PART I - THE QUEEN IS DEAD

It is not the warm breeze that tickles her skin nor the soft amber of dawn that permeates through the curtains, creeping into the room in the most gentle manner that awakens her. It is, instead, the throbbing ache in the back of her neck, that radiates down her spine and makes the fingers that lay under her cheek uncomfortably numb. Dark eyes open for a brief moment and squint against the soft morning light, but her head seems to protest and she closes them again as even the smallest ray of light feels like fire raging through chestnut colored orbs. God, her entire body seems to protest.

She takes a few deep breaths and tries to move again, but the mere effort to open her eyes seems to be more than her body can take at the moment. What the hell happened? She thinks and slowly, carefully shifts against warm sheets so she can rest on her back and ease the shooting pain on her left side. She breathes in and out, resting slender fingers against her tonned abdomen, calmy counting each intake of breath. In and out, she repeats like a mantra, focusing on the up and down motion of her ribcage until the physical discomfort becomes unendurable. Her stomach lurches at the stabbing feeling that dissipates throughout every inch of her body and she launches her small frame forward in one quick montion, empting whatever contents she had in her stomach as she desperately grips the side of the bed.

xxx

It is the sound of retching that alerts her of life rousing in the small room down the hallway. It has been three days since they brought her here. Three days of an uncomfortable anticipation, of soft whispers and shooting words. And three nights when sleep would not come.

But she has pulled through.

The elderly woman breathes a sigh of relief and silently questions how much more that stubborn girl can take before her petite body finally gives in and ebony eyes do not open again.

Old wood cracks as she rises from her rocking chair, shaking off the remnants of a restless sleep, and takes small steps following the sound. She hesitates for a moment, resting her hands against the deteriorated oak of the door, deeply damaged by time and lack of care. But the hands that lay there are much similar to the material they rest upon and thin skin reveals what trained eyes try to hide – skin gnarled like the ancient oak, carved by years of pain and fear caused by this woman whom she should hate, but does not.

Tears pool in her eyes as the sound coming from the other side intensifies and she begins to shake before she finally musters the strenght to push the door open. When she does, she finds the younger woman doubled over in pain, vomiting a buttered yellow liquid until there is nothing left in her stomach and she starts to dry heave as her body still protests against the pain. The gray haired woman crosses the room in determined steps and perches herself on the edge of the bed, feeling the urge to gather that fragile body in her arms and soothe this woman who has been through so much, but is so oblivous to this sorrow that looms over her.

She cannot quite believe that the girl is there, breathing – alive – though she sees it with her own eyes.

"It's okay, girl," she says and lays a hand against sweat covered skin. But the young woman's entire body twiches and contorts as magic sweeps through every cell, bringing back to life what had once been dead.

"Regina," she says and shakes her head as the woman pulls away from her. The queen's cold hands leave the place they had found between tired fingers and grip at the hem of her shirt, damaging the dark fabric in a way that even the most talented of tailors would not be able to repair. The older woman calls the mayor's name again and though she knows that the girl does not quite hear her, speaking to her brings an odd feeling of comfort to herself as she watches the end of this process that she had only ever known through tales and never believed to be possible.

But it is.

A grunt escapes the queen's lips as if to confirm that yes, the magic running through her veins is very much real, and the woman leans closer to Regina, wants to tell her that it is going to be fine, but she knows it is only going to get worse until it finally stops. And there is nothing she can do but kneel beside that girl, that woman, and hold her as magic seeps into every cell of her body, sinking into her bones, reassembling fragments of that shattered soul.

xxx

The screams echo in her mind like a symphony in a dance between saints and devils, past and present, images of darkness and light that keep pulling her down even as her body fights for release. The pain is excruciating, like a thousand knives carving into her flesh, cutting through her bones, and she pulls into herself as another sharp scream cuts into thin air.

Her muscels tense up and she closes her eyes tightly, she can feel her mind slowly slipping into unconsciousness. Death, she thinks during a brief moment of clarity, she is dying. But death is not a relief, it is not welcome like she always thought it would be. An unexpected sense of hopelessness washes over her as she desperately holds onto images of Henry, Robin and Roland, images of Snow and Emma, memories of being part of something good, memories of being good. But she is tired, and she cannot keep her eyes open anymore, she must let it go.

But she does not.

She fights against herself, fights against images of the Evil Queen, images of piles of bodies laying lifeless on the dirty ground of the Enchanted Forrest and the feeling of her father's still beating heart in her small hands, and finds light in spite of the misery and destruction that haunt her mind and tug at her heart. She can hear Robin's voice whispering against her ear, can feel Henry's arms tightly wrapped around her waist, can sense Roland's little halds always finding hers when they are together. Warmth and tranquility embrace her, the delicate arms of light carry her body and shoote her soul. She is not afraid anymore, the pain no longer matters, she is finally under the light and it is peaceful, it is beautiful. She closes her eyes, she is only going to sleep. She closes her eyes and allows a surge of light to jolt her body away from the darkness that threatens to tore her apart. The light is sweet and clean, it feels like a gulp of fresh air in a hot summer day... No, it is more than that. It feels like having your lungs filled with air after drowning in darkness, in a fight to stay aflot and keep you head above the water line. But she fights her way upwards and allows the light to embrace her weary body, allows the light to carry and soothe her because she is only going to sleep. She only needs to rest...

xxx

"Stupid girl," the old woman murmurs, releasing a pained breath as Regina's imp form falls back against the pillows. Her small frame is so thin, looks so fragile. The woman wants to shake the queen awake, wants scream and ask her if she will ever realize that she is not expendable. But the memories of dark magic penetrating through every cell of the woman's body just three days before create a sense of dread at the pit of her stomach, the pain of seeing this girl like this shakes her to the core and she feels as if she is going to be sick.

But Regina is clinging to life and she is alive, she thinks. She is breathing. She is alive.

The clock tickles by and the older woman watches as Regina's form remains still on the bed, seemingly somewhat peaceful, the only movement being that of the rise and fall of her chest as her breathing finally evens. She brings her chair closer to the bed and waits, gathering the queen's hands between her own, she waits, but there is no movement still. Parted lips release a ragged breath, color slowly makes its way back to waxen skin, but there is no movement. She sits in the darkened room and in what feels like an eternal vigil. The clock tickles by and she watches the queen's still form until scrawny fingers twich against timeworn skin, the first indication that the woman laying next to her is easing herself back into the land of the living, that she has found her way back to surface in that ocean of darkness that had embraced her body, dragging her down to the deepest waters. She brushes a strain of hair away from the queen's temple and the woman groans in response, scrunching up her face as she feels cold fingers touching warm skin. She is breathing, she is warm, she is alive.

"Robin," she says, but her voice is hoarse and her throat hurts and when she speaks again, it is not more than a pained plea. "Where is Robin?"


So there you are! I have had this planned for over a month now, but I have been struggling to stop smoking and I find it very difficult to write without having a cigarette, so it took me a while to get back to this. I also apologize for any bad grammar that you might encounter in this chapter, but I have been a little crazy as I'm constantly alternating between four languages on my day to day life and I find it that writing in English doesn't come as naturally as it used to ever since I moved countries a few months ago (and well, English is not my first language... so yeah). Anyways, I'm just rambling now, but I would love to hear what you think! X