Author's Note — So, last week, I posted an essay on Tumblr in which I noted that there are some serious undertones of incest in Cora and Regina's relationship (the-silence-in-between. tumblr post/ 37329433725). Then frieza-amavel posted this little scenario (frieza-amavel. tumblr post/ 37331909608), which gave me a plot bunny, and heartsways encouraged me to listen to the plot bunny, and basically, I blame them for this, okay?

DisclaimerOnce Upon a Time is the property of ABC and Kitsis/Horowitz. I own nothing and make no profit, monetary or otherwise, from the sharing of this story.

No matter how long Regina stares into the mirror, she cannot forget the sight of them. It's been branded all over her body, manifesting itself in her slumped posture and weary, empty eyes. She looks and looks, like she used to do for hours, spying on creatures across the lands in a futile attempt to ignore the endless ache of loneliness in her heart, and yet she cannot get it out of her head—

His face lights up with the purest, most brilliant smile as he runs across the yard, evading David's attempted tackle and dodging Emma with a clever feint, flinging his short legs forward until he reaches his makeshift goal post with a whoop of glee that's audible all the way up in Mary Margaret's apartment. "I was his teacher for the better part of a year, and I can count on one hand the number of times I saw him smile before he found Emma. Tell me, Regina, when was the last time you saw him this happy? If ever?" And she wants to bite back, wants to inflict white-hot pain before Snow can see how deeply she's cut her, but she's suddenly not sure of anything anymore; she's not sure if the memory of Henry, six years old and full of love and laughter as he helped her roll a pie crust, isn't just a figment of her imagination, the result of her own desperate need to believe that somewhere, there's a happy ending for her, too.

Her own reflection stares back at her, stark and sad and defeated, and though she wants to direct her rage towards Snow White for taking away yet another loved one, she can only manage to hate herself for never quite being enough to make anyone want to stay.

"What are you doing, my love?" Cora approaches Regina's side, her voice soft and her face softer. She's dressed in a conservative blouse and skirt from this world, and it all makes her look so much less threatening, somehow. It's as if, because she's blended into this world so seamlessly, Regina can almost believe that she belongs here, that the curse is still intact and her past is safely locked away in a vault beneath her father's tomb.

"I've lost him," Regina murmurs, because no matter how normal everything may look, Henry's absence from this house has a physical weight; it's as if the air is pressing down on her, constricting her chest. She breathes, and she remembers that Henry's life is no longer here, that she'll never again sneak into his bedroom late at night to calm her fears by to listening to the even sounds of his breathing, and the air in her lungs burns like poison.

Something exceedingly close to sympathy flickers across Cora's features. "I know," she sighs, tucking a strand of hair behind Regina's ear. "But you had to know that you couldn't hold on to him forever, Regina. There's no more powerful thing in this world or the next than blood, and his blood is theirs. And even if it weren't, it will still never be ours."

Regina swallows hard around the lump lodged in her throat. "I just thought..." But there's no way to end that sentence without revealing how truly stupid she's been, so she just lets her mouth fall shut instead.

"Oh, darling. You just need to rest, and things will look better in the morning. You look so tired. Have you been getting enough sleep, dear? Just look at these shadows beneath your eyes," she says, grazing her fingertips along Regina's skin, but unlike all those years ago, there's no critical tone to her voice, and the frown on her face is only one of concern. "Here, let me help you get ready for bed, Regina. Don't worry, I'm here to take care of everything now."

And because she's truly exhausted, and she doesn't know what to do anymore, she lets her mother take the lead. Regina doesn't budge from her spot in front of the mirror, instead allowing Cora to wipe the make-up from her face and guide her limbs out of her clothing until Regina's staring at her own nude reflection, bare and stripped of her armor, of everything that made her more than that scared little girl who vomited the morning of her wedding day, afraid to seize power but terrified of what would become of her life if she didn't. The sight brings tears to her eyes, even though Regina can think of nothing more mortifying than crying in front of her mother.

"Oh, Regina." She notes with hollow amusement that her mother must have left all of her trenchant insults back in their land, because instead of throwing a barb in her direction, Cora embraces her from behind, wrapping her arms around Regina's bare middle and kissing her cheek. "It's going to be okay, darling. I won't let anything else hurt you."

She sounds so sincere in that moment that Regina can almost forget that this woman is the source of virtually all of her grief. Regina allows her eyelids to flutter shut, and she pretends for a moment that they are different people, that there is only love between them—

And then the hand on her hip slides lower, and Regina is wrenched violently back to the present.

"Mother, what are—" she begins, but then a finger dips between her thighs and deftly finds her clit, and all sound dies instantly in her throat.

Cora shushes her softly, rocking a little bit as she breathes soothing noises into Regina's ear. "Don't fight me, dear. I'm just trying to help you, now that I'm all you have left. You're safe now; Mother's here to make everything better."

The thought comes to Regina in a flash as Cora's fingers begin to draw circles atop sensitive flesh: none of this is real, not this moment or the twenty-eight-plus years that preceded it. In one of her low moments of despair, after another failed attempt to capture Snow and win justice for Daniel, she took the apple that she held so longingly in her hands and ate it herself, desperate for some sort of ending at last. None of this is actually happening; she doesn't really have a son, and her mother is still trapped in Wonderland, and this is not happening. But even as she tries to cling to this explanation, she knows that it's a lie, because the sleeping curse is designed for the sufferer to never forget that she is cursed. It's supposed to guarantee eternal torment without a moment of peace, and this almost feels...

