Title: sometimes happiness, sometimes sadness
Pairing Regina Mills/Emma Swan (way down the line)
Spoilers: Queen of Hearts and beyond
Summary: On her road to redemption, Regina must struggle with her past, present and future. What she must learn, as a mother and through the people who she might one day call family is any weak man can say he's sorry. It takes a strong heart to forgive. Eventual M rating.
AN: I took the title and taglines for this story from the movie, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. You should know in advance that this story is going to focus heavily on Regina and her internal struggle at least in the beginning. So please trust me and be patient. I promise I'll get everyone where they need to be eventually.
When Regina walked into the diner, the cheery atmosphere swiftly dropped as if the little bell above the door had issued a death knell rather than harmless tinkling. The patrons regarded her with varying levels of suspicion and fear. She doesn't mind that they hate her; no one hates the Evil Queen more than Regina herself.
Granny's attempt to clear the room was practical if unnecessary. She'd largely avoided public places since the curse was broken, leaving only when it was necessary for Henry. She didn't come here for violence; she came for help. Still, it stings a bit seeing Mr. Gold cavort with his librarian without anyone batting an eye. It's not fair that he of all people should have a happy ending. But Regina has long ago accepted that some things just aren't fair. She knows better than to want what she can't have.
"Gold, we need to talk."
Mr. Gold's grandstanding is always tedious at best. She wondered if he would be so quick to publicly shame her if it became common knowledge just what Rumpelstiltskin was up to in Storybrooke. The mention of her mother, however, wiped the smirk from his face. The subtle nervousness in his eyes belied his confident facade.
She leaned closer, driving her point home. He could pretend to be calm and blasé but he knew Cora will string them both up from the rafters should she get to Storybrooke. He knew they were yoked to the same burden, swamped by the same feeling of dread.
Part of her enjoyed seeing Gold tremble but that wasn't the why she'd gone to see him. Right then, Regina was acting as a mother.
It's maternal instinct that had her vetoing Henry's return to the Netherworld. Those burns and blisters on his pale skin had twisted her stomach. If she let him, he would keep going back. If she let him, he would sacrifice himself for Emma and Snow ifshe let him. It takes one look at David to see that they've finally reached common ground. Henry won't be going back.
He looks so small in the makeshift bed; covered in the blanket he'd had nearly all his life. The blanket she sometimes slept with when she couldn't deal with the emptiness of her house. Henry was so different now, willing to put himself in danger for a woman he'd met only a few months ago. Her little boy was so ready to grow up and be a hero, a champion in a world where everything could be black and white. Where good always defeated evil.
Regina misses the little boy who'd been small enough to sit in her lap and ignorant enough to still want to. Before he found that book and everything changed. Before he'd stopped loving her.
Every once in awhile, she envied the unrealistic optimism that seemed to be a core facet of David's personality. It will eventually lead to his demise, but if he wanted to subject himself to a deadly curse to spare Henry, it really wasn't in her to say no. Until he asked her to perform it.
"No. Absolutely not."
"Regina. We have to do this to get Snow and Emma home." The desperation on David's face is almost touching.
"Gold can do it. He taught me everything I know." He'd made sure to teach her everything, even spells so dark she had once shuddered to think about them.
"Everything except the sleeping curse." Gold interjects. "I'm afraid I'll be of little to no use there. And if I'm not mistaken you've gotten quite a lot of practice over the years."
"My answer is final. You know the consequences of mixing me and magic. The price is always too high."
"But this is to save my wife and Henry's mother."
"You don't think I've use magic to try to save people before?" Regina yelled. She saw the exact moment when David connected the incident in the stables because his eyes softened with something like pity. It's a few more seconds before Regina realized the burning in her eyes was from tears threatening to fall. David moved forward and she thought he might try to hug her. Rapidly backing away, she turned to leave when she heared shuffling behind her.
It's the first time she'd heard that word in months and if she wasn't on the brink of tears before, now it felt like she might break down completely from the flood of emotion. She turned and looked down into Henry's pleading face. He was standing right in front of her, looking so much like her little boy again, all wrapped up in his blanket
"Please." he said.
Regina knew he didn't realize what he is asking, for her to break her word and the promise she made to him and to everyone else so that she could redeem herself. But she knew she would still do if it meant he'd keep looking at her like that.
It took her over an hour to dust off the equipment she borrowed from Gold as she'd destroyed all of hers after Henry was poisoned. Clearly Gold didn't appreciate these delicate instruments the way she did. He always did prefer the more active kinds of spells.
It turns out brewing potions; even the most complicated and deadly variety, is a skill you never truly lose. It's like riding a bicycle, measuring the ingredients, keeping the temperature at exactly the right point, knowing when to stir and when to swish. Regina can tell by sight whether a potion is too hot or cold and by smell if the components are off. She thinks it's partly why she took up baking over the years. It's the same skill set, and she's very good at it. Alone amidst the steam simmering up from the vials, Regina could admit she enjoyed this. Once the horses and the stables became too painful for her, magic was one of the few things she could do right.
