A/N: A slightly angst-ridden little tale to go with my shitty day. This is an idea that literally came to me while I was refusing to get up this morning and continued bugging me until I relented and wrote it down. This is also my first Season 2 fic attempt so be gentle with me- slightly AU, takes place after the wardrobe burning stint, but things are more or less explained as this goes along- it just differs a little from the shows chain of events.
"This has to work."
The brunette mutters to herself, as she angrily wipes a traitorous tear from her cheek and inserts a pair of tweezers into a slim, glass flask with shaking hands. Easing up her fingers to release the metal teeth, she watches intently as a raven-black silken strand falls softly down into the glass cocoon to rest atop a shorter strand of chestnut brown. Her grip on the glass is so tight she's in danger of shattering it, as she stares into the flask with wide, blood-shot eyes; begging mercilessly that this will work.
It has to.
"Where's my mom, where's-"
"They're gone- they fell through a porthole- they... Henry I'm, sorry.
"No you're not... You really are the evil queen... I don't want to see you again!"
"Don't... Don't say that... I love you!"
"Then prove it! Get Emma and Mary Margaret back! And until then, leave me, leave everyone alone!"
It comes out as little more than a choked sob, as she tries to push away the memory of the look on her son's face upon finding her with Charming at her mercy. She feels as though her nerve endings have been fried with the sheer emotional overload of those torturous forty-two hours. She's had to deal with her son's death- partially by her own hand- made all the more painful by the fact that it was the blonde's- the Savior's- kiss that awoke him, before scurrying home with all the dignity of vermin so as to avoid being exterminated as such. She doesn't know- or want to think about- what would have become of her had Emma- the fucking Savior- not taken it upon herself to play the "valiant hero" and stand between her and those she had wronged... She is unsure she cares... Not after the degradation of accepting protection from Snow and Emma, as the world she had built crumbled in front of her very eyes, before losing them as that thing- that Wraith- pulled the blonde down with it into the depths of that despicable hat; Snow following her without pause in a way that hurt Regina's own heart, as she had been left with nothing.
The months of failed attempts to rid herself of Emma Swan, only for her to find herself mercifully free of the younger woman, and yet still no closer to getting her son back.
The week following the two's disappearance has been pure hell. Her mind has become muddled, as after that first night- lying corpse-like on Henry's bed- her world has become a cider-clouded haze. She has tried everything she can think of, has even regained her magic- its source something she has continually puzzled over and pushed hurriedly aside as she recalls a flash of frightened green, and a pale hand at her elbow- and yet nothing has come even close to working.
She sits on the decidedly lumpy mattress in the loft room of Mary Margaret's apartment, her skeleton keys lying splayed out beside her. The walls are relatively bare, save for a few cheap prints of inane landscapes, and she knows they will have hung here long before Emma claimed the room. There are almost no indicators at all that the room belongs to the blonde; a bottle of whisky a shot away from empty on the nightstand and a plain, black bra hung forlorn over the spindle at the foot of the bed the only signs of inhabitance in the otherwise sterile room.
At her feet lies the hat. Not the hat that moronic buffoon of a Prince managed to crush so fatally- quite the reunion indeed; trapping wife and less than enthusiastic child in another world- but the slightly wonky, slightly frayed attempt at a hat she had managed to procure from Jefferson. Emma's hat. And now, as she stares unblinkingly into the glass- the short hair taken from the collar of Charming's coat and the longer hair taken from the schoolteacher's pillow curling together- finally she feels something happening. In front of her very eyes, those delicate strands begin to move of their own accord- entwining together like rope- as the glass glows in a way that makes her maddeningly homesick.
True love had ended up being the most powerful magic of all, and here again it stands the test of time. She knows the hat shouldn't work, but the reasoning behind that whole argument had been lack of magic.
And now she has it.
Magic created from one of those she seeks, the hat fashioned by the other, and she knows- hopes- that if anything will bring her over to the two lost women, it will be this.
With baited breath and unsteady hands, she rises slowly from Emma's bed and lets the glass vial drop gently into the hat without a sound. A moment passes- a mere second but it feels like forever- and then things begin to happen. She feels the power that ebbs into the room- crackling and electric- raising the hairs on her arms with its delicious force. The hat begins to spin, slowly at first, but then at a fever-pitch, and she takes one last look around the bare stoned walls, before closing her eyes and letting it take her.
