She walked the steps up to the door of Regina’s mansion with a heavy heart, drowning in guilt and shame. She could still see the shock in dark brown eyes, only superficially glossed over with anger. They had spoken—well, Regina had spoken: harsh words that had torn through Emma like a knife through paper—and Emma had mumbled apologies and excuses. She hadn’t realized the truth of what Regina had told her until Regina had—rightfully—torn into her, and it had shocked her to her core.
Now, Emma didn’t regret saving Marian from certain death—she had been in a position to do so, and she had. She couldn’t let someone die, and she stood behind that decision. That said, she felt her cheeks burn and panic rise whenever it hit her that her actions had been short-sighted and selfish. She hadn’t done it for Marian—she had been destined to die—she had done it for herself, because she knew she wouldn’t have been able to live with herself had she not done what she had done.
Emma didn’t want to apologize for doing the only thing she had ethically been able to allow herself to do. What she had to do, though, was make it right with Regina, because her actions had consequences, and she wasn’t about to become the reason for another thirty year feud. It had been the right thing to do, she had told herself, but in the time between then and now, Emma had realized that her actions had been rash, and Emma’s heavy heart was at least partially caused by the possible ramifications of her actions. Who knew what she had changed—besides all of the memories of the people close to her. She had done a stupid thing, and she had been very, very, lucky that she had not messed up more of history. She could have wrecked everything, and it weighed heavily upon her.
Emma was dead set on making sure she did all the damage control she could, but she had still allowed Regina to walk out of the diner unchased, watching as Robin rushed after her as Marian clung to her son. She had still felt good, then, watching a mother and son reunite—it reminded her of Henry and herself, and she had pulled him into her happily. It was that exact moment she realized that she had done it again: take a child from Regina, cause him to choose another mother over her. It wasn’t the same, but it drove home again how good Emma was as taking things from Regina—Graham, Robin, Roland, Henry—and she had traded Regina’s happiness for that of someone else. Regina had been right; it was exactly what Emma’s mother had done—trade Regina’s happiness for her own—just so she could have a mother again.
She sighed as she walked the steps, remembering the last time she had been here. It felt like a lifetime ago, and knowing what she knew now—having decided to stay in storybrooke with her family—she felt even worse about her weakness in showing up at Regina’s doorstep and asking her… well, pretty much the most selfish thing she could ever have asked of her. She hadn’t been thinking clearly; she had been blinded by her fears, and her panic had risen to such a level that the only thing she had been able to see was her own pain.
Well, Regina had cured her of that, now hadn’t she? She hated how the brunette always got under her skin so easily, how the older woman seemed to read her like an open book while Emma Swan managed to convince pretty much everyone else that she was fine, that she was dealing. People knew she had wanted to leave, but only because Hook hadn’t been able to keep his mouth shut; Regina never needed words, she just knew. Regina seemed to be inside of Emma’s head and always managed to scratch at the sore spots in such a way that once she was done, Emma’s entire world hurt. She had been able to do it since pretty much the moment Emma had gotten to Storybrooke, and yesterday, she had done it again.
Emma was still recovering from that encounter. Much of it felt like working through a moot point now, as the time travel events that had taken place had given Emma a broader perspective on life in general, and her place in Storybrooke in particular, but Regina’s words still rang painfully in her ear, and her dismissal of Emma’s giant leap to ask for help and shelter still stung. Still, Emma figured that she should be the bigger person in light of recent events, so here she was, with Regina instead of Killian, trying to make things right. Well, she was at Regina’s house, anyway, and it looked dark and deserted.
Emma knew Regina was home; at least she should be. Robin had eventually returned inside, visibly shaken, and after giving him a moment with Marian, Emma had gone over to ask what had happened. He had told her that she had clamped up on him; she had eventually stopped walking—fleeing—had turned around, and had told him to go back to his wife and son, that she was hereby releasing him of any ties to her. She had told him that she was sorry about the original timeline in which Marian had died by her design, and no matter the amount of pleading for a decent conversation he had done, she had left, telling him that she needed some time alone and was going home.
A stab of pain as Emma realized that Regina had nowhere else to go, and no one to turn to; even her sister had killed herself, setting into motion the events that had led to Emma’s time travel adventures. Henry was over the moon with his new baby uncle and he couldn’t be unloaded upon, Kathryn and Regina’s relationship had long since cooled, and that left Emma, whom Regina had relied on before… but today, Emma was part of the problem—part of the pain—so Regina didn’t even have that.
She knocked, softly at first, then louder. No reply came. Regina’s car was parked out front and when Emma pressed her face to the glass next to the door and stared inside, she could see at least a little light. Regina was home, but she wasn’t opening up.
With a sigh, Emma took to the garden, meeting drawn curtains on every window, and the back door that led into the dining room was locked as well. She knocked on the one window of which the curtains lit up slightly, but didn’t get a response, causing her to continue her circling motion and return to the front door. With a sigh, she knocked on the door again, then threw all pride overboard.
“Regina! I know you’re there. I’m not leaving until we talk, so prepare for a long night of being kept awake unless you just get it over with now!” She called out against the glass near the door and knocked again. She counted thirty seconds, then rapped her knuckles against the wood on more time for good measure before sighing and stepping back, lowering herself to the steps. There was a certain sense of deja-vu as she sat on the top step, elbows to her knees and hands wringing together in the way they tended to do when she was nervous or ill at ease. Seeing as both conditions were currently being met, she just sat there and watched her hands work, trying to come to grips with the contents of her mind.
