Wow guys thanks so so so much for the response to the last chapter, the most reviews I've ever got for one chapter and even if some of them were not so thinly veiled death threats if Regina stayed dead I loved each and every one of them lol.
This chapter isn't quite as long as the others recently but it sort of sets up the story for the next few chapters. Hope you enjoy.
What is and What should never be.
"Eugh, easy kid. Dunno if you heard but I kinda had a rough night."
"You're okay. You're alive. I thought you were gonna die and leave me. I'm sorry."
"Hey, I'm never gonna leave you kid. I promised you didn't I?"
She could hear the conversion between her son and his mother, faint and muffled as it was and she was glad that their voices would be the last sounds she would hear from this world. Emma's was tender and affectionate - like liquid fire that poured over her, warming every crevice of her worn out body. Henry's was light and earnest, like a summer breeze, reminiscent of days spent curled up on the couch or playing in the garden. Both of them reminding her that even if it was just for a moment, she had been more than the Evil Queen, she had been a mother, a partner, and that had been more than enough.
As her vision faded, as the voices she was holding onto finally slipped away, as she felt what she could only describe as her soul let go of its bodily confines, she accepted the end. She basked in the fact that even if it had come too late she had learnt what love, true love, really meant. It wasn't about kisses and flowers and happy endings, it was about sacrifice and selflessness, and it was about making sure the person you loved had the chance to be happy, even if you weren't a part of that happiness.
She finally understood what her father had meant when he had talked to her about war 'a good soldier Regina, fights not because he hates what is in front of him but because he loves what is behind him' he had said. All her life she had fought because she hated what was in front of her, Snow, Cora, Rumple, her reflection, but tonight she had fought to protect the two people she loved the most. It felt good to know that her final acts had been good ones that she hadn't died as the Evil Queen.
It didn't escape her attention that what had finally killed her was love. Her mother would have been horrified but in the moment when she had seen Emma's eyes flutter open she hadn't had it in her to care what her mother would say. It had been worth it, Emma was worth it. She had spent most of her life surviving the choices others had made, she had survived her mother's abuse, Daniel's death, her marriage to Leopold, Rumple's training and much, much more, she had survived it all. However bad it got, however dark her world became, she had never once thought about ending it, about giving in to her enemies, allowing herself to be defeated. That was until she had sat at a dinner table with a small brunette on her left and a tall blonde on her right and she had realised that what was a life if you simply found yourself surviving it, if you had no one to share it with? That was the moment that she knew that if it ever came down to it she would die for them because what was worth dying for, if not love?
Regina had been so consumed with her thoughts that it took her a few moments to realise that she shouldn't really have been thinking at all. She had known that the golden glow was an ancient form of magic that many – including Gold - had considered a myth. It had used her own life force to save Emma and in the end she had known that she wouldn't have enough energy to save them both, so she had chosen the woman who had against all odds made her believe in the power of love again. Which was why it was so strange that she could still open her eyes - not that opening her eyes helped her identify where exactly she was – all around her was blackness and reaching out she felt nothing, not beside her, not above her, not even below her, was she floating? Falling? She didn't feel like she was falling, there were no tell-tale signs of falling like air rushing past her or her stomach delving to her feet but she didn't feel like she was floating either.
The former Queen rolled her eyes at herself. Who exactly did she think was going to answer her? No one was here, right? Suddenly both answers were equally terrifying. Either someone was here and wanted something from her or else she was alone and the Fates had decided that this was her hell, not fire and brimstone but nothingness and blackness and her own thoughts for the rest of eternity.
As it was Regina Mills was not alone nor was she in hell. She was for all intents and purposes in the middle of a moment. In the movement of the hand on a clock, in the gasp of a breath, in the blink of an eye, in the razor sharp line between life and death and Regina Mills was here because by sacrificing her life for Emma's she had changed her Fate. A feat only a handful of mortals had ever really accomplished - at least at the level Regina had. She had been born to become the Evil Queen and she had been destined to die as the Evil Queen instead she had died a hero, performing an act of magic so true and noble that only the purest of hearts had ever accomplished it.
