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Regina slowly sat up after the blast of the trigger blew her backwards.  Her head was pounding and she felt utterly exhausted.  Between being cut off from her magic by the bracelet, tortured almost to death at the hands of Greg and then funnelling every bit of magic she had recovered into slowing and then destroying the trigger, she had nothing left and all she wanted to do was to sleep for a week.  Her magic was drained and would take at least a few days to recover to a somewhat normal level and all she could think about was checking that Henry was okay, then crawling into her bed and closing her eyes.  She may be the Evil Queen, but even queens had their limits and hers had been sorely tested in the last twenty four hours.  It didn’t help that the knowledge that it was all her fault, yet again, was swirling inside her aching mind.

She glanced over to where the small group of people who had come to save her were climbing to their feet.  Snow White, Charming, Henry and, of course, Emma.  No rescue is complete without the Savior, she thought bitterly.  Henry had called her a hero, and while it warmed her heart to have her son think of her that way, she knew she wasn’t a hero.  She was the villain who had made it all possible once again.  Without her, there would have been no need for a hero to save Storybrooke and its people.

Snow and Charming were hugging, both of them laughing and whispering to each other, relief evident in the sound.  Probably happy they don’t have to ‘find’ each other again.  Regina rolled her eyes and then winced at the pain that had ricocheted through her head.

Regina watched as Emma put her hand out for Henry to grab and pulled him to his feet.  She watched as his arms wrapped around the blondes waist and held her tightly.  She watched as Charming and Snow joined the pair in a family hug.  All of them seemingly oblivious to the lone woman still sat on the ground.  Oblivious to her desire to be a part of it, to belong. To belong to anyone… Someone.  A name whispered at the edge of her mind and she ruthlessly shut it out.  She would deny that desire with her dying breath. 

Her relief at seeing that no one was harmed, especially Henry, was tinged with an emotion she refused to examine.  They were a family and despite their earlier claims, she could never be a part of it.  She would always be on the outside because she was the villain. She had caused this, had almost cost Henry his whole family because of her selfishness.  She didn’t deserve to be a part of that family.  She never would. Like I care.

Slowly she realised that one member of that family was looking at her, had remembered she was there.  Green eyes locked onto brown and Emma smiled slightly at her.  She broke away from the group and walked over to where the queen still sat.  Behind her, Snow was checking Henry over, making sure he wasn’t injured in any way.

Emma stopped in front of her, blocking Henry and Snow from her sight.  She reached out her hand, the same hand that had just helped their son to his feet.  Emma grinned, “Well, that thing certainly packed a punch.”

“Of course, Ms. Swan.  I never do anything in half measures.”  Regina clasped the warm palm and allowed the Savior to pull her to her feet.  She felt dizzy as a static charge shot through her and gasped, pulling her hand free.  Her mind fogged over for a moment and she shook her head to clear it.  She shook off the dizziness, straightening her stance and quickly glanced at Emma to see if she had felt anything but the blonde was still looking at her with an amused expression.

“Never said you did.”  Emma’s brow creased in a frown.  “You don’t have any more of those things, do you?  Because right now I don’t have the energy to swat a fly, let alone stop some other town destroying thing. I could really do with a break.”

Regina raised an eyebrow, “Do you really think I would tell you, of all people, if I did, Savior?”  Her lips twitched in a smile as Emma rolled her eyes.  “But you’re safe for the rest of the day, possibly up to a week because you are not the only one who finds herself needing a break.”

Emma just shook her head, “Come on, your Majesty.  I think we both need a stiff drink and then to crawl into bed.”

Regina raised an eyebrow and smirked at the accidental double meaning behind those words.  Unable to resist the chance to rattle the Sheriff’s cage, even feeling as bad as she did, she leaned forward into Emma’s personal space, “An interesting proposition, Ms. Swan, but I assure you, you aren’t my type.  Though, of course, the alcohol may help there.  None the less, even if you were, I just don’t have the energy for it.”  With that, she started to walk away down the tunnel towards her son and the exit.

Emma frowned in confusion and then what the brunette had said sunk in.  Her face burning, she spluttered, “Wait!  I didn’t mean… Separately!  I meant…”  She heard Regina’s chuckle float back down the tunnel and scowled at the retreating woman.  “Whatever.”  She murmured to herself then moved over to her parents who were looking at her with amused looks on their faces.

“What?”

Mary Margaret just shook her head, “Nothing.”

Emma rolled her eyes, “You know I didn’t mean it how it sounded.  She…  She just twists everything I say.”

“She does know how to get under your skin.” Her father agreed.  “Come on, let’s go home.”  Snow White and Charming headed out of the tunnel, following the mother and son ahead of them.  Emma stood still for a moment replaying what Regina had said.  Not her type.  Like I even want to be her type. Finally shook her head and started to stomp after her family, muttering to herself, “Not that I even care, but I would so be her type.”


3 days later

Regina looked around, what had once been her pristine kitchen, but was now filled with smoke, melted appliances, singed cupboards and a blackened bench. All she had tried to do was make herself a cup of tea, it was about all her stomach could handle these days, and as she had switched on the kettle, it had lit up like a fire ball and exploded.  Luckily the water had still been cold as it had splattered her from head to waist.  Unfortunately whatever had caused it had taken the toaster and microwave with it.

She had grabbed the fire extinguisher and put out the flames before they could get any worse and had then opened the windows to let the smoke out and now she just stood there staring at the mess.

If this had been a lone occurrence she could have easily passed it off as a faulty appliance, dangerous yes, but faulty. Unfortunately it wasn’t.  This was the third time something had gone haywire after she touched it and it was getting worse.

First it has been the light bulb in the foyer when she had returned home after destroying the trigger.  She’d walked into the house alone, Henry had elected to spend the night with his birth mother, and switched on the light which had hummed and grown brighter and then burst, raining glass down on her and the floor.  She’d put it off as just bad timing, the light bulb was on the old side.  She’d cleaned up the mess and had forgotten about it, her mind filled with other things.

Next had been yesterday, when she had dragged herself into the shower after a second night of disturbed and broken sleep.  After she had washed and then dried herself, she’d switched on the hairdryer to dry her hair.  After a few seconds it had heated up in her hand to the point that it burned and she had dropped it to the floor where it had spit sparks and then died.

And now the damned kettle.  She could no longer delude herself, something wasn’t right.  Something wasn’t right with her.  She was still exhausted and despite her magic returning slowly to her, she felt drained.  Her head constantly ached. Nightmares had plagued her the last three nights, and then today the nightmares had followed her into her waking moments.  Her memories, long suppressed, coming to haunt her in vivid colour.  Sucking her in, forcing her to watch and then spitting her back out with no control over it, no way to stop it from happening.  One moment she was fully conscious, the next, dragged under, fighting not to relive what had once been.  She was losing control.

After the last one she had hoped to soothe her nerves with her favourite tea, and then the kitchen had exploded.  It’s getting worse.  If Henry had been home… And almost as if her thought had summoned him, Regina heard the front door open and then slam close.  “Mom?  Are you ok?  I smell smoke.”  Footsteps were headed towards the kitchen.

Regina moved and headed out the doorway, closing it behind her.  She couldn’t let him see the damage she had wrought.  She knew, she just knew it was her fault, that she had caused it.  Too many things had happened for it not to be her fault.  “Henry.”  She forced a smile to her face, “Good day at school?”

Henry looked up at his mother, soot streaked across her cheeks.  “What happened?  Was there a fire?  Did someone try to hurt you?” 

Regina watched the concern flitter across her son’s face.  She couldn’t let him worry.  She couldn’t let him know that anything was wrong.  “What do you mean?”

Henry rolled his eyes, “You have soot on your cheeks and I can smell smoke and burning plastic.”

Regina self-consciously reached up and tried to wipe away the soot away but only ended up smearing it further.  “Oh, that?  Nothing to worry about, dear.  Just a small fire in the kitchen.  I think the kettle had a loose wire.  I’ve taken care of it, nothing to worry about.”

Henry frowned, his concern growing deeper.  He’d been watching his mom for the last couple of days, ever since he had returned from Emma’s and had noticed she still looked tired despite having spent most of the last few days in bed.  She’d only come downstairs to cook dinner for them and she’d hardly eaten anything on her plate, had just pushed it around.  “Mom…”

Regina made her smile bigger, trying to show that everything was okay even though it was clear that everything was not.  “It’s okay.  Nothing that cannot be replaced but I think it best if you spend a few days with Ms. Swan while I get the kitchen repaired.”

“I thought it was just the kettle.”  As he spoke, he moved around his mother and headed towards the kitchen.

Regina turned to follow him. “Henry!” She snapped, not wanting her son to see the mess she had created.  “I said everything is fine.  I do not want you in there because it could be dangerous.” 

Henry ignored her and started to push the door open and caught a glimpse of the devastation before the door was pulled out of his hands and closed.  “That’s not a little…”

“Enough.”  Regina could feel herself vibrating with fear that she quickly masked as anger.  “You will do as I say and go stay with your other mother for a few days.  Everything will be back to normal by then.”  She fought to keep the fear from her face, using anger as a buffer.  She hoped that everything would settle down by then.  That this was just a byproduct of a horrible twenty four hour period but fear was clawing at her stomach, afraid that it was so much worse than she imagined.  Henry could have been hurt.  That thought kept pinging through her mind so she needed him as far away as possible from the danger, from her, while she figured it out.

Henry glared at her.  “Fine.  Whatever.  Just remember I’m not a little kid anymore.”  He ran out of the room and up the stairs.  She could hear him throwing things into a bag and knew he was angry with her but she couldn’t risk it, couldn’t risk having him hurt or worse, hurting him herself.

She heard him stomp back down the stairs and she moved to meet him, attempting to lessen any damage her fear-driven anger had caused.  “Please.  Just a few days, Henry.”

Henry looked at her, his brow creased in the middle with a frown so like his birth mothers.  “I’m not a little kid.  You don’t have to try and protect me from whatever it is that’s happening.”

“I know that, darling.  I just need you to be safe.  It may not have been the kettle. It could be faulty wiring or…” Regina faltered for a second. “Or something else and I just…  I need you to be safe.  Please try and understand that.”

Henry continued to stare at his mother for a moment, taking in the bruised shadows under her eyes, the pale colour of her face, the eyes dull with fatigue.  He didn’t believe her for a second that she was afraid of bad wiring but she was definitely afraid of something and that’s why he relented.  He knew badgering her wouldn’t get her to tell him what was wrong.  He also didn’t think leaving her alone was a good idea.  What he needed was a new approach.

“Ok, Mom.”  He reached out and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly.  “Love you.”

Regina hugged him back, blinking away the tears his words had caused.  “I love you too, Henry.  Always.”  She leaned down and kissed his forehead.  “I’ll see you in a few days.  Be good for Emma.”

“Catch you later, Mom.”  He opened up the front door and headed outside, closing it after himself.  “Time for a new operation, I think.  Will have to come up with a name and I know just person to help me with it.”  He took off running down the street.

As the door closed, Regina felt herself crumble to the floor.  She leaned against the door, drawing her knees up to her chest and resting her head on them.  She felt the tears flow hotly down her face.  Henry was safe and she…  She was afraid she was losing her mind.


 

 

 

Chapter Text

Henry barged into the sheriff’s station.  He stopped, dragging in deep breaths while scanning the room for his birth mother.  He spotted his Grandfather instead, and panted out, “Where’s Emma?”

David, who had looked up as the door had swung open smiled, “And hello to you too, Henry.  What brings you all the way down here?  I thought you were supposed to be with Regina tonight.”

“Sorry, Hey Gramps.”  Henry shuffled from foot to foot, “I was, but…”  He shook his head, “Where’s Emma?”

David studied his Grandson, taking in the still labored breathing, his sweaty face and anxious movements, “She’s out on patrol.  Why do you need to see her?”  He paused, carefully watching Henry’s face.  “Is everything ok?  Is Regina ok?”

Henry hesitated, needing to tell someone.  He didn’t like the thought of his Mom alone but this was about his mother and the only person he felt he could trust with this was his other mother.  “Nothing’s wrong.  Mom just asked if I could spend a couple of days with Emma and I wanted to check if that was okay.”

Charming looked at Henry who was almost bouncing with his agitation, “Are you sure?”

“Positive.”  He felt bad lying to his Grandfather but he knew that Regina would hate the man knowing something was wrong with her.  “When will Emma be back?”

David sighed, realising he wasn’t going to get anything out of the boy.  “I can radio her now and get her to swing by, if you like?”

“Excellent!  I’ll just wait outside for her.”  Henry went to dash outside, hesitated and ran back to give David a hug.  “Thanks, Gramps.”

“Any time, Henry.”  David watched as the boy left and picked up the radio, “Emma, you there?”

"Yeah, David.

“I’ve got Henry down here at the station and he’s looking for you.”

“But I thought Regina had him tonight.  Don’t tell me I messed up the days again.  She’s gonna kill me.”

David smiled at the worried tone that had seeped into his daughter’s voice.  “No, you got it right.  It was Regina’s night but she sent Henry to ask if he can stay with you for a couple of nights.”  He listened to the static silence as Emma processed that news.

“She sent him to ask?  That’s… Weird.”

He could hear the frown in her voice, “My thoughts exactly.”

“Alright, I’m on my way.  ETA about three minutes.”

“He’s waiting outside for you.”

 Kid really is keen to see me.”

“You could say that.  Let me know if there’s an issue.”

“No worries, will do.  Over and out.”


Emma swung the patrol car around and headed back to the station.  She let what her father had said roll around in her mind.  Why would Regina send Henry to ask if he could stay?  She wouldn’t.  She’d just call.  She grinned wryly.  Any chance at messing up my plans is something she wouldn’t pass up. Could she and Henry have had a fight and the kid had run away?  She bit her lip in thought, That’s more likely but then Regina still would have called, if only to blame me for whatever thing she could pin on me.  Whatever the reason…  “She wouldn’t have just sent him to ask.”  She muttered to herself.  She continued to mull it all over on the short drive and when she pulled up outside the sheriff’s station she was no closer to figuring it all out.  She spotted Henry rushing towards the car and he had the passenger door open before she could even undo her seatbelt.  “Hey kid, what’s up?

Henry threw himself into the seat and slammed the door, “Operation Apple Tree!”  He declared it, like that would clear everything up.

“Operation Apple Tree?”  Emma turned to look at him, her face crinkled in confusion.  “Need a bit more info than that, kid. And why aren’t you with Regina?  David said…”

“Come on, Emma. Operation Apple Tree.”  Henry rolled his eyes in a perfect imitation of his adoptive mother, “I thought it was pretty obvious.  Something’s wrong with mom and she won’t let me help her.  Probably won’t let anyone help her so that’s why we need Operation Apple Tree.  She keeps saying she’s fine.”

“Then maybe she is.”  Emma frowned, wondering if Henry had misunderstood whatever had him so worried.

“She’s not!”  Henry shouted in frustration, tired of being dismissed.  “I know her.  I know her best and she isn’t okay!  She’s not eating, she’s hardly sleeping and when she does, she’s crying out in her sleep and the lights get all weird and flicker.”  He dragged in a ragged breath, “She thinks I don’t know.  That I don’t see what’s going on but I do!  She hasn’t been the same since you guys stopped the trigger.  It did something to her."  He looked at his blonde mother, his eyes begging for her to believe him.  "Something is wrong and you have to help her.  You’re the only one who stands a chance.  You’re the Savior.”

Emma’s face grew concerned at her son’s outburst, she didn’t even flinch at him calling her the Savior.  “Woah, Kid.  Slow down.  I get it, she had a rough time a few days ago and that’s… Going to take some time for her to recover.  I don’t think destroying the trigger did anything to her.  I’m fine and we did that together.  She was…” Tortured.  She finished in her mind, not wanting Henry to know that fact.  “Maybe she just needs a bit of peace and…”

Henry impatiently cut her off, “Wait!  That’s not all.  Today, when I got home from school, there’d been a fire in the kitchen.  I could smell the smoke before I even got in the house.  Mom tried to tell me it was just a faulty wire in the kettle.” 

Emma shrugged, “Well that can cause a fire.  There was this one time when I lived…”

Henry stuck out his hand and covered his mother’s mouth.  He ignored her scowl and let go when he was sure she was going to be quiet.  “I’m not finished.  She called it a small fire but when I managed to get into the kitchen…”

Emma snorted, “Managed to get into the kitchen?  She just let you wander in there after a fire.”  She grinned at the blush that spread across her son’s face.  “I thought so.  I bet she called you my son for that.”

“She didn’t.  She just got angry at me and told me to go spend a few days with you."  Henry huffed and folded his arms across his chest.  "You’re not taking me seriously!” 

Emma reached out and nudged his shoulder, “Sounds like a reward to me and I am taking you seriously.  I’m here, listening…” At her son’s pointed look she held up her hands.  “Okay, okay.  I’ll let you finish.”

Henry gave her a small smile, relaxing his arms.  “Maybe.  But the fire, this small fire.  It took out half the kitchen, Emma.  Half the kitchen was destroyed!”

Emma frowned, her concern level rising again and waited to see if Henry had finished talking.  Once she was sure she wasn’t going to interrupt him again, she spoke, “Destroyed?  Are you sure?”

Henry looked a little sheepish, “Well I only got a glimpse but trust me, it was bad.”

“Hmmm, “She pursed her lips, “Ok, so I get that things aren’t great but I’m not hearing anything that Regina can’t handle on her own.  You’re not selling me on Operation Apple Tree, she just needs a little more time to recover and we both know that she can fix any fire damage with her magic.”

Henry shook his head in exasperation, “You’re still not getting it.  There is something wrong with her.  Think about it, even if you can ignore all the other stuff I’ve told you, which you really shouldn’t,” He frowned at her, “She sent me to you. She didn’t call, she didn’t ask.  She willingly gave up her time with me…  To you... When has she ever done that?”

Emma stared at him, running everything Henry had told her through her mind.  She felt unsettled.  Despite all efforts to the contrary, she did care about the other mother of her son, cared what happened to her.  Henry was right, Regina would never willingly give up time with him.  It was the same conclusion she had come to on the drive here but she had so hoped she was wrong.  She ran a hand through her messy waves, “Alright.  You’ve sold me.  I’ll risk your mother’s wrath.  What’s another screaming match to add to the list?”  Secretly, she loved arguing with the former Mayor.  Enjoyed getting under her skin.  It was just what they did, what worked for them.  “Head over to the loft.  Mary Margaret should be there.  I’ll swing by your mom’s and check in on her.”  She smiled at Henry despite the uneasy feeling solidifying in her stomach and ruffled his hair.  “I’m sure everything is fine…”

“It’s not.”

Emma carried on like Henry hadn’t spoken, “But I’ll go make sure. Because, apparently, that’s what a good Savior does.”

Henry smiled at her, relief flooding through him.  If anyone could help his mom, it was Emma.  After all, she’d already saved her life at least two times that he knew of.  He leaned over and gave her a hug.  “Thanks Emma.” 

Emma returned the favour, inhaling the sweet scent of her son.  Her nose wrinkled at the slightly smokey smell of his clothes.  “Ok kid, scoot so I can get this over with.  You know she’s gonna be pissed at me for turning up.”

“Probably, but she won’t stay mad at you forever, and she needs help, no matter what she says.”

Emma chuckled, “She won’t?  You sound sure of yourself there, Henry.”

Henry smiled a knowing smile, “She won’t.  She never does.  She just doesn’t let you know that.”

Emma’s eyebrows shot up as her stomach dropped, “Really?”

Henry just smirked and opened the car door, climbing out.  Just before he shut it, he leaned back in and said, “Really.”


Regina was still sat by the door.  She knew she should move, should try to do something about the kitchen but she just couldn’t summon the energy or desire to do so.  Her tears had run dry for the moment and she was still trying to make sense of everything that was happening.  The nightmares she could understand, the trauma she had suffered at Greg’s hand was enough to give anyone nightmares, even the Evil Queen.  It was the other things that had her worried.  She suspected her magic was to blame and if that was the case, it terrified her just how bad things could really get.  Her only relief was that she was the only one here, the only one who could get hurt and it was probably what she deserved.  But if this was only the beginning…  She shuddered, unable to finish the thought.

She heard a car door slam, the noise in the quiet of the house loud to her ears, then came the familiar footsteps of the bane of her existence.  Liar.  Her traitorous mind whispered.  She shook her head, cringing as pain shot though her skull.  So much for being alone.  Just what I need...  Damn it, Henry. 

The footsteps stopped outside the door and then a fist pounded on the door.  “Regina?”  She heard another knock.  “Come on, Regina.  I know you’re in there.”  She could picture the blonde’s hand running through her hair in annoyance.  “Look, Henry’s worried and I promised the kid I’d check on you.” 

Maybe she’ll just go away if I don’t answer the door.  She heard feet shuffling and then more pounding on the door which reverberated through her brain making her wince.  “Regina!  I’m not leaving until you open up.”  She heard a foot bang into the bottom of the door, the vibrations traveling through her back.  She rolled her eyes.  Apparently not.

“Are you seriously gonna just leave me standing here on your front doorstep yelling for anyone to hear?  What will the neighbors think, your Majesty?”  Now she’s just intentionally trying to annoy me.  It is her favourite pastime after all.  Let’s see how quickly we can piss Regina off today.  She thought snidely, listening as the blonde paced back and forwards.  "Damn it, Regina!  I’m going to break your door down if you don’t open up.”

Regina snorted, the image of the Savior barreling through her door, like some white knight in shining armor, to save her from herself causing an unusual warm feeling in her belly that she quickly quashed.  Unfortunately, quite out of her control, it flared back to life at the whispered words that followed.  “I’m worried too.  Come on…  Open the door, Regina.”  She couldn’t keep the frown off her face that those words also created.  Emma barely tolerated her so why would she worry?  She didn’t get to finish that thought process as the blonde’s next few words sunk in.

She was yelling again.  “That’s it!  You’re not giving me any choice.  You hear that, Regina?  This!  This is not my fault.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.  On the count of three, I’m breaking down your door.” 


Chapter Text

Emma scowled at the closed door.  She moved a few paces away to give herself a run up.  I’m really going to do this.  This is happening.  I’m about to break down the Evil Queen’s front door…  I hope she’s home or this could get awkward real quick…  Or maybe it’s better she isn’t and I can deny all knowledge.  Her thoughts made her grin wryly.  “One…”  She called out as she stretched her shoulders.  Let’s hope I don’t get a fireball to the face, which so wouldn’t be fun.  “Two…”  She shook her arms to the side.  Why the hell can’t she just be normal and answer the door?  “Regina?”  She tried one last time as she got ready to ram her shoulder into the, suddenly, very solid looking front door.  If I break my shoulder doing this, she’s so covering the medical bills… Or at least doing the healing spell.  Ok, here we go.  “Shit…  Three!”  Just as she started to move, the door opened.

A familiar voice drawled, “Truly, Ms. Swan.  I would have thought you, as the Sheriff, would have been intelligent enough to have tried the door to see if it was unlocked before attempting to break it down.” 

Emma stopped just shy of Regina and then took a step back, swiping the blonde hair, which had flung forward at the abrupt stop, out of her face.  Frowning, she took in the sight of the former Mayor who looked very un-mayor like at the moment.  She’d rarely seen Regina dressed in anything but perfectly tailored clothing and heels.  Seeing her in bare feet, black yoga pants and a light grey sweat shirt made her blink, thinking her eyes must be playing tricks.  I like casual Regina…  She’s kinda hot.  Ok, so she’s always been gorgeous but…  Wait! What?  Her heart skipped a beat.  Where the hell did that come from?  I also think she’s actually a little shorter than me.  Oh, just shut up.  She shook her head to dislodge the strange thoughts her rebellious mind was side tracking her with.  “Uh…”

Regina had seriously debated just crawling away from the door, taking the easy way and letting the Savior bash down the door.  Unfortunately her stubborn pride and her strong desire to avoid the questions that would arise from that demanded she summon energy she hadn’t thought she possessed and rise to her feet to open the door.  Just before she had opened it, she had taken a deep breath, straightened her spine and schooled her features into the look of distain she now directed at the blonde in front of her. 

“It seems, once again, I have overestimated your abilities.”  Regina’s eyes ran a scathing look down the blonde’s body from the tousled blonde hair to the Sheriff’s jacket.  Her eyes stayed a little longer than they should on the skin tight jeans and black boots before she forced herself to look back up into the green eyes waiting for her.  “I forgot your desire to just barge in wherever you please.” 

Rolling her eyes then taking a closer look at the woman in front of her, Emma spoke.  “You look like shit.” 

Regina felt the intense green gaze running over her face and she sneered, “Why, thank you for that enlightened observation, dear.”

Emma’s eyes took in the dark shadows under brown eyes, dull with exhaustion and she wondered what it was costing the brunette to keep up the façade that everything was fine.  She noted the soot smudged cheeks that had trails running through them, evidence that she had been crying which made Emma’s brow draw into a frown.  I can count on one hand the number of times that’s happened.  The soot did nothing to hide the paleness of her face though, her eyebrows standing out fiercely against her pallor. 

All of this told Emma that Henry was right.  Damn it.  Something was wrong, seriously wrong.  The Regina she knew would never allow herself to be seen like this, especially by her.  She would never allow herself to look so disheveled for any longer than necessary when she had magic at her beck and call.  Regina was a woman who was all about appearances, so to see her like this spelled trouble to the blonde and she felt her stomach tighten with anxiety.  “What’s going on?  Why did you send Henry to me?”

Regina sighed, she had neither the stamina nor the patience for this. “I simply thought you might like to spend additional time with him.  Was I incorrect?”

Emma huffed a small laugh, “Nothing is simple when it comes to you, Regina.  Look, can I come in?”  She stepped forward and tried to edge past the brunette into the house but Regina stuck her arm out, blocking her entrance.

“No.”

“No?”

“No.”  Regina crossed her arms over her chest.  “I did not invite you here and I have no desire for company, especially yours.” 

“Well that’s just too bad.”  Undeterred, Emma shouldered her way past a scowling Regina, nudging her out of the way and striding into the house before the brunette could stop her.

Regina turned around, watching the retreating back.  “Where the hell do you think you are going?  You are sorely trying my patience, Ms. Swan.”

Emma didn’t pause, “The kitchen.  I heard there was a fire and, as you so kindly reminded me, I’m the Sheriff so I need to check it out.”

Regina padded after the blonde, trying to ignore the steadily increasing pain in her head.  There was no need to ask where the information had come from.  “I’m sure Henry told you it was a small fire.  A faulty kettle.  Nothing the Sheriff needs to worry her pretty little head about.”  She tried to reach her before the blonde got to the kitchen door but saw she wouldn’t make it.  She summoned her anger as a last desperate attempt to stop the blonde and snapped, “Ms. Swan!  Get out of my house.”

Pretty little head? She thinks I’m pretty? Or was that an insult?  I think it was an… Oh God, Swan…  Head in the game, already!  Emma didn’t even break her stride, just snorted a laugh, “As soon as I’ve seen the kitchen.”  She hit the door open with her palm and came to an abrupt halt.  “Fucking hell…”  She breathed out, as she took in the destruction with unblinking eyes and felt her anger rear its head.  She spun around, green eyes blazing, “This is what you call a small fire?  What the hell do you call a big one, then?  Burning down the entire fucking house?”  She pointed her arm back in the direction of the kitchen.  “Was the kettle a bomb in disguise?  Half the kitchen is totaled, Regina.  You could have been killed.”

Regina attempted a scoff, trying to downplay what the Sheriff had seen.  “It’s hardly half.  A couple of cupboards and a bench.  Do not exaggerate, Ms. Swan.  It’s easily repaired.  No one…”  She swallowed the lump in her throat caused by her fear that that was just lucky timing, “No one was injured.  It was a faulty wire.”

It was Emma’s turn to scoff, “Come on, Regina.  You can do better than that.  Kettles do not explode like that from a faulty wire.  They melt.  I know, I’ve done it.”

Regina huffed a dry laugh, “Why am I not surprised by that?”

Emma ignored the comment, “I’m not buying your bullshit any more than Henry is.  You look like hell.  I mean I’ve never seen you look so…”  She waved her hands at the former queen.   “This.  Things that do not explode and cause that sort of damage are exploding.” She stepped closer to Regina, concern colouring her voice.  “You’re not eating, you’re hardly sleeping and when you do, you’re crying out and making…”

Regina cut her off, “Well aren’t you well informed?”  She snarled, her lip curling in defense of the concern she was seeing on the blonde’s face.  “That is enough.  Neither my eating nor sleeping habits are your concern.  You have seen the kitchen,” She pointed towards the front door, “Now I want you to leave.”

Emma took in the proud stance and sneering lips that were let down by the shaking finger.  Henry was right again, Regina wasn’t going to accept help fixing whatever was going on with her, let alone talk about it.  If she wasn’t going to accept it, then Emma had no choice, Operation Apple tree was going to actually have to become a thing.  Damn it.  She would just have to force it on her and take whatever blows the other woman threw her way.  She made no move to leave, crossing her arms over her chest to emphasise the point, “What happened?”

Regina dropped her arm and unconsciously mirrored Emma’s stance.  Ignoring the question, she growled, “You are infuriating.  You stick your nose in where it is not wanted.  A disgustingly typical Charming trait, I might add. Always trying to save everyone, even when they do not need it.”  She felt a wave of dizziness crash over her, showing her that her words were nothing more than bravado.  She tried to ignore it, clenching her arms tighter around herself in an attempt to stay grounded.  “Let me make this abundantly clear, Ms…”  She tripped over her words, the ache in her head increasing.  She took a deep breath and glared into green eyes, “Ms. Swan, I do not require your help and I certainly do not need you to save me…”  She trailed off, her anger ebbing as fear replaced it, draining any remaining colour from her face.  She recognised what was about to happen.  Not now.  Please, not now. 

She turned and started to walk away, desperate to escape, desperate for Emma not to see her so weak.  “I expect you will see yourself…”  The room spun and as she stumbled and fell she heard Emma call out her name, felt hands grab her around the waist, a short burst of clarity hitting her out of nowhere.  She tried to warn Emma not to touch her.  That she had no idea what could happen but she couldn’t speak, they were just thoughts in her mind then the roaring in her head reached fever pitch and she was dragged under.  What had her stubborn pride just done?


 

Emma had watched Regina struggle to maintain her composure, had seen the color drain from the former Mayor’s face and frowned in concern as she started to walk away.  She watched as Regina stumbled and started to fall and leapt into action. “Regina!” She raced the few steps the queen had managed away from her, wrapping her arms around the slim waist.  She felt an electric shock go through her, startling her and then settling warmly around her heart.  She heard a familiar voice, which made her shiver, whisper through her mind.  Emma, No! Don’t know… What could… Happen…

Too late.  She thought and felt her knees give out as they both fell to the floor, Regina cradled in her lap.  Green eyes blinked once and then everything went black.


 

If anyone else had been present in the room as the two women collapsed, one cradled with care in the other’s arms, they would have seen deep purple sparks, that started in the Evil Queen’s hands, spread until it encompassed her whole body, then moving to cover the other woman until they were both engulfed.

If they had stayed long enough, they would have seen a white haze seep from the Savior’s chest and begin to slowly transform the deep purple sparks into a light lilac mist.


 

 

Chapter Text


 

Emma opened her eyes, blinking in the sudden light. She was still on her knees but Regina wasn’t in her lap.  She had no idea how long she had blacked out for, it could have been seconds or hours.  She glanced around, expecting to see the former Mayor’s living room, instead she found herself in, what looked like, a bedroom.  Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, she thought to herself.

The room was large, the ceilings high.  There was a beautiful rug in the centre of the room, swirling patterns in bright gold and vibrant greens and blues.  The walls were made out of grey stone bricks and there were torches at regular intervals along the walls.  She could see a large four post bed with a rich blue cover on it out of the corner of her eye, to her left.  Just past that, there was what looked like a glass door to a balcony though it was hard to tell because it was covered in some translucent curtain.  Straight ahead was a dressing table and next to that was an open door through which she could see lots of fabric she assumed to be clothes.  When she glanced to her right, she noticed a closed door.  She hoped it was an exit.  She had to find Regina so they could get the hell out of here.  Just as she stood up, she became aware of a whimpering sound coming from behind her. She whirled around, peering into the dark corner where the torch light didn’t reach.

A young girl with dark hair who couldn’t have been more than ten years old was huddled there, arms wrapped around her knees, head resting on them and she was rocking back and forth.  She was whispering something that Emma couldn’t quite make out.  Slowly the blonde moved towards the young girl, hands out in front of her, trying to show her she meant no danger.  “Hey there, my name’s Emma.  What’s yours?”

The girl ignored her, continuing to whisper to herself, “I’m sorry, mother.  I’m sorry.  I’ll never go there again.  I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.  Never again.  I’m bad.  I’m bad.  I’m sorry.”  Over and over she repeated it, every so often a sob would come out and the girl would tighten her arms even harder around herself.

Emma knelt down level with the girl, “Are you ok?” Then mentally rolled her eyes at herself.  Of course the girl wasn’t ok.  “Do you need help?”  She reached out to touch the girl on the arm and the door behind her slammed open making her snatch her hand back and move protectively in front of the girl.  She looked up to see who the intruder was and gasped, “Cora…  But you’re dead.”

The older woman didn’t react to her outburst.  Instead she stalked over to where the girl and Emma crouched.  “How many times, Regina?”

Regina?  Emma frowned, wanting to turn back to study the girl but afraid to take her eyes off the woman standing in front of her.

“How many times are you going to disobey me?  How many times are you going to force me to punish you?”  Cora glanced down on her daughter with a look of disgust.  “Get up!  A queen never cowers like a sniveling brat in a corner.  She stands tall and accepts what must happen.”

“Please, mother.  I’m sorry. I’ll listen better, I’ll obey.”  The young girl begged.  “I just wanted to learn.  Please don’t hurt me.”

“You’ve left me no choice.  This is all your fault.”  Cora pointed at the cowering girl, “Creeping around in the kitchen like you’re little better than a scullery maid.  You will be a queen!  Stand up and take your punishment like one.”  She paused as if waiting for something, “Do not force me to make you stand up.”

Emma heard a rustling behind her as the young Regina stood up.  She quickly stood too and, looking at the girl, spoke quietly.  “You don’t have to do this.  I won’t let her hurt you.  Just stay behind me.”

“Stand in the middle of the room.”  Cora commanded.

“No, don’t.  Stay here.  I will keep you safe.”   Young Regina’s face was frozen in fear, tears trailing down her cheeks, her normally chocolate eyes were red rimmed and bloodshot.  God, she looks so afraid, so beaten down… And yet, so innocent.  She’s Regina and yet not Regina.  “Look, I know you don’t know me yet, but you will.  You have to believe me when I say you can trust me.  I will not let that woman hurt you.”

Regina acted like she hadn’t even heard Emma speak and started to walk towards the middle of the room.  Emma reached out a hand to stop her and gasped as her hand passed right through.  “What the hell?”  She looked down at her hand, wondering what had just happened.  “Am I a ghost?”

Regina stood in the centre of the room, Cora in front of her about five paces away.  “You know why I must do this?”

“So that I will learn.”  Tremors rocked the small body.

Cora smiled coldly, “Correct, and what will you learn?”

“How to act like a queen, the queen you will make me one day.”  Regina recited, like it was something that had been drilled into her time and time again.

“And?”

Regina’s chin was almost touching her chest as she spoke, “That Mother knows best and must be obeyed.  Everything you do is for my own good.” 

“Good girl.  Now you know this hurts me much more than it hurts you.  I take no enjoyment in punishing you.”  Emma saw the slight smirk that lit the older woman’s mouth before she managed to smother it, a smirk that belied her words.

Emma walked over so that she stood just off to the side between mother and daughter, “Bullshit!  You self-righteous bitch.  You’re not fooling me.  I bet you get off on this, on the control.  She was only in the kitchen, why the hell are you punishing her?”  She had no idea what was coming but the young girls’ body language spoke volumes and she knew it wasn’t going to be good.

Cora held out her hands, which began to crackle with dark purple, almost black energy.  “Now you will hold yourself up straight, head high like a queen.”

Emma watched as a sight so familiar happened before her and it left her feeling cold.  She watched the child that Regina was straighten her back, school her features and raise her head, looking as regal as the queen she would one day become.  It was something she had seen the Evil Queen do time and time again but watching this child do it broke her heart and made her want to hold her tight and comfort her.  She’s just a kid.  She should be laughing and having fun and getting into mischief.  She should be smiling.  She should be loved. 

Cora nodded, “How does a queen hold herself?”

“With dignity, never cowering, never crying.  She is always in control of herself, her emotions.”  Recited an empty voice that made Emma’s heart ache.

The magic Cora had been harnessing lashed out, striking the child and wrapping around her.  Regina screamed and Emma screamed with her, dashing in between the two, trying to get in the way of the stream of magic but it passed right through her.  “Stop!  Stop!  She’s just a kid.  Oh God, please stop.” She cried, tears burning her eyes at the agonized sounds coming from Regina.  It was worse than she could have ever imagined.  How could someone do this to an innocent child?  She clenched her fists, barely registering the nails digging into her palms, cutting into her skin. 

The magic stopped and Regina slumped, swaying on her feet.  Cora spoke, “You will not scream.  Queens do not scream, they show no pain, no weakness.  You know I cannot stop until you learn… And you will learn.”

“How the fuck can she not scream, you crazy bitch.  She’s not a queen, she’s just a little girl.  A full grown man would scream if you did that to him.”  Emma felt helpless.  She so desperately wanted to stop the mad woman from hurting the innocent child Regina had once been.  All this for just going to the kitchen?  She could not even begin to understand it.

“Again.”  The magic shot out and Emma could see the young girl trying not to cry out.  Please let me take this pain from you, Emma silently begged, unable to speak past the lump in her throat.  Regina finally failed to stay composed and silent, an agonizing sound falling from her lips and tearing straight through Emma’s heart, bringing her to her knees. 

Tears broke free and streamed down her face, her chest aching with grief riddled anger.  “You cruel and heartless fucker.  If you weren’t already dead, I’d kill you…  I swear to God, I’d kill you.  Stop it.  Stop it!  Can’t you see that you’re killing her?”  Emma yelled, her voice shaking with emotion.  She quickly got to her feet and charged at Cora, determined to stop her. She had forgotten, in her anguish, that she could not affect the outcome.  She tried to tackle the other woman but passed right through her and tumbled to the ground behind her.  She slammed her fist down on the ground in her frustration.  “I don’t want to watch this anymore.  How?  How can you do this to your daughter?” 

She reached up and angrily swiped at her tears stained cheeks as it suddenly dawned on her that what she was seeing was too real, too clear to be anything other than a memory.  Regina’s memory.  It was why the brunette wasn’t here.  She was, just as a child, stuck playing her part.  It was why she couldn’t interfere with what was happening.  It had already happened a long time ago. 

“I…”  She shuddered with too much knowledge that she never wanted.  “I have to watch, have to see.  Someone has to witness this.  Someone has to see what you did, Cora.  How she suffered at your hands.  Someone else will know the truth.  Regina shouldn’t be alone in this.”  Even if she doesn’t know I’m here.  She put her hands out and hoisted herself to her feet and turned back around to face the others, noticing that the magic had stopped again. 

Cora shook her head, a false look of pity on her face. “How many times must we do this, Regina?  Act like the queen you will be, the queen I will make you.  It is your fault we have to keep doing this.  If you only learned your lessons, listened and obeyed me we wouldn’t have to go through this time and time again.”

Emma felt sick.  How many times had Regina suffered this torture?  “I knew you were an evil bitch, Cora but this…  How could anyone do this to a child?”  She just couldn’t comprehend someone doing this to their own child.  If anyone ever lay a hand on Henry, she would kill them so how could a mother do this to her own daughter?  She hadn’t had it easy growing up in the system, she’d had her share of abusive foster parents and carers but they weren’t her flesh and blood, weren’t her family.  They weren’t supposed to love her without question.  She would lay down her life for her family, her son.  Even in her worst nightmares she couldn’t imagine ever raising her hand to her little boy.

Is this where it started?  Regina’s path to becoming the Evil Queen?  Cruelty breeds cruelty…  And yet, she is a wonderful mother to Henry.  She adores him and I can’t imagine her every hurting him intentionally.  She was ready to give up her life dealing with the trigger just so he wouldn’t be alone.  After seeing just a moment of what Regina suffered during her childhood, Emma’s respect for the woman, respect for the mother she was, grew tenfold.  More so, her understanding of the woman grew.  Seeing Cora’s cruelty answered questions she hadn’t even realised she had about the other mother of her son.

“Again.”  And for the third time, magic shot through the child, worse than the last two times.  Emma forced herself to watch as pain, so intense it forced her back to arch, whipped through young Regina and she felt her emotions reach saturation point.  She’d be damned if she was going to just stand there and watch a part of her family, someone she cared for, suffer so much.  Her heart felt like it was going to explode with all the emotions coursing through it.  She didn’t care if she could do nothing to affect the two people in the room, she would die trying.  She wouldn’t quit.  “Enough!  No one hurts my family.”  She raged and charged at Cora, righteous anger burning through her.  As before, she passed right through but she had such momentum going that she crashed into Regina.  She let out a startled “Huh?” as they tumbled to the floor and, young and yet so familiar, pain filled chocolate eyes met shining emerald. 

“Emma.” Regina softly whispered her name like a caress and it soothed the blonde’s raging heart. 

“You’re safe now.  I’ve got you.”  She whispered back and then the world went black.


 

Emma opened her eyes again, feeling a solid weight in her arms.  She glanced around, breathing a sigh of relief to see they were back in Regina’s living room.  She looked down at the pale brunette whose eyes were still closed.  Her heart bled at what she had just been witness to and she felt her eyes burning with unshed tears.  “What the fuck just happened?”  She whispered.  She felt mentally drained, still unable to comprehend the level of evilness required to commit such heinous acts on a child.

Everything was a jumble inside her but the one clear thing she knew she was feeling was protective, protective of the still unconscious woman in her arms.  Right then, if someone had attacked them, she had no doubt in her mind that she would fight to the death rather than let anything else happen to Regina.  Far too much already had.  Most of it, she suspected, unknown to anyone other than the brunette herself.  She cared, more than she felt she should, felt emotions deeper than she was ready to examine right now, about the beautiful woman she cradled.  Her heart ached with unexplored thoughts and feelings 

Emma reached over to brush away a stray strand of dark hair out of the other woman’s face when she felt movement and then slowly brown eyes opened and met her gaze.  It felt like Regina saw straight into her heart and she felt it flutter.  A small smile formed on those pale lips and whispered “Emma.”  The blonde felt herself smile in response.  “Regina.”

Regina blinked and the moment was gone, the smile dropping from her face.  The memory of what had just happened crashed through her and she started to struggle to extract herself from the blonde’s arms.  She pushed herself away from Emma.  Inside she was panicking, she felt laid open under the emerald stare and it made her feel vulnerable.  She hated the feeling.  Her emotions were in an uproar, so she fell back on what she knew best.  “What the hell do you think you are doing, Ms. Swan?”  She struggled to her feet and wrapped her arms around herself protectively, backing away from the blonde and giving herself some breathing room. 

Emma slowly got to her feet, trying to follow the abrupt mood swing, “So I’m Ms. Swan again?  Seriously?”

“I asked you a question.”

“Do I really have to explain?  You passed out, I caught you before you hit the ground and then…  What the fuck was that, Regina?  What happened? How did I…”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Regina swiftly cut her off.  She knew, she remembered every single moment of that memory and the changes that Emma had somehow brought about but she had no idea how it had happened.  It was a memory, it couldn’t be changed, couldn’t be affected, only suffered through and yet Emma had done just that.  She didn’t understand it, hadn’t had any time to process what it could possibly mean so the last thing she wanted to do was to try to explain it to the woman in front of her.

Emma felt the lie burn through her and called the queen on it, anger and concern sharing equal status.  “Bullshit, Regina.  Did that really happen?  Was that… Did your mother do that to you?”  A part of her prayed that she was wrong, that it hadn’t happened but she wasn’t hopeful.  It had felt all too real.

Regina stared at the blonde for a moment, her face shuttered and unreadable, and then turned around and walked away, heading towards the stairs.

Emma winced, realising her abrupt questioning may have pushed a little too hard but that was her way, always pushing, always asking the tough questions.  Could have used a little more tact, Swan.  She sighed, and continued to push, hoping to get something, anything out of the former Mayor.  Some reaction or feeling rather than this shuttered, silent, emotionless version of the woman. “Regina, we have to talk about this.”  The brunette kept walking and the blonde started to follow her. 

Regina could feel Emma’s gaze burning into her back but she didn’t stop.  “Not now.” She managed to say, forcing the words past numb lips.

“Then when?”

Regina ignored the question and started up the stairs.  “I asked you to leave, Ms.  Swan.  I expect you to do so now.”

Emma stopped at the bottom of the stairs and watched Regina climb them.  When she had reached the top, the blonde spoke, “I’m not going anywhere.  We’re having this discussion.  We need to figure out what’s going on.  I just got sucked into your memory, for Christ’s sake.  I’m already involved whether you want me to be or not and you need to trust somebody with what’s going on.  Let me help you.”

Regina had paused at the top of the stairs, listening to the Saviors words but didn’t turn around.  She couldn’t hold in her emotions any longer, Emma’s words breaking her, and tears were flooding down her face.  Her and her idiot desire to help people, even people who don’t deserve it.  This is my fault and I have to fix it.  Too many people have been hurt because of me... By me.  I will not risk anyone else.  Even…  Especially…  That stubborn idiot.  She had no voice to reply and so she didn’t.  She started to move towards her bedroom.  She heard Emma start to follow her up and waved her hand.  Lights flickered, growing bright briefly before settling down back to normal 

Emma, after glancing up at the lights with a frown, got three stairs up the staircase before she ran into the barrier Regina had just created.  “Fucking hell, Regina!  You can’t make me go away!”  She yelled after the brunette and slapped her hand down hard on the barrier, watching it spark purple where she had hit it.  “I care about what happens to you.  I care about you, damn it!” She watched helplessly as Regina disappeared into her bedroom.  “Fuck!”


 

Chapter Text

 


Regina closed the bedroom door and leaned against it.  She put her hands up to her temples and massaged, trying to alleviate the ache there.  She switched on the light, squinting while her eyes adjusted.  She caught sight of herself in the mirror, taking in the pale face, most of the soot having rubbed off on Emma’s jacket, the rest washed away with her tears.  Her lips were bloodless, her eyes shining with tears and almost black with despair.  If she was Emma, she wouldn’t have believed that she was fine either.

She stripped off her clothing, letting it fall to the floor and walked into her bathroom, leaving the light off so she wouldn’t have to look at her reflection again.  She turned on the shower as hot as she could stand it, the desire to be clean screaming through her, and got in.  The water pounded down on her, the heat easing the physical pain in her head but nothing could stop the mental anguish enveloping her.  A sob escaped and she quickly covered her mouth, trying to keep it all locked away and failing miserably.  Her legs started to shake, unable to hold her up any longer and she sank to the floor as water continued to pour down around her.  Her body shook with emotion, the memory playing over and over in her mind, along with the whispered words that had invaded that memory. 

She had no idea that Emma was there with her, where the words had come from until the blonde had breached whatever magic had kept her hidden and knocked her to the ground.  She had heard the words whisper into her mind and while she could do nothing different than what had happened that day, deep inside she had felt a glimmer of hope…  Hope that she wasn’t as alone as she had felt 

I won’t let her hurt you.  You can trust me.  Stop! Stop!  She’s just a kid.  No one had ever protected her, stood up for her.  Not even her father.  How can you do this to your daughter?  Regina sobbed as the words echoed through her mind.  It was a question she had asked herself a hundred times and still had no answer for.  Someone has to see what you did.  Oh how she wished it was all still her dark secret.  No one hurts my family.  She wasn’t Emma’s family, but she wanted to be if she was truly honest with herself.  How desperately she wanted to be a part of that irritatingly loving family.  You’re safe now.  I’ve got you.  The last two were her undoing.  She had never felt safe, not even as a child.  Always on her guard looking for the next attack to come her way but in that singular moment just before she came out of the memory, when she had looked into Emma’s eyes, she had experienced that always elusive feeling of safety.

