All I've Ever Learned From Love
Summary: Henry begs, and Regina caves. But all it takes is one act of misplaced faith, and the residents of Storybrooke find themselves facing true Evil. And this time the Savior isn't there to rescue them.
Maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who has seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
- Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"
Chapter One: Through the Portal
Her mother had always said that love was a weakness.
"Mom? You're not helping Emma and Mary Margaret, are you?" Henry's voice was small, hurt. Underneath the anger, Regina could see the disappointment and confusion. He wanted her to deny the accusation, wanted her to say something that would prove she was still on their side.
But she had never been on their side. She had only ever been on his side, even if he was far too young to understand the distinction.
"I'm helping you, Henry," Regina said, taking a wary step forward.
"What are you talking about?"
"You're going to kill them!" Ruby interjected, and there was no confusion in her tone. The complexities of the situation were lost on her – she didn't know Cora, and she didn't know that Cora was trying to find a way back to Storybrooke. All she saw was the Evil Queen once again standing between Snow White and Prince Charming.
"Sorry, dearie," Gold said abruptly, and pointed his wand at the brunette werewolf.
Ruby went flying through the air and landed on the soft ground with a heavy thud, instantly unconscious. Harry gaped at her and then at Gold, but it took only a moment before his eyes snapped back to Regina, and he looked up at her with such betrayal.
"Mom, what are you doing?"
"We can't let Cora come through the portal," Regina answered, her own fear seeping into her words. She did not want to needlessly frighten her son, but he had to accept that Cora was not a threat to be so easily dismissed. "You have no idea what she would do to us."
But Henry was a child, and too firmly entrenched in the naïve idea of the inevitable triumph of Good. He shook his head in denial, and nearly shouted, "Emma and Mary Margaret are going to defeat her. They're the ones that are going to come through!"
"Henry, your mother is right," Gold countered. "It's going to be Cora."
"No, it won't!" Henry retorted, his eyes still locked on Regina. "Good always defeats Evil; you should know that better than anyone."
Regina desperately wanted to believe that. Her life would have turned out quite differently had that been the case. But she had seen her dreams destroyed too many times as a child and young adult to trust that this would be any different. The agents of Good saved many, but not her. Never her.
And they certainly had never rescued anyone from her mother.
She'd been the Evil Queen - and Cora's daughter - for far too long to know how to have faith in Good.
But she did know her mother.
"What I know," Regina said, bending down to Henry's level, "is that my mother will destroy everything I love. And that means you." She paused for a moment, hoping that Henry would understand this, even though some part of her doubted he ever would. "And I can't let that happen."
Henry gazed up at her, then jerked away. "You can't!" he shouted frantically. "Stop it! You're going to kill them!"
Regina grabbed his arm and held onto him tightly even as he struggled in her grasp. She could feel the burn of tears in her eyes, hating that she was causing him pain. If there was a happy ending for him here, she would seize it in an instant, even if it meant she would lose everything, if only he would stop looking at her as though his entire world was about to crumble.
"No!" Henry begged. "They're going to make it through. We have to turn it off, you're going to kill them!"
He shoved past her and raced towards the well, his eyes fixed on the shimmering green magic. Regina spun around, fear filling her at the sight of her son reaching out towards what would undoubtedly kill him. The fear paralyzed her, but only for a moment, and then she rushed after Henry and dragged him backwards, towards safety.
"Henry!" she cried out, her fear making her tone far sharper than she had intended. "What are you doing?"
"Emma and Mary Margaret are going to come through. I know it," Henry declared with all the confidence and belief that seemed to be the prerogative of children.
Regina shook her head mutely. He didn't know it. Couldn't know it. And she did not have his faith.
"You said you wanted to change, to be better," Henry pressed, grabbing her arms. "This is how. You want me to have faith in you? Then have faith in me."
For a moment, Regina simply stood there, staring at her son. She could feel the tears escaping from her eyes and slipping down her cheeks, could feel the tumultuous emotions inside her. In Henry's eyes she saw his own conflict – his desire to believe in her tempered by everything he knew she had done in the past.
She pulled away, stepped back, then slowly turned her gaze towards the well.
"Regina," Gold said, a warning in his voice.
But she ignored him. She did not have faith in Good, but she did have faith in Henry – and more than that, she loved him. She loved him enough to give up her magic for him, to try to become a completely different person because he wanted it. She could do this for him, too.
She stopped at the well and extended her arms on either side. The magic flickered once, twice, then jumped from the well to her skin. It burned as it raced up her arms and into her chest, filling the emptiness inside of her with its power. She gasped and choked back a scream as the pain increased and the pressure built up behind her closed eyes.
She could feel everything. The ground slowly moving beneath her feet as the Earth circled the sun, the wind rushing through the trees and rattling the branches above them, the hum of life and death playing out all around her.
This was power.
And then it was gone, and she was empty and cold.
She stumbled away from the well and collapsed against the nearby tree, unable to stay upright. She grabbed at the bark, her skin scraping against its rough edges as she fell ungracefully to her hands and knees. The ground was wet, and she could feel the dampness seeping into her clothing.
