That’s how long it’s been since she set foot on the campus of Xavier’s school.
She had always made up excuse after excuse when anyone invited her for a visit or reminded her that the job offer still stands . She’d considered visiting once or twice, the closest she ever came to doing so she actually teleported into New York and started walking towards the school, but the weight of everything that happened there still felt too fresh, even years later, and she escaped back to her apartment in seconds.
But now, she has no other choice.
She’d been working as a cop in Boston, undercover as a human of course, carefully navigating her mutant abilities so that she just looked impressive, but not unnatural. Being a mutant in today’s society didn’t come with guaranteed acceptance, though she hoped one day it would. She avoided teleporting at all cost, knowing that it would be the easiest of her powers for anyone to pick up on, but as for her lie detection, it was her main motivation to keep the job.
She could help save the world and blend in doing it.
It would be awesome , Emma always thought, to be able to perform as a mutant cop, to everyone on the team, as opposed to just herself. Mutants would be an excellent addition to the field, and not just for police, but for any field.
Being a cop was her first choice, but she always thought that if mutants ever developed equal rights alongside humans, she would work in the medical field, responding to emergencies and teleporting directly to the victim where she could start the healing process while the other EMT’s raced to the location.
There were a few times where she almost outed herself intentionally, thinking that they would be able to utilize all of her unique skills for the better, but when she overheard some of her coworkers making ignorant jokes about mutants over lunch one day, all hope of doing so was gone.
She was more careful after that.
(But some things can’t be helped.)
A call for immediate backup comes into the station, and Emma is on it within seconds, jumping from her seat and racing to her patrol car. When she gets to the scene, everything is chaotic and out of police control, and she isn’t even sure what she’s planning on doing when she runs from the car. The next thing she knows, gunfire sounds and her head cracks against the pavement.
She expects to come to in the hospital, but instead she finds herself back at work, propped in a chair in an investigation room. At first she thinks she must have been dreaming, but then the Chief walks in, a stern look on his face, and Emma knows that he knows the truth.
“What happened?” she asks even though she has a pretty good idea.
He frowns at her in stark disapproval. “You were shot in the chest.”
Of Emma’s three powers, she never thought this one , the healing power that had saved her life countless times, would be the one to out her. She doesn’t know how to respond.
“Do you know why you’re here?”
She clearly has nothing to lose anymore, so she snorts. “Do you mean alive, or in this room with you?” His unamused expression remains unchanging. “Yeah,” Emma admits. “I know.”
“Care to explain?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not necessary.” He doesn’t even blink. “Look, Chief, I’m valuable to the team. I know that no one thinks mutants are… normal, but my powers aren’t bad. What I did to myself after the attack? The healing? I can do that to anyone else. Not just me. I haven’t been using my powers much here at all, except the lie detection, which has helped us out here so many times already. If you gave me a chance--”
“You’re not to be trusted.”
“What?” Emma can’t believe this. “I just told you that I have a lie detection mutation. It physically prevents me from telling a lie--”
“You’ve been lying to us since the beginning, Swan.”
She gapes at him. “That’s not--”
“The same thing?” he finishes. “I beg to differ.”
“But the healing… Sir, if you keep me on, I could help everyone here. No one would have to be out due to injuries anymore. None of us would have to die --”
“Who’s to say you’d do it? You don’t have to do the right thing. You could be selfish or turn against us,” he says, interrupting her again. “You’re not to be trusted.”
He really believes that , Emma thinks, his words leaving her with no traces of untruth. “With all due respect, every one of us who works here, human or mutant, has free will. Just because I am a mutant, does not mean I’m more likely to make selfish or immoral decisions.”
The Chief snorts. “We have no mutants that work here.” The message is clear.
“ Fine ,” Emma responds, struggling to hide her anger at the man’s incompetent judgement. “After this, I don’t want to work here anyways.”
“Well. Then I hope you’re okay with not working anywhere…” Emma looks up to him, her brows furrowing. He can’t mean… Oh. He does. “Emma Swan, you’re under arrest. I believe you know your rights…”
Emma scoffs. What rights? A part of her wants to fight him on it. Demand to know exactly what she did wrong to deserve this, what law she broke , what right they have to lock her away, but two things stop her.
The first being the knowledge that this is a losing battle for her.
The second being that she has a third power that the Chief doesn’t know about.
Just as she feels the cool metal of the handcuffs about to close on her wrists, she’s gone.
