“Belle, wait!” Ruby calls after Belle. Shaking loose Elsa's hold on her arm, she runs forward, side-stepping David as he tries to cut her off at the door. Will sprints towards the interrogation room. A loud curse drifts down the hall. With heavy footsteps, Will marches back into the office, holding out his hand. David sighs and stares at the empty vial in Will's hands.
“Gold?” David queries, already sure of the answer, but still hoping. Will shakes his head.
David's sighs even deeper when he notices Elsa. Her hand is paused mid-air, stretched out as if still reaching for Ruby. Slowly, her hand clasps around the empty air. Elsa's large eyes focus on her fist until the growing icicles melt away. Her expression is schooled into a neutral mask, but her eyes are a hurricane of conflict.
“Elsa? Are you alright?” Will takes a few steps towards Elsa.
Not trusting her voice, Elsa simply nods, clasps her hands in front of her and paints on a thin smile. A slight chill settles over the room. She doesn't notice David's presence until his hand lands on her shoulder. He looks down at her with warm, supportive eyes. David reminds her so much of her late father. The thought makes Elsa's heart clench.
Her eyes drift to the window and David, Elsa and Will watch Ruby sprint after the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance with Belle behind the wheel. Ruby cries out in frustration as the car speeds away from her. She comes to a stop in the middle of the road, chest heaving. Her shoulders grow stiff when she senses them watching her. Ruby tilts her head slightly, but doesn't turn to face them. Her gaze returns to the car speeding further away from her. With an angry shrug of her shoulders, the red cloak falls to the bitumen at her feet.
The hurricane rages on in Elsa's blue eyes as she watches her wolf running after Belle.
“...called the Valsalva's maneuver. So when I tell you to, I'll need you to take a deep breath and bear down as if you're forcibly exhaling while still holding your breath. I want you to try it a few times.” Nurse Flora's soothing voice wafts through Snow's waking consciousness. “Good. Excellent, Majesty.” Nurse Flora encourages.
Snow shifts and slowly opens her eyes. She blinks against the harsh brightness of the fluorescent light until her sleep-blurry eyes focus on Nurse Flora leaning over Regina's exposed chest, carefully removing the dressings around Regina's chest tube. Snow pales at the sight of large patches of purple and green bruising discolouring Regina's skin and the angry flesh around the sutures holding the chest tube in place. Snow doesn't move, worried she might startle the nurse and cause Regina even more pain. Nurse Flora cuts the sutures and nods at Dr Whale. Dr Whale proceeds to clamp the chest tube with a rubber-tipped clamp and Nurse Flora brushes her fingers against Regina's arm.
“Now, Majesty, just as we practised.” Nurse Flora instructs. Regina takes a deep breath and the muscles in her jaw bulge as she clenches her teeth against the pain. Snow watches with a sort of morbid fascination as Dr Whale swiftly removes the tube and Nurse Flora immediately covers the wound with occlusive dressing and tape.
Regina sags against her pillow. She takes a few deep, crackling gasps of air. Nurse Flora's pen pauses over the chart in her hands and she casts a soft, reassuring smile down at her patient. Regina breathes a sigh of relief and her answering smile is tired but genuine.
“You sound awful.” Nurse Flora comments. Regina laughs-coughs. Nurse Flora pats Regina's arm affectionately and returns to scribbling in the chart.
Snow frowns. Why did they remove the chest tube? It certainly doesn't sound like Regina's lungs are completely healed. Snow practically leaps out of her chair when she notices the unique mask of concentration Regina always adopts when she tries to use magic.
Nurse Flora shakes her head at Snow and presses her pen against her lips, gesturing for Snow to keep quiet. A faint shimmer of blue appears over Regina's chest but disappears after only a few seconds. Regina forces oxygen into her wheezing lungs and tries again. Sweat starts trickling down her brow. Regina must still be weakened because she is obviously still struggling to summon her magic. Deep frown lines wrinkle Regina's sweat dampened brow. Still, no magic.
Snow starts when she hears a soft moan from Emma's hospital bed. Emma has turned on her side, facing Regina. At first it appears as though Emma is awake, but then Snow notices that Emma's normally hazel irises are a whirling bright sapphire blue and her eyes are half-lidded and unfocused.
A deep moan vibrates through Regina's chest. Nurse Flora gasps and Snow stares at Regina, transfixed. Regina's head is thrown back, body arching and hands clenching the sheets at her sides. She is glowing a blinding, brilliant white. A soft, almost content sigh escapes Emma's lips. Regina's answering moan is faint but husky. The bright glowing cocoon of light surrounding her dims and her body relaxes into the mattress of her hospital bed.
Snow's wide eyes dart between Emma and Regina as she tries to process...well, whatever it was she just witnessed. It just seemed so...Snow's eyes grow impossibly big. She notices she's gaping and snaps her mouth shut. Snow sneaks a glance in Nurse Flora's direction. Nurse Flora's pen is paused mid-stroke, her eyes inconceivably large and her eyebrows frozen in a high, shocked arch. When Regina stretches lazily, Nurse Flora seems to remember where she is. She clears her throat. Her pen swishes across the paper a few times before piercing the chart with a sharp punctuation mark.