And because of this the Old Ones had been summoned to intervene.
Over the eons the One Ones had been called many names by many people in many worlds, Moirai, Fata, Norns, Disir, Wyrd, Fates, Gods, the Powers that Be, and the Angels to name a few of the more recent ones. They had been prayed to, worshipped before and despised for countless generations. In reality they were all of them and none of them, no mortal had ever truly learnt who they were and what they did and none ever would. They would remain as they always had, in the shadow, in the moment, in the in-between, carefully weaving the tapestry of the Grand Design while the mortals foolishly deluded themselves into believing that they didn't exist, that they alone decided their own path.
Saoirse gave her head a little shake, a rueful smile playing at her lips as she listened to the woman call out into the darkness. Saoirse was a Watcher, had been for over a thousand years now and in her time she had seen many mortals take on the Fates and most had lost. But once in a while a mortal came along with the ability to shock even the Fates themselves. Regina was one such mortal, one of the reasons that the concept of Free Will even existed.
Many times the Fates had been ready to give up on the cruel, barbaric mortals who spent most of their lives fighting wars for land that did not belong to them and for a sense of power that was - when all was said and done - a simple illusion. Mortals, Saoirse had found were eternally messy, they lied, they manipulated, they betrayed and they hated. More than once Saoirse had felt she could no longer watch the pain and destruction that played out in front of her. But every time she went to turn away she was struck by the other qualities that the mortals possessed, how they could still hope when all hope seemed lost, how they were able to forgive the unforgivable, how they believed without seeing and without proof, and more than anything else how they loved, passionately and unconditionally and with a devotion that created a power greater than destiny itself.
Alina sighed, pushing her long auburn hair behind her ear as she walked along the narrow hall towards the cave. The Old Ones hadn't been in the same realm as each other in more than a millennia never mind the same room but desperate times called for desperate measures.
She just hoped that Saoirse knew what she was doing; convening the Old Ones was not an action that should be taken lightly. Saoirse was new as their standards went, barely 1000 years in her role and if Alina really thought about it not necessarily made of the stuff needed to be an agent of Fate, she cared too much about the mortals, got overly involved in their lives.
"Who dares summon us?"
She could hear Atropos or Death as she was known in the mortal realms from half way down the hall and she started to speed up hoping to run inference.
"I did Your Grace."
"And you are?"
"Saoirse Your Grace."
"Of course one of your prodigies no doubt Lachesis?"Atropos gritted out sarcastically.
Alina had finally gotten to the room just in time to see Lachesis or Time step forward from the shadows to speak with her sister.
"Yes she is one of my Watchers but I believe this issue is something that concerns us all."
This left only Clotho or Life to speak and she did.
"My dear sisters as much as I love hearing you bicker so, maybe we should get to the point of why we have been summoned here?"
All eyes turned on Saoirse at this point and if Watchers could feel the emotions necessary to be nervous or scared Saoirse knew she would be feeling both. It was the first time she had been in the same room as all three of the sisters and to find herself at the centre of their attention was intimidating at best. She could feel herself taking in extra unnecessary breaths and fidgeting with her grey robe. At her mentor Alina's glare she stopped fidgeting.
To think of the sisters as simply Life, Death and Time was to oversimplify who they were and what they represented but in essence Life ordained when and where an individual was born, Death how they died and Time spun the length of moments each individual was given. Together they were the Fates and all creatures fell within their power. At the beginning there had only been the three of them but over the millennia as the realms spilt other agents of Life, Death and Time known simply as Watchers had been created by each of the sisters reporting in a chain of command that started and ended as it always had with the Old Ones.
It was at this point staring at the three sisters as they waited for her to speak that Saoirse briefly wondered why they were called the Old Ones and not just the Originals. Like the mortals she watched over, the Watchers had certain misconceived ideas of what the sisters looked like for few had ever seen their faces. An audience with the Old Ones was not something just anyone got and Saoirse knew they were here as a favour to her mentor Alina, who had been mentored by Clotho herself.