That’s how Emma becomes wanted .
She lives close to the station, so she knows she only has about five minutes until they get there, and she spends three of them grabbing the few things she might need and stuffing them into a backpack. She’s never been more grateful for her lack of materialism as she finishes up on time, moving on to pull out her phone and dialing a number she knows by heart, but hasn’t called in years.
It picks up halfway through the first ring. He probably already knows what’s going on , she thinks. “Emma.”
“I don’t have a lot of time…”
“You won’t need it. You know where to go.”
So she goes.
She’s sure that the professor had meant for her to teleport into his office, but she isn’t ready for that. Hell, she’s not even ready to be on school grounds, staring at the front of the mansion, but here she is anyways.
The cops won’t be looking for her here. They wouldn’t know to. She has no rush to be inside, so she takes advantage. She forgot the phone was still in her hand, so when she hears a gentle voice on the other end, she jumps. “Come in whenever you’re ready.”
“Okay,” Emma breathes. “Is...uh,” she trails off, waiting to see if he already knows what she’s going to ask. She thinks he does, just because he knows her not because he’s reading her. The line stays silent, and she knows he’s keeping his promise not to read her thoughts. “Is Logan there?”
“He is. Do you want me to send him out?”
“Yes, please,” Emma answers, scuffing the tip of her boot against the dirt. “Thank you, by the way.”
“For what?” He doesn’t need to ask, but it only proves her point more.
“For keeping your promise…not reading my mind.”
“Emma,” he starts, and she closes her eyes, preparing herself for his next words. “After what happened… I wouldn’t--”
“Stop,” she cuts him off. “I can’t… I can’t talk about this. Not yet.”
“It’s been ten years, Emma…”
“ Eleven ,” she corrects.
“All the more reason.” The blonde doesn’t answer. “Logan will be out shortly.” Xavier lets a few beats pass before he hangs up, leaving Emma in the silence.
She spends most of it with her eyes on the ground, feeling too fragile to look at the building. Not like it matters. A building is just a building, and the real reason she even feels the way she does isn’t here. She wouldn’t be.
Emma glances up in time to see Logan, looking exactly the same as he did all those years ago, marching towards her, still looking gruff even with the traces of a smile lining his face. Neither of them are into hugs, but this time they make an exception. It feels so comforting that it leads Emma to wonder when the last time she shared any contact like this.
“I’m glad you’re back,” Logan admits, but his face is wary. He doesn’t know what’s happened, but he knows that something has, and he doesn’t need to ask for Emma to start explaining things.
He’s fuming by the time she finishes, and she tries for a shrug to calm him down, let him know that she isn’t making a big deal out of it. “It sucked, but there’s nothing to be done. Not immediately anyway. Equal rights are gonna take time.”
“They’ve been taking time,” he growls.
Emma shrugs again. “Anyway, I’m wanted by the cops now. Probably more so after I teleported out as they were handcuffing me.”
Logan snorts giving her arm a soft punch, “That’s my girl.”
“I just can’t believe it. What were they trying to arrest me for? Preventing my death? It’s just…” she trails off, at a loss for words.
“Fucked up?” he offers.
“ Really fucked up. I could have been an asset to them, using my powers to full ability if they’d let me.”
“Well you know your offer here is still open. I know it’s not exciting , but you’ll have a job. A home,” he looks at her pointedly, and she remembers the first time they met under similar circumstances. He smirks, “Looks like it’s happening again, Swan. It feels like just yesterday you were just a kid running from every foster family they tried to put you in.”
“Hey, you know as well as I do that I never ran .”
Logan shakes his head with a laugh, “You were hard to catch. I never thought that I’d get your attention by just talking to you. But I guess I didn’t know about the lie detector then either, just the teleporting.”
“You were the only one I trusted at first. I’d heard so many lies that it was hard to understand what was happening in my head when it started.” Her lie detector is a powerful mutation, coming in handy in ways she appreciates, but it’s also incredibly flawed. The recognition of lies manifests itself in something that sometimes feels just like darkness, sometimes a swell of distrust for the speaker, sometimes a wave of ice cold doubt crashing into her heart. It’s only painful when it’s someone she knows and the sensation lingers, whereas the rest of the time, the lie will roll out with the moment.
Logan had been the first to say anything truthful to her once her powers were revealed. She’d thought she was broken, always full of stormy weather when anyone spoke to her, or maybe the weird feelings she got were because she was teleporting She wasn’t sure.
