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Shattered to Pieces

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Emma sneaks into the loft quietly. The fresh air she got walking on the way back helped with the dizziness but she definitely feels like she’s been hit by a car. Technically, she’s been through a wall, so it must be close.

The moment Emma gets in the door, David is there. He surprises her by wrapping her in his arms. They’re strong. Maybe that’s what being in your father’s arms is supposed to feel like.

Immediately, he cradles the back of her head into his chest. Emma can feel the trembling of his hand against her skull. She feels him exhale all the emotion of having her safely in his embrace. It’s what she hopes she’ll feel when finally she has Henry within reach.

She circles her hands on his back comfortingly. It’s strange to have him so emotional. It’s strange to have him so worried.

“I am okay now, Da... Dad.”

She gives it to him. It’s thought of, stuttered and quick, but it’s given.

Concern colors David’s face as he surveys her from head to toe. So much for making him feel better. “Emma? Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Oddly, she is. She’s on course now. She fucked up. Really bad. Regina was changing, and she pushed her into a relapse. She’s not going to do that again.

Neal is there, on the couch in the living room. He shoots to his feet as David holds her at arm’s length. Both men stare at her in shock.

“What the hell happened to you?” David asks. “Did Regina hurt you?” He touches Emma’s shoulder surprisingly lightly.

She shrugs off his hand. She looks at them both. “I’m fine, really. It looks worse than it is.”

Neither of them is going to let it go that easy. Neal comes closer to her. “She did this to you?”

“I scared her. She reacted out of grief.” She waves it off. “That’s not the point. She realized what she did. She healed me.”

David’s voice booms, somewhat triumphantly, scoffing. They’re going down that road. She wants to sigh ahead of time. She tries to keep the lid on her rage instead.

Damn, she’s tired.

“So she did hurt you! I knew it.” He goes on, his face hardening. “She’s a menace. It’ll never be over, even with Cora dead.”

“What do you suggest we do, David?” Emma’s anger is flaring now. She knows exactly what David’s suggesting. “You want to kill Regina like your wife—like my mom—murdered Cora?

“Maybe we could have Henry slip her something? She’ll never see it coming.”

She’s seething now. She can see the rationalization behind that line of thought.

“Your mother didn’t do anything of the sort!!” David’s face looks red with insult and agonized conflict.

Good.

“She did what needed to be done to protect our family.”

Neal intervenes, “Come on, Emma. You know Regina’s dangerous. She would have taken you out if she could have.”

Emma whips around to shoot him a death glare. “Yes, she is dangerous. Every fucking thing she’s ever cared about has been ripped away from her! And all of that so that your father could find your sorry ass.”

All of it. All this shit so that Gold can get what he wants.

Neal looks to protest. She almost knows what he’ll say, ‘Don’t lay this on me. I didn’t want my father to find me’ but she cuts him off. She’s tired of people forcing others to take blame they themselves should have a part of, like she feels with Regina.

“Because being forced to marry a man, a goddamn king twice your age, or parenting a kid when you’re nothing more than a teenager, or watching your mother kill your first love in front of you, or, say, being manipulated into killing your own mom, that’s not fucked up, is it? It won’t make you give in to the dark side, will it?”

If it had been her, she’d have welcomed the dark side and become twice as fucked up as Darth Vader ever was. Fuck kingdoms and fairy godmothers. She would have killed the motherfucker in their bed on her wedding night. With her bare hands. To begin with.

She takes in her father with her next glare. “Family, right? Family first? Tell me why we’re saving Gold’s ass at all costs, but we’re going to throw Regina, Henry’s family, under the fucking bus?”

“It was the only way to stop Cora,” David answers.

“Bullshit! I don’t know how to convince her of it, and I hope to any kind of freaking god there is that she won’t be looking for revenge. This shit has to end now!”

“Emma.” Neal is looking at her with doe eyes, willing her to calm down. She can almost hear him say ‘Chill, babe,’ like he used to. She feels a wave of disgust bring bile to her throat.

