"So what's the plan?" Emma moved around the small backroom of Gold's shop in agitated strides. "We're wasting time."
"The plan is to go to the Blue Fairy, get the potion that will give Regina back her memories, get her to drink from this," he held up a small golden chalice, "and then, with her help, use this," he placed the gem encrusted cup down and picked up a dark crystalline shard, "on Hades."
The blonde took a step forward, moving to touch the crystal but stopped just before reaching it. Wincing in pain, she pulled her hand back and stared down at where it rested in Gold's hand. "What is it?"
"Concentrated Dark Magic, Miss Swan." He tucked the small object into his breast pocket and gave it a pat. "I've been spending the majority of the time since discovering our new friend is in town creating it from the basis of my own magic."
She cocked an eyebrow. "And what's it supposed to do?"
"By adding in Regina's magic with my own, the crystal will hyper focus our combined talents, which will make our magic strong enough to defeat and contain Hades within the crystal itself."
"You mean, you're going to trap him in that thing?" Emma narrowed her eyes. "For how long?"
Gold shrugged. "Indefinitely."
"Like the Phantom Zone?" As soon as the reference slipped out, she knew he wouldn't get it. She waved her hand in the air to brush the question away. "Regina doesn't want to remember. Isn't there something you and I can do? I have magic. Why can't we combine our powers instead?"
"Because it must be Dark Magic. Light magic doesn't have the same… well, let's just say the same 'umph' as Dark Magic does when it comes to entrapping others." He picked up the chalice and stepped away from his work bench. "The first thing we need to do is get the potion. We'll need to go to…"
"Wait a minute." Emma crossed her arms and leaned her weight onto her heels. "What's this going to do to Regina if she uses this crystal thing with you?"
He sighed heavily. "What do you mean?"
"She's been working on redeeming herself by trying to be a good person, so what will trapping someone inside a Dark Magic Shard do to her heart?" She moved a hand to tap her chest. "What will happen to her?"
"Ah." He nodded. "Sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Even you know that, Miss Swan."
"Regina isn't a sacrifice," she snapped back. "She's a person, which, apparently, is something you conveniently forget on a regular basis." She shook her head, jaw setting determinedly. "There's got to be another way."
"There's not enough time for there to be another way, Sheriff." Gold's ire was rising. "By the time we could think of an alternative, she'll be dead and Hades will have overrun the town. Now, which would you rather happen, hm? Would you rather save Regina and have her have a minor setback in this redemption she's so set on happening, or would you rather she simply be dead?"
Frowning, Emma closed her eyes against the choices laid out for her. "They both suck."
"One less than the other," Gold replied with a huff. "Now, are you going to come with me, or shall I leave you behind so you can contemplate what Storybrooke will be like once the God of the Underworld takes it over?"
Emma's shoulders dropped as her resolve broke. Turning, she started toward the front door of the shop. "Blue hates you, you know."
"That's why you are going to ask her for the potion," he replied with a smirk. "She never says no to a member of the Charming family."
"Are you saying Regina doesn't remember who she is?" Blue's eyebrows rose in shock.
Emma nodded. "Yeah. She lost her memory when she crossed the town line about a month ago."
The nun scowled, trying to follow the other woman's logic. "And you want her to get her memories back?"
"Yes, I want her to get her memory back." Emma rolled her eyes in frustration. "So can you give me the potion?"
"Well, I mean, I don't know." Blue glanced around the room as if looking for help from some unseen advisor. "Regina's been amazing since she returned from Boston. Her leadership as mayor has improved, people are starting to not fear or hate her because she's actually personable, and she seems happier. Maybe we should leave her as she is?"
This wasn't a conversation the younger woman wanted to have. She'd already had this argument with herself and with Gold. She didn't need to have it with Blue. She was tired of kicking this dead horse. "But that's not really her, is it?"
"No," the nun frowned, shaking her head, "I suppose not. But," she shrugged, "it could be argued it's a better version of her, couldn't it?"
"I…" Emma faltered. It was hard to argue the point, but, then again, she'd never really considered pre-Boston Regina to be a bad version of Regina. "No." She surprised both the nun and herself with the answer. "There was nothing wrong with her before she left the town, and this version of her isn't right. It's not really her." Now that she'd started arguing for the other side, the words rolled easily out. "This Regina is softer, kinder, and more civic minded, yeah, but she doesn't have the bite my Regina does." Blue raised her eyebrows again in surprise, but Emma ignored it. "Part of what makes Regina who she is, the thing that's essentially Regina, is her hard edge, you know? I don't know how to explain it better than that, but it's what makes her her, and, right now, that edge is gone, and we need it."
"Why?" Blue narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "Why do you need it?"
"Because Henry and I miss her," Emma replied without missing a beat. "I miss the bickering and fighting and how she keeps me on my toes, and Henry misses the tenacity she's always had as his mother." She sighed, her voice dropping into a whisper. "It's not the same."
