Being the Sheriff of Storybrooke was generally a quiet job. Even after the curse had been lifted, once the murderous rage had settled down, it was a sleepy town with little crime. In fact Emma had only used the sirens on her patrol car three times since she had been installed as town Sheriff and one of those times was an accident when she dropped her mobile phone into the passenger foot well of the vehicle.
But now Emma was tearing through the streets with sirens blaring noisily as she ran one of the town’s few red lights and skidded around a corner. Her heart was pounding and she could feel the tell-tale adrenaline rush she used to get as a bail bondswoman but this was different, this time she didn’t know what to expect.
Henry had always been a bright and sensible kid, despite all the madness that had happened around him he always maintained a level head. He was predictably childlike, more likely to think something was awesome as opposed to terrifying. Which was why Emma had come completely undone when his call came in. To hear her son, her flesh and blood, screaming down the phone for help and begging Emma to come to him was the most chilling thing that had ever happened to the blonde. What was worse was the fact that Henry was apologising, saying he hadn’t meant for it to happen. Not that Emma could get any clarity from him on what ‘it’ was. He’d hung up and she’d run from the Sheriff’s office faster than she knew she was capable of moving and thrown herself into the patrol car to make her way to the Mayor’s house.
All kinds of thoughts rushed through her head as she drove and her emotions battled between fear and anger. Anger at Regina. Over the last few weeks they had fallen into an unspoken truce, Regina had promised Henry to try to redeem herself. To be good. Emma knew that Henry was all that Regina had left and wanted them to spend some more time together. Snow had immediately agreed to the visiting rights, though Emma suspected that that was more from fear of what Regina would do if Henry was kept from her.
Regina’s magic was still patchy to say the least, she had managed to put on enough of a show to scare the good citizens of Storybrooke into submission and most of them had chosen, wisely, to leave her alone. But Emma knew from what Henry had told her that Regina’s magic had yet to make a proper reappearance and the woman had been practicing in an attempt to get back to full strength. Just a couple of weeks previously Henry had returned to Emma’s with the remnants of tears in his eyes as he animatedly told Emma that he had managed to convince Regina to stop practicing her magic so that she could demonstrate her path to redemption. The ten year old was on a mission to make Storybrooke a safe haven for everyone and prove to them that Regina should no longer be perceived as the Evil Queen.
Emma panicked as she wondered if Regina had kept her word or if her magic had caused Henry’s emergency phone call to her. She rounded the final corner and stopped the car with a screech outside the Mayoral mansion and threw the door open and ran up the stone path towards the front door.
“Henry!!” Emma cried as she thudded on the front door with her hand tightly balled up into a fist. She tried the door handle but it was locked so she called out again and pounded on the door even harder. She paused with a frown as she could hear noise inside and leaned in closer to listen.
“I’m coming in, Henry,” Emma announced loudly as she took a step back and kicked at the front door with her heavy duty Sheriff’s boots. On the third kick the lock gave way and the door flew open, allowing Emma to rush through the hallway, looking around for any sign of movement from the downstairs rooms.
“Mom, in the kitchen, hurry,” Henry’s panicked voice called out.
Emma threw herself around the corner and into the kitchen and looked around in confusion as she couldn’t see any sign of Henry. Suddenly she heard him sob and she looked around the kitchen island and stared at the scene in front of her in distress.
Slouched against one of the kitchen cupboards was Regina, she looked like she was unconscious as her head lolled heavily to the side. Her face was covered in a sheen of sweat and her skin was as pale as Regina’s olive complexion could probably go to. As troubling as that sight was it was the fact that Henry was kneeling in front of Regina, his tear stained face staring up at Emma and his hand plunged into Regina’s chest.
“I-I didn’t mean..” he started as he kept his right arm raised to the level of Regina’s heart, “it wasn’t meant.. is she dead?”
Emma just stared at the scene in front of her, unable to move. Henry had his hand around Regina’s heart while the brunette was completely unresponsive, it looked like the only thing keeping her upright was Henry’s small hand buried in her chest up to the middle of his forearm.
Henry stared between Emma and Regina in horror as more tears fell down his face and any anger Emma had immediately dissipated as she fell to her knees beside her son and stared at Regina’s limp form in front of her.
