Snow walked over to Regina in a daze. In a shaking voice she said, “You’re awake.”
Regina rolled her eyes. “Obviously,” her voice was heavy with sarcasm.
“Do you feel ok?” Snow asked.
“I’m fine,” Regina said as she took in her surroundings. Her eyes landed on the window where she could see that the season had gone from spring to summer while she was sleeping.
“Good” Snow said, “Good.” She was clearly at a loss for what to say.
“I am wondering,” Regina drawled “Why I'm awake? Are you having trouble planning the execution celebration? Or maybe,” Regina continued without pause, “You just don't have the stomach for it. Did you decide it would be easier to just let me sleep. Surely I raised you with more backbone then that.”
Snow took a deep breath. “There is not going to be an execution.” Regina raised her eyebrow in question. Snow grabbed the scroll from Regina’s desk and handed it to her.
Regina read the scroll and looked up at Snow White with wide eyes. She looked down and read it again. “Dowager queen she croaked. I am to be know as the dowager queen?” Snow nodded. Regina growled, “Heart, bottom drawer, crush it!”
Snow shook her head while fighting the ghost of a smile. “No, we are starting over. It may be difficult and it definitely isn't perfect, but what family is?”
Regain could sense Snow’s sincerity but scoffed none the less. "No, I’ve been unwanted and on the outside of my supposed family too many times. I’m done Snow. If you aren't going to kill me, let me go. I don't need a family.”
“Regina you are not unwanted. We aren't the only family with obstacles. I want this for us. It is how it should have been.”
“Snow White bringing me in to her family once again.” Regina’s smile was saccharine and her voice caustic. “It worked out so well the last time. So forgive me if I decline.”
“But Regina Henry-“
Regina jumped up from the chase in agitation and spoke sharply. “Do not mention him to me.”
“But Regina he-“
“I said stop!”
“They have been living here,” Snow blurted out. “Henry and Emma didn't want you to be alone.”
“Well, since he couldn't be bothered while I was awake I am sure it worked out fine. A sleeping evil queen is not as hard to tolerate. Not a bad exchange to have his room back.” Regina looked around her office and continued. “It makes sense really, the victorious prince and princess take the vanquished queen’s castle.”
“Please Regina it isn't like that. He doesn't feel that way. He-”
“Bull shit!” Snow jumped at the unusual profanity. “I saw his face as you condemned me in the court house. He was glowing.”
Snow looked at Regina her eyes were begging the older woman to understand. “He didn’t know. He-”
“Oh please how could he not. The ways of our world are clear in that damn book. You know the one he had practically memorized. Tell them to enjoy the spoils of their victory, this place is theirs. I don't want it.”
Snow walked over to Regina’s desk and pulled out the box with Regina’s heart. “Maybe it would be better if you put this back where it belongs.”
Regina responded with a hollow laugh. “No thank you dear. That thing has caused more trouble then it was ever worth. Do with it what you will.” She looked at the box thoughtfully. “Maybe you could fill your coffers by auctioning off the chance to crush it. I am sure there would be many takers.”
“How can you think that?” Snow’s voice was filled with hurt and anger. “God, I still have his blood on my hands.” She looked over at the dead Rumplestilskin. “You think I did that so I can have you killed later?”
Regina looked at the blood splattered on Snow’s hands and arms. She shook her head and waved her hand. Her study, stepdaughter and even the dead man on the floor were cleansed. A cloth appeared and covered Rummplestilskin’s body. “Well, isn't this like old times? Step-mother cleaning up after Snow White yet again.”
Snow spoke quietly hoping to calm the older woman with a change of subject. "Rumplestilskin said that the shield that protected me was impressive. He said that it wouldn't have worked if you didn't care for me.”
“It kept you safe,” was Regina’s terse reply. “I must say the past 28 years were rather peaceful. I was not constantly being alerted of your latest predicament.”
Snow looked surprised. “The spell alerts you when I am in danger?”
“Yes,” Regina replied dryly. “Clearly a design flaw on my part.”
“Rumplestilsking trying to kill you did not wake you.” The wonder in Snow’s voice was clear.
Regina looked weary, not liking where this conversation was leading. “True,” she answered.
“The protection spell woke you. You woke because I was in danger.”
“Yes, yes, it’s nothing new.” Regina sail airily. “Henry let me sleep though the night more often then you did and he had colic!”
“Emma told me that you had loved me as a child. She assured me your care wasn't an act.” Snow look at her step-mother with watery eyes. “Thank you, thank you for saving me from an awful marriage. Thank you for making sure I got the true loved that you were denied.”
“What?” Regina asked slowly. “When did your daughter become an expert on my life and feelings?”
Snow stuttered realizing that this was a topic fraught with peril. “I…well…she…”
“Out with it Snow, what is it you don't want to tell me.”
“Emmahasyourmemmories” She said very fast while cringing.
“I’m sorry dear,” Regina said menacingly. “It sounds like you said that your daughter has accessed my memories.”
“And she shared them with you?”
“She did,” Snow whispered.
“Who else?” Regina snarled.
Snow took a step back as she answered, “The trial.”