For a long beat, Blue considered the other woman. She watched her, taking in the sagging shoulders and deep frown before she finally started to move toward a cabinet at the back of the room. "Have you considered who this version of Regina is," she asked over her shoulder as she dug around in cabinet.
"What do you mean?" Emma tilted her head, confused. "She's Regina, just without the baggage."
"True," came Blue's muffled answer, "but her personality is a result of the current curse, which was enacted by Snow, not by Regina."
"So," the sheriff pulled the word out as she thought about what Blue was saying, "Current Regina is a fake personality like everyone else had in the town the first time the curse was cast?"
The older woman finally pulled her head out of the cabinet and turned to give the blonde a small, encouraging smile. "Yes, I would say that is a safe guess."
"But wouldn't that make Regina act the exact opposite of who she actually is? Isn't that how it works? I mean, she's different, yeah, but she's still Regina. It's not like you or Belle." Emma waved a hand in the nun's direction. "You two were completely different when the curse's personalities took you over."
"That's because, when the first curse was cast, we were subjected to the wants and desires of the person who cast the curse, and, in that case," Blue held out a small vial of liquid, "it was Regina, who was determined to ruin all of our happy endings and make us as miserable as possible."
Emma took the vial, laying it in her open palm as her mind tried to connect the dots of what she was being told. "But Snow cast this curse." She glanced up, looking to the nun for confirmation of what she was thinking. "So that means the person Regina is right now is… what? A product of who Mary Margaret would want her to be?"
"That should do the trick," Blue answered as she tapped the vialwith a forefinger and ignored Emma's question. "Remember, Regina has to drink the potion out of something that has sentimental value to her, otherwise it may not work."
"Uh," the younger woman blinked, trying to catch up. "Like what?"
"A favorite mug or glass? Perhaps something from Henry?" The nun shrugged. "Or maybe from you?"
Emma dumbly stared at the nun. "Okay." She looked back to the vial. "Okay," she repeated as she wrapped her fingers around the glass. "Thank you."
"Good luck," Blue replied with a warm smile.
"So that gold cup thing is what you think Regina should drink out of so she can get her memory back?" Emma slid into the passenger's seat of Gold's car, slamming the door.
He winced. "Yes, it was a favorite of hers when she was Queen."
"It won't work, then." The blonde pointed in the direction of the mansion. "We have to go back and grab her coffee mug."
He balked. "What?"
"Her coffee mug, the one Henry gave her that says, 'Give me coffee before I destroy you.' She should drink this stuff out of that mug because it has emotional sentiment for her. Henry gave it to her after we all came back from Neverland, and it's practically all she ever drinks out of. Well," she frowned, "it was all she ever drank out of before Boston."
"I see." Gold started the car and headed for the house. "Did Blue say anything else interesting before she handed over the potion?"
"She pointed out that who Regina is now is who Mary Margaret would like for her to be." Emma sighed.
He grunted. "That's an interesting conversation to have had."
Shrugging, Emma looked down at her finger with Regina's ring. "I think she was making a point that Regina is happy right now."
"Snow always did want everyone to be happy." He pulled the car to a stop in front of the still badly damaged house. "Though I will admit this version of Regina is quite a bit like she was before she was queen."
"You mean before you started warping her mind so she would cast your curse for you," Emma muttered angrily.
Gold snorted. "Yes." Stepping from the car, he made a grand gesture toward the house. "Shall we?"
Nodding, Emma rolled out of the car and headed for the kitchen.
She regained consciousness slowly. The constant, throbbing pain made her nauseous, and, for a long moment in time, she thought she'd be violently ill. It took what little resolve she had left to keep the bile down as she slowly opened her eyes.
She found herself in a cell carved into the cave wall. Three sides of stone and one made of metal bars, she had the oddest feeling of déjà vu as her eyes moved over her dank prison. The thought briefly crossed her mind that it was a good thing she was on her stomach on the dirt floor because the open wounds on her back would probably be even more infected if she'd been laying on them. She rolled her eyes at herself. Infection was the least of her concerns.
She was cold, thirsty, hungry, and in so much pain she wished for unconsciousness again. Hades hadn't bothered to give her a shirt, so she remained topless, and her pants had been badly ripped during the beating she'd endured. She was a mess of sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids that probably shouldn't mix.
Pushing those thoughts aside, she looked around her cell as best she could without moving and spotted a bowl of water in one corner. Groaning, she started to try to push herself up only to find she was too hurt to move. It took some time before she found enough reserve strength to crawl across the floor to the bowl. She stared down into the shallow water and contemplated how difficult it would be to drown herself in that much water.
