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.
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."
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