"I'm not made for happy endings," says Emma. She stares down at her dress, swan white - ew - and covered in feathers. She hates it. Back in the real world, she had one fancy dress and a single pair of high-heeled shoes, both of which she used for luring in bail jumpers. Given her choice, she's in jeans and comfortable shirts, with shoes that are made for moving in.
"It looks good on you." Henry beams at her. The whole family is together. Mary Margaret and David are calling themselves Snow White and James, and there's some kind of presentation confirming Emma as the heir to the kingdom, and Henry as her heir. At least their stay in the real world has convinced Mary Margaret and David to get rid of that 'only men can inherit the throne' attitude. Except Emma isn't sure how good she's going to be at being a queen.
Gold isn't in jail - yet - but Emma is hoping everyone has figured out that it's an epically dumb move to make a deal with him. She's not Storybrooke sheriff any more, but it's still her job to find Gold and lock him up.
"I've got better things to do than look pretty, kid," says Emma. The only reason she doesn't roll her eyes at him is that he's Henry, and she hides her affection beneath exasperation. He sees right through it. Maybe it's his superpower, like Emma sees right through everyone's lies.
Great. She's Snow White and Prince Charming's grown-up daughter, she and her son have superpowers, and her son's other mother is out there somewhere stirring up trouble. That's what Regina does. Plus there's still Mr. Gold to consider.
Emma refuses to call anyone by their fairy-tale names if she can get away with it. She's a one name kind of gal. Except when she's tracking down aliases. Speaking of tracking down aliases, Emma has a job to do, and it's not this fairy-tale princess bullshit.
"What are you planning?" asks Henry, narrowing his eyes at her. He turns and crosses his arms. "I thought you were staying here and learning how to run the kingdom."
Stupid fairy tale superpowers.
"It's not like they're going to kick off any time soon," says Emma. She's been inching back for the past hour, getting to the door without anyone noticing. Except Henry, who's stuck to her like glue. "I'll figure it out later."
She slips out when everyone is looking at David, who's toasting Mary Margaret with a brilliant smile on his face. Kathryn is standing in the hallway, looking angry and a little lost. It looks like Emma's not the only one trying to find her place here.
"I can't go back to my father's kingdom," says Kathryn. She stares past Emma, over at James. "I don't know what to do."
"You could make your own life," says Emma. If anyone knows about picking yourself up after a disaster and moving on, it's Emma. "Who says you have to go back?"
Kathryn looks surprised by this. "I never thought of that."
"You spent twenty-eight plus years living as Kathryn Nolan instead of being King Midas' daughter and you didn't think you could ditch being some prince's prize?" asks Emma. "Seriously?"
Sometimes, fairy tales give Emma a headache. Her temples throb and she wonders if there's aspirin around here, or if Doc is going to try to foist willow bark tea off on her. She doesn't even know if that's a real headache cure; she just remembers that from romance novels she read in the prison library.
"You don't have to be mean about it," snaps Kathryn.
Emma rolls her eyes. "Whatever. Look, I'm going to find Rumplestiltskin, find a way to strip him of his powers, and maybe we'll all figure out how to make our own happy endings. Without magic. Does that sound good to you?"
Kathryn, who hasn't started insisting anyone call her Abigail, acts like she's thinking it over, but it's obvious she's decided.
"You coming?" asks Emma. She turns and looks over her shoulder, waiting long enough for Kathryn to follow.
There's not much point in packing luggage, but Emma grabs a few outfits, some food, and some gold. She leaves the stupid dress behind on the bed, cursing the lack of zippers, and then swears as she decides she's going to re-invent the bra. At least she gets to wear pants.
Kathryn is comfortable in a dress, of course, and Emma tries not to resent her for it. Being traded off so Daddy could be minus one dragon and another kingdom could get some gold is a raw deal. For anyone to get a happily ever after in this world, someone else needs to suffer. Seriously, does no one in this world know what the word 'compromise' means?
