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Precious Illusions

Chapter Text

Precious Illusions



You'll rescue me right?
In the exact same way they never did..
I'll be happy right?
When your healing powers kick in



Emma sighed and rolled over onto her back. She didn't know exactly what time it was, but judging by the fact it was the moon that lit her room, it wasn't time to get up yet. She hadn't slept well lately. Storybrooke was too quiet. After a year living in one of the biggest cities on earth and nearly another year in the warn torn Enchanted Forest, Emma's body and mid were unaccustomed to small town living. The silence of the night was becoming unbearable.

She needed the hustle and bustle of city life. She would have never chosen a life in the tiny northeastern seaboard town. When she'd arrived, her plan had simply been to return Henry and get out of dodge. She had never intended to take up residence in the quaint town. She'd certainly never intended to find a family and turn the town into her home.

Sometimes Emma still longed for the rush of New York City or Boston. And on the days when fifteen people stopped her on the street to complain and pester her with minor problems when she was simply trying to get some lunch, she longed for the anonymity of the city. But Emma Swan had roots, for the first time in her life.

She had a son who needed stability. She could never leave him behind. She'd given him away once and with two sets of memories tumbling around in her head, Emma knew that her life was better with her son. And she knew she could never take Henry from Regina. She'd seen the pain in Regina's eyes as she and Henry walked away from Storybrooke. It was the same pain Emma had felt when she handed Henry to the nurse and said goodbye to her son. She and Regina had had their problems, but it had never been Emma's intention to take Henry from the woman who had raised him.

Emma rolled onto her side and checked the time. It was just past three. Emma had slept for four hours. She sighed and sat up. Maybe a quick run would tire her out enough to get a bit more sleep before it was time the get Henry off to school and head to work.

Emma quickly pulled on her shorts and grabbed a top. She laced up her tennis shoes, topping briefly to leave a not for Henry in case he woke up before she returned, and headed out the door. She decided a run down to the pier and back should be enough to tire her out. And it would keep her away from her parents new house.

Since returning from the Enchanted Forest, they had decided a bit of separation was good. Emma was certain her suggestion had been accepted so easily because of her mother's pregnancy. She'd been nearly six months along by they time they'd ended up back in Storybrooke and it had been easier to justify separate living space. Snow and Charming didn't need a new baby, their thirty year old daughter and her teenage son under one roof. Emma had been particularly thankful for their decision when Snow discovered she was carrying twins.

Emma's lungs burned as she picked up the pace. She didn't want to think, she just wanted to run and get some sleep. Her sides began to ache so Emma pushed herself harder. The burning pushed every thought rattling around in her brain away until Emma could only concentrate on breathing. Emma kept pushing until her entire body burned and spots began to blur her vision. She doubled over, trying to regain her breath as spots danced across the wooden planks of the pier.

"Out of shape, Sheriff?" came a familiar voice.

Emma's head snapped up. Her eyes fell on a familiar brunette, her thin frame occupying one of the benches on the pier.

"I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this town's law enforcement being so woefully out of shape."

"Personally, I'd be more concerned about the fact that our son's teacher was a goose in another life," Emma replied.


"So, what brings you to the pier at this hour?" Emma asked, flopping onto the bench next to Regina.

"Careful dear, you're sweating on me."

"Trouble in paradise?" Emma offered.

"Of course not." Regina frowned.

"So what are you doing out here in the middle of the night?"

"I could ask the same of you," Regina replied.

"But I asked first," Emma shot back before conceding, "Fine. I couldn't sleep. It's too damn quiet in this town."

Regina sighed, "I simply needed some fresh air."

Emma knew that wasn't the truth. She didn't need her superpower to tell her the words coming out of Regina's mouth were total bullshit. Regina had certainly never been an open book, but Emma was getting pretty good at reading her.

The brunette had changed. She hadn't been the Evil Queen for quite some time, but now she wasn't even Mayor Mills. When Emma had regained her memories, she found that she barely even knew the person Regina had become. There were no more power plays and threats. Regina had simply accepted the first custody agreement Emma had offered and they'd been coexisting ever since. Emma found it oddly disconcerting.

Sometimes she wanted to ask her about the distant look in her eyes. But Emma was struggling to keep her own life together. She had no business poking around in someone else's. Not when going to work every morning, making dinner, making sure Henry had done his homework, not when it was killing her. Emma Swan was a responsible adult and she hated every minute of it.

At least in the Enchanted Forest there had been adventure. There had been danger and fights and nothing had been predictable. Here, everything was predictable. Sometimes she wondered if the curse had reset and she was trapped, reliving the same day over and over. But the frown lines on her face proved that time was passing. Henry kept growing, everyone kept finding their happy endings, and Emma Swan was barely repressing her urge to scream at the sheer perfection of it all.

It was almost funny how much the two broken women had in common. Not too long ago they had been bitter enemies. If you had told Emma that she would one day consider the brunette woman something of a friend, she'd have probably laughed in their face. Regina and Emma certainly weren't best friends, they didn't share jokes and drinks the way Emma did with Ruby, the way she once had with Mary Margaret, before it had been revealed the pixie haired woman was her mother. But Emma and Regina shared a son, and they shared the bond of abused women.

The abuse had come to them in different ways, certainly, but it left scars just the same. Regina had endured years of it before Emma's existence had even been thought of. Emma had seen it over and over again the foster system. They'd both been hurt by people who were meant to protect them, love them, and care about them. But despite all of it, they'd managed to find some sort truce with the world. They weren't exactly happy, but they weren't miserable anymore.

