The You’re Henry’s birth mother? appeared on her side when she was sixteen, but the full complexity of the situation doesn't hit her until she is weakly saying, “Hi,” back to her son’s mother.
Only, there is no flash of recognition, no sudden startle-and-doubletake people usually do when they meet their soulmate.
Emma is sure nobody else will say those words to her. Not like this. And the way her heart tugs every time she sees Regina definitely isn't a mistake.
The markings never make a mistake.
And yet, Emma says nothing.
When she undresses for bed, she traces the words burned into her side. It's probably just her imagination, but they look redder.
If her son wasn't enough to make her stay, this definitely is.
"Ms Swan, we need to talk." The woman sweeps in like a tidal wave, ignoring Emma's startled look and lack of presentable clothes. Emma can only close her gaping mouth and follow her into her own room. "You have to leave Storybrooke."
She comes bearing apples, which is really not helping with the Evil Queen image. She glances at her unmade bed that Emma clearly just stumbled out of, and then at the lone chair which has her jacket and jeans thrown haphazardly, and chooses to remain standing.
Emma leans awkwardly against the wardrobe, runs a hand through her hair. "I just want to get to know—"
"Your nothing. He is my son."
Emma is grateful she's interrupted; she isn't really sure how she would have finished that sentence.
The kid argues that she's supposed to be the Savior, that she is to find everyone's happy endings.
"The Evil Queen has taken them all, so only she can have hers."
Emma asks if that means he is Regina's happy ending. He sits quietly for the first time since she's met him, and he is still thinking when she walks him home.
When the apple-basket-and-threats combo fails, (though Regina can't really have thought it would work) she tries to get Emma arrested again. Then there's the chainsaw incident, when she doesn't try to arrest her, and— Emma is sure this is deliberate, that she's being targeted because of her handwriting somewhere, on Regina. It has to be.
(She cannot actually hate Emma. That cannot be it.)
She dithers for a week but finally asks Henry about his mother's mark, and he tells her how it says Regina in an untidy scrawl around her ankle, and, "Why do you care so much, anyway?"
She's definitely glad she didn't lead with the reason why she cares so much.
Maybe she should leave. Kid deserves permanence and she is in no position to promise that.
Then he decides to jump inside a fucking mine, because it's Regina's determination added to Emma's sheer boneheadedness, and really, they should have seen this coming.
So they find a reason to work together.
And work together they do. Soon after the mine, there's Emma's desk, and against Regina's office door and later, in the Mercedes. The windows fog up and her leg cramps like a bitch that one time, but all in all it's the best working together in a while. And if Emma's breath catches when she watches Regina's face as she lets go, or if her heart jumps every time she sees her, or if it plummets when they don't kiss (they never kiss) it's her business, and nobody else's.
Another reason she has to be grateful for the hurried fumbles is that there is no reason for Regina to spot the loopy cursive against her side. If her shirt never entirely comes off, it's not suspicious at all.
Of course Emma Swan's only chance of a family would be like this. The first ever unrequited soulmate in history.
The woman tries to set up her best friend for murder, and she supports the other candidate when Emma runs for Sheriff. In return, Emma carries her out of a burning building. She watches as Henry prints posters and Regina tears them off. She keeps one in Henry's storybook, for- for posterity, she supposes. Or for laughing at it later.
(Maybe they'll have a later.)
The bedroom window is always unlatched, though. Because that's where they've relocated— "My bedroom is more convenient", see?
And when she misses a night, Regina drags her in by her arm the next night and leaves a bruising kiss on her thigh that is a stark deep pink against her skin by the time they're done. She still pretends to be asleep when Emma sneaks out, but if this were about anybody but Emma Swan, she would call herself hopeful.
And then the curse breaks.
The curse breaks; and then she's sitting in Henry's room, surrounded by Henry's things, hugging Henry's pillow— she almost killed Henry.
And now, it's over.
She will face the Savior in the prophesied Final Battle, and it will be over.
At least Henry will have—
When she hears the mob outside, the knocking on her door, she gathers herself up. She will die as she lived, as the Evil Queen.
She doesn't have anything to live for, not now.
She rallies her Charming family behind her, protects her, and jumps through the hat to a realm that no longer exists.
