In her defense, she’s really drunk.
The alcohol is what makes the chainsaw seem like a good idea, even with Mary Margaret trying to talk sense into her--”whatever it is you’re thinking of doing, a chainsaw is never the answer, Emma”--and with the thing being so heavy that she almost falls down the stairs and kills herself in trying to carry it down to her car.
And honestly, if a chainsaw is never the answer, why the hell does Mary Margaret own one?
Swaying on her feet for a moment and then actually pointing the chainsaw at Mary Margaret, like an accusing finger, she slurs, “You’re not my mother, don’t tell me how to deal with this”, and Mary Margaret just clutches the front of her burnt orange cardigan and stares at her with something that’s a little too much like pity.
The alcohol can’t make her unsee it, but turning away and leaving can.
It’s the middle of the night, but that hardly matters; when she yanks on the chain and the engine starts to thrum, it only takes a few seconds for Regina’s bedroom lights to flick on. Emma smiles victoriously when she sees just how badly she’s scared the shit out of her--Regina didn’t even bother to put on a robe, and the little black shift she’s wearing isn’t really covering anything it ought to be--and then very slowly and deliberately raises the saw to a first, gloriously blooming branch of the apple tree.
The bedroom window is shoved open, creaking against the frame as it rises just enough for Regina to lean out.
“What the hell are you doing?” Regina calls out, but rather than imperious, it just sounds panicked.
“Getting even,” Emma mumbles, but even as the chainsaw sinks into the tree and the grinding of wood settles something inside of her, she knows that there’s no way for them to ever get even.
Regina, it seems, doesn’t have a heart for her to break in kind.
There’s something interesting about being incarcerated by the guy who’s been busy nailing your wife for the last however long. It’s interesting in the sense that Emma’s pretty sure that he’s meant to be asking her probing questions about the arboreal assault she just committed, but he’s just sitting in his office, balefully staring at her from across the room.
He must be really worried about what she wants to do to him if he still looks nervous and wide-eyed even when shielded by a window, several desks, and the bars she’s currently got her hands wrapped around.
Her head is pounding, and her arms are surprisingly sore.
Mary Margaret and Regina make their way into the Sheriff’s Department side by side, until Regina pushes ahead--dressed to the nines, even at seven a.m.--and Mary Margaret just rolls her eyes and follows her, looking sleepy and cold.
The slight hesitation in Regina’s step before she looks away from the cell and heads over Graham’s office is enough to bring a hint of a smile to Emma’s lips, but it fades when Mary Margaret stands in front of her and just tilts her head.
Emma sighs, pushes away from the bars and sits down on the bed. “I know, okay?”
“What do you think Henry--” Mary Margaret says, anyway.
Emma feels acutely like she’s itching out of her own skin, and for the first time ever understands why Regina has always hated her best friend. “He doesn’t know.”
“Emma, you took a chainsaw--”
“He doesn’t know,” she repeats, more forcefully this time, and glances at Regina’s back. Regina is leaning over Graham’s desk and hissing something at him, serpent-like and threatening, and Emma closes her eyes and rubs at her face for a few seconds. The alcohol is gone, now. All that’s left is the embarrassment and shame. “She wouldn’t tell him. It would require explaining what the hell possessed me to try and cut down her favorite tree, and the kid knows me well enough to know that it had to be something serious and something she did.”
Mary Margaret is silent for a few seconds, gnawing carefully on her lip, and then rummages around her purse. “Well, I brought enough money to bail you out...”
“You don’t have to pay for me being an idiot,” Emma says, weary as hell. All she wants to do is go to sleep and wake up a month ago, when everything seemed the way it always did: difficult, but fine.
Mary Margaret looks vaguely proud of herself. “Oh, I’m not. I just found the sock you keep your emergency cash in.”
It’s enough to make her laugh a little, and Mary Margaret also laughs. Really, it all seems funny for just a few moments, until Regina looks over her shoulder and looks almost wounded by the fact that they’re finding some joy in this situation.
