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Jack Daniels of the Silver Tongue

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“Miss Swan? A little late for a stroll, isn’t it?” Regina bit out after opening the door to a certain blonde ‘hero’. Regina was in her nightgown and a matching silk robe, having been awoken from slumber by the doorbell ringing, but refused to let that negate the fierceness in her posture. With eyes filled with the fire of righteous anger, she took in the fully clad blonde. Emma looked miserable, guilty, and entirely unable to meet her eyes. Instead, she held up an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels.

“I come bearing gifts…” Emma trailed off, and Regina arched a brow. She realized she should be mad—she should be furious—but as she saw the blonde, she couldn’t help but step aside instead, her posture deflating in the face of regret—and the woman who had always seen right through her.

“Why don’t you come in? There is no need for the entire neighbourhood to see me in my sleepwear. They have seen me stripped bare enough, now haven’t they?” Regina answered sharply, and Emma visibly winced, stepping inside with hesitation. She waited for Regina to close the door, then followed her inside to the den. Regina took up two glasses to take with her to the sofa.

“Make it shot glasses.” Emma told her, setting the bottle down in the middle of the salon table before sitting down on the couch purposefully.

“I’m not doing shots with you, Miss Swan. It’s the middle of the night and quite frankly, I’m not in the mood.” Regina bit out again, and Emma finally looked at her. Well, there went that—Regina knew for certain that Emma was well aware that a stiff drink was exactly what Regina needed; she had simply been denying herself.

“Get the shot glasses and sit down. You and I are going to clear the air between us and seeing as I am terrible at talking and you are in a place where everything that comes out of your mouth is aimed to kill, we are going to let Jack here talk for us.” Emma told her with resolve, and Regina sighed, too tired to argue. She replaced the glasses in her hand with shot glasses and walked back setting herself down on the opposite couch. She felt such a sense of deja-vu that she had to steady herself.

All that time ago, Emma had sat down right there on that couch, and Regina could never have imagined what would follow after the night where Emma had brought back her son. Well, they were back to the start now, it seemed, with Regina in pain over lost love, and Emma apologetic for doing the right thing. She put the shot glasses down and slid one across the surface of the table. Emma took the bottle, opened it, and filled both glasses about half way up, then sat back, elbows on her knees, observing her.

“Tell me the rules.” Regina finally gave in, and Emma closed her hand around the glass, looking pointedly at Regina until she did the same. Not thinking about the absurdity of the situation but looking forward to a stiff drink instead—as well as the possibility to fix her… relationship with Emma—Regina followed Emma’s lead.

“I’m going to state something I think is true about you—or maybe something I hope is true or fear is true, you know—and if it is, you are going to drink. If it’s false, you’ll leave the glass on the table and ask me a question. If it’s true, you drink, then ask me a question. Clear?” Emma answered gruffly, and Regina nodded. “Okay, I guess I go first. Truth: you are mad at me.”

Regina eyed the blonde, and opened her mouth to speak, to explain that the answer was complicated, but Emma shushed her before she could even form a sound.

“Just do whatever is closest to the truth.” She interrupted painfully, and Regina swallowed, dipping her head down so she could take in the glass. Was she mad? Yes, she was livid, she was way beyond mad… but she didn’t want to be. Bringing back Marian, taking Robin from her, that had not been Emma’s intention and Regina knew that. But yes, she was mad. She was very, very, mad. Sighing, she brought the glass to her lips and tipped her head back, allowing the liquid to burn her throat before setting the glass down.

“See? That wasn’t so hard. Now ask me a question.” Emma pushed—challenged—and Regina set her jaw a moment.

“Truth: you knew who Marian was when you came back with her.” Regina stated, asking the only question she really wanted the answer to at this point. Emma’s hand didn’t even move, and she stubbornly met her eyes until it was clear the answer was a resounding ‘no’.

“Truth,” Emma picked up the ‘game’ again. “In the original timeline, you had Marian killed.”

Pain flashed over Regina’s features a moment, coupled with shameful confusion; she didn’t know the answer. Probably, possibly. If Emma had pulled the woman out of the Evil Queen’s cell then yes. She took the shot Emma had poured her in the meantime and watched Emma fill the glass again with an unreadable face. Trying to come to equal ground again, Regina dug in for a transgression on Emma’s part.

“Truth: you would have taken Henry back to New York without talking to me about it, had you not travelled back in time and had a change of heart.” She stated, and this time, it was Emma who looked ashamed. She took the shot and Regina refilled her glass as she tried not to show outward signs of her pain and anger.

“Truth: you meant what you said in the diner, about me being like Mary Margaret.” Emma asked, and the level of pain in her voice startled Regina. She sighed heavily, but didn’t drink. No, she had said that in anger and pain, wanting to cause the same in Emma. She knew the situations were not the alike, and that even the parts that were did not need to be compared.

