Regina tosses and turns in her bed, sweat covering her body. The nightmares she hasn’t had in over a month have returned, and they’re back with a vengeance. She can feel Robin’s breath, hot and heavy on her neck, and her entire body is frozen and she can’t move or get away or defend herself.
The next thing she knows is she’s lying in her bed being shaken awake. She lifts her head to lock gazes with a familiar pair of emerald eyes. “Emma?”
“I heard you shouting.” Emma moves to sit beside Regina on the bed. “The nightmares are back again, aren’t they?”
“They’re worse than before.”
“Are you okay now that you’re awake?”
“Not exactly,” Regina admits.
Emma wraps her arms around Regina’s waist. “I’ve got you,” she murmurs into her neck. “You know I’ve always got you.”
“Emma?” Regina says hesitantly. “Will… will you stay?”
“Of course.” Emma presses a soft kiss to the space where Regina’s neck meets her shoulder. “I’ll always stay.”
And with Emma’s arms around her, exactly where they should be, Regina finally finds peace in her sleep.
Emma’s gone by the time Regina wakes up. For a moment, she feels a sense of emptiness, until she hears the sounds coming from the kitchen. Stretching, she hoists herself out of bed and slips on her robe to go investigate.
Emma grins at her from the stove when she comes out. “Morning.”
“What are you doing?” Regina yawns.
“Making breakfast. Thought you deserved something nice.”
“Oh. Well, thank you.”
Emma scoops the eggs she’s scrambling into a large bowl and sets it aside before approaching Regina and planting a chaste kiss on her lips. “Sleep okay?”
Regina nods. “Much better.”
“Good. Come on, let’s eat.”
Regina sits down at the table and allows Emma to dish some eggs onto her plate, as well as a few strips of bacon she hadn’t noticed Emma cooking before. Something about this feels… off. She’s not sure what it is, but it feels wrong somehow. Emma’s much too perky this morning, much too excited about breakfast for everything to be normal.
Emma sits down across from her, but doesn’t take any food for herself. “Okay. I gotta talk to you about something.
Knew it. “What?”
“My interview last week. The social worker job. I got it.”
“Are you serious? Emma, that’s amazing!”
Emma gnaws on her bottom lip and stares at the table rather than meet Regina’s eye. “It’s in San Francisco.”
It’s like Regina’s entire world comes crashing down and shatters over the top of her head. She doesn’t say anything; can’t say anything. Can’t think anything but she said she’d always stay.
“I didn’t say yes.” Emma pauses. “But I didn’t say no either. I had to talk to you before I told them anything.”
“You have to take it,” Regina says against every voice in her head screaming at her to beg Emma to stay. “This is your dream job. You can’t let anything hold you back.”
Regina reaches across the table and covers Emma’s hand with her own. “When would you be leaving?”
“If I take it, I’m gonna fly out this weekend to look at apartments. I’d probably move in about three weeks.”
Regina nods slowly. “Soon, then.”
“Regina…” Emma trails off, lifting her eyes to meet Regina’s. “If I went to San Francisco… would you come with me?”
Something clicks within Regina. This, what she has with Emma, is the real deal. She’s thought she was in love before, but those times were nothing compared to what she feels now. “I would, Emma, you know I would… but I can’t. My class, it’s only just started, and I can’t just leave in the middle of it. It’s the first thing I’ve done that’s been mine.”
Emma shakes her head. “Of course. I’m not gonna make you give that up.”
“But I… I could come later. When it’s finished. If you’ll still have me, that is.”
“Of course I will.” Emma grins and flips her hand over to squeeze Regina’s. “I know it’s fast, and with anyone else I’d be running off to San Francisco without even saying goodbye. But this is you. I think this is legit.”
“I think it is too.”
“So. You, me, and Henry in California.”
“Like a family.”
Emma grins. “Yeah. Like a family.”
The weekend is a lonely one without Emma around. Henry stays at Regina’s apartment, but he’s fairly quiet most of the time. He still hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact that he’s moving across the country.
“Is my mom moving because I got in a fight with Roland?” he asks one day.
Regina sets down her book, slowly getting up to walk over to the couch where he’s sitting and put an arm around his small shoulders. “Of course not, sweetheart. She got a job offer. It’s a job she’s wanted since she was a little girl. And I promise you’re going to love it in California.”
“But I love it here. My friends are here, and I just started going out with Paige, and I like it here. I don’t wanna go.” He pauses, and when he speaks again his voice is so soft and timid that Regina has to strain to hear it. “I don’t wanna go without you.”
Regina pulls him into a tight hug. “It’s only for a little bit. I’ll be there with you before you know it. We’re going to be a family, okay? The three of us are going to be a family.”
“She said this was gonna be a forever home. We weren’t gonna move away like all the other times.” He pauses to wipe away the evidence that he was crying. “I wish you could come with us now.”
“So do I; but I can’t leave in the middle of my class. And you know what? Two months is going to go by faster than you can blink, and then I’ll be right back with you. Only there won’t be any Robin or Roland to bother us in San Francisco.”
“Are… are you gonna be okay by yourself? Are you gonna be able to deal with him?”
Regina sighs. “I hope so. I’ll have Lacey and Ruby and Kathryn to help me. I won’t be alone.”
“I don’t want you to not have anyone. Everyone needs someone. Even my mom.”
“Then it’s a good thing she’s got you.”
“She’s got you, too.”
Regina smiles softly as she remembers soft murmurs of I’ve got you and gentle fingers rubbing circles on her skin. “Yes, she has.”
