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Jul. 20th, 2013

omg lana

[sticky post] Links to my stories

Despite an extended (unintentional) hiatus recently, I seem to have an ever growing list of story ideas forming in my head. Even with the few I have on here now, it's near impossible to find them without some major digging. So, I thought I'd make it easier for all returning and new readers interested in my humble offerings. Below is a list of all my finished stories and my works in progress (WIP). Enjoy!!

Please let me know if any of the links don't work or don't match up to the story they're supposed to.

Once Upon a Time (SwanQueen, of course)

Happily Ever After... Kinda (~32,000 words)
    I Run to You (was a one-shot that turned into the prologue for HEA,K. Can still be read as a one-shot though.)

Locked in a Fridge
A Change of Heart (Valentine's Day submission to Ralst)
Caught in the Grey (~50,000)
Lost before the Dawn (WIP, next fic on my list to finish)
Waiting for the Rain to Fall (WIP)

Rizzoli & Isles (Jane/Maura)

What the Hell is Wrong with Maura Isles? (My first ever fanfic)
Sounds Perfect

  Song series (WIP over all, but each story is complete)
Maura's Lament

Mar. 12th, 2014

omg lana

Forever and Always (DWP)

Rushing up the slick townhouse steps as quick as possible without risk of serious bodily injury, Andy Sachs fumbled with her keys as she struggled to shield herself from the steady downpour that had plagued the city for the last three days. The same storm that had inconveniently ripped the umbrella from her hands a block and a half ago, leaving her to dodge and weave around large puddles and other racing pedestrians with only thin raincoat to provide meager protection.

With the door firmly shut against the howling wind and driving rain, the brunette dropped her keys on a side table as she made her way through the house straight to the laundry room. Peeling off her dripping coat and the equally soaked clothes beneath, Andy snatched a clean towel from a nearby shelf – not caring that it was one used exclusively for drying the twins' dog, Patricia – and wrapped it around her nude body before grabbing another to mop up the trail of water she'd left behind in her wake.

The drops of water that rolled down her bare neck and shoulders from her drenched, brown locks triggered involuntary shivers in the air-conditioned house as she finished her task and left the lump of soggy clothes to be sorted out once she was finally dressed and warm again.

Normally their housekeeper-slash-nanny, Meryl, would have been around to deal with it, but since Andy's official move-in a little over five months ago, the diminutive, though authoritative, woman only worked weekdays and the rare weekend when neither Andy nor Miranda could be home for the twins. With Caroline and Cassidy spending their first two weeks of summer vacation in California with their father, Meryl was off on her own well-deserved vacation – fully paid for by Miranda, of course. This meant, much to Andy's relief, there was no threat of being caught by giggling teens or scandalized housekeepers as her towel-wrapped form hurriedly padded through the empty townhouse and into the master bedroom on the third floor.

Once showered and clothed in an old, worn-out pair of jeans and a t-shirt, Andy threw together a quick sandwich, taking it with her as she made her way back up the stairs to her study – which just happened to be conveniently located opposite Miranda's own private space. While her lover worked late at Runway fixing another disastrous layout before the print deadline in two days' time, the reporter dove headlong into her own work hoping to finish most, if not all, of it over the next couple of days so she could enjoy their final weekend of peace before the return of the red-headed, thirteen-year-old tornadoes.

The windows rattled as a sudden clap of thunder shook the entire house and startled Andy from her involuntary nap. The exhausted woman rose from her slumped position on the desk, twisting her head until the vertebrae in her neck cracked and stretching the kinks from her aching back and shoulders as she drowsily searched for her phone. Squinting against the bright, overhead light, she finally managed to find it half-hidden under a heap of notes for her latest article. The same article she'd fallen asleep in the middle of writing... more than three hours ago!

Andy did a quick double take as she checked the time again, but the large numbers on the screen still clearly read twenty-after-one. Under that was a text from Miranda sent a little after ten saying she was on her way home. Surprised her girlfriend had left her to sleep in the study, the brunette trudged her way to their bedroom with visions of curling up next to the fashion goddess filling her mind – along with a few even more pleasant ideas.

Frowning at the sight of their empty bed, Andy turned on her heel and made her way to Miranda's study, then to the kitchen, the girls' bedrooms, the seldom-visited attic, and every other room in between before accepting the fact that the white-haired fashion maven was not home.

Andy valiantly fought back the rising panic that had steadily built with each call to Miranda's cell that went unanswered as she'd searched the entire house. Giving up, Andy shakily dialed Roy's number from memory, knowing that if Miranda had gone anywhere else for any reason, her faithful driver would have been the one to take her there. Crying out in frustration when the call went straight to voicemail for the fifth time, Andy called the only other person that kept track of the editrix's every move, her first assistant.

Two rings later, a groggy voice answered, "Hullo?"

"Em, thank God! Do you know where Miranda is?"

"What do you mean? Isn't she home with you?!" The now wide-awake Emily asked in alarm.

"No! That's why I'm calling you," Andy responded anxiously as she began pacing in the dimly lit foyer. "She sent a text around ten saying she was on her way, but I fell asleep and when I woke up I thought it was weird she hadn't woken me. She usually does when she gets home..."


"... especially if it's late at night. And she has this weird thing against sleeping on anything that isn't a bed when there's a 'perfectly respectable one right upstairs'..."


"... The only time she doesn't seem to mind is family movie night and I think that's 'cause the twins are so cute when they're sprawled out on our laps or snuggled next to Patricia on the floor..."


Andy's teeth clicked audibly shut at the Brit's outburst and she halted mid-turn next to the front door in surprise.

"Sorry. I just... I don't know what to do," she admitted in a choked voice. She'd never felt so lost or useless before, especially when it came to Miranda, but hundreds of horrible scenarios were racing through her mind nearly buckling her with crippling fear and she simply could not do this on her own. Her only hope... her only lifeline right now was the steadfast woman on the other end of the line.

"That's quite alright, Andrea, but you won't do anybody any good if you pass out from hysterics. So breathe and let me handle this."

"Thanks, Em. You're the best," she replied gratefully.

"I'll be in touch."

Moving to the widow, Andy stared into the rain soaked night. She held her breath with each car that passed, waiting for it to stop and release her love onto the drenched sidewalk outside their home. None of them did, though, and her heart broke a little more each time. Something was wrong, her mind screamed in agony; there was no denying it any longer.

Seconds... minutes... an eternity passed as she stood silent sentinel until the sudden ringing of her phone jarred her from her thoughts.


"Presbyterian Hospital."

The words were barely out of Emily's mouth before Andy had her purse and keys in hand and was out the door. Hailing a passing cab and promising the driver an extra-large tip if he got her to the hospital in less than fifteen minutes, the brunette paled as she listened to the bare details the Brit had been able to discover.

There'd been an accident. Slick roads and a drunk driver had sent both Miranda and Roy to the hospital in critical condition. The nurses, while convinced to the identity of their patient, were unable to contact next of kin without positive identification and Miranda's purse had not been with her. The only information they would release over the phone was that Miranda had made it out of surgery, but they would not tell Emily anymore despite the various threats she hurled their way.

As the taxi pulled up to the hospital entrance, Andy thanked her friend and promised to keep her informed, tossed a handful of bills at the cabbie, and dashed from the cab to the receptionist's desk. With a disdainful eye, the nurse took in her soaked appearance, ripped jeans, and bare feet – that she only now noticed were bare. After confirming her identity, the nurse reluctantly directed Andy to the nearest elevators saying she would page Miranda's lead surgeon to meet Andy in the intensive care ward on the eighth floor.

Anxiously bouncing on the balls of her feet as the lift made its aggravatingly slow journey upwards, Andy made a mental note to get something extra special for Emily for all her help. Not only had she found Miranda when Andy could not, but the reporter knew she must have paved her way in with the staff. Otherwise, she'd still be wasting precious time in the lobby arguing with the haughty nurse.

A clean-cut man with salt-and-pepper hair met Andy at the elevator and introduced himself as the head of surgery as he led her through the maze of corridors. The young woman followed in a daze as he rattled off a long list of Miranda's injuries, the various methods they'd utilized to fix said injuries, and the dozens of possible complications that could arise from such a complex and invasive operation.

The sharp mind that had served her so well under Miranda's employ could currently only absorb three simple facts; Miranda was alive, Miranda was seriously wounded, and there was still a chance Miranda might not survive.

"Listen," the doctor – whose name Andy couldn't recall for the life of her – said as he stopped in front of a closed door and regarded her with sympathetic eyes. "Before you go in, I want you to be prepared for what you'll see. Ms. Priestly's entire right side is encased in plaster. Her arm has a dozen pins in it and her lower half is in traction to ensure her leg and hip set properly. Luckily, all were clean breaks and should heal in time, though it is possible she'll have a slight limp from now on. There's gauze wrapped around her head to protect the forty staples we used to close the gash caused when she hit the passenger window. Once her hair grows back, it'll cover any scarring that might result. There are minor cuts to her face and chest, but our best plastic surgeon said they shouldn't scar and only a few needed stitching. We inserted a chest tube to expand a collapsed lung. It's still there, but we'll most likely be able to remove it in a few days. The bruising is extensive, as it is with all accidents this serious, but I want to reassure you, it looks worse than it is. As I said before, she's not out of the woods yet. She suffered a fairly severe concussion that we are keeping a close eye on and there's always the possibility of infection. As pointless as I know saying this is, try not to worry. We are will do our very best to make sure she comes out of this with little or no lasting effects. If you have any questions or concerns, just get one of the nurses to page me."

Producing a wan smile and a whispered "thanks", Andy watched the doctor head back down the hallway before turning to the plain wooden door in front of her. Three deep, calming breaths to steal her resolve later, the young woman hesitantly turned the cold handle with shaking fingers and slowly opened the door. Earlier, she could barely wait to be by Miranda's side. Now, knowing more of what was waiting for her on the other side, Andy didn't think her heart would be able to survive.

And it barely could; nearly breaking at the sight that greeted her.

Tears filled and spilled from chocolate orbs as they traced over every inch of the body she knew so well yet hardly recognized in its current state. Stark-white bandages had replaced almost all of the beautiful silver-white hair it covered. A few other random pieces stood in vivid contrast against the deep purple bruising of the normally pale skin on Miranda's face and neck. Despite the hospital gown covering her upper body, Andy could clearly see that the discoloration and swelling continued over the older woman's chest and shoulders and she was almost afraid to find out how much further down it went. A blanket covered her left leg and lower torso, but Miranda's right leg hung a few inches above the bed, easily suspended by the intricate rigging to which it was attached.


That was the word; one Andy never thought would apply to the powerhouse of a woman she had the privilege of dating. Now it was the only word that looped over and over through her brain as she scanned the sleeping form before her.

Walking around to her lover's left side, Andy pulled an uncomfortable looking chair as close to the bed as possible before taking Miranda's delicate hand in her own – careful of the IV there, but desperately needing the reassuring contact to anchor her own wounded soul – and settling in for her vigil.

An indeterminable amount of time passed with only the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor and the steady sound of Miranda's breathing to keep Andy company. Her back ached from the awkward position she was forced to sit in and her stomach churned from hunger, anxiety, or a combination of the two. Eventually, a nurse entered to assess Miranda's progress and change bandages as necessary and Andy took the opportunity to grab a horribly bitter coffee and update Emily as she'd promised.

The nurse exited as Andy returned and the young woman swallowed hard at the troubled expression that had settled on the blonde's face. Spotting Andy, the nurse – Sarah, her nametag read – set her professional mask back in place and approached the apprehensive reporter.

"Ms. Priestly's blood pressure and oxygen levels have dropped slightly since our last check. While they're still within acceptable ranges, I called Dr. Harris anyway and he agreed there's no cause for concern yet, but will be looking in on her more frequently and keeping a closer eye on her other levels as well."

"Wha..." Andy cleared the suppressed emotions from her throat, "What could be causing the drop?"

"Some fluctuations are common after surgery," Sarah tried to sooth with a gentle smile... It wasn't working. "Since Ms. Priestly's injuries were so severe, however, we want to be absolutely sure there isn't a chance of infection or internal bleeding. There was no sign of infection when I changed her bandages, but if her levels continue to lower we'll send her to scanning and see if anything turns up. We're a long way from that point, though, so try not to worry."

Why do they keep saying that?

"Right... thanks," Andy said with a tremulous smile.

Reclaiming her place by Miranda's bedside, Andy's mind wandered back to the conversation she'd had with Emily just twenty minutes ago. Apparently, the local news stations had caught on to the story and it wouldn't be long before the national venues would pick it up as well. Nigel had been informed and would take over at Runway for as long as necessary. Emily had also spoken with the twins' father, James, who had readily agreed to limit their TV and internet access so the girls wouldn't hear about the accident until they were positive Miranda was in the clear.

Andy knew Caroline and Cassidy would be furious when they eventually found out, but hoped the assurance that their mother was fine would help calm their ire somewhat. She wasn't holding her breath on that one, though. The girls could out stubborn even the Dragon Lady herself when they set their minds to it.

Unconsciously voicing these thoughts aloud, Andy chased away the sterile silence of the hospital room and filled it with her soft, melodic voice. She continued speaking of their shared past, the future she hoped they'd build as a couple and as a family, her childhood, the twins, articles she was working on or thinking of writing, books she'd read, the crazy things she'd seen since moving to New York, and anything else that came to mind. She spoke unceasingly, even during the periodic interruptions from the nurse and a few other staff members, until her voice was hoarse and her throat sore. Hours later her words finally tapered off as exhaustion took its toll.

A pre-dawn glow suffused the room when her eyes fluttered opened once more. Wincing as a spasm seized her lower back, Andy moved to stand, but was kept in place by a firm grip around her wrist. Startled brown eyes met hazy blue. Miranda's left eye was glazed from pain and a drug induced sleep while her right was bruised black and swollen shut, but Andy was sure she'd never seen a lovelier sight.

Resisting the urge to throw herself onto the other woman's injured body, Andy settled for tightening her grip on the hand held within her own as silent tears ran down her cheeks. A blinding smile full of love and relief spread across her full mouth at the labored, but clear, "Andréa..." only for it to fall open in complete shock as Miranda continued, "... marry me?"

Blinking rapidly, Andy tried to process what she'd just heard. She'd expected this question someday, but they'd only been together a few months over a year and there were the twins to consider. While the girls approved of the relationship whole-heartedly, they might not be too thrilled about having another stepparent considering their experience with the last one. Moreover, the press surrounding their relationship had only recently calmed down and this accident would definitely stir it back up for god only knew how long. Add a wedding announcement to the mix and it was guaranteed mayhem.

Most disturbing, and Andy's only true cause for hesitation, was the possibility that the concussion caused by the hit to Miranda's head or the overall near-death experience of the accident was spurring her lover to ask for something she'd never planned to in the first place. Andy could live without the title of 'wife' and be content, but to be later told their marriage had been a mistake would irreparably crush her heart.

"I already… have… the rings…," Miranda said at her continued silence, struggling for breath every few words. "The girls and I got them... the day I asked you… to move in… Seemed a little silly... at the time... and worse… that I've waited so long… but I've wanted to ask… every single day... since you came back to me."

All doubts quelled by that halting speech, Andy squeaked out an emotional "yes" as she vigorously nodded her acceptance. Wiping away a renewed flood of tears, the younger woman leaned forward to bestow a loving, but gentle, kiss on cut and swollen lips.

"I love you, Miranda Priestly, and I want nothing more than to be your wife for however long you'll allow me the honor of that title."

"Forever, then," Miranda responded resolutely, accepting another tender kiss.

"Emily and Nigel are going to flip when we tell them," Andy chuckled as she perched on the edge of the bed. "Em probably already has a list of wedding planners stashed away somewhere. Of course, knowing her, she'll end up taking over the whole production anyway so..."

A squeeze to her hand stopped the brunette short and brought her attention back to her fiancé – her fiancé! She watched confused as Miranda shook her head in disagreement, the movement causing the older woman's features to tighten in pain.

"Now, Andréa... I wish... to marry you now... I heard the doctors when I came in... So now... Just in case..."

"Miranda, you aren't going to die. You have to believe that," Andy countered determinedly, her soul freezing at the thought alone.

"Please, Andréa..." Miranda pleaded.

Miranda never begged and throughout the course of their relationship, she had so rarely asked Andy for anything of significance that the younger woman could not deny her this. Not that she truly wanted to; the when, where, and how of their marriage were unimportant, but she was concerned about Miranda's desperation and its source. The injured woman had a long recovery ahead of her and Andy feared this might be a sign that Miranda was already giving up, but hoped the permanence implied by such a commitment would bolster Miranda's resolve and see her through the tough times to come.

