Emma’s body slams into the wall, her head making a frightening crack as it snaps back and connects. She drops limply to the ground, the wind knocked out of her, feeling strangely dislocated, disconnected from herself as she struggles to understand where she is, who she is, what is happening to her.
Sound is dampened as a shrill ringing in her ears subsumes everything, but somewhere in the distance she can hear someone screaming.
She barely has a moment to register the ache throughout her body before it’s overtaken by the roaring of the pain in her head.
The screaming continues. Someone is shouting her name. It’s so hard to understand what’s happening. She rolls over on the ground trying to look up and see where that voice is coming from. It’s someone important; she doesn’t know who they are but her name in their mouth sparks panic in her chest and she stares groggily about trying to find them. But the world is spinning and she falls back, nausea overcoming her.
How did this happen? This isn’t how things were supposed to go. They were supposed to win...
She feels hands grip her body, pulling her close, and everything is spinning again, and then the world goes black.
Regina had not stuck around for a long reunion with her sister. In the past she might have given in to her feelings of pain and anger, and lashed out at Zelena the moment she saw her. But now her only thought was to get away, to keep herself safe, to protect herself long enough to get to Emma so that they actually stood a chance of taking this woman down for good. She was playing the long game; she had been waiting for this moment for weeks.
But Zelena was fast; no sooner had Regina turned to find the source of the voice, than Zelena had caught her in a vice-like grip, pinning her arms to her sides and lifting her off the ground. Panic flared in Regina’s chest at the familiarity of this powerlessness, and for a moment she forgot where she was as she was is overwhelmed with memories. Zelena disappeared and she saw her mother and Rumpelstiltskin and Leopold filling her consciousness as she struggled to keep her head and to keep breathing. She reached out wildly in her mind, searching for Emma, but the other woman was too far away for Regina to be able to draw on her magic. She couldn’t breathe. Zelena’s grip was firm but it was nothing compared to the crushing weight of these memories, and she gasped, choking, fighting back the panic as she desperately tried to regain control, forcing herself to take slow breaths as Zelena walked menacingly towards her, a triumphant grin on her green face. This was her sister, she repeated like a mantra; not her mother, not her mentor, not her husband. That all happened a long time ago. This was her sister. She could beat her sister.
“Sorry it took me so long to call,” Zelena had cooed sarcastically, aware of the past traumas that her magic was calculated to evoke in Regina. “I meant to send flowers, or a casserole. But then I just thought it would be so much better for me to come and give my condolences to my dear sister in person.” She grinned sickeningly. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Regina closed her eyes and focused on separating her light magic from the dark, trying to ignore the insistent tightening in her chest that was either from the magic or her own fear, or probably both. She pictured Henry’s face. She heard him earnestly telling her he believed in her. She remembered the feeling of the surging power in her veins when she had worked with Emma less than an hour before. Her hands grew hot and the tips of her fingers tingled, a sensation similar to pins and needles when the blood rushes back into numbed limbs, but her arms were still pinned tight as Zelena continued to squeeze. The prickling intensified and developed into a painful throbbing as she focused all her attention on Henry, on magic, on the feeling of loving and being loved.
Light burst from her hands and slammed into Zelena, knocking her back across the room where she hit the opposite wall just as Regina hit the floor, free again. Regina didn’t hesitate, the smoke quickly accumulating around her as she propelled herself away before Zelena could react, vanishing as her sister hurled a bolt of green lightning uselessly after her.
She had reappeared at Snow and Charming’s apartment, causing Mary Margaret to shriek in surprise, having only just got over the fright of Emma materializing suddenly in the living room minutes earlier. Regina pitched forward, reaching out to brace herself against the wall, still shaken by Zelena’s attack and the exertion of her own magic.
“She’s here,” she managed to whisper.
Emma was at her side in a moment, reaching out to steady her. “Are you ok? Did she hurt you?”
