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Starting Over Again

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Emma felt, rather than saw, Regina begin to collapse as soon as they appeared in the entryway of the mayor’s house. She barely managed to catch the brunette before she limply collapsed to the ground.

For a moment, Emma was extremely afraid she’d managed to somehow accidentally kill or otherwise harm Regina during transport. She’d just recently, as in within the last few days, finally figured out how to transport using her magic. She’d been teaching herself on the sly using what books she could understand in Regina’s vault because she wanted to be prepared. Apparently, her Boy Scout mentality had paid off. However, it was entirely possible that she somehow screwed up the spell and managed to leave something important of Regina’s behind during transport, like her skeletal system or something.

She wasn’t sure exactly how the transporting thing worked, but she was sure she probably shouldn’t be using it on herself yet, let alone on herself and someone else, but she didn’t really have a choice. Hades would try to take Regina if he had the chance, and Regina’s house was better protected than her work space because Emma had spent more time reinforcing and adding protection spells to the house than to the mayor’s office.

When she noticed the brunette was still breathing, she let out a relieved chuckle, thanking the universe for her dumb luck. At least the older was still alive. It looked like she’d fainted. Fainting Emma could handle. With a little effort, she managed to pick the other woman up and carry her the few steps into the formal living room, where she awkwardly placed the brunette on a sofa.

Firefighters make carrying people look too easy, Emma mused to herself as tried to catch her breath from the exertion. It wasn’t that Regina was heavy. She wasn’t. In fact, she was surprisingly small. In the blonde’s mind’s eye, she considered the older woman to be some kind of huge, over powering… something. Something the very opposite of the petite and delicate woman passed out on the sofa. It made Emma want to protect Regina all the more. Fragile was the word that crept into the blonde’s mind. Regina looked and felt fragile.

She frowned. The old Regina would have hated having such a word prescribed to her. She wasn’t fragile. She was anything but, and she could take care of herself. In fact, the old Regina could probably take care of this situation with Hades without any help from the sheriff, but, of course, this person wasn’t the old Regina. This person was someone who didn’t believe in magic or fairytales or true love. She was a woman who thought of the Enchanted Forest as something in a book of stories told to children.

This person was happy in a way the old Regina could never be, and Emma hated there was absolutely nothing she could do to save this person because, in truth, Granny was right. You can’t save the unsavable, and this Regina wasn’t savable because this Regina wasn’t really Regina at all. She was a small piece of a very complicated puzzle which made up the Regina Emma knew all too well.

She let out a heavy sigh. It was going to be hard to explain to Henry why they had to make Regina get her memories back. If she was focused on protecting Regina, he was obsessed with it, but they needed the old Regina back to deal with this new threat. From just the brief encounter she’d had with what she assumed was Hades, she knew she couldn’t fight him alone, and she didn’t trust Gold to really help. In fact, she assumed he was going to make it worse because that’s what he did. He made things worse, and, somehow, managed to make things better for himself at the same time.

Kneeling beside the sofa, Emma reached out the give Regina a gentle shake. “Hey, open your eyes.”

The brunette grunted, squeezing her eyes even more tightly shut. “Please tell me this was all a bad dream,” she grumbled.

“If it is, then we’re both having the same dream, and we’re sleeping together,” Emma lightly joked.

“Better than the alternative,” Regina deadpanned as she slowly opened her eyes and carefully sat up, rubbing at her forehead. “What happened?”

“You fainted.” The younger woman stood to take a seat next to the other woman. “I don’t know why, though. It could have been the poofing or the stress or something else.” Her frown turned into a look of concern. “How do you feel?”

“Exhausted.” Leaning forward, Regina closed her eyes and took in a few deep breaths. “I don’t suppose there’s time for a nap before you shatter what’s left of my disbelief in the impossible, is there?”

“I think we can squeeze it in.” Emma leaned forward to give an exaggerated sniff in the older woman’s direction. “You are starting to smell a little ripe.” She winked.

The mayor glared and gave the sheriff a little push. “Cute.” On shaky legs, she stood and then swayed, giving a grateful look to Emma when she stood to help her move. “I’m apparently still light headed.”

“Do you think taking a shower is a good idea?” They were already heading toward the stairs, and Emma was mindful to help Regina without babying her, which she knew the woman would hate regardless of what state of mind she was in. “Maybe a bath instead?”

“What’s the matter, Sheriff?” Regina teased as they slowly made their way up the stairs. “Afraid you’ll have to burst into my shower time and save me from the floor?”

“What can I say?” Emma opened the master bedroom door for them both and guided them inside. “I’m a gentleman. I’m just trying to keep your modesty intact.”

Regina huffed in amusement. “I don’t have anything you haven’t seen before, Miss Swan.”

“True,” the blonde agreed with a tip of her head, helping Regina settle on the chair at the vanity in the large master bath, “but what you have probably looks a lot better than what I’ve got going on. I’d hate to be jealous. People tell me that’s a bad thing.”