“Just don’t.” Emma shuts him up, and it’s about time. Three hundred years on the run and that’s all the perspective he can come up with?

She then turns her attention to a gaping David. “Whatever you want to call what Mary Margaret did, she shouldn’t have done it. It’s going to haunt her. So, you deal with that. You don’t make excuses. I’ll deal with Regina.”

“She’s evil, Emma.” There’s concern in his eyes. “She’s had many second chances. She’s made her choice.”

“Choice?! What kind of fucking choice?” They would all just sacrifice Regina in a heartbeat and feel better for it.

“She is not evil, she’s my son’s mother.” She straightens as she lifts her chin up in defiance. “If there is anyone I’m ever going to save, it will be Regina.”

“He’s my son, too!”

She wants to call him the bastard that he is. The coward that he is. Just like his father.

“Right,” Emma snickers condescendingly. “He’ll be your son when you earn it. And New York pizza might be enough for him just now, but make no mistakes, it won’t cut it.”

Both men open their mouths in protest, but Emma is the first to shout, “Enough!”

Her left arm supports her back as her right hand comes to rest on her forehead.

“How could she even… There had to be another way. How could you let her do that?” She’s angry at Mary Margaret, at David, at herself. “Where is she? She needs to hear this, too. It’s about time she owns up to her shit.”

“Emma—” David starts, Snow’s Prince Charming, always.

She glances over his shoulder at the bedroom where she can make out Snow, curled up on their bed.

“No!” She lifts her hand, flat in the air. “No, this is all kinds of fucked up! Don’t you see?”

The question is useless, but she can’t help it. She’s tired of the violence, of the harm they’re all inflicting on each other.

Her mind still hammers, how can she even begin to explain this to Henry?

Emma knows, though. She can hear the voice in her head screaming Regina’s name. How could they have done this?

There is doing what must be done and there is cruelty. And then there is Gold, too. The son of a bitch.

“We made her murder her own mother!” She’s shouting now.

She wants to shake them, all of them, until they realize the absurdity of this Manichean world they keep hanging on to.

“What if it had been me, David?” Emma’s feeling so cold, so hurt, so frustrated that she just wants to beat the truth into his chest.

“Can’t you see I would have done the same? With the world the way it is, with the world the way it’s been. For me. I would have done the same. I would have killed that fucker on my wedding night.” She lets that sink in for a second, except it doesn’t. She’s not even sure he can register what she’s saying, for all his chivalrous denial.

“I would have learned magic, any magic, as long as it got me enough strength to change my life. I would have done anything to get the fuck out. I did.

“And then what, David? Would you have declared me evil? Would you have tied me to the pillory yourself?”

“Emma… you’re… you couldn’t, you’re not like her.” David’s swallowing hard. “You’re my daughter.’

“How can you not understand how much wrong was done to her? How can you not understand how this, what Snow did, it was the last straw. We’ve done enough damage, Dad.”

Emma is only looking at David, sorrow burning her eyes. “You’re fucking Prince Charming! Don’t you understand? We are the ones who need to stop.”

“Emma…” David begins, but the words seem to die in his throat.

He looks like he doesn’t know what to say to appease her. And how would he know? He didn’t know what to do to stop his wife from killing someone in cold blood. Emma knows he just wants good to win. Maybe he only wants pain to stop and his family to be safe.

Does he know, deep down, when he looks hard enough, that it seems like it doesn’t really matter what that safety costs people outside the ones he loves?

“No.” Emma straightens again, with resolve, watching her father sag, defeated. “I will handle this. Stay out of my way.”

She’s startled by her tone. She sounds imperious. She sounds like Regina.

“Emma, what are you doing?” David frowns, at a loss.

She turns halfway to give him an unforgiving look. “I am going to get Henry.”

 


 

It takes only a couple of steps toward the Diner for Emma’s anger to give way to anxiety. She knows very well she’s going to have to talk to Henry. He’s going to see her, even if she’s changed. He’s going to have questions. He’s going to have watery eyes and a broken heart.

And it’s so fucking unfair. But then, when is life ever fair?

