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Guardian Angel

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Regina feels her heart leap into her throat, drumming so loudly she’s sure Emma must be able to hear it. The moment she sees that tattoo, she’s thrust into a memory.

"Your soulmate is the one with the lion tattoo.”

"Regina?" Emma's voice calls from some long distance away. "You okay?"

Regina's face burns and her heart pounds and she opens her mouth but no words come out because Emma has the lion tattoo.

“Regina?”

“Keep in mind that True Love isn't always what we think it will be. It could come when you least expect it."

Emma sounds worried now, and through the haze of unfocused vision Regina can see her brow crinkling and her eyebrows knitting together with concern.

Regina stands up without a word and runs to the end of the dock, leaping off without a second’s hesitation.

Beneath the water it’s calm. There’s no lion tattoo to scare her, no talk of soulmates or destiny.

“Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing."

Her wings are growing waterlogged – they’re not meant for swimming – but she doesn’t care. It’s not until her head grows foggy and her lungs begin screaming for air that she finally points herself upward and begins kicking to the surface, gulping in air when she breaks.

Emma takes her hand and pulls her back onto the dock, wearing her dress once more. "I was gonna get some lunch ready," she says, not letting go of Regina's hand.

Regina smiles softly. After her much-needed escape from reality, however brief, her head is much clearer than it was a minute ago. "Need any help?"

"I guess I could find something for you to do."

"You go get things started and I'll dry off and meet you in the house in a minute."

"'Kay." Emma moves to walk back to the house, feeling herself stopped by her grip on Regina's hand. She blushes and lets go, doubling her speed up the staircase to the small cabin.

Regina watches Emma's retreating figure with a small smile, gears still turning in her mind after seeing that tattoo. Is it just a coincidence, or could it mean...? Regina sighs and begins toweling off. She wishes she could talk to Tinker Bell. Even a short conversation with the fairy would make all this easier. She wraps the towel around herself once she’s dry and follows Emma's path up the stairs into the cabin.

When she arrives in the kitchen, Emma’s talking to someone on her cell phone. "...yeah, it was kind of a last-minute decision... sorry I didn't tell you... well you already said you couldn’t come!... look, I couldn’t just leave her home for a week... yeah... I'll see you when we get home... yep... you too." She hangs up the phone and runs a hand through her tangled, damp hair.

"Who was that?" Regina asks, stepping all the way into the kitchen.

Emma tosses her a t-shirt and some denim shorts. "Walsh," she sighs. "He’s upset I didn't invite him up here."

"I'm sorry." Regina tugs the clothes on over her wet swimsuit.

Emma shrugs. "It's okay. We've fought before; we'll be fine." She opens the refrigerator. "How about homemade pizzas for lunch?"

Regina smiles, deciding against mentioning the fact that she has no idea what a pizza is. "Sounds perfect."

Emma sets out four small round frozen pieces of dough, a jar of some kind of thick, red sauce, two packages of shredded cheese, and a few different kinds of meat and vegetables. "You wanna call in Henry and Paige for me?" she asks, glancing at Regina.

Regina goes back to the top of the stairs. "It's lunch time!" she calls down.

A moment later, both children come running up the stairs, pulling shirts over their heads as they barrel past Regina into the house. Regina follows them in with a smile.

"I'm starving!" Henry comments when he sees the ingredients. "Pizza?"

Emma grins. "We're gonna build our own.”

Henry grabs one of the round crusts and a spoon. "Pass me the sauce?"

Emma slides the glass jar across the counter to him and he carefully spreads some of the red sauce over his crust. He sprinkles some shredded cheese over it and adds some thin, round slices of meat on top and a few mushrooms.

Paige wrinkles her nose. "I hate pepperoni," she says, pointing to the meat on Henry's pizza. "It's all slimy and gross."

Henry grins wickedly. He picks up a pepperoni and throws it at her. It lands in her hair and she shrieks.

"Henry!" Emma reprimands him. She carefully pulls the meat slice out of Paige's hair and pops it in her mouth with a wink.

"Gross!" Henry says.

Emma grins. "Delicious."

Regina, still unsure exactly what to do, decides to follow Henry's example – sort of. She has to agree with Paige; the pepperoni looks pretty disgusting. After spreading the sauce and the cheese, Regina arranges mushrooms, tomatoes, and a few pieces of sausage atop her pizza, making sure they’re all spread evenly.

"Look at you, little Van Gogh," Emma teases, bumping Regina with her shoulder. "I never thought someone could be so intense about pizza."