Her mother's fingers slide lower, pushing in and in and then curving forward, and all that Regina manages to choke out is a stuttered, "Ca-can't."

"Regina, I love you," Cora whispers, her breath rolling in hot puffs across Regina's ear, sending tremors up her spine. She flexes her fingers again, and Regina bites her lower lip to keep from crying out. "I'm the only one who ever has. Don't shut me out."

There is nothing about this situation that is not completely and horrifyingly wrong; Regina would literally die before even thinking about doing something like this to Henry, and yet she cannot bring herself to pull away. She looks at her mother's face in the mirror and recognizes her expression: it's the one that Storybrooke's nuns used to wear, before the curse broke, as they knelt before a statue of the Virgin and prayed for hours in rapt concentration. There is veneration in Cora's gaze as her eyes sweep over Regina's body, and it's both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

She is not safe with Cora; Regina has known this since she was a very little girl, but she wants so badly to believe that she has been wrong about this, too. She has longed for her mother's love for so many years, and now here it is, offered with every frantic flick of her wrist. With her free hand, Cora brushes over olive skin, skimming across the toned planes of Regina's abdomen and up to the full swells of round breasts. Every gentle caress erases another memory of the sting of magic against her flesh from her mind, making it that much easier to believe that things truly are different now. She feels a familiar, potent warmth spreading to her cheeks and pooling in the pit of her stomach, and when Cora takes a nipple and rolls it between her thumb and forefinger, Regina can't stop herself from gasping and arching into the touch.

"There," Cora moans, her voice low and gravelly. Her mouth trails along Regina's neck, pressing hot, wet kisses just beneath her earlobe. "That's my good girl."

Something fundamental within Regina shifts at this. Cora has always been her greatest weakness; despite nearly two decades of scathing insults and magical torture, of murdered true loves and shattered innocence, Regina has never stopped craving this woman's love and approval. As a young girl, she'd longed so desperately to hear those words (I'll be good!), and now, finally, they're hers. There is nothing about what they're doing that is right, or natural, but now that she's finally won her mother's affection, she can't stop, can't let go, not ever. If this is how she is to have her mother's love — in a base, perverted display of carnal desire — then she will take it, over and over and over again. It's not like she deserves anything more than this, anyway.

So Regina lets go of her inhibitions; she surrenders to the urgent need teeming in every square inch of her flesh and allows her hips to rock against each thrust. Her head rolls back to rest on Cora's shoulder as she gasps and moans and clutches needily at her mother's arms. "Mama," she whimpers. "Please."

Cora grunts approvingly as she picks up the speed, moving and twisting her fingers in a way that brings Regina to the edge in no time. "Oh, yes," Cora cries out, and when Regina turns her head, Cora pounces on her mouth, kissing her with a wild, possessive need. "My good girl." Her words come in heavy exhales against Regina's skin, and her face in the mirror is so flushed and desperate, her breath so hot and forceful, that it's as if her steely, collected exterior is cracking before Regina's eyes, like a boiler about to explode from the pressure of the steam within it. It's Regina that's done this to her, Regina who's making her lose control, and she could nearly come from the power rush alone, from the hope that things really are different now.

"The world has been so cruel to the both of us, my love. But we're together again, like we were always meant to be," Cora continues, keeping up her frenzied pace. "And we'll show them all. Together."

Then her left hand leaves Regina's breast, falling between her daughter's thighs. She strokes hard against Regina's clit in time with each thrust — one, two, three, four, five — and then Regina is gone. For long moments that stretch on like the sky, there is nothing — no thoughts, no words, no guilt or shame. All that remains is pleasure, washing over her whole body and consuming it like Triton claiming a ship for the ocean depths. Neither in the twenty-eight years of frantic fucking with Graham nor during her hellish reign as Leopold's consort did Regina never experience anything this magnificent. Perhaps at the height of her affair with Jefferson, before Snow White ruined everything yet again, their passion came close to rivaling the intensity of this climax, but even then, there was still something different. Something missing.

When Regina comes back to herself, panting and trembling and more than a little dazed, her mother's arms are wrapped around her torso, holding her upright against her chest. Regina's own legs are weak, quivering in the aftermath of her orgasm, and it takes a lot of effort to make them bear her full weight once more. Cora never relaxes her secure grip, though, softly swaying their bodies from side to side as she tenderly kisses her daughter's cheek, and Regina suddenly realizes what's so different about tonight. Never before this had Regina ever known sex and love to coexist in the same act. Never has she had sex and felt so safe, both during and after.

"My Regina. My good girl," Cora murmurs. Her soft kisses continue, planted with a tentative hunger all over the side of Regina's face and neck, as if Cora's still not had her fill yet. "I've missed you so much, my darling. I've waited so long to be with you again. Nothing can stand in our way now. We'll give them all exactly what they deserve, just you and me."

Something dark and sickly swirls in the depths of Regina's stomach. It tries poison her thoughts and sow doubts in her mind, but she shuts her eyes and buries it beneath the comforting warmth of her mother's arms as they cradle her and the endless flurry of kisses that prove that she is finally worthy.

"Come now; it's time for bed. You need your rest." Cora lifts her wet fingers to Regina's temple and strokes dark strands of hair. In the mirror, she flashes Regina a smile full of gleaming teeth. "Tomorrow, our work begins."