AN: So, there is some Swan Queen in this chapter. I was going to add more than what I did, but it was really starting to distract from the fact that this is a Snow Queen story. This chapter is more of a way to get from point A to point B, so nothing too epic happens. I'll be updating again soon, enjoy, and thank you all for your amazing reviews! :)
It has been six months, and Snow White never returned. I tried my best to ignore the thought of her, to free myself from her hold on me, and it did get easier. But there were always whispers of her throughout town, wondering of whether or not she was still alive. As weeks went by, Storybrooke started to lose hope, Emma started to question her decision to stay, and Henry was asking more about why we couldn't go. But it was the fear of the unknown, the lack of means, that kept this town rooted. If our land was barren and destroyed, there would be nothing to go to.
They just hoped that Snow and her prince would come back, either in victory or defeat.
Most of the time, I hoped for her death. It would prove her right for ever leaving in the first place. But the bitterness faded somewhat with time, so after a while, I tried not to think of her at all.
I had Henry. I made my choice. He was with me, every other week for months now, and there was no more anger in him towards me, and the things I've done. It was almost back to the way it was, aside from the glaring differences.
But this was enough. It was all I had, so it had to be enough. And the moments when I distracted myself with his presence was almost bearable. The times when I wasn't alone to think about the anger and the hate.
On Henry's request, I stopped using magic, and I could tell the difference it made in me, however subtle. The voices stopped, the darkness inside me seemed to dim, and it made it easier to let things go—to let her go. I tried to tell myself that it felt better—that I was better, but if my mind stayed on the thought too long, I would realize that it just made me numb. Most of the time, I just felt like an empty body roaming through town, working with Emma on reports and doing most of the daily routine that occupied me as Mayor. There was no official title anymore, but it was quickly apparent to Emma that I was the only one with the knowledge and experience to run Storybrooke. No one objected openly to me, which I assumed was the Sherriff's doing. I was more than aware of the fact that she was the only reason that I wasn't run out of town the minute that Snow and her prince left.
So I keep with the remedial day-to-day that I know well from twenty eight years of repetition. It's almost as if the curse never broke, but it's not until now that I realize how very little I actually miss of the curse.
I'm walking towards the Sherriff's office midday, nodding politely at a few passerbyers, and on occasion, they would nod back. There's a report I need to pick up from Miss Swan, and I just hope that she actually finished it on time as I walk into her office.
She's talking on the phone quietly when I walk in, so I take a seat and wait for her to finish, while casually trying to listen in on anything of importance, but all I hear is vague agreement and then a rushed disconnect.
"Regina, hi." Emma finally greets me, a little too brightly, and my eyes narrow towards her.
"Anything important?" I ask, but she just stares blankly at me until I nod my head into the direction of the phone.
"Oh, no. Nothing, it was just Ruby." There's nothing about her tight tone that makes me believe her, but I don't push it for now. "So, what do I owe the pleasure?"
My eyebrow raises in feigned annoyance, as I realize that she really doesn't know. "Please tell me you haven't forgotten."
"The city council report." I finish with a sigh, watching as her memory comes back to her.
"Oh—right." She looks around the top of her desk with slight embarrassment. "Right, that. I do have that finished." More shuffling papers, as I stare at her, disbelieving.
"I just…" Emma opens a few drawers, scouring the insides for the report. It's really a wonder how she can manage to get dressed in the morning, as unorganized as she is. "Don't have it in my hands right now."
"Let me guess, Pongo ate it?" I ask sarcastically, rolling my eyes.
"Nope. Just hiding in a drawer." Her voice is muffled as she's practically crawled inside the bottom drawer of her desk, but then she pops back up, report in hand. "There you go."
There's a pause of surprise as she hands it to me, because her actually getting something done on time is a first.
"Of course." The savior gives me a 100 watt smile as I take it from her, making me feel a little uncomfortable.
"Thank you, Miss Swan." I respond professionally, gathering my bearings, as I place the papers in my briefcase and stand up to leave.
"Wait, um—" She stands with me, her voice a little too loud and rushed. "You don't have to go."
"Is there something else?" Her eyes start shifting as she loops her thumbs in the pockets of her jeans nervously.
"I just was wondering…" Emma pauses and I shift my weight, getting annoyed at her mumbling. "Since you're here, I was thinking we could have dinner this Friday." She looks up at me hopefully, and I stare at her a little confused on why that question would warrant such uneasiness.