"Alright..." she agreed hesitantly, "but you have to promise me that we will have a proper ceremony when you've recovered. My parents, not to mention the twins, will kill us both if they aren't involved."

"I promise, darling... so long as you marry me now," Miranda readily agreed, though it did little to easy Andy's concerns.

Standing, Andy placed a chaste kiss to Miranda's lips, "Rest a few minutes, love, while I get everything arranged." As she slipped out of the room to hunt down the nearest nurse, Andy happily noted the slowed heart rhythm of her sleeping fiancé.

Sarah and the rest of the floor staff were only too happy to assist – due in no small part to who their patient was, no doubt, but they all seemed genuinely thrilled to help with such a joyous occasion. The hospital chaplain was rousted from his bed at home while several female employees offered up various rings as stand-ins for the rushed ceremony and several bouquets of flowers were scrounged from a recently discharged patient's room.

Within the hour, Andy stood next to Miranda, hands firmly clasped in each other's, surrounded by Reverend Johnson, Sarah, and a few other nurses and staff that had come to bear witness to their joining. Tears fell from nearly every eye in the room as the minister spoke on the sanctity of marriage and how vital love and commitment were, not only to the mental and emotional well-being of a person, but to one's spiritual and physical health as well.

His charismatic dialogue brought joyful laughter from all those present as he continued along a lighter note. The happy sounds permeated every inch of the room, spilling into and down the corridors as the steadily slowing beeps of the heart monitor drowned beneath the echoes.

"Before I start the traditional vows, would either of you ladies prefer to say your own?" Reverend Johnson asked.

Andy turned to fully face the woman she was already committed to in every way that mattered, ready to voice that promise in front of all the strangers gathered around them. Never looking away from Miranda's glazed and swollen eyes, even as tears welled in her own, Andy laid her heart bare for the world to see.

"Miranda, my love, I know no matter what life throws our way that I will want to be with you forever. Through the good and the bad and the ugly, we will grow old together. This bond only signifies to the world what is already true in my heart and soul, that whether we're happy or sad or whatever else we will love each other, forever and always."

As the last of her words died away, an alarming blare rang out, startling those present into action. The hospital staff scrambled to figure out what had gone wrong while they called out stats and orders to each other. The minister stepped clear of the frantically working team and Andy tried to move out of the way. Miranda held fast to the younger woman, however, despite her weakening grip and pulled the shaking brunette back to her side until Andy's ear was barely an inch from her face.

"I will love you forever, Andréa..." Miranda whispered urgently, her voice almost too low to hear. "Please remember that... even if I'm not here...I'll always love you... forever and always."

No... No... No. No. NO. NO. NO!

A steady whine sounded over the chaos.

One heart stopped as the other shattered.


***One year later***

The hired car slowly wandered along the cemetery roads while clear, sunny skies overhead did little to ease the sorrowful hearts of its occupants on their somber journey. Andy fought against her own tears in an effort to maintain a strong façade for the two redheads wrapped tightly under each arm. It was a battle she was quickly losing as each sniffle from the twins brought more memories, more suppressed grief to the surface.

Andy gently squeezed the girls closer and brushed a loving, comforting kiss to their foreheads when they finally reached the all-too-familiar spot. Gracefully exiting the car after them, Andy smoothed the wrinkles from her skirt before turning to help the last passenger.

A smooth, manicured hand grasped hers as first one, then the other, Prada-clad foot stepped out. Watery, blue eyes met brown and Andy lost the fight against her tears. Releasing her grip on the brunette's hand, Miranda cradled her beloved's face with both hands and gently wiped away the falling droplet and the others that followed with a small, consoling smile on her face.

Bolstered by the love and steadfast support of her wife, Andy drew in a calming breath and placed a grateful kiss to receptive lips before turning back to the patiently waiting twins. Youthful hands took residence in each of hers, Cassidy on her left with Caroline and Miranda joined on her right, as the small family made its way to the appropriate grave.

Their steps were measured and unhurried in deference to the slight limp Miranda still sported from her injuries, though she no longer needed the assistance of a cane to help her walk. Stopping beside the grave of the man they all dearly missed, the twins reverently placed the two bouquets of flowers they'd brought at the base of his headstone.

Here lies Roy Eric Seltzer

Beloved son, Devoted husband, Cherished friend

Wrapping long arms around her wife and drawing the comforting form against her, Andy once more gave thanks that Miranda had survived relatively unscathed in the end. Before them sat a stark reminder of what could have happened that fateful day; a fact that was not lost on the four Priestly women as they silently stood and paid respect to their departed friend.


Major shout out to utterby for her excellent beta skills and suggestions. Thanks to you all for reading and especially those that comment. You make me feel so special!!

Oct. 27th, 2013

omg lana

(DWP Mirandy fic): We was meant to be...

… but never meant to last.

Two muffled beeps sounded through the foyer as I finished bundling up in the latest Diana von Fürstenberg trench coat before making my way out of the townhouse and towards the waiting car. Roy stood patiently next to the back door, seemingly unaffected by the harsh, autumn wind that had suddenly kicked up, sending an involuntary shiver across my neck and down my spine.

A silent sigh of relief passed through my lips as I slid into the warm interior of the car and settled onto the blissfully heated leather seats. Roy's driving was as smooth as ever despite the stop-and-go chaos surrounding us. It seemed that the bitter breeze and damp, cloudy day had driven most of my fellow New Yorkers to opt for their own vehicles today and this was one of the rare times where I didn't mind the congested traffic that plagued our fair city. After all, you were the one that had insisted on this little meeting to 'clear the air' over a subject I had thought closed years ago when you'd left without any explanation.

I admit – if only to myself – that there had been a period of time when I'd taken great pleasure in concocting various ways to exact my revenge, but as the days turned into weeks, then months, my anger simply vanished and now I seldom gave you a second thought.

I could easily imagine the kicked puppy look you'd give if I were ever to admit this to you and while I'm positive this won't be anywhere near the friendly reunion I know you're hoping for, I don't plan to be so intentionally cruel either. This was already a major waste of my precious time – the twins had extracted dozens of promises from me that I would return in time to take them out tonight before they had finally relented and permitted me to leave – and I refused to waste any more emotion or mental capacity on assuaging your guilty conscience.

Blasting heat and the delicious scent of freshly brewed coffee welcomed me into the local café you'd chosen for this little heart-to-heart. Scanning the crowded sitting area, my eyes soon landed on your curly, brown locks and once-familiar form seated in the far back corner.

The sharp clack of my heals easily announced my arrival despite the noise level and before I was even halfway across the room, your eyes caught mine and that silly grin I once bore witness to nearly every day spread across your wide mouth.

"Hi!" you greeted enthusiastically, standing to meet me. "Can get you anything? Coffee?"

You acted as if not a day has passed since your abrupt departure.

"No…. thank you," I responded, watching as you flinch at my cool tone.

"Oh, okay. L-let's just t-take a seat then," you stuttered, smile gone and hurt shining from your expressive eyes.

Despite the heat filling the coffee shop, I left my coat on as I sat and crossed my stocking clad legs. I didn't intend to be here for long, after all, and it was all I coul do not to tap my heels impatiently as I waited for you to begin.

"So… how have you been?" you asked after several long moments of uncomfortable – for you – silence have passed.

"Small talk, really?" I drawled with a roll of my eyes. "My time is short and there's clearly a reason you insisted on meeting so urgently, so would you kindly fast forward to the main topic of this conversation."

I didn't really mean to be this harsh. I'd forgiven you years ago; pushed you to the back of my mind – where all disappointments of my past live – and moved on with my life.

Last I'd heard, you had as well, but that assumption was shattered when you pouted and muttered, "I… I want to apologize for the way I left. I am so sorry. It was petty and childish and you deserved better than that."

Remaining silent, I simply nodded in agreement to what we both know is the truth.

"What would you like me to say?" I asked sharply, ire rising when it was clear that's all you had to say. "Yes, the way you left hurt. You should have had the backbone to tell me to my face that you could no longer stand to be around me."

"I swear it wasn't like that," you protested.

"No, no," I interrupted with a wave of my hand. "It's my turn now."

Shoulders slumped, you merely nodded, waiting for the vicious diatribe you were sure I was about to unleash. Oh will I, but not for the reasons you were thinking.

"You drag me clear across town, taking up hours of what little, precious time I have to spend with my family and all you have to offer is a half-hearted apology?!"

My voice was a deadly quiet whisper – I refused to draw any more attention to us than my sheer presence already had – but you cowered as if I were screaming full force.

"I told you I was busy, but you simply refused to wait until tomorrow when really a note, an email, phone call, or hell, even a goddamned carrier pigeon would have sufficed to convey such a pathetic sentiment. Just as any one of those would have been welcome years ago. I had truly hoped you'd have learned by now not to treat others with such a callous disregard. It seems as though you're still only thinking of yourself and what you want and what you feel right at this moment. You never tried to understand my side of all that was going on. I trusted you to be there; I relied upon your presence and you abandoned me over some hurt feelings!"

Apparently, frustration over wasted time was not all I had been carrying with me today. A small amount of lingering hurt that had remained unnoticed in the depths of my subconscious had been released by my small rant and I now felt calmer… lighter.

It was this lightness that softened the harshness from my voice as I granted you the one thing I knew you'd come here seeking.

"That being said, I forgive you."

Your head popped up, shock written clearly across your features.

"Truthfully, I forgave you long ago, but thank you for actually saying the words."

"You're right; I should have stuck around long enough to explain. I never meant to hurt you and I'm sorry for pulling you away from your family." Your quick glance at my ring-adorned finger does not pass unnoticed, but I remained silent as you continued. " I just knew if I didn't do this today, I may never work up the courage again and you deserved to hear an actual apology."

A companionable silence fell between us as the idle chatter and clinking of ceramic mugs once again reasserted itself into our consciousness. My not-so-subtle check of the diamond studded Rolex watch I'd received last Christmas drew your attention.

"Do you have time for a quick cup of coffee before you go?"

I saw the hope shining in your eyes and any other day I might have said yes – if for no other reason than the sake of nostalgia.

"I can't," I replied with a soft shake of my head. "I promised my daughters I'd be home in time to take them and their friends to a haunted house tonight."

Your eyes widened in surprise and I wasn't sure if it was the thought of me, Miss hides-behind-her-hands-at-every-scary-movie, going to a haunted house or because I referred to the twins as mine.

"Y-your daughters?" you squeaked and there was my answer.

"Yes, Nate," I bristled. "MY daughters. They may not be of my blood, but they are my heart; just like their mother."

I knew this shouldn't be a surprise to you. Miranda and I made national headlines when we went public with our relationship and again two years later when a person couldn't turn a corner without seeing at least one picture of us from our wedding day. Thank goodness, all of that has died down now that we're just another boring married couple. Though, if they knew just how not boring being married to Miranda is, we'd have paparazzi following us 24/7.

I guess knowing and knowing really are two different things and that difference was clearly shown in the sad way you now looked at me.

"I loved you once, Nate, but now it's time for you to find the person you're meant to be with and I can only hope you can be as lucky as I am." I said with a gentle smile.

I gathered my things and stood as you sat there quietly. Leaning over, I pressed a soft kiss to your stubble-covered cheek and whispered, "Goodbye, Nate. I truly hope you have a happy life."

With that I was back out in the brisk wind, shooting a blinding smile to a waiting Roy who offered up his own relieved grin. Obviously, my earlier anger wasn't as well hidden as I'd believed it to be.

Roy's been driving Miranda for more than a decade and in all the time I've been around, I've never seen him even flinch at one of her bad moods. With me, however, if I frown the slightest bit, he goes all quiet and tense.

I asked him about it once after noticing it for about the fifth time. He turned beet red and became flustered, saying that when I was mad, truly angry, I was much scarier than Miranda in her worst mood. I had merely laughed until he reminded me of the MET gala Miranda and I had attended just over eight months after we had started dating.

We'd arrived separately, both agreeing that our relationship was still too new to subject it to the harsh spotlight of the press. All was well and good until I glanced across the room while speaking with Emily and Nigel – both of whom had been informed earlier in the week so there'd be no meltdowns with my arrival – to find Miranda cornered by some guy who was practically clawing at her. I later learned his name was Paul something-or-another and he was apparently another big name in publishing who was looking to "consolidate" their companies.

He had been just drunk enough to miss the cold smiles and evasive maneuvers my girlfriend was employing in order to get him to back the fuck off. All I remember were two different pairs of hands trying to hold me back as red clouded my vision.

Luckily, I was still aware enough of my surroundings not to cause a scene in the crowded ballroom as I pulled the useless jerk out a side door with a punishing grip on his arm. Once outside, however, I let fly every thought I had regarding Paul and his treatment of women, mine in particular. I don't remember one word of what I said, but Roy – who had been sneaking a quick smoke break – had witnessed every second.

He said the icy glare and scathing tone would have done Miranda proud. While she may not have watched me flaying a man alive, she did thank me in her own special way later that night for saving her from the 'paws of that odious man'.

Cheshire grin still in place from those pleasant memories, I bounded back up the townhouse steps and hastily unlocked the front door. Twin choruses of "MA!" greeted me, the door slamming from the combined weight of two enthusiastic fifteen-year-olds crashing me into the solid surface.

"Gosh, girls, I've only been gone two hours," I giggled, returning their crushing hugs.

"We know, Ma," Caroline said with a slight roll of her eyes, so like Miranda.

"We're just glad you're back in time. Mom said you had someone important to meet with and she wasn't sure how long it would take," Cassidy supplied quietly.

Despite the rough transition into their teenage years, the girls had always been sensitive to their mother's moods and this had 'insecure Miranda' written all over it.

"Hey," I said, gently lifting their chins until I could meet both pairs of blue eyes. "Nothingis more important to me than the two of you and your mom. I promised I would take you out tonight and I will always do my best to keep my promises, okay?"

I was glad to see the happy grins return at my sincere words.

"Alright you two, traffic is crazy out tonight so we'll need to leave as soon as you guys are ready."

Thunderous footsteps broadcast their progression through the house as I turned to face the silent apparition that had been hiding in the shadows since my return.

"Hey," I called again gently, hand held out towards the specter, gamely ignoring the watery blue eyes that drew ever closer until I could wrap an arm around a lithe waist.

Gently wiping a lone tear from a soft cheek, I ran my fingers through soft, white hair as I pulled the love of my life into a deep kiss. Her shapely form gradually relaxed against mine as the melding of mouths and meeting of tongues reassured her in a way mere words never seemed able.

I concentrated on pouring every ounce of love I held for her and our family into this silent reaffirmation of a promise I'd made years ago – one I'd repeated on our wedding day and one I strove to give proof of every day.

"As long as it is within my power, I will never leave you; not for anything or anyone else."

Sep. 28th, 2013

omg lana

Caught in the Grey (19/19)

During the first moments upon waking, Regina felt nothing but peace as she lay quiescent in bed, relishing the comfortable lethargy weighing down her limbs. Little by little, though, a rhythmic beeping seeped into her growing consciousness and as she rolled over to shut off the incessant alarm, panic spiked through her uncooperative body. The slow beeping increased in tempo until it became a shrill whistle as she struggled to pry open her heavy eyelids and fight against the awkward pressure in her chest.

Harried voices quickly joined in the din, but Regina couldn't make sense of what they were saying over the riotous roaring of her own anxiety. A punishing force gripped her right hand while searing heat burned through the back of her left.

When a hazy calm settled once more over her agitated mind, Regina was finally able to decipher a familiar voice from amongst the chaos as it gently whispered soothing words into her ear.

"It's all right, Regina. Sleep now; I'll be here when you wake up."

Shifting uncomfortably in the hard plastic chair, the younger woman maintained her bedside vigil as she waited for the woman she loved to open her eyes. Days had passed since the last time Regina had almost come to and she had stubbornly refused to move from her spot despite the kind encouragement and downright demands of the nurses. The cot they'd wheeled in so long ago sat folded and unused in the corner, her pain a form of penance for her part in this tragedy.

Running long fingers through the greasy strands of her unwashed hair with a sigh, the younger woman fought bone-deep weariness as she stared vacantly at whitewashed walls, the never-ending seconds ticking on marked only by the reassuring cadence of Regina's heart monitor.

Green eyes snapped open as a low groan echoed softly in the quiet room, jerking the tired woman from her fitful dozing. Gently rubbing the smooth hand held within her own, she anxiously waited to see if Regina would stir again. When another moan sounded from the supine woman, she quickly scrambled up to the head of the bed.