When he came in, she avoided Henry's eyes and instead busied herself with the mortar and pestle. Her satisfaction had collapsed into shame and anxiety. Whereas before she would have given an arm to have Henry want to be in the same room with her, now she just wanted him to leave. It was too uncomfortable with him watching her brew the same concoction that poisoned him and his grandmother and that she was brewing for use on his grandfather.
So she kept her eyes down and focused on not making any mistakes. Henry crept over and peered down at what she was doing.
"So this is how you do it? Magic." His question didn't hold the judgment and rancor she'd grown so used to.
It felt like a new beginning.
They're sitting in Mary Margaret's apartment watching David sleep. It was decided to move him here after unsuccessfully trying to squeeze his tall frame into the bed in Gold's shop. Henry had very little trouble enlisting the dwarves to help carry him with no questions asked. Regina noted that she should start monitoring how much time her son spent down mine shafts with strange men.
Gold went off to do whatever it is he does when he's not selling babies or sending wraiths to kill her, leaving Regina alone with Henry and an unconscious David in the home of her greatest nemesis. It was just as awkward as she imagined it would be.
David slept for hours. Much longer than any time Henry was unconscious. Regina hoped he was putting it to good use and not using it to moon over his wife. More hours passed before Henry started to get antsy and Regina grew concerned as well. Unlike a regular dream, the cursed sleep was complete. There would be no tossing or turning or any outward indication that something had gone wrong. After twelve hours. After twenty-four, she was worried enough to call Mr. Gold.
"What's happening? Will David be OK?" Henry's anxious voice reminded her of how he kept losing people and how it was often her fault.
"I'm not sure", she answered, and looking to Gold to offer some of that wisdom he seemed to think was unlimited.
He merely shrugged. "We wait."
David had been asleep for 37 hours when Henry asked her. His face was earnest and desperate. She wanted to do something but there was nothing Regina could do.
"I don't know a spell for this. I don't even know what's wrong."
"We can ask Mr. Gold."
"Henry. I...I just can't."
Henry hadn't spoken to her in 3 days. Every time she saw him to hand him his lunch for school, he looked at her like she'd killed his puppy. Regina couldn't stand it anymore. She banged rather loudly on Dr. Hopper's door, uncaring whether he had an appointment or not. Archie opened it, looking at first confused, then concerned. It must be the cricket in him, but she always appreciated that Archie was one of the few people who didn't fear or despise her or both.
"I need to talk to you." She said, pushing past him with Henry in tow and sitting on his thankfully empty couch. For a moment he looked ready to protest but he just sighed and closed the door behind them.
She told him what Henry wanted her to do, what they'd talked about her doing and how she just still doesn't know what to do.
"How can he ask me this? After everything." Henry remained silent, still angry with her and petulant that she hadn't let him rush straight home to David's side.
Archie sat in his chair and looked at them. That's a thing he does and she'd learned to stop being unnerved by it. When he finally spoke, it wasn't what she was expecting.
"Why do you want to bring Emma and Mary Margaret back?"
She doesn't. The only reason she got into this was because -
"Henry asked me to."
Archie nodded. "Can you do it?"
"Maybe. I'm sure there is something in one of my books or in Gold's. But I fail to see how that is relevant, Doctor."
Henry finally piped up. "I know there is something we could do. But she won't ask. She won't even try."
"Relax, both of you. Answer me honestly, Regina. How do you feel when you use magic?"
"Honestly, I feel amazing. It's not just the power, its pleasure. Sometimes I think it's the only true pleasure I've ever known. But, I'm not myself then. Or maybe that is my true self-getting out. I don't know. It just feels like there is me and there is ...her and when I use magic she is so much stronger."
She took a death breath to compose herself. "Henry doesn't understand this. I can't start again because I know I won't stop. I don't want that."
"What do you want, Regina?"
"I want Henry to be happy."
A grin spread across Archie fast so fast it seemed like a grimace at first. He smiled at her like she'd just solved all the worlds' problems.
"That's the difference, Regina. I know how much you dislike Emma and Mary Margaret and I know why. They've threatened everything you hold dear in this world and the old one. But you would save them for your son. Every time you've used magic in the past it's been for you. For your freedom, your love, your revenge. This is the first time you've desired to use magic altruistically. I think you should do it."
"But what if -"
"What if you become the hero of this story? People are capable of great things when they're selfless. You're no different. Magic in and of itself is not evil. Look at the fairies. This could be your chance to make a difference and to prove in this world that magic can be a wonderful thing. I know you think it's dangerous and it is, but if your heart is pure, you won't be corrupted this time. And I'll be here for you."
"So will I." Henry's clammy hand slid into hers and she leaned against him, somehow drawing strength from his small frame pressing into her side.
The spell they'd found was old, the parchment so ancient that Gold refused to let her actually touch it and had it spread out over a stand.
"Do you think this will work?" she asked.