If she could have dwelled in that moment for the rest of her life, she thought she could have found peace but villains don’t get to be safe or happy, they don't get to find peace.  It was just wishful thinking, she didn’t deserve to be a part of that family.  She was just like her mother, manipulative, cold, ruthless.  She had proven it time and time again.  Even when she tried to be good, to do the right thing, everything always ended up going wrong.  The only good thing she had done in her life was raising Henry, the one bright note in a long list of horrible things.

She knew that memory went on longer, suffering more at her mother’s hand that day.  The two earlier episodes she had endured today had all played to the end, making her live every painful second.  Emma had somehow stopped this one and while she was thankful for that, the thought that the blonde had witnessed her shame and humiliation at Cora’s hand was almost unbearable.  No one was ever to meant know and now someone, Emma Swan of all people, did.  She dreaded the pity she would see in those green eyes from now on and she didn’t want or need anyones pity, especially hers.

She finally let herself break completely, let everything she was feeling take her over while she lay curled up on the shower floor.  She could hear her mother screaming in her head that this was not how a queen behaved but she ruthlessly shut that voice out, I am not a queen anymore.  I am just a woman who wants to be a better person.  She instead focused on concentrating on the whispered words of the blonde downstairs.  She let herself feel it all for the first time in decades and cried for the child she had been.  Could she have been a different person if her mother hadn’t crafted her in the image she chose for her so many years ago?  She wailed into her hand, the grief almost a living thing.  She cried until she had no tears left and still her body shook and her chest hitched as she tried to breathe.

Eventually the water ran cold and she knew she couldn’t stay on the floor any longer.  She felt raw and empty, like all the feelings had washed away down the drain with the water.  She knew it wouldn’t last but for the moment she welcomed the relief from the constant heart ache and self-hatred.

Regina used the wall as a brace as she got to her feet and stepped out of the shower.  She avoided glancing at herself in the mirror, even in the dark, unable tolerate the woman she would always be.  She dried herself off, hung up the towel and moved woodenly out of the bathroom, walking over to her chest of drawers.  She pulled open the drawer that held her pajamas and stared at them.  She shut the drawer and then crouched down and opened the bottom drawer.  She dug around in the back of it until she felt the soft cotton under her fingers.  She pulled out the well-worn black t-shirt she had hidden there and held it to her chest.  It was one of Emma’s that had accidently ended up in Henry’s bag after one of his visits months ago.  When Regina had discovered it as she did the washing, she’d tucked it away.  Out of spite, she had told herself.  Emma had tried to take Henry so it was only fair that she took something from her, even if it was just a t-shirt.  A petty victory that she was now thankful for because of the simple comfort the garment provided.  She slipped it over her head, refusing to question why the t-shirt comforted her and just enjoying the soft whisper of cloth against her skin. 

After slipping on underwear she turned out the light and crawled into bed, curling up under the sheets.  She was desperate for sleep, every part of her body ached with exhaustion.  She only hoped that the nightmares would stay quiet and let her get the rest she so badly needed.  She focused on only allowing Emma’s last two sentences enter her mind as she drifted off to sleep.


Emma sat on the third step, her back leaning against the barrier.  It continued to spark purple where her body was in contact with it and a warm hum ran through her.  She had taken off her jacket and hung it on the stair banister, a small part of her took pleasure in the fact that when Regina saw it there, it would piss her off.  It’s those small things that matter, those small things that show I care.  She laughed softly.  About an hour had passed since the queen had gone upstairs, long enough for the sun to set and her backside to grow numb, and she had to acknowledge that the stubborn woman probably wasn’t coming back down any time soon. 

She stood up and stretched, unable to sit still for any longer.  Have to do something.  She tried to switch on the light in the foyer and frowned when it wouldn’t come on.  Weird.  She headed into the kitchen, glad the lights were already on for most of the way, not familiar enough with the house to be able to traverse it in the dark.  She walked over and shut the windows, the room freezing thanks to the cold weather outside.  She shivered, regretting taking off her jacket but feeling too lazy to back and grab it for the few minutes it would take for the room to heat.  Instead she looked at the damage and wondered why Regina hadn’t already fixed it with magic.  She obviously still had it, hence the barrier so why not fix the kitchen straight away and get rid of any evidence of a mishap.

She felt her mind start to wander to what she had just witnessed, felt her eyes tear up at the remembered screams that had come from the girl.  I’m not going to think about it.  I’m not!  She shook her head trying to dislodge the sounds echoing in her ears.  Her breathing hitched, Damn it, no.  I am not going to cry over Regina again.  Crying is not going to help anything.  But she knew, as a tear slowly escaped followed quickly by another, she wasn’t just crying over the Evil Queen, she was mourning the innocent child that had once been.  Could anything of that child still exist in the woman she now knew?  She cried over the woman Regina had not had the chance to become, a woman Emma thought the brunette could still be, given the chance, the encouragement.  She had seen the good in her, knew that the woman had risked her life more than once to help her, to save her even if Regina would deny that if asked.  Unfortunately, the brunette’s first instinct when she felt threatened was to slip back into old habits, as proven with the whole trigger fiasco.  If Regina was to fulfil the potential she had to be good, that had to change and Emma found, now more than ever, she wanted Regina to meet that potential.

Her stomach rumbled, shaking her out of her thoughts.  She put a hand to her stomach, rubbing it and began crossing the room to the fridge.  As she went to move past the damaged area, she stopped and looked at it again.  Could she fix it?  “Right, now how does this stupid magic stuff work?”  She really had no idea what she was doing.  In an emergency she just seemed to intuitively know what to do but now…  She held out her hands and tried to will the kitchen repaired until she was red in the face.  She huffed out an exasperated breath, “How the hell do you work this crap?”  She tried several more times, all with the same result.  “Screw it, I tried.  So much for true love super magic powers.  Can’t even fix a kitchen.” 

She headed to the fridge and opened the door.  “Healthy crap… Healthy crap… Healthy crap…  Where’s the good stuff?  I know you have to have something in here.  Come one. Come on.  The belly will not be satisfied with rabbit food.”  She spotted a small container on the bottom shelf and pulled it out.  She popped the lid and her stomach jumped for joy.  “Score!  Lasagna.”  She turned around with the container in her hand.  “I’ll just nuke it in the… Shit.”  She frowned at the wrecked microwave.  “Guess cold will have to do.”  She grabbed a fork, along with the container and headed into Regina’s study.  Better call Henry.

She sat down at the former Mayor’s desk and, with a small grin, propped her feet up on it.  While the cat’s away, the mouse will do whatever the hell she likes.  She rested the container in her lap and cut off a chunk of the lasagna with her fork and ate it.  A moan escaped her lips, Hell, even cold, this is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.  I’ll give it to Regina, the woman can cook.  She quickly shoveled a few more bites in to quieten her stomach’s grumbling then grabbed her phone out of her pocket and dialed home. 

“Hello?”

“Hey, Mary Margaret, is Henry around?”  She glanced around the room, staring at one of Regina’s paintings on the wall.  It was a beautiful view of the harbor at sunset and made her wonder who the artist was.

“Emma!  Yes, he’s here.  Is everything ok?  Your father…”

“Everything’s fine…  Well…  Not fine, exactly.  I’m going to be here a bit longer than I expected.”

“How long?  What’s wrong?” 

“I’m not sure how long.  At least a few hours, maybe overnight.”

“Overnight? Are you sure everything’s okay?”  She could hear the concern in her mother’s voice.

“Yeah.  Look, it’s nothing to worry about.  Regina just…  Needs my help with a few things.  It’s taking longer than I thought it would.”  She tried to redirect the conversation away from Regina.  “Are you okay to watch Henry for me?”

“Of course.” There was a pause, “You would tell me if there was something seriously wrong, wouldn’t you?” 

“I…”  Never let it be said that Snow White was easily distracted.

“Emma.”

She sighed, “If you need to know, I’ll tell you.  Right now, Regina and I are handling it.  I’m sorry but I can’t say more than that.”

It was Snow’s turn to sigh, “Fair enough but you know your father and I are here to help if you need it.  You just have to ask.”

“I know and I appreciate it.  Is Henry around?  I really need to speak to him.”

“Sure, honey.  I’ll just get him.”

While Emma waited, she ate a few more bites of the lasagna, savoring each bite like it was a gift from the Gods.  So good.

“Emma?”

“Hey Kid.”

“Is everything okay?”

She hesitated, not wanting to worry him but knowing he was already concerned about his Mom.  She decided on an edited truth.  “No, everything’s not okay.  You were right.  Something’s up with your Mom but I’m not sure exactly what’s going on.  I saw the kitchen, and there’s no way that was caused by a faulty wire.”

“I knew it!  So Operation Apple Tree is going ahead? 

“Yeah, Kid.  Looks like.  I’m going to stay here and help your mom out.”  She thought of the barrier currently in place on the stairs, “She’s not so set on that idea but I’m currently being stubborn about it.  It’s a battle of wills and I’m determined to win. Whether she wants it or not, she needs help so she’s getting it.”  She let a smile grow, “I’m also eating your Mom’s lasagna.  It’s even better than you said it was.”

“Mom cooked you Lasagna in that kitchen?”

“Ahhh…  Not exactly.  I stole the last piece from the fridge.  I had to eat it cold but it’s still awesome.” 

Maybe you can ask her to cook it for you as a thank you for helping her.”

Somehow I doubt she’s going to want to thank me for this but you never know.”  I think I’ll be lucky if she doesn’t try to take my head off with a fireball.  She sighed, “Anyway, Kid, I promise I’ll do whatever I have to, to help your Mom.  I just haven’t figured out how I’m going to do that yet, but something will come to me.”

“You’ll figure it out, I know you will!”

She smiled at the sound of pure faith in Henry’s voice, “Thanks Henry.”  Look, I’ve got to go.  I’ll try to keep you posted.  Be good for Mary Margaret and David.”  She stopped, haunted by an image of the young Regina. “You’re a good kid, you know that?  A wonderful son.  Both your Mom and I love you so much and are so happy you’re in our lives.”  She swallowed, “I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  I just thought you should know that.”

She heard a sniffle, “Love you too, Ma.  Tell Mom I love her and thanks.  Thanks for believing me.”

“Always, Kid. Always.  Bye.”

“Bye.”

Emma hung up the phone and slipped it back in her pocket then finished the last few bites of lasagna, tossing the empty container on the desk.  She looked around the room, wondering what she was going to do with herself now.  It was the first time she had been alone in the former Mayor’s house with time to waste.  She got up and headed over to the painting that had caught her eye, looking for a signature but found none.  Disappointed, she started snooping around, looking in drawers and cupboards in the study just because she could but that quickly lost its appeal when she discovered the only interesting thing was Regina’s ready supply of top shelf scotch.

How can there be nothing the least bit revealing about the woman other than she has excellent taste in scotch?  No old love letters or a secret diary.  No list of dastardly deeds to accomplish.  No explanation of what the hell is going on with her, because of course, that would make things too easy.  Boring, Regina.  Your office is officially boring.  She sighed and then decided to make her own list of what she knew.  She hunted around for a pen and paper and sat back at the desk.  She labeled it, ‘What the hell is wrong with Regina?’ and then stuck the pen in the corner of her mouth.  She thought back over everything that Henry had told her and that she had seen and experienced for herself.  She avoided thinking too deeply about the memory she had witnessed, only pulling the valid points from it.  She pulled the pen out of her mouth and began to write.

 

  1. Sent Henry to me.
  2. Hasn’t been eating. (Henry)
  3. Barely sleeps. (Henry)
  4. When she does she has nightmares. (Henry)
  5. Lights flicker and she cries out during sleep. (Henry)
  6. Caused? A fire in the kitchen and lied about what happened.
  7. Light blown in the foyer. (Did she do that?)
  8. Why didn’t she fix the damage in the kitchen? (Magic?)
  9. Light glowed brighter when she cast the barrier.
  10. Passed out.
  11. Is reliving memories. (How long has that been going on? How is it happening?)
  12. Somehow sucked me into her memory. (What the fuck?)
  13. I interrupted? The memory. (How?)

 

She sat back and read over the list.  It didn’t make anything clearer, just left her with a whole lot of unanswered questions and the only person who might be able to shed any light on them was currently hiding herself away behind a barrier.  Which is cheating, Regina.  Cheating when I can’t even make my magic work when I want it to. 

How did it all come together?  What was the common denominator?  Was there a common denominator other than Regina? She threw the pen down and stood up.  This is hopeless. Until Regina showed herself again and answered some questions, there wasn’t a whole lot Emma could do. 

She wandered into the living room and switched on the television, turning the volume down low. She lay down on the couch and toed off her boots then flicked through the channels until she reached the SciFi channel.  An old rerun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was just starting so she settled in to watch.  About half way through her eyes started to get heavy and before the end credits rolled, she was asleep.


 

 

 

Chapter Text


 Emma frowned and opened her eyes, disorientated for a moment before realising where she was.  She wasn’t sure what had disturbed her sleep.  She glanced at her watch and saw it was almost midnight.  The TV was still on, low voices coming from it.  She sat up and switched it off, trying to figure out what had woken her.  Everything was quiet for a moment and then she heard a hum coming from above her.  She looked up to see the light getting brighter then it flickered and went out.  What is it with the lights around here?  Maybe it really is faulty wiring.

She stood up and moved over to switch on a lamp when the bulb in the roof came back on, the hum starting again and getting louder as the light got even brighter.  Then with a bang it exploded, showering down glass where she had just been sleeping.  She heard another explosion from the direction of the study and then a scream ripped thought the air.  “Henry!”

“Regina.”  Emma didn’t even stop to think, just took off running towards the stairs.  She dashed up them, feeling a static shock course through her as she broke through the forgotten barrier without stopping, the barrier shattering in sparks of light purple.  She hit the top of the stairs as another cry came from the other woman, “No!”  She sprinted down the hallway and flew into Regina’s room looking for danger.  She saw nothing except the brunette tossing and turning on the bed, and breathed a sigh of relief then another heartbroken cry shattered the quiet. “No, no.  Henry.  Em.”

The blonde moved to the side of the bed, looking down at the distressed woman.  “Please, no. The fire.  Move away.  I’m sorry.  Can’t control it.” Regina’s broken voice whispered into the dark.  “The fire.  Please.  Emma.  No. Can’t lose you.  Henry.  Please.” Her shattered voice begged.

Emma stood there unsure of what to do for a moment then she sat down on the edge of the bed.  “Regina,” She whispered, “You’re having a nightmare.  Wake up.”

Regina started to thrash again, her breathing becoming erratic.  Emma reached out and grabbed the flailing hand closest to her which then gripped hers tightly and immediately the brunette settled down.

Emma was confused at the abrupt change but was glad that the worst seemed to be over.  Problem easily solved.  One down… A thousand to go.  She sat there a moment until the other woman’s grip relaxed.  She extracted her hand and stood up, not too keen on Regina waking up and finding her in her room.  She was about to head back down stairs when the brunette started moaning in her sleep, getting restless again.

Emma bit her lip nervously and sat back down, reaching out to place a hand on the sleeping woman’s arm.  Again she relaxed almost immediately.  Yeah… That’s not weird at all...  She gave it another few minutes before a yawn escaped her.  The adrenalin of her sprint abating, she realised she was still exhausted and needed to try to get some more sleep.  She stood up and before she could even take a step away from the bed, Regina starting muttering, her agitation returning with a vengeance.

Of course it has to be physical contact that calms her.  Emma sighed and resigned herself to what had to happen.  If she wanted more sleep, it was going to have to be here.  She couldn’t just leave Regina to her nightmare and really didn’t want to wake her up.  The brunette needed whatever sleep she could get. 

Emma stripped off her jeans and socks then wandered around to the other side of the bed, the whole time Regina got more and more distressed.  Well I’m about to get into bed with Regina.  Never thought that would happen.  This has been a strange, strange day.  She unbuttoned her shirt and peeled it off, then slipped her hand up underneath her tank top and undid her bra, tugging it off.  If I’m going to do this, I might as well be comfortable and well rested when she kills me in the morning.

Regina rolled on to her side, a hand reaching out to where Emma had stood moments before.  A quiet whisper filled the air again.  “I’m sorry. So sorry.  Please.”

Emma lifted the sheets and slid underneath them.  She turned so that she was on her side, facing Regina’s back.  She reached out a hand, hesitated a moment, then placed the hand on Regina’s waist and the woman quietened.  She lay like that for a while until her arm started to ache at the awkward position.  She frowned, this wasn’t working for her but short of cuddling up behind the brunette she couldn’t figure out another way to maintain contact and get comfortable enough to sleep.  She sighed and shifted closer, draping her arm over the slim waist.  She settled down and closed her eyes which flew back open when Regina snuggled back into her and grabbed her hand, pulling it up to rest against her breast.  She heard a contented sigh and then all went quiet.

Her eyebrows were almost in her hairline.  Oh… I am in so much trouble when she wakes up.  This is the complete opposite of leaving.  She froze as she felt a leg slide back to rest against hers and realised Regina had no pajama pants on either.  And she said I wasn’t her type.  I was so right, I totally am.  First opportunity and she’s snuggling into me.  Even unconscious, the woman wants me.  She huffed a quiet laugh out.  The woman was curved into her body, pressed tightly up against her and Emma felt her body start to respond, her body tingling where contact was made.  She felt her nipples harden, and groaned quietly.  Her body’s reaction was completely out of her control and that surprised her.  Awkward.  Not so much that it was a woman creating this turmoil, she’d had female bed partners before, but that it was this woman.  Ok…  So maybe she’s my type too. 

Admittedly there had always been passion between them when they were fighting, which they did do constantly, and if she was honest with herself, it had always turned her on a little but she’d put that down to the situation and not the woman she was arguing with.  I think I might have been a little wrong there if my body is anything to go by.  No arguing going on here now… Lots of raging inappropriate hormones.  It felt good, too good.  She sighed, it was hopeless.  This was probably as much action as she was going to get out of the former Mayor, no matter what her body might be hoping for, so she might as well just enjoy it.

Giving into her curiosity briefly, and feeling a little guilty to be taking advantage of the sleeping woman, she shifted her head forward and nuzzled into the brunette’s neck, her lips a hairs breadth from touching.  She drew in a breath that was filled with a scent uniquely Regina, with just a hint of vanilla and apples. She felt her heart flutter and breathed in again just to see if she had the same reaction.  There it was, definitely a flutter.  She bit her lip nervously.  It had also done nothing to settle the desire burning in her belly, instead it fanned the flames.  She groaned again,  Am I drunk?  I must be drunk… Did I get drunk without me knowing it?  What am I doing?  This is Regina!  

Regina shifted her shoulder back towards her and sighed. Oh God, what am I doing?  She tried to distance herself, forcing her arousal down into a tiny corner of her mind, still there and burning but under control.  This desire for the older brunette may have come as a surprise.  Am I really surprised though?  If she was completely honest with herself, it wasn't that big of a surprise.  Now she just had to figure out how to discover whether the brunette could possibly feel the same way without sounding like a hormone addled teenager which was precisely how she felt at the moment.

Just another thing to add to my list of things I have to find out from Regina.  Though this one could have a very pleasant outcome if the brunette was inclined to agree.  With that happy thought in mind, she closed her eyes and determinedly ignored the desire singing in her blood.  She forced herself to relax and eventually drifted off to sleep.

As both women slept, a white mist flowed from Emma’s body, drifting over Regina where it settled over her like a blanket, changed to a light lilac and then sank into her skin.


Emma smiled at Regina and reached out a hand, “Walk with me.” The brunette hesitated then took the outstretched hand, linking their fingers and they began to walk.  They were in Storybrooke except the streets were empty.  There was no traffic or people, just the two of them. 

After a while, Emma spoke again, “You know we’re linked now, by more than just him.”

Regina raised an eyebrow, “Whatever do you mean?”

“You know.”  Emma smiled at her again.

The brunette shook her head and stopped walking, forcing Emma to stop beside her.  She turned to the blonde, “I’m afraid I don’t.  What do you mean, we’re linked by more than just him?”

Emma just kept smiling, “We’ve always been linked, even before him, our destinies intertwined but something’s changed.  We did something that made the link stronger, something that sped up our destinies.  We are linked by more than his love.” 

Emma stepped close, raising the hand that wasn’t clasping Regina’s and put it over the queen’s heart.  “In here, you know.”  She shifted her hand higher and caressed her cheek.  “It’s just up here you’re going to have trouble with.  You have to learn to trust yourself, to trust who you are and what you feel.”  Emma leaned forward and her lips whispered up Regina’s neck and across her other cheek.  “Please,” she whispered, “You have to let me in.”


The sun was just starting to come up, a small amount of daylight filtering into the room, it was barely enough to see by.  Regina’s eyes popped open with a start and she registered that she was in her own bed and that she wasn’t alone. She could feel the weight of an arm wrapped over her and a palm linked with her own.  She tensed, unconsciously squeezing the hand and felt the body she instinctively knew was Emma cuddle in closer, drawing her back against her.  She felt the blonde nuzzle her neck then arms tightened around her, a voice muttering sleepily, “S’ok.  I’ve got you.  You’re safe.”

Regina felt a tingle go through her when Emma had nuzzled her.  She did feel safe so she chose not to question the situation right at that moment or the faint flush of desire that hummed through her.  Feeling safe in Emma’s arms was beginning to become a habit and not one she was sure she should come to rely on.  She forced her body to relax again and started to think.  What did that dream mean?  What was the link?  How had they made it stronger?  What had they done?  Was it when they had shared her memory or did it mean when they had stopped the trigger?  Was it something else entirely?  Ridiculously cryptic Emma.  Even in my dreams she makes life difficult.  Why couldn’t she just spell it out?  Then there was the talk of trusting herself and what she felt.  What did it mean by what she felt?  About who?  Emma, her mind whispered the obvious answer and her heart rate increased.

She slowly rolled over onto her back, trying not to dislodge or awaken the blonde.  Emma muttered and shifted in her sleep to accommodate the move but did not wake up, just tightened the hold she had on the brunette’s waist.

Regina could see, by the sliver of weak sunlight, the blonde locks in disarray across her pillow.  She studied Emma’s face in a way she’d never had the opportunity to do before.  Her forehead, relaxed and free of the usual frown lines, dusky eyelashes that rested on her cheeks.  The nose that flared when she was arguing with Regina.  Slowly her eyes moved down to the soft lips that were slightly open and she felt a yearning inside her that she had never before acknowledged.  Was this what the dream meant?  It scared her and again her body tensed, her breath catching in her chest.

Green eyes were suddenly staring into hers and she felt her heart start to race faster still, whether it was at being caught studying the blonde or because of the feelings she experiencing, she wasn’t sure. 


Emma had woken when Regina had rolled over but had played possum, unwilling to face the consequences just yet, instead enjoying the feeling of being close to the other woman.  When she felt the body in her arms tense up and heard the hitch in her breathing her eyes had popped open and met eyes that were a golden caramel in the dawn light.  She noticed that the look of fatigue seemed to have vanished over the course of the night and she was secretly pleased that she might have played a part in that.

She felt Regina move again until they were face to face, her arm still draped over the other woman but she had released her hand.  She was still waiting to be kicked out of the bed and yelled at.  “Why are you here?” Regina whispered, surprising her.

“I told you I wasn’t going anywhere.”  Emma whispered back.

“I know,” Regina frowned slightly, “I mean here, in my bed.  How did you get past the barrier?”

Emma had wondered the same thing.  At the time she hadn’t even remembered the barrier until after she had crashed through it and then she was too busy dealing with Regina and her hormones to give it much thought.  She shrugged, “I guess I just wanted through it bad enough.  Didn’t really think about it at the time.  As for why I’m in your bed, you were having a nightmare and it was the only thing that calmed you.”

“The only thing?”

Emma blushed, “Well, you were tossing and turning, talking in your sleep.  I tried to wake you but…  Anyway, when I reached out and grabbed your hand you pretty much settled down until I tried to leave.  Happened a couple more times…  I was tired…  I just decided we’d both get better sleep if I stayed.”

Regina bit her lip, “Thank you.”

“For what?”

Regina smirked, “For being a stubborn idiot.”

Emma grinned wryly, “And we’re back to the insults already.  Just for the record, you were the one who snuggled into me.  You’re welcome, by the way.”

“I do not snuggle!  You take that back this instant!”  Regina mock frowned. 

“Totally do.  You even sighed happily.”  Emma smirked.

Regina snorted a laugh, “Lies!  And I’m sure you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself if I didn’t insult you several times a day, Ms. Swan.” 

Emma returned the smile, surprised by Regina’s joking. “Probably.”  She sighed, “You know we need to talk about everything that’s happening, right?”

Regina echoed her sigh, “I know, and we will.  We’ll also have to go back to snipping and arguing with each other.  It’s inevitable but I’d just like to enjoy this moment for a little bit longer before reality crashes back down.”

“You don’t think this is real?”  Emma watched the sadness creep slowly back onto Regina’s face and the moment was over all too soon.  Why couldn’t I just shut up?  It made her heart ache.  She felt the brunette move and disentangle herself.  She immediately missed the warmth, the closeness she had felt with the her.  She missed that moment.  Damn it.  It was a side to Regina she had never seen and she wanted more.

Regina sat up and moved to the edge of the bed, facing away from the blonde.  “How can it be, Emma?  In what reality would you hold me like a lover and look at me like you cared?”  She stood up and padded towards the bathroom and closed the door.

Emma stared after her, murmuring quietly, “Apparently this reality, Regina.  This one.”  She climbed out of the bed and gathered her clothes.  With one last look at the closed bathroom door, she headed out of the room in search of the other bathroom.


 

Chapter Text


Emma showered, her thoughts playing over what had just happened.  She put her hands on the wall and let the water pound over her head and down her body.  A body that was still beating with the desire of the night before.  This morning had given her a small snippet of what it could possibly be like if Regina was hers.  It wasn’t about sex… Though I certainly wouldn’t kick her out if she came and joined me in here right now.  It was about the closeness, just sharing the same space.  Waking up next to someone, holding them and purely just enjoying their company.  It was intimacy and that was something she had never experienced and therefore never missed but now she realised it was something she desperately wanted.  She’d had a taste and she was hooked.

That small moment in time had opened her eyes to what the future could hold and it all revolved around Regina.  Regina…  Without Emma even being aware, the brunette had done what no one bar Henry had ever been able to do.  She had gotten in under her defences and the worst part was the woman hadn’t even tried.  She was just there, in her heart and Emma didn’t know how to feel about it. Fucking confused, I’m completely fucking confused. 

She ran a hand over her face, wiping away the water and sighed.  In the space of twenty four hours she felt like her life had been turned upside down.  She’d gone from, what she thought was, grudging respect and caring about the woman because she was the other mother to her son to caring about her on a whole new level.   And wanting to see her naked.  Don’t forget that all important detail.  I am so fucked. 

Had these feelings always been there, just stubbornly unacknowledged?  Twenty four hours is not long enough to fall in lo- Emma quickly shut that train of thought down.  Of course she didn’t love Regina, she just really liked her and wanted to get naked with her… A whole bunch of times… Maybe wake up next to her and hold her in her arms.  Oh God… I am absolutely, completely, one hundred percent fucked.  What am I going to do? 

She didn’t even know if Regina felt the same and if she made a move and was rejected…  How would she handle it?  Could she just walk away like it didn’t matter?  Being rejected was something she had gotten used to, even come to expect growing up in the system but she somehow suspected that if Regina rejected her, it would hurt far worse than anything had before.  Damned defenses that don’t defend.  So fucked. 

She had to know.  She had to take the risk because she suspected that if she did nothing, she would regret that for the rest of her life.  Live and learn and all that crap.  So what was she going to do about it?  Just walk up and kiss her… Because that will totally not result in me getting a fist to the face.  She snorted a laugh.  Talk to her?  Because that always goes so well.  We’d just end up in another fight.  Wait… I should just wait.  Maybe some subtle flirting to test the waters.  Do I even know how to do subtle flirting?  When did my life get so complicated?  Oh right, two years ago, the moment I met her.  Damn it.

There was still the whole issue of whatever was actually troubling the woman.  Helping Regina had to come first.  Hormones and feelings could wait, though if the humming in her body was anything to go by, it would not wait patiently.  And I can flirt.  I’ll be all with the subtle flirt.  Just testing the waters.  I can do that…  I think.

Emma finally switched off the shower and got out, drying herself off and dragging on her jeans, bra and tank top.  She bundled her underwear up in her shirt, unsure what to do with it.  Shrugging, she figured she’d just shove it in her jacket pocket when Regina wasn’t looking.  She acknowledged that she had to go home at some point today to grab fresh clothes, going commando was ok, but she couldn’t get away with it if she was here for another night and she definitely planned on that happening…  Well her hormones did.

She walked back past Regina’s room and stuck her head in.  The bathroom door was open and both rooms were empty.  She glanced up the hallway and saw the brunette was nowhere in the vicinity and quickly nipped into the room.  She hunted around until she found it, wanting to confirm her suspicions.  She held up the t-shirt Regina had been wearing in bed.  I knew it looked familiar.  How long has she had it?  She frowned in confusion, why does she have it and, more importantly, why was she wearing it last night?  More questions for which she didn’t have the answers.  She put the shirt back where she found it and left the room, purposely ignoring the pleasant feeling that the thought of Regina wearing her clothes had spread through her body.

She wandered downstairs, noticing her jacket was missing from the bannister and grinned.  She headed to the foyer closet and opened it, saw her jacket hung up and quickly forced the small bundle of clothes into one of the pockets.  Free of her burden, she started to look for Regina. 

In the living room she noticed that the glass from the bulb was still there but that her boots were missing.  The study also still had the glass but she noticed the empty container was gone, along with her list.

She moved towards the kitchen and opened the door.  Regina stood at the centre counter, the list in front of her.  Standing awkwardly in the doorway, she spent a few seconds just taking in the view of the woman.  Regina was dressed casually again, a loose fitting cotton shirt that flowed down to her hips and another pair of yoga pants that showed off her legs.  Emma tore her eyes away from those legs and squashed the desire to kneel down and run her hands up them. Instead she cleared her throat.  “So I see you found my list.”

Regina didn’t look up, “I also found your jacket and boots lying around along with an empty food container, I suspect, held lasagna.  You certainly did make yourself at home last night, Ms. Swan.”

Emma shifted nervously, “Ah, yeah.  About that…  I got hungry.”

“Then you should have gone home.” Came the brusque reply.

The moment of this morning was definitely gone, almost like Emma had imagined it.  In front of her was the composed, distant woman she was used to and she hated it.  “So, we’re back to that then?  It was a good thing that I was here last night.  I helped.  You don’t look as tired as you did yesterday.  I count that as a good thing.”  Emma shrugged, “Besides, I told you, I’m not going anywhere, you’ll just have to get used to that.  Please, just tell me what’s going.”

Regina still hadn’t looked at Emma and now she turned away to look out the window, wrapping her arms around herself.  She wasn’t seeing the view though, she was lost in memories of the last three days, especially yesterday.   Fear was clawing at her, screaming to be acknowledged.  She was afraid for herself but more so, she was afraid for Emma and what she was being dragged in to, even if it was at her own insistence.   She couldn’t see Emma hurt, or worse, killed because of her.  She refused to let that happen.  No one, especially the blonde, was going to die because of her or her actions again.  Her mind whispered, But you’ll always be the Evil Queen, always be your mother’s daughter.  You’ll always cause hurt and fear.  She shook her head, but I don’t want to be that person anymore.  Another thought rose, you are who you are.  You cannot change.  She bowed her head and fought against the bitter thoughts, I will not see her hurt!  She had to drive her away, make Emma leave.  She had to keep her safe.

Emma’s eyes followed Regina’s movement and she thought how lonely she looked.  How had she never noticed that before?  It radiated off the woman, filling the room.  Before she knew what she was doing, she had walked a few steps closer then stopped abruptly.  She wasn’t sure of the reception she would get if she gave into her longing and wrapped her arms around the brunette.  Subtle, Swan…  Remember, subtle.  She shuffled her feet, unsure what to do then walked over to where the list lay on the counter.  “We can’t start to fix this if you don’t-“

Regina head came back up and she whirled, eyes flashing.  “I do not need your help!  When will you get that through your impossibly thick skull?”

Emma flinched slightly at the unexpected anger and glared back, “Like hell, Regina.  If you don’t need my help-“

Regina cut her off again, “Let me rephrase, I do not want your help.”

Emma didn’t understand the complete reversal of Regina’s acceptance of her help.  Less than an hour ago she thought they had come to some understanding, but it was like yesterday was repeating itself all over again, just with different words.  “Well that’s not up for you to decide.  We agreed-”

“I do not care what we did or did not agree to, Ms. Swan.  It most certainly is up to me to decide.  This is my life we are talking about.”

Emma tried to calm down, to appeal to the furious woman shooting daggers her way.  “Look, I made a promise to Henry-“

Regina cut her off, exasperated, “And why do you think I sent him to you, Ms. Swan?”  Her cold look cut right through Emma, whose face flickered briefly with the hurt before she masked it.  It did not go unnoticed by the queen but she pushed on, she had to do this.  Why couldn’t the stubborn woman see that it was for the best?  “Let me make myself absolutely clear.  It is not safe for you or him to be here.  This is my issue and I will deal with it how I see fit.”

Emma lost her temper, “So what?  Am I supposed to just sit around with my thumb up my ass until you blow the rest of the house up?   Is that when I’m allowed to actually come and help you?  I’m not a child, Regina.  I do not need protecting, especially from you.  You need to let me decide what’s safe for me.”

Regina rolled her eyes, “Indeed, Ms. Swan, you are definitely not a child even if you sometimes act like it.  What you are, is a stubborn fool.  Can you not see?  Look around you.” She gestured at the damage,” This… This is only the beginning.  My magic has yet to return to full strength.  If the house is indeed destroyed, I would much prefer that it is only myself in danger.”  She sighed, her head hanging down as her mask threatened to fall.  “For some unfathomable reason, I care what happens to you.   I will not let you put yourself in danger because of me.”  The words, I’m not worth it echoed through her mind but remained unsaid.  “Besides, if something were to happen to me, you are all that Henry has left.  I will not leave him without a family.”

Emma felt the anger drain out of her and walked over, standing in front of Regina.  She grabbed her chin, gently forcing the other woman to look at her, “I get what you’re trying to do but I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”  She moved closer, until they were inches apart and she could see gold flecks in the dark eyes staring into hers.  “You’re worth the risk, Regina.  Henry needs both of us.  Stop fighting me on this and let me help.”  Unknowingly, she echoed her words from Regina’s dream, causing the brunette’s breath to catch, “You have to let me in.”  The temptation to close the small gap and kiss her was almost too much and she barely stopped herself.  Instead she took a deep breath, inhaling the other woman’s scent and let her hand fall away as her heart did its usual flutter, “I care about you too, okay?  So please, just let me in.” 

Brown eyes searched green, looking for something.  The blonde’s words had twisted themselves around her heart.  No one had ever thought she was worth the risk before and to hear Emma say that made her heart ache in a way she hadn’t felt in a very long time.  When had she developed feelings for the irritating woman?  They were only going to lead to trouble. 

A resigned look came over Regina’s face.  She sighed and took a step back.  “Fine, I can see I am wasting energy arguing with you and I’ve had precious little of that over the last few days.  I don’t want to waste it bickering over this with you.”

“I can think of a way to spend it with you that wouldn’t be a waste.”  Emma blinked, horrified because the stunned look on Regina’s face said she had spoken that out loud and not in her head.  So much for subtle… Blushing, she turned back to the list, “Err, so…  What do you think is going on?”

Regina stared at the back of Emma’s head, thoroughly distracted from what they had just been talking about.  Did she just suggest what I think she did?  Was Emma Swan thinking about having sex with her?  She didn’t know why she felt so flustered at the thought but the seed was well and truly planted now and her mind was throwing up images of the two of them naked and in each other’s arms.  Lips caressing skin, nails racking down backs, fingers questing…

“Regina?”  The blonde in question was looking at her quizzically. 

She cleared her throat and tried to focus on Emma’s question.  “Sorry?  Momentarily distracted, you were saying?”

Emma’s lips quirked in a smile as she wondered exactly what thoughts the brunette had been distracted with.  “I asked you what you thought was going on, with you know…  All the stuff.”

“I’m not sure exactly.  My magic seems…  Unstable, I guess you might call it.”

“What do you mean, unstable?”

Regina looked pointedly at the damage on the other side of the room.  “That happened and I was only trying to make myself a cup of tea.  It seems that I am having a bad effect on anything electrical at the moment.”

“Is that why you haven’t fixed it yet?”  Emma frowned, “But hang on, you put that barrier up last night.”

Regina sighed, “Did you fail to notice the lights when I did?  Are they not right there on your little list?”  She gestured towards the paper on the counter.

“Yeah, well…  I wasn’t sure.  I was just writing down everything I knew.  I don’t know what’s an issue, and what’s just bad timing.”  Emma paused, before carrying on.  “Besides, the list’s kind of out of date now anyway.  I need to add a few things.”

“What things?”  Regina stared at her, fear tightening her stomach, what else had she done that she wasn’t aware of?

“Well, there’s the reaction you had when I touched you during your nightmare.  The way you settled down right away but got upset again if I stopped.”

Regina flushed, “I really don’t think that’s necessary to put there.  It was a simple nightmare and like anyone, human touch could simply have been a comfort to me.”  Regina tried to explain away but the dream floated through her mind, Emma stating that they were linked.  She sighed, “But if it will make you feel better, you may write it down.  Anything else?”

Emma bit her lip and hesitated, she knew this would set the brunette off again but it had to be said, and there was no point in trying to hide it.  “The two lights that are broken…  In the study and the living room.  When you were having your nightmare, they didn’t just flicker like Henry mentioned, they kinda exploded.”

Regina’s face became unreadable as she pictured the rumpled couch covered in glass.  She studied the blonde’s face and arms and saw no cuts but there could have been, because of her.  “Unacceptable.  Completely Unacceptable.  I’ve changed my mind, it is certainly not worth the risk.  I will handle this on my own.”  She turned and walked into the foyer, leaving Emma, who was mentally berating herself, to trail after her.  She opened the closet, extracting the Sheriff’s jacket and held it out to the blonde.  “Leave.”

Emma ignored the jacket, her jaw clenching, “No.  How many times are we going to go through this?”

“As many times as it takes to get you out of my house, Ms. Swan.”  Regina walked over to the front door and opened it.  “Get out.”

Emma just folder her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow.  “You don’t scare me, Regina.”

Regina ground her teeth then spat out, “Well I should!  Do you forget who I am, what I’ve done?  Do you forget what I am capable of?  I’m the God damned Evil Queen!”

The blonde scoffed, “Is that all you got?  You’re the Evil Queen?  News flash, your majesty.  I’m well aware of who you were and what you’re capable of and I really don’t care.  You will always be Regina to me, that’s the woman I know so knock it off with the theatrics.”

Regina snarled, letting her anger run roughshod over her fear.  “You push me too far, Savior.”  She tossed the jacket out the door and onto the ground.

Emma’s temper spiked as she let out an incredulous laugh, “Did you seriously just throw my jacket out the door?  What are you, five?  Do you think if you throw a temper tantrum I’ll just leave?  Does that actually work?  I’m telling you that is not happening.”

Brown eyes snapped fire, “If you do not leave, you are going to get the same treatment, Ms. Swan.  I am done arguing this with you.”

Emma unfolded her arms, getting ready to fight even if she didn’t think Regina would take it that far.  “I’d like to see you try.”

It seemed that they were at an impasse.  Regina knew that she could never physically best Emma and she refused to use her unstable magic on her.  That would just defeat the whole purpose of getting her to leave.  Why couldn’t she see that this was for the best?  That she was just trying to protect the stubborn woman.  She was trying to come up with a solution to the dilemma when Emma spoke again.  “Exactly.”

It was the smug grin that did it.  All thought of unstable magic fled Regina’s mind as her anger, fueled by heart wrenching fear for the Savior eclipsed all other thought and reason.  Regina saw red and launched herself at the blonde who met her halfway.  Explosions burst through the house as magic flooded through the queen’s veins but stopped as soon as she had hold of Emma.  Neither of them noticed though, because in a flash of purple that mellowed to lilac, they were gone.


 

Chapter Text


A startled Mary Margaret cried out at the sudden appearance of the two women in her kitchen.  They appeared in a swirl of the same lilac they had left in, though, again, neither noticed, too intent on scowling at each other.  Regina thrust Emma at the other brunette.  “Keep your daughter the hell away from me, Snow.”

Emma stumbled into Mary Margaret who grabbed at her to keep her from falling.  Light bulbs exploded in the kitchen as a swirl of purple sparks encompassed Regina and she was gone.  “Are you ok, sweetie?”

Emma shrugged off her mother’s hands, and took a few steps away.  She said nothing, trying to reign in her temper and swallow the nausea the unexpected trip has caused at the same time.

“Emma?”  Snow White’s eye brows were furrowed in concern. 

Emma swallowed, took a deep breath and let it explode from her chest.  “Of all the…”  She started pacing, her rage still bubbling despite her efforts to cool it off.  “I can’t believe she just did that.  Of all the stupid idiotic things…  And she calls me a fool?”  She whirled to Mary Margaret.  “Did you see what happened?  She thinks she can handle this on her own.”  She huffed out a laugh free from humor.  “She’s going to get herself killed and she expects me to just sit around and wait for that to happen?” 

She slammed her hands down on the kitchen table making Snow jump.  “She’s all about, I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, blah blah blah like it wouldn’t mean anything if something happened to her.  Like she’s expendable.  That it wouldn’t just about kill me…”  She frowned, quickly moving on and hoping Snow hadn’t caught her admission.  “Like it wouldn’t devastate Henry if something happened to her.  She is not expendable, she is necessary!” 

Emma started pacing again, her fists clenching and unclenching as if she wanted to reach out and grab Regina within them, whether to shake her or hold her close was debatable at the moment.  “She can’t get rid of me that easily.  What does she think?  That I’m not going to head straight back over there?”  Emma stopped as she realised something.  “She still has my car!  And my boots! Oh for fucks sake.”

“Emma!”  Snow exclaimed at her daughter’s language.  She was having trouble following what had happened.  She understood that, once again, her daughter had had an argument with Regina and it seemed to be over Emma’s safety.  David had only voiced suspicions the night before that something was amiss and Emma hadn’t been forthcoming on the phone.  She knew there was something going on with Regina and that Emma was obviously concerned but to hear her talk of the other brunette getting herself killed only made her concern grow for both women. 

“Sorry.  I just…  She’s…”  Emma didn’t know what else to say.  Her anger drained out of her and she was left feeling a jumble of emotions she couldn’t sort out.  “She’s wrong, Snow.  She’s wrong and stubborn and annoying...  She can’t do this on her own.  Why can’t she see that?  Why can’t she see that people care about what happens to her?  That I care, damn it.”

Snow tilted her head to the side, studying her daughter.  To hear her admit she cared about Regina was an interesting development but she ignored it for the moment.  “Regina hasn’t had anyone care about her in a very long time.  I tried…  But you know our history.  She’s used to doing everything on her own.”

“Yeah and look how great that turned out.”  Emma sighed, “She doesn’t have to do that anymore.”

 “Maybe it’s best if you give Regina some-“

Emma held up a hand, silencing her mother.  “No!  Don’t you say it.  Don’t you dare take her side!  You don’t understand what’s going on.”

Snow walked over to where her daughter stood, “Then help me understand.”

The blonde slumped, “I…  I don’t even know where to begin.  Has it really only been a day?  There’s so much happening and I don’t know if even I understand it.”

Snow wondered if they were just talking about Regina’s problem.  “Well just sit down and tell me what you know and maybe I can help with that.”  She moved away and swept up the broken glass then began to make coffee, waiting patiently for her child to start talking.

Emma did as her mother had asked and sat on one of the kitchen stools.  She got lost in her thoughts, trying to sort them all out so they made sense but her emotions kept getting in the way of making sense of anything.  She was angry and worried, it didn’t help that her heart ached at being away from Regina and realising that ache only made her more confused. 

A cup of coffee appeared in front of her and she looked up at Snow, a small smile on her face. “Thanks.”  She wrapped her hands around the warm mug and just started talking. “It all started when Henry turned up at the station…”  Emma spoke about almost everything, it felt good to share her worry over the other woman, even if she kept some of it to herself.  She glossed over the memory she had shared with Regina, keeping the actual details to herself.  She also avoided mention of Regina snuggling back into her but couldn’t help the blush that spread over her face when the thought had crossed her mind or the fact that she stumbled over her words when she spoke about being in bed with the brunette. 

Snow looked thoughtful, “So you spent most of the night in the same bed as Regina?”

“Yeah but it’s not like it sounds.”  Emma bit her lip, trying to keep any reaction off her face.  Well maybe a little bit how it sounds.

Snow waved a hand, “Whether it is or it isn’t really isn’t any of my business. What I’m more interested in is the affect you seemed to have had on her while she slept.  You say that when you put a hand on her, she calmed down immediately?”

To say Emma was a little shocked over Snow’s response, or lack of, to the fact that she had spent the night in Regina’s bed would be an understatement.  She had expected anger, disgust or even just disappointment but it was like the former bandit couldn’t care less if she shacked up with the Evil Queen.  Not that we’re shacking up or whatever.  Still, she wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that so she pushed it aside and concentrated on the rest of what Snow had said.  “Yeah, I thought it was kind of weird too but if it worked…” The blonde shrugged.

“I suspect there’s something else at play here, but first let me say that I think you did the right thing.  Everyone needs comfort at those times, but especially Regina.  I know she’s done a lot of terrible things in the past but she’s also had a tremendous amount of pain inflicted on her too.”  Snow paused, considering her words.  “I don’t think a lot of people understand that.  They look at her and they see only what she wants them to see and for a long time, that was the Evil Queen, so now she struggles to be seen as anyone else.  There is still a woman underneath all of that Evil Queen bravado, and that woman is terribly alone and so afraid of being hurt.” 

Snow sighed, “I know that she has been trying to be good and I think she keeps failing because of her fear, her fear that she can’t change or even if she does, it still won’t be enough for everyone else.  I worry that if she truly believes that, she will eventually give up.”

“Screw everyone else.  It would be enough for me.” 

Snow smiled at her daughter’s words, “It would be enough for me too but I don’t think she sees it that way.  She has grown used to everyone thinking the worst of her so that’s what she expects them to continue to do and if they already expect the worst, what good is there in not performing to their expectations?  If she is continually treated like the Evil Queen that is all she will ever see herself as.”

“How do you know all this?”  Emma was stunned.  How had Snow seen all along, what she was only just beginning to realise?

“Because I knew her before she became the Evil Queen, when she was simply Regina.  When we first met, I thought she was the most wonderful person in the world. I loved her…  I still do.”  Snow smiled, “I can’t let go of the girl I knew all those years ago.  That girl is still there, I’ve believed it all along.  She’s just buried so deeply that even Regina has forgotten she exists.  It’s why I gave her chance after chance.  It’s why I still hold out hope for her.”  She reached out a hand and took hold of her child’s.  “She can be good, Emma.  I know it.  She just needs to truly believe it too.  More importantly, she needs us to believe even when she doesn’t.”

“I do believe!”  Emma said passionately, “People change, I know that better than anyone.  I also know it’s hard and that you still screw up even if you’re trying not to.  I don’t care if she fails a hundred times, as long as she keeps trying.”  Emma let out a sigh, taking her hand back.  “What I don’t get is why she’s fighting me so hard on this?  Why not let me help?”

“You care for her?  Want to protect her?” 

Emma hesitated, then replied.  “Of course.  She’s Henry’s mother.  What sort of person would I be if I just let something happen to her?”

Snow smiled, she suspected there were more reasons her daughter cared but she didn’t push the matter.  That would only cause Emma to shut down and it had been a long time since they had been able to just talk like this.  “She’s trying to be good, Emma, trying to do the right thing.  Also, is it really so hard to imagine she feels the same way you do?  That she doesn’t want to see you hurt?”

Emma frowned at her mother, “Okay, I get it.  Still, I’m not the one in danger right now.”

“Not directly, no and I must admit, what you’ve told me doesn’t sound good.” Snow bit her lip, “Especially when you add in the exploding lights here.  Regina is right though,” Emma started to protest but the brunette held up a hand.  “It’s not safe there but I understand why you have to go back.”  She paused, arranging her thoughts.  “There was something strange when you both appeared.”

Emma frowned, “Like what?”

“Well normally Regina appears in a swirl of dark purple smoke but when the two of you appeared here, minus exploding lights I might add, the smoke was a pale purple.  Almost like her magic had been mixed with white magic, yours, I imagine.”