"That's it, sweetheart," she whispered encouragingly as she lightly stroked the lanky, brown locks framing the other woman's face. "Nice and easy now. Just take your time."

Long lashes gradually fluttered open, revealing cloudy brown eyes tight with pain and confusion.

"Em-Emma?" Regina rasped out.

Emma nodded as tears cascaded down her cheeks, "Gods, I've missed you."

Lighting the tapered candles and triple checking that the silverware was set properly atop the white, linen tablecloth, Emma wiped her clammy palms across her black trousers before moving across the room to turn on the music she'd specially selected for this evening.

Dinner was finished and waiting in the warm oven. It smelled amazing, if she did say so herself, and the decadent dessert she had for later looked just as promising.

Now all that's missing is someone to share it with, she thought just as a knock sounded at the door.

Nervously running her hands over her outfit one last time, Emma went to welcome her guest only to lose any hope for coherent speech when she caught sight of the vision waiting for her on the other side.

Naturally tanned skin and sensuous curves were encased in a deep burgundy sheath with a wide, black belt that highlighted a trim waist while piercing eyes were accentuated with smoky eye shadow and heavy kohl. The result practically screamed 'exotic' and 'dangerous' and left Emma completely tongue-tied.

"I take it you like what you see, Ms. Swan," Regina purred with an arched eyebrow, finally shaking the blonde from her stupor.

"Yo-you look incredible, Regina," Emma stuttered, but was delighted to see a pleased smile flit across full, maroon lips as she led the older woman into her apartment.

"What's going on here, Sheriff?" the brunette asked upon seeing the beautifully decorated table, coming to an abrupt stop and pulling her hand from Emma's.

Accustomed to Regina's fear of all things truly intimate, Emma was undeterred by the use of her title and the cool voice it was spoken in. Wrapping her arm around the other woman's lithe waist, the blonde resumed their trek to the table, pulling out a chair for her date. When the brunette refused to sit, Emma tried to soothe her as best she could.

"I thought since Henry was staying with his grandparents tonight, we could enjoy spending a little time together over a nice meal and some fantastic wine before moving onto… other things."

This was going to be the night Emma finally told Regina that she was ready to move their relationship beyond the sorta-friends-mostly-fuck-buddy stage they'd been stuck in for the last six months.

Their sexual chemistry could not be denied – which is how she'd found herself pinned against her desk all those months ago while Regina's wicked tongue and teasing fingers had done amazing things to her writhing body. They hadn't stopped since and while the blonde physically craved Regina just as much now as she had then, she'd seen previously undisclosed parts of the brunette over their time together that had her yearning for a deeper connection.

She'd spent all week building up the courage for this difficult conversation – Regina was sure to fight her tooth and nail – and she was determined to go through with it tonight even if it killed her.

"No. There's more," Regina countered with narrowed eyes. "It's written all over your face."


She never could hide her feelings very well once they this close to the surface.

"I have no idea what you think you're playing at, Ms. Swan, but I don't want any part of it," Regina seethed before spinning on her heels and storming towards the door.

Emma sprinted after the retreating figure, grabbing a slender wrist as it reached for the handle and spinning the brunette back around to face her.

"You have no idea who I even am," Regina bit out, but Emma could clearly hear the fear and uncertainty underlying the harsh words.

"No, I don't," the blonde agreed to the surprise of the other woman, "but I know exactly what you are capable of. I've seen the lengths you're willing to go to protect yourself and the ones you love. I know about Daniel. I've even had the pleasure of meeting and battling your mother, so I know exactly what you could have become, but you didn't! We all have a past, Regina; I'm simply trying to offer you a chance at a future where you could actually be happy."

Emma waited nervously as several emotions played across chocolate depths too fast to follow until they settled in familiar determination. Her heart dropped as Regina turned and left without another word, slamming the door behind her. She knew the brunette just needed a little time to freak out in private, before they could move forward.

She hoped anyways.

Wiping a lone tear from her cheek, Emma moved to clean up the reminder of their disastrous would-be date when the sound of screeching tires and a dull thump reverberated throughout the apartment.

Throwing open the door and dashing down the stairs, Emma rushed out of the building to check on the driver. Half way across the street, green eyes landed on a sprawled figure in a beautiful burgundy dress.


Regina slowly pulled her hand from Emma's grasp to brush shaky fingers through curly, blonde locks, unsure if she was alive, dead, awake, asleep, in Heaven, Hell, an alternate reality, or a messed up combination of all of the above.

Taking the wandering hand back into hers, Emma brought it to her lips for a quick kiss before placing the palm against her face. Regina let out a small gasp as silent tears fell from closed eyes, her thumb gently removing the ones within reach in a vain attempt to comfort the younger woman.

"Emma," she whispered hoarsely, contentment filling her as shimmering, green eyes locked onto her own darker ones.

"Henry?" Regina rasped after several long moments of silent staring.

She couldn't have cared less what reality she now inhabited, if Emma was sitting here before her then Henry was somewhere safe, but she wouldn't be able to relax fully until she knew for sure.

"He's fine," Emma reassured quickly. "Well, he's worried about you, but Snow and David have been watching him."

Regina couldn't help but roll her eyes at this bit of news. Of course it had to be the world where two of her least favorite people still existed and were currently looking after her son, most likely filling his head with fanciful ideas about life, true love, and such.

"I know, I know," Emma replied dismissively before Regina could say anything, "but they have taken really good care of Henry while we've been here."

Regina stiffened at the vague implication that they both had spent a fair amount of time in this hospital room.

"Water?" she asked in an effort to buy herself a moment's break from the blonde's scrutinizing gaze.

"Oh... uh, sure," Emma blinked at the abrupt subject change– surprised Regina hadn't thrown a fit over the placement of their son – as she poured the requested drink into an ugly pink cup from a pitcher on a nearby side table.

Placing a straw into it for convenience, she scooted closer to the head of the bed and held it with slightly shaking hands while Regina took a few, easy sips.

"Thank you," Regina said as Emma set the cup aside before, once again, grabbing hold of her free hand.

"Now, will you please tell me how long I've been here and how I ended up in such a state?"

"You don't remember," the blonde asked stricken.

"I remember a lot of things, but right now I cannot tell which are real and what were merely dreams. I assume I've been unconscious for a good deal of time?"

Emma nodded, the spooked look easing from her features as she began detailing their last encounter from just over two weeks ago. The events matched the images that had begun crowding Regina's aching head almost as soon as she'd awoken, giving her hope that she was finally truly awake.

"Gods, I was so scared," Emma's ragged voice hitches. "There was so much… you were so… broken. I bullied my way into the ambulance, but they wouldn't let me follow you into the surgical ward. You regained consciousness for just a second before they pushed you through the doors. The look on your face was so sad… defeated, like you'd simply given up and refused to fight. I wasn't sure you'd…"

"Anyways," Emma visibly shook away what she was about to say. "Once you were through surgery, the doctors said, barring any complications, you should heal just fine, physically. Your head injury was the biggest concern so you've been in a medically induced coma until a few days ago when they stopped the medication and had to remove the breathing tube when you started fighting it; we've just been waiting for you to wake up since then."

Regina nodded absentmindedly as the new images began to coalesce into a solid memory and some of the experiences she had with Cameron in Rosewood began to make sense. She would miss the young doctor – even if she had simply been a construct of her own imagination. The woman had helped her come to grips with so many painful aspects of her past as well as her fear of loving someone and all that it entailed.

As grateful as she was, she wouldn't trade this Emma and Henry for anything. I just wish I could thank her, she thought as the last hour finally caught up to her and she slipped towards a peaceful sleep.

"I am so sorry," Emma whispered to the slumbering woman, shame and fear having made them impossible to say earlier.

"You shouldn't apologize; I should," Regina replied, eyes fluttering back open.

"No," the brunette interrupted when Emma began to refute. "This wasn't your fault. What happened to me was an accident. I should never have yelled and stormed out when you were being so sweet. I was... afraid," she confessed, averting her eyes.

Gentle fingers tilted her chin up until she was caught in sympathetic green eyes. "What were you so afraid of?"

A few moments passed silently, "You... me... everything. I've loved before, but what I feel for you is so much more than that; I can't even begin to put it into words. What if, when you finally see the real me, you change your mind and leave? I don't think I'd survive."

This was the exact conversation she'd been trying to avoid that fateful day, but she refused to let Emma think that she had any fault in the accident that landed her here. It was her own damn fault for not looking before she sprinted across the street towards the safety of her car.

"I may not 'know you' as well as I should, but I do see you," Emma insisted, not understanding what Regina could be talking about.

Magic had returned more than a year ago so she was over that shock. No one in town was shy about sharing every grievance they had in regards to the Evil Queen, especially in the beginning, so Emma was more than aware of what Regina had done. She'd even pried Snow's role in it all from a reluctant Ruby and had confronted her tearful mother about it.

Hell, even Emma still had her own issues with some of the stunts Regina had pulled since her arrival, but she realized she was no saint either and knew that with a little time and a lot of work they'd be able to move forward.

The woman looking at her now with watery eyes laced with fear and cautious optimism was not the same person she had once been. Emma could feel it the same way she always knew when someone was lying to her. It was impossible to explain, she just knew that they could be great together if they only took the chance.

Regina shook her head, "You only know what I've told you, which honestly isn't much, and I'm sure you've heard stories from the townspeople that are probably true for the most part. If you were smart, you'd run as far away and as fast as you could."

The brunette's obvious dejection pulled at Emma's heart. "Do you want to know who I think the real Regina is?"

Brown eyes widened in apprehension, but Regina offered a hesitant nod nonetheless.

"I think she is someone who has been so deeply hurt in the past – by someone she should have been able to trust without reservation – that she was terrified of it happing again and so set out to make sure no one could ever get close at all. She projects this cold demeanor and these insurmountable walls all in the effort to protect her heart from the one thing she desires the most..."

"True love," Regina finished in slight awe. No one had ever gotten her so completely, especially with so little to go on.


A moment passed as each woman reveled in the greater connection growing between them.

"You deserve to hear the whole story from me; there are things I must tell you, Emma. Things you should know before…"

"Shhh… 'Gina. Rest now. Everything else can wait until you're better."

Regina wanted so much to confess everything now while she had the nerve, but she knew Emma was right. One day they would sit down and she'd explain everything about her past – maybe she'd even tell her all about Cameron and the crazy world she'd inhabited when in a coma – but that wasn't today.

Unable to resist the much-needed sleep any longer, Regina slowly began to drift off.

"You'll be here when I wake up?" she asked with just a hint of uncertainty, squeezing the hand still holding her own.


Three years later…

"Good morning, dear," Regina hummed as gentle butterfly kisses were rained randomly across her face and neck.

"Happy anniversary, gorgeous," was whispered softly as a cold, unfamiliar weight settled on her hand.

Brown eyes snapped open, widening in surprise as they took in the large princess cut diamond set in a silver band that now rested warmly on her left, ring finger.

"Uh… wha…" was all she could come up with as she searched worried, green eyes for an answer.

"I love you, Regina. I have for years, probably from the moment I first saw you. Though, I was too thick at the time to realize it and, well, we did have a lot of issues to get past, but I think it was worth it and I'm pretty sure you think so too. As much as I love our life together I want to give you more and this seemed like the best way to start and to show you that I am in this for the long haul no matter what comes, so wi-will you marry me?"

Regina couldn't help but laugh at how adorable the love of her life was when rambling before throwing her arms around the still- nervous woman and pulling her into a searing kiss.

"Of course I'll marry you!"

A relieved exhale ghosted across her face before she was pulled into another passionate kiss.

"I love you so much, Regina Mills."

"And I love you, too, Allison Cameron."

... and one universe over.

The End

A/N: Ok so wow... I FINALLY finished it. I am SOOOO sorry it took me so long. But a huge THANK YOU to those who have stuck by me through to the end. Hopefully, it was worth it. And hey, at least this time it didn't take me five months for this chapter. LOL. Gotta give a big thanks to my friend snuglkty for reading over this last chapter and making sure it all made sense. So if you're still confused, blame her cause she said it was okay! Lol. No, don't really. I LOVE confusing you guys, as you may have guessed already, so it's all on me. If you have questions still, feel free to ask. I explained what happened to Regina, but not the how or why. I figured you all could come up with your own theories, most likely better than my own, but if you are really that curious, just pm me. I always reply and I do love hearing from you guys. Thanks again for reading. You all really are the best!

Jun. 26th, 2013


Caught in the Grey (18/?)

Trigger warning, but as usual it's nothing too graphic. A/N at end will explain my long absence to those who are curious. Enjoy!

Searing pain radiating from the center of her being yanked Regina from the peaceful depths of a blissful nothingness as retching coughs rattled her frail frame. Collapsing wearily onto a surprisingly soft surface, chocolate eyes fluttered open in an effort to make sense of the tumultuous noise assaulting her ears.

Red-hot needles lanced through her skull from the bright lights rhythmically flashing overhead and the cool breeze ruffling her raven locks did little to ease the heat emanating off her flushed skin as she dazedly floated along the edges of consciousness, a sense of déjà vu tickling the back of her addled brain.

As her supine form glided along the blinding tunnel, the cacophonous din slowly coalesced into the distinct sounds of pounding feet, squeaking wheels, and a multitude of shouting voices.

"Someone call the OR and tell them we're on our way!"

"What the hell happened, Cam?!"

"Have them prep for gastric lavage and ready a large-bore IV."

"I don't know, Tammy… Hey! Clear the hall!... She's been giving me the silent treatment again lately so I went to check on her, hoping that she'd be more forthcoming in a place she felt comfortable. When I got to her room, I found her passed out on the bed, foaming at the mouth."

"Was there really no clue she was thinking of doing something like this?"

"No! Other than being a little pale and withdrawn lately, she's been her usual stubborn self in our sessions. I'd have upped her suicide watch if I even thought for a second that this was a possibility…"

"Grab the ward nurse on duty and have them pull her file… Find out what medications she was on and who administered them."

"… She's on fifty milligrams sertraline, five of buspirone, and twenty of zolpidem. No complaints of negative side effects and all the nurses' reports say she was taking them as directed… Gods, maybe I should have seen this coming, Tam, but…"

"I'm sorry, but you can't be in here."

"What?! I'm her doctor!"

"The nurse is right, Cam. You're too emotional right now and you aren't even certified to operate anymore. Let the surgical staff take care of her now and you can be there when she wakes up."

"NO! This is my fault; I missed the signs and I will not leave her alone like this!"

"On my count. 1… 2… 3!"

Regina's world tilted alarmingly when an impact jarred her riotous body and she lost track of the confusing conversation flying over her head as she fought down the bile that threatened at the back of her throat. When she'd finally regained semi-control of her body once more, an indistinct blur of hazy faces was all she was able to make out before someone called out, "She's coming around. Dan, put her under so we can get started."

A large hand placed a mask over her mouth and nose and she didn't even have time to offer up a protest before a shrill alarm was shepherding her back into the dark void.

"We're losing her!"

"What the hell is this?!" Regina demanded, throwing her journal at the startled woman as she stormed into Cameron's office for their weekly session.

All of the hope, fear, excitement, guilt, and anxiety that had warred for dominance within the brunette vented as volcanic anger aimed at their sole cause. She drew a small amount of satisfaction as fair skin paled and green eyes widened in apparent apprehension as they took in the seemingly innocuous object lying on the desk between them.

"Doctor Cameron," she snapped when the younger woman offered up nothing more than her best guppy impression for explanation. "Tell me what you mean by this," she slammed her palm down on the open pages, right on the note she'd found over the weekend. There was no doubt in her mind that the younger woman was the author since she and Emma seemed to share the same untidy scrawl as well.

If all of the days, have no more light,

And all of our dreams are lost tonight,

The stars can all fall,

And everything turn to grey,

I will stay.

She thought she knew. Actually, she was fairly confident she knew exactly what the younger woman was trying to convey through the anonymous note, but she wasn't sure she'd be able to handle the truth either way– hence the current eruption of chaotic emotions. Cameron as a stand-in for Emma in a 'fantasy world' was one thing, but this… attraction as reality was something else entirely.

Tapping her foot impatiently, Regina waited for the fair-haired brunette to say something, anything that would put her world, her life, back on a relatively even keel. Long moments passed in silence as she watched the younger woman visibly gather her courage.

Determination glinted in jade eyes as Cameron's back straightened and her square jaw firmed. "Tell me I'm wrong, Regina," she responded, her expression challenging the brunette to deny everything. "Tell me you don't feel the same and I'll never mention it again."

