Post 'The Miller's Daughter'. Hook returns to find Regina alone.

"Hello, Darling." Regina smiled faintly at the sound of gruff, hesitant syllables rolling over a foreign tongue. She brushed her tears away, meeting the toes of his boots with her eyes as she slowly nodded her head.

"And where have you been?" She choked out. He could hear the torment in the back of her throat. It was a deep, anguished shortness of breath he'd heard only once before – ironically, when she'd wept over her mother's body.

"The Swan trapped me down a well." She could hear the smirk in his voice but she didn't laugh and that alone made his shoulders twitch. He shifted on his feet, hugging his side with his good arm as he nervously watched her; he lowered his voice to an almost gentle octave. "Are you alright, love?"

"No," She breathed, pressing the heels of her palms to her eyes as a fresh flood of tears arrived and her shoulders shook with sobs. She was perched on the cold stone step of her family mausoleum; the heavy doors were sitting slightly ajar and he could see in the room beyond, that there was a pristine marble coffin resting beside one of an aged, heavy stone. Her parents. On the weathered stone sat a perfectly wrapped bunch of white lilies that looked as though they'd been without water for several days. Upon the marble stone sat a single, red rose.

He knew which one was for Cora.

Awkwardly; still sporting his slowly healing injuries, Hook lowered himself to the step beside her. She looked up at him strangely, narrowing her pretty eyes as though astounded he hadn't turned on his heel and walked away.

There were no lights in the cemetery; those who visited the dead mostly did so in the day when the sun was out and birds were chirping; when there were simple, beautiful things to distract them from the gloom of their visit. The only light came from the moon, high and whole in the sky; just a few days shy of being full and Hook smiled calmly at the way it bounced off her cheekbones and danced in her eyes as she pondered him.

He reached up gently, taking advantage of the fact that she hadn't looked away from him just yet, and touched the pad of his thumb to the corner of her mouth. He'd watched a single, crystalline tear creep down her honeyed cheek and he found himself wanting to catch it before she tasted its salt on her lips.

"Why are you here?" She whispered shakily and Hook smiled at her, lowering his hand to her lap where he threaded his fingers through hers. She watched his movements carefully, unsure how to react to them as she watched his thumb caress her knuckles gently. For a long time he didn't answer and Regina found her eyes drifting up from their hands to his face, drawing an invisible line across his chest, up his throat and right to his eyes that held hers with an intensity that frightened her.

Regina's throat constricted, her heart-rate increased and she could feel the tears building up again. She blinked, letting a single tear trickle down her face as her lips trembled. "They tricked me," She wept; uncharacteristically devoid of her pride. "She," Her voice shook. "She used my love, my," Regina's whole body shook with barely contained rage. "She took what was precious to me and she used it to murder my mother; and worst of all," Her large, dark eyes opened wide as she peered up at him, rimmed red from her crying and Hook couldn't help but reiterate every thought in his head he'd ever had, every time he'd met this woman. That she was beautiful, that she was passionate and that she was terrifying. "She used my hand as her weapon. That coward couldn't do it herself, she, she couldn't, she..." Regina lost herself in her tears, falling against Hook's chest with as he moved his leg aside; letting out strong, racking sobs that shook not only her body, but his as well.

He wrapped his arm around her, resting the side of his hook against her back, careful not to let the tip scratch her. He pulled his hand from hers, missing the pressure of that touch before he pulled her further into him and felt her small hands grip the lapels of his coat, hugging them to her chest as her warm tears dripped onto his collarbone. Her nose was pressed just below the curve of his jaw, in the hollow beneath his earlobe and her lips, full and beautiful, were stretched tight across her white teeth as she was unable to keep the most heart-breaking sound from escaping her.

Her entire body curled into his, her knees pulling up against her as he pulled her closer into him. He was unable to pull her close enough. He let his back fall against the stone column, tugging her so close she was practically in his lap. He tapped her heels from her feet, watching them as they clattered down the stone steps to fall upon dry leaves, dampened to silence in the night air. Her small feet were then tucked up against her, her knees sitting high and closer to her chest as he placed a foot on either side of her, enfolding her in his embrace.

The image was strange to even him, who'd thought this Queen had a heart of steel. He'd seen when he'd met her that it was broken, shattered into a million pieces, just like his own. He'd always had a respect for her, for that. He had a feeling they were kindred spirits, of a fashion, because her eyes – whilst prettier – had that same, dull emptiness that his did. He'd wondered what had broken her, what had driven her to fear her mother so.

He still found himself curious.

But they were, each of them, alone and he couldn't have walked away from her if he'd tried. He'd held no love for Cora; he'd done his best to take from her what he'd needed and felt himself duped along the way, constantly done-over by the wretched woman. But she'd helped him and he was grateful at the least, for having gotten close enough to his Crocodile.

"Why did you lie to me?" Her small, wounded voice whispered and he found himself transfixed. The tips of his fingers found thick, soft tendrils of hair as he felt the warmth of her tears against his collarbone.

"We, each of us, do what we can to survive, love." He forced a strained smile for the blackened woods before them; staring out at a thick fog that had followed slowly on the heels of nightfall. "My choices were clear. When I realized that I couldn't take her heart, I chose to live."

"I don't blame you," She choked, lowering her shoulders and moving her face from his neck to his chest, tucking her head beneath his chin. "And I'm glad you couldn't kill her." She let out a long sigh that ruffled the hairs on his chest. "For one tiny moment, I got to see my mother for the first time." Regina rolled her head to the side so that her temple and her cheek were pressed to his lapel. "When I put her heart back in her chest, for those few moments, Killian; the way she looked at me." She pulled back, hauling her shaking body up so that she could meet his eye. Her lip trembled at the sight of a sheen across his eyes and she smiled a watery smile. "She looked at me and for that one moment, she truly loved me."

He reached up, touching his fingertips to her temple so that he could brush a lock of hair behind her ear. Regina pressed her face into that touch, letting his palm cup her face as her eyes pressed closed. "Thank you," She sighed.

"I didn't do anything, love, I couldn't."

"No," She chuckled lightly, fiddling with his silver chain as her eyes drifted open again. "For coming here; for being here. Thank you. I," She let out a shuddering breath. "I am truly alone, and,"

"No," He sighed, smiling. He held her chin in his fingers and tilted her head up. "not alone."

"Will you help me, Killian?" Her eyes pleaded. "They've taken everything from me I've ever loved." She sobbed. "Will you help me?"

"They've taken your mother and your son? I know."

"And my fiancé." She added.

Hook's eyes widened. "How did they..."

"His heart was ripped from his body the night we'd planned to elope."

Hook shuddered, remembering what it felt like to hold Milah's lifeless body in his arms with her heart a pile of ash at their feet.

"Regina, the Crocodile, he..." His words escaped him, unable to form with the knowledge that he knew that pain. In an instant, he feared that he could love her, so completely.

She reached up, taking his hand from her chin and lacing her fingers with his, holding his hand tightly between them as her eyes shone with the fire he recognized. The fire of a scorned woman, readying herself for battle.

"He's one of them now." She felt ill at the admission, her tongue tasted bitter against the words but she forced them out regardless.

Hook squeezed her hand in reassurance before tugging her against him once again. She pressed her cheek to his chest, curling his necklace around her fingertips as his fingers laced through her hair.

"I'll help you, love." He pressed his lips to her hairline and felt her snuggle in closer and he smiled at the feeling of her lips against his collarbone. "I won't ever leave you alone."

The End.