"Oh, it sounded like such a peaceful life at the time, leave everyone and everything behind" Snow practically cooed, the baby in her arms babbling as she spoke and the daughter smiling warmly at her only helping to remind her of why she had chosen the other path, the harder path.
Hook scoffed loudly enough as he raised his glass ready for a long pull of golden ale, "like mother, like daughter."
"Hook." Emma couldn't say she wasn't slightly pleased at the grunt of pain he let out as she gave a sharp elbow dig to his ribs. All eyes instantly turned to her, Ruby looking a little more than surprised, her mother looking somewhat disappointed that their earlier chats still hadn't had the desired effect and Henry was, as expected, instantly on the defence.
"What is he talking about?"
David shifted in place behind the booth and leaned over in order to turn another page of the storybook that had led them to that moment, uncursed and reunited. "Should we read more stories?"
"Actually," Emma's spine instantly stiffened at the sound of a voice she knew would only aid in Henry's questioning, an adult that wasn't going to tell him to be quiet or just leave it, "I'd like to know what the pirate is talking about."
Green eyes closed in emotional exhaustion, she was ready to drop, to simply fall to the ground and not move for the rest of her life. "It's nothing."
"Are you planning on going back to New York?" she watched the tiny flickers of the blonde's facial muscles, the clenching jaw ready for verbal battle, the furrowed brow as she fought to keep calm and not scream out at the top of her lungs in sheer frustration.
Henry's eyes widened in panic at the thought of leaving Storybrooke, "why would we go back to New York?"
"You're not," Regina answered instantly, her voice steady though there was just a hint of fear dancing within those syllables, a tone only Emma could identify for she knew the brunette all too well. "Right Miss Swan?"
She inhaled deeply, attempting to quell the fiery rage bubbling within her veins, the need to defend her own thoughts and confused feelings almost drowning her as all dared to gape at her. "Actually, it's complicated."
"Why would we leave?" the same question beginning to stamp on her very last nerve, "this is our home."
"Your home." she thought to herself, the same sense of self-loathing clawing at her as it had since the moment they had crossed the town line. She had expected to feel relief, to feel like she was where she belonged…to feel anything other than the need to run. Here were her parents, the two she had spent all of her life looking for, the whole reason she had become a bounty hunter, a person who found things and she had done that, she had found them…"Henry," she breathed out slowly, her eyes finally opening to look at her son, "this isn't the time or place."
"I think it is."
"No," she snapped, fierce eyes matching those Regina was aiming at her, a silent showdown uncommon for them, they were words and fists and fire. "It's not." and with that she turned and left, her blood boiling, her skin itching to have cold air wash over it. She should have known though, should have known that as soon as she left the building, left the heated words hanging and the beginnings of an argument open, that Regina would follow, of course she would.
"You can't just do that."
"What?" she snapped again as she spun around to face the woman, all pretences of calm gone with the closing of the diner door as she fell into familiar territory, feeling just a twinge of normalcy for the first time in over a year, "what can't I 'just do' Regina?" she mocked with air quotes, almost excited when a flash of fury burned through chocolate orbs, full lips parted, pulled upwards in the beginnings of a snarl.
"You can't just shut me out like I don't matter anymore," she spat coming closer to the blonde standing just past the gate to Granny's, heels clicking furiously as she strode over "I'm still his mother."
"And so am I," Emma gave back with just as much force, adrenaline pumping through her, the long forgotten sensation almost making her light-headed, "and do you know what Your Highness?" she almost laughed at the anger she could see practically radiating from Regina now as the woman simply waited for her to continue with a sharp glare, "I'm sick of doing what others tell me I should do, what other people think is for the best."
"This is for the-"
"Oh don't give me that shit Regina," the brunette blanched at the language but said nothing as Emma opened her mouth to continue, eyes narrowed, face twisted something terrible in a scowl "the whole reason we were even in New York this past year was to get him away from all of this," she threw her arms up to gesture to the air around them, the town, "to keep him out of all this fairytale bullshit."