It was hard for Emma to face her emotions; like she’d told Regina, she was a runner, and Emma knew that what she was best at was run from her own thoughts and insecurities. She tended to burry everything inside her head and heart under layers of mundane and unimportant, finding escapes in the most trivial of things. She was good at hiding, but as a result, she often found herself in bed late at night, on the verge of a panic attack, because the weight of everything she was not dealing with suddenly became crushing. To get away from that feeling, she ran—literally, most days—or ate, or worked out until she was sore and stiff, and the voices calling out for her punishment were momentarily appeased. It wasn’t healthy, but after years in the foster system, and long years alone afterwards, it was the only coping mechanism Emma had—and she held on to it with both hands, because if she let go now, she was pretty sure the weight of everything she had been bottling up and stuffing down would crush her.
She thought of Hook—Killian—and how he had done everything in his power to make her feel safe, and loved. He had given up his ship, had travelled to New York, he had kept her safe and on track during their time travel adventure, and during her time in Storybrooke, he had always been there for her, allowing her to lean on him. He had given up a lot for her, and when she had finally given in to him and had kissed him, she was grateful for the distraction he provided simply by being there. Besides, he was a good kisser. It was romantic how much he had done for her and Henry, and she had gladly let herself be roped in.
She thought of her parents, whom she had hurt by wishing to go so badly. She had put them through a lot these past few weeks, and she wasn’t sure they understood why she had wanted to leave so badly. They thought it had to do with them, but it hadn’t; it was about Emma and what she thought she could have—what she deserved. It was about being the Savior and being handed a chance not to be, to not carry that extra weight on her shoulders—because there already was so much on it. If she stayed here, she would never be able to let go of that weight. She realized now, though, that she couldn’t live without her parents again; as much as them leaving her to begin with had hurt her, she needed Mary Margaret and David in her life.
She thought of Henry and the rocky time they’d had; their easy comradery had disappeared and been twisted into this relationship that was neither the aunt-like relationship she’d had with him pre-curse or the maternal relationship she’d had with him during. It fell somewhere in-between where her patience was thin and her decision-making atrocious. He had suffered the worst under her shifting, returned-memory, personality, and she regretted much of their interactions as of late. Staying here, where Henry had a stable support network of family and friends was the best thing for him, she now realized. Henry needed more than just her—as much as she wished that wasn’t the case—and even if Regina had been able to make their memories go away again, what they would have built together, still would not have been real. The reality was that she had given up Henry, and he’d been raised well in Storybrooke. He knew these people, and he loved them. As did she. If she wanted to be a good mother to Henry, she needed to stay here for him—as she had sworn she would do years ago, when he had taken her here.
Now if only her thoughts about Regina were as clear-cut. Since the first moment, interaction between Regina and her had been complicated. Emma hated the way in which she simultaneously craved and rejected Regina’s presence in her life. Emma knew that her reaction had a lot to do with the way Regina always saw right through her, but her mind refused to examine their interactions beyond that. Regina had lost a lot in life, had been alone and lonely, and carried around a lot of old pain; just like Emma. They were very much alike in many ways, although they reacted differently to intrusions upon their life; Emma withdrew and ran, Regina attacked, even if it was a defensive mechanism on her part.
Even after Emma had accepted the truth about Evil Queen’s and fairy-tale lands, it had been impossible for her to see Regina as anything other than Mayor Mills, the woman who had raised Henry and had got to witness all the ‘firsts’, the woman who Henry called ‘mom’, the woman who had done horrible things in a desperate attempt to make the pain stop. Emma knew a bit about that, after all. She had been envious of Regina, happy with every distancing motion from Henry that brought him closer to Emma. She wasn’t proud of it now, but the way Henry had so obviously chosen her in the first year had made Emma feel better about herself and her life. She had started craving his attention and validation in a way that no child should have to bear, and by the time she had realized the destructiveness of her behaviour on not only Henry’s life, but Regina’s as well, it had been too late—she had encouraged Henry’s anger towards his mother to the point where every interaction with Regina resulted in suffering for the brunette.
Emma had been selfish, then, and she wasn’t proud of her behaviour—she rarely was, to be honest—but she was starting to realize that she did a lot of things in life solely because they made her feel better. Regina’s words in the diner played through her mind again, and Emma had to admit it was a bit of a Charming family trait.
Of course, Regina was not immune to selfish actions; Emma had seen her as the Evil Queen now, and it wasn’t pretty. Seeing Regina fireball her mother had been such a shock to Emma’s system, that for a single moment, she had hated Regina—truly hated her. After Snow’s rise from the ashes, however, she had realized that without Emma’s interference, that entire exchange would never have taken place, and the pattern of near-kills and just-saves would have remained intact, like it had been throughout their history. She had manoeuvred the pieces on the board in such a way that the only logical conclusion was Regina enacting her revenge, and without Emma’s interference, they would never have gotten to that point. All she had done was worsen Regina’s image by adding pages to that damned book that clearly showed she would have murdered Snow if Snow had not found a way out of the deadlock. Again, she had darkened history for Regina. Sometimes Emma wondered why Regina still spoke to her at all.
She swallowed as she felt her emotions rise, and looked back at the door, still shut. She stood heavily and returned to it, knocking again now a few minutes had passed.
“Just open up, Regina! Come on! At least let me say sorry to your face instead of into a door!” She called out, then knocked again—harder—and was met with silence. She scoffed at the floor and looked back over the path leading to the street. Oh how she wished she could just go, but Emma was stubborn, and she refused to leave now; she had her mind set on talking to Regina, and that was what she was going to do.
