A/N: Of course they are not my characters. I just wanted to write a little something. This is what I came up with. Let me know what you think.
She walks through her home trying to glean from the inanimate structure the meaning of happiness. She wants to know why she found happiness within these walls and she wants to know if such feelings can be replicated elsewhere. She's been told that it's not the structure that matters, but she doesn't believe those sentimental notions.
This place, this home means something to her. It holds value beyond the dollars of which it is worth. And, by the mere fact that she is leaving it behind, means something as well.
She cannot take her home with her. It must be left like a page turned by its reader, it's served its purpose. It told part of the story but is not the complete story. It is not even the beginning nor is it the end. It stands somewhere in the middle where nothing definite exists.
"Mom?" a voice calls to her from the doorway. "Are you ready to leave?"
She turns to her son in a staggered movement that rips her from her past back into her current reality. This no longer is her home. "Did you find anything you want to keep?" She responds with a question since there is no easy answer to what has been asked of her.
"What's the point?"
Her son's tone catches her off guard since she so easily hears her own pessimism lying within the words. "Don't," she pleads.
"Don't what?" The rebellious response comes quickly. "It's stupid to act like I'm not being made to move because my parents hate each other."
"We don't…" She doesn't finish because they both know it's best to stop lying, and a blatant denial veers too close to the precipice of truth. "Let's go."
"Is your soon to be ex wife going to meet up with us?" They both know that the words are meant to start another argument about joint custody and flaccid attempts of making the best of a poorly managed situation.
It would be easy to fall into the argument. She has become quite comfortable with arguing. It is much easier than being upset and wishing for something to change that has not and will never be just as she wishes it to be. But, she will not be pulled into an argument by her teenage son whose sole purpose of late has been to conjure up malcontent.
"Your mother," she carefully enunciates, "will be meeting us for dinner."
Her son feigns surprise. "You mean she hasn't canceled yet?"
"Be fair." She doesn't know why, but she feels the need to defend her wife even now when it's no longer her place to do so. "She was stuck working."
"You didn't get stuck," her son points out. "You managed to make time for dinner."
"Henry, be fair." It seems that standing in this house, this place that once housed her happiness has somehow managed to rob her of her anger and her readiness for an argument. "It could have just as easily happened to me. Emma had to stay and I didn't. It's that simple."
Henry's eyes widen as she suddenly doesn't appear as surefooted in her diatribe as she once might have been. He has grown accustomed to speaking ill of his mother and only being met with silence. This is only one of the very few moments in the last year he can recall his mom coming to his mother's defense.
"Don't look so surprised." Regina turns away from her son as she softly admits, "I don't hate your mother." It seems impossible to hate someone who she once shared this happiness with.
"Whatever," Henry says in lieu of trying to understand the meaning of his mom's words.
Upon silent agreement, they walk out of what once was their home. Regina locks the door behind them and then slips the key into her pocket. It's supposed to go to the new noble that would rule this place during their next meeting but she thinks that perhaps she might find reason to not give it up. It might be the one thing she allows herself to keep. It is the one thing that she can cling to that hasn't been tainted by the bitterness and ill fitted love that has somehow become integral to her existence.
As she turns away from the front door and begins to follow Henry towards the car, she once again feels herself being pulled into memories. Each step she takes away brings her closer to them, and she's suddenly afraid that her future will consist of nothing but memories. She is not the woman she used to be. She can no longer identify her own reflection.
Each time she takes a chance to look upon any reflective surface, she's always introduced to another facet of a stranger. Even now as she looks into the window of her car door, she's presented with eyes that appear unenthusiastic with life. If these eyes, Regina reasons, are the eyes Henry is met with, then she can't blame her son for trying to instigate an argument. Anger is a fiery emotion that is full of life. It is worth more than the…apathetic veneer that fills the void within the windows to her soul.
