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like a distant star (I simply cannot hold)

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“So this is Lucy’s book,” Emma says, flipping through it days later. She’s only half dressed, curled on the living room couch with Roni’s arms around her and chin on her shoulder. “Who are you supposed to be in it?”


“I’m not in it.” Roni says, amused. “It’s the story of her parents falling in love and having her before they’re cruelly separated by some grand curse of the Dark One’s. That’s you,” she says, poking Emma’s side. “There are pictures and everything.”


“Hm.” Emma sounds more muted now. They’re alone in the bar today. Jacinda’s finally returned to work and Henry’s out in the woods somewhere, hunting for inspiration for his sheriff’s flight. They still have a few hours until Lucy gets back from school, and Roni intends to maximize this time. “That doesn’t look anything like me.”


“You have to admit, the black clothes and the hair–”


“Nope. Nothing.” Emma twists around, and Roni sees that she has a point. She’s wearing one of Roni’s oversized flannels and panties and nothing else, and Roni’s run through her hair enough that it falls in waves past her shoulders and neck. She doesn’t look anything like the severe villain in Lucy’s book.


“Maybe not,” Roni agrees easily, and she bats the book away. “Come here,” she says, nuzzling Emma’s neck. “You can read some fairytales later.”


Emma laughs, catching her lips with her own and kissing her, the two of them swaying together as Emma backs Roni against the arm of the couch. Roni pulls her down, arms wrapping around Emma’s neck happily, and she has no idea how they’ve reached the point where Emma makes Roni happy , where Roni’s broken every rule she has for moments like this.


It’s so incredibly stupid , and she can’t even count the reasons why. Emma is her landlord. Emma has a venomous streak. Emma still cries out in the night for someone named Regina, even if she never says her name while she’s awake. There’s nothing about this pseudo-relationship that isn’t doomed to failure, and she should know better than this.


And yet, she finds that she isn’t ready to give it up, either. They’re going to break each other’s hearts someday, but until then, Roni can’t imagine that she’s going to put a stop to this. There’s something about Emma that draws her in, that makes their moments together as addictive and exhilarating as their fights had been, and Roni can’t muster up even a single bit of herself that wants anything but this.  


Emma’s kissing her neck now, and Roni leans back, her eyes drifting shut. “ Fuck , that’s good,” she says, and the door to the apartment opens.


It had been locked. They’d definitely locked it. And there’s Lucy in the doorway, her key in her hand and her eyes wide, and Roni freezes.


“What…” Lucy takes a step back. “What are you doing with Emma–” She shakes her head, her eyes only wider. “With the Dark One?” she corrects, her voice wavering.


Emma rolls off of Roni, reaching out a hand to Lucy. “Lucy–” she says, her eyes pleading, and Lucy darts into the apartment, grabbing her book from the coffee table where they’d left it, and runs before Roni can say a word. The bar door slams closed downstairs, and Roni climbs to her feet, yanking on her shoes at the door.


Emma swears. “I didn’t– why is she so hung up on–?” She squeezes her hands in frustration.


Roni finally finds her voice. “Stay here. I’ll go after her.”


“No. I’ll find her,” Emma says insistently. “I find people, it’s what I do–”


“As far as Lucy’s concerned, what you do is cast curses!” Roni snaps, and Emma rears back. Roni shakes her head, out of words to make this okay, and she’s running out of time, she doesn’t have time – “Call Jac and Henry. Let them know what’s going on. I’m out.”


It’s cruel, maybe, to push Emma away on a child’s fantasy. But what choice does she have? For all their newfound cordiality, Lucy’s always been firm on Emma being the Dark One, and the one they’re going to have to stop in the end. Lucy’s fantasies hadn’t been that far off, not when it had come to her parents, and Roni doesn’t have time to calm her lover when a little girl is in danger because Roni couldn’t control herself.


She’s aware she’s being irrational, but all she can think of is– “Lucy!” she calls, running down the block. “Lucy!”


No Lucy. The other shopkeepers haven’t seen her, either, which means she’s gone only one way– into the woods. “Lucy?” she shouts, climbing through the underbrush and pushing low branches out of the way. “Lucy, please!”


Jacinda and Henry are behind her soon enough, Jac’s voice high with fear and Henry squeezing his fingers into his sides like Emma does when she’s tense. “Lucy!” Jacinda calls, Henry’s voice combining with hers. “Lucy!”


