Work Header

Only Time

Work Text:

It's been five minutes since Emma disappeared into the darkness and Regina is still standing in the spot she was, staring blankly at the space where Emma had been just minutes before. Finally she extracts herself from Robin's arms and walks shakily to the dagger that has been sitting on the ground, the dagger that now bears Emma's name.

She whispers Emma's name, hoping the blonde will appear but the minutes drag and and there is no sign of her.

Somehow it's agreed that everyone will go home and continue their search in the morning. Regina feels like she's in a fog, that none of this is real. Vaguely she thinks that Emma could make it feel real, if only she'd appear.

She lies awake that night in Robin's arms that suddenly feel too heavy around her. He didn't choose me she thinks and tries to force those thoughts away.

Emma chose me over herself the voice whispers and she muffles a sob.


It's been a week since Emma disappeared and Regina has barely slept. She spends her days with The Charmings, Henry and Hook, searching frantically for the blonde whose absence weights like a stone in all of them.

She has to appear soon, she has to.

For the first time, Regina uses the dagger in an attempt to summon Emma. She holds her breath for what feels like an eternity, but again she is met with just silence. She spends the nights wandering the town, frantically hoping for any sign of the missing woman. She never finds one.

Robin tries to comfort her, but every time she's with him she remembers the sadness that flashed in Emma's eyes whenever she and Robin were together. She'd ignored it, tried to pretend she hadn't seen it. She wished more than anything she'd done something.


It's been a month since Emma disappeared and Regina barely leaves her house. There are still nights where she finds herself searching, but it feels pointless now. She can't feel Emma anywhere, and she admits to herself that she hadn't felt her since the night she vanished. She hadn't realized she could feel Emma at all until her presence was no longer there. She hates herself for not noticing, not realizing what it meant.

When she hears that Gold is well enough, she goes to him and asks why Emma isn't responding to her summons.

"Well dearie, my best guess is that she left town. Probably thought she wouldn't hurt anyone that way."

"Will she have magic out there? Will she age?"

"I'm afraid I can't say. Miss Swan's magic was already unusual, combined with the Dark One's power, I don't know what it would do. Only time will tell I'm afraid."

She feels better as she lies in bed that night. Of course, Emma is just frightened. She'll be back, she'll remember that she has parents, and a son, and Regina the voice whispers, who love her. She'll come home.


It's been two months since Emma has disappeared and Regina sends Robin away. She'd believed for so long that he was her happy ending, but she finally realizes that she feels nothing if Emma isn't here.

Sweet Emma who gave up everyone for Regina's happy ending, and it had been Emma the whole time. Regina sobs into her pillow each night wishing she could take it all back, whispering Emma's name in the darkness, dreaming that Emma is with her. In the moments between sleeping and waking she can almost imagine that Emma is there in her becomes the only thing she looks forward to.

Henry hears her crying one night and comes into her room.

"I miss her too mom" he chokes out and then they're huddled together on the floor sobbing together.

"But I miss you too. You can't go on like this."


It's been six months since Emma disappeared and Regina is trying to have something of a normal life again. She still spends hours at a time pouring through books and questioning Gold, but she tries to get out and live too.

She finds more comfort than she could have imagined with the Charmings. They treat her like she's always been part of the family, like their ugly past had never happened. She begins spending countless days having meals with them, cuddling baby Neal and talking about whatever comes to mind. They loved Emma too, and Regina knows that they are struggling just as much, if not more than she is. The empty space at the table is like a weight on their hearts, but at least they're in it together. Everything hurts but she's not as lonely anymore.

Hook sails away without a word and no more is heard from him.


It's been a year since Emma disappeared and Regina wonders where Emma is and why it's taking her so long to come back.

Though Emma isn't there physically, the memories of her haunt the town. She's there at Granny's, sipping hot chocolate and cinnamon. She's outside Regina's office window in a white tank top and a chainsaw in her hands. Her voice can almost be heard in the sheriff's station when she sometimes brings David lunch. No place is untouched by the emptiness Emma left.

On the anniversary of Emma's disappearance, Regina comes home and finds a bottle of root beer on her front porch. She spends the night running all over town, calling frantically for Emma, hoping that she's finally come back. No other sign of her is found, but when she asks, no one knows anything about the root beer.


It's been two years since Emma disappeared and Regina is sitting in the dark with a cupcake containing a single lit candle. It's Emma's birthday. Regina remembers "that I didn't have to be alone on my birthday" and blows out the candle hoping that wherever Emma is, she's not alone. She stays awake that nights and imagines being with Emma, hoping that the blonde can somehow sense her presence.


It's been three years since Emma disappeared and Regina answers the phone one day to a frantic Snow telling her that Emma's red jacket is missing. They search everywhere for it but it never turns up.


