Title: Fantasy Meets Reality (1/?)
Spoilers: All of Season One, except for the pink cloud. No pink cloud for you. This should be considered separate from "Be Our Guest" and "Never Had a Friend Like Me".
Disclaimers: All characters belong to, you know, ABC and the production company and the writers and so on. Nothing whatsoever belongs to me.
Rating: PG-13 (profanity, violence)
Summary: If you want to make an omelet, you're gonna have to break a few eggs. But if you want a happy ending, you're gonna have to break more than a Curse. Swan Queen?
The chains were, all things considered, not uncomfortably tight. She's bound and fastened securely to the lamppost, no question, but if it had been someone like Leroy instead of Ms. Swan doing the chaining, Regina thought she might have had trouble breathing.
Then again, the atmosphere was rather suffocating anyway. Now that the Curse had been broken, and everyone had regained their memories, the first thing on everyone's to-do list seemed to be vengeance. She felt smothered by the hate radiating her way.
At least it wasn't the apple tree like in her nightmare. Her backyard wouldn't have been feasible anyway. It's big but it's not that big, and judging by the number of people on either side of her on Main Street, it wouldn't have held nearly enough space. In fact, it seemed quite possible that the entire population of Storybrooke is here, minus that goblin Rumpelstiltskin.
She wondered if Belle and the other patients had been released from the asylum yet. She wondered if Belle would be able to find the devil of her dreams. It gave her something to think about while she waited for the rabble to find one coherent voice to speak with.
That voice, unsurprisingly, is Charming. David. David Charming? Prince Nolan? Whatever.
"Everyone, calm down!" he shouted. "We need answers, but we won't get them if we can't hear her!"
Regina scoffed. The only questions these people wanted answered were "Where's the lighter fluid?" and "How long does it take to die after being shot in the gut?" That sobered her, but she wouldn't let anyone see it. She was glad Henry was still in the hospital. Maybe he still loved her, and maybe he didn't, but no ten year old should be permitted to see a woman's entrails spilling out of her stomach.
Actually, Ms. Swan was showing more worry on her face than Regina allowed herself to. This was one step away from a lynch mob, and Regina supposed the Sheriff realized that if the good townsfolk wanted a hanging, there was precious little she could do to stop them. Not with the gun currently fastened in her holster, and certainly not with the magic sword clutched in one hand.
"If you want answers, Mr. Nolan, I set up the 311 system for a reason."
"That's not my name, Your Majesty," Charming retorted.
"Well," she replied, shrugging, "nearly everyone here has two names. Forgive me for selecting the wrong one."
Her attitude was pissing him off, she could tell. Good. One point for her, in a game where she could hope to score precious few.
"Regina," Ms. Swan – all right, Emma, since it seemed everyone had gone back to using their old names, and she wasn't entirely sure what Emma's old last name WAS - said wearily. (Emma Charming? Emma White?) "Just tell them what they want to know."
"Don't you want to know too, Sheriff?" Emma looked away.
"You're not the one I have questions for."
That would likely be Snow, who seemed oddly content to let Charming do all the talking.
Regina sneered at them both. "Just shoot me, or skewer me, or whatever it is you plan on doing to me, and get it over with."
"What?!" Emma gasped, looking shocked. Perhaps she hadn't realized then. "No one's being killed here!"
"Not yet, anyway," Grumpy muttered predictably.
Regina just looked at Emma. "You may want to ask my constituents a few questions too, Sheriff. About what their plans are for me, I mean."
"They want to go home," Emma told her.
"They all have perfectly nice homes right now."
"We want to go back to where we came from!" Grumpy snarled. "We want our happy endings back!"
She allowed the angry cries of agreement to wash over her for a few seconds before she couldn't hold it in any longer. Regina started laughing. Because really, it was all just too funny.
"What makes this so funny?!" Charming snapped as the shouting of the townsfolk died down in the face of her strident, mocking laughter. "For any of us, especially you, Regina."
She took a moment to catch her breath, and then looked directly at Grumpy with lips curled. "What happy endings?" she asked disdainfully. "Yours, Leroy?" She chuckled. "Don't make me laugh – again."
"Look," the belligerent little man began to say.