An hour into the search, Jacinda calls her deputy to comb through the rest of the town, just in case. “She’s in here,” Jacinda says, staring around in the slowly darkening woods. “I know it.” Neither she nor Henry has asked about why Lucy had run. They must have figured it out, certainly after Emma had called them. Roni bites back bitter guilt as they search.


“Hey,” Henry murmurs, catching her expression. “It isn’t your fault. Lucy’s a runner.” He squeezes her hand. “I used to be a runner, too. It would have happened whether or not she’d seen…whatever she saw,” he finishes delicately.


Jacinda says, her tone brisk, “I’m Lucy, I want to…run. Regardless of where it takes me.” She scans the forest. “I go through the easiest parts to get through only if they’re right in front of me.” She leads them forward, brow furrowed, and a few little pocket mice scatter in front of them. Jacinda follows them almost automatically, her eyes glazed over, and the mice turn to the right sharply and scurry forward, leading them through the woods.


“Are we following the mice?” Henry asks under his breath.


“So it seems.” Roni shrugs and follows Jacinda. There are worse leads right now, and the mice are acting oddly, doubling around to lead them back where they’d come from, albeit a little deeper into the woods.


And there, crouched on a log, is Lucy, trembling in the cold. “Lucy!” Jacinda cries out, and Henry is with her, the three of them locked in a family hug that makes Roni long for… something , again. She doesn’t bother trying to understand what anymore. “Lucy, what were you doing ?”


“Look, Mama,” Lucy says breathlessly, and she points to something in front of them that they hadn’t noticed before. “Look what I found.” A massive mansion towers over them, and Roni swallows.


Again, the strange sensation of familiarity. Henry is already walking toward it, his expression as lost as hers, and Lucy says, “Wait! Wait for me!” and bounds behind him. Roni steps after them, Jacinda bringing up the rear, and she doesn’t know what it is that they’re looking for but she knows that it’s in that house.


Henry is still walking, silent and with a jagged gait like a sleepwalker, and Lucy is beginning to look anxious as she stares up at him. “Daddy?” she says tentatively. “Daddy, is everything okay?”


They round a hallway that leads to a number of rooms, but Henry ignores them all, stopping only at the end of the hallway. He reaches for a light fixture in front of him and pulls , and the wall opens in front of them.


Beyond the hallway is a room, chairs and a desk with a pen and a book lying atop it. There are bookshelves everywhere, and every single book on the shelves looks like Lucy’s book. Jacinda opens one. “They’re all blank,” she says in wonder. “Lucy…who wrote your book?”  


“Daddy did,” Lucy says, not for the first time, and this time, they turn and see Henry at the desk. His eyes are milky white, like a film is covering them, and he’s writing frantically with the pen on the desk.


Roni says, “Henry. Henry ,” her voice rising in urgency, but Henry doesn’t respond, not even when she shakes his shoulder and tries to pull him from the book. He pulls away from her, more writing exploding onto the page, and Roni peers over his shoulder at it.


Once upon a time, there was a savior who fell in love ,” she reads, and Lucy hurries over to her, the three of them gathered behind Henry as he writes a story of a girl who’s never given a name, a child found on the side of a road and passed from guardian to uncaring guardian who still grows up good. When she’s seventeen, she meets a man who promises her everything and then casts her aside. He does give her everything, growing within her as she languishes in jail .


She gives the boy away, and he returns ten years later to bring her to his town to break a curse. She loves the boy, fights his mother, and breaks the curse when that fight grows into something dangerous for him. And then the story shifts to the two mothers, to resentment and wariness that grows into friendship grows into love, up until the moment that the savior sees her True Love being consumed by a darkness that threatens to take everything from her.


The savior raises a dagger into the air, pulling the darkness from her True Love, and Roni is weeping as she reads and she doesn’t know why. She stumbles backward, oblivious to Lucy and Jacinda’s worried glances, and it hurts , hurts like something is building up inside of her and threatening to break free, something tearing her open from the inside out and laying waste to her soul.


Henry’s eyes clear from milky white to brown, and he sets the pen down, gaping up at them. “What the hell was that?” he says, and no one can give him an answer.



Roni flees, leaving the three of them behind in the mansion– Lucy and Jacinda and a boy she’s known since before she’d met him. She can feel the story creeping through her, finding truth in places that have been vacant since before she can remember. Nothing that has happened tonight is possible, least of all Henry writing stories he doesn’t know. Nothing that has happened can be real , yet somehow–


She walks quickly, hurrying through the streets in clothes that don’t fit right anymore, her mind working furiously and not at all. Her phone rings and she ignores it, once then twice, and the text that appears on the screen– Henry’s writing the Evil Queen’s story, you’d better get back here – is only enough to have her moving faster, frantically, the stories seeping in through her pores.