“What..” she started before taking a large, calming breath, “what happened, Henry?”
“I tried to.. to.. take her heart,” Henry said through deep breaths filled with tears, “everyone hates her, no one trusts her.. I thought if I controlled her heart they would know she couldn’t be evil any more..”
Emma stared at Henry open-mouthed.
“I read about it and I stole a potion from Mister Gold,” Henry continued as he turned to stare at his arm stuck in Regina’s chest, “but when I put my h-hand in.. she, I.. I couldn’t pull her heart out again. I can feel her heart, Emma, it’s beating but it’s really, really slow..”
Not trusting herself not to lose her temper with Henry she stood up and stepped to the other side of the boy, careful not to jostle him and his arm. She crouched down in front of Regina’s slumped head and gently reached her hand out to cup the side of her face.
“Regina,” she whispered as she gently rubbed her thumb in a comforting movement across the older woman’s cheek.
She could feel a gentle fluttering of muscles under Regina’s skin and tried again, “Regina..”
Chestnut eyes flickered open and Emma swallowed hard at the amount of pain and confusion she saw in them. Regina delicately lifted her head slightly and looked from Emma to Henry and, finally, her eyes settled on his arm disappearing into her chest.
“Mom, I’m so sorry..” Henry blubbed out through thick tears.
“H-henry,” Regina stuttered before poking her tongue out to wet her dry lips, “you h-have my heart in your hand.”
Henry nodded, “I know, I feel it, Mom.”
Emma could see Regina’s mind trying to work out what was happening, she knew Regina was wondering if Henry had meant to kill her. Emma pushed some stray hair away from Regina’s face and questioned, “how do we get out of this?”
A relief fell over Regina’s face as she began to understand this wasn’t some botched murder plot, but then the relief fell away and she flinched in pain, “Henry, d-don’t squeeze so tightly..”
Henry paled and seemed to adjust his hand as his mouth fell open and he began to formulate an apology.
Regina shook her head gently to silence him, “now, I need you to be very brave, I need you to pull my heart out..”
Henry shook his head, “no, no,” he cried, “I don’t want to do that, not anymore, please, Mom, please..”
A sad smile formed on Regina’s lips, “you have to, Sweetheart, you’ve started the process so you have to take it.”
Henry gently shook in fear as he stared in desperation at his arm, unable to move.
Emma was still in shock as she asked, “but.. he tried before.. he couldn’t..”
Regina nodded slowly, “my heart, it, it went through a change, it made it difficult for him,” she paused as a wave of pain overcome her and she attempted to keep herself together, “it will be more difficult than it usually would but you can do it, Henry..”
“W-will, can, can we put it back again?” Henry stumbled as he looked between his two mothers with pleading eyes.
Regina nodded, “yes, I can replace it.. Now, hurry and remove it, Henry.”
Emma examined the brunette’s face and realised it must have taken all of her strength to look as calm as she did. She looked at Henry who was still in shock and tearful over the whole situation.
“Henry,” Emma whispered as she wrapped a gentle arm around his shoulders, “you’ve got to do it, right now..”
“Will it hurt?” Henry asked in an impossibly quiet voice as he stared at his arm.
“A little,” Regina admitted, “but you have to do it Henry, you have to do it or it will hurt more. My heart has.. moved, it needs to be taken out..”
Emma realised that tears were falling down her face at a surprising rate and wiped them away with the back of her hand before squeezing Henry’s shoulders in support, “come on, Kid, let’s do this.. like ripping a Band Aid off..”
He nodded slowly and Regina closed her eyes tightly and turned her head to one side, her cheek flush against the kitchen door cupboard as she appeared to brace herself for what was coming.
He tightened his grip a little and cringed at the way Regina’s face contorted in barely concealed pain. He pulled but it felt like the heart wasn’t moving so he applied more pressure only to hear Regina gasp. His eyes flicked to her face and fresh tears fell down his already soaked face, “I’m sorry, Mom..” he whispered.
“It’s okay, Henry, just do it, pull.. now..” Regina whispered through clenched teeth.
Henry placed his free arm on Regina’s shoulder and pushed her away as he pulled her heart free from her chest. It started to give way and Henry climbed to his feet to get more traction and pulled harder. Emma felt Regina’s hand reach for hers and squeeze tight as the brunette let out a long cry of pain. Henry fell backwards into the kitchen island with the glowing red heart in his hand and slumped down into a sitting position, cradling the precious organ in his hands in his lap.
