Henry Mills sat in the dark of Granny’s Diner. With the blackout, Emma had left with David to try to find out what had caused it, and he had remained behind at the Diner. Ruby had begun lighting candles around the bar and the tables while Granny had left with Leroy to see what was being done to restore their power. It was somewhat amusing to him how dependent on electricity many of the citizens of the town had become, so dependent on something they’d have never had without his mother and her Curse.
Henry heaved a deep sigh, and felt in his pocket for the message she’d sent him via a bird.
Seriously? A raven? I think I made a mistake recommending Game of Thrones to her before I got my memory back.
The message itself had been painful. They had finally found one another, and now she didn’t want him to come over. He knew she was hurting, and had lost what she had been hesitantly building with Robin Hood, but he wished she would let him help her.
Henry had liked little Roland well enough, but even when his memories returned and he knew Robin really was Robin Hood, he had been leery of the guy, and his relationship with Regina. But it seemed to make her happier than he’d seen her for a while, so he had held his tongue, only sharing his thoughts with Emma.
Now, though, he just wanted to punch Robin right in the face for hurting his mother, even though he thought it would turn out for the better for her in the end.
Looking down at the message Regina had sent him, he knew Emma was right. She just wanted time to herself, to deal with it in her own way. He only hoped that she had come far enough to not slip back to darkness. She’d had him, and Emma, and even his grandparents helping keep her on the narrow path before, but now she was pulling away from all of them.
Henry glanced across the Diner, and back to the message in his hand before making up his mind. She and Emma had fought to get him back from Neverland, even after he had rejected her over and over again both before and after the curse had been broken. This time, he’d have to be the one doing the fighting, and he wasn’t going to let her push him away, no matter how much she thought she needed to.
He grabbed the bookbag he’d taken to the diner with Emma, and started out the door, stopping only to tell Ruby he was going home, and to let Emma know if she asked. He just didn’t say which home. He pushed open the door, stepped out into the slowly dawning winter morning, and started down Main Street toward the shortest way to 108 Mifflin.
The police cruiser pulling up – with his grandfather and Hook in it – a short distance down the street caught his attention, however. His other mother’s quite visible blond hair was nowhere in sight, and the two men seemed to be in a hurry. Henry felt a jolt in his stomach, and knew something was wrong.
He darted down the street toward them as they moved in the direction of the pawnshop, and called after them. David was the one to turn around first, looking at him in surprise.
The only thing that escaped his mouth was: “What’s going on? Where’s Ma?”
A pained expression passed over his face, and Henry’s stomach dropped.
“Henry… maybe you should go home, we’re in the middle of something –“
“No, David,” Henry cut in. “I’m just gonna follow you and find out anyway. What’s happening?”
David sighed, and gestured for Hook to continue toward the shop. “Henry… we were investigating the outage. A woman with powerful ice magic made a very large wall of ice that is surrounding the town, and it knocked down the power lines. Emma was by the wall, and found the woman, and now she’s taken Emma hostage inside some sort of cave in the wall. She’s trying to find her sister, and she thinks Gold knows where she is. Hook and I are going to try to find her so she’ll let your mom go.”
“Is… is she alright?” Henry asked, hating how shaky his voice was becoming.
“She’s okay, but we need to do this now before she freezes in there. Please, go home and wait, Henry. We’ll save her, we just have to find this sister.”
Henry opened his mouth to protest, but then snapped it shut, and nodded. David took that as him agreeing, and turned, sprinting toward the door that Hook had just disappeared into.
Henry, on the other hand, had decided it wasn’t worth the time trying to talk sense into them. There was one person who could help Emma right now without relying on hope of finding this woman’s sister. Someone who was a master of fire magic - someone they should have thought of right away. He crossed the road, and began running as fast as he could toward his original destination. Whatever had happened with Marian, he knew she would still save Emma.
Emma couldn’t stop the violent shivers that shook her body. She’d tried to keep her arms close, holding herself for warmth, but the ice cave she was in seemed to sap it out of her faster each minute that ticked by. Even talking to this woman, Elsa, while trying to move around wasn’t enough to keep her warm.
Just my luck I get trapped with an ice lady who’s as shitty at her magic as I am.
According to the other blonde – who seemed friendly and nice enough when she wasn’t trapping people in deadly ice caves – she was able to control it to some extent, but only when her sister Anna was there to help her. Unfortunately, it was that very person who was missing, and who she was looking for.
As Elsa spoke about her, Emma realized she had an Anna of sorts, herself. One who also wasn’t there: Regina. ‘I’ve got someone like that. When she’s around, I can control it, and it’s stronger. Her name’s Regina,’ she had found her voice saying, opening up to this woman that she barely knew, who was just as scared as she was. Though at the moment Regina likely hated her guts and wouldn’t lift a finger unless it was to flamebroil her with a few fireballs.
