Over the past three weeks, Storybrooke had been quiet. With Gold’s sudden disappearance and the Snow Queen defeated, happenings in the quaint town were at a standstill.
In the three whole weeks since Rumple’s ‘disappearance’, the entire town reveled in their newfound peace. But, no-one seemed to be enjoying it as much as the Charming family. Now that things were remotely safe, they were taking the time to do nauseating familial bonding activities and to go out on cliche outings every chance they got. Every stereotypical imaginable was suggested and implemented by Snow White of course. From movie nights to game nights to reading nights to Sunday dinners; all of which, Regina had been invited to at least once.
She politely declined of course. It wasn’t the idea of such cliche outings that bothered her, it was the idea of having to endure them around that family that really set her skin on edge.
Sitting in the same room as Snow and Emma for more than thirty minutes was a challenge Regin was not ready to face. She and Emma were still barely on speaking terms, only speaking when absolutely necessary. Henry alternated weeks with his mothers and despite the stifling tension that filled any room they were in together, he was quite content with the arrangement.
Which was what made today so bittersweet.
It was Regina’s last full day with Henry this week, so she’d taken the liberty of making it as special as possible—as she’d now made a habit of doing.
They spent the morning in the stables, riding for hours until they grew too sore to sit up, let alone ride. Then to Granny’s for milkshakes and fries—a weird concoction Henry had shown her some months ago that stuck with her. She’d never admit to him that on the nights she was left alone she’d watch reruns of Charmed and eat that very concoction every single night—then to the library to pick out books for their bookclub. This month’s theme was horror books. Henry picked out Stephen King’s Misery. Then finally they returned to the manor to cook dinner. It was a calm and relaxed affair and by the time they needed to get on the road to take Henry to Emma’s, Regina was holding back tears. That loneliness that she’d been keeping at bay since Robin’s exit came creeping back up her spine. An unwanted yet frequent visitor.
“Can I ask you a question?” Henry asked out of the blue. He sat in the passenger’s seat of her Mercedes, eyeing her diligently. He looked nervous, but Regina could not fathom why.
“Of course.” She responded with no hesitation. They were both learning to be more open with one another through Archie’s suggestion. It was a challenge—what with Regina’s natural inclination towards white lies for his sake—but learning to keep the lines of communication as open as possible was proving to strengthen their bond.
“…This whole arrangement with Ma…It’s not making you too uncomfortable is it? I mean—now that I’m older I can see how sharing the kid you raised with someone else all of a sudden has got to be hard. And it’s on the heels of all that stuff with Robin and Zelena…I…I just want to make sure I’m not doing that thing I do.” His voice became quiet. Regina’s brow furrowed and she turned to get a better look at him.
“What would that be?” She questioned. She knew exactly what he was talking about, but knew in the end it would be better for him to identify the flaw himself. Just as she had done with her many, many flaws.
“Putting on blinders when I’m really happy or excited. This thing with Ma is a dream come true for me but I know it’s gotta be hard on you. And I don’t want to be blind to that.” He said in a sincere voice. A voice that belonged to a man much older than the 14 year old sitting beside her.
Regina took a few moments to process his words, to consider how much she wanted to reveal, and most of all to thank the gods for the miracle of being gifted with the most insightful and mature child.
She cleared her throat of the lingering tears before she spoke. “It’s hard.” She admitted quietly. “Like you said—especially after everything with Robin. It will always be hard I think. But, it makes you happy. That’s all that matters to me Henry. I’ll work through my issues with Emma and with all of them if it means you’re happy.”
He smiled a shy smile at her. “Thanks Mom.” She knew he wasn’t just thanking her for essentially giving him her blessing on fully enjoying the experience of his family. She smiled back at him and when that smile dimmed at the sight of Emma’s new house, he kissed her cheek with a quiet promise to call the next morning before school.
Regina watched with a knot in her throat as he ran up the path to greet Emma at the door. As she pulled out of the driveway she could feel eyes on her, but she did not acknowledge them. She was not in the mood to hear Emma’s pleading apologies right now.
Although—she had to admit—this whole thing was getting tired.
Keeping up grudges was a lot more exhausting than it used to be. She wanted to forgive Emma. Truly, Regina wanted to put this whole thing behind them and go back to the tentative friendship that had been forming. But when she thought of the moment she realized exactly who Emma had brought back with her—when she remembered the devastation and the heartbreak—she could not find it in herself to forget just who was responsible.
