The text comes in just as she's falling asleep.
Will you please pick up Henry from school tomorrow?
She yawns and blinks blearily at her phone as she types her reply.
K. Home for dinner by 6? Y/N?
She falls asleep before the reply comes in.
It isn't until she's coming back from Granny's with a late lunch for herself and her father that Emma realizes Regina had never sent a reply about having Henry home in time for dinner. She barely walks into the station when David calls out her name.
"Yeah, Dad, I'm coming."
She sets the bags and drink carrier on the nearest desk. David nearly knocks over the computer on his desk as he moves to take his food and coffee. Before he even gets back to his desk, he moans around a mouthful of onion rings.
"Okay, seriously?" she asks, shuddering. "I don't ever wanna hear that sound coming out of your mouth like ever again. Ever."
David has the good sense to blush slightly, swallowing before he speaks. "Sorry, Emma. It's just that your mom has us on this weird all green diet right now, in an attempt to get Neal to eat his vegetables. She watches me like a hawk, and I haven't had anything unhealthy in like a week."
"You don't think she's gonna be able to smell the junk on your breath?"
He shakes his head. "Nope. Brush my teeth and gargle before I leave."
"And what about the grease stains on your shirt?"
"What the hell?" he asks, glancing down, then groans. "I need to get this washed before I get home."
Before Emma can reply, Henry comes bounding into the station. "Hi, Ma! Hi, Gramps!" He stops and giggles, pointing at David. "You are in so much trouble when Gramma sees you."
"Henry! What are you doing here?" She glances at her watch. "You're supposed to be in Math right now. You're not skipping, are you?"
"No! It's an early release day. Some teacher workshop thing. Didn't Mom mention it last night when she texted you?"
"No. In fact, she never verified if I was supposed to have you home for dinner or not. Is she in meetings today?"
Henry shakes his head. "I don't know. I haven't seen her all day. She had breakfast waiting for me when I got up this morning, but it was waffles that I had to reheat in the microwave. I haven't seen her since I went to bed last night."
That sets Emma's teeth on edge, her mind racing as she checks the timestamp on the text from Regina. "She sent this message at like one in the morning. And Ruby mentioned that she never came in for her usual coffee this morning. What the hell is going on?" Glancing at her phone again, the color drains from Emma's face. "Oh god!"
"Emma?" David completely ignores his food, worried about the look on his daughter's face. "What's wrong?"
"What's today's date, Dad?"
Confusion quickly gives way to realization, and he nods slowly. "I didn't even think about it. It's been three years…"
"Yeah. Um, can you keep an eye on Henry for me?"
"Ma, where are you going?"
"Stay with David, Henry. When he goes home, you're going with him. Sleep in my room if I don't come to take you home by your bedtime. And do your homework."
She doesn't wait for a reply, racing out of the station. She forces herself to check Regina's office, the mansion, and the family crypt first, even if it's wasting precious time. When all three places come up empty, and all of her texts and calls go unanswered, she tries the town line and prays that she's wrong.
"Damn it, Regina! Where the hell are y--?"
And then it hits her, and she pushes the Bug's engine to its limits racing back into town. Thankfully, Belle's got the library open, but it's not very crowded. With a tense smile for the woman, Emma makes her way to the back hallway where the old elevator waits. Magic goes a long way to get her down into the cavern she's never once returned to since that fateful day.
Looking around, Emma realizes that it's not that much different. "Regina?" she calls out softly, not wanting to startle the woman, but needing to find her.
For a long moment, she hears nothing, then a soft sniffle is heard. She follows the sound, moving carefully in the gloomy cavern. The last thing she needs is either one of them getting hurt down here. It takes a few moments as she works her way deeper into the cavern, surrounded by the detritus of that last epic battle. Finally she finds the person she's looking for. By this point, her eyes have adjusted enough to the dim lighting to see that her quarry is curled up on her side right next to the spot where… Where it happened.
