Emma Swan was on her way home from work. She had a million things on her mind, and none of them were things she wanted to deal with at the moment. Despite being the sheriff of Storybrooke, she was probably going double the speed limit on the small and narrow streets. Her phone was buzzing in her pocket; she swore to herself as she dug it out and checked the message. Thankfully it was only David wondering about dinner plans. When Emma turned her attention back to the road, her heart almost seized in her chest when she saw three people standing in the center of the road.
Slamming on the breaks, her mouth hung open in a paralyzing shock when she saw who those three people were. Her son was finally back.
"H-Henry?!" Emma yelled, hurriedly opening the car door and getting out. Her eyes never left his as she ran towards him with open arms. She fell to her knees and encased him in a tight hug. Two months had been way too long.
Emotions were flying through her body, she felt happier than she had been in a very long time. But Emma immediately sensed something was wrong.
"Henry, what's the matter?"
He was shaking underneath his blue cotton shirt; when she examined her son more carefully, she saw his face was a ghostly white- he didn't seem all there.
"Regina, what the hell? You're eight days late! We said two months!" Emma shouted angrily at the woman, turning her attention to her for answers.
"Regina!" She snapped her fingers irritably. It was like none of them acknowledged she was even there.
Then she saw all the bruises speckling her neck. Regina's eyes soon filled with tears as she glanced around at her surroundings.
"Please tell me what's going on," Emma said, "you're really freaking me out."
Roland was holding onto Regina so tightly she probably didn't even need to keep her hands underneath him for support.
"He's... Gone..." Regina finally muttered, staring at a fixed point off in the distance.
Emma sighed. "You just... need to get home. I'll ask the questions later. Get in the car, I'm not letting you walk all the way there."
It was a struggle to pay attention to what she was saying- Regina felt as though she had woken up from an awful dream. She could see his face framed in the center of the dark green magic, eyes staring right at her with such desperation.
"Thank you," she said softly, following the blonde out to her yellow bug and getting inside the passenger seat. Henry crawled over into the back, his eyes still glazed over with shock. The atmosphere inside of the car was stone silent as Emma started it up; she drove slowly and carefully down the street and turned a few corners until a giant white house with an immaculate front lawn came into view. From a side view, Emma noticed Regina slip a worn black ring on her fourth finger with shaking hands.
Looking down at Roland, Regina already knew she didn't have the heart to tell him about what had happened. He had his face completely buried in her hair and he was squeezing her tightly with both his arms and his legs.
"Okay, well this is it..." Emma began, unlocking the car door and giving Henry another glance. This time, he had a little life in his eyes as he smiled back at her.
"I missed you mom." Henry said quietly, wrapping his arms around her neck. It was as if he had just realized he was home again.
"I missed you more," Emma smiled back, "and I'm sure Neal would love to see you again soon." She turned to Regina and took a breath. "I have no idea what went on with you guys, but you can't keep acting like you're all dead. How about you guys work all this out in an hour or so- then I'll tell Snow and everyone to stop by and see how you're doing."
Regina processed what she was saying and gave a slight nod. She didn't know how 'working it out' would go; she didn't know where to start.
Emma got out of the car and walked over towards Regina's side, opening the door for her and taking a look at Roland.
"Hey, buddy, you okay?" She asked softly, wondering to herself if he were even breathing. Instead of answering, the boy simply turned his head to the side and stared up at her fearfully. Emma took that as a no.
Regina really didn't look well. The usual arrogant and confident demeanor that always shined on the outside was completely extinguished. She knew it wouldn't be best to leave her looking like she had fallen down a mine shaft.
"Here, let me help with all those cuts and bruises," she told her, taking her hand in hers and concentrating on a spell for a moment. Regina watched in surprise as she felt magic flood through her system; she still wasn't used to the blonde being able to do it.
"You've been practicing," she said, forcing a faint smile.
Emma shrugged. "Yeah, a little."
She wanted to know were all those bruises came from, but she decided against asking. "I'll see you in an hour or so, okay?"
Regina hoisted Roland up on her hip and got out of the car, taking a moment to take a look at her house. It was exactly the same as she had remembered it- towering above all the rest of the houses.
"That works," she replied in a hollow voice, "thank you Emma."
"Just take it easy. Henry... I'll see you soon." She gave her son a squeeze on the shoulder and smiled.