She’d thought Robin was her second chance. Her last chance in all honesty. And just as the sparks of love between them had ignited, they were snuffed out. But Regina hadn’t been ready to let go of her last chance. So she made a fool of herself, allowed herself to be tempted by a married man just because fairy dust said so. Her face and ears heated up to a painful degree at the thought of what they’d done in the vault. She hadn’t felt so dirty—so horrible—in a longtime. And wasn’t that the opposite of what having a soulmate was supposed to feel like?
Regina had spent years researching and studying her craft before and even after the curse—and the topic of soulmates was always been a relevant one. She’d always imagined the experience of finding a soulmate to be something along the lines of an unmistakeable ache to always be near that person. A constant, burning need for them in the best way possible. That person was like oxygen and no-one else could sate your hunger for them.
Regina had certainly felt that, but not with Robin.
As she was looking back on it now, she realized—his leaving hurt her, sure. But the ache subsided after he was gone. She had spent more days pondering the meaning of her feelings then actually grieving the potential love she lost. She wouldn’t lie to herself or anyone else and say there was love brewing between the two at the moment his wife returned. And after that, the way he left her—not callously, not thoughtlessly but in a way easily—didn’t speak to the supposed staggering connection they had.
So—in conclusion to the long internal vent that was long overdue— maybe deep down she had known the answer to the million dollar question all along.
Robin wasn’t the one.
He may be her soulmate by dust, but the chemistry they would have had died along with the people they used to be. Maybe in another life where she had made better choices and he had made different ones, they would have had a great love. A love to rival that of Snow White and her prince. But in this reality, there was no real love lost between them. Except maybe the love Regina felt for Roland. After careful evaluation, Regina recognized that the feeling of loss she felt was not for Robin—It was for his son.
She nearly swerved off the road and right into her own mailbox. The revelation was a long time coming but also something straight out of left field.
She’d wasted so much time being angry at Emma for taking something away that deep down inside of Regina—she hadn’t really wanted. Her relationship with Robin after the revelation of his tattoo was something she thought she needed or was supposed to have. And wasn’t that the opposite of what love was supposed to be? Something unconsciously or worse—consciously—forced? She’d had that before, and she would never do it again.
She would say thank you to Robin if she ever saw him again—surely because he taught her both pain and love. He helped her remember through a series of misfortunate and hurtful events—that she deserved better. She deserved to have control over her destiny and the person who would stand beside her in it.
There was a knock on the window. Regina jumped a mile high.
Her heart hammered in her chest as she looked over at her visitor. It was just Mrs. Torres—the old lady in the shoe according to the tales—her neighbor…who’d most likely seen her swerve like an idiot and sit in her car staring at the road with wide eyes like some maniac.
“Are you alright dear?” She asked warily.
Regina cleared her throat. “Yes Ma’am. I’m fine. Just in deep contemplation. Thank you for your concern. Sorry to bother you.” With a sheepish wave Regina parked in her driveway quickly and practically ran into her house.
On the other side of town, the underbelly of the library shook with the resurgence of an ancient power.
Regina placed her purse down with a sigh.
Coming back to this place so empty would never not hurt. The loneliness that was ever-present in her grew exponentially when Henry was away. And was helped none by the large and empty halls she resided in. The pain and loneliness had lessened with Roland around, but they were stronger than ever now. Her little prince had another mother now, and he didn’t need her as much as he used to. Some days, Regina thought of selling the mansion, or maybe giving it to Snow since she was now the mayor. It was rightfully hers anyway and with a family her size it made much more sense to give it up to her. A place this big was simply too big for one woman to live in.
One reason in particular, was that the empty hallways and empty rooms tended to echo.
The sound of something falling echoed through out the house. It certainly wasn’t Regina. She was two seconds in the door and had barely put her purse down. Henry was gone and no-one else cared enough about her to enter her house. Which meant there was an intruder.
Regina growled and raised her hand to form a fire ball. What luck—the perfect distraction from her tumultuous emotions. Scaring an idiot half to death would increase her mood ten fold.
She was as silent as a mouse as she stalked down the hall. Her eyes and ears peeled for signs of the intruder.
As she came closer she could tell the noise originated in the kitchen. She slithered towards it and called out in the most Evil Queen reminiscent voice she could muster.
“Whoever the hell is in my house, you have 10 seconds to show yourself before I set you on fire. I’ve had a rough day and I’d delight in a little bit of terror before bed time.” She snarled, channeling her anger into a brighter and hotter ball of fire.
Regina turned the corner and snarled as she moved to put her magic forward, but instead she stopped abruptly. Her eyes trailed up the miles and miles of bare skin on display.
Unruly blonde curls fell far down onto a strong back, just above the middle. Her skin was pale, covered in faint scars that were vaguely familiar. She was standing in front of the refrigerator, stuffing her face with anything she could get her hands on.
