Regina tried to hide her smile as David approached her in the dimly lit nursing home kitchen. “Am I destined to deal with you every delivery?”
“Yup,” he replied. He smirked, “If you minded you would change your routine.”
Regina snorted. “It’s bad enough that I have to deal with you, but people seem to think this refrigerator is a mailbox.” Once word got around that Snow and David ate what Regina cooked the food was no longer looked at with suspicion. Recently when Granny was ill Ruby found quiches and baked goods on the diner counter each morning. As a result of many such kindnesses thank you notes started to come.
“Regina I know that a mother-in-law who minds her own business while cooking and doing the finances,” David nodded to the town documents on the counter, “is every man’s dream.” She rolled her eyes. “But it’s been over a year and you have seen no one but me.” He took a deep breath and continued. “Henry misses you, Snow worries about you and Emma-” Regina rose her hand to interrupt him from the taboo subject. David ignored her and carried on. “Emma needs to speak to you.”
“Mother-in-law, really?” She waved her hand between them trying to deflect the more serious part of the conversation.
David smiled. “It’s true when we were first married it might have seemed kind of silly. But for the last twenty-eight years we have stayed still while you have grown and changed.” He put his hand on her shoulder. You are truly as lovely as the day you cast the curse, but you have aged internally. Do you honestly expect me to believe you still feel like the 35 year old woman of that day?”
“No need to suck up dear. I have already promised you a birthday cake with a side of lasagna this year.” She shook her finger in the air as she moved away from him. “And a lady never speaks of her age!” She continued to unpack her goods.
“Regina, please this is important. You’re helping everyone but them and they need you.”
“Fine,” she whirled back around. “Yes, I learned a lot. I grew and I healed. I am happy enough as I am. Henry will be fine. He is with the people he loves and love him. Emma and Snow are grown-ups, they will get by.” She poked him in the chest as she continued. “You need to let me be. I am helping run and feed this town, if that’s not enough too bad. It’s what you’re getting.”
David’s voice was uncharacteristically raised as he replied, “That sucks!” Regina’s eyebrows shot up at the rudeness so rarely seen from Prince Charming. “They love you and are hurt by your rejection. I can almost understand Snow and Emma but Henry?”
“As you said I have had twenty-eight years to grow and learn. I have had twenty-eight years to learn from my past.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I have learned that love is like magic. Some people have it and some don’t. That special thing inside a person that makes them lovable is missing in me.” She broke her gaze and began to fold her bags.
“I had convinced myself that maybe this world would be different, Henry would be different. I was wrong, he cares for me I know. I also know he needs the people he loves! As you so kindly pointed out I am sixty-three years old and I need to live what I have learned. After all this time I deserve to stop hurting. Being alone is the only way for me to do that.”
“Regina please, Emma needs to talk to you. Could you at least talk to her?”
“I am sorry your daughter imagines herself in love with me. When she truly falls in love she will be grateful that I didn't pursue her. She need not settle for less then the real thing.” David started to speak but Regina continued over him. “If I had left my heart in she would have known her feelings were imaginary. When I didn't wake up she would have known she felt nothing more than attraction.”
“It’s funny,” David said thoughtfully. “You keep mentioning how Emma feels for you. To me that begs the question of your feelings for her.” Regina glared and David responded in kind. The two had a stare down until David broke. “Regina please,” he implored. “Emma is having your nightmares. Your memories are giving her nightmares!”
“What? How do you know?”
“Henry says he hears her at night calling out, begging not to be hurt.”
“And this can’t be due to her own painful past?”
“It would be quite a coincidence if you were both abused by someone name Leopold!” David said sarcastically.
“Emma has a father, mother and son who love her. It’s more then I had when I was living those nightmares. I don't see what you think I can contribute.” And with a wave of her hand she was gone.
Archie was smiling as the royal family left his office. Emma still had a lot of healing to do but she was well on her way. Her relationship with her parents was flourishing, odd but flourishing. The age difference made for a unique dynamic, yet she was able to see the wisdom that came to Snow from being raised to rule. Having had the experience of three loving parents gave Snow an example that allowed her to successfully help parent Henry. In turn It allowed Emma to see her as a mother, her mother.
Snow and Emma went to Granny’s for lunch. “How are you?” Snow asked as they sat down.
“Good,” Emma smiled brightly. Snow arched an eyebrow easily recognizing the fake smile. “Ok, sorry, I’m ok. Sleeping was tough last night.” She shook her head sadly. “She had such a rotten life and I can see it and feel it.”
Snow smiled sympathetically. “After all that you told me I can look back and see some of it. Do you want to talk about it?”
