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What a Kiss Means

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"I saw you kissing him."

Emma sighed, feeling trapped. It was a thank you, and that was all. There was nothing else to it. But Killian Jones was more than handsome, and she could understand why Regina would be jealous. Maybe it hadn't been such a great idea. But it had gotten him off her case long enough for her to breathe, and that was what she wanted. She was suffocated by people telling her what to do and how to live her life. For a savior, she hadn't been doing much saving. And Henry was still lost, stuck god-knows-where with Pan and the lost boys. They hadn't accomplished much, and everyone had their own opinion about what they should do - what Emma should do - including Regina.

She hadn't planned to kiss Hook - it had simply happened, without her really thinking about it. Looking back, she felt nauseous, her insides quivering. He tasted like rum. They all knew he had a drinking problem, and it made the kiss especially unpleasant. But how could she tell Regina that? How could she tell her it was all to her Hook off her back and that all she wanted was for everyone to leave her alone and let her make her own decisions? There wasn't a tactful way. Suddenly, she was thinking of the others. Did they know? Worse yet, did they see, too? It felt strange to think it, but she wondered what her father would say. He'd probably gut Hook like a fish.

"It was just a thank you, Regina," Emma finally managed. "It was nothing."

Regina looked disgusted - offended, even - like it was a personal attack. Maybe even a little. . . hurt? Was it pain Emma saw in her eyes? It couldn't be. Emma couldn't tell what she was thinking, but she knew it wasn't anything flattering. She braced herself for another venomous verbal attack - more reasons why she was an unfit mother. She waited, but Regina just stared at her, almost through her. The silence was painful, like needles in her skin, and it didn't break until her father pushed his way through the brush beside them.

"What are you guys doing? Come on. We've got to keep moving if we're going to find Henry before Pan turns him into one of his lost boys."

David was serious, and oblivious. He noticed nothing unusual about their interaction, which told Emma that he didn't know about the kiss, either. Another reassuring fact was that Killian was still alive, which also meant her father didn't know. Still, she wondered about the others. Who else knew? Did Regina tell them? She wasn't sure if Regina was the type of person to keep a secret like that to herself or to spread it around like wildfire. Then again, she reasoned, if anyone else knew, they'd probably be making a rather large deal out of the whole situation as well. And she could understand why. The pirate wasn't exactly boyfriend material, and Neil had only just died.

But she loved Neil, and she hadn't moved on, and that was what was important. No matter what they thought, the kiss was nothing but an apology. As Emma walked along behind David silently, she thought about what the kiss might have meant to Killian. After all, it had been him that pursued her. He was probably just trying to get into her pants. She didn't exactly like the guy, but she was still glad her father didn't know about what happened. She didn't want him a dead man. Besides, they needed him to find Henry, and that was what she cared about most. If Hook was happy, their journey continued. If not, well. . . they'd be stranded in Neverland with nothing to go on and no way to find Henry.

She knew Hook knew more than he was telling, and she wanted to get it out of him. But she knew she had to be careful. Setting him off would only set Operation Cobra Rescue back even further than it already was. Things looked hopeless as they were. But she believed that the pirate could get them to her son, and that was why she tolerated his insolence. It wasn't like she wanted him around, but she did need him. They all needed him.

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On and on they marched, until Emma's feet were tired. She said nothing, though, expecting Regina to be the first to complain. But hours later, she hadn't said a word. Emma looked over at her, watching Regina's blazing eyes as they stared at the path in front of them. Her arms reached out every so often to shove a heavy branch out of the way, but other than that, her gaze didn't falter.

To break the silence, Emma asked David, "Where's Mary Margaret?"

"Oh, she's back at the camp having a talk with Hook."

Emma's heart stuck in her throat. The two women looked at each other and then back towards David, who was still walking purposefully down the path without looking at either of them. Emma fought her gut instinct to stop and turn the other way back towards the camp. What if Mary Marguerite had seen? She swallowed the lump of nothing that was stuck in her throat and stepped onward. The silence continued until they reached a break in the forest where a circle of rocks surrounded the remains of a fresh fire.

"Someone's been here, recently," David announced, touching his hands to the coals. "They're close."

"Then let's find them," Emma urged, her stance stiffening. "What are you waiting for?"

"No, Emma," he said. "It has to be the right moment. We have to catch them off-guard, while they're resting and not expecting it, not while they're on the move."

"This is bullshit," Emma cursed. "I want my son back. I'm tired of playing Pan's little game."

"Well, honey, we have to. If we want to save Henry, we have to play along. It's going to be okay, sweetie. I promise. You just have to have faith that it will."

He moved towards her slowly, a little unsure, and wrapped his arms around her. He was strong, and his hug was firm and sincere. She hugged him back, but just barely. It still felt wrong to think of him as 'Dad.' Where had she been when she'd cried herself to sleep at night, wishing for a father? She just hoped that Henry would someday understand why she'd given him up - why she couldn't have kept him. But she was ready to be the mother he needed now, and nothing was going to keep her from her son. Not even Peter Pan.

"We'll find him, Emma," David assured her, and finally let go.

Emma felt a wave of relief after being released from the awkward embrace, and she immediately started to walk to the other side of the clearing. She wasn't giving up, and she certainly wasn't about to sit down by a fire and tell ghost stories until 'the right moment.' It wasn't her style to sit back and wait. She wasn't sure what she was going to do, but she knew she wasn't going to just sit around and twiddle her thumbs. If they wanted to stay behind, that was fine by her. The weight on her shoulders only doubled around the others, crushing her with all their expectations. At that point, the only expectation she felt she could fill was being a good mother. Being the savior wasn't exactly at the top of her priority list.

"I'm going to find my son," she announced, not stopping to look at either one of them.

Regina had just sat down on a rock - she did look particularly fatigued - but she stood up instantly.

"Emma, wait," she called. "I'll come with you."

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"We're not going anywhere, dammit!" David roared, slamming the small pile of twigs he'd started collecting on the ground. "Sit DOWN."

The sternness in his voice made Emma feel uneasy, and it overrode her train of thought so much so that she actually did sit down on a rock on the other side of the circle. Without words, she looked up at David, willing him to understand her need to continue and her desire to be alone. He, of course, did not. (How could he?)

Regina looked back and forth between them, not knowing what to do. She certainly wasn't going to say anything. There was no way she was going to get in the middle of a daddy-daughter fight - not between those two, anyway. She stood awkwardly, watching them both, with her arms crossed. The surly look on her face told them that she had nothing to say, but her compliance also told them that she was willing to obey - at least for now. The way Regina figured it, she was going to get to her son any way possible. Her way hadn't worked, so it was somebody else's turn to figure it out. She was along for the ride, which was a new sensation for her. Never before had she simply been a wheel on the cart. It had been she who had always been the leader, the Queen, the one in charge. Here, now. . . she was just another one of them. One they didn't even like. They all looked at her with disdain. She was only there because they felt they owed it to Henry. She wasn't even sure Henry would be glad to see her. Emma was his new mom now, and that seemed to be working out just fine for him (until the whole Neverland mess happened). Regina began to stare at her feet, regretting that she'd worn heels. Had that really been her own idea? She sighed to herself, unwilling to complain.

"I'm going to get more sticks for a fire," David announced. "We'll wait here until dark and then move."

David was so sure of himself. Emma envied him, wishing she could be like that. Perhaps to others she seemed as though she knew what she wanted and how to get it, but inside, Emma was just as scared as anyone else about her future and her own choices. Am I doing the right thing? was always a question on her mind - now, more so than ever. With Henry in her life, she had to make the right choices. There was no room for mistakes, and she knew that better than anyone. Watching Regina fail to live up to Henry's expectations of her as a hero inspired fear in her own heart. What if that was her someday? What if she let Henry down, too? What if they found Henry and he didn't want to go home? What if he was already a lost boy?

