Title: the only moment worth remembering
Author: Younger Dr. Grey
Summary: Her heartache was what stuck with her from that night. It combined with the many other events just like it, warping and shaping that void inside of her into something more focused.
Warnings/Spoilers: Regina's an evil queen! Spoiler! Ah!
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All rights for the characters and the world go to their owners. I, in no way, believe – or would lead others to believe – that I own Once Upon a Time
Author's Note: Written for the prompt of the same name over at ouatprompts on Tumblr. No pairing, but feel free to read with your pre-SQ goggles on. If I ever continued this, that would be the direction this was headed in. There are mistakes here. If you find them, feel free to let me know. They are my own.
the only moment worth remembering
The only thing Regina hated more than Snow White was herself. She hated her inability to stay emotionless. She hated her hesitance before killing. She hated her thoughts that ran in circles around the question that she has spent at least one moment of every day wondering: when will everyone leave me? She had an answer that day. It wasn't technically everyone, but it was the only person left who she cared about. Henry. Though, he was not leaving forever. He was spending the night with Emma - and, by association, with Mary Margaret. The combination made Regina's skin crawl. This world's Snow was easier to handle, practically a nun albeit more depressed. But underneath it all, she was still the same Snow White that ruined Regina's life. She gave Henry that intrepid book from hell, planted ideas in his mind about his 'real' mother, and then had the gall to take Emma into her home. Every action that Snow did was supposedly so just and moral, but by whose account? Who painted her the hero of this story and made Regina not the victim but the perpetrator? More importantly, who in the hell thought to bring Emma here?
Goodness, here. Here was a subjective term. It could have meant to the world as a whole, to Storybrooke, or to Regina's front porch. Emma stood there in the same spot that she floundered in upon first arriving in town. That stupid red leather jacket clung to her nearly as strongly as Henry tended to do. Thinking of Henry refueled Regina with a sense of despair, a sense of impending doom. Henry was her son. She didn't care what anyone said. Blood was not thicker than tears after bad school days, or diapers that never seemed to want to stay on him, or waking up at three in the morning on election day to help him go back to sleep. Regina was Henry's mother, but she apparently had not earned the title of 'Mom.' He refused to call her that. Ever since Emma came, he had been completely… difficult. He was difficult to handle, difficult to look at because every look he gave her made that empty hole inside of her ache and fester and burn. Her body physically broke down while her mind ran off to the inevitable. Tonight was the inevitable. The beginning of it at least. Regina couldn't help but wonder if she let Henry go tonight, would he come back in the morning? And if he came back, would he go again? How many times a week? How many weeks a year? And how many of those short eight years that she still had left with him would be spent with Emma? And that was if he came back and Emma didn't just load him into that awkward car of hers and drive back off to wherever the hell she was living before here.
Again, that word appeared. That was what Regina clung to. This town was her secret place, her space under the stairs where none of the bad things were supposed to reach her. Just like a child though, she was forced to realize that secret safe places did not exist. The real world, however magical or disparaging it may be, will always find a way to break through. Like Emma herself who chuckled and broke Regina from her thoughts.
Regina quirked one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at the blonde. What was so funny about this moment? Was it the symmetry to their first meeting? Or was it simply the fact that Emma had won? Regina wasn't sure how to phrase any question without sounding bitter so she allowed her face to ask it for her.
Emma picked up on it. She answered with a little quirk of her own, one of disbelief. "I expected you to be resentful, or angry, but instead you're worried. It's not what I'd expect from…."
Regina narrowed her eyes as she waited for the rest of that. Not what Emma expected from the mayor? From the woman who they seemed to be convinced was out to ruin them? Obviously Emma hadn't managed to look beyond Regina's title and her own misguided feelings to the woman underneath. Perhaps it was a family trait that Emma and Henry shared. Regina finished Emma's sentence with "The Evil Queen?"
Emma gave a tight little laugh. She didn't look half as amused when confronted with how ridiculous curse talk sounded. That was comforting for Regina. At least Emma wasn't convinced. Maybe Emma's night with Henry wouldn't be spent debating whether a fire-breathing dragon or a simple bucket of water would be enough to off Regina. Maybe it could even be enough to make Henry realize who his real family was.
