“You should have let me rough him up a bit more, Regina. He would have talked.” Emma growled as she tore her arm away from Regina’s grasp.
Regina rolled her eyes at the blonde.
“You’re a idiot if you think that Gold would have told you everything you wanted to know. You must be forgetting that he is the man who artfully manipulated the lives of several people to bring us all here to this point – including you. That man doesn’t do anything unless it serves his agenda.”
Emma knew that Regina was right, but short of going back in there and beating the crap out of Gold, she was shit out of ideas.
“Well what do you suggest we do then?” Emma snapped back, kicking at the tire of the cruiser angrily with her boot.
Regina let out a long breath and pressed her lips together, knowing that her next words would only frustrate the blonde further. She involuntarily flexed her hands at her sides as she often did when she was upset.
“You need take Henry and you both have to stay far away from me. You heard Gold…whoever crossed realms is likely here for me and I won’t let you get hurt again because of your foolish promise to protect me. We can’t keep fighting fate, Emma – everything bad I’ve done – I have to pay.”
Emma stomped irately towards Regina, closing the gap between them.
"Stop it, Regina. Just because we’ve been dealt a crap hand, doesn’t mean that we give up. You promised me today that you had faith in me – that you’d trust in me and trust us. We’re a family now, and neither Henry nor I would let anything happen to you just because it would be the most convenient solution to a problem.”
Regina’s expression softened at the sentiment, despite the rising level of Emma’s rage. She reached up to cup the blonde’s face in her hand, feeling her immediately relax underneath her touch.
“You are insufferable, Miss Swan.” she said, shaking her head and forcing a smile despite the obvious tears forming in her eyes.
“Well get used to it.” Emma grumbled assertively as she lurched forward, capturing Regina’s lips in a needy kiss and pulling the brunette tightly against her.
As much as Regina struggled against her feelings for Emma and tried to push herself away, the blonde kept pulling her back both physically and emotionally. Emma oozed confidence and optimism and despite her well-trained skepticism, Regina was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. There were moments just like this where Emma made her feel that she may have another chance at happiness.
“As much as I’d love to continue our public display, we need to go get our son and tell your mother what we’ve learned.” Regina said when they finally broke from their kiss.
Emma sighed and released Regina from the tight grasp she had around her waist.
“Okay. We’ll figure something out. I promise.” Emma reassured her as she pulled the cruiser keys from her pocket and opened the passenger door for Regina to get in.
“Thank you, dear.” Regina inclined her head at Emma and brushed intentionally close to her as she slipped passed the blonde into the passenger’s seat.
Emma let out a puff of air, trying to control the obvious sexual tension lingering between them and focus on the task at hand. She shut the passenger door and made her way around the cruiser and settled into the driver’s seat.
She knew that they needed to figure out something fast. Emma sighed, turned the key in the ignition and gave Regina a forced smile before pulling away from the curb to meet up with Mary Margaret and Ruby.
As they made their way across town, Emma called Mary Margaret to inform her that Gold had revealed at least some information about what had happened. Mother Superior apparently hadn’t been as helpful, but she did confirm the presence of something strongly magical in Storybrooke that wasn’t there originally.
Emma and Regina agreed to meet them at the town hall for an emergency assembly of the council. Emma wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of the council meeting as she thought she would have some more time to figure out how to plead Regina’s case. The fact that someone dangerous may be here in Storybrooke because of Regina – that could complicate matters greatly.
“Are you up for this?” Emma asked Regina as she ended the call and returned her cell phone to her jacket pocket.
“You and I both know that my feelings regarding this council meeting are irrelevant. It’s happening whether I want it to or not.” Regina replied curtly. The bite in her tone was a clear indicator to Emma that Regina was terrified.
Regina couldn’t escape the feeling that deep down they would probably all be better off if she wasn’t around. She began to wonder if love was anything she would be able to have without the risk of great pain to herself or those that she loved. Maybe she was born to be the Evil Queen, just as Emma was born to be the Savior - and neither could escape their fate.
“I have a say in this, remember? Totally going to use the Savior card to my advantage.” Emma said with a wink, trying to lighten the situation while reassuring Regina.