She started to panic, her palms sweating and her face turning a deep shade of red. Her breathing quickened and became heavy as she gripped her own knees and leaned forward to stare at the ground. Suddenly, the woods were spinning. What if she was a bad mother? What if coming to Storybrooke was a mistake? What if he was better off with Regina? After all, Regina had been there for him his whole life. Emma had been elsewhere, living her life without a son and without responsibilities, just like her own parents had.

Then again, weren't Mary Margaret and David good parents now, at least? They certainly tried. Was Emma better off now that they were in her life? She didn't have an answer, but she knew that Henry wanted her there. That was enough to keep her going, at least for now. Still, her stomach was flipping just looking at the ground. The awful feeling of disappointing someone she loved sank deeper into her gut, and she started to feel faint. What if she wasn't good enough? What if she never would be?

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"Emma?"

Regina's voice was so soft it surprised her and caught her off guard. Her head (and the trees) were still spinning, but Emma looked up at the Queen and blinked a few times to get her view back in focus.

"What's wrong?" Regina asked.

"What?"

Emma's ears were ringing. She stared at Regina, completely confused. She couldn't understand why Regina was suddenly speaking to her, let alone why she cared at all if something was the matter with her. She felt faint and struggled to keep her eyes open.

"What's the matter with you?"

Regina put her hand on Emma's shoulder, a gesture too difficult for Emma to comprehend at the time.

"Hey, wake up. What's the matter with you?"

"I'm fine," Emma finally managed, but she was swaying a little, and Regina could see the redness on her face.

"Don't lie. You're no good at it." When Emma didn't say anything, Regina continued, "I think you need to rest for a bit. There's nothing else we can do anyway. Mr. Hero is on a quest for sticks and we're apparently not going anywhere until nightfall. Why don't you try to get some sleep?"

Emma was too dizzy to argue. It sickened her to think of being a bad parent to Henry. She wished there was some way to know if she was doing the right thing, but that kind of knowledge is only available through hindsight. She would have to trust that she was doing what was best for Henry. Otherwise, what was the point of all this? She wasn't going to let Henry down. But her determination didn't calm her, and her anxiety still seemed to have control.

"I'll keep watch," Regina assured her. "It's okay. Really."

How can I trust you? Emma wanted to ask, but there was no energy left for words. It had been days since she last slept, which was probably why her anxiety was so easily able to get the best of her. Rather than keeping her awake, Emma's anxiety had actually exhausted her to the point where she was able to finally fall asleep on the forest floor beside Regina.

The Queen watched over her while she slept, her head constantly scanning left to right, waiting for the worst to happen. After a while, though, her gaze drifted down to the gently breathing woman beside her. Emma was breathing slowly and deeply, and her forehead was scrunched into a knot between her eyebrows, glistening with a thin layer of sweat. She squirmed in her sleep, and it was easy to see she was having nightmares. Regina wasn't sure what to do, but she figured that fitful sleep was better than no sleep, so she let the woman be. She continued to watch her - instead of her surroundings - for a long time, what seemed like hours, until at last, she reached out her hand and brushed a bit of Emma's hair away from her face.

"What are you doing?" David barked, appearing suddenly out of the trees.

Regina's hand shot back.

"Nothing!" she exclaimed. "Nothing. She had a. . . thing. . . on her face. . . I was just. . ."

"Yeah, well don't. Don't touch my daughter. Leave her alone. She's trying to sleep."

"I was watching over her," she scoffed. "I mean, the camp. I was watching over the camp."

"Right. Whatever," he growled, obviously suspicious as to why this woman would be near his daughter at all. "Just don't touch her."

Regina just sighed and looked around the camp, preparing herself for the moment Pan would show his face again.

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Opening her eyes was more difficult than she expected. It had only been a few hours, but after not sleeping for days, it was much needed rest. Still, it wasn't nearly enough, and waking up was hard. But David was shaking her, and she knew she had to get up, even though she didn't understand a word of what he was saying. Emma's vision was still blurry, and she was disoriented from the lack of light. It was dark out - time to find Henry. She got to her feet and sleepily looked around for Regina, who was standing just behind David.

"Sorry, honey, but we've gotta move," David told her.

She nodded weakly and marched on with them down what seemed to be a never-ending pathway to nowhere. It was hard to see, but the moon was enough light that she was able to find her way through the trees. In the next clearing, they found themselves faced with a deadly silence, and they all looked around, suspicious of the lack of noise.

"Something's not right," David announced, as if no one else could tell.

"They're here," Regina breathed, forming a ball of fire in her hand as three lost boys emerged from the forest. "What do you want?" she asked.

"We're here to bring a message. Pan wants you off the island, and he wants you off now. If you don't leave in the next 24 hours, he's going to kill Henry. If you do leave, Henry becomes a lost boy like us, and nobody dies."

Emma jumped at the boy, grabbing his neck and throwing him up against a tree. The boy just laughed, but Emma wasn't finding it very funny. She squeezed her hands around his neck tighter, nearly crushing his throat.

"Don't push my buttons, kid. Where is my son?"

Behind her, David and Regina each faced off with a lost boy, the two of them asking the same question. But Emma was tuning them out. Her vision was going red, and her hands were hot with vengeance. She could kill this boy right here, with her bare hands. He was unarmed (surprisingly) and weaker than her (but not by much). She had him in a compromised position, and that was enough to give her the upper hand. No one was screaming, so she figured David and Regina had the other two boys pretty much taken care of, which left her alone with this one. She thought about killing him, about watching his throat snap, but she released her grip so he could answer her.

"You'll never get to him. Pan owns this island. If he wants to hide something from you, you have no hope of finding it," he said. "Anyway, I'm just the messenger. Don't take your anger out on me, Miss Swan. It's not my fault you didn't love your boy enough to keep him safe."

A grin spread across the boy's face, and that was enough to snap something deep inside of Emma. If she'd looked behind her, she would have seen that the other two lost boys were gone and Regina and David were both doubled over, holding their knees, completely out of breath. But she didn't look, and she didn't see, and she thought she was still alone, so she lunged at the boy and squeezed his neck harder and harder until the boy choked out a laugh, completely unfazed by the threat.

"Emma, don't!" David screamed, pulling her away from the lost boy and holding her back against his chest. "This isn't how we do things."

"I'll do it," Regina interjected, stepping towards the boy, holding a ball of fire.

"Regina, dammit, back off!" David barked. "Let him go."

She wasn't sure why, but she obeyed and stepped away, letting the boy run back into the forest laughing. Perhaps it was because she was too tired to argue anymore. It was easier to keep her mouth shut and just go with the flow than it was to bicker about whose plan was best. After all, her method - magic - hadn't worked. She figured she might as well give someone else's plan a try. Anything to find her son.

"What the Hell!" Emma screamed, breaking free. "Why would you do that?"

"Because we're not going to save Henry by killing lost boys."

Emma started to cry, hot tears streaming down her face. David hurried to her side, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.

"It's okay, honey. We're gonna find him. Don't worry."

And what if we don't? Regina thought. We stay on this island forever? But she said nothing. She was still withdrawn, unwilling to converse. As they marched on in the dark, Regina kept her thoughts to herself. The girls walked behind David, with enough space between them that he couldn't hear them talking.

"Does he know?" Emma asked nervously, after a while of not speaking.

At first, Regina was startled and didn't answer, but eventually, she managed, "No."

"Does anyone else know?"

"No."

Emma felt a wave of relief wash over her, but the uncomfortable feeling that Regina had seen still lingered. Regina refused to say anything more. Her eyes were dead, lifeless with grief, but Emma saw none of it. Instead, they walked on in silence.

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The simple "no" wasn't exactly the answer she'd had in mind. Emma wasn't sure what she expected Regina to say, but she was surprised that all she could come up with was "no." Why'd she bother to tell her that she saw it anyway? What was the point of that? Emma kept walking, but she couldn't stop thinking about it. Maybe Regina just wanted Hook to herself. Which was fine by Emma. It was too uncomfortable to stay in the awkward silence, so she finally decided to say something.