Emma started to catch on, “But when she left, it was dark purple again…  No wait, it wasn’t smoke, it was sparks and the lights went boom.”

Snow nodded, “When you arrived you were touching and when she left…”  She shrugged, “If you add that to what you told me about Regina being calmed by your touch and that you managed to break through, what I personally know to be, an impenetrable barrier without even noticing… ”

Emma mulled this over, “Somehow our magic is what?  Connected?”

“It’s possible.  When you are in contact with her it seems to have a positive effect, both on her magic and Regina herself.   Now I’m not a magic user so I don’t know all the ins and outs, I could have it completely wrong but there’s something going on with the two of you and that’s why I believe you have to go back.  Maybe if you explained this to her…” Snow smiled wryly at Emma’s scoff.  “I know, but you have to try.  I could come with you if you like.”

Emma laughed out loud at that, “Thanks, but I think the reception is going to be bad enough if it’s just me.  If you show up too she might just bring the house down on us out of spite.”

Snow grinned.  “You do have a point there.  Just know both your father and I are only a phone call away.  The Evil Queen doesn’t scare us either.”

“Duly noted.”  Emma stood up, and headed towards the stairs.  “Thanks, Mom.”

 Snow smiled brightly, “That’s what mothers are for.  One last thing, you say all this started after the two of you destroyed the trigger.  Could that be the reason?”

Emma stopped and turned back towards her mother.  “Maybe, but it still doesn’t explain how her magic got so messed up in the first place.  It can’t have been the trigger or mine would be all with the crazy shi…  Err stuff too.” 

“Mmmm, true.”  She left Snow White deep in thought and headed up to her room.

Emma grabbed a backpack out of her cupboard and started shoving clothes and toiletries in haphazardly.  It had been a good talk with Snow, a bit of insight to the woman she… liked a lot and hopefully some useful information.  Just let her try and keep me out now.  If I can stop all the crazy shit from happening just by touching her…  I’m just not going to let her go.  Who needs subtle flirting?  Now I have a valid reason for getting my hands on her.  Way to look for the silver lining in all this, Swan.  She grinned to herself, feeling better now that she had, at least the beginnings of, a plan to help Regina. 

After putting on another jacket, she hunted for a pair of boots she could wear.  Finally finding a pair, she slipped them on and headed back downstairs.  She spotted Henry’s bag and walked over, feeling in the front pocket for the set of key’s he always kept there. Finding them, she slipped them into her pocket.  She turned back to Snow, “Tell Henry I’m still working on Operation A.T.  He’ll know what I’m talking about.  Also that I have his house keys.”  She was almost out the door when she remembered something else, “Do you mind asking David if he can hold down the fort until this is sorted out?”

Snow nodded, “Of course, honey.  I’m sure he won’t mind.  I’ll get him to text you if there are any issues that need your attention.  Please be careful.”

Emma ran a hand through her hair and tried not to look worried, “I’ll be as careful as I can.” 


Regina arrived back at her house with a bang.  The TV exploded, sending more glass across the room.  Henry is going to be so angry with me for destroying the Television.  It hissed and smoked but luckily didn’t catch alight as the brunette was in no state to put a fire out.  She grabbed at her head as the pounding intensified, a groan forced from her lips.  She put a hand on her stomach as nausea rolled through her, a gift of the pain ricocheting through her skull.  She felt a tickle under her nose and reached up to swipe at it.  When she pulled her hand away it was smeared with blood.  She stared at it lifelessly for a moment, not recognizing it for what it was.  Finally the image got through her aching mind and she moved slowly down the hallway to the powder room.  Just another thing to add to the ever growing list.

All the energy she had garnered from a night asleep in the blonde’s arms had been wiped away in such a short amount of time, leaving her more exhausted than before.  She looked at herself in the mirror, noting the dark smudges under eyes black with pain.  She saw her normally olive skin drained to a sickly white.  The smear of red under her nose was the latest edition to her complexion but one she could do something about. 

She wet a hand towel and slowly wiped away the blood, dropping the towel in the sink when she was done.  It was something she would never normally do but she found she didn’t particularly care right in that instant.  She continued to look at herself.  What was she going to do?  Sending Emma away had been the right thing to do, even if it had cost her as much as it had done but she missed her.  It was a gnawing ache in her heart and she wasn’t sure how to even begin processing that feeling.  She tried to ignore it, all that mattered was that the blonde was safe and she could focus on sorting out the mess she found herself to be in, her feelings in all this did not matter.  The problem was, she had no idea where to even begin and her head was hurting so much that she couldn’t concentrate even if she did.  I need to rest.  Her heart hurt even more in that moment because what she really wanted was to rest with Emma by her side.  But I sent her away.  It was the right thing to do.  The good thing.  I will manage without her.

She left the bathroom and headed for the stairs, one hand holding her head as the other gripped the bannister to haul herself up.  She made it as far as the landing before she lost consciousness, a memory, its imminent arrival buried beneath the wall of pain the brunette was feeling, dragging her down into the dark.


Emma walked towards Miflin Street.  She wasn’t happy about having to walk but it was a nice enough day, even if it was on the chilly side.  This made her think about her jacket and shoes that were much better suited for this sort of weather and she grumbled unhappily to herself.  Had to show off and take me home.  Couldn’t have made sure I had my jacket and shoes first… No...  Go straight for the grabbing and the teleporting.  She felt a little spike of guilt.  Ok so I did piss her off.  Maybe rubbing her face in it wasn’t the smartest move but still…  No jacket and shoes makes me…  Her thoughts trailed off as she passed Granny’s and she caught the scent of food.  Her stomach growled in response so she made the decision to quickly nip in for a grilled cheese to go.

Toasted sandwich and a cup of cocoa in hand, she continued her walk in a much better mood. Is there anything hot chocolate and cheesy goodness can’t fix?  Nope!  Don’t think there is.  She hummed appreciatively as the warm liquid slid down her throat and warmed her from the inside followed closely by a mouthful of cheese. 

Once she was finished her breakfast and had tossed the rubbish in a bin as she passed, she let her thoughts wander back to Regina.  She didn’t know how the brunette was going to take the news that there was a strong possibility that their magic was somehow connected, that her magic was stabilising Regina’s when they were in contact.  In the end it didn’t matter how she took the news, this was a temporary solution to at least one of the issues plaguing the queen.  Regina will just have to suck it up.  She’s stuck with me for however long this takes and I really don’t mind that at all.  She grinned to herself at the excellent reason to get nice and cozy with the brunette.  Subtle flirting be damned, I’m just gonna get my hands on her and make her see the light…

As she walked down Miflin Street, she started to get the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  She didn’t know why but she felt unsettled so she picked up her pace a little.  The feeling kept growing and she was flat out running by the time she hit 108.  She ran up to the door, grabbing Henry’s keys out of her pocket.  “Regina?”  She jammed the first key into the lock and growled when it didn’t fit.  She pulled it out and tried the next one with success.  She opened the door, “Regina?”  She yelled as she rushed in, slamming the door behind her.  She dropped her bag, looking left and right but the brunette was nowhere to be seen.  Finally she glanced up at the stairs and her heart stopped dead before it resumed beating erratically.  “Regina!”  She raced up the stairs towards the unconscious woman.  “You stupid woman, you stupid, stubborn woman.  I told you I shouldn’t leave.  Why don’t you ever listen to me?”  She reached the landing and stopped dead.

Purple sparks flittered over the prone woman, and then, almost as if they sensed her presence, they shifted on Regina, crowding on to the side of the woman that was closest to Emma.  As she moved closer, the sparks became a frenzy, zipping back and forth and she frowned as she felt a tug on her own magic.  She looked down to see her hands were glowing with a bright white mist.  Well don’t really need to confirm Snow’s theory now.  She thought wryly.  Seems like they’ve got a hard on for each other.

Emma knelt down next to Regina, not quite touching her.  She watched, fascinated, as the sparks tried to connect with her.  Unsure what to do, she held her hands out over the other woman and the purple magic almost leapt, trying to get to her. 

Last time she had touched the unconscious woman, she had been dragged into Regina’s memory.  Was that going to happen again?  Did it really matter?  She sighed, Nope.  Doesn’t matter.  If I can help… that’s all that matters.  And there’s only one way to find out.

She lay down on her side facing Regina and reached out, tugging the woman towards her.  As soon as her hands touched the brunette, her magic surged out to mingle with the sparks almost like they had missed each other.  She just managed to roll back, Regina’s head resting on her chest before everything went black, the combined magic moving to cover them both.


 

Chapter Text


Emma opened her eyes and found she was lying on the ground just as she had on the staircase landing but, again, Regina was missing from her arms.  Cool night air was swirling around her and there was a fog laying low to the ground. “Well I guess that answers the question.  Where the hell am I this time?”  She glanced around her and noticed a building about fifty feet away.  Guessing it was as good a place as any to begin to look for Regina, she got to her feet and headed over towards it.  She tried the door but it seemed to be sealed shut.  “So I pass through people but the door stays solid.  Oh, that’s really fair.  Stupid ghost shit.”  She muttered to herself. 

As she walked around the outside of what she now guessed to be a stable, she heard Regina’s voice. “You're impossible to talk to.  Stop with the magic and listen to me.  I want to be with Daniel.”

Emma frowned, she knew that name.  She felt her heart sink as she kept moving, trying to find a way in.  She heard Cora’s voice and growled in her chest.  “Oh, you don't know what you want, but I do.  I didn't make the sacrifices I did in life to get you to the cusp of greatness so that you could end up the wife of a stable boy.”

Emma finally found a window but it was covered in bars.  She looked through to see Cora facing her, and what looked like a teenage Regina standing with her back towards her next to, whom she assumed to be, Daniel.  “But it's my life.”

Cora laughed, “You foolish girl.”  The smile dropped from her face,” it’s mine.  After what I had to do, the deals I had to make to get us out of poverty, to get us this life, and you just want to toss it away?”

Emma heard Daniel whisper, “Stay strong, Regina.”

Regina shook her head, “Your magic can't keep us apart.  I love him.”

“And I love her.”  Daniel looked at Cora.

“And I love her, too.”  Cora glared at Daniel.

“You don’t know the meaning of the word love, Cora!”  Emma muttered vehemently, “Your sick and twisted version isn’t love at all.”  She tugged uselessly on the bars.

Regina sounded like she had tears in her eyes, “If you loved me, you wouldn't try to keep us apart.”

Cora replied, “And if you loved me, you wouldn't try to run away.”

“That’s fucking blackmail!”  Emma felt her rage bubble up.

“I'm sorry, but this is my happiness.  We're going.”  Emma was proud to see Regina standing up to her mother, she just wished with everything she had that it had been enough, that Regina had just been able to leave and have her happiness but she knew it was useless.  This wasn’t destined to end that way.

Cora took a step towards the couple, her hand glowing with magic. “No.  You're not.”

“So what's your plan? You're going to keep us here forever?”  Regina stepped back closer to Daniel, “Because that's what you'll have to do.”

Cora looked sad and Emma tried to yell a warning to Regina and Daniel, even though it was pointless.  “Don’t fall for it!  She has no heart!  She can’t feel anything!”  She knew, she just knew what was coming, where Regina’s memory had taken her and it made her sick.  She knew what Cora was going to do and screamed her frustration.  She had to get into that room, had to do something, anything to stop this before it ran its course.  She rushed back to the doors and started kicking at them.  The older brunette spoke, “So this is your decision? This will make you happy?”

“Oh, God, Regina.  Don’t trust her, please don’t trust her. She doesn’t deserve it.  Run!  Just run!”  Emma drove her shoulder into the door, crying out at the unexpected pain.  This is a memory.  Why the hell did that hurt?  So unfair.  Then she heard the happiness in Regina’s voice and closed her eyes as a different sort of pain lanced through her, “It already has.”

“Then who am I to stop you?”  

“Thank you, mother.” 

“No, no, no.  Regina…  No.”  Emma moaned, her heart starting to break.  She stepped back and took another charge at the door and sailed through it like it wasn’t even there.  She sprawled on the floor, surprise shooting through her but she didn’t question what had happened.  Too many strange things had been happening lately so all she could do was go with the flow.  She looked up to see Regina hugging her mother and she wanted to rip the teenager out of the other woman’s arms.   The younger brunette then turned to Daniel with such a look of love on her face, a look Emma had never seen before but hoped she would see again.  It was wonderful to behold, it lit up her face and blazed from her eyes and she hated knowing that it was about to be torn from her.

She watched as Cora walked towards Daniel, with Regina trailing behind, happy tears coursing down her face, “Daniel.”  She turned the boy away from Regina and walked a few more paces.  “If you want to have a life together, a family, then there's one important lesson I can impart on you.  It's what it means to be a parent.  You always have to do what's best for your children.”

Emma climbed to her feet, ignoring her aching shoulder and moved quickly over to Regina.  She whispered, “Please, don’t watch.  Don’t make yourself relive it again.”  She tried to grab hold of her, to break them both out of this memory before it reached its end game but her hand could make no contact.  “Why?”  She called out to no one in particular, “Why let me in if you won’t let me stop this?  She doesn’t need to see this.  She knows what happens!” 

I let you in because I could no longer keep you out and sometimes it is necessary to see all there is to see in order to learn all that must be learned.  Regina’s voice whispered through her mind and she glanced sharply at the young woman beside her, but teenage Regina was still focused on her mother and Daniel.  Regina?  She tried calling in her mind but got no answer and frowned.  What did that mean? 

Daniel smiled at Cora then looked towards Regina, “Thank you.  I understand.  Because that's what you're doing now.”

“Yes.  It is.” Cora drove her hand into Daniels chest.

Regina cried out, “Mother!”  As Cora ripped out his heart and the boy fell to the ground, Emma hung her head.  She may have been allowed in but she had failed.  She dropped to her knees, tears pouring down her face at Regina’s anguished cries. What can possibly be learned from this?  This is cruel.

Regina ran forward, “No! No! No.” She knelt and pulled Daniel into her lap, that one word continuing to fall from her lips.  She turned to look up at her mother, her heart break evident on her face.  “Mother, why have you done this?”

“Because this is your happy ending.”

Emma looked up and snarled, “That?  That’s what you told her, her happy ending was?  You sick twisted bitch.  She could have been happy…  She can still be happy.  Regina deserves the happy ending you stole and I’ll find it for her if it’s the last thing I do.” 

“What?”  Regina exclaimed at her mother then turned back to Daniel, kissing him gently on the lips as if trying to bring him back to life.

Cora stood over her, “Oh, you have to trust me, Regina.  I know best.  Love is weakness, Regina.  It feels real now.  At the start, it always does but it's an illusion.  It fades, and then you're left with nothing, but power, true power endures.  And then you don't have to rely on anyone to get what you want. I've saved you, my love.”

Emma climbed to her feet, not caring that Cora couldn’t see or hear her.    She got right in the woman’s face, getting between Regina and the older woman and screamed at her, “Saved her? You did this!  You did this to her!  You made her the Evil Queen.  She loved him and you crushed her.  You robbed her of her life!” She wanted to pound on the woman, “She was good and you drove that from her.  All she ever wanted is love.”  Oh…  Could that… 

Emma turned back and knelt by Regina, “I don’t know if you can hear me, but please, remember this.  Love is never weakness, it’s strength and true love… True love never fades, it only grows stronger.  It took a long time for me to realise that too, but it’s true.  As much as you would hate to admit it, you only have to look at my parents to see that.  Even the curse couldn’t keep them apart.  Don’t keep pushing everyone away because you’re afraid of getting hurt.  You don’t have to be alone.  You need to remember that Daniel loved you and that you were so very worthy of that love.” 

She raised her hand, wishing she could caress the teenager’s cheek.  “You also need to know that you are still worthy of love, despite everything you’ve done.  Love can heal, Regina and I want to see you whole again.  I want to see this woman, this side of you who was strong and brave and stood up to her mother, who wasn’t afraid to love.  The Evil Queen is only a small portion of the person you are, a path your mother originally put you on and you’ve just gotten so lost in her that you can’t see what I see.  I see the good in you, I know it’s there.  I see the person you’re trying to be and I believe in her.” 

Briefly, so briefly she wasn’t sure if she imagined it or not, she saw dark brown eyes glance at her instead of through her and then Regina turned back to her mother, her fury at the woman evident on her face, “You've ruined everything.  I loved him.”  She moved to get up off the ground, yelling, “I loved him!”

Emma climbed to her feet as Cora grabbed Regina by the arm, dragging her the rest of the way to her feet.  “Enough!”  She turned Regina to face her, “I've endured this long enough.”  The blonde moved up behind the younger brunette, standing as close as she could trying to offer comfort even though she knew it was impossible.  Cora brushed her fingers across the young brunette’s cheeks, “Now clean yourself up, and wipe away your tears,” She grabbed her chin and tilted it up, looking into her eyes, “because now you're going to be Queen.”

Emma watched as Regina just stared at her mother, her heart so very obviously broken then once more, her world went black.


 Regina lay there, listening to the heart thud under her ear.  It’s steady beat, a soothing balm to the grief she had awakened to.  Her hand was fisted tightly in the jacket under her head as she kept seeing her mother plunge her hand into Daniel’s chest, rip out his heart and crush it to nothing more than dust.  It was a memory she had purposely buried, only using the anger it provoked because the pain had been too much to bear, and now that wound, that had never completely healed, had been torn open again to bleed into her soul.  Tears silently escaped from under her closed eyes, slipping down her face to soak the fabric beneath her cheek.

She worked hard to focus on the rhythm under her ear, that pulse of life that beat strong and true, a signal of the life of the one person alive who had seen her in her darkest hour.  The point at which she had hardened her heart so she could never be hurt again.  Never, that was, until a small child had entered her life and begun what she had thought impossible and now that boy’s mother was having the same effect on her and it left her terrified and breathless all at the same time.

The one person who stayed through that moment and fought for her, even when she thought Regina would never know.  She let the whispered words fill her mind to drive out the vicious scene playing over and over again.  She let the glimpse of stunning green eyes staring into hers fill the void.  She wanted to believe Emma so much but she couldn’t, she alone knew of all her wicked deeds and while her mother had indeed put her on the first step of her dark path, it was she who ultimately walked down it. 

Without love, all she had had left was hate and she had hated as passionately as she had once loved.  Maybe love could heal, but who would ever love the Evil Queen, even if she wasn’t evil anymore?  Daniel had told her to love again and she so desperately wanted to but who would ever love her?  Who would help her heal? 

Could she ever trust someone enough to love them and let them love her?  She truly didn’t know the answer to that.  She hadn’t trusted anyone in a very long time, not since Snow White and look at what that misplaced trust had resulted in.

Could Emma really see through the Evil Queen, through her past to the woman she kept trying so hard to be?  She didn’t want to hope, hopes were often dashed but Emma’s words had stirred something in her she couldn’t quite quell. 

The beat under her ear changed, speeding up and she knew that this moment was coming to an end.  That she would soon have to face reality again and let go of the hope her heart was begging her to hold on to.

All too soon the memory was wreaking havoc in her mind again.  Her mother ripped her love’s heart out and crushed it, time after time.  Daniel…  Oh God, Daniel.  I loved you so much.  I got so lost without you.  I’m sorry, so very sorry.

She tightened her fist even more, holding the person closer.  Emma, her mind whispered and she acknowledged its answer, unable to keep her distance from the woman, even in her mind.  She held on to Emma as the blonde shifted herself up on to one elbow.

“Regina?”  Emma whispered and the brunette shook her head as the tremors she had fought since waking up broke free at the sound.  A hand was lightly placed on her lower back, it felt like a question which only made her shake harder with the sorrow she was trying to hold in.

The hand slowly stroked upwards to settle on the back of her neck, a thumb reaching out to softly caress behind her ear.  It felt like gentle acceptance and the tenderness in the gesture was her undoing, decades of suppressed grief came bubbling to the surface.  She moaned low in her throat, the sound of a wounded animal and all the pain and anguish of that night came pouring out in a torrent.

Emma slowly sat up, taking the brunette with her, the hand she had on her neck never pausing in its soothing movement.  The fist in her jacket wound itself tighter, Regina’s other hand slipping around her back to grip there.

She slowly shifted Regina’s lower body until she could slip her free arm under her knees.  She moved her hand from the other woman’s neck until it was settled under her shoulders and lifted her up into her arms.  She managed to get her own knees under her and, with a small grunt, got to her feet, the Queen nestled against her chest, her face shifting upwards to bury itself against Emma’s neck.  She could feel hot tears burning a trail down her throat as Regina continued to mourn.  Sobs still wracked through the smaller woman’s body as Emma climbed the rest of the stairs and entered Regina’s bedroom.  She moved over to the bed and placed Regina gently down on the sheets and unwound her arms from around the woman.

When Regina felt Emma’s arms leave her, she thought her moment of solace was over.  That she was once again being left alone to try and cope with her heartache.  What the blonde had provided so far was more than she had ever expected. Managing on her own was what she was used to and it was the only conclusion her grief fogged mind could jump to.  She made herself let go, refusing to give in and beg the woman to stay even though her heart pleaded with her to do just that.  She rolled over to face the other direction to stop herself, unable to endure watching her walk away.  Afraid that if she did, she would indeed beg and that would be unbearable.

She expected to hear the soft footsteps of the retreating woman, and she wasn’t disappointed.  Her heart sunk lower, which she didn’t think possible then she heard a noise come from her wardrobe and returning footsteps.  What was the woman doing?  The question was answered in a swish of noise that met her ears and then one of her old quilts settled over her.  The next thing she heard was a couple of thuds and the rustle of clothes then the quilt lifted, bed dipped behind her and a warm hand was on her arm tugging her back to face the blonde. 

An arm slipped under her neck and drew her towards the waiting comfort of Emma’s chest before the hand settled back on her neck and deft fingers resumed their soft strokes.  She settled her ear over the blonde’s heart, craving the solace of the sound.  She reached up her hand and, once again, fisted it, not in a jacket this time, but a soft cotton tank top.  She felt the blonde shift and settle the quilt about them then Emma’s free hand was covering hers, the thumb worming its way into her closed fingers and she held on as if it was the difference between life and death.

Regina clung to Emma, her body still shaking as more tears than she thought she could possibly have left continued to fall, heartbroken sounds escaping her when she could no longer contain them, one of them the Savior’s name, barely whispered. 

The blonde squeezed her hand, “Shhh, I’m here.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’ve got you.”  Emma’s lips brushed against her forehead as she continued to murmur nonsense words of comfort to the brunette, holding her close, keeping her safe and letting the woman mourn her lost love in a way, she suspected, she had never been able to before.

Eventually Regina quietened, her grief finally subdued.  Her tight grip on Emma lessened in its intensity but did not entirely let go as she slowly relaxed, exhausted but feeling lighter in her heart and soul as the pain she had not realised she carried eased but did not go away completely.  She doubted it ever would now that it had been freed from its cage, and hoped that wasn’t a bad thing.

Emma lay still, as she listened to the even breathing of the woman in her arms.  Her torment had been like a living thing, filling up the entire room in its anguish.  Her heart had broken over and over again listening to the brunette grieve over her lost love.  She had sounded so broken and all Emma could do was hold her closer and hope that what she could offer was enough.  It was when Regina quietly murmured her name like a plea that she knew she would do absolutely anything this woman asked of her.  In that second she realised she wasn’t simply attracted to Regina, she was falling in love with her and that rather than scare the hell out of her as she expected any feeling of love to, that realisation just settled quietly in her mind with calm acceptance, almost as if a part of her had known it for years.  She was sure once she had time to really think about it she might not feel quite so relaxed but for the moment it was enough.

Thinking Regina had fallen asleep, Emma allowed herself to slip into a light doze. Just as she was drifting deeper, satisfied the immediate crisis had passed, she was brought back to the surface.  The brunette’s voice, still gravely with tears drifted up to her ears.  “I’m still angry with you, Ms. Swan.  You shouldn’t be here.”

Regina felt more than heard Emma’s laugh.  “Why am I not surprised that’s the first thing out of your mouth?”

Regina smiled into Emma’s chest.  “Because you never listen and I continually have to repeat myself.”

Emma laughed again, “Shut up and go to sleep.”


 

Chapter Text


Regina opened her eyes and the first thing to greet her sight was an expanse of skin marred by a thin pale scar that ran from the jut of a left hip, extending up and heading towards the middle before it disappeared under a white top.  Of its own accord, her hand moved and lightly traced a finger along it, the skin warm to her touch.  She watched, fascinated, as the skin around it became covered in goosebumps.  She found she wanted to lean forward and run her lips where her finger had just been and that sent a jolt through her. 

She knew she should separate herself from the blonde.  That it would be easier to avoid the intimacy they seemed to have settled into with a surprising ease over the last couple of days.  She knew it meant nothing, that it was just Emma doing what she did best, getting far too involved in her life and causing trouble.  The issue was that the trouble was brewing inside her, inside her heart.  Emma was creating all sorts of emotions in her and she found herself wanting, even welcoming them and that had to stop.  It would lead to nothing but pain, something she was only too aware of, a lesson well learned and reinforced by living through the memory again.  Every time she allowed herself to care about someone, they hurt her or she hurt them.  It was better to keep her distance from everyone, including Emma.  Especially Emma.  That was what kept her safe.

Of course she had noted the attractiveness of the woman.  Only a blind fool would have failed to see that and she was neither.  In another life Emma Swan would have been someone she would have welcomed into her bed and thoroughly enjoyed but in this reality that was impossible.  Good and evil did not just jump into bed with each other, did not develop feelings for each other.  That does not happen!  This is not happening.

Regina had taken both male and female lovers in the past though her predisposition was towards the fairer sex.  All of them had merely served the purpose of seeing to her more carnal desires, quickly tossed from her bed when she was finished with them.  They had been little more than convenient tools.  Her emotional well-being had remained safe, untouched by such dalliances and that was the way she preferred it.  Love was weakness, just look at what it had done to her.

While she had never been physical with Daniel, they had shared a level of intimacy that only those in love can truly appreciate and understand.  Since Daniel there had been no one who had been anything other than a means to an end and she feared if she didn’t put a stop to whatever she was feeling, that would change, that Emma would invade every part of her life like a tornado and leave her devastated.  She couldn’t risk what she might do if she allowed herself to love again and that was where this was headed.  It may have been decades but she still remembered exactly how it had felt to be with Daniel, how her heart had sung with the freedom of that love.  It wasn’t something you simply forgot, though after he had been murdered she had done her best to eradicate it.  Now those stupid feelings were beginning to flare again and it was all down to the annoying blonde beside her.

How had she let this happen?  She never let anyone see her weak if she could prevent it.  She had years of practice in controlling and subduing her emotions and for her to have allowed herself to lose all control of them, to allow herself to be vulnerable in front of Emma had her questioning herself.  I will not let this happen.  It means nothing, she has just been here when my need has been greater than I could handle and so I have formed a silly attachment towards her.

She should get up, she should put some much needed distance between them.  She should be concentrating on what was going on with her magic and not what was going on with her libido.  Unfortunately, lying in Emma’s arms felt far too good, the woman’s presence filling her with such a soothing peace that she was loathe to relinquish it.  Space, all she needed was to put some space between them and these feelings would go away and things could return to normal and she could focus on the problems at hand.  Instead what she found herself doing was the complete opposite, propping herself up on one elbow to study the blonde.

Emma’s hair was in disarray, spread all over the pillow.  A frown was on her face and Regina found herself ghosting a finger over it until it smoothed out.  That same finger tracked lightly down her cheek and neck to rest against a point there, feeling life pulse under her touch.  It was ridiculous, this desire to touch the blonde. 

Her eyes followed the same trail as her touch moved on, across her shoulder and down over the firm muscles in her arm right to the finger tips.  Those fingers grabbed hold of hers and she looked up startled, a blush spreading to tinge her face. 

Emma smiled at her and squeezed her hand then let go to reach up and brush a lock of brown hair behind Regina’s ear.  “How are you feeling?”

Regina swallowed, the grief she had ignored since waking surging forward to make itself known and combining with her conflicting emotions over Emma.  “I’ve certainly had better days but all things considered, I would have to say that I feel better than I expected and that is down to you.  I am in your debt, it seems.”

Emma frowned, ‘Hey, no.  No debt.  I…”  She just managed to stop herself from blurting out her feelings.  They were bubbling under her skin and being this close to the other woman was creating havoc.  All she wanted to do was to drag her down and kiss her senseless.  She had no idea how Regina would react to that, if the brunette was even thinking the same thing but she couldn’t get the idea out of her head.  A part of her was whispering that kissing her would be worth it, no matter the outcome but a larger part spoke caution, that she and Regina were on, somewhat, good terms at the moment and it would be Henry that suffered if she rocked the boat.   She stumbled on, “I’m just glad that I could…  That I was here …  For you…  To help and stuff.”

Regina was quiet for so long, staring intently at her.  She felt uncomfortable under the close scrutiny wondering just what the brunette was seeing.  “Regina?”  She couldn’t read her expression and it made her anxiety level start to rise. 

Finally the brunette broke eye contact and rolled over onto her back away from the blonde, “There is always a price to pay.”  And Regina feared she knew what this price would be and that it would ruin her.  Distance, she needed distance, needed to stop this downward slide before it was too late.

Emma’s frown deepened and she followed the brunette, rolling onto her side to look down at the other woman.  “I’m telling you there isn’t.-“ 

“You are naïve.”  She started to push the buttons that would force the blonde away from her.

“Not everyone wants something out of you, Regina.   I did it because it was the right thing to do-“

Regina scoffed and flung an arm over her eyes to block the blonde out, unable to continue looking at her while she purposely tried to get her angry enough to leave.  “Of course you did.  That’s who you are, Savior.”  She said the word with as much disdain as she could muster.  “Your moral compass is astounding, leading you to stick your nose in wherever you feel it is warranted.  I realise I was but an obligation to you and you well and truly fulfilled that, without my permission I might add.  You can tell Henry you did your best and I will not deny that should he ask but I neither want nor need your continued pity.  I think it’s time you left.”

Emma looked confused, “Pity?  You think this is pity?  Regina look at me.”  When the brunette made no move to, Emma reached up and attempted to remove the arm covering her eyes.  It refused to budge so she levered herself up and placed one arm either side of the brunette, crowding in close.  She was trying to understand where all this was coming from.  It felt like Regina was purposely trying to annoy her and she didn’t know why.  She sighed,  I will never understand this woman.

Regina’s body hummed wherever the blonde came into contact with her and it was making it hard to think clearly, to find the words that would send the other woman running.  “You are in my personal space, Ms. Swan.”

Emma ignored her, “You listen to me.  I don’t pity you, I never have.  I’m not here because I feel obligated.  I’m here because I care about you, I care what happens to you.  I hate that you’re going through this, and that we have no idea how to stop it.  I hate that this is hurting you.”

“You’re being melodramatic.”  Regina tried to ignore her words, why couldn’t Emma understand she didn’t want her to care about her? That it was a mistake?

Emma rolled her eyes, someone was being melodramatic but it wasn’t her.  She refused to rise to the obvious bait.  Regina’s game was slipping if she thought Emma couldn’t see through the transparent ploy to piss her off.  They’d played it often enough and the brunette wasn’t even putting her B game forward.  It was obvious and clumsy.  “And you’re being ridiculous.  It’s ok to need help sometimes, to need someone.  You’re so hooked on the idea that you’re the Evil Queen, on punishing yourself by pushing away anyone who even seems to show you the smallest bit of affection.  It’s bullshit and I’ve had enough of it.  Stop trying to push me away.  It’s not going to work.”

It had to work.  Emma’s draw on her affection was only increasing every minute they spent together and it had to stop.  She couldn’t do it, she couldn’t allow herself to get attached to someone again.  Panic was fluttering deep in her heart.  “I do not need you.” Regina pulled her arm away from her eyes and reached up to try and push Emma off her, desperately needing to escape.  She kept her gaze averted from the green eyes trying to see into her soul.  “Get off me.”

Emma fought to keep her balance as Regina continued to struggle.  “So you can run away?  I’m telling you, I will not be pushed away so give it your best shot.”

Frustrated, Regina’s hand gripped hold of Emma’s shirt, and she met her eyes, “Why?  Why do you care?”

“Because no one is as black and white as you’ve painted yourself to be.  I see you, I see who you try to hide.  I see you trying to piss me off so that I’ll get up and leave.”

Regina felt a shudder rip through her body, Emma’s words hitting her harder and harder with every sound the blonde uttered.  “You don’t know what you see.”

Emma plowed on relentlessly, desperate to get through to the woman.  “Right now I see a woman who is terrified over what is happening to her.  I see a woman who is trying so hard to be good even when she believes she will fail.  I see a woman who loves her son more than anything in this world, a woman who would willingly trade her life for his happiness and I can’t help but respect that.”  Green eyes blazed with passionate honesty, “I see a woman who loves with everything she has so she tries to stop herself from feeling anything.  I see a woman who is worth my time and effort, who is so much more than she thinks she is.  I see you, Regina.  I see you!”

They stared at each other, the tension palatable in the air.  Regina tried to ignore what had just been said, tried to dismiss them as nothing more than empty words but she couldn’t.  “Damn you.”  She felt tears burning her eyes, “Damn you to hell for this, Emma.”  She dragged the blonde down, giving into the need boiling inside her.  Soft lips met hers with a gasp and she didn’t hesitate to swallow the sound.  She opened her mouth enough to slide her tongue out, the tip tracing Emma’s lower lip, asking for more.  Without hesitation the blonde responded, mouth opening to allow her entrance, tongue meeting hers in a caress.

The taste of Emma exploded in her mouth and spread throughout her body, tingles fluttering all over her skin wherever the blonde’s body touched hers. She drank deeply, losing herself in the sensations this simple kiss was evoking.  Her heart pounded as she slipped a hand up into the blonde tresses cascading around her, holding onto the woman as if her life depended on it.  She got lost in the kiss, all the pain and heartache of the past four days, all desire to distance herself from the other woman fleeing in the wake of all the feelings the blonde inspired in her.  She was drowning in them and Emma was both the cause and the cure.

Regina may have initiated the kiss but it was Emma who shifted it from a simple kiss towards something much more profound.  She moved, lowering her body and rolling to her side, tugging the brunette with her.  Desperate for more, for everything this woman could give her, she moved her hand to Regina’s waist and slipped it under her shirt to touch the warm skin there.  It slid around to her back to pull the brunette hard against her, causing both women to groan.

It was that sound, a mutual sound of need that brought Regina crashing back down.  She wrenched her mouth away, hands quickly disentangling from blonde locks.  “No.”  She brought her hands up and pushed against the blonde’s chest, scooting away from Emma when she released her.  She ignored the shocked look on the blondes face and quickly got off the bed, her eyes wide in fear.  She stumbled to her feet, her hand reaching up to cover her racing heart.  “No, this isn’t happening.”  She shook her head in denial and then turned and ran from the room, paying no attention to the voice that tried to call her back.  She had let it go too far, had given in to her heart and now all she could do was flee in its wake.


 

Chapter Text

 


Regina fled, she ran as if the hounds of hell were chasing her.  Down the stairs and out the front door, not even pausing to close it.  She didn’t stop for shoes, she didn’t think about a jacket, all that was going through her mind was that she had to get away.  The problem was there was no running from this, no running from the emotions that were flooding her, taking her over but she tried and the harder she tried, the more panicked she grew. 

She’d never run away from anything in her life, she had always been the person to make people flee.  She was a queen, the Evil Queen to be exact and yet this…  The flight response was so loud she was helpless to ignore it.  She dashed down the street, no place in mind, her feet carrying her away from the person that had her so afraid… Away from the only person, a part of her was sure, who could also quell that fear.  So it continued to grow until all she knew was gut wrenching terror.

Her heart was pounding loudly in her ears, her breathing getting shorter and shorter so that she was gasping for breath. She crashed through the cemetery towards the mausoleum, towards the reminder of who she was.  She slammed into the door, in her panic forgetting that it was locked.  Without conscious thought, her hand sparked as pain lanced through her brain and the door was unlocked.  She stumbled inside and down into the room below the crypt. 

Regina crawled into the furthest corner, surrounded by the remnants of the Evil Queen and curled up into a ball.  Control it.  She tried to compose herself as she had done thousands of times before but she couldn’t.  She felt like her entire life was out of her control and all that thought did was make her worse.  Her chest got tighter and tighter, the pain crushing as she tried to remember how to breathe.  Her heart was racing, there was a buzzing in her ears and just when she thought this might be the end of her, a breath thundered from her chest and she heaved it back in, faster and faster, still afraid that each one might be her last.  Her body shook from head to foot and her heart felt like it was going to come right out of her chest.  She put a palm over it, to make sure it stayed, to make it safe.  Her thoughts were a mess and she couldn’t focus on anything other than the mind numbing terror that had overwhelmed her.

Regina Mills, whose composure was legendary such was her control, was trapped in a panic attack and she had no idea what was happening or how to stop it.


Before Emma could even climb out of bed, she heard the front door open.  “Shit.”  She tumbled out and got up, jamming her feet back into her boots and grabbing her jacket off the floor.  Before her arms were even in the jacket, her feet were on the move.  She raced out the front door, slamming it after her and looked up and down the street but it was deserted.  “Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  Which way, which way?”  Her hand slapped her leg in impatience as she tried to decide.  She turned to go left but as soon as she took a step, some instinct told her it was wrong and she headed the other way.

As she jogged, she tried to puzzle out what had just happened.  One second she had been enjoying pretty much the best kiss she’d ever had and had been wanting more, then Regina had been pushing her away and running.  She was the runner, not the brunette so what had forced her to?  Had Emma pushed too far?  Too hard to get the other woman to see herself as she viewed her?  Had the kiss they shared been too much?  Unwanted?  She frowned at that possibility except Regina had been the one to initiate it.  As much as the blonde had wanted it, she would never have forced the issue.  Just what was the brunette so afraid of?  Me?

Did any of it even matter right then?  The easy answer was no.  Regina was out there alone, her magic unstable and memories taking over whenever they wanted to.  She couldn’t let the other woman go, not knowing about the depth of the instability of her magic, something she still hadn’t had the time to tell her about, or the possible temporary solution she had come up with.  Emma had to find her, had to make sure she was safe.  If she had caused this, she would make sure the brunette was safe then leave her alone, as much as it would crush her to do so.   Try…  I’ll try to leave her alone…  Try to do what she asks.  She snorted to herself, Like that’ll ever happen.

She found herself walking to the cemetery, no idea as to why her feet had led her there but not questioning it.  Where Regina was concerned, it was safer not to question anything at the moment because she knew she had no answers.  Their magic was connected so it stood to reason that maybe that’s why she just knew where to go, she was drawn by Regina’s magic.  It was as good an answer as any.

As she got close to the mausoleum she saw the doors were wide open.  She stepped inside and looked around.  When she didn’t spot the brunette she headed down the stairs.

As Emma reached the bottom of the staircase, she held her breath, listening for any sign that she wasn’t alone down here.  It wasn’t her favourite place in the whole world, surrounded by reminders of who Regina had once been but it made sense that this was where the brunette might have come.  Regina was fighting so hard to convince herself she was still, and only, the Evil Queen.  To convince herself that she didn’t deserve another chance, that she didn’t deserve to be happy so to surround herself with the evidence made a dark sort of sense.

She heard quick panicked breaths coming from somewhere in the room, “Regina?”  The breathing became erratic, almost like the person was struggling to get air in and out.  When her eyes adjusted to the dark, she spotted slight movement in the far corner.  She moved slowly and quietly, hands outstretched, much like she had when she first approached young Regina in that haunting memory.  She stopped and crouched down about three feet from the trembling woman.

She studied her, noting the difficulty breathing, the tremors wracking her body, the hand clawing at her chest over her heart and the eyes wide and unfocused.  She worried that in her fear, Regina would try to remove her own heart to stop whatever she was feeling and Emma couldn’t let that happen.  No matter what the brunette was feeling, removing her heart, cutting off those emotions would only have bad results in the long run.

Emma recognised the symptoms all too well, having suffered her fair share of panic attacks over the years, a life growing up in the system a perfect breeding ground for them.  She wasn’t sure what to do, every person was different when it came to what helped get the panic attack under control.  All she could do was do what usually helped her and hope for the best.  She prayed she didn’t make it worse but she couldn’t just let the woman continue to suffer, it wasn’t in her not to help, especially where the brunette was concerned.  Regina had told her often enough that she couldn’t leave well enough alone and the woman was right, she had to try.  She knew the panic attack would eventually subside on its own but taking in the bare feet and lack of jacket, Emma knew this had to be resolved sooner rather than later otherwise the brunette was in danger of freezing to death or at the very least, developing frostbite and losing a few extremities.  I like her extremities… I like all of her really… Whole and in one piece. 

“Shhhh, Regina.  Everything’s okay.  You’re having a panic attack.  I know it feels scary and out of control but you will be okay.  I’m here, you’re not alone.”  You don’t ever have to be alone again.  Emma yearned to hold her but made herself wait.  She kept her voice calm and strong, “Can you focus on your breathing for me?  Slow it down into nice deep easy breaths.”  She kept repeating herself, varying the words but not the message, hoping to penetrate the blind panic surrounding the other woman.

Regina was locked fast in the panic attack, her mind whirling a hundred miles a second as she struggled for the control she felt she lacked.  A calm voice filtered through all the noise and she clung desperately to it, forcing her mind to focus on the sound, if not the words.  The voice soothed her as nothing else did, it felt like safety and she so desperately needed to feel safe.  “Slow your breathing, Regina.  Nice deep breaths.”

She felt someone move closer, something warm was spread over her and then a hand took hold of hers and pulled it away from where it was frantically clawing.  They took it and pressed it over warm material, “Feel my chest move, feel the slow deep breaths.  Try to match them.  You can do it, just focus on the movements.”

Emma talked, the same smooth calm voice for what felt like an hour.  She had no idea exactly how much time had passed and she didn’t care, all her attention on the woman curled up on the floor.  She had moved as close as she had dared, removing her jacket to place it over the brunette and ignoring the chill that spread through her, she had crouched down.  She’d taken the brunette’s hand and placed it over her heart, holding it there and slowly but surely Regina calmed, her body relaxing and her breathing getting easy.

As the panic left her body, Regina became aware of her surroundings and the fact that the half of her that was in contact with the ground was chilled to the bone.  A shudder shook her body and she forced herself to sit up, grateful for the jacket surrounding her.  She removed her hand from Emma’s chest, immediately missing the warm contact and wrapped the jacket more firmly around herself, sinking into the warmth and scent of the blonde, allowing herself the comfort both brought.  She had no idea what to do now, she had completely lost control of herself once again and it left her feeling extremely vulnerable.  Her knee jerk reaction was to get angry and that was an emotion she felt comfortable with so she let it fill her.

Emma shivered in the cool air, with only her tank top for warmth.  She briefly ran her hands up and down her arms, trying to get her circulation running again.  She could feel her lower body starting to cramp in her crouched position.  Finally she broke the silence, “We have to get you home.  You’re freezing.”

Regina wanted to snap at the blonde, something witty about stating the obvious but as much as she clung to her anger, she didn’t quite have it in her to do so.  Not yet.  I just need a few more minutes.  She nodded and went to stand.  She scowled as Emma put a hand on her to stop her, “You’re in no condition to walk.”  The blonde looked pointedly at her bare feet.

Regina’s lips thinned, “I will not let you carry me like some sickly child.  I will manage.”  Though she wasn’t quite sure how she would, the queen in her demanded that she try.  Her voice sounded rusty to her ears, like she hadn’t spoken a word in months.

Emma bit her lip nervously, “I was thinking more along the lines of teleporting.”

Regina shook her head, “Out of the question.  The last time…”  She didn’t want Emma knowing what had transpired upon her return to the mansion. “It’s best I don’t.”

Emma sighed, this wasn’t the place she wanted to have this discussion.  The cold was seeping into her now that she had given her jacket up to the brunette and all she wanted to do was get warm.  She hugged herself, trying to keep some of the heat from fleeing her body.  “About that…  I was talking to…”  She stopped, not wanting Regina to know Snow’s involvement because the brunette was more than likely to shut down the idea before even hearing her out if she knew Snow had been involved.  “Well that’s not important but I have this theory.  I know you said your magic has been unstable but it hasn’t been all the time.”

Regina studied the blonde, “What do you mean, not all the time?  Every time I have used magic in the past four days it has resulted in undesired and often dangerous after effects.”

Emma sucked in her lower lip then let it pop out, unaware that Regina’s gaze had zeroed in on the movement, “When you teleported us to Snow’s, when you… Ahhh… Had hold of me, your magic had no after effects.  It was only when you left, when you let go, that anything bad happened.”

Regina frowned in concentration, “So what are you saying?  That if I happen to be touching you, my magic stabilizes?”

Emma smiled slightly and shrugged.  “That’s the theory.”

Regina processed this, tried to find the flaw in the theory but her desire to get home overruled any argument she might have made.  “I suppose it’s the best option we have.  As much as it pains me to admit, you are right, I’m in no fit condition to make the trek home and the situation is only going to get worse the longer we stand here.”  The brunette got to her feet and would have fallen if Emma hadn’t quickly moved to catch her.  She shrugged off the other woman’s hold, forcing the tingles that had quickly spread through her body away.  “One more thing, before we attempt this theory of yours.  I’d like your word that no one will know what has transpired this afternoon.”

Emma wasn’t sure whether the brunette was referring to the panic attack or the kiss that had led to it, part of her wondered if it wasn’t both.  “Uh…”

Regina straightened her spine, and stared down the woman before her.  “Your word, Ms. Swan.”

The fact that Regina even felt the need to ask irritated Emma and she couldn’t disguise it, “Sure, whatever.  Won’t tell a living soul…  Or a dead one.”  She laughed but it lacked any humor, and folded her arms over her chest.  “We can even pretend it never happened if you like.  Go back to the usual crap.” 

Regina looked at her for a moment, her mood unreadable.  “I think that would be for the best.”

Emma wanted to leave it there, her heart hurt and she didn’t want to risk subjecting herself to any more, but instead found herself saying, “But if you ever do want to talk about it…”

Regina averted her gaze so Emma couldn’t read the lie in them, “I won’t.”

Emma’s inherent lie detector pinged but she didn’t call the brunette on it, instead she stored the information away and reiterated her point, “But if you do, I’d be up for that…  Just so you know.”

Regina ignored the statement and the heat that spread through her because of it, “So how do you propose we do this?  Will holding your hand suffice or does there have to be more contact?”

Everything in Emma screamed for her to lie, to say they needed to be in each other’s arms but when, and it would be when, she was caught in the lie she was afraid it will not have been worth the fallout.  Instead she replied, “Pretty sure if you just hold my hand it’ll work.”  She unfolded her arms and stuck out her hand, waiting for Regina to take hold of it.

Regina looked at the offered palm as if it might bite before slowly reaching out her hand and wrapping her fingers around the blondes.  She looked into green eyes,  “You’re sure about this?”

“Yep.”

Regina rolled her eyes, “Eloquent as ever, Ms. Swan.  Just so you know, this isn’t the end of this discussion.  I want to know what prompted this theory.”  She didn’t wait for a response, summoning her magic and bracing herself for the pain in her head to start.  Instead she saw Emma’s hand start to glow where it joined with hers which puzzled her.  She would have to question the blonde over that too.  At the last second she noted, with surprise, that instead of her usual cloud of dark purple, her magic took on a light lilac colour and then they disappeared.


 The man who was crouched on the stairs down to the room below the crypt growled in frustration.  He had been so close to finally getting his revenge and then the Savior had wandered in, ruining his opportunity.  It hadn’t been a complete waste though.  He had garnered some excellent information.  “So the Evil Queen’s magic is unstable.  I can use that to end her and if the blonde bitch gets in my way again…”  He shrugged, “Collateral damage.  Regina will pay for what she did.”


 

 

 

Chapter Text


The two women arrived in the foyer in the swirl of light purple magic and Regina immediately snatched her hand away before the glow had even dissipated.  Her hand was still covered in white magic and she stared at it while it lingered on her skin, finally melting away. “Just what the hell was that?”

Emma wandered away, ignoring her and made her way into the kitchen.  So much was happening and while she’d, so far, managed to downplay most of it in her head, she was feeling more than a little overwhelmed right now.  She didn’t have the answers, all she had were guesses, wild speculation and a whole boat load of feelings tied up in the brunette.  She needed a moment to process but she didn’t think she was going to get that moment as Regina stalked after her.