Emma walks faster, grinding teeth and tightened fists. Truth be told, the person she’s angry with most is herself.

She should have trusted her gut over magic. She knew Regina was innocent of Archie’s death. She knew it.

How easy it had been to pretend Regina wouldn’t fall. How easy it had been to look the other way. Emma got her parents back. She took Henry away. All this time she’s known. She’s known Regina is so very hurt it makes her want to punch it out of her. It’s deafening within her, like the silent scream of despair she’s felt all of her life.The begging, for someone, anyone, to take it all away and give her a chance at something else. Something unstained of the disgusting absolutism of loneliness and a pain so deep, life tastes like char. No hope. No light. Inexorably gray and damp. Not of enough substance for life to be anything but cold and cruel, knowing without any doubt that you’re like the morning trash people take out without an afterthought on their way to something more important.

She didn’t want to see. She wanted to win. She wanted to do something right. She wanted to have. Because really, she’s never had anything and it’s got to be her turn too, sometimes.

Emma wants to say she’s sorry. Of course, it doesn’t mean anything, and Regina isn’t going to give a single fuck. She doesn’t have the first clue how she’s going to make that shit up to her. There is no prison for breaking someone’s heart beyond what’s already beyond.

So far gone, it gets you stabbed and killed a little, maybe just enough that nothing matters anymore.

Regina is hurt more than anyone should ever be, thoroughly, methodically, for way too long. Regina is shattered in ways Emma has refused to acknowledge, because it resonates within her, down to her every broken bone and bloody gash. It’s throbbing in her scars right now.

She has been fighting against an enemy who is already defeated.

Regina, oh-so-strong and powerful, let her mother command her. Emma thinks of the conflict, the terror, the submission she saw in her eyes. The longing. The craving.

And then Mary Margaret—

“Emma!”

There’s a whoosh of air knocked out of her with a boy wrapping his arms around her middle and a long haired, tall and slender woman around her neck. It’s not fair, but damn if it doesn’t feel good.

Maybe that’s what Regina’s always needed. She could have given it, if she had stopped being defensive long enough. She could have been respectful, not entitled, and maybe Regina would have let her be part of their family, too. Emma took Henry instead. She turned Regina’s life upside down and she cut her fucking childhood tree. With a chainsaw. Subtle.

“It’s enough, let her breathe.”

Granny helps untangle Henry from her before giving her a pat on the back of her shoulder. It doesn’t last long enough for Emma to recoil. It’s hard, people touching her.

“You look like you’ve been through hell, girl.”

“Emma, you’re okay?” Ruby and Henry’s eyes are scrutinizing her.

“Yeah, I’m good.”

“Is everyone else all right?” Concern is creasing Ruby’s brow. Guilt, too, if Emma’s reading it right. No doubt Ruby would have liked it better to be part of the strike team. The good it did anyway.

“Yeah, everyone’s in one piece, more or less.”

“Did you fight with my mom?”

“Kid… I–”

“Sit. I’ll bring you something to drink.” Emma is grateful for the interruption. Granny’s already walking toward the kitchen.

“Thanks.”

“Did she hurt you?”

“Henry,” Emma gently taps the chair next to her at the table by the bay window, “come here.”

Henry sits quietly, looking her all over, frowning deeply.

“I am not sure what to tell you, kid.” Emma feels shaky. She sighs deeply and takes a shuddering breath.

“There was a lot of fighting. Over at Mister Gold’s shop.”

“With Cora?”

“Yes, with Cora.”

Granny sets a mug of coffee on the table for her, and settles down with her own and another cup for Ruby. They wait for Emma to go on with her tale.

There’s whisky in her coffee. A healthy dose, too. She can taste the scent on her tongue, no need to drink it.

“She was very strong, and we didn’t really do much but slow her down before she could get to Gold. She wanted the Dark One’s dagger.”

“Did my mom help her?”

“Yeah, sorta. In the beginning, but I don’t think her heart was really in it at all. She threw a couple fireballs and we ruffled a little, but she didn’t give it her best shot, Henry. I don’t think she was very happy with Cora’s plan. She was just trying to be with her mom, you know?”