She stops outside the pawn shop, where the lights are dim and there’s a sign on the door informing the street that it’s closed. She pushes the door open anyway, and Emma looks up, startled, and rushes to her. “Deputy Hua said you found Lucy. What’s wrong–”


Roni kisses her, holds her tight in the dark pawn shop, and Emma quiets. “Tell me,” Roni says, her voice raspy. “Tell me the truth about who I am.”


Emma’s face is lined with fear. “Roni–”


“Is my name–” Roni swallows, kissing her again, pressing her lips to Emma’s in a vain attempt to hide from what’s quickly beginning to seem like the truth. “Am I Regina?” she whispers, and Emma cries, wracking, heaving sobs with her body pressed to Roni’s.


“Yes,” she chokes out, and she tucks back Roni’s hair, presses a kiss to the skin she’d revealed with unspeakable tenderness. “Yes, you are.”


“Oh,” Roni says, dazed. She hadn’t expected an answer so quickly, so easily. She’d thought Emma might toss her out of the pawn shop just for the question. “What happened?”


Emma flicks off the light. In pitch blackness, she whispers the truth, and Roni is drowning in her words. “Lucy got some of it right,” she whispers, her breath choppy as though she’s running a marathon. “I became the Dark One when I saved you, and it was…liberating. Terrifying. God, so lonely.” She rests her head against Roni’s shoulder, and Roni slides her arms around Emma’s waist, swaying in place with her. To someone looking in, they would appear to be slow-dancing. “I was…it was so overwhelming, living with all that malice. I just wanted to hurt , and I wanted to hurt the people I loved most of all.”


“So you cast a curse,” Roni guesses, and Emma shakes her head.


“So you sent our son away,” she breathes, and Roni trembles with our son . “It was the only way to keep him safe from me, you said. You gave him a magic bean and he had his pen and he– he was gone.” The grief suffuses all her words, and Roni can feel it clenching at her own heart, tearing it to pieces even without memory. “I was so angry,” Emma sighs out.


“So you cast a curse.” They’re still entwined, and if there’s a hidden anger deep in Roni’s memories, she can’t find it anymore.


Emma doesn’t answer. “We fought for so long, Regina,” she says, her hand running through Roni’s hair. Roni’s eyes are adjusting to the dark, but all she can see is Emma’s eyes, glowing with unshed tears. “We caused so much destruction. And in the end, the town was destroyed and Henry was still gone and we were so in love still that we might have died rather than to kill each other, and–”


“Henry,” Roni echoes, because of course it’s him. Of course Henry is their son, and all three of them had been unable to forget that even past a– “So you cast a curse,” she says, for the third time, and Emma shakes her head.


“No, Regina,” she whispers, and she’s crying again, the tears slipping down to Roni’s neck. “You did.”


Roni steps back, her heart stuttering in her chest. “I– I didn’t–”


“We didn’t have a choice. It was the only way to save…everyone,” Emma says, gesturing out the pawn shop window. “And it was the only way we could bring Henry back, if we played it right. I spent so long trying to get him back, realm jumping and begging him to believe that I could– that I could control it, that we could be a family again– and then one day I lost him entirely.”


Roni finds her voice. It’s hoarse, wet with tears she hasn’t cried yet. “Lucy said– to cast the curse, you needed– the heart of the thing you loved most.”


Emma bobs her head, and now she has the same look on her face that she would used to have when she’d look in the window of the bar. Roni had thought back then that she’d looked lost. Tonight, she amends it to haunted . “Henry was in another realm, and so– it was possible to cast the curse with the person you loved most in this realm.” Roni reaches forward unconsciously, her hand pressing to Emma’s chest.


“I was the Dark One,” Emma whispers. “I was immortal, and that kept me alive for long enough for you to finish casting the curse. And this was– this was my mess in the first place. I had to…”


“You gave up your heart,” Roni finishes shakily, and Emma doesn’t look like a woman without a heart, without a vital piece of herself. “What– what does that mean? What happens if the curse breaks? Who do you become?”


What ,” Emma corrects her, eyes hollow. “ What do I become.”


No ,” Roni says fiercely, determined at once. No , and she surges forward and kisses Emma, loves her desperately as she’d been afraid to for so long, and it’s– it’s perfect for a moment, more perfect than it’s ever been before, until the peace bubbling through her bubbles and bubbles and overflows in a mass of color, arcing out from around them in what Regina’s seen far too many times not to know it as a true love’s kiss.