"Some of you have earned the right to be . . . cross with me," Regina interrupted. "Snow White. Prince Charming. Emma. Jefferson. Gepetto. Abigail." She faltered briefly on the last name. The others, she wasn't sorry for what she had done, or she just didn't care. But she could, and did, feel regret over what she'd done to Princess Abigail, because she'd done it to Kathryn Nolan too. But she went on. "The rest of you, though, can just park your self-righteousness and leave me the HELL alone."
"Can you believe this?" Grumpy asked incredulously. "She won't even admit that what she did was wrong!"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Leroy," Regina said, insisting on the name she'd given him just to aggravate him. "Did I ruin your beautiful relationship with Nova the fairy?"
That stopped whatever he would have said next. "Uh – well – "
She dismissed him, though, and looked at Archie Hopper. "Do you miss being an insect, Doctor?"
"No, not particularly," he said reluctantly, "but – "
"Or how about this, a show of hands," Regina said calmly. "How many of you could read and write before the Curse?"
That generated a lot of shocked murmurs and mutterings as a few hands, almost against their will, rose in the air.
"Oh, it's just a figure of speech," she sighed. "Still, not many of you, I bet. Why would you? There's no public educational system where we came from, and why would a bunch of peasants need to know?"
"Fairy Tale Land wasn't perfect – " Charming admitted.
"No, but you seem to think you had it better there," Regina shot back. "And I suppose a few of you did," she acknowledged slyly, looking pointedly at Snow and Charming. "How many of you lost a baby during childbirth?"
Suddenly you could have heard a pin drop.
"Of course. Prenatal care didn't exist. Granted, Cinderella's child was the first born in Storybrooke since the Curse began, but if you HAD been able to conceive previously, I'll bet you my house that the baby would have a much higher chance of survival at our fine medical establishment." She glanced at Emma. "Of course, your parents were blessed. Snow White was giving birth to the Savior. SHE didn't have to worry about infant mortality rates."
Emma glared at her. "Like your Curse was meant to look out for all the bereaved mothers out there."
Regina shrugged. "I suppose not. Still, why don't you look at their faces, and try to identify all the people who grieved over tiny graves behind their homes? Then you can ask them if they're happier now that they have those memories back."
Looking troubled, Emma didn't have a response this time.
"How many of you knew your own grandparents?" Regina asked, turning back to her thousands of would-be executioners. "Life expectancy wasn't so long back there, was it? How many of you kept all your teeth as you got older? Had a day off? Had indoor plumbing?" She looked right at Snow and Charming. "How many people ever got to have a say in who would govern their lives?"
"Like any of us had a choice voting for you?"
Snow picked an odd time to speak up, but Regina nodded at her. "True, but if any of you believes that the ruling class' first act after returning home will be to set up elections, you're deluding yourself. Even now all of you defer to your prince and princess." She glanced around. "I don't see King George, but I'll bet he's MOST excited about being bumped back up from district attorney to ruler by divine right."
"But those are just material things!" Snow replied. "What good is having it when you're not happy?"
"Just things," Regina said disbelievingly. "Maybe they were just things to a princess. And maybe you forgot what your life was like in the Enchanted Forest, little girl, but you can't deny the importance of a free education, modern medicine, democracy – "
"And we still weren't happy," Snow reminded her.
Regina shrugged. "Perhaps. But that's not what counts, is it? Face the facts, people. Most of you, I didn't take away your happy ending because you had no happy ending for me to take. Dead at fifty in a peasant's hovel with half your children already in the ground. For most of your parents, THAT was their ending.
"And you actually think going back there will make you happy?" Her eyes swept around. "So none of you will mind giving up electricity. Or vaccinations. Toilet paper. Computers." She glanced at Emma. "I hate to break it to you, Sheriff Swan, but those jeans and that tacky red jacket? You won't be able to find them in a fairy tale."
She relished the look of horror she'd just put on Emma's face.
"If you really want your happy endings, stay here," Regina said calmly. "The Curse is broken. There's nothing stopping you from leaving Storybrooke. There's no magic spell keeping you from your dreams. This world I brought you to, isn't it supposed to be about 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'? Well, you can't pursue it if you're running back to the Dark Ages. Honestly? In five years, you'll all be thanking me."
