We Can Love Again

Rise Then Fall

The concept of school was slowly turning into a normal routine for her two boys. To everyone's astonishment, Roland was actually letting himself have fun at preschool. He came home practically talking Regina's ear off about all the things they did that day. Henry had adjusted to live as a sixth grader; she assumed he was enjoying himself, for he hadn't told her otherwise. He did come home with countless pages of homework to do though. Regina tried helping him as best she could, but the curriculum he was getting into was far beyond her knowledge. She would never tell anyone this of course, but Regina was technically never in school- her mother refused to send her to a public education setting. So she never actually learned any mathematics or science. Her father had taught her how to read, that was about it. When she came to Storybrooke, Regina had to teach herself basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication so she could file taxes and keep track with her budget. She supposed that deemed her a royal airhead.

"You think just because it's the weekend, you can sit around and do nothing?"

Regina asked Henry, who was placed directly in front of the television, glued to another one of his video games. The thing was, Will wasn't there with him.

"It's my first day off mom," he replied, tactically stuffing Cheetos in his mouth whenever possible, "give me a break!"

She responded by rolling her eyes. "Well I'm going to get a few things from the store, so keep an eye on Roland," she instructed, fetching her purse, "and if Will comes back while I'm gone, don't let him get into my peanut butter."

Henry noted how serious she sounded about the peanut butter.

"Emma won't respond to my texts about dinner either... I have no idea why, she's always glued to her phone." Regina muttered, mostly to herself as she unlocked the door and stepped outside. It was a nice day, though cold was already beginning to slip its way into the breeze and the lapping shores of the ocean. Regina hated the season of fall most of all; it was the time where everything slowly began to die.

The streets were still alive with people, though, smiling to one another as they went about their day. These people were no longer peasants, or villagers- they were colleagues, acquaintances, and friends.

The brunette had even started listening to the radio, after Ruby had left it running one too many times. She realized that she quite enjoyed living what one would call a normal life.

But then she would laugh to herself.

The man she loved was trapped in another realm, and she had no idea when his return would be. Regina gripped the steering wheel tighter, as if releasing some of her bitterness towards the subject.

The cycle looped on and on.

She was almost halfway towards the grocery store when she spotted Emma walking on the other side of the street. Regina debated talking to her then about the plans she had neglected, and soon came to the decision that it would be easier to just get it over with now. Honking her horn to get the blonde's attention, Regina was surprised to see her jump a little. It was very uncharacteristic, though subtle. She parked alongside the sidewalk and got out of her car.

"You never answered me about tomorrow's plans!" Regina told her, her usual accusation voice filled with a slight tease, all the harshness taken out of its tone.

Emma stuck her hands in her back pockets. That's when she noticed that her hair was curled like the way she used to do it, tight, bouncy ringlets- something she wasn't used to seeing.

"Sorry, got... Distracted." She replied flatly, scowling at her own thoughts.

"Well, I know this weekend is supposed to be yours for taking care of Henry, but I thought maybe we could switch-"

"Mary Margret had to go to the hospital last night." Emma cut her off, finally looking her in the eye. "She... She started bleeding. Whale said there wasn't a high chance the baby would survive. But the baby was already dead."

Regina wasn't sure she had heard her right. Her mouth hung open slightly, mortified, she could hear the frantic beating of her heart as she thought about her stepdaughter, her sins as innocent as freshly fallen snow. She pictured her small, young face with bright eyes and a radiant smile- Snow White didn't deserve all the things she had done to hurt her. There was no way she deserved to have her baby die.

She finally gave up with her sporadic thoughts. "How are you feeling about all this?" Her voice sounded frail and exposed.

The blonde shrugged her shoulders pathetically, searching for the right words. "It would have been odd having a little brother or sister anyways," she said, trying to manage her usual Emma Swan attitude, "but she isn't doing well. We can't even get her to answer questions. She put all of her love into that baby- they turned the guest room into a nursery, painted the walls and everything."

Emma let out a small laugh to keep herself from completely loosing it. "They were both positive it was going to be a boy."

A tear finally escaped, sliding down the side of her face. Regina didn't even try to get rid of it. She remembered Snow's excitement as she texted her, not even a week ago.

Guess what? David and I found the perfect name!

Don't you think it's a tad early for that?

No way! It's the perfect name.

Okay then, what is it?

Maxwell Thomas Charming.

Emma was right; she had put all her love into that baby.

"Is she out of the hospital?"

Her heart had sunken deep down inside of her; Regina was scared she would never get it back.

"Yes, but like I said- she's like a zombie, she doesn't do anything except sit and stare at something that isn't really there. David and I tried covering up all the stuff in the nursery, but none of it seems to be helping." She raised her eyebrows musingly. "I even fixed my hair this morning, that's how awkward it is over there right now."

Regina had a million questions swirling around her head. She felt as if she were in a trance, a horrible, horrible trance. Nothing this horrible could possibly happen to her perfect Snow White.

"Can... Can I go see her?" She asked, already determined to get back in her car and drive to her apartment.

Emma furrowed her brow in tormented thought. "I don't think that's the best idea, Regina. At least not now."

"But I have to!" She always felt angry when people wouldn't let her have her way. "She's my stepdaughter."

"Fine," the blonde surrendered a twinge of irritability to her voice, "have at it. She won't want to see you though."

How hopeful Miss Swan always was.

"Why are you in such a hurry? Have somewhere you have to be?"

Regina knew she was bringing up her defensive side.

"I was just going over to Killian's place to sort out a few things. Neal can't come and move things out until five, so we'll do what we can- would you want any of the baby things?" Emma presented the question timidly.