She looked towards Henry, but he was looking at the well. Waiting.
And there was nothing but silence.
"I'm sorry," Regina whispered. "Henry, I'm so…"
And then she heard it.
The scrape of something against stone, the faint rustle of fabric, the whisper of magic draining away as the portal closed, sealing off the passage between worlds.
A hand appeared at the top of the well, fingers curling to grip the stones.
And Cora climbed into view.
Regina closed her eyes against Henry's shouted protest, against Gold's angry hiss of breath, against Cora's so familiar triumphant smirk.
Her mother had always said that love was a weakness.
"Emma, are you alright?"
Emma nodded and pushed herself from the sand, one hand touching her chest in surprise and bewilderment. "Yes, I… how…?" She couldn't finish the question. She couldn't even think of what to ask.
Cora had tried to rip her heart out. Well, she'd tried to rip out Mary Margaret's heart, and had ended up with her hand in Emma's chest instead.
Mary Margaret shook her head. "I don't know," she said quietly, a hint of awe in her voice. "She wasn't able to rip out your heart. It must be… you have some kind of magic."
Emma frowned. "Well, it didn't do us any good," she said somewhat bitterly.
Whatever magic she had inside her had succeeded in throwing Cora away from her, but the witch had merely risen back to her feet and telekinetically tossed Emma aside. She'd snatched up her compass and stepped into the portal without a backwards glance, leaving Mary Margaret and Emma behind.
She'd left Hook as well.
"That magic, whatever it was, saved your life," Mary Margaret retorted fiercely, wrapping Emma into an embrace. "I consider that to be good."
Emma let out a long breath. "But Cora still beat us," she said in resignation, waving her hand to where the portal had been only moments before. It was gone now, and Cora with it. "She… she's in Storybrooke by now. With Henry."
"We'll find a way back," Mary Margaret replied determinedly. "And Henry will be safe until we do."
"Yeah?" Emma snapped, pulling away from her mother and kicking at the sand. "And who is going to protect him? David's in an enchanted sleep, isn't he?"
Mary Margaret's faced paled for a moment at that reminder of her husband trapped in a nightmare, but then she said simply, "Regina."
"Regina is the cause of all of this!" Emma snapped, unwilling to believe that Mary Margaret would put that kind of faith in someone who had continually tried to ruin both their lives. "She's the one who cast the curse in the first place!"
"I know," Mary Margaret answered calmly, "but do you honestly believe that she won't do everything she can to protect Henry?"
"Like giving him a poisoned apple turnover?" Emma demanded.
Mary Margaret sighed. "Emma…," she said softly, placing a hand on her daughter's arm, "I don't like this any more than you do. The last thing I want to do is put any faith in Regina. But we don't have a choice. We aren't in Storybrooke, and Cora is, and Regina is the only one who can protect Henry right now." She smiled sardonically as she added, "Unless you think Rumpelstiltskin is going to do it?"
The absurdity of that comment brought a dark chuckle to Emma's lips.
Then the blonde rubbed at her eyes and nodded slowly. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew her mother was probably right about this. She wanted to hate Regina for everything – she did hate Regina for a lot. She had seen the castle, she had seen the room that should have been her nursery, and she had finally accepted that, without Regina's desire for revenge, she would have grown up with two loving parents instead of a succession of cold and unwelcoming foster families. After years of believing that her parents had abandoned her, that she had been unwanted and unloved, she was now faced with the truth that they had done everything they could to save her from the curse, to give her the best chance possible.
Like she had done for Henry, when she'd given him up for adoption.
Regina was to blame for so much, and it would be so easy to believe that there was nothing good in her. But Emma had seen the real pain and love in Regina's eyes as Henry lay in a coma in the hospital, and she knew that, despite everything the Mayor had done in the past, she wouldn't simply stand by and let Henry come to harm.
And yet one question still remained – was Regina strong enough to stop Cora?
She had no time to muse on that, however, as Hook began to stir.
Mary Margaret reacted quickly, drawing an arrow and fitting it to her bow. She pointed it at him and waited, ready to attack if the need arose.
Hook opened his eyes and blinked a few times to clear away the grit. His gaze swept over everything, taking in the scene and Cora's absence, and then his lips curled into a snarl.
"That's right," Emma said with a mocking smirk. "She left you. I guess you served your purpose, and she had no more need for you."
Hook rose unsteadily to his feet. Mary Margaret tensed, and he held out his arms in an appeasing manner. "Easy, lass," he said calmly, eyes darting back and forth between the two women. "You wouldn't want to do anything rash, would you?"
"Actually," Emma replied dryly, "I really, really would."
"And ruin your only chance to get home to that precious child of yours?"
"That chance was already ruined," Emma answered angrily, gesturing to where the portal used to be. "Now don't make any sudden movements or Mary Margaret will use you for target practice. And take it from me… she is a very good shot."
Hook shook his head in obvious amusement. "Oh, pretending to be brave," he remarked casually, "very good." He looked at Mary Margaret for a moment, then returned his attention to Emma and said, "What if I told you that I knew of another way to your world?"