It's been five years since Emma disappeared and Regina is at the second birthday party of Snow and David's son Daniel.

"I'm glad it was another boy" Snow had confessed to her one day shortly after his birth.

Life is mostly normal for the Charmings these days, and if David sometimes drinks too much and Snow sometimes bursts into tears, Regina pretends not to notice.


It's been ten years since Emma disappeared and Regina is sitting on a bench overlooking the harbour, the same bench where she'd sat with Emma once. She still remembers the way Emma looked that day, her pale skin contrasting with her dark coat. It hadn't been a friendly conversation and Regina wishes, like she wishes every day that things had been different, that forgiveness had come before it was too late. She thinks of a million things she could have done differently in the time she knew Emma, and wonders if any of them would have changed anything, if any of them could have ended with Emma here next to her instead of just the sound of the waves and the salt on her face that she tells herself is spray from the sea.

That night her phone rings and when she picks it up there's nothing but faint breathing on the other end.


It's been fifteen years since Emma disappeared and Regina is at Henry's wedding. Even though he's fully grown, she still thinks of him as her little prince, and he continues to be the light of her life. He went to school in New Orleans and met a chef there called Tiana who is the spitting image of the Disney character. She thinks of the face Emma would've made when she found that out and smiles to herself. Tiana is lovely though, and after some initial surprise, has accepted the fact that she's marrying into a family of fairytale characters.

Regina sometimes lets herself wonder if Emma even survived the darkness that took her.


It's been twenty years since Emma disappeared and Regina is on her computer one day reading the news when her eyes are drawn to a flash of blonde hair in a picture of a crowd. It can't be she knows rationally, but even though it's hard to make out, she's sure it's Emma in that picture. Only the side of her face is showing but the woman's face looks exactly like Emma did the last time she saw her to decades ago.

The picture comes from a news story out of Seattle, and the next day Regina books a flight there on the excuse of needed a vacation. She wanders the area where the photo was taken, even showing old pictures of Emma to people on the street, but comes up with nothing yet again. She flies back to Maine feeling silly. Of course it wasn't Emma.

She keeps that picture of the crowd in the drawer of her desk until five years later when she drinks too much cider and throws it in the fireplace.


It's been forty years since Emma disappeared and Regina has begun to slow down. Her body is in its seventies, but with the cruse years in here, she's much older and has began to feel it. She still has an active social life, and has made many friends in the decades since the curse broke, but she doesn't feel much like throwing herself into dangerous situations like she used to. She's grown to love the town she created, and couldn't ask for a better place to live out her life.

She's at Granny's waiting to meet her granddaughter for lunch. Granny herself is long gone of course, and Ruby left Storybrooke decades ago. The diner is owned by Tiana now, but the name was never changed out of respect.

Henry named his daughter Emma of course, and Regina adores her. She got her dark skin and eyes from Tiana, but her smile is so much like her namesake's that it makes Regina's heart clench every time she sees her. She's grown into a lovely young woman who always seems to be smiling and has never had any trouble making friends. Regina spoiled her growing up, never wanting another little girl named Emma to grow up feeling like she was anything other than wanted and deeply loved.

After lunch, Regina stops by her apple tree which somehow still grows vibrantly despite scars left by Emma Swan many years ago. Once when Regina had been Queen she'd compared herself to the tree. She supposes that they still have things in common.

David passes away a few months later and Regina never imagined she'd grow to love him as family the way she did. She holds Snow at the funeral and they cry together. She sees a flash of movement in the trees surrounding the cemetery but after staring in that direction for a few moments, she decides it was just a shadow.


It's been fifty years since Emma disappeared and Regina is old. She still lives alone in her mansion, but it's getting harder every day. Her vision is almost gone and it's becoming difficult to move around. The end of her life is approaching and she's spent much of her later years reflecting on her long, eventful life.

She still wonders what became of Emma, still wishes she'd found a way to bring her home. She hopes she's lived her life in a way that would make Emma proud, that would make her life worth the sacrifice Emma made.

She sometimes thinks she had. She never had another romantic relationship after Robin, never wanted to, but she surrounded herself with family and friends and did good whenever she could. She gave Henry a good life, and she watched Snow and David's children grow. She even got to know her sister's child, though that always came with a touch of awkwardness.

It wasn't a perfect life, not without Emma there to see it, but after so much pain and anger in the past, Regina couldn't have imagined finding peace among her former enemies in this town she'd created. She recalled once saying that her happy ending was feeling at home in the world, and she's at least done that.


It's been fifty one years since Emma disappeared and Regina is eating breakfast when she hears a knock at the door. She shuffles through her house, cursing her creaky joints, and turns the doorknob.

Her sight isn't good enough to make out faces anymore, but she sees the bright red of a jacket and a mane of golden curls. And a voice as familiar as the back of her hand saying...