“I asked you a question, Ms. Swan.”

Emma could feel brown eyes burning a hole in her back as she walked over to the fridge and opened it up, frowning at the contents.  “Do you have anything in here other than healthy crap?  I need a dose of sugar or something.”

Regina felt her temper start to rise as the blonde blatantly ignored her question, “Answer me!”

Emma turned to look at her, arm hooked over the fridge door and an eyebrow raised at the anger lacing those two words, which finally nudged her own into gear.  “That?  How the hell should I know?  I’m not a magic know-it-all, hell I’m not even a magic know-anything!”  She gave a derisive laugh, “I can’t get my magic to work when I want it to so what makes you think I know anything?” 

Emma raised a hand to rub over her face, “I’m tired, I’m hungry and all I want is five minutes to catch a breather.  I know this isn’t easy on you but it’s not a fucking party for me either so just cut me some slack.”  She blew out a frustrated breath.  “Look, why don’t we both have something to eat because you look like you haven’t eaten in days and that definitely can’t be helping with all this stuff.  I just…”  She signed tiredly, “Can I just get five minutes and some food then we can talk this thing to death if you like?”

Regina felt the anger still bubbling under her skin.  A part of her knew it wasn’t fair to take it out on Emma, the blonde was simply trying to help her but that didn’t make her feel any better.  She didn’t want the other woman involved, it always kept coming back to that and to discover that somehow they were linked, that she had drawn Emma into her troubles did not sit well with her.  “What you fail to account for, in your desire for food, is the state of the kitchen.”

Emma shut the fridge and walked over to stand in front of the brunette.  “So fix it.”

Regina’s lips thinned as she restrained herself from snapping at the other woman, though why she bothered, she didn’t know. 

Emma held out her hand, “Look, you won’t know if you don’t try.  The teleporting worked, so we can assume that fixing the kitchen is possible, at least.”  Her stomach growled and she grinned sheepishly, letting her earlier anger ebb away.  “Plus I really do need something to eat and I don’t want to leave you here alone just to get some decent food.”

Regina hated that it was becoming undeniable that she needed the blonde’s presence around her, if only so that everyone else was safe from her unstable magic.  Still, she couldn’t let Emma know that she had begrudgingly accepted her presence as a necessity.  It wouldn’t do for the blonde to know just how much she wanted her around either.  “I have plenty of, more than decent, food in the house but if that doesn’t suit your unrefined palate then feel free to slouch down to Granny’s and eat your fill.  I will be perfectly fine here on my own for the short amount of time that will take.”

“And forgo the joy of your sterling companionship?  I could never do that.  Stop trying to get rid of me and just fix the kitchen.  I know you’re stalling.”  Emma tried her winning smile, the one that usually got men to do what she wanted.  She hoped it would work on the woman in front of her too.

Regina tried to ignore the feeling Emma’s smile created in her belly, heat quickly pooling.  “You’re insufferable.  How you can continue to pollute your body with that rubbish and maintain your figure is beyond me and I am not stalling.  I merely question your eating habits if nothing you find here is appetizing.”

Emma’s smile twisted into a smirk, pleasure filling her at the thought that the brunette had taken note of her body.  As for appetizing, she knew exactly what she found appetizing in this house but she didn’t think Regina would be pleased if she tried to take a bite out of her.  “I’m starting to feel stupid with my hand stuck out like this so do your magic thing and fix the kitchen, Regina.”

Finally Regina took hold of the proffered hand, the rightness of having that warm palm in her own unsettling her.  She pushed the feeling away and summoned her magic, willing it to do her bidding.  What was supposed to be a small cloud of magic quickly grew out of control, not only filling the kitchen but spreading out of the room and, she assumed, into the rest of the house.  Fear filled her, as she tried to draw some of the magic back into her. 

“Regina?”  Emma’s voice was filled with concern.

She snapped in her anxiety, “I don’t know.  I didn’t mean to use this much magic.  I knew this wasn’t a good idea.”  She felt Emma move closer to her and then she felt the blonde wrap her other arm around her, drawing her up against her body.  She felt the anxiety drain from her as she relaxed into the hold, the magic beginning to dissipate around them, its work done.  This reaction she kept having to the close proximity of the blonde had to stop.  She could not allow herself to come to rely on it because sooner or later it would be taken from her and then what would she do?  She couldn’t allow herself to need anyone else, not even a blonde Savior who, more often than not, drove her insane. 

When the magic had completely cleared she glanced around the room and noted that everything had been repaired.  At least what she had been trying to achieve had been the end result even if it had been a little more forceful than she had anticipated.

Emma reveled in having the other woman in her arms again, even as she stepped back, releasing her.  “I guess together we make things go boom too.”  She grinned cheekily at the other woman.  “Doesn’t look like any harm was done and hey, fixed kitchen and no exploding anything.  I’d say this is definite progress.”

Regina missed the contact as soon as it was gone and hated herself for it.  Why couldn’t she control her response to the blonde?  The pleased look on Emma’s face just made her want to close the distance and kiss her.  She would not, could not let herself get involved with Emma.”  Any more involved than I already am.  Loving her is a complication I just don’t…  She closed her eyes as pain lanced her heart and her mind finally caught up to what her heart had been trying to tell her.  Damn the woman.  I’m not meant to love her.  How did I let this happen?  She can never know.  She opened her eyes and glared at the source of her disquiet.  “Really, Ms. Swan.  Why don’t you state the obvious?”

Emma shrugged, unaware of the struggle within the brunette.  “Well, I was only guessing that it would work.  Nice to know I’m right for a change.”

The blonde easy dismissal of the danger they had been in irked Regina.  “I thought you understood whatever this is a little better than you obviously do, which is not at all.  For all you know, I could have leveled the house, killing us both.”  She waved her hands at Emma in annoyance.  “I don’t know why I ever listened to you.  It must have been insanity on my part.”

Emma shifted nervously, “Well, maybe but it was only a slim chance, the poofing worked fine.   The kitchen is back to normal…  Just a little more energetically than planned.”

“There was no plan!  There was idiocy and I let you drag me into it.”  Regina stalked over to the fridge and opened the freezer compartment.  “I don’t know why I trusted you in the first place.  Mark my words, it will not happen again.”  Even as Regina said them, she knew the words to be a lie.  She pulled a container of red sauce out and shut the freezer.  She turned and dropped it on the bench.  “Spaghetti sauce.  Pasta is in the cupboard to your right.  I’ll be in the study once you’re ready to actually talk about what is going on.  Until then, have the breather you apparently need.”  She turned and walked out of the room, her stride purposeful.  She ignored the muttered words that flitted after her, she had to get some space from the blonde woman and get her emotions back under her tight control.

Time and again Emma dismissed the danger to herself and it made Regina furious.  She seemed to have no regard to her own safety and kept putting herself in harm’s way.  She couldn’t control the blonde but she’d be damned if she would continue to let her put herself in danger because of her.  She couldn’t live with another loved ones blood on her hand and that is what Emma had become, a loved one, much to her annoyance. 

As much as she tried to fight it, the feelings were there and trying to run from them had only led to her complete meltdown.  Better that she acknowledge them and accept that she couldn’t change the way she felt.  It seemed her heart had its own plans and she was helpless to fight it right now.  What she could control was what she did about those feelings, and she was determined to do nothing. 


 Emma watched as Regina left her alone.  “How the hell am I supposed the know how to cook pasta?  I can’t even boil an egg.”  She scowled at the pasta sauce, her stomach growling.  She headed to the fridge again and opened it up, staring at the contents.  She slammed the door in frustration.  Why couldn’t Regina have a ready supply of junk food around like normal people?  Would it kill her to have some donuts lying around?  A chocolate bar?  Hell, even some sugar laden cereal would work.

She started opening cupboard doors, hunting through them for anything she could just grab and eat without having to actually attempt to cook.  Ugh.  Bran cereal…  Pass.  How does the kid survive here?  She spied the bread bin and opened it up, a smile breaking across her face at the loaf inside.  Bread she could handle.  She grabbed a couple of slices and chucked them down on the bench, then returned to the fridge and grabbed the jelly she had spotted earlier.  It looked homemade and she couldn’t wait to try it.  She grabbed the peanut butter out of a cupboard and grabbed a knife.  She spread jelly thickly on one side and the peanut butter just as thick on the other side.  Slapping the two slices together, she lifted it to her mouth and took a huge bite.

Emma hummed in pleasure as the sweetness hit her tongue and the sugar started to race through her system, her body briefly moving in, what can only be described as, a happy dance.  So good.  It’s a party in my mouth.  I’m so gonna have to steal the jelly.  Incredible.  God, that woman can cook.  The peanut butter stuck to the roof of her mouth but that was all part of enjoying the experience of the humble PBnJ.  She quickly devoured it and made herself another.  With sandwich in hand and mood elevated by the food in her system, she headed to find Regina.

As she entered the study, she saw that Regina had settled herself on the couch.  Her head rested against the back and her eyes were closed.  She took the chance to study the other woman.  Regina was still pale, the circles under her eyes all too evident.  Her cheek bones stuck out starkly against hollows that had never been there before.  They needed to fix this and she was beginning to understand that they needed help, at least in understanding what was happening with the brunettes magic.  She sighed as an idea formed in her mind.  Regina was going to hate it but she couldn’t see any alternative.  If neither of them had answers, there was only one other person who might.

“Are you just going to stand there staring at me or are you ready to discuss this?”  Regina opened her eyes and met the green ones looking at her from across the room.  She had spent the time, not focusing about her magical issues as she should have, instead thinking about her feelings for the blonde woman standing across the room.  She couldn’t deny their presence any longer, everything pointing towards the fact that her dark heart had chosen to open to Emma’s light.  She’d been busy trying to build walls around those feelings, to contain them, when she had felt the presence of the other woman.  As her eyes took in the vision before her, she noticed the sandwich in the blondes hand and rolled her eyes.  “Really? A sandwich, Ms. Swan?”  She may love her but that didn’t mean she wasn’t still exasperated by her.

Emma blushed, “Didn’t feel like spaghetti. Nothing wrong with a good old PBnJ.  You should try it some time.”

“I’d rather not.  You are little better than a child.”

Emma shrugged, ignoring the barb and crossing the room to sit on the couch.  “Your loss.”

Regina forced her head up and moved on the couch until she faced the other woman.  “I highly doubt that.  I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of a plate either?  You are getting crumbs everywhere.”

“Oh, yeah.  Right.  Sorry.”  Emma cupped her free hand under the sandwich then took a large bite.  “Erll ju finsh it fas.”  She muttered around the mouthful.

Regina rolled her eyes again, “You really do not know the first thing about etiquette, do you?  Just finish the sandwich, preferably without getting crumbs all over the couch and floor, and then we’ll talk.”

“bou tha… Err hink-“ Emma cut herself off at Regina’s glare.  She swallowed, “Sorry.  What I was trying to say was I think we need to speak to Gold.”  She took another bite of the sandwich and chewed, waiting for the explosion.

Regina sneered at the mention of the man’s name, “Whatever for?”  The brunette held up a finger before Emma could respond, “Finish your mouthful, dear.  I really do not appreciate seeing masticated food.”

Emma nodded and worked on swallowing the mouthful.  When she was done she spoke, “Sure, we can sit here and talk about all the stuff that’s going on but it’s pretty clear neither of us has any idea what’s causing your magical instability or why I seem to be able to help you control it.”

Regina did have an idea but she wasn’t willing to share it with the blonde right at the moment, the notion so farfetched that it shouldn’t even warrant her attention.  Ridiculous.  She scolded herself as the thought tried to become concrete in her mind.  The dream meant nothing.  She ruthlessly thrust it away and focused on the blonde.

Unaware of the brunette’s distraction, Emma blithely continued on.  “We have theories but that’s not helping us actually solve the problem.  Gold’s about the only other person who might have any idea what’s going on and how to fix it.  I know asking him is about the last thing you wanna do but we have to at least consider it.”  Emma took another bite of the sandwich, jelly smearing in the corner of her mouth.

Regina closed her eyes again, she hated this, hated that Emma was probably right.  They could talk about it until they were blue in the face but it wouldn’t give them the answers they needed.  She opened her eyes, about to respond when the streak of jelly at the corner of the blonde’s mouth caught her eye.  She wet her lips as the desire to lean over and lick the jelly off flooded through her.

Emma raised a questioning eyebrow, the brunette staring intently at her mouth.  She saw desire flash quickly through brown eyes before it was masked and felt her own flare in response.  She hadn’t imagined that.  Regina had looked like she wanted to devour her.  For the life of her, she couldn’t figure the woman out.  One minute she was snapping at her and pushing her away, the next looking at her like she might make a tasty meal.  “What?”  She reached up a hand and swiped it across her mouth, erasing the mark that had Regina’s attention.

With the movement, the spell cast over the brunette was broken and she blinked.  She was appalled at her lapse of attention and could only hope Emma hadn’t noticed.  One look at the blonde’s face shattered that hope.  Could she not even go five minutes without her feelings and desire for the blonde overwhelming common sense?  She tried to remember what they had been talking about.  “I, ahh…” 

Regina forced her mind to focus, “I’m not pleased about the Imp knowing I am having issues controlling my magic.  He’s sure to want to know every little detail and I’m uncomfortable with him knowing so much about me.  He already has more than enough understanding about that particular subject.”  She saw Emma about to speak and hurried on, “But I do, however, understand why you think we should and I cannot argue with that logic as much as I would like to.  I would prefer to keep as much of the…”  She paused, even the brief thought of the memories bothering her.   Her arms folded across her defensively as a result, “Of the personal details of what you have been witness to between you and myself.  It is bad enough that you have been an observer to those past incidents, I will not discuss them with that man.”

“I get that.  I do.”  Emma tried to reassure the brunette, her free hand reaching out to comfort Regina but stopping short.  She wasn’t sure of the reception it might receive and didn’t want the brunette getting annoyed with her again and deciding they didn’t need Gold’s help after all.  It would be a typical Regina move to do just that, to hinder herself just to frustrate Emma.  Instead she nervously changed direction and dragged it through her hair.  “We’ll only tell him the basics.  What happened in those memories…  That never should have happened to you but it did and I’m sorry you suffered like that.  I get that it’s your personal history and not some fairy tale to be shared.  I’m not gonna go telling anyone, especially him, about what I saw.  I promise.  Ok?”

Regina nodded, feeling her heart flutter at Emma’s words.  She had suffered a myriad of horrible experiences at other people’s hands but no one had ever said it shouldn’t have happened, no one had ever said they were sorry it had. Most probably thought she deserved whatever she had got, so to hear the blonde speak those words did curious things to her deep inside.  She cleared her throat, uncomfortable with the emotions that were continuing to bleed inside her.  “The sooner we get this resolved, the sooner things can go back to normal and you can leave me in peace.” 

Emma tried to hide the flicker of hurt the last few words had caused but Regina saw them and regretted the pain she had caused.  Would she ever be able to do anything right where the blonde was concerned?  “I mean, surely you want to get back to your own life instead of having to worry about me passing out or destroying something.  I’ve made your life hell for long enough, surely you deserve a break from that?”  She tried a ghost of a smile, trying to apologise without actually saying the words.

Emma smiled, sadness colouring it, “Yep, that’s me.  Big new life I have to hurry back to.  Full of…”  She trailed off as loneliness struck her.  Despite having her family, the one she had always wanted in her life, she couldn’t help but feel lonely, like something was missing.  She hadn’t noticed before but whenever she was around Regina, that innate loneliness that had always been a constant force within her disappeared.  She shrugged, “I wouldn’t know what to do with a break anyway.  Worrying about you isn’t so bad.” 

What she wanted to say was that she wanted to worry about her, wanted the right to feel that way.  She wanted to be the one that was allowed to worry about her, to care about her…  She wanted to be the one to show Regina she was worthy of being loved.  She wanted to be the one Regina turned to when she needed comfort instead of her having to force it on the brunette.  She wanted Regina to be a part of this new life she was building, a bigger part than simply the other mother of her son but she didn’t think the other woman was ready to hear that, if she would ever be ready to hear that and the idea that Regina might never look at her that way, might never feel the same way sucked.  It more than sucked, it hurt to want so much for the other woman and to be unwanted in return. 

Unfortunately Emma was used to being unwanted, had been all her life, so the fact that, other than the kiss and that brief flash of desire, the brunette seemed to want nothing to do with her didn’t surprise her.  She racked it up to just another disappointment in her life that she would have to learn to live with.  What she wanted just didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things.

She stood up, the last bite of her sandwich held in her hand.  She wasn’t hungry anymore and the thought of trying to force down the last morsel made her feel sick.  “I’m just gonna go to the bathroom.  You should get changed then we can go see Gold, solve this problem and I’ll get out of your hair.”  She hurried out of the study to seek a brief sanctuary in the powder room, tears swimming in her eyes.


 Regina watched as Emma left, all too aware that she had hurt the blonde.  It would be for the best if she could just maintain this distance she had inadvertently created.  The problem was she didn’t want to be rid of the blonde at all, she didn’t want this distance between them.   She wanted to steal Emma’s true destiny, her chance at true love and twist it to make herself that destiny but that would be completely selfish and she was trying so hard to be better than that.  For once in her life she was trying to put the other woman’s needs above her own desires but Emma’s unwavering kindness and comfort during this dark time in her life was addictive.  It was something she had never experienced before and she was beginning to struggle not to simply give in to her selfishness and claim the blonde as her own, no matter the consequences for either of them.

It was the thought of those consequences that stopped her.  She had earned her unhappiness, many times over, but it wouldn’t be right, wouldn’t be good, to inflict the same unhappiness on someone so undeserving. 

Regina simply could not even begin to fathom that she might be the cause of someone else’s happiness.  She didn’t create light, like the blonde did, she only shed darkness.  Didn’t bring happiness into people’s lives, only heartache and pain.  How could she possibly make Emma happy like she deserved?

Emma had already suffered so much in her life because of her.  Regina was the one who had cast the curse that ruined Emma’s life.  She was the one who had been ultimately responsible for how Emma had grown up, abandoned and alone.  After everything Regina had put the blonde through, the pain she had brought about because of her own bitterness and anger, she now wished for nothing more than Emma’s happiness.  Even as she wished it, she knew she couldn’t be a part of that, would never be the cause of it.  She would only spoil it and she couldn’t let that happen.  She would never be able to forgive herself if she cost Emma her happily ever after.

What it boiled down to was the fact that she wasn’t and could never be Emma’s true love no matter how much her heart tried to tell her otherwise, no matter what her dreams tried to hint at and that was what Emma truly deserved.  Villains didn’t get to know true love’s touch and that’s what she would always be.  Only heroes got happy endings and while Emma was the truest hero she had ever known, the brunette knew she, herself, would never deserve that title, no matter what her son had called her just days ago.


 

Chapter Text


Emma walked into the small bathroom and braced her hands on either side of the sink.  She met her eyes in the mirror, blinking away the unshed tears.  Get a grip, Swan.  Nothing new here.  Suck it up and get on with it.

Would she ever be enough for anyone?  Would it always be about what she could do for them rather than who she was?  Her parents had sent her away moments after she had been born to save themselves.  Sure they loved her but that hadn’t stopped them from using her.  Family after family had given her back when the novelty wore off or she didn’t meet their expectations.  Neal…  Neal who had sworn he loved her had let her take the fall for him.  No matter his excuses, his reasons for doing it, it still came down to what she could do for him and that was take the blame for something she didn’t do.  Every time she let her heart rule her head she got hurt, tossed aside once her usefulness was at an end and this was looking to be no different.

She had spent years building a solid wall against just this sort of thing.  She didn’t let anyone in because then they couldn’t hurt her.  Now Henry had broken through that wall and it seemed as if he had left a gap in her defenses that had gone unnoticed until Regina had slipped in right on his heels.  Her stupid heart had gone and fallen for an impossible woman.  She scowled as she made a mockery of herself.  Here’s a great idea, Swan.  Let’s fall in love, but not with just anyone…  No, let’s really complicate matters and make it Regina because, you know…  Your life was running so smoothly before that. 

She knew better and yet it had still happened.  The peace about that knowledge had all but dissipated and now she could only try to minimize the damage loving Regina was going to cause her.  Unrequited love sucked.  If she believed for a second that the brunette could feel the same way, she might be tempted to confess everything to the woman but that wouldn’t happen.  Could it?  She pushed the sliver of hope away.  If that opportunity ever arose, she’d take it but it didn’t pay to hold on to hope, that way only led to heartache, a lesson she knew only too well.

She would do this, she would help Regina solve this issue and once her usefulness was gone and the brunette was done with her she would slink away to lick her wounds, wounds the brunette wasn’t even aware she was inflicting.  She wanted to blame Regina for it, but the woman wasn’t responsible for her hearts choices.  She had done this to herself, she had let herself care and now she had to live with the consequences. 

All she could do was give Regina the space the woman seemed to crave, doing only what was necessary.  Distance.  She could do that, she could maintain that distance and pretend this was just a professional curtesy as the sheriff.  She was just ensuring her town’s safety.  She told herself these things over and over, forcing her mind to believe them even as her heart fought her.  It was working, she could feel the wall slipping into place and then she glanced down into the sink and all thoughts of maintaining distance, of safeguarding her heart fled, the wall crumbled down as if she’d never willed it into existence.  She grabbed the blood stained towel out of the sink and charged out of the room.


Regina was in her bedroom when she heard heavy footsteps pounding up the staircase.  She’d already changed into tailored black trousers and was in the process of selecting a shirt when the door to her room flew open.  She grabbed a grey blouse and held it to her chest, taking a few steps out of her closet towards the furious blonde barreling down on her.  “Just what the hell do you think you are doing?  I was in the middle-“ She broke off, gasping in surprise when Emma tore the shirt from her hands and dropped it to the ground.  The blonde grabbed first one arm and then the other, yanking them forward and turning them, scanning every uncovered inch.

Regina pulled her arms back and tried to fold them over her bra clad chest but the other woman snatched them again and held them out as she scanned up and down Regina’s semi naked torso.  “Have you gone insane?”   She gasped again as Emma used her grip on Regina’s arms to spin her in place.  “Stop man-handling me.”

Emma let go of her arms to run her palms lightly over the skin of the brunettes back and Regina couldn’t quite contain the shudder the whisper soft touches elicited but it didn’t temper the anger flooding through her system, only heightened it.

Emma’s eyes continued to scan for what had caused the blood stained towel but she couldn’t see a mark on the woman so far.  Just as she was considering stripping Regina of her trousers, the other woman’s furious voice snapped her out of it.  “Ms. Swan!”

Emma realised what she was doing but couldn’t bring herself to regret it.  Dread that the other woman had been injured or, worse, had injured herself deliberately had over ridden all common sense and it was still riding her hard.  “Where did it come from, Regina?”

Regina whirled around to face the blonde, a growl evident in her voice.  “Where the hell did what come from?”

Emma snatched the blood stained towel from her back pocket and brandished it at the other woman.  “The blood!  Where did the blood come from?  Why didn’t you tell me you had been hurt?”

Regina frowned at the towel, “I have no idea…”  Then she remembered what had happened earlier and felt her anger being replaced with apprehension.  She’d forgotten until now about the towel she had carelessly left in the downstairs bathroom sink.  “It’s nothing.  I had a… Small issue earlier and I dealt with it.  It’s fine.  As you’ve so keenly observed there is no obvious damage, now get out of my room.”  She snatched the towel out of the blonde’s hand and tossed it into her closet.  Out of sight, out of mind?  She silently hoped.

Emma ignored the command as usual but she couldn’t argue with the fact that there was no obvious injury, she’d certainly viewed every uncovered portion of skin and hadn’t been completely immune to the sight of all that silky smooth skin, especially when she’d run her hands down Regina’s back.  Even in her anger she hadn’t been able to resist touching her.  “Okay, now I’m worried about the not so obvious damage.  What happened?”

Regina couldn’t tell her what had happened.  Damaging inanimate objects was one thing but giving herself a nose bleed shifted her issues into another realm and she didn’t want the blonde knowing that.  All she could do was hope that it had been a one off situation.  “Really, Ms. Swan, it’s nothing to worry about.  Now, I asked you to leave.”

Emma kept digging for the truth, “If it’s nothing to worry about then why are you avoiding telling me what happened?”

Regina rolled her eyes, trying to think of a way around telling the blonde what had happened.  Emma was sure to get all worked up again, refusing to leave her side, smothering her and that just wouldn’t do.  She couldn’t just accept that I’ve said it’s no big deal.  No…  That would be entirely unlike the Emma Swan I know. God forbid she not know everything.  She needed a distraction.  She needed to get the blonde worked up about something completely different.  An idea came to her, it was stupid and would probably backfire on her at some point but seeing no other option she ran with it.  Desperate times…

Regina bent over and picked the fallen blouse up off the floor, as she straightened up she glanced at the blonde to make sure she had her attention.  The brunette slid one arm into a sleeve and, making sure her chest thrust out a little to garner the other woman’s full attention, she reached up with her other arm to pull the blouse around her back making her breasts push forward.  She bent that arm to slip it into the empty sleeve and then drew the blouse over her shoulders to frame her breasts and looked into Emma’s eyes, eyes that were currently glued to her chest.  Regina tugged the blouse closed which seemed to break the spell her little performance had cast over the blonde.  She certainly seemed distracted and Regina couldn’t help but feel a little pleased that she had been the cause of that distraction.  It had been far too easy, she would have to remember that in the future.

Emma glanced up, feeling a blush spread across her cheeks as she looked into amused brown eyes.  She’d just been totally busted checking out the brunettes breasts. 

Regina let a small smile spread over her lips, she had no idea why she said it, she had obviously distracted Emma from her questions over the bloody towel but she couldn’t resist teasing the blonde further.  “Like what you see, Sheriff?”

“I… Ahh.”  Emma stumbled back a few steps, suddenly desperate for some breathing room.  Her heart was pounding and her palms were sweaty and if she didn’t create some distance quickly she wasn’t going to be able to stop herself from attempting to bury her face in the inviting view she had just bore witness to.  She swallowed hard, “I should let you finish getting dressed.”

Regina bit her lip, the small smile still present.  She raised an eyebrow, “If you insist.” She turned around and walked back into her closet, a clear dismissal to the blonde.  When she heard the door close behind her, she relaxed.  She knew she shouldn’t have done that, that it only muddied the already dirty waters in her mind, but when she had seen Emma’s hungry gaze on her, she hadn’t been able to resist.  It had been a long time since someone had looked at her like that and it had made her feel powerful to know she had caused the Savior, of all people, to get hot and bothered. 

Regina had no doubts that she was an attractive woman, she had used it to her advantage more than once in the past so she knew it had only been lust in the green eyes but it still had been fun and it had been far too long since Regina had had fun.  She buttoned up the blouse and slipped on the matching jacket for her pants then slid her feet into high heels and left her bedroom feeling lighter than she had in days.  If teasing Emma made her feel like this, maybe she’d do it more often.  It was just a bit of harmless fun that wouldn’t lead anywhere…


The man watched from across the road, hidden in the shadows.  He watched as the blonde left the house and his excitement grew, Regina was being left alone.  Those hopes were quickly dashed as the brunette exited not long after.  He watched as they had a discussion and Regina handed over something and they both made their way to the black Mercedes parked in the driveway. 

He watched as they got in and was torn between following them and hoping for a chance to end Regina or breaking into the empty house.  The house won out, the two women would be back eventually and he had to play it smart. If he attacked them straight on, he had no doubts that either one of them was capable of killing him on the spot.  He wasn’t stupid, he knew they were both powerful magic users and he wasn’t.  He was just your average, normal human being.  Their magic had proved a problem in the past but he’d found a way around it once and now he knew that Regina’s magic was unstable.  That meant she was once again at his mercy, even if she wasn’t aware of it yet.

He had to continue to bide his time and wait for the perfect moment, one where he could catch that woman alone and vulnerable.  He may not be a magic user, but he had weapons of his own.  He could take her out at a distance right now but this was personal so he wanted to watch the life leave her eyes, he wanted to feel her blood on his hands.  He pulled the knife out of its sheath and ran his thumb across it, smiling at the thin line of blood that rose to the surface.  He knew he wasn’t quite sane any more but that was Regina’s fault too, everything was her fault.  She had driven him to this.  She had ruined his life and now he would have hers in revenge, no matter the cost.  He tucked the knife away and made sure his gun was secure at the small of his back. 

He waited for the car to leave before he crept out of his hiding place and made his way towards the house.


“I can’t believe you’re letting me drive your Merc.  I thought hell would freeze over before than happened.”  After Emma got over her embarrassment at being caught drooling over Regina, she’d found she actually felt a lot happier.  Regina hadn’t reacted badly, in fact she had flirted with the blonde.  I’m sure that was flirting…  She was flirting… Wasn’t she?  Who knew?  All she did know was that in a day that had been heavy with pain and sorrow, it had been a lighthearted if embarrassing moment they had been able to share so she held on to that.

“When the alternative is getting into that death trap you call a vehicle, what choice did I have?  I cannot drive right now so…”  Regina was trying to hold onto the good feeling she had got from teasing Emma but the closer they got to Gold’s shop, the more her anxiety ratcheted up.  She clasped her hands in her lap to hide their shaking, her knuckles going white.

Emma glanced over at the woman when she didn’t finish her sentence.  Regina’s face had retreated behind its impenetrable mask, the only give away to her tension was the clenched jaw.  The blonde’s eyes quickly scanned down and noticed the white knuckles.  Without thought she took one hand off the steering wheel and covered the clenched hands, sliding her thumb between the two palms, hoping to loosen them.

At Emma’s touch, Regina felt the tension leave her body.  How does she always manage to do that?  It was like her body had been conditioned to relax at the blonde’s touch.  She let the hand slip between her own and give it a gentle squeeze in thanks before releasing it.  Her lips twitched in a smile.  “Both hands on the wheel, Sheriff.  This is a Mercedes Benz and I know your wage wouldn’t even begin to cover the cost of repairing it should you crash.”

Emma grinned at the playful tone in the other woman’s voice.  She let her thumb briefly caress the soft skin under it before withdrawing.  She put it dutifully back in its place on the steering wheel.  “That’s what you have insurance for.  Plus I can totally drive with one hand. I’m pretty talented like that… Lots of things I can do with one hand.”

Regina felt herself blush as her imagination ran with the idea of just what the blonde could accomplish with only one hand, especially if that one hand was on her body.  She’d prefer both of course but…  This is ridiculous.  Maybe I should just sleep with her once and get it out of my system.  She seems like she wouldn’t be completely adverse to it.  We could just use it to release some tension.  Once would be enough then we could pretend it never happened and go back to normal.  She knew she was lying to herself but chose to do it anyway.  It was definitely a thought to ponder over later… When she was alone…  She cleared her throat and was surprised when it came out low and husky, “While I’m sure there are a great many things you are capable of… I would still prefer it if you kept both hands on the wheel.  It wouldn’t pay for you to be distracted from your task and drive us into a pole.”

Emma smirked, the brunette’s husky voice sliding right through her, making heat pool in her belly.  Regina was flirting with her again and she couldn’t help but lap it up.  Two could play at that game.  She let her own voice drop into a seductive purr, “I’m not so easily distracted once I put my mind to it.  I’ve been known to pay attention for hours with the right incentive.”

Regina felt a smile spread across her face and was unable to contain it.  Why did this feel so easy?  So right?  “I’ll keep that in mind, Emma.”

It was difficult to tell who was more surprised that Regina had called the blonde by her first name.  All Emma knew was that she could get used to hearing it a lot more.  “You should do that more often.”

“What?”  Regina didn’t know whether to be angry with herself or not over her slip of the tongue.

The blonde shrugged, “Call me by my actual name.”

Regina thought about it, calling the blonde Ms. Swan or Sheriff kept a distance between them which had always been so important before, a necessary distance to keep Emma in her place but it was a small thing.  She could give the other woman this small thing.  “If it would please you, I could try.”

Emma tried to contain the grin the brunettes words had created but couldn’t.  She looked over at the brunette.  “Yeah, I think it would.”

Such a simple thing and it lit Emma’s face up, she could definitely get used to seeing that smile aimed her way, especially if something so trivial could bring it about.  Regina nodded, “Very well.  Now eyes on the road, Ms…  Emma.”

Emma rolled her eyes but did as asked then they settled into a companionable silence for the rest of the short drive.  As they got close to the pawn shop, Regina felt the tension return to her body.  As the car came to a stop outside the shop, her hands once again returned to their death grip.

“We’re here.”  Emma switched the car off and pocketed the keys then turned to the other woman taking in the ridged tension so obviously present in her body.  “It’ll be ok.”

Regina forced her jaws to unlock but remained staring straight ahead, “Rumple will try to use this, he will try to take advantage of my weakness.”

“Regina, look at me.”  Emma reached out and put gentle pressure on the other woman’s chin.  When the brunette turned her head and met her eyes she took her hand back.  “I won’t let him.  I have your back on this.  We’ll get whatever help he has and then we’ll leave.”

Regina shook her head slightly, “His help always comes at a price.”

“Let me worry about that.”

“I can’t do that.  No matter what you may think, this is my issue, my fight and I cannot have you bear the cost.  It wouldn’t be right.”

“See that’s where you’re wrong.  This is our fight.”  Regina tried to interrupt but Emma kept talking, “No, it is!”  She reached out and once again covered the brunette’s clenched hands, “You didn’t see…  You didn’t see what I did when I found you passed out on the stairs.  You…  You were covered in purple sparks and those sparks…  It was like they were alive, like they were a part of you and they knew me, they wanted…  They wanted to connect with me and my magic…  My magic responded to the call without me even trying to summon it.  It was like…”  She shook herself out of the memory unable to voice just what seeing the purple sparks almost jumping to join with her had made her feel.  Under the worry over Regina, she had felt like she was being called towards her home, the place she belonged and it hadn’t been a house it had been the woman sitting next to her.  “Look, I know you don’t want this connection between us but for better or worse it’s there, so that means that this is our fight.  Whatever is happening to you affects me too and besides all that, I care about you. You are not alone in this, Regina.  I won’t let you be.”

Regina’s face stayed neutral but inside she was a jumble of emotions.  How badly she wanted to refute the blonde’s words.  She wanted to tell her she did want the connection.  That she wanted so much more than just this magical connection.  That she already felt connected to Emma on a far deeper level and that it terrified and thrilled her all at the same time.

She had no right to stake a claim but that didn’t stop her from wishing she could.  It was getting so much harder to remain distant from the blonde.  The words were on the tip of her tongue and all she had to do was speak them but she just couldn’t do it.  Flirting harmlessly with the blonde was one thing, actually expressing how she felt was something else entirely.  She had promised herself she would be good, no matter the cost and it seemed like the price of her being good would be losing her heart to the blonde with little chance of recovery.  Gold would help them sever the connection and then she would have to let Emma go. 

The brunette sighed, “Let’s just get this over with.”


 

Chapter Text


The door to the shop opened with a tinkle, the bell announcing their presence.  Regina walked in, head high and emotional armor in place.  Emma slouched in behind her, hands in her back pockets.  She moved to stand beside the brunette, their shoulders brushing.  She took her hands out of her pockets and folded her arms over her chest, “Gold!”

They heard movement in the back room, the tapping of his cane and then the man in question came through the curtain.  “Your majesty, Savior.”  He nodded to them both, his sharp eyes taking everything in.  He focused his gaze on Regina, “It seems we have you to thank for the fact that the town wasn’t wiped out of existence.  I didn’t think you had it in you to stop the trigger.”  He leaned heavily on his cane, a slight sneer on his lips as he spoke.  “Did it feel different?  Playing the hero?” 

Regina bristled and glared at the imp.  “We are not here to discuss my status as a hero or otherwise.” 

Emma cleared her throat, “Well actually…”  She ignored the intense look Regina sent her.  “We are a little bit.  Okay, not so much the hero thing but the trigger…” She shifted nervously under the stare of the other two.  “We’re here to talk about that and it wasn’t just Regina who stopped the trigger, it took both of us in the end.”

Rumpelstiltskin studied the two women.  “That doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  It was a powerful device,” He again locked his gaze on the brunette, “And rumor has it you weren’t quite up to par at the time.”

Regina snarled at her power being called into question.  “What do you mean?  I have never been weak.”

Rumpel smiled, enjoying the fact that he had so easily gotten under the queen’s skin.  “I didn’t say that.  As I understand it, you were stripped of your magic and tortured almost to death not long before.  That is bound to have an effect on anyone, even you, your majesty.”

Regina tensed, the irritating man already knew too much.  She wasn’t going to give him anything else to use against her.  She’d figure it out on her own. “I don’t need this.”  She turned to leave but Emma’s hand on her arm stopped her.

Gold’s eyes zeroed in on the gesture, the fact that Regina didn’t immediately shrug the blonde’s hand off was… curious.  “Regina…  Please.”  And that was even more curious.  Just what was going on between the two women?

Regina met the green eyes staring intently at her, read the concern there.  She sighed, wondering when it had happened that she allowed the blonde to sway her so easily and turned back around, glaring at the man.  “We are not here to discuss what did or did not happen before the trigger.  It is irrelevant to the reason we are here.”

“Then why are you here?  I don’t imagine it’s a social visit.”

Regina clenched her jaw.  She couldn’t do it, she couldn’t ask for his help.  The gleam in his eyes spelled trouble.  Her jaw clenched even tighter, she just could not force herself to speak to the imp, to give him an inch with which he would run a mile.

Emma waited for the brunette to respond and when it became evident that she wasn’t going to, she spoke up.  “Since we stopped the trigger Regina’s magic has been…  A little unstable.”  She heard the woman snort beside her, trying to mask the mirthless laugh as a cough.  Okay, so she was underselling the problem.

“Unstable how exactly?”  Rumpel’s eyes kept darting between the two women, taking everything in.

“Every time she uses it, the electricity goes haywire and things blow up.”  Emma heard Regina huff beside her and turned to the woman, her eyebrow raised.  “Well, how else would you explain it?”

“Sorry.  You’re doing fine, dear.  Please continue.”  Regina moved away from Emma a few paces, turning her back to the other two.  She was uncomfortable, her anxiety rising and she was struggling to hide that from the man.

Gold watched the interaction, “And you think that destroying the trigger is behind it?”  He prompted.

Emma sighed and unfolded her arms, slipping them back into her pockets.  “Something like that, but there’s more.”

“Do tell.”

Emma glanced over her shoulder at Regina, the tension evident in the curve of the brunette’s shoulders.  “She’s passed out a few times.  It seems like her magic drags her under and she’s forced to relive memories.”

Gold’s face got a shrewd look on it, “What memories?”

Regina whirled and moved back beside Emma, crossing her arms defensively over her chest.  “Enough!  That is none of your business.”

Gold shifted his face into a bland expression, “I need all of the details if I am to help you and I assume that is why you are here.  You have no idea how to proceed and are hoping I do.”

Emma turned to the furious woman, putting a hand on her crossed arms, speaking quietly.  “No details, I promise.”  She felt the other woman relax under her palm.  “Look, I know this sucks but we have to get to the bottom of it and sort it out before it gets any worse.  We don’t really have a choice, if he can help…”

Gold was busy taking in every nuance, his mind quickly processing all the evidence before him.  “Forget about the memories for now.  Why, exactly, are you here, Ms. Swan?   What has this got to do with you?”

It was Emma’s turn under the microscope and she tried not to squirm.  “I…  Ahhh.”

Regina rolled her eyes, deciding it was better to just get everything out there, rip the band-aid off, so to speak.  The quicker they did this, the quicker they could just go home.  “Our magic seems to have become connected.  Hers balances out mine somehow.  The only time I can safely use magic is when Emma and I are touching.”

Gold kept his face blank but inside he was filled with glee as suspicions started to form in his mind.  “And you have no idea why that happened?”  He glanced at Regina, sure that while the Savior may be oblivious, the queen had to have an inkling.

Regina didn’t like the look in Rumpel’s eyes.  “The only conclusion we’ve been able to come to is destroying the trigger had something to do with it.”

“And this connection is a problem for the both of you?”  He glanced at both women and neither would meet his eyes or look at each other.  “Am I to assume you want the connection broken along with your magic stabilized?”   The air grew thick with tension, neither wanting to be the one to voice the answer they knew they should give but didn’t want to.

Finally Regina muttered, “That would be for the best.”  The words convinced nobody but they were out there now.

Gold nodded, moved to a display case and opened it, extracting a golden brown stone rod about six inches in length and half an inch wide that was streaked with black.  “It is possible the trigger caused your magic to combine, it took a lot of energy to stop it so it wouldn’t be all that surprising.  I do not think it is behind your magic’s instability though, your majesty.  If that were the case then Ms. Swan’s magic would also be unstable.  Am I correct in assuming it is not?”  He glanced at the blonde woman who nodded.

He ran his fingers over the rod, “I fear there are several factors at play here, each one separate in and of itself and yet combining to cause your issues, but to be sure…”  He gestured to the rod in his hand which started to softly glow.  As he moved it towards Regina, Emma instinctively moved in front of the other woman, blocking her from Gold’s direct line of sight.  “What is that?”

The move brought a wicked smile to Rumpel’s face, “Fear not, dearie.  I mean no harm to either of you.”  He held up the small rod, “This is merely a diagnostic tool.  Imagine it is much like a doctor’s stethoscope except that instead of being able to listen to your heart, I can examine your magical aspects.”  Of course the rod was much more powerful than that but he wasn’t going to tell either of the women in front of him exactly what it was capable of, there was no advantage in that for him.

Emma glared at Gold, distrust evident in her voice.  “It better only do what you say it does.”  She hated the small smirk that appeared on the man’s lips.  “So what are you going to do with it?”

He looked at Regina, “I need a demonstration of your magic’s instability,” He turned his gaze on the blonde, “And then I need one of her magic while the two of you are in contact.”

Regina asked the question she had been dreading. “And what is this going to cost us?”  Emma smiled at the words, even as she didn’t want to hear the answer.  The fact that Regina has said us not going unnoticed by the blonde. 

Unfortunately it was also noticed by Rumpelstiltskin.  His suspicions were busy solidifying in his mind.  “The test?  Nothing.  Consider it a gift if you like.” 

Both women frowned, neither happy with that answer.  Nothing was ever free where Rumpelstiltskin was concerned. Emma spoke, “It can’t be that easy.”

“It never is, dearie but shall we get on with it.  I’m a busy man and you’ve already taken up enough of my time.”

Regina gave the man a withering stare, hoping she wouldn’t regret this.  “Very well, what would you have me do?”

“A simple spell will do.”  He stepped closer to the women and started to move the rod close to Regina’s heart.

Regina ignored the desire to shift away and summoned her magic.  Instantly the pain in her head exploded.  She didn’t have the chance to even perform a spell before all the lights in the shop shattered and sparked, showering down glass.  Both Emma and Gold ducked their heads at the sudden noise and Regina’s hands flew to cradle her head, knees giving out at the swift onslaught of agony.  The painful aftermath was getting worse with every untethered use of her magic and she would have fallen if strong arms hadn’t caught her at the last moment.  At their touch the pain reduced to a more manageable level and she managed to lock her knees in place.

Gold straightened up and his lips twitched in a smile, “Well, that was entertaining.”

“Shut up.”  Emma scowled, “Was that enough?  It better be enough. She’s not doing it again.”  She still had one arm around the brunette who was leaning heavily on her.  She was concerned about Regina and just wanted this to be done with already.

“I believe it satisfied the first part.  Now if you would, the second part.”  Rumpel held the rod out again and waited.

Emma’s face was creased in a worried frown.  “Can you do it, Regina?  It’s ok if you can’t.  We can just go home.  We’ll figure it out another way.” 

“That would be very unwise.”  Emma ignored Gold’s comment, her attention on the woman beside her.

Regina mustered what little strength she had left.  The worst part was over.  “I’ll manage…  Just don’t let go.”  At Emma’s nod she again summoned her magic and was relieved it didn’t cause any pain.  She willed it to fix the damage she had caused, tempering the amount she used, a lesson learned after the last time.  Where Emma touched her, the contact glowed white and then a light purple cloud spilled out of her hands and swam around the room.  It dissipated and the lights were as they had been before.

Rumpel’s eyes eagerly drank in the view then tapped the rod against his head as he thought about everything he had just seen, combining it with the information the rod was feeding him.  “It is as I suspected.”

“And that is?”  Regina snapped then winced as the pain in her skull spiked.  She was done playing games.

“Patience, dearie.”  He started to walk around the pair, his cane clicking as he moved.  “Your instability does not come from the trigger.  You were electrocuted as part of your torture, were you not?”

Regina nodded, wondering how he knew so much about what had happened to her but then again he was Rumpelstiltskin so she shouldn’t be all that surprised.

“And you had been stripped of your magic at the time?”  He continued to pace around them.

“Yes, now get on with it.”  Regina was struggling not to show her current vulnerability in front of the imp, her energy fast running out.  All she wanted to do was get somewhere dark and close her eyes until the migraine, which was pulsing behind her eyes, went away.

“I fear that the combination upset your balance. When your magic returned after the torture, your body and mind was full of static energy left over from the electrocution.  That static energy has altered your natural magical balance, creating the instability you are currently experiencing.”  He paused, making sure he had their full attention then continued to circle.  “It wasn’t obvious at first because your magic hadn’t fully returned.  When you attempted to stop the trigger, you were not at full strength so were unable to do so by yourself and the effort would have eventually killed you.  When Ms. Swan stepped in to help, your magic was drawn to the stability of hers and combined itself to save you.  Thus the connection was born.”

Emma frowned in concentration, “So destroying the trigger together is what connected us?”

Gold stopped circling, moving to stand in front of them.  He sighed, the sound laced with disdain.  “Is that not what I just said?”

Emma ignored him, “Okay, so what’s causing the memories to keep dragging her under?”

“That, I’m afraid, is a little more complicated and without knowing the details I cannot answer.”

Emma glared at him.  “Well try, because you’re not getting that information.”

Gold merely shrugged, “Suit yourself.”

“Emma, wait.”  Regina had known it would boil down to this, it had been pointless to hope otherwise.

Emma turned to look at the other woman, “No.  We agreed, no details.  He doesn’t need to know, he’s just being a pain in the ass.”

“While that may be true, it’s not your choice to make.”  Regina shook her head, her decision made, as the blonde tried to protest and turned to glare at Rumpelstiltskin.  “The memories are of incidents in my past where I have been made to feel helpless and powerless.  Where I had no control over my own life.  So far they have been limited to my mother’s actions.”

Gold digested the information.  “Interesting.”

Emma tensed, the desire to smack the look off Gold’s face almost irresistable.  “It’s not interesting, it’s disgusting.  What happened was terrible.”

“And how do you know what happened?  Did Regina share the memories with you?”

Shit.  Emma realised she’d given away more than she had wanted to.  “Not exactly.”  She sighed in irritation, he just kept getting more and more information out of them.  “If I touch Regina while she’s having one of those episodes I get pulled into the memory.”

“This really is a complicated mess, isn’t it?”  He studied Emma, taking in the protective posture of the blonde, her tight grip on the other woman.  “I’d like you to leave.”

“Leave?”  Emma growled, the compulsion to close the gap and punch him in the face flaring again.  “You haven’t even told us how to fix this?  Just spouted a lot of bullshit.”

Gold looked at her witheringly, “I didn’t say both of you.  I wish to speak to Regina alone.”

“Not happening.”  Emma couldn’t believe the gall of the man.

“Maybe it would be for the best, Emma.”  Regina knew the look on Rumpel’s face and it didn’t bode well for her.  He knew something and it was most likely something she did not want to hear.  She felt fear pool in her stomach over just what that could be.

“But…”  Emma tried to argue.

Regina looked at her, “Please, wait outside for me.  I will only be a moment.”

Emma wanted to argue but the pleading in Regina’s eyes made her relent.  “Fine but don’t make any deals with him.  We’re in this together, remember.”  She released the other woman and walked to the door.  She opened it and just before she left she turned back, “I’m warning you, Gold.  Anything happens to her and I’m coming after you.”  She stepped through the doorway and let the door slam behind her.

Gold chuckled, “Well she’s a little on the over-protective side, even for the Savior.”

Regina rolled her eyes, even though it hurt to do so.  “What do you want?”

“Ahhh, it’s not what I want but what you want, your majesty.”  Gold’s lips twitched in a knowing smile.

“Just spit it out.  I don’t have the energy for your usual games.”