“I’m fine,” Regina replied, struggling to compose herself. “She’s at my house, but she won’t be for long. We need to get moving.”
Emma was immediately focused. She was so ready for this; she was was completely in the zone. “Mom, Dad, we need to keep everyone in their houses and off the street. Can you guys handle that?”
David nodded, “I’ll coordinate the sheriff's office; call around the town network and pass the word on.”
“I’ll call Granny’s and make sure everyone who’s out on the street gets inside,” Mary Margaret offered.
Emma noticed that Regina’s hands were trembling, and she took Regina’s arm, gaze earnest, seeking the reassurance of contact. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
Regina wasn’t sure if her shakiness was from the shock, or the emotion, or the sudden exertion of magic, but she waved away Emma’s concern, already feeling more steady and secure in her presence, with the knowledge that her magic was there waiting to be drawn upon. She was ready to be done with her sister.
“It’s just the adrenaline; I’m fine. Are you ready to do this?”
“Then lets finish this witch.”
The plan had been simple. Use their combined light magic to overpower Zelena, and then use the spell that had trapped Sidney Glass first in his lamp, and later in Regina’s mirror, to imprison Zelena in the pendant to which her magic was tethered. It should have worked. It should have been easy.
They heard Zelena’s taunting voice drifting up from the street outside, and Emma was halfway out the door before Regina stopped her, performing a quick glamour spell to replace her sweatpants with a black pencil skirt, black boots, and black tailored jacket.
“You’re worried about your outfit right now?” Emma stares in disbelief.
“I am not going to a showdown with my sister in my pajamas,” the other woman responded firmly.
“Well, are you satisfied with your look? Because we’ve got a witch to get rid of!” Emma called back to her as she hopped down the stairs two at a time.
“Intimidation is as much about performance as power, Miss Swan,” Regina called after her. It was also about feeling the part. Zelena had caught her unawares,and her most vulnerable, and for Regina, her appearance was like armor.
They exited Mary Margaret and David’s apartment, and saw Zelena waiting for them in front of the clock tower.
“Well well, I didn’t expect you to run to the saviour for help, sis. She wasn’t much use last time, was she? Couldn’t save whatshisname- Humphrey? Harry? Hector!”
“Henry,” Emma growled.
And suddenly Regina managed to put her finger on what had felt off since Emma reached out to steady her. Regina had been focused on her own nervous anticipation, and had sensed that reflected back in the other woman. But it was more than that.
She stared at Emma, horrified as she recognized that the magic she sensed was not the magic they had been using from the last few weeks. It was angry and hot and black and nothing compared the the power that was rolling off Zelena. The realization struck her too late to stop Emma, who raised her arms to summon her magic and then stared in confusion at the darkness that came forth. And Zelena realized right after that, as she easily batted away Emma’s attack, and called up her own magic to respond.
It had all happened so fast. Zelena’s power had been quick and brutal, and Emma had crumpled like paper. Regina did the only thing she could think of. She grabbed Emma and got them out of there.
It’s that voice again; softer now, no longer crying out but still with an edge of fear. She feels cool fingers brush the tangle of hair away from her face.
“Emma, can you hear me?”
Regina. It’s Regina.
Emma’s eyes snap open, staring wildly, trying to bring the woman’s face into focus. She becomes slowly aware of Regina’s arm supporting her head, of her weight against the other woman’s body, of the hard floor where she’s lying. She struggles to sit up but the pain stabs through her head and she falls back against Regina.
“Wha…” she starts, but it’s hard to form words, her speech is slurred and her mouth feels like cotton.
Her parents are next to her in seconds, their hands gripping hers, touching her face, trying to reassure themselves that she is alright, that the broken body they’d watched Regina transport into their apartment wasn’t their dead daughter but just an apparition. Snow clutches Emma to her, barely able to believe that such a horror could have been so blessedly short lived. That Emma was alive.
“Give us some space,” Regina murmurs warningly. “I’m trying to heal her.”