"Young people these days." Nurse Flora tuts. With a wink at Snow, Nurse Flora hangs the chart at the foot of Regina's bed, checks her watch and leaves the room to continue her rounds.
The wolf slows to a jog as she nears the car idling a few paces from the town border. With a soft whine, she approaches the crying figure huddled on the ground next to the open car door. When the wolf brushes against her shoulder, the sobbing girl reaches out blindly, burying her face in soft, dark fur. Deep sobs wrack through her shoulders as she clings to the wolf.
"Oh, Ruby." Belle chokes through sobs, "I wish..." She hides her face in the wolf's soft fur, leaving the sentence unfinished. The wolf stays by her side until her sobs subside and her breathing becomes more even.
Belle releases the wolf and wipes at the steady flow of tears down her cheeks. A deep silence settles over them as Belle stares at the road stretching ahead of them, across the town border. The wolf curls up next to her and rests her head on her paws. Yellow eyes watch the girl as she struggles to express the inner turmoil churning inside her. The silence stretches on until Belle slowly pushes herself up and takes a few tentative steps closer to the town border. The wolf pushes herself up on all fours and follows her, whining nervously.
"I wish I could just cross this line and forget...but I've already lost myself in him." Her fingers curl into a fist. "I don't want to lose myself again." Belle stares at the road ahead. Her fingers splay out and brush against the wolf's flank. Belle kneels down and runs her fingers through the fur of the wolf's muzzle. She stares into the wolf's eyes before leaning forward and burrying her face in the wolf's fur.
"I wish I'd met you first." Belle whispers. "Before Rumpel...before Elsa." The wolf's muscles tense. Belle sighs and releases her hold, allowing the wolf to retreat a few paces. The wolf paws at the ground. Belle sniffs and futilely tries to wipe away the steady stream of moisture down her cheeks. She drops back onto her haunches and her shoulders sag.
"I'm sorry, Ruby. I shouldn't have..." Belle looks completely lost. "You must hate me." She stares at the world with empty, unseeing eyes. The wolf hesitates. Slowly, she lopes closer and curls up next to Belle, nudging her hand with her nose. Belle leans into the touch. The putter of the idling engine fills the silence as they stare at the world across the town border.
"The thing about remembering, is that you never forget." Belle quotes softly.
Regina sighs contently and her eyelids flutter open. Warm, brown eyes slowly blink into focus. Regina blushes a delicious red when she notices Snow at the foot of her bed. She turns her head only for the blush to spread down her neck when her eyes land on Emma in the adjacent bed. Regina clears her throat, pushes herself up and slides out of the bed. She opens the drawer of the small cabinet next to her hospital bed in search of her clothes. When she finds them she walks over to the door and closes it.
"Regina, what...?" Snow finally finds her voice.
"David called while you were sleeping." Regina lays her clothes out on the bed, slips off the hospital robe and steps into her slacks. She doesn't bother turning to face Snow to answer. "He's asked me to assist in immobilising Gold long enough for David to place that vile cuff of Pan's on Gold so we can..."
"No." Snow interrupts with a strange wave of her hand as though she's brushing aside Regina's words to clear her mind. "I mean what just happened...with Emma?"
Regina fastens the clasp of her brassiere and shrugs into her silk shirt. She turns slowly until she's facing Snow, quickly buttoning up her shirt, leaving only the top button undone.
"She healed me." Regina answers.
Snow folds her arms across her chest and glares at Regina. Regina runs her fingers through her hair and places her hands on her hips.
"Now is not the time for philosophical hypotheses on magic, Snow. Gold could be..." Snow pales as Regina's previous words finally register.
“Mom!” Henry cries as he bursts through the door and pulls Regina into a tight hug.
"You forgot to knock, Henry." Regina chides. Henry muffles an apology into her chest. Regina smiles and leans her head down to rest on top of Henry's, pulling him close. Henry's breaths are shallow and uneven. Regina holds her son until his breathing evens out and he relaxes in her arms. When she feels Henry pulling away, she releases her hold and looks down at Henry. He stares at her with large eyes.
“You could have died.” Henry breathes.
Regina doesn't reply. Her hand reaches out to brush a few wisps of hair from his eyes and cups his chin. She pulls him into another tight hug that seems to last an eternity. A loud grumble from Henry's stomach interrupts their embrace. Regina chuckles softly. Henry pulls back and gives Regina a watery grin, rubbing his tummy.
“Ah, the monster awakes. You have your mother's bottomless pit of a stomach.” Regina teases. Henry pats his stomach proudly. Regina rolls her eyes and grabs her purse, taking out a few crisp notes. “Nothing too greasy!” Regina instructs. Henry adopts his best impression of innocence before grabbing the money and scrambling out of the door towards the small canteen.
