A/N: This is a sequel to "Scars". I would recommend reading that before this. Reviews are appreciated! I am thinking about making this into a series of related one shots if the response is good.
The Mayoral Ball – the most important and extravagant event of the year in Storybrooke. All of the town's most influential people and politicians came out for the evening. Normally, Regina loved the ball; it was her chance to be the absolute center of attention, reminding her of her days as Queen when she would throw lavish balls. But tonight, a familiar ache burned in her wrists and back and her heart beat so hard in her chest she could practically hear it in her ears. She had no desire to be the star of the evening, not in this state of mind, not anymore. Regina just wanted to relax and be herself, not the statue of stoic formality that she had grown so accustomed to being as Mayor and Queen.
Why can't I just be myself?
Oh, because you can be so much more, if you just let me help you…
The normally composed woman stared at her naked body – save for a pair of ruby red silk panties - in the mirror with a quivering lower lip. It wasn't until she heard her girlfriend's footsteps shuffling up the stairs that she took a deep breath and plastered on a fake smile.
Regina practically leapt for the closet door as Emma made her way into their bedroom. It had been over a month since Regina had shown her partner the scars that marked her body, and even though Emma had kissed and caressed them, assuring her that everything would be ok, she was still extremely self conscious of them. The brunette grabbed a corset from the back of her closet and brought it around her waist.
"Need some help?" she asked, walking toward the closet.
Regina turned, taking in the amazing sight that was Emma Swan. She was dressed in a long sleeveless emerald gown that perfectly matched her eyes. It bunched up slightly in the center and was held together with a diamond accented broach. Her hair was pulled back in a loose up do, a few curly strands wisped on either side of her face. To put it simply, Emma looked absolutely stunning. Regina opened her mouth to compliment on how beautiful the blonde looked, but words failed her. She simply smiled.
Emma smiled back. "You look beautiful," the blonde said.
Regina scrunched up her forehead in confusion. "I'm not even dressed yet."
"That doesn't mean you don't look beautiful," the blonde replied, moving close and placing a soft kiss on the other woman's forehead. "Now turn around and let me lace you."
Regina hesitated a moment before turning around. She let go of the corset and stood nervously as Emma positioned it around her waist and began to fiddle with the strings.
Emma pulled tightly, lacing the bottom two crosses before stopping to brush her fingertip over a particularly large scar. They hadn't talked about it since that night in the shower. Emma had tried hopeless times to get Regina to open up but she had inevitably refused. "Let it go," she would hiss , stomping away from whatever room she was in and locking herself in her bedroom for the rest of the night.
Emma pulled her fingers away from Regina's back when she felt her jump beneath her touch. She gave the strings one final tug before kissing the brunette's shoulder. "Not too tight, is it?" she asked, resting a hand on the small of Regina's back.
The older woman shook her head. "No, it's perfect, thank you." She pulled away from Emma's embrace and walked back to the closet. "I'll meet you downstairs in a few minutes."
Emma simply nodded and left the room, closing the door behind her to give the brunette some privacy.
Regina stepped into her walk-in closet and, standing on her tiptoes, grabbed a long ball gown that was similar to Emma's in cut. It was ruby red with a light cream trim around the chest and was sleeveless, accenting the Mayor's perfectly toned arms. She stepped in to the garment, zipping it up in one quick motion, before making her way back over to her full length mirror. Regina smoothed a few wrinkles out from the center of the dress and stared forward into the glass, admiring the silky material before losing herself in a memory.
"Mama, it was an accident," Regina whimpered, holding the ripped remains of her ball gown in her arms. The young woman stood trembling in her corset and slip. She gripped onto the light blue silk for dear life, as if there was some possible way that it could protect her from the inevitable beating to come.
Cora said nothing. The older woman stepped forward out of the shadows, a pair of scissors in her right hand. She reached out and grabbed her daughter roughly by the shoulder and spun her.
"Mama, please," Regina whispered, trying to turn around to face her mother.
Still, Cora remained silent, digging her nails into the young woman's shoulder to keep her in place. "I'm helping you, Regina." The older woman's cool voice startled her daughter and she jumped slightly. Cora quickly noticed and dug her nails harder into the girl's pale flesh. Regina bit at her lower lip, trying to stifle a cry. "If you insist on ruining your garments, then that's exactly what we'll do. A lady must have a matching wardrobe, right?"
Regina winced. She could feel the cold blade of the scissors through the flimsy silk material of her slip. Her mother made a small cut at the top of the cloth before switching back to holding one side of the scissor blade in her hand. Cora pressed down roughly, slicing through the material as well as tickling the very top of her daughter's skin. When the scissors approached the thick corset, the older woman pushed harder into the scissors, in turn piercing Regina's skin.
The girl cried out in pain. "Mama, stop," she begged.