Emma didn't want to leave him, but she knew it was probably for the best. Turning back to her beetle, she got in and started it up, soon driving away and leaving Regina with her two boys.
As soon as the blonde left, Regina immediately felt a panic rush through her. She was alone with two kids that were just as traumatized as she was. But she already knew she didn't want to spend her time back in Storybrooke crying and feeling bad about herself- so she was going to try.
"Roland," she started, "this is Storybrooke, and this is where I live."
He finally shifted his head and glanced around his surroundings. "It's big." Roland muttered, in a tiny voice that was almost inaudible.
"I know. This is where Henry and I live. Are you ready to see it?"
He inhaled a deep breath and held onto her tighter. "Okay."
Putting a hand on Henry's shoulder, Regina managed a comforting smile. "We'll be okay."
The twelve year old had about a million questions for his mother, even though he was sure she had the same ones. Why would Mr. Gold want his dad?
He followed her up the narrow sidewalk towards the front door, watching Roland peer up at the street lamps like they were the most interesting things in the world.
They always had a spare key hidden under the old flowerpot. Henry stooped down and retrieved it, giving his mom a look before unlocking the door and giving it a light push.
It was dark and the air was extremely hot and thick. They took a few cautious steps in; the house had served as a home for both Henry and Regina for years, yet now, it almost didn't seem right to be there again.
But it was all they had.
Regina began unhinging Roland's tight grip on her and set him gently back on the ground. Once he was torn away from her, though, his arms wrapped around her hips.
"Mommy, I'm scared."
She wanted to break so badly- to cry, to fall to the floor and let it all out. But that wasn't an option.
"This is our new home now," she said, "we just have to be brave. Can you be brave for me?"
Roland forced back his tears and gave her a weak nod, taking her hand and following her down the hallway.
"The first thing you need to know about this realm is that everything runs on a special kind of power." She told him, placing her index finger under a light switch and flicking it on. Roland almost gasped in wonder as the hallway lit up.
"Is it magic?" He asked, some of his fear easing away as he spoke.
Regina shook her head. "No, it's just something someone figured out how to do. Things are quite different here, Roland. People live a different way. It just... Takes some getting used to."
She and Henry then proceeded to show the boy all the rooms in the house; it took longer than expected to explain the bathroom, as well as the concept of television. By the end of their tour, Regina could tell that her son was exhausted. They had made some progress, but there was still a long road ahead.
"Henry, why don't you show Roland all the things in your room? I'm going to take a quick shower and then head down to the store for a few things."
He nodded, already knowing it would be hard distracting him from the fact that Regina would be gone.
"Don't go," Roland frowned, hugging her tightly, "I don't want you to."
Sighing, she bent down and gave him a light kiss on his forehead. "I have to. Henry will take care of you- you're safe here."
He wanted to believe her, but after what he had just experienced, safe was a more difficult term to understand.
Regina gave both of her boys a slight smile and exited, heading down the hallway towards her bedroom. It felt so odd being back- that was the only thing she could think of at the moment. Her room was just the way she had left it when they dropped everything for Neverland. This time though, she truly felt the emptiness of her house showed through more. She had come back a different person.
Picking up her cell phone off her night table, Regina began mindlessly filing through it. She had about four hundred emails, seventy missed calls, and two text messages (both from Sydney, which she happily ignored). Regina set it down on her bed and glanced down at the dress she was wearing. She felt plain dirty in it, not only on the outside but on the inside as well. Just looking at it made her nauseous.
She took it off and stepped into the shower, instantly loving the feel of hot water against her skin. It had been months since her last official shower; magic had been her only way of keeping up with her hygiene.
It was her first actual time alone since Robin was with her.
Glancing down at the ring on her finger, Regina couldn't stop the tears from quickly forming in her eyes. It still hadn't fully hit her that he was gone. Everything felt like a horrible dream. She couldn't raise two kids on her own- it wasn't possible.
She pounded her fist against the glass wall and sobbed, sinking down to the tile floor in a defeated heap.
She was absolutely alone.
The blue dress looked absolutely horrendous. It was soiled, almost completely covered in dirt. Regina stared down at it for a good five minutes as she stood in the middle of her bathroom, still dripping wet and wrapped in a towel. Four days ago, she had chosen it from her small and crowded closet, not knowing at all that she would be beaten in it, taken hostage, and imprisoned in it. She traced her fingers along the side, hoping to feel Robin's touch still lingering there.