Regina shakes her head and then reminds herself that she is the unflappable Queen. She has cowered millions. She could win awards attesting to how hot her emotion burned. She should be able to pull out some form of emotion to infuse into her countenance. She just has to remember what…
She rolls her eyes and then violently reaches out to open her car door. She begins mentally chastising herself for once again falling into the vicious loop of her memories. Remembering emotion means remembering happiness. It means looking back to when she and her wife were more than a broken cliché of love.
For now, she will have to discover some respite in her apathy. It is better than her depression and it is healthier than her anger. It will have to do, at least for now since there is nothing she can draw from that won't threaten to tear her apart.
"You okay?" Henry softly asks. Now knowing that he is somehow intruding upon something he doesn't and could never quite understand.
Regina looks to her son and doesn't try to feign a smile. "I will be," she promises and then admits, because she suddenly remembers she is the parent, "don't worry. Everything will be okay."
"You sure?" Henry asks again, because, from years of careful observation, he has learned when his mother is acting. He knows the difference between the Queen and Regina Mills.
"Of course," Regina quickly replies as she starts up the car and then begins backing it up out of the driveway. "Will you text your mother and let her know that we are on our way?" She quickly changes the subject because she has promised to not let Henry see the breakdowns.
Henry's eyes roam over his mom. He can see through the diversion, but he chooses not to say anything about it. He doesn't want to talk about whatever it is going on with his mom anymore than his mom wants to talk about it. It's easier all around for him to turn his attention back to his phone and type up a quick message to his mother.
Even after the message is sent, Henry keeps his attention on his phone. He pretends to check other messages just so he can remain removed from whatever it is his mom is experiencing. Henry tells himself that he is just fourteen and it isn't his responsibility to make sure that his mom is okay. Besides, he knows that nothing he says and nothing he might do will help. All the things that used to make his mom smile have long since disappeared under the constant weight of being the White Knight's wife.
His mother's mantle of destiny has taken a toll on his family that he had never and could have never predicted when he first sought to save the world. He didn't know that there was a reason the stories he read stopped when the hero first found true love. It would have killed the thrill of the story if its end mentioned that being the White Knight often meant the world came first no matter what. It meant that those closest to the hero paid the highest price and could ask for the least.
He had, at first, thrilled at being the son of a hero. He had considered it his honor, and it would be his honor to follow in his mother's foot steps. But, as time went on, his idealization lessened and his simple desire for his mother's attention grew. He always came in as a distant second to saving the world, and selfishly he hates it. He hates that his mother is the hero and that he is her son.
"You're scowling at your phone, dear." Regina reaches over and brushes her son's hair behind his ear. He has let it grown much longer than she would have liked, but in her effort to respect and encourage his individuality she refrains from forcing him to cut it.
Henry looks at his mom, wide eyed at having been caught in a moment of wishing Emma wasn't the White Knight. He has never said it aloud, but he suspects that Regina knows his secret desires, because Regina not only knows him but also understands him. He knows that it is ironic that the parent he had so desperately tried to push away is really the one that stands by his side and looks over him no matter what might be happening in their world full of magic and myth.
"Do you ever wonder if it would have been better not to have broken the curse?" He stumbles over his words not really wanting to ask the question, but having to.
Regina's eyes roam along the frown streaking itself across Henry's face. He is an intelligent boy, near becoming a man, but he is still young. He still has much to learn about what it means to be a prince. "I have come to learn, Henry, that that life was an illusion that's existence was no more fulfilling than a magician freeing a dove that he put in the cage in the first place."
"But still," Henry presses on not really knowing what it is this time he wants to say or wants to ask. He just knows that visiting their home in Storybrooke for perhaps the last time left him more nostalgic for the cursed town than ever before.
Knowing this conversation cannot and should not be had while driving, Regina eases the car off the road. When they are parked, she turns to her son so that he has her undivided attention.
"Your mother is and will always be my true love, Henry," she admits for the first time in a long time to herself and to her son. "However," she takes a deep breath and then slowly releases it, "she is also, arguably, the most important person in all the land. Her destiny, our destiny, would never have allowed the curse to remain intact."