And Emma goes limp in her arms, the humanity in her eyes fading away.



No ,” Regina says again, and the memories wash over her and she shrugs them away, too focused on the body in her arms. “No, I won’t let you have her. Not again.” She doesn’t know where the dagger is– she doesn’t care , not right now. Not when it can’t be Emma’s salvation.


They’d known this was a risk from the start, had known that Emma’s life would last only as long as the curse would, and Regina had refused to do it at first. But Emma had been adamant, and so many had been hurt– more than either of them could heal even after they’d reconciled. The world had been laid to waste, and the curse had been their only chance.


She hadn’t wanted this curse to break, not ever. “No, no, no,” she chants, and she kisses Emma again, reaches into her chest to pull out her own heart. If Snow and David could do it– could beat fate and get their happily ever after– why can’t she split her own heart? Why can’t she–


She tries twisting it in half and doubles over, falls crumpled to the floor and blacks out for a moment. There’s no one left in this town who could split it for her, and it’s so impossibly cruel– that she can save others, but never herself–


“Emma,” she chants, curling up beside Emma’s prone figure. “Emma, we found him. You have to wake up. You have to be you when you…”


Magic is back. Regina can feel it in her veins, in her thrumming heart. Magic is back, and when Emma awakens, she’ll be the Dark One again, and this time, without her heart. She remembers now, remembers gathering items for a curse that had had them both grim and afraid. And what about the heart , Regina had asked, and Emma hadn’t answered. Emma, who had only just remembered herself, who had only just found the power to fight the darkness and seen the destruction she’d wrought as though for the first time.


They’d had only minutes between the moment she’d crouched over the well, shoulders hunched and body and heart numb as she’d crushed Emma’s heart into glittering diamonds, and the moment the curse had taken effect. Emma had been unconscious on the ground, and the magic had begun to billow from the well, ready to take them. Regina had thought back to her first curse, to the second she’d cast with Snow, and she’d remembered then, past the grief and emptiness, Rumple’s warning. Now there's a hole in your heart.


He’d told her then that she’d come to him to fill it, and she had, and Henry had. There’s never been a curse that didn’t write solace into its programming, that hadn’t provided her with a solution even past the misery–


–and suddenly, she knows this one. She hits the button, her fingers shaking, and Jacinda picks up.


No. Not Jacinda . “You,” she says, and she doesn’t sound very pleased to hear from her onetime roommate. “You’re some kind of…Evil Queen?”


“I need Henry,” Regina says urgently. “It’s the only way to save us all. I need Henry to drive over here and…” She outlines her plan as quickly as she can, standing so she can circle Emma’s prone figure.


Soon, a heartless Dark One will awaken.


Jacinda’s voice is cool. “You took us out of our home and into this…world,” she says. “This isn’t my realm. These aren’t my people.”


“I’m sorry,” Regina murmurs. This isn’t the time for apologies, but this one, she knows. “We were looking for a boy. We had no idea that he’d grown up so quickly.”


Jacinda is silent, then she says, “Lucy can snap him out of it.”


Regina can hear her nearby, “Daddy! ” and what sounds like Lucy slapping Henry’s cheeks.


“She used to do that all the time when she was little,” Jacinda says. “He’d get distracted by his books, and she’d just…slap him back into consciousness. She’s the only one who’s ever managed it,” she says ruefully, and she sounds for a moment like the Jacinda who’s been Regina’s friend– or at least Roni’s. “I can’t imagine how i could have raised her without him.”


Daddy! ” Lucy says again, and there’s a loud thump from the other end.


Henry’s voice sounds, low and amused, and Regina aches for her son with desperation that Roni had never felt. “Hi, pumpkin.” A pause. “Is it just me, or are our memories– Moms ,” he croaks out.


“Moms,” Jacinda echoes, realization dawning in her voice, and she passes the phone to Henry in silence.



Regina paces while she waits for Henry, careful to watch the figure still slumped on the floor. Henry. Her daughter-in-law. Her granddaughter. “We’re grandmothers, Emma,” she whispers to someone who can’t respond.


Her shoes feel odd as she moves– her jeans feel odd, everything alien when it had been exactly her style before now. She catches a flash of herself in a pawn shop mirror, touching her hair with chagrin.