"You can have him," Emma said.

"Excuse me?"

"You can have him. It was just a thank you, and it won't happen again."

Regina started to laugh bitterly, her head tipping back. Her eyes slammed shut, hiding her pain. Her hands were curled into fists, and she had stopped walking.

"You have to be kidding me," she said dryly.

"What?"

Emma stopped walking, too. She stared at Regina, a little shocked at her expression. Something about it felt cold, and it made her uneasy. Sarcasm she could handle, but this sudden coldness brought her back to the reality that Regina truly was the Evil Queen. Emma had forgotten that fact since they had formed a sort of alliance in their quest to save Henry. But here she was, icy and frozen with what seemed like. . . Emma didn't know. Hate? Loathing? No. Something else. . .

"What?" Emma repeated.

"Oh, I don't know. Your stupidity? Your obliviousness? Your lack of ability to be observant? I don't fucking know."

Emma stared, dumbfounded. What a bitch. Her eyes were still sparkling with surprise, not knowing how to react or what to say in response. She was used to the insults, but it was all so sudden. Something else in her eyes was betraying her confusion and. . . Well... Obliviousness.

"What is going on with you? Does it really disgust you so much that we kissed?"

"Yes," Regina hissed.

"Why?"

"Because he's a repulsive little worm and he doesn't deserve you."

"Oh, and who does?"

"No one," Regina answered with a straight face.

"You're hilarious," Emma spat. "Really funny. Look, I'm not the high-and-mighty savior-princess everyone wants me to be. I'm never going to be more than I am now. I'm never going to live up to anyone's expectations of me."

"You're more than you think you are," Regina told her. "And the pirate doesn't deserve you."

"So am I just destined to be forever alone, then?" Emma asked, not necessarily expecting an answer.

Regina didn't know what to say. What could she say? 'You're perfect, and I hate you for it'? But she couldn't bring herself to make a sound. She stared at Emma and took a deep breath in, mustering the courage for her next move.

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Regina lunged at Emma, grabbing her by the wrist, jerking her close, and crushing their mouths together. Emma's eyes were wide with shock, and she found herself unable to breathe. The kiss didn't stop, and suddenly she was kissing back, her lips moving with Regina's. What am I doing? Emma thought, completely astounded. But still, she didn't stop. Soon, Regina was wrapping her fingers in her hair, pulling her face closer, and kissing her harder. Emma was surprised at just how soft her lips were - how delicate. For a woman so hard, her features were soft and suddenly seductive.

"What are you doing?" Emma asked, stumbling backwards.

Regina looked a little put off, but she stepped forward anyway, unwilling to stand down. She wasn't giving up. She was too pissed off, too offended, too. . . not hurt. Regina refused to believe she had feelings soft enough to allow her to feel pain. And yet, there she was, burning inside with. . . something. She didn't know what. Her eyes flashed with fury, and she grabbed Emma by the throat, walking her backwards until her back was against an enormous tree. Again, she kissed her, this time biting her lip, a little harder than she'd wanted. Emma was bleeding, and Regina could taste it. But she refused to stop, even when Emma tried to push her away.

Emma wanted to believe it was unwanted, and yet. . . she wasn't pulling away. She wasn't saying 'no.' She stopped shoving Regina and leaned back against the bark. When she started to tilt her head back, Regina's lips moved down to her neck. Slowly, Regina planted kisses up and down her throat, then bit down. Emma hissed, a moan slipping out between her reluctant lips.

"We can't do this," she breathed.

"Why not?" Regina demanded, holding her firmly in place - maybe a little too hard.

Emma felt her shoulders bruising, but she didn't try to pull away again. She felt helpless, unable to escape. Even if she had wanted to - she wasn't sure - there was no way out. Regina's vice was too strong to maneuver without hurting the other woman, and she wasn't about to start a fight over a kiss. And so what if they did kiss? It meant nothing, just like with Hook. Right? Regina was. . . well. . . Emma didn't know.

"What are you playing at? What do you want, Regina?"

"Can't you see you're killing me?"

Warm tears escaped her eyes, and shame overflowed inside her, but she was unable to stop the flood betraying her heart.

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"This can't be real," Emma whispered. "This can't be real."

"Why not? Because you don't want it to be real? Because you're ashamed of me? Because I'm not supposed to feel anything? Because I'm evil and heartless?"

Regina was screaming. David would hear her. Where was he? Any minute, he'd return, and they'd both be caught. He'd skin Regina alive if he knew, savoring every minute, despite Mary Margaret's protests. Emma gasped for air, and Regina didn't let go.

"You know, Emma," she spat. "I'd rather rip your heart out myself than let him have you."

The venom in her voice didn't just come from a place of rage. It was pain in her voice that Emma heard, not hate. The only loathing the Queen had was obviously for Hook, not her. Emma couldn't figure it out. To her, it still felt surreal, like it was some freaky dream she couldn't wake up from. This is so fucked up, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut and trying to end the vision. But it wasn't a nightmare. For whatever reason, she wasn't scared. Certainly not calm. A little freaked out. Uncomfortable, maybe. Shocked, definitely. But not afraid. Regina was no longer a threat, and the pain that she finally recognized in her eyes only made her realize this even more.

"This isn't real." She was trying to convince herself. "I'm dreaming you. This."

"Why would you ever dream about me?" Regina laughed.

"I think about you a lot," Emma confessed. Shaking her head, she looked down and said, "This is so weird."

"Weird? That's all you can come up with after all of this? Weird?"

"Well, it is," she responded. "Look, just tell me what you want, okay?"

"Hook saves your father's life, and he gets some disgusting, fiery kiss. I save your life, and I get nothing but a 'Gee, thanks.'"

"What do you want, Regina?"

"I want more."

"Then take it."

Emma reached up and gripped Regina's arms, and the Queen didn't hesitate to take her opportunity. Their mouths moved together, and Regina pressed her body against Emma's. The blonde pulled away to breathe, but Regina shoved her back again, hungrily taking what she wanted from her.

"Wait," Emma gasped. "Wait. Listen to me. I just. . ."

"What?"

Regina sounded irritated, impatient. She wasn't good at waiting. Her hands clenched back into fists and she slammed one against the tree, just missing Emma's cheek. The other woman jumped.

"I just. . ." She stumbled the words. "What happened with Hook. . . It really did mean nothing. I'm sorry it hurt you. . ."

There was nothing else she could say. Nothing was going to take away the pain in Regina's eyes, not even her kiss. But she was surprised at Regina's rage, and she cowered away subconsciously. In a flash of realization, Regina recognized what she'd done as she stared down at her bloody knuckles.

"I'm sorry, Emma," she cried. "I didn't mean it."

"I know," Emma told her sincerely. "I know you didn't."

Emma wrapped her arms around her, holding her tightly against her own chest.

"It's okay, Regina," she sighed.

Startling them both, David nearly jumped through the branches beside them. He gaped at them for a moment, then opened his mouth to speak.

"This is so messed up," he said, staring in disbelief.

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"Deal with it, David," Regina hissed. "You're daughter's a queer. Just get over it."

"REGINA!" Emma screamed, shoving her. "Are you kidding me right now?"

"Sorry," she laughed. "I couldn't help myself."

"You're un-fucking-believable," Emma shot back.

David was still staring. He looked like he might throw up.

"If you're going to be sick, do it over the fire and put the thing out," Regina quipped.

"Let's go find Henry before I decide to sauté you like onions, witch."

Regina formed a ball of fire in her hand and moved toward David.

"I'd take that back if I were you," she warned.

"Not a chance."

He drew his sword. David wasn't ready to see his daughter with anyone, let alone with a woman, and let alone with the Evil Queen. He felt himself get woozy and braced himself against the tree. He glared at Regina. The silent gesture was a threat, a challenge, and Regina was more than ready and willing to take it on.

