A/N: This was a prompt I received on my tumblr in which Regina has a Callisto moment and English is still not my first language so I may have whooopdedeed somewhere along the doodlydidoo. PS: Pete, I've added your bacon/egg sandwich cameo. I will be expecting my hard-earned reward of a pack of Pineapple Lumps anytime after 10AM tomorrow.
FIRE AND ICE
"Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice."
Regina took a deep breath. The sole candle's flame set in front of her flickered with the force of it. The woman skimmed over the side of such an inappropriately common object, taking in its vibrant purple 'misty woods' color. She'd wanted to get a red one at first – red never failed to remind her of a certain blonde – but after careful consideration and half a bottle of cider came to the conclusion that purple of the misty woods variety was the way to go. Purple was rare in Storybrooke – unique, one might say. Except for some repulsive articles of clothing, purple was scarce in the vicinity. Regina would etch the color into her mind on two specific occasions: one, wherever she saw Emma slam the door behind her at night and drive her deathtrap of a car into the distance where its red taillights created a purple glow when mingled with late-night vapor, and two, whenever she watched the blonde in her sleep and Emma would wake up and watch her right back, purple moonlight gleaming in her calm eyes.
'Misty woods' meant Emma, but it didn't mean her enough. Which is why Regina bought the candle, rushed to her mansion, picked up the nearest knife and cut lines onto its side in a crazed haste until the lines spelled EMMA. EMMA meant Emma like nothing else ever could.
EMMA was also barely there. All that remained was an alien scribble that looked like C |▪||▪|/ \ with a side of dripping wax. A tear fell from Regina's eye in the same fashion. She cleared her throat and continued with her speech, holding its written form in an iron grip without actually reading it. Instead her gaze bore into the flame.
"Although Robert Frost seems quite indifferent to the issue, Emma always made the world go up in flames. Flames of life, of unstoppable power, flames of passion and inevitability. Infallibility. And to a certain degree, impossibility." She paused. "To me and the citizens of Storybrooke, Emma always felt inevitable. And not unlike fire, she burned down everything that was solid in my life and replaced it with her presence, only to later help build a bigger, better, more fruitful existence. It was unfair that the burden of fixing everybody's lives fell to her. Needless to say that ultimately, knowingly or not, she did exactly that. Emma Swan was a–" Regina wet her lip, "beacon for all she loved, even though she didn't perceive herself as such. Even if she couldn't see where the light was coming from."
She could hear the sounds before she even parked her Mercedes. By the time she became certain they were coming from the lounge, she was running.
"Fuck!" Emma yelled for the umpteenth time. Shattered porcelain lay scattered across the floor in a chaotic pattern that suggested the vase it came from had suffered a powerful blow. The carpet had sucked in the water and became a spongy blotch. A pencil was drowning in it, snapped in half. The picture on the wall – it was Picasso, much to add to the overall cubist nature of the scene – seemed dangerously tilted and on the verge of joining the mess.
"What is the meaning of this?" Regina said as she took in the state of what was mere hours ago an immaculately clean room.
"I broke it. I fucking broke it!" Emma cursed and kicked the table. If there was any pain to go with the kick, it didn't show.
"If by 'it' you mean your sanity, I'm inclined to agree. Have you lost your mind? By all means keep destroying the house!"
Regina could swear Emma's eyes were pure black when she looked at her the first time. It took all of her being not to step back as Emma – the only person who had ever possessed enough of an authority to make her fear her – walked towards her surrounded by a menacing aura. Regina clenched her teeth and braced herself for the upcoming slap. It wouldn't be the first time as far as their domestic battles were concerned – not for either of the two.
Emma stopped just a few inches short of the witch. Her chin trembled. Her arm never rose. "Fuck you."
Regina's, however, did. She slapped Emma's cheek and watched her head snap to the side, her gaze stone cold. Customarily, if Emma's anger wasn't directed towards the brunette, there would be tell-tale signs indicating as such. Firstly, no retaliation. Secondly – sure enough, there it was – Emma's head tilted down in shame with her eyes wide open to prevent tears from spilling over just a little bit longer.
"Emma," Regina whispered and lifted Emma's chin with two fingers the same way she would handle a butterfly. "Talk to me."
"Ruby let me borrow her wolf charm so that I could use it as reference for a drawing – I knocked it off the table and a leg broke off and now I can't find it," Emma sobbed.