The laughter dies in Emma’s lungs, and she drops onto her back and stares at the ceiling, counting the seconds until someone lets her out and she can start running.
David is waiting for them outside. With Henry. The kid looks hopped up on all kinds of sugar, which makes sense, because David is a total pushover when it comes to everything except divorcing a wife he doesn’t love.
Mary Margaret stares at the ground beneath her feet instead of looking at him and Emma wishes that she could conjure up some high-grade amnesia; her own life is enough of a mess, and she can’t deal with her best friend’s ongoing boy drama right now.
“Are you okay?” Henry asks, urgent and rabbit-like, his eyes darting back and forth between the departmental logo and Emma’s exhausted face. “Did she put you in jail?”
“What?” Emma asks, and then shakes her head, when it becomes clear what he means. “No, I--uh--”
What, exactly, can you tell your son about why you landed in prison that doesn’t make you sound like a total disaster?
“Your mother went to a party and had a few drinks” Graham says, somewhere behind her. “We kept her here to make sure that she couldn’t get into an accident last night.”
Emma feels her shoulders tense; she will not, will not, show gratitude towards the asshole that--
Except, it’s not him she’s angry at. Not at all.
Her shoulders slump again.
Henry looks appropriately disappointed in her, and she just sort of shrugs. “Sometimes adults drink too much, kid. It happens.”
When he opens his mouth, she knows he’s going to point out that it never used to happen to her, back when she still lived with them--now a whopping thirteen days ago--and that his other mom says drinking to excess is something that only the weak of mind do, like that janitor that Ruby won't serve anymore, and other people that would never set foot in his house.
She’s basically Leroy the alcoholic janitor now, in his mind.
If that’s not enough for her to just give up and go lie down in the middle of the road...
“Henry, we’re going home,” Regina says, her emotionless voice preceded by a whiff of apple shampoo that makes Emma feel old and worn.
“But I haven’t seen Emma--”
“Henry,” Regina snaps. Henry stares at Emma imploringly but before she can do anything, really, Regina brushes by her and hisses, “Sleep it off, Miss Swan; you can see him tomorrow.”
She’s not sure what hurts more; the Miss Swan, or the fact that she’s stuck watching her family walk away from her--two dark-haired shapes of varying heights in nearly identical coats, walking to an equally dark car.
Graham slinks back inside after a surprisingly efficient glare from David, and then it’s just her and two other desperate people who don’t know how the fuck to be happy.
“Anyone up for grabbing another drink?” she asks, shoving her hands in her pocket.
David laughs, and then sobers when Mary Margaret gives him this incredibly pointed look; the kind that silences husbands of twenty years, not crushes that haven't even been acted on.
Just like that, Emma sort of gets it, this painful thing between them; inevitable no matter how much they both try to ignore it. It puts her one step ahead of Mary Margaret, who never did manage to wrap her head around Regina.
A hot mug of tea and some home-made scones later, and Emma feels like she can brave a few questions she’s been drowning with whiskey so far.
“How is he?” she asks. Something inside of her shrivels at the idea that she’s now stuck begging for information from his teacher, or his other mother. Before, she understood Henry better than anyone, but even this little sliver of distance between them has been enough to make her start doubting.
“In denial,” Mary Margaret says, slathering butter and jam onto her scone and then putting it down with a soft sigh. “He thinks you’ll work it out. That Regina probably was too strict or demanding about something unimportant, and you just need some time to calm down. After all, it’s true love and true love always wins.”
Emma groans and grinds her knuckles against her jeans, but it doesn’t chafe enough for her to really feel it. “God. Really?”
Mary Margaret nods, a wry smile dancing around her lips. "The true love thing is... probably at least a little my fault.”
Emma raises her eyebrows.