Regina bristled at the tone – her self-defenses and a bit of self-preservation kicking in. "You are more than aware of the life I've lived; my childhood, Emma and Henry, lo… losing them. That you could possibly care for me in anything more than a professional capacity suggests that maybe you are on the wrong side of the doctor/patient relationship."

"I realize you're scared your past will frighten me away, but, like you said, I already know and yet here I am," Cameron replied adamantly, maintaining eye contact as she rounded her desk and stopped mere inches from Regina. "Whether you believe it or not, you are a good person that deserves nothing but love and I think I could be the one to fill that spot. I am well aware of all that you've lost, but I'm not asking for any declarations or promises of forever. All I'm asking for is a chance, just one chance to explore whatever this is developing between us."

The earnest expression in those familiar green eyes held Regina in a pleading gaze as her mind frantically scrambled to formulate a response. Cameron must have taken her stunned silence for consent and the brunette was powerless to resist when the younger woman raised one hand to gently cradle her face before slowly leaning in to place a chaste, tender kiss against her own yielding lips.

Please Regina…

The soft plea spoken in a voice so similar to Emma's snapped Regina back to her harsh reality and a large stone of shame and remorse settled heavily in her stomach. Pushing away a clearly confused Cameron, she could offer no words of comfort or explanation as she bolted out of the room, hoping the younger woman couldn't see the tears streaming down her ashen cheeks.

Regina stared blankly at the empty page across from Cameron's note as cascading thoughts careened relentlessly through her burdened mind. She gave little heed to the time passing around her – playing out in the ever-shifting shadows that danced along the industrial grey walls of her room – as sporadic snippets of conversation from the afternoon group session floated down the deserted hallway, falling on the deaf ears of the brunette who was only sinking further into herself.

Drawing had always been her release and on the rare occasion the images wouldn't come, words would often flow from the tip of her pencil in a subconscious outpouring of all that was bothering her until things could once again coalesce in her mind's eye.

This time, however, only two words would materialize – playing on repeat – and they didn't do justice to the discordant feelings that were pulling her in so many directions. In some ways, the darkness that had engulfed her after Emma and Henry were gone was much easier to handle than the emotional roller-coaster she currently found herself riding.

Once she'd lived with the anguish long enough, it had become a twisted form of comfort – wrapping around her soul like a blanket and numbing her to everything that existed outside of her own little world of pain. Then, one day, Emma and Henry were back and she never dared to question her good fortune, instead taking it for the gift it was and allowing her reclaimed happiness to wash away the memory of the bleak life she'd only been enduring until that point.

How could she put into words the weeks of renewed grief she'd suffered over losing them a second time that now confusedly mixed with the heart-stopping elation she felt at the remembered touch of Cameron's lips to hers? Was her attraction to Cameron based solely on the fact that she looked so much like Emma? Did she even have the right to feel the smallest amount of happiness so soon after the death of her wife and son? Scarcely a year had passed! Yet, here she was, mooning over some woman she barely knew who just happened to look exactly like the love of her life.

For nearly a month – longer if she was completely honest with herself – she'd wrestled with these impossible questions in an attempt to make sense of her conflicting feelings. Her last few sessions with Cameron had been nothing short of completely awkward, the younger woman hiding the sting of her rejection behind a poorly constructed mask of professionalism while Regina reverted to the stoic silence of their early interactions.

Regina knew they should talk about what they were both so avidly avoiding, but every time she resolved to do just that, a fleeting memory of Emma and Henry would flash through her mind or, worse, Emma's voice would whisper gently across her consciousness and her determination would immediately wilt under the oppressive sense of guilt and shame that fueled her rising depression.

The soft utterances had once offered comfort in this bizarre dream until the dream had turned out to be reality. Then those loving words became nothing more than the manifestation of her own insanity and with each passing day the voice was growing louder, more incessant. What had only plagued her sleep before now haunted her every waking hour with unrelenting appeals to "please, come back to me, Regina,"… "Henry and I need you here with us"… "I won't let you leave me like this", an unending loop of supplications that she had no power to answer.

Too much, it had finally become all too much for her. Emma and Henry had always been her strength and without them there, she was no longer able to handle any of it. The guilt – of their demise, her survival, over her mother's death, her love for Cameron – was nearly crippling. She couldn't sleep; she couldn't eat. Seeing Cameron was torture; hearing Emma was a nightmare.

She was broken and despite Cameron's words, Regina knew she wasn't worth loving. Her mother never had, Daniel hadn't enough, and her family had died because of their love for her. Had they cared just a little less they wouldn't have been in the car with her that night, they'd still be alive, and she would have been able to live out the rest of her life in blissful happiness.

Time had come to execute her 'last resort' plan. Originally, she'd believed this scheme would essentially put her to sleep permanently in this realm, ensuring that she would always reside in Fairytale World whether awake or asleep. After weeks of thought and growing misery, she realized it was the only way to guarantee the end to her pain while returning her to the loving arms of her wife and son – she could only pray to whatever gods were listening that she'd find such joy in the afterlife – and protect Cameron from the curse of loving her.

Experience told her she only had about an hour before the effects of the pills kicked in and she'd no longer be coherent enough to write. With the amount she'd stockpiled over the last several months, that time was most likely severely reduced. The minutes were quickly ticking by and she had yet to find a way to properly explain her decision to the one person she was leaving behind that might possibly care – Cameron.

As a recognizable lethargy began to set in, Regina scribbled out the only two words she'd been able to conjure – I'm sorry – before the pen slipped from her numb fingers and she slumped boneless on the bed.

A welcomed coldness flowed through her veins, soothing her mind and relaxing her limbs, as a distant knocking sounded through the encroaching fog.

"Regina?" a hesitant voice called out as the door squeaked open.

Bleary eyes opened automatically, despite the nearly irresistible pull on heavy eyelids, and sluggishly meet cautious green as Cameron fully entered, "Can we please talk about this now?"

Regina's exhausted silence must have come across as continued stubbornness because the younger woman all but bit out her next words.

"Regina, you can't avoid me like this forever."

The brunette desperately wanted to catch Cameron's attention so she could be carried into oblivion on a wave shimmering jade, but gave up hope as Cameron began to pace in the small room.

"If you don't return my feelings, that… well it'll suck, but I'm a big girl; I can handle it. But so help me God, if you sit there and lie to me…"

The younger woman spun and their eyes met for a fraction of a second before chocolate orbs rolled to the back of her head and Regina began to convulse as a metallic-tasting foam filled her mouth.

" Regina… Regina…"


When awareness returned once more, the lethargy remained, but the utter blackness came as a surprise. Regina knew Heaven – with its pearly gates and roads paved of gold – was a long shot, but she never thought Hell would be this dark… or this silent. Wasn't Hell supposed to be filled with blinding fire and deafening screams of agony? Maybe the Catholics had been right all along and she was now stuck in Purgatory.

Although, the pain level is about right for Hell, she thought as she tried to move around and stinging lances pierced every inch of her body, drawing a soft moan that echoed in her pounding head.

"Shhh… sweetheart, I'm right here," a familiar, gentle voice cooed as a soothing hand ran across her forehead. Her body instantly relaxed under the cool touch.


Heaven it was, then.

"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. I'll be right here when you wake up."

Regina was eager to open her eyes and reunite with her love, but her body felt as if it'd been swimming through drying cement and the haze in her mind refused to clear. Giving into the pulling unconsciousness, she could only hope that if she were in Hell, this wasn't the form her torment would take for all eternity.

Chapter 19 (conclusion)

A/N: First, an especially big thanks to those who have read this chapter after my five month hiatus. Next, my friend, Heather, for helping me get back into writing by harassing me non-stop and then telling me where this chapter was lacking so I could make it worth of all of you guys that have been waiting for this update.

So to my explanation. There's actually two parts to this. One, is that I moved halfway across the country, to Vegas, and that was a pretty big deal. Still, I can only use that to cover for about a month, with all the packing and driving and settling in I had to do. The major reason for my absence is that I suffered from a major nervous break down. I'm not telling you this so I get sympathy responses. That's not it at all. I'm telling you all this because I feel you deserve an explanation and I hope my story will help someone else that might be suffering as well.

I've always been a nervous person, but in February, I started having major panic attacks and I was constantly on edge. This lead to a deep depression. So deep I was suicidal. I did NOT try anything, but the thoughts were definitely there. That's what really freaked me out, cause I'd been through minor bouts of, what I called, 'my funk', but I NEVER had those kinds of thoughts. After nearly a month of barely eating, not sleeping, and almost dying (fell asleep while driving, not good) I went to the doctor and they set me up on anxiety and depression meds and with a therapist.

I am happy to say that it worked! I'm much better now. But it also made me very afraid to get into the necessary headspace to write this chapter. Writing (and even reading) was, for some reason, a trigger for my anxiety. So I avoided it until a couple weeks after I went on meds. But then I didn't want to work on this chapter because of its content. I think you all can understand that writing about a suicidal person might be a little difficult for one that was so recently in her place. I just had to get over that fear. And now I have.

Again, I'm not telling you guys this for sympathy, but if there is anyone out there suffering like I did... Get Help! It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Most people, especially women, suffer from some form of anxiety/depression at one point in their life. It's not ok to suffer and you don't deserve it.

Alright, sorry for being long-winded, but I wanted to get that out there. Thanks again for reading and look for an update sometime soon. Hopefully by next week, but definitely not five months from now. lol. Luv you guys!

Mar. 8th, 2013


Caught in the Grey (17/?)

A few strong curse words and some vague mentions of child abuse (just in case, but it's nothing graphic - never graphic).


The sudden clamor of a blaring alarm clock shattered the early morning silence on yet another dreaded Monday. Virtually immune to its incessant screeching, Cameron remained buried beneath a mass of blankets and pillows as a lone, bare arm reached across the empty space and smacked it into submission – for another nine minutes at least.

Ever since she'd gotten the call mid-Saturday morning that Regina had awoken, she'd wavered between racing to the hospital just to make sure the other woman truly was conscious and waiting until she went into work – and therefore had a legitimate reason to act on her concern. Common sense had prevailed, however.

Well… not really.

Fear had actually halted her feet mid-stride as she rushed for the door immediately after hanging up with Maddy. Her sheer relief at Regina's recovery, she was sure, was written all over her face. Hiding even the smallest flux of emotions was a daily struggle, but with pure elation thrumming through her veins, her attraction towards her raven-haired patient would be plain for all to see – including the woman herself.

That alone was enough to cause her hesitation and as reason took a stronger hold, she remembered what she'd written in the other woman's journal. Even if Regina was completely incapable of reading her expressions, the words she'd put to paper would leave little doubt as to her intentions. While it was unlikely that the brunette had seen them so soon after waking – she had planted them towards the back of the notebook for a reason after all – just the possibility of discovery was enough to turn Cameron back around and firmly plant her ass on the couch for the rest of the morning.

Anticipation and apprehension had warred within her agitated mind, creating a swarm of butterflies that fluttered through her stomach one moment only to drop like stones the next. In a futile attempt at distraction, she'd filled the daylight hours with a multitude of errands and had cleaned her apartment until it shined – though it'd done her little good – but at night, she'd been unable to ignore these vacillating emotions.

Two nights of restless tossing and turning had left her completely exhausted, but as the alarm cried out for a second time, she reluctantly clambered out of bed to start her day. Goose bumps prickled her exposed limbs as cool air met her sleep-warmed skin. Shivering slightly, she made her way barefoot to the kitchen for a much needed caffeine jolt, rubbing the haze from her eyes as she slumped onto a nearby bar stool.

Now that the day had finally arrived, an unexpected calmness settled around her and going to work no longer seemed quite so terrifying. What would come would come no matter what and she refused to waste any more energy trying to predict what would happen when she finally laid eyes on Regina. It was unfortunate that she hadn't been able to reach this conclusion a couple of days ago – maybe she wouldn't feel like death warmed over if she had.

What had come, was a packed train ride on the green line followed by a short walk under heavy, grey clouds as a frigid, blustery wind gusted between buildings and cut through even the thickest of layers.

A quick call to the charge nurse on ward three, after she entered the office and quickly shucked her coat and bag, assured her that Regina had returned to her room and seemed to be faring well enough after her ordeal. Cameron sighed silently in relief and told the other woman to bring the brunette in at her normal appointment time before she rushed off to the weekly staff meeting – three minutes early, a new record.

Once she was able to settle behind her desk for good, the rest of the morning flew by in a whirl of paperwork and patients. If not for Angelique's kindness, lunch would have definitely come and gone without Cameron ever noticing.

Finally, at one o'clock sharp, the knock she'd been anticipating all day – but studiously avoided thinking about – sounded throughout her quiet office. She issued forth a firm "Come in" that squeaked a bit more than she'd intended.

Her first glimpse at the normally poised woman after nearly three days, left her completely gutted. Formerly piercing brown eyes lay blood-shot and hollow behind limp, greasy locks of dull brown hair while visible tear tracks ran over dark circles and down drawn, pale cheeks. Long arms wrapped protectively across the Cal Tech sweatshirt enveloping her torso, but despite the warm covering, Cameron clearly spotted her constant shivering.

Any and all selfishly-happy feelings she'd had before were now gone as an overwhelming urge to pull Regina into her arms and shelter her from the rest of the world stole through her. Knowing such an advance – along with any other sign of compassion or pity – would be ill received by the strong, independent woman, Cameron schooled her features into a bland mask of professionalism and greeted Regina as she normally would and prayed the woman before her was not as broken as she appeared.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Mills."

"Doctor," came the raspy reply.

Cameron ignored the jolt to her heart at the dispirited tone as Regina took a seat, one leg curled beneath her and the other held tightly to her chest, the sock-clad foot resting on the edge of the chair.

Long moments passed in silence and neither woman moved.

For her part, Cameron had no idea where to begin. A thousand thoughts raced through her mind as the minutes ticked past and while blunt questions and straightforward dialogue had always been the best when dealing with a willful Regina, she could not bring herself to be so callous this time. It was clear the older brunette was still processing the shattering information Cameron had imparted the previous Monday.

Consequently, she resolved herself to hold her tongue and waited silently as Regina starred vacantly across the room, her face turned away as if to shield herself from the young doctor as much as possible in the confined space.

Another span of indeterminable time lapsed.

"I remember how my mother died," Regina stated apropos of nothing, almost as if she were speaking to herself.

"I-I'm sorry?" Cameron stammered, caught off guard by the unexpected comment and unsure if she'd heard the soft voice correctly.

"My mother," the brunette repeated, brown eyes meeting green for the first time since she'd entered before flicking away again. "Actually it's not just her. I remember both of my lives. Well… parts of them anyways."

"Both?" Cameron asked, immediately aware of the significance such a statement entailed, but carefully maintained her placid façade despite her rising hope that Regina had finally experienced the breakthrough she needed in order to heal.

"Yes," the brunette nodded slowly, eyes still affixed into empty space, "the real one, and the one I'd… invented to escape my mother's abuse. It really shouldn't surprise me that they parallel to the extent they do. I'm not half bad at painting and drawing – or so people have told me – but I was never really any good at story telling. That was always more Emma's thing."

Cameron's heart clenched at the mention of Emma, not out of jealousy – she would never want to take away the love and joy Regina experienced with Emma and Henry – but because of the pain that radiated from the older woman's troubled eyes and the quiver in her husky voice as she said her name.

"I still hear her sometimes, even when I'm awake," she confessed, her hushed tones barely carrying across the short distance separating them. To Cameron it might as well have been the Grand Canyon for all the good it did her. "I'd originally assumed she was calling to me in as I slept in Fairytale Land, trying to wake me or comfort my nightmares… this nightmare." She shook her head, "Turns out, I really am crazy after all."

"No," Cameron countered with conviction, pulling Regina from whatever plane of existence she'd been wandering through as she spoke. "I've said it before and I meant it then as much as I mean it now – you ar not razy."

Dark eyes widened in surprise at the intensity behind her words, their gazes fully locked for the first time since the brunette had entered, and Cameron reminded herself to rein it back a bit and keep them on track.

"Please believe me when I say that working through your most recent sorrow is not insignificant, but I feel that we should start with your mother – the self-professed reason behind the world you created – and work forward from there. By learning to deal with that past pain and put it into proper perspective, it should allow you to grieve all your losses naturally without the added shelter of your fairytale land."

