After leaving Snow White, Regina appeared in the hidden room under her family burial vault. Knowing that the curse would someday break Regina was prepared for the need to hide. What she hadn’t known was that there would be magic to assist her. From a secret passage hidden in her secret room Regina accessed a long tunnel leading to her bolt hole. She had walked the several mile passage many times over the years to make sure her apartment would be well stocked. She flushed as she thought of the games and toys she had provided for Henry and mocked herself for her foolish belief he would be with her. With magic she could have easily transported herself, but after weeks of stillness the walk seemed like a good idea. She really had nothing else to do anyway.
At the end of the passage Regina entered her apartment. It was a two bedroom home built within one of the small mountains that riddle the coast of Maine. The lack of windows was a flaw in an otherwise beautiful space. After poking around the apartment to make sure she had all she needed Regina stepped outside. The back entrance was carefully hidden at the base of the mountain. Her door opened to a field of wild blueberries that abutted a small apple orchard. After taking a moment to enjoy the lovely summer view Regina went back inside to begin her solitary life.
Over the next several months the government of Storybrooke was in flux. A majority of the townsfolk were happy to acknowledge Snow and David as king and queen. The royal couple felt differently. Aware that at some point Storybooke might become part of the greater society they felt the simple answer was probably not the best one. For the time being Snow decided that the people needed tradition to feel safe. It was agreed that talk of a change in government would be put off for one year. So for now Snow White was again in charge of her kingdom.
David was continuously reaching out to the community. He felt it was important to keep his finger on the pulse of the town. Today he visited the orphanage. With the children actually growing the needs and costs of the home changed dramatically. When he arrived he was surprised to see Elaine, who was the late Queen Eva’s lady in waiting and the matron of the orphanage, throwing away what looked to be delectable treats. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Those look good.”
Elaine curtsied and replied. “Two days each week when I come in to the kitchen I find the counter loaded with desserts.”
“Do you always throw them away.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Her voice lowered to a whisper. “I never hear or see anyone deliver them. I think they arrive by magic. I think they are from her.”
“Who,” David asked guilelessly.
Elaine stuttered, “The ev…Ra…You know, her.”
David locked eyes with the nervous woman. “Are you referring to The Dowager Queen Regina?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
David feigned ignorance to the possible reason for her concerns. “Henry always said she was a good cook. Do they taste bad?”
“I don’t know,” she said with a quiver in her voice.
“These look like wonderful treats for our children. Why exactly are you throwing them away?” David knew in his heart that Regina would not hurt the children.
“Your Majesty they are from her, we don't know what could be in them!”
David grabbed a cookie from the plate in Elaine’s hand. He took a big bite and closed his eyes in pleasure. “I would say milk, sugar and eggs if I had to guess.”
Elaine looked at him wide eyed. She was clearly expecting him to show immediate signs of enchantment or poison.
“I know the kids will love these,” he said firmly. “I am sure they will enjoy these treats and any others that the dowager queen chooses to send.”
“Yes, sir,” she said as David grabbed a couple more cookies and moved on.
David wasn't sure when he began to feel protective and trusting of Regina. Even before Emma had dropped her bombshells in the court house David recognized Mayor Mills as a good, albeit bitchy, person. After Emma’s defense he saw the queen differently. He knew Regina had spent seventeen years of hell under Cora, her cruel power hungry mother. And then she had ten years with an abusive husband. In her life she only had only three friends. Her mother murdered the boy who was her first romance and the others were her royal step-daughter and The Dark One. In spike of the pain she had caused David decided he would never be the instrument of more pain for her. She had paid for her crimes well in advance.
“I have news of Regina,” David announced as his family sat down for dinner.
Henry jumped to his feet, knocking over his chair in his excitement. “Did you see her? Is she ok? Can we visit her?” It was September, three months after his mother had awakened and left. He had not spoken to her since before the curse was broken a month before that.
“Slow down Henry,” David said as he righted the boys chair. “I didn't see her. I just discovered that someone is sending baked goods to the orphanage twice a week.” He patted his grandson on the shoulder and nudged him back towards his seat. “I can’t imagine anyone else would be able to magic cakes and pies to their kitchen over night.”
“Oh,” Henry said while his eyes filled with tears. “I thought maybe she’s coming home.”
Snow reached out and took his hand. “Isn’t it good to know she has found something to occupy her time?” Henry nodded weakly, clearly not sure if he agreed. “I know it hurts that she isn't reaching out to us. But she is trying to be part of the community and that is a good start.” The fact that Emma had no comment did not go unnoticed by her mother. After a rather somber meal Snow suggested that the men should go amuse themselves while she and Emma cleaned up.
“You’re pretty quiet tonight,” Snow said. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Emma leaned against the counter and words seemed to tumble right out of her. “When I didn’t know about the curse and we were navigating a relationship around Henry Regina made me so angry. It was confusing because linked in to that I was so grateful that she had been the one to adopt him. She was a good mother. I couldn't understand why Henry couldn't see that. I hated it when he hurt her. I looked forward to seeing her even when I knew we were going to fight. We seemed to be becoming friends or as close as we could with all the crap there was between us.”