“I gave him this book--I found it in the pawn shop, it’s an illustrated book about fairy tales, and... well, you know how they are.” Mary Margaret sinks further back onto the couch, scone forgotten, her eyes trained on something invisible in the distance. “The prince never stops fighting for the princess; in fact, he never even notices other women, let alone marries them. True love is meant to be, and so they work it out. Happily ever after.”
“Sounds like a load of crap,” Emma says, stabbing her knife through another scone. It sort of crumbles under her hand, and that’s good. That’s what love is actually like; something that stabs you until you break.
“Yeah,” Mary Margaret sighs. “But--a nice load of crap all the same.”
Having to knock on the door to her own house--which it was, even if Regina paid for it and furnished it and really, everything in the place that was hers fit in a single suitcase that she dragged out to the Bug and drove over to Mary Margaret’s two weeks ago--is probably the most humiliating thing yet, but for Henry, it’s a burden she’s willing to shoulder.
Regina opens up, wearing a starkly white apron over her black suit, and then eyes her up and down.
“I’m sober; do you want to check my breath?” Emma bites out, refusing to squirm under the scrutiny. It used to be devoted, the way Regina’s eyes tracked her every movement, but right now it’s just terrifying.
Regina dusts her hands on her apron and then pulls the door open further. “He’s upstairs.”
Emma can’t get to the kid’s room fast enough. Everything else in the house feels like it’s trying to strip her bare, just so Regina can see how small she really is.
The fairy tale book is huge. It’s basically the size of Henry’s torso, and she has no idea how he’s even holding it up to read it.
Big or not, though, the book is forgotten as soon as she raps her knuckles against the door, though; tossed to the side and then the kid is wrapping himself around her legs and her waist the best he can.
“You came,” he says, sounding relieved by it.
She doesn’t know what she did to make him think that she wouldn’t come. It’s probably just the job; most of his life is still marked by her being in and out of Storybrooke, traveling all over the east coast to track down criminals. Regina’s never really commented on what her flitting in and out of their lives did to the two of them; she went from silently accepting it straight to asking Emma to stop doing it, a few months ago.
A ball of nausea tangles in her gut when she realizes that it might’ve just been a desperate measure on Regina's part, her wife grappling for a reason to stop letting Graham fill up the regularly empty indentation on the left side of the bed. A reason to stop her from fucking a guy she’d wanted Emma to work with, a guy that Emma feels like she could've been friends with.
Declining that gig, as it turns out, is the one thing she’s done right lately.
“Of course I did, kid,” she says, softly. She’s almost forgotten the texture of his hair, brushing her fingers through it now; and feels another empty stab of hurt at the knowledge that soon, now, she won’t remember how any part of Regina feels under her fingertips.
Missing that, even pre-emptively, makes her angry all over again, and she counts to five and then gently pushes Henry away from her. “Want to go out to the castle?”
“Okay,” Henry says, immediately--but doesn’t follow her before doubling back and getting his book.
Stories sound better than reality right now, so Emma can’t think of a single reason to stop him.
The wind whips around them and she takes a second to fix Henry’s collar, to pull his scarf around his neck more tightly.
He always looks a little amused by her when she tries to mother him. It’s not a role that sits comfortably with her, and she’s happier with the kid just thinking of her as Emma or his friend or whatever else he needs. A fixture, but not like Regina, not in that way.
Henry gazes off into the distance as Emma gingerly sits down on a stretch of rotting wood next to him, and then digs the book out of his backpack.
“I think I know what went wrong,” he then tells her.
She almost laughs at him, but he looks so serious and heartbroken that she sort of smothers the laughter into a sigh and then wraps an arm around his back. “Kid...”
“No, I mean, you couldn’t help leaving. You had to,” he stresses.
She opens her mouth to protest, even though he’s basically right, but before she can think of anything to say, he’s flipping through the book and then stops on a picture of a woman wearing an absolutely ridiculous black and blood-red dress, holding an apple in an outstretched hand, smirking at the reader. Her eyes are so dark that they look black, in the drawing, and her hair is done up extravagantly.
