Title: Villains and Happy Endings
Rating: K+ to T-ish
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Don't sue me, I'm poor.
Summary: Regina feels as if she no longer belongs in Henry's life now that the curse is broken and Emma and Snow has returned from the Enchanted Forest. She is ready to lick her wounds and soldier on alone until and unexpected source provides her with another option.
Regina looked into the front window of Granny's diner and did her best not to break down crying at the sight of Henry happily spending time with Emma and the Charming Idiots at their welcome home party for Snow and Emma after Regina took in the Death Curse to save them both.
"Congratulations, you reunited a family. Maybe they'll even invite you to dinner one day," Rumpelstiltskin jibed from where he stood beside her taking in the scene.
Regina glowered at the imp that had molded her into the person she had become, doing her best to not let the Evil Queen inside reign supreme in her once again, until he finally grew bored with her silent anger and headed off back to his shop as she turned her attention back to Granny's. Part of her wanted to storm in there, kill Snow and her idiot shepherd prince, possibly burn off all of Emma's hair, and take Henry home with her. But a greater part saw how happy her son was with his family. His real family. She couldn't take that from him. Not from her Little Prince. Not even to spite Snow.
And so she turned to leave instead, only to nearly collide with another of her enemies in the form of Jefferson, the Mad Hatter. The Hatter seemed ready to spout off a snide comment until he saw the unshed tears in her eyes and looked over her shoulder to see Henry through the window behind her with his biological family. If it was anything else getting to the former Evil Queen he would have reveled in her pain, but not this. Not what he faced when his little Grace chose to be raised by her curse provided family instead of him.
Still, Jefferson could not hold back a slip of the tongue as he roughly said, "So now you understand."
Regina stared at his face for several tense seconds before she nodded weakly as she responded, "We all know villains don't get happy endings."
And were it anyone else but him it might have ended there with a moment of mutual understanding and nothing more. But this was the Mad Hatter and he had a hard time letting things go when they got into his head. He pondered the former Evil Queen and former Mayor's words. "What if you could?" he asked with glint in his eye that reminded Regina far too much of Gold and his scheming.
Regina turned back to look over her shoulder into the window one last time before sighing as she replied, "He's happy. My son is happy. I can't take that from him. And he doesn't need the Evil Queen in his life, regardless."
"Very true. But what if I said there was another way for you to be a mother and start over?" Jefferson asked as his grin grew progressively more... unhinged.
Regina regarded the former resident of Wonderland with a look of contempt mixed with curiosity as she asked, "What the hell are you on about, Hatter? Henry doesn't want or need me in his life and I won't be happy without my child. I can't have it both ways."
"Not with Henry, no. But there are other options. Let's say I've been... doing some research since magic came back to Storybrooke," Jefferson replied.
Regina's look of confusion only increased as she let out a bewildered, "What?"
"Come with me, your majesty. Let's say I found something interesting looking for ways to reunite with Grace. It would not work for me, but it might work just right for you," Jefferson tempted. If this worked it would be perfect. He could give Regina what she wanted while making sure that she was out of his way for good. Maybe Grace would even be proud of him for helping the former Mayor. She always got along well enough with Henry, after all. And this would help him by ending the conflict between Regina and the Savior.
Part of Regina wanted to refuse the offer out of hand. To ignore Jefferson and return to her empty mansion and drown her sorrows in a few glasses of her homemade cider. But a greater part of her was stinging with hurt at being forgotten and cast aside again. At doing everything in her power to prove herself to Henry only to be rebuffed at every turn. Of staying in a town full of peasants that hated her just for the hope of a scrap of affection from the child she had raised for the last decade. And so, as it had many times before, the hurt won out in her heart and she followed along silently to see what the Mad Hatter had up his sleeve.
Had she stayed a few minutes longer, she would have seen Henry and Emma wondering at why she was not part of the welcome back party and come out to search for her in vain.