"I will slice you into cubes and feed you to the mermaids, and there will be nothing left of you when I'm done - not even bones."

"ENOUGH!" Emma screamed, standing between them. "You're both being stupid. Just forget it and let's go already. We don't have much time."

Again, in silence, they marched on for a long while, until it was nearly light out. They decided collectively - finally agreeing on something - to rest before they all started to hallucinate from lack of sleep. They built no fire, trying to keep their location as inconspicuous as possible. Emma thought her toes might be freezing off, but she didn't check. After all, who needed those? All she cared about was Henry, and maybe something else.

"I'm sleeping over here," David announced.

"Good for you, Mr. Princey Pants. Be sure you don't get your pretty clothes dirty."

"Oh, for God's sake! Knock it off!" Emma interjected.

They all went quiet, and Emma gathered some leaves to use as a pillow. She pushed half the pile towards Regina. It wasn't much, but it was something.

"Here," she said, urging Regina to lay down. "Get some sleep. You watched over me earlier. Let me watch over you."

Is this really happening? Regina wondered, not really believing it. Reluctantly, she made herself as comfortable as possible - which wasn't very comfortable at all - on the ground and tried to shut her eyes. Her mind rushed like a burst of wind in a ship's sails, and she could not quiet it. She longed for simple darkness, but all she found behind her eyelids was Emma's face.

"I can't," she whispered, trying not to wake David.

"Why not?

"I just can't," Regina said, electing not to tell her the whole truth.

After a moment of hesitation, Emma leaned down and softly kissed her lips. Her hand reached up and stroked Regina's hair, brushing it out of her tired eyes.

"We're going to find our son."

Emma was confident, sure of the truth of the statement, but Regina felt unsure - incapable of doing what needed to be done to reach him. She put her only faith in Emma, the savior. Eventually, though, with the savior's hand wrapped in her hair, she slept.

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Later, Regina woke in a cold sweat, feeling sick. She reached up to feel her forehead, but Emma was already there with her hand pressed against it. Their eyes met, and Regina felt her stomach do another flip. Had she really woken up? Was she still dreaming?

"You're sick," Emma said, looking around for David.

"I'm not," Regina insisted. "I'm fine."

"You're not fine."

"Really," Regina argued. "I'm okay. I had. . . I had some weird dreams. That's all."

Emma looked suspicious. She was never sure how much of what Regina said was the truth. It was hard to tell. She was the type of woman to smile through a lie and love each minute of it. Hopefully, Emma thought, she wouldn't lie to her. But she still wasn't sure. Either way, she figured she'd leave Regina alone and simply keep an eye on her, making sure it didn't get any worse. Emma stood up and nodded at Regina.

"Okay. Let's go find David. We should really get going."

Regina nodded back and stood up, too, looking a little dizzy. She followed Emma through the trees and tried to focus on her surroundings, but all she could think of was the previous day, remembering the way it felt to press her body against Emma's, the way it felt to kiss her hungrily, to finally take what she'd wanted. She'd won. She'd beaten the pirate. She had Emma's attention now, and she was going to do everything in her power to keep it. The woman wasn't about to give up her prize easily. If Hook wanted Emma, he'd have to go through her, and that wasn't a fight he was about to win.

"Hey," Regina shouted ahead. "Emma. I think I found him."

Emma turned around, but she was closer to Regina than she'd thought, and when she did turn, they were face to face. The Queen kissed her lips eagerly.

"Just kidding," she teased.

Emma scowled and said, "We don't have time for this."

"Oh, come on. It won't take long."

With an eyebrow raised, Emma reluctantly moved a little closer, letting Regina kiss her lips gently. When the kisses grew more forceful, she pulled away.

"Wait. Just relax, okay? We should really get going."

"What are you so afraid of?" Regina asked, grabbing her wrist, her fingertips digging into the skin.

"Ow," Emma said. "Jesus. Let go."

But Regina ignored her, simply kissing her again, this time with even more enthusiasm than before. As Emma found herself thrown off balance, Regina caught her with an arm around the small of her back, pushing their bodies together. The kiss didn't stop until Emma protested again, at which point Regina grew irritated and gripped her wrists tighter.

"Regina, you're hurting me," Emma told her, her brow furrowing with worry. But their lips were still crushed together, so Emma was speaking directly against Regina, unable to pull away. "What are you doing?" she managed to get out, even though the sound was muffled.

"I'm taking what I want," Regina hissed, squeezing until Emma's arms bruised.

"Regina, you can have it. Just not now. Stop it."

But Regina didn't know how to take this. The only way she'd ever known how to get what she wanted was to take it by force. Being offered the thing she wanted most was something she couldn't comprehend. 'Waiting' also wasn't a lesson in any of her spell books, so when Emma said no, she didn't understand that it really just meant, 'wait.' Emma was gasping for air, and when Regina noticed, she loosened her hold on the woman's wrists.

"I don't like waiting, Emma," she explained.

"Well, that's too damn bad!" Emma yelled, throwing her fists out against Regina's chest, thrashing. "Let-fucking-go!"

This only fueled the fire, and the game of cat and mouse continued as Emma slipped out of her grip and turned to walk away. In a flash of rage, Regina jerked her back and held her there against her chest, staring down into Emma's eyes, which were starting to well up with tears.

"This hurts," Emma whimpered, confused and not understanding how Regina could be acting that way.

Apparently, Regina just wasn't used to 'no.' Even if she did have Emma, she didn't have all of her, that was what she wanted. And she was too impatient to wait.

Regina shoved Emma up against a tree and nearly tore the woman's shirt open, roughly gripping her shoulders and kissing the exposed skin of her neck. At this point, Emma was actually crying and still trying to break free. When she found that she could not, she desperately looked up at Regina, who was nowhere near finished with her game.

"Look," Emma begged. "I'll let you kiss me. Just slow down. Please. I'll let you kiss me."

To prove her words, Emma leaned in and kissed her with tear-soaked lips.

Chapter Text

Regina was taken aback by this, uncomfortable with the lack of control. It was supposed to be when and how she said wanted it. But this, this was different. She could feel that Emma was shaking, and she was glad to have at least some obvious affect on her. She wasn't fond of being ignored, and she wouldn't be written off easily. Regina kissed Emma back, but once more, she was too eager. Emma pushed back again.

"Please stop," she begged.

"What do you want from me?" Regina spat, throwing her hands up. "Would it work for you if I wore a absurdly huge coat and cut off my hand to make it a hook?"

"You're being ridiculous," Emma said, shocked and bewildered by the whole situation.

"Am I?" she asked. "Or is he the one you really want? Or maybe Neal?"

"Stop it!" Emma said. "This is stupid. If I wanted Hook, I'd be with him right now. But I'm here, with you, looking for our son. Remember that? Remember Henry? That's why we're here. We need to find David and keep moving. We seriously don't have time for this right now."

Regina was furious, but she had to agree, so she let it drop. Luckily, they didn't have to walk far before they found David, who was sharpening his sword.

"Hey," he said, as nonchalantly as possible, trying to pretend nothing awkward had happened. "I think we've got him. I found some trails here."

He pointed to the ground. Regina used her magic to illuminate the path, and they followed it deeper into the woods until, just as they'd hoped, they came to Pan's camp. The lost boys weren't there, but they could tell they'd been there recently. It was a more permanent setup than usual, so it was obvious that it was their main camp. They spread out to look around for any signs that might help - Regina scanning the area with magic, and Emma and David going about it the old fashioned way - by lifting up every rock and putting it back down again.

"There's nothing here," Regina sighed, tossing a chair to the side.

"Wait," Emma said, beckoning them over. "Come here, guys. It's Henry's jacket."

When Emma reached under one of the small tables to pick it up, she could see her own bruises that had formed around her wrists. Quickly, she grabbed the jacket and put it into Regina's hands, dropping her arms to her sides. Regina squeezed the coat and lifted it up to her face, pressing her cheek against it. She sighed again.