“I liked the hair,” rumbles a voice from the ground. “Very sexy bartender . And that pair of jeans you used to wear that make your ass look especially grab-able.” Emma rises from the ground, her eyes dark and unfriendly, and she takes a step forward. “I think we have some unfinished business, don’t we?”


Regina draws her magic, tossing a glance out the window. “Emma, don’t do this. You know you’re better than this.”


“And you’re better than stealing fifteen years of our son’s life, aren’t you?” Emma sneers. “You sent him away, and look what we lost. Look what you did to us. And you call me heartless.”


It hits where Emma had aimed it, stinging Regina with too much honesty. “I did what I had to do,” Regina says evenly. “You would have hurt him far worse.”


Emma glides forward, her steps long and threatening, but she only puts a hand to Regina’s cheek, running her knuckles against Regina’s skin with unnatural tenderness. “I gave up my soul for you,” she purrs. “And you repaid me by taking away everything I loved.”


Regina meets her eyes, refuses to look away, and Emma’s eyes are unmoved. “And then you took my heart,” Emma breathes. “And now I’m nothing but a broken husk. Do you still want me? Do you still love me?”


“I’ll always love you,” Regina says through gritted teeth. In any universe, under any name. They’re inevitable, and the only question is when, not if.


That answer only seems to infuriate Emma, and hot magic sparks from her hand and flashes into Regina’s skin. Regina steps back deftly with nothing more than a hissed curse, and Emma says, “ Why . Why do you bother when there’s no way out . You can’t split your own heart, and I’m sure as hell not going to split yours–”


“There’s a way, love,” Regina says, and it only seems to infuriate Emma further. “There’s always a way.” Emma hurls a fireball at her, glowing white like a supernova, and Regina deflects it before it can reach her. “Don’t do this. You want your heart back, too.”


“I want you dead ,” Emma hisses, hurling more magic at her. Regina deflects it, sends it hurtling it back, and Emma dodges easily and waves her hand, firing another blast Regina’s way.


Regina takes a step forward. Emma matches her steps, eyes glued to her. “I love you, Emma. And I can give you back your heart. I wrote it into the curse.”


“You did not,” Emma sneers. “There’s nothing in this sorry little existence that could ever–”


Regina sidesteps, catches a blast of lightning energy and holds it in her hand. It pulses like an electrical storm, lighting up the dim room with flashes that only just reveal eyes and skin and hands outstretched at each other. “The Author wrote a book,” Regina says, her eyes flickering only for an instant to the window. “You read the first. Did you read his manuscript for the second?”


“Mayor and sheriff. Yeah. Serial killer out to get everyone’s heart.” Emma’s lips twist cruelly. “Sounds like you.”


Regina ignores that. “And he tries to take the sheriff’s, but fails. Henry already wrote your heart back.”


Emma snorts. “Wishful thinking. I don’t have my heart.”


“Not yet,” Regina says grimly.


Emma’s eyes glint with malice. “You really think–” She interrupts herself, magic coursing toward Regina, and Regina doesn’t expect it. It slams into her and she cries out, and Emma takes a step forward, raising her hands to attack again–


The door to the pawn shop is opened. A shot is fired, and Emma is taken by surprise, the bullet tearing into her side and knocking her down. Jacinda keeps the gun trained on her from the doorway, face hard, and Regina says, “ Now!


Henry throws open his laptop, and a surge of white light bursts from it.




(There’s a moment of silence–


Henry shaking as he holds the laptop open, Emma on her knees with her eyes wide and startled, Regina sliding to the ground in exhausted relief. Jacinda holds her gun with her hands trembling, and Lucy watches from behind them, her book clutched against her.


Then Emma is lifted into the air and she lets out an anguished scream, and the silence is shattered with her agony. Henry is breathing hard, watching her with protracted horror, and Emma screams again, dropping back to the ground. Regina crawls to her, holds her in her arms through an anguished howl of pain. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, darling,” Regina murmurs, pressing a hand to Emma’s cheek. “I can make it stop hurting soon.”


“I’d rather die,” Emma grits out, still angry and haloed in darkness, and then she screams, her body lighting up with a surge of bright light. Her whole torso lifts off the floor and then slams down, again and again, and she screams, screams and screams with a hand clutching her chest. “Please,” she chokes out. “Please, please make it stop –”


“It’s done,” Henry says, his laptop crashing to the ground, and Emma goes limp, her chest still rising and falling desperately. Regina crouches over her, kissing her forehead, and a tiny bit of the whiteness of her hair fades. Henry joins her, his hand slipping into hers, and he kisses Emma’s cheek, once and twice and thrice until they’re taking turns, kissing the darkness from Emma while she lies flat on the floor, her eyes blank and unseeing.