"But we took care of the threat," her retort was weak, the excuse a poor attempt, even Regina knew that. The resignation in dark eyes spoke volumes and had Emma softening slightly. The only reason the woman was even out here was to make sure the blonde wasn't going to just run off without Henry…
"And what happens when the next one comes huh?" she asked, exasperation replacing anger, "what happens when some freaking evil version of Mary Poppins comes flying out of a hat somewhere wielding some kind of razor bladed umbrella?" the example was ridiculous but then again, wasn't everything that happened in her life at the moment? "What happens then?"
Beige coloured lips parted for a moment before closing and opening once more, a slight sheen painting the Mayor's eyes as she averted her gaze, helplessness colouring every inch of her face, "I don't know…" it was a mere whisper but every thread of emotion was heard. The pain, the anger, the defeat…"I don't know."
"I'm not doing this to take him away from you," Emma stepped closer then, a sudden need to give comfort to the broken woman before her coming from nowhere, "you broke a curse with your love for each other, why would I want to do that?" A ghost of a smile crossed Regina's lips at the recent discovery that she was also truly loved by the son she had thought hated her…before it was gone again, the reality of what may soon happen weighing heavily upon them both, "I just…it's not safe for him here."
"I can't lose him again," a lone tear escaped the brunette's eye as her lower lip trembled at the thought, "I just can't Emma, it would end me."
"Regina, I- what?" she had been about to say something…well, something more but the way the woman had snapped her eyes up so suddenly, a question on her lips and anxiety in her eyes, it had Emma stopping and turning to follow her gaze, turning to confirm the very thing she had just stated…this town wasn't safe.
"What the hell-"
"is that thing?"
Both stood silent for a moment, only watching the cylindrical blaze illuminating the sky, one end lost within the darkening clouds and the other touching ground.
"You know we're going to have to-"
"I know." Emma sighed, not bothering to turn and face Regina, knowing as she always did that the woman would follow…
It's my si-" Regina caught herself before she actually spoke the words, the reality of having a blood relative, an actual living family member catching her off guard before the knowledge that she was now dead struck back, "Zelena's time portal," she noticed Emma's questioning gaze as they neared the wooden doors but could only look at the tornado inferno winding down and into the barn, "her death must have triggered it."
"What, you mean like a fail safe?" the blonde asked, her gaze jumping between the brunette and the barn, her mind running a mile a minute as it readied itself for yet another problem to tackle, another threat to stop, "like your fail safe, like the fail safe ready to blow up the town, like the fail safe we combined our magic to stop?."
"I'm guessing so," Regina let out on an exasperated breath, the younger woman's questioning doing nothing to help her own panicked thinking."
"So come here," Emma stated as though it was the most obvious thing in the world, the brunette turned with a furrowed brow to find her standing just before the rise of the little hill to the barn doors, "let's stop this thing."
"It's not that simple Miss Swan"
"Do you know what?" Emma bit out with frustration, her jaw set as she began moving to align with the Queen once more, "I just knew you were going to say that. It never is that simple for us is it."
As Regina neared the buckling wooden doors she could feel the sheer pull of the magic within, the strength of it, the danger of where it could lead…she jostled at the feeling of the Saviour ploughing into her back at her sudden stop though she couldn't find it in her to even register the slight pain at the back of her head.
The blonde spluttered as she stepped back, "mm, mouthful of hair," she frowned distastefully, "just what I always wanted." She'd expected at least a fleeting glare in response but the woman in front wasn't moving, wasn't blinking, wasn't even breathing it looked like. "Regina, what's wrong? Why have we stopped?"
But the brunette didn't answer, didn't even look her way when Emma rounded to the front and bent to try and catch her eye line, her attention, anything other than the eerie silence that had fallen even with the banging from the enchanted building behind them. She hadn't seen the woman's arm move but it had, her hand wrapped around something just within her coat and, from years of performing the same habit, Emma knew only one thing of which it could be.
"What does it mean?"