"What if he's cold?"

Emma suddenly looked sad and moved closer to the Queen. She wanted to tell her that it would be okay, that they'd find Henry, that they'd all get home safely and everything would work out. But she wasn't so sure anymore. Seeing Henry's jacket tore her heart right open, and she reached out to touch Regina's hand. Her wrists throbbed.

"I'm sure he's fine," Emma reassured her.

"Yeah," David interjected. "He's a tough little guy. He can hold his own."

They exchanged weak smiles, but none of them felt much better about the situation.

"What now?" Regina probed.

"We keep tracking Pan until we find him."

Chapter Text

And so they kept tracking pan, but to no avail. It seemed as though the farther they went, the farther away he got. After a while of walking, they rested again at the next clearing. Just as Emma was shutting her eyes, her head in her hands, a rustling in the trees caught their attention. They all looked up and stared, dumbfounded, when a man appeared in front of him and skidded to a halt, digging his heels into the stiff dirt under his feet.

"Emma," he said, breathless.

Emma was felt her breath get caught in her chest, too. She stood up and slowly moved towards him, not believing the image before her eyes. I'm hallucinating, she told herself, not even wanting to believe that he was alive. Too much emotion was attached to his existence, and it was too much for her to handle while trying to deal with the loss of her son.

"Neal? What are you doing here?" she asked.

Immediately, she regretted the question, sensing how rude it was. Shit. She looked at him and flinched. He looked lost, out of place, as he shifted his weight back and forth between each leg. Neal's eyes moved up and down her body, taking it all in, barely believing it himself. It didn't seem real that she was actually there in front of him.

"I was looking for you," he told her, taking a step closer to her.

She took a step back.

"You can't be real."

She turned and looked at David and Regina, registering their expressions. Were they staring because she was talking to herself, or were they staring at Neal? She wasn't sure. Either way, Regina looked horrified, and David looked completely confused. Lack of sleep had taken its tole on her body, and she felt exhausted. The only thing keeping her going was the adrenaline pumping through her veins, driven only by her love of her son. Now, her eyes were seeing Neal, and she couldn't be sure if the amount of sleep she was lacking was causing the vision or if he was really there.

"Guys," she said, wordlessly asking them to confirm his presence.

"He's real, Emma," David told her, walking over to him and putting his hand on his shoulder. "He's real."

Neal moved towards Emma, ignoring David's attempt at a gesture of friendship. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into an embrace she didn't reciprocate. Instead, Emma stepped back and looked into his face, searching for something.

"You're dead."

"No," he countered. "I'm here, and I love you, Emma."

His confession made his face warm, and he felt the sweat build at the back of his neck. Neal's heart sped up as he made another attempt to hold her in his arms, but Emma pulled away again. He couldn't tell if it was the disbelief keeping her from touching him or if she was actually unhappy to see him. It seemed odd that she would act this way. Hadn't her heart stopped when he fell into the portal? Hadn't she looked at him with love in her eyes as he disappeared into a different realm?

"Now you love me?" she asked rhetorically. "Where were you when I was pregnant with Henry in jail, left to wonder how you could betray me? Now you want to stand here and pretend that everything's fine, that you didn't move on with another woman you almost married until I told you she was a complete con? You really have the gall to tell me that?"

Neil stared at her, not knowing what to say or how to respond. His eyes even started to water. David and Regina stood nearby, just watching the interaction, forgotten by both of them. They exchanged looks of confusion but dared not interject. Emma and Neal didn't even notice their presence as they engaged in their altercation, too consumed in their own conversation to care what the other two were thinking or what they might say. Neal didn't even care that they were there. He hadn't come this far to see David or the queen. Only for Emma and Henry did he risk his own life.

"I don't know what to tell you, Emma," he responded. "I love you. That's all I can say. I love you now, I have always loved you, I will always love you, and I'm sorry for everything."

"I'm over you now, Neal," she told him. "I've moved on, and never again will I feel what I felt then."

Neal was stunned into silence.

Chapter Text

Without words, Emma and Neal made an agreement not to speak as they continue on in search of Henry. Neil stayed up front with David, and Emma lagged behind with Regina, who was looking positively livid.

"So, your little boyfriend is back," the queen sneered. "Couldn't be happier."

"He is not my boyfriend anymore," Emma corrected, trying to keep her voice down so the two men ahead of them wouldn't hear their exchange. "And he never will be."

"What makes you so sure?" Regina pressed, stopping and staring at Emma.

"Because I don't love him. Maybe I did, once, but things are different now. I have -" she paused "- different interests."

"Like what?"

"Like you."

Regina started walking again, and they had gone quite a ways before she decided on what to say. Is she serious? she wondered. Emma's little speech had been pretty convincing. She wouldn't even hug the dead guy back. To Emma, he was still dead, and his near-death experience had been what made her realize just how bitter she was about all the things he'd done to her. She remembered the days in her cell wondering where he was, what he was doing, and who he was with. Now, she didn't care. When he 'died' she'd simply been upset to lose him as a person, not as a previous lover. He would always be dead to her, and it took him nearly dying to for Emma to fully realize it.

Regina took heavy steps forward. Her heart throbbed in her chest. She was furious at Neal's return, especially now that she'd finally made some leeway with Emma. What she wanted was just barely in her grasp, and now this little twerp had just wondered right back into their lives. She'd thought she was rid of him for good, but apparently, the guy just wouldn't stay dead. Regardless of what Emma had said, her anger did not subside. In fact, as she stared at the back of Neal's head, her fury only boiled. I could just kill him, she mused. But she decided that wasn't the wisest decision, considering that Emma and her father were both right there. It was really too bad she couldn't get Neal away from the group for a while - just long enough to tear his heart out and watch it crumble to dust in her hands.

"Regina?" Emma asked. "Are you okay?"

Regina's face was red, and she realized that her jaw and fists were clenched. No. I want to kill your ex boyfriend, she wanted to say. Being honest wasn't exactly her forte, though, so she decided to lie. She also wasn't interested in making too much of a scene while the men were just up ahead on the path. In a fleeting moment, Regina became all too aware that Neal was clearly up in front with David, and that Emma has chosen to lag behind with Regina. They weren't standing close to each other. Emma hadn't returned his embrace. She wasn't even speaking to him. Even through her anger, Regina felt glad for this, but she lied to Emma anyway.

"I'm fine," she said, the redness in her face betraying the lie.

"Don't. Don't lie. I have a talent for being able to tell when people are lying."

Regina stopped in her tracks and finally said, "Are you really interested in me or is this all just game to you? Are you worried that if you don't play along I'm going to destroy your family or something? We share a love of Henry, if absolutely nothing else, and I wouldn't get in the way of his love for you. I'm not going to hurt you, so you don't have to lie to me, either."

Emma thought back to their fight and flinched inside. She'd never seen Regina so out of control before. But maybe she was telling the truth this time. Maybe Regina really didn't want to hurt her. Emma wanted to believe it, so she did.

"I can't explain how I feel," Emma said, avoiding a direct answer to the question. "I just know that when you kissed me, it felt... different... not wrong. With Hook and Neal, it felt wrong."

Regina nodded at this, accepting the answer. It hadn't been the 'yes' or 'no' she was looking for, but it was close enough. It reassured her that Emma wasn't interested in Hook or Neal - which is what she was really worried about. She hated the feeling of being in a competition for Emma's attention. Regina was winning it, though, so she couldn't complain. Though the kiss had been stolen, it was reciprocated, and that meant something. Regina assured herself that if Emma really hadn't wanted it, she wouldn't have given in. Besides, Emma wasn't the type of girl to give people what they wanted just to pacify them. She was too independent for that. Emma was a strong woman, with a mind of her own, and Regina liked that. She liked the fire in her eyes when they touched. She liked the fight she put up when she'd had enough, even if she didn't like being told 'no.'