Rumpel weighed his words, “It really is interesting.  This mess you find yourself in.  Were it not for the Savior’s intervention with the trigger, you would be quite dead.”  He paused for effect then delivered the blow, “Is she aware that you are in love with her?”

Regina felt shock and rage bubble up inside her, “You sniveling worm.  How dare you?!”

Gold held up his hands, “I mean no offence, I merely pose the question.  I’ve spent little more than ten minutes interacting with the both of you and it was glaringly obvious.”  What he didn’t mention was the information the rod had given him about the intricacies of that love.  Now wasn’t the right time.

“She is not aware and never will be.  If you tell her…”  Regina let the unvoiced threat hang in the air.

Gold looked unperturbed at the silent threat, “I have no intention of informing Ms. Swan of your feelings.  If I had, would I have asked her to leave?”

Regina ignored the question and posed one of her own.  “So why am I here?”

“You are aware that she is the product of true love and therefore her magic is, quite possibly, the strongest I have ever encountered.  She rivals my own and if she were to learn to wield that magic she could even stand a chance of besting me.”

“Your point is?”

“Your magic is now interwoven with hers.”

Regina growled with annoyance, “I already know that.  Tell me something I don’t know or are you simply trying to test my patience?”  Her energy was quickly flagging, the pounding in her head was getting stronger.  She just wanted to go curl up with Emma and didn’t even have the energy to be angry with herself over that errant thought.

Gold stared blandly at her, unconcerned by the irritation leveled at him.  “Your heart isn’t as dark as it once was.  Whether it is your affection for the Savior or the fact that her magic is merging and dominating yours I cannot be sure but I suspect it is a combination of both.”

“What are you trying to tell me?”

“The connection your magic has formed can be broken, but I would not suggest it.  It is woven too deeply in the both of you, soul deep in fact.”  Gold glanced at her shrewdly, “Severing it would, more than likely kill you as it is your magic that is reliant on hers.  Ms Swan would also suffer but the effects would be less…”  He gave a small uncaring shrug, a wry twist to his mouth.  “Dramatic.  She would feel as if a part of her were missing, rather than death.”

“So essentially we’re stuck with the connection, that’s what you’re telling me.”  Regina kept all emotion from her voice and her face neutral but her heart was pounding.  The connection was permanent and she didn’t know whether to celebrate or curse herself.

Gold nodded, “It seems that way.  Eventually your magic will become as light as hers, perhaps as powerful.  The link between you will grow stronger, making all sorts of things possible between the two of you.  Together you will be a formidable enemy.”

Regina couldn’t quite grasp what Rumpelstiltskin was getting out of this.  There had to be something, but what?  “Why are you giving me this information?  What’s in it for you?”

Gold held his hands up in mock innocence, a cagey smile on his face. “Nothing, dearie.  As I said, together you will be formidable and I find it better to be on good terms if that is the case.”

Regina knew this wasn’t the whole truth, probably not even half.  Of course Rumpel would prefer to be on better terms if they ended up as powerful as he was saying they would be but there had to be more to it.  She could not figure out his angle but suspected he would want to use them, use their power for something.  Unfortunately, right now with her head pounding mercilessly, she did not have the ability to contemplate what that could be but she did try to dig for more information.  “And you expect me to believe that’s all you want?”

“Believe what you will.”  Gold kept a bored look on his face.

Regina’s anger simmered at his dismissiveness but chose to move on, it was obvious he was not going to tell her anything more on his reasons. “So what is causing the memories?  I know you know more than you’ve let on.”

A knowing smile crossed his features, “That, my dear, is all down to you.  I believe it is your subconscious trying to show you something that you refuse to acknowledge.  As it has little to do with your magic problems other than the fact that your mind is taking advantage of your lack of control, I cannot help you with that.”

Of course he couldn’t.  Which meant until she figured out this supposed message, they were going to continue to happen.  That was just…  She mentally rolled her eyes, Perfect.  “And my magic?  How do I stabilize it again?”

“To put it simply, you can’t.  The damage has been done and if you keep using it without your Sheriff to balance it out, to filter it, it will kill you.  The small demonstration here proved that.”

Regina scowled, “So I’m stuck relying on Ms. Swan indefinitely?”

Gold’s smile grew bigger, sending a cold shiver down Regina’s spine. “I didn’t say that.  True love is a powerful thing.”

She scoffed, “Emma is not my true love.”  She couldn’t be Emma’s true love.  Rumpel was just trying to get to her, wind her up.  It wouldn’t work, she wouldn’t believe his lies.

Rumpel just continued to smirk in reply and Regina would have smacked it off his face if she had had the energy.   Instead she snarled, “You and I both know that people like us do not get true love.”

Rumpel’s smirk grew impossibly large.  “Believe what you will, dearie but if it had been, say me for example, who had stepped in to help with the trigger our magic would not have combined and you would have died.  It was the fact that there was an underlying link between the two of you that made it possible.  Like recognised like.”  He shrugged dismissively, “Take that how you will.  Now I think it’s time you left me in peace.”

Regina couldn’t let it go, Rumpelstiltskin was lying, he had to be.  “I may have feelings for Emma but that does not make me her true love.  You have no idea what you are talking about.  I don’t know why I let you waste my time with this drivel.”

“Need I remind you, it was you who sought me out?”

Regina rolled her eyes and turned to leave.  “And wasn’t that a waste of my time.”  She glanced back, her eyes locking on the imps, a promise of violence in her gaze.  “If you breathe a word of this to anyone, I will end you.”

“Ahhh, there’s the Queen I know so well.”  Gold cheerily waved to Regina which made her growl and storm out, slamming the door behind her.

Rumpelstiltskin stood there, the smirk still in place.  So the Evil Queen was in love with the Savior and more importantly, the Savior was also in love with the Queen, if his instincts proved correct.  It was almost poetic, if you were that way inclined.  This was going to be fun to watch unfold.  He clapped his hands together in eager anticipation. 

He knew he could have simplified matters by telling Regina that Emma felt the same way she did.  That despite her denial, they were destined to be together because what was growing between them was indeed true love but where would be the entertainment in that?

It was true that he needed the two of them together and at full strength, the sooner the better but he was also aware that if he tried to interfere, tried to hurry them up it could all end in disaster.  Just because they had true love going for them didn’t automatically mean they would get their happy ending.  They were the Evil Queen and the Savior after all, both as stubborn and pigged headed as the other.  There were too many things that could go wrong and that just wouldn’t do.  This had to be handled just right.

He needed the power they would eventually harness once their true love’s bond was cemented.  The beginnings were there, the rod told him as much but until they committed fully to each other, their power would remain limited.   He needed to use them to get what he wanted, so he would bide his time and let destiny take its course for now. 

He would, of course, keep a close eye on the situation and if the need arose, push them in the direction they needed to go.  That had been the purpose of his conversation with Regina, a subtle nudge in the right direction.  He just hoped the queen had heeded his words. 

If Regina died, all hope would be lost.  Their combined power was the only chance he had of trying to save Baelfire and he would let nothing stand in the way of that, not even two stubborn women who couldn’t see what was right in front of their eyes.


 

Chapter Text


Emma leaned against the side of the car, her arms folded over her chest.  She glared at the shop, unhappy about being outside while Regina was in there talking about God only knew what.  Stupid secretive bastard.  Gold was a slippery character and she worried what Regina might inadvertently agree to.  She didn’t think Regina was by any means stupid but that man could twist the most innocent of deals into something far, far darker.  She tried to reason that the brunette knew better than anyone just what the Dark One was capable of but it still left her with an uneasy feeling.  Where does he get off?  Kicking me out…  Asshole.

As it stood, Gold had told them nothing, well nothing useful anyway.  All he had managed to do was confirm what they already suspected.  Okay, so he had told them that the instability hadn’t come from the trigger but other than that nothing.  Useless idiot. 

Just what was he telling Regina that she wasn’t allowed to hear?  She tried not to be hurt by the brunette asking her to leave. A large part of her understood that they needed whatever knowledge he wanted to impart but there was a small part that bristled at being asked to get out.

I’m the damned Sheriff.  I shouldn’t be kept out of the loop.  The town and its people are my responsibility and that includes Regina.  I should be in there.  She kicked a foot out, scuffing the sole of her boot on the ground.  I don’t care if she was the fucking queen in the enchanted forest, she’s in my world now and I’m the fucking law in this town.  It’s my responsibility…  She is my responsibility.  She rolled her eyes at herself, looking down at her feet.  And there’s the little fact that I love the stubborn woman.  That was what it really boiled down to.  She was worried, she was worried that whatever Gold had to tell Regina wasn’t good news.  Can’t be.  Why else would he kick me out?

Emma was shaken out of her brooding when she heard the door open and looked up to see Regina exit, the door slamming shut behind her with a resounding crash.  That wasn’t a good sign, neither was the deep frown on the brunette’s face that immediately disappeared behind her mask.  I hate that mask.  The blonde pushed off the car and stepped towards Regina, “What did he have to say?”

Regina didn’t even look at the blonde, her focus somewhere over her shoulder.  “Take me home, Ms. Swan.”

As Regina went to step around her, Emma reached out a hand to stop her, lightly clasping her arm.  “Hey…”

Regina wrenched her arm from the blonde’s grip and brushed past her, opening the car door and climbing in.  She missed the hurt that flashed in the green eyes that turned to stare after her.  She went to close the door but Emma grabbed it, blocking her.  “What did he say?  What’s got you upset?”  The blonde tried to catch her gaze but she refused to look at her.

Regina reached out and grabbed the door handle, trying to tug it shut and block the blonde out.  She just couldn’t deal with her questions right now, if ever.  Emma resisted and Regina ground out, “I asked you to take me home, Ms. Swan.”

“Emma.” 

Regina flinched at the word but turned to stare out the front windscreen in an effort to ignore the blonde.  Emma stood there a moment longer, a scowl firmly on her face and waited for Regina to look at her.  When she didn’t, she huffed out an angry breath and then slammed the door shut a little harder than necessary.

Emma rounded the car and got in, sliding the keys into the ignition but didn’t start it.  Instead she turned to look at the woman next to her.  She knew her anger stemmed from hurt and frustration and tried to let it go.  She again attempted to get Regina to open up to her.  “Talk to me, Regina.  Please don’t shut me out.  It can’t be that bad and even if it is, we can fix it.  That’s kinda my thing.”

Regina turned her face to look out the passenger window, tears shining in her eyes.  Emma was stuck with her and it was all her fault.  She was the only one with a choice here.  Rely on the other woman for her magic, her balance, her very existence, effectively chaining the blonde to her or give up her life so Emma could have her freedom to find her happy ending.  She didn’t believe Rumple for a second that she and Emma were destined, the idea so farfetched she couldn’t believe she was wasting any time contemplating it.  The link he spoke of was surely a product of their combined love for Henry and nothing more. 

At the thought of her son, a sob tried to make its way out of her throat but she managed to catch it just before it escaped.  Henry.  She could never safely be around him again.  Maybe death was the solution.  Emma wouldn’t be tied to her and everyone, especially Henry, would be safe.  A truly good person would choose that but Regina didn’t think she could be that unselfish.  She didn’t want to die, she wanted to live and see Henry grow up.  She wanted to watch Emma find her happiness even if it would break her heart at the same time.

Emma shook her head, “Fine.  Don’t tell me.  Whatever.”  She started the car and began to drive.  She knew she had been a little childish but it hurt to be shut out again just when she thought they had been making progress.  No matter what Regina thought, she was involved in this, it was her life too.

Tension filled the car as they headed back to the mansion.  Neither spoke, both lost in their thoughts.  When they pulled into the driveway, Regina held out her hand, still not looking at Emma.

The blonde felt a small glimmer of hope spark and slipped her hand into Regina’s, who whipped it away as if she had been burned.  She couldn’t let Emma touch her or her composure would crumble.  Every part of her wanted to reach out and let the other woman comfort her but she couldn’t because if she did, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to let her go.

Emma’s heart shattered as rejection flooded through her.  She didn’t know how much more of this she could take and keep coming back for more.  If this was any other person she would have just quit and run by now, the risk to her heart growing larger every moment she stayed but it wasn’t anyone else.  It was the frustratingly stubborn woman next to her who was blatantly ignoring her.

“The keys, Ms. Swan.” 

Emma yanked them out of the ignition and thrust them at the brunette.  Regina took them, opened the door and got out, closing it behind her. 

Emma slammed her hands onto the steering wheel.  “Fuck you, Regina.  Fuck you and your fucking secrets.”  She stared after the other woman as she walked away, her posture stiff.  Where did she get off, shutting her out like this?”  I’ll be damned if she’s getting away with it again.  She quickly got out of the car and stormed towards the house, reaching it just as Regina tried to close the door.  She got a hand in the gap and pushed it open with her shoulder.

Regina stumbled back and glared at the blonde.  She didn’t have the energy for this, it was all she could do to remain on her feet with her mask in place.  Did the stubbornness of the blonde know no end?

Emma expected her to fight, expected to see the familiar flare of fire in her brown eyes whenever the blonde did something to annoy her.  She wanted to see it, to see any emotion instead of that cold impassive mask.  She even would have settled for her sharp tongue cutting her to pieces but Regina simply turned and started to walk into the study.

“Regina, stop ignoring me!”  Emma stalked after her, her anger slowly coming to a boil.  “You don’t get to shut me out this time.  You’re going to tell me what Gold said.  We made a deal.  We’re in this together.”

Regina kept walking until she was behind her desk, putting it between her and the blonde.  She finally turned to look at Emma, her stare as cold and dismissive as she could make it.  “Wrong, Ms. Swan.  You can walk away at any time and I would prefer if you did so now.”

Emma stormed around the desk, startling the brunette whose reaction was slowed by the pain eating her.  She got up in her personal space and Regina took a step back away from the desk and the blonde but it wasn’t enough.

Emma followed and brought a finger up, poking her in the chest, not the brightest move she could have made but she was furious and a part of her wanted Regina angry too.  “You just don’t get it.”  She poked again and Regina took another step back, the blonde matching it, giving her no space.  “I can’t just walk away.” 

The brunette kept moving backwards, desperate to create some distance.  She tried to find the energy to protest but it just wasn’t there.  Emma had a right to be angry with her but that didn’t stop the brunette from refusing to answer.  The blonde continued her offensive, “I’ve had enough of your bull shit.”  Regina’s back collided with the wall and Emma stepped close, caging her in with her arms.  There was barely an inch between them and the brunette tried to ignore the fluttering in her belly at the close proximity of the other woman.  Even in her pained state, an angry Emma was sexy as hell.  “I’m in this, we’re in this together.  Do you understand me?  I am not going anywhere so just tell me what he said.”

Regina’s head was pounding and Emma’s yelling wasn’t helping her to be able to think with any sort of clarity.  Would you please just lower your voice?  The thought whispered its way through her mind.  If she could just lie down for a few minutes she would be able to think a lot clearer, be able to deal with Emma and get her out of the house.

Emma lowered her voice, oblivious to the reason behind the change.  “Why are you trying to push me away again?”

Regina tried to move but the blonde refused to drop her arms.  She needed to escape because if she didn’t she would crumble and beg and she refused to let that happen.  She had to maintain her composure, had to find the strength to make her go.  She drew in a deep, grounding breath, called on her anger and met flashing green eyes. “Why can’t you just leave me the hell alone?  I never asked for your help.”

“You never ask anyone for help!  Why is it so hard for you to understand I care about you?”  Emma shook her head in disbelief.  How many times was she going to have to say it?   “This has to stop.  You can’t do everything on your own.”

Regina looked away from the intense gaze of the other woman.  “Well then, you are a fool.”

Emma let out an incredulous breath, “Why?  Because I care?”

“Yes, because you care.”  Regina tried to stop her next words but they burst out, her mind too tired to do what she wanted, her control in tatters. “I was the reason you suffered.  I will not be the reason for your continued unhappiness.”

Emma blinked, stunned by Regina’s outburst and not quite understanding.  “What?”

Once Regina started, she couldn’t stop the words.  So much for maintaining her composure but the blonde always did have a way of getting under her skin.  All the guilt she felt poured out of her mouth, self-hatred evident in her voice. “Everything you suffered was because of my actions.  I’m the reason you grew up alone.  I’m the reason you were homeless.  I’m the reason you felt so unloved and nobody should ever feel that way.  I robbed you of the childhood you deserved.  Me.  I cast the curse…”  She swallowed a sob, “And the one who suffered the most was an innocent child, the one who was punished was you.”  Regina finished, her chest heaving with all the emotions spiraling in her.

Emma dropped her arms and took a step back.  She tilted her head, looking at the other woman.  This was something she had settled in herself months ago and she couldn’t believe Regina was holding onto all that guilt.  “It’s not that simple, Regina.  I’m not gonna argue with you, yeah you cast the curse but so many people had a hand in what happened to me.  There is no one person who is to blame.  My parents, Gold, your mother…  Hell even Geppetto played a part in what happened to me.  So many people, not just you.  You don’t get to own all the guilt.  You need to let that go.  This is not a black and white thing.”  She sighed, “What happened, happened and it fucking sucked, so much, but I don’t regret it for a second.  I can’t.  I would do it all over again if given the choice.”

Regina looked at Emma, aghast.  Her voice was barely a whisper, guilt eating her alive.  “Why on earth would you do that?”

“Why do you think?”  She smiled and shrugged like the answer was obvious, “Henry.  I would never have had Henry and I’m not giving him up for anything.  I thought you would have figured that out by now.”  She gave a small laugh and then continued, “And not only that, you wouldn’t have the chance to be the woman you were always meant to be and I want that for you.  Please Regina, let me help you.”

Regina shook her head, struggling to believe what Emma was saying.  “You don’t know what that means, what letting you help me means.  You don’t understand what it will cost you.”

Emma reached out a hand and placed it lightly on Regina’s arm, hoping she wasn’t about to get shrugged off again.  “I don’t know because you won’t tell me.  Give me the chance to decide what I want to do.  Don’t take that from me.”

Regina sighed and closed her eyes, Emma was right.  She deserved to make that choice.  “My magic cannot be stabilised.”

“Gold said that?”  Emma frowned, worried for the brunette.

“Not exactly but his solution is impossible.”  Regina would not repeat his rubbish.

Emma raised an eyebrow, “What is it?”

“It doesn’t matter.”  Regina continued on, dismissing the question when the answer was so farfetched.  “He also said that the connection can be broken if we wish.”

Emma’s stomach dropped, “That’s what you want, right?”

Regina moved away from the wall and Emma shifted so she could get past.  She needed space to get through this without begging the blonde to want the connection too.  She walked to the desk and placed her hands on it, her back to Emma.  “What I want is neither here nor there.  It is my fault the connection formed in the first place.  I will not tether you to me.”  She bowed her head, “It can be broken but you need to be aware that if it is, you will feel as if a part of you is missing, essentially the part my magic took over in you.”

Emma didn’t like the sound of that but if Regina wanted the bond broken, it was something she could live with.  “And you?”

Regina tensed at the question.  “That is not important.  If you decide that you wish the connection severed then I will see that it is done.  You do not deserve to be unwillingly tied to me for the foreseeable future.  It is that simple.”

Emma moved up behind the brunette and rested a hand on the small of her back.  She could feel the tension radiating through the other woman’s body.  “Regina, what will happen to you?”

Regina swallowed, trying to buy herself time before answering.  She knew Emma, knew if she told her what it would cost her, there was no way the blonde would even contemplate breaking the bond.  She was good and honorable and would want to do what she thought was the right thing, even if it was wrong for herself.  The brunette knew she didn’t deserve Emma but if the blonde, for whatever unfathomable reason, did want to be a part of her life, it had to be her choice, not something that was forced upon her by her good intentions.  She would not be an obligation so she lied.  “It will be the same for me.  Not a pleasant thing but manageable.  You would be free to pursue your own life as would I.”

Emma felt the lie resonate within her, but ignored it for the moment.  She wanted Regina to keep talking to her and if she challenged her, the brunette might close up again.  “Okay, but what about your magic?  It can’t be stabilized so without the connection…”

“I would simply learn to…”  Regina hesitated briefly, sorrow flashing quickly through her then she carried on, “To live without it.  That should not be a consideration in your decision.”

Emma hadn’t missed the slight hesitation and something in her subconscious started to tick.  Her thumb moved in slow comforting circles, “What do you want?”

Regina closed her eyes against the pain in her skull, the movement of the blonde’s hand a pleasant distraction from it. “What I want shouldn’t be a consideration either.  It was my magic that caused the connection without your knowledge or consent.”

Emma frowned, “Yeah but you didn’t do it on purpose.  You didn’t choose it either, it kinda just happened.”

“That is also neither here nor there.  It was my magic at fault.”  Regina straightened up and moved away from Emma, away from the comfort of her hand.  She slowly made her way around the sofa and over to the window.  She stared out, taking nothing in.  Her arms wrapped around herself, “When you decide that you want the connection broken, just inform me and I will get things underway.”

When I decide? Sounds like she thinks she already knows my decision. Always one to jump to conclusions.  She’s gotta stop always expecting the worst.  Emma took the time to study the woman from behind.  She looked tired and defeated, and she hated seeing her that way.  She knew Regina was lying when she said she would suffer the same fate as the blonde.  What could be worse?  A missing piece would suck, for sure but…  Her subconscious threw out an idea and she tried to deny it but it made sense.  Could it kill her?  No.  But…  Fuck.  Of course Regina wouldn’t tell her if that was the case, it was the only thing that made sense.

Regina would lose her life if Emma decided to break the connection and yet here was the woman, giving her the choice.  Fuck anyone who tries to tell me she hasn’t changed.  They have no idea of who she really is.  I do though…  I see you, Regina. You can’t hide yourself from me.  There really was no decision to be made.  The blonde didn’t want the connection broken, she never had.  It was one more thing that tied her to the woman she loved.

Emma walked around to the front of the desk then leaned against it, placing her hands back, gripping the edge.  “What makes you think I want it broken?”

Regina refused to answer, to give the blonde any excuses to break the connection.  It had to be Emma’s decision but she’d be damned if she’d help nail her own coffin shut.  She countered with a question of her own.  “How can you want to be bound to me for the rest of our lives?”

Emma felt her mouth go dry and tried to swallow.  This was it.  This was her chance to confess how she felt about Regina.  She glanced down, trying to muster her courage and missed the brunette sway on her feet.  She looked up again.  She tried to say the words but something different came out.  “We’re already tied together for life, Regina.  We both love Henry, he’s always going to be our link and he needs both of us.  This connection, it’s just another thread.”  Chicken.  Just do it.  What’s the worst that can really happen?  She tells you you’re an idiot.  She does that all the time anyway.  She tosses you out.  Wouldn’t be the first time.  She cuts you outta her life…  Like I would let that happen. 

Emma sighed, she was going to be the fool Regina kept accusing her of being and it was all over the brunette.  “But it’s not just that.  That’s important…  Very important but not the only thing.  You see the thing is…”  She shifted uncomfortably, “I care about you and I know I’ve said that before and I meant it… But not just because you’re the other mother of our son, not just because Henry loves you.”  

Emma stopped, taking a deep breath, and moved a few steps towards Regina, the sofa all that separated them.  “I care about you more than I probably should…  More than you probably want me to.  I…”  She couldn’t say the words.  It was too soon, too much.  She couldn’t risk revealing just how deeply she felt yet.  She could admit her attraction though, her heart could take that level of rejection just fine.  “I see you trying so hard to be a better person.  I see the way you love Henry, with everything you have.  I see the sacrifices you make for him…  The ones for me that you think I don’t know about.  You are the strongest woman I know and I admire how far you’ve come.  I like the person you are, Regina.” 

Emma grew quiet and waited for Regina to speak.  She ran a hand through her hair, frustrated at her inability to just spit it all out.  When the silence grew too much, Emma started talking again to fill it, unable to take it any longer.  “I like you.  Do you get that?  I think you’re the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever met.  The first time I saw you…”  She shook her head, a slight blush climbing up her cheeks as she remembered her first impression of the brunette.  “I want more.  More than what we have now.  I want you.  With me.  I want you to be with me… If you want that too…  I mean, I’ve seen how you look at me sometimes…  It wouldn’t have to be a relationship or anything…  Unless you want that…  We could try…” 

Emma’s courage started to wane as she babbled on and she began to think she had made a mistake.  She shrugged, trying to appear casual and unfazed by all she had just admitted not that Regina saw her, the performance purely for her own peace of mind.  “If not, that’s cool.  I get it.  We can just be friends or co-parents or whatever.”  She shuffled nervously, again waiting for Regina to speak, the silence from the other woman killing her.  “Regina, will you please just say something?  Even if it’s just to tell me I’m a fucking idiot.”  She watched the brunette intently, forcing her feet to stay planted and not run out the door but her instinct to flee was growing stronger and stronger.

Emma’s words hit Regina like a freight train.  Surely she had misheard the blonde or perhaps had passed out again and was dreaming, her mind just hadn’t realised it.  She put her hands up to the cold glass and felt a shiver go through her.  She was definitely awake and her heart started to pound.  Why would Emma want her? 

The throbbing in her head was increasing with every hurried beat of her heart.  She tried to respond but had no idea what to say and the agony was such that she couldn’t even form a sentence if she did know.  In the end she said the only thing that was resounding in her pain-filled mind, the only thing that mattered.  It was barely a whisper but the blonde caught it.  “Emma.”  Then Regina was collapsing, her body swarming with purple sparks as her mind finally succumbed to the torment.

Emma heard her name in her mind at the same time Regina whispered the word and then saw her sink to the floor.  “Regina!”  The blonde jumped over the couch and landed beside the fallen woman.  As she did, she stumbled and fell, crashing on top of the brunette.  Graceful as ever, damn it.  That was her last thought before the magic took her.


 

Chapter Text


He was in the study when the front door opened.  He’d been busy going through everything in the desk trying to find any more information about Regina’s current weakness after discovering a list in the kitchen.  He had gone through all the upstairs rooms, enjoying himself particularly in Regina’s room.  There was a certain distorted pleasure in knowing he had pawed over all her things and she had no idea.  He’d wanted to tear the room apart, to shred it as she shredded his life but had managed to control himself.  It wouldn’t do to give himself away before he was ready.  Everything had to be perfect.  This time he would not be interrupted.

He quickly made his way out of the study and headed back into the kitchen.  He stopped, listening as the blonde bitch yelled about something.  The fact that she was here again made him angry, would she never fuck off?  He heard Regina’s response and briefly hoped that the blonde would leave but when she started yelling again he growled with frustration.

He’d come back later.  It wasn’t worth the risk just yet, the blonde bitch was an unknown element, the Sheriff of all things and he would only get one chance at this.  If they caught him again, this time he might not get away and that could not happen.  Failure was not an option.  He had to be patient if he wanted to do this right.  He’d opened a lock on one of the windows so he wouldn’t have to pick the back door again.  He now had easy access.  It was all down to planning his perfect moment.  First he had to figure out a way to get the blonde bitch out of the house, leaving Regina alone and vulnerable, then she would be at his mercy and for her, he had none.

He slipped out the back door and vanished into the growing darkness.  It was a pity he hadn’t waited around but luck was not on his side right now.  He’d have heard the information he wanted, he’d have heard the blonde’s confession, an excuse to kill her just like he planned to kill Regina, and he would then have had them right where he wanted them.  Unaware, defenseless and completely at his mercy.


Emma rolled over and opened her eyes.  She was staring at a stone roof which meant she was back in the Enchanted Forest again. She sat up and climbed to her feet, looking around.  There was a huge canopied bed against one wall with a table to the left of it which held an assortment of items.  There was a large empty frame and she frowned at it, wondering what it had held.  To the right of the bed was a large balcony that took up most of the next wall.  As she turned to glance further around the room she spotted a dressing screen in the corner with a large wardrobe next to it.  Next came a dressing table with a mirror attached and as she completed a full circle she spotted a door she could only assume was an exit.  Right, I know how this works.  No getting through the door.  Just gotta stand around and wait for the show to get started.  She was trying to be flippant but dread was brewing in her belly.  So far, the last two memories had been horrific and this was sure to be just as bad if not worse.

The door opened and Regina came in followed by four other women who were carrying the train of her dress.  Emma took in the wedding dress the brunette was wearing.  She was simply stunning and all the blonde could do was gape.  Her shoulders were bare, her collar bones standing out and Emma’s mouth went dry, the desire to run her lips over the path her eyes traced almost overwhelming everything else for the moment.  Regina’s throat was encompassed by a large piece of jewelry that drew the eye down and Emma followed it until the dress stopped any further viewing.  She had matching earrings and a tiara worked into her gorgeous hair and all the blonde wanted to do was remove it, let the chocolate tresses tumble down and bury her nose in it.  Oh yeah… I’ve got it bad. 

Emma’s longing was interrupted by one of the women accompanying Regina, “But your majesty, the king will be arriving at any moment.  We must prepare you.”

Emma watched a snarl form on the brunette’s face.  It was look she knew well, having had it directed at herself more than once but it looked strange on such a young Regina.  “And I said I do not care.  Leave me!”

The woman went to speak again and Regina stared her down, “Do not forget your place.  I am your queen and you will do as I say.  Have I made myself clear?”

The woman bowed her head, “Yes, your majesty.”  She curtsied and the other women copied her then they all backed out of the room leaving the queen alone.

Once the door had shut, Emma watched as the brunette sagged and closed her eyes.  She stood like that for a moment and then her hand reached up to rip the tiara out of her hair, the elaborate hairdo spilling down and unravelling.  As much as Emma had just wanted to do that herself, the savagery in the movement quashed any lingering lustful thoughts.  She flung the tiara across the room towards the empty frame and reached up to remove the earrings and rip the jewelry from her neck.  That too followed the tiara then Regina was pulling at the dress, tearing it in her need to be rid of the garment. 

Emma watched all this unfold with alarm, the distress in the brunette palatable in the room.  She was struggling to get the bustle off of her hips and her movements were getting more and more frantic like the dress was strangling her.  The blonde wished she could help get the dress off, watching her struggle was difficult to bear.  Stupid fucking ‘pick your moment’ memory rules. 

Finally Regina stepped free of the dress, standing in a corset and underwear.  She picked it up, moving towards the empty frame and tossing it, hiding the frame from view.  She moved back to the middle of the room and a sob broke free from her chest.  She slapped a hand over her mouth to silence it and Emma watched the battle the brunette waged to get herself back under control.  She watched as the brunette straightened her spine, and cleared her face of any emotion and her heart ached to see the sight.  It brought back the vision of the child Regina doing the same thing.  Again Emma wondered what it must have cost her to master that control so very many years ago, when she was still a child.

Regina moved over to the wardrobe and opened it, extracting a long white nightgown.  She headed over to the dressing screen and slipped behind it out of Emma’s sight.  The blonde spent this time playing over the chamber maid’s words.  The king was coming to Regina’s room and the fact that the brunette had been in a wedding dress made Emma feel more than a little uneasy.  She guessed it was the day Regina had been forced to marry the king and she knew what was expected on the wedding night but she hoped she was wrong because if it had been a pleasant or even mediocre experience for the woman, they wouldn’t be stuck in this memory.  A sense of foreboding settled heavily on her.

Regina immerged from behind the dressing screen dressed in the night gown and walked over to the balcony.  Dressed as such she looked entirely too young and innocent for what Emma suspected was about to happen.  Life had been far from fair to the brunette and that was becoming more and more obvious to her.  It was so much worse than she could ever have imagined.  She was furious on Regina’s behalf and had no one to direct that fury at which made it feel all that much worse.  If she felt like this, was it any wonder that Regina had focused her wrath on Snow White, who despite her promise and the good intention behind breaking that promise, had been yet another person to betray her to a devastating end.  Emma didn’t think that what Regina had done was by any means right, but she could understand, all too clearly, what had driven the other woman to those depths.

Regina stepped out onto the balcony and put her hands on the railing, knuckles white as if she was bracing for something to happen.  Emma wished she knew what the brunette was thinking and almost as soon as the thought crossed her mind, Regina’s voice whispered in her head.  I wanted to be anywhere but here.  I was wondering if it would hurt very much if I jumped.

Oh God, Regina.  I wish…  Emma frowned in confusion.  Wait…  How are you talking to me?  She walked over and joined the queen on the balcony and moved until she could see her eyes.

Nothing moved except the focus of Regina’s gaze and brown eyes were burning into green.  You were thinking very loudly, dear.

Emma heard the slight humor to the brunette’s voice and her eyes sparkled for a moment bringing a smile to the blonde’s face.  Sorry about that.

I find myself not minding so much.  You’ve invaded my home so why should I be surprised that you have also invaded my mind?  It seems that I am adjusting to having you constantly underfoot.  You are growing on me, Ms. Swan.  Emma chuckled softly, secretly pleased by the words.

Regina continued, I suspect the bond is gaining strength every time our magic combines and as it grows, so do our abilities.  The imp admitted it was a possibility to me.  The humor disappeared along with the sparkle as she shifted subjects abruptly.  Emma, please do not watch what is about to happen.  He was at his worst on this day.  It was never easy, but today… He had a point to make.  It is not something anyone should-  The voice in her head cut off as the door to the bedroom swung open to crash against the wall.

Both women whipped around at the sound and watched as the King strode in.  This was not the benevolent King known to his people, this was not the loving father known only to Snow White.  No, this was man who had lost his beloved wife and was still bitter and angry about it, this was the man that had no room in his heart for a young girl who had been chosen by his daughter to take her place.  This was the monster that lurked underneath, hidden to all but a small unfortunate few.

“Why are you not prepared and in bed waiting for me?”  He thundered.  His cheeks were flushed and his words slightly slurred as he spoke.  It was obvious he had imbibed more than a few drinks at the wedding celebration.  He continued across the room and stopped in front of the brunette who shrank back against the railing.

Emma quickly stepped out of the way, not wanting the King to pass through her, the thought of that giving her the creeps.  Regina had all but confirmed what was about to happen and she wished she could be anywhere but here.  Seeing these private memories without Regina’s permission was taking a heavier and heavier toll on the blonde.  It wasn’t fair to the other woman but Emma could do nothing about it but suffer with her.  She moved off the balcony and stood just inside the opening to it, her eyes unable to turn away despite Regina’s plea. 

“I’m sorry, Leopold.  I didn’t-“  Regina’s words were cut off as the King raised his hand and slapped her viciously across the face.  The blow was unexpected and she stumbled to the side, crying out and bringing a hand to her face, nursing her aching cheek.

“Do not address me as such.  You will refer to me as your majesty or my liege.  You are not my Ava, you will never be her so do not think to attempt to replace her.  You are nothing more than a pretty little thing to warm my bed and mother my child.  Do you understand?”  He took a step and grabbed her hard around the arms, his fingers digging in, sure to leave bruises.  He shook her, “Do you?”  He roared into her face.

Regina’s eyes were wide with fear, her cheek beginning to swell.  “Yes.”  She managed to get out.

The King moved and back handed her across the face, her lip splitting open.  “Yes what?”  Emma flinched with the movement, her own hand going up to cup her cheek as if she had received the blow. The hand then tightened in a fist and dropped uselessly back to her side.

“Yes, your majesty.”  Regina managed to get the words out through her bloodied lips.

A part of Emma knew it was pointless but she couldn’t stop the words that came forth, the need to do something, anything all but overwhelming.  “You know what I think, your majesty?”  She said the last two words with as much contempt as she could muster.  “I think you’re lucky that you are already dead or I’d break every bone in your hands, you abusive monster.  She’s done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve this.  Nobody ever deserves this.”

The King pushed Regina away from him and into the room.  “Remove your bed clothes.  I would see what I married.”

Regina cowered slightly and it broke Emma’s heart.  She had never seen the proud woman cower before and instantly hated the sight.  She never wanted to see it again.  “Please, your majesty.  I have never…  I am innocent.”

The King laughed coldly, “You will not be after tonight.”  He lumbered forward, wrapped a hand around her throat to keep her still and used his free hand to grab the front of her nightgown, tearing down.

Regina tried to cry out but the sound was cut off by his hand.  She reached to pull the edges of the material back together to cover herself and he hit her again, her head whipping to the side.  He tore the nightgown from her body and tossed her towards the bed.  She fell on it and tried to scramble away but he was on her before she could. “Where do you think you are going?  You are my property to do with what I will.  You belong to me.”

Emma felt potent anger flood her system.  “She is not your property, you fucker.  She is no one’s property, she was… Is someone to be cherished not owned.” Realisation dawned on her as she raged.  “You…  Even you helped to turn her into what she became, what she is fighting so hard not to be anymore.  You…  Her mother…  What fucking chance did she stand?”  Emma wanted to howl with the grief fueled rage swirling inside.  “How many more people crushed the girl she was?”  She glared at the King and made a promise.  “Well you didn’t win.  I won’t let you win.  If it’s the last thing I do, Regina will know she is better than you all.”   She couldn’t watch anymore, she felt completely helpless and it was eating away at her.  She turned away to stare out over the balcony, trying to block it all out and failing miserably. 

Emma could still hear the struggle going on.  There was another loud slap followed by a sharp cry of pain.  “Lie still!”  The King thundered and then the struggling seemed to stop.  She heard Regina beg, “Please, no.” She squeezed her eyes shut though it couldn’t stop the noise.

The King laughed, “You dare tell me no?”  Another slap, another cry of pain.  She heard the bed squeak and clothes being tossed to the ground.

Emma flinched at the sounds, horror filling her.  “Use your magic, Regina.  Why didn’t you use your magic?  Fire ball his mother fucking nuts off.”

The bed squeaked again, “Spread your legs like the whore you are.  You think I do not know that you and your mother schemed to get the throne?  I am not a simpleton, I was well aware but you will have your uses.  Open your legs and reap the rewards. Very well, I will do it for you.”   The sound of a struggle broke out again for a moment and Regina’s voice cried out, “No!”  The word was cut off by the sound of fist meeting flesh and her breath exploded out of her.

There was more movement then Emma heard Regina scream, the agonized sound slicing her to pieces.  No, no, no, no, no, no, no.  She yelled out, her voice tight with grief for the brunette.  “She said no, you fucking bastard.”  This… This was Regina’s first sexual experience.  The damage this must have done to the already betrayed woman was astronomical.  Her head spun with everything she now knew about the other woman.  How did anyone survive all of this?  Emma’s life had been no picnic but this…  The systematic abuse and betrayal by those who were supposed to love Regina left her reeling.

Emma slid down to the floor and put her head on her knees.  The horrible realization that the man forcing himself on the woman she loved was her grandfather crashed over her.  Nausea rose in her and she leaned to the side and dry heaved, her stomach desperately trying to empty itself but the memory provided no relief.  Her eyes burned with tears.  “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.  Oh God. Regina.” She understood why Regina had had the man killed.  How many times had she had to endure this?  Rage bubbled up inside her and she wished she had been the one to wipe him from existence.

The King cried out loudly and the slap of flesh being forced together stopped.  There was movement on the bed and the rustle of clothes.  “You have no idea how to satisfy a man.  My time would have been better spent with a whore. At least they don’t lie there like a cold fish and cry the entire time.  It seems your mother didn’t teach you everything you need to know about being queen or a woman.  You are a pathetic excuse for either.  Congratulations, you married a king.  Was it all you were promised?  Everything you dreamed of?”  He laughed viciously.  “Until next I have use for you.”

Emma heard footsteps and then the door opened and closed.  She sat for a moment then opened her eyes and glanced towards the bed.  She didn’t want to look, she didn’t want to see but she also didn’t want to leave the brunette there alone.  Regina lay curled into a ball, tears silently falling down her cheeks.  Her eyes were open and unfocused.  Emma got up and moved closer, kneeling beside the bed.  The brunette’s entire body shook with her silent sobs, her face was smeared with blood from the split lip and a cut that had been opened above her left eye.

Emma tried not to take too much notice but her eyes were drawn to the blood now covering the sheets.  That man had deserved to die. She didn’t know what to say.  What could she possibly say to the brunette to even begin to undo the damage her Grandfather had wrought upon the woman?  She felt ashamed that she shared blood with someone who could do this to another person.  Finally she spoke, her voice vibrating with the depths of her emotions.  “If he was still alive, I’d kill him, Regina.  I’d kill him for what he did to you and it wouldn’t be quick, it wouldn’t be painless.”  She meant every word.  She wanted revenge, she burned with the need for it.  If Leopold appeared before her right now, she would kill him with her bare hands.  Just how much had this woman had to take?

Emma climbed up and sat on the bed, wishing with everything that she had that she could hold Regina in her arms, that she could wash that monster off her and heal her wounds but that had never happened for the young woman before her.  She was left to deal with it alone.  She reached out a hand to stroke the brunette’s hair and it went straight through.  Fresh tears sprang to her eyes and a sob burst from her chest. 

Emma lay down next to the woman and wondered when it would end.  Her chest ached and she put a hand to it but it offered no comfort.  She hated these memories.  They have to fucking stop.  Enough already. 

Emma didn’t know what else to do so she started to whisper to the woman.  She couldn’t feel her, couldn’t touch her but she could tell her everything, even if the brunette couldn’t hear her, maybe her subconscious might take her words in, so they poured freely from her heart.  “You are beautiful.  You are strong.  You are a good person. You are a wonderful mother.  You are a survivor, Regina.  You’ve survived so much and you still keep going.  I don’t know how but you do and that…  Is extraordinary.”  She moved a bit closer, her heart pounding in her ears.  “You have to know you are worth loving…  You are so worth loving…”  She paused, took a breath and pushed away the fear.  “And I do.  I do love you with everything that I have and that’s…  That’s a whole world of scary for me because I’ve never felt this way before…  But I do, about you.  It will always be you.” 

Emma sighed, the ache in her chest slowly easing as she made her confessions.  “I love everything about you.  The good and the bad.  You are perfect with your flaws.  I love your fire and passion.  I love your fierce need to protect those that you love.  I love your wit and intelligence.  I even love your sarcasm.  I love you, Regina because you are worth loving.”  She smiled sadly, “Even if you never love me back, I will love you.   You will be loved for the person you are, every single part of you, for as long as I breathe.”  Her eyes started to close against her will and she fought long enough to say one last thing.  “One day I just hope I’m brave enough to tell you to your face.” 


Emma came to when an elbow drove into her solar plexus.  She whooshed out a breath and opened her eyes.  Someone was struggling violently under her. 

“No!  Get off me!”  A blow caught the blonde’s cheek, disorientating her for a second then she realised who it was struggling under her and why as the memory crashed through her mind.  That’s gonna leave a mark.  She tried to get up but Regina was moving too much for her to get a hand out to support herself.  “You bastard!  No!  I said no!”

“Regina…”  Emma tried to get the brunette’s attention but failed.  She caught one of the flailing hands just before it could clock her again.  “Regina, it’s me.  It’s Emma.  You’re safe.  Do you hear me?  You’re safe.  I need you to calm down so I can get off you.”

Regina bucked her body, lifting them both off the ground.  When they landed, the air left the brunette’s lungs briefly which gave Emma the chance to let go of her arm, prop herself up and reach up for her chin.  She gently guided it to look at her, Regina’s eyes unfocused and wild in fear and her breathing coming in short bursts.  She slid her hand up from her chin to cup her cheek.  “Regina.  It’s Emma. You’re ok.  You’re safe.  I’ve got you.”

All that penetrated the haze of fear was Emma’s name and the soft caress that was so different from the blow she had been expecting but it was enough to bring Regina back.  She stopped struggling and her eyes slowly focused on the face in front of her.  Not him.  It’s not him.  “Emma?”  She whispered brokenly.  She looked into kind green eyes. “Emma.”

Emma gave a small smile, “Yeah, it’s me.  I’ve got you.  You’re safe.”

Regina lay still for a moment then reached up and dragged Emma down.  She crashed their lips together, desperate to erase Leopold’s touch from her mind.  Emma was safety and she needed that, needed to feel safe.

Emma was startled by the sudden movement and let herself sink into the kiss briefly as the taste of Regina exploded in her mouth.  She let out a groan as desire flashed brightly through her before reality wormed its way back into her mind and forced her to tamp it down.  She reluctantly broke the kiss, drawing her head back. “Regina…”

Regina followed, her lips kissing along the strong jaw to her ear.  Emma tasted like strength and freedom, like the light at the end of a long dark tunnel.  “Please, please let me forget.  Let me feel something other than him.”  An involuntary shudder ran through her body as her mind tried desperately to focus on anything else.

“Regina, stop.  Stop.  No.”  Emma tried to draw away but Regina wouldn’t let her, her hands went around the blonde’s neck keeping her close.  “You don’t want this.”

“I do.  I do!”  The brunette begged, tears making her voice rough, “Oh God, please.  Make it stop, Emma.  I can feel him all over me and I can’t…”

Emma reached back and untangled the brunette’s arms, drawing them back down between them.  She struggled to sit up and Regina followed her, all but climbing into the blonde’s lap.  “No, Regina.  Not now.  This… This isn’t the right time.  You’ll regret it.  You’ll hate yourself afterwards and I…  I just can’t let you do that.”

Regina’s eyes begged as they stared into the green eyes looking at her with concern, “Please.  I won’t regret it.  I couldn’t.  You.  I want…  Please get his hands off me.”

Emma was torn.  That she wanted the other woman wasn’t even a question but this would be wrong.  That she wanted to do just about anything to ease her pain was becoming a living thing in her soul but this would ruin any chance of them ever being something more.  She wanted to give in, to erase Regina’s pain but this wasn’t the way.  “I can’t, Regina.”

Regina stiffened in her arms and started to draw away, the rebuff stinging.  She automatically started to put her mask into place, the defensive mechanism so ingrained.  “I’m sorry.  You are right.  I should never have propositioned you.  My mistake.  It was a moment of weakness.  It will not…”  She stumbled over her words, “Will not happen again.”

Emma slipped her arms around Regina and refused to let her go.  “Hey.  No.  You’re hearing it all wrong. You gotta believe me, I want you in the worst way.  I told you that and it hasn’t…  It’s not ever gonna change.  At any other time, proposition away but you’ve got to see that right now…  It would be a huge mistake.”  She tried a small grin,   “It’s killing me to say no to you but you would regret it.  When we…”  She blushed, not quite believing she was having this conversation.  “If we do, I want it to be just about you and me.  I don’t want to be erasing memories, I want to be making them.”  She pulled Regina closer and tucked her head under her chin.  “I do get why you want to but that won’t help.  It’ll just make it so much worse.  Please don’t ever think that I don’t want you.”

Regina relaxed and allowed herself to be pulled against the blonde.  She settled her head against her chest, enjoying the comfort offered by Emma but her skin still crawled.  The fact that the blonde wasn’t expecting anything out of her almost a relief once she had realised the truth of her words.  When they made love, and unlike Emma she was sure it was when, she wanted nothing to mar it, especially her past.  She could hear the blonde’s heart speeding along under her ear, lending truth to her words, and as always, the sound soothed her.  “I just feel… So...”  She couldn’t put it into words.   “I want that feeling gone.  I blocked that memory out for a good reason.”

“Come on.  I know something that can help a little with that.”  They slowly got to their feet and then Emma reached out and took Regina’s hand in her own.  She smiled softly at the brunette, her heart shining in her eyes then turned away and started to walk, tugging Regina behind her.


 

Chapter Text


Emma entered the bedroom, turning on lights as she went.  She led Regina into the bathroom and reached into the shower, switching it on.  She turned to the other woman and studied her, the brunette looked so lost, like the trauma of the past had cast her adrift.  The blonde reached out and caressed her cheek, trying to ground her here in the present.  Brown eyes met her and she smiled reassuringly.  She let go of her hand and knelt down, taking one of Regina’s heels in her hand.  “Lift your foot.” 

Regina reached out a hand and placed it on Emma’s shoulder for balance, her gaze following every movement the blonde made.  She focused on the warmth under her palm rather than the images trying to crowd in.  It wasn’t just the last memory, it was all of them.  Everything that had ever happened to her, everything she had ever done was rearing its head, her defences shattered and lying in pieces.  She was haunted by the screams, both her own and others.  So much pain had been inflicted, so much damage.  She lifted her foot and then the other one, allowing Emma to help her when she couldn’t help herself.

Emma stood and Regina let her hand fall away, the loss of the contact cutting through her.  She let the blonde remove her jacket and it was like another shield fell away.  She wrapped her arms around herself, afraid she was seconds away from copying her defences and ending up in pieces on the floor. 