(Emma brings back her magic. This is not to be dwelled upon.)
Regina can only thank god the genetic idiocy seems to have skipped Henry.
Maybe nurture prevails over nature.
And maybe her curse is to love each and every generation of the Charmings, no matter how blinding the light is from where she stands.
Again and again she wakes up to soft lips being dragged down her spine. Ghost lips. They leave her hollow when she wakes up, but they're still better than the dreams with the smell of burning flesh and a screaming Henry, or the ones where they keep running faster and faster away from her.
She shakes herself and works on her promise to Henry. She will get Emma back for him, if its the last thing she does.
Her mark didn't fade when Daniel died.
She guesses it's because she was destined to bring him back like this. More than dead, less than alive. Bring him back so she would have to kill him herself.
(She is afraid to look at her mark after that.)
When her mark first came in, Mother made sure to introduce her to all the suitable matches by her name, first. Hoping that such a brazen form of address meant a match made above her station.
(Daniel's mark just said You)
(But they'd loved each other for so long before either of their marks came in, it didn't matter. They couldn't really remember what they'd said when they met.)
(Comfort under Mother's onslaught. How else were soulmates supposed to feel?)
Leopold's first words to her were "No. I should bow to you," and not "Regina".
(Emma's was "Hi.")
In the Enchanted Forest, the words were supposed to be written by fairies, when humans were sleeping. There were legends of a dwarf who fell in love with his fairy, because she was muttering the words as she wrote them, and they were the first he heard.
It was said the fairies started to hide under invisibility after that.
(It was sometimes said the dwarf and the fairy were punished, and couldn't be together.)
Regina was the one Snow ran to find when her Show your face, coward appeared on her forearm.
Her parents had married despite other markings, so Snow hadn't grown up hearing tales of soul mates, hadn't known, until Regina told her.
Regina's information comes from Daniel, from the scullery maid and from the village girls before she is told a proper lady oughtn't gallivant about with them. Later, her knowledge comes from Mother, always Mother, teaching her about freedom, escape and having a choice. About words that never fit, because soulmates were never meant to be prisons..
She gets them back. Snow and Emma. For Henry.
She absorbs the spell so her son can reunite with his real family, and leave her gasping, aching, and alone by the well.
(Now she has to get him back. From her.)
The phone ringing wakes her up, and she's not sure who she is. Or where, or when.
The phone. Maybe Henry—
"What do you want?"
"Hey. Are you okay? You don't sound okay."
"I'm tired, Ms Swan. What do you want?"
"Right, sorry. Everyone wants to celebrate us getting back, at Granny's later today."
"I fail to see what this has to do with me."
"I was hoping you could come to the party," and then a hastily added, "Henry will be there."
"Oh." For a moment she's lost for words, so she seizes upon the first thing that, "Should I bring anything?"
"Uh. Henry's asking if you would bring make the lasagna he likes?"
"I can do that."
"Good. I'll see you tonight?"
The bedroom window remains unlatched, but untouched.
Regina can't really blame her. Running, always running, even with the mark she tries to hide.
Henry doesn't want to see her. Maybe it has nothing to do with him; maybe he's not allowed to see her.
(She hopes he is denied nothing. She hopes Emma can be the mother he needs.)
They accuse her of murder.
She might be a monster, but she's a monster on the mend. She thought the two of them could see that.
(If she has nobody, why be good?)
The torture, at least, is based on her fault. For killing her father, she must go through pain.
No, for killing her mother.
No, the boy's father.
That isn't right, Henry doesn't have a father. He has Emma.
Something about Emma—?
She isn't sure anymore. She closes her eyes. It must be time.
Snow is sitting by the bedside, eyes too understanding for her comfort, when she comes to.
(Everything Regina felt, she felt. Regina wants to inexplicably avert her eyes. )
She tries to say something about love, before Emma comes bursting in with the pirate, something about an earthquake, and the failsafe.
When she goes to meet her death this time, there's more fueling her than just desperate bravado.
And Emma Swan's mark will fade once she's dead.
She will find someone she isn't bound to, someone who she's not ashamed of, someone who deserves her.
(She is tired, so tired, why won't they let her die?)
She remembers reading somewhere, cops say the first 48 hours after a child kidnapping is the most crucial. After that the possibility of finding them safely begins to go down.
