"Don't hurt her!" Regina cries, hair plastered to her forehead with sweat, eyes wild with pain and panic. "Don't you dare hurt her," she pleads, the words dissolving into a groan as she falls back against the pillows.
"Be quiet," Cora snaps, dismissing the midwife with a wave of her hand. "And show some gratitude that I am once again saving your miserable life."
"Give her to me," Regina says quietly, already knowing the answer. "Let me see her, just once."
"Trust me," Cora replies, her voice deceptively soft. "It will be so much easier this way."
Jefferson is pacing in the tiny room, hatbox in hand and fear in his heart. If he can just distract Regina's mother, maybe enlist a friendly guard, then he can take Regina away from here for good. The protective enchantments on this tower have been lifted to allow him in today, so surely they can use it as a window of escape.
Provided, of course, Regina survives this. She's been so sad, so weak here under her mother's care that Jefferson fears the worst. This is all his fault, falling in love with the wife of a King. If Regina were to die he might never forgive himself.
The door slams open then, but instead of a guard Jefferson finds himself face to face with Cora, a squirming bundle in her arms.
"Take it," she spits. "And don't ever come near my daughter again."
"I want to see Regina," he demands, not surprised when an invisible force knocks him to the ground so hard that his lungs seem to fail. Regina told him of this, in whispered conversations in the dark, and feeling it for himself only makes him hate Cora more.
"She is dead to you," Cora commands. "Or I will change my mind and dash this bastard's brains out myself."
"No!" Jefferson roars, finally able to move. He runs to grab his baby—his daughter—and Cora lets him, smiling cruelly as he tries to make a break for the corridor. He finds himself held back once more by invisible force, the frustration of it making him scream.
"Go," Cora commands. "The way you came. You have five minutes before I send the Kingsguard after you."
"Tell her," Jefferson spits. "Tell her I love her."
"Now why on earth would I do that?" Cora asks, sweeping out and slamming the door behind her.
Regina is crying—alone, now—when Cora returns to what was Regina's childhood room.
Cora will be glad to return to the King's castle now that this is done, the façade of her own 'illness' no longer needed to conceal Regina's illegitimate child. The time hasn't been entirely wasted though, in fact without interruptions Cora has been able to remind Regina of both her place and her manners, Queen or not.
"Stop your sniveling," she snaps after a minute goes by. "It is done, Regina."
"I want her back," Regina cries. "Please, just let me go. Jefferson will care for me, I know it."
"You have a husband for that," Cora says. "And need I remind you that this little mistake is treason? He'll have you on the guillotine, you fool."
"Good!" Regina wails. "This is no life for me. You take everything—everything—I love."
"I take away things that will hurt you, dear," Cora replies, and it sounds almost soothing. "I do it to protect you."
With that, she lays her hands on Regina's head, brushing the hair away from her eyes. "It's why I have to do this, my love," Cora explains, closing her eyes as the room fills with blue light.
Regina is tending to her roses when she hears the cough behind her. Startled, she turns with the shears in her hand, only to see a familiar face.
"Jefferson!" She cries, rushing forward to embrace him. She's stunned when he doesn't react. "It's been so long," she adds. "Why, I don't think I've seen you since my wedding."
"Regina?" He asks, looking at her like he's seen a ghost. "That's… that's the last time you saw me? Your wedding?"
"Of course," Regina replies. "I'm sure I'd remember if I'd seen you since."
"Oh, Regina," he says, and he looks so sad that Regina instinctively presses her palm against his cheek. She feels bound to comfort him somehow, as though it were somehow her responsibility.
"Who's this?" Regina says sharply as a little girl bounds out from behind his legs.
"My daughter," Jefferson explains. "Her name is Grace."
"That's nice," Regina says, feeling oddly flat. She looks and looks at the girl, but somehow her eyes keep drifting to other things. "Are you visiting the King? I'm afraid he has traveled to visit King Midas."
"I didn't come to see the King," Jefferson says, looking at Regina with tears in his eyes. "How is your mother?"
"She's very well, thank you," Regina tells him, the familiar chill trickling down her spine. "I'm joining her for tea shortly. Will you stay?"
"Better not," Jefferson says. "Grace and I must be going."
"Of course," Regina says, with a little bow. "It was so nice to see you again. I think I must have missed you more than I knew."
Jefferson laughs at that, but it's a terrible, hollow noise.
"Goodbye, Regina," he calls as he walks away.
She watches them go, father and daughter, slipping back into the shrubbery that forms the Palace gardens. Regina feels a tickling in her head, almost like she needs to sneeze but can't, when her mother appears out of nowhere.
"Who was that?" Cora asks, her voice quiet but filled with malice.
"Just a travelling man and his daughter," Regina says, the half-lie tripping off her tongue out of habit. "They're already on their way."