When she is alone, Regina fears herself.
It didn't start immediately. It was a gradual process that worsened with every repeat; it began as something she could control and rapidly became something that she could not.
And the worst part is, she doesn't even try to stop it.
Regina is in the kitchen and she's in one of her moods. Henry's with Emma and she's working from home today because it's the weekend and she doesn't feel like going into the office. Not like this.
It starts out as an idea to prepare dinner. Mechanically, she washes her hands, pulls out mixing bowls and ingredients from the refrigerator, and a serrated knife to slice vegetables. Her hands enclose the plastic casing of the blade and she trembles, a pang of want howling from a very dark place within her. She closes her eyes. She inhales shakily.
When it comes, she doesn't fight it.
Like her culinary pursuits, and every other facet of her life now, it is mechanic. She unbuttons her blouse and lets it fall to the floor. Her eyes are greeted with a network of thin scars all along her abdomen, and without hesitating she presses the blade to its familiar place above her bellybutton.
When she slides it across herself, she feels nothing.
Perhaps that is why she keeps trying, because she wants to feel it––feel something. She stares straight ahead into the dining room and continues to move the blade against her skin, waiting for even the slightest inkling of pain. She is numb, but she doesn't want to be.
Last night when David was here for dinner, the numbness started to fade. It was nothing like she'd ever felt before, and she wanted desperately to cling to it. But as usual, her attempts to bring people closer failed, and when he left she felt an inescapable loneliness that led her to, well, this. As so many things had led to this.
Blood oozes out of the cracks in her flesh and she feels for a moment that she is a broken mirror, shattered beyond repair.
But she doesn't have enough time to meditate on this because the doorbell rings, and reality sets in. Strange. Though she is not expecting anyone, she is calm, collected. She tosses the knife in the sink and dabs at herself with a few paper towels. She eases into her blouse and coolly goes toward the door, not even a hair out of place to betray her.
Then she sees that it is David Nolan, and her composure quivers.
"David?" she says, voice controlled. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
He is apologetic; guilty, even. His hands are in his pockets and he struggles to peel his gaze from his feet to look at her when she opens the door. "Regina. I just… wanted to apologize, too, for last night," he begins, shrugging. "It's been bugging me since. I just wanted to say that I was being unfair."
Regina smiles tensely. "Let's just forget about it," she suggests. "It was a mistake, and one that was fully my fault. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
David sighs, his conscience unsatisfied. But he knows talking about it further would just make it worse. "No, that's it," he says, lamely. He makes to leave, but freezes when he sees a tiny red blot color Regina's white blouse. "Regina," he gapes, pointing at her abdomen, "You're bleeding!"
Shit. "Oh, that's odd," she lies, frowning. "Perhaps it's a bug bite. No matter. I'll take care of it. Have a nice day, David." She tries to shut the door, but he blocks her. The force of it, small as it was, causes her blouse to hug her tighter, and more red bleeds through.
"No––Regina, wait––that's more than just a bug bite. What happened?" He's no doctor, and he's no zoologist, but he's never seen a mosquito capable of that much. He's concerned, truly, and Regina can sense that. It only makes her hurt more.
"I'm fine, David, really," she insists, but he's pushing into her house anyway.
He's got the door shut and his arms on her before she even has a chance to protest; but protest she does, anyway.
"David!" She brushes his hands off her and takes a step back. "Please!"
"Now… I don't want you to read into this, but take off your shirt," he says, ignoring her objections. "Oh––uh, was that rude? I'm sorry."
She crosses her arms over her chest and retreats into the kitchen. "If you want me to get undressed, you might ask nicer," she teases, but senses his face fall and quickly clarifies, "I'm kidding. David––David, look at me. I'm fine. Alright? I'm fine. Now, I'm sure you have things to do today, so why don't you go on your way?"
David continues his pursuit and on his way to her passes the sink, where he notices the blade in the sink. Regina's smile evaporates as he leans over and inspects the thing, and all she can do is stew in silent defeat as he picks it up and clearly espies the tiny flecks of blood on the edge of the blade. "Take off your shirt," he orders, and this time his tone is so dark with concern and disgust that she actually feels a twinge of fear.
She unbuttons her blouse and once again lets it fall to the floor, revealing the angry gashes that are only just starting to congeal and scab.