“Thanks, Mom!” Henry yells, throwing a smile over his shoulder as he goes. Regina watches her son until he disappears around the corner. She stays standing in the doorway, lost in thought.
Regina turns slightly and Snow instantly recognises the unique mask of concentration Regina always adopts when she calls on her magic. Regina's concentration wavers when Emma moans loudly. She blushes and her hand lifts to press against her heart. Her hand is trembling slightly, but she regains her focus and a burst of light radiates upwards, branching out until a strange hum vibrates through the air. A barrier spell, Snow realises, recognising the familiar hum and strange static from the barrier spell cast to keep her and her unborn son safe from Zelena, only this barrier feels...Pancakes. Snow frowns at the strange sudden thought. Why would she...then she notices the scent of cinnamon and apple.
Her eyes follow Regina as she gravitates closer to Emma's bedside. Regina seems to forget about Snow as she stares at Emma. She reaches out and cups Emma's cheek, her thumb tracing along a prominent cheekbone. Her hand lingers for a moment before her fingers flutter to the nape of Emma's neck and nestle into her hair. Regina leans close until she's cheek to cheek with Emma and whispers something into her ear before she pulls back slightly and brushes her lips against Emma's cheek. The moment feels extremely intimate and Snow almost breathes a sigh of relief when Regina breaks the tension by dragging herself a few steps back to the middle of the room. She turns to face Snow and captures her eyes.
“You should stay, Snow.” Regina's voice is surprisingly gentle. Somewhat akin to the voice of a young girl who saved a princess and first told her about True Love. Snow watches Regina's eyes flit over to Emma and soften, before they drift back to Snow. “I am certain he won't harm Henry - he's the only part of Neal Gold has left, but now that Gold understands what Emma is capable of, he will stop at nothing to destroy her.” Regina's eyes betray words she can't say out loud.
Snow dips her head. A loud chirping ringtone cuts through the heavy silence. Snow glances at the caller ID before answering the call.
"Ruby? Are you alright?" Deep frown lines cut into her brow as she listens. "What?!" Her lips pull into a thin, strained line as she holds the phone close to her ear. "She has endangered everyone I hold dear by giving him that vial. I'll eat my arrows before I..." Snow's anger abates and she deflates with a deep sigh. "I know, Ruby...I know you do, but she has doomed us in the name of love. For him." Snow walks over to Regina and presses the phone into her hands. She returns to Emma's bedside and sinks into the visitors chair. Regina stares at the phone a moment before raising it to her ear.
"Miss Lucas? I'm fine, dear. Are you..." Regina's eyes narrow slightly. "I see." A flash of fury breaks through her neutral mask, but she doesn't speak. Her fury seems to dissipate and her voice is surprisingly soft when she finally does. "As you wish." Regina's heels click against the linoleum floor. She places Snow's phone on the little table next to Emma's bed and rests her hand on Snow's shoulder.
"I am so tired of all this." Snow comments. "When Elsa told me Gold's magic was destroyed, I felt...free. I thought it was finally over." Snow's fingers toy with a few stray golden curls. "I just want her safe." Snow looks up. "And happy."
Regina's hand leaves Snow's shoulder. She reaches down and combs her fingers through Emma's curls.
“I will keep her safe, if it's the last thing I do.” Regina whispers before she disappears into a mist of purple smoke.
Gold strides through the fading pink mist of magic, a small mud-caked chest tucked safely under his left arm. He steps out of his soiled shoes, leaving them in the foyer and shrugs out of his dirtied jacket, discarding it on the floor. Grabbing a cloth from the wash room, Gold wipes the dirt from his face and hands before cleaning the small chest.
Gold finds himself stopping in the hallway out of habit, waiting for soft arms to wrap around his neck and a broad smile to welcome him home. He scowls at himself. Love has made him weak. Still, he gives in to the weakness and walks through the house, searching every room for his wife until he's standing in front of Belle's walk-in cupboard in the master bedroom. Empty. She's left him. Again. A strange uneasiness settles over him, but Gold brushes it aside with an irritated wave of his hand. Belle will come back. She always does. He has more important issues to worry about.
Gold strolls into his study and places the chest on the dark wood of the study desk. His eyes automatically seek out the glass display case. The chipped cup is gone. In its place is a white envelope with his name written on it in Belle's bold, fluid handwriting. The note is short - an extract from a poem:
“ When love dies,
It ceases to exist.
And the flame that used to be,
Ceases to persist...
When love died
I ceased to exist
The only thing that kept us together...
Ceased to persist. "
Gold frowns at the thin sheet of paper in his hands. He pushes down the panic clutching at his ribs. His Belle will come back. She always does, but...he misses her. Gold casts the note into the flames of the fireplace and a slight hint of madness creeps into his eyes as he slides his hand over the spines of the old magic tomes on the bookshelf until his fingers splay out over the one he's been searching for. He takes the book from the shelf and settles behind his dark mahogany desk. Gold slowly sifts through the pages, stopping when he finds the spell. A satisfied grin stretches over his face as he runs his finger down the list of ingredients. He should have most of them in the shop.