Actually, that doesn’t sounds so bad right now.
She felt her chuckle freeze in her throat as she breathed in another lungful of cold air. Oh, what she wouldn’t give for Angry!Regina right now. Or any version of the woman for that matter. It was true that when she was near it felt so much easier to use and control her magic. She’d felt it when they had deactivated the trigger, when they had practiced in Neverland, when they’d blocked out the moon, and even the training she’d given her to help defeat Zelena.
Emma felt her body shake against the ice where she had curled up in a desperate attempt to concentrate her warmth, and felt a hand on her jacket.
“Emma, don’t sleep!” she heard Elsa say, concern evident enough in her voice for Emma to realize that she was rapidly deteriorating in this cold.
“I-I’m here,” she managed to push out of her throat, even as her eyes tried to shutter closed.
“Tell me more about your son.”
“Y-You only want to know more because you know if I sleep I’ll die.” Emma lowered her head again. She didn’t have enough energy to keep talking to Elsa. Only enough to try to keep herself from slipping into sleep.
But her request about Henry helped, allowed Emma’s mind to concentrate on him and on staying awake so she could see him again, so he wouldn’t have to lose her just as Regina was pushing him away.
The worst part of it all was she was the cause of that as well. She’d played with fate and time and brought back Marian – even if she hadn’t known who she was at the time. And in doing so, she’d hurt the woman who had become one of the most important people in her life.
Maybe… maybe this is fate getting back at me. Maybe if I freeze here, I’ll stop hurting her.
Emma tried to shake her head to clear it of those thoughts, but it felt like her neck had already frozen stiff in the cold. Whatever had happened, Henry needed her, and perhaps one day Regina would need her as well.
Emma felt a pair of tears hover at the edge of her eyes, and start to freeze. After she’d gotten her memories back, other than being horrified at exactly who she had been unknowingly dating, her foremost thought had been looking forward to seeing Regina again.
It had taken some time, but during their trip to Neverland, she had come to realize that she was falling in love with the woman. She had hidden it as best she could, knowing that it wasn’t the right time and that they had to focus on Henry. But she had still felt it and struggled against it to keep it from showing, until they returned and Regina had sent her away with Henry, giving them new memories. She had almost kissed her that day, before she got into her car and driven it across the town line. Emma knew it was probably only the presence of everyone else, and her own self-doubt that kept her from doing so.
When she returned, it felt like her heart had been torn out when she saw a relationship growing between Regina and Robin Fucking Hood – at least that’s what Emma had taken to calling the man in her mind. She had heard Tinkerbell saying something about fairy dust and soulmates, and that had just about destroyed her. Her chance was gone, just like that. All she was able to do was wish Regina happiness, and it had seemed like she was happy. Hell, she’d even literally given him her heart.
Which he was utter crap at guarding. Emma found herself grumbling to herself.
But now, the happiness she’d seen blossoming in the other woman had been crushed and trampled into the ground by Emma’s own action in the past, no matter how right she’d believed it was when she did it. Now, instead of worrying if Regina could ever love her, she worried whether Regina would ever even speak to her. She could try to settle for just friendship, but not having even that… Emma wasn’t sure how she’d manage to handle that. Emma had tried, after seeing Regina and Robin, to settle for Hook. He was nice enough, or at least he seemed to be serious about turning over a new leaf, but the passion and the fire just wasn’t there, leading to her avoidance of him as of late. He just wasn’t Regina.
“Regina,” she found her lips unconsciously mouthing the name as it became harder and harder to keep thinking, harder to stay awake. Even Elsa’s distant voice calling out her name started to soften and become more muffled.
Regina, I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep my promise to make you happy again. And I… I love you. Even if you’ll never love me like that.
Regina pushed aside her plate, and nursed her glass of cider. She had ended up with a poor breakfast – her power went out halfway through making it, leaving her with uncooked turkey bacon, a sunny-side up instead of over-hard egg, and bread instead of toast. A glance out her windows had revealed the entire town as far as she could see was without any power. At the moment, she couldn’t have been happier that she was no longer the mayor.
However, upon realizing that Snow was the current mayor, she found herself regretting that fact slightly. While it would have meant working at this hour, at least she knew what she was doing. With Snow, they were all likely going to be without any power for the foreseeable future.
Regina stood, holding her cider glass in one hand as she took her plate and placed it in the sink. She didn’t even feel like rinsing it off, and that fact made her realize just how much she was hurting. She gulped down the cider, and walked toward her study, intent on a glass of her hard cider. The time of day didn’t matter; she just wanted the pain to be dulled.