The Charmings grudgingly oblige, but they hover close by, watching Regina work her magic as David squeezes Mary Margaret’s shoulders comfortingly.
“I’m ok,” Emma smiles at them weakly, trying her best to be reassuring because this clearly isn’t over and she needs to know what’s going on. She tries again to make her mouth form the words. “What happened?”
“You’re using dark magic,” Regina replies flatly, ignoring the gasps and looks of confused horror from David and Mary Margaret. “We couldn’t work together like that. I managed to hold her off, but I couldn’t beat her. It’s going to take both of us.”
Emma tries to piece the fragments of her shattered memory back together. She remembers heading out with Regina to meet Zelena in front of the clocktower. She thinks of the rage that boiled up when she saw that woman’s evil grin; of the heat that sizzled at her fingertips, itching to close around that green neck.
Dark magic. Magic born from rage.
Zelena’s magic was stronger. She had picked Emma up and tossed her about like a doll, Regina’s light magic slowing her down but not enough, providing little more than a hindrance. Zelena was prepared this time, she knew what she was up against. As it was, it took all of Regina’s efforts to keep herself and Emma safe; and she had to make sure they were both safe, because if one of them died the other would never be able to defeat Zelena alone.
“Since when do you use dark magic?” Snow is asking, but Emma doesn’t answer. She’s already feeling defeated. All that work, and in the end it’s been for nothing. Zelena is going to win.
There is little that motivates Emma more than her fear of failure; the terror that she will let people down, that she won’t be enough, that she can’t be worthy. And here she is, living out all those failed expectations, and everyone she loves will pay for it. Who will Zelena take first; will it be Neal? Or her parents? Or will it be her? Does Zelena care about making Emma suffer as well as Regina, or will she not even live long enough to know who died and how? The thought is sickening and she can barely breathe with the terror of it, of the repercussions of her careless actions.
“I screwed up,” Emma whispers through choked tears. “It’s my fault-”
Regina reads the defeat and fear in her face as she works to heal Emma’s broken body, and her voice is gentle but determined as she wills Emma out of this mindset.
“You’re just focusing on the wrong things. Remember what we talked about before? About remembering everything that Henry was, everything he stood for, and not what we’ve lost? Henry brought you here to save this town; to bring back the happy endings. But he gave you a happy ending, and me too; he gave us both family. She’s taken our son, but that witch cannot take his legacy. We won’t let her take that.”
Emma’s arms and legs feel like lead and her head is pounding. It’s all she can do to stop herself from throwing up. She leans back against Regina as the other woman’s fingertips graze her temples. She can feel the magic thrumming there and her skin starts to cool, the fog in her head slowly clearing, the feeling returning to her limbs. She closes her eyes, breathing deep, focusing on the feeling of Regina’s magic flowing through her, pulling in more, taking what she needs. She thinks about how it felt just an hour ago when she was in Regina’s house, watching a jack russell terrier that used to be a table charging around the living room as she floated in the air and laughed at the other woman’s feigned annoyance. She tries to remember how good it felt, that closeness, that sense of invincibility.
Feeling stronger now, she sits up slowly, taking Regina’s arm as she struggles to her feet.
“How do you feel? Can you stand?”
Emma rolls her head back and forth, and stretches out her back. Everything seems to be in working order. “I think I’m ok.”
“Should she be going back out there?” Snow’s voice is full of concern.
“She has to,” Regina replies, watching Emma warily with barely masked concern in her own voice.
“I’m ok,” Emma says decisively, referring to her mind more than her body. Regina’s magic has stirred something in her and she feels more centered now, her head more clear. She focuses carefully and opens her palm watching the light start to shine there, getting brighter as her confidence grows. She smiles, relieved, and looks up to see her emotions reflected in Regina.
“WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!”
A bellowing voice breaks through her concentration.