Regina simply sighed in response, and turned to look out the car window, watching the buildings of the town she built whoosh by as they approached their destination.
Regina was afraid to look back at Emma because if she met her eyes, she knew she would almost certainly fall apart. She took the last few minutes of the silent car ride to compose herself for what was bound to at best an unpleasant experience.
“Promise me you won’t kill each other.” Emma begged Regina as they walked shoulder to shoulder down the sidewalk towards the Town Hall.
“As much as I absolutely loathe the idea of being in the same room with your insipid mother, I can grasp that there are greater elements at play right now than my distaste towards her.” Regina replied sarcastically, stuffing her balled hands into the pockets of her coat.
“Thank you.” Emma said with a strong exhale of breath as she opened the door to the Town Hall, politely ushering Regina through first, holding the door for her.
They walked down the long hallway to the uncomfortable echoing sound of Regina’s clacking heels and Emma’s scuffing boots. They stopped briefly in front of the closed set of double doors that led into the room that Regina used to use for her Mayoral meetings, but was now commandeered by Emma’s parents and the council.
Emma observed the obvious tension in Regina’s demeanor and the way her whole body seemed to stiffen as she prepared herself to enter.
“I know that you’re probably all wound up and ready to throw fireballs at everyone’s heads, but I think it’s probably best for you to let me do most of the talking. I’d like to keep as much attention off of you as possible.” Emma explained while giving Regina a stern look.
“I can take care of myself, Emma.” Regina replied indignantly in the tone she had used towards the blonde when she first came to Storybrooke.
Emma sighed softly and tilted her head at Regina, giving her a warm and understanding look.
“I know you can, but I want to help, so please let me.”
Emma leaned in to capture Regina’s lips in a tender but insistent kiss, attempting to convey more physically than she could with words. She knew that Regina was worried and she wanted to do anything she could to relieve the brunette’s anxiety and apprehension.
When Emma pulled away she pulled Regina’s hand out of her coat pocket and gave it a squeeze.
“Let’s get this over with.” Regina said, nodding towards the doors.
When Emma and Regina entered, everyone was already seated around a large table in the middle of the room. Emma couldn’t help but think it was oddly reminiscent of the Knights of the Round Table. She really hadn’t thought about what to expect until that very moment, although it surprised her to see how eclectic the group of council members were. It was strange to see Archie, Granny or Leroy even in actual positions of authority next to her parents. All of the faces at the table were familiar, but they felt like strangers – the people she met when she came to Storybrooke were not the people she saw seated in front of her.
Everyone’s eyes were trained on them as they approached. There was a seat open for Emma to the right of Mary Margaret, but no other seating accommodation was made available for Regina. Regina tentatively followed Emma, trusting that she’d take the lead as she promised.
Emma reached for the chair and pulled it out, gesturing to Regina to take a seat.
Mary Margaret’s eyes widened at the blatant breach in etiquette.
“Emma, what do you think you’re –“
“Don’t.” Emma said sternly as she raised her hand up to stop Mary Margaret’s protest and turned again to Regina, who reluctantly took a seat. “If this is supposed to be my seat, I should be allowed to let whoever I want sit in it.”
Emma protectively gripped the high back of the chair after Regina settled herself into it, crossing her legs regally and sitting up perfectly straight.
Emma took a sharp breath in through her nose and turned to address everyone at the table.
“We’re here to discuss the ogre, so let’s get on with it.” Emma declared impatiently.
David cleared his throat, figuring it was best just to move on to the issue at hand as Emma had suggested. Despite the situation regarding Regina being tenuous and a bit awkward, there were more concerning developments.
“We’ve called an emergency meeting of the council to address the presence of an ogre in Storybrooke. From what we understand, the ogre Regina defeated is the only ogre we know of, is that correct Emma?”
Emma turned to address her father but fought a little harder to reel in her agitation and aggression towards this meeting of the council. She kept telling herself that getting into a knock-down drag-out fight wasn’t going to do her or more importantly Regina, any good.
“Yeah, that’s right. It looks like the ogre coming here was sort of a fluke situation - I don’t think we’ll see another…at least Gold seemed to think so.”