She’d never heard of a mutant when she realized she was one, her powers activating when she got into a fight at school. She sat in the principal’s office with a broken nose that hurt less and less as time passed, and the first pang in her gut happened when the man looked down at her and said, “You started that fight,” not bothering to ask.
He yelled at her when she denied it, and she wanted to disappear. The principal picked up the phone to call her foster mom, and when Emma heard the woman’s shrill voice on the other end, she just knew she couldn’t face that. Everything the principal said to the woman made her gut twist uncomfortably.
She closed her eyes, trying to imagine she was anywhere else, and then, she was.
It was the beach.
She was so afraid at how she got there that she just stayed put. It was hours later when someone was suddenly next to her, reaching out his hand. “I’m Logan. I’m not gonna hurt you.”
A warmth raced through her veins, removing the negative feelings the principal stirred within her, and Emma knew he wasn’t lying to her.
She ran anyway.
Well, teleported away.
This time she imagined a group home she had been in a few states over, and she went there. They were confused, but asked very few questions, placing her into another home. It took a week for the man at the beach to appear there too.
She kept moving from place to place, and it took about two months for him to finally catch her attention. “Emma.” She froze. How does he know my name? “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, seconds before metal claws were unleashed from his hands, between the knuckles. Her eyes widened in shock, but she didn’t flinch.
“You promise?” she asked.
She watched as the claws retracted back into his hands. “You’re like me,” she said, a near whisper into the air.
“There are more of us than you think.” Her belief in the statement was inherent. “And there’s a place you can go. It’s a school, so I know that probably doesn’t interest you, but you can learn about who you are. How to control your strengths. It can be your home.”
Her heart swelled. Home.
She looks up at the building, more nervous now that she had been on her first day here. Being here will change nothing, but Emma has to move on eventually. Maybe this could actually be helpful, if she lets it be. (She thinks it could be, so it must be true.)
“Sometimes I wish healing magic could take care of emotions too,” Logan admits, placing a supportive hand on her shoulder. “But you’ve gotta learn somehow, kid.”
“Kid?” Emma snorts.
“I don’t care how old you are, I’m always gonna call you that. Are you ready to go inside? I’m sure everyone will be excited to see you.”
Emma teeters on her feet for a moment, waiting for her excitement to outweigh her uncertainty. She counts to ten and nothing shifts, but she steps forwards anyways.
As a mutant, as someone who can heal physical injury and as someone with the ability to immediately and physically remove herself from any given situation, she doesn’t think she should be afraid of anything, but she constantly has to remind herself to be brave.
It’s what she tells herself before they walk into the mansion, what she tells herself as the door closes behind them, and it’s what Mary Margaret tells her when she’s the first to greet Emma in the atrium.
“You’re so strong, Emma, but it’s okay if you don’t always feel like it,” the woman beams as she pulls back from the hug she initiated.
Emma gins back at her, happy to be reunited with her friend after so long, but she can’t help but wince a little internally. She knows that Mary Margaret means well, but she frequently imposes more than the blonde feels comfortable with.
“Emma, I’m so sorry,” she says when she realizes, and Emma doesn’t need to see the look on her face to know it’s genuine.
“No, hey, don’t.” Emma manages a smile at her, “You can’t always stop it.”
Mary Margaret nods, but doesn’t look convinced. The woman is an empath with retrocognition. The empath part of her is not so powerful that she can manipulate emotions, but it is powerful enough that she picks them up from others unintentionally. ( “You’d think I was already emotional enough with my own ,” Mary Margaret had said once through tears, trying to make a joke. Emma comforted her then, same as know.)
“I know you don’t mean to. If anyone says otherwise, I’ll defend you. You know that.”
“Yeah,” she half grins up at Emma. “I just wish I didn’t have to do that to you. You know, after…” she trails off, squeezing her eyes shut. “I’m sorry,” she repeats, “For what happened, and for reading you again.”
At this point, Emma thinks comforting the woman is impossible, but when she sees David walking up, Mary Margaret’s face lights up before he even reaches them. She knows he’s there. The blonde chuckles when David greets his wife first, as if he hasn’t seen Emma since their wedding, but she doesn’t mind, and they both know it.
“Emma, hey,” he finally says, pulling her into a hug. “It’s good to have you back.”