They are out of time. Leroy is already trumpeting in the streets, whipping the townsfolk into a frenzy as their screams punctuate the green explosions that burst brightly outside the window. There’s no time for debate. She just has to be ready now. She is ready; she’s been working with Regina for weeks. They can do this.
“We’ve gotta get those people off the street, now.” David is heading for the door, and Mary Margaret is picking up the phone again to try and coordinate the management of the town’s inhabitants.
“Ready?” Regina asks Emma softly.
“Ready.” She can’t let Regina down. If she fails again, Zelena will kill everyone she cares about, and all Henry’s heroism would have been for nothing. She has to believe in herself.
“Emma? Regina?” They pause at Snow’s call. “Be careful. And give her hell.”
Back out on the street Zelena laughs in their faces as she sees them coming towards her.
“Back for round two? I don’t know if that’s brave or just plain stupid. But it’s your funeral.”
“Nope. It’s yours,” Emma corrects her, and there’s a smile pulling at the corner of her lips in spite of the danger they are walking into because she feels different this time, and as she reaches out to brush her fingers against Regina’s she feels their connection clearly. They are on the same page again; this is how it should be. Zelena cannot beat them. They are going to win.
“If you say so, love,” Zelena sneers, and hurls a bolt of green at them too fast for Emma to react.
Not not too fast for Regina, though. She draws on Emma’s power and deflects Zelena’s attack easily.
The evil witch cocks her head, interested in this new development. “Well now… what’s going on here?”
She seizes Regina, pinning her arms and lifting her up with one hand while she swats at Emma with the other, but Regina easily breaks free of those awful restraints and Emma braces herself before she’s thrown into a wall, absorbing the force of Zelena’s blow and landing easily on her feet. They continue to advance, circling the witch, Emma smiling as she sees the look of glee that passes over Regina’s face, as Zelena’s is becoming a mask of confusion.
“What have you done?” There’s no mistaking the edge of fear in Zelena’s voice.
“Worried, sis?” Regina hisses back, smirking.
Zelena lashes out at her but Emma easily catches the spell and binds it to Zelena. The connection between Regina and Emma is something close to telepathy now; though they can’t hear each others’ thoughts, their intention is crystal clear. It’s there in their magic in the seconds before their spells actualize. It’s in their anticipation of Zelena’s actions. It’s in their awareness of each others’ behaviours and habits and personalities and emotions. They sense what the other is going to do right before they do it, and fully commit their magic to the cause. Zelena doesn’t stand a chance. Even if she had half their magic, they know each other too well, and she doesn’t know them at all.
“You can’t kill me!” she is shrieking wildly, her magic all but exhausted as she is increasingly bound by Emma and Regina’s spell. “I’m invincible!”
“We don’t need to kill you,” Emma replies calmly. “We just need to put you in a prison that can actually hold you.”
Zelena understands her meaning too late; she is hit by a blast of white light from both sides as Regina and Emma pour all their energy into binding Zelena, making her smaller, overpowering her until they can’t see her at all; there’s only the blinding light of their magic and her high pitched scream.
Regina and Emma relax and the light disappears, the street dark once more. Zelena is gone. The silence is broken by the trill of metal hitting the ground; her pendant, dull and blackened now. This is all that remains of her. Regina picks it up, examining it for signs of life.
“Did it work?” Emma is at her side, peering at the pendant.
“I think so,” Regina nods decisively.
“So… what do we do with it now?”
“Keep it somewhere safe. Somewhere no one else can get to it.”
She’s about to ask where exactly Regina means, when a shriek of Emma! pierces the air, and her mother is hurtling towards her, crashing into her arms with David hot on her heals. And suddenly the streets are full as the town’s inhabitants pour from their various hiding places, whooping and cheering and clapping Emma enthusiastically on the back. She strains to keep track of Regina, but the woman has melted away into the night. She stares around distractedly, but everyone is pulling at her and demanding her attention. She reaches out in her mind, fumbling about uncertainly because she doesn’t really know how to do this, but she knows she should be able to tell if Regina is there. She’s not. She hasn’t gone far though, there’s the faint sense of her still lingering, and it temporarily reassures Emma enough to allow her parents to pull her towards Granny’s where a crowd is gathering, beer is flowing, and people are congratulating each other loudly.