“Truth: you still wish you could leave Storybrooke.” Regina asked, and this time, Emma hesitated. Ten, fifteen, seconds ticked away before Emma finally took up her shot glass with a deep sigh of resignation, and emptied it. With a hand clasped too tightly around the bottle, Regina filled it again once Emma set it down delicately.

“Truth: you are angry I never thanked you for what you did for Henry and I.” Emma asked, and although Regina did not like to admit it, she drank, aware that she was consuming a lot of alcohol in a very short time. Well, I wasn’t as if the day could get much worse than it already was. She pulled her robe tighter around her and watched Emma fill her glass.

“Truth,” Regina started softly, feeling her heart breaking over the positive answer she knew would come. “You and Henry had a good life in New York.”

Emma drank, as Regina knew she would, but it was the emotion on her face Regina had been curious about. There, buried under layers of fresh guilt was older shame and pain. She awaited her next turn.

“Truth: you were going to kill yourself in the Enchanted Forest.” Emma asked her, pain in her voice. Regina smiled smugly, knowing that that was never the plan—she was going to put herself to sleep at best—but then realized that arguing semantics was not constructive to this ‘talk’. She brought the glass to her lips and emptied it, once more relishing the burn. She set it down as her eyes locked with Emma’s, and she could see the pressure of tears there.

“Truth: you feel guilty you had a good life for a year while the rest of us were in pain.” Regina asked, following her trail of questions. Emma drank, and bit her lip in an obvious attempt to keep her emotions in check. She slammed her glass down and asked her question before Regina had even refilled it, obviously hoping to distract herself and get a reprieve.

“Truth: you wanted to die because you were sure you would never see Henry again.” Emma asked, and she drank easily to that. It had always been about Henry, after all.

“Truth: If you had known what you know now when Killian approached you, you would not have drank the potion.” Regina asked, falling into the trap of ‘maybe’s and ‘what if’s that helped no one. Emma contemplated her answer a long moment, then drank—reluctantly, it seemed.

“Truth: If you could change things back, you would have let Pan’s curse take effect.” Emma asked, but it was more of a question than a statement as she fell into the same trap Regina had. Regina contemplated her options a moment, then sighed, leaving the drink on the table. If she had to do it all again, she would have done the same as she had now: cast the curse, bring them back to the Enchanted Forest, even if it meant never seeing Henry again.

“Truth: you didn’t think about what would be best for Henry when you decided to take him back to New York, just what would be best for yourself.” Regina bit out, giving voice to one of her main points of anger towards the blonde. Emma swallowed and met her eyes, searching them for long moments before she slowly brought the glass to her mouth and drank guiltily. Deep in her gut, some part of Regina’s anger dissolved and she realized that this game was actually quite cathartic.

“Truth: you’re in love with Robin Hood.” Emma asked, and she had her glass half way up to her lips before she halted herself. Was she in love with Robin? She was certainly in love with the feeling of being loved, and it felt good to have someone who cared for her—had cared for her, probably, now Marian was back—but did she love him? She hardly knew him. He was her soulmate—Tinker Bell had told her that—but did that equal love? Setting her lips in a thin line of frustration and pain, she set the glass back on the table, fingers around it.

“Truth: you’re in love with Killian Jones.” She ask, thinking turnabout was fair game. Everyone had seen the two of them kissing out on the terrace after all, and Hook had been with Emma when they had gone back in time. She didn’t like the way her heart hurt as she asked the question, but, like her, Emma did not drink. They stared at each other for long moments, and Emma licked her lips before asking her next question.

“Truth: you missed me, too, when I had to go, and not just Henry.” Emma asked softer than any of the questions so far, and Regina squinted slightly, confused by the question, but knowing that she had to drink to it. Yes, she had missed Emma—very much. She had been just as startled to see her in the diner as she had been seeing Henry. She drank, and Emma smiled the watery smile she knew so well from the woman when she was emotional.

Regina took a moment to collect her thoughts. Emma had opened up a line of questioning that set off alarm bells inside Regina’s skull. She tried to avoid thinking about her feelings for the blonde, tried not to analyse what they were to each other, finding it easier to focus on the anger and animosity between them. Neverland had changed their relationship considerably, but they were still… distant. Safe. Well, Regina felt the buzz of alcohol, and she had already lost much today. She felt comfortable taking a risk.

“Truth: when we were standing at the town line, you wished you could stay for more than your parents.” Regina stated, and Emma swallowed heavily. It was still a safe question—Emma had built a lot of relationships here in Storybrooke, but they both knew they weren’t talking about other people. Emma drank slowly, keeping their eyes locked.