Emma shook her head. “I told many of her secrets to the entire town. I think I should keep the rest of them to myself.” Snow nodded in agreement. “She never wanted you to know those things about your father. She was so glad that you felt loved and she never wanted to taint that.” Emma put her head in her hands. “Shit, I said I wasn't going to say more and then immediately do.”
Snow let out a self deprecating chuckle and said, “A family trait.” She shrugged her shoulders, “I won't ask you anymore. But if you want to talk about the things I already know or if you have questions I am here. There is a difference between getting help and gossiping.” The women moved on to happier subjects.
“So I’ll pick you up at seven for the party?” Emma asked.
Snow smiled showing her excitement for her friend Kathryn’s engagement party. As a princess she was going to throw a big bash. There had been a little conflict between some of the other royalty that got caught up in the curse. King George was universally disliked so he pretty much kept his head down. Kathryn was happy not to have the responsibility of her rank but loved the extras and knew how to throw a party.
“Henry is excited, I told him it would be a late night and to rest up.”
Regina sat up in bed her heart pounding. She quickly turned on the light looking for danger. Finding nothing amiss she closed her eyes to try to connect with what it was that jarred her from a peaceful sleep. After a moment she growled out, “Snow White!” She rose from her bed and with a wave of her hand she was fully dressed and transporting to the source of her discomfort. On arrival she found Emma’s yellow bug teetering on the guardrail separating the road from a long drop in to Storybrooke Lake.
Regina could see Emma slumped over the steering wheel. Snow and Henry were conscious and peering out of the windows. The were clearly petrified and trying to be still so as to not rock the car. Regina reached out her hand and sent forth a magical purple rope. It gently wrapped itself around the bugs back bumper then secured itself to a nearby tree. Once she was sure the magic would hold Regina waved to Snow and Henry to get out. Emma’s door was on the lake side and couldn't be opened until the car was back on the ground.
Regina nodded at the cell phone in Henry’s hand. “Did you call David?”
“Yes,” Henry whispered. Then the three stood in awkward silence. The year apart was between them. Finally Regina could take it no more.
“Snow White I believe we have had a conversation about your penchant for getting me up in the night.”
Snow looked down at her hands and responded in a faux submissive voice. “Yes, Step-mother, I’m sorry Step-mother.” They looked at each other with tight smiles and the tension broke. Henry threw himself at Regina and began to cry.
“Can you help her?” He asked. Regina’s heart clenched. The first hug from her son in a year was an act of supplication to help his other mom. Regina ran her hand through his hair.
“I’m not a doctor Henry. Even with my magic I could do more harm then good.” She hugged him tight and was relived to hear sirens in the distance.
David jumped out of the cruiser and joined the ambulance crew pulling the car off the rail and extracting Emma. While the crew was looking at her David walked over to the others. “Get in the squad car and we’ll go to the hospital.” Snow and Henry moved towards the car. Regina stood still and watched them walk off. David turned to her, “You’re coming,” he said in a no nonsense voice.
“Every one is taken care of Shepard you don't need me.”
“Snow and Henry need to be checked out,” he responded. “I may need your help.”
Regina rolled her eyes. “Snow’s fine,” she said in a careless tone. David looked angry that she would treat his wife’s health so cavalierly. She arched an eyebrow in response, “You doubt my work?”
“Oh right, Snow has the ‘don’t mess with my step-daughter teflon coating’.” His voice held a hint of sarcasm. “Snow and I will need to stay with Emma and after Henry is checked over he will need to go home. David pointed to the cruiser. “It’s time, your son needs you.”
Regina clenched her jaw and nodded. The thought of a family ride to the hospital made her feel a little ill. “I’ll meet you there.” She waved her hand and was gone.
Regina arrived at the hospital and went right to the emergency room. As she was still Henry’s legal guardian she decided to start the paperwork right away. She could feel the stares of the staff and patients. She avoided looking at anyone. She didn't want to see the looks of fear and disdain that she was sure would be in evidence. Therefore she was practically in shock when she heard a voice address her from behind. She turned to see Grace, her former chamber maid now a nurse.
Grace was smiling at her as she said, “It’s nice to see you Your Majesty.” She and the Queen had always had a nice rapport. “I think I have you to thank for the treats that appear in the staff room, so thank you.”
Regina smiled back. “You’re welcome. I think I would prefer Regina to Majesty.” When Grace looked taken aback by the offer of familiarity Regina whispered conspiratorially, “It means queen anyway. But if you ever call me Dowager Regina...” she glared at the nurse, “no more cookies!”
Grace laughed and pointed to the door. “Looks like your family is here.”
Regina turned and watched Snow, Henry and David follow Emma’s gurney into the emergency room. Grace excused herself as they came to her side. David told her, “The EMTs think Emma has a concussion, broken ribs and a punctured lung.” Henry paled at the words. Regina put her hand on his shoulder.