Eye contact was broken as Regina, yet again, focused on the middle distance. Glassy, brown orbs danced around the room, never settling on any one object, as the brunette obviously debated whether or not to confide further in the doctor. Compared to their previous sessions – where Cameron had been the one providing the forgotten details in an effort to jog the older woman's memory – Regina had already volunteered a wealth of knowledge about her past and current suffering and Cameron would not push her further than she was willing to go… not today.

"I wouldn't even know where to begin," Regina sighed, decision made.

"Just tell me what you remember about her," Cameron prompted gently as if speaking too loudly or too fervently would scare the other woman silent once more.

"Which version would you care to hear about first?"

"Either, both… whichever one you choose is fine," the younger woman reassured.

With a deep, shuddering breath, the brunette began her story.

"There's one thing you must know about my mother in order to understand her; sh always ared more about advancing the family name than Daddy's happiness and mine, especially. We were merely tools, trophies she utilized to gain affluence and prestige in order to impress her circle of pretentious, busybody friends.

She decided nearly every aspect of our lives with little or no input from us. Daddy changed careers and took up golf in order to satisfy her ideal of what he should be. I got a master's in finance from North Western, because she was adamant that I'd never make a living painting and how could I argue when she was the one paying? Believe me when I say, that was something she never let me forget.

If controlling my future career weren't bad enough, she also took it upon herself to dictate those I saw socially. Friends were dismissed if they didn't meet her rigid criteria and she chased away the man I'd set on marrying because he wasn't from the right family. Then there was the time, not long after I'd turned eighteen, that she tried to convince me to wed some wealthy man thirty years my senior because he was a prominent lawyer in town and rumor had it that he was looking for a new wife.

Luckily, my father stepped in before that happened – the one time he actually stopped a plan from the beginning as opposed to picking up whatever pieces of me that were left when it was over. As grateful as I was for his support, I believe it was only because I was of age, and therefore no longer legally under her control, that she didn't force me to go through with it despite our protestations. The risk of scandal was too high even for her.

Things in Fairytale Land were very much the same and yet, remarkably worse. It seems even in my imagination she was an exceptionally cruel woman, more so perhaps, because she could use magic against me; restrain me with vines or ropes, lash me with conjured whips, use me as a guinea pig for her potions, crush the beating heart of my first love to dust with just her hands.

There, I was forced to marry the man because he was king and there was no way mother would ever turn down a chance at being part of a royal family. You would think," Regina laughed humorlessly as a wayward tear tracked down one cheek, "that a world of my own design would be a happy place for me, yet it never was."

"Why do you think that was?" Cameron asked, thankful that Regina was too preoccupied with her own thoughts to catch the noticeable hitch in her voice. The more the older woman revealed, the harder it was for Cameron to remain silent and maintain the pretense of impartiality.

"Because I didn't know ho to b happy," the brunette answered, emotion tingeing her words. "Being told day in and day out that you're worthless/insignificant/useless/unimportant, etcetera, tends to fuck with one's head and I didn't know life could be any other way. The difference, though, is that in my illusionary world I eventually possessed powerful magic that allowed me to bend others to my will and exact revenge on all those – including m dear other – that'd wronged me or had stood by and watched my suffering without ever bothering to help. Here, in this world," she waved one hand vaguely through the air, "there was no hope for escape until my mother died and I was finally free to live my life the way I wanted."

"How do Henry and Emma come to play in this? Did you still maintain the fantasy world during all those years with them?" Cameron asked curiously. It was the one question that had been at the forefront of her mind since learning that the young mother and son were not, in fact, figments of Regina's imagination.

"No," the brunette shook her head. "They were the ones that taught me how to love, how to be happy. They were my salvation and the life I'd never been able to imagine before. I didn't need to escape anymore because the wer my escape. Lo-losing them just brought it all back stronger than before. I can remember scattered hours of lucidity here and there, but mostly I stayed with them in my mind – put them in the world I'd created to keep them safe always. It was the only way I knew to cope."

"And now that you know, that you're finally present in this world with all its pain and heartache, do you think you'll be able to stay here" with m "and deal with it?"

"I wish I could say for sure," Regina replied, running her hands through dirty, raven locks, "but I don't really believe I have much of choice at this point."

Cameron's confusion must have been evident, because Regina clarified, "It's been a long forty-eight hours, Doctor. I haven't slept much and what little I was able to get was filled with memories from both worlds bombarding my subconscious. You may not recognize the significance of that statement," and she really didn't, "but not one single night has passed since I've been in this hospital or even the past year, really, where I have not returned to Emma and Henry in my dreams."

True understanding dawned. When Regina had mentioned remembering both of her lives at the beginning of their session, hope had taken hold of Cameron and blinded her to all that this breakthrough entailed. In the span of two short days, Regina' entire xistence had come crashing down around her for a second time and she'd been left to deal with it alone yet again.

The guilt Cameron had thought she'd gotten over with the news of Regina's recovery came rushing back at the realization that her little newspaper stunt was the cause of the older woman's current misery. It didn't matter that it had achieved the desired results; her plan to gradually ease the brunette back into reality was destroyed by one moment's thoughtlessness and it was Regina who had suffered the consequences.

"It was actually seeing one of your new orderlies that did it," Regina continued, unknowingly twisting the knife deeper. "He took on the role of my guard captain in Fairytale Land — he was rather adept at it, too. Recognizing him made me finall se what was here and in the faces surrounding me I saw my maids, cooks, soldiers—people that had not populated my world until a few short weeks ago. Before, it had always just been Emma, Henry, and I. That others existed was implied, but they were never seen."

Haunted brown eyes met hers once more as she dispassionately spoke, "I suppose congratulations are in order, Doctor Cameron. It seems as if you've finally cured me."

Looking at the shattered form of the previously strong-willed, confident woman sitting before her, Cameron doubted she'd done Regina any favors by taking away the one thing that had made her happy.

Maybe sometimes it is better to live in a fantasy world.

Chapter 18

A/N Sorry for the small delay but at least it was only two days this time! That being said, there probably won't be an update this coming week, but I have a really good excuse! I'm hoping to submit a SwanQueen piece to ralst on P&P for her Valentine's Day Challenge. Deadline is the 12th though, so I may miss it. If I do, I'll still post it there and here (which I'll do anyways once it's up on the P&P site). So even though you won't be able to read this story, at least you'll have something to make up for it and hold you over until I get the next chapter done. It will also contain far less angst (though there will be a little) and lo more fluff. It wouldn't be a true Valentine's Day without a little of both. lol. Thanks, as always, for reading/commenting/following. Those emails make my day (especially when I'm suffering at work) and I can only hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it!

Jan. 30th, 2013


Caught in the Grey (16/?)

Warnings: Suggestive language, harsh cursing, implied child abuse (nothing graphic), and hints (but no real spoilers) for ep 2x09, Queen of Hearts. Also, so there's no confusion italicize section go together with othe italicize sections.

Water dripping off pitch-black walls rang counterpoint to the sharp click of stilettoed boots upon the equally dark stone floor as Regina patiently paced around the edge of the barren, circular chamber. The sickly sunlight streaming through the lone, barred window set high above provided the sole source of illumination by which she watched for any sign that the unconscious woman sitting in the center of the room was finally stirring.

A low groan sounded in the near-silence and Regina spun neatly on the balls of her feet, coming to a stop just to the right of the slumped figure. The bent head of once neatly pinned curls slowly rose until it met the solid form of the high-backed, wooden chair with a muted thud. Deep, ragged breaths passed noisily between bright red lips as heavily painted eyelids fluttered open, revealing hazy amber eyes that squinted against the dim lighting.

"Absolutely not!" the elder brunette yelled as she agitatedly paced around the living room. "No daughter of mine is going to move out to that state filled with nothing but queers to pursue a ar career when she's a semester away from a master's degree in finance and has major corporations already dropping six-figure offers. I forbid it - so just get that silly notion out of your mind and concentrate on finishing school and keeping a guy around long enough to marry you."

"I have no interested in finance nor am I looking for a husband," Regina countered from the couch, her voice taking on the loathsomely child-like tone reserved only for interactions with her overbearing mother.

"Well, you don't want to wait too long on that, dear," Cora said as she came to a stop near the fireplace. "You aren't getting any younger."

"I'm twenty-three!" Regina squeaked in indignation.

As the potion-induced fog wore off, the other woman roused further, shifting in her seat and uncomprehendingly taking in the space she now found herself. A deep sense of satisfaction coursed through Regina's veins when the fidgeting form immediately stilled when met with the sturdy bands restraining her hands and feet.

"So glad you could finally join me," Regina purred in false gentility. "After all, I went through quite a bit of trouble to make sure everything would meet your exacting standards."

"What is the meaning of this? I demand you release me this very instant," the woman growled in outrage as Regina stepped forward from the shadows.

Piercing eyes glared threateningly across the short distance separating them. Regina happily noted that while that look would have once sent her cowering into the nearest corner in a desperate attempt to escape the promised wrath, it no held the same power that it once had. She was in control now and she planned to relish in her victory while she could.

"You'll be twenty-four in a few months and do you have any idea how many of my friends' daughters are already married with children and several of them are younger than you."

"It's my life and I'll do with it as I please," Regina stated, proud when her voice wavering only slightly.

The older woman laughed condescendingly, "Wrong. It's mine I rought you into this world I ade sure you went to the best schools money could buy and signed you up for all the proper sports and extracurricular activities to ensure that no Ivy League university in their right mind would turn you down I pent years making and maintaining connections with the most influential families around so that you'd have a choice of eligible bachelors when the time came. Now you want to throw away all that work, al m hard work, to sit on the beach and finger paint? I don't think so."

"I'm not asking," she declared, firmer this time. Her ire was growing with each exchange, replacing the ever-present fear and lending a level of courage and determination she'd never felt before. "I am an adult capable of making my own choices…"

"Like your oh-so-excellent choice in Daniel?" the older woman mocked.

"My deepest apologies, Mother," she said, contempt coating every syllable so there was no doubt that she was not sorry in the least. "Are these accommodations not to your liking? Are the restraints to tight?" she sneered, fist clenching to tighten them further.

A satisfied smirk pulled at the corner of her mouth as Cora winced in pain, the constricting bands digging into her pale flesh and drawing a fine line of blood that oozed from the beneath the restraints where it fell unnoticed to the floor below.

"I don't know what you think you're playing at," the older woman snarled, "but you cannot hope to hold me here forever, child. As strong as you believe yourself to be, I am stronger and you will pay for this impertinence in time."

"Oh, this won't take long," Regina reassured as she once again began to circle around the bound form of her mother. "After all, I'm not so heartless as to leave someone so weak and defenseless down here to rot in the dark and cold for days on end while going on about my life without a second thought. No, that seems to be something to which only you are capable."

"Evidently, those lessons on obedience and respect bear repeating. Something you can be certain I intend to rectify as soon as I'm released."

Regina's heart stung at the mention of the man that had been her first hope of escape as she ground out from behind clenched teeth, "As I recall Mother, you were the one that made sure he'd never again set foot in this city."

"He wasn't good enough for you," Cora casually dismissed, brushing her fingers through the non-existent layer of dust coating the mantel.

"He was salutatorian of his graduating class from Northwestern. How, in your warped point of view, is that not good enough for me?" the younger woman asked in utter disbelief.

"He was there on scholarship and majored in history of all things. How could I expect him to ever take proper care of you on a teacher's salary?"

"I don't need money or influence. That's wha yo want. All I want out of life is to be happy with the person I love. Nothing else matters."

"Love?" her mother scoffed. "You didn't love him."

"You know," Regina continued, ignoring the not-so-idle threat as if the older woman had never spoken. "A woman as ambitious as yourself is sure to have made several enemies over the years. One would only think it prudent to have somebody test your food before you eat. There's no telling what a person might… slip into it."

"Surly you could come up with something more original than poisoning your own mother," Cora laughed in her familiar, breathily derisive way.

"Oh no," Regina stopped and leaned down until her face was mere inches away from her mother's, their eyes locked in a battle of wills.

"Poison would have been too kind- far too swift and impersonal. It's been a few years since I've had the pleasure of your company; I really must remember to thank Hook for arraigning this little tête-à-tête. The man really is a dear when properly motivated, wouldn't you agree? He even brought me a little present, but we'll get to that shortly," she waved dismissively as she stood back up, never breaking eye contact.

"It really shouldn't come as a shock to me that you have taken no more notice of my progress in the magical arts than you did with my riding. Otherwise, you'd have known that I have become quite adept at mixing potions. My proudest invention has been in devising a concoction that strips away all magical powers. It's odorless, tasteless, and its effects will last for several hours with even the most powerful of sorcerers. I tested it on Rumple myself. That made for a very entertaining evening. With you… it would last for days. You're more than welcome to test it for yourself," she offered, spotting the older woman's skeptical expression.

"I loved what he represented; a friend, someone who cared about me, who could take me far away fro you nd the hell you've put me through. It may not have been the grand, fairytale romance that most girls dream of, but it was enough. It was something we could have built on, but you took one look at his lack of pedigree and summarily dismissed him fro m life."

"Just proves my point, dear," Cora said, unaffected by the younger woman's accusations or her rising anger. "If he were worthy of your affections, then he wouldn't have been so easily scared off. Now, Selena Collins' oldest son, Brad, would make an excellent match for you. He recently split up with his fiancé and is finishing his internship at John Hopkins next month. He also happens to be in town this weekend, so I invited them over for dinner tonight. Do try to at least look presentable, won't you?"

"Goddamn it, Mother! I'm tired of you meddling in my life. When are you going to just leave me the fuck alone already?!" Regina all but roared, her breaking point finally reached as years of suppressed rage finally bubbled up from the depths of her soul. "It's not my fault that you got saddled with a husband and kid that you didn't want, but now you're trying to force the kind of life you so clearly didn't want on me and I won't do it. I'm done; done with you and your fucked up idea of love. Had you left when you had the chance, maybe you wouldn't have turned into such a frigi cunt."

The two women stood in shock at the pure vehemence behind the words. Never had Regina spoken to her mother in such a way before, always too afraid to face the older woman's wrath if she even so much as breathed funny. For the first time in her life, Regina was no longer scared and she'd make damn sure she made the most of this feeling.

With a small twist of her hand, the bindings around Cora's wrists and ankles disappeared. The older woman immediately jumped to her feet, hands flailing through the air in an elaborate flourish that Regina assumed was meant to turn her into an insect or some other easily squashed form.

"Does it meet with your approval, Mother?" she goaded when nothing happened after another failed attempt.

Interlacing her gloved fingers over her corseted stomach, Cora drew herself up as regally possible despite her disheveled state and firmly planted a mask of indifference across her aging features. A trick, Regina had learned, to wrest control of an uncertain situation from an unwitting opponent.

Regina was no ignorant fool, however, and could clearly see the cracks showing through the façade; rising fury colored the older woman's cheeks, a hint of fear flashed from normally cool eyes, and her carefully modulated tones quivered ever so slightly as she spoke.

"This insolent woman I see before me is no daughter of mine," her mother all but spat, "Now, if you are through with this little temper tantrum, I demand you free me from this deplorable chamber."

A shar smack ounded in the silence and the brunette distantly registered a slight burning across her right cheek as something warm ran along her jaw.

"Such an ungrateful little bitch you've turned out to be," Cora growled, chest heaving with every angry exhalation. "Your father and I ha nothing hen we got married and it's only thanks to me that you grew up surrounded by the luxuries that you are so accustomed to. You can't even begin to comprehend the sacrifices I had to make, the deals I had to broker to get us to this point. Now you throw it all back in my face for some pipe dream of being an artist and marrying fo love. Of all the ridiculous ideas you've come up with in your pathetic, little life, this definitely takes the prize. I will not allow it and, clearly, you need reminding just who is in charge here."

Her mom reared back again, but Regina was ready this time. Snatching the thin, leather belt as it flew through the air, she yanked it from Cora's grip and threw it across the room.

"You are correct; I am no longer the sweet, naïve girl you brought into this world," Regina stalked forwar - etting all her anger, resentment, and pain shine through her dark brown eyes towards the one person who'd been the source of it all— glorying at every retreating step the older woman took. "She died the day you crushed her true love's heart," Cora's back hit the slick wall, "and her coffin sealed when you forced her to marry a man she did not love," Regina towered over her cowering form, "all for the sake of appearances. Never doubt, however," a dexterous hand plunged into her chest, "that I am very much your creation Mother," and pulled out a still-beating heart.

Regina watched with cold indifference as amber eyes widened in shock. "Hook really does give the best presents," she mused as Cora fell to her knees, struggling for every breath while long, powerful fingers slowly crushed her pulsing life force to dust.

