If someone were to tell Emma that she would be living with Regina Mills in a newly-freed town while her son was living with her same-age-as-her parents back in the apartment she had shared with the woman whom she thought was her roommate but is, in fact, her mother, she would have laughed in their face and asked what they were smoking. But here she was, waking up in Regina's guest room which had already begun to look like her own back at her apartment with all the clothes strewn about everywhere. It had only been two days, and she was getting quite comfortable with the arrangement.
Regina and Emma had managed to stay out of each other's way for the better part of two days, only truly interacting when the smell of Regina's cooking would lure the Sheriff out of her room and into the kitchen where the older woman would be making dinner. Neither woman questioned why Regina always made enough for the both of them.
They didn't speak about what happened that night in the court room or of the following interaction over drinks. It was evident both women felt whatever it was that passed through them, but both were too confused to discuss it.
Smelling no breakfast or coffee, Emma grumpily pulled herself out of bed and prepared to get ready. Curse or no curse, she was still the Sheriff of the town, and the wraith's damage was still being felt. By now, every citizen in Storybrooke knew it would be futile to attack Regina for cursing them to this land and ripping apart their lives and families. A majority of them had witnessed Emma braving the mob in order to defend the Evil Queen, and just like any other small town, the gossip of their Saviour in cahoots with said Queen spread like wildfire.
Emma couldn't care less what they thought of her. She promised to keep Regina safe, and that was damn well what she was going to do. Donning her badge and token red leather jacket, Emma made her way downstairs and quickly motioned to Regina with a nod that she would be leaving and headed out the door.
As soon as Emma left, Regina stood from her seat at the dining table and grabbed the closest candle she could find. Setting it down on the mahogany, she channeled all her energy into lighting it. The wick flickered ever so briefly before going completely out.
She pounded her fist against the table in anger.
"Having trouble, are we?"
Regina closed her eyes in disgust and straightened. Slowly, her body turned to face the speaker.
"How did you get in here?" Regina glared at Mr. Gold.
He limped towards her. "I have my ways."
"What do you want, Gold?" Regina asked, crossing her arms defensively.
The older man toyed with the bottles of cider that lined her side table. "I see you're still alive."
"Clearly," Regina snarled. "Did you come here to finish the job once and for all?"
He chuckled to himself and stood with his cane clutched powerfully under both hands. "No, dearie. I just had to see for myself whether it was true."
He flourished his hand, and the candle Regina had been practicing on lit with a six-inch flame. "You're out of magic."
Her nostrils flared and her eyes narrowed. The triumphant smirk Gold was sporting never left his face. He deliberately began to close the gap between himself and Regina. "Tell me, how did you open that portal?"
Regina leaned in closer and enunciated. "Magic. Where I channeled it is none of your concern."
Gold's eye twitched only slightly. "If I were you, your Majesty, I'd be in a vulnerable state. No magic, no son, no title. Tell me, Regina, what do you have left?"
"As soon as I get magic –"
He waved his hand dismissively, effortlessly silencing the woman before him. "Never forget who taught you the craft, dearie. I may not be willing to teach you again."
"You'd help me?" Regina asked dumbfounded and uncrossed her arms.
"For a price." His lip twitched in a deceptive smile. "Have a good day, Regina."
Regina was left standing in a confused daze. She knew the only reason Gold would help her was if it benefited him in some way. She just didn't know what.
Emma returned to the mansion later than she had anticipated. There were missing people to be reunited with their families, damages to property that needed to be tended to, and as an added bonus, a town borderline that caused amnesia. To add to Emma's already amazing day, her key wouldn't open the damn door. Just fucking perfect.
The blonde let her head fall against the door with a firm thud. "Regina!"
Calling out the brunette's name twice more, the door unexpectedly opened causing Emma to stumble forward.
"You have a key," Regina said obviously. "Is it too complicated to put it in the lock and turn it?"
Emma just glared at the woman. "Don't. Not today."
She yanked the key out of the lock before shrugging out of her jacket. She let it drop where it fell and pulled at her hair in a moan. "This town is crazy!"
"Miss Swan, you may temporarily be living here, but that does not give you the excuse to turn my house into your personal laundry bin," Regina said, strutting over to rip the jacket from the floor and thrust it back into Emma's arms.
Emma stepped in closer and thrust her jacket back into Regina's hands, mentally smirking at the fact that the brunette's eyes widened at the audacity. "You are the reason why everyone is stuck here, and the wraith was after you. I saved your ass, so if I want to leave my stuff everywhere, I will!"
The subtle insults the Sheriff threw her way were effectively dismissed as Regina dropped the jacket at her feet and closed the gap so the women shared the same air. "If you can't handle the job, Sheriff, no one is making you stay."
"You know very well why I'm here."