“I don’t understand.” Henry’s arms are crossed on his chest, in refusal.

“Cora is your mom’s mom. She was all the family she had left, beside you. So when Cora got into town, whatever your mom felt after I took you back to the loft with me and then to New York… I think your mom freaked out that I was going to take you from her.”

“But she had to know that Cora is bad. She’s a villain.”

“Yeah, but she was desperate, I think. Maybe she only helped Cora because she thought she could get you back that way.”

“Cora wants Rumpelstiltskin’s powers. They want more magic.” Henry’s face is a scowl of disdain.

He looks so very much like Regina.

“Cora’s dead.”

“Oh,” escapes from Ruby, all three watching her with surprised and maybe relieved looks.

“I would leave it at that, but I need to tell you something else.”

“Is…” He looks down at his dangling feet. “Is my mom dead too?”

“Aww, Henry.” Emma wraps her arms around her boy and pulls him into her lap. “No, your mom isn’t dead. But she’s very, very sad.”

“Because her mom died.”

“Yeah. But also because it wasn’t right, how Cora died.”

And really, what else is she supposed to say? Because it wasn’t right, and nothing is going to change that.

“She was so powerful, even Gold couldn’t do anything directly to stop her.”

“Because he was poisoned?”

God, it’s hard to say. She doesn’t want to. She wants to disappear into the checkered vinyl floor and absolutely not have to look at her son. Absolutely not have to tell him his grandmother had his mom murder her own mother.

“So you see, what happened is that Mary Margaret—Snow—she put a curse on Cora’s heart. The thing is, Cora’s heart, it wasn’t in her chest.”

“Where was it?”

“It was in the vault under the crypt. She hid it there with your mom’s things.” Emma is making sure to at least not look at Granny or Ruby. “Snow, she went to the vault, and she met your mom there. She gave her Cora’s heart.”

Granny’s gasp is unmistakable as she puts two and two together.

“Why would Grams go the vault?”

“So she could put a curse on Cora’s heart, a curse that would kill her and save Mister Gold.”

“But why would Grams give Cora’s heart to my mom?”

“So that your mom could put Cora’s heart back inside of her chest.” Emma swallows the oversized lump in her throat loudly.

Henry is looking at her with his big, big brown eyes, absorbing all of it like he’s a sponge. Anxiety and incomprehension roll off of him in waves at the absurdity of the grown-ups’ world . A world that no kid should ever know about before he’s got fuzz on his face, kissed someone and gotten a crush on one of his high-school teachers.

He’s got tears blurring the dark in his eyes. Emma hasn’t realized she’s crying too until he touches her cheek with his hand to wipe the water away.

“So my mom… she… she killed her own mom because Grams made her?”

Emma nods.

“That’s… No.”

“Ruby!” Granny has a hand on Ruby’s forearm.

Ruby’s eyes are really Red’s, glowing bright silver and not hazel at all anymore. She’s trembling like she’s going to explode.

Ruby snatches her arm away from Granny’s grasp like she could throw her off to the other side of the diner with little effort.

“Snow couldn’t. Tell me she didn’t.”

“I wish I could.”

And she’s gone. Ruby storms out and she’s vanished from sight before any of them can do anything about it.

Emma wonders if Ruby’s going to go shake some sense into Snow or just get a good run out of her wolf.

“Emma?”

Henry is looking up at her with his broken heart on his quivering lip. His fingers are tracing the fiery red lines on her face. Maybe the diner lights make them look worse than they are.

“Yeah?”

“Did you and my mom fight? You look like you’re hurt.”

“I’m okay now, Henry.” She looks at him with what sincerity she can. “Your mom, she’s grieving. She’ll never see her mother again and, even if Cora wasn’t a very good mom or a very nice person, Regina loved her.”

“She was her mom.”

He gets it, because for all the righteousness in his gigantic heart, he’s just a boy who loves his mom. Even if he doesn’t know very much about the real woman she is, Regina is his mother.