Emma stares at the picture for a few seconds, and then looks at Henry. “Uh--”
“Don’t you see it?” Henry asks.
Her eyebrows lift. “See what, Henry?”
The disappointment on his face is absolute, but he tries harder to get her to see whatever it is he’s seeing. Henry doesn’t know how to quit. He gets that from her, Emma thinks, but then she remembers Regina’s campaign to get Mr. Gold kicked off the school board and has to concede that, no, their kid really does take after Regina in all ways.
“She’s the evil queen,” Henry says, in a forceful whisper. Like someone can overhear them--which is doubtful--and like this is a huge, powerful secret.
“Well, yeah, I’m getting that from the … hair horns and... wait, is this Snow White?” Emma asks, leaning forward again.
“No, it’s the evil queen,” Henry repeats, rolling his eyes and flipping forward a few pages. “That’s Snow White.”
A familiar drawing of a girl in a coffin, blood-red lips and an apple in her hand, makes Emma nod uncertainly.
Henry goes back to the earlier drawing and jabs his finger at the evil queen’s face. “Do you really not see it?” he asks, now almost pleading.
Emma’s hair whips into her face and she brushes it aside, huddling closer to Henry and then pressing an impromptu kiss to his head. “Henry--it’s just a story, okay? I don’t know what--”
“That’s Mom,” Henry says.
Emma feels her jaw hang, aimlessly, and then leans back and looks at Henry. Still dead serious. She can’t laugh at him--experience has taught her the hard way that he’s definitely inherited Regina’s inability to cope with people making fun of her--but she also can’t just...
“Kid, your mom isn’t--I know we’re having some issues, but she’s not some evil queen in a fairy tale, okay? It’s just a story,” she says, deliberately.
Henry’s eyes dim a little. “You don’t get it.”
She licks her lips, and wonders what the hell she can say. “Whatever problems your mom and I are having, they’re not … we didn’t split up because she’s evil--”
“Of course she’s evil,” Henry roars at her, his hands shaking around the edges of the book. “She made you leave. She always makes you leave, and now you’re not coming back and it’s like she doesn’t have a heart, okay--see?”
He furiously flips through pages of the book until he lands on one where the evil queen is staring a heart in a box, and Emma forces herself not to react, but it’s a really realistic depiction of, well, what she thinks a heart looks like. It looks like it might pound off the page.
“She takes people’s hearts, because she doesn’t have her own, and then she breaks them,” Henry says. There’s a tremor in his voice that suggests that he’s close to tears, and abruptly, Emma is as well.
Ridiculous as all of this is, Henry’s honed in on the one thing that she hasn’t been able to stop thinking herself, ever since she found her wife and the sheriff in bed together.
It’s that someone who has a heart could have never done this to her.
It starts to rain, nothing more than a light drizzle, but it’s enough to make her want to get back to the car--but as she gets up, Henry wraps his hand around her wrist as much as he can and squeezes down almost painfully tight.
“She’s evil. You had to go. But I also think you can save her, Emma. If anyone can, it’s got to be you.”
He looks at her imploringly, and as thunder claps overhead, she honestly can’t think of anything more to say than, “Okay, well. I can’t save her if I die of pneumonia, now can I?”
Henry’s entire face relaxes, like he’s fought and won the most difficult battle of his life; but on the drive back to Storybrooke, with him prattling on about how Mary Margaret has to be Snow White because of how much his mom hates her, all Emma can think of is whether or not she needs Regina’s permission to get Henry put in therapy, post-haste.
“Have you seen some of the drawings in that book?”
Mary Margaret is almost guiltily silent and then says, “I might have just... read the happy endings. Maybe.”
“Oh, great. That’s just great,” Emma grouses, before hanging up and knocking forcefully on Dr. Hopper’s office door.
