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Title: Gather Up the Splinters
Author: [livejournal.com profile] timeboundpythia
Disclaimer: The characters and premise of Once Upon a Time aren't mine.
Rating: G
Spoilers: None specific.
Summary: You taught Henry to replace things he was bored with or frightened of and now he’s trying to do it to you.
Notes: Emma/Regina undertones.


You taught Henry to replace things he was bored with or frightened of and now he’s trying to do it to you.

You meant well, of course. You had the means to give him anything – not even anything within reason - except what you should have been able to give him; what you tried to do and did your best with, but children sense things and he was no exception. When he was little, you could soothe away his fears and stop his tears with a hug that he felt and you didn’t. You hoped you were warm. You hoped he felt safe. You hoped this was what you were meant to do. He would crawl into your bed when nightmares got the best of him and fall right to sleep beside you, safe in your arms, and you wondered how he could trust so easily.

Your mother was never much of a mother, but that doesn’t mean that you haven’t known the devotion of a parent. Was what you felt for Henry that same devotion? You felt protective, yes. Pride, certainly. Fear, those first few times he bumped into things and screamed his little heart out. Fury, when he grew old enough to be hurt by his peers and cried following silly squabbles and arguments. But devotion? Love? He loved you, you were certain of it, and he was yours to keep and protect, but... there was that price to be paid. Did you even remember what real, unconditional love felt like? Could you love?

He grew up and began to be able to piece things together. With speech came logic and with school came knowledge. When that story made him frightened, he wouldn’t listen to your calming words anymore, so you got him another book that painted a nicer picture. When that child made fun of his backpack, you got him a new one. When he was bored with that game, you bought him a better, flashier, more engaging one. He wanted for nothing, because he questioned you now and wouldn’t take your word as truth. Some parents praised their children for curiosity and gave them every answer they wanted, but you couldn’t, for more reasons than he would ever know. You couldn’t give him what he needed, so you made that he had everything; that he had enough to distract him.

You don’t like to think that you were trying to keep him occupied, so you wouldn’t have to suffer the rejection of the hugs that he didn’t return, because you couldn’t bear that you didn’t know what to do, what you were meant to feel or what could make him trust like that again. He would smile when you presented him with the latest toy and you needed those smiles, even if you didn’t know what it was that they made you feel.

Then he got that damned book and it got so, so much worse.

Children throw tantrums when growing up. You’d heard this time and time again. They say they hate you and use a bad word that they learned from one of their friends, without knowing what the word really means. That can be dealt with. Not this. He says the book is the truth; you say it is a lie. It puts more distance between you and you have to let it, because he can’t know that he speaks the truth. You wonder how many people he has told that you are evil. You wonder how many agree.

You don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what any of them think. They can’t leave and are almost completely under your control. Who cares what pawns think?

...You do care. It does matter. He thinks you’re evil.

You are. You have done awful things.

But he wasn’t supposed to ever know. He was your fresh start. You have done the best you ever could by him and you have raised a boy who is somehow good when you are not. Now he is joining the side of a group of people who don’t know they have a side to be on.

It feels like a betrayal, but he is not evil. He is not a bad child. You have done well and you will suffer for it.

Perhaps you should let Emma have him. They could both leave and escape and he would be safe. You wouldn’t have to suffer any more accusations of being evil or any hugs that feel empty from both sides now. You can understand why he is drawn to her, for it seems to be for more than she is his biological mother. She challenges you and it has been so long since you have had what you consider to be a worthy opponent. You want to control and be controlled by her, which is more disturbing than you can truly acknowledge, since you’re sure that both will lead to your destruction. There is something about her – and it isn’t that she can love, for she seems more bitter and dark than loving and forgiving – that makes you want to figure her out and shove her away at the same time.

Maybe she can love him. Maybe she could love you. But there would still be that piece missing, preventing you from returning that love. He senses that incapability, when she does not. Yet.

If you must be replaced like so many of his old things, then perhaps it should be by her.

But you won’t let it happen without a fight.

Fin

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February 2016

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