“She was her mom.”

Emma wants to get it over with, but he’s got to know the whole truth before it all gets twisted again.

“Regina and I, we had a bad fight. We hurt each other. But it wasn’t because she’s the Evil Queen and I’m the Savior.”

“No?” He’s questioning that, of course, so hellbent on that epic final battle of his. “It’s what you’re supposed to do, though.”

“No, Henry. It’s not what we’re supposed to do. We fought because your mom is always in a lot of pain and I was too scared to trust her before. We fought because we’re both defensive and everyone pressures her to be the Evil Queen and pressures me to be the Savior.

“I got hurt and she got hurt. But she healed me, Henry. She healed me when she saw I wasn’t okay. She made it better even when she was angry and sad. She made me better.”

“She did?”

“Yes.” She looks at him with all her hopes up that maybe one more time he can believe. “I was wrong about a lot of things. We have to help your mom. It’s her I need to save. Do you understand?”

“You mean she isn’t evil anymore?”

“I mean she never was. Your mom isn’t evil and she loves you.”

“But she has dark magic. And that destroys everything.”

“She’s got dark magic, yes, but she healed me with something else. Her magic isn’t all bad, or maybe she doesn’t know how to do better magic.”

He scowls. “Magic sucks.”

“Yeah, but, Henry?” She really needs him to be on her side. “We’ve got to help your mom, it’s really important. Please?”

Emma looks up at Granny. She hears Henry agreeing with her, but she’s looking for some sense in her eyes, too.

Granny appraises her for a long silent moment. Emma’s heart is beating in her ears.

There’s a brief nod.

“What are we doing now?” His voice sounds all wrong with worry.

“Now, we’re going back to the loft, and we’re going to put you to bed, because it’s late. I’m going to go check on your mom after that. David and Mary Margaret are there, too.”

“Where’s my dad?”

“He’s there, too.” She silently hopes Neal is gone but she doubts it.

He stands up to go get his backpack. Emma turns to Granny.

“I… you think Ruby will be okay?”

“Don’t worry about it now, girl. Red and Snow go back a long way, they’ll figure out their issues.”

“All right.” Emma wants to let it go, but it’s not that easy. How is she supposed to work it out with Snow? They don’t go way back.

“As for Regina—”

“She’s not evil!” Emma readies herself for another fight. She’d better get used to it, tired or not, there’s going to be many more.

“I heard you the first time, girl. Hold your horses.” Granny walks both of them to the door. “Just come by before you go back there.”

Emma wonders why but it sounds supportive out of Granny’s mouth so she’ll take what she can get.

“‘Kay.”

 


 

Henry is finally lying down. He’s in her bed and she’s trying to tuck him in. Neal left, promising to come back soon and be the father he could never be, dangling promises of sword fighting lessons, baseball gloves and boys’ days.

David hugged him long and strong, just like he did her, burying his face in the boy’s hair like it held all of their lost innocence. And maybe it does.

“Emma?”

“Yeah?”

“Is Grams evil now, too?” Ouch.

“No, Henry. No.” She’s just catatonic. “She’s just… I think she probably regrets what she did very much and she’s in shock.” And everybody”s fussing over her like she’s the one who’s lost the most important thing.

They’re quiet for a while. She threads her fingers through his hair. It soothes both of them.

“Oh.” He pauses and looks away from her. “I made you and Mom fight.”

“No!” God, this parenting thing is so hard. She kisses his forehead, his cheeks, his nose. “No, you didn’t. We both love you so much, Henry. She’s your mom and she loves you and we didn’t fight over you. I promise.” Not this time.

“If she had been able to keep me, then she wouldn’t have trusted Cora. And done dark magic and evil things.”

“Henry…” She’s at a loss.

She wishes Regina was there. Regina would know what to tell him. She wouldn’t even have to tell him lame half-lies. She’s trying to not do that, but it’s hard to explain. Because they did fight over him, that’s all they ever did. And not.

“Look, we’ll talk about it with her when she feels up to it. How is that?”

“You want me to talk with my mom again?”