Half an hour later the Regina was looking at a new hat that Jefferson had made as he explained his idea to her. "You see, for a time I thought that if I could not have my daughter at my side here, I would find her elsewhere. Find a realm where perhaps I was dead or otherwise indisposed and be a father to her there. The problem was, though, that it wouldn't be my Grace. And that just wouldn't do. Not for me at least. But when I started my search I did discover something interesting," he explained animatedly.
"And that would be?" Regina asked, intrigued despite herself.
"Parallel worlds. Some all but identical to our own. Some so different they could hardly be recognized. And everything in between. Were I not so busy trying to get my daughter home I could spend years studying them," he answered with mad glint in his eyes. "Take the one I'm holding for instance, it leads to a realm similar to the Enchanted Forest where the major Kingdoms combined to form a nation similar to the one we nominally belong to in this realm called the United States of Auradon. They even elected the ruling family of their choice to hold court over them."
Regina regarded the hat with curiosity before snorting as she asked, "Let me guess, the Idiots are king and queen?"
"Not at all. Belle and Beast actually," Jefferson replied with a smirk.
Regina stared at the Hatter for several moments before snorting again as she replied, "I can see why you dismissed a realm where Rumple was ruling. Even with Belle there to keep him in line."
"Ah, but the Beast there isn't out resident imp and dealer of antiquities, Your Majesty. If anything, our personas there seem to more closely resemble their... theatrical counterparts. Although their version of Belle does bear a striking resemblance to the Blue Fairy. Had she not already birthed an heir I would think Mother Superior had been playing with forbidden magics on the side," Jefferson explained.
"As fascinating as this is, Jefferson, what does it have to do with me?" Regina asked after a moment to ponder what he said.
"Why don't you use a little of your magic on the mirror to help peek into the land of Auradon and I'll show you?" Jefferson offered.
Regina looked reluctant as she replied, "I told Henry I wouldn't."
"The same Henry you're all but giving up to your mortal enemies in order to make him happy?" Jefferson asked. At the sight of her intensifying glare he amended, "This isn't the Dark Curse, your highness. Just some power to show you a few things. A little preview, if you will."
"Careful how you speak of my son Hatter," Regina warned darkly. "But if it will help you to get to the point, then fine. Give me the damned hat," she added as she took the object in hand and concentrated her power into it before forming a tendril of purple energy between it and the mirror in the room. Soon, the mirror lit up like a television screen to reveal what looked like a much older, fatter, Regina dressed in what appeared to be her stereotypical dress from Disney's version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She took in the image for a moment before scowling as she spat, "I hope for your sake that you have more to show me than this."
"Relax, Regina. It just naturally keyed into your counterpart first since you powered the spell," the Hatter explained as he took the hat in hand and concentrated, making the image fall back to reveal the Evil Queen of Auradon along with...
"Is that Mal and Cruella?" she asked in shock. Maleficent had died by Emma's hands in her dragon form just before the breaking of the Dark Curse and as far she knew Cruella was nowhere to be found in Storybrooke.
"Indeed. And Jafar. Meet the nominal rulers of the prison colony known as the Isle of the Lost," Jefferson explained.
"How delightful," Regina deadpanned. "So we were all captured and locked away in this world?"
"Yes and no. First you were all killed. Or at least most of you were, just as you died in your Disney versions. But you were all resurrected as part of some spell related to the formation of Auradon. I'm not entirely certain of the details, but I think it was something about balancing magic so they could use it to power their world. They have technology slightly more advanced than our own here in town, but it's all powered by magic rather than things like coal and oil. Anyway, the point is everyone was brought back, then rounded up and placed on an island off the coast with a barrier around it that prevents the use of magic. Think of it as an anti-Storybrooke in that regard," Jefferson said with a shrug.
"And you're showing me this why, again? Besides proof that there are versions of the so-called heroes even more callous than the ones here," Regina insisted.
"I'm getting there, your highness. Patience is a virtue," Jefferson assured her.
"If you asked anyone in town they would not use the word 'virtuous' to describe me, Hatter. Get to the point before I decide to leave," Regina growled.
"Ah, but that is part of the point, dear lady. Compared to your counterpart in Auradon you are quite virtuous. You love your son. You wanted revenge on Snow White for more than petty jealousy. This version of you is practically a caricature compared to the Evil Queen I know and loathe," Jefferson explained.