Sitting back down, Emma resumed her musings, trying to piece together her fractured thoughts about Regina and the way they interacted. They had clashed so much at the start of their story—they had loathed each other and what they had represented. Although, was that loathing, or fear? Regina represented everything Emma had always wished she could be but never was: successful, collected, and in possession of Henry. To Regina, Emma had probably been the manifestation of her biggest fears, especially because no outside force could enter Storybrooke—even though Regina would have been within her right to get a restraining order on Emma and keep her away from Henry, she had no way to enforce that, and if she had tried, Henry would have hated her even more. No, the moment Emma had decided to rent that room for the night, Regina had run out of moves to get her out, except empty threats and false promises.
Seeing Regina as the Evil Queen had driven home to Emma how unhappy Regina must have been to get to that point in her life; how abused, and used, by the few people in her life. Regina had literally zero reason to trust other people, and Emma had played right into that. Looking back, she couldn’t blame Regina for the desperate measures she had resorted to, including bringing magic into this world at God knew what price just so Emma would fall asleep and go away; a last, desperate, attempt to at least keep her son. When Regina had told her in Neverland that Henry was all she had, she hadn’t understood—not really—but seeing the Evil Queen had made her understand. Henry, literally, was the only person left in the world with whom Regina had a connection, and the way he had turned against her—spurred on by Mary Margaret and Emma herself, who had fed into his belief that Regina was evil, not aware of the level of damage they were doing to the relationship between mother and son—must have very nearly destroyed her.
Regina had done everything to change, had done anything she could to show Henry he was worth changing for. She hadn’t been able to shake Regina’s words of gratitude from the night before; how she had wanted to change to show Emma that her faith in her had not been misplaced. Emma had felt good hearing the words then, but today’s events had made her realize she wasn’t worthy of such praise; the fact that Regina felt that she was literally worth no more than the abuse Emma had bestowed upon her in the past, and was grateful for even that, was beyond messed up. She hadn’t had faith in Regina; at first, she had just not believed Henry’s theories to be true, and afterwards, she had just been a decent human being who had a very confusing reaction over said other human. She had still jumped the gun on Regina when they had thought she had killed Archie, and she had still hurt her in every way possible—and yet, Regina had always been there to help her, and Henry, and Mary Margaret and David. She had still tried to do better. Reluctantly at first, but she had done it.
“Regina!” Turning back to the door, she angrily pulled up and hit the wood with her fist. “Just open up already! I know you’re pissed, and I know you are hurting, and I’m sorry! Please just let me in!”
Long moments nothing happened, and Emma groaned, throwing up her arms in defeat. She was about to turn around and give up when the lock clicked open. Emma turned back quickly, just fast enough to meet Regina head on as she opened the door to a crack. Emma nervously licked her lips as she took in Regina in a simple black t-shirt and a equally utilitarian pair of black slacks. She had taken off her make-up, and her hair was messy. Even from here, Emma could smell the alcohol on her breath, and Regina had obviously been crying.
“Spit it out, Emma. As you can see, I’m having a party, and I fear you are not invited.” Regina bit out, her voice low and poisonous as she raised a glass of scotch filled nearly to the brim. For a moment, Emma just stood there, taking in the woman before her and wondering if she had finally managed to break the woman’s pride entirely.
“Are you okay…?” She asked softly, whatever she had wanted to say disappearing as Regina smiled darkly and lifted her glass to her mouth before drinking long and hard, wincing as the liquor seared her throat.
“Why would you care?” Regina rasped, and stumbled slightly even though she was on bare feet. The door opened a little further, and a small part of the hallway became visible, showing the remnants of broken vases and turned over furniture. Emma swallowed heavily, flicking her eyes back to Regina. What was she supposed to say to that? What could she say to that? Emma wasn’t good at putting others first, and she hadn’t exactly showed Regina she cared. She had tried to—she had extended olive branches and had patted herself on the back for doing so—but she had never truly made an effort. She had taken Regina’s presence in her life for granted, and it came back to bite her in the ass now, as she found herself without an answer.
“I just do, okay?” She answered, a tad defensively even though she didn’t want to be. Regina huffed in amusement, although her eyes were cold and hard. Not a single thing in Regina—besides that huff—indicated she was anywhere near amused, and Emma shuffled nervously on the spot, hands sliding to her back pockets.
“Go back to your pirate, Emma. Leave me alone. I’m done trying to… I’m just done trying.” Regina answered dismissively, and Emma could see the pain in her eyes far too clearly for comfort. She opened her mouth to talk, but instead, she had to rush to stick out her foot so Regina couldn’t slam the door shut. She winced as pain shot through her, and again as Regina tried slamming the door again, a confused look on her features until she realized Emma’s foot was blocking her efforts.
“Remove your foot, because I swear, I will make you retract it if you don’t.” Regina added, threateningly, and Emma got to the end of her rope. She didn’t know this person before her, and had retracted too far into her own shell to reach out. Emma didn’t know how to reach out; she hadn’t learned, she hadn’t allowed it from others upon her. She met Regina’s eyes pleadingly, hoping that whatever magic was between them would convey all the things she couldn’t even put into coherent thoughts—would convey how stuck she was in her own mind, how sorry she was, how much she wished to connect to the brunette. Regina’s eyes drilled into hers long moments, and then slowly shook her head.
