Regina leaves the apartment as soon as she can walk, waving off everybody’s protests with a lot of queenly poise, considering she was recently electrocuted.
Emma would be more concerned under other circumstances. As it is, she has a hard time noticing Regina’s existence.
That is, until she gets a text from her at like midnight.
Emma takes a moment to wonder why, exactly, she’s still got her mortal enemy as a contact in her phone. Then again, mortal enemies don’t usually have seaside bench chats either. She’s come to accept that where she and Regina are concerned, things are always going to be at least a little bit weird.
My office. Now.
Emma is 58% sure this is a plot to kill her, but she can’t really muster up the energy to care. Punching Regina in the face sounds very cathartic right now.
(She doesn’t really want to punch Regina in the face, not so soon after the whole Electrocuted By Evil Science thing, but at least it’s kind of fun to think about. She could use some fun thoughts. Without them, all she’s got left is Neal is dead Neal is dead Neal is dead.)
When she gets to the mayor’s office, Regina is sitting at her desk.
And oh look, there’s a second glass waiting for Emma.
“Sit down,” Regina orders.
“Oh, thank God,” Emma says, and actually obeys her for once.
Awhile later, Regina is moping. And drunk.
Emma is less drunk and less mopey, but she's still here. Which means that she's crazy. So. Awesome.
“I deserved a better life than this,” Regina says, something that's almost a whine sneaking into her voice.
And it's there: the whole Yeah, no, that's not gonna cut it when you've ascended to you-worthy levels of psychobitch reply that Regina deserves.
But something about the look on her face is so familiar. Emma knows that feeling. Alone on your birthday with a cupcake and a flimsy wish and exactly no hope. It's hard to stay away from I deserved a better life than this.
Regina doesn't even have a cupcake.
“So get yourself a better life,” Emma says shortly.
“Not hard enough.”
“Miss Swan, have I mentioned lately that I hate you?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Emma rolls her eyes. “You know, you suck for many, many reasons—”
Regina makes a disgusted scoff of a noise.
“—but what makes you suck the most is how you always give up.”
“Henry hates me. I'm not foolish enough to think that the rest of you will ever come around.”
“We saved you from Mendell and Tamara.”
“Only to prove how good you are,” she scowls. “It had nothing to do with me.”
Emma doesn’t exactly know how to contradict that one.
“I know none of you will ever accept me,” Regina tells the desk, “and fighting a losing battle only makes one weak.”
“You are fighting a losing battle. That’s not the point. If you really want things to get better, then keep fighting it anyway.”
Regina’s quiet. Emma feels a surge of pity toward her. She looks about as miserable and tired and hopeless as Emma feels.
“It’s very exhausting,” Regina says at last in a small voice.
It hits Emma right in the heart.
“You’re very exhausting,” she replies, hoping this is about as sentimental as she’ll ever get to Regina’s face, “but I haven’t given up on you.”
Regina scoffs. “Please.”
“You can’t give up on something you never cared about in the first place.”
“Regina, you asked me to meet you and I came. Granted, I expected more of a magical showdown to the death thing than a drinks in your office thing, but still.”
Regina laughs at that just slightly. “I like you better than the rest of them.”
“Yikes,” Emma jokes. “You must hate the rest of them ... a lot.”
“Very discerning, Miss Swan.” Regina rolls her eyes.
“What’s with all this ‘Miss Swan’ stuff again, anyway? Did we go back in time to last year and I just missed it?”
“I suppose I’m nostalgic,” Regina sighs.
“For the good old days when I chainsawed your apple tree?” That so shouldn’t sound as dirty as it does. Whoops. Blaming the vodka for that one.
“The world was very still for twenty eight years,” Regina says thoughtfully, “and very obedient. And then you showed up, and I had something to fight. It was exciting.”
“Exciting, huh?” Emma raises her eyebrows.
“Not like that,” Regina scowls.
“Like what?” Emma demands blankly. Maybe a little too blankly.
“Like—” Regina stops abruptly and for a brief second, she looks a little flushed. “Never mind. The point is, an adversary does an evil queen good every once in awhile.”
Emma stares at her. Regina stares back determinedly, like the moment is a test somehow. “So you’re owning the whole evil thing, huh?” Emma asks at last.
Regina shrugs. “Might as well.”
“If that’s what you want.”
She’s lying, of course. But Emma feels like she’s earned the lie. At least for a little while.
They sit in silence. Emma closes her fingers tighter around her glass, trying to focus on how cool it feels in her hand. Trying to focus on anything that’s not—
“Emma?” Regina says.