The brunette took a step back. "Henry."
Emma simply nodded and picked up her jacket. She moved to hang it on the banister knowing she would be getting an earful from the woman behind her in any moment, but she was just too tired to care.
Regina growled and yanked the offending jacket off her banister and hung it on the coat rack. "Next time I'll burn it."
Emma rolled her eyes as she followed the brunette to the kitchen.
"So how was work, dear?" Regina asked as she began plating vegetables onto two plates.
The blonde raised an eyebrow. "You're asking me about work after yelling at me about a jacket?"
"Well if you're going to be my only source of company I may as well make the best of it," Regina reasoned with a tone of contempt and placed a dollop of mashed potatoes on the plates.
Emma began picking at a steamed carrot before her hand got swatted away. "Hey."
"Honestly, Miss Swan, your appetite is as bad as Henry's."
She made a face before promptly picking up her plate once it held the grilled chicken and followed the brunette to the dining room. As soon as Regina sat, Emma began ferociously eating.
Regina rolled her eyes as she deliberately cut her chicken into strips and then in halves. She glared at the belch that Emma did little to hide.
"It sucked," Emma said after draining a generous amount of water.
Regina paused her slicing. "Excuse me?"
"Work." Emma started eating at a more humane pace. "It sucked."
"Here I was prepared to throw you out of my house for insulting my cooking," Regina said coolly.
Emma laughed. "Your cooking is even better than Mary Margaret's."
Regina grinned into her wine glass at the compliment. "So the town is a mess without me running it?"
"You wish." Emma gave her a pointed look. "I gotta say, Regina, when you do a curse you know how to do it right."
"What on earth are you referring to, Miss Swan?"
"The town line," she said obviously. "We can't pass it."
The brunette raised an eyebrow in confusion, but Emma was too enthralled in her meal to notice. "Well, Henry and I can, but no one else can."
"Why not?" Regina leaned forward completely baffled by this news.
The blonde looked up at her tone, amazed that she truly didn't know. "You forget about your fairy tale life. Leroy pushed Tom over the line, and now he's just . . .Tom."
Emma tilted her head. She still didn't know why Regina had enacted the curse, but coming from the mouths of every citizen, her mother included, it was just because she was evil.
Emma's lie detection skills had a very hard time believing that the woman before her was completely evil. She knew she wasn't based on her interaction with Henry alone, but was that pity on her face when she realized about the amnesia that prevented the people of this town from leaving? Maybe she wanted them to go. It's easier to live alone than to live unwanted, Emma knew that for a fact.
"So I'll make you a deal," Emma said suddenly.
The brunette looked at the woman questioningly. "You sound like Mr. Gold."
"You talk to me, tell me something about you that'll help me convince everyone you're not evil and crazy and cruel, and we'll invite Henry over," Emma proposed.
"Maybe I don't want the town to accept me. Did you ever think about that?"
"Yes," Emma said demanding Regina's eye contact. "I've also thought about Henry and how he wants you not to be evil."
Regina was struck silent.
"Think about it."
"Still attempting to light candles, are we?"
Regina jumped when she heard Gold's voice. How the man kept getting into her house despite the change of locks she had Emma install a week ago, she'd never know, but what she did know was how much she resented that mocking smirk forever plastered on his face.
She channeled all that anger and frustration the imp had caused her and held on to it. The familiar feeling of magic tingled in her fingers, and without much thought, the candle lit with burning bright blue.
As quick as it had happened, the flame extinguished. The magic within her faded as if it were never there.
"Impressive parlour trick," Gold said with a smirk. "It's hard to believe not so long ago it was you who cast a curse to end all curses. Tell me, Regina. Have you given any thought to my offer?"
Regina rolled her eyes and replaced the candle. "I'm done making deals with you, Rumple. Whatever you want, you're not getting it from me."
She took pride on the masked look of anger and annoyance the older man was currently trying to contain.
His lip twitched. "Perhaps you'll reconsider."
"Don't hold your breath." Regina crossed her arms in a defensive position, her eyes glaring telling the man to leave.
He stood for another moment more before turning down the hall and disappearing.
Regina quickly turned back to the candle she replaced and let her hands hover around it. The anger she held for the man was still prevalent in her mind, and she held on tightly to it, willing her magic to be used as an outlet. The flame flickered and held stable for a few seconds, causing joy to spread through the brunette until it extinguished leaving behind a trail of smoke and hint of lavender.
Emma had been staying with Regina for over two weeks, and it was then she decided to do something nice for the brunette. Whenever she asked if Regina wanted to talk about anything, the older woman looked conflicted and muttered "not now".
Emma woke with the brilliant idea to cook her famous penne pasta. It was the one dish she knew she couldn't mess up, and maybe Regina would appreciate the effort enough to open up just a little. She wasn't about to reward the woman with a visit from her son for doing nothing.