"That's it?" Although Regina did her best to mask her bewilderment, it didn't quite make the final cut. She looked past the blonde's shoulder and recognized torn scraps of paper among the pieces of her life. "You do realize I can fix it with a single thought, don't you?"
"She's had that charm for thirty years."
"Technically, that would only be two years."
Emma looked down as her hands kneaded the collar of the brunette's coat that the other woman was still donning. She managed a crooked, pained half-smile, the kind that shows up on one's face when they realize they're trying to explain death to a three month old child. "This always happens. Every time I'm entrusted with something people love, something I love, I drop it or I lose it – I – I break it. I break everything."
"Truth be told keeping my belongings intact isn't one of your finer skills," Regina attempted a laugh. Emma's eyebrows knit together and she bit her lip to keep it from trembling. The brunette saw her mistake and covered Emma's hands on her chest with her own, brushing her thumbs over the blonde's knuckles. "You make room for bigger things. Better things. Surely better than a plastic trinket that says 'made in China'."
Emma turned away and Regina knew she was losing her young partner. "Emma, I—" she began, and although her tongue was already pressed up against the back of her teeth, the 'love' and the 'you' got stuck in her throat.
Wiping her nose in the back of her hand, Emma knelt on the floor. "Just help me find it," she said and ran her fingers through the curls of the carpet.
The flame flickered. Regina couldn't help but think it was taunting with that seductive little dance of its as if to say 'That was the moment. You screwed it up, yes you did. Her royal majesty, the Evil Queen, the ruthless witch of the south broke the Savior, just like she's always wanted! The clumsy Queen broke Emma Swan!' Regina swallowed the urge to send the candle flying through the window and resumed not-reading. "Emma spent most of her life looking for a family and she would have gone to hell and back for it once she found one. There may have been conflict, but in any hassle her loyalties remained unquestionable. And if they lay with you, Emma would adopt an unearthly level of patience and go to extreme lengths in order to prove it."
Regina opened her eyes. Moonlight spilled over the silky curtains and embraced the still contours of the face of the woman before her. The alarm on the nightstand read 5:03. The two lay covered up to their necks in blankets. Regina only stayed inches away from the blonde because she didn't want to put any pressure on her lover's belly.
The way Regina regarded her would probably not befit the bedroom of any other couple. Her features were neither hard nor soft; she simply looked, examining the scar underneath Emma's brow – paradoxically more prominent in the night – her round cheekbones and the flat forehead she'd inherited from her father with a mixture of subtle confusion and the kind of irrational, blind-sided fear one could have of going to a foreign land after studying it for ten years from afar but never truly knowing its inner workings.
Emma woke up and looked at her just the same. Low-end sociological blogs might call it 'telepathic communication'. What transpired was in fact more like a telepathic agreement to mutual silence. Every now and then, the two needed these otherwise unmentioned moments to try and figure out where exactly it happened that the hailed heroine of all that is good and just collided with a storybook villain in the most unprecedented of ways – and why they never seemed to fall back in line with the classic scheme. Ultimately they would resign on trying to discover logic in fate, karma, god – whatever held hopes of providing an answer at the time – and come up empty-handed. This night was no different.
Emma propped herself up just enough to lean forward and bump into Regina's forehead with hers.
"No cuddling without prior agreement, Miss Swan," Regina growled.
"Mm-hmm," Emma hummed in response. "Whatever you say, Your Majesty."
For a brief moment Regina wondered why she let the blonde address her in this tone, but when Emma's breath tickled her nose she allowed herself to forgive her insolence – this one time – and fall asleep again. After all – she grinned – she'd made it a strict rule to only discipline the blonde after she's had her rest.
"You're getting big," she greeted her mate in the morning and threatened to give her bacon and egg sandwich to Henry if Emma didn't come to get it within 60 seconds, which was as close to a romantic breakfast in bed as Emma was ever going to get.
"You should never say that to a woman," Emma growled, stuffing her face with juicy bacony goodness. "Especially when she's pregnant."
"I wanna go, I wanna go, I wanna go!" Henry yelled as he leapt down the stairway and slid into the kitchen on his socks. His eyes immediately fixed on Emma's stomach. "I want to see the baby! It must be huge already!"