It's funny how Emma could brag about it for the longest time, like it was her biggest accomplishment as the Savior, rather than breaking the curse and saving the whole town. It has been her yardstick to measure successes and failures in herself and in others. But right now, seeing how broken Regina looks, it just makes her want to go back in time and reverse the whole damned thing.
"Regina?" she asks again, moving closer. A low cough is the only reply. "Okay, at least I know you're still with me."
She settles on the ground next to Regina. Close enough to get to her if necessary, but not so close as to infringe on her personal space. If Emma knows anything about Regina, it's that you don't intrude on her personal space without a good reason. She takes the time to look around the cavern, noting some gouges and scorch marks that she hadn't noticed the last time she'd been here. Clearly incarceration in this cavern wasn't exactly a weekend at the Ritz.
"Why are you here?" The question is soft, the voice rough with tears and distress.
"You know why I'm here, Regina."
"To gloat? The glorious Savior coming back to gaze upon the ruins from which she saved town and son alike?"
Emma rolls her eyes. "Oh yeah, that's exactly it. Come on, Regina, how long have you known me now? I don't do that kind of thing."
"You've used her death often enough as a measure of your Savior-ness. Why wouldn't you want to flaunt here, where it actually happened?'
"You know, that's not exactly…" Emma pauses and sighs. "No, that is exactly what I did. But only in the beginning, when I thought it mattered."
"It doesn't matter any longer?"
Emma shifts a little closer and smiles tentatively at Regina. "No, it really doesn't. What mattered was saving Henry, bringing back our son. Breaking the curse honestly was a secondary thing, and kill-- what I did to Maleficent was Gold's fault."
Regina shifts up into a seated position, knees pulled up close to her chest, arms wrapped around them. For long moments, the two of them are quiet, the silence an oddly comforting oppression weighing down on them.
"She was my only friend," Regina finally says. "And I betrayed her, punished her for what I felt was the ultimate disloyalty to me. She tried to talk me out of casting the Dark Curse. Did you know that?" She doesn't wait for Emma to respond, the words tumbling out of her mouth. "She knew what it would do to me, knew how it would ultimately break me. She tried to warn me, but I ignored her. I was too caught up in my own need for revenge to listen to reason. And in the end, it was my fault that my only friend, my one time love, is dead."
Emma blinks at the revelation, but isn't entirely surprised by it. After living among real live fairytale characters and magic for so long, very little takes her unawares anymore. She watches Regina for a moment, takes in the faint tremors contorting her body.
"How long have you been down here?" she finally asks.
Frowning, Emma takes off her jacket and settles it around Regina's shoulders. True to form, Regina wrinkles her nose, but does nothing to actually remove the article of clothing. In fact, if Emma's not mistaken, she pulls it closer around her shoulders.
"A while. So I'm guessing you sending that text message was the last thing you did before coming down here? That's insane, Regina. You left Henry alone, didn't bother to tell anyone where you were, and we're all just supposed to accept that? That's pretty damned selfish, Regina, even if you're in mourning."
Regina turns on her then, fire flashing in her eyes, and one hand curls into a fist that sparks with magic. "Selfish? Tell me, Savior, just how selfish I am when you have your entire family with you. I have lost everything."
"Not everything. You have Henry and you have me. I thought we were past that whole 'hate you enough to want you dead' thing we had initially. I thought we were comfortable enough to maybe go the friends route, in addition to the whole sharing Henry thing."
"You-- You think we're friends?"
"Yeah, I have for a while now. And friends worry about each other, which is why I was searching all over town for you. Henry's worried. Hell, even my dad is worried. So you haven't lost everything, Regina. You just need to retrain yourself to realize what you do have."
Emma smiles and moves even closer, daring to settle an arm around Regina's shoulders. "Yeah, oh. You're not alone anymore, and you definitely don't have to do this by yourself. I only knew the dragon that I fought. Well, and the Disney movie version." That brings a slight smile to Regina's lips. "But I learned pretty quickly that, while Walt Disney was good, he didn't get everything right. So why don't you tell me about the Maleficent you knew and loved? I'd like to get to know her, too."