“I think it would be a good thing, yes. I need to make sure she’s okay, though. I mean—”

“She’s in shock, too? Like Grams?”

“I think it’s a different kind of shock, but yeah. Definitely in shock.” And that’s dangerous at best.

“You’re scared she would hurt me like you?”

“What? No, no, no.” He’s skeptical. “Okay, I’m scared. But not of that. I don’t think your mom would ever hurt you. It’s just hard, Henry.”

“‘kay.”

She was kind of expecting more resistance.

“You think you can sleep now?”

“You’ll be back, right?”

“Yeah, kid. I’ll be back.”

“Okay.” He closes his eyes just to placate her, she knows.

She leans in and kisses him, nuzzling his face a little. He always feels so good. She kisses his forehead again and whispers, “I love you, Henry.”

“I love you too, Emma.”

 


 

She parks the Bug on the other side of the street. She walks up to Regina’s, her interaction with Henry and the fondness of their whispered love fresh in her ears, and the warmth of food in her hands, in to-go paper bags given to her by Granny during at her pitstop at the diner.

She’s standing in front of the little portal of Regina’s walkway up to the massive mansion. It must have been nice, growing up in one of those.

“Don’t worry, she won’t bite your head off twice.”

“What the—” Emma almost drops all her stuff, and her insides, right there as she discerns Ruby walking up to her.

On Regina’s property. Pretty much from around the house. From Regina’s backyard.

She’s barefooted and only wearing the tugging warm running capris and white shirt she had been sporting at the diner earlier. Minus shoes and hoody.

“The fuck, Ruby?!”

“I didn’t mean to startle you.” Except she did.

“Right.” Emma looks at the house. “You… talked to her?”

“I didn’t. Not exactly.” Fine, be cryptic.

“Well, I’m glad to see you haven’t tried to get into it with her or anything.”

“That’s not why I came here, Emma.” She nods to the bags in Emma’s arms. “I see Granny sent you with a peace offering.”

“She didn’t send me. She just ordered me to make sure she eats and all that.”

“Same thing, really.” Ruby stops by her side after opening the small gate. There’s no way Regina isn’t aware that they’re out there. Ruby isn’t even attempting to be discreet. “It’s early for you to try and have her eat. Or talk.”

Ruby is studying her with such—is it wisdom? Or patience, or something very Jedi-Master-like and she feels, not for the first time, like a novice Padawan Learner.

“It’s early to ask anything of her, really.”

“I’m just bringing her food and checking in on her. It’s not like there is anything else I can do.” She looks down to her own scruffy boots. “It’s not like an apology is going to change anything.”

“You want to shut up and listen to her.” That sounds like a gentler version of Granny’s orders.

“So you’ll… help?”

Ruby is Snow’s best friend. Yet, she came to Regina.

She nods and walks right past Emma.

“Front door’s unlocked. Be patient, okay?”

“‘Kay.”

 


 

Emma climbs the front steps of the porch. She knocks. She counts three Mississippis and nothing happens. With a nervous sigh, she opens the door, unlocked as Ruby predicted.

“Regina, it’s Emma.” She’s not making the same mistake twice.

Another three Mississippis, nothing explodes. She’s not lifted off the ground or thrown through any walls.

“Okay.” Emma says it more for herself than anyone else, but, yeah, she’s scared shitless. She swallows, puts her nerves in check. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. I’m going to the kitchen.”

There was light coming from the study. She knows where Regina is.

She’s not exactly loud at all. She’s quiet but quick to walk to the kitchen, turning the light switch on. She’s got her arms full of food, enough for two. She sets the bag on the kitchen island, walking around it to reach for the cupboard. She finds plates, glasses, silverware, and placemats, so she sets up dinner for two on the kitchen island.

There’s homemade mushroom soup and warm biscuits. They make her stomach rumble. She can smell chicken and she lifts the lids off the containers, “Ow!” Green beans with shallots and some very hot sauce that Emma sucks off of her already reddening index finger.

She looks up to find Regina just barely two steps away from her. Emma watches Regina studying her.