Emma blew air through her nostrils. "Listen up smartass, the only place you're going right now is school. Go back to your room and get dressed before I eat your lunch and get even bigger. What are you laughing at?"
"You have a milk moustache."
Stifling her own laughter, Regina rushed Henry upstairs to a chorus of 'but mooom!' Fifteen minutes later she was forced to resort to bribing him with an extra hour of curfew when he threatened to draw babies all over the blackboard in his classroom.
"I'm unable to make my son follow the same schedule as everyone else without positive reinforcement. You've made me soft," growled the disgraced mother as Emma's seatbelt snapped into place. Emma smirked in the passenger's seat – payback for Regina not allowing her to 'total' her 'deathtrap'.
Perhaps she should have driven after all, she gauged after the second time Regina ran a red light. The older woman's palms were closed over the steering wheel in a steely grasp and for all her focus on the road, she could not keep her eyes on the speedometer. Fortunately the traffic in Storybrooke turned rather ghastly in the wee hours of morn – they passed a grand total of 14 cars on their way to the hospital, all of which made Emma reach for the steering wheel for a split second.
"If you're going to be like this every time I get an ultrasound, I might as well walk," Emma said as they – well, she walked and Regina jogged to Doc's examination room.
The dwarf greeted them with a hearty smile and a completely unsurprised once-over of Emma's growing womb. Regina mentally cursed herself for unwittingly granting this parody of a man an MD. The exam room gave off the same vibe as an empty glass castle – not for its size but for the way it made her feel exposed for herself and by proxy for Emma. She crossed her arms over her chest and remained mute throughout the whole procedure while Doc touched her lover's belly and made attempts at humoring her.
"Now that you're in for a new addition to the family, have you thought about getting a pet, have the full package? Perhaps a dog?"
"Your ears would take up just as much space and not bark. I might think about that," Regina spat. "Tell Henry that he's not getting a puppy until he's mature enough to take responsibility for its behavior."
Doc didn't react except for the aforementioned ears turning the bright red of ripe tomatoes –but the corners of his mouth curled downwards and he pushed his spectacles up the bridge of his equally disproportional nose. "Blimey!"
"What is it?" Regina asked in a small voice, rushing over to Emma's side.
"This doesn't seem right… but it is! Yes, yes, I'm sure!"
"What. Is it?"
"You know, don't you?" Doc said, giving a flustered Emma his best impish grin. The blonde barely nodded.
"Is there something wrong with the baby?"
Doc pointed to the image of Emma's womb on the monitor. "You're having triplets, Madam Mayor."
"Emma earned people's respect without being aware of it a lot of the time. But the things she did for us while demanding nothing but trust in return have stayed with us to this day. She was determined and," Regina took a deep breath, "stubborn to achieve whatever she deemed necessary for the good of all she loved. And when she loved, she loved with the passion of a true Charming."
"I'm not getting one, Regina! That's it!"
"It's dangerous! You can't possibly—"
"You are not carrying these children. It's not your body and you have absolutely no say in how they'll be born whatsoever. I gave birth once and I can do it again. This discussion is over!"
"Precisely! You've been through this before, why on earth would you want to subject yourself to it again, three times in a row?" Regina shouted, fuming and following Emma, who clearly made no plans to reconsider in the near future, upstairs to their bedroom. Even Doc had agreed that a C-section was a perfectly reasonable course of action in their – Emma's situation. Nonetheless, Emma wouldn't hear any of it. So Regina had let it slide until the implications of the discovery truly sank in, and then some more. Now Emma plopped down on the bed which was becoming increasingly smaller in correlation to the level of comfort shared therein and Regina towered above the younger woman, shooting all kinds of metalware. Emma's constant inclination to butt heads had been a nuisance since day one, a burden a year later, but had escalated to a borderline infuriating obstacle in the last few weeks. And Regina hated herself for loving the woman all the more.
"Because I—I don't want to break anything anymore, Regina."
The universe snapped its fingers and the sound rang like thunder in Regina's brain. The blonde winced and anger drained from Regina's face within milliseconds. She hurried to Emma's side, wrinkles of worry forming in her features. She held a hand against Emma's back for support and helped her sit up. The room was littered with napkins and parental guidance articles and an evil queen who, against her default nature, found herself helpless in a whole other world.
"I think they don't like us being loud," Emma whispered.