If time stands still in Neverland, does that mean it's actually more likely to find Henry safe and sound?
So this is what grasping at straws feels like.
There’s a fire licking at her insides every waking moment, that intensifies when she thinks about Henry.
It’s leaping to get out, to burn the whole forest and every single person around her if it means she can get to Henry.
It means spitting fire when she’s talked to.
(She can see it reflected back in Regina’s eyes when their campfire has died and everyone is sleeping at night.)
When they can’t sleep, they talk.
Regina tells her about when Henry wore her lipstick and her heels when he was three because he wanted to be “Just wike you.” And when he first started to walk how he’d catch onto her skirt and wobble along behind her, like an elephant holding onto his mother's tail. And when he liked being read to: Matilda and Harry Potter and encyclopedia entries about space (because her son has always been a little nerd). But not fairytales, never fairytales.
The comics which came later, and the Marvel v DC fight that she couldn’t tell where her traitorous son got his inclinations from.
Emma’s wiping tears before long, and the fire inside her flickers for a moment. This is the calmest she's felt since Henry went out of her sight.
More and more often she wakes snuggled into Regina’s side, Regina unconsciously running her fingers through her hair. Her bedroll soon migrates to beside Regina’s at during the pitching of the camp.
She’s the most surprised when she catches Snow smiling gently, looking at the two of them.
It’s working together of an entirely different kind. Not physical, but like she can only breathe when she feels Regina’s steady gaze on her.
Neal might be in Neverland, and what kind of Savior would she be if she didn’t at least try to find him?
Maybe there’s another way for the kid to have a semblance of a family.
Her loving Regina is irrelevant in the greater scheme of things; there is no way this closeness could be permanent.
Regina goes off on her own, because she is reckless and impatient.
What is she supposed to do?
Pan has promised her Henry will be alright as long as she plays his games. This seems to be a fucked up level.
(Neal knows how to cheat this game, and Emma’s willing to take all the help she can get.)
Then Regina isn’t there, and Hook is, with his rum feeding the fire. And maybe she’ll need an inferno if she wants everyone to get out of there alive.
His mark has faded off, but he tells her a story of eyes like the ocean, and crumbling hearts (because does she imagine his is still intact?) when he has had enough rum. He might not be in the same fire as Regina and her, but he does know how the blazing heat feels alone.
He knows about surviving without a soulmate. (Never living, only surviving.)
It’s called hysterical strength, when mothers lift cars off of their children, or when fathers with stab wounds fight armed guards to take a baby to a wardrobe.
When it’s Regina and her together, they move the moon.
This is her fault.
When Henry’s actually Pan and Pan is Henry. And when Regina cannot recognise her own son because she’s so starved of his affection.
If only she hadn’t—
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that she fixes this.
There’s another curse. Because of course there’s another fucking curse.
Then Regina’s talking about saying goodbye to the ‘thing she loves most’ and Emma’s heart is in her eyes and her stomach’s soaring for the split second before Regina turns to Henry. Obviously.
(Stupid, stupid, stupid.)
“My gift to you, is happy memories.”
It seems Regina gets to chase her out of Storybrooke after all.
(It seems Emma gets to steal Henry from her)
She is sure neither of them wanted this.
Her name is Emma Swan. Her son is Henry Swan. Her mark says, You’re Henry’s birth mother? like he could have some other kind of mother.
Like she could ever have given him away.
She’s not sure if she named him Henry because her mark said so.
(Would that be too horrible?)
But she doesn’t know any Henries and had no particular fondness for the name, before.
And she’s sure she’s not going to do this being pregnant thing again, however much she might love Henry.
Walsh is easy, he’s warm, he’s comfortable.
Walsh makes breakfast when he stays over, and doesn’t talk down to Henry.
Walsh doesn’t stop her dreams of dark, dark eyes and so much fire.
Then a man with a prosthetic hook who looks (and smells) like he hasn’t showered in days shows up at her door.
What’s even more unbelievable, she entertains him.
(Sure, she tosses him in jail first, but to be fair he did try to kiss her.)
Walsh doesn’t have a mark. Says they’re extremely uncommon, where he’s from. As if he’s from another planet instead of Kansas.