Emma stared from Regina to Henry in shock, she shook at Regina’s hand which was still firmly gripping hers, “Regina, God, Regina, are you..”
If Regina had looked near death when Emma first arrived she now looked like she had gone beyond death. Her pale skin was glistening with more sweat and her colour was almost grey. Her breath was coming in heavy pants and she was gently shaking at the exertion. Her eyes fluttered open and she turned her head away from the kitchen cupboard door, revealing a small track of blood that had fallen from the corner of her mouth.
“I.. I’m, I’m okay,” Regina whispered as she attempted to offer a slight smile to Henry who was staring at the heart in his trembling hands.
Emma looked from Regina to Henry and back again, “okay, right, now put it back,” she said quickly.
Regina gently shook her head, “no, I can’t, not at the moment.. I need time to..” she whispered before drifting off as she looked at Henry’s harrowed expression, “I need to recover a little.”
Henry gently got onto his knees and edged towards the two women holding the heart out delicately, “could someone.. t-take..”
When Emma realised that Regina wasn’t going to make a move for the organ she held her own hands out and helped Henry to delicately transfer the heart into her palms. Once she held the glowing, warm object in her hands she released a deep breath she was holding and looked up at Henry, “Henry, I want you to go to the car and stay there until I come out, okay?”
Henry knew there was no negotiating with Emma’s tone and stumbled to his feet and looked down at Regina with a quivering lip, “I’m sorry, Mom, I just..”
“Henry, right now,” Emma said before adding, “please.”
With a nod Henry picked up his school bag from the dining table and headed out of the house leaving the two women sitting on the cold floor of the kitchen in silence.
In the end it was Regina who broke the silence as she whispered, “are you going to kill me?”
“What?!” Emma cried, “no! Why on earth would you say that?”
Regina shifted slightly, still in obvious pain, “because you have my heart in your hands and you just sent Henry outside.”
Emma’s jaw dropped, “I would never hurt you, Regina.. you must know that..”
Pain flashed in Regina’s teary eyes and she looked away.
Emma sighed as she looked down at the heart, “so, how do we, you know, put this back?”
“We don’t do anything, Miss Swan,” Regina said breathlessly as she attempted to shift again into a more comfortable position, “I will replace my heart when I.. feel stronger..”
Emma nodded as she looked down at the heart, “will you be okay?”
Regina gave a small nod, “I will survive.”
Emma frowned, “what’s this?”
“What’s what, Miss Swan?” Regina said as she tentatively touched the corner of her mouth and examined the blood on her fingertips.
“You heart, it’s,” Emma stared, “it’s got a line, like a jagged blue line in it..”
“That’s normal,” Regina said, her tone returning to Mayor Mills strength.
“You’re lying,” Emma accused.
“I assure you..” Regina started.
“What is this line?” Emma asked again with growing anxiety.
Regina swallowed and her eyes darted around the kitchen as she debated her options before finally sighing, “when.. Henry.. When he put his hand, when I realised what he was doing.. it.. it broke my heart. That was why it was difficult for him to remove, that’s the line in the heart..”
Emma stared from the heart to Regina with an open mouth for several seconds before finding her voice again, “but.. but this, this can be fixed.. right?”
Regina pushed herself up off of the floor and leaned heavily against the kitchen counter, “yes, I can replace the heart, but not tonight, I need to restore some strength before I do that.”
Emma stood next to her and watched as Regina retrieved a plastic food storage box from a cupboard and took her heart from Emma’s hand and placed it in the box, replacing the lid as if she were putting a breast of chicken in the fridge.
“Please take Henry home,” Regina said as she blinked away a few stray tears, “tell him I’m fine, and I’m not angry with him. I.. I will see him tomorrow, after school. Like we arranged.”
Emma nodded slowly as she watched the woman in front of her trying to keep it together, “Regina.. is there, is there anything I can do?”
Regina looked up at Emma with a small smile, “I’m fine, dear..”
Emma stared at Regina for a few more seconds before she realised the infamous wall was back in place. With a sigh she made her way out of the house, taking a second to glance back as she closed the broken front door behind her.