"But her destiny is to love us," Henry argues.
"And she does," Regina just as quickly iterates.
"Then why?" Henry wonders. "Why don't we get the Happy Ending?"
That is the question Regina suspects that they are all wondering. Emma had destroyed the curse and then Regina had been destined to save the Savior from a world that would ultimately suck them all back to it, and somehow between the breaking and the saving Regina and Emma realized that they were better together than apart. Then, somehow between the rebuilding and the ruling of empire, Regina and Emma realized that they couldn't be together since they were so often apart.
Apparently, Happy Endings only ever work out when the couple is actually in the same vicinity. It doesn't appear to work out so well when one half of the couple is off fighting great battles and restoring peace while the other half rebuilds an empire using the very magic that had destroyed it in the first place.
Regina opens her mouth to respond to her son, but her words come in too short supply. She has nothing to tell him since she has not yet found anything to tell to herself. She could argue that she doesn't deserve her happy ending, but she doesn't believe that the world would also deny Emma and Henry theirs. Then, she is suddenly reminded of her first marriage.
"Duty," she finally says, "is far more powerful than what we would perhaps like."
"I don't think I want to be a prince anymore," Henry childishly replies.
Nor, Regina silently admits, does she want to be Queen, but she has regained her thrown because she is one of very few with the power to wield it. She is more than the delicate runaway of her youth. She is more than the Evil Queen terrorizing a world under the umbrella of her pain. She is a powerful monarch who stands steady against the tides of chaos, and her son is the prince. His destiny is still unclear to her and to Emma, but they both know that his birthright carries the weight of their legacies.
Regina reaches over and rests her hand on Henry's arm. "Then you will be the best king, because if you thirst for power then it corrupts you."
Henry nods knowing that Regina is speaking from her own experiences. She is unafraid to let her past be his lessons, and he respects her all the more for it. He cherishes her honesty and her willingness to speak about all those things she had, at one time, fought so ardently to keep secret.
"You still love her, right?" Henry asks, looking more like the young boy Regina remembers holding onto after he woke from night terrors than the young man who was to be the prince.
"More today than yesterday," she readily answers not caring how vulnerable or weak it might make her sound.
"Then prove it," he challenges her, meeting her eyes directly. "Recast the curse."
Regina is unprepared for the intensity pouring into her from her son. He is not without his own magic nor is he without his own bit of darkness. "Whom would you have me kill to cast it?" She doesn't coil away from his anger. She is well equipped to meet it head on.
"You're even stronger now than you were before," he contends. "You could create a better curse. You could make it so that no one has to die."
"Someone always dies, Henry," Regina cautions. "Someone always pays the price for magic."
"No," Regina interrupts. She is done with this conversation. She is done with being tempted by a possibility she considered when she first realized she was losing her wife to the damned greater good. She did not need to hear her son begging for something that, even after all this time, tempts her.
"Then do something!" He pleads. "Do something to save us since Emma can't."
Regina turns away from her son no longer able to handle him alone. She wants her wife back at her side explaining the ways of the world to their child. She is tired of once again being a single mother. She looks out the driver's side window to the land they are currently visiting. Storybrooke was once their home. Now, it has simply been annexed by her great kingdom. It is amazing, Regina thinks, how a little bit of time and the threat of being eaten by an ogre could turn an angry mob out for her blood into her citizenry seeking protection.
"Mom?" Henry softly calls to her, after the silence lingers too long between them. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have…"
"No," Regina just as softly interrupts him, "you should."
She offers nothing else as she puts the car back into drive and then pulls back onto the open road. They ride in silence the rest of the way to the restaurant and even maintain silence as they are taken to their seats where Emma is already waiting for them.
She has obviously made an effort to show up on time for once, knowing the importance of this last chance meeting.
"Henry," Emma calls to her son first. It is infinitely easier to meet his eyes than his mom's. "It's good to see you."
