Emma step in front of the door as the group walked up the path to Regina’s home. “Guy’s Regina isn’t going to be able to talk to you.”
“Why not?” Snow asked. “Emma we are here to make peace. I promise we will not be unkind.” Snow spoke gently as she knew that Emma was conflicted by her feelings for the dowager queen.
“Well, it’s not like that. She is under a sleeping curse.”
Snow did a double take. “Oh holy hell!” she said rolling her eyes. “What is it with this family! It’s like a sleeping curse is the price of admission!” Snow White took a deep breath and moved past Emma to the door. “Well, maybe a kiss from Henry will wake her up.”
Henry smiled at his grandmother but then jumped when Emma said, “No.” She looked at Henry and in an almost frantic voice said. “Do not kiss her!”
“Why?" Henry asked cocking his head in question. “Don’t you want her to wake up?”
“Of course I do kid.” She patted him on the shoulder. “She left a note for your grama. Let’s see what it says before we do anything, ok?”
Henry nodded. Emma put her finger under his chin so they were staring directly in to each others eyes. “Do not try to wake your mom or even touch her until I say so.” Henry looked confused but nodded again.
The foursome went in to the study and stood around the sleeping queen. “Oh Regina” Snow said softy. She took the letter from Regina’s desk and opened it. It only took a moment to read. She handed it to Emma and closed her eyes in sadness.
In the bottom drawer of my desk you will find my heart, crush it.
David put his arm around his wife as a lone tear rolled down her face. “I can her her voice.” Snow said shaking her head. “So hard, revealing nothing.” Emma handed the letter back.
“Well, you can tell she is upset. She got her initials wrong at the end.”
Snow took the letter back and traced the two Rs with her finger. “It’s not an error,” she said nostalgically. “It’s a message.” She made a sound that was between a laugh and a sob. “It’s like she is saying good by with a reminder of friendlier times.” Snow wiped the tears from her eyes as she continued. “I wonder if she thought I would notice, or even care.”
After a moment of uncomfortable silence Henry asked, “What does it mean?”
“Once I asked her why she never wanted to be queen. I realize now that her answer was flippant but at the time it seemed to make sense.” She turned in to David’s arms for a tight hug and then continued. “Regina hated to sign anything. The royal family doesn't really use a last name. For example when my father signs something he would write Leopold Rex.”
“Why Rex?” Henry’s face was scrunched up in thought.
“It means King in latin.”
“You had latin in the Enchanted Forest?”
“Yes,” Snow said. “So her answer was,” She smiled fondly at the memory. “Isn’t changing my name to Regina Regina reason enough?” The latin for queen is Regina.” Snow ran her fingers over the letters again. “As she was only a consort she rarely had to sign anything. But when she sent me a note she always signed it with RR as a joke.”
“So we can wake her up now,” Henry said happily and moved toward his mother.
“No,” Emma said sharply. Ignoring his angry glare. “What I said still goes, do not touch her.”
“It wouldn't work anyway.” Snow said. Someone with no heart is immune from true loves kiss.” She paused in thought. “Why would she do that? Why would she make it impossible to wake her?” The four stood still in silence, contemplating the answer.
David spoke up slowly. “Hope its about hope. You know the story of Pandora’s box. There are actually two endings. Some say the last thing out of the box was hope. Some say she closed the box and trapped it in. The point of either is that hope is the most powerful thing of all.”
“But David without her heart there is no hope.” Snow commented.
“Exactly, she believed no one would ever be able to wake her. If she hadn't taken her heart out there would still be a kernel of hope. She would have the knowledge every day that no one loved her. By removing all hope she doesn't have to face it. Since no one can wake her she doesn’t have to think about the fact that no one will try.”
“But I want to try! Why cant i just try?”
Once again Henry moved towards his sleeping mother. Snow raised an eyebrow in question as once again Emma stopped him. She took a deep shuddering breath and said, “Because kissing her might transfer her memories to you. If you kiss her you may see and feel most of her life.”
He locked eyes with his mother and then shrugged. “So what, I know she did bad stuff. I don't care anymore. I just want my mom back.”
“Kid, she was a married woman. Do you really want to see her private moments with your great-grandfather?” At that Henry almost jumped backwards.
“No, yuck, no way!” He shook his head in disappointment. He looked like he couldn't decide if he was going to cry or punch something. “I’m going to go blow up Bowser.” He said in a small pained voice. Emma nodded her head in agreement and he left the grownups to their discussion.
Snow looked at Emma barely able to choke out her words. “You… you…”
David stepped in, “You kissed Regina! You tried to wake her up?”
Emma blushed, gazing at the floor. She was afraid of what she would see if she looked at her parents. She braced herself for the rejection that she knew would come, that always came.
“That’s how you got her memories,” Snow commented. Emma nodded still not looking up. She felt her father’s arms come around her. He kissed the top of her forehead and held her tight. It was as if he knew what she was thinking.
“Hey, I am sorry it didn't work for you. Her life is so full of pain. Seeing it, feeling it must have been an horrific experience for someone who loves her.”
Snow put her finger under Emma’s chin just like Emma had done to Henry so many times. “In the end, before the curse, Regina did some pretty horrible stuff. Knowing what I do now I can see that she was out of her mind with loneliness and grief.” Snow took a deep breath. “She killed her father, you know. She had to sacrifice the thing she loved most to cast the curse.”
Emma shuddered, “How could she do that?”
Snow shook her head, “I don't know.”
“I think,” David said slowly, “that Regina sacrificed everything for her child’s happiness.” He looked at Emma. “Based on what you told us Regina’s life went to hell because she tried to protect Snow, a child with no actual relationship to her. No matter how hard it got she never wavered from that.” He shook his head and smiled. “As you mentioned in court her plans were ill thought out and they ultimately failed, but she tried.”