"I think it's your best chance. Now this spell is designed to create a bridge between two people. A bond so strong that it should allow them to communicate across realms. Because it is between two individuals and not a place, if should be safer than traveling to the Netherworld. But this is old magic so there may be unforeseen consequences."
"Aren't there always. Tell me what I need to do."
"Ah dearie, we aren't done quite yet. You still need me. Magic works different here remember; you don't have the power to do it without me."
"What will your assistance cost?"
"Let's just say you'll owe me a favor. Now, the way the spell works is we need to chose a target from their side. Will it be Mary Margaret or Ms. Swan?"
"It should be Emma. Just in case David manages to find Mary Margaret.
"And then we need a volunteer from our side." Gold looked between the two of them as if he didn't know which one would eagerly volunteer.
"I'll do it."
"No, Henry." Regina said. "We don't know what will happen. I'll do it."
Gold turned from them and started pulling various objects down from the shelves.
"Now, just to be clear. This spell could very well be permanent."
"I understand the risks."
"I'm quite certain you don't."
Yet again, Regina went back to brewing potions. She couldn't actually read the incantation as it was in a language older than both her and her kingdom. She mixed her hair and Emma's with the rest of the ingredients and thought ridiculously that this felt too much like brewing a love potion. Regina doubted there was magic powerful enough for that.
When it was done, Gold told her what to say and they began to chant together. The potion had long since cooled but as their voices rose it bubbled and popped. Everything about it screamed combustible; she pushed Henry back behind her just in case. The cauldron continued to froth and hiss long after they stopped chanting emitting loud cracks and pops at irregular intervals. Somewhere above them, a glass beaker shattered.
"Take Henry and get out."
Henry tried to resist but Gold merely tosses him over his shoulder. The door had just closed behind them when the explosion knocked Regina back into a table of antiques and everything faded to black.
Regina came awake to rather forceful shaking.
"Mom! Mom. Wake up."
She pulled herself up gingerly and examined the wreckage of Gold's lab. There wasn't a piece of furniture in tact and the edges of the curtains were still smoldering. She coughed through the thick layer of smoke. Before she could catch her breath Henry launched himself at her, wrapping his arms around her neck and squeezing almost painfully tight. Gold stood above them obviously displeased by the state of the room.
"We need to get you to a hospital."
"No, I feel fine." And she did. Looking at the debris around her she would have expected some kind of wounds or internal bleeding. As it is, she didn't have a scratch on her. The worst thing was getting all the broken glass out of her hair.
"I don't feel any different? I thought I was supposed to be connected to Emma?"
Gold shrugged, but she could sense his disappointment as well. "I don't know how it's supposed to work. I never guaranteed anything."
Regina places a comforting hand on her son’s back.
"I'm sorry Henry. We'll find something else. "
For lack of better options, it was somehow decided that Regina would move in to Mary Margaret's apartment. David was already there and Henry said that's where he feels most comfortable. Regina was sitting at the kitchen table watching him watch over his grandfather and she couldn't help but feel out of place. The pictures on the wall were just more reminder that this isn't her home. It's theirs.
Henry continued to attend school because she continued to be adamant about it. Her days were spent scouring every scrap of paper she'd borrowed from Mr. Gold in the hopes of finding another solution. She'd just finished rereading an obscure treatise for the third time and was no closer to formulating a plan. Slumping forward Regina rested her head on the table and allowed the sinking feeling of helplessness to wash over her.
Regina wasn't sure how long she sat like that before a searing pain shot up her side, so intense that she collapsed off the chair to writhe on the floor. The burning spread upward stealing her breath and preventing her from crying out. Her tears flowed freely as she rocked back and forth.
Henry found her that way when he returned from school. She was curled into a ball under the table, largely insensate and unaware of her surroundings. She registered his voice, his fingers on her face but couldn't answer or acknowledge him.
At some point, Regina must have blacked out because she awakened feeling sore and exhausted. The smells were off and she didn't know where she was. It took too much energy to open her eyes so she just listened to the shuffling around her. Beeping at regular interviews lead her to believe that she was in a hospital, which would explain the roughness of the sheets. As if she would ever buy anything less than 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton. She doubted regular medicine was going to be much help here since her problem was almost definitely magic related; they gave her something for the pain. That was nice.
A door opened and a strong smell of a familiar cologne permeated the room and confirmed that she was in a hospital.
She heard Dr. Whale and Gold talking, murmuring, and presumably trying to avoid waking her. Regina mockingly though about how pitiful it was that Rumpelstiltskin was somehow functioning as her ICE contact. She was way too tired to bother announcing herself. Besides she caught enough of their conversation to try and put things together.
Whatever magic you've fooled around with... I can't predict the complications
The spell was supposed to-
Gold's shocked exclamation was nearly deafening in the silence of the room. Regina didn't even want to fathom what that word meant in relation to her. She was just too damn tired. Relaxing further into her pillows, she did the only sane thing. She went back to sleep.