“Yeah, it’s great to see you both again. Where’s, uh, everyone else?” Her hand rubs the back of her neck as she glances around, a little embarrassed that she can’t even remember who works there.
“Hey, it’s cool,” David smiles, touching her arm lightly. “We can’t expect you to remember everything.”
Emma nods, reassured by his words. She thinks it has something to do with his presence as well, but the extension of his own empathy isn’t as evident as Mary Margaret despite it being stronger. She’s never quite understood his power, but she always found it to be genuine and unintrusive, though she shudders to think what it would be like to have absolute charisma used against you.
“As you can see, I’m still here. Teaching two classes. One on powers of the mind and another on ethics and morality .” The blonde’s eyebrows raise, impressed. “Yeah, I know. It’s quite the class. It was Robin’s idea. His curriculum with Mutants and the Law got too big, and he thought if we could separate it, it’d be a good fit for me. It really is too. I want these kids to know that there’s a time and a place to use their powers, and just because they have them, doesn’t mean they can take advantage. And then Mary Margaret--”
“I’ve been counseling,” she interrupts with a wide smile. “Archie resigned last year, and they asked if I’d be interested in the position. I was hesitant at first, since my retrocognition transcends my control, but the professor insisted it would be fine, so, here I am.”
“Has it been fine?” Emma asks.
“Definitely,” the woman confirms. “Oh! And you might not have heard, but Archie is trying to work in the government to fight on behalf of mutant rights!”
“It must not be going too great yet,” Emma says grimly.
“Why do you say that?”
“You’ll probably… I don’t know, dream about it or something tonight. But, um--”
The blonde hardly has time to register who called out to her first before she’s being tackled by multiple sets of arms, pulling her into a hug. Her arms are awkwardly pinned to her side by someone , but she tries to reciprocate the contact anyway. “Uh, hey guys…”
“Ruby, move, she’s my best friend.”
“You wish, Pinocchio.”
“I told you not to call me that.”
Emma snorts, “August, come on, it’s a classic nickname. You can’t really be upset about it can you? I mean, you can literally turn into wood.”
He pulls back to give her an exasperated look, his eyes dancing with humor. “Wood mimicry is no joke. Why Pinocchio though? Why can’t I be someone cool… like, Groot?”
“Because you’re not a tree ,” a third voice says, grinning at Emma. She loves that she can just fall back into this banter with her friends so easily. It makes her feel like she can get used to this place all over again.
“And you’re not a bird , but we still get to call you the same of an awesome fictional sidekick.”
At that Robin laughs. “I suppose I just got lucky.”
“Okay, well here’s a question: why am I the only one that gets a funny nickname for my powers? Why doesn’t Ruby get called The Big Bad Wolf or something?” Ruby playfully hits him in the arm, and he does it back.
A deep chuckle sounds from behind the group, and Emma’s smile slips in nervous anticipation. Xavier is rolling up to them, followed closely by a smirking Logan. “I’m pleased that you’re back, Emma. Even if you are a bad influence on this group.”
“Sorry, Professor,” Emma says, clearly not sorry at all. He smiles up at her, and seeing him is a sobering moment, bringing her back to the reality of what her life means right now. She’s surrounded by friends, but the giddy emotions that come with being reunited will fade. Their presence will always be comforting in a way, but it isn’t going to constantly cushion her from all the less than positive emotions this place will ultimately bring back to her.
She still wishes things were different, even if she is, in a way, glad to be back.
“Might we take a moment?” Xavier asks, and Emma nods. He rotates to head back towards his office, and she smiles at her friends as she passes them.
Walking through the school is more than she expected it to be. Unlike her friends, its appearance remains the same, and she spots a statue that reminds her of that time… no. A passageway where she and… no. No. Emma isn’t letting herself go there, even if she has to fight it at every turn.
She’ll just have to harden herself even more than she had in the past eleven years since…
She looks up to Xavier, now in place behind his desk. She shakes her head as she closes the door behind her and takes a seat across from him. “Sorry. I, uh… It’s just…”
“You don’t need to explain.” Emma opens her mouth to challenge his statement, but he shakes his head. “I’m not going to pull the thoughts from you. They’re your business. I meant that you can keep them where you want. You can leave them behind, forget them… bury them if you must. I just don’t want them to take over. Are you going to be alright? Coming back here?”
Emma wants to say, I’m fine , but the words don’t come out, so she shrugs in response to his question, and then says, “I’ve missed everyone, and I’m grateful for the job.”
