DISCLAIMER:: do not own ouat or any of its characters. just borrowing for the purpose of creative expression. no profit obtained.
A/N:: sorry for the delay everyone. here it is. i hope it is worth the wait. read, review, and enjoy.
SWAN QUEEN SWAN QUEEN SWAN QUEEN
-Chapter 62: The Routine Is Getting Old-
Regina's eyes sprung open. All that greeted her was the monotonous white of her ceiling. The day seemed heavy around her. She'd had her one day, her Sunday, to just soak it all in, to bask in the fact that their plan had worked. Her and the Queen had bought themselves another month. If Emma Swan could manage to melt through the arctic crust that had encased her heart in a mere month, she was quite confident she could manage to find a way to reverse what she'd done under the same time constraints. Regardless of Emma's prophecy and the splitting of their souls; she had still cast the curse. Which meant she could break it. It was just a matter of discovering how, and in doing so with as few casualties as possible.
Her head rolled to the side even as her arm slid out across the other side of the bed, but no one was there, the sheets cold in the absence of a body to warm them. The blonde's half of the bed was deserted.
For a brief moment her heart twisted with panic. Their original agreement had been that Emma would leave Storybrooke. Had she changed her mind and decided to follow through with their plan? How would she ever find her if she'd disappeared for good? This world was much bigger than the Enchanted Forest, with many more places to hide. Emma could be anywhere with enough of a lead. How would she ever be able to bring her back before the deadline?
She sat up in bed, throwing the duvet off. The door to the en suite bathroom was visibly open. No one was inside. There was no trace of Emma in the room, no discarded clothes tossed carelessly on the floor or any other outward signs that this was anything more than what it had always been: a space belonging to her and her alone.
For the first time since she'd come to this fantasy town she'd created, she felt the sharp blade of the loneliness slide into her chest. She had lived for twenty eight years convincing herself that she didn't need anyone beside her. Henry had been an unforseen blessing, something she hadn't known she craved, a need she immediately fulfilled the moment she realised she desired it. She had told herself there was nothing else she wanted.
Until Saturday. Until the moment Emma Swan had touched her, body and soul. The blonde had cracked through her walls, ripping through them with bloodied hands after a month long struggle, a battle she had made all the harder with her refusal to assist her. It had only been as Emma crashed through the last of her defenses that she'd finally realised they were on the same side, that they always had been. She'd just been too blind to see it, to see any of it.
She looked around her room, despite all the trappings of her life seeming barren and devoid of any realness. She saw it now, the falseness of it all, as if she were living in a dollhouse she'd spent so many years meticulously designing, saw it as if she could see the very magic that sustained this place, that kept it what it was. Unlike their chamber in Bridalveil, where even the meagre possessions they'd travelled with made a borrowed chamber seem more substantial than this, it felt cold and impersonal. How had she convinced herself this charade was worth living? How had she ever thought that pausing life where it was had been the best way to achieve her happy ending?
It had been a lie. This hadn't been about finding her happy ending. Perhaps it hadn't even been about getting her revenge. Maybe this had always been about not having to face her broken heart. She hadn't wanted things to get worse, hadn't wanted to feel so broken anymore, so she had pressed a pause button, leaving them to move neither forward nor back in time, stuck where they were. And it was only as Emma waltzed in and pressed play that anything had changed.
She traced her fingers over the other side of the bed. It was made, not with the meticulous hotel corners that she usually did, but decently enough. Emma had done it, before she'd left, though Regina couldn't tell if it had been to erase her presence from the room completely or if it had been in polite consideration of Regina's penchant for organization.
She finally convinced herself that Emma wasn't going to magically appear in her bed once more and began her usual routine for the morning. Somehow it all seemed rather futile now that she had dedicated herself to breaking the curse. She had no choice; she risked losing not only Storybrooke but also her family forever if she didn't. That was not a gamble she wished to make. But keeping up appearances, while she tried to research how to end what she had started, was necessary.
Still, as she went into her walk in, she found that she had slightly less zeal in choosing her wardrobe for the day. It no longer seemed to matter if she appeared intimidating or not. All she really cared about was being clothed and colour coordinated enough that it wouldn't arouse anyone's suspicions. In the end, she decided on a pair of tight grey slacks and a muted blue button up that had always been a favourite of hers.
She set them out across the bed and left the room to go wake up Henry. If she didn't wake him now, he'd never make it to school on time.
But as she kniocked once before entering her son's room, she found him already wide awake and sitting cross-legged on his bed, already ready for school. He looked up from the note book he was jotting something down in when she entered, her mouth agape, ready to coax him out from beneath the covers. He wasn't a morning person; she knew it was a trait he'd inherited from his birth mother.
"Morning Mom. Emma left some breakfast for you in the kitchen. She had to go, but she said to tell you that she would stop by the office for lunch."
Regina did her best not to smile. So Emma hadn't snuck out, and she most certainly hadn't left town. She had just wanted to let her sleep in. "Make sure you're all ready for school. We have to leave by fifteen til."
She returned to her room, heading straight for the bathroom. She'd slept in slightly longer than usual and she needed to hurry if she hoped to keep the deadline she had just given her son.