Regina struggles to sit up; having landed painfully on a surface that feels cold, hard and damp beneath her exploratory fingertips. Brushing her hair from her eyes and wincing at the bite of pain emanating from her abused tailbone, she waits for her vision to adjust to the near darkness while searching out the source of that all too familiar voice.
Once she's acclimatized to the dingy light thrown into the room by a singular candle, she is able to make out the dark, iron bars that separate her from the corner that serves as the source of the voice.
The younger woman recoils slightly at the use of her name, and the brunette can understand why. It has been a separate nightmare trying to deal with the dual realities within the town now that the curse has broken. For herself, it is a burden she has always carried, but for the rest of the town's inhabitants, the notion has been most disorientating.
All magic comes with a price.
Regina gets to her feet and walks hesitantly over to the bars that line the apparent dungeon; head spinning a little with a sense of deja vu as she recalls approaching Mary Margaret in much the same way in the two-cell prison back in Storybrooke. The schoolteacher is pale- more so than usual- and her right eye sports a muddy scrape. Her dark hair stands messily up on end and her clothes look worn and dishevelled. It is her eyes, however, that draw the Queen's attention; red and bloodshot as though she has spent a good many hours crying. The raw skin below her nose seconds this observation.
"Where are we?"
Snow blinks at her stupidly before perfectly red lips form an angry sneer
"Like you don't know..."
The brunette looks around once more, but is no closer to an answer. She is momentarily distracted by the faint echo of banging up above and what might have been a cry, but she supposes this last part could just be her imagination. She turns her attention back to Snow, placing her hands on the bars and staring through them at the young woman intently.
"I wouldn't be asking if I knew, dear. Where's Emma? What's happening?"
At this, the pale woman chokes back an angry sob as she glares at the Queen; pushing herself up to rush forward to spit her words in the darker woman's face.
"Why don't you ask your mother?"
The confusion on the brunette's face is painfully sincere as she raises a brow apprehensively; knowing instantly that this is anything but a good situation if her mother is involved.
"She found us... She tricked us... She was in the pit with us- Lancelot's pit- and she spoke with Emma... About Henry."
"When we got away, but she found us... Followed us to the old castle and took us. That's where we are now... This cell was built for Rumplestiltskin. She threw us down here after she ambushed us. She thinks we can give her a way back to Storybrooke... Back to you!"
Regina balks at this, feeling a shudder work itself involuntarily through her body.
"...What does she want with me?"
It is a whisper; the fear coursing through her normally rich tone almost childlike as her eyes search Snow's. The younger woman glares back at her hatefully.
"I don't know! I don't care! I don't care what she wants from you; whatever it is she can have it! I just want my daughter back! I want Emma back!"
"Why?... What do you mean? Where's Emma?"
Mary Margaret shakes her head, her eyes bright with angry tears as she controls her breathing and continues in a harsh tone
"She took her- Cora- she took her. She came down here asking for information; information we didn't have. She threatened us and toyed with us and did everything she could think of to get her way; to get us to talk. I told her- we told her- we didn't know how to get back to that other land... She got tired of 'games'... The Savior had been prophesied to break the curse and it came to fruition... She thinks Emma knows how to get back to Stroybrooke...Back to you."
"How would she know!? She barely even knows who she is! What is Miss Swan going to know about the ways of magic?"
"Your mother believes her silence is obstinacy. She believes she can get the Saviour to talk."
"But she doesn't know anything!"
"That's what I'm worried about..."
Regina regards Snow somberly through the bars; resting her forehead on the cool iron with a wince. Of all the places she was expecting to come through, this is a scenario for which she hadn't been prepared. Eyeing the bloody scrape on the younger woman's face, she struggles to remind herself that the woman currently bearing the brunt of her mother's wrath is toxic. Hateful. The source of months of contempt.
She helped you when no one else would.
True. But only because she'd made a promise to their son.
Nevertheless, the brunette can't help the nauseating fear that creeps loathsomely in the pit of her stomach. Wishing the blonde gone and knowing the results that have come from her mother's rage are two very different things, and if she wishes for Henry to take her back, she needs to find Emma before her mother tires of playing twenty questions.
She refuses to entertain the possibility that this has already happened.
"Where did she take her? Are they still in the castle?"
A piercing shriek echoes through the wet stone walls, causing both women to jump. Regina looks up at the schoolteacher in shock as Snow closes her eyes as tightly as she possibly can
"-Yes... They're still in the castle."