There were sparks flying from Regina’s body as she responded. “Is there no end, no end, Snow White, to the humiliation I will suffer at the hands of your family? You, your father, your daughter and your grandson, four generations each finding their own way to make sure that the misery gifted me by my mother is eternal.”
The angry sorceress closed her eyes and controlled her magic. She stepped in to Snow Whites space and said, “Show me.” Even in her anger Regina would not use magic on the other woman without permission. When Snow nodded Regina reached out putting her hands to her temple. The court room scene played out in her mind. She saw Emma’s passionate defense of her. Regina believed what she saw on Emma’s face, was pity as she shared Regina’s darkest secrets with the public. Regina felt a shame so great that it almost drove her too her knees.
She opened her eyes but turned away. She couldn't look at Snow who now knew of a past filled with indignities. “You should have told her to shut up and sit down! You are a queen damn it, you should have controlled her!” Regina started to pace, still unable to look at Snow. “I told you that I agreed to your terms. I didn't fight you. You didn't need that travesty of a hearing.” Regina turned angrily toward Snow. “She made me look like a spineless victim!”
“I know, its just that Henry-“
Regina eyes became purple with rage. “Henry, Henry knows?”
Snow tried to speak but Regina silenced her with a wave of her hand. Her voice was locked by magic.
“I always knew the curse would break eventually. I had no doubt the peasants would come with their pitchforks and shovels.” Her magic stopped Snow from interrupting though her mouth was moving silently. “I will not be pitied and tolerated by you and your subjects. I'm tired Snow, if you care for me at all let me be. Let me find some peace” She took a deep breath. “My entire life is blackened by pain inflicted by those who should have cared for me.” Her voice became sarcastic, “In spite of your daughter’s eloquent defense of me, I'll always be a pariah. You know it as well as I do”
Snow tried to speak again. She held out her hands entreating Regina to allow her to speak. She was ignored as the former queen continued.
“I created a place for me to go. It has all that I need, all that I want. Just let me go. Henry and Emma can have this place, I have no need of it.”
Snow nodded in agreement, her cheeks were wet with tears. She once again picked up the box with Regina’s heart and held it out to her. Regina gave it a disdainful look but took it none the less. Snow felt the magic release her vocal cords.
“How can I reach you?” she asked.
“I don’t want you to.”
“What if something goes wrong, what if we need you?”
Regina looked pointedly at the covered body of the late Rumplestilskin. “I’ll know.”
“And if you are hurt, if you need help?”
Again Regina nodded towards the corpse. “You’ll know.” With that Regina disappeared in a cloud of purple smoke.
Snow stared at Rumplestilskin realizing today’s compelling desire for an unplanned visit to her sleeping step-mother was no coincidence.
Shortly after Regina’s departure Emma and Henry arrived home. Upon seeing a covered body on the floor and an empty chase they both began to shake.
“It’s ok,” Snow said quickly. “It’s not her.”
“Who is it?” Emma asked.
“Where’s my mom?” Henry asked at the same time.
They both stood slack jawed as Snow imparted the details of her afternoon.
“Where is she?” Henry asked.
“This has been a tumultuous time for her. She wants to be alone for a while to think and heal. She said she has a safe place to go.”
“You mean she doesn't want to see me!” Henry shouted.” He looked at Emma shooting darts at her with his eyes. “You said she doesn't hate me!”
“Henry,” Snow said sharply. Her annoyance clear in her voice. “It isn't all about you. You have been an important part of her life for eleven years. But there are fifty-two years previous and many other people who have affected her.”
Henry looked shocked by the idea that he was not the center of Regina’s crisis. It never occurred to him that he wasn't her sole focus.
“She was my mother for eleven years as well. I loved her and cared for her just as you do. And I hurt her just like you did.” Snow took a deep breath. “She lied down on that chase thinking I was going to kill her.”
Emma looked ready to jump in and protect Henry from Snow’s bluntness. But Snow held up her hand and continued. “None of this is the most important thing.” She cupped her grandson’s check in her hand. “We have to agree that she is a complex woman with whom we each have a unique and complicated relationship. We can’t help her if we are too busy competing to see who was the most important person in her life.”
Henry nodded, “OK, so can we go find her?”
“Not yet,” Snow answered. “She asked to be left alone and besides I don't even know where to begin to look.”
Henry scrunched up his face in thought. He snapped his fingers and said excitedly, “Her vault, where her father is buried. I bet she has a secret room under it!” He was excited by his epiphany. “Let’s go!”
Emma stopped her son by grabbing him by the shoulders. She turned him to her and put her face in front of his practically nose to nose. “What part of she needs time are you not getting?” She arched her eyebrow and waited.
“I just want to make sure she is ok.” Henry hung his head realizing he was not thinking of anyone but himself and his desire to see his mother.
“She is,” Snow said. “I’ll know if she needs us.” Snow’s face and voice told them to save any questions on that for later. The woman looked completely wrung out.
“So what do we do now?” Emma asked.
Snow shrugged, "You tell me, you're the sherif.” Snow waved her hand towards the body on the floor. “I think you need to deal with the dead evil wizard in your study!”