She wraps her arms around him and forces herself not to react when he unenthusiastically returns her embrace.
"Hey, Emma," he weakly greets her and then hurries to sit down in order to create distance between them.
Regina looks on, empathetic to her wife's experience with their tepid son. She knows what that feels like and wishes that Henry wasn't so quick to pick a side. She should be happy that Henry finally chose her over Emma, but she is long past being petty about such things.
In an effort to ease Emma's hurt, Regina steps forward and encircles her wife in a tight embrace. "He doesn't mean it," she whispers so only that Emma can hear her.
"Yes he does," Emma easily rejects Regina's offer of comfort since it is a lie. "It's good to see you, though."
Regina pulls slightly out of her wife's embrace. "So it is," she replies, trying her best to release one measly little smile.
"Thank you," Emma says and then leans forward and places a chaste kiss upon Regina's lips.
"What for?" Regina asks as she lets their hold to continue to linger.
"For missing me," Emma responds as if the answer should be obvious despite the cavernous hold of destiny that pulls them apart.
"Indeed," Regina says as she finally pulls away. Immediately, she misses Emma's hold. Her wife is the addiction that Regina cannot quit.
"Are we going to eat or what?" Henry breaks through his parents' haze. He is accustomed to their physical affection, but he is not as quite as adept at watching them say their last goodbyes.
"Despite what you may think, young man, you must still respect us," Regina reproves, knowing that her words may be severe but she is running thin on patience.
"No worries," Emma quickly cuts in. "Henry's right. We should order something. We wouldn't want the people around here thinking that the royals are too good for the food."
For an attempt at a joke, Emma's words ring hollow. Still Regina tries to smile yet again. She promises that she will smile at least one genuine smile tonight.
They take their seats and silence immediately envelopes them. Of all the things they should be saying, none of them can think of a way to voice it. This isn't supposed to be a last goodbye though it might feel like it. They live in the same castle within the same kingdom and neither Emma nor Regina can simply move away.
Their marriage binds the kingdoms together and is an integral part of making all the puzzle pieces of their land fit together in harmony. Their divorce is in name only. They cannot part ways like any couple that decides their relationship has run its course. The realm must be stable. The people must be protected.
"How's school?" Emma too loudly asks Henry. She is eager to say something, to say anything in order to push away the silence. She remembers when there was a time when silence wasn't so offensive.
"School?" Henry repeats almost as if he is inquiring if this is the best his mother can do.
Emma shrugs her shoulders, knowing that she should be able to do better than asking about something so cliché. She should already know the details about Henry's schooling. She should already know that his tutors are reporting his stilted attitude and lack of enthusiasm. He had once wanted to learn everything there was to know. Now, he simply lets time pass by without interest.
In this, he takes after Regina. His method of coping with stress is to withdraw. It is why he is now drawing a safe distance away from Emma. He doesn't know how else to protect himself from the pain of seeing her.
"How long are you staying in Storybrooke?" Regina asks having decided to pick up the mantle of conversation.
Emma gratefully accepts Regina's meager offering of salvation. "Not long. We took care of the giant troll so the portal bridge is safe. Juliet says that the trade caravans will be starting up again tomorrow."
"Yes, I had heard that." Regina feigns her interest.
"Yeah," Emma nods, "so that's good."
"How are…" Emma reaches out and starts playing with the straw resting benignly in her glass of water. "How are things?"
Regina looks around, her eyes capturing those who dared to look at her. This is no place to talk about the business of the realm even it is all they had left to talk about. A change of topic was in order and the only thing Regina could think of to say involved the house they had so readily called a home. It had been the place they escaped to when they needed a break from their lives. It had been their happiness personified that was now simply going to be a house for nobility and special in memories only.
"I should freshen up before the food arrives," Regina pushes her chair back and then quickly stands. "I'll be back shortly." She moves towards the general direction of the bathroom but before she can reach the confined space, decides better of it and moves out to the balcony cordoned off for VIP persons only.