All the sisters were tall and slender with olive skin and high cheekbones but that was where their similarities began and ended. Clotho or the Fate of Life had long chestnut brown hair that was plaited in one long braid down her back and deep hazel eyes. She wore a pendant of a great white oak tree made from a stone that no longer existed in any realm and her staff was said to be carved from the great oak that had first given life to mortals many eons ago.
Atropos or the Fate of Death had hair that was as dark as a raven and fell down her back in sheets of silky smoothness; her eyes were a dark grey that reminded Saoirse of the ocean in a storm. And despite popular belief she did not carry a scythe, she wore a simple circle pendant that represented death as the eternal life, and her staff was made of Yew tree.
Lachesis or the Fate of Time on the other hand had blonde hair that tumbled in loose curls around her shoulders, her eyes sparkled like sapphires and it had once been said that she had professed to know men's souls simply by looking into their eyes and as Saoirse felt her gaze on her she couldn't disagree, she felt beyond exposed. Around Lachesis's neck on a chain that looked far too delicate to hold anything at all was an hourglass that contained the golden sand grains of time. Unlike her sisters she did not hold a staff.
Well Saoirse thought the mortals had certainly got it wrong this time. Mortals had drew pictures of the Fates for generations and most of the time they appeared as haggard old women or in recent times old men with black robes and scythes with beards reaching the floor, older than time itself. In reality those images were just reflections of the mortals' fear of death, of not having enough time. The Fates were in fact ageless; immune to the effects of the very things they lorded over, existing beyond their reach.
"Well?" Atropos spoke again impatiently.
"Well – I – I..."
"Speak up girl!"
"It's about Regina Mills."
Saoirse didn't have to give any more information than that. Each Fate knew exactly who Regina Mills was, as they knew who every creature that fell under their domain was.
"Destined to die at the hands of the Saviour Emma Swan." Atropos declared foretelling the death the Fates had bestowed on her.
"I remember Regina Mills I was there at her birth." Clotho spoke this time. "She had an incredible amount of potential, born with a great blessing to feel things very deeply."
That in itself showed how special Regina Mills had been to the Grand Design, that an Old One was personally at her birth rather than a Watcher.
"It is not always a blessing to feel things deeply sister, for her it became a curse. Her time on the mortal realm was not easy. I remember spinning her moments, not many of them were good ones, not with that little imp involved." Lachesis entered the discussion clearly displeased with how Free Will had allowed the imp known as Rumplestkilskin to play with the Grand Design for his own purposes. The curse had indeed been destined to be cast, but not for the reasons Rumplestkilskin had wanted.
"Free Will is a necessary agent in the realms Lachesis, do we really need to have this conversion again? It has been more than a millennia."
Both Alina and Saoirse looked at their feet as a well-known incident of Free Will gone badly wrong was spoken about in their presence; the Grand Design was still recovering from the ripples effect after all this time.
"No conversion is needed Atropos. I simply wanted to point out that once again Free Will has been taken and manipulated by mortals in the wrong way."
"And your point is noted but irrelevant. What about Regina Mills?"
"Her death has come about." Saoirse spoke again quietly.
"That's impossible I would have been informed, I had planned on taking her to the afterlife myself."
"I had her frozen in the moment. She's not dead but she's not alive either, she is with us in the in-between."
"And who gave you the authority to do that? Alina?"
"NO. Alina had nothing to do with this. It was all me." Saoirse knew she was risking being recycled and entered back into the mortal realm by convening the sisters like this and she wasn't planning on letting anyone else suffer if the sisters decided not to intervene especially not her one time mentor but she had felt compelled to help the fallen Queen who had seen and done so much evil and yet in the end had found her way back to the side of good, if such a side even existed for mortals.
Ever the mediator Clotho stepped in.
"Enough Atropos give the child a chance to speak. Clearly she feels deeply for the fate of the Mills girl."
"I do your Grace. I believe we should give her more time."
"Why?" Lachesis was not harsh in her questioning simply curious and so Saoirse found the courage to continue.
"I have watched over many mortals lives but Regina is different, I feel she deserves a second chance."
"She froze time for twenty-eight years Saoirse some would say she got more time than she was meant to." Lachesis replied.