She poured her glass, and held it up to her mouth, ready to sip. She saw it then, staring at her from her desk. The framed photo that Emma had given her shortly after returning. She still remembered the words Emma had spoken as she held it out to her: ‘Henry doesn’t remember you right now but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in his life. Or see how he’s been. He’s not my son, he’s ours.’
Regina felt her eyes swim with moisture as she stared at the picture, at Henry smiling widely, truly happy. She stared at Emma’s arms holding him as she stood behind him with the Statue of Liberty towering behind them both. At Emma’s face where she was bending down with her chin resting on their son’s shoulder. At the goofball grin on her face, identical to Henry’s own.
Regina closed her eyes, and gripped her glass tightly, as tears escaped her eyelids and ran down her cheeks. She was a coward. That was what she knew, and she accepted that. She had taken the easy way out. She had been too afraid to tell the truth.
Emma Swan had taken her heart, and she was never going to get it back even if she wanted to. She had realized that something was there between them the moment their magic connected as they deactivated the triggering mechanism. She had understood just what that something was in Neverland. She was hopelessly in love with a woman that she could never have.
She knew she didn’t deserve it, no matter how much Emma or Henry said she had changed. She was still the person who had killed hundreds, who had hunted Emma’s own family and tore everyone from their homes for revenge. And love? Love beyond what she had for her son was a foreign thing. Something she hadn’t felt since Daniel died and her heart had been shattered the moment her mother had crushed his in her hand. But during and after Neverland, she had been feeling it again, perhaps even stronger.
She had been scared. Scared of what Daniel would have thought, scared that it meant Daniel’s death was pointless if she hadn’t loved him as much as she now loved Emma. Scared that she didn’t deserve it, that Emma would never return it in the same way. But it was her worst fear that had led her to take that cowardly way out: the fear that if she embraced it, that it – that Emma – would be torn away from her just as Daniel had.
And so, she had uncharacteristically chosen to willingly follow ‘fate’. She had settled for her ‘soulmate’. Robin was a kind man, and she had been sure her life would be a good one with him, and with Roland. Even though deep down she knew that even if they had once been soulmates, it had been long before she had become the Queen that people so feared, and long before he met Marian and had a child with her. At least it would be with someone good.
Then, even her easy way out had been taken from her, by the woman she loved, of all possible people. Emma had gone to the past and returned with Robin’s wife, a woman she had executed long ago, and Robin had chosen Marian.
Regina was alone now. She had chosen that route, and now it was too late to even take the other one. Emma was with Hook now.
A loud hammering on her front door startled her, and she cursed as her glass sailed from her hand and crashed to the ground. She knew she should clean it up, but she still could not bring herself to care.
The pounding came again, louder and longer, and she grabbed a tissue, dabbed at her eyes, and wiped the tear tracks off of her cheeks. Muffled shouting sparked her ire as the pounding continued, and she stalked toward the door, fully ready to open it and snarl in the face of whichever idiot had decided to pay her a visit.
It was only as she neared the front hall that she could make out the voice over the hammering blows against her door.
“Mom! I know you’re in there! Please answer me! I need your help! Mom! Please, you have to help me! I know you said you didn’t want to see me, and I get it, but you gotta answer!”
As he shouted, she heard his voice pick up speed until his words were mashing together, and she could hear fear and panic in his tone
. Her heart caught in her chest and she rushed to the door, fearing the worst, that he’d been hurt somehow.
She yanked the door open, and was barely able to keep upright as he hurtled into her arms. She could feel tears drip on her shirt as he held tight, but she had to know, had to see, so she pushed him back.
Her eyes roved over his body, hands running through his hair, trying to find where he was hurt, trying to find what had him so shaken, and looking so scared.
“What’s wrong, Henry? Are you hurt?”
“No, mom, I’m okay. It’s –" his voice caught in his throat slightly. “It’s Ma. It’s Emma. Someone is holding her hostage. Someone with magic. She made a wall of ice around the town, and she’s got Emma trapped in an ice cave until we find her sister for her. Gramps is trying to find out where she is, but he said she’s freezing in there, and they need to do it soon. Mom, I don’t wanna risk them not finding the person in time. P-Please, save her. Even if you hate her right now, save her - for me.”
Regina couldn’t breath as he spoke. From the moment he said ‘It’s Ma’, it felt like a giant had settled its hand around her chest and squeezed.
She can’t die. We can’t lose her now, after what we’ve been through. Henry can’t lose her- I can’t lose her. Even if she spends the rest of her days with that slimy pirate trying to shove his tongue down her throat, we need her – she’s our family.