When she turned on the light, she was greeted by a bright green square on her bathroom mirror, small but readily noticeable among the darker decor. Her brow furrowing, she stepped up to the mirror to get a closer look at the small post-it someone had affixed there.
This time she couldn't contain her smile as she read three simple words written in Emma's loopy script: I love you.
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She stared at the small mirror. How did this thing even work? It looked like nothing more than an ordinary handheld mirror that any women might have in her purse. It certainly wouldn't arouse any suspicion that it was actually a means of talking to the other side, to a world no one but her and her family even knew existed.
Her fingers played over the glass. She'd tried every spell she knew that might work, trying to get the damned thing to work properly. She had discussed the plan of attack very briefly with the Queen, but Fate had not allowed them long to form their plan. They had just covered the very basics, the Queen would prepare for the coming war in the Enchanted Forest and she would do her part by trying to break the curse in Storybrooke.
But that was precisely why she needed to talk the Queen. She had no idea how to break the curse. There was always the fail safe. She knew where it was. With a little effort and a less than welcome scuffle with an angry dragon who had spent twenty eight long years nursing a boiling grudge, she could obtain the stone. Her former ally would do everything in her power to incinerate her upon first sight, but she could get to the fail safe. But she didn't possess the power here, even pulling all the risidual magic from the few items she'd brought and stored in her vault in the crypt, to transfer everyone back to the Enchanted Forest before the fail safe destroyed Storybrooke and everything, living or dead, within its borders. She may have the power to save Henry, herself, and Emma from the danger, but she wasn't sure Emma would ever agree to abandon her family or any of the people she'd grown up loving.
Still, it was in the back of her mind as a last resort. If it came to it, and her month passed without finding any alternative solutions, she would go down into the cavern beneath the library, she would get the fail safe and she would save her family, with or without Emma's consent.
There was also the option to rip up the spell, reversing the curse as if it never was. But in doing so, she would lose Henry, and possibly Emma as well. Henry had not come about until after the curse. He was of this world, even if his parentage was of another. This was the only home he had ever known. To save him, she would have to send him, alone and afraid, over the town line. He would become an orphan. He would lose everything he had ever known and loved in life. And he would be put into the system, a thing that had filled Emma's life in this world with so much upset and bad memories; they would be condemning him to a life that would embitter him.
And Emma, the curse hadn't affected her. It wasn't what had transported her here. So it was possible she wouldn't return with them either. She'd be left there with their son, in the ruins of a town that had never existed. She would be forced to leave her family behind to save the rest of the town. It was the exact opposite of what she faced with the fail safe. To the right she saw rock, to the left was hard place, and there she was, caught between them.
There had to be another way. There had to be a way to save everyone.
Regina set aside the mirror, resolving to puzzle it out later that night, smiling as she glanced up at the blonde head peeking in through the double doors. "Hey stranger."
The smile Emma gave her was still fringed with the sadness it had possessed the day before, still tainted with the guilt of the choice she still believed she had made, but it seemed altogether less heavy than it had before. She was floating towards acceptance, realising that she had no choice but to move on with the only life she thought she had. She slipped fully into the office, closing the door softly behind her. "I'm sorry about this morning. I didn't want to wake you." She sauntered slowly closer to the desk but didn't completely approach it.
Regina knew her reputation, especially with the woman before her, and Emma was still expecting her first response to be displeasure. Well things were different now, but she would allow the blonde an adjustment period.
She stood, coming around her desk and closing the rest of the distance remaining between them. Her hands found their way onto Emma's arms, squeezing gently on her biceps. "I got your note." She leaned in and pecked Emma gently on the lips.
"Oh that." A small amount of pink crept into her cheeks. "I know that you don't..."
"Emma?" She whispered the name against her lips.
"Hmm?" Emma's green gaze was laser focused on the full lips inches from her own.
"Shut up." She claimed the younger woman's mouth, pulling her body into her.
For a moment, Emma was surprised. This Regina was acting wholly different than she had over the course of the last month. When she broke her walls, she must have truly shattered them, granting her unimpeded access to the woman underneath. Of course, a part of her wasn't surprised. Regina was comfortable in lustful situations; she had learned long ago how to use her body and use it well.
Emma drew back, slightly breathless. "If I would have known that's the welcome I'd get, I would have snuck out more mornings."
Regina pursed her lips.
Expecting a sharp retort, she decided to head it off. "I know, I know, shut up." She met the older woman's lips again.
She didn't tell Emma that she wanted to wake up with her, that she never wanted to feel that deep panic ever again. Now that she knew the other woman was her destiny, she didn't want her out of her sight for long ever again. Past experience had taught her to be prepared for danger from around every corner. But she had the feeling saying any of this out loud would only make Emma even more suspicious. She would start asking questions, the answers to which she wasn't allowed to know yet.
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"Mom?" Henry walked toward her where she was leaning against the driver's door of her Mercedes. "I thought Emma was picking me up." He didn't sound disappointed, merely curious. Maybe they had moved beyond his hatred for her.