Regina would never know who threw it. She only knew that a glass beer bottle sailed out from somewhere in the crowd and landed directly on her head, shattering instantly. That, and that her last words had probably been pushing it. Everything else was lost in a flurry of screams and shouting and, mercifully, blackness.
When Regina finally regained consciousness, she found that her situation had improved in some ways, and declined drastically in others. Instead of being chained and upright, now she was lying in a hospital bed, both wrists handcuffed to the rails. On the other hand, she had a splitting headache. Suddenly she remembered the sound of glass breaking, the explosion of pain and the sensation of blood running into her vision. Ah yes, the anonymous bottle thrower. Such bravery would CERTAINLY live on in a fairy tale.
She was alone in the hospital room, but she could hear voices out in the hall. Naturally they were the three voices that always seemed to haunt her.
"We wouldn't be running back to the Dark Ages!" Snow White insisted. "Yes, life there was dreadfully primitive compared to the twenty-first century here, but we would make changes! We all still have our memories of our made-up personalities. We're doctors and mechanics and teachers and engineers, Emma. We could make drastic improvements to society."
"Maybe you're right," Emma replied, "but she still made some points out there. Think about it logically. Maybe we have the know-how, but we'd be starting from scratch! No infrastructure, no industry, no electricity. And I hope someone else can spin gold from thread, because it's going to cost of a HELL of a lot of money to pull off."
"Rumpelstiltskin never did share that particular bit of knowledge with anyone," Charming told her calmly, "but we have magic of our own. The fairies and the dwarves - "
"And what the heck was that about with Leroy anyway?" Emma asked. "And someone named Nova?"
Regina could have told her. She'd seen a lot in her mirrors, including many a conversation between Snow and all manner of people, such as the dwarves.
Snow sighed. "Grumpy fell in love with a fairy named Nova, but the Blue Fairy told them that they couldn't be together."
Emma didn't respond at first. "The Blue Fairy, which one is she?"
"That would be the Mother Superior," Charming said.
"Wait, so Nova, that's Sister Astrid, isn't it?"
"Yes," Snow said.
"Because I've seen those two together," Emma said. "They seemed pretty happy to me."
"Only because you came, and things started to change."
"That's not my point, Mary - Snow. Fuck!"
Regina smirked. She supposed mother and daughter hadn't had that talk yet.
"My point," Emma said, sounding irritated, "is that if they go back, won't the Blue Fairy just break them up again?"
"We - hadn't really thought that far ahead," Snow said weakly.
"Jesus Christ!" Emma snapped. "Because that's just the way things are, aren't they? What about the two of you? You'll just go back to being prince and princess?"
"No," Charming said after a moment. "I'll grant the Queen this. We've all lived under an American democracy for three decades. I don't think we can ask the people to return to the old ways. Maybe a constitutional monarchy like they have in England."
"Will that King George guy go along with it?" Emma asked.
"If you'll remember Henry's Book," Snow said, "King George is the man who tried to murder both of us several times. He'll be dealt with."
"We always knew something would have to be done about him after the Evil Queen had been taken care of," Charming told her. "There probably would have been war eventually."
"Oh my God," Emma said, her voice sounding muffled. Regina supposed she'd covered her face with her hands. "So that's one more thing to look forward to, the people in this town being asked to strap on their helmets and swords and kill each other like something out of Braveheart!"
"Emma - "
"No," Emma interrupted. "This is stupid. I don't care if you can make Regina send us back or not. I don't think we should go. If the Curse is broken, nothing's stopping you from finding your happy ending here in Storybrooke, or anywhere else in America. There's no need for everyone to return to the fifteenth century just so we can reinvent the wheel and start a Crusade!"
"I understand you don't want to leave this place, when it's all you've ever known," Snow White said, "but it's not up to you. It's up to the people of this town whether they want to go back or not. As you say, this is a democracy. Well, I say we put it to the town for a vote. Yea says we try to find a portal back to our home, by whatever means. Nay says we stay here."
"Sounds fair," Emma said coldly. "And you're right, it's not up to me what other people do with their lives. But I still make decisions for myself, and for Henry."
Henry, Regina thought suddenly. She wondered where in the hospital they were keeping him, and how hard it would be to escape her cuffs and find him.