“I’m not here to make you feel better, Emma. If you want to ease your guilt, find another way. You should drown in it, as far as I’m concerned.” Regina hissed, and set her jaw, staring down pointedly until Emma pulled her foot back. The door closed in Emma’s face and she stared at it forlornly, in shock over what had just transpired, her mind refusing to catch up in the face of someone else’s pain. She stepped aside and watched through the glass as Regina traverse the wrecked hallway with difficulty and thought of bare flesh and sharp glass. She had never seen Regina like this, this closed off, in this much pain, and she didn’t know what to do.
She raised her hand to knock again, but the door to the den closed behind Regina, and Emma lost her nerve. She lowered her hand, shuffled on the spot a moment, and glanced longingly at her Bug parked at the curb. It would be so easy to give up and walk away—to run. She could feel it in every single fibre of her being. Of course, she also knew that if she ran now, she would never be able to face Regina again… or herself in the mirror. Sighing, she turned back, took a deep breath, and knocked again. And again. And again. When Regina didn’t make any attempt to emerge from the den again, Emma’s spunk finally kicked in, her annoyance feeling her motivation.
“Regina, I’m coming in one way or another, so open up! I’m going to count to twenty, and then I’m coming in!” She called out angrily, wishing to God she had a plan to go with her bravado. Of course, nothing happened. She counted to twenty in her head, then counted twenty seconds more to buy herself time. Sighing, she shook her head and did the only thing she could think to do: she walked around the house, picked up one of Regina’s damn garden gnomes, and used it to break one of the small windows in the backdoor. The shattering of glass sounded loudly through the quiet house, and Emma winced. She didn’t stop, though, instead she ran the stone gnome over the edges of the frame and put it down, reaching inside to undo the lock on the door before retracting her arm and opening the door. Taking another steadying breath, she stepped inside, trying to avoid the glass.
The hallway was, indeed, a mess. An upturned table lay at the bottom of the stairs, glass and porcelain shards littered the ground. Regina’s heels and bag were thrown against the wall and had bounced back, landing somewhere in the middle of the isle. Emma shook her head, wishing she knew how to fix this, and grateful that Regina had taken her anger out on her house and not the town or residents of Storybrooke. Having to lock up Regina—having to try and stop Regina—and tell Henry would have broken Emma’s heart entirely. She squared her shoulders and winced as the shards crunched under her feet as she traversed to the den.
“Regina…?” She asked softly, knocking before she opened the door, and found the room dark, save for the meagre light from a single lamp. Regina sat farthest away from the light source as she could, glass in hand, and dark eyes on Emma. She didn’t move, not even to uncross her legs as she leaned back on the couch.
“You are trespassing on private property.” She finally said darkly, calmly, and Emma felt a shiver of fear traverse her back. This Regina reminded her more of the Evil Queen than the woman she had gotten to know; there was a darkness in her features, a numbness, or simply the absence of the empathy she could usually find in Regina’s eyes—even when she was being stand-off-ish. This was a woman who would immolate her if given half a chance. Emma had to consciously keep herself from backing away. Instead, she relaxed her stance and met Regina’s eyes.
“I thought I heard someone cry out for help.” She deadpanned, and a slow, predatory, smile came to Regina’s features.
“Emma, I am inebriated. I am very, very, inebriated. I am also not in the mood for jokes, or games. You have damaged my property—which you will be paying for—and have entered my home without my permission. I will kindly ask you to remove yourself from my property within the next ten seconds, or I will not be held responsible for my actions.” Regina pronounced clearly, slowly, from the shadows, although her voice was slightly slurred.
“No. I’m sorry, Regina, but I’m not going away. We need to talk… I need to tell you I’m sorry, that I feel terrible about what happened, that I—” The glass sailed just past her head, shattering into tiny pieces as Emma ducked away, eyes wide, heart in her throat. Small pieces of glass and droplets of alcohol hit her skin, causing her to turn her face away, and shield her head with her arm. From the corner of her eye, she could see Regina getting up before she ducked into the hallway. “Shit! Regina!”
“When are you going to realize that not everything is about you, Emma? That your guilt, and your feelings, are not my concern. You have made it very clear to the entire population of Storybrooke that that burden lays with Killian Jones now. Go bother him! Just let me be, I think you have done enough for the day, wouldn’t you agree?” Regina levelled her with her words, following her into the hallway slowly, deliberately. Emma stepped back subconsciously, creating distance between them as she realized she might have actually gotten in way over her head here. Perhaps, if she hadn’t just seen Regina—the Evil Queen—immolate her mother, Emma wouldn’t feel so terrified as dark eyes settled upon her, but as it was, every step Regina took caused Emma to step back further.
“Look, Hook really likes me, okay? He gave up his ship for me, he has been there for me, and if I want to kiss him, I am allowed do that!” Emma countered, verbally standing up to Regina even as she retreated. Regina laughed, then, a hollow sound that hurt to hear.
“Oh, he gave up his ship! Well, that explains that, then? Of course you owe him your affections because he’s been following you around like a creepy little puppy and he gave up his ship! Well, you know what, Emma? Do you have any idea what I have given up for you in the last few years?” Regina’s tone of voice was low, but started getting louder and louder as she advanced on Emma. Emma stepped back down the stairs, heading for the door, mortified that Regina wasn’t even watching her step, nor the glass.