She pushed off of the car and met him in the middle, wrapping an arm around his shoulders as she guided him back toward the car. "I took the afternoon off. I thought we could maybe go to Granny's, have that talk we discussed last night." She steered him around the front of the car, opening the passenger side door for him.
He turned in the door, looking up into her face, searching for either deceit or sincerity. He appeared to find what he was looking for, finally nodding.
She smiled down at him, running her fingers through his short brown hair.
He dropped his backpack on the floorboard and slid into the leather seat.
Regina closed the door, smiling to herself as she made her way back around the car. It had been a long time since she and Henry had been able to sit down and eat a meal together without a stone cold silence between them.
The strain had been there even before he had found and sought out Emma Swan. If she was being entirely honest, it had been over two years before his birth mother had come to town that he had looked at her without suspicion in his eyes. Maybe it was something he'd gotten from Emma, this innate ability to look through her disguise to the remnants of her dark past that still lingered beneath the surface.
But she was hoping they could tackle her new mission with a united front. Two heads were always better than one, and she knew it was in Henry's best interest that they were successful in this. Out of all of them, he had the most to lose.
They chose a booth in the back corner of the diner, away from the other patrons. The last thing she needed was any of them overhearing the conversation they were about to have. It had sounded crazy enough coming from the mouth of a ten year old for the past few months; it could only get worse if she were seen as entertaining the idea.
They waited in silence while Ruby took their orders, eyeing them curiously, but knowing better than to pry. But the second she had gone to put their orders in, Henry turned bright eyes on her.
She cleared her throat, shifting uneasily in her seat. This wouldn't be the easiest thing to do. Admitting the dark deeds she'd committed in her past was hard enough, but doing so in front of only one of two people who had the power to condemn her seemed almost impossible. But Emma had known her, had known every dark secret she'd locked away in her black heart and had loved her still, despite the darkness. Maybe Henry could to. She had to try. She needed him, now more than ever.
"Where should I start?" She expected him to tell her to start from the beginning or to ask her straight forward what Snow White had ever done to earn her hatred. A part of her even expected him to ask why she was telling him all this now. But when he finally spoke, it was none of those responses that passed his lips.
"You've had twenty eight years here. Plenty of opportunity to do what you couldn't do there: kill Snow White. Why haven't you?"
The question drew her up short. She had never really considered why she hadn't just finished what she'd started so many years ago. She just had stopped feeling the need after they'd come to Storybrooke. She knew he was waiting for an answer, so she gave the most honest response she could think of. "I suppose I was just satisfied with taking away everything that had made her happy in the Enchanted Forest. What more could I have possibly gained by killing her? It would have simply relieved her of her misery."
Henry nodded, sipping at his lemonade quietly, contemplating her words. "Do you still hate her?"
"Yes." She didn't hesitate. A part of her would always hate Snow White; there were some things one holds onto so tight that letting them go is just not possible. She saw Henry's face fall just a little, warring internally with disappointment at her words and gratitude that she was honest. "But I no longer wish to destroy her." That had to count for something right?
"Because, as much as I have loathed her, she gave me the two most important people in my life. Without her, there would never have been Emma, and without Emma, I never would have had you. She took something from me once, but now she has given me something back. Her debt is paid." As she said them, the truth of her own words began to sink in.
Henry watched her through eyes wise beyond his years. Finally, seeming to internally decide something, he cupped his hands around his glass of lemonade and met her gaze. "I guess you should start at the beginning then."
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"Are you going to be staying here a lot Emma?"
Regina leaned against the door frame in his room, looking in at her lover and their son. Emma had been waiting for them when they'd arrived home and they'd spent their first evening as an actual family together. Emma had offered to help her put Henry to bed and she'd agreed. There would be many more nights like this if she had anything to say about it.
Emma pulled up his duvet. "We'll just have to see kid."
They said their goodnights, and after they had each placed a kiss to his forehead, they departed the room.
The second the door was closed, Regina slipped her hand into Emma's, leaning her head against her shoulder as they moved down the hall to the master bedroom.
They got ready for bed with the ease of old lovers with a practised routine. They didn't speak, didn't fill the silence with meaningless conversation; they didn't need to. There were kisses pressed to bare shoulders, gentle touches of fingers along backs, sweet nudges to arms or hips, all every time they passed each other as they got ready for bed. It felt very familiar, as if they'd been in a relationship for years, rather than mere days.
Their bodies found each other after they'd turned out the lights and gotten under the duvet on opposite sides of the bed, magnets drawn to each other. Legs entwined, hands caressed over skin, mouths met. Regina hadn't felt this in love for a long time, not since the days when she'd still believed that fairy tales always had happy endings.
She pulled back gently. Her eyes were just starting to adjust to the darkness in the room; she could make out the contours of Emma's jaw, but her features were all shrouded in shadow, save her eyes, which seemed to glow, even in the darkness. "I don't want to wake up without you. Not again."
Lips found Regina's, kissing away her fears. Emma felt something in her heart warm, bringing back a bit of the vibrancy she had lost when she'd woken up knowing she'd never see the Queen again. But, as she stared into the mayor's eyes, she saw little glimpses of the part of Regina she thought she'd lost. Maybe a happy ending, or something like one, was still possible.