"Enough! I've lived with your scathing words and physical abuse for too long now and I won't take it anymore," she asserted as she advanced on the older woman who was quick to retreat in the face of her fury.

Stumbling blindly backwards, Cora's foot caught the leg of the coffee table. Amber eyes widened in shock and locked with deep brown as time slowed. A sickening crack resounded through the silent room, then all was still once more.

Regina watched in an uncomprehending daze as blood dripped off the glass edge of the table into the ever-growing pool staining the pale carpet beneath her mother's motionless body.

Weaving her way through the multitude of bodies crowding the beach, Regina allowed the cool breeze and gently rolling waves of the Pacific to sooth her frazzled nerves. Her first opening two nights prior had been met with rave reviews from art collectors and critics alike. Nearly half of her collection had sold already and her agent assured her that interest in her pieces would only grow over the following weeks.

It'd been a rough year and a half since her move from Chicago, but she felt as if things were finally working out in her favor. With any luck, and a few more successful showings, she'd be able to quit her job at CFA within the year and be done with the financial industry for good. Being a 'starving artist' was not a cliché she was willing to indulge, so until she was more established within the community, she'd just have to suffer through.

Snatching a spot of prime real estate – close to the water, but above the rising tide line, and no one within a ten-foot radius – that a family of four had just abandoned, Regina pushed aside her heavy thoughts and quickly spread the blanket she'd brought along to lay claim to the sandy turf before anyone else could. Satisfied that her spot was secured, she dropped her bag of supplies and a small cooler onto the cloth so it wouldn't fly away before jamming the pole of a large beach umbrella into the sand and opening it up.

Once she was laid out beneath the protective shade, she removed the colorful sarong that hid the bottom half of her black bikini and folded it neatly before placing it in the bag where she dug out the novel she'd been trying to work through for the last three months. Rolling onto her stomach, she lost herself in the sea of words as Kay Scarpetta tried to solve yet another mysterious death.

An intriguing clue had just been revealed, one that had the potential to crack the case wide open and, as Scarpetta paced the length of her office puzzling it all out, an icy cascade ran down the length of Regina's spine. Squealing in surprised indignation as the unexpected chill met her fevered flesh, the brunette yanked off her sunglasses and spun around to face the impertinent ass responsible.

Her cutting glare and the caustic diatribe that sat ready at the tip of her tongue died a swift death, however, when met with sparkling green eyes set in the cherubic face of a young boy. A mop of mousey brown hair peeked out from under a light blue bucket-hat that matched the swim trunks covering his pudgy legs. Light freckles dotted across the toddler's nose and wide, chubby cheeks where a mischievous smile sat poorly hidden behind one tiny hand while the other held a bright red pail in its grasp.

Her ire instantly melted at the adorable sight of the boy giggling infectiously before her and Regina wouldn't have been able to stop her own answering smile even if she'd wanted to.

"Henry!" the sharp reprimand sounded from her right, causing Regina and the boy to jump at the sudden harshness.

"I am so sorry," a young blonde woman apologized as she dropped to her knees next to Regina and pulled the boy into her arms. "I only looked away for a second to find the sunblock and he vanished. Kid's like Houdini, I swear," she mumbled the last part, but she was close enough that Regina easily heard it.

"It's fine, really," the brunette turned to face the other woman to prove she really wasn't angry. She didn't want Henry to get in trouble for just being a kid. "He was only…" brown eyes locked with jade green and it felt like someone had landed a sucker punch to her stomach, "having some fun," Regina trailed off.

Unable to tear herself away from the mesmerizing gaze that held her own, Regina absently took in the golden curls that had escaped the low ponytail to frame the porcelain skin of high cheekbones that held a faint smattering of freckles and a strong jaw softened only slightly by her youth. The woman couldn't be older than twenty, but held herself with a confidence that belied her age. A near-silent gasp threatened to escape the brunette's gaping mouth when a flash of pink tongue swiped across the woman's full bottom lip.

"Mommy?" Henry luckily interrupted before Regina could embarrass herself completely.

"Yes, baby?" the blonde said, slowly dragging her eyes from Regina's.

With their gaze broken, the brunette finally felt like she could breathe again and gratefully took a deep, shuddering breath into her starved lungs. Now if only she could figure out a way to calm her racing heart that insisted on beating triple time.

"Will you help me with my sandcastle?" the boy asked.

"Sure, sweetheart," the younger woman replied easily enough, either ignoring or not seeing the boy's sly grin that instantly had Regina weary of his motives for asking.

"Her too," he said, pointing a small finger towards her.

"Uh…" the blonde hesitated, shooting a fleeting look at Regina before turning back to her son, "I'm sure this nice lady would love to, honey, but she looks pretty busy to me. Maybe next time, okay?"

A slight pang of regret caused Regina's pounding heart to skip a beat as the young woman started to stand. She'd never made friends easily, not even as a child. Daniel had been a complete fluke and, even then, they'd only been together because he'd relentlessly pursued her until she finally conceded. Never before had she been drawn to someone the way she was with the cute, little boy and his lovely mother and she couldn't help but think that if she'd passed up this opportunity, she'd be missing out on something special.

Wait… Lovely?

Shaking herself from that bizarre thought, Regina turned to the toddler to find tears pooling at the corners of his green eyes. Jumping in before they could spill she said, "Actually, Henry, I've never really built a sandcastle before. I probably won't be any good, but if it's okay with your mom, maybe you can teach me how."

Regina's shoulders dropped in relief at the brilliant, toothy smile that broke out across his face as he nodded enthusiastically at her suggestion.

"Pwease, mommy?" he asked with the most adorable puppy eyes the brunette had ever seen.

There was no doubt in her mind that if such an expression were ever aimed her direction, she'd be unable to deny the boy whatever he asked. It seemed that his mother wasn't immune either, because after a quick look to judge her sincerity, the younger woman easily relented.

"Alright, Henry, your new friend and I will help you. Run over to our blanket and get your other bucket and shovel," she said and they both watched as he happily scurried across the sand to get his things.

"Uhh… My name is Emma, by the way," the blonde whispered shyly, catching her eye for a second before turning back to keep track of her son.

"Regina," she whispered, a small smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.

"Come on, Henry. We're going to be late."

"Yes, mom," the young man's beleaguered sigh echoed down the stairs.

"You too, Emma," she called down the first floor hallway to the master bedroom.

"Yes, dear," came the response and Regina rolled her eyes at the mirrored inflections of mother and son.

"We have plenty of time, 'Gina. It doesn't start for another hour and we'll be out of here in five minutes, so keep your skirt on," Emma said as she rounded the corner putting in the teardrop diamond earrings that matched the necklace resting against the pale expanse of skin exposed by the Versace sweetheart, strapless red dress.

"Or not," she rasped, drawing near the brunette.

Green eyes blazed a searing trail over Regina's body as the blonde took in the black Channel dress and matching Christian Louboutin heels.

A burning hunger settled low in Regina's belly and it took every ounce of will power she possessed to restrain herself from dragging her lover back to their bedroom and shutting out the rest of the world for the foreseeable future.

An answering echo of desire flared up in Emma's eyes as she whispered, "Be good."

"I'll behave…" the brunette growled, a feral grin settling across her burgundy lips, "for now, but you are all mine later."

"Promises, promises," Emma teased, wrapping her arms around Regina's neck and bringing their bodies flush together.

"I'm so incredibly proud of you. You know that, right?" the blonde asked as she rested her forehead against Regina's.

"I know," she replied before leaning in and pressing a delicate kiss to the younger woman's lips, mindful of their freshly applied lipstick.

"Oh gross, you guys," Henry moaned from the top of the stairs. "Don't you guys ever turn it off? I'm pretty sure I'm already going to need therapy for the rest of my life, do you really need to keep scarring my psyche this much?"

The two women chuckled, but refused to break their hold on each other. Henry had never been bothered by their displays of affection as a child. Usually when he caught them, he'd insist on being included, turning gentle embraces into group hugs and wiggling his way in between them when they cuddled on the couch. The onset of puberty a few years back had changed his view on such moments, but neither woman was willing to ease up on their affection just to make the teen more comfortable.

"Can't blame me for that, Henry. Your mom is the one that gave birth to you, so any mental instability comes from her… not me."

"Oh, ha ha, 'Gina," Emma deadpanned, stepping out of their embrace and turning to face their son. "Henry grab your coat and go start the car. We'll be right out."

With an annoyed huff, the young man stalked off to do as he was told.

"You think you're so funny, my love," Emma purred as she sauntered to within a hair's breadth of the brunette. "We'll just see who's laughing tonight when I have you writhing on our bed begging me to let you come," she whispered directly into Regina's ear, her warm breath and husky voice sending shivers of desire down the brunette's spine.

A strangled moan escaped her throat at the light nip to her ear and she followed willingly as the blonde lead her out of the house and into the night.

Searing pain arced across the bruised and beaten form, drawing the woman from the peaceful depths of blissful oblivion. Raven locks swayed in the gentle, cool breeze blowing across the supine body, leaving the disoriented woman with the sense of gliding down a long tunnel with no idea as to her destination. A faint light pulsing rhythmically over head sent red hot needles through chocolate eyes as they fluttered open, seeking to make sense of the tumultuous noise assaulting her ears. Before anything could be brought into focus, darkness, once again, seeped into the edges of her vision and the muddled sounds faded to static.

Unmitigated pain was the first sensation to register as she clawed her way out of the murky depths of unconsciousness. Head spinning and nausea rising, Regina sucked in quick, shallow breaths as the world slowly came into focus. Every inch of her body ached, but as her mind began to clear, she could tell that the worst of it originated from her right arm and leg and across her torso.

Using the last of her will power to shake away the creeping tendrils of unconsciousness, Regina Mills managed to roll over before pushing herself onto her knees. The world titled alarmingly on its axis and bile rose to the back of her throat as the sudden movement sent her mind reeling. Placing a cool hand against her feverish forehead to tamp down the nausea, the brunette could feel the thick, crimson liquid seeping between her delicate fingers as she finally took in the scene playing out around her.

Next, a cacophony of shouting voices, piercing sirens, and grinding metal penetrated the static hiss that had once filled her ears. Blinking furiously, a blur of red and blue flashing lights assaulted her hazy vision, sending a white-hot shard lancing through her skull.

Smoke and ash clouded the sky as fire poured from the buildings nearby, painting the earth and its occupants with sinister hues of orange and red in the grey twilight. Angry shouts and frantic screams mixed with the sounds of running feet and bodies colliding in battle. Friends became foes and foes quickly became lifeless figures strewn across black asphalt. Gruesome wounds marred the flesh of the men, women, and, to her despair, children that lay all around. Their once vibrant eyes, now murky with death, damned her with their wrath.

"Ma'am can you hear me?" an unfamiliar voice penetrated the din.

"Emma? ... Henry?" she asked, but even in her delirious state, she could tell it came out as nothing more than a hoarse croak.

"Ma'am, don't move, okay? We're working on getting you and your family out of there now. I just need you to hold tight and talk to me. You need to try to stay with me."

Blood thrummed in her ears from her pounding heart as she choked back the sobs threatening to escape. With shuddering breaths barely able to feed her starving lungs, the former mayor of the quaint little town of Storybrooke, Maine searched frantically for an explanation. Wide, brown eyes slowly swept the devastated town square until they landed on the lone calm figure amongst all the chaos.

Another wave of nausea gripped her as she turned her head to the passenger side of the car, ignoring the paramedic outside her window in order to check on her family. Amongst the twisted, mangled metal was a flash of gold and red.

Emma she sobbed.

The younger woman was slumped to her left, her head only a couple of inches from Regina's. Crimson blood matted her corn-silk locks as it trickled in a steady stream from a long gash across the right side of her face. Her once porcelain skin was now swollen in varying hues of purple, green, and yellow. A barely audible wheezing came with each breath Emma took and relief flooded Regina's body at the sound.

Emma was still alive.

Golden curls framed a pale face streaked with dirt, sweat, and blood. Light, pink lips were set in a grim line of determination mirrored by glinting green eyes. Blood oozed from a long, thin gash across the younger woman's flat stomach and from a shorter one on her left shoulder, dying the tattered white tank top she wore scarlet. The flimsy shirt and ripped jeans offered little protection to the blonde should anyone decide to attack her, but it seemed that Emma Swan was the center of this raging hurricane and she only had eyes for the still kneeling brunette.

Craning her neck as much as she could until the pain became too much to bear, Regina sought slightly taller frame of their son. From the little that she could see, his condition appeared to be as severe as his mother's. Blood ran down his still form from several smaller wounds across his face and neck, staining his white dress shirt scarlet. His fair skin was paler than usual under the bruising and Regina couldn't see the telltale rise and fall of his broad chest.


A flash of silver caught Regina's attention as the Sheriff stalked a deliberate path towards her. Unable to flee and unwilling to fight, brown eyes welled with tears as she resigned herself to whatever fate lay at the tip of Emma's sword. All too soon, yet an eternity later, the blonde stood before the fallen queen and raised gleaming steal high above her head. Regina found no remorse or sympathy looking down on her as the sword's wicked edge sliced through the air. A brilliant, white light filled her vision and the last thing Regina Mills saw before she died was the smiling face of one Emma Swan.

With fumbling hands and an uncooperative body, Regina struggled to free herself from the confines of her seatbelt. Large hands clamped down around her flailing arms as she frantically fought to get to her son. The unintelligible shouting around her grew louder and, as the pain in her body reached its apex, blackness once again began to cloud her vision. The last thing Regina Mills saw before she succumbed to dark oblivion were the smiling faces of Emma Swan and Henry Swan-Mills.

"Shhh… Regina, I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere, but I need you to come back to me. Just open those beautiful brown eyes and wake up."

Chapter 17

A/N: kay, I hope that wasn't too hard to follow and you all got what I was going for. If there's confusion around what that was all about, well... you'll just have to wait until the next chapter to find out ;) I had this chapter practically written, when this idea popped into my head pretty much the day before I was gonna really write it all out and clean it up. Hopefully, the 5,000 words I just gave you all makes up for it. lol. I'm also hoping this means I'll be able to fit another chapter in this week, since it's practically written already. Fingers crossed! Thanks to everyone who has commented/favorited/followed this story. I'm truly amazed how many people have and more are added every week. You guys are really the best! I hope you enjoyed this chapter and are gearing up for the end. Each post brings us closer and closer. Though I have no clue how many are left cause with every chapter I write I add, take away, and move so much around it's hard to tell. My aim is 20 minimum though, just cause that'll be my longest story to date and a nice even number to aim for. Thanks again. Luv you guys!

A/N2 Almost forgot! This chapter goes really well with Lana del Rey's Dark Paradise Unlike most of my fics, this song didn't inspire the story, I just Love this song and it really does fit the overall story, but if I were one to name individual chapters, this one would be called Dark Paradise. Check out the song if you haven't, it's pretty amazing

Jan. 9th, 2013

evil regal

Caught in the Grey (15/?)

"Stay with me," Emma mumbled drowsily as she wrapped a long arm around Regina's waist from behind, fitting herself flush against the brunette's back.

"Gladly," Regina replied as she settled comfortably into the blonde's embrace and slipped into a light sleep.

They had a couple hours until dinner after all and wouldn't be missed until then

Faint footsteps shuffling across the bare floor and the quiet click of a shutting door broke through the sleep-induced fog that filled Regina's mind as she gradually pulled herself back into the waking world. A drowsy warmth weighed down her slender limbs, drawing her back towards slumber, but it was impossible to ignore her parched throat and the unpleasant, metallic taste lingering on her tongue that only comes from sleeping too little… or too long.

Why even bother with naps when all they do is make me feel worse than before? he idly wondered before an image of smooth skin topped by golden curls resting peacefully beside her flashed across her mind.

Right… Well, there is that, she conceded with a yawn as she rolled over onto her side in a vain attempted to escape the encroaching sunlight shining behind her still closed eyes.

A sharp pinch to the back of her left hand jerked her abruptly out of the pleasant haze she'd been enjoying.

Oww… fu…

"…ck," she finished aloud as she bolted up to examine the injured appendage only to find a long IV needled taped to it.

Following the thin trickle of blood caused by the sudden pull, her eyes tracked the line attached to the needle down her wrist, across starched white sheets, and up a long pole until it ended in a clear, plastic bag half drained of its contents.

Rosewood she recognized as the rest of the room came into view.

Dropping her head with a resigned sigh, shoulder-length brown locks muffled the depressingly-familiar sounds around her -hushed voices echoing through the hallway, the steady beep emanating from the heart monitor on her right- blocking out this damnable world for just a few more precious seconds and allowing Regina a moment to swallow down her sharp disappointment.