He looks really surprised to see her--but then he always looks really surprised--and then carefully says, “Oh. Mrs. Mills. Are you here... to sign up for couples therapy? Because relationship counseling isn’t--”
“No,” Emma bites out, before running a hand through her hair and leaning heavily against the wall next to his office. “I’m here because... I think my kid is having some kind of delusional breakdown because he can’t cope with the fact that ... Mayor Mills and I split up.”
Dr. Hopper pushes his glasses up his nose in a measured movement. “What makes you think that?”
“Well, among other things, he thinks his mother is about to cut Mary Margaret Blanchard’s heart out of her chest, before pulverizing it and sending her into a coma that only her true love can rescue her from.”
Dr. Hopper blinks at her a few times, and then rubs at his cheek. “I think I have a free slot later this afternoon. Four o’clock?”
“Thanks. Appreciated,” Emma grits out, before shoving her hands in her pockets and walking over to city hall.
“Henry is fine,” Regina says, her tone brooking no argument.
There is something very regal about the way she’s gently spinning back and forth in her chair, except Emma knows that she’s probably kicked off her heels and was probably watching an episode of Passions on her lunch break.
“Look, do you really think I care if he thinks you’re some real life Disney villain?” Emma throws her hands up and wanders over towards the window that looks out over the elementary school. It’s raining too hard for anyone to be playing outside, but somewhere in there, Henry is probably daydreaming about more horrific things his mother is capable of doing. “I personally think you are an evil bitch, but I’m a rational adult--”
“Debatable at best, Miss Swan,” Regina drawls.
It’s the kind of statement in the kind of voice that would’ve had her hands down Regina’s immaculately pressed pants a few weeks ago, and that enrages her more than anything else about the petty, snide little back and forth they’re about to engage in.
Before Emma can really think about what she’s doing, a decanter full of some really, really expensive scotch is sailing across the room and shattering up against the creepy-as-hell wallpaper Regina has plastered all over her office. The trees drip amber, for just a few moments, and somehow end up looking more real for it.
“You’re right,” Regina says, coolly, eyeing the mess on her floor. “The picture of maturity.”
“Can you just stop?”
She doesn’t mean to beg, but knows she has when Regina’s expression tightens for a moment and then relaxes again.
“Stop what? Calling you Miss Swan, or letting you call a child with an active imagination... crazy?”
“Regina,” Emma sighs.
They’re silent for a few seconds, during which she’s studiously not looking at the broken decanter; had they still been living together, Regina would’ve made her pay for that one in spades, but short of arresting her again, there’s not much to be done now.
Her hands curl into fists unwillingly, at the look of passive condescension that Regina wears like a weapon even in her milder moments. “We were together for six years, okay, and no matter what else is going on now, we’ve always trusted each other when it comes to our son, so can you please just--”
“My son, Miss Swan,” Regina cuts her off, “does not need therapy.”
It feels like a slap in the face; one that also drives home that something really is wrong with Henry. The Regina Mills that Emma knows and... well. That woman really doesn't need fucking magic to wrap her fingers around people’s hearts and crush them to dust.
She swallows thickly, before shaking her head. “Fine. Fine. Your son. You deal with him blaming you for me being gone, then. You deal with him thinking you’re--some evil fairy tale creature, out to hurt everyone he cares about. You can just--”
The sigh that escapes from Regina is almost inaudible, but the words that follow are clear.
“If you honestly think that Henry blaming me for your inability to stay with us is something new, dear, I’d say it’s you that needs to be told not to believe in fairy tales.”
Emma bites down on her cheek hard enough to feel the sharp tang of blood fill her mouth, but it’s good, somehow, that something else hurts this much.
“This isn’t about you and me. This is about him, and he needs to talk to someone about this,” she tries, one last time. “If you can’t see past me to understand that, you’re not the mother I always thought you were.”
Regina’s mouth trembles for a second, but then she hits the button on the intercom and says, “Send in my next appointment please. Miss Swan is done here.”
“Yeah, you know what? I really am,” Emma manages, but she knows that Regina can tell how close she is to tears, and no amount of stalking out of the mayor’s office with her head held high can make up for it.