As almost all things in Emma Swan's life seem to do ever since Henry had arrived at her doorstep, it all moves so quickly and recklessly. One moment, she’s standing next to her parents and Tink watching as Zelena and Regina circle around each other like two MMA fighters looking for an opening, and she’s thinking that if she wasn’t so damned worried about trying to protect the civilians of this town, she might almost find this amusing because Regina looks positively murderous right now and for once – considering the anger she has in her own heart because of Neal’s death - it’s a delight to see.
That’s the first moment.
The next moment, though, Regina is pulling back and throwing the kind of punch that would make the previously mentioned MMA fighter proud, and Zelena is spitting blood and screaming an indignant curse in a different language, and then suddenly there’s a crackle of magical energy and Emma just knows that the shit is about to hit the fan in a spectacular kind of way.
Spectacular, she thinks, but probably not at all good for anyone.
"Stay there," Regina hisses as she looks down at Zelena, who is still sprawled out on the wet asphalt of the street. "Where you belong. Using your petty jealousy to claw your way up and failing miserably."
"Oh, look, little sister Regina still has some bite," Zelena shoots back, her eyes blazing with hatred. "Let’s see what we can do about that." She straightens herself up suddenly, reaches behind her for Rumple, grabs his hand and then flings her other arm rather dramatically up into the air.
Emma’s so busy watching Zelena’s arm - and the green gloved hand (it’s supposed to stop magic from either woman, but apparently poaching off the Dark One is enough to give the Wicked Witch a cheating edge) - that for a moment she doesn’t even notice that Regina has been lifted up into the air and is now gasping for air like it’s been choked out of it.
Only because it’s Regina, she’s managing to do it stoically. Instead of her fingers scrabbling at her throat, they hang at her side and she stares ahead.
Which makes Emma wonder how many times Regina has been choked like this. How many times has she been restrained in this awful manner?
"Just so you know, Regina," Zelena purrs as she squeezes. "After I kill you, I’m going to kill everyone in this town, but I will leave your son for last -"
Emma doesn’t hear the rest of the sentence; the blood suddenly pounding in her ears as her rage and grief nearly suffocates her. Because no, she’s already lost Neal to this horrible woman - she’s not losing anyone else.
Especially not Henry or his mother.
Regina’s eyes meet hers, wide and desperate but somehow not scared, and Emma finds herself wondering just how many times her former enemy has braced herself for the end. How many times has she wanted it to come?
She shakes her head and tries to tell Regina that it will all be okay, but before she can, Zelena is laughing and Regina is flying through the air and there’s so much screaming and glass shattering and God, God, God…
"Regina!" Emma cries out once her brain snaps back into place, and she actually realizes that Zelena had just thrown Regina through the freaking Clocktower. She has to be dead, Emma thinks as she calculates space and distance and time, but then she pushes those awful thoughts out of her mind because no, it’s Regina and the Evil Queen isn’t going out like that.
"Oh relax, Savior," Zelena purrs, her bright eyes dancing maliciously and with the madness of someone who believes they’ve just won the most terrible kind of victory. "You’ll have your chance to die soon enough, but before that happens - and before I rip your precious Henry’s heart out and turn it into ash - I do need to check on my beloved sister. I surely hope she hasn’t fallen so easily. That would be quite the disappointment, indeed."
“No,” Emma growls back and tries to surge forward. No sooner has she taken a step, though, then she finds herself being hurled backwards. She crashes into her parents and sags to the ground, wincing and furious.
“Well, that was fun and pointless,” Zelena chuckles as she looks down at Emma. She winks and then holding the Dark One’s blade up to a sneering Rumple, she says, "Remove my gloves so that I can use my magic again." When he resists, she pushes the blade into his face, and then waves it back and forth as she sing-songs out her order. "Do as I command…Master."
And then she laughs loudly enough to make everyone cringe because she’s quite certain that she’s won not only this round but also the whole war.