"But she wasn't happy."
"Not all mortals are destined to have happy lives. Not every story ends in happily ever after." This time Atropos gave her two cents.
"I understand that but despite every mortal who has used Free Will to manipulate situations for their own gain she is one of the first I've seen change her fate from something dark to something good. She lived her life as the Evil Queen but she died as Regina, she chose to change her fate and I think she should get more than an eternity in her own personal hell for that."
"What do you mean she chose her own fate? She was destined to die at the hands of the Saviour and she did."
"Yes but it wasn't in the final battle, in fact there was no battle at all between her and Emma. She died so that Emma could live and she did that because she loves her. She gave her life force to Emma, that literal kind of sacrifice is the most perfect act of true love. And I must admit I've never actually seen it in all my time as a Watcher but it had always been said that only those with a pure heart could do it. Should someone whose heart is as dark as Regina's is be able to do something like that? Has it ever happened?"
Silence reigned in the room for what would have been several moments if time had a place here in the cave.
"No not by one with such a dark heart."
Finally Saoirse was given an answer by Life not that she had needed it; she had known that Regina was different. Destiny was subjective, the major plot line filled in by the fates but how people got their and why was up to them. But this, Regina giving her life for her supposed enemy, Emma protecting the Evil Queen instead of killing her, never before had two people changed their destiny so much.
"Regina was supposed to die as the Evil Queen with a heart as dark as her mother's but she didn't. In the end she chose love over power, over revenge. And I know that maybe to others her and Emma don't make any sense - and I know that she's the Evil Queen and Emma's the Saviour. I know that there are a million and one reasons why they shouldn't be together and a million more as to why they might not work. I know that they are both drowning in their own issues and are probably more broken than any mortal I have seen in a long time but they love each other. I don't think either of them know how much yet but I can see it. Emma and Regina they change each other, with each other they get to be who they always wanted to be, just Emma and Regina."
"So what do you suggest?" murmured the low voice of Lachesis, intrigued by Saoirse's impassioned plea.
"I think she should be allowed back to the mortal realm to have her happy ending."
"And I take it you believe this happy ending is with Emma?"
"And their son Henry yes."
"You can't seriously be considering this Lachesis? Breaking the curse was only part of Emma's destiny. She still has a destiny to fulfil and an important one at that, how can we be sure Regina is a part of that?" Atropos practically bellowed, clearly unimpressed that her sister seemed to be taking the young Watcher so seriously.
"Please Atropos I truly believe that Emma needs Regina almost as much, if not more than Regina needs her."
"Let's have a look shall we."
With those words Lachesis lifted her pendant from around her neck and gripping the delicate chain started twirling the hourglass round in a wide circle, faster and faster it went until all Saoirse could see was a white blur of light as glowing grains of sand began to fall from the hourglass and onto the cave floor.
Suddenly a mirage of colours, images, sounds and feelings filled up the cave all blending into one another at a rapid rate. Saoirse could barely register anything in the bombardment of stimuli but looking at the three sisters she could tell that they could, each of them was relaxed, seemly unaffected by the speed of the images coming at them. Saoirse stopped trying to see what was in the images and hoped that focusing on the sisters might give her some indication of what information the sand grains were giving them.
What felt like a lifetime later the hourglass stopped spinning and the images faded away, leaving the cave feeling rather dark and bereft after the colour and light of the visions.
Clotho simply smiled at her impatience.
"The future is cloudy my child. It seems that Regina and Emma falling love has knocked the Grand Design off balance."
"So you believe that its love? What does it mean that the future is cloudy?"
"We can't tell whether Regina is a necessary component to Emma's destiny. The images were contradictory, showing two futures. " Atropos was clearly frustrated, whether at her or the situation Saoirse couldn't tell.
"Oh. But she might be - necessary, right?"
"She might be." Atropos conceded.
"So what happens now?"
The glare she received from all three sisters and the warning hand on her arm from her mentor told her quite unmistakably that she was pushing her boundaries by asking so many questions, this was a conversion that she was no longer invited to.