“So what did you find out from Gold, Emma?” Mary Margaret interjected with obvious sharpness to her tone. As much as she tried to be tolerant of Regina it was insulting to have her daughter deliberately undermine her authority in front of the council members. Back in the Enchanted Forest, people could be executed for such an action.
Emma shifted her weight from one foot to another and squeezed the back of Regina’s chair, trying to maintain her composure under the tension that hung like a thick fog in the room.
“Apparently someone crossed realms from the Enchanted Forest - someone with magic. If Gold knows who, he isn’t telling us.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Leroy interrupted angrily, slamming his hand on the table. “Whoever it is, is here because of the Evil Queen! It can’t be a coincidence that this only happens after the curse is broken.”
Archie interjected timidly. “I don’t think it’s fair to blame Regina when we don’t even know –“
“- Well I think Leroy is right! Regina’s the only one who would know someone with that kind of power.” Granny growled, causing Archie to recoil back into his seat.
Regina had agreed to and tried her best to keep quiet to avoid becoming the topic of conversation, but it didn’t take very long for it to careen down that road anyway, even without her help. As the Evil Queen and even as Mayor Mills, she would never have allowed anyone to speak about her in such a way, especially in her presence as though she wasn’t even there. She refused to sit there passively while the table full of idiots squabbled about who was to blame when there were more pressing issues at hand.
“Blame me all you want, but condemning me for my past won’t change the fact that we still have to come up with a plan on how to deal with whoever is here - and like it or not, that will require my assistance.” Regina snapped, catching everyone off guard with her sudden entrance into the conversation.
Emma reached her right hand forward to rest on Regina’s shoulder, giving it a squeeze in a silent request to try and exercise some restraint.
“Regina’s right. We need to stop trying to blame someone for this and we need to figure out how to protect ourselves.” Emma implored, looking around the table at each of the council members.
Mary Margaret involuntarily scowled at the way Emma handled Regina. She was not at all pleased with how they had taken up so quickly and easily with each other, especially now that Emma knew who the brunette really was and all of the evil things she had done to them. It made absolutely no sense to her and it worried her more by each passing minute. She tried but failed to mask her distaste towards Regina.
“And why do you think we would want or need your help, Regina?” Mary Margaret asked in her best attempt at an even tone.
“Need I remind you that other than Rumplestiltskin, I am the only practitioner of magic in this town capable of handling whoever it is that crossed realms? Reliance on Mother Superior’s fairy magic would be simply moronic and we all know that Rumplestitskin will not be offering up his services without a price.” Regina bit back at her former stepdaughter.
The obvious accuracy of Regina’s reasoning rendered everyone silent for several uncomfortable moments. No one liked the idea of admitting that they would need the assistance of the former Evil Queen to survive whatever threat had arrived in Storybrooke.
“Maybe it’s time we put aside our differences and work together. Hasn’t there been enough bad blood to last us all multiple lifetimes?” Ruby reasoned, breaking the silence.
Emma was surprised by the outward support from her friend. She knew that Ruby supported her and how she was handling things with Regina but she honestly wasn’t sure if they were close enough for her to outwardly go against Mary Margaret’s wishes.
“Ruby – it’s not that simple.” Mary Margaret said, taken aback by her closest friend’s betrayal.
Ruby confidently maintained her position. “I think it is. What good is vengeance going to do any of us if we’re all dead?”
“She still needs to be punished.” Leroy added grumpily.
“She will be punished Leroy, but first we have to extinguish this threat…” Mary Margaret explained.
Boiling over with anger, Emma slammed her fist on the table.
“Stop it! Stop talking about her like she isn’t sitting right here in front of you like a fucking human being! Regina is more powerful than all of you combined – if she wanted to, she could leave all of us here to deal with this mess and take Henry and never return. Instead, she’s sitting here, swallowing your bullshit, while you all decide what’s more important, your vengeance or her assistance.”
Everyone was stunned into silence by Emma’s sudden outburst that she took the opportunity to continue uninterrupted.
“Let’s be clear on one thing - should you choose to ask for Regina’s help, she will be pardoned from whatever it is that she did in the past as the Evil Queen. Those are the terms and they’re not negotiable.”
