Emma had her back to Regina as she considered what the woman had just said. She was looking out over the Neverland terrain when the sound of people moving through the brush sent her hand to the sword on her hip, prepared to defend their little camp from Lost Ones.
However, Lost Ones didn’t stumble through the last barrier of undergrowth. Instead Snow was a step ahead of David. Her green gaze swept the clearing and she froze upon seeing Regina with the magic map in her hands in mid-movement.
Emma had never heard Snow’s voice scream in quite that way. It was rage, and fear, and horror all embodied in the three syllables.
efore Emma could speak or act, Snow sprung across the clearing. David pulled his sword. Regina stood and turned. Snow slammed into her body. Too many hands obscured the map from Emma’s view. Regina gave an indignant protest. Snow gave another enraged scream.
The sound echoed in an abrupt silence. Both dark-haired women fell back a step, each staring mouth agape at her jagged piece of the magical map.
"What have you done?" Regina’s voice broke the silence and filled with agony it broke Emma from her trance.
In Regina’s waving hand Emma saw the source of the older woman’s pain.
The map piece was blank, void of every clue she and Regina had just been poring over to find their son.
Emma staggered forward and gingerly took the piece from Regina’s shaking hands. The fact that the woman had not incinerated Snow where she stood would have been enough to convey her shock, but Emma saw the devastation and fear in caramel eyes before she spun on her mother.
Rage flowed through Emma when she truly digested that Snow was holding the other piece of the map.
"Emma!" Snow’s voice drove her into reaction.
She snatched the map piece from Snow’s hand with a growl, not caring that the woman flinched. David stepped forward. She glared at him.
"Get out! Get away from me, from us! We are searching for Henry while you continue to hold onto a fucking grudge.” Snow’s mouth worked without sound. Emma snarled, “Go!” She pointed behind them with her fist, the map parchments crumpling in her fist.
Her hand glowed and a flash of magic burst so suddenly between them that she had to throw her arm up and blink away the spots.
"Emma?" Snow pleaded. "You don’t…"
“I gave her the map!”
"You can’t know—"
"Yes, I can know. You assumed — again — that I have no ability to make my own decisions. You broke faith, Mary Margaret. You have shown your distrust — not of Regina — but of me.”
Emma turned her back on her mother. After a moment where the only sounds were Emma’s harsh breathing and the parchments further crumpling in her fist, Emma blew out a breath. “Regina and I are going on from here. Alone.”
"Emma, listen to —" David interjected.
"No!" Emma cut off her father without looking at him. She snatched up her bedroll with her other hand and turned to Regina. "Let’s go," she said sharply. She didn’t wait around for Regina to respond, disappearing quickly down a path that led away from the clearing.
Chapter 2: Sunshine
Chapter by LZielinsky
Emma and Regina set forth on their mission together.
Regina looked at the blond woman hunched over on a fallen log near the edge of a cliff overlooking the center of the island. Self-pity, which she recognized in the defeated curve of the bare shoulders, was seldom productive.
"Well, aren’t we just Little Miss Sunshine," she said.
Emma swiped at her face with the back of her arm before turning around. She didn’t respond to Regina’s baiting but she stood and swept her hands through her hair. “OK,” Emma said quickly, “so, let’s do this. When we last looked at the map, we both thought we saw a path that might lead into the caverns down there, right?”
"Is that where you think we should go?" Regina sat down on the log Emma had just vacated, giving the blond the superior position. She tucked her hands into her coat pockets to further present a subordinate appearance.
"We… both of us," Emma stressed, "got a vibe when we were working with the map, didn’t we? Doesn’t it make sense to go there?"
Regina canted her head, looking up at the pleading expression on Emma’s face. She recognized it as matching Henry’s from the Storybrooke well and felt her heart squeeze in her chest. “It’s your decision,” she told Emma.
Emma’s pleading turned to fear. “Don’t you want to find Henry?”
Taking a moment to be sure she didn’t sound as as pitiful as the loss of Henry made her feel, Regina finally admitted, “Desperately.”
"Then tell me what you want to do." Emma’s voice was softer, imploring.
Regina swallowed. “I can’t.”
Emma pulled back from Regina’s calm words as if she had been slapped. “You can’t? You mean you won’t! Why the hell not? Damn it, I said we all have to be who we are — You’re the fucking almighty badass Evil Queen, Regina. Order me! You’d do it if we were in Storybrooke, wouldn’t you? You did, so many times!”