"Opps, sorry. I'll just shut up now."
"What a good idea." Atropos replied deadpan.
The Old Ones then moved further down the hall to discuss the events among themselves. From what Saoirse could make out - without it being too obvious that she was eavesdropping - the sisters were worried because they could see two versions of the future and they didn't know which one Regina was alive for. In one it seemed Emma achieved her destiny and in the other she didn't.
Atropos wanted Regina's original death to stand; she seemed to believe that even though there hadn't been a final battle the fact that Regina's death was connected to Emma was enough. Lachesis and Clotho seemed less convinced.
After what seemed like an age the trio turned to Saoirse and Alina their minds made up. Clotho was the one to speak for the sisters.
"We have considered your request Saoirse and for the first time in a long time we are - shall we say - undecided. Atropos believes that any leeway given to Regina for her final acts should be given to her in the afterlife. Lachesis is more inclined to agree that Emma needs Regina to fulfil her destiny and I am perplexed as to what to do. We don't usually have such disagreement. That being said we believe we have come up with a solution, a test so to speak."
"Yes, you believe that Regina and Emma are each other's true loves, that Emma needs Regina in order to complete her destiny, do you not?"
"Yes I do. Regina is the first person Emma has let past her walls in a long time, I'm afraid if Regina dies she may never let them down again."
"Lachesis agrees. We know a lot of the hardships Emma has had to endure were in order to prepare her for her destiny; however we also know that Emma's power comes from a place of love, if she cuts herself off from that love then she may well not complete her destiny."
"Which is why" Lachesis continued for her sister "we have decided to give Regina a chance to prove that what her and Emma have is real. We can't take the chance that Regina simply sacrificed herself to be seen as a hero in her son's eyes. Regina needs to fully believe in her love for Emma as well as her love for her son."
"I don't believe we gave you permission to speak Saoirse." Atropos fixed the young Watcher with a glare. "We have decided to give Regina a choice."
When the sisters remained silent, Saoirse built up the courage to speak again.
"Yes a choice between the life she has always wanted and the one she left behind." Atropos finished.
As first Saoirse was confused and then she realised in stunning clarity what the sisters meant.
"But - "
"No buts Saoirse. This is what we have decided. We have each come up with one condition to the test. Clotho wants Regina to have no memory of the life she left behind in Storybrooke. Atropos has given the test a time limit and I am giving you the choice of two people that can enter the test to try and help Regina to choose but they have to be dead and they cannot tell Regina anything specific until she remembers it herself."
For a moment Saoirse didn't know what to say, it was clear that she had taken on a huge task and she felt the burden grow steadily heavier as she thought of each condition and its implications.
"But how can she choose if she doesn't remember Storybrooke?"
"That's part of the test Saoirse, if it's true love she'll remember, we will simply hide her memories we won't take them away completely."
"You mentioned a time limit?"
"Yes Regina has until Emma stops believing she will come back to her to complete the test. If Emma stops believing Regina dies and this time you don't stop it."
Saoirse almost thought Atropos was enjoying this as her smirk widened with every word she spoke.
"But Emma doesn't believe in anybody." This was not at all what Saoirse thought would happen.
"Well let's hope for Regina's sake and yours that she believes in Regina. If Regina doesn't make a choice then not only does she spend her afterlife without any of her loved ones, you get recycled back into the mortal realm for wasting our time. Do you still want Regina to have the opportunity with the test?"
"Yes." Saoirse tried to infuse as much confidence as she could into the word but she was truly worried and feeling guilty that Regina may end up suffering much worse now than before she had decided to intervene.
"It shall be done." Lachesis whispered as the Old Ones pendants glowed to an almost blinding white light that left Saoirse and Alina covering their eyes. When they opened them again the sisters were gone and all that was left was an hourglass with sand steadily trickily down into the bottom chamber. Saoirse didn't need to be told by Alina that the hourglass represented Emma's belief and it wasn't looking good for Regina if the rate of the flowing sand was anything to go by.
Meanwhile as Saoirse was standing by the hourglass contemplating exactly how she was going to save both the fallen queen and herself, Regina was for the first time since she had woken up in the darkness fairly sure she was actually falling now.