“Truth: you know that when I first came to Storybrooke, I had the biggest crush on you.” Emma stated, and Regina’s eyes went wide. She didn’t drink because she honestly hadn’t known. Regina knew that they had sparked in those early days. It had been beautifully disguised by hate, but Regina had found herself thinking about the blonde far more often than she would have liked. Emma was her adversary, and yet she had found herself relishing their clashes. More than once, she had thought about closing the minimal distance between them, of throwing caution to the wind and kissing the younger woman until she could forget about losing her son, about the curse coming to an end, about the way her life was empty and she was starving for attention and love.

“Truth,” She started, and gathered her courage. “You know that if we had met under different circumstances, we could have been good together.”

Regina watched the blonde as she lifted her glass, and ran through all the ‘if’s’ that had kept them apart: if there hadn’t been a curse, if Emma wasn’t Snow White’s child, if she wasn’t Henry’s mother, if, if, if. Emma drank, smiling lightly, but there was tension in her hunched body and her set jaw.

“Truth: you’re scared of getting hurt again.” Emma asked, and Regina drank easily. After today’s events in the diner, how could she not be? She had been reminded of the pain again, of how it felt to open your heart and have it crushed. Well, she was already hurting, and whatever friendship she had been building was already cracked and broken. She threw caution entirely to the wind.

“Truth: if I asked you to stay in Storybrooke… if I asked you to stay with me… you would stay.” Regina asked, and Emma’s eyes burned into her own as she drank deliberately. Regina shuddered, suddenly running hot and cold at the same time. This game was becoming much too serious, and much too close to her heart... but she liked the burn in her throat, and she relished the burn in her heart. Perhaps she was a masochist, but the sudden revelations hurt her deliciously.

“Truth: you think it’s too late for us, with everything that’s happened, with… Marian, and Robin, and Hook.” Emma rambled, then shut herself up forcefully, setting her jaw. Regina observed her, heart hammering in her chest and although she knew they would never be more than what they were now—Henry’s mothers—knew that they could never be more, she still did not drink. They stared at each other and sighed. There it was, wasn’t it? The truth that they had needed to say. That was the source of the tension—both positive and negative—between them: they were attracted to each other, and they got along very well because of it—when they allowed themselves. It was hard to allow herself, though, and Emma felt it too. Tension rose to a new height, and Emma was the first to deflate it.

“I’m so sorry for what happened.” Emma finally said, breaking their game. “I didn’t know. I just… you… I mean it, I didn’t even know her name.” Emma rambled, the floodgates opening up now she was finally talking. Regina took her hand from the glass and sat back, knowing they were at a place where Jack Daniel’s silver tongue was no longer required to clear the air.

“I didn’t even know I had Robin’s wife killed in the original timeline.” Regina confessed. “I killed so many… they blurred together. Faces, names, I never cared about them… I cared about Snow White and my hatred for her for taking away everything I had ever wanted—for taking away my love.”

Emma’s jaw clenched and she was truly fighting tears now. She didn’t look up, didn’t move, just sat with her legs slightly apart, eyes downcast, staring at her hands, and listened to Regina’s quiet words in the stillness of a childless mansion. Regina reached out to her shot and sipped it, trying to capture Emma’s eyes so she could how her the pain she was feeling, not over Robin, but over Emma’s unintentional betrayal.

“I’m sorry about what I said in the diner; you are not your mother, and I am no longer the Evil Queen. You, Henry, you have shown me I can be good—that good is a choice. I am angry, I am in pain, but I am not angry with you. I-I can’t be angry with you, Emma. You are Henry’s second mother, you are the Savior… and you are… my friend… or you were becoming one. As reluctant a friend as you presumably are to me, you are the only one I truly have.” Regina’s voice broke at that, and Emma smiled a watery smile that had Regina’s heart beat fiercely in her chest. They were more—wanted to be more—but even requesting friendship was a huge step.

“I wish it hadn’t been you—that it had been anyone else who had brought Marian back to Robin—but it was you. It’s fate, perhaps—a second chance, a chance to prove I can do better. Well, Emma; I have become better. I’m not good, perhaps, but I am better… and I forgive you. You did what you thought was right—it was right, and that is why I can’t stay angry with you.” Regina whispered into the stillness as she locked eyes with the blonde who finally lost the fight to her tears.

“Thank you.” Emma whispered, and Regina nodded, feeling a single tear streak down her own face. Emma licked her lips as they sat together in the darkness, searching each other’s eyes for the truth they could always read in there. “Perhaps you’ll find happiness again one day…”

“Perhaps…” Regina responded, Emma’s statements running through her mind. She didn’t believe it, not really, but in this moment, what she had was enough—a friend, her son, and family who supported her. She smiled softly, and Emma responded in kind. Regina sighed, then nodded, locking eyes with the blonde who had come to mean so much to her in such a short time—who wanted to be so much more, but couldn’t be until the planets aligned. “…one day.”