Emma plans to change all that. Not that she knows how she's going to do it. On the plus side, she doesn't need to worry about getting married and having an heir. She's got one already.
"Everyone ready to borrow some of the royal horses?" she asks, shouldering a pack and reaching for the saddlebags she just filled up. Henry beams. He's probably had riding lessons since he was a baby. Emma's the one who's never touched a horse in her life. Maybe they should steal a carriage too.
"Just where do you think you're going?" Regina's voice is, as always, dripping with malice.
Emma sighs. Just what she needs right now: Another showdown with Regina.
"I thought you said you defeated her!" exclaims Henry. He glares at Regina with the kind of resentment that only a teenager can manage.
"She did," says Regina, sweeping into the room. She's wearing a long, black gown, boots that are quieter against the stone flooring than they should be, and her hair is down to her waist.
"Defeat seems to be good for your complexion," says Emma. Sarcasm is guaranteed to get under Regina's skin.
"You're going after Rumplestiltskin," says Regina, and, if it's possible, she still sounds superior, even with her kingdom and Storybrooke in ruins around her. "I'm coming with you."
"In case you forgot, you're evil," says Emma. "I don't need your help." She shoulders Regina aside and steps out of the room. Henry follows her, but Kathryn steps next to Regina.
"She's my friend," says Kathryn. There's steel in her eyes, where there had been uncertainty. "Regina can help us. She hates Rumplestiltskin as much as any of us."
"Yeah, but she hates Mary Margaret too," says Emma. "Not to mention me and pretty much everyone except you and Henry."
Henry looks awkward. He'll get over it; everyone is embarrassed by their parents fighting.
"On the contrary, Ms. Swan, I don't hate you at all." Regina tries to be charming. Emma wonders if Regina realizes that her voice is threatening all the time, not full of the promise of future happiness. "I can only admire someone who has taken my son away from me so thoroughly."
The funny thing is that Regina believes her own lies. On the other hand, of course she does. How else could she work herself into a self-righteous enough rage to curse an entire world?
"You did that to yourself," says Emma. She crosses her arms and matches Regina and Kathryn glare for glare. "You're the one who wants to be the center of everyone's world. No one owes you a happy ending, and you know by now you're not going to get one by making everyone else miserable."
Regina had been alone in Storybrooke, and it had taken her twenty-eight years to find even one friend. Henry had been as miserable and it had been Regina's fault. That was what happened when you didn't know what happiness was.
Emma had taken all of that away from her. Emma was probably worse than Mary Margaret in Regina's eyes. Being able to see through lies meant being able to see through enchantments. Changing one thing to another was just another kind of lie. As soon as they found the chamber of Regina's hearts, she'd gotten a lot of practice at destroying the lies that Regina had made.
"You're far too self-righteous, Ms. Swan," says Regina. She's smiling, cold and deadly, and Emma thinks she could compare Regina to a crocodile. "You need me. No one knows him like I do."
"Fine," snaps Emma. "Try anything, and you'll regret it."
Emma will kill Regina before she hurts anyone Emma loves. Besides, who knows? Maybe they'll get lucky and Regina will grow the hell up. It's almost happened a couple of times, before Regina'd chosen to be selfish instead of thinking about other people first.
"You can't!" exclaims Henry, grabbing Emma's arm. "She's evil. You know we can't trust her."
"But this way we can keep an eye on her," says Emma. She ruffles Henry's hair. "Besides, if we can find Jasmine, doesn't she have a tiger? We'll sic Rajah on Regina if she steps out of line."
They head toward the stables, Regina trying to sweep in front of everyone to take the lead. Emma shifts to the side at just the right time, and Regina almost trips over her own skirt.
Henry giggles, and Emma shakes her head at him. They shouldn't make it worse on by laughing. Plus Regina's still his mom, his other one, even if she's evil.
"I don't know why you think a mere tiger would be able to stop me," says Regina.
"Hey, I watched the movie," says Emma. 'Welcome to the real world' is her motto when it comes to Regina. "It's a pretty big tiger."