"And I'm telling you right now, Henry and I, we're not going."
Regina raised an eyebrow. Well, that would go over big with the doting parents.
"Emma!" Snow exploded, while Charming was evidently speechless. "We just got you back! We're not going to be separated from you all over again!"
"You wouldn't be," Emma said quietly, "if you stayed too. You've got each other, a daughter, and a grandson. What the hell is so special about Magical Princess Land that you need to be there for?"
Regina snorted, unable to help herself.
Snow and Charming didn't answer. Instead, Emma opened the door and stepped inside. "How long have you been awake?"
She shrugged. "Long enough to hear about Mom and Dad's grand rebuilding projects for Magical Princess Land."
"Spying on us, what a surprise," Snow muttered.
"Hey, you're the ones who stood outside the door to the room you locked me inside of," Regina said more loudly. "I guess I could have covered my ears but . . . " She jangled the handcuffs pointedly.
Emma looked at her parents. "We'll finish this conversation later, somewhere more private. You two should look in on Henry. I'll stay here and watch Regina."
Neither answered at first. "Fine," Snow said heavily. "I'll text you and let you know how he's doing."
"Thanks," Emma said before closing the door once more. She sighed and sat in a chair across from Regina's bed.
"Texting," Regina said dismissively. "One development that Fairy Tale Land may be better off without. Longhand is a dying art here, Ms. Charming."
"Ugh, don't call me that," Emma told her, grimacing. "And anyway, one minute you're telling us all how wonderful modern society is compared to the alternative, and next you're complaining about it."
"I never said it was perfect."
"Hmph. I hope you're going to get off your high horse martyr routine with me, Regina. Because your Curse made MY life a living hell."
"Didn't I say so outside?" Regina asked. "I said that a few people had a right to be angry with me. I'm fairly certain I included you in the list."
"Very generous of you." Emma shook her head. "And regardless of what you may think, you won't die at the hands of a mob. Not in Storybrooke, anyway."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"As you yourself pointed out, we live in America. And in America, we have things like rights and laws and a justice system. You'll be tried and convicted, I'm sure, but in a courtroom. And you'll go to prison, not a gallows. But if they take you back . . . "
Regina chuckled. "No Bill of Rights over there, Ms. Swan. No rights at all, really. The lord of the land is also the law of the land. The king or queen has more immunity from prosecution than any American president ever did. If he wants your head - or your maidenhead, for that matter - he just takes it."
Emma looked a little queasy.
"On what charge will you imprison me here, Sheriff?" Regina asked, shifting the subject away from the old world. She had benefited from the old ways herself as Queen, but she found that after twenty-eight years as Mayor of Storybrooke, even she now found absolutist monarchy distasteful. "I don't think there's a law against curses in Maine. Never mind the fact that you lack jurisdiction. Everything bad I did, I did it in Fairy Tale Land."
"How about kidnapping for what you did to Kathryn, obstruction of justice for when you tried to frame Mary-Margaret, and murder?" Emma said calmly. She didn't have to elaborate who the murder victim was.
Regina nodded. "You'll have to prove it."
"I will. And I'm sure I'll come up with plenty of other charges too."
"I look forward to it."
"So do I."
Regina realized that she meant it. She wondered if Emma meant it too.
She bet Emma did.
Regina was greatly relieved when she learned the next day that even though her injuries had been relatively superficial, Henry had still been released from the hospital first. Her good feelings were, of course, tempered by the knowledge that he hadn't wanted to see her before he left. She held out hope that Ms. Swan simply hadn't told Henry she was there, so as not to worry him. So she was very careful NOT to ask if that was the case.
At any rate, the next afternoon Dr. Whale proclaimed that her injuries should heal without scarring if she followed some simple instructions, and therefore there was no need for her to remain hospitalized. His "bedside manner" had been detached and very professional, which she supposed was the least he could do. It wasn't like she'd changed his life all THAT much. And it seemed that he preferred to keep some of her alterations. It probably wouldn't be wise, after all, if he started telling everyone to call him Dr. Victor Frankenstein. People might think twice about seeking medical attention from someone who literally came straight out of a horror novel.