Emma looks up at her again. Regina is looking at her with – not concern. Regina Mills does not get concerned about Emma Swan, nuh uh, nope. The Evil Queen does not ask the Savior if she’s feeling okay. But it’s something. Curiosity, at least.
And so she says it out loud. “How do I tell Henry about Neal?”
“You tell him the truth,” Regina answers, sounding way too calm and wise.
“Oh yeah, because that’s not going to be awful.”
“Of course it will be awful,” Regina says bluntly. “But you owe him honesty. He trusts you.” She pauses to take a slightly inelegant sip of her drink, then wistfully adds, “You’ve never given him any reason not to.”
Well. Damn it.
“You’re right,” Emma sighs after a moment. “I know you’re right. Thank you.”
She starts to stand, which is a little ridiculous because it’s not like she can wake Henry up in the middle of the night with this great news. He’d want her to, Emma knows that, but just because he’s mature for eleven doesn’t mean he’s not still a kid, her kid. He deserves one last night of good sleep.
Regina looks alarmed. “You’re in no state to drive.”
“This town is like the size of a walnut,” Emma says. “I walked.”
“And now you intend to go stumbling out into the dark night. Maybe you can join Gold and Lacey’s little ragtag band of underdressed delinquents.”
“A) Gross, and B) I’m not that drunk.”
Regina rolls her eyes doubtfully at the ceiling.
“Oh, what?” Emma says. “Do you want me to stay?”
“No,” Regina says quickly.
“If you want me to stay, I’ll stay.”
“I don’t ever want you for any reason, and right now is no different.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Emma says. She’s enjoying herself a little in spite of everything. Messing with Regina has always been rewarding stuff. (Until she goes too far and Regina decides to strike back with an apple turnover of vengeance, but that’s so last year.) “All right, fine. Since you asked—”
“I did not ask.”
“Fine,” Regina sighs, like it’s the worst thing that could ever possibly happen to her.
And, well, they both know that’s not true.
“Mary Margaret said it was the worst pain she’d ever known,” Emma can’t help saying. She’s struck by the idea all of a sudden. “Feeling what you felt.”
Regina is unimpressed. “That doesn’t surprise me.”
Emma knows she shouldn’t ask. It’s none of her business. “How much of that was the torture?”
“The torture wasn’t exactly a day at the spa.”
“But—” Emma pauses. Something in Regina’s face urges her on. “—you’re always hurting.”
Regina’s face changes at the words. She looks almost ... relieved. Thankful that finally somebody sees her.
“Snow White isn’t used to loneliness,” she replies. There’s some bitterness there, but not as much as Emma’s come to expect. “Wherever she goes, she’s always been surrounded by people who can’t help but love her. I was even one of them once, briefly. I imagine that can relieve even the most terrible burdens.”
“I’m not really the expert,” Emma says honestly. “I didn’t have any of that for a long time.”
“Until Henry,” Regina surmises.
Emma nods. “Until Henry.”
Regina smiles; Emma can tell that she’s picturing Henry’s face. There’s so much love and loss in her expression that it makes Emma’s heart ache to look at her. “I understand.”
They’re quiet for a moment. Emma starts thinking very stupid thoughts. For awhile, some small secret part of her really did think that it would be her and Neal. That somehow, together, they would give Henry the stability and the support that he deserved. Not that Regina hadn’t given him that before, at least a little of it. Not that she couldn’t give it again. But it would always, always be hard with Regina, who’s been so broken by her own life. And Neal seemed like he could learn to be such a good father, and Henry loved him so much right away, and—no. Not going there. Can’t go there.
Maybe this is just the way it’s meant to be: Emma and Regina, struggling through whatever this is the best they can. Henry’s parents.
“I lost the man I loved, too,” Regina says suddenly, pulling Emma out of her thoughts.
“I know,” Emma says; the words sound so insufficient. What she doesn’t say is that she thinks she gets it now. The kind of pain that could drive somebody to do the things Regina’s done. If Emma was alone – if she didn’t have anyone else, if she didn’t have Henry to keep her going—
“You’ll handle it better than I did,” Regina says wryly.
And, well, Emma knows that.
But it’s still kind of nice to hear it.
“Have you got more vodka?” Emma asks. It’s not exactly a friendship offering, but it’s something along those very weird lines.
Regina seems to get it, and plays along. “What do you take me for? Some peasant?”
‘What does that even mean?” Emma frowns.
“Of course I have more vodka.”
“Oh, okay, obviously. Sorry I don’t speak Fairytale Snob.”
“You make a very sorry princess.”
“My apologies, Your Majesty. So is it time for round two or what?”
In response, Regina distributes the remains of the current bottle equally between Emma’s glass and hers.
“Cheers,” Regina says.
Emma almost smiles. They clink their glasses together.