“I have given you my son, allowing you time with him when you had no legal right to him. I gave up my job, my safety… I gave you your happy ending, and as much as I missed Henry, I accepted that I could never see him again, and it was alright. It was alright because I knew he was with you. I knew that at least you two were together. I am grateful you came back—and I cannot tell you what it means to have Henry back—but I entrusted the one person who gave me joy to you! And now, you have caused me to have to give up Robin—the one person who actually had the guts to look at me as a woman and not just someone who will conveniently save the day whenever you get distracted by your precious pirate! But that’s alright, isn’t it, because he gave up his ship for you! I know how much that must mean to a woman who just yesterday wanted nothing more than to run away from every good thing in her life.” Regina continued, fuming now. She wasn’t holding back, wasn’t pulling punches, and soon, Emma found herself backed up against the door, Regina mere inches away from her, and Emma could see the anger in her eyes. She searched them, then, searched the dark and found layer upon layer below the anger.
Regina’s words impacted like sledgehammers, spelling out everything Emma had already known but never verbalized. Of course, Regina had created her little bubble of domestic bliss over the backs of others, and of course they both knew that Emma had been destined to break the curse, but it didn’t take away that in the process, Regina had lost everything—again—and she hadn’t had much to begin with.
“You are an entitled, spoiled, brat, Emma Swan, and you are blind to what you have—or could have. You are blind to the suffering of those around you, and for a Savior, you sure are unwilling—or unable—to save anyone but yourself.” Regina continued without emotion in her voice, but pure anguish and rage on her features. With the woman so close, the alcohol vapours were almost enough to get intoxicated herself.
“Regina, I—” Emma started, but Regina leaned in further, pushing herself flush against her, and even though she was severely shorter without her heels, Emma still felt herself shrink, and Regina towered over her.
“Be. Quiet.” Regina hissed, pressing her finger over Emma’s lips, and Emma felt her eyes widen even more, her heart rate increasing as the wood of the door pressed into her back. She was truly terrified now, truly scared that Regina would harm her in her alcohol-induced state of fury.
“I am happy you have had a change of heart—I am happy that you have decided to stay—but I am done repaying you for the kindness you have bestowed upon me. I am done feeling less than you, and less than anyone else in this God forsaken town. Tomorrow, we are sitting down to draw up a schedule for Henry’s time and then I do not want to see you here ever again. We can be civil to each other when Henry is around, but that will be the extent of our interactions. I don’t want the family dinners, I don’t want the acceptance of the people out there. What I want is to see Henry and be left alone. Is that something you think you can manage, Emma? It shouldn’t be hard for you, now should it? Think only of yourself? Forget about me?” Regina explained, first menacingly, then sweetly as she got just a hint closer, running her free hand up Emma’s side a moment, causing Emma’s breath to hitch in a mixture of surprise and fear.
“Regina, please, I—” Emma started, feeling tears threaten to bubble up as she turned her face to the sde to get away from the finger upon her lips.
“Yes or no, Miss Swan.” Regina growled, and Emma swallowed.
“Yes…” She sighed, reluctantly, and Regina smiled a Cheshire smile.
“Good. Very good. Now, get… out… of… my… house!” She answered menacingly as she stepped back, and Emma took a shuddering breath. Regina once more turned around and majestically strode to the den, shoulders squared, chin up, and Emma watched her go as she raised herself up, her panic subsiding a little bit now there was distance between them again.
“I’m sorry…” She whispered after the retreating figure, who hesitated a moment.
“I don’t care what you are.” Regina answered, and Emma knew she was lying; she could hear it in her voice.
“Bullshit.” Emma called out, and now Regina did slow, turning around on the spot. They locked eyes across the distance, and suddenly there were tears in Regina’s, Emma saw. Regina smiled sadly, and sighed.
“You’re right, but that doesn’t change a thing, now does it? Robin is gone, and you and I? Well…” Regina said, letting the word hang in the air as she shrugged as if unaffected. Emma’s eyes narrowed as she took in raised shoulders, a set jaw, and tears that threatened to spill. The fire seemed to have gone out in Regina’s eyes, being replaced with a sorrow and pain that made Emma’s stomach clench in a way none of Regina’s words had managed to make it. She had hurt Regina, in far more insidious ways than bringing back Marian, or taking her for granted. There was a deeper pain there, something Emma was missing.
“What about you and I?” She pressed, stepping forward in the silent hope that whatever they had once been to each other would protect her from certain death. For once, Emma wished she had magic, just in case. “What about you and I, Regina?”
“You and I…” Regina started, but fell silent before taking a shaky breath. “You and I were a delusion. Now excuse me while I have another drink.”
“I think you’ve had enough.” Emma warned, very much unsatisfied with the answer. They had been making headway, damn it. They were slowly becoming friends, co-parents. They had been getting closer and not ripping each other’s throats out. To have Regina throw that away now felt like a betrayal, and yeah, it was making Emma angry. Fine, she was entitled, and maybe she was also spoiled. She’d never considered herself either, but compared to Regina? Yeah, maybe. Her life had certainly gotten a lot better over the last few years, while Regina’s had gotten worse. Emma had made a few bad calls the last few weeks, but she didn’t deserve to be written off as a ‘delusion’; they worked well together, Regina had taught her a little magic, they had saved Henry together! None of that was a delusion.
“I will drink as much as I see fit, Emma! If you want to preserve someone’s liver, talk to your one handed friend with the singular dress sense.” Regina gritted out, eyes narrowing as her anger returned.
“Would you stop making me feel bad about kissing Hook already?! He’s been good to me, he deserved to get something in return.” Emma explained in frustration, and knew right away that had been the wrong thing to say.