"You’re going to die," he promises her.
"Yes, eventually, but not yet. The gloves, Dark One. Off."
He growls but then whirls his hand in the air and her green gloves - sealed by magic to her hands after she’d put them until someone else removed them in order to keep either her or Regina from cheating (fat lot of good that had done, Emma thinks) - disappear leaving her free to teleport herself.
But not before she looks right at Tink, sees the fairy’s newly returned (as far as Tink is aware, what with the missing year and all) wand in her hand, and shakes her head. “I don’t think so, dear.” With a snap of her fingers and an outraged shout from Tink, the wand is spinning in the air and disappearing into somewhere in the darkness of the night. “Go fetch,” Zelena chirps.
“You bitch,” Tink growls out,
“And they say fairies are all sweet and kind.” She smirks and then waves her hand, a massive cloud of green smoke surrounding her until she disappears.
"If Regina isn’t already dead, Zelena is going to kill her," Snow whispers unnecessarily, speaking beneath the hysterical murmur of the crowd.
"I know,” Emma replies as she finally manages to get her footing again. She turns to Rumple. “Gold, she’s not controlling you at the moment, right?"
"Not at the moment, no,” he sneers, his eyes on the Clocktower.
"Without Tink having her wand, I don’t know how to do that poof thing…"
"I get it. If Regina is alive, you need to get those gloves off of her. She won’t stand a chance against Zelena with them on. I’m not sure she will without them, either, but you can help her." He looks right at Emma.
"For Neal," she promises him. “This ends today.”
He nods his head in gratitude, and then whirls his hand and this time she’s the one that disappears into smoke - purple and thick and cloying.
So very dark.
Magic is a tricky thing. The red gloves that she’d worn to this showdown had been meant to stop offensive and even defensive magic, but they couldn’t stop her panicked body from throwing out the elemental kind.
The kind meant to save her life.
As she’d been hurtling through the cold night air, going too fast to survive, her elemental magic had kicked in and slowed her body down enough to not die on impact. The crash through the glass had hurt like a bitch, but now, lying on the cold ground, she takes a breath because she’s alive.
And then she hears the laughter.
"Quite the survivor, my dear little sister."
Regina’s eyes roll up towards her. “Taunting, really? How classless.”
"You’re bleeding. Everywhere. How’s that for class?”
And she is, but thankfully, nothing looks deep enough to be worrisome.
Not in the immediate, anyway.
"Yes, well that might be true, but you’re still a pathetic wanna-be who never will be," Regina snaps back as she gingerly pushes herself up to her feet, wincing at the feel of a hundred little (and not so-little) cuts and lacerations up and down her unfortunately trembling body. She doesn’t even want to look down at her leather coat because she knows that it’s utterly ruined.
"We shall see about that," Zelena replies with a laugh. "You have no magic, dear. Besides that which saved your pitiful life. But even that precious little bit of…elemental magic can’t save you from me now." Grinning, she holds up her bare hands and then looks pointedly at the red gloves on Regina’s. “You’re about to die Regina, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
Regina doesn’t even bother making a fool of herself by trying to pull her own gloves off; she knows how these work. Someone else has to do it.
There is no one else.
Which means that Zelena is right: she is going to die tonight. At her half- sister’s hands and all alone in the Clocktower of the town that she had built.
She lifts her head high and stares right at Zelena. “Take your best shot.”
"Oh, very good. Then you’re finally ready to face your death?”
"No, she’s not," a voice says suddenly, light purple smoke dissipating into the air. "That’s quite the fun little trick," Emma says between coughs.
"You must be joking,” Zelena growls.
"Yeah, no. You didn’t tell the Dark One no transporting me," Emma replies.
Regina chuckles. “She’s quite the pain in the ass, isn’t she?”
Emma dips her head in acknowledgement and gets a smile of something that looks a whole lot like affection from the Queen in return.