“I will. But Henry, I’ll need to-“
Henry nodded, and grabbed her hands. “You’ll have to use magic. I know. I don’t care about magic anymore. You’ve changed – you’ve become a good person. Save Emma.”
She smiled wanly, and meets his eyes – the eyes that looked so much like Emma’s. “I will bring her back, Henry, if I have to use every ounce of my magic. I promise you.”
He let go of her hand to swipe at the tears on his face.
“Do you know where this woman is? Where she took Emma?”
Henry shook his head. “I’m not sure. But… Emma and David went to the town line to check out the power lines. I saw David coming back by Gold’s place…”
“So they came from the northern line,” Regina completed. “Thank you, Henry. I need you to stay here while I do this.”
She knew he hated it, but she could see in his gaze that he understood why. She had no idea what she was going to be facing, and the fewer worries the better.
With a flick of her wrist, her pajamas were replaced with black slacks, a light lilac shirt, and one of her heavier coats. She leaned forward, kissed his forehead, and then focused on her destination and disappeared in a cloud of purple smoke.
An icy blast of wind greeted her as her feet hit the road near the town line, far colder than the air she had felt coming through the door when she had opened it for Henry. It took but a second to see the cause – a wall of glistening ice towered above her, radiating with magic.
Her gaze searched for any sign of Emma, or this cave that Henry had mentioned, but the face of the wall looked solid, and the only thing she could see on the road was a pair of dark rubber marks on the road that she though could have been from David’s car as he sped back to town.
Regina walked up and placed her palm against the wall. The magic sent a chill down her arm and up her spine. Whoever this was, she knew, they were powerful. But she was stronger.
Regina clamped down on her worry, and used it to fuel her magic. She closed her eyes, stretching out tendrils of magic toward the wall, and into it, searching out the cave. Fortunately, it appeared the confrontation had occurred right by the road, as her magic found the cavity quite easily. She stretched out further, and let a shaky sigh escape her lips.
She could feel Emma’s magic within, curled up and flickering and weak. But it was certainly hers, all light and airy, cinnamon and vanilla. The other person had the same magic as that of the wall – cool and crisp, like an ice cube melting in your mouth on a crisp October day. Regina pulled back, searching the cave walls instead, to find the weakest point.
Thankfully it was low, and involved little climbing on the slippery ice. Even then, she was glad she had changed into a pair of hiking boots, so she wasn’t falling on her face as she climbed the slick surface.
Regina took a slow, deep breath, and pulled on her feelings toward Emma – her love for the woman, her heartbreak at seeing her with Hook, the fear that Emma could die if she didn’t get in there soon – and Henry. She pulled it upward, and pushed it into her palm. Her fireball blazed brilliant and white-hot above her palm, more powerful than any she had produced before she had learned that she could use Light magic.
She slammed it into the ice and pressed forward. Every inch was a struggle as her magic fought against the magic contained within the ice, but it was melting, slowly but surely carving out a large hole around the ball of fire. She forced herself to ignore the gush of cold water soaking her boots as it ran down the wall, forced herself to think only of saving Emma.
Regina was gasping with exertion toward the end, but she could feel how close she was to the other side. The light from her fireball was now apparently visible from inside, as now she heard a voice shouting for help, muffled by the barrier.
She staggered as the last inch of ice disappeared, and nearly took a spill on the melt-slick floor of the tunnel she had just carved – only her ability to balance that she had come to maintain by riding horses prevented it.
Regina’s eyes swept the room, and settled on Emma’s form. The woman was shivering violently, curled up on the ground, face pale and lips turning blue. Another woman, clad in an elaborate blue dress knelt beside her, and Regina’s rage boiled up in her, barely hearing the woman’s words of ‘Please, help her.’ as she strode forward. With a snarl on her lips, and a fireball in one hand, and her other hand gripped the woman’s throat and pulled her up. “You.”
The woman, a blonde like Emma with her long hair in a braid, stared at her with terror in her eyes. “P-please, I’m sorry, I can’t control it! I didn’t mean to hurt her!”
Regina released her. The look in her eyes was the look she’d seen from those who faced the Evil Queen, and she’d come too far to slide back to that now. When Regina glanced down at the gasping woman, she realized Emma’s hand had remained gripping hers, even when Regina had forced her to stand.
“Help her,” the woman croaked out, as her free hand rubbed at her throat.
Regina’s gaze snapped back to Emma whose eyes were half closed. She looked even more pale, and Regina felt a shiver run down her back that had nothing to do with the temperature. Not wanting to waste any further time, she reached down and placed a hand on Emma’s shoulder, and another on the woman’s, and concentrated on the image of her den.
They appeared in a cloud of purple smoke, landing heavily on the ground in the den of her home, right next to the fireplace she had planned on lighting should the blackout have continued. The noise they made was enough to alert Henry, who rushed toward the room with heavy footfalls.