Then she snapped her mind back into reality. Regina grabbed the dress and entered her closet, opening the bottom drawer to her dresser and stuffing it underneath the clothes that were already inside. She dressed in the first outfit she saw, not even bothering to put on makeup. On her way back down the hallway, Regina switched on all the lights. She could hear her kids talking in Henry's room; it was the only sound heard in her seemingly dead house.
"It plays music?" Roland asked, standing on his tiptoes to examine Henry's turntable. "How does it do that?"
Henry pointed towards the record. "See this? It reads what's on the record and the speaker plays the rhythm. Roland, you don't have to overthink everything."
The boy let out an irritated sigh and frowned. "I don't like things here. It's strange."
"Hey, you'll figure everything out soon," Regina said, keeping her voice positive, "after all, I had to."
She walked over to Henry's bed and sat down. Roland immediately found his way back onto her lap and laid his head on her chest.
Regina took a big breath as she sorted out her thoughts. Now was the perfect moment to set things straight with her kids- if she didn't do it now, she feared they wouldn't ever move on from their cozy little cottage in the Enchanted Forest.
"Listen guys, I know this day has been really stressful for all of us. Your father... He's still with Rumple. I don't know what that man wants with him, but until he comes back, it's just going to be the three of us. But I don't want you two to worry, because I'm never going anywhere. This town is full of people who would love to get to know you Roland; they're good people. You're just going to have to trust me."
Roland looked up at her. "But I want daddy here..." It was evident he already missed him. Regina didn't know how to tell her son that him simply returning wasn't an option. Rumplestiltskin was a complicated man
"I know. But we need to be brave." That was all her exhausted mind could think of at the moment. "Things will get better for us."
She sent Henry a confident look- she was good at pretending.
"Now, I really need to go get some things at the store. The Charmings said they were going to stop by sometime tonight, so if they knock let them in. I know Neal is probably excited to see you."
Henry nodded. He really had missed him- but he had just gotten to know Robin as his father, it felt weird to just switch.
Regina gently set Roland down off her lap and stood up. "We have to get you some real world clothes- I'll be back as fast as I can."
With that, she left the bedroom and made her way outside where her black Mercedes lay, perfectly shined and untouched. It took a while for it to start up, but once it did she was off down the dark and barren street, off towards the only conivence store the town had to offer. Regina wasn't about to lie to herself, it took her a moment to remember how to drive exactly- but she figured it out eventually.
Regina didn't want to leave her kids alone for a long time, so she traveled quickly down the isles of the store, grabbing whatever she thought would be necessary for a four year old boy- a toothbrush, pajamas, shoes (she had to guess on the size), and shampoo.
After fishing through Storybrooke's fine selection of boys' clothing and picking some out, she made a quick stop at the refrigerated section of the store for some basic food items. Not even ten minutes had gone by before she was finished- it didn't take long for it to sink in that she really didn't want to be away from her kids.
On her way towards the checkout, though, something caught her attention. It was a thin blue box, hanging in a line of many others just like it, the words pregnancy test written in bold letters along the front. As soon as Regina noticed it, a startling question came into her mind. What if the baby didn't make it?
The question immediately made her hyperventilate inside- the only thing worse than not telling Robin would be for it to have died.
But she knew she couldn't keep fighting with herself on the topic; she gingerly took a box off the shelf and continued on towards the checkout. Happy the dwarf was behind the counter when she got there. Regina set her basket of things on the counter and began searching for her credit card. The dwarf started running her items through the machine, trying hard to think about why on earth the queen would need clothes for a little boy. Regina stood rather anxiously as she waited for him to finish.
"Um, are you on twitter?" She asked abruptly, nodding towards his computer screen. As soon as she said this, however, Happy turned to the computer and exited out.
"No," he grumbled, "they kicked me off."
Regina could detect some distain to his voice. He finished placing all her items in plastic bags and swiped her card before grudgingly biding her a goodbye with "have a nice day".
The streets were almost completely deserted when she drove home. When she pulled back up to her house, though, she noticed a beaten pickup truck parked alongside her front lawn.
"Regina!" Came Snow's excited voice, "you're finally back!"
It was quite the welcome home party. She was greeted by her stepdaughter, who gave her a suffocating hug.
