A/N So it's the week between the sixth and seventh episodes of the Season Two. We just learned more of Emma's back story, and something started to spin in my head. I know the episodes in the coming weeks will blow all this away. In fact many of the spoilers have already blown this away. But in the meantime, in this week in between, here is a little story for you.
November in Maine. It's been twenty-nine years and Regina still hasn't gotten used to the fall weather.
Some days the air is still relatively warm, the temperatures rising high enough to make her sweat in her winter coat. Then the next day it will be bitterly cold, dipping below freezing, maybe even a hint of snow. And it's always damp, the steady wind carrying the moisture off the ocean in waves of fog and relentless rain.
Tonight Regina stands on the sidewalk across the street from Granny's diner. The few scattered streetlamps cast a pale orange reflection on the wet, slick streets. The cold air hangs damp and heavy around her and she draws the collar of her coat up around her neck in a futile effort to dispel the chill that has settled into her bones.
She's in the shadows, the dark, dark night hiding her form.
Across the road, the windows of Granny's are fogged with moisture, the thin film blurring its occupants into blobs of color and composition. Yet there is no mistaking the three figures in the booth nearest the door.
Henry sits with his back to the entrance, his shirt sleeve occasionally brushing against the condensation on the window, leaving behind streaks of water droplets and a clear view of his elbow and side. He's wearing a blue plaid shirt, not one that she picked out for him, but one that looks annoyingly like a shirt that David Nolan would wear. Prince Charming. His grandfather.
Despite the shirt, Regina's dark eyes watch him with a hunger she would never show in the light of day. Her baby, her little boy. Not so little anymore, but still hers. Or at least he was hers...
Across the table from Henry is blur of red and blue, blonde hair and brown boots, a garish mash of colors that can only belong to the town's sheriff. And beside the sheriff, far enough away from the window to be only an indistinct blur of brown and black, sits a man.
Not just any man. This is Henry's father. The man who betrayed his girlfriend, sent her to jail on his behalf. Then left her a car and a cheesy key chain that she now wears around her neck. As if those things would make up for leaving his girlfriend to birth a child alone in jail.
Regina knows all of this, and then some. She has heard the rumors, listened to town gossip in a way that she has never cared to in the past. Not that people want to gossip with her, but she has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. She hears things. And the townsfolk, for the most part, just let her be.
Two weeks ago a portal had opened in the middle of Main Street depositing Mary Margaret and a very disheveled looking Emma Swan. It took almost a minute for the dust and debris tossed up by the vortex to settle, and only five minutes more for the citizens of the town to arrive, swarming their returning heroes.
Regina remembers Henry barreling head first into the sheriff's midsection, remembers the blonde woman's arm coming up to wrap around his back. She remembers Charming scooping his wife up into delighted arms.
She remembers the laughter of the townsfolk, the questions flying fast, one after another until Snow had taken a step back and held up her arms, asking for an hour of time with her family and promising a meeting after to explain everything.
She remembers the sheriff's eyes scanning the crowd over Henry's head. And she remembers the moment the sheriff's eyes had landed on hers and stuck. A quick nod of the blonde head, a small smile on the corner of her mouth, a faint look of relief and possibly even affection in those grey eyes. And then a feeling of shock – the sheriff had been looking for her? Why?
She remembers taking a hopeful step forward, thinking that maybe it would be okay. Maybe now that Emma and Snow were home Henry would forgive her. Would come back to her. Maybe things were finally improving.
And she remembers the moment, only seconds later, when it all fell apart again.
A masculine voice, one she had never heard before, hoarse and ragged. Calling out the sheriff's name.
She remembers the crowd parting, looking at this stranger in confusion and suspicion. She remembers watching the color drain from the sheriff's face, watching her sway on her feet. Red stepping up behind the blonde in silent support.
Emma Swan, tough in the face of any adversary, looking ready to faint. Her hand falling from Henry's shoulder to hang limply at her side.
Regina remembers all this in painful detail. She remembers the man, tired and unshaven, slightly wild. A touch of grey in the hair by his ears. The sheriff reaching out a tentative hand before falling into his arms. Tears of forgiveness flowing.
She remembers Henry's dark, curious eyes.
And she remembers the moment her heart stopped. The moment Emma Swan looked down at the child she had birthed eleven years ago and said, "Henry, this is your father."
So now she stands in the dark street and watches the little family through the window. The mist in the air has turned to a light rain. She blinks her eyes to clear the droplets from her lashes, but otherwise lets it fall around her unheeded.
Henry has been avoiding her. When she'd approached him tentatively after school one day he had rebuked her. Informed her that she hadn't tried hard enough to bring Emma and Snow back. Never mind that she was trying to stay away from magic. Never mind that she was trying to earn him back, to be worthy of his love. It wasn't good enough. It's never good enough.
For a moment she had felt the magic flare up, the heated fire run through her veins. She could make him love her, make him stay. But no, she couldn't do that to her son. And so she'd let him go. Gone to his birth mother. Gone to the man who hadn't even known he'd existed, who hadn't raised him or cared for him or loved him, but who now gets to wear the title of "father".
She watches as the blurry figure wraps an arm around the sheriff's shoulders. She can't see the blonde's expression, but sees her dip her head. Since her return to Storybrooke, since the return of her estranged love, the sheriff has seemed different somehow. Younger. Softer. Her gestures more awkward, more childish.
Regina finds that she doesn't like it. She misses the blonde's strength, her steely determination that her chosen path is the right path, the only path. For even when they had disagreed, had fought bitterly and hurtfully, they had both done so with a common goal in mind. Henry.
But now the blonde is a push-over to this strange man. She acquiesces quickly, her movements hopeful, eager to please.
After living in a town where nothing had changed for twenty-eight years, Regina finds all this unsettling. Sudden and alarming, the changes completely out of her control. And she knows that she has lost. Nothing will bring back the way things were. Nothing will bring back her son.
Her mind made up, Regina nods faintly in the darkness. She takes one last lingering look at Henry, a blur of blue and white and brown, and then squares her shoulders. She tosses the rain off her dark hair and strides purposefully to her black Mercedes.
Inside the car she slips out of her wet jacket and tosses it into the back seat. She starts the engine and flicks on the windshield wipers, turning the air vents on high to clear the windows as she pulls away from the curb.
As she drives she finds her mind wandering, thinking back over the past weeks and months. She thinks of Henry's death and his miraculous, magical return to life. She remembers the wraith, coming to suck her terrified soul. She remembers the empty, panicked feeling when she'd realized that her magic had not returned. And she remembers the moment Emma Swan had laid a hand on her arm, the magic flowing warm and easy between them.
As she remembers this moment, as her thoughts rest on the blonde sheriff, goose bumps rise on her arms and a familiar, aching feeling fills her chest. She thinks of what might have been.
What never could have been.
She drives faster through the pouring rain.
On the seat beside her is a map, yellow highlighting marking a route and a destination. A piece of paper with the address of a little motel. A bank account number. A thick stack of twenty dollar bills, neatly folded. And a sealed envelope with a list of instructions, written to herself.
She smiles faintly. The pain will soon be over. She will be able to start fresh. No magic. No thoughts of Daniel, dead twice now, once by her mother's hand and once by her own. No curse, no evil queen, no Henry and certainly no Emma Swan. She will be born anew.
Her headlights flash on a sign, glaringly bright in the dark night.