He smiles the kind of smile that tells her he knows she didn’t answer his question, that she can’t without expressing vulnerability. “Believe me, I’m really appreciative of this your return. I know the circumstances that led you to accept aren’t tolerable, by any means, but…”
“I get it,” Emma smiles. “Honestly, I think I was bound to return here one day. I just… hoped the ‘real world’ wouldn’t be the way it was,” she scoffs with her air quotes. “But this is a great chance to help. And I’m glad you’re offering me the chance to do what no one else wanted me to.” Green eyes drop to her lap. She’s grateful when Xavier doesn’t push the subject, allowing her a moment of silence. “You still want me for healing, right? As the school nurse?”
The professor nods, “That would be appreciated. Granny’s been in the position, but she’s doing that on top of everything else she does for us already. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great at medicine, understanding health better than most of us with her regenerative strengths, but they don’t apply to others in the way that yours do. Logan’s as well. You’re invaluable, Emma.”
It’s all she’s ever wanted to hear.
Emma settles easily into the position, she settles easily into the environment with the students and her friends and coworkers, but she doesn’t settle in so easily to the building, or rather, the idea of it.
Her room now is on the opposite side that her room as a student was. Nobody brings up the past, unless it involves a time with just the people any of them still talk to, the people that are still around. She knows it isn’t just for her sake either, the past contains all kinds of painful memories everyone is as reluctant to bring up as she is about…
But anyways .
Emma thinks that it helps, not being the only one with baggage.
She finds ways to numb herself from it all, same as she did eleven years ago when everything happened, and she had to stay until graduation. Same as she did when she moved away and found space but not closure.
Maybe she doesn’t smile as much this way, blocking herself off from as many feelings as she can, but it’s a better alternative than hurting even just a little bit.
It’s only a matter of time before someone calls her out on it.
It happens at a staff dinner one weekend. They all make a point to get together, just adults, to spend time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company with drinks and good food. This time it’s just those of them that were students together, Emma, David and Mary Margaret, Ruby, August, Robin, and Elsa, and when Ruby puts a shot in her face, Emma takes it.
They go a little overboard this time, but it’s a holiday, and everyone just wants a break. Emma just wants a break. She’s felt so on edge lately that she honestly worries about reaching an insurmountable breaking point. Drinks with friends seems like a good idea.
Everyone else is tipsy, bordering on drunk, and Emma is so far behind despite having drank more than all of them. She learned the hard way (or maybe it was the easy way considering what could have happened to a sixteen year old Emma consuming as much whisky as she had) that having a healing power meant that getting drunk wouldn’t be an easy feat, as her body was constantly replenishing itself.
But it wasn’t impossible, and she’d be damned if she didn’t get there tonight.
Everyone gives her worried looks, Mary Margaret more than anyone else, and Emma isn’t surprised. By the time she finally starts to feel a buzz, she starts shooting looks back at her friend just to make her stop.
She doesn’t think about how she hasn’t talked to anyone about what happened to bring her here, outside of Logan and Xavier, until Robin nudges her, “Hey, so you were a cop before this? I’ve never gotten to ask you how that was. I’d be so into that, but they wouldn’t want me if they knew what my power was…”
Emma scoffs. “They don’t give a damn what your power is. Just having it is enough for them to want none of us,” she says, taking another long drink, from the bottle at this point.
Robin’s face falls. It hurts to see, and she wishes her power were to take back time just to have not disappointed him with those words. But if that was her power… no , but she lets her mind go there anyways... who knows where she and Regina would be now.
She squeezes her eyes shut, opening them again when she feels a hand against her arm. It’s Mary Margaret because of course it is , and the expression on her face is completely conflicted, letting Emma know that she knows more than anyone else, about all of it. Her retrocognition allowed her to watch it firsthand, and Emma shakes her head as soon as she spots the apology in the woman’s eyes. “Don’t. Please. I know you can’t control your dreams.”
Everyone sits, entirely too quiet, and it makes Emma feel like she’s just crashed the entire night. All she want is to disappear, but she’s done that before, teleported back to her room. She gets where she aimed to go, but it never takes here where she wants.
Where she wants to be is somewhere she doesn’t have to feel like this. Somewhere that goes beyond a physical home, feeling irreplaceably and wholly home , beyond the physical atmosphere. An emotional safe place.
It only exists in the past, she’s sure.