“Mom! Did you –“ he broke off as he entered the room and she saw fear pass over his eyes at the sight of Emma lying on the floor. “Emma! Is she okay, Mom?”
Regina shook her head, and pressed her hand to the skin of Emma’s face, shivering at how cold it was. “She’s not in great shape, Henry. We need to warm her, quickly - she’s hypothermic. Go upstairs and grab every sheet and blanket you can. And the electric blanket, and that portable electric heater I bought you for your room, just in case the power comes back on.”
Henry stood there for a moment, and then turned and dashed toward the stairs.
Regina fixed the woman with a glare. “What is your name?’
“Elsa. I’m really s-“
Regina cut her off, with a sharp wave of her hand. “Elsa, go and help him if you would like to convince me you are sorry. And if you even think of hurting my son, I’ll melt you as I did your wall.”
Elsa nodded quickly, and Regina could see her swallow heavily as she bolted from the room.
Regina turned her attention to Emma, and a flick of her wrist dried both of their clothes completely, and another lit a roaring fire in the fireplace. She grunted as she half-lifted and half-dragged the other woman enough to set her down next to the fire.
If I ever see her stuffing herself with one of those bear claws again, I’m turning it into a snake.
She pushed Emma into a sitting position, as close to the fire as she could, and slid off her own coat to drape it around her. Her arms slid around the shivering woman, trying to add as much warmth to her as she could.
She watched Emma’s eyes slide open halfway and glance at her.
“Oh, sh-shit, Elll- Elssaa,” came the first words from the blonde’s cold-stiffened jaw, escaping from behind chattering teeth. “Think this’s bad, ‘m halluc’nating now. St-stupid brain. W-wish she was here, so stop t-taunting me.”
Emma’s eyes slid closed once more and a soft breath escaped Regina’s throat. She reached up and grabbed Emma’s icy cheeks in both hands, and then gave one a sharp swat.
Emma jerked, and her eyes flew open, and she stared at Regina. “Um. Shit, that hurt. Okay, am I g-going crazy? R-Regina?”
“I can’t speak for how crazy you are, but I’m most certainly real, Emma.”
“Regina! I’m c-cold. Did you… find me?” Emma asked, her heavy-lidded eyes gazing at her in confusion.
“Yes. Henry told me what happened and I melted a hole in the wall. Henry and your little ice friend are getting blankets for you. Are you addicted to getting yourself into trouble every few days, Emma?”
Emma chuckled, and leaned forward to apparently try to press as much of her body against Regina as she could. “Y-yeah, guess so. You’re super warm. T-thanks. For comin’. I thought y’still hated me.”
Regina let out a pained breath at that, and wrapped her arms around the woman. “I don’t, nor did I. I was hurt, but I find myself unable to hate you, my dear.”
A ghost of a smile crossed Emma’s lips – Regina noted that they seemed to be regaining a slight amount of color. “G-good. Regina… I… I’m pretty sure I w-woulda died in there if you hadn’t come for me. I… I need to tell you someth-thing –“
Whatever she had been about to say was cut off by the sound of Henry entering the room. When Regina turned her head toward him, she couldn’t hold back a soft chuckle – a Henry-sized ball of sheets and blankets had entered the room.
Emma tried to turn her head to look, but seemed to shudder when she pulled away from Regina’s body and quickly moved back into place.
Regina watched as Henry tried to navigate around the chair, and finally dumped the large pile onto the ground behind her.
“Emma!” He exclaimed when he was greeted with the sight of her sitting upright against his other mother. He hurried around in front of them, and knelt down, and his face lit up when Emma turned her head enough against Regina’s shoulder so that she could see him.
“H-hey kid. Hear I got you t’thank for telling your mom.”
Regina smiled when the fear she had seen in his eyes before melted away.
“Yeah, I asked gramps what was happening, and I figured Mom was your best chance,” he said, ducking his head.
“Good thinkin’.” Emma said, a large involuntary shiver running through her body.
Regina was about to say something to Henry when she felt a warm, fluffy blanket being draped around her and Emma’s shoulders. She glanced back, only to see the nervous visage of Elsa, gripping another blanket in her hands, a question in her eyes.
Regina nodded – she didn’t want to let go of Emma, no matter how hard it would make things for her when this was over and Emma left back to her pirate, and having a warm body in a cocoon of blankets would help her heat up faster. The girl smiled back, and carefully put another, larger blanket around them. Henry grabbed the ends draping to the front, overlapped them across their laps, and looked back up, waiting for the next blanket.
“Hmm, wait,” Emma said, apparently only then realizing what was happening. “Aren’t we supposed to get naked or something? L-like that body heat stuff in the movies?”