He doesn't see her black lace bra, her perfectly sculpted body, the pain and shame in her eyes. He only sees the hatred she bears for herself––the hatred that drove her to this. "Were you trying to kill yourself?" he asks, eyes never once leaving her.
"No, don't be ridiculous," she scoffs, rolling her eyes. "I wasn't even near a major artery. Did you fail anatomy, David?"
But he's in no mood for joking, so she relents.
"Then why? Why, Regina? Do you––do you do this when Henry's in the house?"
Quick to defend herself, she shakes her head and says, "No! No, of course not. Never."
David throws the knife back into the sink a little too roughly. "I don't understand," he confesses, but that much was already clear just by the look on his face.
"I don't either. Not really."
"Do you have a first aid kit or something? Do I need to take you to Dr. Whale?"
"That won't be necessary. I have some bandages and ointment upstairs."
"Okay," he said, shaking his head. "Well, let's get to it then."
"David, I can hardly ask you to dress my wounds––"
"I'm not taking no for an answer, Regina."
"Very well then," she responds, after a pause. "This way."
She leads him upstairs to a small cabinet in the master bathroom, and pulls out some peroxide, cotton swabs, and medical bandages. She can't remember where she got them but she's always had them lying around, just in case.
She lies down on her bed and he sits beside her, dabbing at her with peroxide-soaked cotton swabs. She winces as the chemicals sink into her flesh, but he doesn't cease his ministrations to accommodate her comfort. She can't tell if he's angry at her or himself. Does he think this was his fault? She reaches for his hand in order to get his attention.
"This isn't your fault," she assures him, quietly. And though his instincts tell him not to, he believes her when he sees the sincerity in her eyes.
"Then whose fault is it, Regina? What does this… I don't understand."
"There's nothing to understand. It just happens sometimes." A pause, a sigh, a flicker of terror. "David, please… don't tell anyone about this. I don't need to give Sheriff Swan another reason to try and take Henry from me."
There's desperation in her voice and he hears it.
"I need you to stop doing this to yourself. I need you to promise me you'll stop."
"It's not that easy."
"You're a strong woman. One of the strongest ones I know. Look, we'll go see Archie. He can help you. He's helped me before and he can help you too. We'll go tomorrow. Okay?"
"No. You don't get to say no. You were there for me when no one else was and now it's time for me to repay the favor. You and I, we're something like family, Regina. Let me take care of you. It's the least I can do."
Tears spring to her eyes but she swallows them in a curt nod. They spend the next few moments in silence as he wraps the bandages around her and secures them with tape, and she fetches a fresh shirt from her wardrobe.
"Thank you," she says finally, when she finds her voice.
He gives her shoulder a squeeze. "I can be your emergency contact too, you know," he says, and then passes out of her room and down the stairs.
She follows him to the door a little dazedly, trying to get her thoughts in order. She doesn't understand what she ever did to deserve this. She is feeling something and she suddenly craves the familiar numbness again.
"I'll pick you up tomorrow around noon. Archie's not in over the weekend but I know he'll make an exception." It's awkward and unexpected, but just before he leaves David leans forward and pecks her on the cheek. "Until then, take care of yourself, Regina. And you have my number."
Regina is silent as he pulls out of her driveway, and reaches up to touch the spot on her cheek where his lips were only just a moment ago.
She wishes he could have stayed longer but she knows she imposed on him long enough, and she mustn't be selfish. She walks stiffly back into her house and when she shuts the door, she leans back against it and closes her eyes.
A thousand thoughts, feelings, impulses, blur her mind, and she can't process any of them––and all she can do is breathe.
Above all she feels violated in a very strange and intimate way; and above that she feels vulnerable. Extremely vulnerable. She does not have any intention of speaking to Archie about this. She'll come up with some government emergency; she'll get out of it somehow. She always does.
With that in mind, she walks into the kitchen, takes out another knife, and resumes the preparation of dinner.
Henry will be home soon if Emma has any shred of trustworthiness left in her, and she doesn't want to disappoint him. She knows better than to wish for him to come home early, but she can't help it––she doesn't want to be alone right now.
Because when she is alone with her thoughts, and her regrets, Regina fears herself.