"It's not enough, your Majesty. You'd need at least another couple of inches. Mostly, you'd only end up wasting the water and coughing quite a bit, which," Hades voice flowed down over her, making her shudder. She turned her head to see him watching her through the bars, "I would think would hurt considering the number of broken ribs you probably have." He grinned at her, waving at the water. "But go ahead and try. The faster you die, the faster you're completely mine."
Regina scowled at him, turning to take a few sips from the bowl.
"That was disappointing. I was hoping you'd at least say something fun in reply." He clicked his tongue. "Ready for round two?"
She slowly pushed the bowl away and allowed her head to drop down so she fully rested on the ground again. "If you're going to kill me, just do it."
"Where's the fun in that?" He waved a hand, and Pain appeared. "Be a good little minion and patch the Queen up."
The creature groaned. "Can't we just take her home and throw her in the lake of fire?"
"Are you suggesting I get rid of my new toy already? I haven't even gotten to Rumple yet." The flames around Hades flickered brightly at the mention of the imp. "If I throw her in the lake, are you going to take her place until I get bored with my new playthings?" He nodded his head backwards toward something out of Regina's line of sight.
Whatever it was, it caused the creature to violently shake his head no. "That's okay," it said with a gulp. "I'll just go clean her up."
"Well, if you insist," Hades said with a smirk as he waved his hand to open the cell door. "Come get me when you're done." With a flick of his wrist, he was gone, leaving Regina with the creature.
"You know, the other guys and I thought you'd be dead by now," Pain said as he waved his hands and a stockpile of herbs and bandages appeared next to him. "You're a tough woman, you know that?"
She gasped in pain as he began to clean the wounds on her back. "What are you doing to me?"
"The Boss said to patch you up, so I'm patching you up." He gave an overly dramatic sigh of irritation. "I don't normally do healing. I mean, my name is Pain. I do, well, pain, so I'm sorry if this hurts a lot." He reached a clawed hand out and grabbed some kind of vial full of a dark amber liquid, which he poured on her open wounds, causing her to cry out in agony. "I can't heal your broken ribs. There's not really a potion for that," he continued, ignoring her whimpers. "But the lash marks I can fix. It's just going to hurt a lot." He gave her head a gentle pat in a mock caring way. "You might pass out again."
"You're enjoying this," she hissed as he poured another vial across yet another lash mark.
"Maybe," he replied in a jovial voice. "Looks like you know how this works already. You've got a few scars from the last time this happened to you." She could feel one of his claws run across her back in a long line from her shoulder blade to her hip. "No wonder you didn't pass out until ten minutes in. You're an old pro."
She could feel her eyes rolling into the back of her head, but she fought it. She was afraid of being unconscious around this creature. She tried to keep the conversation going as a way to stay focused and awake. "It's cold in here. I thought Hell was supposed to be hot."
"Typical misperception," Pain replied with a shrug as he worked along. "This world thinks Hell is either really hot or really cold, but the truth is it's a lot like Earth. Some places are hot, some are cold, and some are just fine. What you're calling Hell is the Underworld, and the Underworld is for everyone, not just bad guys." He poked her side, causing her to hiss in pain. "Of course, you're a bad guy, so I guess the Underworld will be your Hell, unless you do some serious redemption or take the Boss up on his offer for you to be his next concubine."
"I'd rather eat glass for all eternity," she snarled.
Pain shrugged again. "I'm sure he would like that." He finished with her back and moved to her legs. "But we're not in the Underworld right now, so none of that matters anyway."
She grunted as the wounds on her leg healed. "Where are we, then?"
"The mines of your town." He ripped the legs of her pants open the rest of the way to get to the wounds. "When I'm done patching you up, I can give you a shirt and a new pair of pants if you want," he offered congenially. "They'll probably just get shredded again, but at least you won't be cold until the Boss comes back for you."
She took in deep breaths as she tried not to be sick. "Can you," she began, speaking slowly to keep some control over the gagging she couldn't really stop, "give me something for the nausea?"
He stopped working and leaned back to look her in the eye. "You'd rather be naked and vomit free than clothed and a little sick to your stomach?"
"No," she answered as her eyes started to roll again. She forced herself to focus on his face. "I'd rather have both."
Pain raised his eyebrows, his beady little eyes dancing with amusement. "And what do I get for it?"
She gritted her teeth as her mind raced for an answer. "Well," she began to reason aloud, "me being both clothed and in pain but not nauseous would annoy Hades, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah," he answered, his tailing flicking as he thought about what she was saying.
"So, if you did those things, you would be annoying him without getting yourself in trouble, and how often do you get that chance?" She did her best to give a smile, but it turned into more of a grimace.
It seemed to be enough for the creature, who smiled broadly. She shuddered at the display of sharp, pointed teeth. "I like how you think, your Majesty." With a snap of his fingers, he was gone, leaving her face down on the ground, nude, shuddering, alone with her thoughts, and with a feeling of dread as to what was to come next.