Emma noticed the movement and misread it as a desire not to be touched and let her hands fall to her side even though it was the last thing she wanted to do.  All she wanted to do was to make the other woman’s pain disappear.  If she could take it and carry it herself, she would in a heartbeat.  She looked into Regina’s eyes and the brunette swiftly shifted her gaze away making her feel like she should give her some space.  “I’m gonna go grab you some clothes.  I’ll be just outside if you need me, okay?”

Regina tried to get the words out to ask her to stay but couldn’t find her voice.  Emma was her safety and without her she would crumble.  Finally a whisper escaped, a soft no but it was too late, Emma was gone and she stood there alone.  Tears started to fall then as she reached up to slowly remove the rest of her clothes and as each piece dropped to the floor, so did the remnants of her protection until she was both physically and emotionally naked.  She opened the shower and moved under the water, hoping it would soothe her but knowing the only thing that could was in the other room.  Her tears mingled with the hot water as it slipped down her body and into the drain.


Outside, Emma quickly shed her own jacket and tossed it into a corner.  She toed off her boots and socks and they followed the jacket.  She leaned against the bathroom door, slipping her hands up into her hair and squeezing her eyes shut.  She let herself slide down to the floor and propped her elbows on her knees, letting her head sink down.  Her hands shifted from her hair until her palms were pressed tightly against her eyes.  A minute.  I just need a minute.  She sucked in a shuddering breath and let the tears go.  As a sob broke free from her chest she moved one of her hands over her mouth to keep quiet and let her grief flow.

After the minute she had allowed herself had passed she shook her head and forced the aching grief back down.  She wiped her eyes and cleared her throat.  She sucked in a few deep breaths, letting the movement clear her mind and settle her soul as much as possible then she climbed to her feet.  She would be strong for Regina no matter what.

She grabbed the t-shirt Regina had worn the night before out of its hiding place and found some underwear then stood back at the door.  She knocked, “Regina, I have some clothes.  Is it ok if I come in?”  She waited for a response.  “Regina?”  She opened the door an inch and over the sounds of the shower she could hear the brunette crying.  “I’m coming in.  If you want me to go, just tell me.”  She heard no reply and opened the door wider, stepping in and closing it behind her.

Steam filled the room, making the glass opaque but she could make out the vague form of the other woman.  She put the clothes on the toilet lid and then stood there, unsure what to do.  “Do you want me to go?”  When she heard no response she turned to leave and then she heard the broken whisper, “Emma.”  The plea in that one word had her moving across the room and opening the shower door, stepping in heedless of the water now drenching her. 

Regina had her back to her, shoulders shaking with sobs.  Emma moved up behind her and slipped her hands around her waist, drawing her back against her.   She tucked her chin over her shoulder.  She whispered into the brunette’s ear, “I’m here.”

Regina spun in her arms, clinging to her.  She wrapped her arms around her neck and buried her face in the crook of the blonde’s shoulder.  Emma moved one hand up to cup the back of her head, the other pulling her tighter against her as the brunette shook in her hold.  Years of pent up grief poured from the older woman as she finally let it all go, safe in the arms of the Savior. 

Emma held her throughout it, allowed her all the time she needed and when the sobs eventually subsided, the shudders easing and then stopping she continued to hold her, to lend her strength until the water grew cold and forced her to move.  She reached out and switched the shower off then opened the door and moved back out of it, taking the brunette with her.  She reached out for a towel and wrapped it around Regina’s shoulders.  The brunette let her arms drop and Emma stepped back to enclose her in the towel, keeping her eyes focused on Regina’s face.

The blonde grabbed a towel for herself and quickly towel dried her hair.  “I’m gonna step out and let you get dressed.  Will you be ok?  I can stay if you want.” 

Regina wanted her to stay but noticed the blonde’s soaking clothes and nodded, “I’m ok.”

Emma shot her a reassuring smile. “Good.  I need to grab my bag from downstairs but I’ll be right back, I promise.”  She opened the door, taking the towel with her and stepped out, closing it behind her.  As quickly as she could, she shimmied out of her wet jeans, a feat that was more difficult that she thought it would be.  Stupid skinny jeans.   She stood for a moment, unsure what to do with them then shrugged.  It’s only water.  She tossed them onto her jacket then stripped the rest of the clothes from her body then ran the towel over herself before finally wrapping it around her body.

Emma dashed from the room, down the stairs and grabbed her bag from where she had dropped it by the front door.  She turned and retraced her steps, moving quickly back to Regina’s room and noticed the brunette was already in bed under the blankets.  She went to the corner where she’d piled her wet clothes and dropped her bag.  She bent down and grabbed the pile, tossing it into the bathroom.  I’ll deal with that later.  She opened the bag and grabbed out underwear.  She hooked the towel over her shoulders, the thought never even entering her mind of separating herself from the brunette again.  She struggled into them then grabbed a t-shirt and stood up, letting the towel pool at her feet.

Regina watched every movement the blonde made as she got dressed.  The time in the shower, held in Emma’s arms had worked to calm her down, it had given her the ability to get her emotions back under control to some degree.  She felt surprisingly peaceful, even with the blonde still on the other side of the room and not in her arms.

When the towel dropped Regina let her eyes wander over the muscled plains of Emma’s back and down over her toned legs.  When the blonde reached up to slip the shirt over her head, a brief shadow of her breast was visible and Regina felt her body respond to the sight, desire and something else stirring in her.  This woman… This woman was everything she’d ever wanted in another person and she loved her, Emma loved her.  What was she going to do?

The blonde threw the towel into the bathroom, switching off the light and then turned towards the bed, moving closer.  “Do you…  I can leave if you want to be alone.”

Regina shook her head, that was the last thing she wanted.  “No.”

Emma let a slight smile grace her lips, “Okay.”  She turned and quickly shut off the bedroom light then she slipped in under the covers, laying on her side facing the brunette but leaving a gap between them.  She was making no assumptions, this had to be Regina’s show. 

They lay like that for a while, brown eyes locked onto green in the dark.  Finally Regina summoned her courage, “Would you…”  She hesitated, her courage faltering at the last moment.

Emma didn’t need to know what Regina wanted, she would do anything for the woman beside her.  “Yes.”

Regina nodded and shifted forward, tentatively reaching out a hand then strong arms were slipping around her, pulling her close.  Emma rolled onto her back, taking the brunette with her who settled her head on her shoulder and then ran her palm down the blonde’s arm until she found her hand.  She intertwined their fingers, “Thank you.”

Emma smiled and held her tighter, whispering quietly into the room.  “Anything for you.”  She let the night settle around them for a few minutes before she spoke again.  “What did Gold say about the memories?”  She felt the brunette stiffen under her but this needed to be talked about.  The memories had to stop before they destroyed both of them. 

“I don’t want to talk about them.”

“We don’t have to talk about them but we do need to make them stop.”

Regina sighed, Emma was right.  They did need to stop but it was the last thing she felt like discussing at the moment.  “He said it was my subconscious trying to tell me something.”

Emma thought about that for a moment, “Makes sense.”

Regina frowned, “It does?”

“I’ve been thinking about the memories, what they could mean and the common theme in all of them is they were all something that shaped you into the woman you eventually became.”

“What do you mean?”

“You keep doubting your ability to be good but you weren’t always evil and I think you’ve forgotten that.  You had help becoming the Evil Queen but now the girl you once were is fighting back, trying to show you she’s still there too.”

“But ultimately it was my choices, me who did all those things.  I don’t deserve…”

“Don’t deserve to be happy?  Another chance?  Bull shit, Regina.  Everyone deserves to be happy.  Henry found me so I could bring back the happy endings and I think your happy ending is perhaps the most important one of all.  You had your happiness ripped away in front of your eyes by your mother and then that pain was compounded by an abusive husband which set you on a destructive path that was ended by me.”  Emma squeezed her hand, “So if I tell you that you deserve a happy ending then you had better damn well listen.”

“It’s not that simple.”

Emma held her frustration in check, “It is.  You have to forgive yourself.  Guilt is such a wasted emotion and you are drowning in it.  Accept the past and move on from it.  You can’t change it, so learn from it.  Allow yourself to become the woman you want to be, not the woman you’ve been told you are.” 

Emma shifted her head so she could look down at Regina, “The Evil Queen was created not born so choose to recreate yourself.  Your subconscious is trying to tell you that.  It’s showing you how you became the Evil Queen.  Hell, it’s showed me how you became the Evil Queen and I understand that now.  In the end it was a choice you made but what had led you there…   That made it difficult to see any other way.  Now it’s time to make another choice.  Choose to be Regina and fully embrace the woman that is.  Let the past go.”

Regina moved so she could look up at Emma, meeting the green eyes shining with intensity.  “What if I can’t be good?”

The blonde shrugged, “What if you can?  Everyone is capable of good and evil, it’s the choices we make that decide that.”

Unconsciously Regina tightened her grip as her old fear came bubbling to the surface.   “She will always be a part of me.”

“A part, yes but not the whole.”  Emma reached up to run a hand through Regina’s hair in a gesture of comfort.  “You can be a good person, Regina.  Stop letting people shake that belief.  Stop letting them define you.”

Regina sat up, turning away from Emma.  “I try but I don’t know if I can.  So many people-“

Emma reached out and tugged the brunette back down to her, refusing to let her escape.  “Forget about other people.  You can’t change them, only yourself.  Just start with yourself and others will soon see what I see.  I believe in you, Regina.  It’s about time you did too.”

Could Emma be right?  She knew in her heart she wanted to be a better person, wanted to be the person Emma believed she could be so she made a choice to believe, to believe in Emma the way the blonde seemed to believe in her.  “I can work on that.”  It was those words that tipped the balance, unlocking the vice around her so that for the first time in decades she felt free, she felt the faint stirrings of hope and that the path before her was now wide open instead of shrouded in darkness.


Regina lay there awake.  Emma had remained quiet, seeming to realise that she needed to think about everything the blonde had said to her.  Eventually, just before the blonde had drifted off to sleep, she’d urged Regina to roll over and had cuddled up behind her, slipping an arm under the brunette’s neck.  The other found her hand, linking their fingers again and then settled against the older woman’s stomach.  She’d nuzzled into the back of her neck, mumbled a good night and left the brunette to her thoughts. 

Everything was going over and over in her mind.  There was so much to process, so much to take in.  Not the least of which was the sleeping woman holding her in her arms.  Emma.  Regina had heard every word the woman had whispered to her in the memory.  Emma loved her.  After everything the blonde knew about her she loved her.  It was hard to wrap her head around.  Only Emma wasn’t the one who was supposed to be her true love.  She’d seen him, the man with the lion tattoo and had let that chance pass her by.  It was yet another decision she had come to regret.   It was also why she was so sure she couldn’t be Emma’s true love.

She let her mind mull over the concept of true love.  Could you have more than one true love?  It wasn’t something she had ever questioned before, wasn’t it just supposed to be one person who was meant for you?  She frowned as something tickled in the back of her mind and she tried to draw it into focus.  It remained elusive so she stopped trying and let her mind go blank.  It took a little while but then it crashed into her.  Emma.  Emma had broken the curse with true love’s kiss.  Emma had truly loved Henry and that was what had done it.  True love was not a person, true love was something you had inside of yourself, something you felt for another.  True love was something you could give, not something to be found.

That realisation sparked hope in her heart but it started to fade.  Was she capable of loving Emma that way?  Could she love her the way she deserved?  She let herself think about how it would feel if Emma walked away now and her grip on the blonde’s hand tightened causing her to murmur in her sleep and huff out a breath against the brunette’s neck which sent tingles down her spine.  It wasn’t a question of could, she already did. 

Love was one thing, but could she be Emma’s happy ending?  That was a completely different question.  They were complete opposites in just about everything.  They fought incessantly about the smallest of things.  The blonde irritated her like no other person could.  She never listened, always doing whatever suited her.  Regina let out a small laugh at that.  Emma wouldn’t be here right now if she wasn’t so stubborn so maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing after all.  Her mind shifted, Emma was fiercely loyal to those she cared about.  She risked her life without question for those she loved.  Emma was a truly good person with a heart far bigger than she gave herself credit for.  Most importantly, Emma loved her, the good and the bad.  Can we truly be happy together?

A sleepy whisper came into the night, “Yeah, we could be happy together.”  Emma shifted their linked fingers and slipped them up under the brunette’s shirt to rest on the skin of her belly, sending more tingles through Regina.  “Your turn to be thinking loudly.”

Regina frowned slightly, “You heard what I was thinking about?”

Half asleep, Emma brushed a kiss against the skin under her lips and then muttered, “Nah, just the last part.”

It grew quiet for a moment, Regina had lost the ability to speak when she’d felt Emma’s lips against her neck.  The blonde wasn’t making it easy to be rational and clear minded.  Finally Regina swallowed and then voiced one of her fears, “Do you think the connection between us is causing us to…  Feel these things?”

Emma shook the sleep from her mind, they were really having this conversation.  She slipped her arm out from under Regina and sat up.  She left the hand still linked with the brunette where it was but used the other to prop herself up.  Regina shifted to her back and Emma looked at her in the darkness.  She could barely make her out but there was enough light to see her features.  “You heard what I said before… Before the memory, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then you heard me say the first time I ever met you I felt something.”

Regina shook her head, “Well, no.  You never finished that sentence.”

Emma grinned wryly, “I thought the rest was implied.”  She knew she was going to have to be the brave one but knew, in her heart, Regina was someone who was worth any risk.  “The truth is, I’ve had feelings for you since that moment.  I saw you and you just…  You sucked me in.  I couldn’t take my eyes off you and deep in my gut I just knew you were someone I wanted to know.”  She raised an eyebrow, “Then there was the whole you trying to run me out of town thing, the having me arrested thing and also with the attempt to curse me…  Do I need to go on?”  At the brunette’s shake of her head she continued.  “A girl’s bound to get the picture eventually when someone’s not interested so I ignored it and pushed it away.  Pretended I’d never felt that way.  You have to admit our history so far has been pretty complicated.”

Regina let out a snort of laughter, “Decidedly.”

“There have been times where I couldn’t stand to be around you, where I wanted to hate you and to shut you out of my life.  The problem with that is, time after time I’m drawn back to you.  I can never stay away for long.  I want to be around you.  I want you in my life and not just for Henry.  I want you for me too.”

Regina looked up into the green eyes shining at her, “Say we actually try this, explore whatever’s going on here.  You have to know it won’t be easy, even with the connection.”

Emma raised an eyebrow, “We wouldn’t be us if it was easy.  Hell, if it was easy, we’d have probably figured this out two years ago.”

Regina sighed, “We’re bound to fight.”

Emma rolled her eyes, Regina’s arguments were weak.  “Every couple fights.”

 Hope was swiftly rising in her and she tried to tamp it down.  Regina could still decide she didn’t want her.  It’s not like the brunette had even admitted to having any feelings for her…  But she was here in bed with her, which had to count for something, right? 

“Not every couple has access to magic, dear.”

Emma shrugged dismissively, “So…  It’ll never be dull.  Besides, you’re sexy when you’re mad.”  She decided to push her luck.  “Just think of the makeup sex.  Because you know it’s gonna be good.”

Regina blushed, glad that Emma couldn’t see it in the dark, the desire that had been kindling, blazing to life.  “Fair point.”  She brought up her next issue.  “Your parents will never be happy about it.”

Emma thought back to her conversation with Snow, “They might surprise us but either way, they’re not a factor here.  This isn’t about them, it’s about you and me.”

Regina sighed, this was a major sticking point for her.  “But Henry is, what about him?”

Emma bit her lip, she had no doubt that if Regina thought Henry would be unhappy with them being together, it would never happen.  She wouldn’t risk his love again.  “You think he’s going to have a problem?”

“He could be…”

Emma shook her head, “I don’t see it.  That kid sees more than we think he does.”

“What do you mean?”

Emma dropped to lean on her elbow instead of her hand, bringing her closer to Regina, their hips brushing.  “When he was trying to get me to come over and check on you, I told him that you were going to be pissed at me and he said you never stay mad at me.”

“You said what to our son?”

Emma rolled her eyes, “Of course that’s what you choose to focus on.  You really think he hasn’t heard that word before?”  She ignored Regina’s scowl, “He’s a perceptive kid, give him some credit.  I think that if we’re happy, he’ll be happy.  He’s all about the happy endings.”  She conceded a point, even though it hurt her heart to do so, her hope taking a hit.  “If it turns out he’s not happy, we can end it, I guess.”

Regina heard the unhappiness in the blonde’s voice at that last statement.  She sighed, “And what if we try this and it doesn’t work?”

Emma allowed a small grin to break across her face, “You can go back to yelling at me, getting all scowly faced and calling me Ms. Swan.”

Regina rolled her eyes. “You think I’ll stop doing that just because I lo-“ She stopped and swallowed, “Because we’re together?”

Emma heard the slip and smiled to herself, her hope returning.  “I guess that would be too much to hope for but a girl’s gotta have dreams.”

Regina realised she was fast running out of reasons why they shouldn’t do this.  That all of her protests were being shut down, one by one, by the blonde.  “You do realise how ridiculous this is?  The Savior and the Evil Queen.  What are people going to say?”

Emma growled, she was sick to death of what other people thought of her, the expectations they placed on her.  This was about her and if Regina made her happy, no one was going to stand in her way.  “Fuck people.  Take a risk with me, Regina.”

Emotions battled within the brunette.  All she had to do was reach out and take what Emma was offering.  The blonde had shot down every argument she had.  That she needed Emma for her magical stability wasn’t even a question but if she gave Emma her heart, allowed her all the way in and something went wrong, all the stability in the world wouldn’t save her. 

She had loved Daniel but this was different.  With Daniel she hadn’t lost love before and hadn’t known what it would cost her and look what that had done.  Now… Now if she let this happen and she lost Emma like she had Daniel…  She felt the fear bubble up inside her, trying to take hold.

Emma held her breath waiting for Regina’s response, trying to read the brunette’s face but she wasn’t giving much away.  She didn’t know how she could walk away if Regina said no.  She was in far too deep now, her heart lost to the other woman. “I don’t need a declaration of love, Regina.  All I’m asking is that you give us a chance.”  Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest and she closed her eyes, silently begging the brunette to want her too.  Finally she opened her eyes and looked deep into the brown ones staring intently at her.  She whispered, “Please…  Let me love you.”


 

Chapter Text


If there was one thing Regina was tired of, it was living with regret.  She’d wondered from time to time how different things might have been if she hadn’t walked away from her chance at true love.  In her loneliest hours, she regretted the decision and that was a hard thing to admit, even to herself.  When Henry had turned on her, it was this regret that had often plagued the brunette. 

Yet here she was, once again, contemplating letting it slip through her fingers because she was afraid.  The look in Emma’s eyes was something she hadn’t seen directed her way since the night Daniel had died and she wanted to revel in it but she remembered, only too well, the look in his eyes as he had died in her arms too and how that had torn her apart.

Regret.  Did she regret loving Daniel?  She regretted his death with every part of her soul knowing that loving her had cost him his life but he hadn’t been afraid to love her.  He hadn’t been afraid to show that love even knowing the risks that had entailed.  No, she didn’t regret loving him, despite the fall out that losing that love had eventually wrought, because he had shown her just how good love could be.  For that short period of time she had been happy and that was because of his unwavering love for her.  For the first time in her young life, someone had seen her, not as a pawn on a chess board but as a person who deserved to be cherished.

Her mother had told her that love was weakness, that it faded and died but her mother was wrong.  Her mother had been wrong about so many things.  She still loved Daniel all these years later, she always would.  He was her first love and for a long time she had thought he would also be her last.  Her mother said that power never faded and perhaps she was right on that point but power didn’t fill her, it didn’t make her happy.  She’d had more power than she had thought possible and it had never filled the void inside her.

The void that Daniel’s death created had only started to fill once Henry had entered her life and she allowed herself to love him.  That love had, at times, been almost too painful to bear but she had never once regretted it.  For more than a decade she had thought Henry would be her last love but it seemed like she had been wrong again.

She had come to understand that love didn’t mean freedom from pain but it could be louder than it.  Henry’s love had started to heal her and that had always been enough for her, all she thought she was entitled to but now…  This was an unexpected chance to have everything she had ever wanted in her life.  Emma’s love had the possibility to make her feel whole, to break the vicious cycle she had been in for far too long, if she chose to let herself embrace it.

She looked into those green eyes staring at her in the dark.  She had to let herself believe that loving Emma would be worth any pain that could come because refusing to let her in, the hollowness that would consume her, wasn’t a cost she was willing to bear any more.  It would hurt more to never know what loving Emma Swan could truly feel like, of that she was sure.  This was her chance, she would be a fool to not grab it with both hands and hold on with everything that she had. 

She disentangled her fingers from Emma’s and let her hand slide up the blonde’s arm and slip behind her neck.  She gave a gentle tug, encouraging the younger woman closer.  When they were just a breath apart, she whispered, “I can do that.”  Then she closed the gap.


Regina had been quiet for so long that Emma had all but prepared herself for the brunette to turn her down so when she heard those whispered words, her heart exploded, tingles spreading and filling every fibre of her being.  She felt lightheaded, like she wasn’t in her own body anymore then warm lips were coaxing hers open and she came crashing back as the reality of what Regina had just said filtered through. Love hummed through her entire system and she opened her mouth, letting the brunette fill her senses with the taste of her.  She put every ounce of feeling into the shared kiss, all the love she had bubbling through her veins. 

Emma felt Regina slide her other arm around her back, pulling the blonde tight against her and groaned deep in her chest.  Desire was like lightening in her veins, burning quickly through her and setting her ablaze. Her hand slid down to rest on the brunette’s hip, sliding around to cup her ass.  Her leg slipped over to settle between the other woman’s thighs, the contact eliciting a moan from Regina.  That sound was both terribly arousing and like cold water down the blonde’s back at the same time.  She broke the kiss, and pulled back removing her hand from the brunette’s ass.  “Regina.  Wait.”

Regina frowned as she felt Emma pulling away and tightened her grip around the blonde’s waist and let the hand that had been tangled in her hair slide down Emma’s back.  She slipped it under the shirt, warm skin now under her palm.  She moved it back up, allowing her nails to lightly scrape along the skin and was rewarded when a shudder went through the other woman.  “Why on earth would I want to do that?  I’ve waited far too many years for you already.”   She felt Emma try to shift her leg away and wrapped her own over the top, trapping her there.

“We don’t have to…  Just because you said…  Doesn’t mean…”  Emma tried to get the words out but Regina’s hand had shifted from her back to her side, to lightly stroke down to the waistband of her panties.  The blonde put a hand over the brunette’s, stilling it even as goose bumps broke out across her skin.  “Regina.  Please.  What happened earlier...”

Regina sighed in exasperation.  “Has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening now.  You were right to stop me before, but this has nothing to do with my past.  This is about me showing you how much you affect me.”  She looked deep into Emma’s eyes, trying to drive her point home.  She spoke the blonde’s earlier words back at her.  “This is about us making memories.  I promise, you are the only thing on my mind right now.  I want this, I want you.”

Emma shivered, lost in a wave of desire the brunette’s words created.  “I just don’t want to hurt you.  I never want to do that.”

Regina looked into Emma’s eyes, seeing the truth of that statement shining there.  “Let me assure you…”  She freed her hand from under the blonde’s and pushed on her chest, using her other hand to tug on her shirt until Emma moved onto her back.  She rolled with her, slipping her arm out before the blonde settled, Regina now on top.  The brunette moved and sat up, her thighs either side of Emma’s hips, an arm either side of her head.  “I will not break, I am far from fragile.”   She leaned down, leaving a trail of kisses along the jaw she loved and up to her ear.  She traced the outer shell with her tongue and a moan slipped past the blonde’s lips but still her restraint held.  She all but breathed the next words directly into Emma’s ear.  “But I may shatter if you don’t touch me now.”

Emma broke, her control in tatters.  Who could resist those words?  She sat up, pushing the brunette up straight and wrapped her arms around her, capturing her lips in a heated kiss.  Her hands slipped under the black shirt, needing to feel Regina under her palms, her fingers moving everywhere, learning all that they could.

Regina wrapped her arms around the blonde’s neck, one hand in her hair.  She rocked her hips and both women groaned at the contact.  Emma broke the kiss, her lips blazing a trail down Regina’s neck.  The brunette arched it to give her better access and was rewarded when Emma dragged her teeth across her pulse point, eliciting a moan.  “Yes.”  She hissed out and the simple word went straight through Emma, desire pooling in her core.

Her hands slipped around to Regina’s side, her fingers splayed out, covering as much of the brunette as she could.  She felt the ribs of the other woman, tracing them with light touches and then slid her hands upwards until her thumbs were brushing the underside of Regina’s breasts.  She stroked the soft skin there, teasing the other woman whose lips were nipping a path along her neck.  Each pass of her thumbs moved slowly higher and were accompanied by a gasp that sent tingles down her spine and wetness flooding her centre. 

Regina tried to hurry Emma along, her need becoming desperate.  She tried to urge Emma’s arm and therefore her hand higher but the blonde resisted, enjoying the effect she was having on the brunette.  “Touch me, damn it.”  Regina growled in her ear and it brought a smile to Emma’s lips as she relented, allowing her hands to cup the warm flesh, her thumbs sliding out to brush across the taut nipples.

Regina arched into her hands, hips driving down, craving some friction to ease the ache building between her legs.  She muffled a moan against Emma’s neck by biting down, a hoarse cry flying from the blonde’s lips in answer.  It wasn’t enough and whatever patience she thought she had was very close to running out.  She had to have Emma now.  She reached down and grabbed the hem of her shirt, yanking it over her head.  She repeated the move, this time taking hold of the irritating cloth still separating her from Emma and tugged up. 

The blonde’s hands fell away from their exploration of Regina’s breasts as her shirt was ripped down her arms but no sooner was the garment gone when hands were urging hers back to where they had been.

Regina pulled Emma tight against her, the blondes hands trapped between them.  She brought their lips together again, her tongue demanding entrance which the younger woman was only too happy to oblige.  Her hands came up to cup Emma’s cheeks then she broke the kiss, and looked into lust glazed eyes.  She desperately wanted to confess the depths of her feelings but the words wouldn’t come, she couldn’t make them and all she could hope was that in time they would. 

Instead she flicked her fingers, conjuring a small ball of light which hovered over them, shedding just enough of a glow to see by, then moved her hands down to strong shoulders and pushed Emma back to lie down.  She let her eye’s trail down, taking in the sight of the half-naked woman.  “Stunning, you are simply stunning, Emma.”  She husked out, her voice laced heavily with desire.

Emma was busy eyeing the perfect breasts she was desperate to taste, the brunette’s words bringing a smile to her face.  “You’re not so bad yourself.  I think I’ll keep you around.”

Regina huffed out a laugh.  “You’d better.  I do not rip my shirt off for just anyone.”  She leaned forward and brushed her lips across Emma’s shoulder and closed her eyes when she heard whispered words.  “You’re mine.”  Such possessive words would normally have made her want to lash out at the speaker.  Too many people had tried to claim her in the past, had tried to take possession of her but when the blonde said them all she felt was the rightness of the claim.  Any lingering doubts she had about letting Emma in drifted away.  “I am.  Let me show you.” 


Emma lay there thinking about what had happened over the past few hours.  Regina was asleep with her head on her chest and her body curled half over the blondes.  I am so totally gone over her.  What’s that expression…?  Head over heels.  And that was exactly how she felt, like she had fallen head over heels and somehow ended up the luckiest person in this world or any other.  She ran a hand down the curve of the brunette’s back and smiled as the woman snuggled in closer still, her legs shifting to tangle further with Emma’s.  Mine.  She’s mine and I am so hers. 

They had made love more times than the blonde could count and it still hadn’t been enough, she doubted it would ever be enough.  That was the only way Emma could think about it, making love, because it had been so much more than just sex.  She had never felt so connected to someone before and at times she swore they were melded into one, that she felt Regina’s heart beat just for her.  It had been intense and intimate, the emotions burning stronger and brighter with every touch, every whispered word. 

She knew every inch of Regina, had spent an hour or more just mapping out the other woman’s body with her hands and lips, driving both of them to the brink dozens of times.  Learning all the curves and dips, the places that made her gasp and moan, the ones that made the brunette grab hold of Emma as if her life depended on her.

She let her mind wander to the first time Regina let go, the look on her face as wave after wave of pleasure had crashed through her.  She had pushed her, driving her higher and higher until the brunette could barely speak, the only coherent thing had been her name, chanted over and over again.  She had felt so cocky to have brought Regina undone, to see the woman unravel before her eyes at her touch. 

She remembered the tears that had started to fall from under the brunette’s closed eyes afterwards and her fear that she had hurt the woman she loved, had pushed her too far, and done something wrong.  She had started apologizing even though she hadn’t known what she had done wrong exactly, only wanting to soothe her lover.  Brown eyes had slowly opened and lips had twitched in a smile, too sated to fully form then Regina was murmuring that she was an idiot for apologizing for giving her the most incredibly intense orgasm of her life. 

Emma felt a laugh bubble in her chest and swallowed it down, not wanting to wake Regina.  I guess some things will never change.

It was still a little hard for her to wrap her mind around the fact that she was here, in Regina’s bed, feeling deliciously sore and ridiculously content.  She had never been content in her life, always moving, always running away from anything that even resembled commitment. 

Even with Henry and her parents in her life, she had never felt entirely settled, that fear of not really belonging always present in the back of her mind.  Something had been missing and it turned out that something had been present for the last two years, only she hadn’t taken enough notice.  Right here…  She felt like she belonged and she would happily stay here, intertwined with the woman who had so perfectly captured her heart without even trying, for the rest of her life.  I’m not letting her go.  No matter what.  No one is taking her away from me.  She deserves this.  We deserve this. 

She watched as the sun started to rise on a new day, one that was filled with hope and opportunities but most importantly, one that was filled with love.  She knew Regina hadn’t said the words but she didn’t need them.  It had been there in every touch, every look and whispered word.  She could wait.  She would wait forever if necessary.  Regina is the one I’ve been waiting for, she’s the love of my life.  As the thought ghosted through her mind she was startled from the doze she had begun to slip into.  All at once the fear and anxiety of the last few days returned, squeezing her chest. How could I have forgotten?  Her body tightened and her grip on the brunette grew fierce, as if by holding her she could protect her from anything.

Regina may have seemed better but there were things that still needed to be sorted out, she was still in danger and that completely unsettled the blonde.  Despite her determination, Emma realised she could still lose Regina.  Gold had said there was a chance to stabilize her magic.  Even if the brunette had dismissed it, Emma thought any chance was worth investigating.  She couldn’t physically be with Regina around the clock for the rest of their lives, no matter how tempting the prospect was, which meant that the brunette would be in danger, her life at risk whenever Emma had to leave her.  She knew she was being ridiculous as she tried to come up with a way that they could live their lives and never be separated but couldn’t stop herself.  Hand cuffs!  I have them!  I’ll hand cuff her to me and permanently lose the key.

A soft murmur from her chest brought her out of her panicked mind.  “You are awfully tense for someone who just engaged in hours of mind blowing sex.  Second thoughts?”

Regina lay, listening to the fast beat of the Saviors heart.  She tried not to jump to any conclusions, the fact that she was being held in an almost painful embrace lending credit to the fact that the blonde wasn’t about to push her away but she still had to ask the question.

“What?  No!”  Emma tilted the brunette’s head to look at her.  “Never!”  She forced her body to relax, a difficult thing when her distress was still there just under the surface.  Suddenly aware of how tightly she was holding Regina, she loosened her grip, “Please don’t think that.”

Regina shifted the hand that had been loosely covering the blonde’s breast up to caress her cheek.  “Then what has you in this state and why on earth are you thinking about handcuffs?”

“Huh?  Oh…  Yeah.  Nothing.  The handcuffs.  Not important.”  Emma shook her head.  She kept forgetting they could hear each other’s thoughts sometimes. 

Regina wanted to make a devious remark about her lover’s current preoccupation with handcuffs but sensed now wasn’t the right time.  Emma was visibly upset about something and she wanted to know why.  “Emma?”

The blonde tried to remain calm.  “Your magic.  We need to stabilize it.  I can’t be with you all the time and if I’m not, you’re in danger and I can’t…”  Her body tensed again, her breathing becoming erratic as the vision of Regina collapsed on the staircase landing invaded her mind.  She tried again, involuntary shudders rippling through her body.  “I can’t…”

“Shhhh, darling.”  Regina shifted up the bed and gathered the shaking woman in her arms.  She tucked Emma’s head under her chin and stroked lightly up and down her back, hoping to soothe her. 

A sob broke free and words followed it, almost as if they were being torn from her soul.  “Lose you.  I can’t.  I finally have you and if something happens…”  Her breathing hitched in her chest.  “I love you.  I don’t know if you know that.  I don’t know if it’s too soon but I do.”  Emma moved back so she could look at Regina, “You’re in here.”  She thumped a hand over her heart.  ”You're in here and if something happens to you, I don’t think…”  She swallowed, “My heart wouldn’t survive.  We need to fix this, you need to be safe.  I need you to be safe.”  Her next words were punctuated with a thump over her heart, almost like she was willing it to keep beating if the worst should ever happen.  “I. Will.  Not.  Lose.  You.”

Regina absorbed the words, it was one thing to hear them whispered in a memory but it was a whole other feeling to hear them declared with such raw passion.  Her heart swelled to bursting point and she had to blink away tears.  How on earth had she managed to find someone who could see past all her faults and look at her like she was the only one in the world who mattered?   She moved her hand to cover the blonde’s that was still tapping over her chest.  “Emma, darling.  I swear you are not going to lose me.  I have no intentions of going anywhere, at least not without you and Henry and I certainly have no intention of letting my magic be the end of me.  I will be careful, I won’t use it unless I have to.  I will be perfectly safe if I don’t use magic.  We can work on finding a solution but until then I promise I won’t take any unnecessary risks.”

They stared at each other for a moment then Emma moved forward and kissed her, it was a slow soft kiss, communicating all she felt for the other woman.  The word unnecessary was reverberating in her mind.  “No risks, none.  Please.”  The quiet pleading wasn’t something Regina could resist so she nodded, even knowing what Emma was asking was easier said than done.

At Regina’s nod, Emma felt the band that had been around her chest loosen and the tension start to drain away.  She wanted to work on the solution right away, the sooner they resolved this, the sooner they could just enjoy being together.   “You mentioned that Gold said there was a chance we could stabilize your magic.  What was it?”

Regina swallowed, her throat suddenly tight.  If she told Emma what the Rumple had said, the blonde would only focus on that.  True love is a powerful thing.   That was all he had said as if that would answer everything.  It wasn’t a solution, it was a statement.  “If I believed for one second that he was right, I would tell you but he is not.  He doesn’t have a solution, just a ridiculous notion and it will only confuse the issue.  We need to look elsewhere for answers.  He may know a lot but he does not know everything.”

“Just tell me, Regina.  If it’s like you say, then what harm can it do?  If we want to look for other answers, at least I need to know what to ignore.”

Regina’s brows drew down into a slight frown.  Did she truly want to keep this from Emma because she was sure it was nothing?  Or was it her fear that the blonde would scoff at the idea that was making her hesitate?  Whatever the answer, one thing became clear.  If she started off this relationship keeping secrets, it would end and it would not end well.  She sighed, resigning herself.  “All he said was that true love is a powerful thing and as I said, it is not a solution, merely a notion and a ridiculous one at that.  Will you please just let it go?  We will find an answer somewhere else.”

True love?  Emma stared at the other woman as the idea settled in her mind.  Does Gold think Regina is my true love?  She slowly blinked, her brows knitting together in thought.  As Regina had mentally predicted, Emma got side tracked by the idea that the brunette could be her true love.  But could she be my true love and just what does that actually mean?  True love is my parent’s thing, not mine.  I mean, it is why I have this magic in me, being the product of true love and all.  She bit her lip as another thought crossed her mind.  I mean I do love her and she is definitely the one I want to spend the rest of my life…  Annnnd woah there Swan, thinking waaaay too far ahead, it hasn’t even been twelve hours since you officially started dating.  Shit!  What if she can hear this?  Oh hell.  Get back on track.  

Emma risked a glance at Regina’s face, relieved it gave no indication she had been privy to the blondes thoughts.  She mentally shook herself and refocused.  Even if she is, how could true love fix this?  It isn’t some curse to be broken.  Maybe Regina is right, it doesn’t really help at all…  But it can’t hurt to talk it through though.   Emma didn’t want to let it go, she knew what the man had said must have some truth, some value in it.  Gold would never have said it if it didn’t.  At the very least, it deserved to be discussed but as she opened her mouth to argue her point, her traitorous belly chose that moment to announce it was hungry which startled her into silence.

Regina had been busy studying all the emotions that had flitted across Emma’s expressive face, trying to judge her reaction to what she had just revealed but the noise was so loud that her focus was lost and she raised an eyebrow, only too happy for the distraction.  Hoping to turn the conversation away from her magical woes and true love, she latched onto it.  “I take it that means it’s been far too long since you last ate?”

Diverted from her previous thoughts, Emma slipped a hand over her stomach and smiled sheepishly.  “I… Ahhh… guess I burned a lot of energy last night.”

Regina smirked, “So I remember and it was very well spent, let me assure you.”  The sound came again and the brunette laughed.  “Well I can’t have my…”  She hesitated then tried the word on for size, “Girlfriend starving.”  It felt strange but a good strange and the grin Emma shot her told her it was definitely ok with the blonde.  “I do enjoy her being full of energy so I guess I could feed you.”

Emma bit her lip, still grinning from the girlfriend comment.  “Well the last thing I did eat was the PBnJ and that was a long time ago.  You haven’t fed me very well up until now.  A very poor host and I had heard such good things about you.  I’ve had to fend for myself.”

Regina rolled her eyes, a smile lighting her eyes at the teasing.  “I recall your last meal.  Part of it is still sprinkled on my floor and sofa.”  She raised an eyebrow, a smile hinting at the corner of her lips.  “And what do you mean, I haven’t fed you very well.  You helped yourself to my lasagna, did you not?  The sandwich was your choice not mine.  Why on earth didn’t you have the spaghetti?  All you had to do was prepare some pasta.  It would only have taken a few minutes longer and been substantially more filling, not to mention nutritious.  I could have taken advantage of all that extra energy.”

Emma felt an embarrassed blush seep into her cheeks and turned away with a shrug, muttering, “I don’t know how to cook pasta.  I never had anyone to teach me how.”

The quiet words sobered Regina and she instantly regretted her careless words.  She hadn’t meant them to be a reminder of the blonde’s past but she felt bad all the same.  She cleared the lump that had formed in her throat.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to…”  She shook her head, angry with herself.  “Well now you do.”  She reached out and caressed Emma’s cheek, turning it towards her so she could give her a soft kiss. 

Emma deepened the kiss, showing her just what her words meant to her.  They lost a few moments just enjoying each other before Emma broke the kiss and leaned her forehead against Regina’s.  “It’s ok.  You didn’t know.” 

“But I do now and I will teach you.  That is, if you wish me to?” 

“Yeah, I think I’d like that and even if I suck, I get to hang out with the hottest babe ever.”

Regina leaned back and scowled but it didn’t reach her eyes, “Did you just call me a babe?”

Emma grinned cheekily, “Maybe.  Not cool?”  She baited the brunette, “Would you prefer sweet cheeks?  No?  Hot lips?  How about fancy pants?”  As Regina’s scowl darkened, Emma fought to hold in her laugh.  “I think you’re a babe.  I think you’re my babe.”

Regina huffed out a sigh, biting her cheek to stop herself from giving away her amusement.   She responded dryly, “I guess I could adjust to babe, given enough time but really, Ms. Swan…”

Emma lost it, the laugh erupting from her mouth.  She drew the brunette towards her and enveloped her in a hug.  Regina hid the smile she could no longer contain against Emma’s neck.  “I’ll keep trying.  There’s gotta be one pet name you don’t hate…  And I can’t believe you just called me that while you’re naked in my arms.”  She mused, “You know it was kind of a turn on.”

Regina was pleased she had managed to lighten the mood, even at her own expense.  “Valuable information.  I’ll keep that in mind, darling.”  She disentangled herself from the blonde and rose from the bed, grabbing her robe and slipping it on, smiling as Emma murmured her displeasure at the garment’s appearance.  She held out her hand, “Come with me, Emma.”

The blonde smiled, warmed by the brunette’s words, her fears momentarily forgotten under the affection from the other woman.  She tumbled out of bed and hastily slipped her shirt over her head then grabbed a pair of sweat pants from her bag, climbing into them.  She returned to where Regina was patiently waiting for her.  She slipped her hand into the out stretched one and leaned in for a quick kiss.  When she moved back she spoke only one word and it was a truth from the very depth of her being.  “Anywhere.”


 

Chapter Text


“So I guess we’re not having spaghetti for breakfast?”  Emma stood watching as Regina continued to pull food out of the fridge.  Red peppers, onions and mushrooms joined the cheese, eggs, chorizo and milk already on the bench.

Regina turned to look at Emma, raising a questioning eyebrow.  “You really want pasta for breakfast?  I thought we could have that for lunch or dinner.”

“Well no, but I thought that’s…  Never mind.”  Emma tried to hide her disappointment, part of her wondering if Regina had changed her mind about teaching her to cook after all.  She knew it was probably a lost cause but she’d wanted to try.

Regina sensed that something had upset the blonde and she wasn’t sure exactly what had caused it.  “If you really want the spaghetti, we could have that but I thought I’d show you something easy for breakfast to begin with.”

Everything Emma knew about life, she’d had to learn on her own because there had been no one else so at Regina’s words, she brightened instantly, relief curling through her.  A small part of her would always be that orphan girl just waiting to be written off again as too much trouble and it was a little too easy for her to doubt that anyone would want to take the time to teach her anything.  “Easy would be good.  Is it also quick because I’m about ready to eat just about anything right now?”

Regina wondered at the quick change in her lover’s demeanor.  On the surface, Emma was as easy to read as an open book, you could tell what she was feeling just by looking in her eyes and reading the expression on her face.  The older woman suspected that underneath, things were far more complicated, that what often caused those emotions remained locked away deep inside, brushed aside by a flippant reply.  It would take time to truly understand what made the blonde tick but she was looking forward to being allowed to do just that.  They honestly were more similar than she had ever realised.  Smirking, she moved over to where Emma stood.  “Is that right?  And what do you have in mind, dear?”

The blonde slipped her arms around the slim waist and pulled the brunette against her.  She hummed appreciatively at the sensation having Regina flush against her caused.  Knowing the brunette was naked under the thin robe did nothing to curb her more carnal appetite.  “That’s right and I think you have a pretty good idea what I have in mind.”  She stepped back as her stomach made a protesting noise.  “But, as much as it pains me to say, I think I need actual food right now.  My stomach isn’t shutting up any time soon without it.”

Regina gave her a chaste kiss and moved a few steps away, the temptation to stay wrapped up in Emma all too delicious but the blonde was right, they both needed food.  She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten but was sure it had been a lot longer than it should have been.  While her headache was definitely subdued and the static energy seemed to be staying contained within her rather than blowing things up, the slight ache behind her eyes was a constant reminder than not all was right with her.  “I think that would be a good idea.”

Emma watched as the woman she loved moved deftly around the kitchen with such confidence.  The kitchen was the last place she felt comfortable but Regina seemed at home bustling about, getting things ready.  It was so easy to picture her as a mom, taking care of her family.  Far too easy to picture herself as part of that family.  “So what are you teaching me?”

“Have you ever cooked an omelette?”

“Ahhh, nope.  I do make a mean scrambled eggs, though.  Ate a lot of them when I was back in Boston.  Good at any time of the day.  Well and they’re the only thing I can cook.”  Emma shrugged, a half smile on her lips.

“Well then, one day you can cook them for me.”

“Even if it’s for dinner?”

Regina turned to look at the blonde, surprised at the warmth that flooded through her.  “Are you offering to cook me dinner, Ms. Swan?”

Emma bit her lip nervously, not so sure this was a good idea.  After everything Henry had told her about Regina’s cooking prowess, she doubted the brunette would be impressed by her attempt at scrambled eggs.  Why had she opened her big mouth?  “Sure.  I can do that.”

“You know, no one has ever offered to cook me a meal before.  I find I rather like the idea.”

Emma quickly back peddled, not wanting Regina to be disappointed when she proved she really couldn’t cook worth a damn.  “Just don’t get your hope up.  It could be really crappy.  I could just be overselling my scrambled eggs ability.  We should probably have a backup plan in place.”

“I highly doubt that, but even so…  I would appreciate the effort all the same, no matter the outcome.  Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me ‘til you taste them.”  Emma smiled wryly, “You may end up wishing I’d never been born.”

Regina knew Emma meant it in a lighthearted way but it made her heart ache.  She confessed, “It’s a good thing no fairy ever saw fit to grant any of my wishes then because there was a time I wished for exactly that, Emma.”  She tried to busy herself with cracking eggs into a bowl but hands slipped around her waist, one of them stopping her, taking the egg from her hand and placing it on the bench. 

“And now?”

Regina let her chin drop down to her chest.  “Now I find myself glad that Henry found you and brought you home.”

“Just so you know, I feel exactly the same way.”  Emma stepped back and turned Regina to face her, she looked into brown eyes that were still tinged with sadness and regret.  “He’s a great kid, Regina and that boils down to you and only you.  With everything you went through…  Your childhood…  Even if I knew nothing else about you, Henry would be all the proof I needed that you are a good woman at heart and a wonderful mother.”  She leaned her forehead against the brunettes, “I think you’re amazing.  He may have my genes but it was you who raised him to be such an awesome little person.  All I ever wanted for him was to have a good home, to not grow up like I did.  I wanted him to be loved.  You gave him everything I could only dream of, so thank you.  I should have told you that a long time ago.”

“I…”  Regina was lost for words, tears forming in her eyes.  The blonde’s words meant more than Emma could understand.  Deep down inside she was always afraid that she would turn out like her mother, that she would tarnish Henry like her mother had ruined her.  To hear Emma, the one other person in this world that loved Henry as much as she did, say she had done a good job, it helped to settle some of the demons that forever plagued her.  It sparked belief that she could be the person Emma truly believed her to be.  She leaned into the blonde, settling her face into the crook of her neck.  As arms tightened around her, she whispered, “Thank you.” 

They stood like that for a moment, just enjoying the comfort being together brought then Regina cleared her throat and stepped back.  “Right, breakfast.  I need to feed you before you start complaining I’m trying to starve you.”

Emma grinned, “Well I was starting to wonder.  I’m beginning to think I should have just grabbed another PBnJ.  I’m fading away to nothing here.”  She held her arms out from her sides as if to prove her statement.

Regina let her eyes roam up and down the blonde’s body, reveling in being able to do just that and not have to play it off as something it wasn’t, to herself or anyone else.  “I think you look just fine, dear.”

“Only fine?!”  Emma exclaimed, “I definitely need food then.  If all my girlfriend can say is that I look fine I’m obviously suffering far worse than I though.”  They both grinned at each other like idiots over the girlfriend statement, enjoying the fact that they could find happiness in such a simple thing.  Every time it was said, it became just a little more real, a little more believable that the two most unlikely people had finally discovered they were actually perfect for each other.   “So put me to work, already!  What do you need me to do?”

Regina pulled out a chopping board and large knife, placing it on the bench near the vegetables.  “Would you mind slicing up the mushrooms and dicing the onions, chorizo and red peppers?”

Emma moved over to the chopping board and picked up the knife, trying to look confident.  How hard could cutting up vegetables be?  Slice and dice.   “Sure, no problem.”  She picked up an onion in her other hand and looked at it, frowning.  “I’ve got this.”

Regina smiled at her and turned back to preparing the egg mixture.  She heard sounds of the knife hitting the board a little harder than she would have liked but figured if she showed Emma she had confidence in her, the blonde just might believe it too.  She was busy whisking the eggs, milk and cheese together when she heard the knife clatter to the bench. 

“Oh wow.  Shit!  That’s super sharp.” 

Regina whirled around to find Emma clenching her hands, the left, fingers curled into the palm, wrapped tightly in the right.  She put the bowl down and moved over to the blonde’s side.  “What happened?”

A wry smile formed on Emma’s lips.  “Ah, nothing.  Just got a little unruly with the knife.  You’d think that someone who had killed a dragon could wield a little knife without slicing themselves up but apparently not.” 

Regina reached out and took Emma’s clenched hands in her own.  “Someone, possibly, but you?”  Her eyes twinkled with mirth.  “Let me have a look.”

