She was eating her evening meal when it happened. Regina felt the skin of her stomach flinch and grow taut for a brief second. Then came pressure. A gentle squeeze from the inside, not painful but certainly not expected. She placed a hand on her middle, backing away from the table with her face contorted in shock. Eagerly, she grabbed the bell beside her and rang it with a fast aggression.
Fiona scurried in, pleasant expression fixed on her face. At the sight of Regina's apparent surprise, her cheerful demeanor was soon replaced by a look of frantic concern. "Your Majesty, you alright?" she huffed, "Oh it's the babies, isn't it? They're coming, aren't they?"
"Has the midwife been given her payment?" Fiona nodded firmly.
"Then go get her," the Queen bit out.
And then there it was again, the constriction, as if a boa was wrapped around her insides. Frowning, she looked down at her stomach, "Your timing is awful. I have yet to discover what the hell I'm going to do with you two." The sound of her gnashing teeth sounded like grating stone to her own ears.
And in that moment, the Huntsman chose to enter the room. Timing must come from the father, she thought.
He ran in, sliding on his heels. "I saw Fiona running, and I could only assume," his eyes expanded in fear, "Oh God. This is it isn't it?" Regina was doubled over, but lifted her head long enough to offer him a burning glare. He rushed over her to her side, reaching to help her stand.
"Don't touch me," she forced his hands away, "I'm with child, not a cripple." She swallowed her warning as her body was wrung from the inside out, and she fell back into the chair.
"Oh for God's sake, Regina." He scooped her up from behind and lifted her bridal style.
"How dare you. Have you forgotten your low and parasitic place in this-," she whimpered as another weak squeeze of muscles embraced her. He ran her to her bedchamber, the weight of her pregnancy a feather compared to the weight of his kills. He gently placed her on the bed as she writhed in discomfort.
"You have no idea the consequences of your brashness, Huntsman. Get out," she hissed. He exited promptly.
Within the next minute, an elderly midwife was escorted to the room by two gigantic guards. She looked purely afraid, but when the woman saw her Queen, she rolled up her sleeve, and professionalism took hold. Fiona quickly came to Regina's side, unlacing layers of constrictive clothing. She was left in nothing but her petticoat, which was soon lifted up to bare her stomach.
In the buzzed madness of the past few moments, Regina had failed to realize the pain had stopped abruptly and completely.
The midwife palmed and pushed at the Queen's midsection to determine each baby's location. The midwife sighed, and Regina could see her shoulders drop in relief.
"Well, these babies ain't coming today, Your Majesty. They're too high up now. And those small pains were just your body practicing for the real thing." Her crude woodland accent burned Regina's ears.
"Practicing?" She winced in disbelief.
"Yes, Your Majesty; happens to every lady expecting a child. But it means they'll be coming soon. And I have to recommend you stay in bed until they do." Regina jerked up from the bed.
"Are you ill?," she snapped, "What do you think I am? Some fat, lazy housewife that can simply lay around being fed grapes and fanned with palm fronds?"
"With all due respect, Your Majesty, if you don't go on your bed rest, your heart'll give out, or these children'll be stillborn. I must ask you to take care of yourself this way."
Regina fell back and looked up in desperation. "Ok, fine. Just get back to your chamber."
The midwife curtsied. "Yes, your Majesty. But before I forget," she hesitated, "If you experience this again, the best thing is tea made with lavender flowers. It calms the children like no other remedy. "
"So I've heard," she sighed. As both her maid and midwife exited, she burrowed deep into her covers. The midwife's words pounded through her head like a hammer driving through rock; 'But it means they'll be coming soon'. Her heart got offbeat and she shuddered. She simply had no solution, and the path ahead looked bleak. The only person capable of helping her had cast her off from his services weeks ago. But she'd be damned if she wouldn't give it a second try.
From her bedside table, she withdrew a purple quill and a good-sized piece of parchment. In the bright and flickering candlelight, she began to construct a letter; it was one of the two times in her life she ever had to plead for something. The first was for an innocent man's life…this was for a distraught and pregnant woman's last option.
After quickly scrawling down her request, she rang her bell four times succinctly. A burly guard came and took the letter silently. She lowered herself down, quieted the thoughts torturing her head, and closed her eyes.
That night, more pain came, and the Queen moved violently in her sleep. Hushed whimpers escaped her lips and she twisted in pain.
When she awoke, memories of her eventful night before were grainy and faded with slumber. Regina could, however, recall two things through her discomfort: the aroma of a cup of sweet-smelling tea being pressed to her lips…and the sensation of a familiarly rough and unshaven face pressing a kiss to her cheek.