Regina shoved Dr. Whale's instructions in Emma's direction when she arrived. "Here."
"Doctor's orders on how to clean and re-bandage my head injuries," Regina said, "as well as a prescription for painkillers for Sneezy to fill. I'd go there myself but, well, I already know why that won't be happening."
Emma stared at her. "So you expect me to what, fetch your medicine like I'm Andy Sachs or something?"
"Seriously? The Devil Wears Prada? I would have thought that movie would be required viewing at your house." She gestured toward the rotund yellow monstrosity she called a "car". "Let's go, I'm taking you to your house first so we can pick up some clothes and toiletries. Then we can go to the pharmacy TOGETHER."
Regina looked at Emma in horror. "You seriously don't expect me to ride in that butt-ugly deathtrap of yours. We HAVE a police cruiser in Storybrooke, you know. I should know, I authorized the purchase a few years ago."
Emma smiled. "Yeah, I know, normally I'd drive that. But I don't know, I guess I just thought you'd hate being in the backseat of my car more."
"How very insightful," Regina said hatefully. "Aren't you going to handcuff me?"
"I don't see you as much of a flight risk. Although if you think you'll be better off on foot with a head injury, surrounded by thousands of people who want to string you up by your heels, feel free to run. You might even reach the border."
Regina folded her arms. "Let's just go. I can't wait to get my incarceration started."
Emma didn't bother to correct her, confirming her suspicions. She WAS under arrest, after all, and being kept in the holding cell would be safest for everyone, including her.
"How is Henry?" Regina asked a minute later, trying to ignore the trash on the floor of the backseat. Trying not to think of all the men who had probably bedded the Sheriff back here over the years. Cheap motel beds were probably more sanitary.
"He's better," Emma said. "He's with his grandparents right now."
That was perhaps the most bitter brew of all. She could take the thought of Henry with Ms. Swan - barely. The thought of her son being cared for by the woman she hated above all others was the worst kind of ulcer.
"He asked about you."
Regina's head snapped up. "He did?"
"Yeah. He figured out for himself that the people here would be out for your blood. Henry asked me to make sure that didn't happen. I don't think he's forgotten what you told him right after he woke up from the sleeping spell."
Suddenly she felt better now than she had since before the Curse broke. Even if the memory of what had happened after Henry ate the apple turnover SHE had baked twisted in her gut like a knife.
"What about the rest of the town?" she asked.
"What ABOUT them? Pretty sure they still hate you."
"Not that. You know I could hear you talking outside my room yesterday. What's the mood out there? Is everyone still demanding a way to get home?"
The Sheriff didn't respond right away. "Hard to say," she finally admitted. "There's probably going to be a public meeting in a day or two. I'm sure that will be one of the topics. One of many."
Regina nodded. They'd better start in the morning, because that meeting would probably run for hours. "Did you mean it, what you said about staying here, no matter what the others decide?"
"At the time, yeah. I'm not 100% sure any more, but probably. Why do you care?"
"I care where Henry goes. If, hypothetically speaking of course, I find myself spending the rest of my life in a state penitentiary, then obviously it matters a great deal to me if Henry goes back to Fairy Tale Land forever." Regina paused. "I know my preferences mean nothing to you and the others, but if Henry leaves, I would rather serve my sentence in a dungeon there than a prison here."
Emma stopped at a red light and turned her head to the side. "If you're hypothetically convicted, you mean."
"Yes, of course." Regina could talk a good game, but a Storybrooke jury would convict her of bombing Pearl Harbor if given the chance. Life in a dungeon back in the Enchanted Forest would probably make even a Mexican prison seem like paradise, but her son was all she had left. Take Henry away, and you might as well put her in the gas chamber.
"Then, hypothetically speaking, I'd see what I could do. For our son's sake. Just because Henry feels a certain way about you at ten, doesn't mean he'll feel the same way when he's twenty," Emma said quietly.
Regina nodded. It was a fairer response than Regina might have given in Emma's place. Might have. More like definitely have.
Suddenly the irony struck her. For the foreseeable future, it was possible that Emma would be the closest thing Regina would have to an "ally" in Storybrooke.
This time, she didn't laugh. No telling when Emma might be the one throwing a bottle at her head.
To be continued . . .