"I have no intention of ever eating your cooking, but if you and Henry want to come over, that's fine. I'll make lasagna." It's Emma's week to have Henry, and it wasn't unusual for the three of us to have dinner on occasion, but it wasn't common either. I grabbed my briefcase, thinking that was all that needed to be said. She could call me with the details if she decides to stop over.
"Not with Henry." I stop and look back over with her, my sight narrowing. "I meant, we could go out to eat. Just…us—" That anxious tone in her voice is just getting worse, and it brings a feeling of unease.
"Is something wrong?" My paranoid mind immediately goes to her secretive phone call, and causes a defensiveness inside me. "Anything you need to tell me, you better just tell me now."
"Nothing's wrong." Emma is quick to defend. "I just wanted to spend some time with you, like—you know…" She trails off, and suddenly I realize what she's trying to ask, with the red tint in her cheeks and eyes that won't meet mine.
"Miss Swan." I say with warning, perhaps a bit too much warning, but she is treading on dangerous waters. The savior shakes her head at my tone.
"Right. Just a thought. Never mind."
"It's not a good idea." I try to emend, causing the edge in my voice to soften slightly, because it isn't a good idea. In fact it's a terrible idea.
"It could be." She doesn't seem to agree though, sounding almost hopeful with her response. "If you want to, and I want to, then…" Emma moves around the desk, walking towards me, and it causes the grip on my bag to tighten. "This could be an awesome idea."
"I don't want to." I say that much too harshly, realizing my mistake after it's already made. Because she just looks at me with these hurt eyes that remind me so much of Snow, even as the Savior hides it quickly with her stoicism. This isn't who I am anymore, I tell myself, getting no joy out of needlessly hurting people. Not like I used to with—…
"Right." Her face grows hard with her tone, as she shifts to walk out of her office.
"No, I'm good." She turns towards me, giving a forced smile. "I got fully and utterly rejected, so I think I'm done for today."
"Emma." We both pause at that, because it's not often—not often at all that I use her first name. A frustrated sigh escapes me. "I'm not—intentionally trying to be hurtful. I don't date." I try to explain, as poorly as possible apparently, and she takes a moment to consider my words.
"Have you ever been on a date before?"
"No." I finally respond honestly, because every relationship I have been in was forced in way or another, and the ones that weren't were always filled with fear and shame—and hate. I never learned any other way, never given any other choice. Now when Emma looks at me, her smile is genuine.
"You might like it." She offers hopefully. "And if you don't, it won't change anything."
I just want this conversation to end, to be able to go home and go back to the numbing rituals that I've grown accustomed to, because as much as I hate that—making some faux attempt to actually feel something again will only remind me how incapable I actually am of it. Still, there is a temptation that she's providing, for something different, anything different besides this remedial existence, and maybe that's the only reason why she's even asking. Because no one would be able to do this forever, live this cursed way of life.
And that conflict inside me, causes a sigh of resignation and my words bring about such a pathetic display of hope on her face.
"I'll think about it."
"Do you want to hear a story?"
This is a dream. I recognize it as such immediately, as I lie on my bed with Snow White above me, straddling my hips.
"I would love to hear nothing else."
She's smiling down at me, her back straight, moving her hands lightly over my ribs, as mine grip gently at my thighs.
"Once upon a time there was a son, born of a King.
We're naked here, no need for masks or shields, safe from the dangers that lurk outside.
"He was prophesized to kill his father, and marry his mother.
Her voice is soft and soothing, and it would make me want to close my eyes if I wasn't already asleep—if she wasn't so beautiful to look at, long hair cascading down her shoulders.
"So, he was banished as a child, and left for dead. Once grown he found his way back to his kingdom, but did not recognize it as his, nor the people in it.
Hips are pushing into mine with a steady rhythm, making my body arch against her. Pleasure running through me in no particular way, feeling it nowhere and everywhere all at once.
"Without knowing the sight of his father's face, he killed him, and without knowing his mother's face, he married her.
A moan lets out of my lungs, a tingling sensation moving through my limbs, and I know now what this feeling is. It feels like magic. It's been so long, but I know it like it never left.
"They loved each other and had children and were very happy as a family.
I feel pressure and pleasure build up inside me, almost to its peak, with her movements alone.
"When it was revealed that it was the king and the father that he killed, that he was the prophesized son, he was exiled.
