Title: A Field Frozen By Winter
Warnings: Implied Fantasy Violence; Mentions of Canon Character Death; Infertility; Spoilers for S1-S2.
Characters/Pairings: Regina/Emma; Henry Mills; Graham; Rumpelstiltskin; Sidney Glass; Snow White; Maleficent; Daniel. Mentioned past Regina/Daniel; Regina/Rumpel; Regina/Sidney.
Note: Written for the Trope Bingo prompt "rivals to lovers." Also written at 4 AM with no beta, so feel free to politely alert me to any mistakes.
A Field Frozen By Winter
Enacting the Dark Curse will take a terrible toll. It will leave an emptiness inside you—a void you will never be able to fill.
That was what Maleficent had told Regina. What Rumpelstiltskin had confirmed, in his rounds of riddles.
All magic has a price.
But Regina was already empty. Had been empty since Daniel's death. His murder had hollowed her out, left her a brittle husk, a gaping wound.
So she killed the thing she loved most – the man she loved most, since Daniel's body had turned cold and stiff. She killed her father, and she used the power of his blood, the rush of his death, to enact the Dark Curse, because nothing could be worse than the emptiness, the darkness, the sorrow that plagued her steps, made her breath feel like knives.
Misery loves company, and in this new land, everyone would be miserable. Regina had some vague idea that if everyone was empty, if she took their memories and their magic and their love and their lives, made them as hollow as she was, then her burden would lessen. Pain shared was pain halved, and she would share her pain with all in her reach, for they had all crossed her.
Snow had betrayed her, others had failed her, some sought to control her, and still others dared just to be happy, to be full, to have what she could not. And she was the Queen. What was the point of being the Queen, if other people could have things that she couldn't?
Daniel had given his life, had his life taken to ensure Regina's royalty. It would be an insult to his memory to be anything less than the absolute ruler of all.
So Regina cast the Dark Curse, and thought the price not too high. She doubted that it would feel any different at all.
The first five years of ruling Storybrooke as its mayor were, in a way, delightful. Regina was still empty of warmth, but she needed no warmth of her own when she could heat herself in the rush of vengeance well served. How sweet it was to see all her tormentors yearning for things they no longer knew and could not name.
How pale Snow looked, no longer the glowing white of her namesake, but a dull faded grey-white like bones bleached in the sun. And how short her hair was – a special retribution for all the hours Regina had spent brushing those coal black locks when Snow was a child.
And imagining what it would feel like to strangle her.
But eventually, even the satisfaction of a curse well cast faded, for in Storybrooke, nothing ever changed. Regina's emptiness grew sharper, deeper, a sucking pit in the center of her soul. A cold chill that nipped always at her fingers and toes, and settled down within her, freezing her lungs and squeezing her heart.
She decided she would have a child. She had always liked children – before Snow. And she was lonely. Here in Storybrooke, she was surrounded by enemies.
Even if they did not remember, Regina did.
She tried with Graham first. He was already her lover, and she quite literally held his heart. He was a good choice to father her child, and if he looked a little bit like Daniel, Regina never said so out loud.
But months passed, and with each one came the red flow between her legs.
Next she considered Snow's prince, thinking it would add a delicious twist, create a new fire to keep the emptiness at bay. How it made her lips twitch in a parody of a smile, to think of herself carrying the child that Snow wanted and couldn't have.
But David was in a coma, this land's version of a Sleeping Curse, and Regina did not care to wake him.
So she tried next with Sidney, because he loved her. Had loved her since before her ex-husband's death. Had loved her and still loved her, and never understood that she was too broken, shattered, too empty to ever love him in return.
Sometimes, she hated herself for that. Sometimes she closed her eyes and tried to imagine what life could be like, what she would feel like if there was even a kernel of tenderness left within her that she could give to the man who became a mirror.
And yet when she opened her eyes, all she had for him was her reflection.
But that was in the old land. Here, now, in Storybrooke, she would give him a child, and through that child, love.
Days turned to weeks, and then to months, and then a year, and still no babe grew within her.
When she told Sidney that they would no longer be seeing each other in that way, he didn't understand. He proposed marriage.
She turned him down, and she was even a little sorry, so she baked him an apple pie and promised they would always be friends. And if he took the pie and clung to her friendship with a mad gleam of hope in his face, she pretended not to notice.
Running out of options, because she would not stoop to allow just anyone to father her child, Regina turned to Rumpelstiltskin.
He was distinguished and powerful, as she had promised him he would be. They felt no special affection for one another, never had and never would, but they were connected by magic. By the bonds of pupil and student, by many intricate deals and vows, and by the emptiness, for she could tell just by looking at him that he was as dead inside as she was.
They would do well by their child. Between the two of them, they ruled every inch of this tiny kingdom, officially and otherwise. A child fathered by Rumpelstiltskin would be as close to a prince as could be managed in this land without royalty.