It’s an hour later when Regina reappears. No one notices her come into the diner right away; the alcohol is flowing freely as Granny is in a generous mood following the vanquishing of the town’s latest villain. The noise of the chatter inside is loud enough to drown out the sound of the bell tinkling as Regina enters, but Emma senses she’s there right away and her head snaps up from where she sits with Mary Margaret and David. They notice Emma’s sudden call to attention and look over to see Regina lingering in the doorway uncertainly.
“There she is!” David proclaims, getting to his feet.
All eyes turn to Regina, and a roaring cheer goes up in the diner as several patrons get to their feet in applause. Emma smiles as Regina looks about in complete bewilderment, allowing David to take her arm and guide her to a seat. Ruby sets a drink in front of her with a big smile and the assurance that heroes drink for free. Mary Margaret is beaming at her former stepmother as she settles at the table, giving uncertain smiles to those who are brave enough to hurry over and shake her hand, or just offer a tip of their cap, or a little bow (old habits die hard).
“Everyone knows you’re a hero now,” Mary Margaret tells her proudly.
“She’s been a hero for a long time,” Emma corrects her, resisting the urge to reach out to Regina.
The connection still lingers between them, but it’s faint and it’s hard not to want it back, especially when emotions are running high and the town is reaching a relief-driven 2am fever-pitch in this compact space. And Regina looks so overwhelmed and uncomfortable, sitting stiffly as her hands grip her seat. Robin and Marian are here, Emma notes nervously. She reaches out under the table and lets her fingers graze Regina’s knuckles lightly. The other woman looks up at her quickly.
“You ok?” Emma murmurs.
Regina nods. “Just tired. That was… a lot. I think I might just… head home.”
“That sounds like a great idea,” Emma replies, relieved. Her headache is starting to come back and it seems like a good idea to maybe take it easy after having been half broken open in a witch fight, regardless of Regina’s healing contributions.
“We were just going to head out too,” Mary Margaret agrees. “I don’t know how Neal is sleeping through all this.”
David peers into the bassinet at the sleeping boy. “I swear as soon as we get out into the quiet, he’ll wake up again. This must be like white noise to him.”
They start gathering their baby supplies together; stroller, diaper bag, secondary bag of toys and blankets, bassinet, and Emma realizes it’s going to be nothing less than a huge scene if they try to follow her parents out as they negotiate the tightly packed crowd with all their baggage.
“Maybe we should just sneak out the back?” she suggests, and the look on Regina’s face tells her this is a very good idea, so she kisses her parents goodbye and they slip through the crowd towards the back door and out into the quiet of the night.
No one notices them go, everyone caught up in the celebrations and sheer relief. Almost no one. Hook watches Emma disappearing with Regina again, and sighs thinking that maybe, this time, he had met his match. Maybe he really had lost Emma Swan. Maybe he never had her in the first place.
He settles down to commiserate with his beer, but there’s a little voice in his ear that says, “Don’t give up. She could still be yours.”
The voice isn’t in his imagination. Tinkerbell slips into the booth next to him, glowering in the direction in which Emma has just disappeared with Regina; away from Robin Hood, who now sits with his wife, who was supposed to be dead. All because Emma brought her back and reunited them. None of this is going as it is supposed to. Emma is screwing with destiny, and Tink had given everything to ensure that Regina would have a chance to love again. She isn’t going to let Emma screw that up. This is fate. This is soulmates. True love.
Tink takes a long gulp of her beer as she watches Robin with Marian. They seem awkward with each other; trying to become accustomed to each other after years of separation.
Regina wouldn’t listen to her now, that much was certain; her defenses went way up when she was hurt and afraid. But maybe Robin could be persuaded...