"I don't know Miss Swa-" but her frustrated retort desisted as she finally looked and acknowledged the blonde, recognised where her gaze was aimed and withdrew her hand, necklace in tow. "It was from my father," she spoke gently, the words barely audible above the crackling of magic all around them, "a gift for my fifth name day as well as a real tree of my own," her gloved fingers seemed to tighten around the golden tree carved pendant then, "I find it brings me solace when I need it most."
"You're afraid," not an accusation nor a barbed remark, just an observation, "what are you afraid of?" she watched as dark eyes flickered back to the doors of the barn, "the portal?"
"Of where I know it will lead."
There had been one purpose for Zelena's curse, one location and one person's timeline, Regina's.
"I can't go back there," her head was shaking slowly now, "I can't go back to that world, to that time."
"How can it be my past when it still haunts my every dream?" dark eyes were haunted as the brunette began to step back slowly, Emma reaching out towards the still hurting teenage bride.
The doors flew open with a great thud, the wood splintering with the force of the portals pull, the force that had Emma's legs lifting from the ground and her body slamming into the concrete with a sickening thud before she was dragged backwards, her hands latching onto the doorframe as she let out a yelp of both surprise and panic. Her fear grew even more as she felt the added weight on her ankle, the sharp nails digging painfully into the bare skin there as Regina clung on.
"Please," the cry had Emma's heart clenching within her chest, the cry of an innocent, of a child, of a victim, "please don't let go Emma."
But her fingers were slipping already, her nails dragging along the last splintered pieces of wood before, with a scream of both frustration and fear, both women were sucked into the fiery inferno, the tips of the blonde's fingers grazing the edge of the cracked concrete before darkness and silence fell.
"But you mustn't tell anyone that you saw me okay?"
Emma groaned at the stabbing light of day piercing through her eyelids as consciousness returned, confusion clouding her pounding head as she sat up slowly, swallowing down the nausea induced saliva beginning to fill her mouth.
"Do you promise?"
Is that a…child?"
"Not even your Papa?"
There was a pause, a small silence in which it seemed the child was thinking over whatever it was that Regina was asking her to keep quiet. "But I tell Papa everything," the little girl seemed truly torn at the request and, as Emma managed to open her eyes and look over to where the tiny brunette stood primly before a kneeling Regina, she could see just from the look in innocent dark eyes that she truly was, "he keeps really good secrets."
"I know sweetheart," the older brunette answered in a tone Emma had heard endless times with Henry though there was a sadness within, a hopeless sense of foreboding colouring the air around them, "I know but not even your Papa can know you saw me okay?"
The child frowned innocently for a moment before nodding at the woman before her, a small hand coming to touch the scarred indentation above Regina's lip, another chubby finger moving up to touch a finger to her own lip, a small smile stretching the older brunette's as she allowed the contact for only a moment longer. "You must run along now," she took the girl's hand gently within her own for a second before nudging her along the field in the direction of a stately manor Emma had only just noticed, "a lady never misses her tea time."
"That's what Mama says…"
Nothing more needed to be said as the two brunette's only looked at one another before the child seemed to remember the need to return home, "will I see you again?"
Regina inhaled before letting the breath out on a deep sigh of resignation, "I dare say you will little one, but remember" she began, eyes wide and eyebrows raised as she waited for the young girl to answer correctly.
"I won't tell, I promise."
The older brunette only gave a small nod and a tight smile in response and watched on as the little girl ran off towards, what Emma guessed was, her home.
She kept her eyes on the retreating figure as she made her way across the short distance in order to stand beside a still kneeling Regina, both watching as dark curls bounced down the child's back, the way little legs carried her strongly up the hill, remembering the, almost fond, way in which she had touch Regina's scar, one to match her own.
"She's you isn't she?" Emma questioned, though she knew the answer way before the brunette began shaking, a fist pressed tightly against her lips as she fought against a sob, "this is your past…Regina, what's going to happen?"
It was obvious from the way in which Regina was trembling, the kindness she had shown her younger self, the echoes of haunted eyes and pleas for Emma to hold on…
"Evil isn't born Miss Swan…" the brunette managed to get out finally after allowing herself the time to truly process what was happening, "you're about to see how it is made."