"Nice to see you too," she replied, less enthusiastically, "it's been a few months."
Henry was busy talking with Neal about what it was like in the Enchanted Forest, and David was in the kitchen with Roland trying to teach him the concept of a toaster.
"Hey- boys, I have some groceries in my car you can bring in," Regina said, catching their attention.
It didn't matter if they wanted to or not, she was a queen and whatever she said went- they all knew that.
"Nice to have you back," David said on his way out, giving her a light squeeze on the shoulder.
Funny, she thought to herself, it didn't feel that nice to be back.
Neal and David reentered a moment later both carrying handfuls of plastic bags.
"Set them down at the table," Regina told them, noticing the five pieces of completely blackened toast splayed out on the countertop. "I'll put them away later."
"Emma, she doesn't seem that upset," Snow whispered to her daughter, once Regina was out of range.
The blonde gave her a look. "When I first saw her, she really looked dead- all three of them. I mean I don't know what happened, but Robin isn't here."
Snow sighed. "Maybe we should just ask her what happened, Emma."
"You don't understand, she had bruises all over her face- whatever happened probably isn't something she wants to talk about right now."
Neal, David, and Regina then came out of the kitchen. "I think we better get going, it's getting late."
Snow nodded, and exchanged a hesitant glance towards Emma.
"You tell us when Henry's ready to spend some time with us," Neal said, smiling down at his long lost son.
"I'll... Text you or something." Regina replied, not really knowing what the current situation between him and Emma was. The two still seemed awkward around one another, though.
"Have a nice night." Snow told her, before following her husband out the door.
As soon as the house got quiet again, Regina gave her son a look. "They've all missed you, huh."
Henry shrugged. "I guess so."
"Mommy, I made toast!" Roland called from the kitchen, holding in his hands a half that hadn't burned. Regina couldn't help but smile at the scene; her son was sitting cross legged on the counter, still wearing his threadbare t shirt and dirt smudged pants, about ready to explode with happiness over a piece of bread.
"Are you hungry Henry?" She asked, glancing up at the clock mounted on the wall- it was almost ten.
The twelve year old shrugged. "Kinda..."
"Well, Roland made toast," she said, walking over and taking the piece he offered. "Here you go."
Then, she made her way over to the table and searched through the clothes she had just bought. "But it's time for you to go to bed, Roland."
Regina showed him the pajamas she picked out for him; he climbed down off the counter to get a better look at them.
"Do I have to wear that?" He asked in a confused tone. Regina bent down and picked him up in her arms.
"Yes you have to wear it."
She took him upstairs and into Henry's bedroom, taking off his Enchanted Forest clothes and fitting on him his new red pajamas.
"They're a little big but... You'll just have to grow a little bit."
Roland glanced over at his old clothes as Regina bundled them up and stowed them in the highest shelf of the closet.
"I have to wear new clothes here?" He asked, with a hint of sadness, "I don't want to wear this."
Regina sighed. "Remember what I said about being brave? This is one of those things we have to be brave on."
She was so tired- and if she was, surely a four year old would be exhausted.
"Can I sleep with you?" Roland said, a yawn stretching over his mouth. Regina but her lip. There was something she had to do.
"No, I think you should spend the night with Henry tonight... I need some time to myself."
And she wasn't lying. Roland's face fell slightly, but he nodded anyways. She tucked him in on the right side of Henry's bed, hoping the older boy didn't mind sharing with him- he was asleep before Regina flipped the light switch.
Then, she traveled back down the staircase and began sorting through her groceries, putting away the food items and sorting through Roland's new clothes. She made Henry take a shower before calling it a night. After that, there was only one thing left to do. She grabbed the lonely pregnancy test from the table and took it with her back upstairs, reading the directions for a moment before opening it up and heading into the bathroom.
She was tired of being afraid of answers; she needed to know how life for her and her boys would be like for who knew how long. While she waited for it to set properly, Regina picked out some pajamas to wear and brushed her teeth.
Everything felt uncomfortably normal, almost as if nothing had changed at all. But as soon as she saw what the test revealed, she knew that wasn't true- two pink stripes, that meant she was pregnant.
Regina stared down at it for what seemed like forever, not really knowing what to do. Taking it with her over to her bed, she carefully set it down on her night table before curling up under the covers and instantly falling into a deep sleep.