Regina chuckled and then winced, raising a hand to her head and rubbing at it. “Did I hit my head?”

“No, being the gallant and chivalrous knight that I am,” Emma said, giving an exaggerated bow, “I managed to catch you before you fell completely down.”

“My hero,” the other woman deadpanned. Regina took in a few slow, deep breaths and released them just as slowly as she waited for her body to stop acting so strangely. “I feel… buzzy.”

“Buzzy?” Emma quirked an eyebrow. “Buzzy how buzzy?”

The brunette shook her head. “I don’t know. Buzzy, as if my entire body is touching a livewire. I can’t explain it very well. I felt it slightly the first time you ‘poofed’ us, and now I feel rather intensely.” She frowned when Emma started to walk toward her, holding up a hand to have the younger woman stop moving. “It gets worse the closer you get to me.”

The sheriff nodded to herself. “You’re sensing… well… you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but let’s just say you’ve felt that way around me for about a year now, and,” she glanced away, hating to admit this but figuring it couldn’t hurt anything in the present, “I feel it, too, when I’m around you. It’s sort of like that feeling when your phone is on vibrate and you’re holding it tightly in your hand when someone calls, except if feels that way all over, right?”

“Yes,” Regina nodded slowly, “that’s an oddly accurate description. What is it?”

“Well, like I said, you probably wouldn’t…”

“Believe you if you told me. Yes, so you say.” Regina let out a heavy sigh. “A bath would probably help me. Let me run it, and then you can come back in, and we can discuss what has happened over the past few hours.”

Emma nodded, stepping out of the bathroom and closing the door behind her. When the water began to run, she decided to kill time by calling Gold. The phone rang once before he answered.

“Where are you, Miss Swan?”

“Regina’s.” She plopped down on the chair in the bedroom, wincing as it occurred to her she probably had all kinds of trash on her that was likely staining the perfect white of the upholstery.

“How did you get there? Regina’s assistant swore you were in the mayor’s office when I arrived, and she claims she never saw the two of you leave.”

“I poofed us here.”

“You what?”

“I poofed us here. You know, apperated or transported or whatever you want to call it.”

“Who taught you how to do that?”

“It doesn’t matter.” She rolled her eyes. Of course that’s what he’d be concerned with right now. Of course, Regina was taking a bath in the middle of this crisis, so maybe everyone’s priorities were screwy. “Did you run into Hades yet?”

“No. As you so eloquently put it, I apperated here myself. Do you know what he wanted with Regina? Her assistant tells me he tried to abduct her.”

“No clue. We haven’t gotten that far in our talks yet, but, as soon as she tells me, I’ll pass it along.” The water shut off, and Emma rushed to finish her phone conversation. “Look, I’m just calling to let you know where we are. As soon as I actually have something, I’ll let you know.”

“Fine.”

The phone line when dead. She wanted to be irritated, but that was probably to best conversation she’d ever had with him. Regina’s voice beckoning her to come back into the bathroom which pulled her from her mental rant about Gold. She entered the room, leaving the door open, and settled on the chair Regina had vacated.

“That’s a lot of bubbles,” Emma said with a note of amusement in her voice.

“I didn’t want you to get jealous,” Regina said with a smirk. “Who were you talking to?”

“Gold,” Emma answered without thinking.

“Gold?” Regina frowned in confusion. “The pawnshop broker?”

The blonde sighed. “Yes, and, before you ask, you wouldn’t believe me if I told, so, instead, how about you tell me if Hades told you what he wanted with you?”

The brunette allowed the brushoff, deciding that figuring out how to protect herself from the fire-controlling man out to kill her was more important than why her sheriff was talking to the local pawnbroker. “He told me that,” she rolled her eyes, “I had magic and my mentor, when he taught me how to us it, had created some sort of metaphysical bond, which Hades planned to exploit in order to force my mentor to provide some sort of specific magic to him.”

Emma frowned. That didn’t sound good. “Did he say how he was going to do that?”

“He said he was going to physically torture me, and, somehow, my torture would be felt by my mentor.” Regina’s face twitched as she continued. “He also indicated that the experience might kill me, but I shouldn’t worry because, once dead and in his realm, he planned to add me to his treasures room.”

“Pig,” the sheriff growled. “He’s not getting his hands on you. He’ll have to go through me first.”

“Obviously, he’s insane,” Regina said, smiling discreetly despite herself at the protectiveness coming from the other woman. “If we can figure out how he’s controlling that fire, we can counteract it, arrest him, and put him some place where he can’t harm anyone.”