Henry can’t wait for his mark to come in, runs to her every time he thinks he feels an itch that he hopes is it.
She wishes he gets an easy one. Like the florist girl two blocks away whose Oh, there you are. perfectly complements her wife’s God I’m so sorry my dog’s an ass.
(She’s crossed thirty. To be honest she’s not surprised her soulmate’s not found her. She wouldn’t even blame them if they did meet her, found her lacking, and went away— like others that had promised to love her.)
When she leaves home, with hook-and-guyliner, she brings her old red leather jacket: the soft and worn-down one. Even though she can’t remember ever wearing it after Henry.
It feels wrong, feels like playing dress-up in someone else’s clothes— but it still fits her like a glove.
So um. I was figuring out how the POVs would work, and all the things that needed to be said, and apparently this story needs one more chapter. Woops.
(Cheers, lemme know what you think)
For tmaq. She said she was busy and I kinda ignored that? But she beta-ed it anyway
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
She has to say goodbye to the thing she loves most.
It's like she said: Henry can't go out into the world alone.
(And as for the slight chance it's Emma too; well, that's taken care of. She even has Henry. She has what her life would be without the fairytale madness descending upon her.)
A wife without a husband is a widow. A child without parents is an orphan.
A mother without her child is nothing.
Charming finds her sobbing and she hastily draws up, stiff backed and flinty-eyed, shaking hands hidden behind her back.
But then he's saying, "I know," and his voice cracks and all is lost.
Snow catches her burying her heart in dirt.
Not in a magically reinforced vault, hidden away. Not protected by a dragon, as hearts have been. There's just a sharp stone and Regina's digging a grave for her heart with it.
Though if anyone can understand not wanting to love someone, Snow can. She talks her into keeping heart.
Subtle, Snow is not. But even if she will never say it, Regina is grateful for every glance at her from the corner of her eyes.
Raising Henry was never easy, but it was absolutely perfect. As long as she didn't think about being a mother, because that brought back memories of her lungs refusing to cooperate. Of angry red welts that should have showed, but only hurt, invisible.
She doesn't know how to be a mother. She just can be one, instinctively.
Before she realizes what's happening she's made a stuffed monkey, and handed it over to soothe the child, and all of a sudden she has a tiny shadow with a toothy grin.
Robin has raised a son, without his wife.
His mark is the sign of a lion, and he tells her about his wife who couldn't speak, but was the most joyful storyteller, once he learned her language.
He also tells her she disappeared years ago, but his mark hasn't faded. Which could mean she will come back to him.
Regina doesn't want to, but she is accidentally telling him all about Daniel. And having him 'come back to her'.
It's about sharing, what they have. A shared loss of love, a shared love for a child, a shared enmity against a witch.
(A shared, hidden wish to forget.)
Who's to say it isn't enough?
She has a sister, and her name is Zelena.
Their mother sent her to Oz, so she became the most powerful witch there. (Mother would be proud)
Zelena wishes, more than anything, to be in Regina's place. Regina is almost angry enough to wish the same thing on her.
Roland is a shy boy who doesn’t talk much. Until she realizes it’s because he’s used to talking with his mother. She starts off halting, but soon they’re signing back and forth, and Robin just looks at her like he thinks she can’t possibly be real.
(Emma is the answer to their problem. None of them think they should go running back to wreak havoc on her life, but they're too relieved at the thought of seeing her again.)
Looking to Emma when they need a Savior.
They're being selfish.
She doesn't speak up, because that will mean going against a plan that will take her to Henry. And Emma.
She's sacrificed the things closest to her heart to undo the curse and save everyone. She wakes up back in her mansion and nothing has changed.
Except Emma and Henry aren't there, so-
She doesn't know what that means
She's getting coffee from the diner as if it’s a normal day, when she spots the familiar faces. He's taller, her beautiful boy, he might even be taller than her.
(He looks right through her)
And then Emma's there, with explanations of an inadequate memory potion and a year lost.
Is forgetting an year living without them really a curse?
There are flying monkeys and a Wicked Witch. There’s a man who follows her around and a connection she denies. But the worst is being in the same town as a son who does not know her.
(Looking at Henry is like breathing with lungs full of shattered glass. Despite everything, it is what’s keeping her alive.)