The mere thought made the former queen sick to her stomach.

"No. Get rid of it." She replied curtly, starting back for her Mercedes.

Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion, like someone had deliberately poured molasses over the town, just so they could sit back and watch them all struggle. Regina used the backs of her hands to try and cover up the fact that she had been crying.

Her car started with a reluctant hum, and soon she was off down the street, towards the one place she dreaded most of all.

Snow White's baby was dead.

The apartment was far more ghostly than she had expected it to be. Her body almost cringed when she advanced further and further towards the front door- it was open, exposing its mourning to the world.

Regina cautiously stepped inside, peering around for any sign of David or Snow. Funny, she had been inside the small, causal apartment many times before, yet this time she felt like it was all strange to her.

Snow had only showed her the nursery once, and that was when she requested more blue paint- an urgent notice. Regina remembered how happy she looked dressed in one of her husband's old shirts and speckled with paint. Now the room seemed almost like a graveyard.

Something crunched under her weight as she stepped into the room, making her tilt her head downward, past her little baby bump- glass. The sound caused Charming to quickly come up behind her.

"What are you doing here?" He asked, his voice bitter and harsh. It made Regina timid.

"I'm sorry, I just came to see her."Circles of red rimmed his stark blue eyes. David looked washed out and defeated; he didn't even try arguing her like his daughter had.

"Just don't make her upset... Please, I'm begging you."

She nodded, though surely Snow was already upset.

"She's in the bedroom."

The woman nodded a quick goodbye and nervously glanced over his shoulder towards the darkened room. It didn't seem to withhold any life inside of it.

David left her alone in the nursery, heading for the sunlight and the outside world.

That left only Regina Mills and the dark room.

Holding her head high as she went, Regina shoved her terror aside and opened the door to the bedroom, flipping on the light switch as she did.

Snow was lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling with not a hint of emotion flickering behind her soft brown eyes. White, crumpled sheets were sloppily tucked underneath the bed; it was obvious they were covered with blood.

"Get out," her stepdaughter muttered, somehow knowing it was Regina who had disturbed the silence. She didn't move from her position as she spoke.

The other woman took a deep breath. This was the time to let go, to be brave. Her stepdaughter needed her.

"Snow, I need to be here with you. You shouldn't be alone."

"I don't need anybody," she responded, her voice hoarse and barely audible. "And I don't need your sympathy."

Regina slowly lowered herself onto the bed. "It's not sympathy, this is what family members do for one another."

Her eyes finally met with hers as she struggled to rise herself into a sitting position.

"Family?" She spoke the word as if it hurt to speak it. "You want to talk to me about family right now?"

So she was already upset. Fantastic.

"Look, I'm sorry-"

"You abandoned me Regina! When my mother died, I needed you and you weren't there! I- I actually thought we could be friends. But that was a horrible mistake."In a slightly desperate notion, Regina reached forward and grabbed her hand.

"Please Snow, I just want to help you!"

But she shoved her affection away, and glared towards her, her eyes filling with more hot, bitter tears.

"You don't even deserve that baby!" Her voice cracked like a whip as she shouted the words in her direction.

A painful silence filled the space between them. Regina dropped her eyes, trying with difficulty to keep her emotions deep inside of her.

Snow instantly regretted the words she had said; it was becoming a regular routine between the both of them. She cringed as she waited for her to unleash her fury. Excruciatingly long seconds passed by, yet nothing was said.

"You're right, I don't." Regina spoke, lifting her head up to meet her eyes. "I don't deserve a lot of things; I don't even deserve to be happy. Not after everything I've done."Snow White studied her stepmother with slight astonishment. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"I know I messed up with you, and there's nothing that can change that. I'm not asking for your forgiveness; I need to do this for myself. Somehow I found two boys I would do anything for- I can't let them down, no matter how hard things are. Whether any of us likes it or not, you're still my daughter. And I'm not about to let you down, Snow."

She hated how Regina made her feel. She hated that woman; that was all she could ever think about, her death, throughout her life on the run. Yet she still wished for her love- craved for it at times.

These were things she hadn't told anyone before. Things she had kept secret for years upon years. "I've always been jealous of you, you know. You had everything I've always wanted- your mother loved you, you had a Prince Charming. You were happy. I thought by destroying that happiness, I could make you as miserable as I was... But it never worked. Your Prince woke you up from your curse, you had a family, you were still happy." Tears pricked her eyes, making her voice falter.

"For a girl who had nothing, a happy life really sounded perfect. And... you have that."

"My baby is dead!" Snow practically shouted towards her, "dead Regina, dead! That is not a perfect life!"

Her words struck her as if it were true physical pain. She was right, none of them were getting their happy endings. It was foolish to think otherwise, reality was a perpetual darkness Regina just couldn't seem to escape from. But it still didn't seem right to give into the sadness and anger, no matter how hard it was. She had tried one too many times to be happy, yet it seemed she had to once again.

"Snow?" She asked, gently earning her attention again. "When this baby comes, I want you to be a part of his or her life. I want my baby to grow up learning how to be just like you."

Blinking her tears away, Snow stared back at her with evident surprise- she wasn't sure if she had heard her correctly.

"Would you want that?"

For the first time in days, Snow let out a small smile. The thought of being so close to her baby made some of her weight disappear from her shoulders.

"I would like that very much," Snow said, "thank you."

Relieved, Regina smiled back at her, leaning forward to give her a light hug.

Still, Regina knew things were slowly starting to fall apart.

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