“Emma, talk to me. Please,” Mary Margaret whispers. “It’s… this isn’t healthy, and I’m worried about you. Your either so shut off that I couldn’t read your emotions even if I wanted to, or your guard is down so low that I couldn’t ignore them if I tried.”
It’s a confirmation, that she really hasn’t been doing as well as she’s let on. She doesn’t know how she plans on getting to a place where she is doing well, but it isn’t going to be by talking to Mary Margaret, it isn’t going to be hanging out with Robin, and it isn’t going to be by letting David lead her through her feelings with his empathetic conversion.
It isn’t going to be here at all.
She probably shouldn’t, but she finished the bottle of liquor in front of her. “Can we talk later?” she asks the empath, and Mary Margaret worries her bottom lip between her teeth. Emma thinks she’s going to try insisting again, but she backs off with a small nod. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Thanks,” she murmurs before glancing at the rest of her friends. “Sorry for ruining the party.” She doesn’t wait for their reactions before she disappears, chasing the impossible.
Her teleporting is usually instantaneous, or pretty damn close to it, but this time it’s a rough tug and pull. She cleared her head of location, focusing on the feeling of home she yearns for more than anything just to see if it takes her anywhere. She can always imagine her room, so it’s not like she can get lost . The alcohol probably doesn’t help the travel, but it certainly helps the emotional drive, erasing the detailed rationality with which she was taught to approach teleporting.
It feels like so long, but it’s likely been less than a minute when she finally hits the ground somewhere, and she scrambles to her feet, trying to recover her balance. She’s too dizzy to open her eyes at first, but she hasn’t heard anything to indicate that she needs to get out , so she figures she has some time. As long as she didn’t end up somewhere she shouldn’t…
Her jaw drops when she opens her eyes.
“What the fuck?” she blurts out.
She’s standing in the middle of fucking museum in the middle of the night, surrounded by red laser beam lights like something from a movie, one of them only an inch from her face, and if this isn’t the absolute furthest thing from safe she’s ever felt… She shakes her head in disbelief, blaming the alcohol and trying to figure out why she ended up here when her emotions were supposed to take her to home and comfort .
“Emma?” The voice comes from behind her, and it doesn’t so much startle her as it does send her heart sinking to the pit of her stomach. No way is this happening. But sure enough, she carefully turns towards the speaker, her eyes meeting dark brown through the dark, her face lit up only by the red beams surrounding the blonde.
The expression on Regina’s face holds more than Emma is capable of (or willing to ) break down, but she’s definitely surprised. “What--”
“I don’t fucking know, okay?” Emma grumbles, tearing her eyes away. She knew that she still felt animosity towards Regina after what happened, she knew that she missed what they used to have, she knew she wished it had gone differently, but she was sure that she wasn’t in love with her anymore. Clearly she was wrong.
Emma freezes then. “Shit,” she mumbles under her breath, glancing up at Regina to see if she heard any of that, but the brunette just looks a little lost, the only amount of startled likely spurred by Emma’s presence and not her thoughts.
“I… I’m not…” Regina starts, swallowing hard as she shakes her head. “Emma, I’m not going to use my powers on you.” At that Emma scoffs, looking away again, crossing her arms, careful not to shift too much, her eyes on the laser beams criss crossing around her. “I’m not ,” Regina insists. “You know I’m not.”
“ Right now, ” Emma mumbles.
Regina huffs but otherwise has no response to that. The two stand in awkward silence for a moment that seems to be never ending. Standing so still in such a compromising spot is starting to make Emma start to sweat, but she doesn’t feel safe enough to teleport out, and she is wry to admit that she doesn’t want to leave.
Yes, she’s still angry at Regina, but even so, her presence is intoxicating Emma, and a part of her wants to be here, even if almost every other part is screaming at her to get out.
“You haven’t changed much,” Regina finally says and Emma glares at her. “Physically, I mean. You… I mean, you look the same.”
“Yeah, that’s what happens when your cells replenish themselves automatically,” Emma quips.
“I was always jealous of you for that.”
“Yeah, well at least you can get drunk without having to drink an entire bottle of liquor.”
Regina squints at her. “ Are you drunk?”
The blonde closes her eyes, sighing and carelessly making gestures with her hands in front of her. She hears Regina inhale sharply. “That’s beside the point.”
“Is it though?” Emma scowls. “How did you get here?” She doesn’t justify that with an answer, not that she even has one. Another few beats pass. “Hey, so, while you’re in there, do you want to do me a favor?” Regina’s eyes flash to something to the right of the blonde, and Emma follows her gaze.