Even when the town wants to bring out their pitchforks and torches, Emma believes in her. “With you, Regina, I always know.” and, this is not how this works. They don’t go around making declarations of trust, or looking at each other all doey-eyed or holding hands and she’s not sure she remembers what the reason behind that is, anymore.
There’s a stakeout and they’re talking about Henry’s new life, his school, his friends. (But no girlfriend, not yet) She’s trying to blink the tears away but one falls and rolls down her cheek and Emma’s there. She wipes her tear and kisses her forehead in a move that is so familiar from comforting Henry, they both freeze.
Then they’re kissing, gasping, breathing and Emma’s hand is at her collar, the other’s in her hair and Regina’s head hits the window as she skates her fingers over Emma’s side when she remembers: the writing.
She pushes her back, hand on her chest and Emma, ever so pliant, goes without a word. (Question in her eyes, but no surprise)
She knows Emma will never ask, will never bring this up. (She happens to notice light flickering in her office just then, so it works out just fine.)
She has a sister, and she doesn’t know what she ever did to her.
(If she knew what she’d done, she’d at least have the satisfaction of having done it.)
Henry loves her. He doesn’t know her, but their True Love is enough to break the curse, and bring back all memories. And then he calls her Mom and rushes towards her and his voice is breaking, she feels dwarfed in his arms instead of the other way round, and everything is still, for a moment.
The Savior rewrites the past, and brings back Robin’s wife.
She’d never imagined such malice.
“Regina, I’m sorry, just let me exp— no wait don’t—!”
There’s nothing left to say, or do.
There are upwards of fifteen missed calls everyday for a week, which then start to taper off. (They never stop entirely.) She deletes the voice mails and messages unopened without a second thought.
At the office next week, Emma knocks on the door and then sits outside until Regina actually calls security.
At least a month passes until the calls slow to one every night, and pleading messages stop being sent through Henry and Snow.
A snow-monster attacks, (she’s not going to think about that one) and she rescues Marian from it, cementing her fate.
If she never talks to Emma Swan again, it’ll be too soon.
She gets a dinner invitation to eat with her ex, the woman she almost killed and the boy she could have been a mother to.
She brings apple pie and asks Henry to wear that blue jacket he loves.
She doesn’t want to know what Ms Swan is up to, but Henry’s there every other week, Robin’s got a job at the Sheriff's station, and Snow insists on working at their budding not-enmity. Which means there are always sentences that start, only to awkwardly halt, and hints around Emma’s life.
She doesn’t want to know of attempts at reconciliation being encouraged: even helped along by these people, but there’s nothing she can do to stop it.
She’s taken to poofing away when she spots the familiar blonde curls.
Henry’s taken to either gripping her hand really hard, or trying to turn her away to prevent it.
Emma’s taken to making a beeline for her every time she spots her, and trying to get out as many words as she can before the inevitable disappearance.
“You’re gonna have to talk to her sometime.” Marian’s an unlikely friendship, given the circumstances, but since her other options are Emma’s parents, Emma’s son, or her own ex-boyfriend-- maybe not that unlikely.
“I will have to do nothing of the sort. How’s Roland adjusting to school?”
“He’s not used to being around so many kids his age. He usually falls asleep right in the car after, but he loves it.”
“I’m glad. Henry said to ask if you needed a babysitter.”
“That’s very sweet. I’ll talk to Robin, and he’ll give him a call, alright?”
“Sure, I’ll tell him. What do you think about the lasagna?” Marian understands redemption, she understands and allows her love for Roland. She’s almost perfect.
“It’s wonderful. Like always.” She even truly enjoys the spicy food Regina makes, and Regina would call her perfect if they didn’t reach the regularly scheduled, “You know, you should really give Emma a chance. See what she has to say.”
“Why does this matter to you? You barely know her.”
“She saved my life.”
“So did I,” and Marian smiles fondly at her. Theirs is a weird, weird relationship.
“Okay, how about this. You talk to her once. And I’ll never say a word about her again.” Well this is new.
“No. Now about the playground, outside the city limits. You said Roland thinks there’s not enough to climb on?” Marian’s used to deflections, she won’t push.
Why are all of them convinced hearing Emma apologise would change anything?