Emma stood there, attempting to steady her breathing and calm down while the others contemplated her terms. She felt a warm hand rest upon her outstretched arm and she turned to Regina.
“It’s alright, dear.” Regina said quietly to Emma in almost a whisper, but her remark was not out of earshot of those sitting around the table.
“No it isn’t, Regina.” David said to Regina.
“David – “ Mary Margaret tried to interrupt him.
“ - No, Mary Margaret - Emma’s right. What kind of people would we be to ask for Regina’s help and then still seek vengeance once we got what we needed? It goes against everything that we stand for and I won’t be party to it.” David insisted, shaking his head at his wife.
Mary Margaret’s heart sank once she realized what should have been so obvious to her - David, Emma and Ruby were right. How could she expect Regina to help them if they were going to just turn around and betray her in the end? Despite everything evil that Regina had done in the past, that wasn’t the type of people that they were. She also knew that from gauging Emma’s reaction, the blonde wouldn’t budge on the matter, and if she hoped to have a relationship with her daughter, she’d have to agree to these terms.
Mary Margaret took a deep breath and turned to her daughter, locking their gazes.
“If Regina assists us as needed then I am willing to accept your terms Emma…but…if she acts against us in any way, the agreement is null and void. Do we have a deal?”
Emma broke from her mother’s gaze and turned to Regina, as she was not about to agree to anything for the brunette without her consent. As much as she wanted to accept for her and to protect her, Regina had to submit to this agreement willingly for it to work.
“Regina..?” Emma prompted the brunette for an answer.
Regina had been stunned by David’s show of support. Of all people, she never imagined Mary Margaret’s husband would be the one to stick his neck out for her. Once a Charming, always a Charming, she supposed. As she learned with Emma, they couldn’t help themselves when it came to assisting those in need and doing the ‘right thing’.
As she contemplated the agreement, it became clear that she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. This was going to be the best offer presented to her, and sadly enough, she would have helped them anyway out of concern for Henry and Emma.
It never occurred to her to flee Storybrooke with Henry until Emma had said it. She could still do it, but the idea of leaving the place where she raised Henry and the first place she considered home was unfathomable to her. She was just beginning to feel as though she had a home and a family in Storybrooke with Henry and Emma, and she wasn’t about to abandon her chance at happiness out of fear. She resolved that she would accept the agreement, as she had no intentions of doing anything other than assisting in ridding Storybrooke of its intruder and continuing to live out her life in peace.
“I accept your terms.” Regina answered Mary Margaret while involuntarily squeezing Emma’s arm with the hand that remained there.
Emma moved her left hand from the back of Regina’s chair to the brunette’s shoulder in unspoken gratitude that Regina had accepted the agreement without a fight. With that matter out of the way, a huge weight was lifted off of their shoulders, as she knew that Regina would never betray them.
Noticing the small touches between the women, David cleared his throat to draw the attention elsewhere. It was clear to him that Mary Margaret had been right about something going on between the two of them, but he knew better than to interfere. He was already on the rocks with his daughter and didn’t want to give her any more reasons to keep pushing him away.
“Okay. Now that we’ve settled that issue, we have to deal with whoever’s here in Storybrooke. Regina, do you have any ideas as to who it could be?”
Regina took a deep breath and turned to David. “Unfortunately I do not. Anyone I had any quarrels with I specifically cursed here to Storybrooke or I eliminated prior to enacting the curse.”
Emma interrupted, uncomfortable with the focus of this conversation remaining on Regina.
“Is there anything we can do to increase security against someone magical even if we can’t identify them at this point?”
“There are a few charms and protection spells that we can set up across town. We will just need to be allowed full access to the fairy dust in the mines.” Mother Superior added, making her presence felt for the first time during this meeting.
“Of course, please see to it right away that it is done.” Mary Margaret agreed while waving her hand in the air.
“I’m thinking we should enlist a few more temporary deputies and increase patrols around town, day and night. That way if there’s anything suspicious going on, someone will notice.” Emma suggested.
“Me and my brothers can step up on patrol for the time being.” Leroy offered.