"Oh enough of your tiresome ‘we are mothers’ act," Zelena sighs. "If you’re insistent on fighting me together, then you can die together." And then, as if to make her point, she throws a fireball right towards the two of them.
That’s when Emma’s own elemental magic – which is, for the moment at least, quite a bit stronger than Regina’s because it’s not being restrained by special gloves - kicks in and without her even really knowing how she’s doing it, she kick up a protective shield over she and Regina at the same time as she tackles the Queen to the ground to avoid the oncoming fireball.
"Ow," Regina mumbles. "Because everything wasn’t broken before."
"Sorry," Emma gasps, still covering her. She can hear the sound of Zelena continuing to throw fireballs at the shield and she’s smart enough to know her magic isn’t nearly strong enough to hold the Wicked Witch off for long.
But it doesn’t need to be.
It just needs to be strong enough to buy Emma a little time to get the gloves off of Regina so that they can then take out Zelena together.
"Is there a trick to doing this?" Emma asks as she reaches for the red glove on Regina’s right hand. "Do I just yank it and that will be enough?”
"Thank God you’re not a man."
"Just yank it," Regina repeats, her eyes rolling.
"Not the time to call me an unsophisticated troglodyte, huh?"
"True enough. Magic on magic, Emma. Touch the gloves and think about them disappearing. Picture my hands without them on if you can."
"Yeah…yeah, okay." Emma swallows hard and then does just that.
It takes a moment - too long really because the shield is crumbling and they only have seconds left, and Zelena is still reminding them that she’s going to kill them and how she’ll do it and could she just please shut the fuck up so Emma can think about hands and fingers and - it works. It finally works.
"Good," Regina breathes. "You did good. Now step behind me."
"You don’t need my help?
"I will," Regina tells her. "But…wait.”
Emma nods and steps back, watching in amazement as the protective shield finally collapses as though it had never been there and Regina - her clothes shredded and her face and neck covered in bloody cuts – stands up and then forward, her expression contorting into one of almost hideous rage.
This has to be the Evil Queen here, Emma thinks with a shudder.
"You came after me and that was bad enough," Regina tells her. "But then you threatened my son, and you can’t possibly believe I’ll let you live."
"I don’t believe that you can stop me, sis," Zelena tells her. "I’m more powerful than you are even when you’re pissed off and we both know it."
"Perhaps," Regina agrees with a malicious smile. "But you’re not more powerful than I am when I have the Savior by my side." She glances over at Emma. “What was it you were saying about the we are mothers act?”
"I still have the Dark One.”
"No, you don’t," Emma replies. "I do."
And with that, she holds up a dagger. “Took it off you when I came in.”
"Thief," Zelena sneers.
"Wasn’t yours to begin with," Emma counters. She looks at Regina, who is looking at her with something that reads a whole lot like pride and even appreciation. "Do I just use it to summon him here so he can help us out?"
"Yes, dear, that's what you should do,” Regina replies tiredly. She looks right at Zelena. "Let's end this."
Her body looks a whole lot worse once she’s wearing just a hospital gown.
There are cuts covering her, many which had breached her clothing and spliced through skin. There’s a semi-deep one on her hip, but everything will heal eventually. Right now, she’d just like this whole awful day to be over.
Right now she’d like to see Henry and hold him close.
But since she can’t do that, she’d just like to go home.
"Hey," Emma says as she enters the room, shuffling her feet and smiling a bit awkwardly. She’s changed out of the bloody clothes that she’d been wearing during the showdown, and is now in just a pair of faded and oddly loose (for her) jeans, a sweater and her police department windbreaker.
"Hey," Regina replies tiredly. "Any chance that you’re here to sign me out?”
"No. I agree with Whale that a night of observation can’t hurt." She cocks her head a bit. “You really got wiped out going through that window.”
“Why didn’t you let Blue…or Tink try to heal you up?”