“So your affection can be bought, can it? Well then, Emma, it’s good to know you consider yourself purchasable—as long as the interested party has a dick, of course.” Regina stated crudely, and Emma’s eyes widened. She had never heard Regina use a lewd term before, and it was shocking to hear her do so now—so shocking that it took a while for her actual words to land.
“Wait… what? What the hell, Regina? No one buys me, and what does gender have to do—” emma started, but Regina waved dismissively at her.
“Never mind. Forget I said anything. Enjoy your life, Miss Swan, and mind the glass on your way out.” Regina grumbled, shaking her head before turning around with one sad—crushed—glance in her direction. Emma’s mind was racing as she watched Regina go, and slowly, the pieces came together in her head.
Regina was jealous.
Regina had been jealous for a long time; at Neal in Neverland, at Hook, at Graham, maybe… and August. She was jealous, and… Oh God. Emma’s mind suddenly froze on a single thought, a conclusion suddenly so clear that she couldn’t believe she hadn’t come to it before. She could see it now in the other woman, in the heated glances, the fights, the long looks and sorrowful goodbyes. Now she knew, everything made sense; it made sense why Regina was jealous, it made sense how a ship didn’t seem like such a big sacrifice, it made sense why the betrayal of Regina’s trust in bringing Marian back cut so deep with the brunette.
Regina was in love with her.
Regina had been in love with her for a long time.
She listened in a state of pure panic and mental overload as Regina poured herself another drink, listened to the clanking of ice as it was dropped into a (new) glass, then as the stop of a carafe was pulled off, and as liquid splotched into a glass. Only once the stop was replaced and the carafe set down did Emma find herself moving, her heart hammering in her throat as she entered the dark room. Regina glanced at her a moment before turning away from her, turning her back to her in a—perhaps subconscious—attempt to get away.
“You’re in love with me…” She gasped, feeling time slow as her heart beat heavily in her throat. Regina set the glass to her lips, then lowered it again, letting it dangle from her fingertips as she refused to turn around, but eventually answered.
“Yes.” She spoke softly, although the one word was deafening in the silence around them. Glass crunched under Emma’s feet as she moved forward on auto-pilot. She found her mouth dry as she slowly neared the brunette, moving around the table until she stood behind her silently. Still, Regina did not move. She didn’t object to Emma taking the glass from her, nor moved when Emma put it away on the table. She allowed Emma to turn her by her arm, and Emma could finally see tear-streaked skin up close, could search dark eyes that weren’t transmitting anger anymore, but the pain was still there, and there was a vulnerability in them that caused Emma’s heart to falter. She didn’t think as she brushed matted hair from Regina’s features, nor did she think as she slowly leaned closer, searching Regina’s eyes until she let her eyes fall shut.
“I didn’t do what I did to buy you, Emma. I will not be a notch on your belt, nor will I be used to stroke your ego or fill a void in your need for attention.”
Regina’s softly spoken words hit Emma like a slap in the face; she could feel the words dance across her lips before she could pull back, stumbling away as her eyes flew open. Regina was staring at her, a cold pain in her eyes, and for a single moment, all Emma could see was the Evil Queen in house pants. The fear was back but flickered into anger within seconds.
“How dare you?!” Emma hissed. “Who do you think you are? You think you know me?! You have no idea who I am!”
Regina smirked, shaking her head. She stepped forward, and once more, Emma stepped back. This time, though, Regina only reached for her glass and too another sip before levelling the blonde with a gaze.
“I know you better than you know yourself, Emma. I know why you kissed Hook, I know why you wanted to leave, I know why you do everything in your life. I understand you better than I understand myself, because that’s what you do when you love someone: you get to know them; you try to understand them. That’s also how I know that you don’t care about me in that way… and that’s alright. I can cope with my feelings for you, but I won’t suffer through interacting with you unless I have to—and I will not let you kiss me because you suddenly feel the need to. You have the truth now, be satisfied with that. I would rather not have told you, but, well, alcohol makes me weaker than I would like to be.” Regina joked humorously, raising the glass in a toast before draining it of its content entirely.
“But… Robin… I thought—” Emma sputtered, hurt and offended, but mostly curious and flailing in the sea of her own and Regina’s emotions.
“A distraction. You don’t see the similarities, Emma? A handsome blonde thief, with a child and swagger? Robin and I clashed in the same way as you and I used to clash, but unlike you, he returns—returned—my feelings. And yet, I thought about you. I thought about you when he kissed me. I thought about you as he fucked me. I thought about you and he never knew. You did me a favour, perhaps, in bringing Marian back: at least now I don’t have to live with the guilt of replacing him with you in my head every time he touched me. Of course, now I am alone, and drunk, and stripped bare. You truly have taken everything away from me now, Emma: you now also have my heart, my dignity, and knowledge of my darkest thoughts and moments. My greatest shame: clinging to a man because he reminded me of you. Congratulations. Are you satisfied now, or are you going to stay here in the hope you can strip-mine more of my soul?” Regina bitterly cursed at her, raising her glass and stumbling. She managed to grab a hold of the back of the couch before she fell over, but she was swaying, regardless.
Emma didn’t know what to think, what to feel. Her heart bled, and her head hurt. Regina’s words whirled in her mind, and for the first time, she glimpsed at the depth of Regina’s feelings for her. Heat flushed her system, but this time she realized that Regina had been right: that Regina’s words were stroking her ego and feeding the eternal hunger for being loved. It had been that hunger that had led her to latch on to Hook—because as she saw in Regina what love looked like, she realised she wasn’t in love with Hook, she had just tried to convince herself she was—and it had led her to try and kiss Regina.