“These are things that can be treated easily enough,” she said to him. “I know she'll be fine.” Henry tried to smile in agreement. “I know you feel ok but we need to get you looked at.”
“And Snow as well,” David said sharply.
“I already told you she’s fine.”
“Oh and how do you know that from over there?”
“Because,” Regina said in full queen mode. “I may have been known as bad but I’m good at what I do. I never wanted the job but you know I did it the best I could. And my best is pretty darn good. Have you ever seen so much as a scratch on her in all the time that you have known her? Ever?”
David shook his head looking contrite. As Regina began to step away to get Henry seen David stopped her and said, “You need to take Henry home and stay with him.” Regina opened her mouth and then closed it again. The two locked eyes and then Regina gave an almost imperceptible nod and went off to see to her son.
As expected Henry checked out fine. He did not however want to leave. “But I need to be here with my mom, what if something happens.”
Regina kept her expression blank. Hearing Henry refer to Emma as mom was still painful. Your grandparents will stay with her. Your grandfather wants you to go home with me. He will let us know if we need to come back.”
Henry pouted and shook his head no. “I don't want to go with you. I want to stay here with them!”
“I see,” Regina said softly. While she hadn’t expected Henry to prefer her, she was not prepared for the outright rejection. “I understand,” she said her voice tight with unshed tears. “I will call Ms Lucas. I am sure she will attend to you.” Regina pulled out her cell phone.
Henry looked confused, “Why would you...” then his eyes widened. “No Mom!” he grabbed her hand. “I want to be with you. I’m just worried about Emma.”
“Oh,” she said calmly. “I promise that your grandfather will call if there is a problem and we can come back first thing tomorrow.”
Henry looked longingly towards the rest of his family and then said, “I’ll come.”
“I don’t have a car. Do you want me to call a taxi or can I...” She waved her hand in the air. He smiled and responded by waving his hand in the air. Regina took hold of it and soon there was just a whisp of purple smoke where they had been and they arrived in the mansion foyer.
Regina looked around her former home and then at her son. “I'm going to have to leave you for just a few moments so that I can go and gather some clothes and things.”
Henry shrugged, “Ok, but you have a lot of stuff here. Can’t you just use that?”
Regina was surprised that her things hadn't been disposed of. “I guess that would be fine.” She looked up the stairs. “Where will I find my things?”
Henry squeezed her hand. “Your things are in your room. We wanted to keep it ready for when you came home.”
Regina cleared her throat. “Well, I guess we should get ready for bed then.” Regina entered her room and was shocked to find it exactly as she had left it. She quickly donned a pair of silk pajamas and a robe.
Henry hollered “Come in” when Regina knocked on his door. She entered slowly.
“This seems familiar.” She quipped as she pulled back the covers and Henry climbed into bed.
“I’m glad you came home,” Henry said as he lay down. “I've really wanted to see you.”
“I've missed you too.” Regina’s throat was sore from all of the tears she'd been holding back the last few hours.
“I’m kinda mad at you, but I still want to be with you.”
“I understand,” his mother replied. “I know I hurt you when I was trying to preserve the curse.” She ran her fingers through his hair. “I’m sorry.”
“Not about that,” Henry said sleepily. “If Emma wasn't a good savior they would have killed you.” He looked at her somberly. “You knew that didn't you.” Regina shrugged in reply. “I didn't get it, I thought you would be in trouble and then it would be ok. I thought you would get a happy ending too. When Grama said you were going to be executed I got it.” He shook his head and said in an outraged voice. “Snow White was going to kill you. I mean really, Snow White!”
“Thank you Henry. I hate to remind you but you do need to remember who I am. I cast the curse and did many other things that hurt people. In my world execution would not be considered unjust.”
“What I am mad about is that you left me. You didn't say goodbye or call me or anything. You were just gone.” Henry’s voice was sluggish as he drifted off to sleep. “You were just gone,” he said again.
Regina was hanging up the phone as Henry came down the stairs for breakfast. “That was your grandfather. Emma is awake and doing well. You can visit her after breakfast.”
Henry hugged her. “Can we go to Granny’s? We can walk to the Hospital from there.”
“Henry I don’t think-”
Henry broke in. “Please, no one will hurt you. I promise.”
“You can’t promise that. There are many different ways that a person can be hurt.” Henry cocked his head in question. “I had twenty-eight years as Mayor Mills. I wasn't particularly liked but I wasn't hated or feared.” Henry grinned and Regina rolled her eyes. “Ok I wasn't feared by anyone but Mary Margaret Blanchard.” The two chuckled together. “When the curse broke I was her again and the looks of hate and fear were back. I don't want to see that anymore.”
“You can’t hide forever. People know how you have been helping Grama and Gramps run the town. They can’t be too scared of you they eat your food.” He gave her an impish grin, “Even the apple pies.” The two had a stare down worthy of his grandfather. Unlike his grandfather Henry actually won.”