“Idiot,” Regina said rolling her eyes affectionately. “That’s if your clothes are wet.”
“Damn,” Emma muttered, and Regina felt her heart skip a beat.
“Ma!” Henry groaned out, and Regina watched his face turn bright red. “First, gross. Second, if you two are getting naked together, do it when I’m not in the house!”
It was Regina’s turn to feel her face flush at that, and she thought she heard something of a whimper come from Emma. Henry glanced up at her, and then smirked. Smirked. And in that moment that he looked so much like her, she realized he knew how she felt toward Emma, and more than likely had already been inventing an ‘Operation’ to do something about it.
She felt the room grow hotter, from the warmth under the blankets that Elsa and Henry kept heaping onto them, and from the thought of how Henry didn’t stop until his Operations were finished.
Finally the blanket pile had been exhausted, and Regina was quite sure they looked like two people hiding in a laundry cart. Elsa slowly moved around in front of them, and sat down next to Henry.
Emma seemed to notice the shift in presence, and turned her head. “Oh, yeah, R’gina, guess y-you met my new friend Elsa.”
“Obviously,” Regina drawled.
“Anyway, think we can help her? S-she’s like me… what’d you call me? ‘An idiot who can’t control her magic?’ Maybe y-you can show her some tricks.”
Regina chuckled, and tightened her hold on the other woman. “I’m sure I might be able to. I did nearly drive a ball of fire into her face.”
Emma stiffened slightly against her, and glanced up at her as best she could without moving her head.
“All Henry and I knew was that you were being held hostage,” she tried explaining further.
Elsa reached out and patted where she likely though their knees were under. “I would have done the same, had it been my Anna. I am truly sorry for this, I had not planned to do anything like this, but I was frightened…”
Regina felt Emma nod against her. “Gonna hafta talk to my dad, he went a little overprotective there, and made things worse.”
Elsa’s eyes searched Regina’s out. “So, you are… Emma’s Regina? The one who helps her control her magic?”
“I-“ Regina’s breath caught in her throat. Part of her bristled at the words, the idea of belonging to someone like they implied had been sour to her since her marriage to Leopold. But somehow it didn’t bother her when it was Emma that those words implied about. “Yes. I suppose I am.”
Elsa smiled and inclined her head, and from the way she did it Regina knew instantly that she was someone of noble birth. Perhaps a Duchess, or even a Princess or Queen. She had been taught the same, had that movement drilled into her head by Cora.
Elsa had opened her mouth to say something else when a loud crackle of static broke the silence of the room, and made her jump. Regina could see ice crystals form across her clenched hands. Henry seemed to notice as well, and he carefully grabbed the walkie-talkie that Elsa had set next to her as a voice crackled over it.
“Elsa?” David’s voice called over the airwaves. “Elsa, we haven’t found your sister, but we have something that will help you locate her. We’re at the wall – where did you go? Is Emma okay?”
Henry pressed the transmit button and raised it to his mouth. “Gramps, it’s Henry. Emma’s okay, and Elsa’s here with us. Mom got them out of the ice, and we’re at her house now.”
“Thank god,” David said, audibly relieved. “We’re coming over there. You’re sure she’s okay?”
“Yeah, we’re warming her up. Could you wait on coming over? I think Ma needs to sleep, and she and Mom definitely need to talk. I’ll come over..” Henry glanced at Elsa, who was staring at the walkie-talkie with hope in her eyes. “You wanna come too?”
Elsa glanced hesitantly toward Regina, who sighed, and inclined her head.
Henry, watching the exchange, thumbed the button again. “Alright, me and Elsa are headed down to the Sherriff’s station, and Mom’ll call me when they’re done.”
“Are… are you sure, Henry?” David’s voice came back, this time much more cautious. “Is that a good idea?”
“Yeah. Elsa’s nice. She’s been helping.”
“Oh,” David said, sounding slightly flustered. “I actually meant, you know…
“Yes.” Henry said firmly back. “I’m sure. It’ll be fine. Mom’s taking care of Emma. She’s not gonna kill her in her sleep or something.”
There was a long pause, and Regina figured he was actually considering what the chances were that she would do that. “Okay. I’m headed back to the station, I’ll meet you there.”
Elsa stood with Henry, and walked toward the front door while Henry bent down and hugged both Regina and Emma. “You are gonna be okay, right Ma?
“Yeah, Henry, I’ll be fine. Already feelin’ a lot warmer.”
Henry pulled back, and looked at both of them, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Please talk. I like it when you get along with each other.”
“We will,” Regina promised, and watched as he nodded and shuffled out of the room.
As the front door opened and then closed, she glanced down at Emma. “You do trust her, Emma?”