An entir month ad passed since she'd visited this nightmare. At first, she'd feared its lack of existence nearly as much as she'd feared the possibility that it was real, but as the days, then weeks, had passed her hope for returning back to her normal life had grown and she was able to push aside her complicated feelings for Cameron and focus on her family. The young doctor was only a figment of her imagination based on her very real, very loving girlfriend after all, she had reasoned.

Now that she once again found herself in this… alternate reality, every doubt and fear she'd been able to quell came rushing back. Bitter tears gathered and spilled from the corners of her eyes as these feelings were compounded by the guilt that settled heavily in the pit of her stomach at the small amount of joy and excitement the thought of seeing Cameron again brought to her heart.

"So glad to see you're awake, Ms. Mills," she flinched as the unexpectedly chipper voice interrupted her maudlin thoughts.

Hastily wiping away the last of her tears with a final sniffle, Regina schooled her features into the stoic mask of superiority and indifference that she'd spent thirty-plus years perfecting and faced a tall, pixie-cut blonde nurse whose nametag read "Maddy". She vaguely recognized the woman, but couldn't recall ever interacting with her before.

"How are you feeling this afternoon?" she asked as she pulled the brunette's chart from the end of the bed and began making notes in it.

Why do they always start with that ridiculous question? egina thought, running a tense hand through slightly greasy locks in frustration.

Biting back her initial response –one that questioned the woman's intelligence and brought up the possibility of inbreeding with in her family- she mumbled, "I've been better,"

She knew well enough by now that things moved a lot quicker in this place if she just answered their questions. Preferably slowly and with as few multi-syllabic words as possible.

"Well, the good news is everything looks pretty good and once Dr. Wyatt gets in we should be able to release you back to the ward rather quickly. I know Dr. Cameron will be glad to hear you're awake, too. She's been so worried since you were brought in."

"Worried?" Regina asked in surprise.

Why in any gods' name would Cameron be worried about her?

"Oh my yes," Maddy quickly replied, looking up from the chart in her hands. "She hovered over Dr. Chopra's shoulder as he ran the initial tests. One of the charge nurses had to ban her from the ward after she demanded they run the tests a third time. She's had us calling with hourly updates whenever she's in the office and every two at night when she's home ever since."

"Every night? How long have I been out?" Regina asked but the chatty nurse, who looked and acted as if she'd just recently graduated from high school, never broke her stride as she continued yammering on, apparently not hearing the brunette's questions.

"She even left strict instructions to call her directly if your condition changed even the slightest. I've got to remember to call her now that you're up," she said more to herself. "Anyways… She seems to think it was her fault for some reason. Not that she actually said as much to me, mind you. I got that from one of the other nurses who got it from someone else that overheard her talking to Angelique. It makes sense, though, cause I've never seen her so anxious the entire last three years I've worked here. Then again, maybe she just hasn't had a patient pass out on her before. Oh dear, you're bleeding a little there. Let me just go get something to take care of that. Don't go anywhere now."

Mind still reeling from the verbal whirlwind that had just assaulted her, Regina could only watch on in a daze as the young nurse scampered across the infirmary to gather the necessary supplies. One piece of information stood out from the deluge, though; Cameron had been worried abou her She'd even been kicked out for being underfoot then insisted on hourly updates o he condition.

The younger woman had seemed so calm and collected, ever the professional, in their last session that Regina thought she'd been the only one still reeling from their kiss. Maybe that hadn't been the case at all.

Pushing aside the warm, tingly feeling that was welling up inside her chest, Regina repeated her earlier question before Maddy could go off on another tangent.

"You said 'every night', meaning more than one. How long was I out?"

"Oh let me check," the bubbly nurse said as she set aside the materials she'd fetched in order to flip through Regina's chart once more. "I've been on vacation for the last two weeks with my fiancé and just returned this morning so I'm still playing catch up. It says here… that you were admitted on Monday afternoon and it's a little after eight this morning so… just under five days."

"Five days?!" Regina asked incredulously.

She'd have been less surprised if the woman had said she'd been out of it for a month. After all, that was how long she'd spent in Fairytale Land.

At least she was finally able to answer one of the thousand questions she had; time definitely moved at a different rate here. Good to know, but it didn't exactly help clarify which world was real or what was still trapping her in between the two.

"Yes ma'am," the nurse replied, bringing her back to the matter at hand, "but your vitals are strong and all your tests came back clear of any abnormalities which is great. Dr. Chopra will still want to check you out himself in a few days just to make sure nothing changes by then, but I wouldn't worry if I were you. You're in perfect physical health."

"Does my chart also say when I was admitted?" Regina asked, ignoring the slight emphasis the annoying nurse put on 'physical'.

"Umm… yes. It says original admittance date was just over six weeks ago on September thirteenth."

Doing the mental math, while Maddy finally attended to her bleeding hand, Regina figured she'd been in Rosewood for roughly forty-five days. Subtract the days she'd spent passed out after her transfer and this latest unconscious episode and it came down to thirty-six days spent awake and lucid at Rosewood.

As cut off from the outside world as the patients here were, all the days tended to blur together, so that after a couple weeks it became nearly impossible to distinguish one from the other. Realizing this fairly early on, Regina had taken to marking the inside of her closet door -one never could be too careful after all- as each morning dawned. At last count, the day she'd collapsed, she was at thirty-one days from the first time she'd awoken in the infirmary.

Time here is linear she realized.

"Hey, Maddy. Have you seen Wyatt around anywhere? I need these papers for Mr. Clarkson signed," a deep voice called from the door and both women turned towards the new comer.

"Oh, hey Gary. No I haven't," Maddy answered as he made his way towards them.

Regina's eyes flitted over the square jaw covered by a trim beard the same color as his sandy hair, right down to the streaks of grey speckled throughout, and the long scar just over his right eyebrow.


Hazel eyes, ones she'd looked into a hundred times before, meet hers and in the split second that they held, a flood of memories came rushing back.

Gali… 'Gary' was a new orderly on the ward having just transferred in the morning of Regina's latest excursion to the infirmary. He'd been introduced during the morning group session and had actually been the one to escort her to Cameron's office that afternoon.

Scanning back over her time spent in Fairytale Land, the small portion she could actually remember in relation to the years spent there, not once could she recall every seeing Galion before he'd come to check on her after her mad dash to Henry's chamber.

For the first time since this whole ordeal began, Regina acknowledged the distinct possibility that maybe Fairytale Land wasn't real after all.

Across town, the lithe figure of Alison Cameron sat curled up on her couch watching Saturday morning cartoons. Their mindless humor—truly subpar to that of the classics—was about the only thing that could distract her from the ever-present guilt that had been following her around for nearly a week. Even her runs had lost their effectiveness at clearing her mind after two days and she hadn't ventured out for anything else except work since.

As another day passed without Regina waking, Cameron's nerves frayed a little more. She rarely had cause to question her methods, but that was all she seemed to be doing since the brunette had come under her care.

The ringing of her cell phone carried over the din of oddly colored kids doing gods know what and she quickly snatched it up without bothering to check the caller ID. None of her friends would call her before noon on the weekend, so that only left one option… work.

"Cameron," she answered tersely, fully expecting to hear the same phrase she'd heard for that last five days, 'No change'.

Sinking back into the sofa, she listened as the woman on the other end of the line informed her that Regina had awoken a couple of hours ago, was lucid, and didn't seem to be suffering from any memory loss or other ill effects from her time spent unconscious.

"So Wyatt ran blood work again, right? ... And they're clear? ... Excellent! Thank you so much for calling Maddy," she enthused. "Send my love to Spencer and tell Jen I appreciate her double-checking the tests before releasing Re… Ms. Mills for me. …. Thanks again. Bye."

Palpable relief spread through her body at the good news, alleviating the tension in her shoulders and the knot in her stomach. She felt lighter than she had in quite a while, long before Regina even entered her life in fact.

Unwilling to waste this buoyant happiness, she decided to go for a run before returning to tackle the chores she'd been neglecting all week. Even the thought of tedious cleaning couldn't bring her down when she realized she'd be able to see Regina with her own two eyes again in just two days' time.

Chapter 16

A/N Yay! Two chapters in two weeks. I think (fingers crossed) that my writer's block has finally abated. One can only hope. I realize the chapters have been short with not a whole helluva lot going on, but they are important. It's basically build up to the next chapter that should prove to be a little more intense with more revealing stuff going on. Unless I think of more filler to drag it out, but that would just be cruel and I woul neve do something like that :D Thanks to everyone who commented on the last chapter. If it's a significant comment, *cough* ariestess *cough* morthel *cough* , I usually reply and if I haven't... My bad. I got kinda distracted this week with stuff but I will be getting around to that though. Cause I really do appreciate all your comments and want to make sure you guys know that. I also appreciate when people favorite/follow me or any of my stories. Makes me feel special! So thanks for that too! Hope you have an excellent day/night/week. Luv you all!

Jan. 2nd, 2013

evil regal

Caught in the Grey (14/?)

Bleak afternoon sunlight filtered feebly through the heavy, grey clouds that hung low in the winter sky, with barely enough strength to illuminate the intimate sitting room let alone the sheets of paper that comprised the novel Regina currently held in her hands. Flickering candles and a crackling fire aided in the cause, but their assistance was futile since the brunette had spent the last half hour staring vacantly at the same page without reading a single word.

It was only at Emma's insistence that she even found herself here now when she could be focusing her attention on some of the more pressing matters that came with running a kingdom. The blonde was a shrewd negotiator when it came to getting Regina to comply with her wishes, utilizing her wily forms of persuasion to convince Regina that she should take some time to 'rest and relax' while she and Henry trained with the royal guards.

That had been another of Emma's brilliant ideas that the brunette had been swift to shoot down. Royalty were instructed solely by a skilled weapons-master, either individually or with other court nobles; to spar with common soldiers was simply not done. Yet again, however, the younger woman had been able to easily sway her opinion by reasoning that without practical knowledge of group training, she would be an inefficient leader for the civilian guard and Henry's effectiveness as a future military leader would be greatly hindered.

Though she still didn't believe it quite fair that Emma had argued her point while they'd been tangled up in sweat-soaked sheets as the blonde's dexterous fingers and agile tongue danced across her naked skin. After all, who could stand strong in the face of such a delicious onslaught? Needless to say, she'd conceded without much fuss and now she found herself at a loss as to how to occupy herself in a 'relaxing' manner while her partner and son participated in the fourth session of their semiweekly group training.

Setting aside the forgotten book with a sigh, Regina stood from the small sofa, stretching the stiff muscles of her legs that had been curled beneath her for the better part of the past two hours. Pacing leisurely before the warm fire, her unoccupied mind returned to her current predicament, or… more accurately her lack thereof.

Nearly an entire month had passed since she had returned to Rosewood and Cameron in her dreams. While Emma saw this as a good sign, Regina also knew the blonde wasn't aware of the entire situation. Yes the dreams, or whatever they were, had stopped, but her fading memories had not. Truthfully, that worried her more than anything else.

Since seeing how upset Emma had become when she revealed that she'd forgotten how they'd gotten together and their subsequent returned to Fairytale Land, she'd refrained from mentioning it again. She never out right lied when the younger woman asked her about it, but she wasn't above prevarication and deflection. If the blonde had become so distraught all those weeks ago, how would she react to the news that the most recent memory Regina could recall was the moment when Henry was placed into her arms as an infant?

It wouldn't be pretty. That was for sure.

Clenching her fists in frustration, Regina ceased her restless pacing in front of the stone hearth, staring into the dancing flames as if she could divine all the answers of the universe from their swaying, leaping forms.

She scoffed silently at her own ridiculousness, but remained where she was, taking welcome comfort from their warmth as her mind continued its train of thought.

Everything between holding her son that first time and the bizarre dream of Emma killing her had simply vanished. She was even missing a few months of time here, though every day for the past several weeks were, thankfully, accounted for.

Originally, she'd believed her loss of memory and the dreams of the mental asylum were connected. It made sense; every time she woke up here, something else was missing, though it had practically smacked her in the face before she realized. That, however, did not explain why more were disappearing every day when she'd not returned to those dreams for so long.

If the dreams aren't the link, then what is?

She still didn't have an answer for that and not knowing was driving her insane.

Which is probably the point, she thought, rolling her eyes in exasperation.

Soon, she feared, she would regress so far back that she wouldn't even remember who she was or, worse, who Emma and Henry were and why they were important to her.

Refusing to even contemplate such an occurrence, and truly tired of 'relaxing', she decided to meet Emma and Henry at the end of their training.

Wrapping her fur cloak tighter around her shoulders as she stepped out into the chilled, afternoon wind, Regina made her way across the snow-covered grounds towards the barracks and training grounds.

The sounds of clanging metal, thudding bodies, and shouts of instruction and encouragement grew in volume as she neared, drowning out the crunching snow beneath her boots. Nearly two-hundred off duty guards were scattered throughout the vast area, participating in various drills and exercises. The once pristine ground gave way to a muddy slush that the queen could clearly see added a completely new level of difficulty to the maneuvers. She was pleasantly surprised at how well her men seemed to be handling it though.

Brown eyes scanned the multitude of bodies searching for one in particular. Normally, it wasn't difficult to pick Emma out from the crowd, but with muck and dirt liberally coating every inch of every person in sight, the task was proving fairly hopeless.

"Line up for Queen's inspection," someone exclaimed suddenly from her right, obviously, she'd been spotted, and Regina had to fight to suppress an amused grin as she watched the men scramble to obey.

Striding forward, as if this had been her intention the entire time, she calmly walked among the ranks as they stood stiffly before her. With such a large number, it was a long process, but her men were nothing if not disciplined and no one so much as twitched as she took her time looking over each individual.

Halfway down the third row from the end, Regina met the bright, jade eyes of the only person that had the audacity and courage to meet her own brown orbs at such a time. She lingered for a moment, taking in the mud coated blonde locks and battered clothing. Rolling her eyes at the playful wink shot her way, she went off to finish her impromptu inspection.

"Captain," she spoke calmly once she'd returned to the front of the line, "your men appear to be in decent shape today. I expect you will maintain the high level of standard that has kept them in good stead so far."

"Of course, Your Majesty," he responded promptly with a bow before dismissing the other guards for the day as she made her way back towards the castle.

Quick footsteps sound from behind and she didn't have to guess to know who it was. Coming to a stop, she only had a few seconds to wait until the smiling form of her lover was beside her.

"My Lady," Emma greeted with a gallant bow, displaying proper public decorum, before offering her arm to escort Regina the rest of the way.

Despite the mud and filth covering the blonde's sleeve, Regina tucked her hand into the crook of Emma's elbow as they resumed their journey.

"Where's Henry?" Regina asked curiously. "I thought he'd be out here as well."

"He was for the group exercises," Emma answered, "but Galion says he's still too young to participate in the individual combat drills and sent him to train with the weapons-master for the remaining time."

"I'm glad to hear it," Regina said relieved. She quite agreed that Henry was still too young and inexperienced to spar with men twice his age and weight.

"So, did you take my advice and actually relax while Henry and I were out here in the freezing cold working our butts off?"

"Hmm… some," Regina hummed. "I was able to get a little pleasure reading done before I grew restless."

"Well, I'm impressed. I didn't think you'd actually listen to me."

"It's not like you gave me much choice, dear. Personally escorting me to your study, where I had absolutely no access to any of my books or reports, made it rather difficult to do anything else."

"You could have left," Emma responded nonchalantly.

The words were casual and her tone smooth, but the slight quirk at the corner of pale lips, imperceptible to anyone else, exposed her teasing intent.

"Well," Regina countered, "there was the guard you posted outside th open oor to ensure no one 'disturbed' me, but who I know you placed to make sure I stayed put and didn't magic myself out. You do not fool me for one second, Emma Swan."

The younger woman had the good grace to blush at being found out, but the brunette had no true complaint with Emma's actions. Especially since they stemmed from sincere love and care.

"Come now," she said spurring the blonde on a little faster, "supper is in a few short hours and you are going to need to spend every spare second from now until then in the bath just to rid yourself of that awful stench. Honestly, did Galion have you clean the horse stalls before starting?"

Emma chuckled, but otherwise remained quiet as the couple entered their bedchambers and swept straight into the bathroom where a porcelain, clawfoot bathtub waited in the center of the room. Faint wisps rose from the steaming water carrying a light scent from the unique mix of bath oils meant to sooth aching muscles and heal any minor cuts or bruises the blonde may have sustained during her training.