(It’s three am and she can’t sleep and Henry is at Emma’s; every step seems to echo through the house like it never did during the curse.)
Before she knows it she’s standing outside Emma’s- well, Snow and David’s- apartment, still in her dressing gown. She fumbles for her phone in her pocket and sends a ‘Hey’ and it shouldn’t please her so much when the reply is almost instantaneous. ‘Where are u?’
She’s sent, ‘Come outside’ before she gets a chance to reconsider.
Emma stumbles out of the door panicked and obviously wide-awake, still shoving an arm in a coat, laces on her sneakers undone. She hurries over when she spots Regina, “Is everything okay? What do you need?”
She moves to touch her shoulder, reassure her, as if she’s watching the actions of someone else. “It’s nothing. I just- wanted to talk to you.” It comes out more questioning than she had intended, but the smile that Emma shoots in return is blinding.
“Oh, okay, okay.” Emma looks at the ground, and then back up at her, beseeching. “Can I apologise, now?”
“I don’t think it’s necessary. Not really. Marian’s lovely and you did stop me from killing her. I should thank you.”
“That’s not— No, Regina— I took away what made you happy. You’re allowed to be mad. You should be mad.”
“You’re the Savior. This is what you do. Save people,” and speaking this is what seems to make it real, as if she has been thinking this without realizing, and talking to Emma is suddenly bringing everything to the forefront.
Emma makes a choked noise, gaping at her, “I—”
“Let me say this.” There’s a loose thread in the left pocket of her gown, and she’s pulling at it. It’s unravelling faster than she’d expect, with how expensive it was. “You saved Marian from me but you also saved me from myself, from becoming more of a monster. I was holding onto something that I never deserved, with Robin, and this is-”
“Stop, stop, stop. “ Emma's voice cracks, but she continues, grabbing her wrist. “I thought you were mad at me, and right to be, for what I did. If I’d known this is what you were thinking I’d have kicked in your door the first day. Regina. I’m the Savior,” Now tears are running down her face, “which means it’s my job to give everyone their happy endings. I’m a shit Savior if I take someone’s away, selfishly.”
She’s wordlessly tugging up the coat, the tank top under it, baring the tattoo. “Yours. See?” Now? She’s bringing this up now?
“I know. I know it’s something you never wanted.”
“Wait, you knew?” She presses her fingers to the bridge of her nose, tightly closes her eyes, “That’s what you thought?”
“Why else would you hide it so persistently?” She stops pulling at the thread, crosses her arms, “I mean I understand why you wouldn’t want The Evi—”
“That’s not it at all. I asked Henry, and you’re not mine, so I never said anything.” And now it’s Regina’s turn to gape.
“More than anything else in the world.” And her stomach is getting so light, she could float.
“You idiot. It wouldn’t have mattered. I wouldn’t- I-” She’s welling up as pulls Emma closer by the jacket, and then pauses, and seeing what she’s looking for, presses a soft, breathless kiss to her lips.
And then Emma’s pulling away, awe in her eyes, and she kisses her just once more before she lets go. “But this is where the selfish comes in. I went back in time.”
“I don’t understand. What’re you—”
“I went back in time and I met you. I called you by your name.”
She huffs out a breath, amused, because everything is a hundred times funnier. “Princess Leia. I should have known.”
“Oh, ha ha” The sarcasm doesn't make it through how giddy she looks, and Emma pulls her back for another kiss. Then, because she can’t be still for long, she pulls back again. Eyes bright, she starts, “So we’re really doing this? Telling Henry, double dates with Robin and Marian, family dinners with my parents, the whole of it?” Regina’s just staring at her wordlessly, so she backtracks, “Too soon?”
“Marian and Robin know? Does everyone?”
“Marian was there, in the past, when I— you know.” She cocks her head. “And Robin’s her husband, so no surprise there. Snow told me she supported us before I even said anything, and Henry isn’t blind, he actually scolded me once. I think we were the last ones to know? Well, you more than me, really, because—”
Regina leans up and kisses her to shut her up, because she can do that now, and feels her arms tighten around her, feels Emma smile into it.
Please leave your comments on your way out, cheers. :)
[can I just say: their words are almost unchanged in the finale AU? Emma's is still 'Regina', and Regina's is 'Let me guess, you're his other mother']