“Yeah. I do. She was just scared, and doesn’t have much control, and she was worried about her sister. And, ‘sides, she reminds me a lot of myself.”
“That hardly inspires me with confidence, given that you dated a flying monkey,” Regina said, and then instantly regretted the words, having just promised to try to mend things with Emma. She was relieved when another glance revealed a grin on Emma’s lips.
“God, I’m never gonna live that one down. I missed Snarky Regina,” Emma confessed quietly, and then lowered her gaze. “Look… I’m sorry. I had no idea that’s who Marian was. Of all the damn people I could have run into there, it was her. I didn’t want to do that to you, Regina. You deserve happiness, and I fucked that up for you. And I’m sorry.”
Regina chewed on her lip for a moment, her thumb idly toying with her ring. “I know, Emma, and I accept your apology. I… I am not angry with you, and I do not hate you. I was just… it hurt that it was you. You’re essentially the only real friend I have, and it hurt.” She shook her head when Emma started to protest her last statement. “I know you’re about to mention your mother, but while we have started to reconcile, I don’t believe we will ever get past some of our history completely. We may forgive, but it’s not something we can forget.”
She sighed, shifting slightly in her seated position. “Emma, I don’t blame you for saving Marian. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. It’s in your nature, and that is what I like about you. Not to mention you’re the Savior.”
“Ugh,” Emma moaned. “Don’t remind me. I’m really starting to hate that. I was the ‘Savior’ because I was the one that was supposed to break the curse. But everyone kept using that title after, and I was dumb enough to let them an use it myself, and now it’s some big thing. You broke Zelena’s curse, and you certainly just saved me from being a popsicle, Regina – you’re just as much a ‘Savior’ as I am.”
Regina felt something in her chest tighten and warm at those words, at the sincerity in Emma’s voice when she said it. Emma continued, pulling away from her enough to tilt her head upwards and look directly at Regina.
“It wasn’t just me seeing someone in danger and saving her, y’know. I met her. The Evil Queen. I met her and I realized how much not-you she was. And I know that weight you’re holding on your shoulders for each death that you caused when you were that person.” Regina felt the warm breath against her neck as Emma sighed. “I couldn’t let Marian die, because I thought that if I could wipe even one of those people from your conscience it would be worth it, that it would help you somehow. Because I know you’re broken – I can see it because I’m broken too, but what happened to you… what your mom did to you, what Rumple did, what the darkness you slipped into you did, it broke you worse than anything I went through. I know having Henry has helped you, but I just want to help put you back together too.”
Regina stared down at her, and didn’t even realize she was crying until one of Emma’s still-cold hands reached up, and she brushed at one of Regina’s cheek with icy fingers that came away slick with her tears.
“E-Emma,” Regina choked out, her eyes blurring. “You…”
She blinked away fresh tears, and cleared her throat. “Thank you,” she said, her voice wavering. “I’ve spent my life with people trying to control me and use me, and they never cared how I felt. Not since… Daniel. I… I don’t know what to say, other than thank you for seeing me, and thinking of me.”
Emma swallowed, and nodded, letting her hand drop from the brunette’s cheek and land on her shoulder. “Y-you’re welcome, Regina. You deserve to have someone looking out for you, and I’ll do that as long as I’m around, or as long as you want me to.”
She bit down on her lower lip, her eyes flickering across Regina’s face. She had been about to say this earlier before Henry had come in, but now, the way Regina was talking to her and holding her, she thought that perhaps her fears had been unfounded. There was really only one way to find out for sure.
“Regina… what I was saying before… I… the thought that I might have died and left Henry… and you… It terrified me. And I guess I realized that something like that could happen any day, to any of us. I’ve been bottling something up for so long now, and I think I need to just tell you, even if you’ll never look at me again after you hear it.”
A frown creased Regina’s lips – plum-colored lipstick glistening in the light of the fire – and Emma found herself focusing on them as they moved. “What is it, Emma?” Her voice asked softly.
Emma closed her eyes for a moment, and sucked in a breath. “Regina, ever since Neverland, I’ve been feeling something. You’re… you’ve become my friend, but I’ve been feeling some, uh, not-friendship stuff. Not that I don’t want to be your friend or whatever, I really do and you’re pretty awesome now that we’ve gotten over the whole being at each other’s throats thing, but… ugh.”
Emma felt her cheeks flush, and she knew she was shoving her foot firmly in her mouth trying to explain how she felt. Her blush rose higher on her skin when that far too perfect eyebrow of Regina’s rose upward.
“Please, just come out and say it, Miss Swan.”
Emma huffed, a grimace contorting her face. “Damnit woman, I’m trying. I suck at this sort of stuff. I.. Okay, I’m in love with you, and I have been since Neverland. There, happy?” She asked a bit petulantly.