Emma looked to her mother for a definitive sign of approval before proceeding with instructions. Mary Margaret locked eyes with her daughter and inclined her head in her direction in unspoken permission to continue.
“Thanks Leroy. After we’re done here let’s meet up at the station to plan out the schedule.”
Leroy nodded in agreement at Emma.
Emma couldn’t believe how well this was actually going considering all of the horrors she had concocted within her last few nights of restless dreams. She had convinced herself that she was going to have to physically fight for Regina’s life and freedom and was completely taken off guard by an alternative outcome. Oddly enough, the presence of someone potentially far more dangerous than Regina united the town in a way that would never have occurred otherwise. Emma almost wanted to find who practically killed her earlier today and thank them for granting her a momentary reprieve.
“Emma and Mother Superior, you will keep us updated at regular intervals regarding Storybrooke’s security as well as any unusual activity. We will get to the bottom of this. For now, this meeting of the council is adjourned.” Mary Margaret instructed in a practiced regal tone that was foreign to Emma.
Everyone shuffled about and departed a few at a time, talking amongst themselves. Emma pulled her parents aside in the corner of the hall while leaving Regina temporarily by herself to linger near the door. Despite the numerous disagreements she had with her parents as of late, Emma wanted to try and begin the road to making amends, or at least becoming remotely civil with each other.
She cleared he throat uncomfortably while stuffing her hands in the back pockets of her skinny jeans and then addressed her parents.
“Uh, thanks for what you did – you know, for Regina.” Emma stuttered.
As much as Mary Margaret wanted and deserved her own personal justice against Regina, she knew that trying to maintain some form of peace between them all was the only way she was going to get close to her daughter. She knew that Emma was trying to reach out and now wasn’t the time to shut her out.
Mary Margaret took a deep breath and forced an uncomfortable looking smile.
“Of course, honey. If Regina wants to prove her loyalty, then I won’t stand in her way.”
The careful choice of Mary Margaret’s words did not escape David or Emma. David chimed in to attempt to smooth over the conversation before it escalated. He reached his arm out and rested it on his daughter’s shoulder.
“We’re good people, Emma. I can see the change in Regina and she deserves a chance at redemption. I know she’s not the same woman that cursed us almost 30 years ago.”
Emma pressed her lips together and smiled cordially in response to her father’s kind gesture. She knew it wasn’t easy for David to put himself between his wife and his daughter, but he did it anyway because he felt it was right. Perhaps David would be the key to her mother coming around. Maybe there was hope, yet.
“Well, I better get back to the station – I’ve got some serious work to do.” Emma said while backing up awkwardly towards the exit to the hall.
David and Mary Margaret watched silently as Emma made her way towards where Regina was waiting for her near the entryway. Ruby brought Henry over to them, who had been waiting down the hallway in Regina’s office for the conclusion of the council meeting. They watched as Emma slipped an arm around Henry as they walked out, noticing how she reached her hand around just far enough to cover Regina’s as they both guided their son out the door into the hall.
“You know this is only going to get worse, David.” Mary Margaret warned her husband in a hushed voice.
David sighed audibly. “I know, but I think we just have to let it run its course. If we try to intervene it will only drive a greater wedge between us. We need to be patient.”
“I hope you’re right.” Mary Margaret muttered.
After the council meeting dispersed, Emma dropped Regina and Henry off at home before heading back to the station to coordinate the patrols with the dwarves. By the time a plan was in place and everyone was briefed, it was around 11pm when Emma was able to make her way back to the mansion.
Exhausted from the day’s events, and still quite sore from her run-in with the ogre, it took every shred of energy left to drag herself up the steps and into Regina’s house. Regina had allowed her to take the spare key that was normally kept underneath the mat by the door, so she was able to let herself in without waking Henry. She knew that Regina was still awake as the light in the study could be seen from the foyer.
Emma entered the study to find Regina curled up on the couch with a book. Cuddled up under a blanket in her silk pajamas and reading glasses, you’d never know this woman was once the Evil Queen. Emma couldn’t help but appreciate how beautiful Regina looked when she actually relaxed.
“Hey.” Emma greeted her with a smile as she leaned against the doorway.