And when it finally bursts from within her, a dark cloud of magic chased away into the sky, it races upward and upward until it bursts into flames, showering them all with a spray of fireworks.)



“What’ll we do with the bar?” Henry wants to know. It’s been three days, and Storybrooke is beginning to settle back to normal. They’ve always been good at bouncing back, and having the mayor back in control is a perk that everyone’s thankful for.


Being in the bar now feels like a distant dream, like something she’d thought had sounded grand when she’d been a child hoping only to escape Cora’s grasp and meet everyone in the kingdom around her. She would have loved it as a child. Now, she finds solace in leading instead. “Jac and Emma are both working in the station now. You can still live upstairs, but unless you want to–”


“I kind of do,” Henry says thoughtfully. “Writing stories is useless if you can’t find anyone who’ll talk to you. If you don’t mind, I can take over Roni’s.”


“This sounds suspiciously like a frat boy fantasy,” Regina says, quirking her eyebrows.


Henry laughs. “Lucky for you, I never made it to college.” At Regina’s glare, he says dutifully, “But I will of course be attending classes at a local school when I’m not tending bar or writing.” He leans into her side. “I missed you.”


“We spent so many years trying to figure out how to get back to you,” Jacinda agrees from behind them. She’s dressed in her sheriff’s uniform, Emma beside her with a badge loose on her belt. Lucy is between them, smiling up at Emma as she walks. “Henry was desperate to know that you were both all right. I thought it was a pipe dream.”


So had they, in a sense, and it’s something else entirely to crouch down and have a little girl run into her arms, spinning her around into Emma’s arms and pulling out a cookie from her secret jar behind the bar to offer to Lucy. “Grandma!” Lucy says in delight, then squeals as Emma lifts her and spins her again.


“They’re going to spoil her,” Henry says in a stage whisper. “They’re going to load her up with sugar and get her all riled up, and then they’re going to hand her back to us like that at bedtime.”


“You never complained when I did that to Regina with you,” Emma says, folding her arms and smirking.


Regina’s mouth opens triumphantly. “So you admit it!” She stabs an accusing finger at Emma.


“Shh,” Emma says, grinning. “New common enemy now, remember? We get to gang up on Henry now–” Jacinda folds her arms and arches her eyebrow. “–But we won’t , of course ,” Emma hurries to amend.


“Wouldn't dream of it, Jac,” Regina agrees, doing her best to seem innocent. She's never been very good at that.


Lucy says loyally, “I’ve been waiting for grandmas all my life. I should get at least some spoiling.”


Jacinda shakes her head, amused. “Lucy, bedtime. Say goodnight to your grandmas.” They each get a hug and a kiss, and Regina watches her fondly as she disappears upstairs with her mother.


Henry says, “I usually read Lucy a story at bedtime,” but he reaches for both of them, enfolding his mothers in a hug. “Love you, Moms,” he murmurs.


“We love you, too,” Regina says, and she manages a kiss to his cheek before he pulls away, heading back upstairs to his wife and daughter. Wife and daughter . It’s been three days with her memories, and she still can’t quite wrap her mind around it.


Emma slides an arm around her arm, her head leaning against Regina’s shoulder. “It’s pretty wild, isn’t it?”


“Very much so,” Regina agrees fervently, twisting to face her. “How’s your heart?”


Emma winds her fingers through Regina’s, bringing them up over her chest. “Feel it,” she says.


“Feels strong,” Regina murmurs, and she bends to kiss it, lips pressed over Emma’s breast. Emma inhales, long and deep, and pulls Regina back up, brushing her lips against Regina’s.


“You know,” she says, climbing onto a barstool and pulling Regina in between her legs. “When I first saw you here…I was so furious. I saw you with Jacinda and Lucy and I thought that you’d cursed yourself a new family, a better one–” Her voice hitches.


Regina clasps her hands over Emma’s cheeks. “Our family,” she reminds her. “It was always our family.”


“Ours,” Emma murmurs. Her hands go to Regina’s sides, and Regina kisses her, slow and tender and long as they haven’t been able to in years. Emma reaches up to brush the hair out of her face, and she says, “Heartless me wasn’t kidding, by the way. If you ever want to go back to the sexy bartender look–”


Regina pushes her and Emma slips off the chair, laughing, pulling Regina with her as they drop to the floor by the bar together.