Her hips still, and her hands leave me.
"Despite his ignorance and naivety, the King's death was his fault…" The words trail off, worry settling on her features. Causing a suspicion to rise up in me.
"And the mother? What of her?" I ask, trying to keep her mind here with me, but at the question, her face goes blank. Like a mask of death, like something that I know does not belong to her. She looks at me with an empty stare.
"She killed herself." Snow whispers, and that's when I feel it. A darkness starts to surround us, like a gust of cold air, whispering its promise of destruction. It doesn't belong in this place, it's foreign weight pressing down on me. If Snow notices it, she makes no sign—No, she does notice it, I see the shift of features on her face, so subtly. She just doesn't seem to mind. There's practically a black cloak outlining her, like a looming shadow that is not made from light, but the absence of light. A cold settles in my skin, as I try to speak—but my throat tightens and my voice is gone, ripped from me by an invisible force, spreading to my limbs, pushed down and pinned to my sides by an invisible weight. The fear inside me starts to make the weight move over my chest. It feels like magic.
Someone else's, forced on me, suddenly turning me as helpless as a child. And there is no feeling in this world that I dread more.
Soon the shadows in the room start to shift and take shape in a fluid motion. They mold into a figure directly behind Snow, as if another person was there with us, someone or something that was indistinguishable, settling so close to her—the darkness soaking into her skin—controlling her.
"Uh-oh." A horrible smile rips its way across her face, full of blood and fire, and it isn't her, this isn't her. "Someone got caught in the cookie jar."
I feel like her sight on me alone is holding the power to keep me immobile. "And look at you, dear," Her fingers trace my jawline in a very particular way, and I still try flinch, to jerk away from her touch, even though it proves useless. "So scared." The sound of her words grow dark and cruel, eyes never leaving mine. "Clinging to your mother's dress, hoping to climb back into the womb to shield yourself from this harsh and cruel world." Then fingers grip my chin hard enough to hurt. I can't breath—the air in the room is gone. "All you've ever been was just a scared little girl. The material that you grip so tightly between your bloodied knuckles changes with the years, but you never do." And the predatory look in her eyes are not her own, but they look so real put on a face that is perfect down to the last detail.
"You still try to use it as a shield, even as it cuts your hands."
There's tears stinging my eyes as I try to force them shut, but this hell won't give me any kind of escape. This nightmare won't end. Wake up. I need to wake up—I need to make it stop—this horrendous vision isn't real. It's not real.
Then Snow is kissing me roughly—possessively, tongue pushing its way into my mouth, tearing away at me as if I was paper. I try to choke on her tongue, to just die because it has to be better than this. My eyes are finally able to shut, giving me hope that it's over, that'll I'll awake alone in bed, but as she releases me from her jagged kiss, I feel her hand around my neck—squeezing—as she whispers to me,
"Keep sight of my face,
"Be grateful of my charity—
My body bolts up in my bed, as I suck in lungs full of air, desperately trying to focus my eyes on the soft light that's settled in my bedroom from the rising sun. My brain is slower to catch up, scanning the room for her, for the shadows, but there's none to be found, but I still feel the tingling of magic on my skin, and I keep scanning my bedroom, this time for any damage. To see if maybe because of the intensity of the dream, I may have subconsciously released a mild destruction, but everything looked as it should. It was a silly thought anyway, it had been a very long time since my emotions caused a complete lack of control with my magic. I quickly scrambled out of bed, not wanting to sit in the memory of it any longer, and hoped a shower and some breakfast would calm me.
Though even after I dressed and had a quick cup of coffee, I still feel odd, and it almost makes me consider drinking something stronger before going to meet Henry at the diner, my gaze lingering on the whiskey sitting on my bar. With a sigh, I grab my coat and head out the door, ignoring the temptation. It's been a while since I've had dreams so vivid—full of pain and angry revenge—screaming voices tearing about my brain—…It's been a while since I've dreamed of her. It lingers on my skin, like the feeling of eyes watching me, as I walk down main street, eyeing everyone that passes by, matching their trepidation and fear with a glare. It's just paranoia, just a fleeting moment, and it will pass.
When I get to Granny's, Emma is sitting with Henry in his regular booth, and a part of me knew she would be here, but it causes a nervousness to rise up in me none the less. I know that soon, she's going to want an answer to her offer of a date this Friday, and today is not a good day to broach the topic.