"Oh. I um, I'm sorry. I've never had a pregnant wife before."
The two stared at each other. They didn't even blink. Regina clasped her hands together.
"I want you to propose to me," she said.
"I give you a C for effort."
"I would like you to propose to me?"
"You're getting there," Emma raised an eyebrow with barely concealed amusement drawing lines along her expression. One hand caressed the bump of her swelling belly. Regina took a seat on the edge of the bed and traced the same path with her own down to Emma's navel.
"I'm just scared of breaking you instead," she said.
"I slew a dragon. I think I can handle a few babies."
"You didn't have to push the dragon out of your uterus."
"Doc's keeping an eye on me literally every minute of every day for that very same reason."
"Figuratively," Regina sighed.
The room fell silent, disrupted only by the faint chirping of crickets in the background – crickets who only appeared with Emma but never left. Regina swayed lightly. The candle now read little more than _ .. .. .. . The woman stole a sideways glance at the clock. She couldn't make out much but she was fairly sure it was still before 3AM. Henry would be getting up for school in several hours. His class was supposed to go to a workshop where they would be shown rudimentary physics in practice – some sort of council-funded program that had been developed to convince more children to pursue the field of science. Regina had long lost any interest in council-funded programs. She received paperwork, signed it, forwarded it, received it back for corrections, and forwarded it again, almost as if she had known whatever she agreed to would not matter anymore when set into motion. Almost as if nothing had changed in Storybrooke, yet everything did.
"Let me back in there!" Regina cried and pounded the door of the operating room. She took a step back and pointed at it so that her hands shaped a crown which would soon hoist flames when—
"You can't be in there right now," said the nurse who just walked out, her voice firm, seemingly unfazed by the sparks that died at the Mayor's fingertips. Screams echoed and died out behind her.
"If you don't let me in, I will burn this place down to a cinder."
"Are you threatening me?"
"Yes," Regina replied without missing a beat. She advanced towards the other woman, the last words Emma spoke to her as Regina wiped brooks of sweat off her temples on her mind: 'Do something.' "And if you've learned anything in the past thirty one years, you will know the consequences of disobeying me."
The nurse tilted her head up, giving herself leverage to look down on the Mayor in her stiletto heels. "It is not within my authority."
The woman – her nametag said 'Sara', which had the same number of letters as Emma and similarly included two graphemes of the same variety – turned to leave, and her coal black afro in a bun drew a wave over her shoulder, but for a while coal turned to gold, a wave into an ocean, and scrubs into a red pleather jacket.
"Wait!" Regina called out, grabbing Sara by the shoulder. "Please! I have magic, I can help!"
"With all due respect, Madam Mayor, you don't know the first thing about childbirth and neither are you a biologist. Even if you were able to manipulate her on a viable level, there's a billion processes going on inside her body right now that you can't settle by winging it. It's taking too long, the Sheriff is dehydrated and the contractions have become inefficient. The doctor is doing his best and I can guarantee if you kick the door down, you'll be killing her yourself. Sit down and let us do our job."
And just like that she was gone. In a single blink Sara's figure vanished from the Mayor's line of sight, leaving nothing but a fading outline of her limbs where she was standing as she took Regina's resistance and ground it to dust.
The ward was lifeless except for a bewildered father with his arms wrapped around a child clutching the front of his shirt. Both stared at Regina with their jaws dropped in awe and fright, but the Mayor paid them no attention. Her gaze was fixed on the solid expanse that spread before her and would not budge. She touched it. The coldness of it burned an imprint onto her palm.
The father and child left, presumably with a newborn that would soon hold onto the father's shirt collar just the same. The lights flared up in the ward, dying it a sickly shade of yellow. Someone asked whether Regina would like a cup of hot tea from the vending machine – it might have been a minute or an hour ago. If she replied, her response had no noticeable effect. Nobody had entered and nobody had left; Regina knew this because she'd felt no movement in her arm since the moment she reached out for the door. There was a beat during which she considered leaving – perhaps the whole ordeal was merely a dream she'd forgotten falling asleep to – merely a dream and nothing more. Regina's nightmares were often torturous.
An announcement required Dr. Whale's immediate assistance in room 209. Another called for Dr. Jaeger in 113, Dr. Cameron in 108 and so forth.