Regina looked up, surprised by Emma’s presence, as she was immersed in what she was reading. When she saw Emma she smiled warmly and closed her book.
“Hey.” Regina replied, patting the open space next to her on the couch for Emma to sit.
Emma took a few tired strides towards the couch and plopped down next to Regina. The brunette lifted up her blanket to let Emma underneath.
“How did everything go down at the station, dear?” Regina asked while scooting a bit closer to the blonde.
Emma let out a long breath and rubbed her eyes furiously.
“It went as well as could be expected, I guess. We have enough volunteers to prevent anyone from having to take too many shifts, so thankfully I’m not stuck working 24/7.”
Regina turned and put her book down on the end table. When she leaned back over she ran a hand underneath Emma’s tank top and gently raked her fingers across a toned abdomen.
“I’m glad to see that you know how to delegate. Despite my initial concerns regarding you becoming Sheriff, its clear you are quite capable.” Regina purred into Emma’s ear, eliciting a low moan from the blonde.
“Still doesn’t solve our problem of what we do once we find whoever it is that came here.” Emma replied, biting down on her lower lip, trying hard to keep her focus on the issue at hand.
Regina replied in a serious tone. “I think you should reconsider my offer to teach you how to harness your magic. The only real way to combat magic is with magic, and I’d prefer it if you were able to properly defend yourself.”
Emma immediately tensed up at the suggestion, so Regina slid back to put some distance between them. Emma was still extremely uncomfortable with the idea of learning magic. She didn’t want the responsibility or the power. She already had way too much to worry about and if anyone found out that she could use magic it could complicate things even further. What would people think? What would her parents think? And worse, what if she was a complete and utter failure at it?
Emma sighed deeply and replied in what was almost a whine. “Can’t I just use my gun? Unless this mystery person is an ogre, I’m pretty sure a bullet will do the job…”
Regina was beginning to lose her patience with the blonde. Why does she insist upon denying who she is and what she is capable of? To be born with an innate magical power is a gift, one that many would kill for back in the Enchanted Forest. Regina knew that whoever came to Storybrooke posed a real threat to everyone in this town, especially Emma. Growing up in this world, the blonde hadn’t been exposed to magic and she had no idea how dangerous of a situation this really was.
“Don’t be a fool, Emma. We will need every available resource to rid ourselves of this threat. You haven’t seen the destruction that real dark magic is capable of, but I have, first hand. Being the Savior won’t be enough to protect you.” Regina snapped while getting up from the couch and beginning to pace back and forth in front of Emma.
Emma got up from the couch and stepped in front of Regina, physically preventing her from continuing her anxious pacing.
“Look, I know that you’re worried, I am too, but we can handle this. You’re powerful enough for the two of us.” Emma said in her best effort at a calm and reassuring tone.
“I may not be!” Regina shouted at the blonde. “I refuse to let something happen to you or our son because you are afraid of who you really are!”
Emma finally reached her breaking point on this issue. “I don’t want this. I didn’t want any of this, Regina! I feel like I’m losing every last bit of who I used to be before I got here. I don’t know who I am anymore and it’s just too much. Why can’t you understand that and let me handle this my way?!” Emma shouted at the brunette.
“Because your way is going to get us all killed!” Regina yelled back reflexively.
After seeing Emma’s face contort in pain and anger, Regina immediately regretted her words. With Emma’s magic they’d stand their best chance, but it was unfair to put the entire burden of their well being on the blonde. It was exactly the kind of thing that would make her run, but it was too late now to take it back.
Emma took a step backward from Regina, who reached out towards her in an attempt to apologize.
“Don’t.” Emma said coldly, shaking her head and pulling violently away from Regina’s reach. Her hazel eyes iced over despite the fact that she was clearly fighting back tears. “If I’m that much of a risk to you and Henry then I should go.”
Emma had slammed the front door behind her before Regina could utter another word in response. She was paralyzed as she watched the cruiser tear out of the driveway and disappear down Mifflin Street.
The thought of Emma leaving and never returning ripped Regina apart from the inside out. She leaned a hand on the edge of her desk in order to steady herself. Tears began freely streaming down her face as she contemplated how she would be able to survive if the blonde left her and Storybrooke for good.