Leopold lived, in her old chambers, she and Robin are there, but he is slain, lethal swipes of the sword have felled him, and a heavily pregnant Regina cradles his head, trying to kiss him back to life, but life will not come. King Leopold stands over them; sword in hand, his mouth is twisted, yelling unheard words and Regina cries, one hand over her belly, the other encompassing Robin's body.
King Leopold yells an order, and an arrow hits her chest, her body slumping over Robin's, joining him in death.
The left hand side of the mirror rewinds, this time playing another horrifying alternate history; Rumplestiltskin this time, chasing them without error, reappearing at their every turn, every attempt to escape. He is snarling at Regina for her stupidity and naïve belief in love. He is ripping out Robin's heart, before doing the same to Regina, leaving their heartless bodies in a collapsed heap in the middle of their small encampment, he only stoops over their inert bodies to pick up the enchanted bow and arrows that Robin carried.
'Such a waste,' he croons to them, 'such a waste when you ran in haste.'
His voice turns to a snarl again, 'I'm going to crush his heart, Regina, and then I'm going to crush yours.'
Both Robin and Regina are panting heavily on the dirt floor of the forest, Rumple's cruel fingers tightening into fists, fracturing their hearts slowly. Robin pulls Regina into his arms and they trade declarations of love before Robin collapses.
'Kill me.' Regina orders of him 'kill me and be done with it.'
She is tired, tired of running, her love is gone, her energy is gone, and she knows the child in her belly will not live, not with the Dark One holding her heart so tightly.
For once the Dark One does as he is told, his hand closing around her red, beating heart, turning it to ash.
The left hand side of the mirror dissolves completely, the story unfolding on the right having progressed throughout, all parties surviving.
Snow breaks the momentary silence, 'Please tell me that my father didn't just have you killed.'
Regina cannot answer, the Mirror of Alternates does not lie, but this life did not ever exist, Leopold did not have Regina killed, she killed him instead.
Rumple saves her from answering, 'It appears that even after you make your major choices in life, the little ones still have a big impact on how one's life turns out. Unfortunately there were other choices in Regina's life that could had ended it far earlier than what she made it to in reality.'
The story of Regina's alternate life continued to unfold in dizzying speed, the mirror trying to catch Regina up on the life she could have led.
Escaping Leopold's Kingdom, regrouping with the Merry Men, saving Maid Marian from an unwanted marriage to the Sherriff of Nottingham, then seeing the woman safely to a neighbouring kingdom where she could meet up with her beloved, a steward from her father's court. A child enters the world, a girl with dark hair, dimples like her father and the temper of her mother. The child grows up, is a toddler before she gets a sibling, a boy, curly tufts of hair, and dimples like his sister.
Regina births a third child, another boy, and has two sweet young ones already growing so quickly, the little one still nursing at her breast too will grow up healthy and strong. All three grow, playing and learning in a modest cabin that Regina has used her former position to secure. Robin teaches them how to live alongside nature, to hunt, gather, to defend and attack, Regina teaches all three how to cook, sew and spends many hours soothing hurts and ailments, kissing grazed knees and chasing after them into the woods alongside Robin. They are happy. The girl grows ups and blossoms upon reaching her twelfth year, Robin takes to teaching her archery, claiming that a young lady should know how to use a bow and arrow. Regina raises her brow at that, but with two boys has enough trouble keeping them in their seats for more than twenty minutes when she tries to teach them numbers.
Regina can feel the tears streaming down her face, but she cannot move, she feels cemented in place in front of the mirror, helpless to look away.
The scene in the mirror slows down to play out in real time, like the way a film runs on the television, or a video on the internet. Regina can sense that the age she is in this alternate path must be close to that of her own current age, and this mirror cannot predict the future, only show the alternate paths.
The eldest child, no older than fourteen, the girl is practising her archery in the woods, little more than a few yards from home. Her name is Callie, her long, black hair tied back with a strip of fabric. She has her mother's looks, the dimples in her cheeks being the only obvious thing from her father, but she has his temperament and talent for archery, not one of her shots miss and as she recovers the arrows from the target, she senses a rustle coming from nearby.
'Who's there?' she calls.
A regal figure steps from behind a tree, near where the road leads to home. It's an older woman, dressed in an elaborate blue gown; her travelling cloak is of good quality, her features stern and unforgiving. Callie surreptitiously loads an arrow, but the woman raises both hands in peace. Callie's chin raises, the same way her mother's does when she is uncertain about something, and something flickers across the old woman's face.
'Might I know your name, dear?' the woman asks.
Callie sniffs before answering, 'I'm Callie.'
The woman smiles, 'Well, Callie, it's lovely to meet you. I've heard that there is a homestead not far from here, would you be so kind as to show me to it?'
Callie nod her assent, and after depositing her arrows in the quiver strapped to her shoulder she joins the woman on the path to her home.
'Might I ask you name?' she asks the older lady.
The woman smiles, picks up Callie's free hand and pats it gently, 'My name is Cora.'
Regina takes a step back; a roaring parental instinct to protect this woman, her daughter, from her mother overtakes her thoughts. But Cora is dead, and Regina must not forget that this mirror shows things that will never happen
The unlikely travelling pair reaches the homestead, the two boys roaring with laughter as they ride on small ponies that are led by their father around the paddock in front of the house. Regina is resting in the shade underneath a tree, a fourth child asleep in her arms as she watches on. Callie calls to her mother, announcing a visitor and she stands, careful not to wake the small girl infant who had not long ago been rocked to sleep.
Regina stands and comes face to face with her mother, indicating to her eldest to come to her side and take her baby sister.
'What are you doing here, mother?'
The mirror whites out and Regina screams, desperate to know the fate of her family in her alternate life. She presses her palm back to the hand shaped indent, but nothing happens, the grey mist has returned.
The mirror only works for a person once, and only shows their alternate life up until the very moment in which the blood sacrifice was given.
Tears stream down Regina's face and she openly sobs, crying harder than when she lost Daniel the second time. The grief from the incident at the diner coupled with seeing children who will never call her mother, seeing her own mother alive, it overflows and sibs wrack her small frame. A pair of hands rests gently on her shoulders and Regina prays that it's not Robin, because she's not sure she could handle comfort from him, not when he is the reason for her tears. But it's Tinkerbelle, and she too is crying, tears falling freely down her petite face.
Regina collapses on the hardwood floorboards of Gold's Pawnshop, uncaring of the audience. She howls and screams her pain because there are no words; there are no words for the tragedy she's inflicted upon herself.
'I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry, Regina.' Is from Tinkerbelle, the fairy drops to the ground next to her and tries to wrap the broken woman into a hug, tries to stem the shaking of her shoulders as Regina struggles to draw in breath.
The door bell jingles, the shuffling of shoes suggests people are leaving, but Regina does not care, she has never cared, because she has always been left alone, forgotten about and abandoned by those she loved. She waits for the fairy to leave too, but she stays. Apologetic for trying to force Regina into making a good choice, that would have so easily ended in tragedy for herself and Robin, dead by Leopold's hand, dead by Rumplestiltskin's, surviving in only one course, only to have to likely face off against her mother, exposing her children to the cruelty that was Cora Mills.
Regina lets her shoulders sag, 'I should have never looked at that mirror, I should have never meddled in magic, I should have died when I fell off that balcony.'
She is tempted to blame the sprite that is so intent of comforting her, but she knows she cannot, for The Mirror of Alternates shows one thing, the consequences of your own decisions.
Thanks for reading! this one's been stuck in my head for a week and I really need to be writing assignments not fanfiction right now...