Regina looked on in confusion, but it didn’t last long as her presence was noted by the stranger. She turned around quickly and at the sight of Regina became almost overcome with excitement.
“R’zhina!” The woman called. Her eye brightened with excitement. Food spilling out of her mouth (what looked like leftover lasagna) and out from between her claws. She didn’t seem to notice or care as she pulled Regina into a tight hug. The rest of the food was trampled under her feet, dirtying the floor but Regina couldn’t care less.
She was too stunned to think. Her heart stopped beating all together at the sight of a resurrected Maleficent standing in her kitchen.
“Mal?” She quietly asked in a shaky voice.
“R’zhina I mished yhu!” Maleficent said through a mouthful of food. There was an audible gulp before her words became more coherent. “Regina! I missed you so much! I’ve been waiting for you to come back to this place. I smelled you on the sheets upstairs. Where have you been?” She asked in a tone that was as close to a whine as Regina had ever heard come from the sorceress.
“I was…I was out running errands. I’m sorry for being so long dear.” Her voice was growing tight with tears.
Maleficent nuzzled her face into the crown of Regina’s head and inhaled deeply before replying. “I forgive you.” She exhaled. Her arms tightened around the shorter woman and Regina could not help but hold her tight as well. A tear slipped down her cheek.
Not a day went by where Maleficent didn't cross Regina’s mind. Her transgressions against the dragon weighed heavily on her mind. She regretted them every day. Every moment she breathed was twinged with a reminder of her own cruelty. But never had she thought she’d get the chance to apologize to the woman who meant so much to her.
“You smell like heaven.” Maleficent murmured against her hair. “I wonder if you taste as heavenly as you smell.”
Regina blushed bright red. Her eyes widened and she pulled away. As she pulled back she finally took notice of the dilated pupils and shaky hands/claws.
Of course. It made sense now.
Gently, Regina took Mal’s clawed hand and led her up the stairs.
“Where are we going?” The dragon asked innocently. Her eyes had obviously given up on being functional now that they’d seen Regina. They were going in and out of focus as Maleficent tripped up the stairs.
“To my room. You must rest.” Regina said, her voice hitched as Mal followed her words up with a growl.
“I don’t want to! If I rest you may not be here when I wake up. Like all the times before, in that cave.” She spat the word like it was a curse. She even managed to look upset underneath the layers of both dirt and food on her face. Regina made a mental note to force her into the bath the next day. (She’d gladly have something to focus on—anything other than the devastation blatant in Maleficent’s grey-blue eyes. )
Regina took Maleficent’s face in her hands and forced her to meet her eyes.
“I’m as real as they come my dear. Though I’m sure you won’t be so pleased to know that by tomorrow morning. For now, how about this: I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep. You can hold my hand and know I’m here with you for real. How does that sound darling?”
Maleficent eyed her for a few moments before nodding in a meek fashion. It was strange seeing such a force of nature look like a child. She was truly vulnerable in this state—her eyes were wide andtrusting, her posture revealing everything she felt. She was literally laid bare for Regina to see. And Regina felt she had no right to see her like this.
Not after what she’d done.
So Regina helped Maleficent into her bedroom and onto her bed as quickly as she could, ignoring the way the clean freak in her cringed at the sight of her very expensive and meticulously cleaned Egyptian Cotton sheets stained by the soot and remnants of food practically rolling off her dragon.
With a flick of her wrist, they both were in slips. Maleficent’s was grey, while her own was a dark purple. She just managed to flip the light off when Maleficent had enough of her being so far away and pulled her onto the bed by her wrist. Regina plopped beside her with a yelp but allowed herself to be coiled around. Maleficent maneuvered her until she was satisfied, then quickly fell into a deep sleep.
Regina’s nose was firmly placed at the blonde’s collarbone. Maleficent’s hands were in her hair and on her waist keeping her close. From her position, she could feel the way Maleficent literally purred (an attribute that Regina had found to be incredibly adorable during her days in the Enchanted Forest and still did).
As Regina watched the gorgeous sorceress sleep, she could not help but admire her beauty for what would most likely be the last time.
Before, there had been many times where she’d find herself jealous of it. The slope of her nose, the pretty pout of her pink lips, the size of her pillow like breasts. Everything about Maleficent was perfect in every way.
What harm would it do to hold her for a little longer? To reminisce on a time where she wasn’t so lonely? Mal would most likely be too out of it in the morning to care much anyway, and she’d wake up before her. So she snuggled closer to the dragon and hummed happily at the feeling of her heat and the sound of the woman purrs.
Sleep came easily for the first time in a long time.