title: once the magic settles
chapters: 4 of ∞?
fandom: once upon a time
character/pairing: regina mills, emma swan, granny, red, grumpy, snow, charming
rating: t
word count: 2076
summary: "Because, like it or not - and I don't - you're part of this town, and you're part of Henry's life. And this isn't a damn fairy tale. We don't kill the bad guy." ~ There's a lot to be handled after the magic settles. S2 story.

author's note: And so the tale continues. When we last saw our fallen queen, she was having tea with the Mad Hatter and preparing for the next day when she would come face to face with Snow White. Now, the time has come for the two to speak alone for the first time in twenty-eight years.

once the magic settles || Monday

It takes most of the strength in Regina's body to knock on the door. The hollow sound of her fist against the wood reminds her of what her life has become. What it is sure to become. It's Monday, the first of many days that Regina has to spend with the people she cursed. She understands the punishment. By forcing her to be around her subjects, she's supposed to learn about them and grow guilty for what she's done. Regina gets that much. She simply doesn't understand why she must start every week with Snow White.

Snow certainly hadn't had a difficult life in Storybrooke. Regina's standing in front of the beautiful loft that she so graciously gave the girl. Snow lived there for twenty-eight years never wanting for anything but a bit of happiness. She had a job. She had colleagues. She had the respect of the town. She wasn't locked away in a cellar or living on the streets. Snow has no reason for complaint. Well, hardly none. Snow did have to miss the majority of her child's life and live with an emptiness inside of her that could never fully be filled. It's actually much like the way Regina lived her life in their old world. That life broke Regina; has it done the same to Snow?

The door swings open, revealing not the humble queen but her king. James glowers down at Regina, his blue eyes colder than she can ever remember them. His jaw is tight and tense, much like the rest of his body. Internally, she sighs. She had honestly liked David Nolan. Not because he was stripped away from Snow, but because he found the light in simple situations, because his eyes sparkled when he walked around, because he reminded her of Daniel. Well, now, he's gone, and the shepherd has taken his place.

"Regina," James greets curtly. Yes, he definitely is the shepherd. His upbringing forces him to be polite, to offer respect even to those he does not wish to. She smirks.

"Charming," she returns. His face tenses further. He doesn't like when others call him that. She knows it too. She knows a lot more than any of them ever gave her credit for.

He steps away from the door and gestures for her to follow him. She has a moment before the door closes, one last glimpse to the outside before resigning herself to her fate. Once it clicks shut, she turns her attention to the loft. It's not much different than it was before the curse was broken. Most likely, that was because the place fit Snow well, at least it fit the Snow she used to be before Regina launched her attack. Snow had been so trusting then, so open. Regina looks around in remembrance, but James must see something else in that act for he straightens to his full height and stands firm before her.

He informs her, "Emma and Henry are not here so you might as well stop looking."

She also might as well send a jolt of lightning up his rear end. He is not in charge of her. He does not get to tell her how to feel or what to do. "I will do as I please, especially where it concerns my son."

"If you wish," he says, "However, if you break our contact, you will be locked away just as we did with Rumpelstiltskin."

Oh, the very name sets Regina ablaze. It courses through to her finger tips, lighting the pads ever so softly with a purple growing glow. Why is she treated as if she is the worst of their enemies? Rumpelstiltskin has tricked each and every one of them, yet he runs free!

"And what are you doing about Rumpelstiltskin, hmm? Because he was at my door just last night threatening me and promising to destroy all I hold near." The glow softens, but the rage in her eyes burns brighter. He threatened her son. Henry is all that matters now. Nothing can happen to him. If Regina can't stop it, then it is their job as the new crowned royalty to do something. She asks, "What are you going to do about that? Or is the protective treatment only reserved for your dear precious family?"

James grunts low in his throat. He tells her, "You deserve any punishment you receive."

Typical. She asks, "Does Henry?" And James falls silent. Again, she implores him with her eyes. "Henry is all I hold near enough to hurt me. Rumpelstiltskin knows that. He practically said that he would start with Henry. What will you do to protect him?"

To that, James has no answer. He seems stricken by the thought, stunned into silence. He disgusts her. He acts as if he can lead the world, and he has nothing to say to her now. Pathetic.

"We will do whatever it takes to protect Henry," Snow announces. Regina turns her body towards the sound. Snow stands a bit away with her head held high and her hands held tight like that of a true royal. "We have the means to do so and the resources. But today is not about Henry. It is about us, Regina." And then Snow turns to address her husband. "We'll be out all day. Back before night fall I imagine."

James nods and moves to kiss his beloved goodbye. Regina glares. They've shifted so quickly into their own world. He is their grandchild. They should care. They should not wait until a day has passed to act. Act now. She wants to scream at them. Hit them. Shake them until they understand the urgency to trap that monster right where he belongs. She opens her mouth to speak, but Snow's gaze stops her. Regina follows the line of sight down to her own glowing fingers. She calms them quickly and stares back at Snow. Will the girl say something? Will she pull the cloak out? Regina raises an eyebrow in question.