Emma rolled her eyes, “Haha, yeah the mighty Savior is a clumsy idiot.  Destiny really dropped the ball there.  I’d have been safer if I just took a sword to the damned vegetables.”

Regina looked sideways at the mess of vegetables and chorizo on the chopping board and wondered whether the vegetables might have fared better too.  “I’m sure I’ve told you that more than a dozen times, darling.  Now open your hand and let me see the damage.”  Regina watched as the blonde unfurled her fingers and winced.  There was a deep slice across the palm of her hand that was bleeding steadily now that it wasn’t clenched tight, blood beginning to drip onto the floor.  Regina cradled the injured hand in her palm, snapped a finger and a cloth appeared in her hand.  She wrapped it around the injured palm, stemming the crimson flow.  “How on earth did you manage that?”

“I dunno, the knife slipped.  One second I was killing the mushrooms, the next…”  Emma shrugged, the movement radiating to her hand, causing her to bite back a gasp of pain.  “It’s gonna need stitches, isn’t it?”

Regina unwrapped Emma’s hand, gathering the cloth underneath to catch any mess and prodded the wound.  The blonde hissed in pain, biting her lip to keep from crying out.  The brunette checked to see how deep it went, hoping none of the tendons had been severed.  “I suspect, that if we were anyone else, that would probably be the case but I think you can fix it with magic.  It looks like a simple enough wound.  It’s deep but no internal damage.”

Emma shook her head, trying not to feel lightheaded at the amount of blood that was leaking from her body.  “Me?  But can’t you just magic it away?  You’ve done this before.  I don’t know how to heal.  What if I just magic my hand completely off?”  A horrified look crossed her face.  “I could end up with a hook for a hand!  Do you really wanna see me with a hook for a hand?  I don’t wanna see me with a hook for a hand!  We don’t need another Captain Hook!  One is far too many already and just think of the outfit I’d have to wear!”  The blonde knew she was being a little ridiculous but she was afraid she’d screw it up.  “Hell, I don’t even know how to control my power.  Can’t you just do it?”  She hated the whine that had snuck into her voice but couldn’t help it.

“No, I don’t want to see you with a hook for a hand.  I would never let it come to that.  On the other hand, you in a pair of leather pants might not be all bad.”  Regina softly smiled and looked into green eyes that were laced with apprehension.  “Of course I could repair your hand but it’s far past the time you learned how to do it yourself.  I will not let anything bad happen.  I believe you can do it, Emma.  Do you trust me?”

Emma swallowed nervously and nodded, “I trust you.  So what do I have do?”

Regina cupped one of her hands under the blondes injured hand, “Cup your other hand over the top.”  Once Emma had complied, she placed her free hand over the top.  “You know that magic comes from emotion.  Anger is an excellent source but I feel that you might have an easier time with healing if you focused on a good emotion, a good memory for this.”

“Any suggestions?”

Regina bit her lip in contemplation, she didn’t know a lot about Emma’s past, what the blonde would consider a good memory.  All she knew was how Emma made her feel, and a part of her hoped she felt the same way where the brunette was concerned.  “You say you love me.”

Emma nodded, “I do!”

Regina couldn’t control the smile that lit up every part of her face, “Then focus on that feeling.”

“Ok.”

“Do you feel it deep inside?”

“I certainly feel it somewhere.”

“Emma!” 

Emma couldn’t help but laugh at the shock in Regina’s voice which caused her hand to twinge in pain again, reminding her of what she was supposed to be doing.  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  You make it too easy.  I’m concentrating.”

The brunette scowled at her lover, “Make sure that you are or you just might end up with that hook.  Now I want you to channel that feeling, channel the magic it is building into your uninjured palm.” Emma’s hand started to glow white and Regina felt her own magic start to respond.  She forced her magic back, wanting Emma to do this on her own but it was a battle.  Her magic was strongly drawn to the blonde.  “Excellent.  Now will your hand to be whole.”  As the magic started to flow from the blonde, it took on a very light tinge of lilac bringing a smile to Regina’s lips.  Even with the tight hold on her own magic, it seemed the connection went both ways and that Emma already had a small part of the brunette’s magic deep within her. 

When the magic faded, Regina pulled Emma’s top hand away and they both looked down.  Emma’s eyebrows shot up, “Oh yeah.  Not even a scar.  That is so cool.  Go me!  I could have done with that super power years ago.”

Regina waved her hand and the blood stained towel disappeared.  “Indeed.  You did very well.  No hook required, as promised.”

Emma grinned, “Do I get an A+?” 

Regina rolled her eyes, “For managing to slice open your hand?  I think not.”

“Whatever.”  Emma gave a cocky grin.  “I’m awesome.  Go Swan the healer!”

“Don’t get too carried away.  That was a simple injury.  Anything more complex would require a great deal more magic and knowledge.”

 “But you’ll teach me, right?”

Regina studied the enthusiasm on the blonde’s face.  “I can do that if you would like but I need you to realise it will not always be that easy.  Your magic comes from true love so using it to heal like that was a simple task.  It was already predisposed to wanting to help.  You have a great deal of power that will not always be so easy to wield.”

Emma nodded, “I think I get it.  Will that be different now, with the connection between us?  You already said yours had been stronger.”

Regina sighed, “I just don’t know enough about this bond between us to give you any answers.  There have certainly been changes but I think only time will tell the full extent of them.  I’m sorry.”

“Well I guess we’ll just have to figure it out together.”  Emma turned back to the chopping board, surveying her work.  “So I’m pretty much done with the vegetables.  I didn’t get any blood on them so they should be alright.  I hope they’re ok.”

Regina reached over and snagged a slice of red pepper, “They’re perfect.”  She slipped the pepper into her mouth, enjoying the fact that Emma’s eyes traced every movement.  The blonde looked like she was hungry for more than food and that made Regina feel so very wanted.  In truth the vegetables were slightly massacred but that didn’t matter.  Next time she would show Emma how to slice them correctly.  The fact that there would be a next time was what counted, what caused butterflies to dance in her stomach.  She moved over to the stove and lit the flame, placing the fry pan over it to heat.  “Time for you to learn how to cook this meal.  Just don’t stand to close to the flame, burns are a lot harder to heal.”

“Hey!  Low blow.”


 The new couple sat at the kitchen bench, Emma shoveling in mouthful after mouthful.  “Oh my God, this is so good, babe.”  She stopped mid forkful.  “I mean, Regina.  Sorry, still working on that.  It’ll come to me.”

Regina cut off a small piece of omelette and raised it to her lips.  At Emma’s words she paused, raising an eyebrow.  To be honest, she didn’t mind Emma calling her babe as much as she thought she would.  It wasn’t what she would pick as a pet name for herself but as someone who never thought she would have anyone in her life to call her by a pet name, she couldn’t be upset about the fact that she did have someone, even if her choice wasn’t ideal.  “I guess it’s as good as any other.”  She opened her mouth and delicately ate the bite off her fork.

“I don’t want it to be as good as any other.”  Emma looked still looked a little guilty, she had to come up with something better.  She shoved another large mouthful in hoping to quiet her traitorous mouth.  She looked up and saw the brunette staring at her.  She raised an eyebrow in question, her mouth too full with food to speak.

“I’ve never quite understood why you have to eat like it’s your last meal.”

Emma chewed and swallowed, spending the few seconds thinking about her reply.  She didn’t really like to talk about what it was like in the group homes but this was Regina and she found herself wanting to be honest despite the uncomfortable feeling it created in her.  She had been witness to terrible parts of the Queens dark past so it felt like the least she could do was to share some parts of her own grim past.  “In the group home you learn quickly to eat as much as you can, as fast as you can because if you don’t, you’ll end up having it taken from you by somebody bigger and stronger, then you go hungry.  I hated the kids that did that, picked on the smaller ones who couldn’t defend themselves.  Got into a lot of trouble sticking up for the little ones but what else could I do?”  She shrugged, “You had to learn to eat fast and fight back or you’d starve.”  She shrugged, “Old habits die hard.  I never take my next meal for granted but if I get too hungry instinct just takes over.  Sorry.”

Regina frowned at the picture the blonde’s words had created in her mind of a young Emma having to fight for every meal.  “Yes, well… No need to apologise.  I guess it makes sense as to why you are continually eating then.  No child should have to suffer like that.”

“Yeah, but it happens.  You learn to survive.”

Regina glanced down at her plate, no longer hungry.  She swore to herself that as long as Emma was hers, the blonde would never have to question where her next meal was coming from.  “I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“The part I played-“

“Hey, no.”  Emma reached out and took Regina’s hand in hers.  “I didn’t tell you that to make you feel guilty.  I wanted to share it with you.  It’s a part of me and I kinda want you to know all of that stuff eventually.  You have nothing to be sorry for.  It is what it is.  It made me tough, made me a survivor.  It made me appreciate what I have now.  It made me learn to take nothing for granted.”

“But-“

Emma squeezed her hand.  “No buts.  Take the lessons from the past and then let it go.  It’s what I try to focus on doing.”  She let out a small smile, “Well for the most part.  As I said, old habits die hard.  At least I don’t pocket food anymore.  It was hell on my clothes.”  She tried to catch Regina’s gaze to show her it really was ok but the brunette kept her eyes down cast.

Emma sighed, it was becoming obvious it was going to take Regina a while to get over her part in the Saviors childhood.  All the blonde could do was show her how much it didn’t matter anymore and give her the space to process that.  She could show the brunette that everything in her past had led her to this point and right now, she was happy, something she thought would never happen to her.  She had a family now.  She had her parents, as weird as that had turned out to be.  She had her son in her life, something she had never dreamed of happening and most surprising of all, she had found someone who understood her, someone she loved more deeply than she ever thought she would be capable of.  Everything, all the good and all the bad had brought her here, had brought her to Regina and that was something she just couldn’t make herself regret.

Emma decided a change of subject was needed as a distraction. “So can I ask…  Why do you have one of my t-shirts?  I thought I lost it months ago.  You’ve been holding out on me.”

Regina breathed a small sigh of relief and latched onto the subject change, desperate to stop thinking about a little blonde girl struggling to survive.  She glanced up into green eyes full of light and tried to let her melancholy go.  “It is not my fault if you cannot keep track of your clothes.  Maybe if you kept them in a wardrobe or chest of drawers instead of all over your floor they might not go missing.”

“Hey!  The floor is a perfectly good holding space for them and how am I meant to keep track if you sneakily steal them?”

“I did no such thing!”

Emma smirked, “Mmmhmmm, your majesty.  Sure you didn’t and yet my shirt has been in your possession all this time.  Explain to me how you ended up with it, exactly, because I know I didn’t lend it to you.  I wouldn’t have thought you’d be caught dead in anything of mine.”

Regina held her head up regally, “Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t.  Your choice of clothes is often…”  She trailed off as she realised that as casual as Emma often looked, she couldn’t deny the blonde knew how to play to her strengths when it came to what she wore.  Not everyone could pull off skinny jeans and a tank top but she had secretly admired Emma from behind on more than one occasion.  She changed tact.  “If you must know, blame our son.”

Emma’s grin grew brighter, “Our son, huh?”

Regina grew slightly flustered, “Yes, well…”

Emma couldn’t stop the happiness that spread quickly throughout her body and she didn’t want to.  “No, no.  I like that.  He is our son.”  She raised an amused eyebrow, “So why am I blaming Henry?”

Regina shifted in her chair and folded her arms over her chest defensively.  Emma was enjoying this far too much.  “He brought it home with him one day after spending the night with you.  It was in his bag with all his other clothes.  I did not steal it, I merely washed it and simply forgot to return it.”

Emma’s eyes were dancing with laughter now, “Yes, that makes sense.  It would be hard to return it, especially when you have it hidden away in your bedroom.”

Regina rolled her eyes and sighed, it was time to confess the truth.  “I thought you were trying to take my son away from me…”  She gave Emma her best imperious look, dropping her arms back to the kitchen bench.  “So yes, I kept your shirt.  At the time it seemed completely justified.”

Emma outright laughed at the brunette’s haughty look.  Once she settled down, she spoke, her voice tinged with laughter.  “So revenge then…  You know, as someone who has been on the receiving end of your attempts at revenge, this one is a little less than stellar.  Now if you had taken one of my leather jackets we’d have had to throw down.”

Regina bit her lip in an attempt to stop a smile from breaking out, “I’ll keep that in mind, dear and as they say, possession is nine tenths of the law so that makes that shirt mine now.  You’ll simply have to deal with its loss.”  She lost the battle and the smile shone through.  She would have to get used to smiling so much if Emma was going to become a fixture in her life.  “Now finish your meal, I don’t want it to get cold.  After we’ve eaten I’d like to head over to my vault and look through the books I have there.  See if any of them have a solution to my issue.”

“We can do that.” Emma easily agreed then braced herself for an argument.  “I want to talk to Gold again.” 

Regina scowled at the mention of Rumplestiltskin.  “That is pointless.  I’ve already told you what he said.”

Emma ate a mouthful then replied, “Yeah but what if he knows more than he was saying.  Now that I know-“  She stopped talking and frowned, tilting her head to the side as if listening for something.

Regina looked at her quizzically, “What is it?”

“My phone. David’s ringtone.  He wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important.  I guess our luck had to run out sooner or later.  I better get it.”  Emma stood up, “I’ll be right back and we can finish this discussion.”  She left the kitchen, her hand trailing across Regina’s lower back as she went.

Regina sat at the kitchen bench and forced herself to eat a few more bites.  To be honest, her appetite had vanished all together the moment Emma had mentioned Gold.  She was sure he was up to something and the last thing she wanted to do was confirm what he had suggested was true.  He wanted this, wanted Regina to complete the bond, to fully accept that what she felt for Emma was True Love and that worried her.  It forced her to hold onto that tiny shred of doubt, to believe that this would all go horribly wrong and that she was, once again, a fool for believing in the idea that someone could truly love her.  He’d used her once before for his own end, twisting her for his own selfish reasons and she wasn’t about to let him do it again.  She would never again be Rumpelstiltskin’s tool.

“-figure it out.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.”  Emma walked back into the room as she hung up the phone and stood in the doorway. 

Regina looked up at her when she heard the heavy sigh that the blonde let out.  “Is something wrong?”

Emma moved and leaned against the counter next to the brunette.  “Someone broke in and trashed the sheriff’s station.  I have to…”  She grimaced, “I have to go down and see if anything is missing.  Try and figure out who did it and why.  Chances are it was just some stupid kids.”  She shrugged, “But I have to be sure.  Want to come with me?  I really don’t want to leave you alone.”

Regina stood up and moved into Emma’s arms.  “I will be fine.  You go.  My headache is manageable and it is probably best I’m not around anyone else until we have this settled.  I do not want to hurt someone, even if it is an accident.  All it would take is something minor and the mob would be out for my head again.  Besides, I need to tidy up around here and if you’re here, you’ll be too much of a distraction.”

“A distraction, huh?  I hope in a good way.”

“In a very good way, indeed.”  She leaned up and let her lips brush against the blondes, a shiver going through both of them.  She was tempted to deepen the kiss but knew if she did, Emma wasn’t going anywhere and the blonde had a job to do.  She pulled back, “I’ll head to the vault afterwards and you can join me once you’re done.”

“I don’t know.  What if-“

Regina leaned back in and silenced Emma with another kiss.  “We can’t spend the rest of our lives wondering about what ifs.  I will be fine.  I’ve survived this long on my own.  A few hours won’t kill me.”

Emma felt warmth spread through her at Regina’s words.  Our life.  She said our life.  The warmth almost blocked out the bundle of fear she was keeping tightly under wraps.  “I know you’re right.  I just…”

“Exactly.  I’m right.  You had better get used to that phrase, Ms. Swan.”

Distracted for the moment, Emma mock glared at the brunette.  “Oh, now you’re just playing dirty.  I never should have told you that turned me on.”

Regina smiled wickedly.  “Did you expect any less?  Now the sooner you go, the sooner you will return and I do not plan on spending all day pouring over dusty books.  I have much better plans in mind.”

Emma raised an eyebrow, “Such as?”

“You’ll just have to hurry up and see.”

“Alright, alright.  I’m gonna grab my gun out of the lock box in my car then head up a quick shower. 

Regina’s smile grew larger, “I’d offer to join you but then I fear you will not be going anywhere anytime soon.”

“Cruel…  You’re being down right cruel now.”

“I’m sure I can make it up to you later.  Now, go.”  Regina stepped back, releasing the blonde but Emma followed, drawing her back into her arms. 

“Not just yet.”  She stood for a moment, soaking everything in and committing it all to memory.  The way the brunette felt in her arms, the way she smelled, the light dancing in her eyes.  She pressed a quick kiss to her mouth then groaned, releasing Regina.  “Being the Sheriff sucks sometimes.”  She turned and headed towards the exit.

“Yes it does.  On the positive side, it does give you easy access to handcuffs.”

Emma laughed out loud as she walked away, “There is that, I guess.”


Emma checked the gun in the holster at her hip, adjusting it until it felt comfortable.  She slipped her badge on her belt and nodded at herself in the mirror.  She headed back downstairs and found Regina waiting for her.  “I don’t suppose you know where my Sheriffs jacket is?  Last thing I remember was you tossing it out the front door.  Like that was ever gonna get rid of me.”

Regina felt her lips twitch in a smile at the memory.  “You do have a habit of hanging around like a bad smell.”

“Bad smell, huh?”  Emma winked at the brunette, “Sucks to be you then, because I’m not going anywhere.”

“I think maybe I can adjust.”

Emma walked over and pulled Regina into her arms, “Well that’s good.  I think it might get a little awkward if I had to keep threatening to break down your door.”

“Awkward, indeed.  Imagine what the neighbours would say.”  Regina reached up and wrapped her arms around the blonde’s neck.  “Now tell me, Sheriff Swan.  Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

Emma stared unblinkingly at the woman in her arms, not quite able to process what had just come out of her mouth.  “Did you…  I…  Where…  How?”

Regina was wonderfully amused at the flustered Savior.  “Now I think you’ll find your jacket in the hall cupboard.”  She leaned forward and kissed Emma, snapping the blonde out of her daze.  She felt the blonde shift slightly, then deepen the kiss and it was her turn to be lost in the moment.  She heard Emma groan and then she was being released. 

“Why do I have to be the Sheriff?”

“Well if you remember correctly, I did try to prevent that.  You were rather obstinate about it.”

“I’m starting to wish you’d succeeded.”  Emma walked over to the hall cupboard and opened it, pulling out her jacket.  She slipped it on and turned back to Regina.  She knew she had to do this, had to leave her and go do her job but she was far from happy about it and very little of that had to do with a desire to spend the day in bed with the brunette.  “I don’t like this.  I don’t like leaving you alone.”

“You have a job to do.  You’ve neglected it for the last few days because of me.  This is something you have to deal with.  I will be fine.”

Emma sighed, “You’ll call me if you feel the least bit strange, if anything happens out of the ordinary.”

“This is Storybrooke, darling.  You might have to be more specific.”

“You know what I’m talking about.  Just promise me, you’ll call.

It was Regina’s turn to sigh, part of her wondering how they had gone from being at each other’s throats to this is such a short space of time.  Love certainly did change things.  “I promise.”

“And text me every thirty minutes.  If I don’t hear from you I’m coming home.”  Emma blushed as she realised what she had said.  She hoped Regina had failed to notice her slip of the tongue. 

Regina, for her part, had noticed but chose to ignore it and the flutter in her belly the word had caused.  It might be nice if this did become Emma’s home someday but it was far too soon to think of things like that especially if the blonde was always going to be this overprotective.  “Is that really necessary?”

“Yes.”  Emma wished she could explain why she was so concerned but she didn’t completely understand it herself.  Yes, Regina had been through a lot in the past few days but there was something more, something deeper and if she could just figure it out she might feel better about leaving the brunette alone.  Some instinct was telling her this was a bad move.

Regina huffed out an exasperated breath. She understood Emma’s cause for concern, she had been kidnapped and tortured less than a week ago so was trying not to fight her on it but she was a grown woman.  She didn’t need a babysitter.  She tried to concede gracefully.  “Fine.  Every thirty minutes but call before you come flying back here to save the day.  I could simply have lost track of time.”

Emma ignored her, “And tell me when you leave for the vault.”

Regina folded her arms over her chest, she didn’t like being ignored especially when she was trying to let Emma have her way.  Her voice snapped slightly as she replied.  “Would you also like to know when I go to the bathroom?”

“What? No.”  Emma took in the brunette’s stance and demeanor, realizing she might have been pushing her luck.  She could feel the anxiety at leaving Regina alone bubbling under her skin and with every reassurance from the brunette, it was growing rather than subsiding. 

Something was bothering her, she had missed something but couldn’t put her finger on what it was.  She wanted to believe it was just because of the explosion of feelings she’d had towards the brunette in the last couple of days but she couldn’t shake the idea that leaving Regina alone was a mistake and that it had nothing to do with being in love with her.  “I’m sorry.  I just…”  She didn’t want to worry the brunette with something she couldn’t actually vocalise.  “For the sake of my sanity, can you please just do as I ask?”

Regina studied the blonde’s face, she saw the concern and the anxiety Emma couldn’t quite mask.  As much as she chaffed under the requests, they really weren’t too bad.  The obvious fact that the blonde cared and was worried about her made it a little easier to agree.  “Alright.”

Emma let out a sigh of relief, her anxiety level dropping slightly.  It would be ok, Regina would be ok.  She had to believe that or she was quite sure she wouldn’t be able to walk out the door.  “Thank you.”

“Now get going before I drag you back upstairs and refuse to let you go anywhere.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”  Emma stepped close to Regina, “Every thirty minutes.”

Regina rolled her eyes and took the blonde’s hand then walked to the door and opened it.  “Go, before you really do try my patience.”

Emma grinned and moved until she stood on the threshold.  “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“I know.  Stay safe.”

Emma winked, “Of course.”  She leaned over for a quick kiss, “Love you, gorgeous.”  Then she was running down the path to her car, giving Regina no chance to respond to the new pet name.  All the brunette could do was smile.  That one would do nicely.


Emma walked into the Sheriff’s station, taking in the mess.  The filing cabinets had been emptied and paper was all over the floor.  The desks had been swept clean, in fact every surface in the main room had been.  Everything was scattered on the floor.  She sighed at the chaos.  Like I didn’t have enough problems doing paperwork.  It looked like a cyclone has swept through and in the middle of it stood her family.  “Mary Margaret, Henry.  What are you guys doing here?”

“Emma!”  Henry ran over and gave the blonde a fierce hug which she returned.

“Hey Kid.”

Snow turned and smiled at her daughter, “David called and told me what had happened so Henry and I agreed it would be nice to come down and help tidy up.”

Emma raised an incredulous eyebrow, “That’s seriously how you want to spend a Saturday?”

Snow frowned briefly before a smile broke through again, “Well, no but more hands will make light work and I also get to spend time with my three favourite people.”

Henry spoke up, “How’s Mom?”

Emma glanced down at her son, trying to decide just how much to tell him.  “Operation Apple Tree is still going ahead but we’re making progress.  Your mom is doing better.”

Unsatisfied with that answer, Henry shot questions at his blonde mother, not giving her time to even answer.  “What progress?  Better how?  What was wrong?  What caused this?  How are you fixing it?  Is mom still making the lights go funny?  Is she still having nightmares?  How long do you think it’s going to last?  When can I see her?”

Emma held up her hands, “Woah, Kid.  Slow down and take a breath.”

Henry snapped his mouth shut but his worry for his mother was shining in his eyes, begging Emma for answers.

“She’s not back to normal yet but she is better.  The nightmares seemed to have stopped.  Other than the first night she hasn’t had one since.”  Emma heard Snow suck in a quick breath and glanced over at her, a frown marring her features but her mother had schooled her face into a neutral look.  The blonde chose to ignore her and turned back to her son, “We talked to Mr Gold and he was pretty much useless but I’m going to talk to him again, put some pressure on to see if he knows anything else.  We’ve come up with a… short term fix of sorts.  Something that helps your mom.”

“Fix?”

“Yeah, uh…  It’s a long story and I think it would be best if your mom and I told you about it together.  Like I said, it’s short term at the moment but could possibly become permanent if there is no other alternative.”

Henry scowled, “But I want to know now.  If it’s helping Mom, then it has to be good.”

Emma felt a blush creep up from her chest and spread across her face.  She barely understood exactly what was going on with the connection and trying to put it into words that didn’t include I’m in love with your other mother wasn’t something she was sure she could do alone.  Regina knew how to explain magic better than she did.  She wished the brunette was with her.

It didn’t help that a small part of her was afraid that Henry would reject any thought of his mothers being connected, of being in a relationship.  On the surface it seemed like he wouldn’t be opposed but who knew what a twelve year old was really thinking.  She knew that if he did object, it would spell the end of what she and Regina had started, even if it was true love.  It might have been a mistake beginning anything with the brunette before speaking to their son but it had happened and there was no changing that so she wanted to hold on to her hope for as long as possible.  “You’re right.  I think it’s a good thing…  Well a great thing, really but it’s something we both need to be there to explain.  It’s complicated and involves some magic things I don’t really understand.  That’s why I need your mom with me to help explain.  I want to give you the best explanation I possibly can. We’ll all have dinner together tonight and talk then.”

Henry looked at his mother thoughtfully, taking in her over bright eyes and the blush that was colouring her cheeks.  Something was definitely going on but it was obvious Emma wasn’t going to tell him anything now.  He sighed in frustration.  Being a kid sucked sometimes.  “Fine, but I want to know everything.  Don’t lie to me just because you think I can’t handle it.  You promised me you wouldn’t lie.”

Emma felt a bubble of laughter lodge itself in her chest imagining her son’s reaction if they really did tell him everything.  Somehow she thought that might scar him for life.  Imagine the therapy bills that would create.  “We’ll tell you in as much detail as possible, I promise.”  Emma could feel her mother’s gaze burning a hole in her.  She didn’t know how long Snow would stay silent so she pulled twenty dollars out of her pockets, “Would you do me a favour, Kid and nip over to Grannys and get us the usual drinks while we start cleaning up here?  I have a feeling we’re going to need them.”

Henry took the cash, happy to get away from cleaning up for a few minutes.  He failed to notice the tension level in the room rising with every second.  “Sure, Emma. Back in a minute.”  He took off out the door.

Emma turned to her parents and gestured at the room, “I don’t suppose we can just clean up and not discuss Regina?”

Mary Margaret shook her head, “What’s going on, Emma?  How is Regina really doing?”

Emma knew her mother wasn’t just going to let the subject drop, the woman could be as stubborn as Regina, so she decided to just get it over with rather than having her hassle her for the rest of the day.  “I didn’t lie to the kid, she really is doing much better.  You know that idea you had?”  At Snow’s nod she continued, “You were right, destroying the trigger formed a connection between Regina and I.  It’s kinda permanent.  It’s the fix that’s currently working which is why I’m not happy about being away from her.  We don’t know the ins and outs of the connection, the only thing we are sure of is that when I’m with Regina, almost everything is normal.”  She avoided any mention of True Love, in fact she avoided any mention of love at all as she explained as much as she could before Henry got back. 

They had turned to discussing who could have broken in and why when the boy finally returned.  Emma was feeling decidedly frustrated, this felt like it was just a big waste of her time.  “I just don’t get it.  Nothing has been taken.  I think it must have just been some bored kids.”

David nodded, reaching out to take a drink out of the cup try Henry held.  “I’m inclined to agree.  There’s no real damage, just a lot of mess to clean up.”

Snow spoke up, after accepting the drink from her grandson.  “Any idea how they got in?”

David looked at his wife, “None.  Everything was locked up tight.”  He turned to look at his daughter.  “Do you think someone could have used magic to get in and do it?”

Emma slipped an arm around her son’s shoulders when he came to stand beside her, offering her one of the drinks which she took gratefully.  She shrugged, “It’s always a possibility in this town.  I just don’t see a motive behind it.  Why just break in to mess things up?  No damage, nothing stolen.  It’s really just a pain in my ass right when I already have enough on my plate.”

David thought for a moment, his mind slowly processing information.  “Outside of the family, no one knows what’s going on with Regina, do they?”

Emma shook her head, “Other than Gold, no.  We’ve stayed inside the house for the most part.  Regina did go to her vault once but there was nobody around.  Only other place we’ve been is your place and we poofed there.  No reason to think that anyone suspects anything and I can’t see Gold doing this.  It’s not his style.  It’s far too simple.  There’s nothing linking it to what’s going on with Regina.  It has to be kids.”

David smiled reassuringly at the blonde.  “We’ll figure it out, Em.  I say, for now, we just finger print all the surfaces and then clean it up.  I’ve already taken photos.”

Emma sighed in frustration, running a hand through her hair.  This was the last thing she needed to be doing. “That’s going to take hours.  It’s times like these I wish I actually had control over my magic.  Wave a hand and poof, everything is back where it should be.”  She scowled, “I don’t like being away from Regina for so long.  She says she’s fine but I don’t like taking the risk that something could change.”  She moved away from Henry and grabbed a finger print kit out of a desk drawer.  “Let’s just get this over with and when I find those kids, there will be hell to pay.  I’ll start gathering prints if you guys wanna start picking up the paper and putting it in a pile.  We can sort it out later.”

They busied themselves until Emma felt her phone vibrate in her pocket.  She checked the message and burst out laughing, surprising the other occupants in the room.

“What?”  Henry exclaimed.

“Nothing…”  At a scowl from her son she added, “It’s just your mother and I had a small disagreement about her letting me know everything was ok.  It seems she’s decided I need a detailed description of what she has been doing since I left.  Apparently she’s about to get in the shower now and didn’t want me to worry if her next text is a few minutes late.”  She avoided mention of just how detailed that part of the message was.  She turned away from the group and responded.

 If I was there, you know that shower would be more than a little hot and steamy.  It’s your own fault, you practically forced me out the door, telling me I had a job to do.  I think you need to make it up to me.  

She grinned at the rapid reply, Regina denying it was her fault and yet promising to make it up to her in more ways than she could imagine in the same sentence. She pocketed her phone again and turned back to the task at hand, ignoring the curious look her mother was shooting her.

She had no idea how much time had passed since Regina’s message when Emma felt a sharp blast of fear grab hold of her out of nowhere. Regina’s voice whispered frantically in her mind, Greg and then pain shot through her head.  She stumbled, a gasp slipping from her mouth as she dropped the handful of papers she had just picked up, drawing the attention of her family but the pain was gone as quickly as it had come.  It seemed the connection had grown stronger than either woman had realised because that pain wasn’t her own and it could only mean one thing.  Regina had tried to use magic.

Fear shot through her again but this time it was all her own.  Why hadn’t she listened to her instinct?  How could she have forgotten about the man who had tortured Regina?  Her heart started to pound as dread choked her.  She’d left Regina alone to face the man that had caused all this and the brunette was essentially defenseless.

“Emma?”  David started to move towards his daughter, noticing the colour drain from her face.

“Oh God, Regina.”  And with that, Emma left her family standing there wondering what was happening as she took off running out of the station, only one thought going through her mind.  She had to get to Regina and she had to get there now.


 

Chapter Text


Regina stepped under the hot water, letting it warm her.  She realised how much having Emma in the house had changed its very presence now that she was gone.  It felt cold and empty without her around much like it felt when Henry was absent.  In only days, the blonde had invaded just about every space she could and there was evidence everywhere of her.  From the pile of wet clothes she had left on the bathroom floor, to the bag tossed carelessly in a corner and that was just in her bedroom.  She knew she should be angry that her space had been invaded but she couldn’t quite bring herself to be, even after picking up the wet pile and putting it on to wash.

Her bed carried the Saviors scent and she knew this because she had been unable to resist holding the pillow the blonde had slept on while she was making it.  She had cuddled it close and breathed her in, trying to alleviate the cold Emma’s absence had created.  She ignored how silly she felt, there was no one else to see just how far the once Evil Queen had fallen, it was just her and she missed the blonde more than she thought was possible.

For the last few days Emma had been the one constant source of calm in the bedlam that had been the brunette’s life and now that was missing.  She felt the absence deep inside and wondered whether the connection had anything to do with it.  She could still feel the blonde within her but ached to be able to reach out and physically touch her.  This is ridiculous.  She has reduced me to some love sick fool, pining away the hours until she returns.  Just how the hell did that happen?  I do not pine over anyone.  She tried to force her mind to focus on the books she wanted to check at the vault but as she washed her body, her mind once again floated back to Emma and the night they had just spent together.

The blonde had been everything she could have wished for.  She had never felt so wanted, so cherished as Emma had left no inch of her untouched, unloved.  Every caress, every touch of her lips had breathed life and love into Regina’s heart until she could believe nothing else in that moment but that this woman, once nothing but a thorn in her side, was truly meant to be hers.  That Emma was what the brunette had been missing for far too long without even realizing it. 

Regina had tried to express her love in words on more than one occasion but they just kept getting stuck in her throat, that fear of confessing them and it all falling apart stopping her.  It was the one doubt she couldn’t shake, no matter how hard she tried.  Emma had whispered it to her time and time again and she had been unable to respond and that inability frustrated her.  Every time she voiced her love, something bad happened and she wanted nothing to ruin this so when it came to uttering those three small but powerful words, her vocal cords froze and nothing she did could unlock them.  All she could do was show her in actions just how much the blonde meant to her and hope it was enough.

Regina let out a frustrated growl, it wasn’t enough.  It would never be enough.  If she didn’t get over this fear she could end up losing Emma anyway.  She practiced the words in her mind.  I love you.  She pictured the blonde last night, head thrown back in ecstasy as Regina drove her over the edge into oblivion.  I am in love with Emma Swan.  She pictured Emma this morning, green eyes lit with laughter, a smile playing on her lips.  I am in love with the Savior.  Her mind focused on the image of Emma stubbornly fighting with her over leaving her house, scowl etched deeply and arms folded.  I am in love with the woman who broke my curse.  This time she chose the memory of Emma on the first day they met and marveled at how differently she now felt about that.  I am in love with the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.  She snorted with laughter, that last one amusing her no end.  Oh how the fates like to play nasty tricks.  She wondered how the Charmings would react to the news that their beloved daughter was the True Love of the Evil Queen. 

She really wanted to be there to see Snow’s face when she found out.  Regina may have sworn off trying to kill the other brunette but a small part of her would always enjoy rocking Snow White’s boat.  No matter their reaction, she would not let them stand in her way, would not let them stop her from finally finding happiness.  She knew if they reacted badly that her lover would be deeply wounded and she would not let them hurt the blonde like that.  Emma was hers and she would be damned if she would stand by silently and let that happen.  Over my dead body.  If she had anything to do with it, no one would ever hurt the blonde again.  She may be trying to redeem herself but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t protect her family with everything she had.

She rinsed off and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel and drying herself off then wrapping it around her body.  She exited the bathroom and walked over to her chest of drawers, selecting a set of matching crimson lingerie.  After putting them on, she headed over to the bed and sat down to slip on sheer stockings, clipping them to her garter belt.  She moved into her closet, choosing a black skirt and paired it with a dark red blouse.  Finally she slipped on a pair of knee high black boots and went to examine herself in the mirror.  Satisfied, she moved back into the bathroom to apply her makeup and style her hair.  The familiar movements made her feel settled and when she was finished she looked more like herself and not the mess of the last few days.  Other than slight shadows under her eyes, no one would realise that not all was right with her and those were well hidden by skillfully applied concealer.  She felt confident that they could fix this, that between her and Emma they could figure out a solution without involving Gold again.

She headed downstairs and moved about the house gathering the things she needed for her trip to the vault.  She pulled out her phone and started the text to Emma to let her know she was on the way to the vault, a smile forming on her lips as she crafted a message to let the blonde know exactly what she was missing out on by her continued absense.  She walked to the hall cupboard and was reaching for her black winter coat and scarf, one hand still busy typing when she heard a voice behind her.  She froze, the smile falling from her lips.

“Hello again, Regina.”

Fear shot through her, the sound of that voice making her mind flood with the memory of her torture.  Greg.  She whirled around, phone dropping to the floor as she raised her hand up, instinct taking over.  She tried to form a fireball but all that happened was a tiny glimmer of flame and small explosions throughout the house as pain burst through her mind, causing her to fall to her knees, the flame snuffing out as her hands flew up to grab at her head.

Greg ignored the barrage of noise sounding throughout the house and chuckled, the smile not reaching his eyes as he walked over to where Regina knelt.  He waited until all was quiet again and then spoke, “That’s right.  No magic to save you.  No interfering blonde bitch to rescue you.  Just you and me once again and this time I’ll finish the job.”

The pretense fell away, smile vanishing.  “I found him, you know.  Exactly where you said I would.  I hoped that you were lying, that you had just been trying to get me to stop…”  His voice dropped into a growl.  “You left him there to rot like a piece of garbage.”  Greg leaned down close and pulled his knife out, waving it in her face.  “But he’ll have company soon enough.  I think it’s only fitting you spend the rest of eternity there with him.” He straightened up, and leveled the gun at her.   “Get up.”

Regina ignored him, trying to get the pain in her head under control so she could think.  “I said, get up!”  Greg grabbed her roughly with the hand holding the knife, the blade slicing through her blouse and biting into her arm.  She tried to flinch away but he dragged her to her feet. 

Regina cried out and stumbled into the wall using it to keep her on her feet.  She put a hand to her wound and turned to glare at the man, “You won’t get away with this.”

Greg smiled again and it sent shivers down Regina’s back.  It was the look of someone not quite in their right mind.  “Oh but I will.  I’ve planned it all, every last detail.  I’ve kept your protector and her family busy chasing their tails and cleaning up my mess.  By the time they figure it out, you’ll be buried in a shallow grave and I’ll be free of this magic infested hell hole.” 

He carried on, almost conversationally, like he wasn’t holding a knife in one hand and a gun in the other.  “I have to admit I was concerned about how to handle your magic this time but discovering that list you left lying around solved that issue.”  The smile fell from his face, his eyes manic.  “You will never hurt anyone again.  I will finish what I started.  Now move.”  He shoved her in the direction of the study.

Regina stumbled again but refused to move, drawing herself up to stand regally before him.  She couldn’t let him think she was afraid, she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.  “No.  If you’re going to kill me, just do it and get it over with.  You already tried and failed once and to be frank, you are boring me to death with your whining.  I had to listen to that last time and it’s just repetitive.”

Greg drew back the hand with the gun and backhanded Regina, the force of hand and gun driving her cheek into her teeth.  She tested the wound with her tongue and tasted blood.  “Do you feel brave hitting a defenseless woman?  It shouldn’t come as a surprise, I guess.  You did have to tie me down and bind my magic last time.”  She sneered, “You’re nothing but a terrified little boy, not a man at all.  You know you would never be able to touch me if I had my magic.  Look at you with your gun and knife like they would protect you from me.  You are a coward, afraid to face me fairly.”

Greg raised his hand again but stopped, trying to focus through the haze of fury Regina had created.  “No.  I see what you’re doing and it won’t work.  This won’t be quick.  You will suffer for what you’ve done.”  He slipped the knife back in its sheath and grabbed her arm hard enough to leave bruises, forcing her to walk. 

They headed into the study and he pushed her from behind so she collided with the desk.  Her hip exploded with pain but she bit her lip to stop crying out.  Years at her mother’s hands enabling her to control her response.  He would not see her weak again. 

“Sit down.  You’re going to write your confession.”

She turned to look at him and curled her lip in contempt.  “Why on earth would I do that?”

“Because if you don’t, I’ll go after the one thing you care about.  You’re going to die either way but the decision is yours if Henry will join you.”

Fury raged through Regina, her magic begging for an outlet that she knew she couldn’t give it.  She needed her wits about her, the power coursing through her now would be enough to kill her and then Henry would be vulnerable. She ground out through clenched teeth, “If you harm one hair on my son’s head, I will make the torture you inflicted on me look like child’s play.  You will suffer as no other has suffered by my hand, am I making myself clear?”

Greg, unaware of just how close he was to destruction, gestured to the paper and pen waiting on the desk, ignoring the brunette’s question.  “Then start writing and you have nothing to worry about.”

“You will regret threatening my son.”  Regina promised as she slowly moved around the desk and sat down.  As much as she wanted to refuse to do as Greg asked, she would never put Henry at risk.  She picked up the pen but didn’t start writing.

Greg moved to stand just to the side of the chair, pulling the knife out again and resting it on her shoulder, trying to intimidate her.  “No one will blame me for killing the Evil Queen.  In fact they’ll probably thank me.  Hold a parade in my honour, make today a Storybrooke holiday.  I’ll be a hero.”

Regina scoffed, “You’ll never be a hero.”  Her mind flashed an image of Emma in a harness, descending into the mine shaft.  “I’ve met my fair share of them and you, most definitely, are not one.  Heroes risk their life for other people with no thought for themselves.  Heroes fight, even when everything is stacked against them.”  She sneered, her voice laced with loathing.  “Heroes do not let others do their dirty work for them.  They do not skulk around and break into other people’s homes.  They do not threaten children.”

“Shut up!”  Greg raised the knife to her cheek, just resting it there, the threat obvious.

Regina carried on, unperturbed.  “And if there is one thing I have learned, two wrongs do not make a right.  What will you actually achieve by murdering me, and it will be murder, do not delude yourself otherwise?  Nothing.”  She raised her gaze to look at Greg, the dark smirk playing on her lips daring him to do his worst.  “You will be just like me.” 

Rage coloured his voice, “I said, shut up!  Shut the fuck up and write!  I am nothing like you.  You deserve to die.”  Greg pressed down on the blade and a thin red line appeared.  He blinked, as if unable to realise what he had just done.  He pulled the knife away and dropped it back onto her shoulder.

Still the brunette pushed, “Perhaps, but you’re not man enough to do it.  Electrocuting me is one thing, but do you really think you can be so hands on, to actually use that knife to inflict something that’s not just a scratch?”  Regina ignored the bite of the blade and continued to bait him, she wanted him to lose control.  The more out of control he was, the better chance she had of saving herself.  If it cost her a few small wounds, it would be worth it.  Pain was nothing new to the former Evil Queen.  “We both know that you don’t have the guts.  You think-“  Her words died as Emma’s distressed voice sounded in her mind.  I’m coming.  I’m coming.  Just hold on.  Regina tried to concentrate, to warn the blonde to stay away but had no idea if the blonde heard her.  The last thing she wanted was Emma putting herself in danger because of her. 

Regina saw movement out of the corner of her eye then there was a sting in her neck as the blade cut her.  “I’m not afraid to use the knife on you.  When the time is right, you’ll see.  Now, no more talking.  Write.”  She put pen to paper, desperately trying to come up with a way to get out of this before Emma arrived.  She no longer had the time to bait him into losing control and that left her with no option that didn’t involve hand to hand combat with a knife and gun wielding maniac.  They both saw the yellow bug pull to a stop outside the house, its tires screeching and suddenly it was too late anyway. 

Regina was wrenched to her feet, Greg’s arm slipping around her neck, the knife dangerously close to her jugular.  He turned them towards the doorway and brought his other hand up, aiming the gun out the window.  They caught a glimpse of the blonde and then she was out of sight.  “Fuck, fuck, fuck!  How did she know?  How did you tell her?  She’s ruining my plan.  Her and her fucking family.”  He moved the gun in the direction of the doorway and Regina tried to wriggle out of his stranglehold, ignoring the danger, fear for the blonde’s safety overriding her own self-preservation.  Greg tightened his grip, the blade now resting against her throat.  “One wrong move and I’ll kill you both.”

Regina froze, her blood running cold.


Emma slammed her foot on the brake outside 108 Miflin just as her phone rang.  She wrenched it out of her pocket and answered, opening the door with her other hand and surging from the car towards the path.

Snow’s panicked voice came down the line, “Emma, what is going on?  Is Regina in trouble?”

“Greg has her in the house.  I’m going in.”

Emma, wait.  You can’t go rushing in there.  Wait for your father and I.  We’re on our way.”

“There isn’t time.”  The blonde didn’t wait for her mother’s response, just ended the call and slipped her phone back into her pocket.  She pulled her gun out and sprinted up the front path.  She kicked open the front door and then peaked in, seeing the foyer was empty except for a phone near the hall closet.  She moved inside, sweeping the area with her weapon.  “Regina!”  She moved towards the study, the part of her connected to Regina leading her unerringly towards the brunette.  She reached the doorway and stood with her back to the wall then peaked around to look into the room.

She sucked in a sharp breath at what she saw and pulled her head back.  “Let her go, Greg.”  She risked another look, taking in the knife at her lover’s throat and the gun pointed in her direction.  “You don’t want to do this.”

“She has to pay.  My father deserves justice.”

“But not like this.”  She moved into the doorway, gun pointed steadily at the man.  She risked a quick glance at Regina’s face and saw the cut marring her cheek.  Fury blurred her vision, making her see red and she struggled to get the emotion under control.  She blinked, forcing her eyes to clear and brown eyes burned into hers.  Emma, get out.  She shook her head slightly, Not happening.  That fucker cut you.  She turned her attention back to the man, reminding both herself and him that she was the Sheriff.  “I’m the law here and this isn’t justice.  This is revenge.”  She needed to stay calm, she had to gain control of the situation and she couldn’t do that if her emotions were clouding her mind.  She stepped into the room, ignoring the woman she loved, her focus solely on the man threatening her.  

“Some law.  You think I haven’t seen you hanging around here, protecting her.  I don’t get you.  You should be glad that someone finally has the guts to take her out.”

“Killing her is not the answer.  Let me arrest her.  You don’t have to do this.”  Emma took in the wild look in Greg’s eyes.  They kept flicking away from her and then back again.  “If you let her go now, we can all just walk away and pretend this never happened.”  She kept her gun trained on him, watching for any opportunity to end this.

Greg ignored her.  “You just had to come and interfere.  I had a plan, it was perfect and now you’ve fucked it up.  Don’t you get it?  I won’t let her hurt anyone else.  She is evil and she has to die.  It’s the only way to stop her.”

Emma shook her head, “You know I can’t let you do that, Greg.  You don’t get to decide who lives and dies.”

“Someone has to!  She just gets to go on living, like she’s done nothing wrong.  How is that fair?  She ruined my life!”  He waved the gun at the blonde, “And you know… You know what she’s done, she did it to you and yet you protect her.  You and your fucking family saved her!”

“It’s not that simple.  Life is-“

Greg raged at her, “It is that simple.  She ruined my life, now I will put an end to hers and if you try to stop me, I’ll have to kill you too.  That’s not my fault, you should have just stayed away.  I could have killed you at any time but I didn’t.  I waited and I planned and I gave you a reason to not be here and now you’re fucking it all up.”  He sucked in a breath, trying to calm himself down then steadied his aim with the gun and Emma could see straight down the barrel.  .  “Drop your weapon…  Drop it or I’ll kill her now.  I don’t care if I live or die but I will take her with me.”

Emma wanted to end this now, she wanted to shoot him just for threatening the woman she loved.  Unfortunately he was too well hidden behind Regina, the blade too close to her neck for Emma to risk it.  Frustration was coursing through her along with anger and terror.  She was fast realizing that Greg wasn’t exactly sane anymore and that made everything so much worse.  He had nothing to lose and the longer this went on, the more likely it was that Regina would get fatally wounded.  She shoved down the feelings again and refocused on the man.  “I’ll put my weapon down if you loosen your grip on her neck.  Move the knife away and we have a deal.”

Greg gestured at her, “You first.”

Do not give up your weapon.  Regina’s words crashed into her mind and her eyes flicked the brunette’s way.  Emma, no!  

He’ll kill you if I don’t.

He could kill you if you do.  Do not be stupid.

You heard him, he doesn’t want to kill me.

That could change at any moment.  If you haven’t already realised, he’s not exactly rational right now.  It was Regina’s words in her mind that started to spark an idea.  She let it play in her mind.  It wasn’t the best plan in the world, but it was all she had at the moment.  She just had to bide her time.

Suddenly Greg moved and Regina flinched, a small trickle of blood beginning to run down her neck.  “Last chance.  Drop it or that cut will get a whole lot bigger.”

Emma felt rage whip through her, making her want to scream at him but she swallowed it.  “Ok, ok.”  She moved further into the room and placed the weapon on the side table.  She put her hands up.  “It’s down.  Now hold up your end of the deal.  Loosen your hold on her neck and move the knife.”  She watched as the knife dropped to down near Regina’s collarbone and her anxiety dropped minutely. 