Her eyes are red and puffy. Her hair is dishevelled. Her clothes are wrinkled. She looks… stunning. Grief stricken, cheeks flushed, contrasting with her usually darker skin. She looks angry, too, but conflicted. Like she’s not sure if she’s going to attack again or just accept Emma’s small and clumsy gesture of comfort.

Regina moves to the sink. She turns on the cold water. She doesn’t move.

It takes a minute for Emma to understand. Maybe not a full minute, but it sure feels like a long time. Staring and staring. The fiery lines still dancing angrily on Regina’s face, on her hands.

She gets her finger out of her mouth and joins Regina by the sink, placing her hand under the running water.

Regina smells of alcohol. She smells of chimney and burning wood. She’s not wearing shoes. She’s barefooted, like Ruby. She’s wearing some expensive looking pajamas and a robe. It’s late. Maybe after all this time sitting in front of her fireplace, drinking and crying, she didn’t expect any more visitors. Or maybe she doesn’t care. She looks like she’s done fighting for the day.

Emma doesn’t know what to say. The silence is heavy, too heavy to break. She’s not tasting sauce anymore, though. Close to Regina, it’s her she can taste. Regina’s magic, or essence, or whatever it is. It sparks inside of her and it’s in her mouth. It’s in her nostrils. It even rings in her ears and roots her to the kitchen floor.

It must be the same for Regina because, when Emma swallows, she does, too. They’re not moving. In the distance of her mind, the cold water feels nice on her finger. They thrum together, magic reminiscent, humming softly under her skin.

Regina’s eyes dart in every direction, maybe hers do, too. She seems restless suddenly.

The water stops. Regina busies herself serving them soup in two bowls, rearranging chicken and green beans on their plates.

Emma joins her. She hops on a high stool. She waits. Regina sits opposite her and only when she’s broken a biscuit does Emma feed herself a spoonful of soup.

Regina eats very little at first. Emma watches her take small swallows of soup, some pieces of biscuit. Granny’s biscuits are very good. Ruby said to listen, and so she’s quiet. She doesn’t want to miss anything.

They eat, lulled in silence, until there’s no more soup in Regina’s bowl, some of the chicken is gone and most of the green beans. She’s even had more biscuit with that very nice sauce that went with the dish.

Emma ate her fill. She hadn’t realized how famished she was until sitting there.

She gets up and put the dishes in the sink. She cleans them, leaving only the glasses out. She feels maybe her glass of water will give her some countenance.

Regina still isn’t saying a word.

Emma waits.

There was more food in the bags. Granny sent enough for some lunch. Emma puts it away in Regina’s fridge, fascinated by the smooth and pristine marble of her counter tops.. There are more biscuits, so Emma reaches for a basket, and puts the remaining pieces in it.

Then she turns around and studies Regina for a long time. She doesn’t understand why Regina lets her. And then it dawns on her.

“You’re not going to talk to me.”

There are tears gathering at the corner of Regina’s eyes. Emma is at her side before she can think of what she’s doing, but catches herself before touching Regina.

She takes a deep breath when the thrumming returns.

She feels stupid when she realizes she hasn’t even taken her jacket off. The red one. It didn’t suffer any damage and she’s glad about that, stupid as it is. Emma reaches for her inside pocket. She deposits a red bandanna, neatly folded, by Regina’s hand, spread and white knuckled on top the kitchen island. She’s fighting sobs, Emma knows.

“I’m glad you ate.” Emma tries to smile but she’s overwhelmed by the hurt and sadness in Regina’s dark, red rimmed, shining eyes.

“I’ll be back.”

Regina looks like she’s biting her tongue.

“Please… be gentle to yourself?”

She’s said it before. She has no idea what else to do. She stands still for a moment, letting, willing this warm magical feed of theirs to wrap itself around Regina and give her all the comfort she can’t.

She closes her eyes with the intent.

She opens them again at the sound of rushing bare feet dull on the parlor’s floor, then the wooden stairs.

She leaves the bandanna on the kitchen island.