This was inspired by the latest Once promo for The Return. I’m kind of assuming that it’s a dream, at least for the sake of this story, so I don’t think there are any spoilers to worry about.
Oh great, now I’m sobbing because you’ve made me admit to the fact that I won nothing but the non-existent plot.
After the dream…
Regina took in a strangled gasp and flung herself into a sitting position, knocking Henry’s book of fairytales to the floor with a muted thump, which was lost to the sound of her heart’s frantic pounding in her chest. One trembling hand came to rest over her left breast, as if she could ever posses a calming effect, even over herself, and then lifted it to swipe at her damp forehead. She could feel the chilled sweat on her back, not enough to soak her nightgown, but enough to make it stick. A shiver bristled down her spine and settled into the pit of her churning stomach.
Regina cursed her son’s retched brown leather-bound book and herself for reading it. Again.
Her abdomen still throbbed dully where James’ sword had pierced her in a dream that felt so real – much, much too real. She turned her head to glance at the bedside clock, and released a sigh of relief when she noted it was 5:30 a.m. and she wouldn’t be forcing herself into sleep again for at least another twelve hours. Feeling far too old for someone who had just recently started aging again after 28 years, Regina sat up and rubbed the stiffness from her neck.
“Henry?” Regina’s unusually tentative voice floats over the table as they eat breakfast in silence. Henry used to talk to her nonstop, his mouth running excitedly, telling her everything his mind could conjure, but then the Evil Queen stepped in and ruined their perfect little family without even meaning to.
Henry lifts his head from his cereal bowl slightly in acknowledgement and gives a distracted “hmmm?” in response.
Would you ever…” she falters, images of her son clinging to Emma as the blood slowing drained from her body, taking her life with it. Regina’s eyes met his and she saw what truly did her in: triumph in his gaze, and that smirk identical to his birth mother’s that screamed Good won, you lost, and I couldn’t be happier.
Henry looks up fully then, just in time to see pain flash through his mom’s eyes before she composes herself and continues.
“Would you ever let Emma kill me?”
Henry pales, eyes wide, and worry creases his young face. She knows, he thinks fearfully, she knows about Operation Cobra. And then he looks at her, into the eyes of the Evil Queen, and sees everything but the “evil” he should find in the dark irises of the woman who raised him, the woman he used to love. Instead, for the first time since The Book came into his possession, he sees the soft, pleading eyes of his mother. The icy stone walls are gone, leaving hurt, betrayal, and genuine fear swimming in pools of deep brown. But also love, devotion, and the deeply ingrained need to protect her child, no matter the cost. And in that moment, Henry realizes he’s never seen that motherly emotion in Emma’s eyes, and probably won’t ever, no matter how hard he tries to pretend she’s his mother instead.
For Regina, Henry’s silence is answer enough, stronger than any words ever could be, and that delivers the final, defeating blow to her already broken heart. Her gaze drops unseeing to her lap, and the tears she held back ever since the night Cora ripped Daniel away from her life forever, begin to fall. Her shoulders slump under the heavy burdens she no longer feels she can carry and the grim realization that it’s over and she truly has lost, hits harder than any blow she ever received.
Numbly, Regina stands, though her legs threaten to give out and drop her onto the dining room floor. Without another word, she leaves, and climbs the stairs to her room, not stopping until she’s collapsed onto the bed. She almost trips over the book that still lays face down on the floor, some of the pages bent from the rough landing.
Henry calls after his mom, trying to get her attention, but his attempts fall on deaf ears and he’s left staring after her. No longer hungry, Henry pushes his breakfast away and follows Regina up the stairs. The sight of her, the supposed Evil Queen of Fairytale Land, curled up on the bed, shaking with quiet sobs she’s still too regal to allow anyone to hear, hits Henry with another wave of guilt. His ten year old mind was too busy trying to be the hero, it never stopped to think of who he was hurting in the process. Real or not, the fairytales had been taken too far, a fact that steals away a piece of Henry’s innocence as it flits through his mind.
He approaches slowly and lays a hand on her shoulder, uttering her name softly, “Mom?”
Regina stiffens, not having heard him enter, and sits up trying her best to look menacing. She really only manages to look like an angry raccoon to Henry, with her mascara smudged and running down her face, and he can’t help the small smile elicited by the sight. But then she sniffles pathetically and waits for whatever he’s come to say and he sobers quickly.
Henry climbs on the bed with Regina and wraps his arms around her torso, burying his head into her chest like he used to, and no words are needed. In that room, at that moment in time, there is no good versus evil, just a mother and her son.