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The warm chatter in Granny’s Diner was all that registered at first, a smattering of laughter and the clatter of cutlery, all of it like white noise swirling mindlessly around them as time froze and Robin Hood was reunited with his not so deceased wife. It almost went unnoticed as one happy ending was ripped away and so easily replaced by another. 

Regina Mills stood and blinked in disbelief as her life twisted before her very eyes. She should have known it would be too good to be true. After all, “The Evil Queen” didn’t really deserve to have a happy ending, did she? It didn’t really matter that she was on the right path and working so damn hard to be one of the so-called good guys now. 

Regina’s eyes welled with tears, the pain of betrayal searing through her freshly returned heart was almost too much to bear. She was tempted to rip it back out again, that pain almost preferable to this incredibly awkward and difficult situation. However the moment passed, as the familiar comfort of dark anger sang through her veins and Regina locked eyes with the idiot who was responsible, her ire falling squarely on the strong shoulders of the Saviour, once again stepping in where she didn’t belong. 

“YOU!” Regina swallowed as her voice broke on the word, before her eyes narrowed and she focused intently on the blonde woman in front of her. “You did this.” 

“I--I just wanted to save her life.” Emma Swan’s eyes widened, as she realized the depth of pain she had inflicted on the other woman. She stood her ground, knowing now that there was no turning back from the damage she had done. Returning Marian to this land had also meant returning the woman to her husband and son. 

And in doing so, Emma had shattered any chance Regina had of building a relationship with Robin Hood. 

She watched fascinated as Regina shifted closer, anger practically rolling off her in waves, causing Emma’s stomach to clutch in dread. She accepted the responsibility of her decision, there was no one to blame for this but herself, and that meant she had to take whatever Regina had to dish out. And Regina certainly knew what buttons to push. 

“You’re just like your mother,” Regina spat. “Never thinking about the consequences.” 

“I didn’t know!” Emma shot back, her heart aching for the older woman even if deep down she was sure it had been the right thing to do. It was the right thing for all of them, if Regina would just calm down and think about it. 

“Of course you didn’t!” Regina growled, hot anger gnawing at the pit of her gut and the familiar tingle of dark magic rising deep within. Her fingers tingled with the need to lash out and soothe the wounded beast inside, demanding retribution. It would be so easy. 

The diner grew suddenly silent, as if a collective breath had been taken and held. Out of the corner of her eye, Regina saw Marian pull wee Roland closer, as if protecting him from her. Protecting him from “The Evil Queen” she remembered her to be. 

Well, damn it. 

A cold dash of reality washed over Regina and she mentally reined herself in, refusing to slip back into that role, to get lost in the hurt and anger and lash out, to turn into that person she no longer wanted to be. She would not allow this mess to destroy all her hard work to redeem herself, to walk the narrow path. Oh this was not over, not by any means, but Regina would not get into this here and now. It was time for a tactical retreat, but not without a final parting shot of some sort. 

“Well, you just better hope to hell you didn’t bring anything else back.” Regina snapped, knowing that she had to go now before she did or said something they would all regret. She silently turned and stormed out without another word, before her feelings completely overwhelmed her. 

The small bell above the diner door had hardly finished dinging from Regina’s hasty exit, before the room burst into conversation and nervous movement. Emma barely noticed however, as she stared long and hard at the door before turning to meet the gaze of an equally concerned Robin Hood. He glanced down at his restored family and then back to Emma. As much as he might have wished otherwise, Regina was no longer his responsibility. He sighed and turned away, moving his family back towards the booth they had just vacated. 

Regina was Emma’s concern now, and that just proved it to her. 

“Fuck.” Emma pinched the bridge of her nose and muttered under her breath. “How much worse could that have possibly gone?” She needed to take care of this fast, if the purple swirling in the depths of Regina’s eyes was any indication. It had been a close call, a near relapse back to the Evil Queen and into the clutches of her dark magic, but Regina had hung on, despite everything. Emma’s mind spun trying to quickly figure out her next step when she felt a hand on her arm and turned to meet the worried eyes of her mother. 

“Emma,” Snow White’s dark eyes shone with sympathetic tears. “Don’t leave it like this with Regina. Follow her, don’t let this turn into what happened between her and I.” Snow brought her hand up to cup Emma’s cheek, making sure that her daughter was listening to her. “You understand her so much better than I ever did. Regina is part of our family now and we can’t forget that in a moment of misunderstanding and anger.” 

“Yeah, Ma,” Henry said coming up to stand beside Snow. He swallowed hard and spoke quietly, the concern evident in his voice. “Did you see Mom’s eyes? We need to find her, I don’t think she should be alone.” Henry grabbed Emma’s hand ready to join her in the search and tugged her towards the diner door. It warmed Emma’s heart but this wasn’t his mess. 

“Kid, wait.” Emma stopped before he got too far. “This is something that I need to work out with your mother, just her and I. You need to stay here with your grandparents—“ Her eyes flicked up at Snow who nodded in agreement. 

“But, Ma!!” Henry crossed his arms, not at all happy about being left behind. 

“No buts, Henry.” Emma sighed. Henry shook his head but moved to stand next to Snow White, her mother’s small smile encouraging her. Time was of the essence and she needed to think. Where would Regina go to lick her wounds? 

“Listen, luv, maybe you should just let old cranky britches cool down.” Killian said quietly from behind her. Emma saw the same look of irritation flash across both Henry and Snow’s faces and almost laughed out loud. She didn’t need this from Hook now. “Regina can be a right bit—erm…” Hook took in the disapproving frowns surrounding him and tried again, smiling with as much of his roguish charm as he could muster to cover his apparent misstep. “I just mean, the Queen can be very dangerous when she’s upset. A bit of time apart might be just what is needed.” 

“No, Killian,” Emma sighed and shook her head slightly. The man had no clue really. Between this and the lackluster kiss they had shared outside, it only solidified things in her mind. “What I need to do is find Regina and straighten this out. Alone.” Emma ignored his hurt puppy dog eyes and grabbed her jacket, heading quickly out the door, into the rapidly cooling night.