“I hate you, so much…” Regina hissed, but the tears had started again as Regina swayed, and she had to drop her glass onto the carpet to hold on to the couch with her second hand as the latest batch of alcohol hit her system. “I hate what you do to me, what you have made me become. I should have known better than to fall for the daughter of Snow White; I should have known better—love is weakness.”
Regina raised her hands to the sky and Emma felt herself rush forward right away, as Regina swayed and had to step back to find her equilibrium again.
“Do you hear that, mother? I understand it now! At least you taught me something useful, you evil… bitch. That’s right! Bitch!” Regina shouted at the ceiling, and Emma felt tears come to her eyes as she watched the woman so drunk—so impaired—and in so much pain.
“Regina, please… I think you should sit down, okay?” Emma asked, and stepped forward again, causing Regina to stumble back, hitting a table and tripping, just barely grabbing on so she could lower herself to the ground at least moderately elegantly. As Emma tried to help her up, she swatted away Emma’s hands without any coordination in her efforts, and Emma felt her heart break anew. It was almost physically painful to watch the proud, collected, woman this undone. She wondered how much Regina had drank tonight, and feared it was a lot. For her to reach this level of honesty and spite, she must have.
“No… no touching. You don’t get to touch me. I want you to go now. Go! Go Emma. Go…” Regina yelled at her painfully, her voice finally slurring entirely as her conscious efforts to keep the slur out of it failed. It seemed the alcohol was finally kicking in now. Emma swallowed and hunched down outside of Regina’s reach, watching mascara smear, legs sprawl, and hair cling to wet cheeks. She couldn’t say anything; her heart beat too painfully in her chest, and her mind had been reduced to a sponge: only taking in but not letting go of anything. Slowly—ever so slowly—the ramifications of this night seeped into her conscious awareness.
She understood now why Regina hadn’t wanted to tell her; this changed everything. More and more puzzle pieces fell into place, and as Regina angrily frowned at her as she sagged against an obviously expensive wardrobe, Emma finally allowed herself to examine her own feelings for the other woman.
Emma had always considered herself straight. There had been a few practice kisses with girls growing up, but that was it; that said, she wasn’t homophobic or anything. That was not the issue. She would also be lying if she didn’t recognise that they had sparked very well when Emma had first come to town; Regina had gotten under her skin right away, and to this day, Emma’s relationship with Regina was one that was deeper than she had ever had with anyone.
She had just never considered it romantic.
She allowed her eyes to take in the woman before her now—not as the Mayor, not as the Evil Queen, not as Henry other mother, but as a woman. She allowed her eyes to take in strong features, full lips, and a well-maintained body. She met dark eyes that couldn’t focus on her and kept fluttering close in-between squinting at her. She took in a supple neck and the swell of breasts, and suddenly she found herself blushing as the veil before her eyes was pulled away and she suddenly saw Regina. She was incredibly drunk, completely dishevelled, and shallow cuts on her feet were leaving blood trails on the carpet, but she couldn’t deny her beauty.
Emma thought of the sacrifices made, of the way Regina had looked at her at the town line the day she and Henry had left, remembered Regina’s words yesterday and realized now that Regina had stood by her side, had supported her, had tried to make her better in the knowledge that she would never get anything out of it. She had suffered in silence, struggling with her emotions, and had allowed Emma to be happy, had allowed her to give credit to others but never to her. She had clung to the acceptance Emma had given her and had used it as a lifeline to live up to. How long had Regina known? How long had she been in love with her?
The brunette wasn’t in any state to answer questions, though. She had sagged completely now, eyes only opening when Emma moved. Emma swallowed, feeling guilty and struggling with the natural reaction Regina had made her aware of: that flattering feeling, a boost to her ego, as she realized someone loved her, needed her, wanted her. She tried to make it about Regina, not her, but realized she found it difficult to do so as she became more and more aware of the way she had always trusted Regina explicitly, how she had looked to her for guidance and support, and how bad she had felt in letting Regina down in the fight against Zelena—how guilty. She cared about Regina… perhaps more than she had ever realized.
“Regina… we should get you to bed, okay? I’m going to help you get up and go upstairs. You can’t sleep here, and I’m pretty sure you’re about to pass out.” Emma whispered softly, feeling worry for the older woman overtake her panic. Regina frowned, and batted at her hands as she reached out.
“No… not you… you don’t… no bed for you. Go…” Regina mumbled, but Emma didn’t let herself get slapped away. Sighing, she leaned over the older woman and wrapped an arm around her waist as Regina pounded her fists into her chest with the very little might that remained in the strong frame. It didn’t hurt at all.
“Okay, Regina. Okay, I know you don’t want me to touch you, but you need to go to bed. Come on, just help me get you to your feet, okay? Look, you must be tired. You’re tired right? Yeah, I thought so. Doesn’t your bed sound good? Come on, Regina, just forget it’s me. Just let me help you up.” Emma mumbled softly, gently, trying to lull Regina into cooperating. It worked, finally, and Regina struggled to her feet, arm around Emma’s shoulders as the younger woman helped them both up. Regina sagged through her legs almost right away, but allowed Emma to hold her up with an arm around her waist.
Together, they traversed the glass, then the stairs, and Emma tried to figure out where the bedroom was. It took two tries before she found it, but from there on out, getting Regina onto the bed was easy. The woman rolled away from her right away, and Emma allowed her to, pulling the blankets up over her before standing back and wondering what the hell she was going to do now. Regina had fallen asleep, as far as Emma could tell, but Emma was freaking out.