After hoping to score some points by cleaning her room, she made her way down to the empty kitchen. She knew that on weekends Regina would be cooped up in her room with a novel, so Emma started digging through the cupboards and fridge with ease.
With the pasta boiling in the pot, the blonde got into a rhythm of moving naturally through the kitchen, adding salt to the water and heating the pan in preparation for the ground beef. She didn't notice Regina standing in the doorway with an expression of both amusement and annoyance as she chopped onions.
Regina cleared her throat causing the blonde to jump. "Regina!"
Emma held her palm closed and clutched it in a tight fist. "You scared me!" She grabbed a dish rag and hissed when she pressed it to the web of her hand.
The brunette sighed at her clumsiness and walked over. "Let me see it."
"It's fine," Emma muttered and pulled the cloth away. The gash continued to bleed rather impressively.
"You're not fine. That could need stitches," Regina reasoned.
"I've been through worse," Emma said as she put her hand under the faucet. She hissed again as the water turned a murky pink.
"Emma," Regina enunciated the syllables of her name to get the blonde's attention, "let me see it."
She took Emma's palm in her hands and dampened the cloth, pressing it to the wound. She smirked when Emma winced at the sting. "You can slay dragons, but you can't handle this?"
"The dragon has nothing on this," the Sheriff admitted.
Regina forced Emma's hand closed around the cloth. It was a rather deep slice that would definitely need stitches if the blonde wasn't so stubborn. She mentally devised a plan to get Emma to the hospital when a faint mist of purple smoke clouded around their embracing palms. The sweet and musky smell hung faintly in the air as the two women looked at each other with wide eyes.
When the smoke dispersed, the brunette released Emma's hand. There was no trace of a cut anywhere on Emma's palm, the only evidence she had been hurt was the bloody cloth she still hung onto loosely.
"Thank you," Emma said quietly, still locked in Regina's gaze.
She nodded in response before she moved to wash the knife and clear the contaminated chopping board.
"You don't have to do that," Emma said and grabbed the fresh onion Regina retrieved from the pantry. "I was gonna make us lunch."
"As kind as the gesture is, Miss Swan, I've witnessed your cooking ability, and I'd rather not have blood in my food."
"You snuck up on me," Emma pointed out. "Besides, you have more important things to do."
Emma moved around the kitchen getting back into the natural feel almost effortlessly. "Why did you enact the curse?"
Regina's stone cold expression quickly replaced any traces of amusement she had just been sporting. "Why do you care?"
Emma turned to face her. "I care because you haven't seen your son in two weeks. If your past is more important, then fine."
"I wasn't aware you were the poster child of a perfect childhood, Miss Swan. Of course you would be with your parents being who they are."
Emma eyed the defensive pose of the former Mayor and took in her snarky tone. She read her body language like an open book. Looks like she had to give an inch. "I had Henry in jail because his father got me arrested. We met while I was stealing his car. A couple months before I was due, we had an argument, he called the cops, and I'm sure you know the rest from there."
She took a step away from the counter and closer to the brunette. "Your turn."
She didn't know why, but Regina ended up revealing secrets of her past that she hadn't shared with anyone. They spoke as Emma cooked and continued their sharing of past demons well past lunch. Emma shared stories on her foster home experiences, bouncing from house to house, living in different cities and more often than not living with abusive and dysfunctional families. She didn't dwell too much on Henry's father or her stint in jail, agreeing with Regina that the best thing that came out of that time was Henry. In turn, Regina told Emma about Snow's betrayal, she touched upon the cruelty of her mother and the ignorance of her father, and even braved the subject of her lost love.
"When Daniel died," Regina whimpered and looked down at her shaking palms, "a part of me died with him. We were so close to being happy, and Snow just had to tell my mother."
She wiped the running mascara from her eyes and took a breath to compose herself. "I think that'll be all for tonight, Miss Swan."
Emma nodded meekly and watched the woman exit the kitchen. "Regina."
"Henry's coming over tomorrow. I invited him yesterday."
It took three seconds for Regina to fully comprehend the enormity of Emma's statement. The first second had her brows furrowed in confusion before she widened her eyes in understanding that Henry would be visiting her, but not only that, Emma had invited him regardless of the fact that she hadn't opened up yet. The third second had Regina tilt her lips in the small upward smile that was completely genuine and rare. The shield she kept so firmly wrapped around her felt like it was crumbling whenever this woman was concerned. Whether the woman in question was going at it with a chainsaw or doing innocuous acts of kindness, the wall was breaking, pebble by pebble.
"Thank you," Regina said softly.
Mr. Gold lifted the receiver of his phone and punched in the numbers deliberately. He waited two rings before the recipient answered.
"I have something that is of interest to you."