"Regina? Hello? I asked you a question," Emma said, gently pushing the woman's shoulder.

"What?" Regina asked dumbly, snapping out of her trance.

"I asked you if you were jealous."

This, of course, was obvious from Regina's behavior, but Emma wanted to hear it. She wanted to hear Regina say the words out loud. Regina wanted to blatantly refuse to admit it, but Emma wouldn't let the subject drop. She was determined. So, finally, after much awkward silence, Regina lied again.

"I'm not the jealous type."

Chapter Text

Emma laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the statement. Not the jealous type? Regina's jealousy was so clear and so dramatic that it was impossible not to notice. For her to deny it was simply comical.

"What?" Regina hissed, glaring at Emma.

"You liar," Emma giggled. "You're so jealous it's making you sick. You've been jealous this whole time. You were jealous of Hook, and you're jealous of Neal. Clearly, you are the jealous type."

"Don't laugh!" Regina scowled. "This isn't funny!"

"It's hilarious!" Emma grinned. "Because it's making you squirm. Look at you! You're seething with rage at the thought of either of them having me. It's so obvious now. I can't believe I didn't see it before."

"I'm going to kill you."

"Not before you kill the two of them to get me alone," Emma teased.

"Stop it," Regina warned, taking a threatening step forward.

"Stop being jealous!" Emma dared. "Oh, wait. You can't."

"I will break every bone in your body."

"But then who would tease you on your way to find Henry?"

"No one. That's exactly the point. Your insolence does you no favors, Miss Swan."

Regina was fuming, and Emma's face was red with joy. It was all too easy to tease the jealous queen.

"Secretly, you're loving this. You wouldn't want your prey to be too easy to catch, would you? Don't you enjoy the chase?" Emma challenged.

Regina had to agree. There was something about Emma that she couldn't let go of, something that drew them together. Though the queen couldn't quite understand it, it kept her coming back. It kept her burning with desire. Emma had always been just out of her reach. Now that she finally had a hold on her, Regina wasn't sure what to do next, except maybe to strangle her for being so impertinent.

"Maybe I do," Regina said. "So what?"

"So I wouldn't want to make it too easy for you."

Emma's smile lit up her face, and Regina started to stare, watching the woman's eyes twinkle.

"You're beautiful," Regina said, the words falling out of her mouth involuntarily.

Emma went quiet and looked at her new lover, seeing the honesty in her face. She meant it. It wasn't something Emma had ever believed about herself, but it made her feel good to know that Regina believed it. Of course, plenty of men had told her the same before, but coming from them, it meant little. Coming from Regina, it held more weight. She wanted to say 'thank you,' to express her gratitude for the compliment, but she couldn't bring herself to speak. Something silenced her.

"Sorry," Regina said. "That was stupid. Let's get going. We need to catch up with the boys before we lose them."

"Don't worry," Emma told her, smiling again. "I won't even look at Neal, if that makes you feel better."

"Oh, my God! Let it go!"

Emma howled with laughter, leaning up against a tree.

"Come here," she said brightly. "Just come here."

Regina obeyed, stubbornly marching over and standing in front of her.

"What?"

"Just kiss me."

Emma slid her arms around the woman and held her close, kissing her lips. They stayed like that until Emma pulled away and smoothed Regina's hair with a smile.

"I promise I'm not interested in him. You don't have to be jealous." She paused, then added, "But I like that you are."

Chapter Text

"Why would you want me to be jealous?" Regina asked.

"Because I like the idea of you setting him on fire," Emma joked. "But seriously, it's because I like knowing that you would set him on fire... That you'd do anything to keep him from me. But not because you hate him. Because you want me to yourself..."

The queen's jealousy began to subside as she looked into the savior's eyes. She couldn't understand the effect Emma seemed to have on her. The slightest hint of sweetness in her words made Regina melt, and it wasn't something she could control; it was involuntary, like taking in a breath of air. She wouldn't admit it, but in her eyes, Emma was royalty.

"You mean, you like that I want you?"

Emma nodded, took her hand, and told her, "Because I want you, too."

Regina stayed quiet, looking into the woman's eyes. There was something there she couldn't place. Was it affection? True, genuine affection? For her? Regina wasn't sure, but whatever it was, it warmed her to the core and softened her features, easing the scowl on her face. Part of her looked hopeful, but the other part looked crushed, broken, and weak. She was not used to having so many feelings all at once - or having feelings at all, really (other than anger).

"Emma... Do you love him?"

"Of course not," she said quickly, shaking her head enthusiastically.

"Do you love Hook?"

"Regina," Emma said. "I told you, that kiss meant nothing."

"It was something to me."

Emma felt her heart break as she pulled Regina in close to her chest.

"Please understand, Regina. It was just a kiss."

"It sure looked like more than a kiss."

"Well, it wasn't!" Emma snapped.

Regina hung her head, but Emma lifted her chin and kissed her lips.

"I only have eyes for you," Emma assured her. "But what about you?"

"What about me?"

"Are you really in this for me, or are you like this with every woman you want to fuck?"

"Hey! What the Hell is that supposed to mean? Are you calling me a slut?"

"No! Regina, stop it. I'm asking you if this is just some game to you or if it actually means something. I'm asking if there's anyone else."

"No," Regina told her quietly. "There's no one else."

"And...?"

"And what?"

"And is this just a game to you?"

"No."

"Regina."

"No, it's not a game to me! I want you to myself not because I don't like to share - though I really don't - but because I care for you and it breaks my heart to see you kiss someone else."

"If you want my lips, claim them," Emma offered. "They're yours."

Regina eagerly pressed her lips to the blonde's and kissed her softly.

"You won't do it again, will you?" the queen whispered.

"Never," Emma promised.

"I want you to prove to me they're not the ones you want."

"What? How?"

"You figure that out, but one way or another, I need to know."

Chapter Text

Back with the rest of the group, more walking ensued. Emma's heart raced as they went on in silence. How was she supposed to prove her love when it was already so difficult to work through her own feelings? But she knew what she wanted, and she knew it wasn't Hook or Neal. Regina was all she could think of. Her touch, her kiss, her voice... Emma drifted off into her own thoughts as they continued on through the forest, until the path ended and she nearly walked right into her father.

"What the Hell?" she blurted out, irritated that they'd come to a sudden halt. "Why are you stopping?"

"There's no more path," David explained. "It just... ended."

"What?"

"Yeah. I know."

"Move," Regina said, shouldering her way past David. "Let me see."

Regina looked around, her head turning back and forth from right to left.

"This way," she announced. "I can feel the residue of magic over here. It has to be Pan."

They took a left turn, and Regina stayed in the lead, leaving Emma behind to follow the group, feeling suddenly put off, until the woman spoke again.

After a few minutes, Regina called back, "Emma. Up here with me."

Her eyes went wide, but Emma obeyed, pushing her way through the men who were looking confused. Beside Regina, she watched the way her hair swayed slightly as she walked, the way her hips swung ever so slightly with every step she took - instead of watching her step. Of course, it wasn't long before she tripped and stumbled to her knees, catching herself with her palms. She raised her hands and looked down at them; they were bleeding from the impact. She assumed her knees were bleeding through her jeans as well, which they were.

Regina stopped and reached down, grabbing her hand and lifting her off the ground.

"Be more careful, idiot. We don't have time for this."

Emma bit her lip and looked down, and when Regina saw this, her tongue darted out to lick her own lips, not failing to notice the sensual way the subtle gesture made her feel warm. As Regina started to let go, though, Emma squeezed her hand tightly, feeling her heartbeat speed up again. The queen couldn't hide her surprise as her eyes went wide.

They hurried along, but Emma still didn't release her hand. The men were staring, but neither of them could see it, since they refused to face anywhere but forward. As they picked up their pace, they began to put distance between them and the others.

When they were just out of earshot, Regina leaned closer and whispered, "What are you doing?"