"I'm sorry I snapped at you," Regina said to the door. Contours and edges began to blur in her vision. Her stomach churned for no good enough reason. She shivered but her body wouldn't move when she commanded it to wrap the coat tighter around herself.
The first and only childbirth she had witnessed went up in purple smoke, so perhaps this was the curse's retaliation, karma or divine intervention. The more she thought about it, the more ethereal deities she found in the right to punish her – except Emma had done nothing to wrong them. Emma had no price to pay.
The door swung open and a dwarf came out. Regina couldn't see clearly but she knew only one could bear news. His hands were glove-free and entirely too bare for the occasion. Doc took in the Mayor's disheveled state. He opened and closed his mouth several times before speaking. "Would you like some water?"
"The babies?" Regina said, her voice rising in a pinch.
Doc sighed. He turned to the floor, shook his head, composed himself and proceeded to talk to the woman instead of the different shades of yellow and white around her. Two children had been born before Regina was rushed out. Doc explained that when the third – a boy – came out, the umbilical cord – as if Regina had enough sense left to realize what that meant – was wrapped around the baby's neck. Thankfully the man had enough decency not to claim they did their best. They didn't. The child suffocated.
Regina's breath hitched in her throat. "And Emma?"
Doc pursed his lips. He took off his glasses with shaking hands and put them in his pocket. "You have beautiful twins, Madam Mayor."
"—a stubborn, self-centered fool with no regard for the people who loved her!" Regina cried. She loomed over the table and swept everything but the candle off of it in one swift motion. The glass of wine she'd poured herself but never touched hit the floor and shattered to pieces. It left behind a stain that taunted Regina under omnipresent, blinding moonlight. Her speech lay crumpled in her fist. There was no purpose in holding onto it anymore. Suddenly Regina knew precisely what she needed to say and the pitiful scrap of paper was oblivious to it all. One by one she ripped its corners apart and let them drop freely – one that said only 'hell' stuck to her knee. The Mayor leaned over and grabbed the edges of the table, smeared mascara leaving black trails where her tears had gone. She glared at the candle. "Why couldn't you just listen to me for once, for once in your life you should have trusted me because for once I made the right call, not you! What are we supposed to do now? What am I supposed to do now that you're gone again, just like you were before Henry brought you to me? You were supposed to save us, Emma, for god's sake!"
The flame flickered dangerously close to being snuffed out by the sheer power of Regina's voice. Regina quickly closed her hands over it, sheltering it and holding her breath. "No, no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean – You're right. You did. You saved us. You saved me. I just—" she swallowed a sob, "I just thought our happy ending would last longer than this. I woke up this morning and—and there was no jacket at the foot of our bed," she chuckled through her tears. "And I don't know where it's gone to and—ah—I don't want to say goodbye."
The flame warmed her but didn't burn her skin. It swayed gently in the aftermath of a breeze. Up and down it went, reminding Regina of the way Emma's chest heaved during those nights of decided stillness. Regina looked upon the fire with a mixture of confusion and blind-sided fear and the fire stared into her soul just the same. She tilted her head to the side, eying it with puffy eyes. "When will I see you again?"
The flame didn't respond. It was, after all, just a flame.
Sooner or later they all needed to visit Granny's for a little good hard complimentary vodka. Grumpy was already there when Red received an ominous call from the Mayor, who had made the call from the second floor of the Storybrooke General Hospital, the maternity ward waiting room, the third row, the seat closest to the window, two hours after Doc left without another word, at 11:33PM. The call came from Emma's phone where 'Rubes' was the last dialed number. Thus Red and Grumpy came to propose the first of many 40% alcoholic toasts.
At 12:05 in the morning, Granny was woken up by the sound of her bedroom door bursting open. As soon as she managed to get herself into an upright position, Red's shadow tackled her and grasped at the silk of her nightgown. The thought of looking Granny in the eye made Red's stomach flip. "My lemur," she choked between sobs. Granny cradled and rocked the girl to sleep and then she downed a bottle of Jack Daniel's that was sitting in her cabinet.
Regina didn't use Emma's phone to call 'Mom' or 'Dad'. Instead the following words lit up on James's cell at 3:09: 'she's dead' from an unknown sender. The message was deleted at 6:46. Red came to visit Snow and James's apartment at 7:00, but nobody answered the doorbell.