As I sit down, Ruby is quick to take my order, and I expertly ignore the way her eyes are lingering on me curiously.
"I almost thought you weren't coming." Emma says once it's just the three of us again. Henry smiles up at me from the comic he's engrossed in.
"I told Henry I would, so I did." My voice has a bit of an edge to it, so I take a breath and forced a polite smile towards the blonde. "I just overslept is all."
"Late night at the Rabbit Hole?" She jokes.
"Miss Swan." The edge is back, for suggesting something like that in front of my son. Emma raises her hands in defense.
When my food finally arrives, the conversation mostly sticks to myself and Henry, casual talk of his school work, and his new endeavor of trying out for the soccer team. He seems nervous about the possibility of not making the team, which is ridiculous of course. Anything Henry tries to do, he succeeds wonderfully at, never even needing a prompt from me.
"If you're worried, I could go to school." I say, finishing the last of my eggs and pushing the plate away. "Perhaps talk to the coach."
"No." He says in a quick and loud burst, and I take offense to the fear that's behind his eyes. "I mean," He's quick to amend, seeing my insult. "You don't have to do that. I just—I'm sorry, I just don't want to get on the team because of you 'talking' to the coach." His words get quiet and his eyes go down, and after how hard I've been to be better—to do better—still seeing that fear towards me causes a pain to swell in my chest.
"She was just offering, kid." Emma speaks up, shooting a sympathetic glance towards me that is unappreciated.
"It's fine." I dismiss the sting, not wanting to have a heavy conversation about my past today.
"No, it's not." Her sight goes on Henry then. "Look, I know your mom can be intimidating to some people, but you know she wouldn't do anything to hurt you. And I think poisoning the coach or blackmailing him would end up hurting you in the long run, so cut her some slack, okay?" She looks up at me then, utterly proud of that horrible speech that only makes things worse, and by the glare I'm giving her I hope that she knows that too.
"I know, I'm sorry." Henry says, looking up at me apologetically, and just like that, my features soften, reaching out and gently squeezing his hand.
"It's fine, really." My smile makes his guilt melt away.
The time we have before Henry goes to school is getting close to ending, and I almost feel back to normal, and I'm almost free from having to give Emma any kind of answer about our potential…date. But then, Henry excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and it leaves an awkward silence between us.
"So have you given any thought to Friday?" Emma finally says, looking at me with a hope that she tries to hide, the giddiness of a simple crush that I easily see through. There's a twinge of guilt that pulls sharply at me, because I don't feel the same, and any hopes of getting out of this are quickly dashed. But I have thought about it, and a part of me thinks that maybe this could be enough. Dating, and relationships, and someone to share a bed with—going through the motions of love, because that's what people want, isn't it? I think I might have wanted that once. Because it's supposed to be enough.
It never is though. It only ever leaves me feeling absolutely nothing.
"I suppose it's not a terribly unpleasant idea." I say with a small smile, not meeting her eyes, because it wasn't unpleasant, not in itself. Her efforts since Snow left did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. She didn't keep Henry from me, she didn't rally the people against me, and that was more than I expected of her. Despite my lack of emotion towards this, perhaps this is all I will get out of my life. Whether or not it's enough, sometimes it doesn't matter.
"If you want…" She starts but then clears her throat when someone walks past our booth within ear shot. I look at her then, and she leans over a little. "I could pick you up at eight. There's no pressure though—…If you change your mind, or need more time." Her cheeks turn a slight shade of pink, no doubt flustered from my lack of reaction.
"That sounds fine." Is all I reply with, unable to fully lead her on for some reason. Because there's consequences to what we're doing—very real and current consequences that involve Henry and the people in this town. Also, the faint memory of Snow's threat, and me telling her that I wouldn't go near Emma. Because I had her.
But she's gone. Left and abandoned more than just me. And now? Now it doesn't seem to matter anyway—what I do, or who I see—and it doesn't matter where Snow is. Be it Hell for all I care.
Once Henry comes back, I quickly finish my coffee, wanting nothing more than to just leave, this feeling of uneasiness I've had all morning not getting any better. I make an excuse about work and get up to leave. As I walk towards the diner entrance, my head is down, digging my keys out of my purse. When they're in my hand, I stop suddenly in my tracks right before I almost collide with a patron. There's a mumble of an apology from me, while I look up and see Snow White standing right in front of me.