"Hush," Cora growled, tucking the scissors into her pocket for a moment before taking the silk slip in her hands and ripping it down the center. It fell onto a pile on the floor. Regina began to sob."I said hush," the older woman yelled, pulling out the scissors again. She moved her hand back to the base of the corset and cut roughly, alternating between the cloth and her daughter's skin. Blood trickled from the fresh wounds and stained the inside of the corset. Cora simply shook her head. "I do this for your own good, Regina dear," she said simply while working her way further down the bindings. "It's the only way you will learn." The corset finally opened and Cora bunched the bloody material up in her hands before turning her daughter around and throwing it roughly into her chest. The older woman spun on her heels and walked away, leaving Regina alone in the large dressing room. The girl crumbled to the floor, clutching the ruined material to her chest and sobbing quietly.
"Are you ready?" Emma called from downstairs. The voice startled Regina out of her memory and she jumped, clutching her chest as her heart practically leapt into her throat.
"Uh, yeah, just a minute!" Regina yelled back, walking toward the nearby dresser to find a matching clutch. She stopped abruptly as a sharp pain and irritating itch began to radiate across her lower back. The brunette reached behind her and scratched slightly, trying to alleviate the gnawing itch and burn. Regina thought nothing of it as the pain dulled momentarily after. She grabbed her clutch and took one more look at herself in the mirror. She fiddled with her hair for a moment before turning toward the door to leave. As she spun around, Regina could have sworn she saw the image of her younger self in the mirror for a brief second, dressed in a tattered bright blue gown and staring forward with red swollen eyes.
The ride to the country club was quiet. The couple sat hand in hand, Regina staring out the window while Emma studied her from head to toe. She really was ravishing. Her dark locks were shimmering as the moonlight pierced through the windows to illuminate Regina's form.
A frown spread across Emma's face as she noticed the Regina scratching incessantly at her lower back. "I laced it too tight, didn't I?" the blonde said, reaching out to rub the older woman's back soothingly.
Regina turned her head and smiled at Emma. "Oh, no, no. It's fine." She moved away as the younger woman tried touch her back, instead taking the girl's hand in hers. The brunette brought her ruby red lips down to the skin and kissed it feather softly.
Emma opened her mouth to speak but was quickly interrupted as the country club made its way into view. She put the car in park and walked around the front of the car, turning to hand the keys to the valet. She flashed the man a soft smile before stepping around to open Regina's door. The blonde playfully bowed and offered her arm out to the older woman. "Madame," Emma said in a thick French drawl.
Regina rolled her eyes but couldn't stifle the small laugh of amusement that crept up her throat. She tangled her arm with her partner's and stepped forward into the chaos and excitement that was The Mayoral Ball.
The brunette was immediately bombarded by a rush of people, some welcoming her, some with "important government business", and some to kiss her ass in hopes that it would make them look good. "Mayor Mills, you're looking well," Amanda Flounderton commented. The politician's long bright red locks were pulled up into a fashionable half braided ponytail and she wore a dark green gown that sequined at the bottom. Regina thanked her for the compliment before walking away arm in arm with Emma.
The blonde tucked her lips close to the Mayor's ear. "Who was that?" she asked, darting her eyes to the side to glance at the woman in green.
"Congressman Flounderton," Regina informed. "She's been pushing for a clean water act that will help save the deep sea life, particularly around our Maine coastline where fishing practices can be rather destructive." The brunette sighed. "It unfortunately has not been high on my priority list and without my consent, nothing gets done. Until the budget is there, we simply have to keep it on the back burner, so to speak."
"Wow. It must be amazing to have that kind of power," Emma commented innocently.
Power. The word struck a nerve and Regina stopped abruptly.
But power, true power, endures.
The pain in her back set ablaze once more and she scrunched her face up in agony. A burning itchiness crept up her spine, almost unbearable. Like a bug bite one simply can't leave alone, she reached back, using her fingernails to push roughly against the material of the dress and corset. The rough material of the bodice tore deliciously into her skin, cooling the burn for a moment. Regina quickly stopped when she noticed Emma turning around.
"You ok?" the blonde asked.
"Mhm," Regina lied.
"Madame Mayor!" Sidney called from a few feet away. "We're ready for your opening speech." He pointed to the podium that was set in place at the edge of a slightly raised stage.
Regina nodded and reached for Emma's hand. She smiled and gave it a squeeze before letting go and making her way to the other side of the hall.
Emma watched proudly as the brunette stepped confidently up to the podium and cleared her throat into the microphone. It caught everyone's attention. Within a matter of seconds, all eyes were on Regina Mills, waiting for yet another one of her infamously poignant speeches.