"Well, I suppose I should be going. Ruben will be up soon and I need to be there to get his breakfast," Regina said, breaking the silence.

Emma nodded, "Yeah, I guess I should get back too. Make sure Henry gets to school on time. Teenagers sure love to sleep in."

Regina smiled, "That they do."

Emma smiled and watched Regina move away. She expected the woman to poof away in one of the purple clouds she was so fond of, but instead she simply walked away on the sidewalk. Emma sighed and looked at the water. It was calm and dark. The sun would be rising soon and Emma would have to get up and face another day.

She kicked a loose pebble on her way back to the road. She quickly stretched out the muscles that had tightened up while she sat on the bench and began her jog back home. Emma didn't push herself this time. She let the thoughts swirl as her feet pounded into the pavement.

Emma managed to sleep for a few hours before she awoke again and decided to give up and just take a shower. Henry was up and bustling around by the time Emma vacated the warm spray. She decided on a simple breakfast. She was still tired and somewhat confused after her early morning jog and conversation with Regina.

Emma quickly popped some toast in her beaten up toaster. Most of her furniture was second hand, left behind when Snow and David had moved to their new house. Emma had been meaning to update some of her things, but never seemed to get around to it until something broke. Part of her still felt like the girl who had constantly moved around, never owning many nice things while another part felt like the mother who had worked hard to provide for her son, including a nice apartment with nice furniture. Emma's two sides warred inside her most of the time.

She made enough money to live comfortably and give Henry everything he needed. Neal had even offered her child support once everything had settled down and they'd returned to Storybrooke, but Emma had declined. Neal didn't owe her anything, after all, it hadn't been her that raised Henry all those years, despite the memories in her head that said she did. Emma knew who had raised Henry, and it wasn't her.

The only thing Emma wanted from Neal was a good role model and parent for Henry. Nothing else. Emma winced as she thought about Neal. They'd tried to work things out and date again, be a proper family from Henry, when they'd first returned from the Enchanted Forest. It had become clear pretty quickly that it wasn't working. They were too different, no longer the stupid kids they once were. Though Emma had learned that Neal had never quite been stupid kid when she knew him, but maybe he'd still been a lost boy. But they were both different now, both broken and jaded.

Emma was no longer looking for a knight in shining armor to rescue her from an abusive system or the messes she'd made in her own life. They didn't work as a couple anymore. Emma was her own knight in shining armor, she was literally the stuff of fairy tales, even if she didn't feel like it most of the time.

The house was still dark and silent when Regina returned home. She breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn't in the mood to explain her midnight stroll to anyone. She briefly considered going back to bed, but instead headed to the laundry room. She quickly loaded the washing machine and grabbed a clean basket of clothes that needed to be folded.

The tiny t-shirts and grass stained pants that filled the basket let her lose herself for a moment. She could pretend they were Henry's , back when they were happy together. Five year old Henry loved to run around in the yard. He'd even taken to naming the plants and various woodland creatures that had wandered through the yard. Regina knew now that even then, he'd struggled making friends, but at the time it had simply seemed like childhood fun.

Regina had done the same thing when she was young, before Cora began her formal lessons. Part of Regina knew it was for the same reason as Henry had done it, and she knew she should have seen it, but she'd spent so long repressing every horrible thing Cora had ever done to her, she just didn't want to see it. She didn't want to think about her past, it almost felt like an entirely different life.

Things had been better the second time around in Storybrooke. For the first time in a long time, Regina had been on the right side of the fight. She was turning things around. She was with her true love and his wonderful son. She had her own son back in her, of his own volition. Regina should have been on the top of the world. But where she was didn't feel like the top of the world.

Most of the time Regina just wanted to lock herself in her room for a week. If she had lacked the self-discipline drilled into her by Cora over the years, she may have. But there were people depending on her. Things were better than before, but Regina couldn't help but feel like things weren't exactly right.

She may not have been exactly happy before, but things had certainly been easier before Emma Swan rode into to town. Nobody questioned her, she didn't have to share her son's attention, she didn't have to fight the magic coursing through her veins. She didn't have to fight at all.

Regina had done so much fighting in the past few years and she was tired. She was tired of fighting. She knew she would never be the wonderful, kind Queen that Snow had been. She knew she would never be the shining Savior Emma was. But she had hoped that helping fight the good fight would redeem her in some way. She had at least hoped the disdainful stares on the street would stop. But for some people nothing would be good enough, aside from her head on a platter, anyway.

It was part of the reason she'd agreed to the first agreement Emma had tossed her way regarding Henry. She wanted the blonde in her corner. Emma had always been in her corner, even when she had no reason to care for or trust Regina, Emma had. It was the reason she'd spoken to Emma earlier and allowed the Sheriff to interrupt her solitude on the pier. But the blonde was infuriatingly perceptive sometimes. She certainly hadn't been too far off when she asked if there was trouble in paradise. True love apparently wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Regina sometimes found herself comparing her relationship to others. She didn't have much experience in the way of happy, normal relationships, but she wasn't sure it was supposed to feel like this. Even Snow and David seemed happy, they managed to make it work even through separations and wars and evil queens. Regina couldn't help but think that maybe she was to blame.

Maybe she didn't deserve true love. Maybe she had missed her one shot when she'd run from that bar all those years ago. Maybe she was just too broken to make it work now.

Regina sighed as she heard movement on the floor above her. Roland was probably up and he would want breakfast soon. If she couldn't have the perfect love, she could do her best to be the perfect mother. The mother she had tried to be for Henry. She put the half folded basket of clothes on folding table in the laundry room and headed to the kitchen.