The destruction she leaves in her wake could have been- for the most part- avoided, but the nervous energy flowing through the Queen's veins makes her careless, and she renders any guards she encounters unconscious as she makes her way uncertainly around the castle. On the third floor, she comes across the destroyed wardrobe in that long abandoned nursery; the charred remains scattered forgotten across the time-dirtied floor.
She listens out desperately for any hint as to her mother's whereabouts, but so far she has been rewarded with very little. She supposes that this is favourable in a way, as she still can't quite seem to shake the harrowing scream heard down in the dungeon from her mind. A part of her psyche busies itself repeating nervously that the noise could not possibly have come from Emma, while another part asks the question- just as repetitively- of why she should care if it had.
Henry. That's why.
As she begins to think her search to be fruitless, a turn into the centre hall of the castle finds her suddenly accosted with the low murmur of a voice she would recognise anywhere. Shrinking close to the tapestried wall, she removes her heels in order to refrain from making any noise as she pads onwards on seamless-stockinged feet. She despises hiding this way- crawling around on her underbelly in the shadows- but the rich, sing-song tone of her mother's voice brings back enough memories to have her ignoring this particular strain of distaste.
As she creeps closer to the Crowned Court- hall that plays residence to the infamous round table- she is able to distinguish words from that low murmuring.
"Come on, dear, I don't like this any more than you do... But we've been over this! All I want is for you to be a good girl. All I want is your cooperation... I don't want to hurt you... But you're making it necessary, and that saddens me!... Look, we're both tired, I know... Look at me when I speak to you!... We're both tired... So why not stop with this foolishness? Hmm?"
Her mother's voice is syrupy sweet as it washes over her in a way that makes her feel unclean. Regina shudders and closes the distance to the large, arched door that stands slightly ajar; holding her breath as she peers warily into the glowing crescent of light. What she sees makes her mouth go dry; the resulting taste of copper making her want to double up and dry heave.
Her mother stands in the centre of the room; royal purple robes moulded lovingly to her aging body. She has the sleeves rolled back as though preforming a particularly strenuous task and her cheeks are alight with twin spots of pink excitement. She stands with her back to the door, but Regina knows that dark eyes will be glittering feverishly beneath hooded lids as she smiles down at Emma, who sits with her back slumped against the far wall. At first glance, the younger woman's posture could be mistaken for casual, perhaps even disrespectful given her company, but her eyes are closed and her breathing is rapid as her dust-covered form trembles. A thin trickle of blood that looks almost black from the Queen's vantage point flows sickly from her nose to seep in at the corner of her mouth, and the knees of her jeans are ripped and bloody.
"Emma, Emma, Emma, why must it come down to this? Why can't you just be good? What purpose is all this insolence serving? Who are you hoping to protect? Henry? I give you my word I will not touch the boy... All I want is to see my daughter... A mother and daughter's bond is precious, you of all people should know that... Now, tell me what I want to know! How do I find her?!"
"I... Don't... Know."
Cora remains completely still, seemingly in thought over how best to tackle her current problem. Regina knows better however, and- despite the older woman making no move towards her whatsoever- the blonde's frantic breath becomes a sob as her eyes crack open to regard the witch fearfully; fingers spasming feverishly against stone as a second freshet of blood begins to stream from lips pulled back in unseen agony.
"I will stop when you start behaving yourself!"
"I can't tell you something I don't fucking know!"
Emma barks her words out, baring her teeth angrily at the woman before her, and Regina is momentarily transfixed with morbid curiosity as she wonders if her mother has ever been spoken to in such a way. The blonde's teeth- so adept at sneering and scoffing- are coated with sickly red saliva, and Cora cries out angrily at what she is positive is a bold-faced lie.
"I have tried to play nice, you worthless little bitch, but I'm getting tired of listening to you lie through those pretty little teeth of yours... I will ask you one more time, and if you don't want that charming smile ruined for good, I suggest you quit this futile act and give me what I want!"
She stalks over to the crumpled heap on the floor with predatory purpose and leans in close to hiss into the younger woman's pale, fear-filled face.
"How do I get back to your world?"
Bloodied lips open and close but form no sound. Closing her eyes, Emma merely shakes her head defeatedly; struggling to string together any sentence that isn't 'I don't know'. Never in her life has she felt she's known so little, and the fact that it is at a time when her existance could well hang in the balance causes a weak, ironic smile to touch the corners of her mouth involuntarily.