And then, Regina froze. Hundreds of eyes were staring, watching her every move. It was her childhood all over again. One wrong word, one false move and she would be scrutinized by the whole town. Even the smallest mistake and she could assuredly anticipate a beating. The soft burning in her back was now a full on forest fire. Regina reached back and dug roughly into her skin.
Emma furrowed her brow. Something was wrong. Regina had been standing there for almost a minute in silence, gazing forward as if she was lost in thought. The blonde brushed her way through some of the crowd and moved closer to the stage. She halted quickly when the sound of Regina's voice finally echoed throughout the room.
"Good evening," she welcomed. She pushed as deep as she could through her dress with her fingernails. The agonizing itching and burning wouldn't stop. The brunette bit her tongue to stifle back the tears and continued speaking. "Thank you all for taking the opportunity to attend one of the most prestigious events not only in Storybrooke, but in all of Maine." The crowd began to clap politely. The loud noise of skin smacking skin made Regina shutter. How many times she had been slapped across the face…
"As Mayor, it is my duty to keep my town's best interest at heart, and these events give me an opportunity to speak with you all, one on one, to make sure I am doing my very best to represent you all as a whole." She gestured outward to the crowd with her free hand, the other pinching at the raw skin on the arch of her back.
Regina wanted to stop as soon as she felt the cool liquid smearing across her skin and into the corset. But her hands dug roughly by their own accord. Her head swam. She closed her eyes for a moment, steadying herself.
And when she opened them, the audience was gone, save for one woman, dressed in all black with her hair pinned neatly into an authoritative bun. Her dark brown – almost black – irises pierced through Regina and a smug smile shown on her face. "Even now, you can't control yourself. Weak like your father." Her voice was deep and piercing.
"You're not here. You don't control me anymore," Regina hissed. She closed her eyes again. Upon opening them, all of Storybrooke was staring at her with deep concern.
Emma eyed Sidney. "Help her," she mouthed, making her way to the stairs. The reporter nodded and joined the Mayor on the stage, urging her off and into Emma's waiting grasp. "It appears Mayor Mills isn't feeling very well this evening," he began apologetically. "But I can assure you we have a full evening planned and that your concerns will be heard."
Regina's ears rang as she stepped down the stairs and into Emma's arms. The crowd stared, confused as the blonde rushed her out of the hall and into the night.
"What's going on?" Emma asked, running her fingers through Regina's hair. She brushed her fingertips softly up and down the brunette's back.
Regina jumped as if she had just been hit. The pain was excruciating and it was beginning to make her dizzy. She clutched her chest as her lungs refused to suck air. "Home," was all she managed to whimper as a panic attack overwhelmed her.
Terrified, Emma explained the situation to the valet and grabbed her keys, running as fast as she could to retrieve Regina's car. She helped the frail woman into the passenger's seat and looked at her sadly. Breaking every driving law imaginable – being Sheriff had its perks – the blonde made it back home in record time. She threw open the door and helped a shaking Regina into the house and up into their room.
Regina breathlessly pointed to the zipper at the back of her dress and looked to Emma with pleading eyes. The blonde had never seen Regina so vulnerable, so scared, trembling. Well, not since… She reached forward and unzipped the dress with one quick movement. It fell into a pile on the floor.
And then Emma saw it, the deep red stain that was growing by the minute. "Oh my god," she breathed. Panic bubbled in her throat as she tried to unlace the corset to no avail. She bolted out of the room and down into the kitchen, throwing open one of the drawers and retrieving a pair of scissors. Taking two steps at a time – in her ball gown, no less – Emma barged back into the room.
Regina turned. She recoiled when she saw the shiny metal in the blonde's hand. The brunette whimpered, taking a step back.
"It's ok," Emma assured, taking Regina's hand in her own. "It's ok." She brought the smooth olive skin up to her lips and placed a chaste kiss on one of the brunette's knuckles. The younger woman smiled. She walked behind Regina and very carefully, as to not hit the inevitably gashed skin, cut the laces of the bodice. It, too, fell to the floor, in its wake revealing a mangled mess of gashed and bleeding skin. Deep red blood was caked all down the brunette's back with fresh pools still dripping from a few spots that were broken open particularly deep. Emma hovered her fingertips over the gashed scars and bit her lower lip, trying to hold back tears. "Oh Regina," she cooed, turning her gently around so the two were finally face to face.
There, looking into the deep emerald eyes that bared into her soul, Regina crumbled. She clutched Emma for dear life and pulled her to the ground. "Emma…" the brunette cried, wrapping her arms around the blonde's thin waist and burying her face into the nape of her neck. Hot tears spilled onto Emma's skin. It took everything in her power not to sob right along with the woman that lay broken in her arms.
"Help me," Regina whimpered, her sobs growing harder and louder.
"I will," Emma assured before kissing the top. "I promise I will."