Regina waited until Emma subsided. “Miss Swan. Emma,” she said gently. “You,” she emphasized, “are the leader.”
"Why? Why are you abdicating now?"
She closed her eyes. What she was about to admit felt akin to surrendering in war. “Because I have to. For Henry, Emma, I have to. Pan makes the rules here, and he has set it up so that you’re the only one who can find Henry.”
Emma’s shoulders sagged under the weight of responsibility. “So I really am going it alone.” She turned her back on Regina and stepped out to the edge of the precipice, looking down over the valley.
Regina exhaled, remembering another ledge an eon ago.
She pushed to her feet with an inhale, accepting the weight and change of what she was about to do. Placing her hand on the back of Emma’s shoulder, she felt the warmth of bare skin before she connected with green eyes. “You don’t have to be alone. You were right about many things, Emma Swan. We are stronger together.”
Emma stepped away from Regina then, with a sudden scream, she was falling. Regina grabbed for the woman’s hand and with a wave of her free hand, she pulled them together and let their bodies roll over one another as they fell toward the valley far below.
The scream stopped as abruptly as it had begun, and Regina smiled at Emma’s astonishment. “Now, let’s go save our son,” she said.
Turning them into the air currents, Regina used her magic to float them to a safe landing on the shore of a shimmering, sunlit lake.
She touched down with regal poise. Emma stumbled.
"All right, now, where do we go from here?" she asked when Emma turned to her.
"I tossed away the map, and I don’t remember what it looked like here. We have to find the path," Emma said.
Regina glanced down at her coat pocket and slipped her hand inside it gingerly. Emma’s gaze followed her hand. She squeezed the parchment and Emma heard the sound. Her eyes widened as Regina withdrew the crumpled map pieces and held them out.
"Try again," she said.
Chapter 3: Parents
Chapter by LZielinsky
Emma and Regina share a revelation.
This one is for @sinadino1 who asked for a fic to the prompt “parents”. It is also a continuation from my fic "Sunshine".
Regina retrieved the map pieces from her pocket and held them out. “Try again.”
The sun bathed the blonde in golden light when their hands touched and Emma took the map parchments.
Green eyes were bewildered, wary. “Regina? How? It’s still blank.”
"How did you reveal it before?"
Emma sighed. “Acknowledging I’m an orphan.”
Regina nodded but felt her heart sink. “But you have your parents.”
Emma sat down on the shore of the water, digging her fingers through the sandy loam. “I grew up without real parents. It’s not like flipping a switch. I tried to explain that to Mary Marg— Snow. I can’t make myself feel things I just don’t.”
Regina settled onto a boulder nearby. She looked at the blank parchment Emma kept turning over and over in her hands.
"Having parents isn’t the key to a perfect life either," she said, thinking about her mother, who she had always tried so hard to please, but only saw Regina as a means to her own ends. Then there had been her father, so loving only to never make a stand on her behalf.
Emma lay back onto the dirt, staring up at the sky. “Yeah.”
Regina could feel inertia trying to settle in. Reluctantly she straightened. Reaching out for the parchment laying by Emma’s hand, she ran her fingers over the pieces, smoothing them out. Tendrils of her magic coalesced at her fingertips, swirling against the surface. “I think you could repair it,” Regina said.
Rolling onto her side to face Regina, Emma reached out with a tentative hand, brow furrowing. “But I already admitted to myself that’s how I feel.”
She was captured then by Emma’s searching look. “What else are you denying about yourself, Emma?”
"Savior didn’t work before, Regina."
"Because you’ve accepted that." Regina knew her voice was melancholy. This woman was the only chance to find Henry. "You finally believed because of Henry’s faith in you." She inhaled and then exhaled slow. "Henry’s faith can make you strong enough again, Emma. You’re his mother."
Regina was entranced by the movement of Emma’s mouth. Green gaze caressed her face, and the gentlest voice caressed her ears. “So are you, Regina.”
Both their hands were on the parchment pieces when Emma spoke. Suddenly the crumpled halves glowed gold and lavender, uncurling. The edges knitted themselves together before both women’s eyes, and through the golden glow Regina saw colors appearing and assuming shapes on the parchment.
She pulled back as if stung and the paper fluttered back to the ground between them once again whole and, once again, a detailed map of Neverland.