Not a good idea.
Despite everything that has happened up until this moment, the blonde is still perplexed as she feels her body leave the floor; the sensation of floating not nearly as enjoyable as various television shows had promised it might be.
It is quick; just a flick of a well-practiced hand, and the younger woman is thrown backwards into the stone slabs behind her. There is a sickening crack of bone on rock as Emma's skull smacks into the brickwork, before her head lolls- instantly limp- and Cora keeps her suspended for a moment longer, before discarding her to the floor like trash. The sorceress then makes her way over almost casually, and reaches down to place a hand over the blonde's chest.
Cora's head snaps up sharply; sure she recognises that voice. She has little time to think on it however, as the owner jumps on her; much closer than anticipated.
The taking of the heart is quick, as if simply preformed as a reflex. Regina holds the glowing organ momentarily in her hand, her mind reeling as the woman below her claws weakly at her extended arm; her powerful face suddenly haggard with understanding.
"I always hated it when you used magic, mother..."
She sheds a tear as she crushes the heart into dust, much the same as she had shed a tear over her father all those years ago, but the feeling behind the solitary droplet couldn't be any more different.
"I always swore I'd never become like you... Never let magic corrupt me the way it did you... But, you ruined me... You took away my chance at a happy ending..."
She lets the ash fall from her hand to scatter over the lifeless form she resides over, before wiping her palm repetitively on her skirt; trying to rid her fingers of the dusty residue. With a business-like sniff and a shaky hand dragging through her hair, she makes her way hesitantly over to the blonde, who lies crumpled where she fell. Kneeling down primly on the hard stone floor, Regina places a hand hesitantly on a bare, lightly freckled shoulder and shakes gently.
Rewarded no response, she tightens her grip and pulls Emma over until she lies on her back; brushing away the long tendrils of cornsilk that cover her battered face. She lowers herself down until she's nose to nose with the lifeless blonde and stares into closed eyes intently as she raises a hand to feel for breath. Finally feeling a faint flutter of air against her skin she sits back on her knees and closes her eyes; taking a deep breath and trying to decide what to do.
A soft moan brings her back to the present, as Emma begins to move her head in a distracted manner; battling to regain consciousness. Regina notes a thin stream of blood dripping from the Sheriff's ear with mild alarm and raises her voice sternly
"Stop moving, Miss Swan."
Ever true to character, the younger woman's thrashing increases as green eyes flutter open and she looks up at the brunette blearily.
Her voice comes out in a croak as the blood from her mouth has started to clot uncomfortably. Her disorientated mind makes the senseless connection between the dark woman kneeling over her and cool apple cider and she licks her lips hopefully.
"You swore at my mother... Definitely not your best move."
"I feel like... I feel like I've been hit by a truck."
"You look it, too."
Regina offers, pulling a silk handkerchief from her breast-pocket and wetting a corner with her tongue; swiping the damp fabric gently over the blonde's upper lip and chin to wipe away the drying trails of blood.
Emma wrinkles her nose as Regina continues to wipe at her with her spit-wetted handkerchief, causing the brunette to roll her eyes and come to the conclusion that- even with possible brain damage and blood seeping from god knows where- the blonde remains as contrary as ever. She is quick to catch the infuriating women in her act however, as that all too familiar smirk turns into a grimace of pain.
"I mean it! Hold still! Whoknows what she's broken!"
The worry in the brunette's voice seeps slowly through the pain working its way blindingly at the Sheriff's thoughts, and she can't help but feel a little comforted by it... Regardless of the fact that she's coherent enough to know she's more than likely imagining such things.
It's almost motherly...
"Oh god, Mary Margaret! Where is she?!"
"Hold still! She's fine, dear... It's myself I worry about when she sees the state of you..."
"How did you... How did you get here? How-"
Pain begins to steadily beat down the initial numbness she'd been blessed with upon wakening, and the blonde's words are alternated with harsh gasps as her eyes squeeze shut in a futile attempt to block it out. Regina places a finger firmly on bloodied lips to silence her.
"Let's not start that again, dear. First let me sort you out, and then we'll get to the story-telling."
"...Whatever you say, Your Majesty."
Emma mutters, as darkness promises to swallow her mercifully and stop the aching that seems to be coming from just about everywhere.