"And what, you wanted to show me I could be worse?" Regina prodded, knowing the Hatter would draw this out for hours without some kind of direction.
"Well you could, but no. Let me get to 'the point' as it were," Jefferson replied as the image blurred. "Now where is she?" he muttered for a time until the image settled on a girl with an olive complexion and streaks of blue in her hair talking to and applying make-up to a purple-haired girl that looked roughly the same age. "There we are," he noted proudly.
"What is this?" Regina asked, fascinated, as she took in the image. The purple haired girl looked so much like Maleficent when she and Regina had first met it was uncanny, minus the hair color and an oddly familiar shape to the girl's nose and chin that she could not place. "Is that... Maleficent's daughter?"
"The one with the purple hair? Yes. But take a closer look at the one in blue. Notice anything about her?" the Hatter leered as his face lit with anticipation.
Truthfully, Regina tried to keep her attention on the other girl because the one with the blue hair looked a little too familiar at first glance.
"...Are you afraid of her?" Maleficent's daughter asked as the image began projecting sound to the room.
"Sometimes. My mother is not a bundle of roses when she doesn't get her way. Just ask Snow White..." the blue-haired girl replied before the sound faded away.
"Ask Snow? Are you trying to tell me that that's...?" Regina asked in shock. It wasn't possible. Rumple had given her the curse to ensure she could never...
"She is indeed. Witness the fruit of your other self's loins; Evie. An intelligent and hopeful young girl being ground down as her unloving mother tries to mold her into the perfect trophy wife to regain and improve her own political position. Sound familiar oh daughter of the Queen of Hearts?" Jefferson asked with a dark grin.
Regina just started at the pair until a blond boy arrived and picked up Mal's daughter for what appeared to be the start of a date. "Who is her father?" Regina demanded as her mind went unbidden to her lost Daniel and to an interfering green "moth" and a man with a lion tattoo that she never identified.
"Nobody knows. As with the dragon's daughter, rather unimaginatively named Mal, the identity of the fathers was kept quiet. Although speculation seems to center around the huntsman and Lord Hades for your little girl on the Isle. The people of Auradon don't care enough to even speculate," Jefferson noted.
"You've obviously been watching this world for a while," Regina pointed out.
"Well first I thought of taking my counterpart's place. Then I was going to figure out a way to get enough fairy dust to pop in and kill the girl as some way of hurting you by proxy since I knew it would be too dangerous to think of coming near Henry," Jefferson explained callously.
"What!?" Regina demanded sharply.
"You separated me from my child and left me trapped in a single realm for nearly three decades, Regina. I was just going to return half of the favor," Jefferson explained disinterestedly, only to back away a step at the look in Regina's eye. "Relax. Clearly I changed my mind."
"And why did you do that?" Regina seethed back.
Jefferson's face grew a bit sad as he replied, "It wouldn't have mattered."
"What the hell does that mean, you lunatic?" Regina hissed.
If anything Jefferson looked even sadder as he replied, "This version of the Evil Queen, this Grimhilde, takes after your dear mommy-dearest in more than just ambitions. She could care less about her own offspring. It's not hard at all to imagine her as a child of the Queen of Hearts. Why try to hurt a version of you that would not have been hurt beyond no longer being able to use her daughter as a pawn?" the Hatter asked.
Regina felt as if she were punched in the gut at his answer before she insisted, "This still doesn't tell me why you were showing me all of this."
Jefferson's face lit into a smile as he replied, "This world was useless to me. But for you, I think it could be exactly what you need."
Regina's expression told him he had better keep talking if he wanted to keep the whole of his person intact as he replied, "Think about it Regina. What do you have here? A son reunited with his blood family that looks down his nose at you. A town full of former peasants too thick to realize your curse upgraded the standard of living for them beyond what they could ever imagine while they glare at you for making it happen. A stepdaughter that was already talking about exiling you as she tried to find a way BACK to the realm where you could never be more than a villain."