Emma took a big breath and continued. “When the curse broke it was even more crazy. She was the only person who didn't change.” Emma smiled ruefully. “Bitchy Mayor, Evil Queen same basic frame work. While she was my prisoner we spent all that time together. She explained about the Enchanted Forrest and what happened. She didn't apologize or anything but she helped me accept things.” She looked at her mother, “Helped me accept you.”
Snow smiled a little and said, “I’ll be sure to thank her for that if we speak again.”
Emma nodded and continued. “I've never dated a woman. It never occurred to me that I would want to. Now I realize my desire to be around her, to protect her was due to more then a budding friendship.” After another deep breath she continued. “I didn't know what I was going to say to her that night. I didn't know how I could provide comfort to her, but I knew I had to be there. I thought about what my life would be like with her gone and it all came crashing in on me. I knew I loved her and she was going to die.”
Emma’s voice began to go flat as she continued to speak. Her face became devoid of emotion. “So there we go, I figured it out and she left. I guess it’s nice I didn't have to face her rejection. She probably would have laughed in my face.”
“You don't know that!” Snow responded.
“If she felt anything for me, anything at all she would have waited to say goodbye.”
“Maybe she isn't interested in women so it wouldn't have occurred to her.”
Emma chuckled. “She is, She definitely is.”
“Really,” Snow sounded a little shocked. “I didn't know that, how do you know?”
“Umm” Emma started to blush. “I kinda, well… you know…”
The penny dropped, “Her memories?” Snow asked. “Emma’s blush turned a deep red.
“No more,” Snow’s hand went up. “There are things you just don't want to visualize about your step-mother!”
“I know,” Emma said with a little grin forming on her face. “Believe me I know.” She was thinking back to chats with her best friend Mary Margaret, before she knew she was Snow White. “Does a date with Dr Whale ring any bells for you?”
“Uhg,” Snow put her hand to her head and groaned.
Emma’s smile faded as she continued. “Any way it’s not like she hates me or is mad at me. She just didn't care enough to consider me.” Emma shrugged trying to be nonchalant. “I don't know why it would surprise me, no one else ever has. It’s my life story why should I expect a different ending.”
Pain flashed across Snow White’s face. “No, Emma-“
Emma wouldn't stop for the interruption. “I spent my life in hell. I was the child who was thrown on the side of the road like trash. I continued to be unwanted, never enough, never considered.” Snow looked lost as Emma continued. “I understand you didn't know what my life would be like. I know you wanted better for me, but it’s what I got. Knowing what I know now is nice, but it doesn't fix it. It doesn't change the fact that you abandoned me. It doesn't take away the fucking pain I lived through when you sent me, an infant, off to face the world alone.”
Emma closed her moth sharply. Her heart was pounding in her ears. She tried not to panic. Stupid she thought to herself. She heard the mantras from her childhood running through her head. Be good, maybe you can stay. Don't complain or they will send you away. She was franticly searching for things to say to fix this. “Really I shouldn't complain.” Her voice was cheerful. “You know it made me strong and I got Henry out of it. So I guess its all good right.” She smiled at Snow. “Water under the bridge, you know.” She turned to put the condiments in the fridge.
Snow grabbed her daughter by the shoulders and spun her around. “No, You don't get to do this!”
Emma felt her chest turn to ice. Before Snow could continue Emma started to shake. “I’m sorry. I really am. I didn't mean it, really I didn’t.”
“You did mean it,” Snow said.
Emma started to whimper. The last few months had been a roller coaster ride, and not the good kind. She had nothing left to keep her strong. “Please, I’ll be good. I won’t complain, I promise.” Her whimpers turned in to sobs as she relived the many rejections that made up her life. She sunk to the kitchen floor with her arms around her legs and her face in her knees. She wondered if she had to leave right then or if she could wait until morning.
Snow knelt down next to her daughter and began to rub her back. “You can’t do this to yourself. You have to stop pulling back and pretending you are ok when you aren’t.” Snow put her arms around Emma and continued. “It wont get better unless you confront it, we confront it. You were hurt, hurt so bad by our actions. How can you heal if you are afraid to confront the people who caused it?” She squeezed Emma tight, relieved that her sobs were subsiding. “You need to tell us probably more then once. I promise no matter how angry you get and no matter how much it hurts us to hear it we will never send you away.”
“But you did once,” Emma whispered in a quiet voice.
“Yes,” said Snow sadly. Tears were streaming down her face. “But it wasn't because you were bad or unwanted. You were perfect. You are perfect.”
Neither woman had realized that they had an audience. David had stepped into the kitchen just moments after they had. He knelt to the floor and wrapped his arms tight around his wife and daughter. “We are an odd family, mom and dad younger then their daughter. But we are a family. The pain of our past is a dragon that we will have to slay together.” He kissed both women on the tops of their heads. “I think we will need help. Can I call Archie in the morning?” Both women nodded. “Good then dry your tears and let’s go watch a movie with my grandson.” He cupped Emma’s cheek in his hand. “We will listen to everything you need to say and we will hurt with you and for you. Just remember that we never stopped loving you and never will.”