Stripping quickly, the younger woman tossed her soiled clothes into the far corner to deal with later before easing into the hot water with a low groan of approval.

Green eyes fluttered shut in apparent bliss and Regina took advantage of this rare moment to study her lover unobserved. Mud-caked golden curls, now released from their binding, cascaded down along high cheekbones, over a strong jaw, and caressed a delicate neck until the final inches fanned out around a lithe body as they floated in the clear water.

"Would you care to join me or are you just gonna stand there all night and watch?" Emma asked, breaking Regina's reverie.

With a pass of her hand, Regina removed the heavy, long-sleeved dress she'd been wearing and stood in the slightly chilled room in nothing more than the corset and satin thong she'd worn underneath.

Basking in the younger woman's appreciative gaze as she sauntered across the room, Regina grabbed a folded towel from a piled stack and dropped it on the floor near the head of the tub to protect her knees from the hard floor as she knelt behind to the immersed blonde.

"Wet your hair and get what mud out you can," she directed gently.

Emma eagerly complied as Regina reached for a nearby jar. The mixture of various plant and fruit oils, along with bits of soap flakes, wasn't quite as good as what could be found in Storybrooke, but it got the job done.

Spreading a generous portion over her hands, Regina began to methodically work it through Emma's damp tresses, making sure to cover every inch and work out any dirt still clinging to them. A soft moan broke free from the blonde as the brunette's blunt nails lightly scratched over her scalp.

Regina didn't even bother to suppress the self-satisfied smirk that settled across her lips. She knew too well how gratifying it was to have someone else indulge her in a similar way, especially with her hair at this rather ridiculous length.

"I think I may cut my hair short again," she murmured, not really expecting a reply.

"I agree," Emma hummed as Regina hit a particularly sensitive spot. "It's gorgeous as it is now, but there's just something about you with shorter hair. I can't even describe it, but it suits you and it's easier to wrap my fingers in when necessary."

"Rinse," the brunette commanded as she shoved the blonde's shoulders, pushing her under water and wiping away the wicked grin the younger woman had been sporting.

Moving to the side of the tub, Regina met Emma's half-hearted glare of indignation as she sat back up with an arched eyebrow until the younger woman rolled her eyes and settled back against the smooth porcelain.

"You're lucky I love you, you know," Emma groused with a faux pout.

"So you say, dear, but who is pampering whom here?" Regina countered as she lathered a wet cloth with a bar of soap.

"Well," the blonde returned shamelessly, "if you'd joined me when I first offered, I'd be the one taking care of al you needs at this point."

For all of her talk, Regina knew Emma was not up for anything more at this point. She'd need some rest and a substantial meal to recover from her training first. Later tonight, however, that was a different story.

"I will be more than happy to take you up on that offe afte you are clean and not in a tub filled with filthy water," Regina stated as she tenderly washed off the layers of dirt and sweat that had accumulated on the blonde during her long day.

When she finished, she gently roused the younger woman who'd fallen asleep halfway through her ministrations. Wrapping herself and Emma in the plush robes they used in the cold winter months, Regina led the blonde to their bed for a much deserved nap. An undignified squeak escaped her throat when Emma hadn't released her hand as planned and instead pulled her down onto the large mattress as well.

"Stay with me," Emma mumbled drowsily as she wrapped a long arm around Regina's waist from behind, fitting herself flush against the brunette's back.

"Gladly," Regina replied as she settled comfortably into the blonde's embrace and slipped into a light sleep.

They had a couple hours until dinner after all and wouldn't be missed until then.

Chapter 15

A/N I know, I know. I suck. I'm sorry. I have no excuses. I've just had issues getting myself to write recently. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday. I know i did, cause my xmas present from my best friend was a certified, authentic, autographed picture of the luscious Lana herself. I nearly passed out. And I did tear up a little, but I didn't cry. Lana touched that picture! I haven't taken it out of it's protective casing yet. I'm waiting until i have a frame for it, but when i do, I'll be touching something she held! It'll be a major fangirl moment for me. LOL. Anyways... Not much to say on this chapter. It's kinda fluff but it's not completely pointless. Either way, I hope you enjoy. If you haven't seen, the previews for the next two stories I plan to write (Lost Before the Dawn and Waiting for the Rain to Fall) read those, if you haven't, and let me know if you prefer one over the other. The one with the most votes wins and I do take anon reviews. All i need is the title, you don't have to add anything else. Much love to you guys and thanks for reading and any comments you leave!

Dec. 4th, 2012

evil regal

Waiting for the Rain to Fall (Prologue)

Spoilers for episode 1x18, Stable Boy.

"Daniel?!... Daniel?!" Regina cried as she frantically threw open the stable doors.

Agonizing seconds passed in painful heartbeats before her love rushed from one of the stalls, confusion and worry marring his handsome features as he took in the distressed tears streaming from forlorn eyes and over flushed cheeks.

"What is it?" He asked as their swift strides closed the remaining distance between them.

Falling into his secure embrace, Regina felt a calmness settle around her, easing her aching heart and drying her soft weeping. Reassured now that the spontaneous decision she'd come to less than a candlemark prior was their only hope, she pulled back and whispered, "Marry me."

"Regina, what are you doing?" Daniel asked with a note of disbelief in his gentle tone.

She didn't blame him for being skeptical about her sudden change of heart; not after all the excuses she'd fed him as to why she would never be able to leave her doting father behind or how her cruel mother would surely hunt them down if she ever dare try to go against her wishes. At the time, she'd been naïve enough to believe that eventually her mother would relent or, failing that, she'd never force her daughter into something to which she was truly opposed. That hope had been dashed quite thoroughly mere hours before and now staying was no longer an option. If they had any hope of being happy together, they would have to leave tonight.

He must have recognized her sincerity on some level, because he quickly asked, "What's happened? Did you tell your mother?"

"No!" she exclaimed, shaking her head rapidly, "and now I can never tell her. She won't understand."

"We must try, Regina," he attempted to reason.

"She is sending me away," she choked out, her voice thick with fresh tears and desperation, "to care for the King's ailing wife with the intention that I shall take her place once she's gone. I'm not sure how she plans to achieve such a feat, but I know my mother and what she wants she shall have, even this."

Grey eyes widened in realization as she continued, "The only way out is to run. For us to leave this place, for us to marry, for us to never come back."

"Regina," Daniel breathed, drawing her close again. "Do you understand what that would mean? Life with a stable boy is a far cry from life as a queen."

"Being Queen means nothing, Daniel," she reassured as she cupped his jaw within her graceful hands. "All I care about is you."

Wrapping his work-roughened fingers gently around delicate wrists, he placed a light kiss against her wandering thumb before placing their joined hands against his chest.

"Then if I am to marry you, we must do this properly."

Her confusion lasted but a moment as he walked purposefully over to a black leather saddle and pulled a small, brass ring from its rigging. Gasping in realization, Regina did not bother to reign in this fresh upwelling of tears— these now of joy and not sorrow— as he returned to tenderly slip the cool metal on to her left hand, signifying their joining spiritually, in not yet legally.

A delighted laugh bubbled up from deep inside and escaped into the cool evening air as unshackled joy set her soul alight.

The kiss they shared, full of love and promise, sealed commitment to each other and after and eternity, but still far too soon, Regina pulled back and whispered, "I must return before I am missed. I'll come to you tonight after the others have gone to bed and we can leave this place."

"I'll be ready," Daniel assured as she made her way towards the still open doors.

Turning back one last time, she met his adoring gaze, "I love you."

"And I, you," he responded. "Now go."

With quick footsteps and a light heart, Regina made her way back to the manor as twilight set in.

Dinner that night was an excruciatingly long affair as Regina did her best to swallow her revulsion as her mother sang the King's praises and planned her wedding to man that had not yet even buried his wife. Thoughts of her future with Daniel bolstered her resolve and she was careful to respond with the necessary enthusiasm to appease her mother and ensure that she would not be dealt any punishments that might hinder her plans for escape.

As soon as it was properly polite, she excused herself from the table and all but ran back to her chambers. Once there, she changed into a simple cotton dress that would not draw undue attention and hastily packed a few of her more common outfits along with her jewelry, in case they should need to sell it, into a small, worn bag.

Restlessly pacing until the hour neared midnight, Regina stole through the manor, certain in the knowledge that both of her parents and the staff were safely ensconced in their rooms, before slipping out into the moonless night.

Racing through the open doors as her cloak billowed out behind her, she excitedly scanned the stable for Daniel. Large smiles broke out across both their faces simultaneously as brown eyes met shining grey in a small alcove set to her right.

Finishing his preparations, Daniel dashed over to meet her asking, "Are you ready?" and pulling her into a deep kiss before she could even respond.

"Let's go," she enthused when they broke apart, wrapping her gloved hand around his and dragging him out into the darkness.

They made it no more than five steps before her mother suddenly appeared before them. Regina gasped as they came to a halt, but refused to release her hold on Daniel despite her mother's disapproving glare.

"You could have at least left a note," Cora intoned evenly before thrusting both hands in front of her.

A silvery blue light flowed from her fingertips, knocking the duo through the air where they landed harshly on the straw covered ground. Before either could draw a proper breath into their bruised lungs, the older brunette was inside and had the doors magically shut and locked.

"Mother, I…" Regina started, though she had no idea how she planned to finish that sentence.

"Don't," her mother sneered, a look of pure disgust curling her thin lips. "You sneak out of my house and think I won't notice? How dare you?

Scrambling to their feet without ever breaking eye contact, Regina replied, "You're impossible to talk to. Stop with the magic and listen to me."

She's quite surprised how calm and steady her voice is despite her pleading and some small part of her realizes that she'd never be to defend herself against mother in such a way if not for Daniel standing a half step behind her.

Pulling him closer, she unflinchingly stared into brown eyes much like her own as she said, "I want to be with Daniel."

"Oh, you don't know what you want," Cora scoffed, "but I do. I didn't make the sacrifices I did in life to get you to the cusp of greatness so that you could end up the wife of a stable boy."

"It's my life," Regina argued.

"Oh!" her mother laughed. "You foolish girl… It's mine. After what I had to do, the deals I had to make to get us out of poverty, to get us this life and you just want to toss it away?"

"Stay strong, Regina," Daniel whispered in her ear, reinforcing her determination.

"Your magic can't keep us apart; I love him…"

"And I love her," Daniel broke in.

"And I love her, too," Cora countered.

"If you loved me you wouldn't try to keep us apart," Regina argued, not understanding how her own mother could equate being held prisoner and forced into an unwanted marriage with love.

"And if you loved me, you wouldn't try to run away," the older woman replied.

"I'm sorry, but this is my happiness. We're going," she stated firmly, stepping forward to emphasize her point.

"No," Cora said, raising a glowing hand in warning, "you're not."

"So what's your plan?" the young brunette demanded defiantly. "You're going to keep us here forever? Cause, that's what you'll have to do."

Regina realized the moment her mother finally snapped and before she could retreat, a ringed hand was flying through the air to land a powerful backhand across her face. Dropping to the floor under the force of the blow, Daniel fell to his knees to help her sit up as she tried to staunch the blood flowing from her upper lip.

"You insolent brat," Cora spat as she stood over her prone form. "You have no idea what it means to be a parent. You alwayshave to do what's best for your children and I refuse to let you throw your life away for him."

After helping Regina back to her feet, Daniel stepped forward no longer willing to be a mere bystander.

"Madame Mills, I love your daughter and by some miracle she loves me back. I cannot promise a fancy castle with hundreds of servants, but what I can promise is that she will always be loved, she will always have a roof over her head, and she will always be happy. If you're being honest when you say that's all you want for her as well, then let us be married."

"Such courage you show, dear boy," Cora's voice dripped sheer disdain as with a quick jerk of her arm she reached in and wrenched his still beating heart out.

"Daniel!" Regina cried out, but neither heard it as pain wracked one person and the other was too enraptured by power to pay attention.

A subtle clench was all it took to bring him to his knees as she brought her face within inches of his own. "A shame you wasted it on such a worthless cause."

"No! Mother, please," Regina rushed forward in an effort to stop the older woman from crushing her love's heart. "Please don't! Whatever you say… I'll do whatever you want, just please stop hurting him."

"Very well," Cora relents dispassionately, easing the pressure on the heart in her hand. "The boy shall live, but you are to end this ridiculous fantasy and never set eyes upon him again."

"Of course, Mother. Never again, I swear," Regina quickly vowed unable to bear the thought of Daniel being gone for good. As hard as it would be to live without him, at least she'd know he was still out there somewhere. She'd have hope that they could be together one day.

"Oh dear daughter, if only it were so simple. No, this time I will ensure that I am obeyed."

With that, Cora squeezed his heart again until he passed out from the pain. Dumping the heart into a nearby sack for safekeeping, the older woman gripped Regina's arm and they disappeared in a puff of purple smoke.

When they reappeared, they were in a circular room Regina did not recognize. The dark stone walls were uninterrupted by any windows with a blazing fire and the candles scattered throughout offering up the only light. Several table were topped with unusual instruments and jars filled with unknown substances. Three wide bookshelves dominated the wall to her left where her mother was currently searching for something with great intent.

"Mother?" she question hesitantly.

"Ah, here we go," the other woman exclaimed as she pulled a worn, dusty book from the multitude of similar looking tomes.

"Do sit, dear. This won't take long," Cora said with a negligent flick of her wrist.

Before Regina could respond, she found herself seated in high-backed, wooden chair restrained by leather straps.

"Mother!" she cried out in indignation and not a little panic as she tried to wriggle free.

Each attempt was met with ever tightening bonds until she feared circulation to her fingers and toes had been cut off completely. Meanwhile, her mother serenely flipped through the book in her hands, ignoring her daughter's struggle until she found the page she needed.

"You see, my child, I have grown weary of your willful disobedience and have decided to do something about it."

"Mother, please…" Regina begged as tears cascaded down her face.

"No, no," Cora interrupted. "I've heard it all before. 'I'll be good, mommy', 'I promise I'll do better', 'It won't happen again, I swear'," She mocked in a childish voice. "Seeing as I cannot trust you to do right by your family, I really have no more use for you. That being said, you are still my flesh and blood, so your punishment will not be quite as… mortal as it otherwise would be. Well, not right away at any rate."

Dread coursed through Regina's veins. She might live, but her mother would ensure that she suffer every waking moment for the duration of her natural life.

"Since you obviously cannot remain here and killing you is not an option, that leaves me but one choice."

Holding the open book before her, Cora read in a smooth, lilting gate.

(A/N: I'm embarrassed to say that I don't have the curse written yet. I suck at rhyming and poetry and all that. BUT, by the time I'm ready to actually post, I will have it all worked out and will be good to go. SORRY again, cause I know it's kinda lame without it. Now back to the story.)

As the words faded, Cora took a deep breath and blew across the page. Black, swirling vapor coiled and twisted its way across the short distance separating mother and child, enveloping the young woman in an ever-growing miasma. Raging wind drowned out the frantic beating of her heart as the whirling cloud stole the very air from her lungs.

When the maelstrom finally abated, Regina was left standing at the edge of a dense forest with only the clothes on her back protecting her from the cold autumn air. Turning slowly in order to take in her new surroundings, the brunette realized she was standing in the middle of strangely covered road.

A faint light emanated in the darkness further ahead and she set off to investigate it in the hopes that she could figure out where she'd landed and how to return home. As she neared, a rush of air and the familiar tingle of magic washed over her before dissipating as quickly as it appeared and she was left more confused than ever as she read the wooden sign, "Welcome to Storybrooke Maine."

Chapter One (rough draft)

A/N2: So yeah that's the prologue. Title comes from and Evanescence song (again) called Good enough. Though it was not inspiration for the story so it doesn't really have anything to do with the fic. I just really like the lines,And I'm still waiting for the rain to fall/ pouring life down on me.To me it fits. What I had before as prologue will now be revamped and made into the first chapter. So if you read the other one, you know a little of what happens, but it also needs to be changed some so don't get too attached. This one still needs some work as well, as evidenced by my author's note in the middle of the story. That will come with time and hopefully, better spelling and grammar. (I posted without reading over it again, so please forgive any mistakes. They will be taken care of eventually.) This is, obviously, highly AU. There will be the same Storybrooke characters, but they will NOT have FTL counterparts. So Regina doesn't hate Mary Margaret and Ruby isn't a wolf, etc, etc. anyways... Let me know what you think. Between this and Lost Before the Dawn, I'm really excited about my next stories. Now if only I could get my ass in gear on the one i'm currently working on. ;)

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