David walked over and looked at the sleeping queen. “Her father, who she loved, never lifted a finger to protect her. He never tried anything to shelter her from her mother and later King Leopold. Loving him so much and knowing he wouldn't do for her what she would do for Snow must have made Regina feel worthless.”
Snow turned Emma’s face back to hers. “When she wakes, if she is who you want I will not stand in your way.” She responded to Emma’s tremulous smile with one of her own. “I don't know if she is capable of being what you want. But you won't loose me over this.”
Emma smiled recognizing her own words coming back to her and said, “I guess the big question is, what do we do now? Can we put her heart back?”
“We could ask Rumplestiltskin-“ David began. Emma interrupted him immediately.
“That evil bastard gets no where near her, not now, not ever!”
David put his hands up placatingly. “Ok, we’ll think of something else.”
“Since a large part of magic comes from emotion, the power of Regina’s heart must be amazing. We can’t let another magic user know where it is.” Emma said seriously.
“What about you?” Snow asked. “Did you learn enough magic from her for this?”
Emma shook her head, “Nothing that strong.” She looked at the sleeping queen not bothering to hide her emotions. “I’d be afraid that I might kill her or something.”
“I think we should let it rest for a while.” David said. “We shouldn't rush into anything.”
The three adults jumped as Henry spoke up from behind them. “I want to live here. I don't want her to be alone.”
The four moved into the kitchen and had some apple juice while discussing their options.
It was decided that even though the royal family included the sleeping dowager queen she needed protection. Henry and Emma were living at the mansion and there was usually a member of Regina’s personal guard standing watch.
Many days when Emma was out Snow White would stop in to visit her step-mother. Even though she knew Regina couldn't hear her Snow would sit and talk to her. The young queen was conflicted about what she now knew about her past. She found that it helped to talk to Regina even though she never responded.
As Snow walked up to the mansion to visit her step-mother she smiled at the guard on duty. “All is well,” he said to her smiling in return. It only took a moment for her to know he was in error. Snow entered the study to find Rumplestilskin hovering over Regina pressing a pillow to her face.
“Oh my God, what are you doing.”
Rumplestilskin didn't even look up as he replied. “I think the answer to that is obvious dearie.” He continued to push the pillow down on the sleeping woman. “She has protected herself against magical attacks so I have to handle this the old-fashioned way.”
“Stop it, stop it right now,” Snow yelled.
Rumple chuckled. “I think not. You may decree that the peasants forgive her, but I am no subject of yours.”
It was clear to Snow that Rumplestilskin thought her no threat. He didn’t attempt to stop her as she moved towards him. The wizard was not worried enough to pay attention as the young queen grabbed a letter opener from Regina’s desk. Therefor he was caught completely off guard when Snow, who was known through out the land for her goodness and mild temperament, wrapped one arm around him from behind and with the other plunged the letter opener in to his heart.
Snow White gritted her teeth and with both hands held on to the letter opener a tightly as she could. “I have had two mothers, two wonderful women who loved me for all that I was worth. You destroyed them both.” Snow was shocked at her own strength she had no idea how she was being able to hold on against Rumplestilskin’s struggles. “You will never hurt anyone I love again!”
For his part Rumple was shocked by the attack and his inability to escape it. He could feel his magic trying to heal his wound. He could also feel other magic fighting against it. He tried a burst of burning hot energy to force his release. It had no effect on his attacker but caused him great pain. As each minute passed he felt his magic over taken and his body getting weaker.
“Let me go now,” he said, “and I will consider not killing you and all who you love.” Her arms felt like a steal band around his chest.
“I can’t" she replied.
“Rumplestilstkin growled menacingly. “If you want one person you know alive at the end of the day you will.”
“I really can't let go. I am as stuck as you are.”
Rumple closed his eyes and mentally reached out to the magic that was surrounding them. It only took a moment for him to recognize the origin. “Well, I guess it is fitting that the fairest in the land should kill the dark one.” Snow whimpered in response. "Typically when one drives a knife in an others heart that is their intention. Having second thoughts dearie?”
Snow took a calming breath. “Actually I'm not. I am just curious as to how I'm able to do this.”
“Magic dearie, your step-mother’s magic.” He paused for effect. “When we first started working together she was fascinated by protection spells. I think her mother killing her boyfriend might have caused that.” He sneered remembering how he indulged the young queen in this as a way to gain her trust. “The first one she cast was on you. It seems every time she learned a new protective spell or potion she tried them on her little girl.” He took a deep rattling breath before he continued. “I have never felt a spell with so many layers. It seems like a living thing, it adapts.”
Now that she knew what she was experiencing Snow could feel the magic. It seemed familiar, reminding her of many near misses during past wars. She smiled realizing that she was protected by the very person she thought she was fighting against. “It won't let go. It can sense that if freed you will kill me.”
Rumpelstilskin’s breath was beginning to have a rattle as he spoke. “Ah, but remember all magic comes with a price.”
“I will pay it. Ridding the world of you is worth any price.”
“Oh not you dearie, the price was paid long ago. This shield of yours grew stronger every time she suffered for you. Every slur or punch, every moment of loneliness that she endured to protect you strengthened this charm. This lattice work of spells, potions and incantations was preserved and fed by her care for you and paid for by her pain.”
With these words he began to fall dragging Snow down with him. Suddenly she felt her arms release and an invisible force pushed her away from the fading man. Seemingly from nowhere a red ball of fire flashed across the room hitting him in the chest. The letter opener began to glow with power. Rumplestilskin glanced up at his vanquisher and then his eyes glazed over and saw no more.
Snow White started when she heard a familiar sarcastic voice from the chase above her. “Don’t worry dear, the killing blow was mine. Your heart is still as pure as the driven snow.”