"Thank you for reminding me why my life is terrible," Regina bitterly noted.
"But does it have to be? Who says you can't take your exile into your own hands? That you can't change the game on your adversaries even as they think they won? Look at that girl. All she, and Maleficent's daughter for that matter, ever wanted was to be loved by their respective mothers. She needs that in her life. She needs an Evil Queen capable of giving a damn about her. Someone that will be thrilled to see her doing well on a test. Someone that will bake for her and tell her that she doesn't need some sad version of Prince Charming to make her life complete. She needs you, Regina," Jefferson pitched.
"You can't be serious," Regina noted with a shocked expression.
"Why not? Your happy ending was being a mother to a child that loves you. Henry clearly has too much of his birth mother and his grandparents to be that. He's not even a teenager and he's acting like he has the right to judge you. This girl wants nothing more than for her mother to love her. And you are her mother, after a fashion. You can be free of this town, free of its judgment and scorn, and be the mother you wanted to be at the same time," Jefferson insisted.
"And you get me out of the way in the process," Regina noted flatly.
"There is that. If it will sweeten the deal, I swear I will never raise a hand against Henry. Grace thinks of the boy as a friend anyway," the Hatter explained.
"I should have expected something this insane coming from you," Regina stalled as she thought about what he was offering.
"Take a day or two to think it over, Regina. I'm offering you a way to start over that the Savior will never be able to mess up. This isn't you being tossed over the line into a world Sheriff Swan knows so she can find you and make use of you when she needs you. You'll be beyond them all. And besides, you said yourself that Henry is happy as things stand. But this girl needs you. Evie needs you," Jefferson prodded. At the look of indecision on her face he added, "Tell you what, take the hat with you and watch that world for a few days. Get to know the girl that should be your daughter. And, after let's say a week, come see me and let me know. Does that sound reasonable?"
Regina wanted to reject it outright. To ignore the Hatter's ramblings for the insanity they were, but the image of the group at Granny's today held her back. "Fine. One week. Then you'll have my answer."
And so, throughout that week Regina Mills stayed all but holed up in her home as she watched the Events of Evie's life unfold in her bedroom mirror. She watched the 'villain kids' plans to steal the Fairy Godmother's wand (not Blue apparently, but Cinderella's Fairy Godmother). Not that she had anything against putting one of the irritating moths in her place. She witnessed the tense and ridiculous video call to the Isle that proved this version of herself and Maleficent were both pale shadows to Regina and her deceased friend. She saw the disaster that was Family Day as most of Auradon outside of Prince Ben seemed to turn on the four friends. She saw the coronation as Maleficent attacked and was defeated by Evie, Mal, and the others. And oh how she would have liked to have teased her Mal over how Evie had blinded this much dumber version in that fight.
Yes, Regina saw many things. But what was even more telling to her was what she did not see. Over the course of the week she never once saw Henry and Miss Swan. In fact the only interaction she had was an occasional coffee with a side of terse words and tense glares at Granny's. It truly seemed to her as if there was nothing left binding her to this town now that Henry had made his choice.
And so, a week later she found herself in the Hatter's workshop, hat in hand, as she thought over everything she had seen. Evie did need a mother. And Regina wanted desperately to BE a mother again. And she would be lying if she said the thought of a child of her own blood did not intrigue her.
Thus, with letters for Henry and Emma waiting for be delivered to the Sheriff's station with the next day's mail (which meant Regina estimated that Miss Swan would get to reading hers in about four days), a suitcase full of personal items like pictures and her favorite spellbooks and cookbooks (okay magic MAY have been used to take more than should have fit in there) at her side, and a sad smile on her lips Regina found herself saying, "Let's do this."
And although he would never admit it, Jefferson did feel almost envious of Regina's cool confidence as she did what he had been too scared to do. She was cutting ties and starting over in a place where she could be happy. He would never like Regina. But in that moment as the hat formed a portal and swallowed her up to send her to Auradon with no real way back, he wished her well. After all she was at least out of his way.
Author's note: Yeah, I started another one. I blame too much OUAT fics for this. As always feedback is greatly appreciated.