“I don’t like the feel of fairy magic. It doesn’t…meld well with my own.”
“Right. So here we are.”
“Apparently. But why we?”
“I don’t understand the question.”
“Yes, you do. Why aren’t you off celebrating with the rest of the town? The Wicked Witch is dead and all - almost all - is just as it once was."
"Except that’s still a missing year, and Henry still doesn’t remember you.”
"No, he doesn’t," Regina agrees, glancing towards the window. Snow is starting to fall again in giant white clumps. By morning, the town will be covered in it and people will be babbling on about fresh new starts again.
Only she’ll still be the Evil Queen and when she leaves this hospital room, all she’ll have out there for her is a mess to clean up and an empty house to return to. A house without laughter or boy’s size 7 shoes scattered around. Emma shrugs her shoulders and then pushes her hands into the pockets of her windbreaker. "I’m not much for celebrating death. Everyone is so happy and all I keep thinking about is that Neal is dead and even when Henry remembers everything, all he’ll have are about five days of memories.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Regina says, dropping her head back against the pillow with a sigh. They’d given her painkillers to take the edge off, but they’re not near enough to blur out everything that she’s feeling right now.
Because a father that Henry had never really known is dead, and a lost and forgotten sister that she had never been told about is gone forever as well.
Too much loss.
All of it avoidable.
“You never liked him,” Emma points out.
“Does that matter? You did. He did. And my…friend lost his son.”
“Thank you,” Emma says softly.
Regina nods her head slowly. Then, “So why are you here, Emma? You don’t want to celebrate our victory tonight and I can quite plainly tell that you don’t really want to talk about the dead, either. So what is this for?”
"This is for you. I thought I’d show you something. Maybe lift your spirits.”
"What makes you think my spirits are low?"
"Henry doesn’t remember and you just killed your last remaining blood relative," Emma replies. "She is your last remaining blood relative, right?"
"As far as I am aware. But then again, I didn’t know about her. My mother might have an entire army of sociopathic queenly wanna-bes out there."
Emma chuckles. “Well, here’s hoping she doesn’t.”
"Yes, let’s hope not. So what is it that you think can lift my spirits?"
"This." She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a mini-camcorder. "The last year has been really good for us. I keep thinking of it as belonging to him and I, but if he remembered, he’d want you to be able to share it so here; it’s about 90 minutes of home video. Mostly him, a little bit of me."
"And your ex-"
"Sorry. I deal with unbelievable things by laughing at them."
"And I’m sorry that you have to."
"Two apologies in one night. We might actually be becoming friends.”
“Impossible,” Regina retorts, but she’s smiling just a little bit.
“Right. Of course not,” Emma replies, meeting Regina’s smile with one of her own. “But don’t worry; he isn’t on this tape. This is all me and the kid."
She hands the camera over to Regina and then stands up.
Regina’s eyebrow lifts. "You’re leaving?"
"I figured you’d want to see it -"
"I don’t want to be here," Regina says, glancing around the room. "But if I must be here for the night, I wouldn’t object to a bit of…company. I would prefer not to…” she trails off, looking out the window again.
“Think about her?”
“Yes. I’m sure there will be time for all of that. For both of us.”
“I’m sure,” Emma admits.
"Yeah, I get it.” She sits down in the chair next to the bed, and then points to the camera. “You know how to work one of these things?”
"I have seen a camera before."
"Have you ever pushed play yourself? Or do servants do typically do that?"
"Your wit is always a revelation," Regina replies. "Now push play."
Emma chuckles and then does exactly that, her grin broadening when she sees the way Regina’s weary and wounded body relaxes fully as their son appears on the screen, waving at the camera and laughing out his joy.
"Hey, mom," he calls out. And then he blows a kiss.
It may have been directed at Emma when he’d done it, but it’s Regina who receives it with a smile that could light up an entire city block.
And that, Emma thinks, is enough to call this day a real victory.