The blackness seemed to be getting blacker if that was possible and she could feel her stomach falling to her feet, her hair was blowing up by her face and she could feel the biting chill of air as it whistled past her ears.
Then all of a sudden she stopped and she could feel the floor beneath her body, she hadn't been hurt, more shocked but she forced herself to be on high alert, it didn't take a genius to work out something was happening. And then she heard it, faint at the start as if from a very long way away, and then finally getting clearer, more distinguishable.
"Regina. Regina. Wake up Regina."
Someone was calling her and pulling at her shoulder, she could feel it. Her eyelids got heavy and now when she tried to open them cracks of light appeared.
Emma. Henry. Their names echoed in her head and she tried desperately to pull herself out of the heavy blackness surrounding her.
It took her a few moments and quite a lot of blinking to adjust to the bright light but as she did gradually a face could be seen hovering above her, their eyes full of concern, their lips pursed in a worried frown. It was a face she would recognise anywhere but it did not belong to either of the people she had been thinking about, instead it was a face she believed she would never see again.
"Dan - Daniel?"
"Yes my love I'm here. Are you okay? You seemed to be having a nightmare?"
Regina could barely contain the choked sob as she threw herself into the open arms of the only man she had ever loved. Nightmare? Was that what it all had been?
"Daniel, Daniel, you're here, my sweet Daniel. You're really here?"
Happy was a word far too small to describe the emotions that she felt as she lay her head on Daniel's shoulder, as she breathed in his scent and felt his loving arms around her for the first time in more than four decades. She didn't really count the stable incident because he had been in so much pain; here he was exactly as she remembered him; sweet, kind, loving, and perfect.
"Of course I'm really here. Who did you expect?" He laughed softly at his own question, his breath ghosting past her ear as he pressed a quick kiss to the side of her head.
She opened her mouth to answer and yet no sound came out because as she tried to think about who it was she had been expecting to open her eyes to she found that she didn't know. As she racked her brain she felt the memories that had defined her life slip away almost as if her life was flashing backwards and as each image was conjured up it disappeared.
She forgot; the interrupted kiss in the stable by a young brunette girl, the spicy plum smell of her mother's magic as she changed her from riding clothes to a dress to greet the king, the suffocating feeling of entrapment as she walked up the aisle to a man she didn't love, the sweating overwhelming weight as he lay atop of her thrusting into her night after night, the burst of freedom she felt as she pushed her mother through the looking glass, the mix of anticipation and dread of Rumple's lessons, the pain – gods the pain – of knowing Daniel was never coming back, of watching Leopold dote on his daughter and ignore her, of the failed pregnancies, of the guilt that it was her fault because she hated the baby's father so much, of watching Snow get her happy ending when she had destroyed hers, of ripping her father's heart out, of the long days and even longer nights plagued by violent stabs of loneliness.
The delight of a baby's first word, first step, first day of school, of warrior wounds and cuddles on the couch, of the trust and innocence in eyes that looked at her like she was his whole world. More pain followed with truthful words yelled from a small boy's lips, distrustful eyes that looked at her like she was a snake and he was waiting for her to pounce, a cut down apple tree, a town no longer in her control if it ever really had been, a curse of the verge of breaking, tight jeans and leather jackets, an apple turnover, a kiss with enough power to transcend realms, hats and wraiths, blonde curls and wide smiles, soft skin and sweet caresses, family dinners and goodnight kisses all of it blurred into one and then it was gone.
"Well?" Daniel prompted when it seemed Regina had gotten lost in her own thoughts.
"No one, just you. Always you."
Regina finally answered, a big smile on her face as she leant forward and pulled her love into a deep kiss, one that she felt had been far too long in coming, although she could remember countless times that they had spent hours wrapped in each other's arms just like this.
So Daniel is back in the picture, what do you guys think? Did you like the fates/their decision? Who should Saoirse choose to help Regina?
Would love to hear your thoughts on any aspect of the chapter. :)
Next Chapter: No one mourns the villain.