It’s weird, the way things start working in Emma’s mind. It’s something about the photo in the book that Henry brings downstairs– something about the way they’re drawn, about the way Regina cocks her head and raises an eyebrow at her, about the fact that Emma and Regina are looking at each other in the first place. Her arm is around Hook’s and she can’t pull it out without getting stares but it’s suddenly too warm, too constricting, and there are these two women in the book and they’re kissing and it’s– it’s important.
It’s weird, anyway.
She keeps her arm around Hook’s and Regina keeps staring at her with that cocked eyebrow and...she doesn’t know what possesses her to blurt out, “I didn’t think two women could have a true love’s kiss.” Henry blinks at her like she’s a bigot (Regina has raised him well, so well, why is her chest aching) and she stumbles on hastily. “I mean, didn’t they just meet? Is that really the basis for true love?” Henry’s brow is furrowing and Hook is looking down at her in bemusement and Regina is still watching her. She sucks in a breath and tries again. “I didn’t realize that there were...you know, fairytale lesbians?”
And you know, she hadn’t known, okay? She’d kind of low-key thought that the book had been about straight white folks as some kind of commentary on...how fairytales worked, or whatever. No one in Storybrooke or Underbrooke or anywhere else they’d been had ever implied otherwise. There’d been Maleficent’s weird thing with Regina but she’d just thought that that had been villains being villains because back when Emma and Regina had been nemeses, Regina had always...had always...
She yanks her hand out of Hook’s and presses it to her temple, feeling a headache coming on. Henry says, a little more charitable now, “Of course there are fairytale lesbians. Why shouldn’t they get love stories too?” Hook snickers and oh, god, Emma’s going to throw up.
She just misses Mary Margaret. That’s all. The underworld is sapping the life out of her and she staggers to the bathroom and empties her breakfast into the toilet before she can think to slam the door. She’s still nauseous and her head hurts and she just needs some fresh air– somewhere where the air isn’t red, dammit–
And of course, it has to be Regina who’s leaning against the doorway when she moves to shut the door. “You’re not pregnant, are you?” she says wryly, closing the door and moving to sit on the bathtub edge.
“No. Jesus fuck. Thank god. No.” Her chest is so tight. She staggers to her feet and rinses out her mouth, glaring at her own pale reflection in the bathroom mirror. “I’m just...”
Sick. Dizzy. Exhausted. Terrified.
“Shell-shocked?” Regina offers pertly. “You’d think that you’d never seen two women kissing before.” Her legs are crossed and Emma panics in this tight, claustrophobic room with those long legs and dark eyes filled with amusement. “Somehow, I can’t imagine that that’s true.”
Emma holds her breath, freezes in place, and turns to glower at Regina with full betrayal. “You never said.”
“I didn’t know it was in question,” Regina says, blinking up at her. The amusement has faded, replaced with concern. “Emma, are you all right?”
“I’m–” She sucks in a breath. It burns in her lungs a little, and tears spring to her eyes in response. “You never said.”
And now it’s Regina who’s shifting in place, shadows settling over her face as she gazes up at Emma. Emma clenches her fists and oh god, she’s never felt more trapped and more free at once. She went to the Underworld for true– she’d never thought– “Did you want me to say it?” Regina whispers.
There’s no doting audience of dwarves or munchkins or...whatever. There’s no multicolored rainbow light that means safety, that means true love and eternal happiness and all the easy perks that one little lost girl has been chasing since the moment she’d pressed her lips against her son’s forehead. There’s just Emma staggering forward and pressing her lips to Regina’s in the middle of a cramped bathroom. There’s just Regina’s hands moving up to steady her before they both go toppling into the bathtub. There’s just a moment where Emma can’t breathe and what the fuck, there are fairytale lesbians.
Regina wrinkles her nose and says, “You taste like vomit,” which ruins this moment that isn’t a moment at all.
“That’s all– that’s what you have to say?” Emma demands shrilly, falling back onto the floor in front of endless legs that she can’t stop staring at. “All this time and you– and I–”
Regina scoffs, kissing the tip of Emma’s nose– it’s the kind of move that would be so uniquely Regina in fantasies Emma had never dared dream of and Emma quivers and this room is too small and too enormous at once. “Our story is much better than that,” Regina says, shaking her head with marked disdain. “I refuse to let it happen now just because you saw that pale imitation and got some ideas.”
Emma gapes at her. “What? You...what?”
There’s mischief in Regina’s eyes, and a hint of something that might be the same yearning that feels like it’s about to split Emma open. “We can do better than this,” she says reproachfully. "We can do epic." Regina leans forward and kisses Emma again with a sighed mutter about vomit breath. Emma's head spins.
Regina stalks out the door, the mischief gone from her face and her gait so Mayor Mills that Emma can’t help the blood that rushes to the pit of her belly, and Emma scampers out after her. Her lungs still feel like they’re about to burst. Hook puts an arm around her when she returns to the group and she slips away without so much as a murmured apology, still wide-eyed as she stares at Regina.
Regina says, “No more games with Hades. Time to win this one. Let’s wrap this story up and go home, shall we? See what happens next,” and her eyes move to meet Emma’s and Emma...
Emma can finally breathe. “Yeah,” she says, and Henry tilts his head and smiles. “Yeah, let’s do that.”