Emma said, "Storybrooke's not a monarchy."
Regina shrugged as her arms folded across her chest. "Not yet." It was a joke. Emma even seemed to catch on. The blonde chuckled a bit herself.
"I don't think the prince would be too happy if you tried."
He wouldn't. Henry would fight Regina tooth and nail. He wouldn't even be the only one. "True. And, with your new found interest in the town, you would certainly find some way to stop it from happening."
Instead of arguing, Emma frowned. She said, "I'm not here to fight with you, Mayor."
Regina scoffed. Well, Emma was doing a damn good job of it without trying. She fought with Regina on everything. If it weren't for the fact that they could both clearly see that the sky was blue, they would probably fight about that as well. Regina nearly commented on that. She stopped herself however. Henry was readying his overnight bag, and Regina wanted to go over some ground rules before he made his way downstairs. Hopefully Emma would just listen and not turn it into yet another battle.
"Glad to hear it. I've got some rules for this little sleepover tonight. Number one, Henry must be in bed by nine. He will be a wreck tomorrow if he doesn't get enough sleep. No one wants to deal with that. Rule number two, no liquids after seven."
"Isn't that a little harsh?" Emma asked.
"You tell me exactly how harsh that is when he's wandering your apartment at four am because he can't fall back asleep after going to the bathroom. It's a rule for a reason. Rule number three, no stories at bedtime."
"No stories?" repeated Emma. The blonde shook her head, incredulous in an instant.
"We're not really saying you're an evil queen. Reading one book won't-"
"Henry can't stop at one book. He gets sucked in and loses sight of reality. It's not a judgment; it's fact. You need to be able to enforce these, or I might as well just keep him home."
The response to that comment was instant. A very loud, very unanimous "No!" from both Emma and Henry, who had just reached the top of the staircase. He rushed down the stairs following that, his backpack flapping wildly against him. He held it on by one shoulder strap in a vise-like grip. Regina bought him that backpack. After his first trip to the library, he had wanted to take so many books and needed some way of carrying them all. When she presented him with the bag and his very own library card, he'd given her this smile. She couldn't even describe it. It was as if she had given him everything that he had ever wanted in life and he was so grateful and so happy that he could do nothing but smile and hope that did what his words could never fully do - thank her. Henry didn't thank her anymore. In fact, when Regina stepped towards the stairs to slow him down, he shied away from her, pulling the strap tighter over his shoulder and stopping with at least four stairs between them. She groaned under her breath, allowing the slight noise to take the place for the words she vowed not to say around him. She focused her gaze on him, ignoring the few steps Emma took into the house.
Regina said to Henry, "I didn't say that you couldn't go. I said I was considering it. Slow down. I told you about running on the stairs. You have rules too. You have to be on y-"
Henry cut her off. "On my best behavior I know. No sneaking snacks. No running away. No stealing credit cards or doing anything fun that would make Emma want to bring me home right away. I know."
"Don't take a tone with me, Henry. I'm just trying to make sure you're safe," Regina explained.
"Emma won't hurt me. She would never do that," Henry said. His tone was accusatory, pointed. The implications were obvious. And painful.
"And I would? Henry, I would never-"
Emma cut in that time. She said, "He's not saying you would. He just means that you don't have to worry."
"I'm a mother. I always worry."
Emma seemed to debate internally for a moment before saying, "I-I'm a mother too. So I've got it covered. We'll see you in the morning, Mayor."
Taking that as his cue, Henry rushed around Regina to Emma's side. He slipped his hand into Emma's without a second thought. Emma squeezed the small hand, and Henry smiled. Not one of his normal smiles, but that same one that he used to give Regina. The little family turned together and headed off, not even waiting to see if Regina had anything else to say. That was probably what broke Regina's heart the most; the fact that they didn't even care. Her heartache was what stuck with her from that night. It combined with the many other events just like it, warping and shaping that void inside of her into something more focused. More channeled. She knew that feeling it gave her. It was similar to the way she felt after Snow — after Snow ruined everything. It was thirst for vengeance at whatever cost. She would get her son back and he would smile at her again because that smile, that love, was the only thing in this world worth fighting for. And a fight to the death was always a moment worth remembering.