Greg gestured with the gun and Emma forced herself not to flinch away at the careless movements.  “Shut the curtains.”

Emma slowly moved backwards towards the windows, never taking her eyes off Greg.  When her back hit the wall she reached out and drew one side of the curtains shut.  She moved towards the other side and risked a glance out the window, relief flooding her when she saw the patrol car parked down the street.  She had help and suddenly her plan didn’t seem quite so bad, she knew exactly what she had to do. 

Emma shut the other curtain and moved deliberately away from the door down the other side of the room.  It meant she was further away from her gun but it forced Greg to turn away from the exit to keep track of her.  “I’ve done what you asked.  You have the gun, can you please put away the knife?”

Greg had visibly relaxed now that Emma was unarmed.  The knife had shifted further down, resting just above Regina’s breast.  “Why?”

“Because you don’t need it.”

“No, why do you care?  Why do you care if she lives or dies?  I’m trying to understand it.  I know they call you the Savior but no one is that good.  She stole your life.”

Regina was angry, in fact she was more than angry, she was furious at Emma.  What had possessed her to give up her weapon?  Was she trying to get herself killed?  Why did she deliberately put herself in danger?  She spat out an answer to Greg’s question.  “Because she is an idiot.”

Emma’s gaze shifted to Regina and she rolled her eyes.  Really, you’re going to call me names now?

Regina glared back, her fear making her nasty.  Of course I am.  You are a reckless, foolish, idiotic woman.  Have you even thought this through?  You’ve put yourself in unnecessary danger because of me and that is intolerable.

Despite the danger they were both in, Emma’s heart warmed at the brunette’s words because while they seemed a little harsh she knew this woman.  I love you too.  She watched as Regina’s eyes narrowed at her then turned her gaze back to Greg.  “I care because she’s a human being.  She’s far from perfect and has made more mistakes than I can even begin to guess at but she is human and she deserves a chance at redemption.  Everyone deserves that.  It’s not too late to stop this.”  She moved further into the room, turning Greg further and further from the door. 

“Not everyone.  Some people are just plain evil and she’s one of them.  She has to be put down.”

Emma inched closer, a small part wondering if she could get close enough to lunge for Regina so they could poof away.  That would be a far better plan but she knew it wasn’t possible.  Greg would shoot her, or worse, cut Regina’s throat before she could get there.  “She’s not evil.”  She caught movement in the doorway out of the corner of her eye and fought the instinct to look that way even as relief flooded through her.  She changed tact, trying to appeal to the orphaned child in him.  “She’s the mother of my son.  He loves her.  Do you really want to take away Henry’s mother?”

“He would be better off without her.”

“Were you better off without your father? Was I better off without my parents?  You really want to put another child through that?  Henry doesn’t deserve that.”  She shifted closer.

“He’ll have you.  He won’t be alone like we-“  Greg seemed to realise what she was up to and his arm tightened back up around Regina’s neck, the knife now hovering between the brunette’s throat and collarbone.  “Stop!  Come any closer and I’ll shoot you.  I don’t want to but I will.  You can’t distract me and you can’t stop me.  This ends today.”

Emma shrugged like his words didn’t bother her and dropped her arms to her side like she wasn’t afraid anymore.  She wanted his attention on her, needed it to be on her and off the brunette.  “You’re right.  This will end today but not the way you want, I can’t let that happen.  I am the Savior and I will stop you.”

Greg frowned, he wasn’t worried.  He was the only one in the room with a weapon so Emma’s threats felt empty.  “Why?  She’s nothing.  I have the gun, I have the knife.  All that’s going to happen is that you’ll be dead too and I’m really starting not to give a shit about that.  Is she really worth your life?”

There is was, this was what Emma had been waiting for.  She risked another glance at Regina’s face, saw fear and fury in equal measures.  She gazed into brown eyes, her love shining through, unable to hold it back any longer.  There was no other answer she could give because without Regina, her life would be over anyway.  “Yes, she is.  I would give it up for her in a heartbeat.”  She took a bold step forward, commanding his attention, pleased when he again shifted, and his back was completely to the door.  Now all she needed was Regina out of the way.  “You want revenge?”

Regina grew cold as she began to realise what Emma was doing and she couldn’t let it happen.  “Emma, shut up.”

Greg narrowed his eyes at the blonde, “No, Emma.  Don’t.”

“You want her to suffer like you did?  To know what it’s like to lose someone you love?”  Emma needed him to let go of Regina, she needed him to open himself up so that David could get a clear shot even if that meant putting herself in danger.  “Letting her live would be more of a punishment if you did that and you can.  If you let her go and take me instead.”

“Emma!”  Regina started to panic, she begged, Do not do this.  Do not volunteer yourself.  I will never forgive you if you sacrifice yourself for me.  I caused this, it is my burden to bear. Do. Not. Do. This!

Greg scowled at the blonde, unaware of the silent conversation going on.  “What the hell are you talking about?” 

I have a plan.  I need him to let go of you.  I just need a few seconds of him away from you and this will all be over.  Emma tilted her chin up and looked Greg straight in the eyes.  “It’s simple.  She loves me.  Let her go and you can have me, that’s the deal.”

This is your idiotic plan?  He will kill you!  Regina couldn’t let her do it, she glared at the blonde letting disgust creep into her voice, her signature sneer gracing her features.  She forced a derisive huff of laughter, “I do not.  I would never lower myself to fall in love with someone like you.  You are so far beneath me.”

Emma bit her tongue in frustration and to stop herself from responding out loud.  Her mind was an entirely different matter and she couldn’t help herself.  Really, I remember you beneath me last night.  Stop fighting me on this!

Regina snarled, directing her words at Greg but keeping her eyes glued to Emma. “She’s lying.  She’s trying to trick you.  Do you really think the Evil Queen would ever fall in love with the Savior?  Even the idea is preposterous.  I’ve had to suffer her presence for the past few days because I could not get her to leave me alone.  This is just another pathetic attempt to play the hero once again.”

Emma growled back, “Jesus Christ, Regina.  You just can’t keep quiet, can you?”

Regina snapped back, her words laced with barely concealed fear.  “Me?  I’m not the idiot trying to convince this imbecile that I’m in love with you.”

Greg frowned, trying to follow what was happening.  “What is it with you people?  Both of you shut up.”  He looked at the blonde, “I don’t get you.  Do you honestly expect me to believe that she loves you?  She doesn’t love anyone, she doesn’t know how.”  He gestured towards Emma with the knife.  “I’ve had enough of you sticking your nose in and screwing things up.  Your parents may have stopped me last time but I won’t let you stop me this time.  I’ll just kill you both and then it doesn’t matter who’s telling the truth.  It’s a win-win.”

Emma paled, realizing that her plan had just started to unravel.  She’d forgotten she was dealing with a crazy man, too wrapped up in trying to save Regina to realise the major flaw.  She was stuck.  If she tried to escape, he would kill Regina and if she stayed where she was, it was highly likely he was going to shoot her.  Out of those two choices, she knew there was only one she could live with.

Regina started to struggle violently, all pretense dropping in her fear for the blonde.  “No!  Don’t shoot-“  

Her words were choked off as Greg tightened his arm mercilessly, the knife flying up and nicking her ear.  He clenched the gun tighter, his aim shifting to Emma’s heart.  “Why would you not want me to shoot someone you say is be beneath you, Regina?  Why wouldn’t you sacrifice her to save your own neck if what she says isn’t true?” 

Regina instantly realised her mistake and terror flooded her system.  They were out of time and she couldn’t let this happen.  She couldn’t speak, Greg’s arm still hard against her throat.  All she could do was scream in her mind.  No, no, no.  Emma, please.  Run.  She put her hands up, tugging on the arm at her neck, digging her nails in, desperate to deny the truth, to say anything that would stop what was coming.

“Her death would mean something to you.”  Greg chuckled, oblivious to the pain in his arm now that the end was in sight.  “You do love her.  Oh this is perfect.  I couldn’t have planned it any better.”  He grinned, more than happy to let the Evil Queen suffer.  “Looks like you get to live, Regina.  Bet you didn’t think that was going to happen.  I sure didn’t.”

Regina’s eyes met Emma’s and she heard words whisper through her mind.  I love you, Regina.  Always.  She finally managed to drawn a breath and squeezed out desperate words.  “You’re wrong.  Kill her.  She means nothing to me.”

Greg’s grip suddenly loosened on the brunette as he directed all his attention towards the Savior.   “Let’s test that theory.”  He pulled the trigger.


 

Chapter Text


“Let’s test that theory.”

Emma heard a roar of noise and then time seemed to stand still for a brief moment before images started to flash before her eyes.  No emotional music?  I thought there’d be some sort of musical montage…  Maybe a theme song?    She’d always thought that this phenomenon was just something people in the movies and on TV experienced, something to make things much more dramatic, and yet here it was, happening to her, as a bullet sped towards her.  No music though…  TV lied…

The flashes of memories did not start at the beginning as she had always assumed it would do. What she saw began with Henry and then moved to the moments where she truly started to feel alive, to live her life instead of just going through the motions.

Henry’s birth… Making that lonely wish on her birthday…  Opening the door and unknowingly finding the answer to that wish…  The first time she met the woman who would drive her crazy and yet capture her heart…  Arguing with Regina…  Taking a chainsaw to the apple tree… Fighting with Regina…  Loving Henry…  Breaking the curse…  Fighting for Regina…  Pushing Regina out of the way of the wraith and falling through the portal…  Snow firing a bow… Cora trying to rip her heart out and failing… Discovering she had magic…  Thanking Regina for saving her…  Fighting with Regina…  Stopping the trigger, the trigger that changed everything… Loving Regina…  Regina and Henry, Henry and Regina…  The images flying faster and faster. 

Ok brain, I get it.  We spent a lot of time fighting and arguing with each other but to be fair, it was too easy and fun plus she really is sexy when she’s angry…  She had never felt more alive than when she had been standing toe to toe with the former mayor, both fighting with so much passion.  Usually it had boiled down to the same thing, Henry’s protection and love.  Of course, they were coming at it from completely different angles, unable to see the mutual end goal.  Plus we are really, really good at it…

All those memories and so many more pivotal moments for Emma since that life altering wish, and she wouldn’t change a single one of them, despite the end she was headed towards.  All too soon the images came to a stop and fear bloomed bright, the blonde afraid of what it meant.

Emma saw a flash of purple sparks burn across her retinas where the memories had just played and then pain ricocheted through her head and heart, dropping her to her knees.  She vaguely heard a second shot ring out and could only hope that it was David and not Greg pulling the trigger.  Totally fucked if it’s not.  A few flaws in this plan, Swan…

Her chin dropped to her chest and she looked down, expecting to see blood.  I thought getting shot would feel different.  She frowned, where was the blood?  Her heart felt like it was being torn to pieces so she brought her hand to her chest, checking physically for a wound, though her eyes had already told her there was none.  Nothing so why did it hurt so damned much?  She reached up and touched her head, her hand coming away clean and yet pain still radiated through her mind though it was slowly subsiding, unlike the ache in her chest.  With each heartbeat, that pain increased making it harder and harder to breath. 

Where’s the bullet hole?  He couldn’t have missed from that distance.  It didn’t make any sense, the pain was excruciatingly real and yet there was no evidence the bullet had hit her anywhere, let alone her head or her heart.  She forced her aching mind to shift focus, unwilling to waste any more time on something she couldn’t explain.  Regina…

Emma looked up, a hand pressed over her heart as she battled to control the pain.  She noticed her father standing behind the desk, but her eyes quickly moved on, searching for her lover.  Regina?  There was no response and she could hardly feel her anymore.  Regina?!  The ease at which they had communicated before the gun shot was gone and she tried not to panic.  She slowly got to her feet, the agony in her chest a constant reminder that something was terribly wrong.  Unfortunately she was slowly beginning to believe she wasn’t the one in trouble, despite her pain. 

Her father turned towards her, relief evident on his face when he did a quick visual check and failed to see any blood.  He turned back, oblivious to her internal suffering, concern flitted across his face as he looked down and quickly crouched out of sight.

That look got her moving forward at a fast shuffle, and as she got closer and moved around the desk, she saw Greg on the floor.  Blood covered his chest, his eyes wide open and staring into nothing.  It was obvious he was dead and she could not make herself feel sorry about that.  He was no longer a threat so she dismissed him from her mind. 

Finally she saw the woman she loved, lying pale and still, blood dribbling from her nose, sluggish purple sparks covering her body.  David was leaning over her but not touching.  She stumbled and fell to her knees next to the brunette, her father catching her and stopping her from falling completely on top of Regina.  “Emma, what can I do?”  David asked.

Emma struggled to get words out past the pain but finally managed.  “Keep Snow and Henry out.”

David frowned, “What happens if…” 

Emma shook her head, unable to answer any more questions, all her concentration shifting to the woman lying in front of her.  “Please.  Just go.”

The blonde man hesitated and then slowly climbed to his feet.  He briefly laid his hand on Emma’s shoulder then turned and left to do as she asked.

The pain in Emma’s chest was not easing at all and seeing the lazy purple sparks moving over Regina, she feared she knew what had happened, her mind throwing up the brief flash of purple sparks when the gun had gone off.  Regina had used her magic to save her life and now she was dying, their connection slowly severing as her life force gradually ebbed away.  That was the cause of the unrelenting pain in Emma’s chest, it was her heart slowly shattering as she lost that connection.  She moved her hand to hover over the unmoving woman, waiting to see the sparks swarm towards her as they had the last time, but they barely responded to her presence and this brought tears to her eyes. 

“Regina?”  She finally touched the brunette, caressing her face.  “You need to wake up.  Do you hear me?”  The sparks tried to cover her hand but lacked the energy to succeed, barely sending a tingle through her fingers. “Don’t do this.  Henry needs you.”  Her voice broke as she uttered her next words, “I need you.”  Tears overflowed and rolled down her cheeks as she gathered Regina into her arms, stubbornly ignoring the slowly increasing pain in her chest.  Please don’t leave me.  She felt a brief caress in her mind from the brunette, as words whispered there to try and comfort her breaking heart.

Emma felt warmth flare deep in her soul and then it faded all too quickly, leaving a growing emptiness in its wake.  The purple sparks also began to fade and Emma’s heart lurched.  No!  Regina! Fight, damn it!  Strand by strand the connection let go until Emma could barely feel it over the pain in her heart. You don’t get to just tell me all that and then leave me!  Her soul was screaming at her to do something.  “No, this isn’t happening!  I’m not letting you go.  You promised, damn it.  It.  Is.  Not.  Too.  Late.” She growled to the woman she loved.

She closed her eyes and focused deep inside herself, doing as Regina had so recently taught her, feeling her magic.  She searched for those few remaining strands that connected her to the other woman, feeling them rather than actually visualizing them.  She locked onto those threads with every bit of concentration she had, even as they thinned.  She refused to let them slip away, refused to let Regina slip away, at least without one hell of a fight.  I will not lose you.

Magic came from emotions and she gathered them all inside her, holding nothing back.  All her fear, anger, and anguish…  All her love, joy, and hope…  Everything she had, she summoned to her and gave the resulting magic free reign inside.  She felt the power grow and swirl within until she was almost bursting with it.  She focused on pushing as much as she could down the connection, begging it to save the love of her life as even more strands dropped away despite her efforts.  She had no idea what she was doing, running purely on instinct and clinging desperately to her hope.  All she did know, without a shadow of a doubt, was that she would be lost without the brunette.  Please…


David had positioned himself in the doorway, gun out and targeted on Greg’s back, trying to convince himself that the risk of taking a shot while Regina was still in Greg’s arms was acceptable if it saved his only child. 

He hadn’t failed to notice the look in his daughter’s eyes a moment ago, the one that said she believed what she was saying, that she would give up her life in a heartbeat for the brunette.  It had surprised him a little, but then his daughter was the Savior. 

What had shocked him was the comment that Regina loved her. He had heard the vehement denial by the brunette but his finger had come off the trigger despite Regina’s words.  Whether Emma’s confession was a ploy to get the other man to release his hostage or the truth didn’t matter.  David knew that if he took the shot while Regina was in the way, even if no harm came to her, Emma would never forgive him. 

He’d have been stunned to know that Regina would have wholeheartedly agreed that shooting Greg was an acceptable risk, if it saved the woman she loved but neither was aware of the others thoughts, so David waited and hoped that he wouldn’t regret it.


“Let’s test that theory.”

Those words sent shockwaves through David.  He’d waited too long, hoping Regina would move away and now his daughter would pay the price for his hesitance.

Before he could pull the trigger he saw a flash of purple sparks surround Emma for a second, as the sound of a gunshot blasted through the room.  He saw Regina drop to the ground and fired his gun, all hesitance gone, the bullet piercing Greg through his chest with deadly accuracy. 

He glanced over to Emma and saw her on her knees, hand over her heart.  Everything in him demanded he go to his daughter but he had to make sure that Greg posed no further danger.  He moved swiftly over to the desk and knelt down, checking for a pulse.  He rolled him over and looked into dead eyes.  Greg would never be a threat again.  He got to his feet and kicked away the gun and knife anyway, more out of habit than necessity. 

His gaze returned to his daughter, and he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw her up and free from blood.  With Emma seeming to be ok and on her feet, he shifted his priority to the other woman in the room.  He looked down at Regina, the sight filling him with unease.  He knelt beside the unconscious woman, unsure what to do.  Familiar purple sparks covered her body and he realised that whatever had saved Emma had come from this woman, and at a heavy price.  Had she sacrificed herself for his daughter?  It seemed highly unlikely in his mind and yet the evidence pointed towards exactly that. 

David heard a noise behind him and turned to see Emma stumble. He reached out and grabbed her, helping her down beside Regina.  “Emma, what can I do?”  He had no idea how to help or if it was even possible to help the brunette, the stream of blood from her nose concerning him the most.  It spoke to a head injury at the very least but he wasn’t sure how she could have sustained that type of injury.

“Keep Snow and Henry out.”

David frowned, he understood what Emma was asking but he was hesitant to leave her alone with Regina, the purple sparks worrying him.  While he was grateful to the unconscious woman, what if Emma touched her and the same thing happened to his daughter?  “What happens if…”  He saw Emma shaking her head and trailed off.

“Please.  Just go.”

David wanted to say more but decided against it, moving to do as Emma had asked.  He got to his feet and rested a hand on his daughters shoulder, trying to offer her some semblance of comfort for what he dreaded was coming.

He turned and left the room, immediately seeing his wife struggling to hold his grandson back at the front door.  He picked up his pace and rushed towards them as Henry broke free.  He reached out and wrapped an arm around the boy’s waist as he tried to slip past him, drawing him into his body.  “Woah there, Henry.”

Henry squirmed in David’s arms, trying to get free again.  “What happened?  Where’s mom?  Where’s Emma?  I want to see them!”  He tried to get his arms up to push against his grandfather but David was ready for the move and shifted his grip to keep the boy with him.  He knelt down to Henry’s height and looked the boy in the eyes, trying to remain calm for the child.  “Emma has asked for you both to wait here.  She’ll be out in a minute.”  He knew Emma had said nothing about leaving Regina but he knew if he told the boy the truth, there was no way he would be able to keep him away from his mothers.

Snow wrapped her arms around the struggling boy from behind, her frightened gaze locking with her husbands, silently begging to know what had happened.  David looked at her and shrugged slightly, unsure what to say.  “Greg is dead.  Emma is ok…  Regina stopped…  Saved?  I don’t know.  Emma is ok.” He shook his head, still unable to believe his daughter didn’t have a bullet in her.  He was relieved and felt guilty all at the same time.  “She’s with Regina now.”

Unfortunately those words did nothing to placate Henry, “Let me go!  I need to see they’re both alright!  I heard…”  His voice trembled in fear and he stopped struggling, terror freezing his small body in place. “There were gun shots.  Did mom get shot?”

David caught Henrys panicked gaze with his own and shook his head, trying to look reassuring, “No, neither of your moms was shot.” 

Henry shrugged off Snow’s embrace and yelled, “Don’t lie to me!  They’d be out here with us if no one was hurt.  Just tell me the truth!  I need to know!  Is my mom hurt?!”

Before his grandfather could respond, a breeze began blowing in the house, seeming like it was originating in the study and then spreading throughout.  It increased in intensity at an unnaturally fast pace and distracted David enough that Henry, who wasn’t waiting for an answer anymore, was able to finally break free from his grandfather’s grasp and go find out for himself. 

He ran towards the study, struggling slightly against the wind as it grew even stronger.  He made it to the doorway and came to an abrupt halt, gripping the door frame.  He registered his grandparents coming to a stop behind him and felt arms slip over his shoulders once again, drawing him back into his grandmother’s embrace. He heard Snow gasp in shock and understood it completely, unable to draw his eyes away from what he was seeing. 


“Let’s test that theory.”

Regina felt her heart stop at the words, the worst of her deep-seated fears about to come true.  It was Daniel all over again, Emma was to be ripped from her, murdered before her eyes.  She could not, would not, let that happen.  Loving her would not cost Emma as it had Daniel, not if she had anything to do with it.  Even though it was broken and unstable, this time she had magic and she would use it, no matter the price.

With no other thought than to protect the woman she loved, magic surged through her, tearing her apart inside even as it shielded Emma.  The gun blast was deafening in her ears as blood spurted from her nose, the pain in her mind escalating and spreading throughout her body.  Regina collapsed under the onslaught, not even registering the second gunshot.

The pain receded, allowing some semblance of consciousness to return, but in the pains place grew a terrifying coldness, slowly spreading through her body and mind.  She tried to open her eyes, tried to move but her body wouldn’t respond and it dawned on her that she was dying. 

The left over static energy had devastated her internal system as magic had pulsed through her, following her command to protect Emma.  She was dying, the connection she had never dreamed to want but now cherished was breaking away and she was helpless to stop it.  She had saved Emma’s life at the cost of her own and was surprised she had only one regret, that she had never told the blonde just how much she loved her.

She felt a warmth on her face and felt the connection briefly rekindle enough to hear words whispered into her mind begging her not to leave and they broke her failing heart.   She wanted nothing more than to comfort the other woman and she couldn’t even summon the energy to do that. 

All she had left were her hearts secrets and a burning determination to share them with the woman who had captured that heart.  If I had a choice, I would never leave you, my love.  My heart is yours, now and forever.  I love you more than I ever dreamed was possible, Emma.  My only regret is that I never got to tell you until it was too late.  Please forgive me for letting my fear control me.  You were the one I didn’t even know I was waiting for. Thank you, my love…  Thank you for being the brave one.  Thank you for loving me.

She felt the seeping cold ease for a moment, her heart and soul lighter now that she had finally opened up, admitting to Emma and herself just how deep her feelings for the blonde ran.  Unfortunately the respite was far too brief and then the draining cold was back, sucking her remaining vitality from her.  Regina was so very willing to stay and if will was all it took, everything would have been fine but it was no longer enough.   The brunette was tired, so very tired and she had nothing left to draw on.  She was unable to fight to remain conscious any longer and she slipped further into the darkness.


 

Chapter Text


Wind whipped around the room, increasing with every second.  Henry’s grip on the doorway tightened as the wind escalated, battering him and trying to drive him backwards.  Anything lightweight had been picked up and was now swirling around the vortex that held his mothers.  He could barely make out the woman at the centre of it, a fiercely blinding white glow emanating from her.  It was only the colour of the magic that allowed him to know which parent he could see.

His brunette mother was still hidden from his view, that white glow preventing him from seeing just where she was.  He tried to move away from the doorway and further into the room, desperate to see his mom, to see that she was ok.  He found himself, once again, restrained by Snow’s hold and she had to lean down, talking into his ear to be heard over the growing howl of the wind, “It’s too dangerous, Sweetie.”

The logical part of him understood what his grandmother was saying but he was only twelve and logic sucked in his opinion.  All he wanted to do was make sure his moms were ok and being told that he couldn’t did not sit well with him at all.  He turned his head to argue, “But-" 

Snow cut him off, not unkindly but with enough deterrence in her voice to let him know she would not be swayed.  “No, Henry.  It’s far too dangerous for anyone to venture in there.  Whatever is going on is only getting stronger and soon it won’t just be paper being blown around.”  As if to hammer home her point, the desk started to slowly move away from the source of the vortex, under the force of the wind.

Henry frowned, still wanting to argue.  This was his mothers they were talking about so he challenged, “But we can’t just stand here and do nothing.” 

As much as it pained Snow White to stand and do exactly that, she had to put Henry’s safety above her own desire to rush into the room, safety be damned, and see for herself that her only daughter was alive and well.  Emma had to be alright, Charming had said as much so she had to believe, didn’t she?  “It’s all we can do, Sweetie.  Emma is with your mom, they’ll be ok.”  She hoped she wasn’t setting Henry, or herself, up for heartache though, because she didn’t understand what was happening in that room.  Regina had been injured, David had alluded to that much, so just what was going on in there?

She had observed magic for a good part of her life, especially by her ex-step mother’s hand, and the power filling that room now was like nothing she had ever experienced before.  Call it a mother’s intuition or not, but some part of her knew the magic was coming from her daughter.  She had been aware that Emma possessed magic, had seen the evidence when the trigger had been stopped but she had never suspected this extreme. That frightened her a little because she’d never wanted that burden for her child, never wanted the pressure that can come with having such an innate ability to do magic.  Despite that fear, she had to believe Emma knew what she was doing, that she was in control of all that magic because the alternative...  The alternative could end in utter disaster.

Snow felt David move up closer behind her, reaching out either side to brace the trio in the doorway, trying to keep them in place but it was getting harder and harder to do.  The almost gale force winds that were now coursing throughout the house held small items that were fast becoming missiles wreaking havoc wherever they struck and it was only a matter of time before something hit the small group so David decided they had to retreat to safety.

“Come on, we can’t stay here.  It’s getting too dangerous.”  He yelled over the noise and before he had even finished he could see Henry glancing up at him, about to argue.  “Your moms wouldn’t want you in danger, Henry.  We have to move.  I don’t want to leave any more than you do but we can’t stay here.  What would you moms think if you stayed and were injured?  They would blame themselves, especially your mom.”  David was aware this was a little bit of emotional blackmail but they didn’t have time to argue.  He needed Henry to move without a fight.  “As soon as this stops, we can come back in but we have to go now.”  He tugged Snow and Henry backwards, the boy giving in without a fight, much to his grandfather’s relief.  They ducked and moved away from the swirling vortex towards the front door, debris now flying past them with enormous power and speed.

Once outside, it was almost a relief to be away from the screaming wind which seemed to be strangely confined to the house.  Without the noise and battering they became acutely aware of the steady pulse of incredibly strong power that seemed to be vibrating right through them and then spreading out to the town, much like ripples in a pond when a pebble is dropped into it.  They remind Snow of a heartbeat, a heartbeat carrying the emotions of the magical source out into the world. 


Please

Emma was oblivious to everything outside of the two of them.  She had no idea of the chaos she was creating that raged around her, her sole focus on the woman in her arms and the dwindling connection between them.

She could feel herself overflowing with magic, more than she had ever felt before and still the power was continuing to grow within her so why wasn’t it enough?  Work, damn it.  Fix her!  She tried to focus on getting the magic wherever she needed it to go but her inexperience was letting her down.  She could feel some of it moving down the tiny connection but lost track of it once it reached the other end, reached Regina.  She was trying to hold on to the hope that she was giving enough direction to it but she didn’t think so and her frustration was leeching that hope from her.  Sorrow was slowly becoming the dominant emotion in her aching heart, that hope she had been clinging to dwindling as she continued to feel nothing coming back to her from the dying connection.

As the overwhelming sorrow finally eclipsed her hope, Emma felt the hold she had on the strands of their connection slip and fear bloomed bright within her, snapping her out of her slide into melancholy.   No!  She’s still there.   I know it, I feel it.  I would know if…  She mentally shook herself and refocused, letting the love she had for Regina become her driving emotion.  She could do this, while there was still a sliver of their connection left Regina was still here, which meant that Emma would not quit.  Never.


Throughout the town, people had stopped whatever they were doing.  Everyone could feel the deep beats of magic pulsing through them and it was strong enough that it could not be ignored.  It didn’t feel bad or evil, in fact it felt suspiciously like hope which was unexpected.  While not exactly afraid yet, they were story book characters from the enchanted forest after all, magic had once been a common enough occurrence, they did wonder where it was coming from and why?  Who was responsible for it?  What did it mean?  Unfortunately, no answers were forthcoming so they were left with their curiosity unanswered.

Cars had stopped in the middle of the street, those walking along the sidewalk had also paused, wondering what was happening.  In the diner, people had stopped eating, looking at each other as they felt that faint feeling of hope wash through them time and time again. 

Ruby glanced at her grandmother, who shrugged in response.  The young wolf pulled her phone out of her pocket with the intention of calling Emma to see if the Sheriff knew anything about the weirdness but that feeling of hope drained away before she could, giving in to a deep seeded sorrow and it was all she could do not to break down at the foreign devastation in her chest. 

She frowned, wishing the hope would come back because this sadness really wasn’t fun to experience.  Who was feeling like this?  What the hell was going on?   She glanced around the room, seeing the same frown that marred her features on faces all around the diner, tears in the eyes of some of her patrons.  Those close to loved ones sought comfort in hugs, those alone put hands to chest, trying to ease the heartache that had arrived with the magic.

Unfortunately her wish came true, a new beat brought a terrifying new emotion and it had Ruby and the rest of the town afraid of what was to come.


Everything was so cold and dark.  Am I dead?  Regina’s question went unanswered which irritated her but didn’t exactly surprise the brunette as there was no one else here with her.  She wondered whether this was what happened when you died.  Did you just exist in this cold and empty vacuum or was this a special hell just for the Evil Queen? 

She detested it, the vast nothingness giving far too much freedom for her past to try to come and haunt her.  Here in this cold dark hell, her demons were waiting to consume her if she let them.  She heard her mother laughing coldly, telling her that love had brought her here, had cost her everything.  That she had ignored her lessons, that she been weak and look what it had achieved.  She tried to block her mother out, tried to focus on something else, anything else than the bitter and twisted words of a woman who was supposed to love her and instead had almost destroyed her but without Emma’s light, without her support, she wasn’t sure she could quieten that voice.

No!  She would not let her mother win any more.  If this was to be her future, if this was to be her end then she would fill it with better thoughts, better memories than the ones trying to crowd in.  She might not have as many good memories as bad, but she did have them.  They were worth everything to her and she would use them to protect herself from the worst aspects of her grim past. 

She forced her mind away from the enveloping darkness to think of Henry and the fear she had been feeling shifted into sadness and longing which, while not ideal, was certainly better than the tainted influence of her mother.  She felt the good memories of her son whirling around her, begging to be relived but she couldn’t quite hold on to them yet, thoughts of what she would now miss out on much stronger for the moment.

She hated that she wouldn’t get to see him grow up, wouldn’t get to see him go to prom, wouldn’t get to see him graduate.  She would miss seeing him fall in love, miss him getting married if he chose to.  She would miss seeing him become a father and her heart ached with that bitter disappointment but given the chance, she still wouldn’t change her sacrifice, her decision.  So while it hurt so much to know what she would miss, she would still give it all up without question so that Emma would live.

Of course that didn’t mean that Regina was ready to quit fighting just yet.  She was stuck in this limbo and it irritated the Queen no end.  She desperately wanted to fight for him, she wanted to fight to stay and live and experience everything that the future now held, she wanted to stay for Henry….  For Emma, she just didn’t know how.  There was nothing here but thoughts and memories for her to cling to, nothing for her to climb back to the land of the living. 

Her mind shifted to Emma.  To have only just acknowledged her love for the blonde and to lose her seemed like the cruelest joke fate could play on her.  She laughed bitterly to herself, not an ounce of humor in it.  Maybe it had been foolish to think that a once Evil Queen would get to enjoy any happiness she found but she had so wanted to believe.  At least I am not dying alone and unloved.  I was loved, and no one can take that away from me now.

In the vast emptiness she realised she could choose to focus on her sins, on everything she had done wrong or she could focus on the small glimmers of goodness in her life, on the people she loved.  She chose love, how could she not?  She let that start to fill the void, to surround herself with the love of her son and his mother while she waited for whatever came next.


Don’t die.  I need you.  I love you.  Please.  Don’t die.  I need you.  I love you.  Please.  Don’t die.  I need you.  I love you.  Please…  The words were filling all of her thoughts and had become her mantra, pleading with the woman in her arms to not leave her.

Nothing was changing, nothing seemed to be working.  Emma wasn’t exactly losing the battle for her lover but she wasn’t winning either.  She was funneling as much magic down the weakened connection into Regina as she could and nothing was changing which meant she had to change what she was doing, had to try something else but what? 

She was using the connection and maybe that was the problem.  The connection was so deteriorated that maybe it just couldn’t do what she needed it to do.  There had to be another way.  Almost as soon as she thought it, she pictured herself holding one hand over the other, mending the cut to her palm.  Could that work?  Gonna find out.

Emma moved the arm that was supporting Regina so that, while it still cradled her, she could place her palm to the brunette’s left temple.  The arm that wasn’t supporting Regina moved over the brunette’s heart, her hand settling there.  Don’t die.  I need you.  I love you.  Please.  Her hands glowed white with power and she watched as that energy, that magic she had summoned sunk into Regina.  More and more, she pushed.  Everything she had, with everything that she ever hoped to be.  Everything for this woman she loved.  She could feel a sob desperate to escape and she kept it down, kept it under control, using it to fuel her.

She leaned forward until she was a hairsbreadth away from the Regina, her mantra playing in her head as she whispered the last four words of it.  “I love you…  Please.”  She begged and then closed the gap, her lips meeting the still warm ones of her true love, believing with her whole heart that this would work.  This would bring Regina back to her.


Regina was absorbed in the memory of Henry’s first words when she felt something change and it shook her out of the memory, much to her chagrin.  At first she wasn’t sure what had distracted her and then she felt it again.  She slowly became aware of her physical body as a tiny pulse, that started deep inside, spread throughout her.  It was uncomfortable and she tried to distance herself from it, wanting to go back to her memories as she waited to move on. 

The pulse got stronger and she felt it start to burn through her body, refusing to be ignored, making her all too aware of her damaged body.  It didn’t seem fair, she was dying already so why should she continue to suffer?  All of her electrically tortured nerves, once fried beyond help, start to fire again, minimally at first, then more and more, the uncomfortable feeling moving up several notches to outright pain. 

She became aware of her heart, its sluggish beat pausing for a second before speeding up under this new onslaught and she could feel the snapping of her neurons as the residual static her body has harboured for days left and it burned, burned so very much.  She wanted to scream but while she was aware of her body in an unconscious way, she had no control over it, no ability to express the pain that continued to increase, slipping into outright agony. 

She was almost ready to beg to be set free when her tortured mind registered a miniscule white light in her mind’s eye that gradually grew into an infinitely fine white mist.  It spreads throughout her aching body, beginning to cool her firing nerves and neurons.  She wants to sob in relief as the pain slowly abates and she realises that the healing mist feels familiar. 

It feels like goodness and light slightly tinged with darkness… 

It feels like belief and trust…

It feels like hope and love… 

It feels like home… 

Home…

It feels like Emma… 

Emma!  And just like magic, she felt the connection she had feared gone forever grow and expand, filling her completely with the other woman’s presence.  She hears words, disjointed at first but clearer and clearer with every second that passes and she grasps at them, holding on.  Don’t… You… Love… Need you…  Please.  Don’t die… I... Love you…  Please.

Then she’s there, her body is once again her own and she can feel lips pressed softly against hers, the essence that is purely Emma flooding through her, mind, body and soul.  She forces open her eyes and sees a cloud of blonde hair above and around her.   Emma.  She whispers in her mind causing the blonde’s words to stutter and she feels her lover sob.  Regina?


Henry, Snow and David have been clinging to each other as the waves of power and emotion batter them.  They’re close to the source and it’s all they can do to remain standing.  There is no physical danger now that they’re outside of the house but emotionally, they are struggling. 

The sorrow is devastating but it’s the blast of fear that almost brings the small group to its knees.  One beat…  Two… Three and it is replaced by something else, something so much better, something warm and comforting.  Something that dries their tears and allays their fears.  It is so powerful that it allows for no doubts, it fills them up and gives them some hope to cling to.

Snow looks at David, love shining in her eyes and her husband smiles back. Maybe everything is going to be ok, maybe whatever Emma is trying to do is working.  Maybe…  The pulses of emotional magic are still buffeting them, the wind in the house still howling but where before they had nothing to hold on to, now they have hope and new-found knowledge of what their daughter feels for the once Evil Queen.

Henry understands that whatever is happening in that room, it is Emma fighting for his mom as he always knew she would.  He’s felt her sorrow and that scared him, he’s felt her fear and that hurt so much more and now he feels…  He feels what he feels when he thinks of either of his mothers.  He feels love, her love and while it’s a little surprising coming from his blonde mother, it makes him happy all the same because she hasn’t given up, she’ll never give up.  “Come on, Emma.”  Henry whispers, believing in his blonde mother with everything he has because if anyone can save his mom, it’s her.

They all wait, clinging to each other, barely breathing as seconds pass bringing beats of love with each one.

Suddenly the pulses that have been so regular stop…  The howling wind causing all the chaos stops…  Everything is deathly quiet for a heartbeat and then two before an explosion of magic crashes through them, leaving them gasping as the emotions peak and then drain away, just their own feelings remaining.  Snow and David look at each other in shock, recognizing what had just transpired.  Love was one thing, but that?

Henry is the first to recover and breaks away from his grandparents, rushing back into the house.  He heads directly to the study, stepping over debris that is strewn about.  The house is heavily damaged, furniture has moved and been smashed up against walls, small items are embedded in the walls and as he rushes by he thinks that his moms have a lot of repair work to do later. 

He bursts through the study doorway, dodging the repositioned desk, about to call for his mothers when he comes to a sudden halt, a blush spreading up his neck and across his cheeks.  “Oh.”  It’s one thing to feel the love, it’s a whole other story to see it being played out that way before his eyes.  He hears his grandfather behind him echo his shocked word and a gasp from his grandmother.

His two mothers are wrapped in each other, kissing as if it’s the last thing they’ll do.  He watches as they break for a moment and look into each other’s eyes, he watches as his mom reaches up to caress Emma’s face not once but twice.  He sees smiles and looks exchanged, the two women completely oblivious to the other people now in the room. 

If he didn’t know any better, he would swear they were having an entire conversation just with their eyes but that’s not possible, is it?  Then they’re kissing again and Henry starts sniggering, embarrassment gone now and happiness blooming in his chest.  They’re both ok and that’s all that matters to him.

Snow lets go of a giggle of her own, pleased to see the two women alive and well.  She’d had her suspicions about her daughter’s feelings for the older woman, especially since they had been blasted into her time and again with the magical beat of her daughters heart.  She also knew that Regina returned those feelings because there was no denying that explosion of magic right at the end that only happened under very special circumstances.  She would support her daughter’s choice because how could she not?  But if Regina ever hurt her…   

David looked from the two woman to his wife and grandson, not quite understanding what was so funny about his daughter kissing the Evil Queen but he’s relieved to see them both apparently healthy, none the less.  He drapes an arm around Snow’s shoulder and lets a relieved smile break across his face.  He’d worry about it all later if he needed to. 


Rumpelstiltskin is in his shop, feeling the waves of powerful magic wash over him.  He, alone, is unaffected by the emotions tied up with the magic, simply enjoying the unimaginable strength he can feel behind it.  It’s uncontrolled and being wielded poorly but he knows that will change once they finally complete their bond, once Regina is back in full control of herself and the magic. 

He estimates it’s still only at half capacity, that one of them is barely involved, Regina he suspects, and that fills him with satisfaction.  He was right, they would be incredibly powerful.  Almost unbeatable.  Almost… 

He knows the end result still rests on a knife’s edge and could fall either way so he waits to see if his plan will be able to come to fruition or not, wondering if he should intervene to ensure the outcome he desires.  He needs them… Needs their combined power.  He must have it!

Before he can decide, he feels the power shift and become more, more than he had expected and he feels a grin spread across his face.  “Yes, yes…  This will do nicely.”  He feels the explosion that reverberates through the town and his smile grows impossibly wide knowing that it is done.  The Savior and the Evil Queen have unleashed their true magical potential and now all he had to do is harness it, harness them.  He rubs his hands together as he starts planning how best to do just that.


Emma.

The blonde hears the word in her mind and the sob she had been fighting finally breaks free as cautious relief fills her.  Regina?  She feels the connection roar back to life and then Regina is everywhere, she is all Emma can smell and taste and feel.  She feels warm lips move against her own and her heart skips a beat, caution giving way to full blown joy. 

She can finally feel her magic coursing through the other woman’s body, can feel it soothing and repairing.  She can feel it weaving in and out of the brunettes own magic, singing in its pleasure of once again interacting and intertwining with it.  Gone are the statically charged sparks of magic from the brunette, in its place a rush of seamless power that flows in perfect balance with her own and it feels wonderful.  The flood from the connection overwhelms her briefly after being without it, her emotions so raw and close to the surface and another sob catches in her throat.  I thought I had lost you.

She feels arms slide up around her neck and she sits back, unwilling to break the kiss but wanting to draw Regina closer.  She drops the palm that had been at Regina’s temple down to cup the back of her head and slips the hand that had been over her heart around to pull her even closer, deepening the kiss.

After a thorough reacquaintance with each other, the two lovers break apart to look into each other’s eyes, warm brown meeting shining green.  Regina smiles softly,  I thought you had too.  It was a very close thing.  I think…  It felt like…  She shrugs slightly.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I wasn’t here anymore, I was stuck somewhere else, somewhere cold and empty and all I wanted was to get back to you and Henry but I didn’t know how.  Regina’s gaze turned questioning, I don’t understand what happened.  How did you bring me back?

It was Emma’s turn to shrug, Magic…  I used magic…  Somehow… I dunno.  I just wanted you to stay with me, I wanted to save you like you had saved me…  Which was really, really dumb, Regina.   It almost killed you.  She scowled at the brunette but it didn’t quite reach her eyes.  Don’t do that again…  Ever. 

Regina returned the scowl, Your plan was rather ridiculous, my love.  It almost got you killed and that is more than I could ever bear.  I can’t even begin to imagine what you were thinking.

I was thinking that a madman had you and I wasn’t going to let him murder you.  She conceded, You’re right though, it wasn’t the best plan I’ve ever had but I had to try something. The scowl fell from the blonde’s face, unable to remain when she was so happy to have Regina back with her.  Anyway, dodgy plan aside, I couldn’t lose you so yeah…  Glowy white magic happened and here we are.

The brunette took a quick inventory of herself, expecting to feel the pain that had been such a constant during the last week but much to her delight, it was absent.  I do feel better…  In fact, I feel wonderful, far better than I have in years actually.  I can feel my magic and it feels like it did before…  Before I was tortured and yet it feels different too.  Stronger…  Cleaner…  And decidedly like you. 

Emma couldn’t resist grinning at that, So… Glowy white magic actually did a good job.  Who’d have thought?  Go me!

Regina rolled her eyes, a slight smile gracing her lips before giving way to a frown, I still don’t understand though.  What you did should have been impossible.  I know it to be impossible, especially for one as untrained as you…  Which we will have to rectify.  I can feel the magic in you now and it’s far too much and would be far too dangerous to stay uncontrolled.  That aside, I was too gravely injured for magic to save me.  I was all but gone.  Magic is certainly powerful but it is not a miracle worker. 

Emma shrugged, Don’t ask me.  All I know is that I was using everything I had to hold onto the connection…  To hold on to you and it wasn’t enough, nothing was changing.  You were still slipping away from me.  Her heart twinged at the memory, All I managed to do was slow the speed that was happening at.

I remember a lot of nothingness to begin with, of it being dark and cold.  All I had left were memories.  Mother tried to crowd in but I refused to let her.  I chose not to let her…  Because you made me strong enough to make that choice.  Thank you for that, Emma.  Regina smiled softly at the blonde.

I thought of Henry, of missing out on seeing him grown up.  I thought of you and how unfair the fates could be.  All I wanted was to come back to you both but I didn’t know how.  So I let myself remember happy memories while I waited for the true end but it never came…  You didn’t let it come.  After that I remember pain, a lot of pain.  Regina felt Emma’s upset, heard the thought that she may have caused her pain and she reached up to caress her cheek trying to reassure the blonde, It’s ok.  I am ok and that is because of you.  I think the pain was the static electricity that had been dwelling in me being purged.  That’s why it hurt so much, but it needed to happen and just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, you were there soothing me, bringing me home.  You saved me, Emma.  The question is how?  What changed? 

Emma frowned in concentration, I stopped focusing so much on our connection and just focused on you.  Oh…  And I kissed you.  She smiled sheepishly.

You kissed me?  Regina felt her chest constrict in shock as the truth of what had happened crashed through her.  The Imp had been right after all.

Emma felt the wave of emotion swell in Regina and the feeling surprised her.  She had grown accustomed to their ability to be able to talk to each other, but feel each other…  Woah, what?  What’s causing that?

You felt that?

Yeah…

Regina returned her hand to Emma’s cheek, smiling as the blonde leaned into it.  It seems, my love, that our connection is much deeper, much stronger, now that we have shared true love’s kiss.

It was Regina’s turn to feel Emma’s surprise which quickly changed into pure joy.  True love, huh?

So it seems.  Emma grins and Regina can’t help but smile right back at her and then they’re kissing again, reveling in the pure happiness that is coursing throughout the both of them, further deepening their bond.

They finally become aware that they’re no longer alone when their son’s giggles break through their emotion driven haze.  They reluctantly break the kiss, Emma trying to defuse the apprehension that has started to seep through the connection from the brunette.  So he’s seen us kissing, guess the cats out of the bag now…  He’s laughing, gorgeous… The kid can’t be that scarred…  Regina…  Emma smirks, I can feel you rolling your eyes at me…

They untangle their limbs and then Emma helps Regina to her feet, the brunette a little unsteady to begin with, her exhaustion evident despite her earlier claim to be feeling good.  The blonde watches as her lover schools her features, slipping a mask into place and she really hopes it proves unnecessary.

Finally they turn to look at the small group standing across the room staring at them.  There’s a brief moment of awkward silence as the adults in the room try to size up just how each of the others is feeling until Emma breaks that silence, a tentative smile on her lips.  “So yeah…  Uh…  That’s happening.”  She’s carefully watching her parent’s faces, and is surprised when her mother smiles back at her.  David hides what he’s feeling a little better and Emma knows there will have to be a conversation later but right now, the fact that her parents seem to accept them is enough for her.

She can feel the tension radiating off Regina who couldn’t care less what Snow and David think but is terrified of Henry’s reaction.  Her gaze is glued to their son then Henry is chuckling again, a wide knowing grin on his face.  “See I told you, Emma.  Mom never stays angry with you.”

Emma feels a shot of surprised relief come through their bond as Regina turns to look at her.  She shrugs and mutters, “I told you I thought the kid would be alright with us.”

Regina raises an eyebrow, “Indeed you did.”  She glances at her son as she slides an arm around the blonde and rests her head on the Emma’s shoulder, giving in just a little to her exhaustion.  She’s relieved to see Henry’s smile grow as he moves forward to wrap his arms around both his mothers who pull him close.  Emma slips her other arm around the brunette and the circle is complete.  Henry looks up at her, “I’m glad Operation Apple Tree was a success.  I knew you could do it, Em.”

Regina gives the blonde a dirty look over their son’s head, Operation Apple Tree? 

Emma smirks at her in reply, What can I say?  The kid likes his operations.

The brunette feels all her apprehension finally slip away as everything settles into place.  Physically she feels great, Emma’s magic having healed her completely.  Mentally she now knows she can deal with anything her past wants to throw at her so long as she has her son and Emma by her side.  Emotionally, she feels…  Lucky…  So very lucky to have this change at happiness, this chance at true love. 

She’s not foolish, she knows it will not be easy, they are two strong willed, stubborn independent women but then anything worth having never is.  She knows there will be fights and arguments but there will also be happiness and joy and so much love.  Love.

As long as they never forget the love they found in each other and their son, they can conquer anything.  Together, they can face anything that life can throw at them. 

Regina turns her head slightly so that her lips are next to Emma’s ear and whispers, “I love you, Emma Swan.”

Emma turns her head to look into warm brown eyes she adores, her lips twitch and then break into a cheeky smile.  I love you too, sexy legs.

Much to everyone except Emma’s surprise, Regina throws back her head and laughs.