The balcony is empty sans the scattering of chairs, giving Regina a moment of solitude that she so desperately needs. Today hasn't been an easy day, nor has it been the roughest. But, it is Henry's plea, him asking for her to perform magic that makes her seek out this reprieve.
Regina walks forward and then leans against the rail that is supposed to protect anyone from falling off over the edge. She looks down the four stories towards the ground, but upon finding nothing of interest there looks up to the sky. She idly wonders how her stars have aligned themselves to write out her destiny.
She wonders if she was always destined to be queen, and wonders if she was always meant to be broken. She wonders why she was chosen to be somebody in the world instead of a faceless villager living day by day like a bee in a hive serving its queen.
Why was it that her destiny asked of her to be a fool falling from a cloud like a raindrop being shoved to the ground? What price did she need to pay to be the image hidden in the painted tapestry of life?
"If you jump," Emma's voice fills the air with its intent, "I'll jump to save you."
Regina didn't turn to look at her wife. "Even if it kills us both?" She questions knowing that they are speaking in euphemisms.
"For you, yes," Emma readily answers.
"Today Henry asked me for all of this disappear," Regina confesses.
Emma makes it to the railing and easily rests her body against Regina's. "He's a smart kid," she whispers.
Regina falls into Emma's strong body, having no qualms with letting Emma hold her weight. "He is desperate," Regina conveys. "All of us are."
"You know that," Emma begins to say, but Regina stops her by gripping onto the arms that have snaked around her waist from behind.
"No more apologies," Regina orders. "No more wishing that things were different. They are as they are and as they should be."
"And us?" Emma questions, sounding so much like Henry as he plead for Regina to save them all.
"There will always be an us," Regina bravely declares since she now understands destiny and the circular nature of things. She believes that one day she and Emma will find each other again and will find happiness, even if their happiness isn't in this time and space.
"Aren't I supposed to be the optimist?" Emma casually jokes.
Regina turns in Emma's embrace so that they are facing each other. "It's not optimism, my dear. It's destiny." She then leans in and captures Emma's lips for a passionate kiss that proclaims their right to future happiness.
When they pull apart, Emma keeps her eyes closed choosing to remain lost in the moment. She doesn't want to return to the world that exploits the chasm that has developed between her and Regina. She doesn't want to be pulled away from her Only One.
" Recast the curse," she begs without pride, "please."
"No," Regina rebukes, her refusal is just as strong as a blade cutting against a torrential wind.
"They gave me a new name in the last battle," Emma errantly confesses. "I'm also now The Lionheart."
Regina nods her understanding but says nothing. There is nothing she can say to the woman who is a hero too afraid to step away from the title. Emma, maybe like all born heroes, cannot deny the pursuit to save everyone and anyone. It is a trait that Regina cannot help but equally love and despise.
"It is well deserved," Regina eventually says.
"Do you know why Henry's stories always stopped after the Happily Ever After?" Emma asks as she pulls Regina impossibly closer, but doesn't wait for Regina to respond. "The heroes die shortly after saving the world."
Regina's body stiffens. She has always despised the risks inherent in Emma's position. She knew, long before Emma ever realized, just how long a hero has to live. Heroes, like milk cartons, came with an expiration date.
And that, in truth, is why Regina was so ready to run away from her marriage. She wants to not have to care when Emma meets the edge of sword she can't block or a tip of an arrow she can't dodge. The only ones to grow old in the stories Henry had adored, were the bitterly angry widows. Good might always conquer Evil, but heroes did have a tendency to become martyrs. They inevitably fell to rile up a great wind of change.
So whether it was kosher or not, Regina could not see her hero fall. She refused to be a widow. She refused to let damnable defunct destiny to take one more thing from her, and since Emma couldn't turn her back on destiny Regina decided to turn her back on Emma.
Divorce was not an invention of their world. It is unheard of in Fairy Tale and a foreign thing. Yet, it was something that both Regina and Emma understood. It is a thing that they carried with them into their homeland upon their visitation into the false world without magic. To them, it was a thing of merit since they both so easily ran away from the pain instead of finding a reason to stay.