David was surprised at the dining crowd when he stopped in to see how things were at the Storybrooke assisted living and eldercare facility. Many of the residents had the option of cooking for themselves or joining in the community meal. It seemed like today was a big day for the community meal. Miranda Ivy, former dresser of Queen Regina, greeted him with a broad smile. “Your Majesty, you're just in time for the mid-day meal. Would you like a plate.” David looked at the mouth watering meal but declined. He needed to meet Snow and Emma at Archie’s.
“It looks like quite a crowd.”
Miranda chuckled, “Lunch is a very popular meal on Tuesdays and Fridays.” David cocked his head in question. “We have an anonymous benefactor who delivers wonderful home cooked meals. We have a freezer full of lasagna, chicken casseroles and other gourmet offerings.”
“Anonymous?” He asked smiling.
“Appears like magic in the night.” She replied with a grin.
“It’s good.” He said.
“It is,” she replied. Both knew they were talking about more then the food.
Emma and her parents had been seeing Archie two times a week for the past few months. After every session each of them felt worn out. But it was clearly worth the effort. Emma’s smile was becoming more genuine and spontaneous. She was no longer waiting for rejection at every turn. Today she was confidant enough to ask the hardest question of all. “Are you sorry that you did it. Knowing what you know are you sorry you put me in that wardrobe?”
Snow shot David a look that clearly said this one is mine. “Of course I am the curse turned out to be much less then expected. If you want to know if I think it was worth what you suffered then the answer is no. I am very sorry you suffered when it could have been avoided. But I don't think that’s what you really want to know.” Snow was looking regal and speaking formally. It was clear Queen Snow not Mama Snow was responding. “I think you want to know if I would do it again.” Emma nodded.
“To understand my answer you need to understand who you are. You are Princess Emma, first in line to the thrown of the Kingdom of the Enchanted Forrest.” Emma rolled her eyes as she always did when her title was mentioned.
“Look at me,” Snow said firmly. “I am a queen and you are my daughter, a princess. It hurts me when you scoff at that truth.” Emma looked chastised. It was the first time anything she had done or said was addressed in session.
“Being part of the royal family is more then living in a castle and directing battles. Being a monarch means that you are the caretaker of the kingdom. You have many privileges but they are secondary to your obligation to always put your people first. A queen doesn't get to pick and choose when her obligation is to the kingdom, it is always to the kingdom. From the time I was born I was taught this lesson.” Snow paused for a moment to let that sink in.
“You have seen my world through Regina’s eyes. She was the child of minor royalty. Her mother did not raise her to inherit a kingdom and care for it as I was taught. She was raised to marry a king to steal power and glorify her mother.”
Emma looked puzzled an interrupted, “But Regina raised you.”
Snow White smiled. “A princess knows her place long before her seventh birthday. These things I learned from my birthmother Queen Eva. She had also been raised a princess.” Snow White stood up and began to pace while she talked. She knew her daughter would not like what she had to say, but she wasn't going to lie.
“What Regina did showed amazing loyalty and love for me. Even so, had she asked me, had I known the reason for her actions, I would have stayed her hand.” She stopped and made eye contact with Emma so there would be no misunderstandings, “It was my duty to marry for the good of the realm. I would not have fought against the marriage my father had arranged.” Snow looked down at her hands and then back up. “I won’t pretend that I would have liked it. I’m so lucky to have my true love and a beautiful daughter. But my happiness came at great cost to the people who are in my care.”
Snows voice started to shake. “So knowing what I know I would still have stayed her hand, anything else would be a betrayal of my duty." She looked at her husband worried what she might see. Worried he would be hurt or angered by her declaration. What she saw was understanding. He wasn't raised a prince but he knew the rules by which Snow was raised.
“Emma as a member of the royal family you would have been raised the same as I was. As much as I hate to say it I will be honest. If the only way to save the kingdom was to put a princess or prince of any age through a portal it would be done. That’s how it worked in my world. It would not be done lightly or without regret but it would be done. I hate that you spent your life the way you did. I hate that I had to make that decision. My only solace was knowing you would live to come back in your 28th year.”
Emma studied Snow’s face as she absorbed the information. “So you would have done it to any kid of yours?” Snow nodded. “You weren't just throwing me away, you really thought you had to do it?” Snow nodded again. “That’s really fucked up, you know.” Snow closed her eyes and responded.
“I guess that’s one way to put it.”
Emma continued thoughtfully. “There are about 9000 people in Storybooke. I guess thats a lot of people being hurt if the curse was worse then it was.” Snow nodded.
“It was a different world with different rules. I forget that what I view as fairy tales you view as history. And if you really read the book I guess putting a baby in a portal is parr for the course.” She stood and continued. “I don’t like what you did. I think I will be angry for a long time, but I forgive you. I love you and I forgive you.” She took a deep breath. “Even so there is something I want to make perfectly clear. I wasn't raised as a princess and I live by the rules of this land. If anyone, even you, tries to put my little prince through a portal it will be the last thing they do.” Snow gave her a watery smile and a nod as Emma stepped towards her.
“Understood,” the queen responded and her daughter pulled her in to a hug.