But she felt her mouth dry out and her heart leap in her chest when she saw Regina’s eyes widen for a moment, and then crinkle around the edges. A smile – the largest Emma had ever seen grace the woman’s lips – blossomed across her face.
Regina’s hand was warm as it reached up and molded itself to one of Emma’s cheeks. “Yes,” she said, sounding almost breathless. “Emma, that makes me very happy.”
A tear slid down Regina’s cheek, and Emma could feel her own heart hammering heavy in her chest.
“I… feel the same way about you, Emma. I… I love you.”
“How long?” Emma heard the whispered words and it took her a moment to realize they had escaped her own mouth.
“Since the trigger. At least. I was probably falling for you before that, and didn’t even know it. I-I… When I realized what I felt, it scared me. I couldn’t imagine you feeling the same way after everything that had happened, and I was afraid that even if you did, someone would take you from me like my mother did to Daniel. And then you had that pirate following you like a lost puppy when you came back with Henry.”
Emma chuckled, not caring that her heart was just about exploding, and reached up to keep Regina from pulling her hand away from her cheek. “We’re a bunch of idiots, aren’t we? Guess we make quite a pair. I didn’t think you’d feel like this about me either, and then when I came back, you were all flirty with Robin Hood. If we’d just sucked it up and said it in the first place, things would have been so much easier.”
Regina leaned own, allowing her forehead to press against Emma’s. “True, but then we wouldn’t have been ourselves. We can’t help but do things the hard way. Robin was… he was safe. I thought I could make a life with him if I couldn’t be with you.”
“So the whole soulmate thing…”
“Was a lifetime ago. Before I was the mayor, before I met you, before I was the Evil Queen, and before he met his wife and had his son. We’re not the same people as we were. I… may have come to love him eventually, but that can’t happen now.”
Emma’s lips quirked into a lopsided smile. “I’ll tell Hook it’s over with us when I see him next. It was… sort dying between us anyway I think.” Her eyes widened then. “I mean, I guess I will, if you wanna, like date me or whatever, I guess I was assuming you did, but-“
Regina pressed a finger against her lips before she managed to fit another foot inside her mouth. “Shut up and kiss me, you beautiful idiot.”
So she did.
Henry opened the door quietly several hours later, and glanced back at his grandparents who stood on the front porch, and Hook who was standing behind him. “I’ll check on them and let you know if it’s safe to come in,” he said.
He slipped in, and closed the door behind him, knowing his grandparents were likely thinking of fireballs being hurled across the mansion or something. Everything in the mansion was quiet, and he kicked off his shoes and tiptoed toward the den.
Peeking in through the doorway, he saw that both his mothers had moved away from the fireplace at some point, shedding most of the sheets and blankets which now lay haphazardly next to the dying fire. He could see the tops of their heads over the back of the couch, and as he stepped into the room he saw they were both asleep, Regina in the middle of the couch with Emma using her shoulder as a pillow.
He smiled and stepped back out of the room, heading back to the door. He opened it enough to stick his head out, and Snow and David took a step forward.
“Um, they’re both asleep right now, but they’re both fine. Emma looks pretty exhausted though, why don’t I call you when she wakes up?”
“You’re sure she’s okay?”
Henry nodded. “I checked on her. She’s all warmed back up and everything.”
David looked unsure for a moment, but finally nodded, and paced a hand on Snow’s shoulder. “Okay, we’ll see you later Henry.”
“See you guys,” he said, waving, and closed the door. Hook had been staring somewhat forlornly at the entrance as he did. Henry felt only a little bad for him. He had been turning into a somewhat okay person, but he simply wasn’t what his Ma needed.
After he locked the door, Henry slipped back into the den as quietly as he could, and rounded the couch, getting a better look at his moms, who had their arms around each other, and their legs tangled up with one another’s where they rested on the floor. A little puddle of drool decorated the front of Regina’s shirt where Emma’s mouth rested against it.
This Operation had been brewing since he’d gotten his memory back, or perhaps even before – even when he hadn’t had his memories and thought Emma was hiding things, from their interactions he had thought that she was hiding that Regina had been her ex-girlfriend or something of the sort. When his memory returned, he had thought it would be a bumpy ride for his Operation after Marian returned, but apparently an ice cave and a frightened Queen had been all that was needed to get it back on course. He carefully sat on the couch on the other side of Regina and leaned his head against her shoulder much like his mother was, yawning widely.
Despite the unexpected changes and shortened timeline, he smiled to himself as he started to drift to sleep. Judging from the smudged lipstick marks he had seen peppering Emma’s face, Operation Swan-Mills had been a resounding success.