Mr. Gold, as he was called in Storybrooke, was suspicious when Regina showed up in his shop. He was more suspicious still when she indicated her interest in bedding him, a statement made with gestures and innuendo and bright smiles framed in red painted lips. But eventually, she got her way, and he bedded her, pressing her down on a pile of fabric in the back room of his shop.
He was surprisingly skilled in giving pleasure. Regina elected not to think about how or why.
She continued visiting him for two years, when her fertility charts indicated that the time was right. And when after all that time she remained stubbornly flat-bellied, disquiet took over her mind.
Only to crystalize into a sort of muted horror.
Empty. A void that cannot be filled.
Could that mean more than the ice in her soul? Was her body as incapable of nurturing, as impossible to fill as the rest of her?
She shied away from doctors, having never been able to quite bring herself to trust this world of sharp steel instruments and hospitals that smelled worse than some of her deadlier potions.
And she doubted they would find anything. If she were as barren as a field frozen by winter, it was because of magic. Because of the price. Because of the curse.
That would not translate easily to a blood test or x-ray.
The next time Regina visited Mr. Gold, she found herself blurting, "I want a baby."
She expected consternation, for their arrangement had always been for mutual pleasure only, at least as far as Gold knew.
But he just smiled one of those wicked smiles of his, his eyes glittering, and said, "I can get you a baby, dearie. All you had to do was ask."
She didn't know what it was, but for a moment Regina thought he remembered. That the curse was weakening. Maybe it was the stretch of his lips, or the purr in his voice when he called her 'dearie.' Maybe it was the cunning movements of his hands, or the way he cocked his hip that reminded her of the Dark One, the being that had taught her magic and murder.
The man that made me a monster, she almost thought, before admitting, No. I did all that myself.
Whatever it was, it sent a trill of fear down her spine. Because if he remembered, how long before the rest of them did too? And did Gold have his magic?
Was this not Gold, but Rumpelstiltskin before her?
"Why do you think I'm here? Why do you think I've been sleeping with you all this time?" she retorted, careful to give nothing away.
He raised a brow. "Ah. When I said I could get you a baby, that wasn't the way I meant."
And then Regina remembered that Mr. Gold had a law degree, as far as this world was concerned. He outlined plans for adoption.
Regina specified that she wanted a child with dark hair. A boy, not a girl, because she wouldn't be able to bear a dark haired girl after raising Snow.
But the dark hair was important. Dark hair would make the boy seem more like he was Regina's. Dark hair would mean that she could pretend that he was Daniel's son, that she still had something left of him, that this was a child conceived in their love for one another.
Mr. Gold promised to find her the perfect baby boy, and Regina smiled her first real smile in years. Then she slept with him one last time, an expression of gratitude and celebration, and Mr. Gold understood perfectly without any words being spoken between them.
He had always known her heart, even before he was teaching her to rip others out.
When Regina held her baby boy for the first time, he smiled at her. She didn't care if his eyes were barely open and he couldn't see more than a few inches in front of his face. She knew he saw her and that he was smiling at her, and that he was going to love her, and she would love him back with everything she had, even if it killed her to do it.
She named him Henry Daniel Mills, and made him the center of her life. And somewhere in the diaper changes, baby boots, finger paintings, bake sales, and bag lunches, she stopped feeling empty. The threat of frost was always there, a chill at the ends of her fingers, but Henry was a roaring fire that kept it at bay, and Regina started to think maybe her price had been paid, and Henry was the reward at the end of a path walked in pain.
And then Emma came.
She awoke one morning to find Henry simply gone – no broken glass, no screams for help, only a mussed bed and missing sneakers.
She didn't understand. No. That was a lie. She did understand. When she adopted a child from this land, a child from outside Storybrooke, she hadn't considered all of the implications. She hadn't realized that Henry would grow, and change, while everyone around him stood still, frozen in time, the same age forever. She hadn't thought about the effect that would have on a growing boy.
She was trying to find a way to tell him, to explain, without making herself sound as crazy as the child feared himself to be. In the meantime, she'd sent him to Dr. Hopper.
And now he was gone.
Regina called Graham, and then sat on Henry's bed and sobbed. She was surprised by her tears. By the keening sound coming from her throat. The cold, the darkness, the horrible aching emptiness all came rushing back, and seemed to issue forth in a fount of unattractive wails that she was glad no one was present to witness.
For two days, she felt exactly as she had in the first instants after Daniel's death, and it was so awful that she longed for the quiet loneliness of the days before Henry.
Then Henry was back. He just walked up the front drive like he'd only been at school, and Regina was rushing forward to gather him up in her arms, for a moment not noticing the blonde woman in the red leather jacket.
But, as with everything beautiful Regina had ever known, the sweet moment couldn't last. She learned who Emma was.