"You're lying," Emma said quickly, sharply.
"Always quick to assume everyone else is lying, aren't you?" Hook taunted. "You couldn't possibly take the chance that I am telling the truth. You can't take a chance on anyone, you're far too afraid of getting hurt."
Mary Margaret pulled back on the arrow.
"You betrayed us to Cora!"
"Betrayed?" Hook laughed outright. "You mean like locking you up after you had helped to retrieve the compass?" He affected a look of puzzlement, then said, "Oh, wait… that is what you did to me."
"You joined Cora. You took Aurora's heart."
"After your little stunt with the handcuffs, lass," Hook replied easily. "I told you that all I wanted was to get revenge on Rumpelstiltskin for what he took from me. Our goals aligned. I could have helped you." He paused, then added delicately, "Besides, I returned the heart, didn't I? You really should have trusted me."
"Trust you?" Mary Margaret repeated in disbelief. "You don't care about us, and there was nothing to stop you from betraying us at any moment. You joined Cora first, then you joined us when we caught you, then you joined Cora again. You told us you were willing to give your allegiance to whomever could get you to Storybrooke!"
"Exactly," Hook answered with a firm nod, "and I told you that I thought you had the far better chance. Together, we could have found a way back." He waved his hand towards the remains of the lake and said, "But then you betrayed me and left me with no option but to return to Cora, and here we are. None of us won."
"This isn't getting us anywhere," Emma growled. Slanting a look at Mary Margaret, she said, "I say you just shoot him."
"But I still have a way back to Storybrooke," Hook said lightly. "Don't you want to hear it?"
"What possible reason could we have to trust you?" Emma demanded.
"It all comes back to trust, doesn't it?" Hook said, a smile curling his lips. "You clearly think you can't trust me, and I know that I can't trust you. But the three of us are here, and Cora is on her way back to Storybrooke… to your son."
Emma hesitated, and exchanged a quick look with Mary Margaret, neither of them thrilled with the prospect of joining forces with the pirate once more. Every instinct of Emma's screamed at her not to trust him, but given everything, could she really afford not to at least listen to what he had to say?
"Fine," Emma said, silently praying that she wasn't going to regret this. "What's this plan?"
Hook's smile grew to a smirk and he held out his hand, displaying a desiccated bean.
"The bean doesn't have magic anymore," Emma said, frowning at the bean. "You told us that all the magical beans were destroyed by the giants."
"True," Hook agreed, "but the waters of Lake Nostos have quite unique powers."
Mary Margaret sucked in a breath. "Yes," she whispered, excitement coloring her voice. She loosened her grip on the bow and arrow slightly and turned to Emma. "Yes, he's right. This could work."
"So we plant a bean and it grows into a beanstalk that we climb to get to Storybrooke?" Emma asked skeptically. The idea sounded ridiculous in her head, and saying it aloud had not helped matters any. But she was a stranger to this land, and if Mary Margaret thought this could work, she knew better than to argue.
"Not quite," Hook said.
Before he could elaborate on his plan, however, Mary Margaret cut in skeptically, "What is in this for you?"
"I told you…" Hook started, impatience creeping into his tone.
"I know why you want to get to Storybrooke," Mary Margaret said dismissively, "but why do you need our help?"
"Well, that is quite simple," Hook replied, curling his fingers around the bean and tucking it away out of sight. "I can sail my own ship, but it would go a lot more smoothly if I had a crew." He gave Emma a once over and added, "And I can't think of anyone else I'd rather take with me."
"Your ship?" Emma asked before Mary Margaret could protest Hook blatant leer. She could already tell her mother was bristling in response to the pirate's lascivious stare, and although watching Mary Margaret shoot Hook might relieve some of her frustration at the entire situation, Emma knew it wouldn't be helpful in the long run.
And besides, she didn't need Mary Margaret to intervene on her behalf. She was capable of fighting her own battles, particularly those that were fought with words.
"Yes," Hook drawled, "my ship. I will use the bean to open a portal in the middle of the ocean, and we will sail to your world."
"Sail? You're just going to…" Emma glanced over at Mary Margaret, and demanded in bewilderment, "You can sail between worlds?"
Mary Margaret shrugged. "Apparently." She gave Hook a hard look and said, "But that would require getting to the sea… and to your ship. How long would that take?"
Hook glanced behind him towards the forest with a thoughtful expression. "A couple days, assuming we don't run into any trouble. And that is a big assumption. Another day to ready the ship and sail far enough away from the land to open the portal."
"So Cora will be in Storybrooke for three days before we get there," Emma said.
"And that is the best case scenario. But there's not much you can do about that now, lass," Hook replied flatly. "My way is far faster than any other you will find."
Mary Margaret drew Emma aside. "What do you think?" she whispered.
"I honestly don't know," Emma replied, not taking her eyes off of the pirate.
Her first instinct was to refuse his help. Placing her trust in people had rarely worked out in her favor in the past, and her default position was one of suspicion. But, Emma reasoned, Cora was on her way to Storybrooke, and Henry was there, and if Hook could get them back to her world…
What choice did she really have?