“Are you kidding me? I’m not participating in this heist of yours. You were going to get whatever’s in that display case yourself before I got here, so you can do it without me.”
“You know I could just make you do it right?”
“You could, but you won’t.”
Regina crosses her arms. “I know I don’t deserve your help, but…”
The blonde produces another scoff, more abrasive. “ That’s an understatement. Besides, I’m literally wanted by the police. I don’t need a reason to make that worse.”
“ What ?”
Emma shakes her head. “Doesn’t matter.” She still has her arms over her chest, her hands gripping her arms so tightly she can feel her body healing the bruises as she creates them. She can’t believe this. It registers almost simultaneously that she doesn’t still feel the emotion that led her to leave her friends in the first place, and it isn’t lost on her that she can’t think of anywhere else she’d be okay with disappearing to.
Green eyes flash back up to Regina’s, watching her almost concerned and something about it just… she has no right , Emma thinks to herself, the anger stewing back up.
Regina speaks seconds later. “You’re mad…”
“Of course I’m mad! And what happened to not using your powers on me?”
“Newsflash, Regina, your emotion detection, as weak as it fucking is, is still a power .” Regina’s eyes soften momentarily, and Emma feels her nerve slipping. “I swear to god, if you try to apologize…”
“I won’t,” Regina says, the icy hardness covering her expression almost entirely. “If you’re not going to help me, then please get out and let me handle this.”
Emma doesn’t move. “Why are you doing this?”
“It’s not for me . It’s for the Brotherhood.”
“ You’re in the Brotherhood?”
This time, Regina’s the one to scoff. “What, are you going to stop me?” Something about the way she says it makes Emma want to do exactly the opposite of what she expects, just so she’ll be wrong. So she rolls her eyes and slides on a glove before teleporting in the small space next to the case Regina’s trying to break into. She hears Regina gasp and she wonders if it’s a matter of Emma’s safety or getting herself caught. The blonde picks the lock with a hair pin, takes the artifact from the case and locks it again before teleporting to the space next to Regina, free of laser beams.
“You’re lucky I brought gloves with me, or else I might not have done that.”
Regina squints at her as Emma passes Regina the artifact, their fingers brushing enough for a streak of warmth to shoot up her spine and make her head feel a little fuzzy. The brunette knows her well enough to read through the lines.
“You still would have.”
“Yeah, well, maybe it’s the alcohol,” Emma suggests, and Regina quirks a brow.
The blonde is closer now, really able to take in Regina at this age, nearing thirty, and all it’s doing is making her feel more of the things she’s supposed to… just not . She’s aged well, looking just like a more mature version of the girl Emma fell in love with. No lines on her face are noticeable, with the exception of her lip scar, which Emma zones out on, wondering if that even counts.
She catches herself, forcing her eyes back to Regina’s, sucking in a breath when she finds dark eyes on her own lips, darting back up to meet her eyes at the blonde’s sudden noise. “I need to go,” Emma says.
“Are you going to tell them about this?”
“If I do, I’d also have to tell them I aided you in grand larceny, so… no. Xavier’s got enough on his plate without me fucking anything else up.”
Regina blinks in confusion. “You’re back at the school?”
“You’ve got an evil squad now?” Emma counters, avoiding the question and taking a step back. “I’ll see you, Regina.”
“Will you?” Regina asks, and Emma has to tell herself she’s imagining the breathless way the brunette asked that.
She shrugs in response. “I guess so. I said it, didn’t I? You know better than anyone how that works.”
Regina’s face transforms to a picture of confusion, everything else getting buried beneath it. “Emma?” She swallows. “How did you get here?” she asks again.
Emma can’t answer. She’s sure she doesn’t know, but with Regina’s eyes on hers, it’s clear. It takes her by shock, but somehow it still makes sense, and she decides to answer the question the best way she knows how. Thought. A test for the woman before her.
I let my emotions take me to the closest thing my heart considered as safe . Even after everything, it must still be you.
Regina’s expression doesn’t change. She didn’t hear it.
Emma gives her the closest she can manage to a smile, and she sees the moment Regina realizes it was all just a test, but when she tries to speak, Emma beats her to it. “Goodnight, Regina.”
The next thing she knows, the walls of her room surround her.
She lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, and she falls asleep that night wondering what any of it meant.