All the hairs rose up on the back of her neck. She was afraid.
And in that way she had of knowing things without rhyme or reason, the sense she had developed along with her powers of dark magic, she knew that because Emma was here, had seen Henry, that everything was about to change.
Henry wasn't really back. He wouldn't be back, wouldn't be hers – Regina's little prince – again, until Emma was gone.
When Emma had the audacity to ask Regina if she loved Henry, Regina said yes. Because of course she loved Henry. She had promised herself she would, that she would give him everything. That she would find a way to force love into her heart, curse or no curse, if that was what it took.
But all Regina could feel, all she had felt since she learned Ms. Swan's name was cold fury, and she could tell that Emma didn't believe her.
Worse still than Ms. Swan's presence in Storybrooke, in Henry's life and heart, the most terrifying thing of all, was that the hands on the clock tower had started to work again.
Time was moving forward.
Regina wasn't sure when her feelings toward Ms. Swan began to thaw. Maybe it was when Henry was trapped in the collapsed mine shaft, and Emma went down to rescue him. When Henry's head bobbed up through the tunnel, Emma's golden locks following after, Regina had been so relieved, so thankful, so overwhelmed by an unfamiliar heat that she had almost embraced Emma too.
But Emma looked shocked, and Regina halted the gesture, reminding herself that they were not a family, and disturbed that she had somehow thought they were, if only for a second.
Maybe it was when they had that altercation outside of Regina's father's tomb. Emma had stirred a passion, a fiery outrage that sizzled against the ice dulling Regina's senses, and they had come to blows, Regina's blood pumping so fiercely that afterwards she hadn't been able to face the return to the nothingness.
So she crushed Graham's heart, because Emma had taken him from Regina just like she'd taken Henry, and Regina wanted Emma to be empty too.
Because pain shared was pain halved.
Perhaps the change had come when Gold, the scheming trickster, set that fire, and Emma dragged Regina out, their skin blistering in the heat and their lungs filled with smoke. Regina felt warm then too, in more than one way, when Emma declared that she would always save Regina, because that was what good people did.
Emma was so like Daniel, and so like Regina had been once, and so unlike either of them at all.
And she made Regina feel something besides the cold.
Regina didn't like it.
She just wanted things to be the way they used to be. Before Emma came. When Henry was still happy, and Regina didn't really mind the emptiness because Henry filled it up.
But now Emma was here, and she was filling Regina with other things – with the pounding of blood, and the scent of leather, with rivalry, and jealousy and fear and a smoldering, burning hatred.
These things were uncomfortable. They were hot things, alive things, the opposite of the void, and they made Regina weary, because she'd forgotten what they felt like, and they were heavy, and frightening, and too much like loving Daniel.
She couldn't do that. She couldn't let Daniel go, because it would be a betrayal. She wouldn't let go, because she would never love someone like that again.
Love never lasted, and Regina wouldn't survive another broken romance.
That was how she found herself doing her utmost to drive Emma out of town. That was how she found herself forgetting her promise to put Henry first – or maybe she told herself she was putting him first, that he would be better off once this was done.
That was how she ended up sacrificing her last image of Daniel to power the spell that would let her pluck a poisoned apple out of space and time.
But it all went wrong, and somehow Regina knew it was because of the fire Emma had ignited within her, and they wound up standing in one of those hospitals Regina didn't trust, while the doctor who hadn't been able to bring Daniel back to life hooked Henry up to machines and monitors.
Then Emma was pushing her, sending her reeling, crashing into a shelf inside a supply closet, and before Regina could blink Emma had her pinned against the shelf by her throat.
"It's all true, isn't it?! The curse?" Emma demanded, eyes and hair wild.
"Yes," Regina admitted, seeing no point in denying it.
Nothing could be worse than Henry lying so still, never to wake because of Regina's monstrosity. She should have given him to Emma when the woman first came to town. Then he'd be safe. Then he'd be cared for. Then he'd be loved, in the way he deserved to be.
Emma was still talking, and Regina must have been answering her, but she didn't know what she was saying. Didn't care.
Her boy was under the Sleeping Curse, and Regina had done it. She'd thought nothing could be worse than seeing someone you loved die before your eyes, but she knew now, she saw, she felt, that it was so much worse to know that you were the cause of their suffering.
"Anything. I'll do anything to make it right. If sacrificing my heart, my blood, will save him, then I'll do it," Regina muttered, thinking of her father, and how he had given up his life so that Regina could have her curse.
How could Regina do any less for the boy she had named in honor of that sacrifice?
Emma gave her an indecipherable look, and they went to see Mr. Gold, because they needed magic to save Henry, and Regina had none left.