Red called Ella, who told Thomas, and Belle, with explicit directions not to tell him – though both guessed he'd known before any of them did. Shortly after, Belle found Red in the back room of the diner crying over a pork chop.
"I just don't get it, you know," Red wept as Belle wrapped the girl in an embrace and shushed her. "She was just having babies."
At 6PM, Regina, Henry, Charming and Snow were nowhere to be found. Doc, Grumpy, and the other dwarves gathered around the counter like they did every other day. This time, however, a sullen-looking Doc became a miniscule dot in the center of their circle, where they sat sipping beer in solemn silence without exchanging humorous stories that would otherwise illuminate the building. One of the lights flashed on and off, never quite deciding between life and death. Red had too little to serve and too much time on her hands. The notion of Emma's existence became the elephant in the room – at Emma's own first unofficial memorial, her name was never mentioned.
All eyes turned to the Mayor when she entered, as regal as ever, and made her way to where Doc was sitting at a steady pace. Sneezy willingly moved out of her space. The silence from five minutes before could not compete with the freeze in time caused by Regina's presence. Glasses were laid down, tiny seas calming within them into motionlessness. The flickering light died down when Regina broke the effect, requesting a shot of absinthe, "or anything that tickles your fancy, really." Neither Doc nor Regina looked away from the counter.
"Are you going to exact vengeance on me for killing Emma now?" he asked. There was no disdain or blame in his voice, only a low tinge of resignation. Failure marked his features, masking any remnants of the once cheerful dwarf. The others sprang to attention at the mention of that dreaded noun proper, as if only just fully realizing how seldom it would be mentioned from then on.
Regina took a swig of her drink. "You killed my son. I killed Emma."
"When?" he pressed.
Doc nodded and finished his beer.
Refilling her glass over and over didn't make Regina feel any better. In fact, the hollowness inside her spread with the liquid that burned in her throat through to her limbs. It dampened every secure corner, every memory that played out in Regina's mind until there was nothing but dirt and mud and could-have-beens. She felt as if there were a dagger stuck in her gut that she tried to melt with the alcohol, but instead it twisted, making Regina bleed from a fresh wound every time she swallowed. She kept drinking – she deserved nothing less. And then maybe one day the blade would get blunt on her bones. It wasn't until the diner emptied up to make room for her despair that Regina started crying. Ragged wails of anguish tore from her constricting throat at a rapid pace. She cried for the time that had been stolen from her like she had stolen it from Emma. She cried for all the times she'd rejected Emma's attention when she needed it most, and she cried for all the times Emma did the same. She cried tears of rage for allowing herself to taste happiness before it was taken from her. She cried Emma's name until it died on her lips. She cried until her voice gave way and then kept crying in high-pitched huffs.
She wasn't sure what came first, whether it was the accusation or the violent push on her shoulders that almost made her topple over. Her perception of time became distorted. She imagined Snow hit her back, screamed at her, and then slammed the door behind her when Red arrived on the scene. It was also possible that the door slammed shut and Red appeared just in time to hear the shouts and see the struggle unfold. Perhaps Snow cried out Regina's name before she entered, and attacked her outside too. No, that didn't seem right. Regina never moved.
There was an arm wrapped around her neck and pulling her away from the bar. Regina coughed and clawed blindly at it as it tried to cut off her oxygen supply. She let out a strangled noise and thrashed in a vain attempt to shake it off.
"I said cut it out!" growled a female voice. Presumably the same person then grasped the forearm strangling Regina and pried it away. Regina saw bright red nail polish that had begun to peel off around the edges – and stars. For the first time she realized that things had spiraled out of her control and she panicked, channeling a string of magic through to her fingertips – if she were to go down, she wasn't going alone. Red held the Mayor – no, not the Mayor or the Queen, she held Regina, a grieving widow who was just assaulted by Red's best friend – and alternated between shooting angry glances at both Snow and Charming. "I don't need another funeral to plan," she hissed and abandoned Regina to her alcohol-induced dizziness.
"You killed my daughter," Snow repeated while James watched the confrontation as if Regina were nothing more than a cockroach in their home, not participating directly but ready to stop anyone from interfering in case Snow needed to blow off steam and accidentally broke a spine in the process. Unbeknownst to Regina, he too had to back down before Red. Divided between the desire to kill and the urge to flee, the three made for quite the conflicted company.