Regina was in love with her, and not just a crush either: truly, deeply, in love. She had drank herself into a stupor over that heartache, and she had torn up her feet over it. Emma figured that was the first thing on the list: check out her injuries. She found the light switch easily enough and flicked it on, blinking and watching Regina burrow into the blankets as she groaned against the intrusion. Emma smiled lightly, watching the usually guarded woman so undone, and realizing that she really did care for her quite a lot.
Regina kept a first aid kit in her kitchen, and Emma took it back to the bed, along with a bucket should Regina feel the need to throw up, a cup of water and a hand towel. She placed the bucket near Regina’s head, then pried Regina’s left leg from the bedding—overcoming Regina’s resistance by softly telling her that everything was okay and she wasn’t going to hurt her—and inspected the remarkably little damage. There were a couple of minor cuts that Emma wiped clean easily, and the other foot only had one cut she wanted to clean out and bandage. After that, she covered Regina’s feet up again, and sat on the bed, smiling, watching as Regina slept with a frown on her features in continual protest. It was cute, and endearing, and Emma’s world seemed lighter for having seen it. Here, in the silence, it was easier to observe Regina as a woman—a person—separate from her, unique, and valuable. Gathering her thoughts was still impossible, though.
Ten minutes later—mostly as a distraction—Emma found herself sweeping Regina’s expensive front hall, putting furniture back in place, and vacuuming. She picked up Regina’s empty glass from the floor of the den and wiped down the door where Regina’s other glass had impacted and the alcohol had dripped down. She straightened out rugs, put Regina’s bag on the table in the den and put her shoes under them on the ground. Once she had done all that, she headed back upstairs and found Regina in the exact same position, now absolutely asleep. None of the noise Emma had made had bothered her at all.
She should probably go home—Regina would be mortified tomorrow—but she didn’t want to leave the woman alone. She hadn’t been able to find out how much alcohol Regina had consumed, and she felt better knowing she could check up on her every now and again. As such, Emma slid up onto the bed after undoing her shoes and propped herself up against the headboard with the pillow she found there, switching on the night light against the darkness she had once more bathed Regina in before going downstairs, and settled in for the long wait.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for Emma’s mind to start itching. Her natural instinct was to bury everything that had just transpired under layers and layers of past pain and fears, but she couldn’t. Regina’s words rang loudly in her ear, speaking words so true and painful that they had Emma break out in cold sweat as she slowly allowed the words to sink in. Had Emma truly been that selfish? That self-involved? She only had to think of her actions the past few weeks to know that Regina had been right—and yet, Regina loved her. No matter what Emma had put her through in her naivety, Regina loved her. Putting aside what that did for her ego and self-esteem, Emma tried to pick apart her own feelings.
Why hadn’t she ever seen Regina as anything other than a nemesis, a friend, or a co-parent? Why had she automatically assumed Hook’s actions had been romantic while she had disregarded Regina’s, labelling them as the actions of a friend? If she hadn’t, would she have allowed Regina to become closer to her? If she had known, would they have said goodbye with a kiss, instead of a hand to connect them? She stared down at the brunette, reaching out to expose more of her face by brushing dark hair away from tinted skin.
Had she denied herself a true shot at happiness with someone who wanted only the best for her by disregarding a woman’s affections for her?
A sadness came over Emma as she contemplated that. Now she was aware of Regina’s feelings and the depth of her own very confusing feelings for the brunette, she feared that she had come to her realization too late. She should have realized it sooner, before this night had tainted everything. Whatever happened now, Regina would always worry that Emma’s actions—her feelings—weren’t sincere. Only Emma realised they were sincere: her eyes were open to the possibilities now, and if Regina gave her a chance, she wanted to explore them. She wanted to see what could happen if they interacted openly and in a way that did not block a single path—including a romantic one.
Regina had been right about another thing: she did not owe Hook for what he had done for her. He couldn’t buy her with his actions, nor his words. Love was selfless, like Regina had tried to show her for so long now. Love just was; it didn’t expect a return on investment. You gave, freely, of yourself and if it was returned, that was all the better. Well, Emma was going to return. She was going to win back Regina’s trust and maybe, she could figure out her own feelings along the way.
She smiled down at the sleeping woman and knew that from this point on, she couldn’t afford to slip up. She had to be present, be here. She couldn’t run, and she couldn’t give up. If she wanted to give whatever was between them a shot, she needed to work for it. Well, she could do that—not only for herself, but for Regina as well. She could break the family curse that eternally loomed over them, where Regina lost, and the Charmings gained: she could make Regina happy… and perhaps, she would discover that she could be happy as well.
It was going to be a long journey, but as Regina rolled over and softly pressed up against her leg, forgetting to be angry in her sleep, Emma realized that she might not know if she could ever love Regina in the way Regina wanted her to love her, she did, in deed, love her. More than anyone in the world, perhaps, save for Henry… but loving Henry was what had brought them together in the first place, and it had tied them together forever. Now it was up to Emma to tie them further, if Regina gave her the chance. She would fight for that chance—as hard as she possibly could, because now she was aware of the depth of Regina’s feelings, and was slowly becoming aware of her own, she couldn’t stop them, just like she couldn’t stop herself from laying her hand gently on Regina’s hair and feel her heart clench dangerously as Regina pressed closer into her with a gentleness on her features that Emma had seen so often but only just now linked to love.