" Recast the curse," Emma once again pleaded.
"I'm not the only one with magic," Regina stubbornly pointed out.
"No," Emma shook her head, "but you're the only brave one."
There was a difference, they both recognized, between bravery and being dutiful. Emma always was dutiful. She saved because she was expected to. She risked because she was expected to. She lived for others because it was written that she would. Even staring in the face of danger, didn't make her brave.
Regina closed her eyes as she leans forward to kiss Emma again. She wants to get lost in the feeling being near the other woman evokes. She wants to feel her heart beating uncontrollably and her stomach rolling with the passion. She wants to get lost in this home she has only ever been able to visit. She cannot take up permanent residence since Emma is so easily called away for heroics.
As they once again pull apart, Regina gently whispers, "Thy will be done."
Then, like an earthquake settling the earth into order under the surface, the world shifts. All that is old is new again and all that was becomes undone. It is a powerful thing that sweeps across the land, this time leaving no hostages to tell tales. Regina quickly leans forward once more to kiss her wife. She has had every intention to be the Good Witch. She has had every desire to see this new world through until its bitter end, but she was not born a hero. She was a villain and villainy suited her well because it meant she could grant Henry's and Emma's wish.
She could restore their happiness and beg that things turned out differently even if Emma once again broke the reins of their happiness. She hoped that like the magician's dove, they would forget what freedom felt like. She wants to be held in the steel cage ensconced with her wife and their son.
"You better love me," Regina orders as they pull apart on the precipice of the implosion of the world. "You better not let me go again."
"I won't, "Emma promises knowing that Regina will somehow, once again, pay dearly for casting something this powerful. "From now on, I'm your Lionheart."
Regina looks at her wife and then out towards the cloud of magic she has summoned. Again, she feels like the fool, but maybe this time she is simply a fool in love instead of a puppet for revenge.
She closes her eyes and leans towards Emma again, but doesn't quite make it before the winds heralding change envelopes them. When she opens her eyes, it is forced upon her from the blaring sound of an alarm clock. She peeks over at it seeing it is six in the morning. It's time for her to get ready to go to work, but she can't quite force herself to get up. She's wrapped in a warm embrace and feels completely in love.
She turns to look at her hand where her wedding band glistens from the morning sun pouring in through the window. She then looks towards the woman she knows is sharing her bed.
"It's too early to be morning," her bedmate proclaims. "Don't get up."
"I should get Henry ready for school," Regina says. "I highly doubt he'll get up on his own."
"Henry?" Her lover sits up. "Who's Henry?"
Regina's eyes widen and her breath hitches. "Our son?" she explains. "Henry," she repeats as if the name will conjure up some memory that simply no longer exists.
"You feelin' okay?" Emma adjusts her body so that she is now sitting up with her wife. "Did you have another one of those dreams about a Fairy World?"
"No, I…" Regina's voice trails off. She doesn't know how to respond. Henry, her mind screams out the name. Her Henry. Gone. Everything he gave her and everything he meant. Gone.
Magic always has a price.
"Regina?" Emma questions her worry clearly etched out across her face. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Regina shakes her head and quickly moves up off the bed. "Everything is fine, dear."
"Tell that to your face," Emma sarcastically replies, "cause it thinks you're lying."
"No, no," Regina rubs at her forehead as if she instantaneously can rub away the memories of their son. "I'm fine. I'm…"
"Not fine?" Emma fills in the blank.
Regina looks to Emma and then towards their bedroom door. They are back in the mansion where a noble is supposed to live. Regina can hear the birds chirping happily outside and it looks like the beginnings of another perfect day in Storybrooke, Maine with the Evil Queen as a mayor the Lionheart as a sheriff, and no Henry around to herald the end of the curse.
Maybe, Regina hopes, just maybe their son has finally met his destiny.