"Showing you I'm not ashamed to be with you, and that I'm not afraid to let them know," Emma said, looking up at her with strength and sincerity in her eyes.

"I can't believe you're actually doing this," the queen said. "I'm sure they're talking about us."

"I don't care. I'm not scared of them."

"But you're scared of your mother."

Emma laughed lightly and nodded her head.

"A little bit."

"You're an adult, you know," Regina pointed out. "You can make your own choices."

"She's going to have a conniption."

"Do you even care?"

"No. I suppose I don't. All I care about right now is you. I don't care what they think or what they have to say about us."

"What about Henry?" Regina asked, uncertainly suddenly filling her voice.

"What about him?"

"What do you think he'll say?"

"Honestly?" she asked, not waiting for the response. "I think he's going to be happy that his parents are together. And maybe a little surprised."

"A little?" Regina laughed.

"Okay, a lot. But still. You know what I mean."

The brunette nodded, looking down at their hands as they swung slightly forward and back again. She was surprised at Emma's emotional strength to fight the urge to hide their relationship - if that was even what it was. She was brave. In addition, Regina know that telling her mother would be an even more difficult challenge. Emma was right; her mother would absolutely throw an exaggerated, overdramatic fit. It was a weird family tree that had developed, but Regina didn't mind. She cared too much for Emma to let her go - even if she wasn't willing to admit it.

"I think he's going to be happy about this," Emma said. "At least, I hope that he is."

"What if he's not?"

"Then we explain to him that we're adults, and we can't help the way that we feel about each other. But he won't be upset, Regina. He's going to be fine with it, if not ecstatic."

The woman nodded and sighed, still unsure, not wanting her son to be upset with her over anything, especially not the woman she cared so deeply for. But Emma was probably right about that, too; they were adults, and Henry would have to live with their decision. Even if he didn't approve, eventually, he would come around and accept them.

"I'm glad that you're here with me," Emma told her.

"I'm glad that I came."

Emma giggled, shutting her eyes for a moment as she moved a little closer to Regina, who instantly rolled her eyes. But she was stifling a laugh as well.

"You still haven't proved your supposed 'love' for me," Regina mused with a smirk.

"What more can I do?"

"You can tell your mother," Regina suggested. "In front of me."

Chapter Text

After hours of wandering, they made their way back to the camp where Mary Margaret was watching their supplies.

"Anything?" she asked hopefully.

They all shook their heads, and Regina held up Henry's jacket.

"Just this," Emma told her mother, who frowned and let out a disappointed sigh.

"I'm sorry," she said softly, looking over at Emma, choosing to ignore her companion.

They were no longer holding hands, and they stood far enough apart not to cause any suspicion. That night, they made a small fire - so as not to attract too much attention - and sat in a circle around it, talking about memories of Henry and how sweet he was, and all the things they missed about him. Regina was quiet for most of the conversation, not wanting to make idle small talk with Snow or her husband, or the pirate, or Emma's ex lover.

The longer the conversation went on, the more quiet she became, until finally, her father spoke up.

"Emma, are you alright?" he asked, the usual well of kindness in his words.

"Yeah. Fine. Just tired. Disappointed, I guess."

"Why don't we all turn in?" Snow suggested, reaching over and grabbing her blanket.

They all nodded, except Regina, who was staring at the fire. Sucking in a deep breath, Emma took her hand and scooted closer to her as the rest of them got ready to sleep. Waiting for the right moment, Emma's breath became rapid and shallow, until finally, Mary Margaret looked over at them. Just as she saw her mother's mouth open slightly, she turned to her lover.

"Goodnight," she said, loud enough for the rest of them to hear.

Then, her lips found Regina's.

"What is going on?" Snow demanded to know.

Emma looked up at her mother, not releasing Regina's hand. Unlike Emma, the brunette was fully prepared to let go, but the other woman refused to unlock their fingers of loosen her grip on Regina's hand.

"What do you mean?" Emma asked casually, trying not to smile, but also feeling her heart palpitate with nervousness.

Her face was growing warm with panic, but her voice did not betray her emotions.

"I mean what the Hell are you doing with her?"

"I'm kissing her, Mom," she said, sounding like a rebellious teenager.

"Are you two-"

"Lovers? Yes."

"Oh, my God..."

"Is that a problem?"

"Her, Emma? HER?!"

Emma just forced a smile and gave Regina's hand an encouraging squeeze, knowing that she was just as anxious for the moment end and go back to pretending everything was normal. She couldn't help but wonder what it would be like when all this was over. Would they still be together? Would Emma forget her once they were back in Storybrooke? Would they live in the same house? Tuck their son in at night? Cook him breakfast together? Regina snapped out of her daze when Emma's mother spoke again.

"This has to be a joke."

"It's not a joke."

Finally, Regina interjected, with something Emma never would have expected.

"I'm not going to hurt her."

Snow went silent. It was all she could do not to throw up, so she closed her mouth and left it that way the rest of the night, until they were all under their own respective blankets.

"Emma," Regina whispered.

Emma smiled and draped her arm over Regina's waist, happy not to be hiding her feelings from her family any longer.

"Yes, love?"

"Thank you."

With one last kiss, they fell asleep in each other's arms.

Chapter Text

"So, how was that?" Emma asked when the sun rose. "Did I prove my love to you?"

"I suppose so," Regina said playfully, nudging the woman's shoulder gently. "But if you really love me, you should let your mother walk in on us fucking."

A blush instantly flooded Emma's cheeks.

"No way."

"I'm just teasing," Regina said with a grin.

"No, you're not," Emma challenged. "You'd do anything to make her suffer."

"I suppose that's true. But not that, because I know how much that would embarrass you."

This brought a small smile to Emma's lips.

"What's going to happen when we're back in Storybrooke?"

"What do you want to happen?"

"I want to be with you," Emma told her seriously. "I want to take you on dates and show you how much I care for you."

This made Regina blush too.

"Dates?" she asked. "Like what?"

"Like going out to dinner somewhere special. We could drive to Portland. We could even go down to Boston for the day, if you wanted. I could show you the sights and-"

"You know," Regina jumped in. "I'd actually really like that."

Emma leaned in and kissed her lover's lips. Of course, the woman eagerly kissed back, wrapping her hand in Emma's hair.

"Don't stop," Regina mumbled against her lips as their bodies moved closer together.

Emma shook her head and giggled.

"We're going to wake them."

"So what? Let them see."

"Regina. No."

Emma gently pushed the woman away, causing her to frown and roll over onto her back, crossing her arms.

"Don't be like that," Emma said, touching Regina's shoulder.

Sitting up, Regina looked towards the sky.

"We should wake them. We need to get going."

Emma nodded sadly and sat up as well, reluctantly standing up and folding her blanket and putting it away. Regina did the same, not looking at Emma.

"When will we be alone?" the queen whispered.

"I promise you," Emma said softly, "when we're back in Storybrooke, you will have me all to yourself."

Regina smiled at this and finally looked at her lover.

"Okay."

"We will find Henry, right?" Emma asked, her voice shaking slightly.

After a nod, Regina took her hand and squeezed it.

"I promise we will get our son back."

Emma woke the others - Regina had no interest in being the first thing any of them saw in the morning - and packed her bag.

"Let's go," she said, as soon as everyone had their things together.

This time, they all walked together. Snow refused to look at them. Instead, she stood by her husband and made sure to hold his hand tightly as they marched on through the forest. At last, they reached Pan's active camp.

"This is it," Regina whispered to Emma, who motioned for the rest of them to stop.

"I'll take the lost boys; you find Henry and go after Pan," Emma said, knowing Regina would be far better equipped to take on the young boy than she was.

Regina looked at Emma, taking in each one of her features.

"No. Stay with me. I don't want you hurt," she said sternly, grabbing the woman's hand with her left and wrapping her right arm protectively around Emma's waist.