Regina shrugs. "I like things to be orderly," she says simply. After Emma and Paige have made their pizzas, Emma puts the four pizzas on a tray and shoves it in the oven.

"All right, you two go do whatever. They'll be ready in a half hour."

"Come on, I'll show you that… thing I mentioned earlier," Henry says with a sly glance toward his mother, leading Paige up the stairs.

Emma leans back against the counter. "So... what are you making for dinner?"

"I was thinking about a lasagna. And maybe some chocolate cake for dessert."

Emma raises her eyebrows, impressed. "How about brownies?" she amends. "Bit less messy, bit more kid-friendly, you know?

Regina nods silently, having never eaten a brownie before.

"I gotta be honest, I thought you were gonna make some organic, hipster, health food meal or something."

Regina smiles to herself, shaking her head. "That was my mother's job." She doesn't elaborate. She can't talk about her mother to Emma.

Emma grabs a bit of cheese straight out of the bag and pops it into her mouth.

Regina wrinkles her nose. "That's highly unsanitary, dear."

Emma indignantly throws another bit of cheese at Regina. It lands in her hair. Regina slowly picks up a stack of pepperonis and hurls them one after another at Emma, watching with a wicked grin as they stick to her clothes, skin, and hair.

And they continue like this, flinging food back and forth, until a large glop of marinara sauce lands on Regina's white t-shirt. Without hesitation, she tears the shirt off, leaving her in her bikini top once again.

Emma scoops up some sauce in a plastic spoon and bends it back, grinning as it splatters all over Regina's hair. And then... neither of them are sure how they got there, but they’re there. Standing in the kitchen. Arms around each other.

Kissing.

Emma tastes like spicy pepperoni and cheese and a hint of sweetness Regina can't place. She could have stayed there forever, softly kissing Emma, feeling the blonde's hands on her waist, but they’re interrupted by the loud blare of the oven announcing that their pizzas are done.

Emma jumps out of Regina's embrace, looking horrified at what she's just done. Her mouth moves, but nothing comes out.

Regina scoops her shirt off the ground and hurries upstairs to the bathroom and locks the door. She paces back and forth in the small room, fingers combing through her long, damp hair and flinging sauce everywhere. What just happened? Did it mean anything? Could Emma feel the same way she did?

She shakes her head. Emma has Walsh; she loves him. She wouldn't leave him for some street rat like her. Because that's all she knows of Regina – a piece of street garbage.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” she mutters, shaking her head and she paces faster and faster back and forth in the tiny room. And suddenly, this room isn’t an escape anymore; it’s a prison. She’s trapped between these four walls and she can’t get out because she knows Emma is waiting just beyond that door and she just can’t face her right now. She just can’t.

Regina catches a glimpse of movement to her right, and stops to examine it. It’s her reflection. She studies herself in the glass, her own face and body. Mirrors are her favorite marvel from this world; the one thing that makes her almost glad she faced exile; the one the thing that she wishes she had in her palace.

Here, she can see her wings. She hasn't looked at them recently; just looked past them as she always has. But now she examines them.

They’re black. Could it be they’re darker than when she first arrived, or just a trick of her eyes? She folds them halfway around herself, gently running her fingers through the downy feathers of the underside of her wings. "I'm sorry, Snow," she whispers, feeling tears in her eyes. "I let you down." She pauses. "But I'll come back to you. I will."

There’s a knock on the door. "Regina?" It’s Emma. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," Regina lies.

"Look. I... I'm sorry about what happened in the kitchen. I don't know where it came from. I don't wanna freak you out or anything."

Regina bites her lip. She doesn’t say anything; doesn’t trust herself to speak. Her own hands gently stroking up and down the soft feathers of her wings are the only thing keeping her grounded.

The doorknob jiggles. "Can I come in?"

“No.”

“Okay.” There’s a very pregnant pause before Emma speaks again. "Did it... mean anything to you?" she asks quietly.

"I... don't place any merit in it."

"So it didn't?"

"I don't believe it carried any significant import," Regina says, skirting around her answer, because she doesn’t want to lie but she can’t let Emma know that yes, it meant everything in the world and more to her. She wouldn’t be able to look her in the eye if she knew that.

"Regina, it's a simple 'yes' or 'no' question. Did it mean anything to you?" Emma’s getting frustrated, annunciating each word with care.

Regina chews on the inside of her cheek. “No,” she says finally. “Did it mean anything to you?”

“No.”

"Well, it's settled then."

"Yeah, I guess it is." Emma shifts her weight on her feet. "Lunch?"

Regina opens the door, hoping it’s not too obvious she’s been crying. "Lunch."