Snow merely says, "We have much to see. Let's go."

Their first stop, surprisingly, is not to get the cloak from the Blue Fairy. They head the opposite direction of where the nuns are kept. Snow doesn't speak at all as they walk. She keeps her focus forward. Regina attempts to do the same. She watches the people they pass by. Most people stop once they recognize her. They stare at her with a hatred so deep that she worries they'll leave marks on her skin. It wouldn't make a difference if they did. No one admires her anymore. No one has to pretend to either. It hasn't been said, but she's fairly certain she's been removed from office as mayor of Storybrooke.

Will she have to move? She does lives in Mayor's Mansion. Though, the title of the home is her doing and not spelled out the rules of the town. She should be able to keep it. Plus, it's more torturous that way. She can return home from a job of cleaning toilets for the dwarfs to a reminder of what she should be doing. She can be haunted by the ghosts of her past. Or she could never leave it. Simply stay inside and avoid the work and the stares and the school -

"The school?" Regina blurts as she finally understands where they're headed. The large building is a bit off in the distance, but they are undoubtedly moving closer to the school.

Snow stills in her step and looks back to Regina. "Yes. Is something wrong?"

Regina nearly answers that everything is wrong before she decides to be less petty and more honest. She has nothing to lose. "I am in no mood to be around the children of all those who hate me, especially not when Henry is among them."

Snow seems taken aback by her honesty. She clears her throat and informs her, "The children have been given the day off to reunite with their families. In a way, I suppose we're doing the same. Come on. Keep walking."

The last time Regina remembers being in this classroom is when she accused Snow of giving Henry her credit card. That whole experience had seemed like the beginning of some dark fairytale, where the urge to destroy her sprang up from her enemies' unconscious minds and they did all they could to destroy her. Instead, it was her son's conscious need to avoid her. When did he learn to hate me so much? Regina wonders. And where? From the book? From Rumpelstiltskin? Or from herself?

Snow's voice interrupts her thoughts. "I shouldn't have said what I said about you not seeing Henry grow up, or wanting to kill you."

Regina's mind flashes back to Snow's last words at the contract signing. ("I will never forgive you for what you've done.") Regina asks, "Are you sorry?"

Snow shakes her head. "No." She opens the window in the classroom. A white bird flies in, nuzzling against Snow's fingers and chirping happily. Regina knows for a fact that this is something birds did even with Mary Margaret. Still, she can feel Snow's reverence and relief across the room. These birds are her link to their world, to peace. With a sigh, Snow nudges the bird away. Lets it go. Regina doubts she could do the same.

Still looking out, Snow says, "I wish it could all be that simple. Just fly home and live freely." She glances back. "But we cannot fly home. We cannot leave Storybrooke."

Regina perks up slightly. They're still trapped? "Have you tried?"

"One of the fairies volunteered to try it and crossed the sign only to be tossed back. She's in the hospital now."

Regina nearly grins. Seems she's not the only one trapped against her will. Even with magic and memories, they're all still victim to the curse. "How fascinating, but why are you mentioning this to me? I have no control over what this curse does."

Snow says, "I know. I just wanted to remind you that not all of you hard work is undone."

"Nor is yours, dear," and Regina's tone turns slightly bitter as she thinks of all the things Snow still has. "The world still loves you. James still worships at your feet. You have your precious daughter, and now you even have a grandson to dote upon and smother the way you no doubt would have with Emma. Congratulations."

She expects her comment to rile up the other girl. She wouldn't admit it, but she misses Snow's spark. Emma has it. Though, arguing with the blonde is always different than arguing with Snow. Blood does not define anything in that way. In most ways. Snow remains calm, reflective even.

She asks, "Why did you adopt Henry? Why my grandson?" She stutters over the word. It can't be easy to say, not when she doesn't feel any different or look any older.

"I never knew his parentage, only that he would be mine. None of the rest mattered to me when it came to him."

"I don't doubt it." Regina scoffs. Snow continues, "I mean it. And not because of the false memories, but because of my actual ones. You were amazing to me in the beginning."

She remembers their dances, days where the entire ballroom would be decorated for the two of them in their finest gowns and every doll and servant in the palace. She recalls hours spent in the library, reading about anything or anyone that they could get their hands on. There was a time when they were inseparable.

"That was a long time ago. A lot has changed," Regina says.

To that, Snow says, "For you perhaps."

Regina bites down another sigh. Just because she had her memory does not mean that she's matured or learned anything during this time. She's been in stasis the same as they have, not only physically but spiritually. In a way, Regina still feels like she's in that stable, staring at the un-beating heart of the man she loved. Fleetingly, Regina wonders if she was a worse mother to Snow than Cora was to her. Was exile worse than being caged by magic? Was separating true love but erasing their memory worse than watching the chances of it crumble to dust before your eyes? Were they equal - Cora and Regina - or was Regina much, much worse?

End note: How did you like the chapter? I personally am not the largest fan, but I'm trying to work through my writer's block by writing so I'm powering through. Hmm, what did you all like or not like about this?