Regina regarded the woman in her drunken stupor with her head lolled to the side, eyes wide like a baffled infant. And then she did something she hadn't done since Henry called to check up on his moms at the hospital, something she hadn't felt since the last time she felt a kick in Emma's baby bump – she laughed. "After everything I've done to you, you only muster up the courage to fight me when I have nothing to do with your loss. Less than impressive, my dear." She laughed while fresh tears ran down her cheeks. If she had only known! If she had guessed that the way to destroy Snow's happiness lied with making it her own, she would have… Oh Emma, my Emma. You left us for a better world and took all sense with you. "Hurts, doesn't it? Losing your family."
A single thought shot through her mind – she was going to die. And as much as the promise of Snow turning into her own worst enemy excited her, she didn't move. She was still smiling as Snow approached her.
"You are not allowed to the service."
Regina was right about one thing. She did die. "You can't do that."
"I have every right to ban the woman who let my child die from attending! Every right! Mark my words, Regina, if you as much as think about showing up, you will never see those children again." Snow turned around and marched for the door, followed by Charming.
"You can't—I love her," Regina called out after them.
The brunette stared straight ahead in dumbfounded silence. Until this point she had always been punished for loving too much.
"Do you know why people cry at funerals?" Red's voice echoed behind her.
"Is this some kind of sick joke?"
"We don't cry because of how it happened. When someone breaks their leg, a week later we don't cry because we can't stand the idea of how it must have felt breaking it. It's past. We don't cry because of all the pretty things this fucked up world has to offer that the dead will miss. We cry because they're gone and we don't know where they are. We don't know if they're slurping margaritas on a beach in Paradise, if they're in Heaven or Hell or Valhalla. All we have are these vague ideas that thousands of years of mankind's existence have designed to make us feel less shitty. But the truth is we cry because we have no idea what happened and what's going on, not you, not Snow, not James, not me, and we all need to know Emma's okay. You can't take this pain and make it all about you. I was her best friend. I knew her longer and in some cases better than you, so don't you dare sit on that high horse of yours and pretend the rest of us are not hurting just because you don't want to say goodbye!"
"Emma's feelings are not a commodity, you condescending fool! How dare you turn her death into a competition and project your dirty conscience onto me!" Regina paused, willing her fists to stop shaking. "Heroes. You never change," she hissed and reached for her purse on the bar stool. "She broke your wolf charm, you know."
"Emma? What are you talking about – my charm's right over there," Red replied, pointing to the cash register next to which sat a perfectly intact miniature glass wolf.
"Oh. I must have been mistaken," said Regina – and left.
She cradled the candle close to her chest, wishing it would warm her heart. Hot wax dribbled down her bony fingers. Due to the proximity of the fire her tears dried quickly. Regina imagined Emma. She visualized the blonde kneeling in front of her and wiping them away like she used to at night when Regina's guard fell down and raw scars came up to the surface for her to scratch. At times like those, Emma would always braid her hair – as far as she could, anyhow – to remind her she'd never stopped being who she was. She'd make Regina get up and walk to the mirror, and then she'd make her look at their reflection – herself in Emma's arms without makeup and Emma's chin on her shoulder. "What's wrong with this picture?" Emma would ask.
"Nothing," Regina would reply and mean it. It brought her back somehow.
The Mayor carried the candle to that same mirror. A worn out woman with tousled hair, an empty gaze, and a candle in her hands stared back at her.
What's wrong with this picture?
Regina's jaw clenched. She took the candle – or what was left of it – and swung it at the mirror. The stub bounced off of it and landed unceremoniously on the floor, blown out. A long crack appeared running from the place of impact through the left side of Regina's reflection's chest.
Tiny, wary footsteps wandered through the corridor. The Mayor turned to see her son rubbing his eyes. "Mom?"
"Henry–I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
"No, I couldn't sleep anyway."
The mother and son shared a moment of wordless conversation and understanding before Regina got on her knees and let the boy run into her arms, snuggling into her hair.
"Can we move when Emmett and Faith come home? I don't want them to grow up so close to where Mom died."
Henry's childlike bluntness stunned Regina on the spot. She gulped and held him tightly. "Where would you like to go?"
Some say the world will end in fire,
some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice
is also great
and would suffice.
~Robert Frost [Fire and Ice]