Emma straightened suddenly in her chair. “Shit.” Before Regina could ask, the blonde was on her cell and cursing because whomever she was calling wasn’t answering. “God, there you are.” Regina quietly watched and listened. “No, everything is not okay. Hades is here. He’s after Gold, but he’s trying to go through Regina to do it. What? Yeah, I know. I don’t know why he’s not going after Belle, but… Yes, that Hades. I don’t know! You tell me, Snow White. What? No… no. No, we’re fine. We’re at her place, but… What? HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT? She what? Really? Wow, that was really nice of… oh. I see your point. Well, why didn’t you say anything about it? Hmmm, yeah, she really is. Henry and I think so, too, which is why we didn’t say anything about it. Speaking of, I need you and David to go get him from school and take him someplace safe because I’m not doing Neverland all over again. Thank you. As soon as this is all over, I’ll call you, and we can… what? I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s really what she wants, and, honestly, if she does, she’s going to hate me again, and I kind of like her not thinking of me as public enemy number one. Yeah, I know she’s not. Also true, but then she cursed everyone to Maine because… Yes. WHAT?! No. No way. I broke up with Hook because he’s an ass, not because of that. Whatever Granny told you she thinks she sees, she’s wrong. I mean, I’m notwe’re not… I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Of course I know you’d love me regardless. That’s not my point, Mary Margaret. My point is that I’m not… fine. Whatever. Think what you want. Go get Henry, please. Thank you, and I love you, too.”

Emma groaned as she pushed her cell back into her pocket.

“Mary Margaret Blanchard?” Regina cocked an eyebrow. That had been a rather interesting conversation.

“Yeah,” the blonde nodded. “She’s going to go get Henry, and he’s going to stay with her and David until this whole thing blows over.”

Regina nodded. “What did she know?”

“That you don’t remember.” Emma shrugged. “She figured it out when you ran into her and David at the store the other day and you didn’t know who Leopold was.” Emma held a hand up. “You don’t want to know.”

“He was my husband. I knew that much. I didn’t know why Ms. Blanchard started to become agitated when I agreed with a comment about how she’d have liked to name their child Neal Leopold.” At Emma’s questioning look, she shrugged. “I honestly don’t recall how we got into the conversation, and I only know I was married to Leopold because of the manuals I left for myself, but there’s only a brief mention of him. Apparently, he was old enough to be my father when I married him, and he’s now dead, but I don’t know any specifics beyond that.”

“Yeah, that’s probably for the best.” The younger woman groaned again. “You probably have a lot of questions about that phone call, huh?”

“I have many questions about many things as of late.” The brunette shifted in the tub, careful to keep bubbles in appropriate places. “Care to clue me in?”

“I can do better than that,” Emma replied reluctantly. “I know how to get your memories back.”

Regina frowned. She wanted to be excited by that news, but all she felt was dread. “How’s that?”

“Well, there are two ways,” the blonde answered in a defeated tone. “There’s a potion you can drink, or True Love’s Kiss can bring them back, but…”

“My true love is married to another woman?” Regina smirked at Emma’s surprised look. “I’ve been piecing things together over the past few weeks. Robin, correct? He’s a handsome enough man, but he smells a bit of forest, which isn’t really a turn on for me.”

Emma looked away, guilt crawling across her face. “He’s your soul mate, Regina. You know, your chance at happiness.”

“Soul mates, as someone reminded me today, are not always true loves,” the brunette countered. “However, I have to point out that everything you’re telling me right now makes it sound like you’re the one who has completely lost her mind. You’re talking as though magic is a real thing.”

“It is a real thing. How do you think we got here? I used magic to transport us.” Emma pulled her eyes back to meet Regina’s. “I know you don’t believe. I didn’t when I first got here, but the truth is this place? It’s not a normal town. It’s…” She shook her head, trying to find the right words that would sound believable, but nothing came to mind. “Look, there’s nothing I can say right now that’s not going to sound crazy.”

“I believe that.” Regina held a hand up from the water and watched the droplets run down her palm and along her wrist as she considered what to do. “Who am I, Emma?”

“An incredibly resilient, strong-willed, determined woman who loves very deeply and was hurt so badly that you lost sight of what was in important, but you found your way back, and, just as you did,” Emma’s voice cracked, “you left me… us. You left us and came back like this.”

Regina allowed her hand to fall back into the water with a dull splash. “The manuals are sitting on my desk in my study. You can take a look at them while I finish up here. My head is better. I’ll be fine.”

The sheriff hesitated for a moment before nodding and quietly leaving Regina alone with her thoughts.

The brunette sat in her tub for a time and considered her options. If Emma was telling her the truth, she could regain her memories, which would solve many issues, but, if she remembered, would she be miserable? Everyone who seemed to have figured it out also seemed to think she was happier how she was now. Was it worth the tradeoff? Was being that level of unhappy worth regaining her memories? What would that accomplish? How could she be helpful by being who she was?

Sighing, she stood and drained the tub while she ran a shower. The soak had helped her settle, but the shower would actually help her get clean. As she stepped into the spray of hot water, she allowed herself the moment of panic she’d been suppressing all day. It came crashing down upon her, and her body crumpled in on itself. As she cried and groaned and shuddered, the water washed the tears away and blocked the sound of fear and anxiety.

By the time she was dressed and headed down to her study, she felt better, but her thoughts still raced. Now The Big Question wasn’t ‘why.’ It was the one she’d been trying to figure out all along, though she hadn’t realized it.

Who was she?