"It's hidden with her," Rumpelstiltskin told them, the inflection in his voice leaving no doubt in Regina's mind whom he was speaking of. It was a whisper of salvation, a hope that did not quite dare, for knowing where the magic lie did not mean they would succeed in getting to it.
Rumpelstiltskin gave Emma her father's sword, and they went off to slay a dragon who had once been Regina's only friend.
She had so many regrets now, where before she'd had nothing but echoing darkness.
"It should be me," she said to Emma, her words falling flat in the stale air of the hidden elevator that led to Maleficent's lair. "I should be the one with the sword. I should be the one risking my life to make everything right."
Emma frowned at her. "I'm doing this. Not you."
They all of them had their parts to play, and this task was one that called for a hero. Maybe that had been Regina once, in a time when she'd save a young girl on a runaway horse, but it certainly wasn't her now.
Emma was the hero, and it was Emma Regina put her faith in.
She was almost as shocked as Emma was when she kissed the younger woman at the entrance to the cave.
Emma flushed an angry red, and Regina thought maybe Emma would hit her before the blonde visibly wrestled down her temper and arched two golden brows. "What was that for?" She sounded breathless.
"Luck," Regina replied, rather than admitting that she didn't know, or at least didn't want to know.
Emma seemed to consider that for a long moment, and then she shook her head.
"I'll be at the hospital with Henry," Regina said before Emma had the chance to speak. "I can't stay here."
She couldn't stay, because no matter how this went, no matter who won the fight, someone she cared for was going to die.
Turning on her heel, she fled.
When Emma burst into Henry's hospital room, dirty and scraped, but gloriously alive, Regina went to her and took Emma's hands in her own. They were warm, and calloused, and made Regina's stomach flop into her shoes.
"Did you get it? Can we save him?" she heard herself ask, her eyes locked with Emma's.
Emma nodded, her lips pressed together in a thin white line. It was an expression Regina recognized. A determination that had been turned against her time and time again.
Emma closed her fingers around Regina's wrist, and they went to Henry's bedside.
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do," Emma said.
"I can feel the magic around you," Regina whispered. And it was true. There was power buzzing low in her skull, making her dizzy, making her sweat. Or maybe that was just Emma's nearness, the strange power Emma had always had over Regina.
What was it Gold had said?
Emma was the product of pure love.
Regina swayed, events coming together with a clarity that damned her.
A strong, slender arm slid around Regina's waist, pulling her into Emma's side. "Whoa, Regina. Stay with me. I don't know how to use whatever this is to wake Henry up, so you are not fainting."
"Once he's awake, I'll go. I'll stay away from you both," Regina promised in a fevered rush. "You're love, and I'm empty, and he deserves to have you."
Emma would wake Henry, and she would break the Dark Curse, and Regina would run and hide, and maybe when the curse was broken she would be able to stay warm again, even if she didn't deserve it.
Or maybe she would just wait for her enemies to come for her, which they would surely do once they all remembered, and let them do with her as they willed.
She wasn't sure yet.
She was just so tired.
She leaned into Emma's side.
Emma turned her face, her lips against Regina's cheek. "Hey. I said no fainting. Geez, I'm the one who fought the dragon here. You should be holding me up."
There was an edge of hysteria there. Emma was starting to panic.
Regina turned her head, intending on talking Emma through some possible spells that might work, and their lips brushed together.
For some reason, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to slide her tongue into Emma's mouth.
And then suddenly Regina was in Emma's arms, crushed in a red leather embrace, and her hands were in Emma's hair, and tears were running down Regina's cheeks because she could feel and it hurt and it was wonderful, and the magic was crackling over their skin, and then there was a sonic boom as it expanded outward.
Emma leaned back, but didn't get far before Regina pulled her in for another kiss, her lipstick smeared across Emma's face.
"Does this mean Emma can live with us now?" Henry's voice made them both start.
His grin was so wide that if Regina didn't know for a fact that the Cheshire Cat lived on 9th Street, she would suspect Henry had been disguised all along.
"What happened?" Emma asked, sounding dazed.
"Well, I'm awake," Henry answered before Regina could. "And the only thing that can break the Sleeping Curse is True Love's Kiss."
"But –" Emma started.
Regina's mouth fell open as the implications sunk in.
Then the hospital door crashed inward, a mob of hospital staff on the threshold.
"Your Majesty," the Blue Fairy said with disdain. "I suggest you run."
Emma looked at Henry, and then into Regina's face. Regina prepared her heart to break.
Emma drew her gun.
"You want my family, you come through me first," she told the assembled crowd.
"We don't want Henry," Dr. Whale said in confusion.
"You can't have Regina," was Emma's reply.
"And why not?" came another demand, another voice.
Emma smiled and she looked foolish, and confused, and deadly, and brave, and lovely, and so much like Daniel and not at all like Daniel, and her eyes twinkled like Snow's.
"Because, apparently, I love her."