Surprised, Emma gave into the embrace and rested her head on Regina's shoulder, just for a moment. When they pulled away, the rest of the group was behind them, Snow still averting her eyes and looking away from them.

"You guys take on the lost boys," Emma said, not letting go of Regina's hand. "We're going to find Pan and Henry."

They all nodded, and it was decided. Just as they prepared to move in, Regina stole a kiss.


Chapter Text

As soon as they stepped through the clearing, Pan turned to face them, immediately sensing their presence. The element of surprise had been lost - not to Regina's surprise.

"Well, well, well. If it isn't Mommy and Mommy. Come to rescue your little boy? I'm afraid you'll be greatly disappointed. See, I'm quite unwilling to give him up, and you're ill equipped to to fight me."

"I'm not so sure you're right, Pan," Regina hissed, taking a daring step forward. "And don't expect me to go easy on you once you're mine."

"How exactly do you plan to pull this off, O Evil One?"

"That's for you to find out."

Emma looked around, taking stock of the situation. The lost boys were all on edge, ready to strike. Where was the rest of the group? Why weren't they fighting? Just as this crossed Emma's mind, they erupted from the trees and each took on two at a time, swords clashing, arrows flying - but Pan didn't flinch. His eyes stayed locked on the two women facing him, unconcerned for the safety of his lost boys.

"Give us our son back," Emma growled, stepping up beside Regina and drawing her sword.

Pan just laughed, waving his hand and tearing the regal-looking weapon from her hands and sending it crashing into a tree and tumbling to the forest floor. Emma looked at Regina with uncertainty, unsure of their next move but planning to follow her lead.

"NOW, Emma! Hands out! Lock him still!"

Emma hesitated just long enough for Pan to dodge Regina's spell and lunge for the blonde. He grabbed her and turned her around, and holding a knife to her neck faster than Regina could send out another spell.

"Let her go!" Regina screamed, charging towards them with her hands out, ready to strangle the boy.

"Ah, ah, ah," he scolded. "Not so fast. One more step and I'll slit her throat and watch her body drop right here.

Trusting her instincts and her own abilities, Regina conjured another stream of magic and shot it his way, sending him stumbling backwards, dragging Emma with him, but she couldn't hold the spell for long. Emma broke free and spun on her heels to face him.

"Now!" she screamed, not taking her eyes off the youthful-looking villain.

Emma lifted her hands and held them out, focusing all of her attention on the boy as she released her own burst of magic in his direction. From Regina's spell, Pan had only stumbled, but with the mixture of the two, he froze in place, eyes ablaze with anger and something that looked like a sudden burst of fear.

Neither of them took their eyes off the boy as they held him still, but in their peripheral vision, they could both see that the rest of their party had sent the boys off running and we standing close by, watching intently, all surprised to see just how powerful their magic was when used together.

"Find Henry!" Regina called out, causing the rest of them to immediately spread out in search of the boy.

Emma's arms ached from the effort, magic still pouring from her palms as she struggled to fight Pan's own magic and hold him still. She wanted to look to Regina for some kind of encouragement, but knew she couldn't move. What seemed like ages later, Snow yelled back from the trees.

"We have him!"

She came back into the clearing and threw her arms around the boy, whose heart was speeding like a stallion in a race.

"Mom! Emma!" he screamed, rushing to their side, but neither of them could move.

"Tie him up!" Regina ordered, her face crinkling into a focused scowl.

Beads of sweat formed on her brow. It took all of her power to focus her magic and fight back against Pan's, and a wave of relief crashed over her aching body as the group finally managed to tie the boy to the tree behind him. Emma and Regina froze the rope with magic, sealing the vice around his body. When they were finally able to release the spell, the two of them knelt, each of them on an opposite of their son, and wrapped their arms tightly around him.

"I knew you'd save me," Henry cried, resting his head against his adoptive mother's shoulder and squeezing Emma's hand. "I was scared you wouldn't come, though."

"Of course we came, kiddo," Emma said with a smile, ignoring Pan's curses and screams. "We'll never leave you behind."

Before Regina joined in, she kissed the top of the boy's head as tears of relief dripped from her eyes.

"We will always protect you."

Chapter Text

The group made their way back to their camp, carefully watching Henry as they traveled through the treacherous maze of trees. As Henry sat between his father and his grandparents, relaying the details of his story of captivity, Emma and Regina were not too far away, resting their feet as they sat together on a log on the other side of the fire.

"You saved me," Emma whispered, looking over at her lover.

"Of course I saved you," Regina responded quickly. "Did you think I'd let him hurt you?"

"I don't know," Emma said. "I mean, no, I guess not. I just... I mean... You could have gotten yourself killed. It was dangerous."

"I would never let anyone hurt you," Regina told her. "I will always protect you, too."

Emma's heart skipped as her eyes dropped away.

"You're my family now, Emma."

"How can you have changed so much?" the blonde asked. "You hated me. You wanted me gone forever."

"I was scared," the woman confessed. "You made me feel things I didn't want to feel, things I've learned to fight and reject."

"You mean you've felt this all along?"

"For a long time."

After a pause, Emma gave her own confession.

"Me, too."

"But you were surprised I felt the same?"

"Yes, of course. It's not like you've ever been kind to me."

"I'm sorry," the queen said softly, hanging her head. "It was the only way I had to push you away."

"And it worked."

"But I got you back."

"You did."

Emma finally smiled, so Regina smiled too.

"Do you want to tell Henry?"

"You tell him," Emma suggested. "I think he's better off hearing it from you."

"You're just as much his mom as I am. I've raised him so far, but you have the rest of your lives to make up for lost time."

With a weak nod, Emma wrung her hands.

"I'd say I wish I'd never given him up, but if I hadn't, we would never have had you in our lives, and now that I have you, I can't imagine myself with anyone else."

"And I'd say I wish you'd never fucked that stupid scumbag, but we'd never have our son."

Emma sighed.

"What's going to happen when we get back to Storybrooke?"

"You're going to be with me. Aren't you?"

Emma nodded.

"We should tell him now."

"What if he freaks out?"

"He won't. He'll be happy."

Suddenly, Emma was sure. As loving a boy as he was, Emma knew he'd be overjoyed to hear that his parents were together - and getting along.

"If you're sure." Regina looked up across the fire at her son. "Henry, can you come here for a minute? We need to talk to you about something."

Snow looked horrified, knowing all too well what was coming next.

"'Kay," he said, standing up and walking over to them.

They both moved over on the log, letting Henry sit between them.

"Sweetie," Regina said slowly. "Your mom and I have something to tell you. Some things have... changed... between us."

"Are you guys together yet?" he asked, looking chipper.

"What?" Regina gasped, blinking a few times as she stared at her son in disbelief. "Yes, but-"

"I knew it!" he cried, standing up and clapping his hands together. "That's perfect!"

"How could you possibly have known that?" Regina asked him, grabbing his hand and tugging him gently back down into his seat.

"It's the way you look at Emma," he explained. "It's like she's the juiciest apple you've ever seen in your life."

Emma blushed and tried not to laugh, knowing that Regina was probably just as embarrassed.

"Henry," Emma said, shaking her head. "That's silly."

"Nuh-uh," he protested. "Mom loves you. I can tell. It's obvious."

"It wasn't to me," Snow interjected with a scowl, glaring at the two women.

"Well, that's because you weren't looking, Grandma," he told her, shrugging his shoulders. "If you look, it's obvious. Mom can't help herself. Emma's perfect for her."

"How can you tell?" Emma asked curiously, genuinely wanting to hear his answer.

Even she'd been unsure about their budding relationship. Regina's feelings certainly hadn't been obvious to her. The woman had been very good at hiding them with her cruelty. Thinking back, though, it still made her cringe to think about the possibility of her son being taken from her. As good of a mother as Regina was, Emma couldn't stand the thought of losing her only boy. Now that she had him, he was every breath she took. Her new family was all that held her together.

"Because you look at her like that, too."