Emma lands back in Manhattan on Tuesday, the day Henry goes back to school, and the night his play opens. Roland quit the play for reasons he didn’t tell Miss Blanchard shortly after his fight with Henry, so Emma’s got a good feeling about tonight.
Regina answers the door when she knocks wearing a deep purple sweater and tall black heels that make her legs look amazing – well, more amazing than usual. “Wow,” Emma breathes. “You look fantastic.”
Regina flushes. “So do you.” She steps aside. “Come on in.”
Emma obliges and leans over the kitchen counter, grinning when Regina stands opposite her.
“How did apartment hunting go?”
“It was good. I think I found one. One floor, two bedrooms, one bathroom, open concept kitchen and living room. And there’s a pool on the bottom floor of the building.”
Regina smiles tightly. “That sounds perfect.”
“Hey,” Emma murmurs, reaching across the counter to take Regina’s hand. “Nothing’s gonna change just because I’m moving. And you’ll be there before too long and everything will be exactly how it should be. Promise.”
Regina smiles softly. “I do hope so.”
“Come on, we’d better get going. Henry’s gonna kill us if we’re late.” Emma holds out a crooked arm, and Regina slides her hand around Emma’s elbow with a smirk.
There’s a whole slew of people waiting outside the theater when they arrive. Emma makes a show of paying for both of their tickets, grinning and kissing Regina on the cheek when she protests. “Third row,” she boasts, flashing the neon pink slips of paper. Snaking her hand around Regina’s waist, she latches onto the hand that rests there and tangles their fingers together.
“We should go in,” Regina says with a bright red face and a wide smile. Emma keeps her arm securely around Regina’s waist and their hands together even after they sit down. Maybe her PDA is getting a little excessive, but she’s going to be moving across the country in two weeks and damn if she’s not going to shower her beauty with affection while she still can.
They both perk up in their seats when Henry comes onstage. He wasn’t lying about the shoulder pads – he looks at least three years older with the fake muscles on. Emma’s actually pretty impressed with how it turned out. The kids have definitely been practicing since that first rehearsal. Paige is phenomenal for an eighth grader; it’s nearly believable that she’s the real Snow White and she’s on the run from the Evil Queen.
Something keeps flickering across Regina’s face throughout the entire play. It looks almost like regret, almost like a memory, but it’s gone every time as soon as it’s there. “You okay?” Emma murmurs.
“Hm? Oh. Yes. Fine.” Regina looks somewhat shaken by the play and by Emma’s question, but by the time it’s over she’s got the same proud grin on her face that Emma has as they go to see Henry backstage.
“That was excellent,” Regina gushes, pulling Henry into a tight hug.
“You were great, kid.” Emma claps him on the shoulder. “Granny’s?”
Regina shifts slightly on her feet. “Actually, I don’t feel very well. I might want to just go home.”
“What’s wrong?” Emma asks, tilting her head.
“It’s nothing; I probably just ate something I shouldn’t have. I’m sure I’ll be fine by morning.”
“Yeah okay, I can take you home. Hen?”
Henry shakes his head. “I wanna go to the cast party backstage.”
Emma nods. “Okay, have fun. Text me when you need a ride.” She turns to Regina. “Your apartment?” At Regina’s nod, the two of them head out to the car and drive home in silence. Regina sits with her eyes closes and her head against the window. “You sure you’re okay?” Emma asks again when they get to the building.
“I just need to sleep it off. I’ll call you tomorrow, all right?”
“Feel better.” Emma leans across the seat and presses a soft kiss to Regina’s forehead. “See you tomorrow.”
Regina smiles tightly and hurries out of the car and into the apartment building. Emma watches her go with a frown. Something was obviously bothering Regina during the play. Maybe someday Regina will tell her just what.
Regina closes the door behind her and breathes a long sigh. It’s bliss to be alone, where no one can see her fall apart. She gives a few sharp thrusts of her wings; just enough to lift herself into the air. Once she’s maintaining a height just shy of the ceiling, she brings her knees up to her chest and bends her head down over them.
It was that goddamn play. It hit much too close to home. Somehow the people of this world had captured Snow White’s essence perfectly – helpless, needy, and always thinking with an extra helping of false hope.
It’s enough to make Regina miss her.
Maybe her young stepdaughter was a pain, yes, but what child isn’t at that age? Henry definitely has his moments. Regina wonders how Snow has grown in her absence. If she’s grown at all. Time passes differently in her kingdom than it does here. Snow could have aged decades by now; she could be only days older than when they last spoke. How old was she, when Regina left? Ten? Eleven? Just a hair younger than Henry.
Regina lowers herself to the ground and goes to the window. The moon has risen high by now, nearly full, casting her soft, silvery glow onto the world beneath her. Regina remembers the stories her father used to tell her about the moon, stories she then passed on to young Snow.
Her father always said the moon was a young mortal girl by the name of Luna. Luna came across an angel in her path one dark night, and the angel told her the stories of his kingdom. When at last they parted, Luna wanted only one thing. She wanted to be like her friend the angel. She wished every night to fly, to be immortal just as the angel had been. And one night, her prayers were answered. The angels descended and lifted Luna into the sky, where she remains, watching over the world by night.
The memory of the story brings a smile to Regina’s face, and she slowly opens the window and leans out enough that she can look directly up to the moon. “Hello, Snow. I know I promised you I’d come home soon. But baby, I can’t do that. I can’t give up what I have. But do you know what? I’m happy here.” She smiles gently and brings her body back inside, closing the window and wrapping her arms around her enough that her fingertips can stroke the downy underside of her wings. “I’m so happy here.”