As expected Regina was the center of attention when she walked in to Granny’s. She sat with her back to the crowd to avoid the stares of the other diners. “You’d think they’d never seen a reformed evil queen before.” Regina whispered across the table. Henry grinned at her and turned turned to greet the waitress.
“Madam May- uh your Maj- uh your high-”
“Regina is fine Ruby. Or do you prefer Red?”
The waitress smiled and replied, “Ruby please.” Then she continued in an uncharacteristically shy voice. “Thank you for your help when Granny was ill.” Regina stopped her with a wave of her hand.
“It was nothing.” Then she and Henry placed their order.
“Mom,” Henry asked between bites. “Is the reason Grama didn't get hurt because you put a spell on her?”
“It could be,” Regina shrugged. “Or maybe she would have been fine anyway.”
“But that’s how you knew to come help, right?”
“Yes, your grandmother has a long established habit of disturbing my sleep.”
“Can you put a spell like that on Emma?”
“No, honey I can’t.” The two were so engaged in their conversation they didn't realize David had come in and was standing beside them.
“Because you don't like her?”
“No, it’s because I didn't just put one spell on Snow. I began casting protection spells on her as I learned them here and there. As time went on I made sort of a game of it.”
Henry choked a little on his orange juice. “A protection spell game?”
“Hey, don't knock it. I didn't have Mario Kart in the Enchanted Forest. We took our fun where we could.”
“So what made it a game?”
“Well, at first I was just protecting her against the basics. You know poison, sharp objects, falling off a horse, that kind of thing. When I ran out of those I started to find more obscure and sometimes silly spells.”
“Hmm, if you ever hear that a meteor is coming stand next to Snow. One won't hit within 50 yards of her.” Henry giggled. “There were potions too. She is protected against poison ivy and all kinds of natural things that might make someone sick.”
“Oh lord Henry I have know Idea. There were probably one hundred or more. I cast them frequently from the time she was seven until she turned fifteen.”
“Why did you stop?”
“The last one acted strangely. Light flew all around Snow like it was forming a ball of string. It was spinning and spinning all around her. Thank God she didn't wake up I think she would have had a heart attack.”
“Why did it do that?”
“No idea, it seemed to be joining all the magic together changing all the individual protections in to one big spell.”
“So the last one was very powerful?”
“Actually no, it was the silliest one of all.” She smiled at the memory. “Your grandmother is completely, one hundred percent protected against Wood Fairy Toe Fungus.” The two were giggling together until they heard a gruff voice from beside them.
“She isn't a wood fairy. She doesn't need protection against wood fairy toe fungus.” David’s veins were bulging in his neck.
“Spare me the dramatics Shepard. It was a little joke to lighten up my very drab life.”
“Yea well your little joke ruined my honeymoon. That’s right, first you show up at my wedding all grumpy and mean.” He changed his voice to imitate Regina in evil queen mode. “I am going to take away your happy endings.” Henry’s jaw dropped at his grandfather’s audacity. “Then you ruin my honeymoon.” All of Granny’s patrons were watching and listening with rapt attention as their mild mannered king berated the dowager queen.
“As I was no where near you on your honeymoon I don't have any idea how I could have ruined it. And where does wood fairy toe fungus fit in to that picture? I certainly didn't give it to her”
“Oh no,” David was snarling as he continued. “You made her the aniti-fungus. While we were walking the path to our honeymoon cottage my sweet wife found a sad wood fairy. The little dear was crying and looking at her blighted toes. Snow sympathetically invited her to join us as she soaked her feet in the little duck pond.”
“Oh no,” Regina immediately realized where this was going. She put her hand over her eyes as she tried with all her might not to burst out in laughter.
“You know what’s coming don't you?” David shook his head as he replayed the memory. His voice calmed down and he continued. “They put their feet in the pond together and the little wood fairy screamed with joy. Snow was so surprised she fell over and got soaked.”
Regina snorted her shoulders started shaking as she bit her lip to hold in her mirth. Henry looked back and forth between the adults trying unsuccessfully to figure out what was going on.
“What happened? Why did she scream?” He asked.
“Because,” David continued, “she was cured. Dipping her feet in the water with your grandmother cured her.”
“But thats a good thing right?” Henry seemed confused.
David moved right in to Regina’s space as he said slowly and clearly. “Wood fairies from everywhere came to receive the cure. My entire honeymoon was spent watching my wife stand in a pond curing toe fungus!”
Regina reached out and put her hand on David’s shoulder. Her eyes were twinkling with amusement. She was barely able to speak from choking back the laughter. “You should have told me sooner. With that revenge already taken I wouldn't have bothered with the curse.”